The story is set in a boarding school called Schlotterbeck in Germany.
Thoma Werner, a 12-year-old boarding school student, jumps from a bridge over a railroad. His schoolmates assume he slipped because of snow and ice. Juli, coming back from vacation, knows Thoma is dead. Juli is a prefect. He is intelligent and respected by other students. Thoma loved Juli, but Juli blew off Thoma.
Juli's roommate Oscar says there's a new letter from Thoma on the table.
The letter reads "To you Juli. These are my last words. This is my love, This is my heartbeat. I'm sure you know what I mean."
Juli doesn't have the slightest idea about what he meant.
One night, Juli has a nightmare. Thoma drops from the sky onto him. When he catches Thoma, Thoma has turned into a lot of roses and they fall down from Juli's arms. Juli wakes up. Oscar asks him what's wrong with him. Suddenly Juli stops breathing. Oscar gives him air by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Oscar sees Arndt standing in the doorway. Oscar tells him not to tell anyone that Juli is sick. Arndt says he would promise if Oscar kisses him as he did to Juli. Oscar kisses Arndt and tells him to get out.
The next day, Juli goes to Thoma's grave and tears his letter into pieces crying, "I won't be controlled by you. Never appear again in front of me. " Immediately after this, Juli sees a boy walking outside the graveyard. Juli stops him. The boy is Eric, who is a dead ringer for Thoma. He is a new student from Koeln who is attending Schlotterbeck. Juli asks him if he knows Thoma Werner. Eric asks Juli who Thoma is. Juli says Thoma is a boy who has killed himself. Eric's mother is going to remarry. When Eric arrives at the school, many students look at him with surprise. Oscar advises Eric he should keep away from Juli.
At dinner, Eric and Juli meet again. Students say Thoma was killed by accident. Eric asks Juli which is true. Was Thoma killed by himself or by accident? Juli answers Thoma was killed by accident. Eric says he thinks Juli has killed Thoma. Juli throws a glass of water at Eric. A fight begins. Many students are involved in the fight. Oscar slaps Eric to try to stop the fight. Oscar shouts and tells the students to get out of the dining room and take a shower and go to bed. Teachers are impressed with Oscarfs leadership even though he often skips classes.
The headmaster, Rudolf Mueller, recalls when Oscar arrived at the school with his father, Gustav. Gustav said his wife Helene had died a year and a half earlier. He was going to South America alone. Rudolf and Gustav were close friends when they were at college. Both of them Helene and she chose Gustav. Helene and Gustav didn't have a child together. Helene had an affair with Rudolf and gave birth to Oscar. Rudolf wonders when he should confess to Oscar that he is Oscar's father.
Because Oscar travelled around with Gustav before he arrived at the school, he is a year older than his classmates. Oscar and Juli are monitors of the dormitory, and sharing the same room. Oscar Juli to leave Eric alone. Juli says "Mind your own business." When they are arguing, Oscar sees a mark on Juli's chest. Juli lies to Oscar about how the mark came to be. Juli says the mark appeared when he bumped his chest against a desk. Juli has uncomfortable memories about the mark. It's "Satan's brand" to him. Because of that, he doesnft want to believe or love anyone, nor to be loved by anyone. Actually, Oscar knows how Juli got the mark. His reason for sharing a room with Juli is to keep an eye on him.
In his first morning at school, Eric is dreaming of his mother when his roommates wake him up. "Kiss me, Marie, I'm getting up." says Eric, half dreaming. The roommates laugh at him. Eric goes to the chapel alone. He meets a group of senior students there. Bacchus, one of the group members, invites Eric to a tea party on Saturday. Eric's roommates say Thoma was often invited to the tea party. After Thoma died, Arndt, another handsome boy was invited. Eric doesn't want to go to the party as a substitute for Thoma.
In class, when a teacher is going to cane Eric, he tries to fight back. Juli is injured trying to stop Eric, After class, Eric goes to the library to make an apology to Juli. When Juli sees Eric standing at the doorway, he looks very similar to Thoma. Juli says to Eric, "I'll kill you, I want you out of my sight.h Eric doesn't know anything about Thoma. He decides to go to the tea party. At the party, Eric asks senior students about Thoma. They say he was a nice boy. Invitation to the party was originally a kind of praise to junior students who did something good. When there was no junior student to praise, they invited Thoma. Thoma and Arndt had a bet that Thoma could attract Juli. Thoma failed. Juli said to Thoma "I don't know you."
When one of the senior students at the party kisses Eric, he hits him. Another one holds Eric down trying to kiss him, Eric passes out. Karl goes to the library and asks Juli to go to the party room in Jacob house. Juli wouldn't go there. He asks Oscar to go there instead. Eric regains consciousness on the sofa. Bacchus makes an apology to Eric. On their way, Oscar asks Eric why he is crying. Eric says he's been waiting for a letter from his mother. Oscar says he's never received a single letter from his father for 5 years.
During a gym class, Eric goes to the locker room. He catches Ludwig, a junior student, closed a locker hurriedly. Jose, a senior student comes into the room and catches Ludwig. He tells him to give him back the watches that he has stolen. Eric tells Jose to let go of Ludwig and passes out. Oscar takes Eric to the infirmary. When Oscar tries to help Eric button his shirt, Eric hits Oscar's hand. Oscar is aware Eric has some mental disease. Eric tells Oscar about his past experience. Eric was educated by many tutors. When he saw one of the tutors kissing his mother, he felt desperate and strangled him self in his bedroom. He failed to kill himself because he lost consciousness. Now, whenever he recalls that time, he feels as if he is suffocating to death. That kind of problem hasn't occurred recently. Eric doesn't think the school life is good for him. He wants to go back home as soon as he receives a letter from his mother. Oscar advises that Eric should grow up. He invites Eric to go downtown on weekend for girl hunting.
The next weekend, Oscar takes Eric to a cafe downtown. Many students are drinking tea and waiting for girls. Arndt says Oscar used to love Juli. The students wouldn't believe it. Arndt mentions he has seen Oscar and Juli kissing around 3 a.m.
Oscar and Eric go up a tower. Oscar tells Eric he should find someone to love. Eric asks if Oscar loves someone. "Yes." says Oscar. Eric asks if Juli has killed Thoma. They argue and Eric almost falls down from the tower. Oscar grabs Eric's arm to stop him falling. Oscar hugs Eric and kisses him. Oscar tells Eric about Thoma. Thoma had an amour in him. Everybody loved him. So, no one could have killed him. Thoma killed himself. Oscar doesn't know why.
Eric wonders why he didn't feel suffocated when Oscar hugged and kissed him. Eric has been waiting for a letter from his mother. He misses her a lot. On the other hand, he's found the school life enjoyable. He likes laughing and discussing things with classmates. He likes Oscar. He's aware Oscar helped him get used to the school life. In the meantime, a rumour spreads in the school. The headmaster tells Oscar to move to another room. Oscar asks if it is because of the rumour. The headmaster says yes, and he also says Eric will share the room with Juli from now on. Oscar asks if he wants Eric to keep an eye on Juli. The headmaster says Juli is a good leader and he will have a good influence on Eric. He says to Oscar "I respected Gustav. You are his son. I have a trust in you no matter what you do." Oscar goes to his new room and tells Eric to move to the monitor's room and share the room with Juli. "No, he'll kill me!" exclaims Eric.
Juli is surprised to know his new roommate is Eric. Oscar is angry at Arndt. When Oscar is about to beat Arndt, Arndt bursts into tears. Arndt confesses he encouraged Thoma to try to attract Juli because he loved Oscar and he didn't like Oscar and Juli being so close.
After the gym class, students fence. Eric beats many of them. They encourage Juli to fence with Eric. Both Juli and Eric don't want to be beaten and they get excited. Eric's sword opens Juli's collar and a mark can be seen. Herbert says to Juli "It's Oscar's love bite, isn't it?" Oscar hits Herbert. Oscar tells Juli to show the mark and say it's nothing but a burn. Juli suspects Oscar knows how the mark came to be. Juli goes back to his room alone. Eric feels guilty.
In the room, Juli looks at his mark in the mirror. He wishes he could scrape it out with a scissors near him. Eric comes back to their room and asks how Juli got the mark. Juli pushes Eric down on the bed with the scissors in his hand. "God" cries Eric. Juli stops and asks if Eric believes in God. Eric answers he believes in God and he wouldn't resist him if Juli really wants to kill him. Juli hugs Eric and tells him to get out of the room. Juli remembers Thoma sitting under the tree. Juli often saw him through the window. Thoma's eyes looked as if they wanted to say something. Juli wonders if God knows Juli loved Thoma.
Eric decides to ask the headmaster to allow him to move to another room. On his way to the headmaster's room, a student tells him there's a letter in his room. Eric goes back and opens the letter. To his disappointment, it is from Mr. Kimburg, a lawyer. The letter says Eric's mother was killed in a traffic accident. Juli comes into the room and sees Eric in tears. Juli kisses Eric. Eric falls down onto the bed. Juli gives him sleeping pills. Juli reads the letter and feels sorry for him. At the same time, he doubts he is qualified to feel sorry for someone. Juli thinks he doesn't have angel wings anymore. Juli goes to the headmaster's room. He sees Oscar reading newspapers there. The head master has received a letter from Eric's lawyer. According to it, the traffic accident happened near Paris two weeks earlier. Eric's mother was burnt with the car.
Juli mentions no one likes the headmaster being too nice to Oscar. Oscar says he is sure the headmaster will say he wants to adopt Oscar. Juli can't believe that will happen. Oscar says he has a trump to win the game. Oscar thinks Thoma Werner might win. Oscar can't wipe him out of Juli's mind. Even though Oscar knows everything about Juli, he might lose against Thoma, who didn't know anything. When Juli wakes up the next morning, Eric is gone. Oscar says he must be going to Koeln, because he has always wanted to go back. Juli decides to take him back.
In the train Eric recalls his mother. He regrets that he didn't agree when his mother said she wanted to marry Juli Sid. The next morning, Mr. Kimburg calls on Eric. He states Eric can't live there anymore because Eric's mother was thinking of moving to her husband's house and sold the house. He also mentions Eric's real father lives in Hamburg with his new family. Eric didn't know that. Juli arrives at Eric's place. Eric sees Juli standing at the doorway and throws a teapot at him. Mr. Kimburg slaps Eric. He accuses Eric of being violent to his friend who has come for him. He tells Eric to return to school.
Juli and Eric take a wrong train and get off at Giessen. When Eric is waiting for Juli, who is looking for someone who knows the right train, a young man asks Eric if he is lost. The young man is surprised to see Ericfs school tie. Juli comes back. Juli and the young man look each other with a surprised look. The young man says "Long time no see." Neglecting him, Juli starts walking with Eric. The young man says "Joyful evening, wasn't it, Juli?" When they arrive at Frankfurt, the train that they are taking is delayed. Juli decides that they will stay at Juli's house in Wiesbaden that night.
At Juli's house, Eric thinks Juli's grandmother is not very nice to Juli. Eric hears Juli's grandmother and mother talking.
Grandmother: Juli must have played around and missed the train.
Mother: My son is not that stupid.
Grandmother: Juli is the same as your husband. Your husband died with a great amount of debt. Any man with black hair is a loser.
Mother: My husband was just unlucky. What about Elizabeth then? She is his child, too.
Grandmother : Oh, she is a good girl. Blond and blue eyes just like mine. She is a pure German.
Eric asks Juli if she really is his grandmother. Juli says Eric doesn't need to get angry at her.
Juli: Grandmother disagreed with the marriage of my parents and she doesn't like me, because I look alike to my father.
Eric: Why don't you shout at her?
Juli: That won't solve the problem. If I make a success in the future and pay her back all the debts that she had owed for my father, her point of view might change. I will be successful without fail, so I only have to wait for the time being even though people have a prejudice against the south.
Eric: Who has a prejudice?
Juli: Everyone does. Sachsen, Schwaben, Bayern, Friesen, Franken and Turinger are the six tribes that made Germany. My father didn't belong to any of them. Grandmother looked shocked when she first saw me. I've been a good boy since I was a child. I've made efforts to be a better child and a better German. I will be a flawless man, who is intelligent, witty, honest and respectable, just like my father.
Juli goes out of Eric's bedroom. Eric wonders what a flawless man is like. He wonders if Juli doesn't feel lonely.
Eric knocks the door of Juli's bedroom. Eric says he's there because he thinks Juli could be crying.
Juli: It's you that are crying.
Juli serves him hot chocolate.
It's been raining.
Eric: I feel lonely. I can't stay alone.
Juli thinks he can't say "I feel lonely" to anyone.
Eric: Do you mind if I'm here?
Juli: Of course not.
Eric apologizes Juli for throwing a teapot at him. Juli forgives Eric. Eric keeps sobbing on Juli's knees. Juli decides to play an angel only that evening.
Classmates are a bit surprised because Eric doesn't seem down. Oscar can imagine he cried as much as he wanted beside Juli. Eric tells Oscar Juli has been nice to him but Juli shouted at him at Giessen, where they met a blond man wearing tentacle blue glasses. Eric says both of them looked contemptable. Oscar thinks a while and ends up thinking it must be Siegfried.
Eric: Listen, I have two fathers.
Oscar: It's better than none.
Eric: You have a father, too.
Oscar: He's gone to south America.
Eric: I mean the headmaster.
Oscar: When did I say that?
Eric: You did. Is it confidential? If it is, I wouldn't say that to anyone else.
Oscar is impressed with Eric's sharpness. He thinks Eric might be able to save Juli. Actually, Juli has changed since Eric arrives.
Eric sees Ludwig in the library. Arndt comes into the room and takes Ludwig outside. Eric picks up a book that Ludwig was about to read. That is entitled "Renaissance and Humanism". A note falls down from the book. The note reads:
"I've been thinking for six months about my life and death, and about a friend of mine. I know I am just a matured kid, and therefore I know this love in my boyhood is going to be thrown toward something transparent, sexless and unknown. This is not a simple bet. What I want to say is not that I love Juli but that he must love me by all means. He is almost dead at the moment. I wouldn't care even if my body was crashed if it is necessary for Juli coming back to life. It is said that man dies twice. He dies on the earth and later he dies in his friends'mind. However, I will never die twice because he won't forget me even after he dies. I'm sure I will keep living in his mind, he will never lose sight of me."
Eric borrows the book. The note seems to be a love letter to Juli. Eric wonders who wrote it. Someone is in love with Juli so much that he would die for him.
On his way, Eric comes across Oscar. Oscar tries to see the book. Eric runs away from him but Bacchus and the senior students group catch him for Oscar. Karl says Siegfried read it and wrote a remarkable report about it last year. Bacchus says Siegfried was his classmate. He was incredibly smart. He was a delinquent student and was expelled from school immediately after he wrote the report. Bacchus doesn't know where he has gone. "He was in Giessen recently" says Oscar.