The Orphan Project

Alysha Hemmings and her older brother Luke's parents die and they are shipped off to live with their blind godmother, Janice. They get enrolled into Watercress School for the Orphans and meet new friends and have to adapt to their new life. Meanwhile, everything is going according to plan at the school, accept Alysha.

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3. Chapter Two

When Luke and I got home, he helped me with my homework. We had to finish the whole packet we worked on during class today and we had to do vocabulary. I didn’t know this was such an academically advanced school. I was already stressed and it was just the first day.

At Janice’s house we had to share a room in the attic. It only had one light; a small, dim lamp that stood between our beds. There were two small beds with wooden frames, a small worn out desk, a wooden stool, and piles and piles of boxes. The only things we got to keep from home were things that were already in our backpacks, and a small pile of clothes. Seeing that we didn’t have anywhere to go and we had school uniforms, this wouldn’t be much of a problem.    

The only things I had in my backpack was a few books, a binder full of worksheets from my other school, and a notebook. Luke was more fortunate. Being the Einstein in the house, he had four notebooks, a good handful of pencils, a calculator, a couple of books, and his laptop. He took school and sports very seriously. He was actually pretty perfect for this school, unlike me. I hated academics and the last time I played sports was in the 8th grade.

“I swear there’s more dust up here than oxygen,” I coughed, swatting at the empty space in front of me. Luke hadn’t talked all day at school, but when we got home he was alright again. Luke was usually the more outgoing one out of the two of us, but today anyone who didn’t know us would think it was the other way around. He probably didn’t make the best first impression, but I doubt I made a good one either. Everyone there was so smart and to themselves, while I was unfocused and just wanted to talk to someone.

I don’t think I could handle this school much longer – and it was only my first day. I was only a junior, and I was barely getting by when I was learning on-level stuff. I wonder what Ashton meant by they ‘monitored us’. This school was a bit strange, and it was scaring me.

“Well, you’re still breathing,” Luke said while he pulled his laptop out of his bag. He sat cross-legged on his bed, pulling the computer onto his lap.

“I wonder why they didn’t let us keep any of our things,” I said, furrowing my brow, wishing I had brought my laptop to school every day like Luke did. At least I carry my phone with me everywhere, even if I don’t use it much. I never got why kids these days were always on their cellphones, it gave me a headache looking at that small screen for more than twenty minutes.

“What do you reckon they’re gonna do with all of it?” Luke said, typing profusely on his laptop, his eyes not looking up from the screen.

“Sell it, burn it, give it to the homeless,” I rolled my eyes, our parents died, they shipped us off to live with our blind god-mother and sent us to a school where all Ms. Paxton did was stare at us from the desk, making sure no one talked or looked anywhere else but their paper, you’d think the least they could do was let us keep our things. We didn’t even get to go to their funeral, for God’s sake.

“Why would you give the homeless burnt furniture?” Luke asked, staring at his laptop screen, brows knit together.

“Ha-ha,” I fake laughed, watching a smile tug at the corners of my brother’s mouth. I fell on my own bed, looking at the ceiling. I let out a short sigh as I thought about what a mess my life had become in less than a week. Everything was going fine before my parents were in that car accident – now it’s a disaster.

“So, are you enjoying our new great school?” Luke asked me sarcastically. I rolled my eyes and continued to stare at the woods panels above our heads.

“Why is it so hard?” I asked my brother, looking over at him. “All they seem to care about is our grades and ability to run three miles straight without vomiting.” Luke laughed and looked up at me for the first time since he opened his laptop.

I was more devastated as our parent’s death when it happened – I was closer to them whilst Luke was always buried into schoolwork or sports. I wasn’t as smart; I just played the piano and read occasionally. I was around them more since Luke was in his room or at the basketball court with his friends. Now he was the sadder one, because I was always the one to get over things faster, while he took it hard and slow.

“It’s a school all about academics and sports, Alysha,” Luke chuckled, still looking over at me.

“I thought it was about the orphaned,” I said, rolling my eyes for the hundredth time that day. Luke’s face fell ever so slightly, and he tore his eyes away from me. I focused my eyes back on the ceiling. I’m still having trouble believing our parents are really dead – it was so out of the blue. I guess that’s death though.

“I’m guessing that’s not their number one priority,” Luke said, and my eyes shifted back over to him. “I mean, just because our parents died doesn’t mean we have to switch schools. That’s just reminding us more. We still live with our godmother.”

“Why isn’t this school just for the kids at the orphanage?” I asked him, even though I wasn’t expecting him to have the answer.

“I don’t know, Lysh. I really don’t know.” I turned over onto my side, facing away from him. I put my arms under my head like a pillow and curled my legs up. I just wish none of this had ever happened.

               I fell asleep shortly after without changing into pajamas. At least my dreams were somewhat peaceful. In my dreams I had my parents back and I went to my old school and Luke was happy again. I was happy again.

I woke up the next morning to Luke shaking my shoulder, telling me we had to be at the bus stop in thirty minutes. Groaning, I rolled out of bed and yawned. I saw Luke was already dressed, and at first I was confused, until I remembered we had to wear a uniform. I grimaced as I took a stack of plain grey clothing of the desk and headed towards the bathroom downstairs.

When I finished making myself presentable I went downstairs to see Janice on the couch and Luke eating a burnt piece of toast by the front window. I slung my bag over my shoulder and grabbed a pear from the fruit bowl sitting on the countertop, walking towards Luke.

We headed out to the bus stop in silence; except for rushed goodbyes to our godmother. I wish our parents had Janice around more when we were growing up, because if we knew her this whole experience wouldn’t be as awkward.

The day dragged on in the same cycle; math for the first half of the day, lunch, history, science, English, gym. The only time I talked all day was during lunch.

I sat in between Luke and Michael just like yesterday, Ashton next to Michael and Calum next to Luke. They seemed to have ‘assigned seats’ at their lunch table. I wonder if Ms. Paxton gave everyone seats at lunch and that’s why they are all friends.

“I love your outfits today,” Ashton joked as we sat down at the lunch table earlier that day. The tabled broke out into laughter, even Luke cracked a smile. I had barely seen Luke interact with anyone aside from me since our parent’s car crash.

“I think that was one of the easiest vocabulary units we’ve had at this school,” Calum commented on lasts nights’ homework. Everyone here seemed to be super smart and active, but me. Why was I the only one here that was struggling? Even the handful of juniors (beside me) at this school was super smart. I felt embarrassed that I found the vocab homework terrifically hard.

“Are you kidding? That was so hard,” I said before I even realized what I was doing. I clamped my mouth shut as the boys around me all stared at me in awe.

“What are you talking about?” Calum asked me, confused.

“They only accept the smartest kids at this school,” Michael told me, his brow furrowed.

“You guys are also the only siblings here. Everyone else in this school are only child’s,” Ashton chimed in. Luke and I exchanged a glance as the boys around us broke into whispers. I only heard snippets of their conversations.

“Why did they accept both of them?” “Did they know about Alysha?” “How did she get in?”

These questions absorbed into my brain and kept popping up at random times throughout the day. Was I not supposed to be at that school? Did they even know about me until they had already accepted Luke into the school? Why did they want all the smart kids?

I had a hard time eating dinner that night; I kept forgetting what I was doing. We also had an even heavier load of homework, which was even harder than the previous night’s. I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time that night, my thoughts kept me up until about three in the morning.

When Luke shook me awake in the morning I felt as though I just closed my eyes. My morning went almost exactly the same as the one before. So, this was my new life now; a life of routine. I wonder what kids here did for fun.

Today at lunch nobody brought up the strangeness of me attending this school. Instead, they made light conversation about a kid named Jeromy. I didn’t recognize his name, but I didn’t know everyone here yet.

“Does he go here?” Luke asked Ashton, sticking his fork into the salad on the tray in front of him.

“Nah, he went to Calum’s old school just a couple of blocks away. Just because we go to a private school in the middle of the woods doesn’t mean we can’t have any friends, you know?” Ashton replied, his hands folded with his chin on the barrier it created. I nodded in agreement. I was so glad people at this school were actually allowed to have a social life outside of it.

“So they don’t spy on you outside of school to make sure you don’t run yourselves into the ground?” Luke asked, mocking the tone of Ms. Halter’s cool, sleek voice perfectly.

“No, I never really thought about that before,” Calum answered, looking considerate.

“You guys should come with us,” Michael suggested, looking at me and then at my brother.

“Yeah, sounds fun,” I told him, nodding. It would be a great distraction from my mind.

“Alright, students, time for you to head back to your class!” One of the lunch ladies called from her spot behind the counter. We all got up and put our tray in the designated spot and lined up by the door where Mr. Barker stood, ready to escort us back to our classroom. I sighed softly to myself, there was no freedom at this school at all, and it was killing me.

Back at class, Makayla smiled at me behind Ms. Paxton’s back. Ever since I helped her up on Monday she has become my ‘gym buddy’. The boys did their thing and we did ours, during that one class, at least. On the bus and at lunch our group was inseparable. I was actually a bit shocked I had found a group of friends this quickly at such a place, but I was happy nonetheless.

The rest of the week dragged on and when Friday came along I was practically jumping out of my bed in the morning. Not because I was excited to go to school, but because tonight was the night of the party. Tonight would be the first night I would have fun since before my parents had died. It wasn’t that long of a time, but I was the type of girl who could make any situation fun, but I couldn’t find a way how to at this school.

Luke gave me a wary look as he sat up in his bed, while I dashed around him getting my things together. Usually Luke was up before me because I never had any desire to go to school, even at our old school where I actually fit in.

This party was my chance to fit in here.

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