((A slight warning this chapter, and in general, for mention of homophobia, considering the time period it is set in, I'll provide a warning whenever it's brought up in chapters))
AUGUST 26th, 1908
Rafael gripped onto the handle of his suitcase, helpless rage bubbling inside the pit of his stomach. It flared like fire inside of him, eating away at his patience and stability. The cloudy sky above reflected the turmoil in his heart, complete with the rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning. The hot, muggy air whipped around him. His curly brown hair was tossed into an even more unruly mess as the wind tumbled through it. The deep turquoise ribbon holding his hair back did little to keep it under control. The rain had not started falling yet, though the clouds hung low with their heavy load. He supposed he should thank God for that small miracle- but that had never been his style. Rafael hated the rain, as he hated many things in life. Indiscriminately, and without mercy.
Authority was one other such thing.
Which was why, as he stood at the steps leading to the massive St. Ursula Academy for Wayward Youths, his face was pulled down into a distasteful grimace. His mother would have scolded him for making such a face. His damned father would have beat him. Rafael snorted at the thought, and quickly wiped the expression from his face. He felt the weight of his mother’s pendant against his chest, resisting the urge to place his hand over it as he always did. His mother could not help him here- she was the one who had convinced him to relent, finally.
The only reason he was here- after twenty two years of raging against any sort of control- was that his mother had tearfully begged him to agree to his father’s unfair terms. He had always had a weakness for his mother’s tears. He knew that had been used against him- cruelly so- but there was nothing to be done for it now. He had agreed to come to the ‘school’ willingly. As willingly as a prisoner might go to jail, in any case.
Perhaps also because the alternative was an even dimmer prospect. Several years rotting in a state petitionary for something he couldn’t exactly control? And the world was a fool or punishing things out of man’s control. A midnight rendezvous with his lover- who just happened to be male. He wasn’t sure how it had been found out, or what had happened exactly. Suffice to say, the law was not on Rafael’s side in this case. Nor had it been most of his life, truly.
Regardless, it was an incident which would have looked quite awful on his dearest father’s political record. One couldn’t have such a degenerate in one’s family, after all. And so, he had been sent to this place. His mother had begged him, and his father ordered him. The threat of imprisonment had been the final nail in his coffin, and so his fate had been sealed.
An Academy of sorts, or so it appeared to the outside world. A place where young adult males- ranging from young teens to their mid-twenties- were sent to be better ‘prepared’ for the world. Some boys had genuine concerns and troubles which lead them unable to function well among their peers of a similar age. It masqueraded in some ways as a legitimate Academy, offering tutors and classes one might expect in a normal Academic setting. But mostly the Academy was a dumping ground for rich families to foist their less desirable offspring. Out of the eyes of the larger part of the world. So less defaming articles could be written about Lord Frances, or Lady Charlotte’s unruly child.
Though, it wasn’t like Rafael wasn’t relieved, to some degree, to be out of his father’s clutches. It was very far from home- the remote coastal region of somewhere or another. So remote that his father’s favorite new toy- the horseless carriage- would not have been able to make it in one go. So, he had arrived in a regular horse and carriage set, the driver apparently having been told not to interact with Rafael at all. Which of course put Rafael in an even sourer mood than he would have been. Normally he was not very fond of interacting with those who served his father- but the travel had been made all the worse with silence as his only constant companion.
Leave it to good old William Clark to be a bastard about even this. And on his Twenty second birthday, he had arrived at what was to be his new prison. It was, wholly and entirely, the worst gift he could have been given. Or at least quite high up on that list. Rafael could, unfortunately, think of things far worse to be given.
Rafael clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth, and shook his head. There was no use dwelling on the past, nor lamenting on what had brought him to the present moment. He only had to remain here until everything back home settled down, and the press found something greater to write about than some wayward bastard of a politician. And then he could return to home, sweet home- the bitterness threatened to overflow, settling thickly in his throat like black tar. Darkness swarmed in his heart as he made his way up the cracked and broken stone steps, towards the massive doors above.
Saint Ursula’s itself was a large, sprawling castle, nestled into the face of a cliff near the ocean. Salt spray and the scent of the ocean hung thick in the air, in a way that reminded Rafael sorely of his childhood home on the coast of Spain. He inhaled deeply, and then continued his ascent. His stomach and chest roiled with fury, a restless war raging inside of him.
Rolling his shoulders as he carried the heavily packed suitcase up the final remaining stairs, Rafael slowed to a stop just before the grand wooden doors. He scowled openly then, as he looked up their great heights. The damned doors had to be at least twice the height of a normal man. Probably impossibly heavily, and certainly adorned with far more carvings than was actually necessary. The scene carved upon the wooden doors was new, it seemed. It had not been worn away by the sands, nor sea spray. Odd, that, but Rafael supposed refinishing a set of doors was not unheard of, when one dabbled in the art of draining the pockets of nobles.
Not an entirely distasteful job in Rafael’s opinion- but no doubt those who owned this place were as horridly decrepit as any noble or well endowed family Rafael had met. And that was no small number. Scowling harshly, Rafael turned his attention to the carving on the door, rather than his own bleak and stormy thoughts.
A woman -Saint Ursula perhaps- stood in the center of a group of other women. A dozen or so surrounded her, hands stretching towards the bedraggled saint. Before them stood a figure in darkness. Draconic, dramatic, and probably hideous. In a fight of good versus evil, it was always disgustingly obvious who the evil was. Too bad it was not so easy to tell in the real world. A doomed martyr and her just as doomed entourage. It was almost fitting, in a way. Ironically, and morbidly. Sacrificial lambs for families that wished to dispose of undesirable elements. Rafael had to wonder, then; in this scenario, who exactly was the great evil? The students, the families, or…
Rafael furrowed his brows and shook his head, forcing his thoughts away from the abstract. Scowling a bit still, Rafael lifted his hand for the gold-coated doorknob. It was odd that no one had come out to greet him, but he supposed a school this size had far too many “students” to individually address each and every one. Considering the nature of the place, Rafael wouldn’t be surprised to find they cared little for any individual student that came upon their steps. They had already been cast aside by their families- and some were probably like him, guilty of no true crime.
Before Rafael could begin to try to push the doors open, however, there was a grating, ear-grinding sound as it shuddered before him. As one might expect, the grand doors did not open entirely; a smaller -true- door had been carved into the wood. It swung inward with an ominous screech, like the dying cries of an animal. Rafael slowly stepped back as the heavy door creaked to a stop, only darkness present for a moment.
He heard a ragged breathing, one dark brow arching as a rather bedraggled looking servant stepped out of the shadowed frame. The man had dark hair, silvering at the tips, and a mousy face. His eyes twitched occasionally, darting around as if a cat were hiding around the corner ready to pounce. The mousy man motioned for Rafael to enter, though he said nothing aloud. Frowning, Rafael stepped forward and into the darkened doorway.