Short story written for my Living Writers: Foundations class Fall 2014. Hope you enjoy.

Thale Girls

A taupe mansion sat at the heart of a gated, two-acre expanse of grassy land. Trees and vine lined wrought iron, obscuring the view of Thale Academy for Young Ladies from the outside world, so upon entering the grounds, Eva could see the stone school covered in half-dead vines and the many barred windows. The institute was a last-resort for hopeless parents who could pay for their rebellious daughters to attend the ex-charm school.

Her mother had been silent and stiff for the whole trip, and barely had the car parked before Eva leapt from the vehicle at the sight of a familiar face.

"Lucy, you fit bitch, how've you been?" she called, running to hug her friend. Eva was back for her third and final year, so this would be the last time she could see the younger girl and the grounds bustling with parents trying to move in their kids.

The vivacious, blonde Scot met Eva's embrace with a bright smile. "Fuckin' rad. My dad started drinking again so I spent my summer with a girlfriend in France. Honestly, she would fit right in here, she is properly mad."

The two girls shared stories of their holiday while they hauled their stuff to the top level of the Victorian manor. The ground floor had the common areas, such as the dining hall and library, and the first floor had all the classrooms. Dormitories housing the eighty-odd girls, aged twelve to eighteen, took up the entire second floor. Girls roomed in triples by age, so the younger ones were at one end and the older at the other, and were assigned the same roommates for the duration of their schooling. It wasn't uncommon for the younger girls to only stay for their first year, cleaning up their act so that they won't have to return, so that part of the wing was nearly full of new faces. Most of the older girls had no such turnarounds and would stay for years, unfazed by the strict environment and delinquent classmates. That was how Lucy and Eva became friends, as well as their other best mate Petra.

Said girl was already set up when they entered their dorm, in the room's best accommodations no less, and trying to style her wild curls in front of the mirror. "About time you fuckheads got here," she greeted. Eva and Lucy shared a look, expecting nothing else from their cheeky chav of a friend.

"I just arrived. My Mum is probably doing the paperwork shite now," Eva informed, tossing her dyed-chestnut hair over her shoulder. She picked out her bed and started to unload her belongings.

Petra shooed her off. "Well go see then, I want to compare timetables."

Eva chuckled at her and complied, releasing half-unpacked clothes to wave goodbye to Lucy. She descended the winding stairwells, absently fingering the cold bannister as her eyes roved over the dark byzantine walls and ebony hardwood, peeking into familiar, large rooms with vaulted ceilings that gave way to narrow halls. Even after three years, Eva considered the interior of the school to be extremely ominous. She'd concluded long ago that it was designed precisely that way, so that the students would feel even more oppressed.

She found her mother waiting by the car with the last suitcase and a stack of forms. The older woman handed the bundles to her daughter, then climbed into the car and left without a word. Eva bit her mouth to keep it from trembling, trying not to show how much she was stung, no matter that it was the third year it'd occurred.

That first year, she'd sobbed and screamed after her mother, and was thus deemed weak by her schoolmates. She'd been assigned a room with Petra and some other girl, who were both very cruel to her for months before she finally got angry and put the other girl in the infirmary. Petra immediately took to Eva, impressed, and when a couple years later Lucy got put with them, Eva made sure to treat her nicely and give her the chance she wished she'd originally had. Luckily for them, Lucy turned out to be great and the three girls had been inseparable since.

Upon returning to the dorm and comparing schedules, the trio found that they had most of their classes together. Lucy had a few less matching courses, as she was in the year below, but enough for satisfaction. They spent the rest of the day chilling in their room before going to dinner and the mandatory welcome seminar. The session was basically to outline the numerous rules and restrictions the academy had in place to reform the girls. Anger management, a criminal justice class, counseling, good grades, and impeccable behavior were required; cellphones, drugs and alcohol, cutting class, weapons and fireworks, sneaking out, vandalism, and boys were banned.

Eva, Lucy, and Petra were not alone in their ritual rule-breaking. The older girls who'd been at Thale longer knew how to get away with just about anything, sneaking in contraband and boys constantly. They also knew their way around the manor's secret passages. The administrative staff had boarded up most of them many years ago, but a school filled with criminally-inclined girls meant that they did not often stay that way. Anyone who admitted the existence and use of the passageways to an adult was held to the "snitches get stitches" law and that particular hole was emptied and sealed.

Apparently there was a secret compartment behind the mirror in their room, because that night Petra sprung a handful of joints from it.

"Alright, alright," Petra giggled, pushing her cat-eye glasses up her nose and taking a hit of her third spliff, "so I was talking to Michelle and Joanna—"

"Those twats from the end of the hall?" Eva spat.

"Yeah, them. Anyway, they were telling me that there's supposed to be this major rave in Bradford on Saturday night, and we are so going."

Lucy clapped gaily, totally on board. Eva, however, side-eyed Petra and took a long drag. The dark girl quirked her perfect brow in question to the look.

"I don't trust anything those bimbos have to say," Eva answered. Michelle and Joanna had tried to make her life hell for sport the past three years, and while she would never admit this, it bothered her that Petra maintained camaraderie with them.

"I'll find out if Jade's in the know, how about that?" Lucy offered, a proud smile lighting her face when Eva immediately agreed. Jade was a crazy fifteen-year-old that had her hand in all the local party circuits. If the rave was legit and supposed to be a blast, she would know.

Petra rolled her eyes and another joint, grumbling about trust and friendship and ungrateful cunts. Lucy and Eva snickered and threw their pillows at her in retaliation. They laughed and rough-housed and got high well into the night before passing out on the middle of their floor.

Come Saturday evening, the dorms buzzed with activity. Girls ran in and out of rooms all along the wing, laughter and shouts and music permeating the halls. The weekend was a sacred reprieve from school and work, though it was the most monitored by the adults. Many girls had taken to recording themselves doing various things and then playing it on loop when sneaking out after check-in, so anyone who passed by their room would think they were actually there.

This night, the first weekend of the year, was especially guarded. Teachers and staff would patrol the floor every half hour to survey what the students were up to. In those half-hour breaks, the girls would take care of their more illicit tasks. In tonight's case, that mostly entailed getting ready for the rave. Outfits and makeup were chosen and hidden quickly, plans made and shushed, drugs measured and stored away.

Check-in was at ten-thirty on the weekend, so it wasn't safe to leave until about eleven. Then, the girls would sneak down the halls to a servant's stair behind a tall, yew armoire. Some years ago a set of students had fixed wheels to the back of the legs, unseen from the front view, to make moving it easier and relatively silent.

"Are we meeting Hayden at the spot or someone else's guy?" Eva whispered in the darkness of the night.

They'd just exited the school grounds through a hole in the fence expertly covered by a curtain of vines. A line of trees belonging to the neighboring farm was the group's agreed place to hide in wait of their "outside man," Hayden. He was older, late-twenties, and was the drug dealer and getaway driver for many of the schoolgirls. His older sister was a Thale alumni, so he'd had over a decade of experience and the hard-earned trust of all Thale girls.

"Hayden's driving us to Bradford but someone else's guy is bringing us back. I think his name is Wendell or something else geeky," Petra replied absently, fingers clacking on the screen of her cellphone. It vibrated in her hand, indicating a message, and she informed her friends that Hayden would be there in five minutes tops.

Three minutes later they were on their way to Bradford, and then soon partying their asses off. Hours whizzed by in a haze of strobe lights, bass drops, dancing, fucking, pills, and smoking. By six in the morning and time to leave, the girls were exhausted. Lucy had apparently traded tutus with someone else during the night, Petra had stolen some dude's designer watch, and Eva was covered in glowstick jewelry. They said goodbye to the friends they made and joined another group of Thale girls waiting for the return-ride.

"Who's the guy taking us home?" Eva whispered, peeling luminescent accessories from her person and haphazardly tossing them to the dirty ground. Her ears still rung and head still pounded to the bass, so she dared not speak louder.

"His name is Wyatt, he's a friend of my cousin," Michelle replied, smirking at the wince her volume induced.

The group waited for another ten minutes before they started to complain about where their guy was, only for a dated brown Land Rover to pull up to the curb. Michelle quickly primped her ginger hair then stepped towards the vehicle and peeked through the rolled-down window.

"You Wyatt?"

He nodded and leaned over to open the passenger-side door. "You up front. The rest get in the back. Four can squeeze in the back seats, three in the third row, and whoever's left: double up."

The girls did as instructed, though were put-off by his attitude. Petra, Joanna, and another older girl climbed in the far back, then Eva and three others in the middle, with Lucy, Jade, and another smaller girl sitting on their laps. Once everyone was as settled as they could manage, Wyatt shifted gears and pulled away from the sidewalk.

The girls drifted in and out of focus, exhausted and dazed. So it was nearly half an hour before Eva's eyes zeroed in the scenery passing by, and it was not what was supposed to be on the road back to Thale.

"Um, hey Wyatt? Where are we?" Eva leaned around Lucy to get a better view of the driver, her heart thumping nearly as fast as the car. The rest of girls jerked to stare at the driver.

"You said you knew the way, you idiot," Michelle growled.

Wyatt glanced at her, jaw tightening. His continued silence did not help the anxiety that the girls were starting to feel.

"Pull the fuck over, Wyatt," Petra ordered from the back. Even she felt cold when the car only went faster.

"You're not even Wyatt, are you," Joanna asserted, voice noticeably cracking. Silence.

Anger and adrenaline spiked Eva's blood from icy to boiling. "Oh fuck this!" She pushed Lucy into the lap of the girl beside her and slammed forward, jerking the driver's seat. She wrapped her arms around the headrest and violently pulled Not-Wyatt's short hair.

He immediately shouted and released the steering wheel to snatch Eva's wrists in a bruising grip. The girls screeched when Michelle seized the opportunity to grab the wheel and flung the car to the right. Cars in the opposite lane honked as the Land Rover sped in front of them and into the field just off the road.

Not-Wyatt released Eva's wrist at the change of direction. He fought Michelle for control of the car and continued to speed up. Lucy dove into the front seat, putting all her weight on Not-Wyatt's legs, and reached down to punch the breaks. His knee rose and knocked the air out of her. She kept her hand on the pedal and tried to use her other to make for the keys. Michelle pulled on his sleeves before he could elbow the little blonde's head. Eva lowered her hands to cover his eyes.

Lucy clawed at cool metal, finally managing to get a good grip on the key and turn it. The engine died and Not-Wyatt desperately stomped on the gas to no avail.

Eva pulled Lucy from the front, her momentarily unoccupied seat giving Petra the chance to climb up from the back and replace Lucy in Not-Wyatt's lap. The heel of her army boots dug into his crotch, causing him to howl, and she punched him in the throat. She, Michelle, and Eva pulverized the man until the car finally rolled to a stop.

The girls tumbled out of the car, all vibrating with fear and outrage and adrenaline. Not-Wyatt slumped against his seatbelt, bloody and unconscious. Joanna embraced Michelle in a cacophony of sobs. Two of the other girls simply plopped down on the ground with stunned expressions.

Eva surveyed their work, unbuckling and dumping Not-Wyatt from the vehicle. She turned to her classmates and told them to get in, they were going home.

They finally pulled up to the group's meeting spot outside the gate at quarter-past seven. Petra parked the Land Rover behind the trees then texted Hayden to come pick it up and take it somewhere unconnected to them. As soon as he replied the affirmative, the group headed onto their property.

The sky had lightened since their original expected arrival time, so without the cover of real night they had to run across the lawns. No one seemed to see them, so they opened the disguised outside-entrance to the servant's stairs and ascended. Eva put her ear to the armoire to hear for anyone in the hall. They were in the clear, so everyone exited the stair landing and Lucy reclosed the passage.

The other girls sped to their rooms, not wanting to spend any more time with their fellow trauma victims. Eva, Lucy, and Petra started to walk back their room as well, looking no more worse for wear themselves, but Joanna, who still clung to Michelle, called out.

"Um…can we come with you?"

Lucy and Petra looked to Eva, and Eva looked back at Petra. For once, she was letting Eva's opinion of the duo be the deciding factor. Eva was about to say no when she really took a look at them – Michelle's bloodied hands, and the black tracks on Joanna's cheeks where she'd cried away her mascara. She looked at her own bruised wrists.

"You have to sleep on the floor," she finally said, holding her hand out for the girl. Joanna smiled wetly and grasped the hand, pulling Michelle along as Eva led them back to their room. Lucy and Petra shared a grin and followed their friends.

Everyone removed their rave-wear, stashing it, and washed off their makeup. Petra loaned Michelle and Joanna some large sleep-shirts, and Lucy gave them some of her bedding. They all settled into bed and were just about slip into slumber when Petra broke the silence with a snort:

"That fucking moron. Who the hell would try to fuck with Thale girls?"

Hope you enjoyed. Feel free to drop me review.