Zara stared out the window of the bus, trying to make the best of the situation by enjoying the scenery.
The bus stopped in front of the gates.
"Alright you bunch of brats," the bus driver said as he stood. "Welcome to the next 9 months of your lives. Hopefully this place'll straighten you all out where your parents apparently failed. So, get off, and good luck."
The kids all looked at each other with confusion as they grabbed their bags and got off. They walked through the gates to the front entrance. Zara looked around at the grounds.
Trees, grass, kids in the same uniform as her. The other students watched as the new ones made their way to the entrance. Some whispered to each other. Some pointed and quietly laughed. Others just stared.
"Welcome to Mountainview Boarding School." Two women in their 50's or 60's stood with a man about the same age. "I am Mrs. Maguire, the President. This is Mrs. O'Dargan, our Secretary. And Mr. Murray, our Vice President."
Mrs. Maguire was wearing a dark purple suit with a matching tie. Her pointed boots were black and shiny. Her ash blonde hair was tied back in a tight bun. Her coal black eyes and facial features made her look a bit like a crow.
Mrs. O'Dargan had round, silver eyes that made her look the opposite of Mrs. Maguire. Kind. Her honey blonde hair was cut short to her chin. She had a dark, olive green, suit jacket and pencil skirt, also with a matching tie.
Mr. Murray had a pure blue suit with a polka dot tie, making him look like a bit like a clown. His buzz cut, champagne blonde hair gave him more of an army look though. He had porcelain skin and monolid eyes that added to the clown look.
"You should each have your papers with your dorm assignments. We'll let you get settled in, your roommate will give you a tour and tomorrow morning you'll get a run down of how things work here. We can't wait to see you through your time here. Come on in and good luck." The three of them moved aside as the students made their way in.
Zara looked around the massive school as her and the other students followed the advisor to the dorms. Everything was marble, gold, silver and bronze. But the only thing that even looked real was the marble. Surely the other colors were just paint or something.
"Alright, girls, go up the next flight, boys, this is your floor." the advisor said and let the students split. Zara went up with the other girls.
She looked at her papers. Room 42. She looked at each door number, finally finding hers about halfway down the hall. There was a fancy, gold leafed plaque with her name and another girls name engraved on it. Rose Darcy. Zara prayed her roommate wasn't a bitch.
She opened the door and went in, closing the door behind her. The whole room was covered in fairy lights. A giant Irish flag and various band and movie posters covered Rose's side of the room. Rose herself was sitting at a desk, scribbling something in a notebook, with headphones in, rocking out to whatever was blasting through them.
Zara set her bags down on what was now her bed, then went and tapped Rose on the shoulder. Rose jumped and turned. "Oh hey! You must be Zara!" she shouted. Zara carefully took Rose's headphones off and set them on the desk. "Oh, sorry." Rose giggled.
Rose had on the same maroon and olive green uniform as Zara, except she had the short, knee length skirt, whereas Zara had opted for the pants. Her top couple buttons were undone and her tie was loosened. She had warm ivory skin that made her ebony colored eyes seem a bit darker than they really were. Her light gold hair had pink and green highlights.
"You must be Zara. I'm Rose." Zara shook her hand. "Nice to meet you." "Want any help unpacking?" "No, that's okay." "Alright. Well go ahead and take a few minutes and we can start the tour." "Okay."
Zara went over and began unpacking her few bags. Rose plopped onto her own bed. "So you're American?" Rose asked. "Mmhm. Irish?" "Yup!" Rose's accent (and flag) was a dead giveaway. So was hers though. "What part?" "Um, originally Oregon. My mom got remarried and they moved to New York." "Wow. You sound more like..southern, though." "My mom is originally from Georgia, so I kinda developed her accent." "Ohhh, gotcha. Y'know, I think you're the first American I've seen since coming here." "Really? How long have you been here?" "A couple months. Were there any others on the bus?" Zara thought about it. "No, actually." "Cool. Only American. Well, welcome to Ireland my friend. So what're ya in for? How did an American get sent here?" "Mom's husband doesn't like me. Thinks I'm a trouble maker. He travels the world so that's how he knew about this place. He told Mom that it was some magnificent learning abroad opportunity. I didn't want to live in the city anyway so I didn't fight it much."
"Damn. That sucks, I'm sorry." "Eh, it's whatever. Life goes on. What about you?" "Got caught with boys one too many times. Parents are uptight little pricks. But they do love me, so I shouldn't complain too much." They both laughed.
"So this, as you already know, is the girls hall. The floor below is the boys hall. There's two lounge rooms on each floor. We can peak into the one closer to us." The two girls made their way down the hall to the lounge room.
It wasn't huge, but it wasn't small either. There was a t.v. with a couple game consoles and a dvd player. There was a stereo, a huge window with a comfy looking window seat. One wall was a small kitchen area with cupboards, a fridge, two stove burners, an oven, a microwave and a sink.
"We can keep food here?" "Yup. Not a lot, but it's mostly just snack type things because we're all on a meal plan. We only get to go into town once a week, so you can share mine until then." "Thanks. But, where do you get money from? It's not like we can get jobs." "Either their parents have to send them money or they get a job here on school grounds. I do both. My parents send me a bit, but they still want me to work so it's not a lot." "Ah." "They'll tell ya all about it tomorrow. C'mon. Let's take a look at your schedule so we can find your classrooms."
Zara was beginning to wonder why her step-dad made this place out to be so bad. So far it seemed like a pretty sweet gig. Aside from not getting a lot of contact with the outside world.
"Think you got it?" Rose asked. "Yea, shouldn't be that bad." "Sweet. Do you want to go back to the room? Or we can go explore outside?" "I'm down for exploring." "Great!"
They went out a door at the end of the hall that opened to a large patio. There were chairs, tables and benches. Umbrellas attached to the tables, but they were all closed. Probably because it was only April, so it wasn't very hot out.
There were large trees out on the lawn. She could smell the saltwater from the coast nearby, but couldn't see it. "Rose!" a boy from over on the lawn called. "Hey Aidan!" Rose turned to Zara. "C'mon. Come meet my friends." Rose and Zara walked over to a group of kids that were sitting underneath a tree.
They sat with them. "Guys, this is Zara. Zara this is Aidan, Jayden, Gabby, Rory, Ella and Zane." They all said hello. "Get this, Zara's American." Rose said, like it was some big secret. "What?" "No way!" "Good luck man." "Why is it so weird that I'm from America?" Zara asked. "Hey! You've got a bit of that southern accent! I love it." Rory exclaimed.
"I told you, you're the only American here. Zane's been here the longest. Has there ever been when here since you've been here?" Rose asked.
"No, not a one." Zane said.
"Where's Niall?" Aidan asked to no one in particular.
"Showing his roommate around still. He said he'd meet up with us tonight when we go down to the coast." Gabby said.
"You're coming, right Zara?" Jayden asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Rose, ya didn't ask her yet?" Ella said.
"I forgot, excuse me!" she laughed. "Every other month, when we get a group of freshies in, we have a welcoming party down on the beach. The adults don't know about it though. We're actually not allowed to go down there. You wanna go?"
"Sure. How do you guys not get caught? That's gotta be kinda noticeable. A massive group of kids going through the yard." "Everyone's assigned a time to leave their rooms. So we leave in 15 minute gaps." Zane explained. "The Headmasters and professors leave after dinner and it's just security guards. They check each room once, then just walk the grounds outside."
"Slipping past them outside can be a bit tricky sometimes. But only one room has been caught in the past 9 months." Aidan said. "What happened to them?" Zara asked. They all looked at each other. "What?"
"It was a couple boys. One came to class the next day with a ton of bruises. The other was out for a week and came back with his arm in a sling." Jayden said quietly.
Zara's stomach dropped. "Wh-what happened? Did the security guards beat them?"
Jayden shrugged. "Not sure. When we asked, they said they were sent to the library to clean as their punishment and a bookcase fell on them."
"Do you believe that?"
"Not really. But they were going home the next month and didn't really want to talk about it."
"So you guys still go?"
"Well what are we supposed to do? Live our lives in fear? They can't control us, no matter how hard they try. If those boys did get beat, that was totally messed up. And it was obviously a warning to not break the rules. But what do you expect when you get a bunch of troublemakers together. If we let them control our every move, we lose our humanity." Gabby said.
Damn. This was already an intense first day and she hadn't even started classes yet.
After dinner, Rose was telling Zara what to bring to the coast.
"A towel, a brush if you want, I'm gonna go grab some of the snacks in the lounge, and I would wear your swimsuit under some warmer clothes."
"Won't the water be freezing?!"
"Yea, but that just adds to the fun." Rose said and went to fetch her treats.
Zara shook her head. These people were crazy.
Zara put her swimsuit on and slipped on jeans, a t-shirt, hoodie and cowgirl boots over it. She re-did her ponytail and threw a few things in a bag. Rose came back in and quickly changed.
An alarm went off on Rose's phone.
"Ready?" Rose asked.
"I think so."
"Great. Let's go."
They peeked out the door and quietly closed it behind them. Zara started to go for the stairs, but Rose stopped her. "Fire exit. Less chance of getting caught." she whispered and pointed down the other end of the hall. Zara followed her to a door that said In Case Of Emergency Only. They went down the stairwell that opened out to the lawn. Rose checked for guards before waving for Zara to follow.
They ran across the lawn to the fence that marked the perimeter of the grounds. Rose climbed over the wood fence, then Zara. "Hold onto me until we're far enough we can use our flashlights." Rose whispered, taking Zara's hand and placing it on the little handle of Rose's backpack.
Zara blindly followed her roommate into the woods. The small amount of moonlight came through the trees just enough that she could see they were definitely on a trail.
It was only a couple minutes when Rose stopped. "Okay, pull your light out." Zara looked back. The trees had completely covered the school. The girls turned their lights on and followed the trail.
Zara could see the edge of the cliffs and hear the waves crashing below. Soon enough, they could hear other kids down on the beach and see the glow of a few fires. They followed the trail downhill and out onto the coast.
"Hey! You guys made it!" Aidan said, coming toward them. He took Rose's chin in his fingers and pecked her lips. Zara was a little stunned. "Y-You guys are together?" she asked. The couple laughed. "Relationships aren't allowed at the school. Doesn't mean they don't happen." Rose giggled. "C'mon. Most of us are over here." Aidan said. Zara followed the two as they wrapped an arm around each other. The group of kids she had met earlier was surrounding one of the fires.
"Hey! Don't start the party without me!" A new voice called from behind Zara. They all turned. "Niall! You made it!" Jayden exclaimed. He hugged the new kid as he joined them.
"Where's your new roommate?"
"He's a pretty shy kid. As soon as I said we had to sneak past the guards, he was out." They all laughed.
"Zara, this is Niall. Niall, Zara. She's American and she came to the party. My roommate's cooler than yours, haha!" Rose teased, hanging on Zara's shoulders. Everyone laughed.
"American, huh? I've been there a few times. Where at?" "Oregon." Zara said.
"Woah. Definitely not what your accent says."
"That would be thanks to my mom."
"Okay, I see."
Zara kept glancing at Niall. Obviously Irish like Rose. He had big blue eyes that stood out in the firelight. His brown hair was just long enough that his natural curls came through. Anytime he talked to her through the night, she felt very.....comfortable with him. It wasn't awkward or hard to carry a conversation.
They all eventually sat down and they ended up getting pushed together a bit close. They just leaned their shoulders against each other. It was almost just a natural reaction. She didn't mind and he didn't seem to either.
Niall watched Zara as she talked to Rose about the area. Her dark red hair fell out of her ponytail in soft curls, framing her pale, freckled face. The firelight made her green eyes appear to be glowing.
"Earth to Niall." Jayden's hand waved in front of his face. "What?" Niall looked at his best friend.
Jayden's amber eyes had that mischievous look in them again. "Which freshie ya gonna throw in the water?" he asked.
"What makes ya say that?"
"You've been starin' at her all night mate."
"Whatever you say."
Jayden stood. "Alright everyone. I think it's time to start with the night's activity!" he announced.
Everyone on the beach stood, getting excited as they took their clothes off that were over their swimsuits.
"What is he talking about?" Zara asked Rose. "You'll see. You better start taking your clothes off." Zara quickly did so.
"Right then. Grab your freshie. If you haven't got one, grab the idiot next to you."
Zara stiffened when Niall grabbed her hand and pulled her close. Jayden grabbed Gabby and ran for the ocean.
"Jayden Mullen, put me down this instant!" she screamed.
Jayden just laughed as he jumped into the freezing cold water with her.
Everyone cheered and laughed as they came up spluttering. Then the crowd ran in with their friends and roommates.
"Oh hell no." Zara said.
"Ready?" Niall asked.
"No no no. You are not-"
"Don't worry, I won't let ya go." he whispered in her ear as he pushed her toward the water's edge.
They got knee deep in the water, both of them squealing from the cold. Niall wrapped his arms around her tight.
"Plug your nose!" She did so as a wave came crashing down on them, knocking them over.
They shot up, coughing up water.
"See? It wasn't that bad." Niall laughed.
"You little-" Zara dived for him as another wave came crashing onto the group of kids.
Niall kept his promise. He never let go of her. Whether he had his arms around her or he held onto her hand, he didn't let her go. It became apparent why when she looked around at the other kids. Students were grabbing each other at random, throwing them in, attempting to kiss them, or running off with them into the woods to do who knows what. It was sweet.
"Okay, I can't feel my toes. I think I'm done." Niall laughed, wiping his face and combing his hair back.
"Agreed." Zara laughed.
They went back to the shore and dried off. They wrapped their towels around themselves. Zara pulled a blanket out of her bag and laid it out in front of the fire.
"Aw man, I knew I forgot somethin'." Niall said.
"We can share mine. I don't mind." she said.
They got close and sat down on the soft blanket. The warmth of the fire was wonderful. Zara started violently shivering, regardless of the heat.
"You alright?" Niall asked.
"Yea, I just take forever to warm up."
"C'mere. Body heat is the best thing I've learned." He opened up his towel. Zara scooted over so he could put his arms around her, pulling her close.
Now both teens were blushing a bit. How strange it was that it felt so natural to be so close to someone they had just met.