Headmaster Raughlin looked at the report from the latest FICAT assessment. He was impressed with only two students in the entire sample, one being the student they’d searched for and finally found. The other an added bonus. He still didn’t understand how she’d been lost for so long. Of course, with with the test administered in so few. Schools, he was amazed they’d found her at all. At least they had finally found her, and her brother, who they didn’t even know existed prior to this.
“Let’s prepare a visit to Alaska. We need to bring this young lady to Oakmont,” he said, his eyes on his lead handler of new recruits. “While we are there, maybe we’ll get a look at the boy. We need to be ready to recruit him, maybe next year.”
“She shows a lot of potential, if this new test is accurate,” Emily Trulin said, looking up at him.
“It is.” He smiled at her.
“It’s always intrigued me that a standardized test could find children with the unique abilities we’re after.” He laughed inwardly at her ignorance. She didn’t understand that the test didn’t find them. It only confirmed what they already knew, or suspected. She wasn’t ready to know that, though.
“Do you want me to start the background check,” she asked, after she had stared at her boss and default father for a moment.
“No, we should have found her several years ago. She’s behind schedule and needs to begin training. It’ll be alright, this time. Anyway, the child is in Alaska. Her parents should jump at the opportunity to send her to a top tier school in a civilized place.” The thoughtful expression he wore let her know he was concerned. She didn’t know why.
“I’m not sure how to compare this with the old test, but it looks like she may be one of the strongest we’ve ever seen,” Emily said, looking at the girl’s results.
“Yes it does, which is why we need to get her in the program quickly. Her scores suggest she may be even stronger than you, my dear Emily. Maybe even the Draper girl. Can you handle that?” Headmaster Raughlin waited for her reply with a fatherly smile.
“If we find a stronger student than me, then we need to train her to her full potential.”
Smiling, he told her, “I love your devotion to the program.
“You could’ve sent me into the field, like most of the other new agents, but you didn’t. I’ll do my job to the best of my ability, Headmaster,” she said, lifted her eyes from the page, and looked at him.
“Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. You have always been my favorite, and I doubt that will ever change,” he said, still smiling at her.
“Have you considered the intelligence shown in the test? Not only might she be strong, she may be incredibly intelligent. That’s a combination we could make use of,” Emily suggested, very intrigued by the girl’s other scores.
He seemed to consider that for a moment and then said, “She should fit somewhere in the classes we offer, even if we have to put her in with the high school students. We’ll see what potential she has as she matures and adjust as needed. She’s already older than she should be for entering the program, which is why we’re going to forgo the normal protocols.” He paused, seeming to be lost in thought and had an almost irritated look on his face. “We need to get in the air within the hour. Have Mrs. Thornton call the airstrip to get the plane ready. I’ll see you there in 30 minutes,” he said, suddenly coming back to life, and having replaced the irritation with a smile.
With the not so subtle dismissal, Emily nodded respectfully and headed for the door of his office. She gave the instructions to Mrs. Thornton to call the airstrip, but worried about the girl’s apparently very high intelligence and the lack of a background check. One slip could hurt the program they had spent years building. Of course, she hadn’t helped build it. She herself was a former student of the program.
She walked down the hall to her office, where she went down a path she had never travelled before. Going against the instructions of her superior, she’d ordered the background check. The results wouldn’t come until well after the girl arrived, making them almost moot, but she needed to be certain. She had an uncomfortable feeling about this girl for some reason. Maybe it was just from not following the established rules, but it was there and she couldn’t shake it. Her intuition was seldom wrong, which was what worried her.
If all went well, she’d have the results within the week. Should there be anything unusual in the girl’s background, she thought they might have a chance to salvage the situation before it could hurt them. The Oakmont program had survived several other near fatal discoveries,thus the extensive background checks, so she really wasn’t worried...much.
When The Headmaster discovered her disobedience she’d be properly reprimanded when the time came. If that were the case, she’d welcome the punishment.
“Mel, Momma said to get up,” I heard the bane of my existence yell, which shattered my wonderful sleep. My little brother seemed to know just the right way to send a shiver up my spine, and I hated it when he called me Mel.
He was a red headed imp. Momma said he was average size for a six year old boy, but I thought he was small, like an imp. His hair was fiery red, and he had green and gold eyes that could pierce through lead. What was most notable about him though, was that he did everything in his power to torment me.
Trying to shake off the last bits of sleep, I stretched for a long time. It was amazing how good it felt to simply stretch. What was it in the muscles that caused that feeling? Studying that might be put on my to do list.
As I finally pulled myself out of bed, my feet sunk into the nice thick carpet of my bedroom floor. I always enjoyed the feel of it between my toes. I walked over and shoved the bedroom door closed with my foot, not wanting to walk the entire way. Even though it really was more efficient, everyone else would call me lazy. With no real thought into my clothing choice, I threw on a pair of jeans and my T-shirt from AHG summer camp.
American Heritage Girls was the one bright spot in all the dark years since the voices began. The girls in the troop didn’t know about the voices and although I didn’t exactly fit in, they always tried to include me. They actually wanted me to be a part of the group, regardless of what we were doing and how weird I was. I wouldn’t say I had friends there, but at least they were nice to me.
Actually, Faith could almost be a friend. She was a bit odd herself, so we kind of got along in an oddball sort of way. And we shared a name, even if I didn’t go by it, mine being Melanie Faith, her’s being Faith something else.
Ever since I started hearing the voices, no one got close to me. It was as if I had some kind of aura that repulsed everyone, like a people repulsion field, or something. The kids at school all thought I was crazy, or a monster, which I suppose I could be. No one else seemed to be able to hear people’s thoughts, but I could and some of them remembered me from first grade, when it all began. My isolation did allow me to concentrate on school better and I loved to be the best in school. At least it had since I learned to turn the voices off. Before that, I couldn’t concentrate because of the constant noise of everyone else’s mind hammering me all the time.
Yeah, my isolation really did have some benefits, even though I was lonely and I knew it. But thanks to that, I knew I did better than anyone else on the government test that we took last week and I couldn’t wait to see the results, especially the student comparisons. I just knew I’d be in the top 99%, but I always was.
Momma and Daddy were worried about the test, since the federal government had never given a test at a local school before. “The federal government has no right to interfere with local education,” they said, fussing about the government meddling in local affairs. The way the Constitution’s written, I supposed they were right, but I still liked taking the test.
Mrs. Ivers, our principal, told them it was just a request by the government and wasn’t required and wouldn’t be used for anything by the school district. According to Mrs. Ivers, it was voluntary and the school district agreed to it but only in a handful of schools, and ours was one of them. Momma and Daddy could have opted out, but since I begged so much, they let me take it.
Grabbing the hair brush from my vanity, I sat down and began the horrible task of detangling the rat’s nests that was my hair. Why did I have to have such difficult hair, when other girls could easily pull a brush through theirs with no problem?
After much longer than I liked, I finished with the onerous task of my hair. Aside from being unruly, it was a horrible color too. Who wanted almost white hair? Of course, it might have been better if it was white, but no, it had that little bit of red in it, which made it look pink. Momma said it was strawberry blonde, but I knew pink when I saw it, and so did all of the kids at school. Back when kids talked to me, they would call me towhead, or pinky. I kind of wished I could go back to those days, sometimes. The principal of the school then was really nice to me. I kind of remembered her, but she left right after Momma and Daddy took me out of school.
Of course, that was followed by the boarding school, All Saints Academy. I learned a lot there, but that place still creeped me out when I thought about it. I still had dreams, or maybe nightmares, from it sometimes. They involved Mr. Radnick rubbing me all over, the way he did. My shrink had convinced me it was bad, and just thinking about it gave me the shivers. Mr. Radnick really was nice to me, and I loved him, I guess, but I could never forget that he did some really bad things to some kids, even if he didn’t do it to many of the kids. My therapy sessions were a lasting legacy of my time there, and in spite of it, I still missed him. I shook it off and continued my morning routine.
Smelling the bacon cooking, I applied the little bit of makeup Momma would let me use. Daddy still teased me about it, since he thought his baby girl shouldn’t grow up and need makeup.
I looked in the mirror at myself, knowing I wasn’t a pretty girl, regardless of what Momma and Daddy said. They were biased. My face looked too childish, with my big wide set eyes and my wide cheekbones which made me look like I was always smiling. I didn’t smile!
Then there were my eyes. My lashes were too long, which made me look even more childish, even though Momma said that women loved long lashes. My eyes were blue, but had flecks of pink and purple, especially around the pupil, where they were almost a deep violet. They almost glowed with how blue they were away from the pupil and kind of looked like they were made of crystal. I looked like some kind of alien, and not a pretty one.
Then there was my hair...again. It was below my shoulder blades and totally straight, with no body in it, at all. And of course, there was the horrible color. Who’d ever heard of pink hair, which matched the pink in my eyes? Maybe I should’ve cut it and dyed it. Of course, Momma would say how pretty it was and I shouldn’t mess up a good thing. Oh well, I guess I’d have to live with it a little longer.
Putting my hair in a quick ponytail, I took only a minute or two to apply my makeup. I then ran down the hall to the kitchen, where I grabbed a plate and began piling the bacon on, along with some scrambled eggs. Knowing that I would get fussed at if I didn’t, I grabbed a pancake as well. I would’ve been perfectly happy with only the bacon and eggs.
“Wait for us to say grace, Mel,” Daddy said, as I was about to cram the first piece of wonderful bacon in my mouth. Daddy also still used that dreaded nickname from my toddler days.
Putting the piece of bacon back on my plate, I wiped a little butter on the pancake and poured a very small amount of syrup on top of it all. As usual, I felt sick watching my little brother pour most of the bottle on his pancakes. I never understood how he could stomach so much syrup.
Momma finally came to the table, bringing the bacon platter with some freshly added bacon on it. I considered getting some more, but knew I’d get fussed at, so I held back. Once Momma was settled, Daddy began the blessing over the meal.
I said amen a little before he was finished and was already chewing a piece of bacon when he opened his eyes. “Mel, you need to slow down. I promise it isn’t going to run away,” Momma said, but with a smile. I wished everyone would start using my real name, rather than that childish nickname. Maybe I could have gotten away from it if I started using my middle name. I knew better though. Even if Momma and Daddy agreed, Ben would still call me Mel, just to irritate me. A little brother’s only purpose in life was to torment older sisters, and I had the best tormentor of them all.
Having decided against more bacon, so I could get to school as early as possible, I finished what I had on my plate. I then gulped down the glass of orange juice without taking a breath. “I tried. She’s your daughter,” Momma said to Daddy, with a sigh.
“She’ll grow out of it when she gets a little older. If not, then I don’t have to worry about dating,” Daddy replied, smiling.
“Daddy,” I gasped. A momentary image of Gary...no, Mr. Radnick...came to me, but I quickly pushed it away.
“What? I’m OK with that,” he replied, putting on his innocent face.
“When the time comes, I’ll find the right boy and he’ll like me as I am. I eat just fine,” I said. I couldn’t believe Daddy sometimes. I closed my eyes, images of Gary parading through my mind. The therapy definitely wasn’t helping.
“Yeah, for a boy,” Momma said, almost under her breath, but not quite. I looked over at Momma with a fake hurt expression and decided to really pile on the acting with some fake crying. “Oh, my baby. Look, she’s hurt. Let’s put her to bed,” Momma said, with a fake worried expression.
As Momma said that, I looked over at the clock and realized that I needed to run, dispelling any further thoughts of Gary. I ran to the sink and rinsed my hands, cleaning the tiny spot of syrup off of my right palm. Yet another reason I didn’t like pancakes...they’re messy. As fast as I could, I ran to the mud room and grabbed my backpack, slinging it over my right shoulder.
“Why are you in such a rush to get to school today? You normally take your time. Anyway, you’re forgetting something,” Momma said, as I was about to open the door.
Realizing what she was talking about, I ran over and kissed her on the cheek. I knew he was also waiting, so I ran to Daddy to kiss him on the cheek, but he grabbed me and pulled me into a tickling hug. I couldn’t help but squeal for a minute while he got a quick tickle in, and then he kissed me lightly on the cheek. “I love you princess. Have a good day at school.”
“I love you too, Daddy. See you later,” I replied, as I was running out the door. I avoided replying to the suggestion about the day. I never replied to that.
I ran the entire two blocks to school, and arrived early enough to go visit Mrs. Chambers in the office. I waited impatiently, bobbing on the balls of my feet. She’s the one person I remembered from first grade who was still here, besides the kids. Of course, many of them were gone too, since we had a lot of military people in our community and they were transferred out every couple of years.
Mrs. Chambers, sitting on the other side of the desk, continued typing on her keyboard, typing very slowly. She pressed one key, pause, another key, and so on. “Good morning Melanie. What can I help you with this morning,” Mrs. Chambers finally asked, with a big, teasing smile.
“Are they in yet?” I blurted out, not able to contain myself any longer.
“Is what in?” she asked, with a look of confusion. Knowing Mrs. Chambers was playing with me, I put on an indignant face and sighed.
“You know what. How did I do?”
“You know I’m not allowed to tell you, even if I knew, which I don’t. The scores will be sent home with you this afternoon. Now run on to your class before you’re late. Oh my, but you’re early. Well, run on anyway. Maybe Mrs. Hartman has something you could do to stay occupied.”
I mumbled a quick thank you and darted down the hall, barely hearing Mrs. Chambers as she yelled, “and don’t run.” I was never the first kid to class, since I hated the insults, although I knew they were probably true.
When I arrived, I was very grateful that Mrs. Hartman was already there and working on some papers. “May I help you Mrs. Hartman,” I asked, shuffling my feet to try and not startle her.
“Oh, it’s you Melanie. Good morning. No, I’m just working on grades,” she said with a start, despite my effort. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t help but I decided that there were other things I could do.
“Can I work on the computer, then.”
“I suppose so. When everyone arrives, you’ll need to get off until it’s time for your self-directed studies,” she replied, looking up at me for a moment.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hartman,” I told her, rising slightly on the balls of my feet.
“One day, you’ll smile at me,” she said, trying her usual game. It never worked, but she always tried.
Sitting at the computer, I went to the math website I found the day before. It had some guy’s thesis paper, but I didn’t understand why it was called a paper, being that it was a website. The guy that wrote it was very smart and I was having trouble understanding some of it. I hoped I could figure it out today using the extra time I had to work on it. I pulled out my journal, which I got just for this, along with a pencil, and began working out some of the calculations he had in his ‘paper’. Although I never showed my work on tests, I was writing out all of my work on this. It was too complicated not to.
This day drug for me, anticipating getting the test results. I knew the test wasn’t used for anything, but I still wanted to see how good I did. Finally, at fifteen minutes before the bell, Mrs. Hartman finished assigning homework. She never assigned me homework, which was another thing the kids held against me.
“Alright class. We’ve been given the results of the F-I-C-A-T test you took last week,” she told us, holding a stack of envelopes in her hand.
As she said that, Bobby in the back of the class raised his hand. “Yes Bobby?”
“What is a FICAT,” Bobby asked. I never understood why he couldn’t remember anything. We all knew what it was, since a lot of the kids were worried about failing it. You couldn’t fail this kind of test, though.
“It is the test you took last week. Now class, be quiet while I hand these out.” She then handed an envelope to every student with their name written on it. “The teachers do not know the results and neither does the school district, other than on a compiled score. This was for the federal government to rate the intelligence of students at this grade level. It cannot be used by us to change what you are learning or what class you are in. Take it home for your parents to open and see what it says. See you tomorrow,” she said, as she handed the last envelope out.
When the bell finally rang, I was out of my seat in a flash, headed out the side exit. Once I was off school property, I slowed down so I could open the envelope. Luckily, I beat all of the other kids away, so I wouldn’t have to listen to them and their teasing. I carefully slid my finger under the front flap of the envelope, careful not to rip the paper.
As I lifted the flap, I saw the folded piece of paper inside and slid it out. I looked at it, but it didn’t mean anything. There were a series of numbers listed under different headings, but the numbers were very big. The categories were also weird, with no explanation as to what they were. This was a total let down. Usually, these kinds of tests had percentages compared to other students. That’s what I wanted to see. There wasn’t even an explanation as to what the numbers meant.
As I was studying it, my world suddenly filled with pain and I almost blacked out as the air in my lungs went away in a sudden jolt. I laid on the ground, struggling to get air.
“What’s wrong, little monster? You should have known that was coming, since you can read my mind”, I heard, as I began to get my breathing under control.
When I looked up, I saw Jamie standing over me. He had always been the meanest of the kids, even back in first grade. I wished he was from a military family and had been shipped out, but that wasn’t my luck.
Before I could say anything, not that I would, or even get up, he punched me in the face. I felt and tasted blood in my mouth, and a lot of it.
“You will cry if I have to beat it out of you, Pinky.” I just laid there, not saying a word. He then picked me up, balling my shirt in his fist as he did.
Once I was standing up again, he punched me in the stomach several times and then in the face, several more times. I prayed that I could take his punishment, because it really did hurt. But I wouldn’t let myself cry.
“Jamie, get away from her”, I heard someone say. Looking over, I saw his mother. I’d seen her before, but didn’t really know her. She’d stopped him from beating me up too bad in the past, but it never seemed like she punished him for hurting me.
As they left, I picked my test results back up, stuffing them back in the envelope, and continued my walk home. I hated my hair. Why did I have to have pink hair? Sure, it wasn’t really pink, but it sure looked it a lot of the time, and I hated it. I walked home with visions of getting the clippers and shaving it all off. That would fix the problem, at least until it grew back.
The walk was rather short, but it seemed to take longer than normal, my mouth bleeding and my face and stomach hurting pretty bad. When I got home I went straight to the kitchen planning to get a snack, and maybe some ice for my face. Thoughts of the clippers were still going through my mind, as well.
However, I came to an abrupt halt when I saw Momma and Daddy sitting at the table with an older man and a kind of young looking woman. The man had grey hair and looked like someone’s grandfather, but he also kind of looked like one of those smug politicians or lawyers. He was kind of a mashing together of the two. The woman was much younger, even younger than Mrs. Hartman.
Realizing this was grown up talk, I decided to go to my room and wait to get a snack. Not only that, I needed to clean myself up in the bathroom. Regardless, I knew better than to interrupt them while they were talking.
“Melanie, come sit down please,” Momma said, as I was trying to sneak back out.
“Yes, ma’am.” I grabbed the guest chair, and pulled it up to the table beside Daddy. Momma and Daddy were looking at me as I sat, probably trying to decide why I was acting weird. But I always acted weird.
“Would you tell us what happened”, Daddy asked, surprising me.
“Nothing, why”, I asked, in response.
“Because, your face is a little swollen and you’re a little scuffed.”
“I’m alright, Daddy”, I replied. I didn’t want them to worry about something they couldn’t do anything about, and not only that, we had guests. Momma and Daddy looked at each other for a moment, but didn’t push any more.
“So this is Melanie Brager. It is a real pleasure to meet you,” the older man said, as if the discussion with Daddy hadn’t happened.
Knowing what was expected and courteous, I stood and shook his hand. “A pleasure to meet you sir.”
“Such good manners. I am Headmaster Raughlin and this is Mrs. Trulin, the head of new student orientation. We are from Oakmont Preparatory School,” he said, giving a small, pleasant laugh.
As his words finished, it was as if my mind just stopped working. Sweat broke out all over me, and images of Mr. Radnick started running through my mind. I could almost feel him gently caressing me. His hand under my skirt, gently rubbing up and down on the top of my leg, a little above the bottom of my skirt. With a lot of effort, and Daddy’s hand gently rubbing my back, I forced myself back to the real world, pushing the memories back in my mind.
The woman extended her hand to shake mine, just like the Headmaster. When I grabbed her hand a sharp pain shot through my head and I almost collapsed. The initial jolt went away within a second, but there was a lingering feeling for a little while after. The memory of it was kind of like an after image when you looked at a bright light,or maybe saw lightning really close.
Getting my thoughts back, I had never heard of Oakmont Preparatory School and didn’t know what I was supposed to say. Silence was probably better, so I sat down and just looked up at him. The old man then widened his smile a little. “I’m sorry. You probably don’t know of our school. Oakmont is a special school only for students that have certain gifts and we think you might be one of the most gifted children in the country.”
That grabbed my attention, very quickly. A school for only gifted students? I wondered if it was in South Anchorage. I’d never heard of it, so it must have been since they were here in our house. Maybe it wasn’t even a boarding school. I suppose it could’ve been down on the Kenai, but Anchorage would’ve been more logical. After all, Anchorage was the only large city in the state. Of course, the government often built things in the oddest places, but boarding schools were private, as far as I knew.
“Don’t worry about it yet, Mel. They haven’t told us what they’re offering and we haven’t decided to allow it,” Daddy said, looking over at me. I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or sad. Going to a school where I could actually learn would be incredible, but I wasn’t into the idea of another boarding school.
“Well, we definitely want to extend an offer for your daughter to attend Oakmont. We were given access to her FICAT scores and are very impressed. That test is a very good indicator of a student’s gifts. Better than any that has come before, which is why it is being tested like it is. If she attends and does well, there’d likely be a similar offer for your son in a year or two,” Headmaster Raughlin said.
Mention of the FICAT brought my mind back to the scores in my folder, which I was holding in my lap. I always had the folder, which contained whatever project I was working on. Right now, it contained my work on that math thesis, but it also held the envelope with the FICAT scores. I really wanted to give them the scores, and maybe find out what they meant.
As Headmaster Raughlin finished, Daddy looked over at me. I guess it was obvious that I was anxious to say something. “Yes, Melanie. What is it,” Daddy asked, knowing me so well.
Like the top of a shaken soda bottle, I exploded into words. “Daddy, they gave us the scores today. I was really excited, but I don’t know what they mean. They don’t have the normal numbers comparing my scores to other kids.”
“Mr. Brager, may I explain,” the Headmaster asked.
“By all means,” Daddy replied.
“Melanie, the scores are the evaluation of your knowledge as measured by the test. It is not meant to compare you to others, but rather to evaluate you alone. It’s an assessment of your education level, along with certain other mental abilities. Overall, it is a measure of your potential,” he informed me, and paused, letting me digest that.
“Because you’re potential is so high, the agency that oversees the test forwarded your scores to us because we want to use that test to find the best students across the country. Your scores are the type that we want in our school. You have unique talents that we want to help train,” he said, again pausing. “Just to let you know, since it seems to mean a lot to you, you ranked within the top 1% of students in the country for your gifts, of anyone that has ever taken this test.”
His attention returned to Momma and Daddy, then. “The program at Oakmont costs approximately $15,000 per student each semester, with room and board costing another $12,000.”
I was almost vibrating from what he said, me being within the top 1% in the whole country. That was better than I would’ve ever thought, considering I always got scores compared only to students in Alaska, but this was the entire country!
Then I heard how much the school would cost, which made any conflict in me go away. There was no way I could go. That’s more than a car would cost, and that was only for one semester. We couldn’t afford that, and I didn’t know anyone that could.
Daddy almost spit his coffee as the Headmaster said that, but the Headmaster continued as though nothing had happened. “However, with your daughter’s very impressive scores…well, let’s be frank. She scored the highest ever scored on this test. Because of her FICAT scores in addition to my assumption of her stellar scholastic performance, we would be willing to extend a full scholarship to your family in order to enroll her at the school.”
“That’s a very generous offer. You mentioned room and board, which obviously means that it’s a boarding school,” Daddy said, kind of like a question, but not.
That hit me like a baseball bat to the head. I completely froze, both physically and mentally, returning back to the images I managed to suppress only moments ago.
“Melanie, are you alright,” I heard, as the images and feelings clawed at my mind again and again. As I did earlier, I managed to struggle back to the real world, forcing my anxiety down.
“Yes, it is a boarding school. She would be required to travel to the school, which is located in upstate New York. We would arrange the transportation, which we do for all students. She would spend the entire year at school, and then return home for summer break. Summer break begins the first weekend of June and ends the first week in August,” he replied, looking at me with concern, but not asking about my reaction.
“That’s so far away, and she wouldn’t get to come home for Christmas or any holidays?” Momma asked.
The Headmaster sadly shook his head. “Because of the rigorous requirements we put on them, it was determined at the school’s founding that this was a small price to guarantee the success of the students. We also require a daily regimen of physical training. We do not want incredible minds with out of shape bodies. We have a number of extra-curricular activities as well so they can have entertainment and some variety to their routine. Aside from their education and physical fitness, we want to make sure they are happy.”
“I don’t know. This is so much to think about. Can you give us some literature to look over,” Daddy asked, looking at Momma with a very serious look on his face.
”Is there an AHG troop? I really like it,” I decided to ask, not sure why but wanting something to provide a positive outlook. Although I didn’t like the idea of a boarding school, this was for the smartest kids, which meant I would actually learn again. And surely what happened at the last one wouldn’t happen at this one.
“I’m not familiar with AHG. What is it,” he asked me.
“It’s a troop for girls to do fun outdoor stuff and learn about God and to be good people,” I replied.
“We would provide all of that for you. But no, there is no AHG troop at the school.” I was disappointed, but not really surprised. It was a lifeline of hope for me and would have made the decision for me easier, but still it’d be a school where I could learn something new again.
“I brought some literature about the school, as well as financial paperwork, which is moot for you. Please look the material over and remember, we will be covering all expenses. Unfortunately, your decision needs to be very soon. We have already begun this term and the deadline for new students is next week. That deadline is for their arrival at the school, not for enrollment. We hoped that we’d make it here in time to give her this very unique opportunity, which we barely did. If it will help you reach your decision, I will give you a few facts about our school. All of our students are accepted to any university in the world they desire, usually with full scholarships and all graduate near the top of their classes, if not the top. Should one of our students desire the military path, they are always accepted to the respective academies, and always graduate at or near the top of their class. There have been no exceptions to this, yet,” the Headmaster informed us.
What he just described sounded like heaven to me. I thought I might actually be able to learn again, except that it was a boarding school. However, maybe, just maybe, the kids wouldn’t tease me and hurt me...and I could learn. Visions of being at a wonderful school were running through my mind, in spite of what happened at the last boarding school.
“Thank you. Today is Tuesday. Give us tomorrow to decide and we’ll have a decision for you Thursday morning. That would still give enough time for travel from Anchorage to New York before your deadline, should we agree to accept your offer,” Daddy replied.
The Headmaster nodded and stood up. “Thank you for your time and I hope you will accept this offer, for her sake.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Melanie. I hope you will be joining us soon, but it is a pleasure regardless,” he then said to me.
“Thank you Mr. Raughlin. It was a pleasure to meet you, too,” I replied, trying to be calm, but totally messed up inside with a lot of conflicting emotions.
Daddy saw them to the door, giving friendly goodbyes as they left the house. I was still sitting in my chair, staring into deep space when he returned. “Melanie, what do you think, sweetheart,” Daddy asked.
After a long pause, me trying to overcome my emotional misgivings, I said, “Daddy, I know it’s a long way away and I won’t get to come home until summer, but I think I should go. I’d be in a school where I’m not bored all the time. There might even be kids like me, and maybe I could make friends with them.” I’d never told them I didn’t have friends. I hoped they’d missed that little slip.
They both looked at each other for a moment. “Dear, it’s likely the biggest decision we’ll ever make and will help determine her future. I know how you feel, but what do you think,” Daddy asked Momma, obviously deciding that there was nothing to worry about.
Momma looked down at her hands in her lap for a long time, then lifted her eyes to me, with tears flowing out of them. “I hate to say it, but I think this school would be good for her. I believe in my heart that All Saints Academy wasn’t the norm, and we both know she’s bored here. She’s likely ahead of her teacher, in some areas, and we never promoted her up early out of fear of losing her social education, which is why we put her back in public school in the first place,” she said, pausing as she thought about what she was saying. “I think she needs this, but only if she’s comfortable doing it. I just don’t want to let my baby go again,” she finished, through her tears.
Daddy leaned over to Momma as she was saying that, wrapping his arms around her, holding her tight. There were tears in his eyes too. “Well, let’s get on the web and see if we can find out what other people have to say about this place before we make a decision.”
That night after dinner, Daddy and Momma called me to their room to talk. I was anxious because I knew they wanted to talk about Oakmont. I was really scared, but excited too, and several other things all jumbled together. Although I didn’t want to leave home, especially to a boarding school, I wanted to go so I could learn again. The possibility of learning was winning out, in my mind.
Nervously, I walked in and saw them lying on their big bed, with their backs against the wall of pillows against the headboard. Momma looked over at Daddy and there were tears in her eyes again, telling me what they’d decided. “We’ve decided to let you go, baby, but only if you’re sure you’re alright with it,” she told me, confirming what I suspected. She extended her arms for me to go hug and cuddle her.
Though I’d thought they were going to let me go, I was still a little shocked, and stood motionless in the bedroom doorway for a moment. Finally breaking the trance, I ran to them both and hugged them tightly.
It was as if a dam had burst inside me. Thankfully, the emotions associated with the last boarding school didn’t overwhelm me this time. “Thank you for letting me go,” I said, hugging them a little tighter.
“Angel, we really couldn’t say no. It’s too good an opportunity for you, and Mommies and Daddies want to give their kids every chance possible to have a better life than they have. Not only that, you’re bored in regular school and we know it. This is your opportunity to grow, princess. We couldn’t take that away from you,” he told me.
“And I promise, we don’t want to let you go,” he said, knowing that’s how I’d felt when they sent me to All Saints Academy. I grabbed him, holding him tightly, Momma holding us both.
After we hugged and cried for a bit longer, at least they cried, Momma sat up. “We need to pack. It’s a long way from Eagle River to New York,” she said, looking all business now that she had a task to complete.
“Remember sweetheart, don’t let them know about the voices. Whatever you do, never let them know,” Daddy told me as Momma and I stood up. I hadn’t thought about that in all the excitement, but Daddy was right.
“Don’t worry Daddy, I won’t. I promise,” I reassured him.
Momma and I went and packed for New York. What surprised me was that Momma was packing for the same weather as in Alaska. I would’ve thought it’d have been warmer there, being that it was so far south. I decided to pack a couple of good books for the plane ride, which Momma said was very long. Being that Momma was very serious about it being long, I rethought my books and added a couple more books to my carry on bag. Of course, my project folder was in my backpack as well, which would stay with me on the plane.
We finished packing and Momma hugged and kissed me for a long time. Finally she helped me get ready for bed and tucked me in. It was something she’d quit doing after All Saints Academy, but I was glad she did it. A minute later, Daddy came in and hugged me for a long time and then kissed me. He finally hugged me very tight which I knew would lead into a tickle attack. As soon as I realized, the attack began and I was squealing loudly totally messing up Momma’s tuck in job. I’d known he wouldn’t be able to hold out too long. The game was so special between us and I squealed with delight, one of the few delights I experienced anymore.
“Sweetheart, you’re the most special thing God has ever given us, you and your brother. I love you so much and I’m so proud of you. I doubt you’ll need it, but remember the things I taught you,” he said, when he finally sat up. He hugged me really tight again and then gave me a kiss on the cheek, then another on the forehead, and tucked me back in. Not sure why, I reached up and kissed Daddy on the lips, like I used to do when I was really little, then laid down on my pillows.
That night, I had a hard time sleeping. I was so anxious I couldn’t settle my mind down, I couldn’t even block out the voices. I heard Momma and Daddy crying about their baby girl leaving again and worrying that something could happen like at the last boarding school. At some time, very early in the morning, I finally drifted off to sleep. Of course, it was after they finally did. And I had nightmares.
In a nearby motel, Headmaster Raughlin was sitting with Emily Trulin. “What’s our plan if they refuse your offer,” she asked, worry written on her face.
“They won’t,” he said, chuckling. He looked at her for a minute, seeing the intensity in her stare.
“Did you see the look on her face when she heard that it was a boarding school? It was almost like panic. You’d think she’s been at a boarding school before, and maybe had a bad experience, but I didn’t see anything in her records about one, not that we have much on her. And the parents almost looked the same, initially.”
He sighed, and his expression became serious. “Should they refuse, we’ll go with standard protocol. Get the local children’s service agency involved, claiming that the parents are acting against the best interests of the child. The initial touch base with this state’s agency wasn’t very productive for some reason, but there are some folks in this city that will agree with our assessment and will side with us. Anyway, we should be able to work it out to our satisfaction.”
“If it comes to it, she could simply disappear. That might be easier than all of these games,” she said. The headmaster could tell she still wasn’t comfortable with the situation.
Headmaster Raughlin shook his head. “No, it is always better to have their cooperation. And if not theirs, then the states. That way, if the child ever shows up again, there are no questions asked. Everything is handled through the legal process. However, if all other methods fail, we will obtain her by whatever means are necessary. She will help secure this country, regardless of what her parents or these anti-federal hicks in Alaska say. And if she is resistant at first, she will come to see that what we do is right, in time.”
“Headmaster, you know I’m completely with the program and what it stands for, but do others see us for what we are, and if not, then should we continue to work for something that they are unable to appreciate or even see,” she asked, her doubt creeping into her voice.
“Emily, sometimes you have to operate for the better interests of others even when they don’t know who you are or what you’re doing. Sometimes, you even have to continue working for their good when they think you are not and are against you,” he said, casting a fatherly smile on her. He paused to let that sink in. “We fall somewhere in that area. If our existence were to be common knowledge, we would be called evil and something to destroy. But I guarantee you, they would not let these children out on the streets and they would further want to control them and their abilities, regardless of their good intentions,” he said, after seeing her digest his previous statement.
“Are we the bad guys, Headmaster.”
“No, my dear. We are the good guys. We are doing what everyone needs us to do, but cannot admit that it needs doing. In addition to properly training all of the children with these unique gifts, we are showing them a way to use it for the greater good of our country. Do you feel that you are evil or a bad guy?”
“No, Headmaster. I believe I’m a good person, but I can’t help question what we do sometimes. After all, we take children from their homes and force them to become part of the program.”
“Yes, we do. That is the hardest part, but we do it for everyone’s benefit including the children. Hopefully, by the time the children realize what is happening, they have come to understand what we are doing and why, and they can accept it. You went through the program. How do you feel about it.” He already knew what her response would be once she thought about it.
“I absolutely believe in the program and what we’re doing. I wouldn’t be beside you now if I didn’t,” she said slowly, after looking at him for a while.
“I know you do. Every now and again, you need a little affirmation of why you do it,” he said, smiling at her fondly.
“Yes, I do need it once in awhile. Thank you. I feel better now,” she replied, truly feeling a lot better.
“There’s something odd about her,” Emily informed the Headmaster, changing the subject and looking lost in thought.
“And what would that be?”
“I attempted to probe her, as we do with all new recruits. Although her mind isn’t shielded, it was very difficult to get in and it caused her a lot of pain when I touched it. That’s why she stumbled when I took her hand. I didn’t attempt to probe her any further.”
“Very interesting. We will need to investigate that more when we get her to Oakmont.” His confident smile was like a tonic for her.
“Why don’t you go to your room and get some sleep. You look tired. We’ll get up tomorrow and see a few of the easy to get to sights.”
“Yes, Headmaster. Good night.” She did suddenly feel tired.
“Good night, my dear.”