Saint Whitley's Academy

*This came from a dream so it's a little scattered right now. Please bare with me <3
Jael has lived her life with a handful of things that were precious to her, one of them being her mother. But when Charles Benson comes into their lives, things change. He's rich and powerful and after a short time, marries Jael's mother, Andrea. When the idea of sending Jael to boarding school is brought to the table, Andrea cannot do anything but accept fearing that she and Jael will be back on the street.

The boarding school is just like any other, huge and terrifying. Will Jael be accepted? Or will the eat her alive? She doesn't know. All that she's been told is that Halloween is the biggest holiday because it's the only one that the whole school celebrates together. Her new roommate, Angela tells her how the school goes on complete lockdown - it's like a giant horror house with holograms of ghosts and other disturbing sights. But what if they aren't all holograms? What if some of them...are real?

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1. Charles Benson’s Hold

 

“What about this one?” Benson held up a dress with a black top and plaid skirt.

It wasn’t horrible. I could make some adjustments but I felt like being a pain in the ass. “Nah.”

Bonding time is what my mother called it. I called it torture. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so bad, but having my stepfather suggest clothes for me to wear? It was pretty embarrassing.

When Charles Benson walked into my life, I knew my whole world was going to change. I just didn’t realize it would be for the worse. He had it all; money, cars, a house that could be a hotel. Anything you could think of, Benson could get with the snap of his fingers. Growing up, I had the opposite. Nothing. I walked everywhere, made second hand clothes look almost new, and the two of us stayed where we could, gratefully accepting invitations to stay the night when there was nowhere else to go.

Some of these houses belonged to people we didn’t know. I can remember my mother’s eyes on me before I closed my own to go to bed and they would still be on me as I opened mine the next morning. She never let her guard down.

So when my mother saw Benson on her way to her thirty fourth job interview that week, it seemed like a Godsend. They had known each other in high school and he made it clear that he would help us anyway he could. He welcomed us into his home and provided us with our own rooms. The first couple of months they appeared to be friends. My mother would work but she was able to save everything because Benson refused to let her spend a penny.

Finally we were getting the things we deserved. Sustainable meals, clothes that actually fit, and sheets that had never been slept in before. I liked him and I was grateful for him and I thought that everything was falling into place.

The flame between them grew and as much as it killed me to see my mother enjoying her time with someone other than me, I couldn’t deny her the happiness that she was entitled to. He and my mother complimented each other well despite their height difference. Benson stood tall. Like one of the many buildings he owned, there was no false advertisement, he appeared almost unbreakable. Sure there were signs of aging. His hair was turning from a deep chestnut brown to a metallic silver, but there was barely a wrinkle to disturb the structure of his face. And he was handsome, even with the gray.

My mother was at least a head shorter, if not two. Her petite frame made her seem fragile at times, she had mousy brown hair, and quiet behavior but I knew how strong she was. She was a woman who had fought off grown men to protect her child, a woman who refused to go down without a fight and has yet to go down at all. Like I said, my mother loved Benson. He didn't control her but she didn't push her limits either.

Was it strange to say that I didn’t know who I was? I knew the things that I enjoyed and I'd looked into the mirror a hundred times. I inspected my auburn hair in my reflection, seen my brown eyes enough times to know there were green flecks in them (but not nearly enough to consider them hazel). It was clear that I didn't get my bust from my mother or she would have fallen over. And I'd never forget how I got the small scar on my chin from falling off a bike that had been much too big for me. But who was I really?

I'd never stayed in one place long enough to find out.

Benson’s first executive decision after he and my mother married was that I go to boarding school. I probably shouldn’t have known what was going on but I had this little problem where I tended to eaves dropped on their conversations.

“We’ve only gotten stable now,” my mother argued distraught. “She seems to be comfortable here, with us.”

“Jael needs some time to herself. I went to boarding school and it made me independent,” he told her matter-of-factly. “She’ll come home on holidays and you’ll be able to call each other all the time not to mention e-mails. Technology is our friend.”

“She’s too young to be by herself,” she went on. “We should ask her and see what she says.”

I poked my head into the room carefully so they stayed ignorant to the fact that I was there. Benson squatted down and rubbed my mother’s arm, comforting her.

“Andrea,” he said in a whisper. “She’s never going to leave your side if she isn’t pulled away from it.”

Her face softened with realization. My mother fought no longer after that. He had this way into her mind. It was as though he made her remember what life was like before she was with him, not to scare her into doing what he says but almost as if to say that things could be worse.

She came into my room later that same night to break the news I’d already overheard.

“Jael, we have to talk.” I took a deep breath and sat on my bed, she leaned against the doorway. “Charles and I both think it would be good for you to attend a boarding school.”

My heart dropped into my stomach though I had known what was coming. But hearing it come from her mouth….

I was about to ask her “Why?” but I bit my tongue. I wanted to cry but I looked up at the ceiling trying to keep the salty tears from running down my face. I had plenty of time to think about how my reaction was going to be and inside my head none of them went like this.

“If that’s what you want,” I told her.

She sucked her cheeks in and I knew she wanted to tell me how much she didn’t want it. Instead, she tapped her hand on the door frame and smiled. “I think it’s going to be a great experience

Not even a week later we went to explore St. Whitley’s Academy, the school that would be taking over my life for the rest of my school years. I kept my head down taking in only the gravel driveway and climbing the stone steps. Benson held the door open for my mother and me and followed behind. The smell of his cologne made me sick, it was too strong and I walked on the other side of my mother to avoid it.

A woman with a tight bun made of white hair gave us a toothy smile as she approached us. “Mr. Benson, Mrs. Benson, and Jael! How wonderful it is to finally meet you.”

Finally?

“I’m Mrs. Lawson. I’m sure you’re excited to walk around and hear what we have in store this fall.”

Not really, I thought to myself.

The three of us followed Mrs. Lawson around and I noticed the deeper we got into the school, the more pleased my mother was. Her reaction was starting to irk me.

“And over here is a memorial,” Mrs. Lawson pointed out. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some tragedies but what else is to be expected in an establishment like this?”

Speaking for the first time, I said, “What kind of tragedies?”

Mrs. Lawson clasped her hands together. “We don’t discuss that,” she said shaking her head. “But I only brought it up because we never want to forget anyone who attended St. Whitley’s Academy.”

Something inside me stirred and my mother gave me a look that told me not to go digging. She knew I loved a good mystery.

I went to follow Mrs. Lawson when a chill down my spine stopped me. My mother and Benson were so wrapped up in the school that they didn’t notice I wasn’t next to them. Looking back at the memorial wall, I was drawn to the picture of one particular girl. She had silky blonde hair and light hazel eyes. Her smile lit up the whole picture. It’s hard to imagine that someone is dead (even when you didn’t know them) when their picture held so much energy, so much life.

There was this overwhelming need to touch the frame of the picture.

As my hand went up, I heard my name being whispered. “Jael….”

Quickly, I retracted my hand knowing my mother would be embarrassed by my childlike curiosity. But she wasn’t there, no one was. I was alone in the hallway and must have imagined someone saying my name. I ran as fast as I could to get back to my group still unnerved by the empty corridor where I could have sworn I heard someone say my name.

That was three months ago, when summer just began. I wasn’t happy but what choice did I have? The few friends I had barely talked to me anymore (mainly because Charles didn’t want me to associate with them) and I’d never gone through a full year of school. It might sound bit nerdy, but I wouldn’t have minded sitting through class every day, learning things I never knew.

The night before my great adventure was to start, my mother sat in my room and brushed my hair. She was careful like she was when I was little. My hair has always been long but the dark strands always wound up in knots. I was amazed how much of a difference the right shampoo and conditioner made.

“Are you nervous?” she asked in a shaky voice.

I shrugged softly, careful not to mess up my hair. “A little, but I’m sure everyone there will be nice.”

I’d attended enough schools to know I most likely wouldn’t be accepted right away. I’m sure they would have the resources to find out information about me. I’d be an outcast if these people knew that I had lived on the streets most of my life. I shouldn’t have cared but I’d seen episodes of Gossip Girl to know how one rumor could destroy a person’s life. Hopefully if I stayed low key no one would notice I was there.

I said it to ease my mother’s mind but she knew I was lying and her brush strokes slowed when as if taking her time would stop tomorrow from coming.

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