Grown-ups lie. All of them.
“Just a few more minutes....” Catai mumbled, turning over in her bed as the warmth from the sun coaxed her into staying where she was.
Sighing she opened her eyes and stared at the stone wall. Her body felt stiff and tender where she had been beaten the previous day. Every part of her was protesting in pain.
Her gaze fell on the mark that had formed on her arm.
“At least you’re the same colour as my birth-mark.” She forced a smile, determined to be positive.
She took a deep breath and smelt disinfectant. Her tiny room used to be a cleaning room and always smelt of disinfectant. She was starting to hate the smell. The small cot she slept in took up most of the space. The closest she had to curtains was the line above her bed which she could use to dry her clothes on. The lone window was small but the sun managed to shine on her entire cot. She had a good view of the stars at night but in the mornings the sun came in either burning her awake or warming her enough to want to sleep more like today. There was no in-between.
“Come on get up.” Catai forced her stiff body to sit up, gasping as she did. Every bit of her hurt so much. She would have to do a check in the shower for new bruises. The thought of the water spraying on her made her swallow her tears and attempt to move again. The water always felt good on her body after one of these attacks.
Thinking about the shower reminded her she was wasting valuable time. She needed to get there before the guys did. If the other students in the school discovered that she was a girl, her injuries would be significantly worse. She had heard how some of them spoke about women. It was like there was no respect for girls here. That’s why she was still trying to hide what she was from them. They all frightened her. Each and every one of them. She felt like the only piece of candy thrown amongst a pack of ravenous boys. Or a piece of meat amongst the wolves.
But she could do this. She had to.
She had just made it off her bed when her door opened. She turned instantly, her heart beating as if it would explode. She had locked it last night! She knew she had!
A tall man appeared over her, a set of skeleton keys in his hands. He’s thin lips didn’t smile. He wore dark, round glasses that barely covered his eyes. His eyebrows seemed to grow from the glasses like some furry creatures. His hair had been brushed back neatly, showing off his widow’s peak and lying flat on his head, as if it was too afraid of him to slip out of place. Catai felt her body grow rigid in terror.
“Stupid, weak child.” Her father frowned before reaching out towards her. She instantly raised a hand to her face and tried to take a step back but there was no-where to go in her tiny room. She felt his fingers circling around her arm and yanking her. “Pathetic child.”
“Let me go.” She yelled as he pulled her out the door but he ignored her. She felt tears prick her eyes partly in pain and partly in humiliation. She was still in her sleepwear, which was a pair of underwear and an oversized t-shirt she had received amongst her school uniforms. She tried to pull it down to cover herself but it was a useless exercise. The shirt was big but not that big.
“Who’s a pretty boy then?” Laughter began following them down the hall.
The boys were starting to leave their rooms for the morning preparations and stopping just to watch her being dragged like some dog. She could feel their eyes roving all over her as she passed by them.
She felt Goosebumps crawling all over her flesh.
“Where are you taking me?” She asked, lowering her head so she wouldn’t have to watch everyone staring at her.
“Where else child?” Her father replied. “The infirmary. Even you could have thought of going there.”
Catai didn’t respond, trying to ignore the jeers coming from the boys.
‘This is just a dream.’ She told herself. ‘I’m going to wake up and it’ll all be over.’
Please let it be over.
“Yo, Lexie, ya have to see this.” Dmitri was in a fit of laughter as he practically pulled Aleksei out bed.
“Leave me alone.” Aleksei tried to swipe at Dmitri but the taller youth was used to his Captain’s sleeping habits and easily avoided being hit.
“Now, now. Ya have to wake up.” Dmitri placed his thumb and middle finger together before giving a well-aimed flick to Aleksei’s nose.
Aleksei bolted up, his hands flying to his nose as he strew a colourful bunch of words that made Dmitri smile more.
“What was that for?” Aleksei glared up at his second in command. “It’s the weekend.”
“Ya going wanna see this.” Dmitri chuckled, waving a hand at the open door of their dorm where Boris and Ivan were already standing amidst the sounds of laughter.
The young fourteen-year-old was practically dancing from one foot in excitement. Next to him the eldest of their group, an eighteen-year-old giant, seemed to be shaking his head in silent disbelief.
Glaring at Dmitri one last time, Aleksei threw off his blanket and got up, following the laughter that was entering the open door into their room.
“This had better be good Dimi.” Aleksei muttered, rubbing his still sleep-filled eyes until he saw what everyone was laughing at.
A meat-sack was being pulled through the hallway by one of the scientists. Dr. Bartok, the head scientist, if he recalled right. The one everyone called Mad Doc.
The laughter was joined by catcalls and wolf-whistles now.
As they passed by Aleksei’s team, the meat sack briefly managed to catch his eye - a crime for any rank deemed a lesser here. For some reason, it made him feel cold inside for a moment.
He felt his breathing go faster as his eyes trailed down her body on their own accord as she looked away. Her body was decorated in bruises of every colour. She had been here for a while. A few days at least.
“It…It’s a girl! A girl snuck in!” Boris squeaked as he hopped around in excitement. “Do you think it’ll stay?”
“Who cares? Nice ass on that one anyway, eh Captain?” Dmitri smirked, leaning against the door enjoying the view.
Aleksei glared at him. “What would you know about it? Did you actually open a girly magazine and see inside?”
“So, what if I did?”
“Then I’m impressed you know how to open something similar to a book, let alone know what the contents of one looks like.” Aleksei yawned. “I’m awake now thanks to everyone. I may as well go get some training in before breakfast.”
“Get rid of ya dog breath and I’ll join ya.” Dmitri laughed.
“Whatever.” Aleksei rolled his eyes before going back into the dorm. He grabbed his toothbrush, halting a moment to lick his hand and smell it. He pulled a face. Dmitri may have been teasing but Aleksei's breath was a sensitive issue for him. No matter what he did since they arrived at the school, he always seemed to battle with bad breathe in the mornings.
Frowning, he headed towards the bathrooms. The corridors had emptied out but he could still hear the excited voices coming out of the other dorms.
“Not a bad show this morning.”
“You can wake me up like that anytime.”
“Nah, I’d prefer waking up with her in my bed.”
‘Morons.’ Aleksei studied the bunch in the bathrooms that were busy laughing, staring idly at them in the mirror as he brushed his teeth, half -listening to the conversation happening around him.
Images of the barely covered girl flashed through his mind. Annoyed, he splashed water on his face to try and wash away them away.
The new kid had hardly cried out while she was being dragged. And he had noticed the dark colour bruises on her legs. They all had them. He still had a fantastic one on his side that was still healing from a training session the previous week. They just weren’t all pulled along by the Mad Doc at sunrise.
“Yo Lexie, ya done?” Dmitri re-joined his friend, freshly dressed and ready for training.
“Hey, Lexie, you got a good view of her. What did she look like?” One of the kids in the bathroom laughed, more interested in the morning events then actually cleaning up.
Aleksei’s eyes narrowed at the casual use of his nick-name.
However before he responded, Dmitri had turned, sliding smoothly behind the kid that had asked. His arms shot out, his hands wrapping easily around the kid’s throat.
“Like ya not allowed to call him Lexie. ’Suka.” Dmitri hissed as he tightened his hands.
“Hey, Sharks in a fight.” Someone called out.
The chanting began to get on Aleksei’s nerves. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Let him go Dimi.”
“He broke the rule.” Dmitri glared back at him.
“I know. That’s why I let you hold him for so long. But you are on a main artery. Any longer and he’ll be brain dead.” Aleksei replied, grabbing his things before turning to leave the bathroom. He didn’t bother checking if Dmitri was even paying attention. If you couldn’t look after yourself in this place, you had no reason to be here. Like that girl.
“Idiot was brain dead to begin with if he can’t stop a choke hold.” Dmitri snorted as he loosened his grip before turning to follow Aleksei, letting the kid fall to the floor.