Dorian

My entry for the 'Project Remix' competition. Inspired by Wonder, by R J Palacio.

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1. Dorian

The first time I met him was when I was entering my dormitory. Father had already left, but that didn’t stop the warm feeling in my stomach, the grin on my face, so wide it hurt.

            The Paris College of Art! I had actually made it, despite everything, despite my father’s adamant dislike of my passion itself. I was here.

            I fished out the key they had given me from my pocket and opened the wooden door. Administration had told me I was sharing my room with some Dufont person.

            As the door creaked open, I was hit by a pungent, sweaty odour. Inside, a young man, about my age, was standing there awkwardly.

            His back was slightly crooked over, his spine curved. His eyes were uneven, and his tongue was forced to lop out of his disproportionate mouth, showing his yellow teeth, giving him a slightly mad look.

            I wasn’t proud of my reaction. I had jumped back in surprise, dropping the key, my face turning ashen.

            The person noticed, but he didn’t seem to take offence. He simply looked on, as if he accepted that would happen. I noticed for the first time his soft blonde hair and baby blue eyes.

            He smiled widely, saliva dripping from his lip. “Dorian Dufont,” he said. “Are you Oliver Gagnier? I’m your roommate this year.”

            He was my roommate? He did art? He didn't even look like he could hold a paintbrush.

            I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I picked up my key and bag, before walking in, and settling it on the bed, not looking at him.

            “Isn’t it exciting?” he said happily. “I can’t believe we got in. It’s going to be amazing!”

            I wished he wasn’t my roommate. I wished he would shut up.

            Little did I know that Dorian Dufont was not a person who ever stopped speaking.

 

***
 

It took time to get used to Dorian, but slowly I did. Soon, I was no longer fazed by his odd appearance. We were friendly, but I was always reserved around him, unsure.

            The day it changed was when he showed me his artwork. I hadn’t seen it before- we were in separate classes.

            It was amazing.

            The different colours, rich, vibrant hues… he managed to capture a scene in its essence and recreate it on the canvas, each stroke significant to the greater picture.

            “Dorian… this is something else,” I told him.

I realised that Dorian really was just an ordinary person, with unordinary looks. Sure he was different, but so were all of us in our own way. He was just unlucky.

He blushed, and white, frothy saliva pooled at his lip.

            “Thank you, Oli,” he beamed. He had taken to call me that, and I knew he valued me as a friend.

            Maybe because I was his only one.

 

***

 

The first time I saw Sebastian Leclerc was straight after they announced the art competition. College was going great, and my artwork was improving.

            Everyone knew Sebastian. Son of a big shot politician, he was the celebrity of the school. I saw him in his leather jacket, his dark hair styled back, his cronies surrounding him, eager to be noticed.

             Sebastian’s eyes were scanning the room. They passed over me, before lingering on the person next to me.

            “Hey, Hunchback of Paris College,” he called out. “Got a boyfriend?”

            His cronies jeered.

            Dorian blushed. He backed off, but Sebastian easily caught up with him in a few strides. He kicked him in the stomach, and Dorian doubled over, groaning.

            “Get out of my way, freak,” he scowled. “Next time I won’t be so nice.” He glared at me, and a shiver went through me, as I instinctively held my arms across my stomach, protecting myself.

            “Sorry about that, Oli,” Dorian said, getting to his feet. “Don’t listen to them.” I looked at the ground. “Want to go to the park?” he asked. It was Friday, and that was when we usually visited the lake, fed the ducks.

            But what if Sebastian was also there? What if I was seen with Dorian?

            The thoughts made my heart race in fear.

            “Not today,” I told him. “I have work. Maybe next time.” And with that I sped off, leaving Dorian behind me, a crushed look on his face.

            The rest of the day I avoided him, making sure he couldn’t find me. Whenever he tried to speak to me, I pretended I couldn’t hear, and walked off. I didn’t go to lunch, because I knew he would try to sit next to me.

            I was pretty sure I heard Dorian crying that night.

 

***

 

“Mama!” Dorian cried. He ran forward and gave his mother a lopsided hug.

            Madame Dufont was a tall woman, with greying dark hair tied in a strict bun. She had come to visit her son, and I was standing in the corner of the room, watching them. She smiled at him.

            “Oh, Dorian! How are you?” she asked, as she kissed his forehead.

            “I’m fine, Mama. This place is great, and I think my art’s getting better.”

            “That’s wonderful!” For the first time, she noticed me. “And who’s this?”

            “Oh, this is my friend and roommate. Oli, meet my mother.”

            “Hi, Madame Dufont,” I greeted. Things were still awkward around me and Dorian, but we pretended like nothing had changed- when it was just us.

            She smiled widely. “It’s so nice that Dorian has a friend. You know he was always very lonely in his childhood-“

            “Mama!” Dorian cried.

            Madame Dufont continued. “But I’m so glad. He’s settled in now.” She turned to Dorian, and I saw a glimpse of tears in her eyes. “I’m so proud of you, Dorian. So proud.”

 

***

 

One day Dorian rushed into the room. “I won, Oli, I won!” he said excitedly.

            “Won what?” I asked him.

            “The art competition,” he beamed. “My teacher just told me. They’re going to announce it in assembly.”

            I wasn’t surprised that he had won the competition everyone had been talking about weeks. “That’s great,” I said, smiling at him. I really was pleased for him. I wasn’t even jealous. Dorian just blushed, and he looked happier than he had in a long time.

            However, not everyone liked the decision. After assembly, when Dorian had gone to the park, I overheard Sebastian talking.

            I was taking my painting back to my room, when snatches of his conversation reached my ears.

            “Can’t believe the freak won… we can’t let him get big headed, now, can we? … to the park, now.”

            My blood turned to ice. The park. What were they going to do to Dorian?

            I continued walking as they left the room. They couldn’t do anything. It was none of my business. Nothing would happen, anyway.

            I put the painting down in my room. I looked at Dorian’s empty bed. I saw his canvas painting next to it. And then a picture, carefully, delicately, stuck to the wall next to his bed, one that I’d never seen before. I moved closer, and I realised it was of me, standing with Dorian, both of us grinning.

            I was out of the door before I knew it, my feet slapping against the concrete floor.

            The cold air hit me like an electric shock, as I made my way to the park. I knew where Dorian would be.

            I had to warn him.

            But I was too late.

            Dorian was on the ground, in a secluded area, hidden by the tall, unforgiving trees. Sebastian was kicking him, his gang helping him beat him up.

            Saliva and snot were dripping down Dorian’s face, and his nose was bloody. His face was contorted in pain.

            I stood there, shocked. Dorian’s eyes saw me, lingered there, pleading softly for help. But I was frozen on the spot. I couldn’t move, my head screaming.

            His eyes closed in pain, in submission.

            A guttural cry emerged from my lips. “Get off him!” I launched myself at Sebastian, but one of his cronies just knocked me out of the way, aiming a punch at my face. Spots appeared in my vision, as I crumpled to the ground, and everything turned black.

 

***

 

It was a grey day. Rain drizzled down upon us, but I didn’t bother getting an umbrella. I stood there, numbly, as the reverend talked.

            The ground was muddy, and the black coffin stood out amongst the colourless surroundings.

            Madame Dufont was next to me, tears streaming down her face. “Why?” she was murmuring to herself. “Why would they do that?”

            Sebastian and his gang were sentenced to prison for beating Dorian to death, but I knew they wouldn’t get a long term. Sebastian would be out in no time, no trouble for him, thanks to his parentage.

            It didn’t matter either way. I was the one who was guilty. It was my fault.

            I could have saved him.

            He didn’t have to be in the coffin right now. He could be alive right now, smiling, his tongue lifting up like it always did when he was happy. He could be receiving his prize for the art competition, on his way to becoming the most famous artist of all time, as his position as best artist in the college promised.

            He could have had a future. Instead he would spend it in the ground.

            “Why would they do that? He was such a nice boy, he didn’t mean harm to anyone,” Madame Dufont said, trying to keep her voice from choking.

            “It was my fault,” I told her flatly. “I could have saved him. I could have warned him.”

            “No,” Madame Dufont said fiercely. “It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not his fault. It’s society’s fault. For not recognising him. For not understanding that he’s no different to any of us. For not understanding that he’s no different. Yes, he’s extraordinary. But that’s what makes him just like the rest of us. We’re all different. He was special, but he was the same. And they can’t see that.. And it’s not fair. It’s not fair. My boy, my boy.” Madame Dufont collapsed to the muddy ground, her arms around her knees, sobbing violently.

            I crouched down next to her. She looked at me. “Do you know what Dorian means?” I shook my head. “It means spirit in the sky. He’s up there now, in the heavens, in the stars, in the sky. Don’t forget him, Oli. Don’t forget him, because he’s still watching us. He still loves us, and we’ll still love him.”

            Dorian Dufont was just another boy. Kind, friendly, excited. Eager to see the world.

            But the world hadn’t wanted to see him.

 

***

 

I dragged my feet back to the empty room. Two empty beds. Madame Dufont had taken his stuff, but she promised to visit.

            I pulled out the painting under my bed. I had scrapped all my old ones, and had started working on this one, after he died.

            It was a painting of him, beaming, his blond hair carefully styled, his eyes sparkling with happiness. And looking at his face now, I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Nothing that justified torment, or death. Just an innocent face. I held up the painting, as I looked up at the starry night sky through the window.

            “I’m sorry, Dorian,” and for the first time, I let tears fall down my face. “I promise you, something like this won’t happen again. Ever. The world won’t miss you, because they don’t know what they’re missing. But your mother does. I do.

            “I won’t forget you Dorian.”

            And it seemed to me, that one of the stars gleamed brighter than the rest. And I could almost hear Dorian’s laugh, see his smile, carried away by the wind into the night sky.

 

 

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