Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
- Semisonic, Closing Time
Chapter 1: Wake up Call
† “Don’t make me drag you out of bed, Jenna. It’s only the first day- If you start sleeping in now…” Two seconds later, the old digital alarm clock’s red sectional numbers switched to glow a blazing 6:45 and the garbled sounds of an off-tuned radio grinded through the room.
In response, my eyes still closed, I rolled off the edge of the bed onto the floor with a loud thud. From the hallway, my mother, Christina, knocked again with weak tapping sounds – her bones were thin and with her delicate figure it was the best she could do against my brain muffling in and out of sleep. Where I was strongly built, she was all bones. Where I was willowy, she was brittle.
“Are you alright in there honey? Did you roll off the bed again?” I threw my pillow as hard as I could against the door and groaned in a voice hoarse from the night’s restless sleep.
“I’m fine, just practicing for my career as the ‘Duck and Cover’ mascot...”
I could tell she was only half convinced when her muffled voice said through the door, “ Ok, well, don’t be long, or you’ll have no time to eat breakfast.” I’d stopped wondering why mom bothered to say this, and saw that I had been lazy when I went to bed: a shot-glass still sat on my desk in plain sight.
“Come on—Food!” She shouted, sounding annoyed. I hadn’t eaten breakfast since 5th grade, something my mom always seemed to forget. It wasn’t like I had a vendetta against eggs, bacon or muffins or anything. I simply hadn’t eaten breakfast in six years because I never seemed to have time after haphazardly throwing on whatever clean things lay at the bottom of my closet and running to catch the bus.
After taking the dirty shot-glass off my desk and shoving it into a clean woolen tube sock of a particularly lurid yellow in my drawer, I threw on a pair of jeans before remembering about the dress code. No denim. Ok. No T-shirts with words. Fine. Those were pretty standard private school rules as far as I knew, but I remembered Liv had told me about a couple more that weren’t so vanilla. Checking the clock, I estimated that I had about fifteen minutes left, as the bus would be running late with parents sending their beloved children off to dormitories for the first time. Not that I was bitter or anything.
Sometimes it was a blessing and a curse to live in town. My dad had put his foot down about me living in the dorms; we would see if I did any better at this school before I was given the freedom of dorm living. It was ok though. Most people I knew lived in town, and those that did live in dorms always complained about off campus privileges and the lack of gender diversity in common rooms. Not to mention dorm students tended to stick more closely to each other anyway. A few of the Covenfeld kids had the grades for Spledidus Stultus, but their codependency was understandable, and they dwelled in neither the realm of the townies nor the dormers.
I pulled open a cluttered drawer on my desk and after some digging pulled out a crumpled piece of heavy orange paper, with official looking writing and a school seal emblazoned on the top.
By Declaration of the
Most High and Glorious Master Proffesor Concert Master Manfred Lyre
The following Rules shall be follow-ed at all times.
1. All forms of Starcheth must be consum-ed. Any perpetrator with starch (especially potatoes) left uneaten upon thouest plate shall recieveth detention for one month.
2. No cats be-eth allow-ed on campus as they be a signeth of bad luck. Any one who disobeys wilt recieveth detention for one weeketh.
3. Any man who be unpresent for the Most High and Glorious Master Proffesor Concert Master Manfred Lyre ‘s monthly artism lectures shalt be expell-ed immediately
4. Shoes shalt not be worneth in thou yonder locker rooms as the Japanese tradition of not wearing shoes in bath-ed houses must be-eth observ-ed. Punishment shalt be to clean the locker rooms for three months.
5. The colors puce and orange must be-eth worn on all Friday the 13ths, to prevent malifluent luck. Anyone not wearing the colors shall haveth detention that afternoon.
At first I had thought the piece of paper had to be a joke by my sister, Hope, who had been jealous that I was being switched to a prestigious private institution. When Liv had tried to tell me that it was legitimate school literature, I had thought she was pulling my leg. It wasn’t until I had visited orientation that I began to rethink the matter. Despite all of the time wasting campfire tales we had been told, it was a good experience for learning my new enemy, Splendidus Stultus. Teachers had seemed reasonable, and the freshmen around me gullible but likable enough. However, everyone had been sure to dress in a disgusting color of light brownish pink with orange accessories, including my friend Luke, who, being a guide, would have told me if it was all a big orientation joke. I had yet to figure out how legitimate all these rules were, but I wasn’t ready to test them quite yet. Settled that the date was listed as the 9th, I grimaced and put on the last resort outfit that my mother had come in and painstakingly picked out for me the night before.
“You don’t want to come on too strongly—at least for the first week.” Mom had cautioned. “I know that you are a perfectly normal girl, and your friends know that, but I think… I think you should tone it down and let the other kids get to know you before you go back to dressing… like you used to.”
And I did understand. Some people felt uncomfortable when I wore my normal lace and corseted look. Even back at Westhawk High, I knew how much my clothing had stood out, and while different was now becoming mainstream, it would be a while before I could dye my hair magenta again without drawing at least a few withering looks.
I glanced at my watch and unplugged the straight iron I’d been using to melt away the frizzing waves my coppery hair was prone to. No time to curl it today. Seeing my bangs at least had a decent sidepart going for them, I slung my bag across my shoulders and tried (and failed) to slide down the banister. I don’t know how they make that look so easy in movies.
Running past the kitchen table I saw my dad, Jim Doloramor, reading the paper and eating a slice of toast. Before he could notice me, I gave him a kiss on the cheek, turned, and waved him goodbye as he chuckled after me.
“Work hard this time, Jenna- your Ma will kill me if you get in any fights here. Stick to your schoolwork.”
“Would it kill you to let me have a little fun, Pops?”
“Since when is a punch to the face, a suspension and a grounding fun?”
“Never said the last two were—”
“Well, do me a favor; next time you stick up for the weak, don’t get caught, alright?”
“No… You won’t have to worry about that...” My eventual expulsion from Westhawk had little to do with academic performance and all to do with my exemplary skill at beating up on bullies: Not something I was much proud of anymore.
Shaking off the moment, I opened the front door with a loud whooshing sound. This was the cue for Silena and Hope to come charging from their respective rooms, down the stairs and out the door ahead of me.
As Silena passed, she shouted, “Come on slow poke! The bus will be here any minute!”
Hope dropped back to add, “Anyway, aren’t you excited?”
No I’m not excited. Relieved, maybe, for a fresh start, but no. I wouldn’t go as far as excited. I bit my lip and ran after them. I reached the curb just seconds ahead of the youngest, Selina, who pouted her lip, believing I should have let her win. Hope arrived last, looking winded despite the short run. She was a little bit on the frumpy side of fourteen years old, but Pops and I figured that her figure would tighten up when she started soccer in the fall. It was my mother who was currently stunting Hope’s self-esteem and her motivation to work out, as she nitpicked my sister’s look in what she assumed was a caring and not ‘entirely unhelpful” way. She had done something similar to me, and it was thanks to her approach that despite my healthy weight, I still carried a calorie counting app on my phone.
“Well, Jen, aren’t you?” Said Hope, breathlessly.
“Aren’t I what?”
“Not really. It’s just school.”
The eighth grader gaped up at me like I was crazy.
“It’s more than just school.” Said Hope, a dreamy look coming into her eyes. “This is your chance to change around your image completely! You can be anyone you want! You could be a cheerleader, or an artist, or a theater person or a slut.”
Hope looked at me, unsure. “A bigger slut?”
“Silena’s standing right there!” I said, not bothering to correct her opinion. It was true that the past summers activities might have led to my middle school age sister to assume certain things, but it seemed as if she had little concept of what a slut actually did. In a few years, she herself might regret slut shaming. I hadn’t slept with anyone, and I certainly hadn’t been sleeping around. However, she had walked in on my friends and I after we’d had a few too many beers, and I’d had to give her a list of every person I’d ever kissed to keep her quiet from Mom and Dad about the drinking. So far she had used the knowledge as an excuse to talk about adult subjects, something I was thankful for, considering that someday I knew she’d realize the blackmail potential.
“You don’t say those kinds of things in front of a first grader!” I said as Hope grinned slyly, but I already could see that it was too late. Silena was giggling and looking up at us with eyes that read all too clear what she would be discussing in the confines of first grade recess. Knowing the damage was already done, I sighed and turned back to Hope.
“I don’t want to be any of those things. I just want to be me, and trust me, being a slut is not on that list.” Silena giggled again as a canary yellow bus emblazoned with the words, Corner’s Wreath Elementary pulled up to the curb.
Pointing to the words on the side of the bus, I said, “See that Silena? This is your bus. It says so right on the—”
“I’m not stupid, Jenna, I can read. Now if you’ll excuse me, Ill be getting on my ride and showing off Princess Chainsaw and Lady Saberskates to everyone. Later gators!” I still had no idea how to feel about the latest line of fad horror-romance children’s toys to come onto the market. What ever happened to Pokemon and Polly Pocket? Despite the noise as the door opened, I could hear the groan of “Oh Lordy… those damn toys…” from the bus driver as my little sister skipped up the steps in a yellow jumper, an iceskating warrior woman and a fashionable zombified chainsaw enthusiast in hand.
“When did she get so fresh?” Hope asked.
“I think this all goes back to that time you left HBO on and she watched seven straight hours of True Blood.” I shot her a look. “Not that I think I’m even old enough to watch that yet.”
Hope shrugged her shoulders and muttered, “I watch it for the plot…” Another bus approached the sidewalk, and Hope added in a fake girly voice, “Now if you’ll excuse me, Ill be getting on my ride and showing off my new ‘Chthulhu-the-Cannibalizing-Mecha-Jesus-Promqueen’ to everyone. Later gator!” Even I had to laugh at her made-up doll that in this day and age could, quite possibly, sell pretty well.
It was only after the doors closed and the bus rounded the corner that I dropped whatever fake excitement I had mustered. Leaning against the bus post, I grumbled aloud, thinking I was alone:
“Why can’t the summer just last forever?”
“That IS the eternal question, isn’t it?”
Embarrassingly, I jumped. I hadn’t been expecting an answer. To my left, I saw a boy of about my age holding a black book bag covered in iron-on band logos smirking a familiar smile. Even without seeing the chipped left-most canine, I knew it was Luke right away. His gait as he walked over was strong, and there was no trace of the hitching limp that Zack tried so hard to keep hidden.
I could feel my face relax when I saw that he was wearing black pants and a button down shirt with a red tie: contemporary, appropriate, but still chic and a little bad-ass. His dark hair was tousled and just long enough to cover the back of his neck; his laughing eyes a clear, crystal, grey.
“Finally joining the gang, then.” He smiled and the chip in his tooth was plainly visible. “It’s about damn time, Jennamor.”
“You know, if you keep calling me that, it’ll look to people like we’re together.”
“LET THEM LOOK!” He cried to the heavens above, making me snort with laughter. Recently Luke had seemed a little downcast, and tired. It was good seeing him make a ham of himself.
“Nice frills,” he said, looking me up and down. I grimaced. Mom hadn’t picked the dark lace I would have chosen but gone for a style straight out of Stepford Suburbia.
“You look like you’ll fit right in. If it were the 50s. Wish I had time to drag you inside and get those clothes off you…” I stared at him, shaking my head. He could get so fresh sometimes. “-and get you some cooler duds! That did not come our right- I’m-” I couldn’t keep my face straight any longer, though I loved watching him squirm. I cracked a smile, for which he was less than amused.
“I try to be a gentleman but no… we should get on board the bus before it leaves, don’t you think?” I’d been so preoccupied poking fun at Luke that I hadn’t noticed our bus pull up. Unlike the others it was a bright shade of green, and I wasn’t used to the new stop yet. As I boarded I wistfully looked back on the marked bench where my old bus would be pulling up shortly.
“Oh, right.” Sighing, I walked up the last step and glanced down the aisle. There weren’t two seats left next to each other.
“Looks like, we’ll have to part ways for now. Ill see you at school, Jennamor.”
I rolled my eyes, but he didn’t even look back. After a moment of searching the nearest faces, I realized that I hardly knew anyone on the bus, and by the time Liv caught my eye, her seat was taken- by non other than Luke. He smirked at me, raising both eyebrows, knowing that I would have to sit with someone I didn’t know. Asshole.
I remained standing as the bus lurched forward until a small nerdy looking girl grudgingly moved her backpack and suitcase aside. I swear I tried to make conversation with this mousy girl, but no matter what subjects I brought up, from videogames to anime, the most I forced out of this girl were one-word answers. Trisha, as her named turned out to be, had given me the window seat, and at the final stop before the school, her friend had taken the seat across the aisle. They had begun discussing the latest boy-band concert. The girl was a true Belieber. I swear I had this Trisha Evans pegged for a Nerdfighter. So much for me expanding my horizon.
By the time I grabbed my things that had gone flying when the bus stopped, everyone was already off it. Shoving what I’d found back in my bag, which had burst open, I exited and looked around. A small brunette girl was waiting for me by the curb, holding a piece of orange paper. Smiling, the copper skinned girl, dressed in a blue T-shirt and capris, walked over and said, “Hi, my name is Olivia Canto but my friends call me Liv. Is there anything I can help you with, Jennifer?”
“You can help me get the stick out of your ass, Liv.”
“Hey, if I’m in a damn formal skirt doing a damn formal job that I’m getting paid almost nothing for, the least I can do is follow the damn script.”
“Don’t bust a vessel now, Liv.”
“I ain’t got time to improv. I don’t even understand why we need to do these curb-side pick ups for transfers. By Junior year you think they’d expect you newbies to know how to find the admissions office.”
“Well thanks all the same. I’m glad it was you that got me though. Some of the, uh, guides, look a little too friendly.” The one I was looking at in particular was a boy, wearing an identical shirt to Liv’s, who’s overlarge smile never faltered as he grabbed everything an older girl was carrying up the stairs. The gesture was more creepy than helpful.
“Yeah… No one really gets Brent anyway…” She directed her next words at the boy, who’s smile still never faltered. “Let the girl carry her own stuff, Brent! She’s practically gonna hit you if you keep picking up the things that fall from her purse. It’s upsidown, moron!”
Indeed, Brent had begun picking up what he must not have known were tampons and holding them in his mouth so he could shove what remained on the ground into other bags.
“For the love of…” Liv turned to me and gestured towards an oddly shaped building. “Just keep walking that way till you get to the giant beaker. I need to deal with this—Brent, NO! We do not put other peoples tampons in our mouth!-- Mr. Felis is coming in late today- our advisor- you’ll meet him in your history class—which reminds me. Here’s your schedule,” she quickly grabbed a piece of paper from the messenger bag dangling at her side and held it out to me. I put it carefully in my bag and promptly lost it to the depths. “Skadaddle- I’ll catch up.”
And so I walk up the long, winding staircase towards Splendidus Stultus Academy alone. Looking around my first impression was that I had been transported to a giant’s supply closet. Every single building I passed was shaped like a different object.
I whistled and thought to myself, Liv, you weren’t kidding… giant beaker… It has a door? What is this place? When they had brought us to orientation it had been dark, and the building with the theatre had had brick architecture straight out of the 70s.
“It was Crazy Lyre’s idea—excuse me, Professor Lyre’s idea. He seemed to think that all the buildings should be shaped like what they taught.” Liv said as she caught up to me. I must have been walking slower than I thought, taking in my surroundings.
“So the giant books?” I indicated the structure we were currently passing which was shaped like a stack of three oversized books with an open book awning over a sliding glass door.
“That would be the English building. The history building’s where we’re headed. Its that one over there shaped like a globe.” Said Liv, pointing at something round with a Geodesic glass dome donning its top. The rest was obscured by several deciduous trees.
“Where’d they get all the money to make sculptures out of the buildings?”
Liv laughed darkly. “Donations intended for scholarship kids I’d bet, or else they wouldn’t be so rare. 2000 students in the whole school and there are three tops.”
“How do you know that?” I asked; it was unlike Liv to know about things that didn’t involve social gossip. Academic gossip usually bored her. Then again, we’d never gone to school together. Our relationship had mainly focused around summer and weekend parties and most recently around improving our knowledge of low-level alcohol. I’d stopped minding the taste or the buzz that followed, but I hadn’t found the same solace in being wasted she had. I wasn’t a fan of being out of control. Freedom, she called it.
“Well, I only know of three scholarship kids, and I guess they all know each other. They’re all from that orphanage.”
Covenfeld, the Foster Home, I thought. I didn’t know much about it, and Liv probably knew more than I did. She had a friend who was from there. Must have been one of the scholarship kids.
“I know one, and he says that at the PR photo-ops –the school does those for its generous image—they hire actors to help thicken the pictures. Says you can tell who’s a real scholarship kid by which ones wouldn’t look perfect in a chip and dale uniform … Anyway, here we are!”
Liv held open the door for me and we walked inside with the stragglers who had moved in only that morning.
The inside of the history building was just as curious as the outside. When I entered, I immediately came face to face with a wall plastered in old articles, posters and what appeared to be ripped out pages of old textbooks. I didn’t get a chance to examine them though, because Liv immediately pulled me down a hallway to my left unexpectedly.
“What time is it?” Liv asked as she whisked me past various classrooms, all decorated according to their occupants taste.
“7:59 am.” I replied.
“Good. It’s just a little further. We should be able to make it in time—shit.” Just as we rounded a doorway marked 415 an obnoxious voice boomed over an unseen loudspeaker, “GET TO CLASS LITTLE DOVES” except because of the strange lisp in the speakers voice, it wasn’t clear at first that it was a sentence let alone English.
The young teacher inside the room looked from Liv to me and, deciding to be lenient, check marked our names off the attendance sheet as the rest of the class rose from their various desks and exited the classroom. The teacher, a fashionably dressed woman with dark hair and sharp green eyes, walked over to us with purpose.
“I heard you would be touring a transfer around today Liv, so I’m not going to write you up. But as you know, not all of the teachers in this school will be as… normal. So please get yourself and Miss Doloramor to your classes in succinct fashion. See you girls in a few hours.” †
© 2014 Lex Vex