Hey guys, I also have a blog, a VERY new one, but I would love it if you took the time to check it out! thefictionfever .com (don't add the space ;) )
Her head pounded, reminding her of all the bad choices that she made. Not just the night before, but consistently over the last few years. She knew her decisions were not wise, but she made the same ones frequently, and blamed her horrible life repeatedly. She floated in and out of consciousness while laying on her bed.
She tried to grasp on to the dream of her and someone familiar in the neighbouring park, but sounds kept perforating the scene. She couldn't make the sounds into words, she didn't want to understand, she didn't want to wake up.
She held the hand of the beautiful girl next to her and smiled. The girl reached out and moved a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She felt safe in this moment, in this park, with this unknown yet familiar stranger. She knew in the back of her mind that it was strange- different. She knew it was a dream, but she wasn't ready to quit it.
She took a breath, but instead of breathing in the park air, she breathed into her pillow. She knew she was being pulled back to reality, so she tried to speak to the girl, but a voice interrupted, and this time, she could make out the words.
"You need to wake up B, come on. I know you don't want to, but you need to."
She tried to clutch on to her dream, but it faded away, just as it always does- leaving her feel empty, like something is missing.
"B, wake up."
She grunted into her pillow and moved her face away from Sally's voice. She peeked an eye open and turned on her phone that was next to her pillow. The time read 7:42 AM with seven missed alarms, and her heart almost stopped. Adrenaline rushed threw her body as she jolted out of bed, and ran to the other side of the room, looking for clothes.
"I'm gonna be late. Dammit. Shit! Why didn't you wake me sooner?" she said as she threw clothes around, looking for something clean and appropriate.
"Because we got home less than three hours ago, and I figured you would want to sleep since you don't work," Sally said, taking a seat on the bed.
She barely slowed as she heard the words. "What are you talking about? I work at 8, you know that."
Sally laid down and covered her eyes to try and get rid of same migraine Brittany had felt before the panic set in. "Yeah, you did, until your boss called and said that Grace could take your shift for you, and that you didn't need to come in."
Letting the words set in, Brittany finally stopped after being almost completely dressed. She had nothing left to do but put on the socks she held in her hands. She even had her bag ready to go.
She stood there for a moment, trying to let her body calm down. She didn't understand what was happening. She never asked her boss to give her shift to someone else, not that she could remember anyways. She knew for a fact she never asked Grace to take her shift- she couldn't stand talking to her, let alone asking her for a favour.
As the rush slowly started to fade, she slowly slid into the large pile on clothes and blankets on the floor. All the horrible symptoms started to return the longer she sat there. The nausea, the headaches, the body aches, it only got worse.
"Why are you waking me up if I don't work?" she was too hung over to be nice, and too tired to be patient. Sally rolled around on the bed until she was on her stomach, facing her sister.
"Code Blue." Brittany rolled her eyes. Mrs. Lurken was code blue- the lady that handled their cases- foster cases- but did a horrible job. She didn't care who she placed her kids with, only that they were placed, and no longer her job. She didn't come unless it was very necessary.
It wasn't a shock, they had known for almost two weeks that Sally and her brother Cody were moving to a different home, in a different State. A couple had come forward as being their family. They were leaving tonight.
It didn't make sense to her. They had been in foster care for three years, then an aunt and uncle suddenly appear, and they get shipped across the country? It didn't make sense, and seemed too soon, but that was the system, she knew it wasn't perfect. Far from it.
Brittany had lived with them for almost a full year- to say she would miss them would be an understatement. She has lived with many foster kids before, but none were like these two. They truly cared about her.
She pushed the thoughts back, and tried to forget about it.
"Yeah, we knew she was coming today. She was picking you and Cody up at 3, so why are you waking me up now?"
"Because. She'll be here in about an hour, and she's not coming for us, she coming for you. Don't ask, because I don't know why. She just said she has good news. So, to answer your question, I woke you up because we only have about 45 minutes to get ready."
She nodded slowly. They both knew they had a lot of work to do. They needed to wake up their drunk, loser caretaker who was probably passed out on the couch, hide all the alcohol and drugs, clean the house, and find a way to look and feel less hungover.
They were limited on time, but they sat there anyhow, doing nothing.
Minutes passed, and they were still sitting there in silence. Brittany finally looked up at Sally.
"Last night was fun."
Sally nodded. "Yeah. We haven't been that drunk since, what was it, beginning of summer? That party- the.."
"The graduation party, yeah." Brittany finished with a smile on her lips. That was a great day, then night, then day again. Rich kids know how to party, Brittany thought.
"Yeah, maybe we should check you again- make sure you didn't get another tattoo." Sally said with a laugh. Brittany tilted her head back and sighed.
She would never live that down- but how could she ever? The proof will forever be printed between her shoulder blades, and no one even remembered it happening.
They sat there for another few minutes in silence, remembering all the fun times they had together. When they looked at the clock, they only had about a half an hour left to do everything.
Finally, they got up and started working. They woke Cody to help, and then made him wake the old drunk. Their lives were like the movie Annie, but they were old enough for no one to want to adopt them, and it wasn't just Miss Hannigan who had trouble staying sober. And the singing? No one sang, no one wanted to. There was no happiness, no hope, just ways of escaping.
It's a hard knock life indeed.
In the thirty minutes, the three teens had managed to clean up the mess, hide the boozes and drugs, and ate something, so that they didn't get sick during the visit.
With only a minute left before their case worker was supposed to arrive, Brittany ran into her room. She pulled out a small Tupperware container, and pulled off the lid. She looked at her options, put didn't take long to decide. She grabbed a cookie, and ate it as quickly as possible. she then put the container away, pulled out a sucker from the bag next to it, discarded the wrapper and put it in her mouth.
She stood up and turned towards the door, and found Sally looking at her. She shook her head a little, and stared down at her.
"You said you weren't going to do that for the last week we were here."
Brittany felt bad, because that was a promise she had made to her, but a code blue (because of her) changed things. Something was going to happen today, and she didn't feel good about it.
"I'm sorry." Was all she said. She didn't try to give excuses. It was their last day together. She didn't want to fight.
Sally gave her a little smile, to show that it was fine, and that she understood. She moved towards Brittany with a bottle of Febreze in hand. Brittany held out her hands and closed her eyes as she sprayed her.
"That's better." She said, putting down the bottle.
They walked out into the living room just as Mrs. Blair was coming out of her room. She immediately started hissing her raspy voice at Brittany.
"Listen up, I don't know what you did, or why Mrs. Lurken is coming, but I am already losing the money from this little brat, and her brother" she said, gesturing towards Sally, "So whatever she is coming for, you are not leaving my care. I need that money- and I deserve it for taking care of you little shits, so don't screw this up."
The old hag wasn't necessarily the ugliest person, but Brittany couldn't help but be repulsed by her. Her short spikey hair, her yellow nails, the shirt that was just a little too small for her figure. She wasn't very old, but her wrinkles reminded them of the witch in Hansel and Gretel, and the smell, oh god the smell was like walking through the candle section at Ikea. It was strong, obnoxious and nauseating
By this point, the drugs were already making their way through her system, so when she pulled out the sucker, the words were not very thought through.
"That money isn't yours. It belongs to us. It was to buy us food and clothes, and school supplies. You better just pray that I don't tell them you made me get a job to pay for all that so that you could spend our money getting drunk every day and night."
The old drunk raised her hand, ready to hit her, but Brittany didn't flinch.
"Go ahead, give me a nice bruise, right before she gets here. See what happens." She was taunting her, but Brittany didn't care what happened after the meeting, it as only right now that mattered to her.
She scowled at them, then dropped her hand. She warned her of the consequences of her words. She knew she wouldn't faze Brittany by threatening her, so she threatened Sally instead. Brittany reacted to that.
"You may think you won, but I have the power. I can keep Sally with me, after all, it's not really her family, it's Cody's. Is that what you want? You want me to keep Sally and have Cody leave?" she gave Brittany a wicked grin.
Brittany swallow the lump in her throat and shook her head. "Let Sally go with Cody, and I won't do anything to jeopardize your checks."
Brittany didn't care about what happens to herself- but Sally and Cody were her family, her only family. So, she agreed. She wouldn't do anything, or say anything that would get them in trouble.
When their deal was struck, Brittany turned on her phone just in time to see the clock turn from 8:29 to 8:30, and as if they were in some horror movie, there was a knock at the door, as though they had been waiting for that exact moment.
"One moment." The old hag called out, and in a lower voice added to Brittany, "Throw out that sucker- I don't need them thinking I'm too stupid to notice you're doing drugs."
She threw out the sucker just as Mrs. Blair opened the door. A large fake smile grew on all the faces present, all except one. Behind Mrs. Lurken was a young man who followed her in. He was in a dark grey suit, and held a file against his chest. He was smiling but it seemed genuine. Brittany didn't understand why, there was no reason to be happy, not in her world.
"Seems like I am quite outnumbered, being the only male here." He said with a short laugh.
"My brother is here too, he is just in his room." She said with a smile.
"Well, sleep is important. I'm sure you ladies would all be sleeping right now, if it were not for my intrusion- forgive me." He seemed nice, but Brittany was wary. She had trouble trusting people, understandable considering everything that has happened during her childhood, but she could fake it well.
"It's no problem at all! We love having company over. I'm Brittany." She said, holding out her hand.
"Goodness me! I haven't even introduced myself. Sometimes it hard to keep track of everything I need to do! My name is Joshua Trainner, but you can just call me Josh." He said as he took her hand in a firm handshake, then in turn shook hands with Sally and the house monster as they introduced themselves.
Brittany found herself truly smiling for a moment, as she watched this ditsy man. He was so young, you would expect him to try and act tough or professional to set a good example, but he was funny and silly, and it made Brittany smile, and when she looked at Sally, she knew she was enjoying it too.
They all sat down in the living room. The two professionals set their papers down on the coffee table in the middle.
The man pulled out a pamphlet and gave us each one. Then he started to explain.
"I am a representative for the Arc Academy, here to wish you a position in our school. Arc Academy is an institution created in the name of Joan of Arc and is dedicated to youth who we believe are the future, and who will make a difference in the world, just like she did. It is a private school that teaches excellence and trains the best of the best. We are even a recognized and accredited university. We offer many programs to cover all our student's interests and hobbies."
Just as he was about to continue speaking, Cody came out of his room. He was in his pyjama pants and an oversized sweater hanging over his small frame. He held his laptop on one arm and dragged a chair with his other hand.
Brittany wasn't someone who trusted other people, but Cody took distrust to an extreme level. He didn't trust people, or large companies, doctors, phone companies, media outlets, and the list goes on. On that list included any type of recruiter, and private schools.
Brittany felt better with him around, because he could see people's lies from a mile away. His opinion mattered to her a lot.
"Hi! I knew I wasn't the only man in the house! Nice to meet you, I'm Josh." He said in his cheery, peppy voice.
"Cody" that's all he replied. He dropped the chair so that he could join the conversation, sat down and kept his eyes on his laptop.
Without a word, Sally passed her brother the pamphlet she had already looked through. He took it, and then kept typing.
He seemed to pay little to no interest to the conversation, but Brittany knew he was doing nothing but that.
Josh stared at him for a second then smiled and continued.
"Ok, where was I? Oh right! We cover many different programs, and as an accredited university with 100 percent of our graduates going into their desired field of work and connections all over the world, you can get any job you want. We have facilities to accommodate any needs that our students may have. Our students stay in our dorms, meals are prepared all times of the day so they can eat whenever they're hungry. There are various teams, clubs and sports facilities. Our students are given monthly allowances for when they want to go into town and buy things that are not provided by the school. All medical needs are cared for, and students can even travel with our traveling teams."
"Where is this school?" Cody asked. Josh looked at him and smiled.
"Well, that question is a little more complicated. Since our school is made for today's youth who will tomorrows best- we have a great need for security and privacy. For that reason, only a very select few know where it is located. Not even I know. My pilot does however."
Josh seemed very nice, but Cody was skeptical. After such an cryptic answer to a simply question, Brittany was just as skeptic.
"I understand you may not feel comfortable with such an answer, but I can assure you that we take the protection of our school and all its residents very seriously. You may feel free to search the internet looking for information on our school, but I assure you, you will not find anything other than our one official school page. Hacking into the government systems will not help you as we are privately owned, and not affiliated with the government."
Cody narrowed his eyes and slowly closed his laptop.
"Wait, so if I understand you correctly, you want Brittany to go to this school?" Josh nodded happily.
"Yes, I was sent here in hopes that she would come and join us before our next school semester starts on Monday. Our school works differently in ways of classes, teaching, extra curricular, semesters and more, but all that would be explained upon arrival. We are one of the top schools in the world, and we believe that Miss Pentra would fit in very well there."
"Why?" Sally blurted out. Then she turned to Brittany and apologized, but she just shook her head and said, "No, she's right, why me? My grades are mediocre, I'm not really great at anything specific; I'm average. So why would they want me?"
She was as confused as everyone else. Mrs. Lurken simply sat and listened, because she couldn't careless about the outcome, as long as the girl was not causing problems, and the drunk sat and listened, waiting for Brittany to fulfill her end of their agreement. The conversation was between the three kids and the representative.
Josh didn't seem to care that she was skeptic, all the students probably were at some point, so he was more than happy to answer the questions.
"Well as privacy is important, the reason as to why you are wanted at our school was not told to me. I am given a name and an address, and I make a visit. I am not given all the details, I am simply asked to offer you the opportunity and then bring you back of you accept. It's my job. Just like you, I had just brought a girl about your age back with me a few days ago. She was as skeptic as you three, and asked a great deal of questions. She decided to go and see what it was like, and she said she was glad she made the decision.
"We are not a prison- we will not keep you against your will. Of course we do have a great deal of rules, and outside communication is not permitted, but if you ever want to visit your friends here, it would be no problem at all. All I am asking of you is to try out of school for three months. That is our semester length. If you come, you stay for a little while and decide you do not like it, then you are free to leave, and we will bring you wherever need be."
He leaned forward a little and said, "between you and I though, our school was established in 1631, and there have only been seven students who have left without finishing school. That's seven students in over five hundred years.
For the first time since introducing herself, the witch spoke. "So, let me get this straight, you represent a school that has an unknown location, came to offer a full scholarship to a girl who said in her own words, is nothing special, and you can't even tell us why you are offering this to her? And how are you okay with this? As a case worker, do you regularly bring strangers in to kidnap the children?" she roared at Mrs. Lurken.
This time it was for Mrs. Lurken to explain. "I understand this may seem unsettling, but we all understand the desire for privacy. Although their methods are unconventional, due to their privacy methods, the children remain very safe. Brittany is not the first foster child to get accepted. We have been working with this school for many decades, and really, it's kind of like putting the children in a group home, but with much more success, better education and more possibilities for the children. Just like home visits, case workers make visits to the school to check on the kids. It's not as though we are letting a stranger take them, and we never think of them again Mrs. Blair.
Brittany turned to Sally and Cody, and the three of them seemed to have a conversation without even speaking. They hadn't been together long, but they knew each other well.
Brittany knew that Sally wanted her to go, and so did Cody- because the alternative would be to stay there with the cruel drunk monster that didn't do anything, but Cody was also very wary- they all were. The one thing holding her back was the old hag and the deal they made right before she opened the door. She couldn't let her do anything to Cody or Sally, she owed it to them.
She could see Mrs. Blair glaring at her with cold malicious eyes, but her smile made it not-so-obvious to those who didn't know her.
Maybe she was feeling courageous or brave, or maybe it was just the fact that couldn't feel anything and that made her invincible, but Brittany took her chance, and asked anyways.
"If I were to go with you, when would we leave?" he gave her a sweet smile.
"Well I would be lying if I said I hadn't chosen this day carefully. Of course, you can take as long you need to pack, but with classes starting on Monday, we would leave today. I was also informed that Sally and Cody are leaving today, so we could even wait and leave with them."
She felt good about the answer, but if he left and came back in a few hours, like Mrs. Lurken was probably going to do, then a lot could happen in that time. Who knows what consequences could be given in that time.
"Also," he continued after a moment of silence, "I know it may be hard to leave everyone on the same day, but Sally and Cody are already being moved today, and though you might miss your guardian, and no matter how much she may miss you, it is your choice, and your decision. And I'm sure Mrs. Blair only wants the best for you." He said giving her a sweet smile.
"Well of course I do, but…"
Josh cut her off half sentence before she could continue.
"Of course you do! And there is no better opportunity than this for her. That being said, Brittany, if you choose to come with me today, you would take the next few hours to pack your things."
This time it was the cruel witch who cut Josh off.
"That sounds like a great opportunity indeed, but unfortunately there just isn't enough money to send her to that school." Brittany knew she was angry that she was trying to back out of their deal, but by the small smirk on her lips, she thought she had won. Josh knew differently.
"Well I could see how that could be a problem, but in fact, it's not. I mean, it would be the government paying the bill, and not you, but the truth is neither of you would pay. We are asking her to come with me to go to school, at no cost to her. No student pays for their education here- we choose our students, and therefor we do not ask them to give us anything in return except for their time and effort."
You could see it on her face that she lost, and the weight of the decision was strictly based on Brittany.
Josh continued. "As I was saying, while you pack, Mrs. Lurken and Mrs. Blair would fill out the paperwork now, and I would wait here for you, or I could even help you pack. And when you are done, assuming Cody and Sally have their things packed, we can all leave together, I will even buy us lunch, so you can have one last meal together, then we will go our separate ways."
Brittany's heart was racing at the thought. He planned everything so perfectly without even knowing. This way, they could all leave without getting in trouble for leaving. The monster can't hurt them with Josh and Mrs. Lurken present.
There was an uneasy feeling in her stomach. There was something off about him, about this school, and this deal. The way it was so secret, and the way he seemed to know exactly what to say every time, but her choices were limited
Brittany looked to Cody and Sally, and they both thought the same, so she turned to Josh and smiled.
"Alright, let's do it."
Everything from that moment on went very quickly for Brittany and the others. Being a foster kid that got moved from home to home, she only took her a little over an hour to pack all her things. Josh called her school and work for her, while Cody and Sally finished packing their last few things. Mrs. Lurken and the grumpy old troll signed the paper work, and by 11, they were all ready to go. The kids packed all their things into the back of Josh's rental and got in without so much as a word to their awful guardian.
Josh vowed to care for Sally and Cody until they left, so Mrs. Lurken disappeared from their lives forever just before they all had their last meal together.
Josh and Brittany waited for Cody and Sally's plane to take off, and waved them goodbye, it was sad but they finally had a family who wanted them- and Brittany was about to embark on a new journey of her own.
So, when Brittany got on the private jet with Josh, the only thing she was thinking about was how much she was excited to forget her life in West Palm Beach.