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Authors: J. Round

Sugar & Squall

BOOK: Sugar & Squall
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Sugar & Squall

 

Jason Round

 

* * * * *

 

Published by Jason Round

Copyright © 2013 by Jason Round

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.  The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

* * * * *

1. SURPRISE

Being First Daughter blows for three main reasons. One, a sex life is impossible when the Secret Service’s glued to your side 24/7. Two, national security trumps normal every time, and three, truffles are overrated.

But that was before Carver.

At Carver, I was no longer the President’s daughter.

At Carver, I was Katherine Collins.

#

I pushed through the diner door and into the car-park, the highway bustling beside it. I’d hitch a ride from one of the truckers to somewhere, anywhere. Sure they’d find me, but fre
edom, however fleeting, was worth it.

An agent was waiting there.

Fuck.

He grabbed me by the arm and led me back in
side. I twisted out, giving him death eyes. Robocop didn’t respond, instead guiding me back to Agent Derrick, blissfully oblivious as to how far Dad’s foot would have been up his ass if I’d managed to dart off while he was flirting with the waitress.

Robocop evaporated.

I sank into the booth opposite Derrick, slinked over to the far side and started spinning a fork.

I didn’t make eye contact.

Derrick was your usual
Service stiff. Sociable enough, but I imagined being a glorified babysitter wasn’t the line-of-fire action he’d signed up for.

“Find the bathroom?”

I didn’t respond.

“I
think this was for the best,” came his words of wisdom. I was acutely aware of the tense.

“You can start new here,
you know, make your dad proud.”

His
earpiece was so obvious. I signaled for him to take it out.

He ignored me.

A few tables behind him were Ken and Terry, who I’d dubbed Ben and Jerry, another two from the security detail. I’d told Dad I didn’t want them in suits all official-like. Instead, they’d dressed like lumberjacks and looked entirely more suspicious. I figured they’d be re-enacting
Brokeback Mountain
soon.

Mid-morning sunlight spilled through the windows, highlighting glitter in vinyl and ricocheting off spoons and shakers. Fried egg filled the air. I kept my head low, hair fanning my face.
The media hadn’t been alerted. Dad must have moved mountains to pull that off.

“Your coffee’s there,” Derrick said, non-descript as always. “I’ve already ordered.”

“Last supper, hey?”

He wasn’t biting, and I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, so it sat there slowly cooling to death.

A waitress arrived with our food. She placed the plates down and went to hand me a knife. I flinched and backed away. She eyed me and placed it down on the table instead.

I hadn’t touched a knife in years.

Derrick feigned concern. “Everything okay?”

“Fine,” I answered, imagining a fork sticking from his forehead.

I’d pictured doing the same to my father with a pen when we’d last spoken. He was at his desk, an aide by his side, as always. He was signing papers, his hand looping and twirling on autopilot as he spoke. He didn’t make eye contact.

“You could have been more restrained. Why do you always have to resort to,” he paused here for added impact, “violence?” 

Ten years of karate lessons probably had something to do with it
.

Violence, or ‘the incident’, as the papers called it, was the entire reason most of my earthly belongings filled the trunk
of the non-descript SUV in the parking lot. It was my “third strike.”

After Dad pulled the appropriate strings, the judge came up with a sole option – the Carver Institute.

Flying the flag for philanthropy, the school was a hush-hush haunt for problem kids – those that could afford it.

“I’m going to miss having you around,” Dad had said, like he was reading off a teleprompter. “Your mother…” He trailed off.

My mother nothing. She’d been dead for years.

“You’re surrounded by people,” I’d said. “You’ll be a lot better off than me.”

He had looked up to me, finally. “Don’t be so dramatic. You’ll make new friends,
better
friends.”

We’d argued after that, and I’d walked away, wishing I could be like Susan Ford and dash out the White House gates when nobody was watching.

#

A Google-bang back home hadn’t coughed up much about the school itself –secluded, 1950s something, island, fifteen miles off the coast, assessable only by boat, blah, blah.

The really weird bit? The school was coeducational, which seemed absolutely ludicrous when you had an island full of bottled angst and raging hormones running through the hallways. More sensibly, the boys and girls dorms were at different ends of the school according to the pixilated map on the single official page.

I found out later there was only one ferry that went out to Carver. There was nothing else on the island except the school, so it was really just for food, supplies and transporting students to and from the mainland on weekends.

The wharf was perched at the end of a small fishing town. The en masse gathering of snotty teens and their handlers hanging around seemed in complete juxtaposition to the quaint surroundings.

A steady stream of cars dropped off parents, offspring and aides. They left their luggage on the right and joined a single queue of bodies down the middle.

Once he’d unloaded my bags, Derrick, AKA Dad for today, pulled up in front of me. The catch lights in his sunglasses looked like tears.

“Your father said to tell you to keep out of trouble. The relevant contact numbers are in your suitcase. We’ll stay here to see you off.”

…And make sure I don’t try to escape,
I mentally finished.
Like I should be overjoyed the leader of the free world trusts me so.

To seal the daddy act, Derrick went to hug me. It was awkward. Two magnets being forced together. He double-tapped me twice on the back with his top hand, released his arms and started walking back to the cars. I could see the others watching. No. Way. Out.

On the ferry I sat outside up against the cabin glass and tried to make myself as paper-thin as possible before staring, zombie-like, at the vast blue ahead. There was nothing out there but a tiny white boat in the distance, probably Derrick and company keeping a safe distance. None of them would step foot on the island. I would be by myself. That was the arrangement.

We’d been at sea less than half an hour when I started to feel off. The water was choppy, and the constant seesaw effect soon told me any semblance of sea legs I might have once developed was left back on shore.

Should have taken the chopper,
I mused.

“Seasick, yeah?”

It was a girl to my right. She looked about my age, with strawberry blonde cascading over her red quarter jacket and a denim mini-skirt that was in absolute defiance of the chilly air. I noticed she was wearing purple Chucks, a clear contrast to her upper color selection but a healthy brush of individuality nonetheless.

“Yeah,” I responded, eyes fixed firmly back on the horizon.

“Got a name?”

“Kat,” I responded. I’d been ‘in character’ for two weeks, but my new name still felt foreign in my mouth.

“Jemma,” she replied, offering her hand.

We shook. I reached up and started playing with the heart-shaped pendant at the end of my necklace. It was Mom’s once.

Jemma examined me. “Do I know you? You look
really
familiar.”

“I don’t think so,” I muttered back.

Please don’t be into politics. Please don’t be into politics.

But Jemma nodded, content with it.

“New?”

“How’d you know?”

“You can tell. Something to do with flying under the radar and all that, the clothing.” She looked at my plain blue sweater and generic jeans as she said it.

“I like it. At least you’re not some brand whore like most of the bitches on this boat,” followed by a ‘Jess-cough-ica’ and a tilt of the head to a girl to the left who looked like she’d just stepped out of a Barbie box – plastic intact. Barbie gave her the bird in acknowledgement.

Jemma continued. “Don’t worry about them. Christ, if they tried any harder they’d snap in half or something.”

A slight snigger and then we both fell into an awkward pause.

Jemma started. “So, the big two. What are you in for and who are your parents?

“You first.”

She rocked back on her seat. “Well, I like to party – hard. That’s why I’m here. Daddy Dearest’s in the pharmaceutical game, penis pills and all that. You?”

I folded my arms over my chest and exhaled, pleading with my body to simply release a string of words that might add up to some short and succinct explanation.

“Long story. I got into a bit of trouble at my old school. Dad pulled some strings to get me a place here.”

Hating me all the while,
I thought. He’d always told the press there was no better way to learn about the state of the education system than have his daughter attend a public school. That’s probably why he was keeping my ‘transfer’ to one of the most expensive private schools on earth so quiet.

My pet peeve was being defined by my father, the President’s daughter and nothing more. Every decision I made, every screw up I found my way into reflected on him, and he reminded me of it often.

There was an immediate sense of understanding in Jemma’s expression. “Well, if you had to pull strings to come here it must have been something half-alright. Kudos.”

“It’s nothing really. I hit someone in class, they went through a window and wound up unconscious.” I said it like it didn’t matter, some daily ritual like brushing your teeth, but I could recall it vividly. The blood and glass on the grass. Eyes boring into me.

“Right,” Jemma said, drawing the word out and nodding her head in mock agreement.

I shrugged my eyebrows and pushed my fringe back over my ear, staring down at the loose strand of denim stuck to my fly.

“And what’s he do, your dad?” Jemma asked.

Shit.

“Ah, you know. He works for the government.”

“What, that’s all you’re going to give me?”

“Honestly, I don’t really know what he does. It’s all official and stuff, boring-as.” I could be a pretty convincing airhead when the situation called for it.

“You don’t see your mom, I take it?”

I shook my head.

Jemma seemed curious, but held back. “I’ll let it go this time, but I expect full details later.”

“Later?”

“Yeah, we had a girl leave our room last year, the only one in the grade. I can only assume you’ll be taking her spot. I hope you don’t mind snoring.”

I was a habitual snorer myself, so this mattered little in the scheme of things.

“How do you know I’m in your grade?”

“Lucky guess,” Jemma said, winking.

The boat continued to bob up and down. The conversation had distracted me somewhat. Still, I was keen to keep my brain from reverting back to a tug-of-war with my body. I needed a new line of questioning.

“What’s it like here? The school, that is.”

Jemma crossed her feet, pushed herself upright on her palms and spoke to the weathered floorboards below. “Well, it ain’t the Hilton. That’s for sure, but it’s not
too
bad, I guess. I know it sounds like a death sentence, and when we get closer you really will think it’s Alcatraz, but it has its perks.”

Now
I
was curious. “Perks?”

“Sure. Most of the girls – skanks aside – are down to earth, more so than you’d think, and then there are the guys.” At this, she looked up, her deep blue eyes alive and a sultry little smile making its way over her lips.

“There are two girls to every guy at Carver, so competition’s pretty thick. Most of the really naughty boys wind up in juvie instead, but you’ll still find your fair share. The teachers here are full nazis as well, but on a scale the pickings are pretty good. See for yourself.”

With that she cast her eyes over to a group of boys standing at the top of the bow, one doing a fairly poor portrayal of Leo in
Titanic
and the others sniggering and elbowing each other below. One stood out.

He was to the side of the group propped up on the rail with both hands. He laughed too, but it was a forced laughter and not at all as exuberant. He looked like an outsider, and there was a maturity there that seemed completely absent in the others.

His entire face was a contradiction. He had hard, chiseled features onto which were set soft eyebrows and full lips. And while I could only catch a glimpse of his eyes in the light, I knew that if he were to turn them my way, I’d be his. He looked familiar, too.

“Who’s the tall one?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Fresh meat.” Jemma’s tongue glanced over her lower lip. “I don’t know. He’s new. You’ve got good taste, though, and competition.”

BOOK: Sugar & Squall
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