Alexander pressed his forehead against the glass and watched the snow fall. So much for those pretty little snowflakes with their endless variations and delicate patterns, this snow fell in clumps as though the sky had been ripped into rags, and made the world beyond the taxi unidentifiable and silent in its wake.
He didn't want to see it anyway. He didn't want to see the heavy ornate gates they passed through, or the imposing trees that lined the drive. He didn't even want to see the white pillared mansion where he would be spending the next five or six weeks until the Christmas holidays. So he just concentrated on the snow and hoped the world would forget about him for a while.
But of course the car stopped and the taxi driver wanted the fifty six pounds it had cost to drive from the run down estate in the suburbs of London to this school in up-market Surrey. The four pounds the driver handed him as change were now all the money he had in the world, so much for those vague notions of running away to Hastings and paying to sleep in one of the cheap hostels scattered about the sea front. Stupid romantic idea anyway, could be anywhere in this weather and it wouldn't make any difference to the view.
Fuck, it was cold. Alexander watched the car's red tail lights until they dipped and faltered out of view back down that long, dark drive way. Only then did he turn and face the house it seemed fate had placed in his way. A huge Victorian mansion, white like the snow. There were three floors but only one window out of a possible twenty or thirty was lit up, the rest were black eyed holes in a gigantic face. It was pretty late and he figured he should probably make himself known before he froze to death on the steps.
"Yes", he said through the intercom for a second time. Maybe there was an echo, or maybe they'd fucked his details up, or the taxi driver had driven him to the wrong school and..
"You're a little late" the voice wavered and suddenly the large wooden doors swung open with a clunk.
A little late? It wasn't his fault he was the fucking booby prize in the raffle, the unwanted gift from the relative who knows nothing about taste. He'd been playing pass the fucking parcel with as many previously unmet relatives it was feasibly possible to have for the past six months, but none of them wanted him long term, i.e more than two or three weeks at most. And the last set, second cousin Maggie and her husband Tom, had had the brilliant idea of sending him away to a charity case boarding school full of army brats and the unhappy results of dysfunctional families. The government paid his fees, none of the family would have the guilt of turning him over to a state run children's home and they could all pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves that he was having a better then average education and pretend they were busy in the holidays.
A little late? By the time Maggie had come home from work to finalise the paperwork and struggle to find him the basic requirement of clothing, it was already nine o clock and then there had been a taxi to phone and wait for while Tom jumped for joy in the living room- well he would have if I wasn't sitting on the sofa, Alexander thought glumly.
Fucking parents, fucking dying.
The hallway was dimly lit and not nearly as grand as the outside of the house suggested. In fact it reminded him of a hospital- both the walls and floor were wipe clean and sick coloured. At the end of the hall a large stairway curved gracefully upwards toward the first floor, and above it there was a snow covered, domed atrium- now that was grand, he thought.
A door at the far end of the hall opened and a thin man with a bald head and round glasses perched on the end of his nose beckoned him. The man was dressed in an awful paisley dressing gown and floppy leather slippers. He held out his hand.
"I'm Mr Timms, the house master" he said, and he lead Alexander through the doorway and up a tatty back staircase to the first floor where he turned and studied him.
"I don't expect you to make any noise or to wake any of the other pupils. If there is any trouble tonight, I will be holding you to blame."
Great, thought Alexander, he's boxed me up already. Troublemaker. It wasn't like it had never happened before, but it always perplexed him when it did. His aunt Judy has said it was because he had a certain wild look about him 'a wolf in his eyes' whatever that meant, but that was when he was four or five years old. Now, at nearly sixteen, he was a bit old to be looking wild and as far back as he could remember he'd never once started any 'trouble' He wished Judy was still alive, she would have taken him in and looked after him, she wouldn't have passed him on and politely avoided eye contact.
Alexander nodded at Mr Timms.
"Okay" he said when something more that a nod seemed to be required.
"You'll be sleeping in one of the dormitories on the wooden corridor with the other year 11 pupils" Timms said as he lead him down another tatty corridor and then out into the grander part of the house, past another atrium and indeed down a wooden corridor lined with dorms. At the end of the corridor there was a beautiful circular window looking out over the snow covered grounds.
"Room 7" Timms pushed open a door halfway down the corridor on the left and placed a finger to his lips.
"You'll be shown round in the morning" he said, and with that he left Alexander standing on the threshold staring at a cold unmade bed and trying not to breath in case he woke either of the two sleeping forms in the crowded room and had to explain himself. He wasn't looking forward to doing that in the morning after some much needed sleep, never mind in the middle of the night when he was creeping round like an intruder. Had they even been told there would be another boy in the room with them in the morning? He knew someone just appearing in his room would freak the hell out of him.
Luckily the curtains were open and the gleam of the snow made the room light enough for him to see what he was doing as he quietly made his bed and hunted through his meagre possessions for something that might resemble a pair of pajamas. Most of the clothing that Maggie had stuffed in were Tom's cast offs, which would have been okay had Alexander been about a foot taller. There hadn't been anything of his own clothing left after the fire, so he guessed he was grateful. He shut his eyes against those thoughts, thoughts of the fire, and blindly pulled a clean t-shirt over his head and a changed out of his underwear. That would do.
The room was freezing and for a while he just stared out the window at the dark starless sky, eventually the bed began to warm and just before he drifted off to sleep he was sure he saw another pair of eyes, awake and staring at him from the bed across the room.