Tristan honestly believed that the whole thing would have blown over by the time school started. It was such a crazy idea that he just knew that it would be cancelled within weeks. Really, what parents in their right minds would support this?
So how did he find himself getting ready to move into Wrenfield Dormitory on this balmy morning of mid August?
Tristan Harland lifted his last suitcase and tossed it into the trunk of his Porsche. He pressed his hands against the edge and closed his eyes.
Carrie had already moved in with Sammy the previous week since she wanted to keep the other girl company and even though it was still early for student arrivals, Tristan figured he might as well get himself adjusted to the new environment before the stampede of students took over the school again.
Slamming the trunk closed with a deep sigh, he turned around and jumped. "Jesus . . ." he breathed. "What you do want, Grenford?"
Vincent glared at him sullenly with his hands jammed into the pockets of his pants. "I'm going with you. I'm going to surprise Sammy."
"How are you gonna get home? I'm not going to drive back for you."
"Jack's visiting Wrenfield to see Carrie and he got roped into driving Will into the Dormitory. He said he could give me a ride back home. Let's go." Vincent slipped into the passenger side and slammed the door shut.
Tristan shrugged as he jingled his eyes, making his way around the car to the driver's side. His eyes lifted upward. The sky was uncommonly blue, untouched by clouds. Drawing in a deep breath of crisp autumn air, he glanced over his shoulder back at his house, an impressive mansion with a pale buttery yellow stucco and stone detailed exterior set off by the ceramic tiled roof. The trailing branches of the willow trees wafted gently beside the house. Flicking his fingers back for a final wave, he smiled. Another year, another beginning.
There was a pervading silence throughout the car ride. Tristan didn't mind. He didn't have much to say to Vincent anyway. They may be on cordial terms now, but they would never be called close.
Vincent stared out the windows. "Harland."
"Thanks for trying to give me your ticket. It was really . . . cool of you."
Tristan's fingers curled around the steering wheel and they listened to the droning hum within the car. "You and Sammy should be together."
There was another long pause as Vincent watched the rolling green outside of the car. He shifted in his seat. "You're decent, man."
"How reassuring," Tristan drawled. He checked his rearview mirror.
"Listen. Since me and Sammy won't be going to the same school anymore, can you please – you know – watch out for her?" Vincent turned around to pin Tristan with a dark look. "But not like, watch watch her. Just take care of her in case she needs help – but not like, you know, take care care of her. You get what I mean?"
"Regrettably, I think I do. I might actually be getting used to your blabbering."
"Ha ha. Funny." Vincent's fingers tapped against the armrest. His voice was quiet. "Between keeping up with school and taking care of her brother, I don't think Sammy's really left any room for herself to get over her uncle. And if one day, she can't bottle it up any longer, I just worry it'll be during a time when I'm not by her side." He nodded. "But with you there, she'll be fine. Right?"
"Yeah. She'll be just fine." Tristan's voice was low.
"Just don't get it into your head that Sammy's free. Because she most definitely is not. Me and Sammy, we're . . . we're together."
"I know." Tristan drove on. "I know."
The headmistress of the prestigious Wrenfield High School peered over her frames at the boys sitting in front of her. She closed her eyes tightly and cleared her throat. In all her fifty years, she had never – she shifted in her seat and bent forward at her desk, steepling her fingers in front of her. "You're early."
"Yeah," Will agreed.
Rubbing her temples in circular motions, Mrs. Drogane adjusted her glasses before patting along her neat bun. She liked to do that several times a day to see if there were any errant strands. There were none.
Her eyes, a color not unlike rough black marble, pierced the boys in front of her. "Mister Tristan Harland. Mister William Carter. Mister Caine Matthews. I understand you're three of the listed transfers from Crestan." Her glare swiveled over to the other boys. "But who are they?"
Vincent grinned darkly. Lounging back into his chair, he folded his arms in front of him and cocked his head to one side. Black strands fell across his forehead, shadowing his slate grey eyes. "Visitors."
Jack coughed uncomfortably. "Right. Yeah. What he said."
Mrs. Drogane sniffed. "Crestan?"
"Very well. Since you boys are here together, I might as well go over the regulations with you all. It is after all a new program and you bunch will be the first to undergo this system –"
"I so do love being a guinea piggie," Will beamed.
The woman's lips thinned.
She continued, "My Wrenfield girls will be attending school with all of you both here and at Crestan and I should hope that you boys will conduct yourselves as the proper gentlemen you are."
Caine's smile was dazzling. "Oh, of course, Mrs. Drogane."
Will remained unruffled. "So . . . are we going to be assigned rooms now? We have our luggage with us."
There was silence as Mrs. Drogane rubbed the bridge of her nose in circular motions. She started to chuckle in short huffing breaths and the boys scrutinized her carefully, heels poised to edge away.
"Now boys, just because there's this exchange program instated, it does not mean you and the girls are allowed full reign here. Nope." She wagged her finger wildly at them. "No way. Both Headmaster Finnigan and I will be sure to monitor you all closely, understand? You shall have to become top model students worthy of being Wrenfield High representatives in the future. Understand?"
They nodded mutely even as they scraped their backs backward half an inch.
"Good." Her smiled dropped. She stood up and clapped her hands briskly. "I run a good school here and I expect, even in a co-ed environment, that the same high quality and caliber of my students shall be maintained – even at Crestan." She shot Vincent and Jack a pointed look. "Thus, I will briefly explain the most basic rules to you right now. The booklet of regulations shall be dropped off at your rooms later. The same should be done for you boys at Crestan by Headmaster Finnigan."
She stepped around her desk and paced before them. "One, you are all expected to follow the curfew. It is eleven o' clock sharp each and every night except for weekends. I shall allow you to indulge Friday and Saturday nights. It'll be at midnight."
"Gee, golly, one whole extra hour." Caine muttered underneath his breath.
"What if we can't sleep?" Will protested.
She sent him a scathing look. "You are allowed to stay up in your room for some quiet reading. It is preferred that you use the desk light though so that you shall not disturb your roommate. Didn't Crestan have similar rules?"
Jack shrugged. "Yeah, but we didn't always fol –"
Vincent's elbow slammed into his ribs and the boy doubled over. "Of course, we did."
A disdainful grunt emanated from her throat before she continued, "Two, to accommodate the new co-ed provisions, I've decided that there shall be a separate floor for your living quarters. You shall remain there and never be found wandering the halls of the girls' floors. Needless to say, you are not to go into a girl's room nor are you to bring any girls to your room."
Caine and Will did not look pleased. Otherwise, Vincent and Jack seemed distinctly relieved. Tristan maintained his indifferent stance.
"Well, what if we had a group project –"
"What if we just wanted to drop off something –"
"There are many other places where you can exchange something, Mr. Matthews."
"What if we needed to find a person –"
"There are phones in each room and I'm sure you all have your own private cell phones."
Caine looked disgruntled. "Well, what happens if we break a rule?"
Mrs. Drogane glared. "What will happen is that you will get an automatic strike in your book. Three strikes and you're eligible to be suspended from the school, which will go on your permanent record."
The boys murmured to each other. "Oh, three. Well, that's better."
A line ran across her forehead.
"Three," she snapped. "While you are on school grounds, you are under our supervision. Should you find the necessity to leave the school during school hours, you shall have to apply for permission. After school hours however, you are free to explore by yourself in the area around the school but you must return back to the dorms by ten."
"Ten? I thought curfew was at eleven."
"The school gates will close at ten, no excuses."
"There are other important rules, but the booklet will go into much more detail. I trust you all will take the time to familiarize yourself with it tonight?" Her eyes crinkled at them and they nodded. "Good." Her eyes narrowed on Vincent and Jack again. "Just to be perfectly clear, Wrenfield welcomes all visitors – just as long as they do not interfere with our students' studies. They are to abide by the same rules and regulations – including leaving before curfew."
"What? No sleepovers?" Vincent drawled.
The corners of her lips tucked in for a brisk smile before she turned her attention back to Tristan, Caine and Will. She bared her teeth. "Remember – you take responsibility for your guests."
Vincent yanked off his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt as he stalked through the hallway. The other four boys followed closely, their footsteps echoing through the empty hallway. About to leave the tie fluttering along the ground, he caught himself and stashed it into his pants pocket. He sent a wicked grin over at his friends. "Almost forgot. Have to be the model student now, right?"
Jack quirked his eyebrow. "That, and the fact that Sammy will totally thrash your butt given the fact that she bought you that tie."
Vincent winced. "Don't tell her, please."
William shrugged. "Well, it's not even like you're going to be together –"
"Want to die?"
Tristan walked several paces behind them, his hands jammed in his pockets.
"Where is she?" Vincent peered at all the doors as if he could somehow see through the wooden frames.
"Already planning to break one of our most important rules, are we?" Caine's lips twitched. "Whatever happened to being a model student?"
Vincent grinned. "You're the ones who take responsibility for your guests, remember? And besides -" Vincent waggled two fingers. "Two more strikes – if we're caught."
"Still, I think we should figure out where exactly are our rooms and drop off our luggage first before making any escapades to your girlfriends' places." Tristan fished out the card keys Headmistress Drogane had given them.
Caine peeked over his shoulder. "Damn. The tenth floor. The highest level in this building. I wouldn't be surprised if Drogane makes the girls dorm on the first – or, god forbid, in the basement."
"That'll be sexy. We can hide amongst the hot, hot furnaces," Will offered.
"Okay, there should be two per room but since there's three of us, one of us will get to have a room to himself."
"I call it!" Caine lifted two fingers in the air.
"I think not. You'll be seducing girls right and left and dragging them off to your room. With Drogane's explicit orders, you'll be kicked out within two hours." Jack replied.
"Hey, mind your own business. If I'm going to be seducing girls, then you've already seduced one –" Caine glanced over at the stoic boy even as Jack turned red. "- sorry, Tristan."
Jack's cheeks were still flushed as he spluttered, "Oh please. Bullshit." He sent a sidelong look over at Tristan. "But I promise, man, I won't do anything to your sister that, um, well –"
Tristan held up a hand. "Please, no more."
"That just leaves –" The boys looked over at Will.
William beamed, hands already cupped before him.
They turned to Tristan. "All yours then."
William dropped his hands with a frown. "Fine, be mean. I can handle some hard loving."
"Wait! So I'll be rooming with him?" Caine choked.
Vincent glanced at his watch and decided to speed things along. "New experiences, remember? It'll prepare you for college and the world. Now take your damn keys!" The two boys caught their cards with glum expressions.
Tristan swiped his card key and opened the door. The first thing he noticed were the sheer white curtains across the room that billowed and stretched toward him, urged on by the brisk breeze wafting through the windows. He set his suitcases on the ground and let his backpack slip off his shoulder.
The room was supposed to be a double so there were two beds, each covered with dark maroon duvets. There was a modest wooden drawer beside each bed and two large mahogany wardrobes standing at opposite ends of the room. A door right beside him led to the bathroom, which seemed spacious and clean enough.
Two corner desks that could operate as both computer and writing desks were against the walls at opposite corners by the windows. Each had a blue desk lamp, which his fingers absentmindedly trailed over as he walked past. He twisted the switch. On. Off.
Three windows in total, he stood at the edge of one as his hand lifted up the curtain. Peering outside, he saw a large green lawn with a modest garden and scattered stone benches. Beyond it, the black gates of the school loomed. Still further on, were the streets of the city and the blare of honking horns from the traffic outside. No, definitely not like little isolated Crestan High where all was forests and yet more forests. He mused.
He turned around and walked to the closest bed. Still . . . He closed his eyes and let himself fall backward onto the soft mattress. It's nice enough.
Samantha Westlane arched her neck and closed her eyes to the pounding water. She pressed her lips together and ran her hands through her hair, a dark burgundy now that it was wet and clung to the nape of her neck. Steam arose in the shower and she reached out to turn off the shower. For a moment there, she stood and watched the swirl of steam, feeling the air cool against her skin.
She knew that she was going to miss Crestan High when she left it. She just didn't know it was going to break her heart.
Stepping out of the tub, she grabbed her towel and wrapped it around her body. Pressing forward against the sink, she wiped the fog away on the mirror. A smeared circle just enough to make out her face. Dark circles smudged the skin beneath her green eyes.
She sighed and pressed her forehead against the cool glass. Just a month and I'm already close to thinking about smuggling myself into Crestan again. I'm such a wimp.
She closed her eyes, feeling the water trickle down her back. Picking up another towel, she began to briskly rub her hair dry. Big day, Sammy. You got to – you got to – um. Oh yes, got to visit Terry at his rehab center. Got to – got to do some laundry. Check for email from the guys. From Vincent. Maybe give him a call. Do some reading. Check email. Clean up the room for the arriving roommate – oh wait. I did that yesterday. Well, no matter. Never hurts to be too clean. Grab lunch with Carrie. Yes. And then check my email. Again. For the fiftieth time this morning.
She pasted a bright smile for her reflection as she slipped on her robe. She just wished her roommate would arrive soon. The semester wasn't supposed to start until the next week, but she couldn't wait until there were more people around. She didn't like being by herself. She remembered too much when she had nothing to do.
Sweeping up her hair, she continued to dry the wet tresses as she opened the door. She shuffled out into her room, feet clad in her favorite pink bunny slippers, and jerked to a stop.
Then she screamed.
Tristan trudged down the stairs to the fifth floor, following Vincent and the others. At the bottom of the staircase, a girl stopped in her steps and beamed up at them. "Jack!"
Jack looked up from his argument with Will about the importance of roommate loyalty and grinned. "Carrie!" He bounded down the steps two at a time and wrapped his arms around the girl, who promptly blushed with a shy giggle.
"Why don't you two just run across an open meadow and swing each other around while you're at it?" Vincent sniped.
"Don't mind him. The boy is going into Sammy-withdrawal," Will said.
"So everything's okay? You actually made it in?" Carrie asked, eyeing each of the boys carefully.
Tristan nonchalantly peeled Jack's arm away from his sister and smiled. "Yes, we did."
"So, uh, where's Sammy?" Vincent said. "Is she here? Where is she?"
"Well, her room is actually supposed to be right down this hall, which is great because my room is just down the opposite –"
Vincent bounded off before she could finish. Carrie blinked, shrugged, and turned to Tristan. "Mrs. Drogane really gave you no problems? Nothing at all?"
"Well, technically, we're not supposed to be on this floor at all but how about we just make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible and find Sammy's room before Drogane comes patrolling along?" Tristan led Carrie in the direction where Vincent ran off in.
"Say, she wouldn't happen to have security cameras around the perimeter, would she?" Caine peered up at the ceilings.
"Not – not that I'm aware of." She exchanged looks with Jack and blushed. "Gosh, I hope not."
Tristan glanced over at his sister. "Please don't do that again in front of me again. I don't think –"
Vincent poked his head out from around the corner and flapped a hand at them. "Hey! Hey, Carrie! Just what room is she in again? I don't –"
That's when they heard a faint, familiar scream. "What are you doing?"
The dark headed boy snapped his neck around and his eyes turned round. Then they narrowed into dark, stormy grey slits. He muttered a low curse before disappearing around the corner. Tristan dropped his arm from around Carrie's shoulder to give chase.
He turned the corner just in time to see Vincent kick open a door – and stumble in his steps, an incredulous look sweeping over his features. Tristan moved quickly to join his dark haired friend in the doorway and – Huh.
Sammy, draped in a thin yellow bathrobe, was still clinging to a towel while waving a finger at a tall distinctively male figure dressed in baggy cargo pants and a black hooded sweatshirt across the room. She let out a piercing scream again. "What are you doing?"
The stranger's back was to the door but as he turned halfway to face Sammy, both boys noticed then that the hooded stranger appeared to be clutching something small, pink, and lacy in his hands. Upon closer scrutiny, Tristan realized that the small, pink, and lacy thing was actually a small, pink, and lacy pair of panties.
Sammy's face had gone slack, her mouth rounding in a silent o. She blinked rapidly as she stared up into the boy's face. "Oh my god -"
Vincent's teeth gnashed as he crossed the room in two steps. For a moment, he couldn't decide whether to break every bone in the pervert's body first or to attend to Sammy. He quickly chose the latter when he noticed her state of shock, which only seemed to intensify as she blinked up at him. He snarled over his shoulder, "Get him, Tristan."
"Just for future reference - I'm not of the canine species so kindly refrain from "sic-cing" me on anyone in the future, Vince." He mused softly even as he kept his eyes trained on the panties-clutching-intruder who seemed preoccupied with gawking at Sammy and Vincent. "But not to worry, I'll be more than happy to comply this time."
Sammy's eyes widened and she shook her head just as the hooded pervert stiffened and started to turn around to face Tristan. But by this time, Tristan had already crossed the room and he quickly slung his arms around the stranger in a tight death grip. And that's when Tristan noticed something strangely peculiar. His hands probed hesitantly.
Both the captive and the captor froze rock solid.
Either the boy was really, really flabby or – "Why the heck do you have – what – how - why the hell are you like a girl?"
There was a deathly silence and then the stranger hissed, "Maybe it's because I am a girl."
Sorry about the delay for this chapter. The last week has not been a good one. Not at all. I had the chapter written out and I just needed to proof read it and edit some parts, but I wasn't feeling all that well for the last couple of days. It's nothing particularly mortally fatal – just something about my classes and watching my GPA flush down the drain. That's all. Depressing.
But enough. Nothing I can do about it now, except to try my hardest to pull all As in the rest of my classes in the future. Heh. Right.
Answers to FAQs:
Q: Is the girl Asian?
A: Technically, she's half Asian. You will learn more soon.
Q: Please don't leave the old characters out too much! We will be seeing them later, won't we?
A: We probably will. Please look out for them. And I know I'm breaking a lot of my old readers' hearts by my decision to divide the gang up, but hey, absence makes the heart grows fonder, doesn't it? Okay. Don't hurt me.
Q: Why didn't Sammy just give her ticket to Jack?
A: It might not have been a prominent point, but Sammy did mention that Wrenfield would be much closer to Terry's rehab center – and plus, we later learned that Lee isn't really keen on people swapping tickets. Sort of undermines the whole system. If there's really a system in the first place. :) But excellent, perfectly logical question.
Q: There's a conspiracy, isn't there?
A: I like conspiracies. Don't you? :)
Thankies to all you lovelies who took the time to read and review. I really, really appreciate it.
© Copyright 06/11/2006 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.