“I don’t understand,” I repeat again, while my mother drives me silently through the quiet town, and my father sits awkwardly beside her. “Why am I not allowed to take my own clothes?”
Yet again, my question is met with ignorance. I wonder if I’m being naive, and if the Academy is all but a rouse, and they’re secretly planning to drop me somewhere completely different, like the middle of a desert. My mother picked out a white blouse and grey skirt for me to wear, an outfit that in other circumstances, I would never in a million years put over my body. I despise their plain, boring colours - it reflects too much of their personalities, and I don’t want to be reminded of that.
I shuffle in my seat, glancing towards the window to where my face is warmed by the bright, high sun. And then I straighten as I realize what street this is. The police station is just a little bit further down, and even though I know there’s a strong chance he’s already been released, I can’t help but stare at every detail of the street in eager search of him. The car moves past the station, and it is crammed with police cars and teenagers standing in huddles outside of the building. They’ve all probably been released, so where is Nathan?
I scan my eyes over each face, desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of him, but before I have time to look at every person, the car speeds up and the station fades behind me.
I fall back into my seat, banging my head against the leather head-rest, as I start to breathe heavily. “What is the name of the Academy?” I say. If I’ve read about it or heard about it, I’ll remember instantly.
“Cross Academy,” my father says.
“Wait,” I say. I lean forwards into the middle of their seats. “That’s a religious Academy.”
I remember coming across Cross Academy on one of the computers at the library a few months ago. I even scrolled through their page because anything to do with housing robotic religion folk amuses me. At the top of their page in huge, bold letters was the sentence, ‘God needs you now, more than we need you to come, but he needs you.’
And then it went on to describe how only Catholic and Christian followers could sign up, and it welcomes all ages, but at the bottom, was the sentence that stood out to me the most.
‘Do you have children that won’t abide by the will of God? Do you wish for them to be put on the right path to redemption? Then this is the place you have been looking for.’
I remember the pictures that covered their home page with fickle, fake advertisement. Every child and adult photographed were smiling happily, as though this Academy had changed their life. But I saw the truth. The people in the photographs were actors, I recognized that immediately, because my mother and father have always forbid photographs being taken--it is seen as vanity.
“What else did you expect?” says my mother.
“I thought you were taking me to a-” I stop myself, wondering if I should give them the satisfaction of telling them that I expected to be going to a different kind of Academy. An Academy that wouldn’t make me pray as though my life depended on it. “-never mind.”
“You will learn everything you are supposed to learn,” my mother says. “You will be clean.”
“No matter how long that takes,” my father interjects.
No matter how long that takes, I repeat to myself. How long is how long? A fortnight? A month? The whole of summer? I can do this as long as I can still write to Nathan, I remember their website stating that participants are allowed to write to loved ones once a week. I’ll explain everything to him properly, I’ll explain how much I really didn’t have a choice.
I’ll explain that one day, even though it’s uncertain, I’ll be with him again--and no matter what happens, no matter what this Academy throws at me, they won’t ever change me.
And I’ll be home soon.