Keirnan Huntly sat in the backseat of her parents car silently. She was still unable to believe that they were actually going through with what they had threatened. The injustice of it all, what she had done hadn't been that bad, certainly hadn't warranted what her parents were doing about it. She hadn't been consulted, hadn't had a say in the decision that had the potential to change her life.
She could have run away, but where to? Where could she go? What could she do? Her parents didn't hit her, were wage earners, well above the poverty line. There wasn't a mark on her body or on her file that she could go to child services and complain about.
Sometimes when Keirnan was all alone, she would go deep into her mind and imagine that she lived in a tower high above the rest of the world, try as they might; they couldn't reach her. All she had to do was close her eyes and she was there, her tower. Waiting for someone crazy enough to climb up and rescue her.
Kiernan fell from her tower as her eyes fluttered open and she realized that they had arrived. She didn't want to get out of the car, would have stayed in the backseat and held onto the handle above the seat for dear life, but her younger brother Sammy was sitting across from her his big brown eyes enough to break her heart, and realize that she had to do this, had to climb out of the car and be brave for his sake.
"We'd better not come in" her mother told her, the prim school teachers tone seeping into her home life as it had done every day for the last sixteen years that Kiernan had known her.
"Fine" she answered, turning her head from her mother's perfunctory kiss.
The thing she remembered that day as the car drove away from her was Sammy's face in the back window, watching her; the sadness where his beautiful six-year-old smile should have been.
Kiernan turned, picking her bags up from the ground and heading in through the double doors of the school. She read the sign without feeling, her eyes running over the words 'boarding school' almost indifferently.
Inside her mind she worked on the interior of her tower, adding to the fibre of it's walls everything that she could remember about Sammy, every scrap of a memory she could find in her mind, she placed inside her tower. Packing them away carefully, like treasures; knowing that someday soon she would want to unwrap them and finger them, look at them and be able to remember her brother as he was when she saw him last, unchanged.
Kiernan walked into the hall in a daze, she was greeted by a tall woman, stiffly dressed wearing a stern expression. Inwardly Kiernan sighed, outwardly she didn't make a sound.
"Kiernan Huntly?" Kiernan nodded, and didn't look up as the woman clucked approvingly. She didn't have any desire to know who this woman was, but she wasn't going to push it, and be rude to her on her first day here. She could be here a long time, Kiernan acknowledged.
Kiernan looked out at the barren landscape that was the vista from her tower. There were thorns, fierce wild tangles of them, but that was just a requiem. A requirement of living as she did, It wouldn't be easy for anyone to get close to her, they would have to be determined, and Kiernan had no inclination to let anyone get through those thorns.
"Welcome to the school, you do right by us and we'll do right by you" the woman told her, and Kiernan nodded absently, following her when she was told to.
Kiernan didn't take in the pleasant blue walls, the white trim; didn't take in the cream coloured carpet underfoot until she went from that to the sickly green lino of the corridor. Doors dotted the corridor both ways, but Kiernan was led away from the maze of rooms and into another wing of the school.
The large windows splashed natural light across the walls and floors, and for the briefest moment Kiernan was captivated, making a note to increase the size of the window in her tower.
"Well.. this is where the girls your age sleep, there's a free bed in the corner.. they'll be back soon, make yourself at home" with that she turned on her heel and left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Kiernan didn't see the sad expression on the woman's face as she clicked back up the hall towards her office, the furrow of her brow as she worked at the problem that was Kiernan Huntly.
Kiernan placed her bags on the floor, and lay down on her bed. She didn't want to deal with everything now, not the stupid school, not the way that she wouldn't ever see any of her friends again, and most of all; not the look on Sammy's face as they had driven away. She closed her eyes and saw the familiar surrounds of her tower. Small enough to be cosy, large enough to give her room to move if she wished it.
Time had escaped her when she felt something blunt poke her in the side of her leg.
"Don't poke her!" one voice whispered.
"What else can we do? She won't wake up!" another hissed back..
Kiernan heard a variety of other voices taking sides in the argument and she opened her eyes.
"Look! She's awake" the first voice whispered, and the argument abruptly stopped.
"Who are you?"
"Are you going to stay here?"
"Well d'uh! Did you think she was just borrowing the bed for a nap?" the first voice
"What's your name?"
The voices bombarded her, and Kiernan sat up slowly blinking dazedly.
"Lay off her!" snapped a voice at the door, and the other girls hastily retreated.
The girl at the door walked slowly over to Kiernan's bed, and sat down, placing a tentative hand on her shoulder. Kiernan gave her a grateful look, while the other half of her sat in her tower, leaning on the window bracket wondering who this stranger was. The stranger took her hand and smiled at her, Kiernan could feel the other girls watching them curiously.
"Don't worry about them, they're harmless, just curious" the girl told her, and Kiernan smiled a small smile, while sitting down and getting comfortable in her tower. Far off on the borderlands, the thorns thinned out a little.
"I'm Kiernan Huntly" Kiernan introduced herself not wanting to be rude to the girl beside her.
"Charmed, I'm Natasha, Nat for short" she answered, a grin covering her mouth.
"This here is Madison, Davs, Paige, Helaina, Emily, Molls, Sara and Corrinne" she told her, pointing to each girl in turn.
Kiernan waved, smiled weakly, unable to imagine what close confines with these girls was going to be like. Each of the girls smiled or waved, and then broke off into smaller groups, congregating on a girls bed, and sprawling out. Kiernan tuned out as their chatter turned to certain teachers and the latest 'hottie'
Natasha rubbed her shoulder reassuringly.
"You'll get used to it" she told her, plonking down on the bed beside her and picking up a sports magazine.
Kiernan hesitated, not really wanting to disturb her.
"Say it" came Natasha's muffled voice from beneath the magazine, and Kiernan smiled at the girl's perceptiveness.
"Uh.. Do we stay here? I'm kind of hungry.." she broke off, voicing what was on her mind as best she could.
"We have an hour of free time between sport and dinner, It shouldn't be too long, we can go early if you want" Nat offered, and Kiernan smiled. She could wait.
Kiernan lay back on the covers of her bed, and closed her a heartbeat she was in her tower. She had put a bar of Dove chocolate there earlier in the day, and in her mind, she found it and chewed it thoughtfully.
She mused over whether or not a moat was tacky, and too olde worlde. Deciding it was, she quickly gave that up, and began to read a book from the shelf. Her fingertips traced the familiar path to the book, and she pulled it out, opening it's well worn cover, and reading from the dusty pages. The Princess Bride, it was a story that grabbed her up in it's rich embrace and held her till the end of the story, the final kiss. When it took her fancy, she superimposed the image of Buttercup and Wesley's kiss over her north wall, allowing her to imagine what it must be like to have someone love you so deeply. In her tower, surrounded by thorns, she still had to imagine what love was like, couldn't magick it up like anything else she wanted.
Kiernan opened her eyes reluctantly when she heard Nat calling her. Dinnertime.
"I'm up" she protested, and Nat laughed.
"Funny, you look dead" she answered, taking her arm and pulling her out of the dorm.
"Just fishing" Kiernan muttered, coining her phrase for receeding into her tower. She had often contemplated buying a 'gone fishing' sign to stick over her head when she did visit her tower.
"Ok, I'll pretend I know what that means, The others think I know everything" she answered with a laugh. Kiernan smiled, stopped then smiled again, noting that she had smiled more being with this girl for an hour than all of year 10 last year at that horrible public school.
"C'mon, I'm starved!" Nat exclaimed, and kiernan smiled. Again.