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Contemporary Fiction High School

Ophelia Waine was like gravity, like a sun with a planetary system surrounding her. Jessalyn was just one of them. The Pluto to Cherrie’s Venus and Lucy’s Earth.

She thought the world of the three older girls. At fourteen, she was the youngest, and the only freshman privy to Ophelia's personal circle.

The four girls attended Guerin Academy together, a tall, imposing sort of building. Settled at the very outskirts of the county of Granite Falls, Minnesota, an hour’s drive from the town of seven hundred people and three hours from the city of Prior Lake. Guerin Academy was six stories tall, with a gym in the basement and an attic that was rumored to have the skeleton of Guerin Kane entombed somewhere within it. The four stories between the basement and attic housed many rooms and many things. The fifth floor was the girl’s dormitory, and the fourth was the boys, two to a room, and seventy five rooms between the two floors. The third and second floors were the classrooms, another seventy five rooms and only just over a dozen in use. The ground floor was the office of the headmaster, the administrative offices, the dining hall, the trophy room, and the memorial to Guerin Kane, the only child  of the school’s founder, born in 1897, and died in 1916 in World War One. 

Joseph Kane, supposedly a former Confederate Soldier though that was never confirmed, founded the school to honor his son, who had never wanted to be a soldier and wanted to be a professor of poetry. Whether or not he was a former Confederate or not, there were plenty of reasons to dislike Joseph Kane. 

He was a terribly racist man who had put in his will that no African-Americans - though his wording had been more insulting - were ever to be students and that no one of color was to ever be anything more than a janitor, maid, or cook. He was rumored to be a man with a taste for girls rather than women, and that was less of a rumor and more of a commonly accepted reality, as at age 50, he had married a young woman of 16, which was how he had gotten a son. 

(Eventually.)

The student body, now quite colorful for 150, split perfectly down the middle of boys and girls, thought very little of Joseph Kane. They pitied Elaine Kane neè Upton, for having to marry Joseph Kane. But their real interest was in Guerin, and his skeleton and ghost. 

If you asked Jessalyn, it was a matter of great suspicion and less of a rumor and more of a fact. Guerin Academy was haunted. Of the seventy five girls in Guerin Academy, only a dozen would say that it wasn’t. Priscilla Carlton prided herself upon saying that. Jessalyn thought Priscilla had lost her brain cell out in the stables. Melody Slatton, while not the smartest girl, was positive the school wasn’t haunted because it wasn’t built upon an Indian Burial Ground. 

Ophelia Waine was easily considered as the leader of the girls, had laughed when she heard that.

“All of America is an Indian Burial Ground,” she said. “The real question is where the skeletons are, not the ghosts.” 

Charlotte Dane, better known as Cherrie, once said accurately of Melody, “That girl can’t play a three note piano piece without looking at the paper but she can read a history book without remembering that it was written by the winners.” Cherrie was a doe-eyed, sulky mouthed girl of 16, with a well developed chest and even better developed mind. She refused to cower or hide, to allow her looks to be all anyone remembered of her. Her red curls were left loose more often than not. Cherrie knew how to play every casino game, how to count cards, and how to chart a graph without a calculator. 

Jessalyn was appropriately terrified of her math skills.

Lucy Quinlan, a brown skinned girl of 16 and lacking the accent of her Australian birthright, had a frightening sort of look about her. Lucy was the daughter of a military man who now ran a security firm. He has taught his youngest daughter how to keep people from getting away with their bullshit, how to walk silently in every shoe possible, and how to hide a knife under a school uniform, all before she was ten. Her gray eyes were sharp as the knife Jessalyn knew to be hidden somewhere on her person at all times and her sleek black hair was braided back from 6:30 in the morning to 11:00 at night—to keep the thick, scapula length mane from tangling too much. She was also the most fervent of believers in the argument for Guerin Kane’s ghost—and corpse—being at the Academy. 

Jessalyn privately thought that Lucy would be the one to find Guerin's skeleton, if only because she hated to be wrong.

She was right.

And the leader of the argument, as well as the girls’ dormitory prefect, was Ophelia Waine. A green eyed Korean girl full of secrets and a bone deep sense of justice fueled by the burning rage of her female ancestors. She had black hair, much like Lucy’s, but longer, and thinner. She was the oldest at 18, and the few years she had on Jessalyn, Cherrie, and Lucy, was obvious at times. She was the calmest of the four, and the most liable to hold them back if a fight were to break out. She embodied the idea of the term ladylike. She was the pride of the Academy. 

Guerin Academy, though fully updated to the 21st century and fully equipped with all the necessary computers and wifi and such things needed for a school, it was a school that prided itself on teaching students things that hadn’t been part of any school, public or private, curriculum since the early 1900’s. The school had the usual classes of English Literature, History, Sciences from Earth to Chemistry to Physics, Art, Calculus, French, Spanish, Chinese, Latin, and Math. But it also taught riding, falconry, embroidery, sewing, and dancing. 

Guerin Academy students prided themselves on their academics, their classical training, and their long history of ladies and gentlemen that preceded each class. They were formal and precise. Every year, each student took the class for housekeeping to learn how to do things like balancing a checkbook, what cleaning supplies should not be mixed, and how to keep everything tidy in case company should appear unceremoniously. 

Jessalyn Corben was the newest student. 15 and the daughter of New Money. Guerin Academy was not unused to New Money boys and girls. Many of its students during the 50’s and 60’s had been New Money. Just as much, however, it had students of Old Money, and the Academy’s faculty was of the opinion that New Money students could be as carelessly elegant and refined as Old Money. She practically worshiped the ground Ophelia walked on. 

Ophelia's gravity was nigh impossible to escape, and that was fine by Jessalyn. Jessalyn was fine being Pluto. Both caught in the orbit and too far for the light or the heat of Ophelia's Sun. She craved to be Mercury, to be Mars. She would even take Neptune at this point.

But alas, she was Pluto, and that likely wouldn't change any time soon.

Now if only they could find Guerin's skeleton before Ophelia's graduation...

October 07, 2021 16:58

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