Hope you enjoy it!
Thirteen Years Later
Kana stared at the gates that opened to her new home. Instead of feeling welcoming, the twisted metal gates made Kana think she was being led down into the depths of hell. Seeing the pristine—aka fake—desert landscaping and plain concrete walls, Kana wondered why the court had sent her here. She stared at the lettering above across the gates that chillingly reminded her of the Auschwitz death camp:
ST. MARGARETE’S SCHOOL FOR CRIMINAL CHILDREN
The twelve-year-old looked at the words blankly, her stomach in knots. She was unsure of her chosen future at that moment, and wondered if the freedom of the streets would have been better. But it was too late.
"Don’t look at it like that, kid," Officer Ramirez said as the Child Protective Services caseworker parked the black SUV in the pick-up zone. "This place is a lot better than juvie, believe you me.
That’s debatable, Kana thought but she knew better than to tell him that. She simply followed him inside, and got a good look at the place that was soon to be her "home."
The front office was less than welcoming. Kana had never seen such a drab room. Hospitals had more color. The floor was a pristine white tile that shined (How do they keep it clean?), and gray walls with pale blue trimmings completed the depressing look. There were no pictures, no trophies, or posters to bolster up student’s spirits. Nothing to ease a new student’s worries.
I hope the rest of the school is so ugly. Or depressing. Kana internally scoffed. Doubtful.
The people were little better. Everyone was in uniform, even the adults. The students were in white dress shirts with ties, even the girls. The boys were in gray slacks with sweater vests in a plaid, or a straight, blue-gray blazer. The girls were in matching vest and blazers with plaid skirts. The adults wore something similar. But what truly made the place unbearably was that no one was smiling. Even the smiles at Officer Ramirez and the caseworker were less than sincere.
"Mrs. Casey, Officer Ramirez, how are you?" The scary looking woman at the front counter said, one of those fake smiles plastered on.
Feeling depressed, Kana ignored them as Mrs. Casey explained Kana’s situation. The redhead looked about for something other than her life to focus on, and noticed two girls were being escorted deeper into the building by a burly security guard. The man eyed the two as if they were demons. One girl was African-American with frizzy hair, and the other was a white girl with hardest eyes Kana had ever seen off the streets. They were both holding hands, and eyed everyone as if expecting a fight. Both noticed Kana, and their expressions changed from being so guarded. Frizzy’s face suddenly looked sad, while Hard Eyes glanced at Kana’s escorts and glared. Then the two of them were pushed down the hall and out of sight.
Before Kana, could do more than wonder, What was that about? Officer Ramirez called out, "Sarien?"
Kana grimaced. She hated her first name.
"Please, call me Kana," she answered, looking back at them. She saw the office woman looked a little angry, but Mrs. Casey and the officer ignored her comment.
"This is Ms. Ianui," he said, not noticing the woman’s icy stare. "She is in charge of enrollment and attendance." He paused and eyed Kana. She had missed almost all of fifth and sixth grade. "She will be watching you."
Great, she thought. Just what I need, another gargoyle breathing down my neck!
"Everything is been taking care of," Mrs. Casey assured her. "So you just listen to what Ms. Ianui and the other teachers and headmasters say, and then maybe you’ll get to go home soon–"
"I’m never going home," Kana interrupted.
Thunderous silence. Both Mrs. Casey and Officer Ramirez looked a little sad, but Ms. Ianui simply tapped her fingernails on the gray blue counter.
"Perhaps," Ms. Ianui said, no warmth in her voice, "a few years in this school might change her mind."
Kana did not respond.
"Well, I’ve no doubt you’ll do the best you can," Officer Ramirez said, his cheerful smile back. "You’re in good hands here, Sarien."
"Kana," she corrected, her voice flat.
The policeman put his hand on the young woman’s shoulder.
"Look," he said softly, "if you do well here, it will be less of a prison, and more of a home."
Kana took a deep breath. She honestly didn’t know what she wanted. But…
"I’m never gonna be happy here," she said, her eyes on the spotless white floor.
"Well, it’s better than where you were, and a lot better than where you were headed," he replied. "Home is where your heart is, and if you fight against this place for no reason, you’re setting yourself up for failure."
Kana remained silent, still staring at the floor. The officer went to put his hand on her chin and she looked up.
"Please, try?" He asked her. "For me?"
"Okay," Kana said softly.
Officer Ramirez patted her shoulder and grinned. "Well, Mrs. Ianui –" he started.
"Ms. Ianui," she corrected.
"Sorry, Ms. Ianui," he continued. "We’re leaving Sari—Kana," he corrected automatically, seeing Kana’s wince, "in your capable hands. I’ll see you around, kid," he said to the preteen. He gave her a big hug, and then walked out with Mrs. Casey.
Kana never saw either of them ever again.
~ ~ ~
The moment Officer Ramirez and Mrs. Casey left, Ms. Ianui’s façade disappeared and the gremlin lurking beneath, surfaced.
"So, Sarien –" She started with a glower.
"Kana," the redhead corrected automatically.
The woman’s scowl darkened.
"Do not interrupt me, young woman," Ms. Ianui snapped, her almost black eyes bearing into Kana’s green ones. "Is your name Sarien Rossi or not?"
Gargoyle Lady interrupted her.
"Then that is how I will address you," the older woman growled. "You were sent here only to learn how worthless you truly are, and to be obedient, something you obviously lack. Now you will go sit over there," she said, pointing to an empty sitting area, "in silence until a student comes by to assist you with getting your things together. Is that clear, Sarien?"
"Yes," Kana answered softly.
Then she did as she was told and slumped into a blue–gray chair. Her stomach churned with anger and frustration, but she didn’t follow her instinct of responding to every insult she received with flying fists. But she thought about it. In detail.
Several minutes slowly ticked by. Ms. Ianui remained seated behind the front desk, seeming to only be working on her computer. Kana continued to repeat what Officer Ramirez said to her, but after talking to Gargoyle Lady, she wasn’t sure that was true.
After what felt like an eternity—it was only fifteen minutes—of waiting, a beautiful girl came in. She looked like an Irish supermodel with her fire-engine hair and sky-blue eyes. Her curvy frame filled out the uniform just right, making it look like it was made specifically for her. When she spotted Kana, her pale face lit up – not with joy, though she smiled, but with some other emotion that left Kana feeling uneasy. The girl headed over to where Kana sat and held out her hand, a perfect smile beaming.
"Hi, you must be Sarien," she said.
"Kana," Kana automatically responded before she could stop herself. She saw Gargoyle Lady raised its ugly head and glared at her, but the other girl’s smile only grew.
"Okay, Kana," she said. "My name is Irene McKennon. I’m your schedule buddy."
"My what?" Kana asked, taking Irene’s hand.
"Your schedule buddy," Irene repeated. "I’m gonna be in all your classes" —Great, Kana, thought— "and help you settle in here." Irene’s eyes flashed as she leaned in over Kana and said softly, "Stick with me, and you will own this school."
Still confused, Kana followed Irene down a hallway. There were offices on either side that seemed to be for school counselors. One in a corner had students seated outside of it, looking miserable. The sounds of someone yelling and blows being struck came out of the door. Alarmed, Kana looked at Irene.
"What is that office?" Kana asked, her voice a little louder than she wanted it to be.
Irene paused, and looked over at it. "Oh," she said cheerfully, "that’s the Punishment Office"
Kana’s eyes widened. "The what?"
"The Punishment Office," Irene repeated, with that gleam in her eyes. "It’s actually an assistant principal’s office, but everyone calls it the Punishment Office because you only go there to be punished."
"What kind of punishment?" Kana asked.
"Oh, every kind," Irene answered, still sounding perky. Kana stared at her for a moment before the chipper girl laughed. "Every kind a school can do to a kid."
Kana’s stomach dropped.
I ran away from abuse, now I’m sent to a school where they beat kids?! She thought, trying to swallow the bile that leapt into her mouth. But what really made her sick was how…happy Irene was. There was…wicked gleam in her eyes, and her smile was genuine, as if others pain made her giddy with delight.
Irene pulled Kana out of her thoughts by placing a perfectly manicured hand on her shoulder.
"If you stick with me, Kana, you won’t have to worry about it," the beauty said soothingly. "There is a ranking system here, and only Blacks—the lowest rank—have to deal with that," she pointed at the corner office, where the depressed boy sat, "on a regular basis. Coppers, the most common rank, rarely have to sit there. Silvers and Golds never have to put up with it." Irene turned and continued walking, and talking. "I’m a Gold," she explained as Kana stepped up beside her again. "And if you stick with me, you’re sure to be a Silver."
Irene paused again, this time beside another student who was cleaning the floor. Irene was looking at him with utter disgust.
"This is all worthless Blacks are good for," Irene said, glaring at the blonde boy. "Cleaning up trash, and getting in the way."
"Go to hell, Irene," the kid snarled, jumping to his feet.
"Better watch your mouth, Jaden," Irene said darkly, "or you might end up back there with your big brother." She jerked her head back, pointing at the Punishment Office.
Jaden hesitated, his green eyes narrowing in his hand clenching into fists. Irene smiled triumphantly and moved past. Kana didn’t follow. Noticing her lack of presence, Irene turned around, her eyes narrowed. Kana opened her mouth, but before she girl could speak, two girls rushed past her and stood beside Jaden on either side. It was Hard Eyes and Frizzy.
"Don’t worry, Jaden," Frizzy said calmly."
"Harassing kids for fun again, Irene?" Hard Eyes asked. "I thought you were a little old for that."
"It’s all she could think of to do in her spare time," Frizzy replied.
"I’m surprised to see you two," Irene said, folding her arms. "I thought the two of you were in the Punishment Office for sneaking out."
"Eh, they couldn’t prove nuthin’ and couldn’t keep their stories straight," Hard Eyes said, a smirk on her face. "A couple wacks on the knuckles ain’t gonna keep us from helping a friend in need. So how about you and your flunky continue with your tour of this hellhole?"
"I’m not her flunky," Kana exploded.
"Yeah," Irene responded. "She’s my friend."
"You don’t have friends—"Frizzy started to say, a confused look on her face, but Kana interrupted.
"I am not your friend!" She yelled. Everyone looked back at her. "I could never be friends with a—" she called Irene something that won’t be repeated, "like you!"
Irene’s eyes widened, and then she exploded.
"What did you call me?!" She bellowed.
"You heard me," Kana said defiantly. "Going around, acting like you own the place –"
"I do own this school," Irene snapped, stomping her foot like a two-year-old. "And if you better remember that!"
"Yeah?" Kana snapped back. "Well, I’ll never be like you." She paused, breathing hard and looked at the now impressed Jaden. "No one’s worthless," she finished, looking back on Irene. "Except pretty little nasties who can’t figure out how to dye their hair right."
Irene’s face was dark red. She was so angry she couldn’t formulate words. Terrified, Kana stared defiantly into the mean girl’s eyes, daring her to make a move.
"You-you…" Irene couldn’t get anything more out.
"That is enough," a deep voice said right behind Kana, startling her. She turned to see a man in a suit with long black hair pulled back and gray eyes. He was looking at her with cold disdain. "If you enjoy the Blacks so much, you shall be one. As for the buddy arrangement, I do not believe that a star student such as Miss McKennon—"
"Star student?" Hard Eyes scoffed.
"—should be burdened with taking care of a problem student," he finished, ignoring the comment. "I believe that Miss O’Conner and Miss Navarre would suffice to show this… Black, how things are for their rank."
He continued to look at Kana, his eyes making her skin crawl. As he turned on his heel to leave, Hard Eyes called out again.
"Who are you?" She asked.
"The superintendent," he responded without turning around. He turned to one of several people standing behind him that Kana assumed were school officials.
"I leave this to you, Mrs. Elroy," he said to a short, overweight woman with curly gray hair. Then he left without another glance back.
The woman he spoke to step forward, her brown eyes narrowing.
"You," she snapped at Jaden, "get back to cleaning the floor! You haven’t finished your detention! Irene," she said gently, "you can go back to now."
Then she looked at the other school officials. "Go back to your offices, I’ll handle this. As for you three…" She was growling as she looked at Kana and the other girls. "Eirren and Mabyn, you will take her to get her uniform and schedule. The two of you will be in charge of guiding her through her classes and around the school." She gave a Grim Reaper smile and said, "You will have the privilege of showing our new student how detention is done. I’ll expect all three of you in my office after dinner. Welcome to St. Margarete’s, Sarien Kana Rossi."
Then she turned on her heel and left. Annoyed and a little depressed, Kana turned to look at the others.
"You got balls, kid," Hard Eyes said, her smirk back.
"Too bad you ended up as one of us," Frizzy said.
"Eh," Kana replied, shrugging.
All three of them smiled at each other.
"I’m Eirren," Hard Eyes said. "This is Mabyn."
"I’m Kana," Kana said.
"Welcome to hell," Eirren said.