Nicky Silver bade his friends’ goodbye and picked up his heavy holdall bag. He went inside the old school building to the front foyer, where the list of roommates for the year had been posted on the notice board outside the reception. His friends, Kieran and Oliver, Nicky saw, would be rooming together in the West Wing of the school. He was in the North Wing, rooming with someone called Daniel MacArthur. Nicky knew most of the people in the school, but that name was unfamiliar to him.
Nicky went to the reception to pick up his timetable for the year, his room key and several of the usual forms that needed signing, before shouldering his holdall, and going to find room DN57 in the North Wing.
Green Valley Boys’ Boarding School had opened a hundred years before, when the last owner of Brookshire Castle had died, and asked that the castle be turned into a school in his memory. Named for the lush valley at the top of which it was situated, the school had grown each year to the size it was today, with almost four hundred boys boarding and learning within the castle and the various extension buildings that had been added over the years.
One hundred boys boarded in the separate Wings, North, South, East and West, and had their lessons with other boys from their Wing. Meal and leisure times were shared between all the Wings, giving the boys’ the chance to mix with others from outside their Wing.
Nicky climbed up to the fifth floor of the castle, where the dormitories for the Year Twelve and Thirteen boys were located, and wandered down the corridor until he found his new room, DN57. He stood outside the heavy wooden door for a moment, wondering whether his new roommate had arrived, and who it could be. After a moment of indecision, he knocked on the door, and waited to see if he could hear a reply. After waiting a few moments, and hearing nothing but silence, Nicky unlocked and opened the door, and stepped inside.
He had always liked the dormitories at the school; they were decorated a pale blue colour, with deep navy curtains hanging from the tall windows, and a dark carpet. A plush, oriental-style rug was laid on the floor between two beds, one on one side of the room. Two large desks were situated at the foot of each bed, with desk chairs and lamps beside them. Each side of the room had three long shelves running above the beds, and another tall floor lamp stood beside each bed. There were two dressers and small wardrobes at the far end of the room, framing the window. A closed door beside one of the desks led to a small bathroom.
Nicky put his holdall down on one of the beds, seeing the other was already taken. A small suitcase was open on the bed, half-unpacked. Nicky unzipped his holdall and began quickly stacking his clothes in the dresser and hanging them neatly in the wardrobe, organized between school uniform and leisure clothes. Once boys at Green Valley reached years twelve and thirteen, the rules about school uniforms were relaxed slightly. Although they still had to wear black and white, they could choose their own shirt and trouser styles.
Nicky turned around as he heard the bathroom door open. His new roommate stepped out. Nicky immediately recognised the boy from one of his classes the previous year. He had a swimmer’s slim physique, dirty blond hair that fell almost to his shoulders, and sparkling blue eyes.
“Hi,” said Nicky, stepping out from behind his open wardrobe door and making the other boy jump.
“Hello.” The boy looked at him warily for a moment, before he smiled. “I’m Daniel MacArthur.”
“Nicky Silver. I’m your roommate for the year.”
“I figured... What with finding you unpacking in my room, and everything.” Nicky grinned, and resumed his unpacking.
“You were in my science classes last year, weren’t you?” Nicky asked the smaller boy and he too resumed unpacking.
“Yes. And your maths class.”
“Which subjects are you taking this year?”
“Art and design, history, geography and ICT. You?”
“History, maths, biology and psychology.” Nicky answered. He glanced at his watch, and pulled his running shoes from his holdall and slipped them on. “I’m going for a run before dinner. See you later.” Before Daniel could answer, Nicky had left the room.
Nicky ran down to the front lobby, where Ollie and Kieran were waiting for him. He greeted them with a nod, and they set off down the long gravel drive until they reached Dean Forest, half a mile away. Although still part of the school grounds, students rarely came down to the woods; tales of the trees being haunted, particularly at night, kept the woods helpfully clear for the three friends. When they were deep in the trees, Nicky stopped jogging, feeling his body start to tingle with anticipation, looking round to check they were completely alone.
Once he was certain, Nicky let his entire body relax. He felt the momentary discomfort as his muscles and ligaments began to tear and re-align; his bones groaned as some lengthened and some shortened, and he felt the uncomfortable prickling of sprouting fur all over his body. A second after it began, it was over; his vision was suddenly so much clearer, his senses of smell and hearing heightened.
Glancing round, he saw Kieran and Oliver had morphed beside him, and were waiting for his lead. Of the three, Nicky was the strongest; therefore, he was the leader of their ‘sub-pack’. Lifting his muzzle to test the air, Nicky caught the scent of a red deer, deep within the forest. With a soft, high yip of excitement, he shot off through the trees, Kieran and Ollie flanking him closely. They raced through the trees, dodging boulders and fallen logs, splashing through streams and crashing through brambles.
Back in his room, Daniel was puzzling over the abrupt departure of his new roommate. Finally finishing his unpacking, he shoved his suitcase underneath his bed and looked around the room. His shelves were crammed with books and notepads. Six photo frames held pencil sketches of his family that he had drawn over the holidays.
He looked over them for a moment; his ‘parents’, Jacob and Emily were in the largest frame, their arms around each other as they smiled towards an imaginary camera. The other frames held sketches of his ‘siblings’, his oldest brother Damon, his oldest sister Martha, Lucy and Bethany, who were his age, and his youngest brother, Harry.
Glancing over to Nicky’s side of the room, he saw a couple of photo frames sat on the desk. He went over and picked one up. It was obviously of Nicky’s parents, taken on a beach somewhere at sunset. They were both attractive people, and Nicky had inherited their dark colouring; deep brown eyes, near-black hair and olive skin. Another photo held a picture of Nicky and a younger girl, presumably his sister, dancing in a garden beside a barbeque. The final photo contained a portrait-esque photo of an older boy, in his early twenties, who also looked like Nicky.
They seemed like a happy family, but Daniel had a strange feeling about them that he couldn’t place, or understand. Frowning, he replaced the frames and turned back to his side of the room. Glancing at the clock, and seeing he still had an hour until dinner, Daniel went for a long, hot shower.
When he went back into his room, Nicky was back. His roommate was lying on his bed, shirtless, his eyes closed, arms folded behind his bed. Daniel stared at him for a moment, drinking in the sight of tanned, toned skin, before Nicky’s eyes snapped open and darted over to Daniel.
“Bathroom’s free, if you want it.” Daniel said quietly, motioning Nicky’s sweat-streaked torso. Nicky grinned and left Daniel alone. Daniel heard the shower being turned on, and quickly had to force his thoughts away from the image of his roommates’ body beneath a cascade of warm water. It had been a long time since he’d had thoughts like that, particularly about someone he’d only just been introduced to.
Daniel quickly dried himself off and pulled on a baggy pair of jeans and a loose sweatshirt, before he grabbed his favourite notebook and pencil and left the room. He wandered out through the front lobby and turned towards his favourite spot in the school grounds; a secluded patch beside the lake, where three tall weeping willow trees gave shade and privacy to anyone sat on the west bank.
Opening the notepad to the next blank page, Daniel lowered his pencil to the paper and began to sketch. As so often happened when he was drawing for comfort, Daniel experienced a sort of ‘mind-blank’, where he didn’t have any particularly distinguishable thoughts. He just drew whatever his pencil happened to put down for him. Finally, he heard the bell ring for dinner back at the school and glanced down at the drawing, and groaned. A perfect sketch of Nicky lying on his bed was on the paper. Smothering a sigh, Daniel snapped the sketchbook shut and stalked back up to the castle for dinner.
“So, who is your roommate?” Kieran asked Nicky as they sat down with their trays. “Do you know him?”
“He was in my science and maths classes last year. I think he came at the end of Year Ten.” Nicky looked around the rapidly filling cafeteria. “That’s him over there. The blonde one.” Ollie and Kieran looked over to where Nicky pointed.
“That loner kid’s your roommate?” Kieran asked. Nicky nodded.
“So, what’s he like?” Ollie asked. Nicky paused, before he shrugged.
“Quiet… I think he likes drawing though. Instead of photos of his family he has sketches.”
“Are they good?” Ollie asked. Nicky nodded. He glanced over at his roommate again, sitting quietly in a corner, working his way steadily through a steak and kidney pie.
“Are you coming out for a run tonight?” Kieran asked Nicky after a few minutes of silence. “Carlo said he thought we might go up to Waterside and back.” Nicky shrugged.
“I’ll see if I can get away. Daniel might notice if I’m gone all night.”
“So what if he does?”
“I don’t want him reporting me on the first night. You know we’re not allowed out of our rooms after the bedtime bell rings.”
“Wuss.” Said Ollie with a grin. Nicky glared at him.
“I’m not rooming with either of you. I can’t just slip out whenever I like.”
“Sure.” Kieran grinned and nudged Ollie. “I reckon it’s just an excuse to spend time with Daniel.” He smirked at Nicky, who frowned.
“I don’t like him.” He said, nettled. “Not in that way. I just think that if I can become friends with him, then when I do want to sneak out, he’ll cover for me rather than reporting me.”
“Well, do it quickly.” Said Ollie. “Full moon’s in five days. You’ll have to go out then.”
“I’d best get moving then.” Nicky stood up, took his empty tray to the stack beside the door, and went back up to his room.
When he went inside, Daniel was already there, stretched out on his bed, reading. Nicky lay down on his own bed and pulled out his notepad and pen. There was silence in the room for a while, before Nicky glanced over at Daniel.
“What’re you reading?” Daniel looked up at him.
“Fantasy book.” Daniel mumbled.
“What’s it about?”
“Basic fantasy story formula.” Daniel grinned. “What’re you doing?”
“Writing… Or trying to, anyway.”
“A novel… A fantasy one.”
“What’s it about?”
“Basic fantasy story formula.” Nicky grinned. Daniel rolled his eyes and turned back to his book. Nicky turned back to his notepad, when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out and glanced at it.
Hey, little bro. Coming out tonight? Nicky glanced over at Daniel, and quickly replied to his brother.
Can’t tonight. Got a new roommate. Don’t think he’ll cover for me if he notices I’m gone. Be out on the full moon though.
Alright… See you then. Nick slid his phone back in his pocket.
“Who was that?” Daniel asked, curious despite himself.
“My brother, Michael.”
“The one in the photo?” Nicky nodded, glancing over at his brother’s photo. “What about your sister… And parents? What’re they like?”
“My sister’s Chloe… mum and dad are Joseph and Karen. They’re all a good laugh. I think you’d like them.” Daniel smiled. “What about your family?” Daniel glanced at the sketches above his head.
“They’re Jacob and Emily, my adoptive parents. Damon’s my oldest brother, Martha’s my oldest sister, Lucy and Bethany are my age, and Harry’s the youngest.”
“You’re adopted?” Nicky asked.
“Jacob and Emily can’t have kids of their own, so they adopted all of us.” Daniel looked up at the sketches for a moment.
“Do you remember your real parents?”
“I remember my parents a bit… they died when I was young.” In reality, Daniel’s parents had died in World War Two, in a bombing raid. Daniel was eighteen at the time, ready to go to war himself, when he’d been turned. He had just, technically, celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday.
The pair lapsed back into a friendly silence until the bedtime bell rang at eleven. With a sigh, Daniel shelved his book and began getting ready for bed. Nicky followed suit, pulling on a loose t-shirt and boxers, before he wriggled beneath his blankets. Daniel smiled over at his roommate.
“‘Night, Nicky.” His roommate glanced over at him for a second, before he returned the smile.
“‘Night.” Daniel waited until Nicky was sleeping peacefully, before he pulled out his sketchbook and pencil, and began to sketch the sleeping boy. Daniel, like most of his kind, could get by with very little sleep each night, something he found very helpful during exam times, when he could revise late into the night and not feel exhausted the next day.
After finishing the sketch, Daniel slid away his sketchpad and pencil and curled up beneath his blanket, watching his roommate sleep. It was almost four in the morning before Daniel slept.