A pretty boy lingers in the passageway, his skin and hair full of morning light, or what's left of it. His flesh has stolen into the sun and taken its fire away for it burns there in his face, in his young, taut flesh, as if it were a slither of gold standing there and not a human. Through the thin cotton of his shirt his skin is shining, soaked wet from the rain. For, out beyond the alley, the sky is turning its sorrows out onto the street. The boy seeks shelter here, although perhaps too late. Each yellow hair sits flat against his skull and in his clothes he shivers and feels the cold creep in.
He's not used to this, all this ducking and hiding, the yielding of man against nature. Rather, he is used to being driven in the soft warmth of his chauffer's car, the unpleasantries of the outside world shut out behind tinted windows. He could not remember the last time he had suffered snow to touch his feet, a wayward breeze to snatch his jacket sleeve. The thought is strange, horrible and distant, yet now too close, like a dream that has become real. Now he is at the mercy as the elements to take him and do with him what they like, and he is afraid of them.
Sniveling, he draws his back up against the wall and closes his eyes, drawing down further into the dark. Being here, outside, cut off from the pampered prison of a rich man's world, he knows nothing but that it is not good for him. Exposure on a fine summer's day brings him out in rash and freckles, tans his skin to leather stretched upon a rack of bone, but this, with its clinging wetness, hurts him more, he's sure. There is a dirty rasp in his throat he can't cough away, and he fears to try too hard in case the silvery sweetness of his voice is spoiled by the attempt. Instead he slides a hand across his throat, gingerly, clumsy with himself. To touch another, in passion, is second nature, but he is a stranger to his own flesh. Too long have other people tended him to every need. He does not know, in spoiled ignorance, how to find a telephone box in order to call his people to him. They have lost him, and he then. And he is frightened.
But yet, not true fear holds his heart. Until he hears a shifting in the passageway and turns, flinching, so that his fragile body jerks from bone to bone. It hurts him, and he cries out, a piteous sound. The shifting stops.
"Look at you, you Prince," someone says, out of the light at the end of the passageway. There is a heavy dustbin blocking the entrance, so all the boy can see is stacked rubbish and a slither of sky, but now he cranes his head as he perceives someone is there. The back of his neck feels as though it were being stroked, tenderly, with sand paper. "Precious little thing. Are you lost?"
The boy nods his head, carefully. He wonders who is speaking to him in this sickly, vicious voice, and wonders if he should reprimand them for their tone, but he is without his guards of iron limb and fist and is not full without them. Instead he cowers, squinting hard.
"I left a club near here and found my driver'd gone and left me," said the boy. "He'd been in a funny mood all afternoon. Kept talking about all his clients, how he hated them. How people he knew sometimes dropped them off somewhere and never saw them again, picking up new jobs far away where they'd never be caught. I thought he was joking, I didn't understand, but here, he's left me, hasn't he. Like something out of a film, you know."
"I don't have a clue what to do about it. It's so stupid. I mean... stupid. I've never been out here alone before. I've never... I've just never had to. And now I am."
Another rustle, louder now, and the boy watched a slim shape slide out like a cool, slender blade from the space he could not see. He stopped talking, feeling the breath drawn out through his throat like a long skein of string, and thought he knew what true fear was. For, out of the light, the weak, insipid light, a smile had come. A smile full of teeth.
"Yes," said the smile. "Now you are. My little Prince."