[ Courtyard ]
Something was wrong again, posited Jaime. Yes, something was certainly wrong.
One minute he’d been listening to the other boy, quietly formulating something to keep the conversation going, and then it was upon him – a languid, chthonic feeling, like fear but almost too pure for it. Chthonic. That word had always seemed strange to him. He’d missed the H, or put it somewhere wrong, a year or two ago when spelling it on a blackboard. Nobody corrected him but he was sure they knew. Their eyes nestled over his shoulders, watching, waiting for him to repeat his mistake.
“Kal,” his teacher had said, quietly, “you’re not just anyone.”
No, not quite. That’s not how it went.
“Kal,” his father had said, sternly, “you’re not just anyone.”
Even that was wrong.
Their scrutiny bored into him as he watched, silently, the soft glimmer of barest frost sketching itself over Jaime. They all had secrets here, secrets that could burn them out – freeze them over.
He felt his mother’s hand upon his shoulder. But she was all the way in Kent by now, home, asleep. And her hands were not cold. If he turned around he would be there, far away, home again, and she would know all of his failings and his weaknesses. She would look at him with eyes full of silent, disappointed revulsion. He had one job. One job, and he couldn’t even do that right.
She wouldn’t, though. She wouldn’t. Plane tickets were expensive. He was far away from England and Kent. The touch upon his shoulder was too light, like a memory, like something etched from mist.
Still, there were bloody figures in his mind when he turned around and saw–