"Okay, orientation's over," the attendant said. "You're on your own now. Here's a map if you need to find anything else." She gave Luce a photocopy of a crude hand-drawn map, then glanced at her watch.
"You've got an hour before your first class, but my soaps come on in five, so" - she waved her hand at Luce - "make yourself scarce. And don't forget," she said, pointing up at the cameras one last time. "The reds are watching you."
Before Luce could reply, a skinny, dark-haired girl appeared in front of her, wagging her long fingers in Luce's face.
"Ooooooh," the girl taunted in a ghost-story-telling voice, dancing around Luce in a circle. "The reds are watching youuuu."
"Get out of here, Arriane, before I have you lobotomized," the attendant said, though it was clear from her first brief but genuine smile that she had some coarse affection for the crazy girl.
It was also clear that Arriane did not reciprocate the love. She mimed a jerking-off motion at the attendant, then stared at Luce, daring her to be offended.
"And just for that," the attendant said, jotting a furious note in her book, "you've earned yourself the task of showing Little Miss Sunshine around today."
She pointed at Luce, who looked anything but sunny in her black jeans, black boots, and black top. Under the "Dress Code" section, the Sword & Cross Web site had cheerily maintained that as long as the students were on good behavior, they were free to dress as they pleased, with just two small stipulations: style must be modest and color must be black. Some freedom.
The too-big mock turtleneck Luce's mom had forced on her this morning did nothing for her curves, and even her best feature was gone: Her thick black hair, which used to hang down to her waist, had been almost completely shorn off. The cabin fire had left her scalp singed and her hairline patchy, so after the long, silent ride home from Dover, Mom had planted Luce in the bathtub, brought out Dad's electric razor, and wordlessly shaved her head.
Over the summer, her hair had grown out a little, just enough so that her once- enviable waves now hovered in awkward twists just below her ears.
Arriane sized her up, tapping one finger against her pale lips. "Perfect," she said, stepping forward to loop her arm through Luce's. "I was just thinking I could really use a new slave."
The door to the lobby swung open and in walked the tall kid with green eyes. He shook his head and said to Luce,
"This place isn't afraid to do a strip search. So if you're packing any other hazards" - he raised an eyebrow and dumped a handful of unrecognizables in the box - "save yourself the trouble."
Behind Luce, Arriane laughed under her breath. The boy's head shot up, and when his eyes registered Arriane, he opened his mouth, then closed it, like he was unsure how to proceed.
"Arriane," he said evenly.
"Cam," she returned.
"You know him?" Luce whispered, wondering whether there were the same kinds of cliques in reform schools as there were in prep schools like Dover.
"Don't remind me," Arriane said, dragging Luce out the door into the gray and swampy morning.
The back of the main building let out onto a chipped sidewalk bordering a messy field. The grass was so overgrown, it looked more like a vacant lot than a school commons, but a faded scoreboard and a small stack of wooden bleachers argued otherwise.
Beyond the commons lay four severe-looking buildings: the cinder-block dormitory on the far left, a huge old ugly church on the far right, and two other expansive structures in between that Luce imagined were the classrooms.
This was it. Her whole world was reduced to the sorry sight before her eyes.
Arriane immediately veered right off the path and led Luce to the field, sitting her down on top of one of the waterlogged wooden bleachers.
The corresponding setup at Dover had screamed Ivy League jock-in-training, so Luce had always avoided hanging out there. But this empty field, with its rusted, warped goals, told a very different story. One that wasn't as easy for Luce to figure out. Three turkey vultures swooped overhead, and a dismal wind whipped through the bare branches of the oak trees. Luce ducked her chin down into her mock turtleneck.
"Soooo," Arriane said. "Now you've met Randy."
"I thought his name was Cam."
"We're not talking about him," Arriane said quickly. "I mean she-man in there." Arriane jerked her head toward the office where they'd left the attendant in front of the TV. "Whaddya think - dude or chick?"
"Uh, chick?" Luce said tentatively. "Is this a test?"
Arriane cracked a smile. "The first of many. And you passed. At least, I think you passed. The gender of most of the faculty here is an ongoing, schoolwide debate. Don't worry, you'll get into it."
Luce thought Arriane was making a joke - in which case, cool. But this was all such a huge change from Dover. At her old school, the green-tie-wearing, pomaded future senators had practically oozed through the halls in the genteel hush that money seemed to lay over everything.
More often than not, the other Dover kids gave Luce a don't-smudge-the-white-walls-with-your-fingerprints side ways glance. She tried to imagine Arriane there: lazing on the bleachers, making a loud, crude joke in her peppery voice. Luce tried to imagine what Callie might think of Arriane. There'd been no one like her at Dover.
"Okay, spill it," Arriane ordered. Plopping down on the top bleacher and motioning for Luce to join her, she said,
"What'd ya do to get in here?"
Arriane's tone was playful, but suddenly Luce had to sit down. It was ridiculous, but she'd half expected to get through her first day of school without the past creeping up and robbing her of her thin fa��ade of calm. Of course people here were going to want to know.
She could feel the blood thrumming at her temples. It happened whenever she tried to think back - really think back - to that night. She'd never stop feeling guilty about what had happened to Trevor, but she also tried really hard not to get mired down in the shadows, which by now were the only things she could remember about the accident. Those dark, indefinable things that she could never tell anyone about.