The Prince

By: Tiffany Reisz


The Past

They’d sent him here to save his life.

At least that was the line his grandparents laid on him to explain why they’d decided to take him out of public school and send him instead to an all-boys Jesuit boarding school nestled in some of the most godforsaken terrain on the Maine-Canadian border.

They should have let him die.

Hoisting his duffel bag onto his shoulder, he picked up his battered brown leather suitcase and headed toward what appeared to be the main building on the isolated campus. Everywhere he looked he saw churches, or at least buildings with pretensions of being one. A cross adorned every roof. Gothic iron bars grated every window. He’d been wrenched from civilization and dropped without apology in the middle of a medieval monk’s wet dream.

He entered the building through a set of iron-and-wood doors, the ancient hinges of which screamed as if being tortured. He could sympathize. He rather felt like screaming himself. A fireplace piled high with logs cast light and warmth into the dismal gray foyer. Huddling close to it, he wrapped his arms about himself, wincing as he did so. His left wrist still ached from the beating he’d taken three weeks ago, the beating that had convinced his grandparents that he’d be safe only at an all-boys school.

“So this is our Frenchman?” The jovial voice came from behind him. He turned and saw a squat man all in black beaming from ear to ear. Not all black, he noted. Not quite. The man wore a white collar around his neck. The priest held out his hand to him, but he paused before shaking it. Celibacy seemed like a disease to him—one that might be catching. “Welcome to Saint Ignatius. Come inside my office. This way.”

He gave the priest a blank look, but followed nonetheless.

Inside the office, he took the chair closest to the fireplace, while the priest sat behind a wide oak desk.

“I’m Father Henry, by the way,” the priest began. “Monsignor here. I hear you’ve had some trouble at your old school. Something about a fight…some boys taking exception to your behavior with their girlfriends?”

Saying nothing, he merely blinked and shrugged.

“Good Lord. They told me you could speak some English.” Father Henry sighed. “I suppose by ‘some’ they meant ‘none.’ Anglais?”

He shook his head. “Je ne parle pas l’anglais.”

Father Henry sighed again.

“French. Of course. You would have to be French, wouldn’t you? Not Italian. Not German. I could even handle a little ancient Greek. And poor Father Pierre dead for six months. Ah, c’est la vie,” he said, and then laughed at his own joke. “Nothing for it. We’ll make do.” Father Henry rested both his chins on his hand and stared into the fireplace, clearly deep in deliberation.

He joined the priest in his staring. The heat from the fireplace seeped through his clothes, through his chilled skin and into the core of him. He wanted to sleep for days, for years even. Maybe when he woke up he would be a grown man and no one could send him away again. The day would come when he would take orders from no one, and that would be the best day of his life.

A soft knock on the door jarred him from his musings.

A boy about twelve years old, with dark red hair, entered, wearing the school uniform of black trousers, black vest, black jacket and tie, with a crisp white shirt underneath.

All his life he had taken great pride in his clothes, every detail of them, down to the shoes he wore. Now he, too, would be forced into the same dull attire as every other boy in this miserable place. He’d read a little Dante his last year at his lycée in Paris. If he remembered correctly, the centermost circle of hell was all ice. He glanced out the window in Father Henry’s office. New snow had started to fall on the ice-packed ground. Perhaps his grandfather had been right about him. Perhaps he was a sinner. That would explain why, still alive and only sixteen years old, he’d been sent to hell on earth.

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