Pain. The sharp crack of wood, cutting across his bare arse. How dull, he thinks, and how vulgar. Nothing he hasn’t had before.
Voices, coming from a distance, on all sides, and then closer, surrounding him.
‘Why does he stare like that? Horrid little lunatic’.
‘Hey, fag, come here’.
His small fist connects with the older boy’s jaw. He feels an answering blow to his stomach, but then they’re all gone. He’s almost sorry about that. Next time he’ll make a better show of it, and make them pay attention.
The corridor is empty.
Sigh. Boring. Now what’s for dinner?
Nothing much, apparently. Not for him, anyway.
He sucks his tongue at the corner of his mouth, scraping it in and out between his teeth until he draws blood. Hmm, tasty. That’s better.
Laughter again. Disgusting little baby. I bet you’ve been doing that since you were in swaddling clothes.
Night-time. Someone coming. Just the serving-wench. He wrinkles his nose. She smells.
She bends down. ‘I brought you something, little laddie’.
He looks down hungrily at the hunk of bread in her hand, but as he takes it, he notices that it’s slightly soggy at one end. All at once he retches, and punches her away.
I don’t need your pity. Disgusting bitch.
She runs away crying. He smiles, and eats the bread anyway. Good.
Randall, pay attenzion, and stop rolling ze tongue like zat. You sound like ze orses.
Muttering, from behind his slate, ‘Prancing moron’.
Large hands grab at him. He rolls nimbly out of their grasp. Voices laugh but they sound…almost appreciative, this time. Better.
Hands haul him back up. ‘Stand like zat until supper’.
Shaking and furious. Then trembling and dizzy. His shoulders so stiff he thinks they might shatter.
Sudden warmth surrounding him. The voice of the Latin master. ‘Don’t cry, my boy’.
Hot tea and biscuits. The smell of old leather. Then lavender. ‘It’s alright. There, boy, isn’t that better?’
He wakes to find him gone again. Shame, that. He shrugs his shoulders back.
Apparently, he can still shrug. Good.
A letter. The baby at home is ill again. He knows whose fault that is. One day, he’ll make him pay.
A new lot. Don’t look at Randall. Never stare back at him. He isn’t…right.
Come here, fag. Aren’t you pretty?
'Randall! What the devil are you doing?!’
Raising his eyebrows, and smiling brightly; innocently. ‘Nothing, sir’.
He leaves. Randall smirks. What am I going to do with you now, boy?
The translations get harder. The punishments less frequent. The new boys avoid him.
And then all of a sudden, the baby is here, and for the first time in his life, he is terrified.
Urgh, look at his nose run.
Foul little halfwit.
Isn’t he pretty, though, Randall? More laughter.
Blank eyed and sneering, and then seconds later, the other boy’s flat on his back, spitting blood.
Kick his head for good measure. Then pick up the baby.
My fag, milksop! Do you hear me? Mine!
Guffaws and eyerolls, but they don’t dare to cross him.
‘Wh-wh- what do I have to do now?’
Why, nothing, Alex. Just stay close to me.
‘Johnny, I’m hungry’.
You can have mine.
Baring his teeth. Narrowing his eyes. Who?
‘Johnny, I love you’.
But of course you do.
‘Johnny, my chest hurts’.
You can’t believe they’re brothers, really. Isn’t he a little angel?
Yes. Yes, he is.
The boy’s parents take one look at him, and then take him home, for good.
Shame, that. Who’s next?
So what’s left?
Let’s make it interesting, then.
They know not to come to him, by now. He’ll have to go to them. Softly, softly, when they’re not paying attention.
It’s night again. The boy is crying. And he can barely move his shoulders. Good.
Randall licks his lips.
Have you been a bad boy? Shh, here. I’ll show you what you need.
Beautiful boy. Beautiful, and terrified.
He smells of hunger, and fear.
Randall runs a soothing hand up the boy’s back, and then clamps down on his neck for a moment, hard. Below him, the boy shakes, and starts to sob.
He brings his tongue out from between his teeth, and grins. Then he bends down low and, ever so gently, licks the teardrops off the little one’s face.
There, boy, isn’t that better?