Nate picked Rachel up from the ice cream parlor. He parked outside and waved at the duo from the window. She closed her eyes and sighed, “Ugh, alright” she got up, “Come on, let’s get this over with …” She extended her arms, and waited for Gavin to get up and hug her. She sniffled, “Man … I’m gonna miss you.”
They pulled away and she saw tears brimming in his eyes. He smiled for a quick second, trying to hold it in. Rachel nodded and walked out of the door. She got into the front seat and fastened her seat belt. Not bothering to look back at him.
Thirty minutes of driving later, Nate extended his hand to the stereo, pressing buttons at random until he got the classic rock station. Rachel’s head snapped towards Nate, “Dude, really?”
He spun the volume dial till Rachel felt like ripping the wires out of the deck.
She glared at Nate but he was too busy moving his head to the beat. She turned the music off. Nate looked at Rachel and pouted.
“Do NOT try to pout your way to turning that on. You’re too old for it.” Rachel said, crossing her arms.
He continued the puppy dog look; Rachel weakened under its barrage and caved. She put the music back on and was rewarded by the goofiest smile Nate could manage.
Rachel chuckled and shook her head, “So” she sighed
“So” he echoed
“You do know that I don’t want to go to this hell hole, right?”
“You’ve made it pretty obvious. But Rachel, come on, give the place a chance.”
Rachel puffed her cheeks.
“Is this your way of getting back at Davis who you think abandoned you?”
“Well, he did abandon me.”
“He didn’t. He left because he cared about you.” Nate said, defending his best friend.
“Care? Oh sure, not being there for your daughter is a perfect way of caring for her. Just hire a nanny and leave her a fortune. That’s his way of caring for me.” She retorted.
“Rachel, that’s not what he did! You don’t know him.” He tried
“Yeah, I never knew him. It’s not like you knew him any better.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? He was my best friend!” He asked angrily
“Yeah, sure. If he was your best friend, he would’ve told you where the hell he was going.” She said
“It’s fine, I know you’re pissed.”
“I’m really sorry, I am. I’ve been horrible the last few days.”
He snorted, “Yeah – okay.”
“How far off is the place?”
Rachel sighed and leaned her head against the window. She drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
Nate shook her shoulder lightly, “Rachel – Bud, we’re here.”
Rachel blinked a couple of times and yawned, stretching her arms out in front of her, “Where?” she asked yawning
Rachel sat up straight. Nate pulled off the highway and onto a rough, bumpy road leading downhill. Green, mossy walls rose up beside them as they drove downhill, and a large, rectangular expanse of cleared land, surrounded by thick foliage came into view.
The entire area was surprisingly green, there was a river flowing down from between the North Mountains, disappearing into the trees that seemed to surround the institute. It glittered in the morning sun. The view was breathtaking.
There were seven houses on the North West side, with twelve, smaller single story houses at a distance. Both painted a light gray with white rooftops.
In the very middle was a square, single story building with the words “Jameson Institute” in bold silver lettering on the front.
There were four, red bricked, three story buildings situated right behind it.
Rachel could see a lot of greenery, trees and sports grounds where kids seemed to be playing. There were two more buildings to the right of the main building.
It looked peaceful, organized, clean and welcoming. The simple buildings were oddly alluring and the entire area seemed to look like a rather nice vacation spot.
The rocky road flattened out and led to large black, iron gates that opened as the car approached them. They opened slowly, letting them pass. They drove straight to the main building in front of which was a parking lot.
Nate parked the car and Rachel got out of it, stumbling a little. She closed the door and looked around. Everyone around her stopped whatever they were doing. Their eyes focused on Rachel.
A blonde haired girl who was wearing a tennis uniform jogged up to meet them. She must have been nineteen. She beamed a million dollar smile, “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ll be your guide. Rachel, right?” She asked. When Rachel nodded she smiled wider which Rachel didn’t think was possible, “You’re gonna love it here.”
Rachel rolled her eyes, earning a nudge from Nate. Jessica turned to look at someone and motioned them to come forward.
He was tall, with short, spiky, fiery red, hair and greenish blue eyes. Freckles dotted the bridge of his nose and his cheeks. He was smiled shyly, “I’m Conner.”
“Where’s Mark?” Jessica asked him
“On his way…”
“The boys will take care of Rachel’s luggage. Mr. Wesson would like to see you two, now. Follow me please.” Jessica turned and walked to the main building.
Rachel nodded and followed her up the marble steps and through the double doors.
A red carpet ran along the hallway for about as far as her eyes could see. The floor was an extremely well polished, gray marble. The walls were painted white and were adorned with some really complicated looking paintings. One side had photos from all over the campus; kids smiling in each and every one of them. It all looked too good.
Rachel and Nate followed Jessica, past several hallways and doors with name plates and numbers on them to the one on the very end.
Jessica knocked on the large, black door.
“Mr. Wesson? I’m here with the new arrival.” Jessica stated
The door opened and Rachel and Nate walked in. Jessica stayed outside as the door closed.
It was a large room, with one glass wall overlooking the grounds in front of which sat a black table. A computer, a stack of papers, a mug of coffee and a photo frame sat on the table’s surface.
A rather comfy looking rotating chair was behind it. Upon which Jacob Wesson sat. He was 43; he had a French beard, light brown hair that was greying at the temples and bluish grey eyes. He wore huge glasses and a grey suit that matched his eyes. He looked friendly.
He got up immediately, “Nate, my man, how you been?” he laughed, walking up to him and hugging him.
He pulled away and looked at Rachel. He was quiet, studying her until she felt uncomfortable. A strange smile lit up his features and his eyes turned glassy, “And you must be Rachel Fayne. Pleasure to finally meet you, child”
“Do sit down!” He urged. He was too enthusiastic. So much so that his voice even shook a little.
Rachel walked over to a chair and sank down in it.
Nate looked at Jacob and began, “It’s been a while, eh, Jake? How’re the kids?”
“My Cabin’s doing great! Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Nate sat down beside Rachel and Wesson looked straight at Rachel.
“So, how are you Rachel?”
“I, uh, I’m good.” She lied.
“Do you want to be here?”
“Sorry?” Rachel wasn’t sure she heard right
“Were you willing to come here?”
Rachel turned to look at Nate.
“No, Rachel, honestly, tell me.” He insisted
“I, um, not really-”
“No? Well that is understandable. You just lost your Nanna, am I correct?”
“Rachel, your Father, Davis Fayne was a good man. He contributed to this institution the most. Jameson Institute is where many children like you stay after their parents-”
“What do you mean by kids like me?” Rachel interrupted, earning a weary glare from her god-father.
“Children who come from … wealthy backgrounds. Your father wanted you to stay here because this is the safest place for you.”
Rachel remained quiet. She resisted the distinct inclination to burst out laughing.
“You will grow to like this place. This is your new home. Everyone here is family.”
Rachel nodded. “Family” that’s a word that she’d rather not throw around that easily. There was no point in saying anything. She had to stay in this place. There were no options.
“Let me explain the system,” He began, crossing his fingers, he leant on the table, “There are a total of seven cabins, each with nine children. Now a cabin is designated with a specific color. You will be in the Blue Cabin. That is now your home.
“Every cabin has a student head and a teacher head. I am the head of the Blue Cabin. So if ever, you need to discuss something, you come directly to me or Mark. Mark’s a little trouble so you can trust Jessica to answer most of your questions.
“Each Cabin is basically a living space for you and your Cabin members. School is from Monday to Friday. 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. After that is lunch, and then you are free to do whatever. Spending 2 hours outside is compulsory. Everyone has a designated schedule. You will be given yours in two days.”
Wesson paused to see if Rachel was keeping up. She seemed focused so he picked up where he left off, “You have three days to settle in. Get to know your Cabin, figure out the school work and everything else.
“I tend to drop by to check up on the kids almost every day, but there’s enough sensible kids over there so hopefully you won’t have a lot of trouble. I’ll visit tonight and introduce you to everyone.
Jessica will give you a tour of the whole place and then we will see each other tonight.
That gives you a few hours till the meeting, any questions?”
Rachel was having trouble keeping up. She thought she had everything down so she gave him a slow, uncertain nod.
Wesson laughed, “Don’t worry. Jess’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
Rachel and Nate stood up and were about to leave when she turned around, “I do have a question. What subject do you teach?”
He smiled, “Chemistry to Batch 4 and 5. I’ll see you on Monday morning, bright and early. Don’t be late.”
Rachel nodded and followed Nate out.
Nate closed the office door and looked at Rachel, “That was quick.” She muttered, “I think I just went completely blank…” she said with a snort, eyes focused on a painting as she tried to keep track of everything.
“You gonna be okay?”
Rachel shook her head no. She was sure her voice would fail her.
“Listen, I know this is the last place you want to-”
“I know, man. It’s best for me. You wouldn’t mind if an annoying sixteen year old called you every day, right?”
“Not at all.” He smiled
“Again … I’m sorry about being so-“
“You had every right to be that way.” Nate cut in
“No I-” Rachel choked up
“I have bad timing. And you kinda wanted to punch me, so thanks for sparing the merchandise.” Nate smiled motioning to his face.
Rachel laughed, “Nate, I’m gonna miss you.”
“You too, love.”
Nate pulled her into a tight hug and Rachel sniffled into his jacket. He stroked her hair and planted a kiss on her forehead. Rachel quietly wondered how long it would be, till she saw her god-father again.