"Verity has a grudge."
"Whoever gets chosen gets paired with the Homecoming King and Prince of AM Farewell Collegiate at the Homecoming Dance."
"I think you'll be a great addition to our team."
The New Girl
Chapter 3 - Power Corrupts. Absolute Power is Kind Of Nifty
Back in the dorm room, the four girls sat around the dining table while a kettle heated up on the small stove. Skye had a pad of paper in front of her, making notes and doodling drawings while Caitlin thought out loud. "St. Dymphna's homecoming is interesting and all, but not that important. Disrupting it is something we can worry about later," the red-haired girl said.
"What about Jay?" Autumn asked. "I wouldn't put it past Caroline to fix the votes to hook her up with him."
"Worry about that later, Autumn. Verity is up to something else right now."
Skye nodded. "We should have had Laura follow her."
Laura held a hand up. "No, we shouldn't. Laura doesn't have any idea of what's happening and would like an explanation."
"Laura's also referring to herself in the third person," Autumn said.
"That happens when she, er, when I get treated like an object. What's going on?"
"Skye, care to explain?" Caitlin said.
Skye stood up. She stretched, hands touching the ceiling, before starting. "The Academy and St. Dymphna Collegiate have a rivalry going. I don't think anyone remembers when it started, it's been going on that long."
"So why don't we just stop?" Laura smoothed out her white skirt. "If one side just drops it, then what can the other side do? Continue and look bad?"
Caitlin took a long look at Laura. "Interesting idea. I may have to use it someday."
"That's why." Skye started walking around behind everyone's chairs. "Almost everyone here has a reason to go after a girl over at St. Dymphna. And almost everyone there has a reason to come after someone here. There's too much bad blood."
Autumn hooked a thumb at their next-door neighbours. "Cassie doesn't have a reason. I don't think she'd recognize when she'd have one, but that's her problem, not ours. You don't have a reason, yet."
Skye sat back down in her chair. "Then there's Caitlin and Verity." The tall girl turned towards the redhead. "Sorry, Cait, but even you have to admit that there's something more going on between you two.":
Caitlin grinned. "I know. And, yes, you're right."
"Care to let the rest of us know why?" Laura demanded.
"No, not really." Caitlin stood up,. "Laura, you're new here. You were never a Jennifer, you never dealt with the Dymphnas before. You'll see, in time."
"Right now, it's us making the moves, not them."
"Not them on us. Verity is up to something. You heard how she was going to embarrass one of her own schoolmates."
"That was Mackenzie."
"Yeah, watch out for her," Autumn said. She brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face. "She looks harmless, but there's a core of evil to her."
Skye laughed. "She pwned you again, didn't she?"
"It's the lag. Ms Stone won't get us decent speeds here." Autumn folded her arms over her chest. "And I totally had her until our bandwidth got clogged."
Caitlin walked to stand behind Autumn. "That was Cassandra. She downloaded the entire library at once."
"Who gave that blonde bimbo a computer?"
"We're losing focus, girls." Caitlin patted Autumn's shoulder. "Mackenzie isn't a problem on her own. She is when she's following Verity."
Autumn looked up at Caitlin. "Don't forget Caroline."
"I'm not forgetting anyone, Autumn. Skye, what do we have so far?"
Skye picked up her pad and cleared her voice. "Verity is suspicious of something, is gathering supplies, may be up to something for her Homecoming."
The kettle whistled. Laura got up to take it off the burner. "No, she isn't. Mackenzie suggested it, not her."
"Doesn't mean Verity isn't planning something," Caitlin said. "In the past, she has taken ideas from her followers."
"Caroline was more interested in Homecoming than Verity." Laura poured hot water into her mug. "Anyone else?"
Caitlin walked over to join Laura. "Let me get a teabag."
"Okay. And where is your coffee?"
Caitlin opened a cupboard door. She pulled down an orange box of rooibos tea for herself and a jar of coffee to pass to Laura. "Here."
"Instant?" Laura stuck out her tongue in disgust. "Is that all you have here? You don't even have a coffee maker?"
"What's wrong with instant?" Autumn asked. "It wakes me up."
"Says the girl with all the energy drinks in the fridge." Skye set down her pad. "Caitlin drinks tea, Autumn drinks energy drinks. I have Gatorade and juices. We just don't drink coffee here. If we need it, we can go to the cafeteria."
With great reluctance, Laura took the jar of instant coffee. "Who would I talk to about getting a proper coffee maker here?"
In unison, the other girls said, "Vamsi." Caitlin continued, "Anything you need, talk to Vamsi. It'll cost, and sometimes, it won't be cash."
"For a coffee maker, it'll be cash or a small favour," Autumn added. "It's not like getting a new smartphone. I think I'd prefer to have given her my arm and leg. Well, leg." She looked down at her bare legs. "Actually, no. I need them, too."
"I keep telling you, Autumn, Jay is not a leg man." Skye shook her head. "I'm fairly sure he prefers butts."
"I've seen how he looks at Janine Wilson over at Central."
Autumn scowled. "Who?"
"Soccer player, plays centre-half. I've trampled her a couple of times getting to the ball."
"Her? She has a scar down her thigh."
Skye smirked. "Who do you think gave it to her?"
Caitlin clapped her hands to draw attention to herself. "Girls, we're getting off track here."
"Way off." Laura set down her mug. "Do we have any sugar. This so-called 'coffee' is awful."
Without looking, Caitlin answered, "Second cupboard from the right, bottom shelf." The red-haired girl sat back down. "We still don't know what Verity is--" Caitlin's voice trailed away. Her green eyes shone. "Of course! Verity doesn't want to be either the Homecoming Queen or Princess or Whatever. That's not her style. She wants to be the power behind the throne." Caitlin got back up and started to pace. Laura pressed up against the kitchenette counter to avoid a collision. "Yes, yes, yes!"
Laura slipped into a chair after Caitlin passed her a second time. She leaned closer to Skye. "Is she always like this?"
Caitlin stopped, turned on her heel. "Isn't it obvious? We give Verity the one thing she doesn't want. We make her St. Dymphna's Homecoming Queen." The redhead sat down again. "And I heard that, Laura."
"Cait, what would that accomplish?" Skye picked up her notepad and a pen. "I mean, if Verity wants to have power, what power there is in being the Queen for a week, then how is making her royalty going to hurt her?"
"It's a public role, don't you see?" Caitlin looked around the table at questioning faces. "Okay, Verity is great at advising, getting her hooks into people who can be useful to her, manipulating them to get what she wants. With me so far?" Caitlin paused for the murmurred assents. "Put in her into the role she normally manipulates, she has power, but she's also now visible. She's the one people are trying to control."
"You're saying that it'd be karmic?" Laura asked. "I'm still not seeing it."
Skye snapped her fingers. "I have it! Verity wouldn't be able to make a power play. She's in the spotlight. Her fellow students are watching her. She couldn't use what power she has because everyone else will be waiting for her to make her move and stop her."
Autumn shrugged. "I don't think I follow, but if Verity is Queen instead of Caroline, I'm in."
Caitlin focused on Laura. "Well?"
Bewildered, Laura asked, "Is this normal around here?"
Skye elbowed Laura. "Welcome to the Gephardt Academy. What did you expect?"
"I don't know, a school? One with classes and students who were worried about mid-terms and dances and dates and fitting in. Not one for junior world dominators."
Caitlin tilted her head, staring at Laura askew. "What did you expect from a school called the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls? Butterflies?"
"I'd never heard of this school."
Autumn turned to face Laura. "Never heard? Even in Toronto, the Academy is spoken of in hushed tones at the high schools there."
"Except," Laura slumped in her chair, "except I never went to school."
"Oh." Caitlin leaned back in her chair. "Oh. So when you told the Dymphnites that you were home schooled, you weren telling the truth."
Skye patted Laura's shoulder. "And when you got here, you were expecting something from TV, with dating drama and worries about getting into the right university."
Laura nodded. "Yeah."
"They would have eaten you alive at a regular school," Autumn said.
Caitlin leaned forward on the table. "Laura, this isn't an ordinary school. Public schools aren't able to deal with girls like us, girls who challenge the status quo. The Academy isn't for troubled girls; it's for girls who are, well, trouble, with a capital-T."
"And Cassie," Autumn added.
"And Cassandra." Caitlin let a shudder roll through her. "Laura, did your parents tell you why they sent you here?"
"Well, that's kinda complicated?" Laura felt her cheeks grow warm.
"That's usually a good start for why you're here."
"My parents weren't involved in the decision." Laura downed a long swig of her alleged coffee. "I have no idea where my mother is."
"And your father?"
Laura set down her mug. "In the Don Jail."
"Whoa." Skye got up to stand behind Laura. "Tough break." She gave the new girl a quick hug.
"Just a moment, Skye." Caitlin put her attenion back on Laura. "Your family is definitely dysfunctional, but it takes more than that to come here. My parents are happily married and, yet, here I am."
"My father's in jail because I turned Crown's evidence on him. I'd prefer not to get into details because I'm supposed to be in hiding until his trial. He's a big person in organized crime, so I was sent here to be safe."
Autumn laughed. "That explains the Men in Black this afternoon. The Court has an odd definition of safe, though."
Skye sat back down. "Makes perfect sense to me. We have wild packs of Jennifers roaming the campus. Men who make it past them in one piece will stand out like a sore thumb here. We have a few male teachers, but they leave at the end of the day. Last time a thief broke in, he called the police for help."
"He was fun to play with." Autumn smirked. "What was he after?"
"Crime of opportunity. A school full of girls? Should be easy." Caitlin chuckled. "That was when we were Jennifers. Skye's right, Laura. You're safe here, at least from your father's hitmen."
Laura forced a smile, one that lasted for a second. "Thanks, I guess." She sat up straigher in her chair. "So why are all of you here? Okay, Caitlin, I can understand, but it's only fair that I get to know your reasons since you know mine."
"Eh, why not?" Skye shrugged. "I'm here because of unnecessary roughing."
"Hockey, right? It happens."
Laura blinked. "Volleyball? But there's no contact in volleyball."
"Not quite. There's very little contact in volleyball. I was good at spiking the ball into the opposing team's best player's face. In hockey, I spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice. I think Philadelphia might be scouting me for future prospects."
Skye nodded. "The Flyers aren't known for being gentle."
As Laura tried to process the information, Autumn said, "I'm here because I got caught trying to destablize a nation's currency. Which isn't true."
Caitlin shook her head. "Yeah, right, Autumn."
"Really, Caitlin. Look, I had done my research. I needed a country that didn't have an extradition treaty with Canada. I found one, then tried to siphon off some funds from the country's military budget. Do you know how much you can hide in those budgets? I saw a few luxuries I didn't quite get at the time, being young and innocent--"
Skye interrupted with a huge laugh. "Innocent, Autumn? Since when?"
"When I was younger. I had to discover what boys were at some time." Autumn turned back to Laura. "Anyway, Laura, as I was saying, I thought I could siphon a few thousand a month into a bank account, then pull the money from there into my own. What I didn't do was take into account the exchange rate. I didn't know that the American dollar was doing so well and that the North Korean won wasn't. I set up to pull a thousand US a month. There wasn't much anyone could do to me. I was underage and the crime was in North Korea, technically, but Mom and Dad packed me up and shipped me here, where the bandwidth is horrible."
"Cry me a river, Autumn." Caitlin leaned back in her chair. "Laura, you said you understood why I'm here. Why do you think I'm at the Academy?"
Laura examined Caitlin's expression, trying to discern what the redhead wanted. "Given the way you command the others, you were a gang leader at your old school."
"Gang leader?" Caitlin mulled over the idea. "I supposed one could call me that. One would miss subtleties and complexities. No, Laura, I wasn't a gang leader. I can see why you'd say that." Caitlin stood up. "No, Laura, I led a coup d'etat against the school board. Almost succeeded, too, except the board had lawyers. Even here, I managed to gather a group of Jennifers to rise up against our oppressors."
Skye rolled her eyes. "She means the junior class."
"They were oppressing us, denying us access to proper food and shelter. I organized the Jennifers to take what was rightfully ours."
"Cait, you had me, Autumn, Flora or Fawna, I can't remember which, and Alyssa."
"We weren't so much an army as a mob of hungry girls."
Laura held up a hand to pause the conversation. "Wait, no one feeds these Jennifers?"
"That's the job of the juniors."
"And if the juniors forget or don't bother? That's awful!"
"Hey, we fed them." Autumn pointed to Caitlin and Skye. "We made sure the Jennifers got their meals. Well, us three and Alyssa."
"How much of it was to keep them from overthrowing you?"
Caitlin shrugged. "I won't say it wasn't a factor, Laura, but there are other benefits. The Jennifers benefit, too."
"Yeah, they get food and water." Laura got up from the table. "I need some fresh air."
Skye stood up. "Laura, wait."
"No, Skye." Laura stormed to the main door. "This is an insane asylum!" She slammed the door shut behind her.
"No, stop that! Don't go that way!"
"This is what passes for a Friday night here?"