August 1, 2016 by Lyn
The first day of Year Four of the Addergoole School.
The students bounced, the new ones with nervous anticipation, the older ones licking their chops, prepared to start the game again. Written large on the Third Cohort’s faces was the same message he’d seen last year on the faces of the Second Cohort: This time I’ll be on top. This time I won’t get caught.
Ambrus took his place, one step behind and to the right of his Lady, and began to Work the crowd’s attention, focusing it all on Regine as she spoke, drawing all eyes to her face, all ears to her voice.
Her greeting was the same every year, word for word, only the year of the Cohort changed. He didn’t need to listen as he dipped the students’ emotions, finding those who resisted his initial tricks, fine-tuning his efforts and noting those who would be a problem for him this year.
“…The classes on the schedules you received are all considered required classes; ‘skipping’ is not allowed and will be punished.”
Hatred. As if someone had just blown on smoldering embers, a flare of violent, angry hate. He scanned the crowd again, looking for its source.
He was too well-trained to frown while on stage, but, behind his back, his hands clenched. He recognized that chin and its stubborn set. He recognized the eyes, too, with long, too-feminine eyelashes – the eyes he saw in a mirror every day; the chin he had last seen nearly two decades ago, on a woman – barely more than a girl, though he’d been just as young – who had been glaring at him with much the same fire he now felt from this boy.
Shit. He indulged for a brief moment in irritation at Regine. It wouldn’t occur to her to warn him, would it, that his offspring by That Woman was coming to the school this year?
Of course not. For one, he had access to all of her paperwork, should he choose to use it. And for another, it wouldn’t occur to her that it would be a problem. This one certainly wasn’t the only child he’d fathered, just the only one whose mother had hated him – and, it seemed, had taught her son to hate him as well. Wonderful.
He didn’t try to shift the kid’s mind. He knew from experience that certain emotions, burning-hot hatred being one of them, were almost impossible to change subtly. Instead, he tried to ignore the eyes that seemed to bore into him, and did his job as best he could, thanking whatever gods that cared that Regine’s intro was short and sweet, and thus his time up here on stage was as well.
When she was done, and he was allowed to follow her off the stage, he found shelter in the dimly-lit back hallway. He leaned, not quite collapsing, against the wall. He needed a drink, a tall, stiff drink. If the last ten minutes were a preview of the next four years, he was going to need a lot of tall, stiff drinks.
Emrys looked around the group of students, wondering what he was doing here, how long he was going to stick around before he ditched, and who that fucker on the stage with his father’s face had been.
His mother had shown him photos of the asshole sperm donor, both of them together and looking happy, but that had been nineteen years ago, and the pretty-boy on stage had been maybe that old, probably not; he looked younger than Emrys. But there he was, looking just like his father and following the bitch Regine like a good little lapdog.
Wondering again why his mother would force him to come here, when she’d never had a single nice thing to say about the woman who ran this place, he elbowed against the crowd and jumped onto the short stage. They’d gone through the left-hand door, so that’s the way he went. Might as well figure out who the pansy was before he ditched this place.
The hall past the door was narrow, concrete-walled, and dimly-lit, but he didn’t have to go too far; the guy was leaning against the wall just a few feet away, his eyes closed.
He walked up to him, waiting for a reaction. Nothing. He stood firm, hands on his hips, and demanded, “Who are you?”
The guy looked a little surprised at the question, as if everyone ought to know who he was. “Ambrus oro’Regine,” he answered with a little smirk.
Emrys stood there stunned. It couldn’t be. This, this boy couldn’t possibly be…
Apparently his body had other ideas, because when he snapped out of his reverie he found his hands gripping Ambrus’s shoulders, shoving him up against the wall.
“You fucker,” he yelled, with an extra shove for emphasis. “Where were you? Have you been waiting here this whole damn time?”
“Well… yes.” He didn’t even have the grace to look apologetic about it. “This is where I live.”
“What about Mom? You abandoned her! For this?” He waved derisively, seeming to indicate the complex as a whole, his gaze full of withering contempt as it took in the hall.
“I-” He sagged against the wall. “I had no choice,” he frowned, “as your mother should have told you.”
“No choice? To leave her for that bitch? Yeah, you had a choice! You could’ve chosen to be a fucking man about it instead of rolling over like a good dog!”
Under his grip, the man’s shoulders tensed, and he looked as if he was going to answer, maybe finally say something useful back, but instead, all he said was, “What’s your name?”
It lacked the fury of his own words, or even the more subtle venom he was expecting; like everything else about the man, it seemed too relaxed for the subject at hand, complacent.
“My name. You don’t even know my name.” Emrys shook his head, a quick, belligerent motion. “Emrys Morn,” he spat, emphasizing the surname, his mother’s name.
“Emrys,” he smiled. “So she did keep it. Good.” He shrugged. “I didn’t leave your mother for Regine, Emrys. If anything, I left Regine for your mother – temporarily.” Paradoxically, with that last word, there was a suggestion of heat, a bit of firmness.
“So… she was what to you? A fling? An entertainment? A fucking toy?” Emrys slammed his father into the wall again, the fiery rage rising within him, a pervasive heat like nothing he’d felt before.
Ambrus hit the wall like a rag doll, his body limp, his head down. When he raised his head again to look at Emrys, it was with a jerky motion, as if someone was pulling his strings. He shook his head. “I liked your mother a lot. Maybe I loved her. But in the end, I’m bound by Regine’s will.”
“Bound by… Don’t give me that crap!” Emrys snarled, raising a hand… but the idea struck home, and he didn’t swing. It did make sense, with what his mother had told him…
Ambrus didn’t even flinch. “Bound,” he repeated, nodding.
Emrys frowned, releasing him with a dismissive flick of his hand. “Not entirely against your will, though,” he theorized, putting the pieces together in his head.
It was strange to see that “are-you-grown-up-enough-to-tell-you-this” expression on the face of someone who looked younger than him. “Not… entirely… against my will, no,” he agreed reluctantly, as if he was going to explain what happened when a mommy and a daddy didn’t really love each other at all.
Emrys had had enough. “Lapdog,” he sneered, in what would be the first of many times. He turned his back on his father and stalked off to consider this news, and to see if he could complete the puzzle it presented.