The Whitlock Academy is a finishing school for all Lamia aged sixteen to eighteen.
The academy, founded in 1485, provides all Lamia with the skills, knowledge and strength to succeed in our world.
In addition to a quality education, we have our own Prophets who will help your child to discover their prophecy and, therefore, their place in our world.
I read the booklet from back to front as the car flies along the road, hurtling towards my future.
Lamia is the Latin word for vampire. Us bloodsuckers thinks it makes us sound less scary to humans. It doesn’t. It’s only one letter off being labia, in my opinion.
‘Are you excited, darling?’ My mother asks from the passenger seat.
I look up from the booklet and meet her hopeful gaze. I force a smile, purely for her benefit.
‘Yes,’ I lie smoothly.
No, I’m not excited.
I have to go to a school where everyone has already known each other for a year. I missed the last year of school. I was supposed to start at the academy at sixteen. I am arriving now, at seventeen.
Everyone has already made friends, formed groups. I have to infiltrate that and, I’ll be honest, I’m petrified about it.
My only saving grace is that I have Honey. Honey and I went to the same secondary school. We’ve known each other for four years. I messaged her to let her know I’d be coming to the academy in September, and she asked if I wanted to be put in her dorm.
Obviously, I eagerly agreed. I’ve been assigned to her dorm. It will be me, Honey and two other girls that Honey is friends with. At least I will be living with someone I know.
‘Has Honey texted you this morning?’ Mum asks.
‘Yes. We’ve spoken.’
‘Good. I’m so glad you have her. I was worried about you.’
Me, too, Mum.
At the academy’s suggestion, I am coming in a week after school has started.
The headmaster thought it would be better if I started after everyone else had already returned and had time to catch up. He said it would be easier for me because the students would have ‘calmed down’ somewhat.
I don’t know whether it will make a difference or not, but I was relieved for the extra week off to mentally prepare myself.
In the distance, the turreted roof of the academy appears. I turn up the volume on my headphones and lean my head against the window, drowning out my worries.
We pull to a stop and I open my eyes. My heart sinks as I realise we are parked right outside of the academy.
The grey stone building looms over me, stretching four storeys high. It is covered in Virginia Creeper, which kind of looks like blood coating the walls.
The buildings are old and beautiful. The windows are arched and the doors wooden and intricate. The beauty of academy makes it a little less daunting.
My parents and I step out of the car. They open the boot and take my suitcases out for me. I straighten my skirt and smooth down my short hair.
‘You look lovely, darling,’ my mother reassures me. ‘Don’t worry.’
‘Thanks,’ I reply weakly.
My father insists on wheeling my suitcases inside for me. In the reception area, we are told to wait for the headmaster. After a few minutes, the official and stern-looking man appears.
‘You must be Emery St. Cloud,’ he says warmly. His face is transformed by his wide smile. ‘I am Mr. Burberry, the headmaster.’
I shake his offered hand. ‘Nice to meet you, Sir.’
He turns to my parents. ‘It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr and Mrs St. Cloud. You can leave Emery with me and I will make sure she settles in.’
My parents look at me reluctantly. It’s obvious they don’t want to leave me. I smile, trying to look more confident than I feel.
‘I’ll be fine,’ I tell them. ‘I’ll see you at half term.’
My mum pulls me into a tight hug, squeezing the breath out of me.
‘Message me all the time, okay? And call me if you need anything. We’re only a phone call away.’
‘I know, Mum. It’s okay.’
She lets me go and I’m passed into my father’s arms. He squeezes me just as tight.
‘Look after yourself, kiddo,’ he says gruffly. ‘We’ll be thinking of you.’
I wave goodbye to my parents. Once I’m alone with the headteacher, he hands me a folder.
‘This has everything you will need. It includes your timetable, a map of the school, all of our term dates and events calendar. If you need anything, you can call reception from your dorm and Janice will help you.’
‘Thank you,’ I respond and slip the folder into my handbag.
‘Leave your bags here, one of the staff will bring it up to your dorm for you. For now, I’ll give you a quick tour.’
The headmaster shows me around the grounds. It’s a Sunday. Students are not in classes. Instead, they’re free to roam around. However, it’s lunchtime, so many of them are in the cafeteria.
He shows me where the classrooms are, the main hall for assemblies and large events, the common room, the library, the gymnasium and the swimming pool.
We end at the girls dormitory.
‘Your suitcases should already be in your room. You are in dorm 109, room 4. Here is your key. You can get another at the front desk if you lose yours, but you will have to pay a fee.’
I take the old-fashioned gold key from him.
‘Thank you, Sir.’
His eyes soften as he meets my eyes.
‘From what I hear, you’ve had a tough year. Know this, you have had it harder than many of these students have and you’ve survived it. You’re stronger than you know,’ he says gently. ‘I know that you are going to fit right in at our academy. It’s going to be okay, Emery.’
His words touch me more than I thought they would. I didn’t expect him to be this nice. He looked so stern and officious when I first saw him.
One less thing to worry about; the headmaster being an arsehole.
‘Thank you, Sir,’ I respond again. ‘For everything.’
‘No problem. You know where my office is, and it’s on the map, too. Come and see me if you need anything and welcome to the academy, Miss St. Cloud.’
I watch his back recede down the corridor. With a sigh, I go through the double doors into the girl’s dormitory.
There is a long corridor, lined with doors. I walk along until I find the one that has a plaque saying ‘109’. I open the door and find step inside.
The hallway leads into an open-plan living room and kitchen. It’s basic, but cosy. The kitchen is a small kitchenette with a two-ring hob. The two sofas look a little lived-in but comfy.
The TV is rather impressive and glass doors lead onto a small balcony. There are four doors leading off from the room. I use my key to unlock room number 4.
My suitcases are just outside the door, so I wheel them in. My bed consists of a packaged new duvet cover and pillows and a simple mattress. We were told to bring our own bedding and mine is in my case.
There is a vanity and chair, a wardrobe, a desk and a very basic en suite. I don’t care, though. This is my space, my little haven in this huge school.
I spend over an hour unpacking and making the room my own. I make up my bed and put on the two throw pillows that I brought from home.
I stick up posters and pictures of my friends from secondary school. I hang fairy lights and put all of my clothes into the wardrobe and drawers.
I put my snack food in the empty cupboard obviously assigned to me in the kitchen. I hang my towels in the bathroom and unpack my toiletries.
By the time I’m done, the place is inviting and feels more like home.
I step back to admire my work. The front door opens, and voices reach me, making me jump.
Nervously, I poke my head out of the door.