The Boarding School

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Seven

Anna’s POV

Summer and Harry ran away. Summer and Harry run away.

Summer. And Harry. Ran away.

Those words hammered in my mind mercilessly. Everyone and everything I looked at reminded me of what happened, the image of them running with their suitcases in hand through the green field in the direction of the gate engraved in my mind, playing relentlessly.

And I was furious.

It didn’t seem real. It felt like I was in a dream, my thoughts cloudy. I wished I could wake up and everything would go back to what it was, or at least back to the time when this outcome could have been avoided, a time when I wasn’t aware of the cruelty and the mercilessness of the people I called my friends.

Because it was their fault Summer was gone. It was all their fault.

When I sat at the top of the stairs as I talked to Summer, as she stole The Book of Judgement, frozen in place and in shock, a million thoughts were running through my mind and my body couldn’t keep up, so it just shut down completely. I was in shock, confused, angry, perplexed, disappointed, revolted, and above all, stupefied.

Hours had gone by since I last saw her and it was almost time for dinner. I lay in bed completely motionless, staring at the ceiling. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from the roller-coaster that had been that day, and Lottie and Lucy were in the room too, equally in silence, all thinking about the same thing.

“Where is Amanda?” one of them asked. At that point, I was so engulfed in my thoughts that I couldn’t distinguish who was talking.

“I’m not sure. The last time I saw her she and Anthony ran to Mr Hansen’s office.”

Oh yes. I had almost forgot about that tiny detail. It wasn’t enough to humiliate her to such a degree that she had to run away from Hudson, Amanda and Anthony also had to go and inform Mr Hansen that Summer was poor, because such news were an outrage seen as the school could not accept inferior people! Mr Hansen had to be informed at once!

“That was ages ago. I bet she is running around the school grounds making sure everyone knows what happened... I mean, I don’t blame her, this is probably the biggest scandal we have had since John’s suicide.”

I didn’t comment on what I heard, I was still too busy trying to join the dots. Besides, it was only a fact, and I had to accept it whether I liked it or not.

“I heard that after Summer left the main building she went straight to Hall B and went upstairs to Harry’s room. Isn’t that crazy?!”

“I also heard that! I don’t believe it is true though... I mean, no girl has ever entered Hall B, and yes, she was pretty upset with what happened in the classroom, but that seems like a desperate reaction, almost over the top, don’t you think Lucy?”

I interrupted “I guess we are in no way entitled to say what we think is extreme or not. We didn’t know what she was going through, how deeply that confrontation affected her.”

“Are you seriously justifying her attitude, Anna? She basically lied to the whole school, to us, her best friends... I mean, what Anthony and Amanda did was not nice, but she was asking for it.”

My heart hammered in my chest as I heard those words. That was when unexpectedly, my mind became perfectly clear, and I listened intensively to what they were saying.

“You are kind of right, but I think they were too harsh on her...” Lottie said as she played with her fingers.

“Too harsh? She sealed her deal the second she decided to lie to us. And I’m not just talking about her secret relationship with Harry, which alone makes me sick, but also the fact that she is poor. She basically lied about everything she is, she played us like puppets and made us believe in her.” Lucy fired her arguments, making exaggerated gestures with her hands.

“Will you stop being so cynical?!” I suddenly jumped, incapable of listening to what they were saying without having to intervene “Will you all stop being cruel?! They are people too, you know?”

I didn’t even give them time to respond. I jumped from my bed and walked out, more than disappointed with what they actually believed. As I closed the door, I could feel the exhaustion of the day finally kicking in as teardrops started accumulating in my eyes. I couldn’t let anyone see me cry, so I walked down the stairs in the direction of the bathroom.

I remembered a similar situation a while ago that had happened between Summer and me, only that she was the one crying and I the selfish ignorant.

Funny how the tables have turned.

Once I reached the bathroom to wash my face I was much calmer. Just getting Lucy out of my sight helped ease the frustration I felt towards her, towards everybody really.

The freezing cold water made my hands feel stiff as I took them to my face, but the cool water was soothing nonetheless.

I didn’t even bother going back upstairs, I went straight to the canteen even though I still had twenty minutes until dinner time. Just the thought of having to hear everyone talk about this made me want to skip dinner altogether and just go sleep straight away, end that horrible day as fast as possible, but there was no point in running from it, I would sooner or later have to face them. My stomach was already twisting with the thought of seeing Amanda’s cocky smile of triumph... This dinner was going to be painful.

***

The canteen was now full. Visually it looked exactly the same as every other night; the teachers were there, the staff was also there at their usual table at the back, the students sat at the long dining tables side by side.

If an outsider was to come in, he would say he never saw such a prestige and promising group of students in the whole of the United Kingdom. The visitor might have recognised some of the students for their similar appearances with their parents. Oh look, that girl over there is the daughter of that famous judge, and that boy’s mother was a scholar at Cambridge. How could I miss that one? His father is a member of parliament, oh and that one over there is the daughter of a great physician... The list would go on almost eternally due to the large amount of students which parents were one way or another in the public eye, and while this visitor would be busy identifying these faces, he would miss the most important thing of all: the talk.

They might have looked pretty, respectable even in their impeccable uniforms, but that same uniform helped hide immensely what the eyes could not see. If the visitor was to get closer, he would hear mainly two names dancing in the air that evening, being those of Summer and Harry. He would also be aware of the whole situation in a matter of minutes: no matter who he asked, anyone could provide useful information. Everyone knew what had happened by now, even the eighth graders who had their heads in the clouds all the time.

Gladly there was no visitor, but if there was one I bet he would have noticed me right away for the simple fact that I didn’t fit in that crowd anymore. In fact, I was doing everything in my power not to fit in that crowd, I didn’t want to.

I was sat at the end of a long table, but I could still hear perfectly Amanda and Anthony who were sitting right in the centre, like two kings surrounded by their court.

“Oh, the look on her face was priceless!” Amanda laughed loudly and everyone joined, clapping their hands and making fun of her even further.

I looked at Amanda as she giggled with pride. Pride of what? Making someone miserable?

“And not only is she gone, Harry is also gone with her! This is the kind of justice John deserved long ago, and I’m glad I gave him that!” Anthony chanted along, although I noticed he struggled with his words occasionally. He was not used to having so many people talking to him, although Amanda was clearly the centre of all that conversation.

Lucy, who was sitting two seats away from me joined in “And let’s not forget that now we have more space in our dorm.”

“Oh, finally I’m going to have another closet, mine is bursting full!” Amanda said once more “Hey Anna, what do you think of all this? You’ve been awfully quiet this evening...”

I dropped my fork on the plate, the noise barely being heard due to the loud talking of the people around me. She was obviously provoking me... Lucy must have told her about my “outburst” before dinner. I could see it in her eyes she was dying to add more wood to the fire, but I was not going to fall for her tricks.

I looked upwards to meet her gaze, feeling slightly on edge “I think that she and Harry did the right thing in leaving.”

“And why is that?” Amanda forced my convictions out of my mouth. She wasn’t dumb, of course she knew I disapproved of what had happened, it was clear on my face, but the others didn’t, and to be honest, I wish it could continue to be that way. But no, Amanda would not rest until everyone and everything that supported them was miserable, so she kept insisting that I told everyone what I really felt, to humiliate me. That was when something in me clicked: she wanted to do to me what she did to Summer.

Our friendship died in that very instance.

“Why is that?” I lifted and eyebrow, defiant, everyone’s attention suddenly on me “Because what happened this morning was inevitable. Anthony’s prying and stealing was only a catalyst that led them to run away. If he hadn’t found out that piece of evidence to humiliate your once good friend she would have left sooner or later. And I have the impression that Harry would have left long ago if it wasn’t for her. I mean, I know you guys are special and that you are above everyone else and all, but I mean, nobody needs to keep up with your crap, right? Especially if the things you say aren’t truthful, don’t you think?”

Suddenly, the people around me fell silent. Gradually, the people from the other tables noticed the decrease in volume from the loudest table, Amanda’s table, and started pointing and commenting on what was going on. Meanwhile, Amanda’s jaw was on the floor, everyone around me seemed to be in a trance as they waited for her response. Anthony, I noticed, looked away from me, as if embarrassed or feeling sorry for me. He knew perfectly well what was coming for me and so did I.

“I never thought the day would come where your feelings would overcome your reasoning Anna. You, above all people, should be the one celebrating the most. A friend that lied to you, used you, manipulated you into believing she was someone who she wasn’t, is gone! You should be celebrating because not only did she leave us alone once and for all but she also took that monster with her! He mistreated you like he did to everyone else, you swore to me you would never forget that day, and now here you are, defending that monster-”

“Harry is not a monster, don’t call him that,” I said between greeted teeth. My anger was boiling at a dangerous rate.

She ignored what I said “I mean, it is a bit strange - how was it possible that Summer started talking to Harry in the first place? They say opposites attract, but I don’t think this is the case here. They are the copy of one another, both liars and cheaters! It’s obvious she was seeing him behind our back when she was still our friend! Just thinking about it makes me sick... How is it possible to even stand in a room with him-?!”

“Because she loves him!”

I was breathless, almost panting for air. I didn’t even notice I had stood up to interrupt her nonsense speech. Only when literally the entire table from one end to another fell quiet did it sink that I had shouted those words, and I was confident that most of the people in the canteen had heard me say it, teachers included.

“You did this to her because she fell in love with someone that you didn’t like. It’s as simple as this, and it’s sickening!”

I wasn’t sure what I felt anymore. Was I still enraged or just completely desperate for them to understand once and for all the truth? How hard could it be to understand? Didn’t these people have hearts?

“Yes, I can imagine that loving Harry can be difficult (I mean, look at us right now, this is the kind of comments she had to endure every day), but she was the only one, the only person in this room that managed to do so, so instead of scorning her Amanda, you should be congratulating her. But you know, the funny part of this all is that Harry, the vile monster according to you, actually loves her back, I saw it with my own eyes! And now that they left all this, I bet they are the happiest people in the entire world! So congratulations Amanda, Anthony, you got what you wanted... They are really paying for what they deserve.”

The whole canteen was silent once I finished my last sentence. It seemed like I could pass out any moment, the adrenaline the only thing keeping me standing. I had never been in such a situation before, having everyone stare at me like I was a wild animal as I lost it completely. I was glad though, I was glad that finally I had said what I had bottled up inside me since that day Harry came to me and asked me to give Summer her tie back.

I stood for a couple of seconds in silence, every pair of eyes fixated on me.

I looked at Mr Hansen, his eyes almost jumping out of its sockets and he stood paralysed, not knowing how to react.

I couldn’t stand there much longer with everyone’s burning stares, so I turned my back to them and walked out of there, the talking only returning to the canteen once I had turned the corner.

I walked outside, the cold air hitting my face. I welcomed the feeling as I took two steps at the time down the entrance stairs, heading out of that building as fast as possible.

“Wait Anna... Wait up!” I heard Anthony’s voice behind me. I looked back, the tears finally streaming down my face due to the nervous breakdown I was waiting to crash down on me.

“What is it Anthony, what do you want?”

“I didn’t mean it to turn out how it did... I didn’t want Summer to leave... I didn’t want any of this to happen... I didn’t think this through, I- I just wanted to be remembered, remembered for something, anything...” I heard him sniff, wiping his tears away rapidly “I didn’t want to be a nobody anymore, I wanted to be- to be valued and I never thought that Summer would leave, I never wanted to cause her pain... I’m- I’m sorry.”

I stared at him, more than flabbergasted, and with a dead-serious tone, I said:

“Don’t worry, I will remember exactly what you did, you motherfucker.”

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