Rain thundered against the windows fogging Rachel's view into a blur of brown and green as the fields passed silently by. She closed her pale blue eyes as she pressed her cheek against the cool window. Her Aunt Cecile was tapping her long freshly manicured nails against the steering wheel. Neither of them had spoken since they had started the car trip nearly five hours ago. There was nothing left to say. Nothing left to argue. Rachel had taken to pen clicking. Her Aunt tapped her nails. Her twin brother Thomas had long since pulled on a pair of headphones and drowned the pair of them out.
Rachel concentrated on the constant motion of the windshield wipers as they fought furiously against the rain. They had less than hour before her Aunt would be leaving her at the Robert P. Heyd Preparatory Academy, a boarding school for what Rachel assumed was for the 'Midwest Wealthy Social Class'. She didn't actually know what that meant, but she couldn't fathom what other reason there would be a boarding school in Central Illinois. The Midwest was supposed to be reserved for farmers, ranchers and solid working class families. The idle rich should to stick to the coast lines.
Cecile had told Rachel she was sending her to this school as a fresh start. A chance to make new friends and get away from the baggage of her old school. At this new school she could be anyone, she didn't have to let her past dictate how people saw her. If she only gave the new school a chance, Rachel would see how much better things could be.
It all sounded like bullshit. Therapy and a new school weren't going to make things suddenly better or right. Some things were just broken.
The rain had slowed to a light drizzle as Cecile pulled into a parking lot looking over a pair of brick buildings. The northern tower was four stories, the southern tower seven stories. They connected in the corners creating an L-shape which left a large open court yard. The yard had a large circular fountain with short perfectly clipped bushes that formed two concentric circles around the fountain. The school was nestled in the corner of a college campus and surrounded by acres of wooded area that separated the school from the rest of the town. Cecile stepped out of the compact car and walked confidently down the hill and towards the entrance to the school. She didn't look back to see if Rachel and Thomas had followed. She simply assumed her niece and nephew would follow or be left behind.
Running her fingers through her sandy blonde hair, Rachel quickly pulled her hair off of her shoulders and into a loose ponytail. Rolling out of the car, she jogged lightly to catch up to her brother and aunt. She would be damned if anyone saw Rachel being dragged into this school by her bitch of an aunt. No. If Rachel was going to be forced into this situation, she would at least walk through the doors with her head held high and in front of Cecile.
The group was almost half way across the lawn when one of the students emerged from the southern dorm. His black sweatshirt hood was pulled over his head, protecting him from the rain but he seemed unconcerned about the cool water that puddled on the sidewalk. He walked straight down the narrow walkway and through the shallow puddles that had formed. When he a reached a dip in the sidewalk he jumped directly into the center of the puddle, his shoes slamming into the water with a pop as water shot up around him. Cecile sighed loudly as she watched the student continue to jump in every puddle on the way to class. "Teenagers," She muttered darkly.
Rachel walked smoothly in behind the puddle jumper as he strolled into the main building. Thomas met her eyes briefly before glancing over to the other student and back at Rachel. He raised his eyes brows and smirked.
Shaking her head, Rachel turned away from her brother and aunt and walked through a pair of glass doors into the office marked 'Admissions'. "Hello, I'm Rachel Bylieu. I'm supposed to be moving in today."
The woman operating the front desk had black hair that was pulled tightly against her scalp. Her dark eyes bore into Rachel's as she slowly pulled a file off her desk. She flipped it open and glanced down at the file. "Good morning," She smiled, her entire face shifting into a pleasant and happy woman. "We're sorry you missed move in week, but we're glad you made it before classes started." She handed a plain folder over to Rachel with her name labeled neatly on the top. "Inside the folder is your class schedule, times for the cafeteria, as well as regulations for the school. Here is the key to your room. It also unlocks all the buildings for the school, so you'll need it to get into main entrance of the dorms. Report back here tomorrow to get your student ID. You're uniform and books have already been taken up to your room."
"Do I need a guardian to sign any more forms?" Rachel asked.
"No, your aunt signed the papers when she enrolled you. Your roommate's name is Jade Washington. If you will exit out this building," The woman pointed out past the doors over at the dorms, "and go around, the main entrance to the dorms is on that side. There will be a student to show you around after classes are let out."
Cecile checked her watch as the turned and exited the office. "We don't have much time left; I have to be back for a board meeting and dinner party by five. Thomas can help you take your things to the dorm, but we aren't going to be able to stay after that."
Rachel held in a sigh. "Of course not."
Cecile ignored Rachel's comment and briskly walked back to the car. Opening the door, she pulled out the cardboard boxes full of Rachel's life and handed two to each of the twins. "Five minutes Thomas. Then we're leaving."
Nodding wordlessly, Thomas turned on his heel and led his sister back down the hill. "Good thing you don't have a lot of shit." He said as soon as Cecile stepped back into the car.
"Yeah, well I still have two more boxes." Rachel sighed. And they're the heavy ones."
"We'll drop these off near the entrance and run and grab the other two. It won't take very long and all the students are still in class."
"It's not like they would want to steal any of my things anyway."
Thomas laughed. "Hey, you've got some really great hand me downs!"
Rachel finally cracked a smile as she balanced the boxes on her knees as she fished out of keys. "I don't really know how these things work." She stared at the grey plastic wedge with a dime sized metal attachment onto the inside.
"I think you just put it next that box. It's probably some kind of magnet or something."
Rachel gave her brother a skeptical look, but tried it anyway. There was a small click and Rachel pulled the door open. "Okay, you win. Let's get these inside and get those other boxes. It looks like it's going to rain soon."
By the time Rachel and Thomas began walking up the hill Cecile had already pulled the last of Rachel's boxes out of the trunk and had stacked them on the sidewalk. As soon Rachel and Thomas reached the top the car, Cecile pulled Thomas in the car and swore at him for taking so long.
Rolling down the window, Cecile looked over a Rachel. "This is a fresh start Rachel." She reminded her for the last time. "Don't blow it. Your first doctor's appointment is next week, don't skip. This school has been very understanding with your situation, don't make them regret letting you in." Without another word, Cecile rolled the window up and backed her car out of the parking lot.
Rachel wanted to be shocked that her aunt would leave her at a new school like that, without a hug or a good luck. But that wasn't her aunt's style. It wasn't how her family operated. They didn't hug. They didn't say, 'I love you' and they most certainly did not talk about her parents.
As the car drove past, Thomas rolled his window down grinning. "Au revoir ma petite soeur!"
She watched the car drive around the corner and out of sight before she felt the first drop of rain.
"Damn it." She cursed as she bent down and lifted the first box. It was too heavy to lift both at the same time, so one of the boxes was about to get very wet. She saved her small collection of books she brought with her and sacrificed the box of toiletries and laundry soap. She walked as fast as she could down the hill, shifting the weight of the box as she moved so that she didn't drop the box and spill her parent's books onto the wet ground. She sat the box under the stairs and ran back to the parking lot for the last box. As she began struggling down the fill, students began to stream out of the building towards the dorm. It must be lunchtime. She watched silently as they walked in small packs, laughing with each other. A spark of jealously lit in her chest as she watched the teens run across the lawn in the rain, laughing with each other, holding onto each other's arms as if nothing else mattered in the world. Her last box was soaked through by the time she reached the entrance to the dorm. She shifted the box on her knee again as she tried to keep the box from falling or ripping and dropping all of her things into the puddles forming at the entrance.
"Need some help?" Someone asked behind her.
Rachel leaned the box against the door with her body as she turned her head. It was the same student she had seen earlier, puddle jumper, his black hood covering his head again. His bangs were dripping into his emerald eyes, his dark long eye lashes blinking slowly as he stood a couple paces behind her. His hands were shoved into his dark jeans, his red Converses still soaked from the rain.
"Just to get the door open." She responded, angry that Cecile had dragged Thomas away before he could help her with the last of her boxes.
"You only have one box?" He asked as he fished his keys out of his pocket. Pressing the key up to the door, the lock clicked open and he pulled the door open for her.
"No. Everything else is sitting in the entryway." Rachel told him as she started walking again. She kept her face impassive as she felt her fingers slipping from under the weight of the box.
He followed her. "Want some help carrying those boxes up the stairs then?"
"Sure," She grunted as she shifted the weight of the box again to keep her fingers from slipping off the edges.
He stepped up instantly as he wrapped his hands under the box she was carrying and pulled it out of her arms. "Here, I'll take this one." Using one hand to hold the box, he pulled his hood down and shook out his hair, letting it settle just above his eyes. He glanced down at the small pile of boxes at the bottom of the stairs. "Is this all you have?"
Rachel nodded as she picked up two of the lighter boxes and began climbing the stairs. "Yup."
"Wow," He laughed as she followed Rachel up the stairs. "That's impressive. Most girls here end up having to bring a U-Haul just to carry everything." He paused. "Actually, most guys do too," He laughed again as he jumped ahead of her and pulled the hallway door open.
"How did you know I lived on this floor?" Rachel asked as she followed him down the silent hallway.
"All of the high school girls live on this floor. This is your only option."
"Are you allowed on the girl's floor?"
He shrugged, "Not really." He glanced back at her grinning. "207 right?"
Rachel opened her mouth of ask how he knew that information too, but she stopped when she saw the door. A small label plate was affixed next to the door. On top was a navy blue plate with the name: Jade Washington stenciled in. Below it was her own name.
"You can just leave the boxes here. I can get everything moved in after I get everything out of the entry way."
"Too late," Tristan said, kicking his foot into the bottom of the plain navy door.
Rachel sat the boxes on the floor as she pulled the keys out of jeans pocket. "I have the keys right here. You don't have to kick down the door."
"Yeah, I know." Tristan kicked the door one more time. "But I think Jade's in there."
The door to Rachel's room was opened from within. Standing in the doorway was a tall and elegant looking female. She was relatively fair skinned with midnight black hair that was styled into gentle waves that floated down past her shoulders. Her eyes were black underneath a pair of square dark blue plastic framed glasses with bangs that were neatly trimmed just above her eyebrows that swept across her forehead. Her white button up shirt was crisp and neatly tucked into her navy blue skirt. She hadn't loosened her tie like the boy next to Rachel had and was wearing dark short heels, a start contract to his red converses. It looks like she had dressed up for orientation. Or possibly she was simply well put together for all occasions.
"Tristan," She shook her head and left the doorway just as soon as she propped the door open. "If you kick another dent in my door, I swear to God I'll toss your stupid camera right out the window."
The boy laughed as he stepped into the room and sat Rachel's boxes gently on the floor. "There's no need to get violent." He said as he turned to Jade. "I figured you'd be here. Skipping lunch?"
Jade shook her head. "No, I was here just in the case my new roommate showed up." She grinned, walking over to Rachel. "Jade Washington. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you." Rachel responded with a small smile.
"Oh yeah," The boy said suddenly, as he remembered he hadn't introduced himself. "Tristan." He gave a small salute while Jade rolled her eyes.
Jade's walls were covered with black and white prints, each in their own black frame. Books and spiral notebooks were stacked neatly on her desk in small organized piles. She had a black and grey herringbone blanket spread neatly across her bed with the rest of her possessions stacked away in the closet and dresser.
Jade walked down with the pair to retrieve the remainder of Rachel's boxes and lead them back to the room without preamble. They stacked Rachel's boxes next to her bed, careful to keep the wet boxes on the tile and away from Jade's throw rug. "Nice photographs." Rachel glanced back up at her photographs.
"Thanks." Tristan grinned easily.
"Jade," She finished quietly.
"Those are all Tristan's." Jade explained to Rachel, her head nodding over to the photographs on the wall.
Tristan, looking rather proud of himself, glowed. "Yup. I sold most of these to you last year didn't I?"
Jade nodded while her eyes moved towards the largest photograph of the group. "Except that one. That was nearly five years ago."
Tristan nodded. "That's one of the very first photographs I took here."
"It's a good thing I got it; otherwise you might have had Millicent Goodweather's dirty little fingers all over it."
Tristan let out a bark of laughter. "Let's go down and get some lunch before the break is over."
Jade easily agreed, but Rachel's eyes were on the uniform hanging on the closet door. Her eyes particularly focused in on the steel colored skirt. "I have to wear that?" She stammered, taking a look down at her baggy 30x32" boys jeans and large Champaign wrestling t-shirt and then back at the small, tailored uniform.
"Yes, that's why they call it a uniform."
Rachel hadn't quite gotten her ability to speak back yet. "But, I –I haven't worn a skirt since I was eleven."
"No worries, you can buy a pair of pants if you rather wear those." Tristan offered reassuringly.
Turning, Rachel ignored Tristan as she looked to her roommate. "Are they expensive?"
Shrugging, Jade shook her head. "Not really, seventy dollars or something."
Rachel felt like dying. That was more than her monthly allowance. "Seventy dollars?" She repeated, hoping she had heard wrong.
"Something like that." Tristan replied. "But don't worry about it right now, let's go down and get something to eat before the kitchens close." She followed the pair down the stairs as Tristan began giving her a tour. "The first floor has all the lounges, study rooms, a little kitchen, stuff like that. 2nd floor is a girls floor, 3rd is a guy's floor, 4th is for middle school boys, and the 5th is middle school girls." They turned into a stairwell to the basement. "The basement is where the cafeteria is at. There's also some more study rooms, practice rooms and Debbie's apartment. She's kinda nasty, so avoid her if possible."
"Who's Debbie?" Rachel asked as Jade walked through the double doors of the cafeteria.
"The adult that lives in the building with us. She's the resident director. For the most part we've been able to fly under the radar and avoid her. Just don't get on her bad side." Jade explained ignoring the students that were now staring at Rachel. All of the other students were in the uniforms, and Rachel's bright red t-shirt screamed 'new kid.'
Stepping up to the counter, Tristan quickly read the menu. "I'll just take a double order of baked potato soup, French fries, and a baked potato."
Jade snickered. "Why don't you try a little variety in your food Tristan?"
Shrugging, Tristan picked up a container of sour cream and a few packages of ketchup. "I like potatoes."
Jade pulled Rachel up to the counter. "They've got soup, salads, sides like baked potatoes every day. And then they have 3 meal choices you can pick from that are on some mysterious cycle. Everything is pretty good except for the some of the fish." She stepped up ordering a plate of beef stew with a side of steamed carrots and fresh strawberries.
Rachel leaned over to Jade. "There are no prices on the menu. How am I supposed to know what everything costs?"
"What do you mean?" Jade gave Rachel a confused look. "Food is included in your school fees. Eat whatever you want."
Rachel stood in awe for several moments before ordering a plate of fajitas.
"Nice choice." Tristan approved as he filled his tray with napkins.
"I don't think you have enough." Rachel told him, her eyes on the stack of napkins.
Glancing down, he nodded. "You're probably right." Tristan agreed seriously. "Here, take some for me."
Rachel blinked and a stack of napkins nearly as large as his appeared on her tray. "Thanks." She said slowly as she picked up her order. Tristan led Rachel and Jade over to a table near the back. "Jones and Ben are out playing with some physics project." He explained to Jade as they sat. "Where's Bridget and the lady friend?"
"Practicing." She replied promptly.
"Ah," Tristan nodded as he took his seat and promptly swiped the stack of napkins off Rachel's tray. "Well, I can't say I'm particularly sad about missing their appearance at the lunch table."
"Do you guys usually sit together?" Rachel quickly lined up her plate and silverware to the edge of her tray and cornered her glass so that everything was in straight lines in front of her. Once she finished, she began piling pieces of grilled beef and vegetables neatly onto a wrap.
Tristan shrugged. "Sometimes. Depends on who is here," He explained.
They ate their lunch in peace, Jade pointing out students while Tristan explained a few of the rules.
"They usually aren't that strict about the uniforms. You can get away with wearing whatever shoes you want. Always wear your tie, even if you don't tie it very tightly. The sweaters are nice because it can get cold over in the main building, but the important things are the pants, the white shirt and the tie. Everything else is up to you."
"Also, I snuck a peek at your schedule. You've got pre-calculus with Marler. "Don't be late."
"You're in Marler's class?" Tristan grinned. "What period?" He turned to Jade expectantly.
Jade shrugged. "I don't remember. After lunch."
"Excellent." Tristan nodded as he mopped up the bottom of his bowl of soup with a piece of bread. "I've got Marler 4th block."
"You've got History with me." Jade told Rachel. "But that's the only class we've got together."
Devouring the last of his French fries, Tristan began piling napkins on his tray. "Orientation start against soon. We'd better get going Jade." He glanced over at Rachel. "Not sure how you lucked out of missing the most boring week of school, but congrats on skipping out. Everything we're doing right now is completely pointless. Especially since we've been here since middle school."
Jade stacked her plates on Tristan's tray. "It'll only take an hour or so and then we'll be done for the day. As soon as I get back we'll do a quick tour and bring you up to speed." Tristan rolled his eyes as he watched Jade stack her plates, but said nothing as she slipped her tray under his. "I'll take Rachel back up, see you around Tristan."
Tristan nodded as he started pulling plates off Rachel's tray. "What are you doing?" She asked pulling them back off.
"Taking the tray." Tristan replied.
"I can take it." Rachel told him.
He shrugged, but didn't argue the point. "See you around Rachel."
Rachel silently followed Jade back up the stairs and into their unlocked room. "I've never had to lock the door, but if you feel like you need to, just tell me so I know to take my key with me."
"You don't lock your door?" Rachel asked, following Jade into the room.
She shrugged, pulling her backpack on. "No need to. In the five years I've been here, there has never been a klepto problem."
"Oh." Rachel sat on her bare bed. "That's nice."
"Do you need anything before I leave?"
Rachel shook her head. "No, I think I'm fine. I'm just going to unpack."
"Alright, see you later then." Jade said, walking out of the room.
Watching the door quietly snap closed, Rachel stood again, and began to get a better look at the photographs on the wall. The largest one was in the middle, taking up most of the wall. In the photograph there was a tree just barely visible through the fog. Streaks of light passed through the clouds in an array, leaving a shadow that extended past the edge of the photograph. On the other end of the frame a person in a long dress stood dwarfed under the tree. The photograph was surrounded by other smaller prints. Rachel leaned lightly against Jade's comforter on her perfectly made bed. Near the top of the wall was a picture of several students running, their backs to the photographer as they desperately tried to catch a flag that had ripped itself off the pole. Below it was a teenager diving off a wood pier into a pool of water with a sign to the side saying: NO DIVING. There were more pictures; some of forests, sunsets, and even one from a playground. Each of them amazing. Rachel almost didn't believe a high school student took all of them.
Rachel shoved her thoughts from her mind as she quickly began to unpack. It didn't take long. Soon her clothes were hung up, her books arranged neatly on the desk and her bedding properly smoothed, ready for sleep. Pulling her chair from the desk, Rachel opened her backpack. Her eyes locked onto her notebook. Pulling it out, she hastily opened to the page Thomas had written in just before they left the car.
Rachel, I know Aunt Cecile wouldn't let you have one, so I'm giving you mine. See you.
Rachel reread the note once, not fully understanding what Thomas was trying to say. She dug down into the bottom of her backpack until she felt something cold and solid at the bottom of the bag. Pulling it out, she stared at Thomas's iPod. He had spent months saving and was only just able to buy the iPod two months ago. She couldn't believe her brother would give away something like that away, but she smiled anyway. Kicking her red converses off, she jumped onto her bed, leaned back and pushed play.
Author's Note: When it Rains has gone through two complete re-writes since I've last posted this story here. I hope you enjoy this latest version.