Chapter I: The boarding house
Time: 1h 3m
Four Months ago...
Happy birthday to me...
I was eighteen, no money, no family, no friends, a criminal records and I was getting kicked out of the juvie home I had been staying in for the past three years. It was the perfect life.
But then that day as I packed the few things I owned, I received a letter;
Good evening Mr. Horne, we have sent you this letter to inform you that your application for our college study program has been processed and approved. As part of the program, you'll be receiving monthly salary and lodging at the private Mason boarding house on Ontario East.
I wasn't sure if it was meant to be a hoax at the time or if someone had signed me up without my knowledge, but I knew it was worth checking it out, the location it gave was less than half an hour away from my now former lodging.
September has just began and the warmth of summer had yet to fade, carried gently by the wind as I walked purposefully toward the latin quarter. The Mason family boarding house was a rather easy thing to spot, it was a massive building made of red bricks with aging plaster gargoyles on the roof and the bricked post that held the wrought iron fence together.
The gate was open and I walked forward. Next to the door, was a long haired guy, his dirty blonde hair, not much fairer than mine, was smoking. His glassy eyes stared at me as I walked past but he didn't say anything.
I pressed a button labelled 'reception' and it buzzed for a second until the intercom sparked to life. "How may I help you?" Came a middle aged sounding voice, there was an unidentifiable accent behind the words that had been camoflaged by years of living in Canada.
"Yeah, I was sent this letter telling me to come here."
"What is your name?"
"Samuel Horne." I said.
"God has heard, interesting..." The voice noted, making me arch an eyebrow. "Please, come inside. We'll talk."
The door unlocked and I went inside, giving a last look at the guy beside me, the smell of ganja coming to my nose and irritating it a bit.
The entrance of the building was rather somber and claustrophobic, both sides of the vestibule held medals, certificates, trophies and various crafts and artwork pieces that almost managed to conceal the ageing wooden paneling. A few pace further was a massive mahogany desk that stretched out for a good four meters on both sides, only giving about sixty centimeters on both sides to let people go to the other side before giving place to massive stairs that were covered in thick red carpeting. A man with whitening blond hair came from a back room and sat at the chair.
"Welcome, Samuel is it?"
"Yeah..." I said, before shuffling through the bag on my shoulder that contained the few things I owned. "I received this letter this morning, I just wanted to know if it is legit. I mean, I didn't apply for it or anything."
The man took the letter and put on a pair of silver half-rimmed glasses on, reading the content quickly. "Ah yes, I can assure you it is." He said, posing the paper down and looking at me. "I'm Nicolas Mason, owner of this boarding house and the man who sent you this letter."
"Why, why me?"
He took out a dossier from under the counter and flipped it open. "Well, you do have an interesting record; more detention than I can count, you were suspended from school and arrested for 'destruction of school propriety' and your attendance record for the past three years is about forty percent..."
"I know, it's bad..." I said, scratching my head in embarrassment.
"Yet your average grade for the last year of school is eighty-nine percent. And there are just as many commendation for you from primary to secondary school than there are complaints." He put down the folder in a drawer and he looked back at me.
"I often looks around for promising people such as yourself, those that get out of juvenile detention or who come from families who can't afford for their children to go to college and offer them an opportunity. So, I'm ready to extend this chance to you."
"What do you gain by doing that?"
"Call it charity, I help those who need it and they usually rise up to the occasion, as you've probably noticed in the lobby behind you. Do you think you can seize this chance to make things right?"
I nodded, knowing me, this was one of my only chances to do something...
He took out another document and handed it to me. "You'll have to sign this contract first, you agree to respect the rules of this establishment and to do everything in your power to improve yourself and your abilities."
I took it and as my finger touched the paper, I felt a jolt of static pass into me, I grunted a swear and took the pen he handed me with the other hand. The top of the contract held a large trio of crest, in the middle was a family crest which was flanked by two strange symbols; a circle within a square, within a triangle, inside of another circle. The other was looked like some kind of asterisk with the branches ending in a fork. I skipped over reading the contract, just skimming so it looked like I did before sliding the pen onto the 'sign here' case.
"There." I said, handing him the signed contract. For some reason, an odd feeling settled into my guts when finished.
"Wonderful. Let me escort you to your room and show you the way."
He walked past the counter and went for the stairs that stood not too far from where we were. As we walked upstairs, a pair of girls came down.
"We have a new student?" One of them, a Latina girl wearing flowing dark robes said.
"Maria, this is Samuel." My guide said.
"I see." She simply responded with a nod in my direction.
The other was a bit more cheerful, smiling at me from behind her long braided hair and extending a hand. "I'm Jasmine, call me Jas." She said.
"As he said, Samuel." I said, shaking her hand absently.
"Maybe we'll catch you later, we have to go." Jas said, walking down the stairs facing my way before turning around.
I looked at Mr. Mason and he motioned to the second floor.
"Rooms zero through twelve are on the second floor, thirteen to twenty-one are on the third. Room one has been made available recently, that's the one you'll be using."
"There's a room zero?"
"It's part of the family tradition. The two girls we just passed are in room two and three, hopefully you'll get along with them."
I nodded and he showed me the door to the first room, the number on it was written in Roman numeral. Next, was what I presumed was room zero, unmarked of any numeral indicator but covered with posters of movies...
The middle aged owner opened the door for me before handing me a set of keys from his own key ring. "These are the keys to the front door and your room's. We close the gate at two in the morning, so don't be too late."
"It's already a bit late so I'll let you rest for the night and tomorrow we'll talk about school."
I nodded and went inside. The room was rather bare, holding a single place bed, a computer desk devoid of electronic and a pair of drawers. I put down my stuff and threw my clothes into the dressers without really caring about arranging them.
The room felt impersonal, but I was used to that kind of lodging. I looked at the alarm that was posed on a nightstand. It was only the late afternoon, I had time to go around...