Kingston College of the Arts was previously a private school founded by the MacTavish family decades ago. It was once prestigious and only opened its doors to those willing to go through the extensive interview process. Only the best of the best walked through its gate. Only the best of those walked back out with careers. Until recently that is.
Over the decades since its creation, Kingston has been nothing shy of successful. However, with the student flow decreasing, and the inheritors of the school dipping their fingers into the wealth, they’ve found themselves short on funding. Those once closed gates were now opened to the public. While still requiring applications and interviews, it was far more lenient than previous years. Applications were in surplus while acceptance and rejection letters were mailed out left and right. Anyone who was interested in art wanted the chance of attending school there.
Located on an island off the coast of California, Kingston College nested itself directly in the center. Surrounded by giant redwoods and with a harbor town on the eastern seaboard, it was an ideal location for getting in touch with one’s creative side. Not only was it secluded and peaceful, but the campus was also surrounded by dorms and houses for students and staff alike.
Like most schools, Kingston had a small set of rules, ones that were very firmly enforced. No lapsing on tuition payments, no outside visitors, and no leaving housing past nine o’clock pm. Those were the three main rules that every pamphlet read. They seemed simple enough to follow, albeit a little odd.
At least that was what Madison thought. Middle child of the McAlisters, Madison was a brilliant mind with a lot to say. If her words weren’t enough to get through to someone, her actions would be. Which was precisely why she was fearless when opening the letter from Kingston College in her parents living room. The envelope opened easily enough. With an emotionless face, Madison read the words typed neatly across the paper.
❝What does it say, darling?❞ Madison mother, Genevieve, asked breathlessly.
❝I’ve been accepted.❞ Madison lifted her gaze to her parents. ❝I’ve been accepted!❞ Excitement filled the room as Genevieve jumped up from her position on the couch, Madison dropped the letter, and both women hugged each other tightly. There was a moment where words were unintelligible and no more than excited sounds.
As the initial excitement finally settled, Madison’s father stood. The sound of the couch shifting broke the women apart. Genevieve, with tears of joy in her eyes, stepped back from her daughter to give her husband room to congratulate his daughter. Madison looked up at him, a smile locked on her face.
❝I’m so proud of you sweetheart.❞ Gideon clasped his hands down on her shoulders before pulling her, hard, against his chest. It took no time for Madison to wrap her arms around her father’s waist and press her face to his shoulder. ❝You’re sure you want to commit to this? You’ll be gone for four years straight.❞ Gideon pulled back, his hands holding Madison’s shoulders as he looked down at her. His eyes were scanning her face for some sign of doubt but found none.
❝This is a once in a lifetime chance. If I don’t go now, I might not get another chance. Those doors might close again.❞ Madison was firm in her decision. She knew that she’d be living on that island until her schooling there was done. The decision to stay for four years had been made during the application process. Madison could have chosen to rent a house, while much more expensive, it would have allowed her the ability to leave during the vacation periods. She decided on a dorm, not only because it was lighter on the wallet, but because she’d have a roommate, and the ability to work through the holidays.
❝I’m so proud of you.❞ Madison’s mother cooed from behind her father. She could hear the tears in her mother’s voice. It was watery and sounded as though her nose was stuffy. There was a sniffle that had Madison closing her eyes with a soft smile.
❝It’s only four years, and then I’ll be back home. Or on tour.❞ At that, her mother wailed and forced her way between Madison and her father for another hug. ❝Mom.❞ Madison let out a mirthful whine. She loved her mother, to the ends of the earth and back.
❝I’m sorry, sweetie.❞ Her mother murmured against her shoulder. ❝I just don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with you being away from home that long.❞ Genevieve was a woman used to having someone around all the time. Knowing that her daughter would be moving away was undoubtedly rough on her.
❝Calista will still be here. She still has another two years of high school.❞ Madison reminded her mother.
The front door opened, gaining everyone’s attention. Standing there, with an envelope similar to the one Madison had dropped on the floor, was her brother Scott. His face was stoic until he caught sight of his family, the three of them reacting in a naturally joyous way. When the smile broke out on his face as well, Madison broke away from her mother and all but threw herself at Scott.
❝I got accepted!❞ They both spoke at the same time. Madison burst into laughter while Scott hugged her tightly.
❝Are you in a dorm?❞ Madison asked him softly. She felt his head nod in answer. That meant he would be there during the holidays with her. Letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding, Madison sighed with relief. There would still be family to celebrate the holidays with. It wasn’t a make or break situation, but it made things a lot easier to handle.
A wail from behind them signaled their mother realizing that both of her oldest children would be spending four solid years away from home. Scott let out an exasperated sigh.
❝It won’t stop for us until after we get on the boat.❞ Scott whispered in Madison’s ear, garnering a smile their parents wouldn’t see.
❝Let her have her moment. We’re all grown up, and she’s taking it hard.❞ Madison hummed before letting their mother have a moment to smother Scott. ❝I have a few phone calls to make.❞ Madison called out, heading upstairs to grab her phone. Parker, her best friend, would kill her if she didn’t give her ample warning before leaving. It wasn’t just Parker either. Madison had a large group of friends she needed to tell. There needed to be at least one more big hangout or party with them.
Once up in her room, Madison shut her door and grabbed her phone from the dresser. Looking through her contacts, she found Parkers and hit the little green phone icon. When the ringing started, Madison flopped over onto her bed with a smile that wouldn’t go away.
❝Sup?❞ Parker chimed from the other end of the line.
❝I got accepted.❞ Madison felt her cheeks starting to hurt from smiling so much.
❝Into that fancy college or that pole dancing job?❞ Parker snickered, her joke making Madison sit up.
❝If I recall, that pole dancing position was taken by you, not me.❞ Madison bit back. ❝But yes, the college.❞ The line fell silent for a moment. ❝Parker?❞
❝Yeah, I know.❞ Instantly, Madison caught the hesitation in Parker’s voice.
❝What’s wrong?❞ Worry creased her forehead as she crossed her legs, grabbing her ankle with her free hand.
❝Four years is a long time. I’m just gonna miss your face. Why does it have to be four full years with no visitation?❞ Parker whined.
❝I know, I’ll miss you too.❞ Madison chewed her lower lip for a moment as she found her words. ❝Because I went with a dorm. To keep my dorm room, and roommate, I have to remain on campus. Something about not being able to prove that I’m not just dropping out.❞
❝I guess that makes sense. Couldn’t they just call you and confirm with you that you’re still there? Why does a dorm versus a house matter?❞ Parker brought up a valid point, one that Madison didn’t have the answer to.
❝I don’t know. I don’t make the rules.❞ Madisons shoulders lifted in a shrug Parker couldn’t see. ❝I can still call, email, and video chat like we did last summer.❞ She was trying to alleviate the distance and time issue with simple remedies.
❝Yeah. I mean Who am I to stop you from chasing your dream. You just better remember me when you’re famous.❞ Parker laughed, though Madison caught the hint of seriousness to her comment. Parker was scared that Madison would forget her.
❝I could never forget you, Parker. You’re my best friend. You’re a sister to me. Mom even offered to adopt you. Remember?❞ The memory was still as clear as the day it happened.
Parker and Madison were no older than twelve. They had been sitting at the kitchen table eating the sandwiches Madison’s mother had made for them. Grilled cheese and ham to be exact. Something had happened at Parker’s house that had her all but running away. She had shown up on the McAlister doorstep with tear-stained cheeks, a running nose, and hiccups from crying. Parker’s father had been drunk, hit her mother, and continued to yell at her until she ran out the front door.
❝Yeah, I remember.❞ Parker let out a watery laugh. ❝Dad was an asshole. Mom’s new husband is nothing like that, thank god.❞ Madison heard the breath that Parker released.
❝So don’t you ever think I’ll forget you. Famous one day or not.❞ Madison smiled as she wiggled her toes. ❝So, I was thinking we could get the group together and have one last hang out before I leave for school.❞ Madison chewed her lower lip, thinking about how everyone else might react.
❝Oh, that means you’ll have to tell Emmett.❞ Parker winced, the sound coming across through her voice.
❝How about we don’t and say I did?❞ Emmett was a sweet guy, but he was the kind of person that didn’t deal well with change. ❝I just don’t want him to try and guilt me into staying.❞ Madison flopped over backward. Her head hung off the side of her bed.
❝I get that. He’s a little clingy. I remember how he acted when Jason and his family had to move.❞ That was a memory Madison didn’t want to experience personally. There was a reason Jason never came to visit if he knew Emmett was there. ❝So..We tell him after you move. But!❞ Parker exclaimed, making Madison jump. ❝We definitely need to hang out before you leave.❞ There was a moment’s pause. ❝Also, congrats on being accepted. I didn’t say that at first, but I am really happy for you. I’m just going to miss you is all.❞
❝Hush. You’re fine. I get it. I’m going to miss you too.❞ There was a knock on Madison’s door that had her rolling over onto her stomach. ❝I gotta go for now. I’ll text you later to set up a date within the week. Love you.❞
❝Sounds like a plan, love ya too!❞ Parker chimed before hanging up her phone. A second knock sounded.
❝It’s open.❞ Madison sat up, setting her phone to the side on a pillow.
❝Hey,❞ a timid voice came from the growing crack in the door.
❝Calista,❞ Madison sat up, worry laced in her voice. ❝What’s wrong?❞ Her hand patted the bed next to her, urging Calista to sit beside her.
❝You got accepted?❞ The defeat in her voice had Madison frowning and opening her arms. It took no time for Calista to tumble forward and hug her tightly. She just got out of school but a few minutes ago. Madison could tell because there were still bits of clay stuck in the tips of her hair where she had been leaning over her latest project. Madison hummed her affirmation which had Calista hugging her tighter.
❝I don’t want you to go.❞ Calista whined, her voice muffled by Madison’s hair and shoulder. ❝You and Scott are both leaving.❞ Calista’s shoulders started to tremble. Shortly after, Madison felt the first bit of warmth against her skin as her sister’s tears soaked through her shirt.
❝Awe, honey.❞ Madison cooed as she ran her hand up and down her sisters back. Calista was only sixteen and still in the beginning stages of developing her independence. She’d never been without Madison. They weren’t just sisters, but best friends despite the three year age gap. ❝It’s only four years.❞ It sounded like a long time, but Madison knew it would fly by.
❝I’m going to be alone with mom and dad. You know how boring they are!❞ Calista whined again. Madison had to bite back the laughter that threatened to break free. ❝What!?❞ Indignance had Calista backing away from her sister.
❝You aren’t wrong. Why not go hang out at Ada’s more? Take after-school classes or activities.❞ The suggestion was placed out of concern for her sister. Calista needed to learn to be more of her own person. She couldn’t keep relying on Madison to be there all the time. She’d already taken a year off school between high school and college.
❝I...I guess.❞ Calista huffed in defeat as she dropped down onto the bed beside Madison. Hre head came to rest on Madison’s thigh. Almost instantly, Madison began to run her fingers through Calista’s red hair. ❝Four years is a long time though.❞
❝I know,❞ Madison started to portion Calista’s hair into three separate sections. ❝It sounds long, but that time will be over before you know it. Two of those years you’ll still be in high school.❞ Slowly, Calista’s hair was worked into a three section plait. ❝Then you’ll be off to college as well. Which is something you should start thinking about. I know that Kingston has a ceramic program as well.❞
❝It does?❞ Calista turned her head to look up at Madison fully to find her nodding. ❝Can you find out more about it when you go there? Email me? Text me or something?❞
❝Of course.❞ Madison spoke with a soft and warm chuckle. ❝Is it just ceramics you’re interested in?❞ She waited for Calista to nod. ❝Okay, Then I’ll get the information and send it to you. You just have to promise not to be a pain to mom and dad.❞ Calista blinked up at Madison before nodding once.
❝Okay, I can do that.❞ Calista’s agreement had Madison smiling in return.
❝Good, because tonight they are taking us to Red Lobster.❞ There was an excitably devious tone to Madison’s voice. Her fingers prodded at Calista side to get her up.
❝Really? Will you french braid my hair?❞ The enthusiasm in Calista’s voice left Madison unable to reject her request. Instead, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and parted her knees so her sister could sit on the floor in front of her. With Calista in front of her, Madison began to work her fingers through her long locks.
❝So...do you think you’re gonna find a boyfriend there?❞ Calista was scrolling through her phone, searching through the Kingston College tag on Instagram.
❝I won’t be actively looking if that is your question.❞ Madison continued to weave Calista’s hair into a reverse french braid that went from her right temple to the left side of her nape.
❝He’s cute.❞ Calista stopped on one picture of a man dressed in a clean, pressed button-up shirt.
❝He’s also probably twenty-years your senior. He’s one of the vocal coaches.❞ Madison shook her head as she twisted the hair tie around the bottom of the braid.
❝Oh...❞ Calista’s voice was timid as her neck grew red and her cheeks heated to match.
❝He is cute though.❞ With a pat on Calista’s shoulder, Madison stood and walked toward her closet. ❝Like I said. I won’t be actively looking. If it happens, it happens I guess.❞ It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be in a relationship, it was just that her last one had ended on a rough note. She was a bit jaded when it came to relationships now. Besides, she wasn’t going to one of the best art colleges to get a boyfriend, she was going to further her skills as a singer.
❝Now come on. We need to head downstairs and meet up with mom and dad.❞ Madison nodded her head toward the door as she grabbed her jacket off a hanger in her closet. Calista was up and out of her room just seconds before her. Looking back at her pillow, Madison saw her phone and quickly grabbed it before trailing behind her sister, shutting the bedroom door behind her.