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Rena didn’t want to do it. Why couldn’t she be homeschooled like normal? The move was stressful enough, and now she had to start school. Her mother had purchased the entire uniform before Rena had even known where they were moving to. It didn’t suit her either. The girls’ uniform began with a white pinstripe blouse with a flattened collar above the chest. They wore a night-blue jacket with pockets at the waist, and a plain night-blue tie. A black skirt was one of the pieces of the uniform that was not night-blue. But the nightmare of the set was Rena’s shiny new pair of shoes. Oh, the horror; Rena hadn’t liked to think about them before she had to, adamant that she wouldn’t even look at them until term started. Some ugly leather things, pointed at the end with buckles over the middle. Who would want to step into those? No doubt the designer had the intention of humiliating the wearer, and Rena’s new college had decided that they didn’t care. Surely they had heard of sneakers. The boys’ uniform was much more appealing, if only because of the shoes. They had a white pinstripe shirt that they weren’t allowed to button at the very top, in the middle of their neck. The night-blue jacket was the same, only theirs had breast pockets. Similar also was the tie, the only difference being that it sported a single white diagonal stripe across the middle, edged with an even darker blue. Naturally, the boys elected not to wear skirts, although they could if they wanted to, and so they wore midnight-blue dress pants. Their shoes were much less horrid, and not to mention looked far more comfortable. Leather, flat-pointed no-lace dress shoes encased the feet of presumably every boy at Rena’s new college.
“Rena, you’re going to be fine. Just get out of the car, already. Carol is meeting me at the mall in fifteen minutes,” said Rena’s mother. Rena’s mother Jenna was not a large woman, standing at only one hundred and sixty centimetres and weighing about fifty-five kilograms. Not the most compassionate woman, she was always distracted by something or someone else. Never focused on one thing, definitely not her daughter. She had a tendency to set a budget for herself, go to the mall with some friends, and blow all her money on some useless, usually expensive item, like a pair of too-high high heels. After all her money was gone, she would mooch off her friends who didn’t even realise what was happening. And for whatever reason, she had a severe phobia of bananas. Rena much preferred her father Marco, who had joined the army straight out of high school. He was rather dull, and they never went anywhere, but at least he paid her some attention.
“Are you going to get out of this car on your own or do I have to push you?” Rena’s mother threatened.
“I’m going, I’m going, calm down,” Rena huffed. “This whole school business only starts in ten minutes.”
Her mother shrugged. “Carol’s waiting. This isn’t about you, it’s about me.”
“Then why am I here?” Rena moaned. “You could have just left me at home.”
Again, Rena’s mother shrugged. “I bought the uniform, so you know, we didn’t really have a choice. Now would you get out of my car? Carol will be wondering where I am.”
Rena rolled her eyes. What a real shocker. Her mother was nearly always at least half an hour late, so Rena wouldn’t be at all surprised if she heard her mother complaining at the end of the day about how Carol was mad at her for keeping her waiting. Oh well. Rena shouldered her bag and climbed out the door. She was almost knocked over because her mother sped forward as soon as she had placed a foot on the ground. She watched her mother drive away, the car door still swinging. As she watched, her mother’s arm shot out, slamming the door shut.
Rena looked around and saw other kids getting out of their cars, and their parents got out with them. They gave them a hug and planted a kiss on the tops of their heads; all the standard things your ever-loving parents do to humiliate you in public. That is, if your parents are ever-loving. Rena shook her head and turned towards the imposing gates of Saint Coterel’s College. She could see night-blue throngs of students milling around the grounds in front of the school buildings, and had no idea where to go. There seemed to be a million different places where school began, and to top it all off Rena had never been to school in her life. How did it work? Her only schooling experience was a private tutor that came to her house every day of a normal school term. She didn’t think she would do well at this fancy college. She didn’t even know what classes she had. She had no books. All Rena had in her bag was a water bottle, lunch money, and a drawing pad. Did they even sell lunch here? She was completely unprepared, but right then the bell rang and Rena had no choice but to pick a group of people and follow them to wherever they were going.
But there was no need. Every school year there was a welcoming assembly, for new students and old. Rena was glad. Walking into the hall, Rena was taken aback by the architectural grandeur and detail. She had thought that things like that only existed in books. Admiring the building, she walked straight into a tall, muscular boy flanked by his group of friends.
“Hey, watch it,” he said, glaring at Rena. He placed his palm on her forehead and shoved her head back. The boy snorted and walked away as she stumbled backwards, rubbing the back of her neck. Her backwards momentum was halted by a gentle shove from behind. Rena heard a laugh, and a lightly tanned face popped up in front of her.
“You’ve gotta watch out for the Jocks. They’re all real jerks, especially Wyatt.” The boy who spoke had curly brown hair sat on top of his head and square glasses over his green eyes.
“Eh, come on Glen. What’re you doing talking about the Jocks?” a second voice quipped from Rena’s left. Another boy appeared in front of Rena. He was tall, with dark skin and a shaved head. The beginnings of a wispy moustache were paraded above his top lip.
“Trent! Wyatt was being himself again so I was just telling her to watch out.” The boy named Glen gestured towards Rena.
The other boy, Trent, looked Rena over and smiled. “Oh, well, that’s normal, then.”
“You’re new here, aren’t you? Otherwise you’d know to stay out of Wyatt’s way,” Glen commented. “I bet you’re pretty confused about the ‘Jocks’ and all that, but don’t worry, the old student traditions will find their way to you soon enough. My only advice? Go for Academics.”
Rena followed Glen with her eyes as he walked away, leaving her wondering what kind of crazy people went to her new school.
“Ah, I better go after him before he starts influencing other new kids,” Trent said. “See you around.” And he chased after Glen.
Rena found that Glen was right, she was confused. Jocks? Academics?
The screech of microphone feedback pierced Rena’s ears, and she clamped her hands over the sides of her head. She dropped them back down to her sides when a tall, fat man started speaking. He had a thinning chin puff and equally sparse head hair.
“Attention, please.” He tapped the microphone and sent another wave of screeching feedback through the hall. Any students that weren’t already listening whipped around and shot him a glare.
“Thank you, thank you.” The man sucked in a breath. “As most of you know, I am Principal Vancise. Welcome back, to those of you who attended Saint Cotorel’s last year, and welcome to those of you who have enrolled just this year. We strive to achieve greatness not only in our school name and reputation, but in our students, our discipuli, as well.” Principal Vancise spread his arms, welcoming both voluntary and reluctant applause from the students of Saint Cotorel’s. He went back to the microphone.
“Uphold the reputation of Saint Cotorel’s College. With this, I set you free to enjoy the rest of orientation day.”
Principal Vancise stepped away from the podium and merged with the thick velvet curtains at the back of the stage.
There was silence for a few seconds, and then the hall erupted into an explosion of noise, laughter, and shoving for the door. Rena was almost crushed by a wave of students, but managed to run out of the way just in time. Although not for long, as the onslaught of teenagers spread outwards and engulfed her in the mass of bodies, carrying her out the door.
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