SAME DAY, DIFFERENT DEATH
The Bedford Fields Academy pitched itself as one of the most prestigious private schools in North America, promising a stellar education and a future brighter than an exploding supernova. Or something along those lines. In reality, it was a last-ditch effort for rich parents with kids who’d been kicked out of every other institution in the free world. The boarding school was insanely expensive, but those parents with unruly children and money to burn would pay anything for the illusion of a good education. They took their public guise seriously. Keeping up the pretense of good parentage took effort. And trust funds. And the school kept the children out of their hair. For that, they would pay extra.
I didn’t know that when I started at Bedford Fields, of course, but a pretty blonde with too much eyeliner and too few scruples explained the rules and regulations of the school in the bathroom while cleaning her nails with a switchblade. She’d lifted the knife from a vendor while on vacation with her family in Cabo San Lucas the summer before, and she made sure to mention how she’d honed the blade to a razor’s edge for ease of penetration. She then proceeded to ask me why a redheaded short chick with pasty white skin dared to enter her domain. I had no idea if she meant the school or the bathroom. Either way, that was my first day and my introduction to life sans everything I’d ever known. It went downhill from there.
First of all, the reality of winter in the North was a complete shock to my system. I couldn’t get warm, even bundled in seven layers as I was then. Second, I’d started school in the middle of the semester, thus I was behind in almost every class they’d assigned to me. And third, I apparently had an accent, a fact that some of the more irritating students reveled in teasing me about.
But the worst part of all was that I took homesickness to a whole new level. I missed my grandparents, my friends, my house, and my old school to the point of feeling like I had the flu 24/7. I even missed Tabitha Sind, the bane of my existence. Luckily I had Kenya here to take up where Tab had left off. At least Tabitha had never threatened me with a switchblade. Life was simpler in New Mexico. Life at a boarding school for rich kids in a state where the weather rivaled that of Siberia was far too complex. And hazardous to my health.
I heard my nom de guerre but kept walking. While my friends in New Mexico knew me as Lorelei McAlister, aka my real name, the students and faculty here in Maine knew me as Lorraine Pratt, a transfer student from Arizona. Fortunately, I’d been to Arizona a couple of times, just enough to fend off questions from the more curious students.
“Lorraine,” she called again, but I hated nothing more than being late to class. These teachers at BFA could wither a winter rose with one look.
I kept my head down and my gaze glued to the floor. Now that I was no longer a novelty, I could slip relatively unnoticed from class to class. At first, everyone stared. Everyone. That’s what I got for transferring in the middle of a semester. But once the other kids found out I was a scholarship student, and not a particularly interesting one at that, they stopped staring and ignored me altogether. Most of them, anyway.
I could handle being ignored, but the scholarship was a mystery I had yet to figure out. I’d been secreted away from everything I’d ever known in the middle of the night. Driven in four different vehicles with four different groups of caretakers for over two days straight, and delivered onto the steps of Bedford Fields in the bitingly frigid predawn hours with little more than a suitcase and a hair tie. How on earth did I suddenly have a scholarship? That was clearly a part of the plan my grandparents forgot to mention.
“Lorraine, wait up.”
I finally slowed, risking death by trampling in the crowded hall, and let the eighth-grader, who also happened to be my roommate, catch up to me. She was the only student still enamored with my shiny newness, and she was the only kid besides a boy named Wade who paid me any mind. I’d been at the boarding school for weeks, and Wade treated me like we’d known each other forever, but Crystal still looked at me with stars in her eyes. Hopefully my gleam would wear off soon, because she could be a little irritating.
She beamed at me when she caught up, her cerulean eyes sparkling behind round-rimmed glasses and thick dark braids.
Well, irritating in a charming way. She was another scholarship student, a science whiz who was destined to be the next Stephen Hawking if I had anything to say about it. The girl’s mind was like a supercomputer on steroids.
“Hey,” she said back, breathless from trying to catch up to me. “So what are you doing?”
I tried not to chuckle and indicated the door ahead of me with an index finger. “Just headed to class.”
“Oh, right, okay, that’s a good idea. Last class of the day.”
“Yup. And isn’t yours across campus?” I asked her.
She looked around in utter cluelessness, spun in a complete circle to get her bearings. I felt the crush of students acutely, especially when one student knocked me forward as he rushed past. I felt a tug at my coat and started to say something, but I barely caught sight of the back of his head before he disappeared into the crowd. He was wearing a hoodie anyway.
“Yes, it is.” Crystal’s pale face had a light sprinkling of freckles over cheeks slightly chapped from the biting winds of Maine. Under a button nose sat a bow-shaped mouth that made her look even younger than her fourteen years. She looked like a doll I once had. Exactly like a doll I once had. It was eerie. She put one foot behind the other and hitched a thumb over her shoulder. “I guess I should jet, then.”