|Means of Grace
Author: LilyWolfe PM
A quaint little village in Kent, hardly a sound to be heard over the birds', unless of course you've got your ears tuned right. Perhaps this was a test in life; fight or flight...perhaps it was a means of finding grace.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Drama - Chapters: 28 - Words: 187,363 - Reviews: 69 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 05-23-10 - Published: 02-23-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2778806
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Blue, Blue, Blue.
Picture quaintness. An idyll village, untouched by modern high rises or the frivolous technology that graced the streets of so many of the world's cities and towns in this modern age. Beautiful shades of green adorned the tree lined road, large detached houses surrounded by fields of varying sizes, nothing smaller than the public gardens that Odette was so accustomed to in her life in London. Scenic it most definitely was but could you imagine any people in it?
"Not in this dead-end village," Odette muttered to herself.
"What was that Duckie?" Ruben asked her. He was her much loved older brother and legal guardian for the next couple of years until she would finish her sixth form education and enter the real world on her own. Or at least the halfway world that university offered.
Odette frowned and shook her head silently when he turned to face her at the red traffic light. He pursed his lips and said nothing to try and comfort his visibly distressed sister. What could he say? Joining a new school was tough but joining one in the middle of the school year would prove to be a little harder, no matter how strong Odette was trying to be. Moving from London, a place he knew she never wanted to leave, to the small village he had chosen to live in with his wife was no reward for the mature behaviour Odette had shown since they learned their parents would be relocating to Switzerland.
"Is that a convent?" she asked looking out of her window and onto an old stone building that looked like a church. She would have thought it was one had they not have driven passed one barely a minute ago, it would have been mere seconds had they not been stuck at the traffic light for so long.
"Used to be," Ruben said, looking up at the still red signal and the empty street in front of him. He'd been living in Hucknell for a few years now and he knew that he'd be perfectly safe to jump the red. No one drove in the evenings. No one even drove on weekdays. There was no one destination within the village that wasn't a twenty minute walk at most and it wasn't justified, even in the rain. But the law was the law and he'd wait for the amber even if it took forever. "It's actually your school. Don't worry about remembering your way just yet, I'll drop you off tomorrow and pick you up."
"Didn't you say it was ten minutes walk from your house?" Odette asked, relieved that the car was finally driving down the desolate road again. She silently cursed the job that took her parents away to Geneva and had forced her to come here, Ghost Town. She missed them already, despite the excitement at seeing and living with her brother again. She missed her home in London but there was no use crying over spilt milk. She was here and there was no changing it. In fact she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Let me relieve the good old days and take my little sister to school hey?" he chuckled driving up a small but steep hill. Odette smiled and shook her head, her long brown hair swaying from side to side.
"Dude, we stopped that more than five years ago."
"You're talking as if it's a life time!" Ruben exclaimed. His brown eyes widened, he hadn't realised how long it was. For him time flew, it seemed like just yesterday when he last took her. He had been responsible for taking and collecting her from school since she first started attending and it only stopped when he moved out of London, first to Dorset and then to Hucknell. Even university hadn't forced him out of his responsibility mostly because he was severely attached to Odette, 12 years his younger. He had even taken her to school when he got his first professional job as a fresh Grad.
"It's older than your son," Odette reminded him and he punched her arm playfully.
"Don't go getting smart on me!"
"Alright, old man," she teased, watching him pull the car into the driveway. "I'll go slowly."
"Cheeky." He punched her again and switched off the engine. Odette's head snapped to the opening front door and she jumped out of the car at the sight of her sister in law Lorraine, or Rory as she affectionately called her. Lorraine waved happily, very long blonde hair swishing behind her.
"Rory!" She called out happily, half running and half skipping to her and wrapping the smaller woman in a hug.
"Duckie!" Lorraine giggled, hugging back just as tightly. "I've missed you so much!"
"Me too! You have no idea!" Odette said, jumping back in uncontrolled happiness that she hadn't felt since waving off her parents last week. Ruben's presence had helped of course but packing up her life was hardly going to cause her to overflow with joy even if her only brother was there.
"Go inside, it's cold!" Ruben said, shivering for emphasis as he carried Odette's suitcase and small box. Lorraine grabbed Odette's hand and led her in to the large cottage style house. It was far too big to be one, Odette thought and she held it akin to a manor. Large wooden beams ran along the ceiling that she thought would have looked tacky on any other house but this. Several family pictures hung on the wall that led upstairs. Like a visual accompaniment to anybody who climbed up the stairs to the first floor. Lorraine led her into the living room where she saw her little nephew sitting on the sofa and smiling excitedly.
"Welcome home Duckie," she whispered over the sound of her son's joyous mumbling and clapping. She wrapped an arm around her and kissed her cheek affectionately. "I have a feeling life is going to be a whole lot better around here." Odette smiled at her and squeezed her hand back, too shy from the compliment to say anything.
"Are you sure this is all you need?" Ruben asked, eyeing up the miniscule amount of stuff she'd brought. He took it as a sign she felt that she didn't belong were in actual fact she only wanted to bring the important things.
"Yup! I'm training myself to not get attached to materialistic things," she said swooping down in front of her nephew Adrian and scooped him up in a kiss and hug. Adrian squealed in excitement as she kissed him repeatedly and mumbled endearments, his bright hazel eyes disappeared from his laughter. She didn't see the confused frown of Ruben's.
"She's a new-age hippie teenager of sorts. All kinds of kooky ideas," Lorraine assured him having heard all her more interesting theories over the phone these past few months. He raised a long eyebrow and Lorraine smiled back.
"So the way to school tomorrow is up the small driveway and onto the main road?" Odette asked, mentally recalling the journey they'd had in the car. "Just along it then up the hill and down again right?"
"I said I was going to take you remember?" Ruben pouted. Odette chuckled and stood back up again.
"You've already missed a week of work because you were stuck in London with me, just tell me if I've got it right and I'll be fine!" she assured him. He opened his mouth to protest but when her smile fell he stopped himself.
"It's exactly right but you have to call me as soon as you get there!" Ruben ordered her and she nodded her head dutifully. He grumbled a little at the ending of their tradition. "What if you get lost?"
"Because this village's two roads are so tricky to navigate around!" she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes for emphasis. "Maybe I will get lost! Maybe I'll fall and hurt myself and have to be rushed to hospital where I'll have to be tutored there for at least three months because of the extreme and substantial injuries I've suffered."
"Odette!" Ruben reprimanded with a huge smile on his face.
"And after that, I'll be bed ridden for another few weeks because of PTSD and nightmares and by then it'll be exam leave and then the school year will be over and I won't have to worry about it until September." She shook her thoughts out of her head and mentally told herself off for making light of accidents and PTSD sufferers but she smiled nonetheless imagining it. No school for nine months!
"Honestly!" Lorraine muttered, amused but disturbed by her humour. She looked up at the chuckling Ruben and held up a finger. "She gets it from you, you know? All because of your Ruben Says game she grew up on!"
"Oh, those were fun!" Odette sniggered with her brother.
"The night is still young!" Ruben said in a melodramatic voice. "What say you to a dangerously entertaining game of Ruben Says?" Lorraine shook her head, smiling. Ruben's version of Simon Says left something to be desired. Dangerously entertaining was right, he often had them doing stunts that experts couldn't manage.
"Uh, I have to unpack," Odette excused herself after earning a glare from her sister-in-law. Lorraine licked her lips and looked at her husband incredulously.
"Come on! Ruben Says is hilarious!" Ruben objected when the girls left to go to Odette's new room.
"I'm sure it would be from your position but hanging out of windows or walking along the roof's pointy bit isn't fun!" Lorraine said, though her smile betrayed her. Ruben grinned and shrugged, plopping down on the seat beside his son and watching him clamour onto his legs.
"Hey Adrian. Daddy says 'give me a kiss'," he said in a hushed voice. The three year old boy giggled and kissed his dad's cheek.
Feeling disorientated since she woke up that morning, seeing with her sleepy eyes an unfamiliar ceiling, an unfamiliar window and an unfamiliar view, Odette carried the feeling around her as she walked to her new school. She half regretted not taking up Ruben's offer to walk her, she was tempted, especially when he reiterated it again that morning but she was determined to prove her ability to be independent. She got to the top of the hill and looked down at her school less than 10 minutes walk away and sighed. She hadn't encountered anyone on the walk up and was coming to terms with the lack of people here but looking down she could spot a scatter of people by the school gates.
Pulling her long brown hair back behind her ears, she frowned and resumed walking, taking care on the steep slope and figured she'd ride Lorraine's bike to school tomorrow. Then she remembered the way back up the hill would be killer so she decided against it and turned up her music. It was weird, she wanted to get pushed around by a bustling crowd of people all rushing to get to work. She wanted to see so many faces that they blurred into one and she ended up seeing none but when she walked closer to school and the small group of people that stood in front of it, she wished they weren't there. It was either millions of people or none at all. Especially none that looked up and watched her every step.
Taking a deep breath and pushing her fear away, she grew in determination. Stealth was her power. She'd just fade into the background and people would look away, conversation would continue as if she never existed and she'd be happy in her secrecy. She pulled up her hood and lowered her head as she made her way to school. She couldn't see anybody and that was good enough for her. She could convince herself nobody could see her either and her earphones meant she couldn't hear them either. Double bonus.
'Man, I'm a nerd,' she thought silently as she texted her brother to assure him she'd arrived safely to school.
"Look what the Ghetto dragged in," she heard a boy remark whilst the songs changed.
'Crap, there goes stealth and deafness,' she thought to herself and looked up from her lowered hood at the growing number of people, all of them walking in the same direction as her.
She wondered where had they all appeared from and then the boy's comment hit her. She wondered if people wore hoodies around here or not. She couldn't imagine otherwise, hadn't hoodies taken over the world? Even the most remote of this world's countries had hoodies. She picked up her pace a little and walked into the small school building without looking up at anybody or lifting her eyes any higher than at people's knees.
She pulled out her ear phones and slipped them into her pocket looking up at the sign that showed the direction to the reception. A green sign with gold lettering, it beckoned her and she followed the arrow to a narrow corridor. There was an open door on the right nearest the entrance to it with a smaller 'reception' sign in the same colours as the first. She knocked gently and peered through the open door at the middle-aged lady sitting at the desk. The first thing she noticed about her was the size of her bust and she somehow couldn't think of anything else. It was like twice the size of her head!
"Hello!" The busty receptionist greeted her and brought her out of her thoughts. "Come in, come in! You must be Odette."
"Yes, that me," she said quietly, giving a hint of a smile.
"Take a seat," The lady indicated to a chair in front of the desk, blue eyes sparkling. "I'm Mrs. Borland, the school's receptionist!"
"Nice to meet you," Odette said politely. Mrs. Borland smiled widely at her in that motherly way before handing her a thin A4 sized plastic wallet with various papers inside. Timetables, school regulations, school calendar and events list. Her timetable was arranged in the same way as her old school and she followed it easily. Two hour blocks of lessons a day. Three subjects a day. Easy peasy.
"As you can see you have a few empty slots," Mrs Borland showed her, tapping her finger on all three empty spaces for emphasis. "A lot of students call them free periods but these are study periods, please use them wisely." Odette nodded and smiled. She heard a bell ring and her ears perked up. It sounded like it was an actual…bell.
"Is that the school bell?" Odette asked her.
"Yes, It's in the old church tower," Mrs Borland told her. "Did you know this school used to be a convent?"
"Really?" Odette asked her politely. She already knew thanks to Ruben but didn't want to interrupt her. Mrs Borland nodded with wide eyes.
"But it's been a school for over a two hundred years. You can see the old pictures around the school later, if you like?" Mrs Borland continued without pausing. "Most of the staff were educated here, including me."
"Everybody knows everybody huh?" Odette chuckled. Mrs Borland nodded and smiled so wide, her teeth glistened in the office's artificial light.
"Mrs Dunes, the headmistress is currently in a meeting but she would like to speak to you at some point today," Mrs Borland told her. "It's more than likely that she'll just pop in and take you out one of your classes but if she's unable to do that it'll be at some point tomorrow."
"Should I not make an appointment?"
"Oh no, it's not so rigid here," Mrs Borland laughed. "She'll get to you sooner or later!"
"Alright," Odette said, suddenly thinking that maybe this school wasn't a good idea for her future. An unorganised head teacher?
"Now, you're in year 12 is that right?" Mrs. Borland asked her. Odette knew she already knew but guessed she wanted to make conversation. She nodded, preferring silence as a reply. Mrs. Borland smiled. "We've got our biggest year group in year 12! There are just over 30 lower sixth formers and we've had to split them into two registration classes!"
"How exciting!" she said with a small smile, trying her hardest not to let the sarcasm show. Her old school back home was considered small but even they had four registration groups, the number of student in each closer to 30 than 15. Mrs. Borland nodded enthusiastically and Odette was relieved that she'd managed to seem genuinely interested.
"Well, you'll be in 12-West and someone from your class will be here very shortly to show you there," Mrs Borland informed her.
"Um 12-west?" Odette asked confused. "Isn't it usually A or B or something?"
"We didn't want to give the classes' letters…or numbers," Mrs. Borland explained with a low and soft voice, taking a serious nasally tone. "The staff felt it might be detrimental to the level of one of the classes if they were labelled 'B' or '2' and so we decided to name them 'East' and 'West' based on their positions in school."
"Like the Wicked Witches of Oz?" Odette asked with a hidden smile. Mrs Borland raised her eyebrows and coughed awkwardly before forcing a smile.
"Nobody thought of it quite like that," she said forlornly. There was a knock at the door and Mrs Borland looked up and smiled at the newcomer. "Ah Susan, do come in!"
"Hello Mrs Borland, how are you today?" Susan said chirpily. Odette raised her eyebrows at the enthusiasm and hid it behind her hood. If everyone here spoke like these two, she'd have trouble holding back the grimaces that would inevitably occur.
"Fabulous, thank you," Mrs Borland replied animatedly, hand waving in the air. "This is our new student Odette." Odette turned around in her seat and looked up at the girl. She was the complete opposite of her; she was something out of an Abercrombie advert. Sun-kissed hair that belonged on a beach somewhere joined by that killer body, tall and lean. Odette was still growing. Or at least she hoped she was. 5'4 wasn't much of an accomplishment to her and neither were her horizontal dimensions.
"It's nice to meet you Odette, I'm Susan," she said her green eyes flashing. Odette smiled politely. "Ready to meet everybody? They are all eagerly waiting for you." Odette cringed as she followed her out of the office, smiling to Mrs Borland as she waved them off.
"I'd rather just slip in the back, you know?" Odette told her quietly as she skipped once to keep up with her. "I'll probably meet everybody eventually anyway, I just…you know…disruptions are amazingly…disrespectful." Susan smiled at her.
"Well, aren't you shy!" she said teasingly. Odette pursed her lips and shrugged at the condescending tone in her voice. "I haven't seen you around the village, when did you move here?"
"I arrived yesterday," Odette told her and hoped she wouldn't ask any more questions. She may have seemed friendly but Odette felt bad vibes off her.
"Wow, you like to leave things last minute!"
"Not especially," Odette shortly. Susan was making her uneasy with every spoken word, and every silent unexplainable look she would send to her.
"Moving here was."
"Yeah," Odette agreed. Susan smiled brightly at her but it felt really forced to Odette and she looked away quickly. Susan frowned at the abruptness of it.
"What classes are you taking?" Susan continued with her voice as chirpy as before.
"Biology, History, Maths and Mandarin," Odette told her. Susan frowned.
"Mandarin?" she asked her. "We don't do that here!"
"Oh I know, it's from my last school," Odette told her. "I'm doing it myself at home, well my teacher's helping me still, through email and stuff."
"Your old teacher? That's nice!" Susan said. Odette nodded, a little upset at the emphasis she put on 'old'. It just made it that little bit more truthful. Reality bites. "What made you pick Mandarin? Why not French? We have a French teacher here."
"My school…old school…was big on non-European languages," Odette said. "We were taught a couple as soon as we started."
"Sounds like a big school!"
"No, it was a small one," she said, looking around the corridors sadly. Small like this one, but just better in her opinion.
"We're here!" Susan announced, opening the door to the classroom. Odette walked in behind her, her head lowered and her hood covering the top of her face and was glad of it when she heard the swoosh and shuffle of people turning to look at her.
"Hello girls," Their teacher greeted them as he walked closer. Odette gave him a nervous smile and silently appreciated his friendly but not overly chirpy welcome. "I'm Mr Ash, form tutor and English teacher, welcome to West."
"Thank you," Odette said, barely audible, nodding her head as she spoke. "Odette."
"Class, welcome Odette," Mr Ash said loudly and the class all said hello in different ways. She was glad it wasn't in unison. She'd have run out screaming there and then. The door clicked open behind her and a couple of boys walked in, the one ahead smiling charmingly at Mr Ash.
"Nice of you to join us boys," Mr Ash said, marking them off in his register.
"The pleasure's all ours sir," the first one said sarcastically. Odette's eyes flickered to gauge Mr Ash's reaction but he only smiled his way to a sigh. The second boy seemed to walk in slow motion. Tall and lithe, he turned his head to face Odette as he walked to his chair and gave her a lengthy look. Unblinking and full of confidence, her breath caught in her throat as his smile crept up one side of his mouth but his eyes were analytical. Something she didn't miss. Turning his head back around, he sat down smoothly and quietly. Susan showed her to an empty chair beside her. Odette caught a couple of people staring at her as she sat down, another couple of people smiled at her, a few more looked away real quick. No reaction from the tall boy. She shook her head and let out a small breath before looking to Mr Ash as he explained an article in today's papers.
"If you want to blend in," Susan whispered to her, "you should probably take off the red hood." Odette smiled at her embarrassed and slipped the hood off her head, looking around the class cautiously as she tucked the strand of auburn-brown hair that fell to her face behind her ears. Her gaze fell on the boy when she caught him looking again. He had dark and handsome features, his hair was a dark brown and his eyes, they bore into her and it only seemed to accentuate the mysteriousness that swathed him. Odette creased her brow slightly as they looked at each other before lowering her gaze. The guy sitting to the left of her leaned in a little. She frowned and leaned back, turning to look at him with a frown. She come across fresh guys many times in London and knew just how to talk them down.
"New girl huh?" he said in a quiet but friendly tone. Odette raised her eyebrows at him and all abusive thoughts went out of her head. "I'm Eliot Ackley."
"Stop bothering her Ackles," the girl next to him said, not looking up from her book. Odette's attention turned from her short pixie cut, a stark contrast to every other girl in them room, to Eliot who had rolled his eyes dramatically.
"What brings you here then?" Eliot asked her, ignoring the girl next to him.
"I just moved here," Odette told him. The girl with the short hair next to him looked up at her and frowned.
"Ruben Achilles' sister right?" she asked her. Odette nodded. "I'm Alice Teague. We live down the hill from you."
"Yeah, he mentioned you guys," Odette said, getting more nervous when she heard her name being said across the room. Susan leaned in.
"Moving here mid-year's a big deal!" She said. Odette took it as some kind of explanation for the whispering but she was still confused as to why it was so interesting to them all.
"It's January," Alice said, looking over to someone on her left. "She's missed a term! What's the big deal?" Odette lowered her head in embarrassment.
"When was the last time someone new came here?" she asked quietly.
"The Raiths moved here a few years ago," Susan told her pointing to the two boys that walked in late.
"From the North!" Eliot said as if it was a strange unknown land. Odette bit her lip to stop from smiling.
"The one with the light hair is Zeke, he's the eldest of the three and he should be in the year above us but there was something of a kerfuffle when he came here and he couldn't enter his year group and got held back a year," Susan explained in the same demeaning tone she'd had when she was walking Odette to the classroom. "Been angry ever since." Alice stared at Susan for a moment, gave Odette a short look and let out a big sigh as she resumed her reading. "The dark haired one is Jude; the hottest thing to grace St Matthias's but isn't interested in anybody."
"We think he's gay," Eliot added.
"He hasn't asked you out Susan, he must be!" Alice remarked with a smirk, still head down into her book. Odette let out a chuckle before straightening her face and looking seriously at Susan, who looked confused at Alice's comment.
"Even gay people can be interested in someone," Odette said with a shrug. So the boy that couldn't take his eyes off her was gay. Worst things had happened, she thought. "They aren't asexual."
"But there isn't anyone here to reciprocate his feelings," Ackles said in a whisper.
"Since when does liking someone have to be two-sided?" she whispered back. Susan frowned at the conversation and scowled at the smile on Alice's face.
"Anyway they have a little sister, Athene," Susan said with a slant on her voice when she pronounced her name. "She's a little weird-"
"Alright people, time to get moving!" Mr Ash called loudly, interrupting Susan. "First period beckons you!" Odette looked at her timetable to see what she had next while the rest of the class scraped back the chairs on their way up.
"What do you have?" Eliot asked her, peering over her shoulder to see her timetable and not giving her time to reply. "You're in Maths with me!"
"Just your luck, you've got two guides!" Susan said excitedly. Odette smiled apprehensively as they led her to her lesson. It felt like she was being escorted by security and not walking with classmates. "You must be careful Odette, most of the people here are nice but it's important to keep your distance from the bad apples."
"Maybe Mr Burke will seat us together," Eliot said excitedly, a tone completely different to Susan's. "Then I could tell you about everything."
"You'll warn her about…you know?" Susan said mysteriously. Odette frowned and bit her lip. It was either a case of Susan being protective over her from genuinely bad people or that she was just a bitch. She had her money on the latter, still picking up those bad vibes off her. "Right, I'm going to Music now, look after her Ackles?"
"Of course," he said, smiling at Odette. It was halfway between charming and sinister. Susan waved to them as she left. Eliot put his hand on the small of her back, much to Odette's annoyance, and led her to the teacher's desk.
"New student, Mr Burke," he said, pushing her forward a little. The young teacher stood up and walked to them. Blue eyes like everyone else Odette had seen today, she was getting a little sick of the colour and annoyed that the only variation belonged to Susan. It annoyed her, though she couldn't pinpoint why. Mr Burke brushed a large hand through his almost black hair and looked around the room. "There's space on our table sir!" Odette looked around and saw a classroom big enough for at least 20 people but only eight people where in there.
"We have space everywhere Eliot," Mr Burke remarked. Eliot shrugged at the sarcasm.
"Just saying," Eliot said defensively and left the two of them, making his way to his seat.
"Odette Achilles, right?" Mr Burke said in a kind voice. Odette smiled and nodded. "Welcome to my class. I've already received your teacher's report from your old school. I must say I'm very impressed by their comments."
"Thank you," Odette said politely, her cheeks giving off a slight blush.
"It seems you were doing a module different from what the class here has been doing," Mr Burke said. "It's too late in the year to teach you a whole module and expect you to achieve the same level as the others and it would be extremely unfair to you-"
"I'll work hard, sir," Odette said quickly, worried from hearing the gossip about the older Raith and the situation he was put in. He was held back a year and she wouldn't be able to survive if she was forced to. "I'd really like to be entered for examinations. I don't want to lose out on a year." Mr Burke smiled and silenced her fears.
"No, that won't be the case. You can continue your module but it will require hard work I'm afraid," he told her. Odette nodded and figured she'd have to teach herself for another one of her exams. She kissed spare time goodbye. "I can tutor you after school on Tuesdays. There will be a couple of other students there. I think it'll be the most beneficial thing for you, if you're interested?"
"Yes of course!" Odette said genuinely thrilled at the proposal. She felt someone brush past her and looked around to see the back of Jude. He sat down, looking up at her and smiling when he noticed her looking back. A frown later she returned her attention to her teacher. "I thought I'd have to do it all myself. Thank you for giving up your time, I really appreciate it." Mr Burke smiled appreciatively.
"You up for tomorrow's one or is it too soon after the move?"
"Tomorrow will be fine," she assured him.
"Brilliant, now on to today's lesson right?" he said. Odette smiled and nodded. "Masses of empty spaces but if you'd like to take this one over there?" Mr Burke showed her around his desk and pointed to a desk to the right of the room.
'I hope it's not next to Eliot,' she thought to herself and her eyes widened when she found herself face to face with Jude and his unblinking gaze.