They walked out of the building and spotted Jessica waiting for them on the steps. She got up quickly and smiled again. “Mr. Marvin, would you like to stick around for the tour?” she asked good naturedly
“Uh, thank you but I’ve gotta go. Duty calls.”
“Alright then, Rachel, I suppose you should say your goodbye.”
Rachel had been crying a few moments ago and she didn’t want to break down in front of Jessica. She cleared her throat and plastered on a smile, “I’m gonna miss you, Nathaniel.”
“Yeah, I’ll miss you too.” He smiled back at her attempt.
They didn’t exchange another word. Nate turned around and made way to his car, while Rachel stared at her sneakers. She gulped and forced down the lump in her throat.
She forced her eyes shut to the roar of the engine and waited for the gates to clang shut. Rachel cleared her throat, “So,” she cleared it again, “The tour?” her voice coming out thick, heavy and hoarse.
Jessica nodded, “Alright … So this place” she gestured vaguely to the main building, “Is the Staff Block. We can find our teachers here after school hours up until dinner and same goes for the weekends.”
They walked around the building and faced the four red bricked ones that Rachel had seen on her drive down here.
“This is the school.” She turned to look at Rachel, “Now, we don’t have classes like normal schools. We have batches. Batch 1 is for kids aged 6-7, Batch 2 is for the 8-9 year olds and so on. You would be in-”
“Batch 6” Rachel cut in.
“Exactly.” Jessica smirked but really, the math wasn’t that hard, “what do you think?”
Rachel just nodded her head with a small smile. She was having trouble taking this whole “institute” in. It was a huge place, with a really different setup. The school was enormous. Jessica insisted that they get on with the tour. She would see the inside of the school tomorrow.
To the left of the school were two fenced areas. The smaller one had twelve modern looking single story houses. Jessica informed her that these were the teacher’s lodgings. The larger area had similar, seven double story houses with different colored doors: Blue, Red, Pink, Green, Orange, Purple and Yellow.
“Cabins” Rachel whispered
“Yup, impressed?” Jessica seemed to be enjoying Rachel’s awe
Rachel let out a small chuckle, “yeah” she agreed, “I guess you could say that”
“Come on, we’re not even done yet!” Jessica grabbed Rachel by the hand and dragged her away from the cabins and towards another building. This one was situated to the right of the staff block. It had one way glass windows from top to bottom and gleamed in the sun.
“This” Jessica began proudly, “is the recreation center”
“It is.” Jessica nodded, completely missing the sarcasm, “This is where we practically spend all our weekends. Video games, movie nights, Cabin meetings; they all take place here.”
“Cool” Rachel stated. She thought it best to stick to one word responses. She didn’t have the time or the energy to think of words good enough. Rachel was just letting it all sink in. So far, it wasn’t sinking in quick enough. Rachel was a 100 percent sure that when she would wake up, she wouldn’t remember any of this.
She shook her head vigorously, as if to clear any mess that was in it and followed Jessica yet again.
To the south if the recreation center was a large ground. It had been divided into several sections. Kids were playing all sorts of sports.
“These are the sports grounds.” She stated as if it wasn’t obvious enough, “You are required to spend-”
“Two hours in them every day” Rachel echoed alongside her.
Jessica looked astonished, “You’re actually keeping up, and most of the new comers have trouble keeping their jaws from falling off. No matter what sort of rich background you come from, this place kinda takes your breath away”
“Yeah, it does, and trust me, I think I’ll need a map later on” Rachel smiled.
“You’ll get one. It might be poorly drawn and signed by an eight year old, but you’ll get it.”
The grounds had been divided by the road that led to the staff block. Kids were playing at the opposite side as well, but they were relatively younger. Jessica pointed towards the far end, “and there, is the pool, but we can’t go there now, let’s finish this tour and get you settled in.”
Rachel was lead to the boundary of the ground, and onto a path leading to a basketball court.
“Basketball is the institute’s sport. There are tournaments held every year, between the cabins of course, sometimes we head out and go against other schools too”
To the west of the court were two comparatively smaller buildings.
“The one on the north is the daycare.” Jessica pointed, “Well, it’s just where the kids who are younger than six spend their time.” She pointed to the next one, “And the second one is the nursery. Some of us also babysit in our free time.”
Jessica nodded to herself in approval.
“Is this all?” Rachel quipped
“Um, Jessica, I do have one question.”
“Call me Jess. Go on, shoot”
“You didn’t mention a library”
“Sorta.” Rachel smiled
The girls began walking towards the cabins as Jessica continued, “We do. It’s in the recreational center”
“Isn’t it loud?”
“The library has been sound proofed” and she shrugged like it was no big deal.
Rachel nodded with a small laugh and tried to make a mental map as they drew near the Blue cabin.
Jess pushed at the navy blue door and it swung open to reveal a blue carpet that led to a very blue living room. A coat rack stood right beside the door and a carpeted staircase led upstairs.
A plasma screen hung from the wooden wall, under which was a stack of DVDs and an Xbox.
There were eight different posters on the walls, two double seater sofas and 6 bean bag chairs… and a minifridge.
‘Cool?’ Jessica asked
“That” Rachel paused for effect “would be an understatement.”
The living room led to three more rooms. Jessica nodded in their general direction, “Okay, so these rooms belong to the boys. Two in each, but Ben got his own room now since his roommate left for college. Let’s go upstairs and get you settled in.”
Upstairs, there were four doors opposite each other, two on one side of the corridor and two on the other. Rachel got one on the very end
Jessica turned around, “my room is on the very start, there are two girls in each room, but you get your own room too.”
Rachel nodded, it seemed to her that for the past two hours that had been all she had been doing and if she had to nod one more freaking time, her neck might just snap.
“I’ll leave you to it” Jessica stated and turned around, running down the stairs.
Rachel opened the door to her room. She sat down on the bed and looked at the boxes and suitcases stacked neatly against a wall. She heaved a sigh and fell backwards onto the bed.
Rachel’s room was pretty cool. It was nice and cozy. It had a single bed, a side table with a lamp, a study table, a closet and a bookshelf. What more could a girl want?
Unsurprisingly, the carpet was [yet again] blue. The walls, thankfully, were white. A full length mirror hung opposite her bed. It had a nice, friendly “WELCOME HOME” card taped to it. A comfy cane chair sat in front of the window, right next to the bookshelf.
After fifteen minutes of useless, whiny, teenage sighing and grunting, Rachel pushed herself off the bed and with a yell, fell back down in it.
“HOLY CRAP YOU SCARED ME!” Rachel exclaimed, earning a giggle from the girl who stood in her doorway.
She had short, wild, strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes and quite a lot of freckles. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt with the words “Nap Queen” written on it in bold black letters.
She flashed a 1000 watt smile, “Hey” she came in, “I’m Joey.”
A hand over her heart, as if that would miraculously calm down her racing heart, Rachel breathed out an introduction, “Rachel. Rachel Fayne”
“Do you need any help?”
“Erm, no. I think I can manage.”
“Oh, please. That’s a whole lotta stuff!” She half stomped to a box that had ‘books’ written on it and practically ripped it open.
Rachel laughed. A genuine laugh after what seemed like an eternity of polite smiles and nods that had driven her mad.
Over the next couple of hours, Rachel learned that Johanna, or Joey, as she had insisted, was overly enthusiastic about everything.
Joey was a joy to be around and a total goofball who was too lazy to struggle all the way to the end of anyone’s name. In the first five minutes, she had turned Rachel into ‘Raich’. Upon which she had politely corrected her but Joey couldn’t care less.
Joey dusted her hands, “Well, that’s all of it – WAIT IS THAT A GUITAR!?”
“DO YOU PLAY?”
“No, I just carry it around for the hell of it.” Rachel rolled her eyes. Never had she become so comfortable with someone in such a small amount of time. Maybe because Joey’s easy smile and overly casual attitude somehow reminded her of Gavin.
“You HAVE to play for us sometime.” She urged and then as if completely forgetting the instrument, Joey volunteered to take the boxes and suitcase to the store room.
“Well, Raich, you still got a couple of hours to spend, what do you wanna do?” Joey asked right before leaving with the last of the boxes.
Rachel grimaced and help up a finger, “Okay, first things first ... my name is Rachel not Raich”
Joey just grinned.
“And second, thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I’d still be unpacking.”
“Hey, what for? You’re family now.” Joey said warmly
“And I think I am going to freshen up. Take a bath and get changed.”
“Awesome, I’ll be down stairs staring at a screen with a liquid crystal display on which several channels are broadcasted for human kind to watch and most probably procrastinate to when you’re done”
Rachel was smirking, “You mean TV?”
“Precisely!”, And with that Joey left, bounding down the stairs.
She turned to look at her room. Guitar in one corner, bookshelves full, and study table looked good. Rachel picked up the smaller backpack that she had packed from home and shoved it under her bed. She nodded her approval as she closed the door behind her.