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The Outcasts

by Cole Parker


At tea, Will sat at his house table. Teatime at Hammil Academy was an informal affair, one occasion where boys could sit either with their mates from their house at the tables where they were assigned for their other meals, or in fact anywhere else they wanted. The school had established this practice to encourage discussions of lessons between boys in the same lessons who were not from the same houses. Of course, this also allowed for more acquaintances which in the past had been tacitly discouraged, acquaintances with boys who didn't live in the same immediate houses.

At Will's table today there was a varied group of boys. A few were from his house, but they had friends with them from other houses. Will, as usual, was alone amidst a squalor of noisy boys. As his fellows ate and chatted, he spent his time looking out over the room, watching and musing.

He suddenly felt his arm being jostled. Looking up, he saw the boy next to him, an older boy from his house, looking at him, an angry scowl on his face. "Hey, Tanner, I asked for the sugar. Wake up, you dozy sod!"


"You were daydreaming again. Why don't you sit somewhere else? You're a dead loss, you know. Do us all a favor."

Will passed the sugar and kept his sigh to himself. He dropped his gaze to his plate till the other boy gave up and went back to joking with the other boys at the table. Then, Will gradually looked back up and resumed looking around the crowded, noisy room.

This was his usual occupation. After a bit of gazing, while drinking his tea and nibbling his jam sandwich, his eyes lighted upon a boy he'd seen before, a boy whose name he knew as he knew many names, but simply another boy.

Liam Blake was his name. Although Will had little interest in other boys, little interest in much of anything if truth be told, he did find one aspect of Blake to be of note, something perhaps to be considered should he feel the inspiration to do so. It was not the boy's appearance, though many found that arresting. Liam was a good looking youth, tall and broad-shouldered, with curly, unruly and long, golden, almost silver hair, and an engaging smile, though that hadn't been seen recently. Blake had a generous and friendly nature and had in the past always been at the center of things. That this no longer was true, that he was now isolated from his mates, seemed strange indeed, seemed in fact to belie the natural order of things, because just from the appearance of the boy, his innate leadership qualities and appealing nature were evident. To Will, however, Blake was just another boy, one of hundreds here. To Will, he wasn't particularly good looking. There was nothing on the surface notable about his appearance that caught Will's eye or sparked his interest. But Will had occasionally caught himself glancing in Blake's direction in particular in the past. As he did so today, he found Blake was looking at him. Will quickly looked away. Eye contact was the last thing he wanted.

Will wasn't really interested in making any sort of contact with Blake. Or with any other boy, for that matter. He had no real friends, but didn't question his lack of remorse for that. He felt it appropriate to be alone and by now was accustomed to being apart with his thoughts, not wanting what he lacked. No, he didn't want any kind of interaction with Blake, he merely looked at him because he looked at everyone, simply curious as to who was where and what they were doing. Such idle thoughts kept his mind directed away from where it seemed to want to go. Strange, though, that his eyes would pass to Blake so readily.

Blake was like Will, a boy separate from the pack, and perhaps it was this anomaly Will found interesting. Most boys fit in with their fellows. It is human nature for people to be social. Boys were especially so. Throw them together as complete strangers and within minutes they're sorting themselves out into groups ranging from twosomes to larger assemblies, sorting themselves by personality and interest. Rare is the boy who escapes this melding of spirits. It is against their nature to be alone, and so everyone finds someone.

Everyone but Will, who instead pushed others away. Not physically and almost unconsciously, but just by not joining in, not including himself with them, showing no interest in anyone or anything, a separation grew. After a time, even the most persistent and best-hearted of boys will stop wasting their time with someone who is utterly unresponsive. Of course, this brought the odd remark, the odd glance, and these became at first simply less than friendly and eventually scornful and meant to hurt. As is the way of things, if Will chose to be separate from the group, the group decided not to allow Will entry into it, and what had begun as Will's cautious disinterest in and separation from the other boys was now an established fact. They were as one where it concerned Will, and he was alone. They had briefly set out to rag Will, but Will had ignored them. He became very good at that. And so, he now also was ignored. It was what he had wanted, and it was now fact.

Will was only vaguely aware why he had initially separated himself from everyone and simply accepted this was the way it was to be for him. It didn't bother him. But he recognized he was different in that respect, and it was something that made him curious about Blake, because he could see that he, too, was now on the outside looking in. And so Will did wonder about him, if only a little. Was he happy? Did it bother him, this isolation that he existed within?

They both seemed to be on the edge of things, always at the sides, never a part of the whole. Will had an idea why Blake stood alone, why he was avoided by the others. He'd heard the boys talking. Even as isolated as he was emotionally, he was still around other boys physically, you couldn't help but be at a boys' school, and he overheard conversations. He had heard what was said about Blake. Whether the boy really was a homosexual or not, Will didn't know. But he guessed it explained why Blake was apart from everyone else to the same extent he himself was.

Will, in his continual glancing around the room, eventually found his eyes again focused on the table where Blake was sitting. As they passed over Blake, he again saw the boy looking at him. Will frowned, and kept his eyes moving.

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