During my first few days at Ravenshall, I stayed clear of my boarding house, wary of seniors who would bound up to me and ask for my intro.
This was a seemingly benign form of hazing, with the victim having to recite his name, where he came from, what his parents did, etcetera, until he would be interrupted and asked terrifyingly philosophical questions between snickers and mouthfuls of confiscated tuck.
And so I was loitering outside the library, trying to balance on the bricks that bounded one of the gardens, when one of the Ashwasan kids, who wore the same blue shirts as we did, came up to me and touched my breast. He looked at me cheerfully, rosy and stout, and I gaped back. Then he went off to the Ashwasan Center, a school within our school for underprivileged children with developmental disabilities. I went back to my house, feeling violated, all the more so because the memory of his touch filled me with a strange, shameful pleasure.
The next day, while I was waiting for the library to open, he came up to me again. This time, he pressed something into my hand.
He nudged me with his foot, and so I looked at what he had given me, a soiled slam book that must have come free with a packet of chips.
My reaction seemed to have satisfied him, for he kissed me, and his drool ran down my cheek.
I went back to the boarding house after he had gone.
“Come here,” said someone, and my heart sank.
It was old Handsome, my house captain, thus called because he addressed his victims so, before hitting them with his hockey stick for having failed to polish their shoes.
“Why are you crying?” said the Elephant, whose bulk had won him this nickname. He was sitting splayed beside Handsome when I came over, stuffing someone else’s chips into his mouth.
And I explained how the boy had touched me, omitting the slam book snug in my pocket. I also omitted the kiss.
“Bloody asshole!” said Handsome, “Bloody fucker! We’ll show him.” The Elephant’s face lit up.
Handsome and the Elephant dragged me after them as they set off for the Ashwasan Center, located behind the library.
The boy was sitting apart from the others. Pleased to see me, he smiled. But then Handsome grabbed him up by the collar and slapped him.
“Bloody homo!” he said, “How dare you?”
“Bastard doesn’t understand English,” said the Elephant, “Bloody villager.”
The boy gaped at me. Some of the other children were crying. None of them came to his aid.
Handsome threw him down and kicked him.
“Spastic,” he said.
The boy broke into loud sobs.
The next time he saw me, he ducked his head and ran to the shelter of the Ashwasan Center.