The dormitory reminded him of something between his childhood and his days at university. There was the same jocular brotherhood of close quarters that he remembered from his early school years, but although he guessed most of the men he shared the space with to be a few years younger than himself, they were definitely adults.
They were housed comfortably at four men to a room, each with his own bed and trunk at the foot. The other men were friendly, although he felt like perhaps he got a bit more space than they gave each other, marking him an outsider but not unwanted. When he first arrived at the facility, Annette had been greeted by Chloe, and then left him in the custody of her servants with no indication of what his purpose for being there was.
Chloe was a Foreigner, whose presence only emphasized the educational atmosphere. Like most of his teachers and caretakers at his childhood school, she had skin the colour of molasses and wore her hair in an un-restructured halo, cloud like curls coiled about by a single braid that went around the crown of her head. She was dressed as a lady, trim and tight waisted in a suit of grey charcoal wool, a bit boxier in the shoulder than the current fashion, but giving an affect of gravitas that extended into her obvious leadership of the place that now housed him. He guessed, by her face, she might be in comfortable middle age, but then again it was hard to tell with Foreigners, who lived as they pleased. Unlike the rest of her kind, she affected not specialness from the social protocol, even going as far as wearing the gold band of a marriage on her hand and none of the other symbols they used to indicate the complicated interpersonal relationships of Foreigner culture, although Annette and the Foreign woman’s staff addressed her as Dr. and not Mrs. Dr.
When she had departed, Annette had taken a moment to put her hands up on his shoulders and remind him to mind himself and look to how he was taught. Then, one of Chloe’s servants led him to the dormitory, and there he’d been housed for the last 36 hours. His box of things was delivered, and he discovered, packed in it, someone had put the book of photographs from the colony in with the paper and pencil box that Annette let him have.
He noticed that the young men spoke like he did, with the same accent an enunciation, but there was no shared stories and anecdotes he could call on with them, nothing about waiting for the shuttles that took them to and from school, no college day pranks to reminisce over, and no typical family names he recognized. These were men of education, and yet, not of his class and as much as he could approximate, almost not of his world.
They called each other by personal names and nicknames: Andi, Bertrand, Casper, Ducky. On the first night, it was a small framed, smiling and dark haired Bertrand who sorted him out, showing where the showers were, and where they gathered to eat. Over the course of his initial time, he discovered some of the other residents were from outside, like himself, and some, mostly the younger of the men, were attached to the facility.
The dormitories collected into a central space they shared, with couches and screens, once again like his childhood school, complete with a small team of bored servants who came and went as they pleased, but lacked an interest in fraternizing. The resident men had papers and books, and hobbies to keep their hands busy, but when they talked, there was never any mention of family outside the facility. Still, for him that level of free association with others was a disorienting level of freedom and he found the constant talking and questions about the outside world exhausting. After a certain point Bertrand seemed to realize this and shooed everyone off for a few hours.
Through exploring where he was housed, Phillip learned that the people who had been outside were all, by one way or another, attached to a woman, sometimes in pairs and sometimes singularly. Two others, like himself, were unfamiliar with the facility. Bertrand called them the “sea”, but when Phillip asked for more details, he smiled and changed the subject.
“Which one of you is Adam?” The maid shrugged and looked around the room. He looked up, and the woman turned to him directly: “Dr. Chloe wants to speak with you.”
“Alright?” Phillip stood up, although the maid didn’t seem like she intended to escort him. Instead, she gave him a bored nod and walked in the direction of one of the other servants who was wrangling a laundry cart.
“I’ll take him,” Bertrand grasped his arm. “Come on, we’ll need a guest pass from the door. The whole place is restricted until the auction.”
“What auction?” The door guard, a man well into his seventies, printed them both passes stamped with the time.
“You’re pretty uninformed, aren’t you?”
Bertrand nudged him, laughing and he nudged back, harder. Drunk at the audacity, it turned into a playful shoving match until a well placed push knocked him over. He laughed, looking up, only to see Bertrand snap to attention.
Looking quizzically in the direction Bertrand was facing, he saw a middle aged women in grey headed towards them, her face marked by a look of displeasure. He guessed, by the severe almost military tailoring of her costume she was not a servant, and most possibly staff of the institution. Before he could speculate further she spoke up, sharply: “You! Boy! What’s your name?”
“Adam, Ma’am?” By this point he had guessed from the cue of his new friend and gotten himself into a pose that matched, but the damage appeared to be done and the woman loomed towards him, looking stern.
Bertrand put his arm up, interposing between the woman in grey, his face solicitatious. “Adam didn’t mean it, Ma’am…”
“Why isn’t he paying attention, Bertrand?”
“He’s new, Mrs. Holsty. He’s not from the institution.”
“My sincere apolo-” Phillip tried.
Bertrand cut him off, still keeping his tone soothing, “He’s Lady Harrington’s. She’s not going to want him on dinner display, ma’am.”
This seemed to check her head of steam somewhat. “Very well, I won’t add demerits, he can have them taken off right here. Three shall suffice for the oversight of manners.”
Bertrand turned his head with a little jerk indicating the wall. “Alright Ma’am. Adam didn’t mean it, he’ll know better next time.”
“Fetch it for me, Bertrand. You’ve brought it for yourself often enough.” She smiled, almost indulgently.
Phillip wasn’t quite sure about what was going to transpire, but his companion sprinted off down the hallway and quickly returned with a long, whippy switch.
“Have you been chastised before, Adam?”
“No here, he hasn’t, Ma’am. He’s Double S.”
“I see. Well, Lady Harrington has been a long supporter of our program, so I trust Adam has already tasted our methods.” She gave a test swoosh in the air. “Take down your pants, boy, and face the wall. Put your palms flat. And Bertrand, hold your peace unless you intend to take his stripes for him.”
Still feeling slightly off balance, but not thinking he had much other choice than to comply, he unhooked the buttons of his pants, and tugged them and his underwear away from his hips. to slide both down. He got the distinct and uncomfortable sense there was a lascivious edge to the woman’s behaviour.
“Hurry up, boy!” She seemed to catch that reluctance, and the sternness came back. He turned and braced against the wall, hearing another whistle of a practice swoosh. “And remember to count off for me. Three for failing on courtesy.”
The switch struck across his buttocks, and he uttered “One!”, making himself relax as if it were Annette behind him, not this stranger.
“Two!” It stung, but even more so, he couldn’t help worrying he’d failed in some way. He bit his lip.
“Three!” The last stripe was the hardest, half hitting across his thighs.
“Don’t pull your pants back up yet, boy. I want to admire my handiwork.” She left him exposed like that for about a half minute, before he was permitted to fix his clothes and bow to her. and with that she glided off looking satisfied, leaving him with a comforting shoulder pat from Bertrand.
“I probably should have warned you, the teachers are all on high alert for the handsome ones. They’re making sure there’s a good batch for dinner demerits.”
“Dinner demerits?” Phillip shifted, not enjoying the sensation of his clothes against fresh welts.
“Well, with all the ladies here, they want us to be homed properly.” Bertrand nodded, as if this made perfect sense to him, “But being ladies, of course a lot of them are shy. So getting us stripped off in front of them to be ‘punished’ at dinner lets them have a look and still feel respectable. Besides, some of them are all soft and motherly and want to rescue you, or they’re into the idea of taming a bad boy.”
Bertrand winked, “Now me, I’ve got thirty demerits waiting for me. I’m saucy, you see. I was too young to go last year, but this year I know I’m going to get picked and I mean to make sure they know what they’re buying when we all go up on the block.”
Phillip was not precisely sure what to respond, as the continued on the way to see Chloe, finally managing, “You mean, you want them to be mad at you?”
“Alice Blessing, Adam.” Berstand snorted. “If they were really mad at me, they wouldn’t bother. Lady Harrington must be a strict mistress if you’re terrified of a little sauce. She’s certainly nice with the boys, even if she seems to like to see the dinner show.”
“She’s not… Not so bad.” Phillip found himself saying, thinking about Maria. “But… am I going to be sold?”
Love “Catamite”? Find Book 1 as the ebook “The Pet Gentleman“, available now.