In this chapter: David boards the train from Paddington and ends up in a cabin with Edward McArthur. Arriving at the school, he is introduced to George Crofts, who shows him around the school and ends up being his room-mate. He’s also introduced to Miss Grace Howard, his form tutor and housekeeper. On the other hand, the other students are introduced to David’s dark side, something of which Edward is used to. From this they begin to form a bond.
Boarding the train, David searched along the carriage for a cabin to sit in. The train itself was rather grand, but David didn’t have the time to admire it as the cabins in the carriage were filling up rather quickly. Most of the carriages were already full, containing students from various year groups, talking about their adventures during the summer. Although there was space inside these cabins, David felt that he would be intruding on people – especially if they had other friends still to arrive, and to be honest, he preferred the peace at the moment, so he continued to search. Towards the end of the carriage there was one rather empty cabin. Inside contained only one student, who looked around David’s age and was reading a book. At least that was a relief. ‘Ah, another bookworm,’ David sighed as he tried to jam the door open, knowing that this would be his best chance of finding a seat and getting there in one piece.
As the door was stiff, it made a rather ear-splitting sound as David eventually budged it open. Unfortunately, David happened to startle the student, who raised his head away from the book and gazed at David, almost shocked. The book was clutched in one hand and the other hand was pointing in the direction of the door.
“Sorry. The door was stiff and… hello…” David was lost for words, and stopped for a moment to think of the right words to use, eyes dancing their way up and down the student, the other student following his. Although he intended to wait for Jason to hopefully break up with Katherine, there was no harm in admiring another student, which he instantly though that the student in front of him was rather ravishing. “You don’t mind if I sit in here do you? I presume that your friends are still on their way or will meet you in Berkshire? Don’t worry, I won’t disturb you.” David then lightly smiled at the student.
“You opened the door!” Okay, that wasn’t what David was expecting to hear, and fell into conversation with him.
“Only just. Don’t they put oil on these things to ease them open?” Whilst David was lost for words and tried to come to a conclusion of how he got there, the student studied David, knowing that there were many things he needed to learn. The first thing was his friend list. “How many friends do you presume I have?”
David stopped babbling once a reply was given, falling short on answers. “Well a few at least. I thought all you posh lads hang around together?” The student only chuckled and continued reading whilst still talking to Dave at the same time. “You’re obviously new. The seats are all yours.”
“Thank you. I won’t make a mess just in case anyone else wants to come in.” David threw his bag onto the seats and slumped himself down next to it, sinking into the comfort of the seats, sighing as he came into contact with the plush seats.
“Definitely new,” the student muttered to himself.
Having an idea that the conversation was going to last longer than he originally expected, the student dropped his book on top of his bag, wedging the black tattered bookmark into the correct position, and then replied to David. “Yes, the seats are comfy, but I haven’t heard a sigh like that in years. Also, you are the first person to join me in the cabin in…” The student paused for a moment, counting up the number of years in his head and then continued once he had the answer. “…just over three years.”
David was flabbergasted, and he reflected upon himself, thinking that his relationships with society were bad. “Three years? People are definitely cruel here. Right, here’s my little story. Yeah I’m new so well done. I don’t have friends either so I guess we’re in the same boat, maybe not for the same reason though, and the seats are bloody comfy. Compared to the ones in the old banger better known as my dad’s car they are.”
“First-class seats these are. We might as well relax and try to enjoy ourselves whilst we can, especially when our families fork out the tuition and if we’re lucky we get a discount through a grant.”
“Well by the looks of the carriage, we’re going back some years. The carriage must be well preserved.”
“It is. It’s barely used as well. We only use it on journeys from London to Berkshire and back at the start and end of terms. It’s supposed to show the school’s pride.”
“More like the school’s wealth.” The other student grinned to that. The train had begun to move out of Paddington Station, and yet only two students were still in the carriage. “So, where are your friends?”
“I told you. How many friends do you think I have?”
David was on a guessing game, hoping the poor sod had at least someone to talk to. “One? Surely you’ve got one?” The student shook his head.
David was speechless. “None? Seriously? Are you having me on here? Is this what you posh folk do? Pretend you’re all innocent for the common man to stick by you until you get there and shove it in the man’s face?”
The student was a little startled. “I’m serious. I’m not the sort of person you’d think I am.”
What was that supposed to mean? If the male had no friends, then what exactly has he done to lose the respect of everyone? Does this student prefer to be alone? “Right, well no offence but you don’t sound like everyone else. Like you’ve got a wad of money in your little savings account and bunker off to Harrods when you need something and then shove it in people’s faces.”
“Care to explain?” Not that the student seemed miffed, but just a little curious as to what David meant.
“When I was enrolled into this dump, and yes I’m saying dump because I’m being honest and from what I’ve seen in the prospectus it looks like a right shit hole, I presumed when I got the letter that I’d be around many posh students. Since I arrived at Paddington Station, I’ve heard nothing but posh students, parents and staff, thus proving my theories correct. That was 100% positive until I met you. You sound like someone who actually knows the true value of money and that every penny means something. You actually sound English!”
“Thanks but haha, I love the guess that but I’m not actually English, unlike you.”
“Then what are you?”
David leaned against the window and gently head-butted it. “Oh bloody hell.”
“Welsh a problem for you?”
“My dad’s Welsh. I have enough baa’s at home.” The student was very much intrigued with David, and instead of sitting upright like a proper person would do, he was beginning to show his true slouch against the seats, almost mirroring David. “Can you speak the language?”
“It’s been drilled through my head from the age of 4. We tend to speak English in the home though. I’m guessing a Yorkie speaking Welsh sounds rather ridiculous?”
“Not really, if they know the pronunciation then they don’t, and you’ll pass your GCSE easily.” The student slid forward, enough so that his hand could meet David. “I’m Edward. Edward Thomas Patrick McArthur if you wanted the full details. I’m starting Year 11, and I go 16 in February. And you?”
David slid forward to meet Edward, and shook hands with him, his hands quite like Jason’s – pale, long and spidery-type. “David Simon Chamberlain. I’m in the same year. I go 16 in a few weeks.”
“Are you here on a scholarship? By the way you rant about posh people it seemed likely. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.” Wasn’t it obvious by parts of the uniform? His trousers or shoes weren’t ‘designer branded’ and his blazer and shirts weren’t exactly of the best quality.
“Of course I am! When does a commoner actually have the money? I’m practically a peasant!”
Edward immediately cut David off. It wasn’t often you got someone like David at the school and for a man who seems friendly, good-natured and warm, it wasn’t right to think of themselves as inferior or a shadow. It wasn’t always about money, and friendship should never be judged on money. “No you’re not. Peasants come from the lowest of backgrounds. They have no hygiene and they wear rags. Second-hand clothing or clothing that isn’t as fine as other materials does not count as you on the other hand are so much more.” David pulled a face as Edward stated the proper definition, knowing that he was one of those smart snotty people, even if he seemed a decent fella to hang around with. Edward stood up from the seat, careful to keep his balance from the moving train, and nudged David to get up.
“Wha… what are you doing? Let go of me!” David protested as Edward guided him over to the centre of the cabin so that Edward had space to walk freely. By standing height, Edward was a few inches taller than David. Edward then began to walk around the circumference of David, eyes searching for the other pair, eyes chasing each other around in circles.
“Now Dave, where do we begin? I say that even though you are 15, going on 16, you have the build of an 18-year old. I know you’re not that age because you mentioned it and you’re wearing the same tie as me. Sixth-form students don’t wear our ties.”
Edward paused as eyes gazed on David’s hair. “Now, your hair is beautifully washed, combed and styled. I must say that your hair is gorgeous and I’m tempted to run my fingers through its golden locks.” David was a little flushed from the compliment as Edward then came closer and one hand ruffled his hair, the other on his back. Although it was slightly messy afterwards, it was still presentable and gave David an even better look. Usually, David doesn’t allow anyone to touch him, unless it’s Jason or his parents. However, there was something about Edward that David couldn’t keep his eyes off, and so allowed Edward to continue. Edward continued to walk, pointing to different aspects of David’s body.
Edward stepped back an inch to admire his work. “See, now that your hair is ruffled, it still looks amazing.” Edward grabbed David’s shoulders to take a close look at the uniform. “Your uniform is new, the shirt is ironed…”
“The shirt isn’t new. I’ve had it for four years.”
“Still, it looks good on you and you look smart. Better than the majority of our regulars.” Standing behind David, Edward’s head snaked around to meet David’s, where it rested on David’s shoulder, cheeks briefly brushing each other and they could feel each other’s body heat radiate off them. “You are perfect the way you are and if anyone says you’re not then they are not worthy of you. So no, you’re not a peasant. A brilliant shade of blond by the way and a wonderful tan, where did you spend your holidays?”
By now David was beaming. In all his life. never had anyone properly told him that he was perfect the way he was, and that helped his confidence. Jason had mentioned it occasionally but hadn’t gone into full detail or truly believed in him, even if he was caring, understanding and gorgeous. Beaming with pride of oneself, he never heard the question, and had to ask again.
“Sorry, I didn’t hear the last question?”
“Did you go on holiday?”
“Yes”, and then he slipped off his blazer, revealing two golden-skinned arms. Eyes were all over them, admiring the darker skin, fingers dancing their way up and down his arms. “That’s what you get for two weeks in Rome. Anyway, never mind about me; you have a beautiful complexion yourself. Did you go anywhere?”
“Yes. I spent my summer in America.” David sighed as he heard the name of the country.
“Is everything all right? I haven’t crushed your hopes have I? If I have then I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s not you. I’m sorry. It’s just that’s where my parents have jetted off to whilst they leave me here.”
Edward took his gaze off David’s arms and met his eyes. “And why aren’t you with them?”
“They said it was easier to complete my education here, and even if I went I’d still be back before the exams took place.”
“Well that’s a bit crap then. It looks like I’ve got the job of keeping you entertained then.”
David was secretly pleased that someone that he’d just met so considerate. and so went back to his unanswered question. “So why no tan? Was the weather bad?”
“I’m always this pale. I don’t tan, ever.”
David was allowing himself to mutter out things that really one should keep to themselves unless they’re extremely confident. “Still, gorgeous complexion. I wonder what it’d be like to see you with a tan. I bet you’d look lovely, but then you look lovely now.” Edward glanced at him, asking whether this was true. “Well, yes, you look amazing. I can’t help but notice.” Edward beamed. David realised what he had just said and coughed, going on to a different subject. “All right then, my turn to describe you.” Edward moved to the middle of the cabin so that David could walk around. “You’re very tall for your age, above the average height I think. Are your parents tall?”
“Dad’s tall, mother’s average.”
“Okay. You’re also quite thin, almost as thin as me, although with my uniform on you can’t tell. You might notice my thinness one day, but don’t go ballistic over it. You look around my age. Your uniform is smart but a little worn, so you can’t be extremely rich or you’re just very productive. Are you here on a scholarship?”
Edward stilled David, who was getting rather dizzy, and helped him back onto a seat. Edward sat next to him, his arm still around his shoulders. “Like you I’m 15. I’m six foot-one, so goodness knows what height I’ll be when I’m 21. I’m pale and have blue eyes like you and I have a mop of chocolate coloured curly hair. I’m here on a scholarship, but I should have left ages due to my advanced knowledge.”
Definitely smart and mature, David witnessed. “Can’t you advance?”
“I could, but when one does that, the government would expect that from many more, so because I’m a rarity, I have to take the slow path.”
After that, Edward returned to his book and David wrote up a brief encounter of the morning so far, in between glancing at each other and admiring them. It was only when they were off the train and onto the coach to Hounslow that they continued where they left off. Edward took the window seat, David next to him.
“So, describe Hounslow in a nutshell, from what I haven’t read in the prospectus.”
“It’s posh, but not as bad as Eton, Tonbridge and Harrow. The students are divided into four houses, which can be distinguished by the colours of their ties. All the students wear black ties with different colour stripes, the stripes representing their house group. Ours, which are green, is Clement. Ones with red stripes belong to Athena, ones with blue are in Highlander, and the ones with purple are in Scorpios. Ones with white stripes are our sixth-formers, not that they are much better. Your so-called prefects of the school wear the house ties, but also wear button budges on their blazers.”
“And they represent us? The student voice.”
“They’re supposed to. Don’t trust your head boy, he’s hopeless. Your best offer is the staff. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it like the rest of us.”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice.”
Edward finally asked the question that has been prodding his mind for the past few hours. “You really don’t want to be here do you?”
David smirked and turned to Edward, his voice light and curious. “And what makes you say that?”
“Because there was one particular student earlier on the platform who was having a moan, and since then that student who was opposite me on the train and now next to me on the coach has not been in the best of spirits.”
“Again, correct. I don’t want to be here. The sooner I’m kicked out or leave the better. I prefer my common life.”
“Stay with me, you’ll stay common.”
Edward nudged David in the arm. “Cheeky sod.”
“No. If I’m with you at least I’ll have some sanity left in me.”
They remained quiet for the duration of the journey, and David continued to follow Edward once they were off the coach. Walking through the double doors at the front of the building, the students walked straight on through the corridor and into the main hall, where the introductory assembly would take place, hoping that they could fit everyone in. During the assembly, Edward had to nudge David to prevent him getting into trouble from falling asleep. If he was to get expelled from the school, he was going to have to go down with a fight.
Following the assembly, they were split into forms and went to greet their form tutor, where the main requirement of the day was to fill in forms. Because David and Edward were in different forms, this meant their temporary departure, hoping they would see each other from time to time.
Inside form he was introduced to George Crofts, his supposed ‘help buddy’ to try and settle in. He was also his roommate for the next year. Since as a strong friendship was built between David and Jason, hopefully things would turn out the same here.
As it was their first day back, the afternoon consisted of classroom activities in their subjects, George having to help David get around the school and into his required subjects on time, making sure he wasn’t late for his own.
On the evening before dinner, George began to teach David the map of the school, which included David asking George where all of the exits to the building were. Also on that night at dinner he realised that his boarding mistress (the member of staff who takes of them in their houses) was in fact his form tutor, Miss Howard.
As the remainder of the students of his house came down to the dining room for dinner (the students ate meals in their own houses), he noticed that Edward was also in his house. Greeting each other as they noticed the other, David sat in between Edward and George. Miss Howard brought out the plates of food for them, the cooking pots in the middle of the room, so that they could pick and choose what they preferred. To begin with, Edward and David were full of energy in the conversation, which pleased Miss Howard, knowing that Edward had finally got someone to talk to.
David’s plate contained very little food, just a few boiled potatoes, a slice of beef and a few carrots and peas with some gravy coating the substance – a child’s dinner and something that David was likely to throw up later on. Miss Howard had been informed to keep a watchful eye over him, as he was likely not to eat much, or eat and then retch afterwards.
Miss Howard noticed how little food David had had all day and approached him as enthusiastically as one could, as having also being warned that if David refuses or rejects something and you press on, he could have a dark spell, and so had to be wary. “Come on David, have a few more carrots won’t you?”
For now David remained calm and polite, knowing that being in a new zone would mean getting used to each character. David lightly smiled, holding up a hand to reject the offer. “No thank you, I’m fine with what I’ve got.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, now can we eat please?”
At least he was eating something. George would have to keep an eye on him after dinner. “Of course.”
What David didn’t realise was that with the dinner provided also come dessert, which was a Victoria sponge. The dessert was presented as a slice in dishes. A jug of custard was stood in the middle of the table for those who wanted a supplement to their cake. As the dishes were passed around, George handed one to David, who batted a hand to show refusal.
Miss Howard was concerned, and tried to schmooze him into eating the cake, even if it was only a small helping. “No cake David?”
“No thank you. I’m already full.”
“But you’ve barely eaten anything. We can’t have you go hungry.”
“And I’m not hungry, meaning I’m fine. Please, I know it looks splendid but I simply can’t take the cake.”
Miss Howard pressed on, hoping that through her he would see sense. “You need to eat David. Even if it’s just a small bite.” David was then fuming, still refusing the cake, as Miss Howard decided that she would say no more, and have to think of another way to get David to eat. David began to snarl – as he did with everyone who pressed on – as he yelled at Miss Howard. “You’ve been told about my so-called problem haven’t you?”
“This is because of my parents. Someone has given you word that my parents are oh so worried about my dietary needs and think that they know me better than what I do. Well I’ll tell something and you will abide by it, all of you will. If I say no, it means no.”
“Well I couldn’t give a crap of what they think. If that’s they’re opinion then fine. They won’t however one bellow at me for what I fell and for what I am and two stop putting your nose into other people’s business and sod off! I’ve had enough so stop trying to force me to eat!!” David then furiously rose from his chair, the chair toppling over as he left the table and departed for his room. Inside David crashed straight onto the bed, which was still partially loaded with items. A knock came.
“David, is everything all right?” Then there was some mumbling going on outside, by the sounds of it George and Edward was outside.
“What part of yes don’t people understand? Now piss off!”
“All right, I’m going!” George was walking away, brushing a hand for Edward to follow, but he removed the hand from his shoulder. “Come on, leave him be. He’s homesick.”
“It’s not that. Leave it with me.” George shrugged and continued on. “On your own head McArthur.”
Edward tapped the door. “Dave, it’s just me, Ed. Can we talk?”
“Why? What for?”
“Because I liked our conversation earlier and I’d be glad to continue talking, because you seem really interesting and smart” – and handsome, Edward thought to himself.
“As long as it’s not to do with eating, then fine. You have permission to enter.”
Edward silently tiptoed in, trying to remain quiet. David held his head in his hands on the one side of his bed as Edward came over and placed a hand on his back, crouching low so that they were level. “I thought you could use a hug, unless you don’t do hugging. I know you’re homesick and you want to be at home. I’m the same.”
Usually David doesn’t hug, but in this case, Edward was the only one who had cared about David and had not yet annoyed him, and like before on the train, there was something about him that David couldn’t take his eyes off, and so he stretched his arms out to allow Edward to hug him.
“I’m guessing many people have ticked you off over it,” Edward muttered as they hugged.
“Yes.” David broke away. “Why? Oh don’t you start.”
Edward held his hands up in surrender. “I’m not. I was just curious and was going to ask how long have people been onto you about it?”
“Over a year. My parents are concerned that I’m getting thinner and thinner. They made me see a councillor and that didn’t do the trick. Things weren’t as bad until they sent me here. Since being here everyone minus you, and well George, but mostly you, has been a right arsehole. You’re the only one I can be with where I can act myself.”
Edward opened his arms out. “C’mere.” As they hugged again, Edward rubbed circles into his back to calm him down. “Another thing I was going to say was that it’s up to you what you do with your body. I can’t be the judge of you, but all I’m saying is if it’s because of the way you look to others, that you don’t think you’re pretty enough or attractive then you don’t need to change because you are perfect the way you are.”
David never revealed the reason why, but hand idea that at some point, Edward would eventually get him to talk. The remainder of the evening they talked a little, sitting against David’s bed and discussed various topics, mainly over their shared desire to read. Because of their conversation, the food would have to settle in David’s stomach for one night, which impressed Edward, and knew that when David was in his company, he might eat more and actually gain the extra needed weight. Edward’s intention wasn’t to make sure that David got fatter, but to make sure that David was healthy and for him to love his own body and to feel proud of the man he is.
Once everyone was back in their rooms preparing for bed, David took his journal to write up the latest entry, trying to describe both Edward and George.
The first was Edward. To David, Edward was a young, very good-looking man who was tall for his age, coated in pearly-white skin and carried a mop of curly hair on his head, the colour ranging from dark brown to black. His eyes were of a moonstone blue. He was smartly dressed and smelled of Vanilla. Another bookworm, Edward had decent taste in books and was also caring and warm-hearted. For some reason David was the only friend that Edward had got and unlike the others, he was also a commoner. Edward was also Welsh, coming from Pembroke, South Wales. Edward was someone who you could trust with your life.
On the other hand, George Crofts was short for his height, around 5ft 3 inches and stocky. George had short ginger hair and hazel eyes. His complexion was pale, and already had turned 16, making him the oldest student of their year. He came from Ludlow and had a fascination for music, skilled in the guitar and piano. He admired rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s such as Genesis, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Kiss, AC/DC and Slade. He was part of a band called Crimson Heart, where he was the lead singer and guitarist. With all the members of the band attended the school, they played around the local town on occasion. George wasn’t posh either, so at least David felt a little more comfortable than he first presumed, but that wouldn’t stop David from trying to devise a plan to leave the school and return to London.