108. The Circle

Part 1 of a series of the same name.

IT WAS A CIRCLE of six: Max, Floyd, Raoul, Sebastian, Kim and Holly. They did everything together: they drank together, lived together, slept together. They had grown up in boarding schools together, an expensive private school on the shores of Lake Geneva, where the classes were held in French but where, outside of class, everyone spoke in English, no matter where they were from. Occasionally others would join the circle, either temporarily or semi-permanently. The connection was almost always through the school - not just the hardcores but also the temps and semis, all of us had gone to school together. This was an anachronism even then, although we didn't realise quite how much of an anachronism we were. We thought it was simply a curiosity, an amusing one, what's more. Now I see it as something more insidious. I was one of the semis. In fact, I was the most permanent of the semis. Moriarty was another, although he used to come in for a few weeks and then disappear again for a long while, often many months. I, on the other hand, was adopted into the circle, which was more or less already fully formed, fully mature. I had known them all at school, but we hadn't been close then. It was only later, at university in London, that I joined. I wasn't quite the same creature they were, but they took me in anyway. At first, I looked up to them. They knew more than I did, they were positively worldly compared to me. I was an escapee from a chaotic rural childhood. My parents weren't particularly wealthy - they'd sent me abroad to stay out of trouble, beyond the reach of the Ayatollah, and it was common knowledge that I was a Scholar, which meant that I was at the school on a scholarship. Whereas the Circle radiated the solid upper-class virtues of the scions of obscure fortunes. Everything is relative, of course, and they didn't consider themselves especially wealthy, not compared to the children of third-world dictators and Hollywood film stars we'd gone to school with. Of course, I was never completely accepted. I was always slightly apart, a source of frustration for me at the time, but looking back I realise this was inevitable. I envied them, longed to be one of them, yearned for the security of their lives, watched how their parents loved them. I longed for their self-confidence, which may actually have been complacency, I realise now, many years later. At any rate, my yearnings were in vain. I was never to enter into the inner sanctum. The differences between us were there from the very beginning, only we didn't realise it. Had we realised it we would have paid them no attention anyway. But what seemed a negligible difference at first slowly widened until the Circle shattered, and each of us flew off in our separate directions.