The Boy With the Golden Eyes
by London Lampy
During the first service of dinner that evening Jack made an extra effort to check up on the welfare of the three younger boys, mindful of his earlier conversation with Fletcher. They didn't seem to be suffering from being in the orphanage too much, Cale was sporting a bruise on his chin that gave Jack some concern until he found out that it had been caused by him trying to jump from his bed to that of his twin brother and overshooting somewhat. Gary seemed to have made friends with a group of boys his own age and Jack was glad of this, the twins sometimes forgot that anyone existed outside of the two of them.
Much later as he sat down to eat his own meal, consisting of some sort of boiled grey meat and mashed turnips he was joined by Dana and Jane.
"Hello." He said as they sat opposite him. "Aren't you normally trying to get the first baths at this time?"
"We can skip a day." Dana said, looking at his plate and grimacing. "I couldn't eat any of that, the meat is all chewy. Jane had mine."
"Not all of it." Jane protested. "Just a bit."
"If you don't eat everything on your plate Sister Oakley punishes you for wasting food." Jack said between mouthfuls.
"I know." Dana rubbed her knuckles.
"Have you heard anything about Elodie?" He enquired while sawing at the meat with a blunt dinner knife.
"No, that's what we wanted to ask you about." Jane wound a strand of hair around her finger.
"It's one of the things we wanted to ask you about." Dana smirked.
"The other one being?" He was certain he knew what was coming.
"Just what you and Exit were doing when we came into the classroom to find you last night."
"What did it look like we were doing?" He managed to cut a piece of the meat off, then prodded at it with his fork.
"Kissing." Both girls said simultaneously.
"Yeah, that's what we were doing." He gave up on the food, even if it had been in the slightest bit appetising he wasn't sure he could eat and have this conversation at the same time.
"But why?" Jane asked, looking at him expectantly.
"Because I like him." Was all Jack could think of to say in reply.
"Jack." She frowned. "You're not meant to kiss boys, you're meant to kiss girls." Jane said this as if she were explaining it to a very young child.
"Why?" He asked in reply, she blinked at him.
"Because that's the way things are, you meet a girl, fall in love, get married and have babies. Everybody knows that, you can't marry a boy, or have babies with him."
"No Jane, that's what you think everyone should do." Dana said to her sister in a weary voice. "I don't intend on getting married, or having babies. I've changed enough nappies to last me a lifetime, and I have no intention of spending my days running about after a husband."
"Oh." Jane uttered, sounding surprised.
"But." Dana continued. "Jane's fairy story ideas aside, why were you kissing a boy?"
"Same reason anyone kisses anyone I guess." Jack shrugged.
"And that would be?" She persisted. Jack recalled Nanny saying that Dana reminded her of a terrier after a rat at times.
"I don't know...you know...when you like someone you do that kind of thing."
"But you liked Marni back home, she told me you kissed her." Jane said.
"I did kiss her, but I didn't really like her like that." He could see Ward hovering in the distance, normally the boy sat with him when he ate and bored him senseless on the subject of the kitchens and food in general, right now he would positively welcome the large eared boy's thoughts on red versus white cabbages again.
"Why did you kiss her then?"
He ran a hand through his curls. "Look, I can't really explain it, but if you must know I kissed Sam an awful lot more times than I ever kissed Marni."
The girls looked at one another. "Marni's brother Sam?" Jane asked eventually.
"Did we know another Sam?" Jack really wanted this conversation to end.
"Yes." Jane came back. "Miss Osram's father, his name was Sam too."
"You think I'm telling you I was going around kissing old Sam? He was eighty at least!"
"Jane, don't be so stupid, of course he meant Marni's brother." Dana turned to Jack again. "So, Exit isn't the first boy you've kissed?"
"Jane, Dana, what are the pair of you doing here? Be on your way." Sister Oakley's cracked voice suddenly rung out across the almost empty dining hall, and for once Jack was glad of the elderly nun's intrusion.
"And Jack, hurry up and finish your food, you'd due in the classroom, I've found a particularly pertinent passage on gluttony for you to reproduce today, and I want you to meditate on the words as you go."
"Yes Sister." He watched the two girls leave, knowing that it was unlikely that this was the last conversation they would be having on the subject of him kissing boys.
"Come in." Mother Hardigan called out from behind her desk where she was working on the never ending task of making the orphanage books balance. Father Frederick opened the door to her study and she indicated for him to sit.
"Do you have news of the girl?" She enquired.
"I do." He said as he sat. "She hasn't lost much more blood since last night, the doctor who has been attending to her told me he feels so long as she doesn't contract an infection it's unlikely she'll die." His face was grim and tired, his normally bright eyes were bloodshot and had dark smudges under them.
"Was there much damage done?" Mother Hardigan asked, capping her pen and closing the heavy ledger with a dull thud.
"It's doubtful she'll ever bear children."
The nun nodded. "Beyond that?"
"Isn't that enough?" He sighed. "Why did she do such a stupid thing?" He slammed his hand down on the desk in frustration. "She should have told me."
"She should have informed someone." The nun narrowed her eyes at him. "Did she give you any indication of who was responsible for her condition?"
"No." He glanced toward the window. "But she's barely in a fit state for conversation, although I don't think it's a subject we should push her on even after she recovers, it's not as if it is of any importance now."
"I beg to disagree Father." Mother Hardigan folded her hands on the desk. "The one responsible must be punished, we cannot allow the boys to think that they can use the girls in that manner, that their lustful actions have no consequences. Also we must consider the very likely possibility that the act was performed against her will, if this was the case then it's a very serious matter indeed."
"I don't believe it was a matter of rape, sometime after she has returned to us and is fully healed I'll broach the subject with her, but I very much doubt she'll divulge anything, you know how girls are with their secrets."
"Yes, I know all about girls, and secrets." Mother Hardigan said levelly. "But Elodie will not be returning to us, I visited with some of our governors today while you were at the hospital, and they agree that it would be better if a suitable position were found for her that she could begin immediately her convalescence has ended."
The priest's face took on a shocked expression. "You can't do that." He protested, then stopped for a moment and drew breath. "I mean to say, she's still a few months shy of sixteen, it's our duty to care for her until she reaches her next birthday."
Mother Hardigan gave him a small smile and passed him a sheet of paper from a pile on her desk. "This certificate says she has already reached that age."
She watched as he read the certificate, it was the one presented to employers from the orphanage giving them a few basic details on the young person they were taking on, including their birth date. It was signed by the nun herself, and countersigned by one of the governors.
"Most of the children have no official birth documents." She watched in satisfaction as he realised what she had done. "If one proves to be particularly troublesome we can simply add a few months to their age to speed up the process of their employment, it's a small subterfuge we've resorted to on occasion."
Father Frederick placed the certificate back onto her desk without comment, but she could see his jaw was clenched. "Father, I was wondering if you had any idea why when Elodie returned she chose to go to your office?" She kept her tone politely neutral, but fixed him with her deep set eyes.
"I suppose...I suppose it was because she knew that I try to be a friend to all the children." The priest rubbed the back of his neck.
"Ah yes, that must be it." Mother Hardigan gave a single nod.
"If you'll excuse me I need to be going now." He stood. "As you know I like to make myself available to the children in the evenings."
"Certainly Father, I wouldn't want to delay you from your duties any longer."
Once he had left the room she walked over to the window and rested her palms on the cold glass. It was dark outside and the branches of the lone tree were moving in the chill air, swaying back and forth across a street lamp outside the walls, creating a shimmering effect that she found calming to watch.
She had sat with the blond girl while they waited for the doctor to arrive, Father Frederick pacing the room, alternately raging to the gods and bargaining with them to let her live. The hem of the nun's habit had become soaked with blood as she leant over Elodie keeping track of her breathing and heartbeat, saying her own private prayers for the girl.
She hadn't wanted to take her in from the beginning, Mother Hardigan had felt that the girl was already too far fallen for them to make a productive member of society out of her, and she was concerned about her possible influence on the other children, what she might teach the rest of the girls and the effect that might have. Even kept hungry and tired she was very aware how little it took for boys to become not much more more than a pack of lust crazed animals and she took her duty to preserve the purity of the girls very seriously.
She herself knew only too well the damage that could be inflicted on a girl by the rough treatment of men and boys, and she found it hard to believe that any woman, whatever her age would consent entirely willingly to be rutted on, even within the bonds of marriage. She unconsciously moved her hands to her abdomen recalling her single experience of the act of fornication, the pain long ago faded but the memory of it, the memory of being held down by many hands, helpless as they laughed and took turns, still fresh enough to give her nightmares.
"She could have given the baby to someone else to raise, that's how come me and Dana and Jack and all the others were living with Nanny." Jane said stirring the spoonfuls of sugar she had heaped into her tea until the bottom of the cup no longer felt gritty. "But now the baby is dead and she nearly died." She looked over the desk at Father Frederick, who watched her with tired eyes.
"Unfortunately she felt she couldn't trust anyone with the truth." The priest sighed. "That lack of trust almost cost her life, and has cost her any future children."
The priest seemed so sad that Jane wanted to comfort him, and that he cared so much about what had happened to Elodie made him seem very noble to her.
"When is she coming back?" She asked sipping her sweet tea.
"She won't be, Mother Hardigan and the governors have seen to it that she is to be found employment as soon as she recovers." Jane nodded, not really knowing what "governors" were. "But keep that to yourself, none of the other children know yet." She felt a small swell of pride that he had taken her into his confidence.
"Do you know who the father was?" Jane asked, hoping he might tell her another secret.
"No." The priest sipped his own tea. "I don't." His tone of voice made Jane seek to change the subject, and she decided to ask him something that had been bothering her.
"Are boys allowed to kiss other boys?" She quizzed him.
"Whatever makes you ask that?" His brow creased.
She decided that much as she liked Father Frederick she wasn't about to mention Jack's name in connection with her query. "It was something one of the other girls said...that they sometimes do." She hoped that this was vague enough not to make him suspicious.
"No, they are most certainly not."
"Oh." She said quietly. "It's wrong then?"
"It's very wrong. That is the kind of thing that lands people in hell in the long run, a youthful transgression or two can be struck off the roll, but beyond that it's a pathway to punishment in the afterlife, so if you do know of any of that kind of behaviour occurring you would be saving the boys involved by telling me."
Jane felt her stomach curdle, she didn't want Jack to go to hell. "Yes Father." She nodded, she needed to talk to her brother as soon as possible, she needed to save him.
"You're a good girl Jane." He gave her a tired smile. "You are a constant reminder of why I chose to take this position. Why don't we talk about something a little more cheerful, tell me about the village you grew up in."
She delighted in spending the next half hour relating stories about the people she had known and the events that had occurred throughout her childhood. Father Frederick even laughed out loud when she told him about the time Sam and Marni's father's heard of cows escaped their field and ran amok in the village, one even getting into the schoolhouse.
"Thank you little sun goddess." He said to her once she had finished. "I think you'd better hurry along now, it'll be lights out soon." He stood to show her to the door, just before he opened it he turned to her.
"You know you've cheered me up very much." He he looked deep into her eyes. "Perhaps there is one other thing you could do for me?"
"What's that Father?" She asked.
"Would you let me hug you? It's very much against protocol, but sometimes even priests need some physical comfort, and I can see no harm in it, so long as we keep it our little secret."
"Yes Father." She replied with a small smile, happily wrapping her arms around his robed middle.
"Hey Shithouse." Jack looked up from cleaning his teeth and into the wash room mirror to see Fletcher's reflection looking back at him. "I put in your order, the item you requested should be with you by tomorrow evening."
Jack spat out a mouthful of toothpaste then wiped his face on the thin towel that was slung around his shoulders. "That was quick."
"I don't hang around." Fletcher raised his eyebrows.
"What sort of payment do you want?" He asked, leaning back against the sink.
"Nothing, look at it as a favour to a friend, just do one thing for me."
"What?" Jack knew there had to be a catch.
Fletcher looked away. "I know I was joking about it earlier, but be careful with monkey boy, he's only small and he's had a shitty life."
"Fletch!" Jack protested. "I'm not going to..." He stopped himself and lowered his voice as a couple of the other boys entered the room. "...hurt him." He finished. "Anyway, since when did you care about him?"
Fletcher sighed. "Keep this to yourself, but deep down I'm a soft bastard, especially for helpless things. Filled my dad's flat with stray cats and dogs when I were little, I wouldn't like to think of him getting hurt just because you want to get off."
"Fletch." Jack said in a whisper. "It's not about that, believe me. I like him...a lot, you know?"
Fletcher grinned. "Do you mean you're in love with him?"
Jack shrugged. "Maybe."
"Jane, is something wrong?" Dana stood up from putting a stack of clean clothes into her footlocker. "If you don't stop twirling your hair like that you'll get a bald patch." Jane glanced up to see Dana looking over at her. She knew that her face must be a picture of worry, what the priest had said to her was weighing heavily on her mind. Dana came over to sit on the bed beside her, taking Jane's hand in her own, keeping it from her head.
"Are you still upset about Elodie?" Dana said this very quietly as some of the other girls were in the room, but fortunately none of them close enough to easily overhear then speak. The mood in the dorm was subdued, none of the others really knew what had happened, but they knew it was something serious and without Elodie to tell them what to do they seemed to lack direction and hardly spoke to one another, let alone Dana and Jane.
"It's not that." Jane replied, squeezing her sisters hand. "I'm worried about Jack, we have to save him from going to hell."
"Jack's not going to hell." Dana laughed. "Who told you that he was?"
"He is going to hell, at least if he doesn't stop kissing boys, Father Frederick said so."
"You told him about Jack and Exit?" Dana whispered incredulously. "Jane, you bloody idiot, you'll have got him into so much trouble."
"No, I didn't." She raised her free hand to her head and began to worry at her hair again. "I just asked him if boys were allowed to kiss other boys, that's all, I promise. I didn't say anything about Jack, or Exit."
"But even so." Dana continued. "He'll be wondering why you asked that sort of question."
"No." Jane interjected. "I told him I'd heard some of the other girls talking about boys kissing each other. But Dana, if we don't get Jack to stop he's going to go to hell." She was almost in tears.
"And you believed what he told you?" Dana said flatly.
"He's a priest, he knows these things." She insisted.
"Jane, the man is talking bullshit." The younger girl blinked at the curse word. "All this." She waved her hand expansively. "Is bullshit, Jack's no more going to hell than you or I are. Do you think Nanny would have believed that?"
Jane thought for a moment, Nanny's philosophy had always been to simply treat others as you yourself would want to be treated, and hell never came into it, but a priest couldn't possibly be wrong, could he? "She wouldn't have wanted Jack to be dammed." Why couldn't Dana understand how important this was?
"He's not going to be, trust me please, and for goodness sake don't mention the subject to Father Frederick again or he might start to become suspicious. Let's go and use the wash room, it'll be lights out soon, and stop worrying about Jack or you'll have bad dreams."
Jane collected up her wash things, her fears not calmed one bit. If Dana wasn't going to take her seriously she was going to have to speak to Jack alone, and if that didn't work then perhaps she would simply have to tell the priest, she had to save her beloved brother from hell at any cost.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]