"Overthrowing the school board. Just where did you get that idea?"
"After all, everyone here wants what's best for Miss Caitlin, even if that means a private school in Ontario."
"Right, let's send her to a school that will teach her how to succeed in overthrowing a government."
"I do look forward to seeing Caitlin in September."
How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin
Chapter 2 - Arrival
September, Six Years Ago
Caitlin paused for a moment as she entered her assigned bedroom. A large number of girls her age milled about, all carrying luggage of some sort. Half a dozen sets of bunk beds took up space along the walls. With a mental shrug, Caitlin continued into the room, weaving her way past the other girls. Several of her new roommates were already claiming beds, so Caitlin picked up her pace, heading to a back corner. She set her duffle bag on the lower bunk of her chosen bed, then felt a looming presence behind her.
"That's my bed," a voice growled behind her.
Caitlin turned to see a tall, lean girl, hands on her hips, in a black t-shirt and torn jeans. "I don't see your name on it," the redhead said.
"I was about to write it with your blood."
A tug pulled Caitlin away from the tall girl. "I wouldn't do that," said another girl, this one with shoulder length jet black hair. "She'll do it, too." The girl grabbed Caitlin's duffle bag. "Sorry, Skye. We'll leave you alone."
Skye snorted. "You better."
The dark-haired girl pulled Caitlin to the next set of bunk beds along the wall. "You're not from here, are you? That's Skye Martin. She's been banned from every sports league in the province. Even the boys' teams. She plays too rough." The girl set Caitlin's bag down beside the bed. "Hi, I'm Alyssa. Alyssa Leibold. You can join me."
Caitlin shook the girl's hand. "Caitlin Kane-O'Shaughnessy. From Halifax." Getting a better look at Alyssa's face, the redhead noticed that her new bunkmate's eyebrows were pencilled in.
"Oh, cool! I think you've come the furthest to be here." Alyssa pointed at a set of identical twins arguing at a bunk near the centre of the room. "Flora and Fawna are from Winnipeg. Don't ask me which one is which. So what're you in for?"
"Yeah, like why are you here?"
Caitlin sat down on the lower bunk. "I want the education the Academy can provide. Ms Stone recruited me herself."
"Yeah, right." Alyssa smoothed out her tan skirt before sitting down. "No one comes here for the education." She hooked a thumb at Skye. "She's here because she's a menace in sports. Even curling. We're at the Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls. We're troublemakers. So, why are you here?"
"Ms. Stone recruited me." Caitlin took a deep breath. "After I tried to overthrow my school board."
Alyssa's brown eyes widened. "Overthrow?"
"Yep. I recruited my own army and everything."
"Awesome!" Alyssa held up her hand. "High five!"
Caitlin finished the high-five. "Why are you here?"
"I accidentally blew up a tree." Alyssa shrugged. "Or two. Maybe ten. But it was an amazing explosion!"
The door to the room opened. Two girls several years older than Caitlin entered, each wearing a uniform consisting of a white blouse, grey skirt, and black shoes. One of the girls wore a red vest over her blouse. She clapped her hands. "Alright, Jennifers! Listen up!"
The other uniformed girl stepped forward. "I'm Cameron, this is Nadine. We're going to be your guides here at the Academy as you settle in. If you have any questions--"
"Are we going to be fed?" one of the twins called.
"Yes. Now, if--"
"When?" the other twin asked.
"Yeah!" a girl with short blonde hair added. "I'm starving."
Cameron huffed. "Soon."
"How soon?" An Asian girl held up her phone to show the time to the older pair. "It's past noon already."
Cameron glared at Nadine. "A little help here?"
Nadine rolled her eyes. "If you ladies keep interrupting us, you'll never get lunch. Let us finish, then ask your questions." She elbowed her partner. "There."
"Where the hell are CiCi and Star?" After taking a moment to recover, Cameron continued, "Your uniforms are coming. Until then, you're to stay in here."
"But what about lunch?" the first twin asked.
"Just shut up about lunch. It's coming." Cameron turned to face Nadine. "You do this."
Nadine clenched her hands. "Fine. Go look for Ms Stone." She waited for Cameron to leave before stepping further into the room. "Apparently, I'm the one responsible for you. Once you have your uniforms, I'll show you around campus. This, though, is your room. You have to keep it clean and livable. I or someone else will inspect the room from time to time to see if you're keeping it clean. I don't want to find anything disgusting in here." She glanced behind her at the door. "Questions can be written down for later."
Caitlin cleared her throat. "And give them to who?"
"Later, Ginger." Nadine slipped out the door back into the basement hallway.
The redhead glowered at the older girl's retreating back. "How dare she," she muttered once the door closed.
Alyssa shifted away from Caitlin. "You're being scary."
"How dare she."
"What did she do?"
Caitlin released a long breath. "She called me 'Ginger'. Nobody calls me that."
"What are you going to do to her? She's older than us and she has her friend."
"To her?" Caitlin blinked. "Nothing, I guess. For now. I need time to plan and gather allies. Ones I can trust."
Alyssa looked over at the closed door. "I want in. There's going to be explosions." Her brown eyes lost focus.
"Good." Raised voices from the corner caught Caitlin's attention. She looked over to Skye's bunk.
A tanned girl with light brown hair had her hands on her hips as Skye towered over her. "You're not that tall," the smaller girl said with an accent Caitlin couldn't place.
"Doesn't matter." Skye took a step towards the tanned girl. "I want to be alone."
Caitlin got to her feet and dashed to the argument. "Whoa, whoa." She pushed her way in between the combatants. "We have someone else to fight."
Skye glanced down at the redhead. "Stay out of this."
Alyssa pulled on Caitlin's elbow. "Best do what she says."
"No." Caitlin shrugged out of Alyssa's grip. "Look, there's twelve beds, twelve of us. Where is--" She looked over at the tanned girl.
"Camille," the girl supplied.
"Where is Camille supposed to sleep? On the floor?"
"How about you share your bed with her?" Skye said. "I don't want neighbours."
"Tough. You've got eleven of us. I'm sure Camille doesn't care which bunk she gets, so you choose, upper or lower."
Caitlin sighed. "Look, Skye, we'll have to live with each other until school's out. If we don't work together, Cameron and Nadine will just pit us against each other. We don't want that. You don't want that. They're the enemy, not Camille and not me."
Skye retreated a step from the redhead. "What are you here for, trying to take over the world?"
"Just her school board," Alyssa said.
"You're crazy." Skye narrowed her eyes. "Fine." She turned away from the other girls. "Take the upper bunk. I don't see why you want this bed." The tall girl sat down on the lower bunk.
Camille tossed her bag on the floor at the foot of the bed. "Thank you." She turned to Caitlin and Alyssa. "And thank you," she said, her tone softer.
Caitlin and Alyssa returned to their bunk as Camille scampered up to her roost. "She could have pounded you into the ground," Alyssa whispered.
"I got what I wanted from it." Caitlin grinned.
Alyssa stared at Caitlin. Before she could speak, a girl with long blonde hair darted across the room. "That was so brave of you! I can't believe you weren't killed." The blonde noticed Alyssa folding her arms across her chest. "Oh, Alley-Cat. I should've expected to see you here."
"Nice to see you, too, Cassie." Alyssa sat down on the lower bunk.
Cassie leaned down to wag a finger at Alyssa. "Aren't you going to make proper introductions?"
Alyssa rolled her eyes. "Cassie, this is Caitlin Kane-O'Something."
"O'Shaughnessy," Caitlin corrected.
"Right, Caitlin Kane-O'Shaughnessy. Caitlin, this is Cassandra Pike, Whitby's star annoyance."
Cassie brushed her hair back over her shoulder as she straightened. "Pleased to meet you. Don't listen to Alley-Cat. She's not normal."
"You two know each other?"
Alyssa grimaced. "We've met."
Cassie giggled. "All of Whitby has heard Allie-Cat's little hobby."
"Heard of, Cassie."
"No, no. Heard. Rumour is that Whitby's council was jealous that your Canada Day fireworks were better than theirs."
Alyssa's cheeks flushed pink. "Mine were better, true."
The door opened again to let Nadine and Cameron return. Their bickering ended as they entered, "Okay, Jennifers!" Cameron called. "Your attention!" She peeked out the door. "Your uniforms are coming. Just stay by your beds."
"Means you, too, Ginger," Nadine added.
Caitlin made a show of sitting on her bed as Cassie left. "I am."
Ms Stone walked into the room. Behind her, two more girls the same age as Nadine and Cameron pushed a wheeled rack filled with the school's uniforms, each set wrapped in dry cleaning plastic. "Good afternoon, ladies. Welcome to the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls. I hope you've settled in. Since you haven't had lunch yet, we'll make this quick. Ms Ng, that means putting that phone away." Ms Stone waited for the Asian girl to set the phone down. "You're not allowed to have it yet, so give it to me when you get uniform."
"Yes, Miss," the girl said, her voice subdued.
"First, the rules." Ms Stone talked over the groaning of the new girls. "There's only four, so you should remember them. First rule, always wear your uniform. That means, if you leave this room, you must be in uniform. You do not want to be caught not wearing it. Your uniform marks you as an Academy student. Is that understood?"
The girls nodded and gave half-hearted assents. Caitlin shrugged. Rules were rules.
"Second rule, the Academy is never to get involved. You'll understand this one better the longer you're here. For now, just remember the rule. Third rule, always support your sisters. Look at each other. You'll be seeing these faces for the next six years. No matter what happens, you are expected to treat each other with respect. And, finally, the fourth rule. Don't. Get. Caught."
Caitlin gaped at Ms Stone, wondering if she had heard what the woman had said properly. She looked around the room at her fellow new students. Most had puzzlement on their faces but a few showed dawning understanding of the implications of the rule. Caitlin allowed herself a smirk.
"When I call your name, come up and get your uniform. When I'm done, I'll give you ten minutes to get changed, then I'll bring you to the cafeteria for lunch." Ms Stone picked up the first uniform on the rack and checked the label. "Bianchi, F."
The blonde girl who was starving dashed up to grab her uniform. Caitlin watched as each girl in the room got called, making mental notes on each one. She gave Nadine a glare once she was called up.
With all the uniforms distributed, Ms Stone shooed her assistants out of the room. "Get dressed, ladies. Welcome to the Academy. I'm sure we'll all get along in good time."
Five months later...
Caitlin looked up at the Academy's residential tower through the falling snow. Her eyes narrowed as she found her target. "Alyssa?"
"Are you ready?"
"Just waiting for the word, Cait." Alyssa held up a black remote with a single red button on it.
The redhead allowed herself a smile. "Skye, light the cocktail." Out of the corner of her eye, Caitlin saw the tall girl lighting a rag that was partially stuffed into a bottle. "Alyssa, the word is given."
Alyssa giggled as she pressed the red button. On the fourth floor, a series of small pops came from one room, followed by Nadine's scream. Skye hurled the Molotov cocktail at the room. Her aim fell short. The bottle smashed beside a third floor window. Flames spread along the wall.
"Now, ladies! Let's get them!" Caitlin's classmates ran towards the Academy entrance. The redhead watched for a moment, a smile growing on her face. "Never call me 'Ginger'."