Every day was always a little different for Sister Sarah. That was by her own design. In her mind, if ever there was a point that things were always the same, then she’d get into a rut. The goal was to expand her mind and see things in a new way each morning. That wasn’t always easy, but she did the best she could. Even if it was something very small, like walking on a different side of the path than the one she usually did, it was something that made that day special.
This attitude was the same that she carried to her work at the Academy. Like most of the Sisters in this place, she came into her job looking after the students with a mindset of wanting to set a good example and help these girls on their journey into womanhood. It was a long journey, and one that was fraught with distractions/perils. Growing up in the suburbs of Albuquerque, she’d seen so many girls give in to drugs, sex, and rock & roll. Coming from the 70’s, when drug culture was out of control, she had her own stories that she wasn’t proud of. Ones that nobody would ever know, save for those who were there.
She joined the Catholic Church when she was 25. It took her hitting absolute rock bottom to come to God and want to seek forgiveness for her sins. After months of prayer, she became a Sister, taking the habit. It was the only way she could live with what she had done. You’d think, coming from such a background, she would be as judgmental as her supervisor – Sister Margaret. But she looked on the girls of this Academy with an eye of sympathy and understanding. Everyone is different, and you have to embrace those differences, rather than shirk them. People have to come to the Lord and go through life in their own way.
When she first met Quinn, she was a scared girl who was nervous around everyone. Such a frail little body. And a burn mark on her shoulder, like a cattle brand, seared into her skin. From the days in the hospital, with police badgering her with questions, none of which she had the answers to. Father McCormick was there through most of it, and when he wasn’t able to be, Sister Sarah volunteered to take his post.
The girl claimed to have absolutely no memory of any kind of her life before they found her. The doctor thought it was a result of nearly drowning/freezing to death. Her body was so close to death when they got her to the hospital that it was a genuine miracle from Mother Mary that she came back from the abyss. Some people, namely Sister Margaret, were skeptical of this.
“How could she not remember being branded?!” they would ask.
Part of Sarah wanted to think that the girl didn’t want to remember. Who would? The story behind that mark couldn’t be good. A cult? Seemed likely. Some poor little girl who escaped from a place where God-knows what was done to her. It didn’t matter. Now she was here, and it was their duty as caretakers of these girls to make sure she fit in.
Which was what made it ever-the-more frustrating how Quinn and Sister Margaret consistently butted heads. For the life of her, Sarah couldn’t figure out where her deal is. Was it because she was so close to Father McCormick? Was it really something as simple as jealousy? That’s a sin, after all. A petty one, too. No matter what she did, the Sister was attacking her. Her uniform wasn’t pressed – demerits. She wasn’t wearing the white shirt under her uniform jacket – demerits. She listened to music too loud – demerits. Her music wasn’t appropriate – demerits. Her attitude was improper – demerits. There were days when the Sister would lay into her and as she passed, it was all over her face that if she could, Quinn would punch her square in the face.
Father McCormick tried to keep the peace. The constant back and forth, with Sister Margaret running to him to lay down punishment on her was tedious, and he clearly was almost through with it. It didn’t help that Quinn was almost-openly instigating her now. Knowing how much it made the Sister mad, she seemed to take some twisted pleasure. This side of her did worry Sarah a little. It was shameful, and surely something the Good Lord would not smile upon. But what could anyone do? It seemed this wouldn’t end until either Sister Margaret was fired, or Quinn was expelled. There seemed to be nothing else that would resolve the conflict. Two people meant to hate each other.
One might imagine how much pleasure Sister Margaret took in laying into Quinn when she got back from skipping to look after her friend. The lecture went on damn-near all night. Hours upon hours of being told how this was unbecoming of a student of the Academy, how it was sinful to be truant, how looking after a friend was not good enough of an excuse, it became a sermon after a while. She was sentenced to two weeks in detention.
What surprised Sarah as she saw Quinn leaving the room wasn’t the fact that she looked unphased. It was that she looked pleased. This kind of winsome look.
Catching up to her, Sarah gave her a smile. “What are you grinning about?”
Looking over at her, the expression went back to its usual cold, neutral one. “Nothing.”
“I saw you, Quinndolyn. You were smiling.”
“Clearly you were seeing things. Might want to look into that.”
It was obvious she wasn’t going to get a straight answer. But maybe there was another way around this.
“So, out looking after a classmate, eh?”
She just shrugged. “It was no big thing. We met the other day and she was pretty okay. Asked me if I could help her since she wasn’t feeling good. Beat being in class.”
A frown came to the Sister’s face. “Don’t let Sister Margaret hear you say that. She’d be livid.”
Quinn rolled her eyes. “When isn’t she?”
“Not often. At least not where you are concerned,” Sarah sighed.
“It’s cool. Two weeks of detention is nothing new. I got this.”
It was then that Sarah noticed something. “You’re wearing the white shirt! Lord be praised! I didn’t think the day would ever come where I’d actually see you in proper school uniform.”
Rolled her eyes again. “It’s no big deal.”
Just a smile back. “If you’re wearing it tomorrow, I don’t know.”
Eyes like steel, Quinn looked at her. “Don’t get your hopes up.”
Walking into her dorm room, Quinn immediately wanted to remove the white shirt. Now one person had made a big deal about it. It annoyed her. It’s a fucking shirt, she thought. Throwing it to the floor, she pulled out her tanktop. Then lost the skirt and put on a pair of sweats. Kaye looked up from her textbook.
“So? What’s the verdict?”
“Two weeks in detention.”
Her roommate frowned. “Oh geez. That sucks.”
Just a shrug. “It’s cool. Just means I get to spend more ‘quality’ time with Sister Margaret. I’m sure she’ll get Eve and her little cronies to join in the fun.”
Of all the students at the Oceanview Academy of St. Galentine, Eve Harper and her posse was the only ones who actually bothered Quinn. For whatever reason: a girl who is as rich as her, and imbued with flunkies who make sure her academics are always in the top five percent of her class, saw fit to make Quinn her personal target of ridicule. Since she kept her hair perpetually short, the most common was to call her a dyke. Or at least allude to her being a lesbian. You wouldn’t think that would mean much. It is the 90’s, after all. Times were changing. But in a Catholic School, being accused of gayness was basically social suicide. It was never something she placed any credence in. Truth be told, she hadn’t felt much of anything regarding romantic or sexual attraction to anyone. Between her studies, gambling habits, and lack of a social life, it never came up. Maybe now that she had some actual friends, she could review this for further study. Is that how love works? Like something clinical? Questions that just made her uncomfortable.
Kaye sat up, frowning deeper. “I don’t know why people are so mean to you. You should hear some of the stuff they say about you out there. ‘She’s a bitch.’ ‘She think she’s so smart.’ ‘She’s…’” It was clear she was really uncomfortable with the next bit.
“She’s a dyke. Trust me, I know what they say. I may look like I’m in my own little world, but the truth is that there isn’t much of anything I miss.” Quinn’s expression got dark.
Her roomie got up, sitting on the floor beside the bed, next to her. “It’s so mean. These girls are wealthy. They could have whatever they want. I don’t get why they have to put you down.”
Pulling a coin out of her pocket, she flipped it between her fingers. “It’s not that complicated. I’m a threat to them. I never pay attention in class, don’t raise my hand, don’t participate in the school stuff in any way, yet I’m at the top of all academics I’m involved with. I have teachers begging me to join this club or that so they could have a winning player on their team, and I blow them off without a second thought. While they are busy kissing the ass of everyone they can and watching me push past them. And I’m a poor girl who was given a spot here while their rich families had to pay for it or they had to work for it. The reason why they hate me is no mystery.”
Looking over at her, Kaye smiled. “I don’t think you’re as tough as you front, you know.”
Dropping the coin, she looked up in shock. “What?”
“I saw you with Lisa. Saw how happy you looked. Some part of you wants people to like you.”
Was she right? The words reached her, but processing them was a different story. There was some truth to it. Her time out with Lisa had been the most fun she had had in ages. Not like winning at gambling. A different kind of fun. That was intellectual. This was…personal? Yeah, personal. It made a warm feeling spread through her.
The warm feeling didn’t stop the cold look on her face. “Very specific people. People I deem worthy. Couldn’t give less of a fuck if Eve and her groupies like me.”
“Okay. I get that.” A little smirk. “Am I worthy?”
Quinn got a sly look. “Maybe. Still figuring you out.”
Her roomie got a grumpy expression. “What does that mean?”
“Well, if you wanna be friends with me, there’s gotta be something wrong with you.”
The two of them laughed.
Days went by, such as they do. Life at the Academy was settling into a rhythm. Having won big, Quinn’s appetite for victory was sated. Though she knew that it wouldn’t be long before she would have to go back for more. The itch grew with each day. However, this new life with her companions definitely dulled it. When she wasn’t sitting in detention with Sister Margaret or whatever teacher/Sister she got to look after her, she would be spending time with them. Both of her two new friends were very different people.
Kaye was a physical sort of person. She was a fast runner, and her athletics were definitely part of her life. Already she had signed up for the Academy’s soccer team. The school game was coming up, which Quinn dreaded. Nowhere was her lack of physical ability more on display than at these games. It seemed her new roommate also had something of the shutterbug, with a really nice camera. She joined the photography club almost the first day she was there. There were laughs as she would be taking pictures and Quinn chided her.
“So artsy,” she would say. Having someone that she could banter and give shit to definitely felt good. Their back-and-forth made sharing a room that much easier.
Lisa, on the other hand, was so different. An eye for technology, and able to talk people’s ears off about it, she definitely had a career ahead of her. The fact that she was stuck in a chair meant that she would spend a lot of time reading. She could quote the latest tech magazine, along with the latest health journal. It was genuinely inspiring that a girl at the tender age of 14 was already so well-read and an academic, without all the pretentiousness.
The two would be in the library, doing homework or just talking about their academic pursuits. Quinn had even started playing chess with her. Unsurprisingly, she mopped the floor with both her companions, but Lisa was improving. With enough practice, there was hope that she would be a challenge. Or at least keep her on her toes. One could dream, right?
As fate would have it, the first school soccer game of the year came faster than anyone expected. The weather was gorgeous, and in Washington you have to act fast if things are looking good. You never know when it could change. Rain is a fickle mistress on the West Coast.
The whole school was pumped. One of the things that the three of Quinn’s crew would do is be out on the lawn, with Kaye practicing and the other two watching.
“Aren’t you going to have to play?” Lisa asked, looking at Quinn.
“Yeah…” Her expression couldn’t have been more dim.
“Shouldn’t you be practicing?”
Giving her a cold expression. “I participate only to the extent that I have to. The team captains always know to just keep me out of the way. That’s how it always goes, and I’m fine with that.”
Seeing that this line of inquiry was just going to get ugly, Lisa turned to Kaye. “Well, I’ll be rooting for you! You look like you go this.”
“Word!” she shouted back, dribbling the ball.
Looking over at her, Quinn just groaned. This was going to suck. Beyond any doubt, it was completely going to suck.
That afternoon, everyone was in the PE clothes. They were blue and white. Just wonderful for being outside and playing on the grass – clothes that every grass stain would show through. The girls were split up into four teams. Enough so that this could go on the whole rest of the afternoon. Fate dealt another hand where Kaye was on the same team as her. This excited her immensely, but for Quinn, this was all just another day at the races.
Intellectually, she had tried to see a way around this. After all, it is a game, right? If you are intelligent enough, you could conceivably destroy your opponents like any other. Were it that she was made team captain, or given some kind of ability to give tactical advice, she very well could actually excel in this sport. Watching the girls play, she could easily tell who had what advantage and who had what disadvantage. This game was mostly about having your players go up against those they would excel again. Like chess, one could reasonably make a battle plan and execute it to the point that they could defeat the opposition easily, and quickly.
The fact that her reputation was grim around the school and that she was treated like the bitch stepchild by her compatriots made it so that she would never enjoy such a position. A shame, too, because the concept did make her smile in thinking about what strategies she would use. Plenty of these girls had skill. Proper coordination and crucial planning, with some amount of luck factored in, would make for exciting plays to watch.
First up was two of the teams that were not theirs. They were next, against the other team sitting this one out. While she couldn’t be a tactician, she took in everything. One of the girls was slow on her left. An old injury? Another had slower reaction time. They could dribble around her without difficulty. Kaye seemed to show some skill in that regard. The goalie was skilled. A problem. Would need someone who could throw them off-guard. Maybe this sports thing wasn’t so awful after all. Then she remembered – she had to play at some point.
Looking across the field, she saw the bane of her existence – Eve Harper. She was sitting with her crew, staring right at her. So she was on the team they were facing next. Uh-oh. This really, really couldn’t be good. A beautiful girl with shiny black hair, tied up in a ponytail behind her head. Makeup done just so. No wonder boys always fawned all over her, if the stories were to be believed. It was a bitter, tragic irony that she was not only done like a princess, but just happened to be good at athletics. Whatever was coming next, it was going to be bad.
The first game ended, now they were up.
Kaye looked over at Quinn. “Just stick with me. We can do this!”
So genuinely sweet. Not an ounce of sarcasm. Doing the math in her mind, Quinn knew that what she said was 100% bullshit, but it felt nice all the same.
“I’ll hold you to that,” was all she got out.
Both sides squared off. Since her lack of athletic skill was known, team captain didn’t put her in at first. Fine by her. The battle was on! Their team was the blue jerseys. Their enemy was the whites. At first, they seemed evenly matched. Kaye was every bit the player she aspired to be. It seemed she was also bit on taking the offensive. It really did look like two armies doing battle over a white and black ball.
Paying careful attention, Quinn saw something – a brunette girl who was fast but could be easily dribbled around as she had a habit of getting her feet mixed up. It was something she tried to hide, but the tells were there. This was like poker! How could she impart this to the team captain in a way that they would listen?
“Hey Jen? You see the way that girl is always slow about turning? It’s like she’s trying to be careful about moving. That’s weird, right?”
Looking over, the wheels in the captain’s head were turning. Then she nodded. “Hey yeah! Time out!”
Everyone ran over.
“See how Brittney takes a couple seconds to turn around when people get past her? Let’s use that!” the captain said. “We can totally dribble past her and then it’s just past the defender on the right! It’s a clear shot!”
Everyone was nodding, looking at the captain like she had just had the most brilliant idea. Kaye, on the other hand, was looking right at Quinn, who gave a little wink. Maybe her mind wasn’t totally wasted on this game.
They broke, and the game was back on. Very fast, it was clear that their strategy had changed, and the enemy wasn’t blind. Kaye was exploiting this opening for all it was worth. Within a few minutes, they had put two more points on the board. It wasn’t huge, but so long as the enemy couldn’t find an opening of their own, it was still scoring. The game was 4 to 1.
Seeing that their player’s opening was exploited, the enemy called Brittney in. Guess that opening was out. There had to be another. With the game back to a very cold and strategic thing, Quinn looked across the field. Something was there, she just wasn’t looking hard enough. A black girl was passed the ball from Kaye, on her way to the goal. Nice! As she kicked it, the goalie blocked the shot. However, just as they caught the ball, she noticed something. The girl had this momentary loss of balance. It was a small thing. Too small? Maybe.
The other team called a Time Out. As they came in, Quinn motioned for Kaye to come over.
“See the goalie? They are slower when the ball’s coming in from the right. I’m thinking it’s something to do with her vision. Like she can’t see as well from her left eye as her right. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this can be exploited!”
Looking over at the enemy goal, Kaye nodded. “I got this!”
Back into the game, and it was on. The enemy had the ball. Black girl had skill. She stole it from them, making her way down. Past one of the defenders. Just then, Kaye whistled at her. The girl understood, passing the ball. The roomie made like she was going to go for the left, then stopped and hit the ball toward the right. Score! 5 to 1 now! A dark smile came to Quinn’s face. Her tactical mind wasn’t wasted now.
From across the field, Eve saw the look on Quinn’s face. That bitch! So, she was the one giving them all good information. She’d have to be on the field at some point. When she was, she’d get her.
Halftime, and now the teams had to change up. This meant that Quinn had to go out there. All the joyful exuberance of the last few minutes was gone. There was no way she could get an accurate read on the situation from out on the field. Her only rational course of action was to just do the best she could and accept that she was completely outmatched. The team captain had wisely placed her as a defender. That was smart. It was a do-nothing job, most of the time.
Battle was joined, and at first it seemed like any other game. Sometimes it would go one way, sometimes another. Her and the other defender kept their position, as rules dictated how far they could go. However, Quinn couldn’t shake this feeling that something bad was in the air. What was it? Eve was one of the attackers. That didn’t bode well. Some of the looks she caught made her get the feeling of being hunted. But how? What could that unpleasant female possibly do to her in the middle of a soccer game? It wasn’t like she could be blatantly physical. That would get her in trouble. This girl wasn’t stupid enough to do something that blunt in front of the whole school. It became a battle of wits to try and figure out what her nemesis was going to do.
Turns out, the answer to this problem wasn’t nearly as complicated as she thought. Eve had the ball and was making a run at the goal. At first, she made like she was heading right at it, all but ignoring Quinn. Would be the smart thing to do. She was so frail and pathetic, why even bother pretending to be trying to get past her? The bitch came at her as she was supposed to do, but Eve looked to her right and saw one of her teammates motioning for her to pass the ball. This was it! Dribbling back, she made like she was going to pass. Just then, she notched her foot under the ball, kicked it up, and with maximum force hit it as hard as she possibly could.
The ball tagged Quinn right in the face. She went down like a sack of potatoes. Blood was pouring out of her nose. The girl didn’t move when she hit the ground. Everyone was on their feet. Kaye was running over, sliding down next to her fallen roommate. She screamed her name, picking her head up. Clearly disoriented, and in a lot of pain, Quinn looked up.
Sister Sarah was already on the field, heading right at Eve. “Explain yourself, young lady!”
“I didn’t mean for that to happen, Sister! I swear, I was trying to pass to Alicia! My foot slipped as I was dribbling! Oh Lord, is she okay?”
It was clear that Sarah didn’t buy a word out of her mouth, but there was no proof it was intentional. So many awful people here. Kaye picked up her fallen friend, helping her to her feet. Taking an arm and wrapping it around her shoulder, they started walking off the field.
“Get her to the nurse’s office!” Sarah commanded. Turning to face Eve. “I’m going to take this to Father McCormick. We’ll see if he believes your story.”
She played innocent so well, looking so wronged.
As Quinn was hobbling off the stage, blood and tears streaming down her face, she took a look back at the girl who kicked the ball in her face. For a split-second, she could see a look of sweet victory on her face. In that moment, she knew what she had to do. It was time to make this woman pay. She was the most intelligent person she had ever met. If anyone could figure out a way to truly destroy this woman, it was her. It created this warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Something about the idea of crushing someone who was her enemy felt strangely, familiar. But why?
It seemed that the injuries were mostly superficial. Thankfully, she was spared a broken nose, but it had bled something fierce. The blood loss caused some anemia, and she was released to go back to her room and rest. As it was the end of the week, she didn’t have to worry about class the next day.
Kaye took her back and lay her down. Taking her shoes off, Quinn just curled into a ball and turned her back to her roommate. She didn’t want to be seen like this. Broken and pathetic. In that moment, she understood what sunglasses had been feeling back at the gambling parlor. Her pride was wrapped up in all this.
“You did really well out there today, Quinn,” Kaye said. “I just thought you should know that.”
“Kaye…leave me alone for a while, alright? Please.”
Now it was her turn to be on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong…”
As her eyes closed, she saw something. A room filled with children. They were her age. So young. Who were they? Inside there was a woman in a white coat. Her hair was golden, with brown eyes and soft creamy skin. Who was she? Something told her that this was a bad person, and she needed to go away. Looking down, there were logic puzzles in front of her. Ones that no child this age would be expected to do. What was this? All the kids looked scared. Where was she?
“Quinn?” the woman said, coming over. “Why did you stop working on your test. Is something wrong?”
Wishing she could disappear. “No, Ms. Katya. Nothing’s wrong.”
Looking sternly at her. “Then finish your test.”
Sitting up with a start, the fear inside gripped her more than the pain in her face. A thousand emotions went through her mind, but one thing in-particular. She knew that she had remembered something. For the first time in two years, she had remembered something.
Until next time, a quote,
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Klingon Proverb