For what must have been the hundredth time in the last five days, Cordelia Goode wondered how the hell she'd ended up in this position. Well, she didn't really need to wonder. She had been careless, that was how it had happened – that was how she had been caught. She should have made sure that Fiona would be away for the whole day before inviting Mabel over – she should have expected Fiona to completely freak out when she caught Cordelia doing less than Christian things with another girl. That was the worst part about the whole thing – she couldn't blame anyone but herself for what had happened. It was no one's fault but hers that she was being sent away to Miss Robichaux's Academy for Delinquent Young Ladies, an elite boarding school for rich troublemakers.
"Oh, lighten up, won't you, Delia? It's your own fault, after all," Fiona said, looking at Cordelia with that expression – the one that was a mixture of disdainful and patronising. Cordelia hated it.
Cordelia scowled out of the window. She knew she had done the wrong thing – homosexuality was a sin after all – but Fiona was driving her up the wall. She would not stop going on about how much Cordelia had disappointed her – not that that was a change. "Thank you for reminding me yet again, Mother, that it's my fault. I'm well aware of that fact."
Fiona pointed a finger at Cordelia, as if giving her a warning. "Don't give me that attitude, Delia. I'm sure this school will improve your manners – maybe you'll actually act like a proper young lady, as you should."
"Yes, because that's why I'm here," Cordelia said sarcastically. "My bad manners."
"I swear to God, Cordelia…" Fiona hissed.
Cordelia let out a mirthless laugh. "You'll what? Kill me like you killed Daddy?" She couldn't believe her own cheek. Maybe she felt a bit braver at the knowledge she was escaping Fiona's wrath for three whole months – which was the only positive thing she could find about having to attend boarding school. She got to leave Fiona behind.
Fiona grabbed Cordelia's forearm so tightly that Cordelia let out a gasp of pain. "I did not kill your father," Fiona said, her voice soft and dangerous. "He killed himself. I don't want you to mention this again." Her mother's eyes flashed dangerously, and Cordelia felt a spark of fear in her chest.
"Sorry, Mother," Cordelia said quietly, and went back to looking out the car window.
She wasn't happy about being sent away. True, she would be able to escape her mother's critical eye for the year – but she was leaving everyone behind. Her friends, her family… Mabel… When Fiona had found out about her and Mabel's relationship, not even a week ago, she had immediately bought a place for Cordelia at one of the most reputable boarding schools in Mississippi – Miss Robichaux's Academy for Delinquent Young Ladies. It was a young school, but had already made quite the name for itself, according to Fiona. And now Cordelia was going to join whatever weirdos and criminals they had in there. All because she kissed a girl.
Cordelia knew it was a sin, but it didn't make much sense to her. How could falling in love be sinful? What was so bad about loving a girl, instead of loving a boy as she was told she should? Who made those rules, anyway?
"Spalding, Cordelia's luggage," Fiona barked. Poor Spalding struggled out of the expensive rental car with the luggage – and there was a lot of it. The driver got out and helped him with it, and Cordelia watched the two of them struggle towards the front door while she waited for Fiona to apply a fresh coat of lipstick.
Fiona had insisted that they buy all new things for Cordelia – a fresh start, she said. Cordelia didn't want a fresh start. She wanted her old life back, her old clothes, her old books, her old friends. None of her friends would speak to her anymore, not after they found out about Mabel. Even people she hardly knew were calling her a pervert and a whore.
They made their way to the mahogany front doors, and for the first time, Cordelia got a good look at her new school. At her new home. It was perched on top of a hill, and was surrounded by the cypress swamps of Mississippi.
The foyer was sparsely decorated, the walls covered with elaborate portraits and the room itself stuffed with velvet furniture. "They've overdecorated, if you ask me," Fiona sniffed. "Looks very crowded."
No one asked you, Cordelia thought, but she didn't dare say the words aloud.
"Mrs Goode?" came a small voice. Cordelia turned, and caught sight of a small, neatly dressed girl standing in the doorway. "Miss Robichaux told me to bring you to her study. Come this way, if you please."
The girl curtseyed sweetly, and gestured for Cordelia and Fiona to follow her. "Oh, yes, you can just leave your luggage here in the foyer. Someone will be here soon to take your things to your room."
"Thanks," Cordelia said to Spalding and to the driver. She didn't particularly like Spalding – in fact, he gave her the creeps – but he had been around her whole life and it was weird to be saying goodbye, even if it wasn't forever.
The young girl led the two of them up an elaborate winding staircase, and through a long, panelled corridor, which was decorated similarly to the foyer. "Haven't they heard of wallpaper?" Fiona muttered. The girl gave Fiona a disgruntled look, and Cordelia couldn't blame her.
The girl stopped at the very end of the corridor, and gave two sharp knocks on the door. "You may enter," barked a sharp voice from behind the door.
Miss Robichaux was a tall, thin woman, with greying dark hair pulled back into a tight bun, beady little bird's eyes, and a pointed chin. Cordelia disliked her immediately. "Ah. Mrs Goode, what a pleasure to meet you in person." Miss Robichaux rose from her seat, and crossed the room to shake Fiona's hand. She completely ignored Cordelia, who wasn't entirely sure if she was relieved or disappointed about this. "Thank you, Amelia, you are dismissed."
The small girl curtseyed, and glanced at Cordelia curiously once more before exiting the room. Miss Robichaux gestured at two chairs in front of her desk. "Please, take a seat."
They sat, and Miss Robichaux sat behind the desk, clasping her hands neatly and staring at them with those strange eyes of hers, the irises so blue they were almost white. Cordelia picked at her fingernails, increasingly nervous in the company of Miss Robichaux. "At this academy, I pride myself on giving my students the best of care and education. We aspire to teach generations of troubled young ladies the proper ways to behave, as well as giving them the skills to do whatever they wish to do." She rustled through the papers on her desk, and handed Cordelia a sheet of paper, with neat, curly handwriting. "As you can see, we run a very tight ship. This is your timetable."
Cordelia skimmed through the list of classes –
Physical Education (students must choose between ballet or gymnastics)
Music (students must choose between violin, cello, clarinet, piano, or harp)
Cordelia was glad that she had science, at least. She hoped it wouldn't be too boring.
"I like to think of this academy as a machine, Miss Goode," Miss Robichaux said, addressing Cordelia for what must have been the first time since she had entered the room. "It takes many parts – or people – working together smoothly to function properly. If any of the parts are broken – or not abiding by my rules – the whole machine will stop working until the problem is fixed. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Cordelia said. "And you can call me Cordelia."
Miss Robichaux ignored the second part of the sentence, giving Cordelia a steely look. "I expect all my young ladies to be wearing complete school uniform, to be on time for all classes, meals and detentions, and to be organised. Fail to meet any of these requirements and there will be consequences."
"Like what?" Fiona asked, frowning. "Will you hit her? Cane her? I don't think so. I'm the only one who gets to hit my daughter."
Cordelia scowled. Miss Robichaux gave Fiona a very obviously fake smile. "Mrs Goode, by enrolling Cordelia at this academy you are making us her caretakers. This means that we the staff are responsible for her wellbeing, and this includes any disciplinary measures we may be required to take."
Fiona scowled. "I don't want anyone hitting her."
"Mrs Goode, should your daughter behave herself, you will have nothing to worry about."
Cordelia was seething. They were talking about her as though she wasn't even in the room. She hated this place already.
Fiona sighed. "Fine. I suppose, if she deserves it… well, make sure she deserves it, before you hit her. I doubt it will have much benefit, anyway – Lord knows I didn't hit her enough. Maybe if I had, she wouldn't have turned out to be such an utter disappointment."
"I assure you that corporal punishment is only used when necessary," Miss Robichaux said. "We do not go about hitting students willy nilly as they do in some of those horrid public schools."
"I wouldn't know," Fiona said smugly. "I attended private school, myself, and Cordelia's never even set foot in a public school. Lord knows she'd catch some sort of disease."
Miss Robichaux chose to ignore that, which Cordelia though was wise. "Now, were there any questions about Cordelia's treatment?"
Fiona smiled unpleasantly. "No. Do what you must to get all those unnatural urges out of her. I don't want a sapphic daughter."
"I assure you that by the time she's ready to graduate, Cordelia will be a healthy, happy, normal young lady."
Cordelia crossed her arms and kicked at the floor. She didn't see how being normal was such a good thing, if it meant she wasn't allowed to love whoever she wished.
"Thank god for that," said Fiona. "I hope you can do what I failed to do – I hope you can turn her into a girl I can be proud of."
"Mrs Goode, I assure you that I will do everything in my power to help your daughter recover from her affliction," said Miss Robichaux sincerely. "Do you have any other questions?"
"No," said Fiona.
Miss Robichaux looked somewhat relieved. "Excellent. Well, you are free to leave. Term break is in three months – students usually go home for those two weeks, though alternate arrangements can be made if necessary."
"No, she'll be coming home. Give you a break from her, god knows you'll need one." Fiona rose from her seat. Cordelia stayed sitting – she had nothing at all to say to her mother. "Aren't you going to give me a kiss, Delia dear?" Fiona asked, her voice sickly sweet, her eyes full of poison.
Cordelia bit back a sigh, and stood, pressing a quick peck to her mother's cheek. Fiona smiled, and reached across the desk to shake Miss Robichaux's hand. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs Goode," said Miss Robichaux politely.
"You're right about that," Fiona replied. She didn't give Cordelia a second look before exiting the room.
Cordelia was surprised that she was sad to see her mother go. She hated Fiona with every fibre of her being, but at the end of the day, Fiona was still her mother, and Cordelia still wanted her mother to love her. She supposed that somewhere deep down she loved her mother, even if it was only a tiny bit. Or maybe she just didn't want to be left in the care of Miss Robichaux.
"Now. Miss Goode," said Miss Robichaux. "I must warn you that we do not tolerate any rule-breaking. You are always expected to be on your finest behaviour. You are a senior student, correct?"
Cordelia nodded. Somewhere outside, she heard a car starting. "Yes."
"Seniors receive certain privileges that the younger students do not. "Once a month, you are allowed to spend three hours in the village, assuming you haven't received more than two demerits. Seniors are served first at mealtimes, and have an extra half hour before lights out. Additionally, seniors have only one to two roommates, whereas younger students have no less than three. Are there any questions?"
Cordelia, who had barely heard any of what Miss Robichaux said, shook her head. "No. No questions."
"Excellent. Oh, and one more thing. I am aware of your… condition." She eyed Cordelia as if she was the most disgusting creature to ever walk the earth. "If you act on any of your sapphic urges, you will be severely punished. Believe me, you will regret ever going against the rules. Are we clear?"
Cordelia smiled, as politely as she could, not wanting to show Miss Robichaux how she really felt. "Crystal."
"Good. Now, I will show you to your room." Miss Robichaux stood, and gestured for Cordelia to do the same. "After you."
She held the door open, and Cordelia stepped through it. "Thank you."
Miss Robichaux walked fast, barking out rules as they went. Cordelia struggled to keep up with the headmistress and listen to what she was saying at the same time. "Classes begin tomorrow at 7:30am sharp. Lights out for seniors is ordinarily at 10pm, however as it is the first day back, students will receive an extra fifteen minutes to spend as they please."
"Thanks," said Cordelia, not really sure what she was thanking the headmistress for, but saying it anyway.
They walked through the twisting hallways, and Cordelia wondered how on earth she was supposed to find her classes if the whole school was like this. It was like a maze. Cordelia felt very awkward – she had no idea what to say, and Miss Robichaux made no attempt at conversation.
After a few minutes of Cordelia trying to keep up with Miss Robichaux, the headmistress stopped at a door, with 88 printed on it in golden lettering. Miss Robichaux handed her another form.
"Please return your subject selection sheet by the end of the day," she said, before turning on her heel and gliding back down the hallway.
"Where do I-" Cordelia began, but Miss Robichaux had already gone. "Oh." She had been going to ask where she was meant to take the form.
Feeling very lost and alone, Cordelia opened the door to her new bedroom, and stood at the doorway for a moment, taking it all in. It was a small room, but it seemed clean. There were twin beds on either side of the room, and two desks squeezed on either side of a chest of drawers. A small window on the back wall let in the thin sunlight.
Her roommate was nowhere in sight, and Cordelia was glad. She wanted some time to herself to absorb the situation, and to grieve over the life that was no longer hers. She let out a sigh, and stepped into the room. It was quite obvious which bed was hers – the one with linen still folded on top. Her roommate had obviously already unpacked, as her side of the room was already neat and tidy.
Cordelia got to unpacking. She liked how mindless the process was – she didn't have to think about it much. It took her a while to figure out how to make up the bed – at home, they had maids who did it for her. She hoped that no one would laugh at her, for not knowing how to do things.
Overwhelmed with a sudden wave of sadness, Cordelia laid down on the bed. It wasn't very comfortable. Daddy wouldn't have let this happen, she thought. She was sure that her father wouldn't have sent her here. Maybe he wouldn't have even minded that she preferred the company of women. He had been gone for over three years, but not a day went by that Cordelia didn't miss him. She had thought that the grief would be easier to manage as time passed, but it wasn't – and as Fiona's words grew harsher, as she grew angrier, as she went from drinking one bottle of wine a night to two – Cordelia thought the grief only increased. She missed him more and more each day.
She was sure that Fiona had killed him. Why would he have committed suicide? Why would he have left her alone in a house that was too big, with only Fiona for company? And he had seemed so happy with where his life was – Cordelia knew that he wouldn't have killed himself. He wasn't hiding his depression from her, as everyone had told her. She knew it wasn't true. It couldn't be true.
The door swung open, and Cordelia startled, whirling around and letting out an involuntary gasp.
"Oh! Sorry!" said the girl. She had long, straight blonde hair, and a rather anxious face. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"Don't worry about it," Cordelia said, forcing a smile onto her face. She got to her feet, and extended a hand for the girl to shake. "Cordelia Goode."
"Zoe Benson. So, you're my new roommate, huh?" she asked, tilting her head to the side.
Cordelia nodded. "Yep."
"Welcome to hell," Zoe said sarcastically, and let out a laugh at the expression on Cordelia's face. "I'm just joking. It's not that bad here, as long as you follow their rules."
Cordelia nodded, and turned back to her trunk.
"Oh, and you have the bottom two drawers, I hope you don't mind that I already unpacked," Zoe said, and took a seat on her bed, crossing her legs underneath her. Cordelia was glad that she hadn't commented on how messily Cordelia had made up her bed.
"No problem. Thank you," Cordelia said, walking over to the set of drawers. "Hey, um, do you know where I'm meant to take my extra-curricular activities form?"
Zoe nodded. "Yeah, you have to give that to Mr Augustus, the vice-principal. I'll take you to his office later, if you want."
"That would be great," Cordelia said gratefully. She would have struggled to find the right place on her own.
Zoe smiled at her. "What did you choose?"
"Oh, I'm not sure yet," Cordelia said. She had had much more on her mind than which activities she wanted to do. "I'll probably do piano, because I already play, but I'm not sure whether I want to do ballet or gymnastics."
"Gymnastics is way better, trust me. Mrs Mead teaches ballet, and she's the worst. A total psycho," Zoe said, rolling her eyes. "Also, my friends and I all do gymnastics, so you'll have some friends."
"Oh! Okay, cool, I'll just do gymnastics then." Cordelia said. She was somewhat surprised that Zoe was being so friendly – she had expecting everyone to be cold to her, unwelcoming. That was how newcomers were treated at her old school, unless their parents were ultra-rich or ultra-famous. "Thank you."
"It's really no problem," said Zoe, giving Cordelia a friendly smile. "I know how scary it is, starting at a new place. I only came here last year."
Cordelia wasn't sure what else to say, so she crossed the room and picked up the subject selections sheet. She circled piano and gymnastics, and held it up for Zoe to see. "Done."
"Cool. Do you want me to take you to Mr Augustus now?"
"Yes please, I want to get it over and done with."
"Okay, um, let's go then," Zoe said. She gestured for Cordelia to follow her, and they walked out of the room.
Neither of them were quite sure what to say to each other, and they fell into an awkward silence. Stop being such a disappointment, such a nobody. Who's going to want to be your friend? Speak, for heaven's sake! Cordelia cleared her throat, wrinkling her nose. It was as if Fiona had spoken directly into her brain. "So, um, what time did you get here?"
"Well, the younger kids all came back yesterday, and the seniors were meant to be here by nine," said Zoe. "I was a bit late, but nobody noticed, thank goodness, I didn't want to get detention on my first day back."
"They must be pretty strict here."
"Yeah. Very. I'll tell you which teachers to be careful around, but you'll learn by yourself pretty quickly."
"Thanks." Zoe seemed so nice, and Cordelia wondered what on earth she could have done to be sent here. She didn't seem like a delinquent. Although, Cordelia didn't see herself as a delinquent, either. If Zoe's story was anything like Cordelia's, she had probably been sent here for reasons that were mostly out of her control.
"Hey! Misty!" Zoe's shout startled Cordelia, and she looked up to see a tall girl running towards Zoe, a luminous grin on her face, her blonde curls streaming behind her. "Oh, it's so good to see you! Why didn't I see you this morning?"
"Ma slept in, and then my littlest sister Roxy threw a tantrum, and then I couldn't find my damn hairbrush," said Misty, rolling her clear blue eyes. "I ain't gonna get detention, am I?"
Zoe pulled a face. "You're probably going to get detention."
"You'll get the paddle too if you're caught talking like that," Zoe said, laughing.
"Are you gonna introduce me to your friend anytime soon? Or are you just gonna let me wonder?" Misty asked, giving Cordelia a friendly grin. Cordelia felt a flutter as light as a butterfly's wing in her chest – oh no, she thought. Not this again.
"Oh! Yes, sorry. Misty, this is Cordelia Goode, my new roommate," Zoe said. "Cordelia, this is Misty Day, one of my best friends."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Cordelia said, hoping her voice hadn't gone high-pitched.
"Likewise," said Misty, offering her hand for Cordelia to shake. Misty's grip was strong, and her hands were calloused. Cordelia was a bit disappointed when Misty let go, because her hands were as warm as Cordelia's were cold.
"I'm just taking Cordelia to Mr Augustus' office," Zoe said. "She has to give him her subject submission sheet."
"Oh, what did ya pick?" Misty asked sounding genuinely interested.
"Um, piano and gymnastics."
Misty smiled. "Cool! I'm in gymnastics too. It's alright… I spose' I only like is cos my friends are there with me."
"Do you want to come with us?" Zoe asked. "To see Mr Augustus, that is."
Misty shook her head, looking at Cordelia, even though it had been Zoe who had talked to her. Cordelia wished Misty would look away, because her gaze was making Cordelia's face heat up. "Naw, I can't," she said, sounding genuinely disappointed. "I gotta go unpack before dinner. See you there, okay?"
Zoe shrugged. "Okay."
"Will you be there?" Misty asked, still looking at Cordelia.
"Yes," Cordelia said quietly – damn it! Her voice had gone weird.
"Awesome." Misty gave them both a two-fingered salute, before strolling the opposite way, humming.
"She's nice," Cordelia said.
"Yeah, Misty's great. Mr Augustus' office is just round here… he's the vice principal, and he's okay I guess? Better than Miss Robichaux, anyway," Zoe said. "Did you know that this building used to be a manor house? They say it's haunted. It was…"
Cordelia didn't hear anything else Zoe said the whole way to Mr Augustus' office. She was too busy thinking about Misty – Cordelia was sure she had never seen eyes so blue, hair so gold.
Maybe boarding school wouldn't be so bad, after all.
What the hell am I thinking, starting another WIP? Ah well.
I hope you liked this, and I really hope you'll come back for the next chapter, which is still under construction.
Have a great day/night!