I was to begin my confinement in education at Rituale Boarding School in Scotland, a prestigious institution deemed acceptable for a boy such as myself. I remember waking on that September morning eager with anticipation, ready to begin a new adventure. This would be a chance for me to prove myself, prove myself worthy of the family name, worthy of my father’s affections which had now become so fleeting. I arose early from a disjointed sleep to button up my new uniform with trembling fingers, taking the utmost care to look presentable. It wouldn’t do to shame the family now would it? My hair that once flowed so freely around my face was now slicked back. To give an impression of strength, apparently. Authority. That sort of thing is important to an eleven year old.
The train that was to deport my fellow inmates and I was due to arrive at 9am sharp. We, of course, arrived a quarter of an hour early. it wouldn’t do for me to be late. So I stood there. I stood there watching the melee of children around me, laughing, smiling, tentatively greeting others in the first bloom of friendship. Mother, father and I stood in strict formation watching, just watching. We must have looked rather imposing, intimidating for the other families. There was no affection or warmth between us, just a cool familiarity. The ties of tradition bound us, not the ties of love. Maybe this was apparent to the other children, maybe it’s why, even on first meeting, they were always wary, always uncertain, always nervous around me.
After an eternity of frozen formality the train was prepared to depart and after a swift kiss on the cheek from mother (more in keeping with social convention than any maternal feelings I’m sure) and curt nod from my father I set out on my journey. I quickly found myself a cabin and settled down for what I knew would be a long ride. A few others occasionally peeked into the cabin, timidly opening the door before hastily releasing it. It seemed my family’s reputation had preceded me, once again; I was in the shadow of relatives, a shadow I wasn’t confident I would ever be able to emerge from.
The trip passed in relative peace, aside from boisterous shouts from neighbouring cabins and the thundering of excited feet down the aisle I was entirely alone. That was until I felt the shuddering jolt signalling the end of my journey. I marked my place in the novel I was currently indulging in (I cannot recall what it was, time makes such details hazy), placed it in my satchel and made for the door, hesitantly gripping the handle and, after much deliberation (oh how nice it would have been to have simply remained curled up in that cabin!) making the movement which would open the door and end my blessed isolation.
Oh reader, you cannot imagine the anticipation I felt, how excited I was! I was to make my first friend! The feeling was almost tangible, for surely I would not be alone for long with so many people around! With eager eyes I surveyed the surroundings, the people. There just seemed to be such an amiable atmosphere that I couldn’t help but be filled with childish hope, the air was thick with the beginning of new friendships.
Then I saw you. Back then you were just a scruffy little lad; unruly dark hair and oversized blue eyes, I always wondered why you were able to keep the blue while I wasn’t.
When I saw you, I knew, I just knew we would be friends. You just had this aura. You seemed so innocent, so full of wonder, so different to myself. Reflected in your baby blues I saw the future clearly, you would be my foil and I yours, we could compliment each other, complete each other. But how each hero must have his flaw, I had mine. You see, I have this demeanour, this particular way of walking, this particular way of talking that just announces arrogance, superiority without my consent. Don’t blame the child, blame the parents! I approached you with all the quivering fallibility of childhood,
“Hello” (nerves, thankfully hidden)
You turned and bestowed your attention on me,
At this point I faltered. What to say? How to say it? How to appear interesting and exciting? Oh capricious interactions!
I fear this delay cost me greatly; your attention was soon diverted. A boy I knew vaguely engaged you in conversation; he was the son of a low ranking government official, a very low ranking government official. The type I was bred to despise. Nevertheless, in the true spirit of altruism (well, because he was obviously familiar with the boy I so desperately wanted to be friends with) I attempted to engage him in conversation also,
He turned, the slight narrowing of his eyes indicating his recognition of me.
“You’re a Horn-well “ The suspicion and dislike was evident,oh you cannot blame me for my reaction, my pride, my ego, my family!
“What of it?” (Haughty, aggressive) “Horn-well is a respected name and you’d do well show proper courtesy if you know what’s good for you!!”
Surprisingly, this sort of behaviour does not endear you to people.
I was about to retaliate, about to make some comment or possibly throw a punch or two but then you interfered, you stilled him with a firm hand,
“Don’t, he’s not worth it."
Then you just walked away. You walked away.