Rain on a Sunny Day (Part 2)
A Second Generation Whateley Academy Tale
Rain on a Sunny Day
Sept. 7th, 2016
I wasn’t sure what I expected all these years when my parents talked about Whateley. When I was kid, I thought it was the most amazing place in the world. I couldn’t wait until I manifested and I’d be able to go there. As I got older and my manifestation didn’t come the same time as Summer, I got discouraged. Then watched as my uncle helped her with her bags and drove off to New Hampshire with her. I watched it happen for a couple of years, each year getting more and more bitter. By the time I finally did manifest, any excitement for the place was long gone. Now it represented everything I HATED about being a mutant.
I despised it.
Sitting in this car as we pulled into a vacant lot, I wasn’t about to change my mind.
Though I was surprised when I looked out the window.
This place was my Disney Land once.
Then it became my Dread.
I was expecting some moldy old institution.
Sure the buildings had that old New England look, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. The lawns and trees were well manicured, the pathways were clean and dirt free. Even the old brick buildings looked brand new and welcoming. All in all it didn’t remind me at all of the sterile, repressive place I had in my mind the last three years. Of course I’d never admit that openly. This was after all still the place my mother was sending me to as punishment. My own personal hell and the more I looked at this idyllic setting, the more I dreaded getting out of this vehicle.
"You actually send your youth here?”
I turned and wanted to kiss Mao, though that would have been a little awkward.
"What’s wrong with it?” asked Agent Grace from the passenger seat in front of us. “I went here. This is a good school. It helped me control my powers and become a well respected member of society.”
I scoffed. “That’s the biggest BS line I’ve ever heard.”
She ignored me but her partner scoffed too.
At least someone knew where the bullshit was.
"So what happens now?” asked Jenny, cutting the building tension.
"We wait” was all the response we got.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long.
Looking out the window I saw two people walking across the parking lot. A man and a woman, the one in the gray fatigues was clearly some kind of security. He had an arrogance about him that screamed cop but he also had a soldier’s haircut. I planned on giving these people hell but seeing him, I might have to second guess my plans. I’m not sure I’d be able to get away with as much as I used to back at home. The security at my old school was a bit of a joke. They had a single Rent-a-cop who thought he was menacing because he spent some time in a Gym but the man couldn’t be everywhere at once, making it hard to police a whole high school. I had a feeling that security here was going to be a little different. They needed it if they expected to police an entire of school of freaks like me.
I liked a challenge.
Carter scoffed. “You’re going to have your work cut out for you now, Spencer.”
I smirked. “Challenge accepted.”
Looking from the guard, I turned my attention to the woman.
There wasn’t much guessing about her. Early thirties, sandy blonde hair and crisp suit. She was a Fed, no doubt about it. If I had to guess, I’d say another DPA knucklehead. It made sense. If I was them, I wouldn’t let a full school of mutant teenagers loose on the world without some oversight. Though I couldn’t help but wonder how much she was actually there for me over them? After all, these people seemed pretty adamant that I get to the school and stay here. I still couldn’t figure out why I was important though. Why were they going to all this trouble? Was it just the whole Epsilon thing? Or was there something else? If there was something else then why weren’t they telling me about it?
That last bit kinda pissed me off.
Call me a paranoid bitch all you want but there was definitely something going on here.
The woman reached the car first but the man wasn’t too far behind.
I noticed neither of our escorts bothered to get out but both of them straightened a bit at her approach. Carter also rolled down his window, giving the guard a long look before turning his attention to her.
"Agent Marcus” he said, his smart ass tone from before long gone.
"Special Agent Carter, Agent Grace, welcome to Whateley Academy.”
"Thank you ma’am”.
They both said it in unison.
It was weird seeing Carter act so obedient toward someone.
She turned her attention to me for a moment, her eyes sweeping over me rather quickly before settling on Jenny. She stared at the girl for a few moments and I thought I saw her stony disposition falter for a moment. Was there something about Jenny that scared her? I looked at the girl myself, she didn’t look any different than before. She was wearing a short sleeved shirt today. I know I noticed it last night but I thought it was a Mao Takeover thing. Apparently the black tiger stripes were a Jenny thing. It must have gone with those catlike eyes of hers. I’d seen various cases of GSD before. My hair and my eyes were labeled as such too. As far as it went, I think she and I got off lucky.
That didn’t stop her from flinching and fidgeting under this woman’s stare.
So I decided to glare right back at the insensitive bitch.
Agent Marcus finally fully turned her attention to me. She was frowning at me too. It wasn’t the glare that she was giving Jenny though, the look on her face now was one I was well familiar with: disappointment. My mother had been giving me that very same look for months now. I thought about returning the look with one of my own but I gave her the finger instead. The woman tapped on my window and Agent Grace lowered it.
"You must be the infamous Riley Spencer.”
I scoffed. “I’m impressed, I didn’t think I was famous already.”
I was being a smart ass.
"Don’t be impressed, its never a good thing to already be known at this school.”
I shrugged. “Easier to get expelled I guess.”
She snorted. “Better people than you have tried, including your friend, Miss Pope I might add.”
Gretchen tried to get expelled? How come she never said anything to me?
Agent Marcus smirked. “Now that we’ve gotten the introductions out of the way, allow me to introduce Officer Daniels, he’ll be your escort for the morning.”
I turned my attention back to the “Rent-a-cop”, I didn’t realize how young he looked before. I’d say early twenties. He was smiling too, which told me he was happy to be here. That was a shame. He was on the cute side but there’s no way I could be attracted to someone who was happy to work in a “prison”. Then again, the same could be said for liking any of the boys here either. I promised myself that there would be NOTHING here that I was going to enjoy, hooking up with someone included. From this point forward, I now had one goal and one goal only: Get myself thrown out.
Sorry, Jenny, I can’t help you after all.
Agent Marcus gave me a challenge.
A challenge that even Gretchen failed.
Agent Marcus was quick to get things moving. She gave Officer Daniels orders to retrieve our luggage. Agent Carter got out of the car to assist him. Our doors were finally unlocked too. I wasted no time exiting the vehicle. I never was a fan of being cooped up in a car for too long. The feeling had gotten worse since manifesting. Being outside, with the air on my face, I felt much better. It was the same back home. I found just being inside for a few hours made me antsy. I think it had something to do with my connection to the air. I tried testing it once, forcing myself to stay inside all day. After five hours, I got real sick. Mom was really pissed at for doing it.
Thinking about making Mom angry made me smile.
"You ok?” asked Jenny, coming up behind me.
"You’re smiling” she giggled. “I thought maybe you were coming down with something.”
Jenny nudged my shoulder. “Always so serious, Miss Spencer. You know I hear that angry people have shorter life spans.”
"Anything to get me out of this school faster.”
"You know, give it a chance, you might like it here” said Agent Grace, butting her head into our conversation.
"Not likely” I said, annoyed.
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much” snarked Carter, probably thinking he was smart.
I snorted. “You know, that doesn’t actually mean what most people think it means.”
His smug look evaporated. “Whatever” he grumbled before dropping Jenny’s bags at my feet.
Officer Daniels watched the exchange quietly before making his way to pick up Jenny’s bags but my companion was faster. She was amazingly strong too. She scooped up all three pieces of luggage in one arm like they weighed nothing. Even Officer Daniels was a little dumbstruck. He recovered quickly. He looked a little bent out of shape though so I sighed and shoved my pack into his chest. Realizing her perceived error, Jenny flushed in embarrassment and set two of the bags down. Daniels smiled and picked them but not before handing me back my bag.
So that’s how it is around here.
The pretty ones get the better treatment.
After that the agents said their good-byes, Jenny got a hug from Agent Grace. Even Agent Carter patted her on the head. I got scolded. I wasn’t surprised in the least. Especially the attention they showed her. From what I understood, they’d been together for a few days before I showed up. It was only natural that they formed some kind of connection. I wasn’t looking for anything like that anyway. In fact, I was happy to get rid of them. We wasted no time in the endeavor either, we left them in the parking lot with Agent Marcus while Officer Daniels led us up a path that wound through the buildings on either side of us.
Daniels did his best to name the buildings as we went. “That circular one is Kirby, that one over there Dunn, oh and up ahead is the library...”
At that point, I blanked him out.
I didn’t really care.
The further down the path, the more my attention was drawn to the large brick building looming ahead of us. It was absolutely huge and looked really old. It was pretty impressive, I’m not going to lie. Most of the buildings here were actually pretty impressive. Whoever built this place really went out of their way to make it warm and welcoming. It was depressingly happy. It made me wonder what kind of secrets were they hiding? Ok, so now I was being paranoid but in my experience, when something looked too good to be true, it usually was. This place had a warm and welcoming New England feel, nothing at all like that little town from before.
The contrast bothered me.
"That’s Schuster Hall up ahead and behind it, you can see Crystal Hall...”
I’d heard Mom mention the name more than once. Summer and Abby talked about it fondly too. I’m not sure what was so amazing about a cafeteria but they seemed to think it was the greatest thing in the world. As we got closer though, I definitely could see the appeal. It was a massive glass dome, I’d never seen anything like it. I was a bit awestruck to be honest, though I’d never openly admit it. I tried my best to keep my expressions neutral but I swore I saw Jenny smirking at me. That smirk made her look real cute, not that I swung that way or anything. Its just one girl can respect when another was cute. Jenny was a very beautiful girl, though I’m not sure if she knew it.
She noticed me looking and seemed flustered.
Damn, it was cute.
"Is there something on my face?” she asked, trying to make sure she was blemish free.
"Nope” I said with my own smirk this time.
She gave me a strange look but said nothing else.
Just as well because I think we were supposed to be paying attention. Our security guide was continuing the impromptu tour as we continued on. The path wound by more buildings but I pretty much ignored what he was saying. I was never much for these things. Eventually we reached our destination at the before mentioned Schuster Hall, so it wasn’t much of a tour after all. Officer Daniels was explaining how it was administration but once again it was boring so I didn’t really care. He opened the front door for us and let us go in first. I smirked, I couldn’t remember the last time someone did that for me. Mostly people saw me and avoided me like the plague, like my punkiness was going to rub off on them or something.
"Generally we take new students directly to their assigned dormitories” Officer Daniels was saying as he ushered us safely inside. “But I have orders to bring you two to the Headmaster first.”
"The Headmaster? Is that unusual?”
Jenny was on the ball. She asked what I was thinking too.
Gretchen told me you didn’t go to Administration unless you did something stupid.
She was there a lot.
I felt honored in a way.
I almost felt like pulling up my old blog and telling the world. I stopped myself though, remembering where and who I was. Besides, I’d given up all that months ago. Doctor’s orders. She felt it was only destructive and no good ever came from it. Obviously. I’m not one of those dumb kids who’s unwilling to admit when they screwed up. That blog was a mistake. I just wish I’d seen that months ago. It might have saved me a lot of heartache if I had. Things might have turned out differently too. Would I have still manifested if I went off with those guys? Would I even be here now? Would I be even more miserable?
Yep, this is me being happy.
I realized I wasn’t paying attention again.
Snapping to attention, I realized Daniels and Jenny were waiting. He looked impatient, she looked amused. His annoyance I could deal with. Adults had two expressions with me: angered and annoyed. Well, all adults except Clara. She was different. It was easy to see how she and Jenny were sisters. The two of them were genuinely decent people. I wasn’t used to that. Most people around me seemed like A.) They either wanted something from me because of my family or B.) Were keeping their distance because I scared them. I could handle B.) a lot easier. A.) just really PISSED me off. Its not like my family had ever done anything to benefit me, though I liked to use it to make B a lot scarier.
Hey, I’m an equal opportunist Malcontent after all.
Smirking, I walked over to where Jenny was still smiling.
"Find something amusing?” I asked her.
She shrugged. “Day’s not over yet.”
Daniels looked annoyed. “You might want to hold onto to that sense of humor because where you’re about to go, its not very common.”
"Where’s that?” asked my interested Chinese compatriot.
Daniels grunted. “No place fun.”
We went across a huge fancy entrance hall, then down a corridor or two but eventually we went through a pair of glass doors with etched letters reading "Administration". A bored receptionist looked up at us, recognized Officer Daniels, and without a word gestured down yet another small hallway on her left. That led to a door that read, “Headmaster”. It was strange though because I could swear that everyone told me that Whateley had a Headmistress. Did they finally get rid of the old lady or did she die? It was kind of sad to think she was dead though. Hey I’m not a monster. People dying is sad, especially someone like her. I heard really good things about her. I just didn’t want to be at her school. Well, his school I suppose now. I did have a lot of trepidation standing in front of this door though. I’m not sure what I was so nervous about though.
Authority didn’t scare me.
If anything, I was looking forward to this conversation. I NEEDED to convince this man that I DID NOT belong at his school. Yet, as I stand here, I’m finding it hard to concentrate to make coherent thoughts. I wonder if he was spelling the hallway somehow? My mother used to do something similar when she knew we were guilty. She used to place runes hidden under the carpet at choice places around the house. Especially during Christmas time. She would always keep the presents in the hall closet. My sister and I both knew they were in there but because of Mom’s spell, we were too ashamed to open the door. Over the years though, it got easier to resist them. Eventually my cousins even helped me learn how to disspell. Not that I actually could do any magic but they showed me how to draw a simple rune that seemed to do the trick.
I found myself tracing the rune with my finger on the palm of my hand. I did it over and over as I stood here. At first, I didn’t feel any different. But slowly, I started to feel a little more at ease. Eventually, whatever fear and guilt I felt, faded away completely. I smirked. He was going to have to do a lot better than that to get me. I turned toward Jenny and noticed she was smirking too. So she discovered it or rather Mao did. There was a twinkle in her eye.
Officer Daniels must have been feeling the same because he left out a labored breath before knocking on the door. There was a muffled voice from the other side which I thought sounded like, “enter” and then he opened the door. The first glimpse of the room didn’t surprise me in the least. Its about what I expected. It had this Old World feel to it, like the office of a professor. Wood paneling, out dated carpet, it even had all those book shelves. The focal point of the room was the large oak desk in the center. Behind said desk was a large leather chair that seemed to dwarf the man sitting in it.
He was old but not frail. His hair was silver white, combed back and neat. He had a trimmed beard and a scar on his neck. He wore a gray three piece suit and resting just next to the desk was a black cane with a silver hawk head. He looked more like a supervillain than a principal, though both tended to go hand-in-hand. Yet, there was something about him, something I couldn’t place. He seemed awfully familiar to me, like a face just on the corner of your memory. I tried to picture him in my mind---perhaps he was a friend of my grandfather’s---but something about him told me otherwise. Grandfather didn’t have many friends left anymore and the ones he did have were too old to visit the main house. No, there was something else about this man.
When he gave us an attempt at a smile, that’s when I remembered.
"No shit, you’re...”
"Long since retired, I assure you, Miss Spencer” he interrupted with a chuckle but the cold stare that went with it told me enough.
He was trying to intimidate me.
First his spell and now this, the man truly was something else.
"He’s simply Headmaster Mazarin now” said Officer Daniels with a cold edge to his voice.
There was nothing “simple” about this man before us.
I suppressed my fight or flight reflex. What the hell was the school doing hiring a former supervillain to run it. Not just a supervillain either, one of THE supervillains. This was insane. My cousins and I used to spend countless hours following my grandfather’s old exploits, actively following and even play acting some of his greater encounters. Many of those fights were between his old super group---The Glorious Aces---and their chief rival---The Syndicate. There was one villain in particular that was always a thorn in grandfather’s side. The very same one that was currently sitting in the chair across from me.
At my sides, my hands clenched into fists.
I felt that telltale tingle in my fingers.
This man tried to kill my grandfather on more than one occasion.
Grandfather tried to for years to bring down The Syndicate. Every time they slipped through his fingers because of red tape. It wasn’t until years later, at the end of his career, that he found out how truly dangerous they were. Like an octopus with arms everywhere and corruption around every corner. One man was responsible for all of it too.The only satisfaction he ever received was the one and only time the two of them ever encountered one another. Mazarin had been the man behind the curtain type but forced into a fight he couldn’t escape---as my grandfather tells it---and Mazarin lost. The scar on his neck was a constant reminder of it.
The Headmaster finally broke the silence that had started to fill the room.
"You’re dismissed Officer, I’ll take it from here”.
At first Daniels just stood there for a moment, he looked at me then Jenny but finally nodded and left the room. I watched him leave for a second before my eyes were back on the Monster.
"Now then, I believe the three of us can get down to business” he said, slowly getting to his feet. He gave us what I think was supposed to be a warm smile but was actually pretty creepy and said, “Let me be the first to welcome you ladies to Whateley Academy.”
"Thank you sir” said Jenny, giving him a slight head bow. “Its a pleasure to be here.”
I scoffed. “That makes one of us.”
He gave me another smile as he sat back down, this one not as warm but not menacing either.
"Generally I do not require new students to visit me at the beginning of the year but given the circumstances here, I asked to see the two of you.”
Now, that was a surprise.
I was wondering why we were here.
"My circumstances or Riley’s?”
Jenny’s circumstances? I turned to my new friend, wondering what could have happened to her. Now that I thought about it, I never did ask why she was with those DPA guys. Wow, did that make me some kind of selfish bitch then? I mean I know I’m a bitch, that wasn’t open for debate. I was just so self absorbed in my own shit that I never bothered to care about her shit as well.
"One thing at a time, Miss Wu” he said, trying to sound sincere.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I’d ever be able to trust this man.
"I thought the DPA were handling my shit.”
He nodded. “They are but that’s outside the boundaries of this establishment. While on Whateley grounds, its our job to make sure you’re safe.”
I wanted to scoff but I held it in.
This man saying he was going to keep me safe made me feel like I was being dragged into the pits of Hell.
"And the DPA liason we met when we arrived?” asked Jenny, curious.
I was curious too but I decided it might be best to let her ask most of the questions. There was something about her that screamed authority to me. Maybe it was because she looked older but maybe it was because of Mao too. The spirit had this regal nature to it. When It spoke to me last night, I couldn’t help but feel a bit awed by it. There was something about it that made me want to bow and respect it one hundred percent. At the same time, that feeling also made me overly suspicious of it too. I didn’t know a lot about spirits and Avatars but what I did hear was iffy at best. The spirits supposedly had the best interests of their hosts but at the same time, they were liars too.
My earlier assessment of Mao still stood.
She was dangerous.
"Agent Marcus is here purely on a case to case basis. Her presence when you arrived was purely coincidental.”
The way he said it though, I could tell he was liar.
There was something else there, something he wasn’t telling us. I could see it in his eyes. I might have lived a fairly sheltered life on our farm but I wasn’t a complete shut in. I spent a lot of time in the city. I met all kinds of people. Many of them were liars. Most of them were bad ones. Whenever Gretchen was home, I used to follow her around like a little lost kitten. At first I think she saw me as a nuisance but over time, she started to teach me things. She used to tell me how the world worked, the real one, not the one they wanted me to see. One of her lessons was about lying and how to do it well. Her biggest lesson was to only lie when it benefited you. She used to say, “anyone can bullshit. Its the truly masterful bullshitters you need to watch out for.”
Mazarin was a Master Bullshitter.
I could see it in his eyes, like I said before. It was in his posture too. It was also in the way he talked. He was dignified but he chose his words carefully. I’m not sure what kind of lie he was telling but whatever it was, it had a purpose. It wasn’t just that though. We were kids. I’m pretty sure he suspected we were idiots. Not literal ones of course. Ego aside, I was pretty fucking smart. He was however like most adults. He underestimated us, that much was clear.
"Does it have anything to do with the Cult?”
Cult? What Cult?
I gave Jenny a look.
What the hell was she involved in?
Mazarin leaned forward a bit. “I’m not at liberty to discuss her reasons for being here. Rest assured, the matter is well in hand. You are quite safe here, we have excellent security.”
This time I did scoff but he ignored it.
"I will be the judge of that”.
That was not Jenny.
If Mazarin was scared by this interruption, he didn’t show it. I did see him visibly pale for a second though, so I suppose that was a win for us.
It did take him a moment to recover, he even straightened his tie. “I assure you, she is quite safe here.”
So he was a bit scared after all.
"Yes” said Not Jenny “For I will be the One to make sure of that.”
All Mazarin could do was nod.
A second later, Jenny blinked and looked confused.
It took a few moments for recovery before Mazarin spoke again. “Now that we’ve gotten that taken care of, I’d like to discuss your dorm assignments with you”.
He shuffled some papers on his desk. I noticed two file folders underneath, one remarkably thicker than the other. I didn’t have to be a genius to know who that belonged too. I was pretty certain I knew what it said about me in there too. I’m sure the words, “anti-social” and “difficult” were used more than once. According to my shrink I was a “misanthrope with severe anti-social behavior anxieties and problems with authorities”. Misanthrope was a great word but honestly I preferred “malcontent”, it had an edge to it that fit me well. In fact, before all this manifestation crap, I actually had it tattooed on my left shoulder blade. Not that my mother ever knew about it of course.
"Why are you giving us the dorm assignments? Isn’t something like this relegated to someone with well less authority…?”
He chuckled. “Sure but seeing as the two of you were going to be here anyway, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone.”
Yes, here, for a reason he was still keeping to himself.
And what’s with this sudden shift in personality?
He opened my folder and took a sheet off the top. For a moment he squinted, grunted and put on a pair of reading glasses he took from his inside jacket pocket. A moment later, he was squinting again.
"Ah yes, Dickinson, nice place or so I’m told.”
The blood ran cold in my veins.
"No” I said, shaking my head.
"Beg your pardon?”
"That’s Summer’s dorm”.
"Yes, I am well aware, its the reason we thought you might be...”
"Let me interrupt you right there” I said, getting a look from him. “I’m not going into Summer’s dorm. I don’t want to be ANYWHERE near my sister, is that clear?”
I’m not sure I had any true say in this but I didn’t give a fuck. I lived with Summer for years, the last few of those have been a living hell. Running from Whateley was my attempt to get away from her once and for all. Well one of the reasons. I knew what they were planning too. I overheard my mother talking on the phone about it a few days before I left. She and the shrink were convinced it would do me some good. Both of them were fucking idiots. Because nothing bad would ever come from putting me in the same living space as the person I want to bash in the face with a baseball bat. Yes, I had anger issues but that’s what the shrink was for. Ok, so not just those but you get the point.
Mazarin said nothing. Instead he let out a sigh, mumbled to himself and picked up the receiver of the phone off to his left. He pushed a button and spoke to someone in a hushed tone. Clearly neither Jenny nor I were meant to hear. The conversation only lasted for about three minutes. When it was over, he replaced the receiver and gave me another one of those fake, warm smiles.
"I just got off the phone with campus housing. Whereas this is most irregular, we have managed to rearrange things. There are a few spare rooms in the freshman wing of Whitman. You might have a room to yourself for few days, if that’s convenient to you.”
"She won’t” said Jenny quickly. “I’ll be joining her.”
I gave her a look and she only gave me a big smile in return.
Mazarin sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He didn’t say anything more but was back on the phone again. Another few minutes later and Jenny was now my roommate.
"Are we satisfied now?”
"Very” said my new roommate.
I’m not really sure what just happened but I wasn’t going to question it. I was going to be away from Summer and that’s all that really mattered.
That’s a win for me.
Things were pretty smooth from there. Mazarin continued to talk to us about the school. He handed us our class schedules, nothing jumped out at me. I was annoyed about Basic Martial Arts though. I wasn’t going to complain though, I liked hitting things from time to time. My shrink suggested I find an outlet for my aggression too. The rest were fairly basic. Gretchen told me about Powers Theory once. She said it was fun. I was hoping she didn’t steer me wrong all those years ago.
Then he handed each of us a notebook of some kind.
"This is the campus rules and regulations.”
I skimmed through the thin booklet. When I got to the part about the Dress Code, I groaned. Did they actually expect us to wear this crap?
A minute or so later, there was a gentle knock on the door. It opened right after and two security officers stepped inside. Neither one was Daniels.
"Miss Wu, these gentlemen have asked that you accompany them to the security office, your package has arrived.”
Package? What package?
Jenny smiled, stood and bowed her head quickly. “Thank you very much sir.”
He bowed in return.
Jenny gave me a wink before she followed the two men out of the room. I watched her fleeting back until the door was shut then I turned my attention back to the Headmaster. We were alone, finally. I managed to take up residence in one of the large comfy chairs in front of his desk. The whole time we’d been talking, my fists were clenched. I know I couldn’t strike this man without being instant expelled. A small part of me wanted to and take the chance. After all, its what I wanted. I noticed that he seemed to be watching me, his eyes directed to my hands hidden on my lap.
Did he know?
He smiled. “You don’t like me very much, do you?”
I scoffed. “Are you surprised?”
He chuckled. “If I was in your position, I wouldn’t like me very well either. To be fair though, Henry wasn’t a saint during it all either.”
Henry? How did he know grandpa’s name.
He chuckled again. “We’re friends, well not enemies anymore. After we fought and it ended, life took its course. I eventually retired and went legit. Henry helped me do that. We used to keep in touch but...”
He didn’t know. Well, very few people did. My family wanted to keep it a secret. My grandfather was always a very prideful man. It was one of his many flaws actually. When he started to get sick a few years ago, he did everything he could to hide it. As far as the rest of the world knew, The Grand Zephyr had happily retired and was living out the rest of his days in quiet seclusion somewhere. Its the way the world worked. He was lucky that he was able to get that much. A lot of superheroes don’t get to retire. My grandfather liked to call it an “occupational hazard”. I wonder if that’s what he called it when Dad died.
"He’s..” I started but wasn’t sure what to say.
Mazarin seemed to have the right words. “How much time does he have?”
I sighed. “More than a few but way less than a lot.”
Mazarin sighed heavily and nodded. “He was a good man. I shall mourn his passing.”
That sounded almost sincere.
The room fell into silence again. I was expecting to be dismissed any moment but when it didn’t happen, I got a bit annoyed.
"Why am I still here?”
Blunt but to the point.
He laughed. “They told me you were a No Nonsense type of girl, its an admirable quality to have if you know where to use it properly.”
I grunted. “Spare me the shit. What’s going on?”
"The Shit as you say should not be taken so lightly. We have reason to believe that Epsilon might make a play for you here at the school.”
So that’s it after all.
I shook my head. “What the fuck is with these people? Clara and I kicked their asses and they still want more?”
"If I were to guess, I’d say you have something they want. I’ve dealt with the like in my time. Mind you, its easier when your enemy makes their intentions known, but its not hard to counteract the crafty ones either.”
"You should know” I scoffed and he smirked.
He coughed and cleared his throat, becoming the professional educator again. “We’re taking every precaution. Security has been alerted to the situation and we’ll ask you to report anything out of the ordinary. Anything, Miss Spencer, do you understand.”
I waved it off. “I get it. I’ll watch my back.”
He smiled and stood, straightening the front of his jacket.
"Well then” he said as I stood as well. “Let me officially say, Welcome to Whateley Academy.”
This was going to be fun…
Officer Daniels was waiting for me in the hall when I stepped out of the room. He was on the phone but as soon as he saw me, he ended his conversation. He gave me smile, which I’m not sure was forced or not. Most people pretended not to want me around. In the past it was because of the way I looked. Not too many people tolerated bright colorful hair and piercings. People were a cruel judge of character, basing a person solely on the way they looked. So I embraced the stereotype. The problem was, somewhere along the way I forgot it was an act. Now the attitude was real and it was refreshing.
Most of the time anyway.
A lot of the time it was exhausting too.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being a bitch to people, it was just hard making friends that way. And yes, I wanted friends. Anyone who says otherwise, is a fucking liar.
Speaking of which,…
"Where’s Jenny?” I asked, looking about.
I was hoping whatever special thing she had to do would be done by now.
"Still at the security office, her...package...has raised some questions.”
Ok, now I REALLY WANTED to know what it was.
He didn’t elaborate any further and I didn’t bother to ask. I figured Jenny would tell me all about it later. Well, I was hoping she would. I didn’t know her very much after all. Being her roommate now, there was plenty of time for us to get to know one another. I definitely had questions, especially because she knew a lot about me. It made me wonder just how powerful Mao truly was. It also made me wonder what kind of powers was Jenny hiding behind that pretty face of hers?
I tried not to let my thoughts distract me as Daniels and I made our silent march out of Schuster and back onto that main “road” as before. This time he didn’t narrate as we walked. We followed the very same path though, this time in reverse. I found myself staring at the very same buildings from earlier but nothing had changed. There was something weird about all of it I noticed. Looking around, I realized we were the only two people walking around.
"I thought this place was a school?” I said, trying to be a smartass.
"Its still early, most are either settling in or sleeping” said Daniels, which explained a lot.
It made me smile. That meant I could wander about and not be bothered. According to the schedule I got earlier, classes didn’t start until next week. So that meant I had time to myself. It would hopefully give enough time to figure this place out, maybe even plan out how to get expelled. Of course I was going to keep that little tidbit to myself. I’d play along with these people as long as I could then at the most opportune time, I’d make my escape. I know I made a promise to myself to stay around and make sure Jenny was alright but there was something about this place that bothered me. Everyone here had my best interests at heart and it freaked me out.
As we walked, I did my best to pay attention to my surroundings.
Regardless of what I thought about this place, it really was gorgeous. There was a lot of green and unlike that glum town we started in, the air here was crisp and welcoming. Feeling it against my skin made me feel a lot better. The moisture in it felt better too. It was a weird feeling. I remember the first time I started to realize I could “sense” it. It was shortly after I manifested. It was raining that day and I remember feeling overwhelmed by it all. I could feel every drop of water, including the ones that hadn’t fallen yet. It was so powerful, it made me sick at first. Eventually Mom had to call Aunt Becky, who arrived to give me a checkup. We didn’t have all the specifics at the time but it turns out, I’m connected to the weather somehow. We still don’t know the full extent of my powers but I seem to have more control when it rains.
So a move to Seattle might be in my future.
Daniels must have sensed something was off though.
"You ok?” he asked, giving me a strange look.
For a second, I couldn’t figure out why until I realized I was smiling.
"I’m fine” I said, scowling at him.
We walked in silence for a few seconds before he breached it.
"You know I was like you once...”
I scoffed. “You were a fifteen year old girl, my how you’ve changed.”
I knew what he meant but I liked pushing peoples’ buttons.
He laughed a bit. “What I meant is that I was a rebellious ass, caused a bit of problems. Did drugs, got arrested...”
"You think I’m a druggie?”
"No, but I think you’re on a dangerous downward spiral”
Hmmm.Daniels looked like he wanted to say more but decided against it because of my sass. Just as well, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to him anymore.
"Hey can I use that?” I asked, getting a raised eyebrow. “Downward Spiral I mean, it sounds like a cool name for a band!”
It did too.
He gave me another look. I think he debated about saying something but instead, shrugged it off and continued walking. It was the story of my life. Most people either reacted to me or ignored me. I was happy with either. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m an acquired taste. I’ve never really understood that phrase to be honest. Did it mean that someone was going to try licking me?
Instead, he continued to lead me back toward the parking lot. Right before we reached it though, we took a branching path. It wound its way through two buildings on either side, according to signs one was Dunn and the other Kane. He tried to tell me about them but I didn’t really pay attention and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t want a tour, I just wanted to get to my damn dorm so I could get away from him. Walking about this place with a security guard hadn’t gone unnoticed. Of the few people we passed, all of them stopped to look. Not that I had problems with people looking at me, I wasn’t the self conscious type. I just didn’t want to be labeled as the troublemaker girl on Day one.
As soon as we got some distance away from those two buildings I didn’t care about, another one came into view. We were walking up an incline that quickly turned into a hill and quite a hike. On top of which was a red brick building, shaped like an H.It was large, with two stories and looked like a dorm building. No, I’m not sure what a dormitory is supposed to look like. I’m just going by what I’ve seen in TV shows. This one looked like that.
"And that’s Dickinson”.
The name sent a chill down my spine.
Summer was in there.
"Walk faster” I said, picking up pace.
Daniels quickly matched my stride. He looked like he wanted to say something but changed his mind at the last minute. I think the man was finally starting to understand me.
At the bottom of the hill, not far from the place that forever shall be called, “No Riley Land”, another building came into view.
It was nearly identical to NRL.
"Not very imaginative are they?” I snorted.
"And that” he said with a relieved sigh. “Is Whitman”.
Walking down the hill’s brick path, I got a better look at my new “home” for the next four years. Though, I doubted I’d be here that long. It was made out of red brick too and covered in ivy. It looked very New England in its design, which given where we were, that was appropriate. The architects of this place must have had some kind of basic floor plan to work with when designing these dorms. I suppose it was just easier to make them all look alike. Though I was glad to see that this place seemed to be nestled in its own little valley, away from everywhere else. The courtyards looked peaceful and I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had foolishly thrown coins into that fountain.
"This way” said her escort, leading me across a large, circular drive and up a set of stone stairs to two large oak doors.
Daniels opened the doors for me.
The proper gentleman.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but I definitely didn’t expect to be walking into Hogwarts.
The place was large.
The floors were hardwood, recently polished. Light streamed in from the large windows and heat radiated from the two huge fireplaces. It had a warm, cozy feel. There were lots of comfy looking chairs and colorful rugs, even tapestries on the walls. What the hell was this place? I almost found myself smiling but I quickly hid it. I couldn’t let on that I actually liked this place. I’m not going to lie though, I really did. It reminded me a lot of my grandfather’s home. It too was large and had a distinctively warm feeling. As much as the man was stern and often very cold toward visitors, his place was always very welcoming. It helped that it was so big too and had many places to go if you didn’t want to be disturbed.
That was always my favorite part about Grandpa’s.
If you didn’t want to be bothered, it was easy to hide.
I didn’t see that happening here.
Standing in this large common area, with the large staircase in front of me, it was clear this was a place with people.
People who I couldn’t avoid.
Speaking of which…
"Ah, you must be Miss Spencer.”
I snapped around and found a woman just stepping off an elevator. Yes, this place had elevators. How cool was that?
She smiled at me as she approached. I was a bit surprised to say the least. She was young, probably mid-twenties but she dressed like a grandmother. Her strawberry blonde hair was done up in a messy bun, her large black rimmed glasses were far too big for her face and her frumpy, wrinkled dress looked out of place on her body, where she was clearly hiding some nice curves. The woman screamed fashion disaster. I wasn’t one to talk much myself but I’d spent enough time around my sister for some of it to sadly wear off. Summer would have been appalled at the sight of this poor creature.
"I’m Alina Everette, Assistant House Mother” she said, holding out a hand.
She was a House Mother?
"Riley” I said, giving it an awkward shake.
"Yes, quite the surprise. We weren’t expecting you or Miss Wu for that matter. Had to do some scrambling and rearranging of things” She giggled at her own words.
"Well I guess that’s sorted then” said my escort, nodding to the dorm mother. “I’ll be on my way then. Riley, I hope we don’t meet again.”
I don’t think he meant to be rude but he got his point across.
I didn’t bother wasting anymore time on him.
Ms Everette watched him go, frowning. “Well that wasn’t very nice.”
I shrugged. “I’m used to it.”
"Well, they would have never talked to students that way when I was here” she huffed, crossing her arms.
"You were a student here?”
She nodded. “Oh almost twenty years ago I guess, in this very cottage actually.”
She waved me to follow her as she made the short walk back to the elevator. She started to tell me her life story in the elevator. The only thing I really heard was that the old assistant house mother retired last year and she was her replacement. The rest of her story went in one ear and out the other. I tended to do that with most adults. Well, maybe not Clara. She was cool and my friend. Plus, she kinda saved my life so she got a pass. I don’t think I was ever going to give this woman a pass.
Thankfully for me though, the elevator ride was very short.
"Here we are” she said as the door opened. “You’re lucky we had some empty rooms. Most of the girls arrived a couple of days ago...”
She trailed off again as we headed down the hall.
We didn’t go very far before she stopped again in front of a door.
"Here it is, room 215” she said with a happy smile. “This is Wing number 1, Janette is your RA”.
She leaned forward and gently knocked on the door. I’m not sure what she was expecting but when no one obviously answered, she smiled again and taking out a key, she unlocked the door.
"Can never be too careful around here” she giggled before unlocking the door and pushing it open.
She stepped into the room, took a look around then gestured for me to follow.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. I did not however expect it to be so big. I also didn’t expect it to be empty. Ms. Everette was standing in the middle of the room with a frown. A moment later, she pulled out an old flip phone and stepped away from me as she made a call. I took that moment to look around a bit more. It was clear that the room was designed for two people, there was plenty of room for it. Absently, I found myself wandering over to window, taking a look at the courtyard beyond. It was sunny again, which made me feel dismal. It also weirded me out a bit. This morning I was sure it was going to pour back in the town and now, there wasn’t a storm cloud in sight.
Cloudless skies always made me uneasy.
I started to turn away from the window when my fingers ran along something etched into the windowsil. Looking down, I realized it was something carved in there, old and warn with age: MISCHIEF WAS HERE. I smirked at it, wondering what kind of girl would willingly leave her mark?
"Well then” said Ms. Everette, her phone conversation over. “It would appear that the furniture for this room was in storage. This room wasn’t meant to be used for a while. No matter, its being brought up and it should all be straightened out in no time.”
Great, what the hell was I supposed to do until then?
Ms. Everette had a quick answer for my thoughts.
"How about I get one of the girls to show you around the cottage then a quick tour of the campus?”
She didn’t wait for me to respond, before leaving the room.
With her gone, I wandered about the room a bit more. It was a good size, plenty of space for both Jenny and I. Speaking of which, she was gone a long time. I half expected to find her here, waiting for me. I’m not saying I was mad that she wasn’t but it was worrisome. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to where she might be. Most of it had to do with Mao of course. I still didn’t trust that Thing. There was something about a sentient spirit that could take over at any time that worried me. I only knew a bit about Avatars and things but I was pretty certain that things like that weren’t supposed to happen. The scariest part of it all was that Jenny didn’t seem to notice most of the time. It was like a switch being flicked and suddenly Jenny was riding shotgun in her own body.
How much control did my new friend even have?
My thoughts were interrupted by a gentle knock on the door.
Wow, that was fast.
I left my pack and guitar in the corner of the room and wandered over to answer it. Opening it up, I expected to see Ms. Everette again. I was surprised to find a girl there. One who looked terribly nervous. She was fidgeting and trying very hard not to look at me. I was surprised to see someone so young here or maybe she was just a girl who looked young? You never could tell with mutants.
I thought about saying something nasty but I just couldn’t.
She was too cute.
"Riley” I said instead, for lack of anything else to say.
She smiled and sighed. “Ms. Everette asked me to give you a tour”.
I did my best to smile.
See, Doc, I’m being a people person.
This girl was a nervous wreck. Did they warn her about me in advance or was she always this scared? I was even doing my best to be as nice as I could. Trust me, it was hard. But I had a soft spot for kids. She reminded me a bit of my young cousins too. They were both twelve, probably about this girl age but that was where the similarities stopped. Izzy and Claire were wild things, always causing some kind of mischief. This girl looked like a mouse could bully her. It didn’t help that her near white blonde hair was done up in two braided pigtails making her look a lot younger than she probably was. Someone once probably told her it made her look cute but all it really did was make her look innocent and more child-like.
Sadly it wasn’t my place to set her straight.
Besides, most people didn’t take my kind of criticism well.
So instead, I kept my mouth shut and let her lead me on this “tour”. She did the best she could. First, showing me around the dorm. They called it a cottage and I could see why. It was like a self contained community here. According to Linette, there were well over one hundred girls in this building alone, which was absolutely crazy. They were scattered about three floors and some attic rooms too. The freshmen were all on the second layer, split into wings, each with an RA. My wing was the northwest one, the RA was named Janette. She and the other girls were at lunch right now. Something I’m guessing Linette was on her way too before she got shanghaied into this mess with me.
"This is the ground floor” said my guide as we stepped off the elevator.
The large area was empty like before.
No, wait, not empty…
"Is that a cat?” I asked, pointing to the feline sleeping on the back of chair.
Linette giggled. “More or less.” She waved. “Morning Shisa”
The cat raised its head, turned to look at us for a long moment then settled back to sleep with a yawn. There was something about the way it looked at me. It was almost as if there was a human intelligence in its stare. I shook off the thought though. It was a cat. Cats were smart creatures but they were still dumb animals. We had quite a few that lived in our barn and most of them hated me. Especially Summer’s cat, Diamond, the little bastard tried to claw me every chance it got.
"What idiot brought a cat to school?” I grumbled.
Linette giggled again. “Shisa is not a pet...”
My guide smiled and waved me on, saying something about wanting to show me “something cool”. This said cool thing was down a small flight of stairs to a basement level. Down here there were a couple of libraries, some kind of large gaming room and a couple of workout rooms. I think she was trying to show off and she succeeded, especially with the spa rooms. I was not expecting those. Was this place a dorm or a fancy resort? Back upstairs, we went outside. She showed me the courtyards then started to led me up the path back toward the rest of the campus. She did her best to give me a history lesson of the place but I wasn’t really paying attention. Winding up that hill again, I couldn’t help but glare over at Dickinson.
Summer was too close.
I don’t think I was ever going to get over the idea of having to be at a school with her again. I remember what it was like after she manifested. It happened over the summer, right before she was to start her last year at middle school. Most of the kids chalked it up to a summer time makeover. My sister basked in the immediate attention her new look granted her. Thankfully for me, I didn’t have to suffer it long. A year later, she was off to Whateley. I no longer had to deal with her on a daily basis, making my life a living hell every chance she got. Not that it was any easier without her, what with Mom constantly comparing me to my “perfect” sister. After I manifested and they told me their plans, I knew I had to get away. I couldn’t live in another place knowing she’d be around all the time, casting me in that ginormous shadow of hers.
"You ok?” asked my guide.
"Fine” I grumbled, still glaring at the building.
"Umm, you’re smoking...”
I looked at my arms and sure enough, there was a lot of fog billowing around me, clinging to my body like a shadowy cloak.
When I got angry, I lost concentration.
"Its not smoke...” I grumbled then seeing her fear, I sighed. “Its fog.”
I closed my eyes and took a few seconds to calm down, when I opened them again, it was gone.
"Its harmless” I explained. “It just happens when I get really angry or nervous...”
She gave a slight nod. “I...ummm...glow when I’m nervous...”.
She said it in such a soft low voice, I could tell she was embarrassed about it.
I wanted to give her a hug but that wasn’t me. Instead, I closed my eyes and sucked in a deep breath. When I let it out, I blew a dense fog from my mouth. “Its not all bad, see”. She did and laughed. I rubbed the top of her head, glad to see I could do my tiny part. Though if anyone saw me being nice to the kid, I’d make their life a living hell for it. Looking around quickly, I was glad to see we were alone.
"So where too now, Oh Great and Powerful Tour Guide” I asked with a flourish, hoping to get her to smile.
It worked. “How about Crystal Hall, we can get something to eat.”
"Sounds good, lead the way.”
There was a spring in her step as we passed by Dickinson. I was glad to see I made her happy and a little less nervous. Meeting new people wasn’t easy, especially on the first day of school. I used to have smiliar problems when I was a kid. Mostly because I was so small and shy. It probably would have continued like that for years to come if not for Gretchen. She taught me how to be confident and face my fears. She was also the one who taught me not to take shit from anyone. Mom didn’t really like that part but she couldn’t deny how happy she was to see me finally come out of my shell. I was such a scared, nervous kid and thanks to my “big sis” as I called her, I became a different person. It wasn’t easy though and it took a long time. It sadly didn’t last long either.
Six years after coming into our lives, Gretchen disappeared.
I was ten at the time and cried for days. Then I thought about what Gretchen might think of all my crying and toughened up. I hardened myself pretty quick after that. Her disappearance was both a blessing and a curse to me. I learned to stop relying on others but at the same time, I started to shut people out too. My relationship with both Mom and Summer declined quickly after. Things were shit for a while, leading to my mutant hating blog and my short tenure as an H1 dickhead. Then I met Clara. I’m not going to lie, she saved my life in more ways than one. I know I only spent that one day with her but she was the first person to care about me---truly care about me---in a long time.
Walking closer to the main part of the campus, I started to notice a lot more people than earlier. I also started to notice Linette get a little nervous again. It didn’t take a genius to figure out this girl had a problem with people, sorta like me. It took a long time for me to get over and I had Gretchen to help. Normally I wouldn’t have given a fuck but there was something about little Firefly, something that reminded me of myself.
I needed to distract her.
"Hey, tell me more about the others at Whitman?”
Her face lit up. “Well there’s Darcy my roommate and Shisa, you met her...”
Talking about the other girls was the distraction she needed.
She told me all about everyone she’d met so far. From what little I was able to make out of her rapid fire chatter, Whitman was a dorm for the more severe GSD cases. Many of those girls had arrived at the school a couple of days ago. Now that she mentioned it, I thought I remembered Gretchen talking about a place like that. I couldn’t remember the name but it was obviously Whitman. Gretchen liked to talk about Whateley a lot when she could. She even told me things that she wasn’t supposed to tell other people. Gretchen never once hid the fact that she used to be a boy from me. She said it wasn’t right to keep secrets. She told me everything about her, especially about her life before when she lived with my grandfather. In fact, she was the only one who told me about him.
"Where’s Poe?” I asked, interrupting her.
Linette gave me a strange look but turned and pointed. “That way.”
I followed her finger as I turned in the direction.
I saw the building.
So that’s the place, huh.
The school’s secret.
The one I wasn’t supposed to know about.
"Do you know someone in there?” she asked, getting nervous again.
I shook my head. “Not anymore. The girl I called my big sister for a time stayed there. She told me all about it.”
Linette lowered her voice. “Is it really full of crazies?”
I sighed. That was the cover story.
I wasn’t about to spill I knew the truth though.
"Its filled with students just like every other place here” I said and left it at that.
Linette stared at me for a while but slowly nodded her head. We stood staring in the direction of Poe for a few seconds longer before she decided to move on. Walking on, I couldn’t but remember the time Gretchen told me she used to be a boy. It was right after she graduated from Whateley and I couldn’t figure out why my mother was so weird. I didn’t know it at the time because I was still pretty young but Mom knew about Poe too. She had a friend in there she went to school with and they confessed the secret to her years later. Mom had always been a little cold and standoffish toward Gretchen but she was nice enough to let the girl call the farm her “home”. After Gretchen’s graduation though, I saw Mom hugging her and crying. Being only eight at time, I asked why everyone was crying and that’s when Gretchen told me.
The thing was, I didn’t judge.
Say what you will about my mother, she taught us to be tolerant of others.
I didn’t really understand most of it until Tina explained things after Gretchen left. By that time though, all I saw Gretchen as was the girl I loved and admired as an older sister. I promised myself I’d protect her secret for as long as she wanted and if I ever saw anyone bad mouthing someone like her, I’d make them pay for it. Looking at Linette now, I knew she didn’t mean what she said. I knew the school was just trying to protect the students of Poe from persecution. I just hoped some day all of that crap would end up in the past with the rest of the prejudices and the world could finally move on.
"You coming?” asked my anxious guide.
I nodded and started to follow her up the path to the famous Crystal Hall.
Seeing the large glass dome on the outside didn’t even come close to compare from seeing it on the inside. It truly was enormous. There were two other floors up there and so many students milling about, I was getting a bit nervous myself. Back home, I generally avoided places like this. A lot of people and me never went well. I usually just tried to slip into a quiet corner somewhere, keep my head down and hope that no one noticed me. Thankfully Linette didn’t make a big deal out of showing off. She told me about the cafeteria, gave me some quick story lesson I’m sure someone gave her then asked if she could be excused. Like I had some kind of power over that. I did let her go though. She seemed pretty anxious to go sit over at a table where a girl about her age was waving.
That left me alone.
Just how I liked it.
I took a look around, making sure that Linette was at the table with her friend before I decided to make my escape. I couldn’t deal with this right now. My room was a quiet, nice place. The people here were already sitting together, already starting to form little cliques. That was never me. I was a loner. Even when before Brody dragged me off to his little group. Even then, his “friends” weren’t really my friends. I was there because I was his girlfriend, whatever that meant. Thinking back on that relationship now, I realized it wasn’t much of one. We never dated, we never kissed, we barely did anything more than hold hands. The only reason I was ever with him in the first place because he didn’t seem to give one damn about Summer. Of course now I knew it was because she was a mutant.
I keep telling myself if I knew Brody was a Mutant Hater in the way he was, I wouldn’t have been with him. Well, keep trying to fool myself with that thought anyway. I liked Brody because he HATED mutants. It had nothing to do with a prejudice and everything to do with my anger toward my perfect sister. I’m not exactly sure when those thoughts changed though. I’d like to say it was the moment we lured poor Samantha Ridley into that alley. It wasn’t. No, I didn’t change until I realized what they planned to do to her. I was an idiot to think they just wanted to “talk” to her like they told me. I told the authorities I was oblivious to that but I wasn’t. I figured out pretty quickly what it was really about. I only stepped in stop the beating when she looked at me. I saw the fear in her eyes. It was at that moment I realized that that could very well be me. That’s when it happened too. I don’t remember much of it, I blacked out shortly thereafter. I was told it sometimes happens when someone manifests. When I came too, I was in the hospital, the others were under arrest and the only reason I avoided jail time was because of my family. I learned later of the cover up, how I wasn’t there. They spun it in their favor, even paid Samantha’s family off.
They were ashamed of me after that.
They had a right to be.
I almost stood by and let them do horrible things to that poor girl.
Almost was what the Doc focused on though. She kept telling me “almost” was not the same as actually letting it happen. The thing was, it didn’t really excuse what I did. I could have stopped it long before it happened but I didn’t. I was going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. Of course I tried apologizing but I wasn’t allowed to see Samantha. Not in the hospital and not at her house. Then she was just gone. I spiraled from there, got worse. But now I was bad and with powers.
I’m not sure why it was all flooding back to me now.
Maybe it was this place.
Maybe it was all these people.
All these mutants.
They could all easily know what I tried to do.
The thought of it made me start to shake. I wanted to scream, to lash out. I could feel it boiling over inside of me. The skin on my arms started to tingle and my fingers started to twitch. This was bad. I’d felt this before. I lost control once. It was shortly after I got home from the hospital and Mom tried talking to me. She was using that condescending tone of hers though so she sounded like a bitch. I lost it. Somehow she got lifted off the ground and thrown against the wall. Then she started to choke...wait, why did she start to choke? I don’t remember her choking? Why did I suddenly remember her choking? It made no sense, it…
I felt calm.
A second later, a hand was on my shoulder. Turning, I found Jenny there. I snapped my head away quickly, wiping the tears.
I was crying?
"You ok?” she asked, concerned.
"I’m fine” I said, snapping even though I didn’t want too. I took a deep breath. “Sorry, yeah, I’m good. Its just...a lot of people.”
Jenny still hand her hand on my shoulder.
"I know what you mean, this place is crazy...”
I was happy to see her again.
"Where have you been all this time?”
She rolled her eyes. “Security. I got a package and they were concerned about it. They grilled me for a long time but I have no idea where it came from. They’re scared it might...” She stopped herself, almost as if she said something she shouldn’t have. Then she sighed. “Well, let’s just say they’ll be holding onto it for a bit.”
Cryptic but ok.
"So you get the whole tour and things?”
She nodded. “Just came from the cottage, they’ve got furniture in our room now. Ms. Everette told me I’d find you here.”
Well that’s a relief. Now I could spend the rest of my time hiding in there.
"Good, lets head back then.”
"You’re not hungry?”
I saw the way she was looking at the lunch line and groaned. She was one of those kind of mutants? The ones that had to constantly eat? I HATED her even more. She looked like that and probably ate constantly. I bet she never gained a pound either.
"You’re an Energizer?”
She shook her head. “Manifestor I think”
I was about to ask her more when I stopped and spotted something. No, not something, someone. I froze and started to tremble.
"What is it?”
"I sense something, something that I have not sensed...”
Ok, it was a Star Wars reference but it fit well.
Except it wasn’t Obi Wan coming toward me.
It was Darth Vader.
She was coming toward me, all smiles and golden hair. I wanted to die. I tried to run but Jenny seemed to have some kind of vice like grip on me. I tried to pull away but couldn’t. I tried pushing against her but it was like she was rooted in place. I snapped around and saw the vile creature getting closer. I could see her blue eyes, her shiny lips. The wind seemed to blow her hair about her face and swish that tiny skirt of hers. It wasn’t doing that on its own either. She was doing that, it was her subtle way of making herself more alluring. It worked too. I watched all the guys eyes follow her as she glided across the room toward us.
Damn it, Jenny.
Why won’t you let me go!
"There you are!” said the Monster then she leaned forward and pulled me into a crushing hug.
She smelled like some horrid spring garden.
"Umm, Riley who is...”
The Beast let me go and smiled at Jenny, sticking out her hand. “Are you Riley’s friend? Its great that she has one and so quick, its so nice to meet you...”
"Sure” said Jenny shaking hands with the Demon.
"Riley, aren’t you going to introduce me to your new friend.”
I grit my teeth. “This is Jenny, this Disgusting Thing is my sister, Summer.”
I saw her look from me to Summer and back again. Yep, it was the same reaction we ALWAYS got. Summer was tall, beautiful and absolutely gorgeous. When she walked into a room, she seemed to glow so bright that everyone else was dull in comparison. She was Breeze, the face of our family. They were already starting a new add campaign for her. My cousin was out and Breeze was in. As soon as Summer graduated Whateley next year, they were going to slap her into a tight, revealing outfit and put her in front of every camera they could. It helped that she had such a bubbly, magnetic personality to go with it.
She was EVERYTHING my mother EVER wanted in the PERFECT daughter.
She was also EVERYTHING I HATED.
I pulled her away from Jenny. “You can go away now” I snapped, glaring up at her.
Summer frowned. “Now that’s just plain rude, sis. We haven’t seen each other in days and when I found out you were here, I just had to find you.”
"And who pray tell told you I was here?”
"Abbie of course”
I’m gonna kill her.
I knew it was only a matter of time before Summer figured out I was here but I was hoping to have a few days of peace. I knew Abbie was somewhere, probably laughing at me right now. This was all some kind of demented game to my cousin. She knew how much Summer drove me nuts. Now that Summer knew I was here, she wasn’t going to leave me alone. No matter how much I HATED the vapid twit, she NEVER got the hint. She just kept coming back for more and more.
"You have no idea how happy I am now. I’ve been telling my friends all about you” she said, turning and waving to a group of girls up at a table on the second floor. “They’re dying to meet you. They want you to bring your friend too, said she’s totes gorgeous.”
She reached over and pulled me into a half hug, this time I managed to push her away.
She frowned. “We’re not going to start this again, are we? Mom told me I’m to look out for you and make sure you adjust to being here.”
Mom just moved up on my To Kill List.
Jenny finally sensed something. Maybe she saw it or maybe she just wanted to gag at Summer’s presence too because she finally came to my rescue.
"Well actually, we were going to head back to Whitman together...”
"Whitman?” asked Summer, giving me a confused look. “But Mom said you were going to be in Dickinson.”
"Change of plans” I said with a wicked grin.
"Mom’s not going to like that” she said, the bubbliness fading from her voice. “Does she know?”
I shrugged. “She will eventually because I’m sure you’re going to call her as soon as I walk away. Do me a favor and tell her not to call me, I don’t want to hear her voice.”
Before Summer could respond, I took her momentary stunned stupor to make my escape. I noticed Jenny was quickly on my heel as I stomped out of there. As soon as I exited the building, I felt much better. I finally let out the breath I was holding, puffing fog into the hall.
"That was intense...”
"And now you know WHY I didn’t want to come here.”
The dorm was quiet when Jenny and I got back.
Thank the Gods for that.
The two of us made our way through the little lobby area, up the stairs and to our room without much incident. Opening the door, I’m not sure what I expected to find. The room was no longer empty though. It was filled with duplicate sets of furniture now---two beds, two desks, two dressers. My pack and guitar had been placed on one of the beds and what was clearly Jenny’s luggage was on another. She had three suitcases so it was clear she was prepared for the long haul. There was also a strange long wooden box on her bed too. As we entered, her eyes went to the box.
"I put my stuff there but if you want that bed...”
I shook my head. “Its fine.”
It was too. I wasn’t one of those weird, I want a window facing bed type of people.
I trudged into the room, utterly spent after my encounter with the Sister From Hell. I flopped face first into one of the pillows and screamed. I stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds. When I finally came up for air, Jenny was sitting on the edge of her bed, giving me a sympathetic stare.
"Sorry about that” I said sheepishly.
She shook her head. “Hey, I get it it. I have a sister too.”
I scoffed. “But yours is awesome!”
She laughed. “Not always. I’m the youngest by quite a few years. Clara and Brian had this connection when I showed up. I always kinda felt like the outsider looking in. Then I tried to be like them, doing what they do. Its not easy living in their shadow, especially Clara.”
I rolled my eyes. “Trust me I know what its like living in my sister’s shadow. Always striving to be like her, to get your parents to notice you too. Did they give you her hand-me-downs too.”
She made a face. It wasn’t one I was expecting her to make either.
There was a story there.
One that I wasn’t going to pry for.
When she was ready, I’d let her tell me.
Just as well though, the room fell into that weird awkwardness. Finally, Jenny stretched. The movement was graceful and almost cat-like. In the mid-afternoon light, it gave me a good shot of her bare arms. When the light hit them just right, I saw her stripes. It was weird that I only noticed them early this morning. It was even weirder that that was just this morning. It was amazing how much had happened today already. First trying to run away again then leaving that motel to come here. The meeting with the Headmaster, the impromptu tour by Officer Daniels, meeting Ms. Everette and Linette. Then of course that unfortunate run in with the Demon. It wasn’t even three in the afternoon yet.
What else did this day have in store for me?
"Hey. I heard some of the girls play some card games in the common room. I thought about going to check it out. You want to come along?”
"And deliberately seek out other people to socialize with...I think I’ll pass.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “Suit yourself. I’ll be back in a bit then.”
She stretched again then left.
I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. So this was it, huh? This was my new life. I grunted. Here only a few hours and I already hated it.
I had a feeling it was only going to get worse from here.
There was a knock on the door.
Getting up, I slowly trudged over to the bed. When I opened the door, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I saw, made my blood run cold.
"Hey” said the girl with the pink pixie cut. “Hey, I’m your new neighbor, I just...”
As soon as the girl looked at me, she stopped mid-sentence. We stared at each other. I’m not sure what she was thinking but I saw her lip start to tremble.
Was the universe really that cruel?
She started to shake and before I could get a word in edgewise, she bolted down the hall.
Welcome to Whateley, Riley.
Just fucking great.
To Be Continued