‘I’m willing to overlook your deception of me and the others,’ Ciel began in a honeyed voice, his sapphire eyes trained on Maurice Cole in pure glacial hatred, and his smile diabolically innocent. ‘But you should speak plainly to Redmond about this. Yours is a brotherly relationship built on trust… Right?’
Maurice’s heart hammered inside his shirt at Ciel’s words. He knew what he was doing was terrible, yet he just didn’t care. Putting other wisely ordinary people to good use was a talent, right? And Maurice had found this particular skill within his first year of Weston College. Back then he had fawned and fussed over the prefects within an inch of his life. It was gruelling work at first, but he did it all for Redmond, his favourite member of the Prefect Four.
Edgar Redmond had stood out to him more than the other prefects, for many reasons than just one. He came from one of the richest, most famous families in the whole of South England. Not only that; but he was charming in an androgynous, sexless way, with an eye for all things beautiful. A member of the Scarlet Fox house, honed above all for the purest of the pure bloodlines and an incredible ancestry; this had kindled his desire to be put in the Red dormitory before he even set foot in the school.
Back home, he was the second son, the youngest of two. He would never inherit a title. This cast a shadow of hatred and self-doubt over the teenage boy and thus, he became the deceitful person he is today. Redmond had somewhat convinced him otherwise, telling him he was the most beautiful boy in the whole of Weston, that he couldn’t have a better fag, that he loved him like a brother. All these compliments built up inside the boy’s head and filled his empty heart with happiness. He began to depend on the prefect to make him feel worthwhile and important. Without Redmond, he was just another face in the crowd. With Redmond, he was known as the prefect’s fag, the prettiest boy in the school, and somebody everybody wished to be associated with. The flattery from Redmond grew to become something more. Maurice became vain and conceited.
These words from Phantomhive chilled him to the bone. He loved Redmond. He loved him a lot — and often fantasised about being the one Edgar Redmond loves above all.
He had lied. One teeny, tiny white lie from his second year of boarding school had grown and spiralled out of control until Maurice couldn’t keep track of what was true and what was false any longer. In the first year he became Edgar’s fag, he had done all the chores himself. Soon he grew bored of that. In his second year, he used his handsome looks and winsome smile to get the job done, by employing others to do the dirty work for him. Everything he did, he did it for Redmond. Even if it was immoral…
Maurice’s eyes glittered like emeralds in the fresh light from the art room windows. Just outside he could see the Swan Gazebo, his favourite place on earth. The place he first met Edgar. He cast his eyes away from the window and down to the wooden floor, trying his hardest to hide his excitement from Phantomhive.
‘… Yes, you’re right. I’ll tell him,’ Maurice whispered through slightly parted lips. In his eyes was pure sadness, yet Ciel Phantomhive remained unmoved.
‘I’ll tell him absolutely nothing!’ the prefect’s fag snarled with a sudden temper, his semi-polite smile morphing into the ugliest leer he could muster. ‘Who in their right bloody mind would—!?’
‘Stop. That’s enough.’
The blond boy towering over Phantomhive whipped around to see where the voice was coming from. Yet there was nobody there… His green eyes grew wide with fear of the worst — he was either turning into a lunatic or Phantomhive had a trick up his sleeve — Maurice didn’t know which one was worse…
From the sly smirk curving Ciel’s lips, the eldest boy backed away slightly, feeling less secure in his web of plans. Yet, he could rest assure knowing that his cronies were only five feet away, hiding in the pandemonium of paintbrushes and easels of the art supply cupboard.
‘W-what was that?’ he stammered, an icy cold fist seizing a hold of his heart. He was certain that voice sounded like Redmond’s…
‘Oh?’ Ciel said leisurely, taking his time to drawl out his words and savour them on his tongue. ‘Why don’t you ask him instead? I’m sure he’s very interested in what you have to say!’
‘I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Phantomhive.’ Maurice huffed, refusing to lower his haughty gaze to Ciel’s eyes.
‘Really?’ the boy teased, the malignancy now prominent in his tone. ‘I’m certain I saw a fragment of recollection on your face?’
‘Shut up! Shut UP!’ Maurice yelled, placing his hands over his ears.
‘Cole.’ Came the disembodied voice again. It was obviously male, yet had a stoic, flat quality that didn’t reassure Maurice of its kindness. ‘Stop this now!’
This time, the boy knew what he was hearing was a saddened version of the prefect supposedly at the Swan Gazebo. He peered out into the late May afternoon only to see the back of the famous meeting place.
‘I am going quite mad, aren’t I?’ Maurice spluttered, pacing back and forth between the solid oak of the door and the smug boy in front of him.
‘I can assure you, you’re perfectly sane,’ the youngest of the two answered sweetly.
‘But you are about to lose your mind,’ he added darkly, his saccharine-sweet facade shattering with a truly malicious smirk.
The art room door creaked open slowly, and out stepped the prefect himself. His ruby red eyes blazed like an inferno, and with his fists clenched either side of his stock-still body, Edgar Redmond towered over the pair like a judge before the jury. Maurice’s jaw dropped before putting on an innocent mask.
‘Redmond! Phantomhive and I were just chatt—’
‘I heard everything,’ Redmond said sadly, shaking his head with disappointment. ‘Don’t lie to me anymore, Cole.’
The prefect’s fag’s lower lip trembled as he attempted to resist the wave of sadness in the pit of his stomach. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ciel Phantomhive grinning like he was the luckiest boy alive. Anger rippled inside his heart and his fist closed around the cool of the golden scissors, hidden away inside his blazer pocket. Slowly counting to ten inside his head, Maurice put on a brave face, yet the threatening of losing both Redmond and his position was too much to bear, so his confident smile broke into a watery grin as he waited for the verdict.
‘To think even you betrayed me… I am ashamed for being such a poor judge of character,’ Edgar said softly, his expression now gentle but the tone of his voice was brittle.
‘I don’t want to hear your excuses,’ the red prefect interrupted sharply, ‘You are a great disappointment to me. Cole. I hereby sever my brotherly ties to you!’
At his harsh words, tears pooled in Cole’s eyes, and he dropped to his knees in defeat. He sobbed openly as Redmond left the room in disgust, and howled when he saw Ciel’s smug expression. Ciel followed suit, leaving Maurice to weep silently on the art room floor. He felt like his chest was being stabbed over and over, so clutched a hand to his blazer and shirt as he backhanded his tears.
In a way it was bittersweet. The boy always knew he didn’t deserve somebody as wonderful as Edgar Redmond. And now he was gone…
Almost a month passed since Redmond dismissed his fag, and as it was now the fourth of July, the infamous cricket opening ceremony, everybody was rushing about the school in high spirits. Students had the opportunity to invite their relatives and close friends from home to join in the festivities. Most of the women weren’t so interested in the actual cricket, but were all preparing their evening dresses and fancy hats for months before hand — especially seeing as all the boys from Weston College would be there! The boys of Weston loved the annual cricket tourney (some more than others) as it gave them the opportunity to meet girls for the first time in a long while. Before the sport came the typical ball, something even the biggest wallflower would look forward to.
All except Redmond, that is. Even the quiet and mysterious Gregory Violet predicted he would be all alone at the ball of 1889. Despite all the women hounding him for his handsome profile and aristocracy—and the fact he was related to a notorious womaniser—Redmond refused to dance with anybody, saying he preferred to watch as dancing made him fatigued, and he needed all the energy he could get for the morrow. Truth be told, he had actually danced for a short while with one of Bluer’s younger sisters, but she hardly counted. She was eight. She also trod on his toes about ten times throughout.
His sharp eyes scanned the couples waltzing across the ballroom floor, and finally came to rest on his new fag, Joanne Harcourt, dancing with what he knew was his fiance. A dull ache settled in his heart, and he found he could look no more. Instead, he listened to the music, tuning into what the German opera singer was expressing through his many years of German class.
He suddenly became aware of somebody equally as unwilling to dance by his side. Stood a few respectable meters away was Maurice Cole, blissfully unaware of who he was nearby. Redmond pulled a face and looked away, his heart beating faster than usual. He coughed a little to clear his throat, and stupidly, attracted Cole’s attention, who quickly turned his head and avoided all eye contact. Stubbornness hung in the air until it almost suffocated the pair. Finally, Redmond crept closer and broke the silence.
‘It’s certainly been a while, Cole. How are you this evening?’
Maurice snorted scornfully. ‘Terrible.’
‘Oh?’ Redmond smiled slightly, ‘I’m sorry to hear that. Whatever is the matter?’
‘Out of all due respect, I think you know what the matter is, Redmond!’ Maurice laughed incredulously, his eyebrows lost in his blond curls. ‘Did you enjoy your dance with that little girl, hm?’
‘You know what you did is wrong, and that I can never forgive you, Maurice,’ Redmond said sharply, quick to find the real reason Maurice was irritable, and calling the boy by his given name for the first time. He checked to see if anybody was in earshot, ‘But… I do miss having you as my fag, you know.’
This was like a knife to Maurice’s chest. He didn’t know whether to love or hate Edgar, so his chest swelled with mixed emotions nevertheless.
‘Really?’ he asked, wide-eyed, his cheeks flushing a dusty rose colour.
Remembering how awful he felt for the month without Redmond, he added, ‘Yes, well you fancied Harcourt so much that you bloody well forgot about me! You hate me, so why not just let me alone.’
‘I don’t hate you, Maurice.’ Redmond said soothingly. ‘But I do wonder why you lied to me so much. What did any of those boys do to deserve this? Why are you so jealous of Phantomhive?’
Maurice paused, embarrassed. ‘You said you were bored of the same old dowdy faces, and you are always talking to the other boys! How do you think that made me feel?’ he exploded.
‘I didn’t want to be replaced…’ he said after a long pause from Redmond. ‘I-I loved you.’ Tears filled his green eyes. Although to appear vulnerable he twirled a golden lock around his fingers.
Redmond sighed. ‘Alright, I think I understand your motives now… You clearly didn’t bully those boys for the sole purpose of being malicious. You acted on jealousy.’
There was another prolonged silence, but not an uncomfortable one. The two stood together with their arms folded across their chests, watching the couples joyfully waltz, twirl, and chat happily away into the night.
‘I’ve never danced with a girl,’ Maurice snickered slightly. ‘Actually, I wouldn’t be caught dead dancing with a girl. I just don’t understand them at all.’
‘I danced with a girl,’ Redmond said, puffing out his chest.
‘Yeah,’ Maurice spat, ‘I saw.’
‘She is Bluer’s little sister. And she was eight. You have no need to be jealous of her.’
‘What about Harcourt?’ Maurice retorted.
‘What about him?’
‘Did you dance with him? Did you?!’
‘Of course not. He’s off with his beautiful fiance,’ Redmond replied haughtily, wishing Maurice would stop bringing the conversation back to his new fag.
‘Oh…’ Maurice said, relieved slightly. ‘I hate that boy. Why did you have to pick him? Don’t you know that everything I did, I did it for you? I have no real skills. I can’t iron, I can’t sew. I can’t bake… I can’t do anything a fag needs to. So I relied on a second party to get the job done. Because I wanted to keep you all to myself.’
The way Cole talked so possessively made Redmond feel uncomfortable to say the least. A gentleman never says anything to hurt somebody’s feelings, so he kept his mouth shut on the subject.
‘But now you belong to Harcourt. I just want to be the one you love most of all. I’m the prettiest boy in school, so why don’t you return my feelings?! I should be the prefects fag! I should be your lover! I should be the one you adore, not Harcourt, not Bluer’s sister! It should have been me. I need this!’
Redmond’s face flushed. ‘Do not speak so loudly, Cole. If anybody were to overhear…’
‘I want you I want to be your fag I want to be the next prefect I want to inherit a title I want—’
‘Cole! What is the matter with you?! Do you have brain fever or something? You’re acting like a lunatic!’
‘I’m not mad,’ Maurice said darkly, his eyes locking with Edgar’s.
Redmond sighed in relief slightly, simply glad he had stopped his hysterical babbling. Especially as his womanising uncle was giving him a curious look from across the hall.
‘Look, come with me. We need to talk,’ he said patiently.
Edgar grabbed Maurice forcefully by the wrist and dragged him out into the evening. Outside, the stars were twinkling like frosted diamonds in the sky. The moonlight was the only light to guide them to the Swan Gazebo. Maurice felt nostalgic at the scent of the white roses emitting from the prefect’s hangout. He lent over and sniffed at one, before being sat down on a chaise longue by Edgar.
‘That’s better,’ he said cheerfully, ‘the ballroom was all stuffy and crowded. I’m glad we can be alone now,’
Maurice huffed slightly. ‘What do you want to talk to me about?’
Edgar chose his wording carefully, ‘When you talked to me earlier in the ballroom, you were acting crazy. You continuously said you loved me. What is going on in that head of yours?’
Thankfully it was dark so that Maurice couldn’t see his beetroot-red face.
As they were alone, Maurice leaned closer, so that his body was flush to Edgar’s. Edgar unconsciously jerked sideways along the chaise longue, but Maurice had caught him by the tie. The younger boy ran his fingers up and down the silky red tie, testing the texture of the fabric and pulling his ex-friend closer. He scooted along so that his legs tangled with Edgar’s own.
‘I wish you’d never left me,’ Maurice said huskily, ‘You broke my heart...and I couldn’t sleep for days. Nobody will talk to me. Not even my own family... For a while I considered suicide, but that would be letting you win now, wouldn’t it?’
‘You really are insane,’ Edgar breathed, becoming increasingly horrified. ‘You need to go ho—’
Maurice’s lips met his own before he could finish his sentence. His chest pressed against Edgar’s as his delicate hands tangled in long blond hair. Edgar could taste red wine on his mouth as he deepened the kiss. The younger let out a low moan before being pushed disgustedly aside.
With eyes full of hurt, Cole shrank back against the opposite end of the sofa. He put a hand to his mouth and looked up at him with baleful eyes. Edgar’s face remained blank until Maurice looked although he were going to leave.
‘Where are you going all of a sudden?’
‘You hate me even more now,’ he whispered. ‘You’ll expose me as a homosexual and I’ll be expelled. When my parents and big brother find out about this, I’ll be disowned. But I deserve everything that’s coming to me… I’m sorry.’
He turned to flee but Edgar caught his wrist.
‘Stay, why don’t you. I won’t… I won’t tell anybody about this. I promise.’
‘Thank you,’ Maurice blushed, reminding Redmond of times in the past where the two had been inseparable.
‘I would love for you to be my fag once again, as I miss you terribly, even if I do seem like I hate you…’
Maurice looked hopeful.
‘But it would be cruel of me to dismiss Harcourt this far in the game.’
His face fell again.
‘How about we just be friends?’
This broke down Maurice’s high wall of defences. All his life he had been told not to trust anybody (they only like you for your looks!) and to remain out of love’s path (you need to marry your cousin, Lucy), keep his virginity (no woman will love you if you’ve been sleeping around), and to always be gentle and sweet to everybody he meets in order to find a decent future wife. Therefore, he was placed in an all-boy school. Homosexuality was never even thought of. His family, distantly related to a princess, raised him in an atmosphere of suspicion and coldness. His elder brother blackmailed him and constantly reminded him of his position in the hierarchy of inheritance. He was at the bottom of the food chain. Vulnerable, afraid and lonely. He had never had a real friend. All those people who admired him, admired him only for his resemblance of a girl, and sweet, gentle manner.
At the back of his mind, he knew Redmond only liked him for his work as a fag, and that he meant little more than a butler rather than a companion. If you could break down all these little defences he worked so hard to build, little by little, you would see the real Maurice Cole; a frightened, lonely 16 year old boy in a world full of adults. He was never really ready to grow up. And if you found the real boy underneath, rather than the prima donna facade, you may end up loving him.
Maurice found Edgar Redmond, who treated him like a younger brother. Edgar would ruffle his fag’s hair when he did well in an exam and Maurice would cheer Edgar on in a sport match. The boy had found somebody who treated him as a person rather than a pretty doll you could play with, then put away on a shelf to collect dust. He became a slave to that person; and for three years they couldn’t be parted. Maurice found it hard to be called a ‘friend’, so Edgar never did so, yet inside, both boys knew they were closer than brothers. The thought of it caused tears to cloud Maurice’s vision.
‘T-thank you. I don’t know how you could ever forgive me, after all the awful things I have done,’ he said tearfully, clenching his handkerchief although he feared it would break free and run away. ‘It would be an honour to be your friend, Redmond. I’m so happy.’
Redmond’s lips pressed together in a pleased smile. It was like a dark shadow had left his mind. He took Maurice’s hand in his own.
‘Say, why don’t we get back to the ball. Uncle Aleister has probably been searching for me,’ he beamed, ‘Also… What do you say to a dance?’
‘We—We can’t dance together! Whatever would the others think?’
‘I do not pay any mind to what others think. A person should be selfish and only think of themselves. Otherwise, the world would be an extraordinarily painful place to be… And, it would please me greatly to dance with somebody I love before the night is over.’
The ex-fag blushed. ‘It would be wonderful to dance with you, Edgar,’ he said with a servile smile.
Their fingers entwined. ‘Then let’s go.’