Term started on a sunny day. The rugby pitch burned lime green beneath a clear sky – though there was one forgiving shady spot behind the pavilion, for the convenience of the smokers. There were none around at the moment, of course. They were nocturnal creatures.
Inside the boarding house, the air was a little cooler. I had just discovered I had a room facing away from the sun this term, and was lying face down on the ice cold duvet with a broad grin. Last year, I had been on the other side of the corridor, and had spent the summer on fire.
Despite the muffling door, I picked up a tuneless whistling coming from across the corridor and realized I wasn't alone in House anymore. I leapt off the bed and flung myself out of my room, beaming.
He span around, dropping his books – though of course, he never gave an iota what happened to those. That smile was a permanent fixture on Jason Olivier, but I knew him well enough to tell he was glad to see me.
Jason wasn't a tall boy, but he carried himself like he was. He laughed at just about everything and spoke with a sparkly Australian accent, though he spent little of his time in his home country – his parents were going through a never-ending messy divorce, and had forgotten he existed. Most holidays were spent with his best friend.
"Where's Martin?" I asked, assuming they had come together. Those two came as one; they were welded together from the day they met.
"Saying his goodbyes," Jason replied, running his hand through his fair hair. Considering his red face and clumsy movements, he was the vainest person I knew.
A clatter at the stairs heralded Martin's arrival, and I couldn't help but laugh as he stumbled through the doors, arms and back weighed down with luggage. There was a small suitcase of clothes, and everything else was music. Books, blank CDs – and the crown jewels, his synthesizer. No one has ever loved a machine as much as Martin Harrison loved his synthesizer.
After quickly throwing our possessions into drawers, we gathered in the corridor to discuss vital matters. First on the agenda was the new boy. He was from Hong Kong, as were many full-boarders in our house, and nothing else was known of him. We moved on pretty quickly to the events of the holidays, but there was little to be said on those either – my text addiction had made sure we all stayed in touch.
Finally, we moved onto the key point. The very next day, at the final ring of the school bell, we would be herded onto a minibus and dumped at the nearby girls' school for our first ever ballroom dancing lesson.
I had never been so frightened.
It wasn't that girls scared me. My friends often told me I was the closest thing to a girl that had ever gone to St Vita's School for Boys. It was the dancing.
My brother Grayson – now he could dance. He was the assistant to the teacher running these classes, and he had tried to teach me in the past. But he had failed. I could walk in a straight line, but after that, co-ordination abandoned me.
That night was spent tossing and turning. It was wonderful to be back in that hard, narrow bed that had become home to me, but every time I closed my eyes, I saw lines and lines of graceful dancers – and me, falling over, making a fool of myself.