Shadow School Ch. 04byRedHotLadybug©
Cameron stood in front of Julian Arinson, President of Shacrow VanMeter College. The office was a good-sized room, filled with things that complimented the colonial décor. Except this time, the décor probably WAS colonial and not just a mockup. As she studied the desk in front of her, Cameron heard the click of the door as the girl in the black cloak, Aunalita, left the room.
"How are you liking our campus so far, Miss Ellis?" The President asked, taking his glasses from his faces as wiping the lenses with a cloth.
"It's beautiful. The amount of trees... it's like going to school in a forest." Cameron berated herself for such a simplistic answer... she should have mentioned the architecture or some sort of appealing intellectual aspect and she was talking about trees. Well.
"Do you like nature?"
"Yes, very much so." Very much so? Okay, maybe that was overdoing it. "I mean... your campus seems to embrace the forest around it... the buildings look so... out of place yet so at home among the forest..." Cameron could feel herself start to sweat. "The architecture is stunning."
"We're big on history here," President Arinson said with a slight smile. Thankfully, he eased her torment by changing the subject. He gestured to the three other people in the room. "May I introduce some of the Heads of our seven Houses? This is Elias, Head of Arinson House."
A handsome young man in his early twenties offered a brief smile and a nod. Cameron returned the smile with a bigger one, and a nod in his direction. She noticed his slightly curled blonde hair and stunning green eyes, thinking he looked like a younger version of the college President. Maybe he was his son.
"Next we have Catherine, of Waldemar House." The twenty-something blue-eyed brunette had her hair pulled back in waves better suited for the first part of the century. Her sharp face was pretty, her pale skin set off by the darkness of her hair, the brightness of her eyes, and her choice of red lipstick. She eyed Cameron with a calculating look. "And this," the man with dark hair pulled back into a ponytail stepped forward a step, "is Gavin, of Ovidan House."
Cameron immediately recognized him as the young man at the Prom that she'd bumped into on the way to the bathroom. He was a Head? He looked like he was her age. And he had apparently gone to a high school Prom... Cameron heard Melanie's voice in her head, the things the silly girl said to her just moments ago in the theatre. Melanie said he'd bitten her. Part of her wanted to be appalled, the other part figured it was just some kind of kinky make-out session gone wrong. Melanie and her excuses aside, what was he doing here? Why was he at Prom?
Gavin seemed to recognize her too because he said, "we met previously at a social affair."
Cameron plastered a smile on her face despite being reminded of that awful event. "Yes, I remember, though we were not formally introduced." God, she sounded like someone out of a Jane Austen book. What was wrong with her? And the last time she'd seen him she'd actually curtsied before leaving. Blushing, she turned back to the President, hoping he would bale her out once again.
"I'm sure you are wondering why you have been selected to attend Shacrow VanMeter," the President said, "Each year we send agents into different school districts and this year your district was reviewed. You might even have friends here competing for the scholarship."
"Yes, two girls from my school are here as well." She glanced in Gavin's direction but he now seemed to be more interested in whatever could be seen from the window. Her eyes caught the other young man's before she turned back to the President. She didn't want to stare too long but she'd noticed how attractive the three spectators were and it made her a bit self-conscious.
"As we are not an athletic school, we have no interest in student athletes, yet we choose students in good health with a healthy family background. We look for things that incoming students may offer the school. For instance, you are fluent in French and speak a little Spanish, correct?" The President peered at her from behind papers apparently telling him these things.
Cameron was a little taken off guard. Was that why she was picked? "My grandmother is French," she hedged. "She moved here when she married my grandfather and she taught me her language and culture... I don't see them much since they moved back to France." Her grandparents had met during the Second World War and kept up correspondence until her grandfather proposed marriage in a letter and asked her to come to the US. Cameron's grandmother had no family left after bombs obliterated her town; she herself had been pulled from her basement by her future husband two years before they married. Cameron didn't feel the need to share that with the people in the room, but the story of valor on her grandfather's part and the will to survive her grandmother displayed had always been a cherished family history.
"As for the Spanish, I only know a little. I had a nanny from the Domenican Republic until I was ten." Bethina had been her mother in more ways than her own mother had been. "But she spoke French as well and helped me learn my grandmother's language. So I learned more French from her than Spanish."
"Wonderful." The President sounded pleased to confirm this about her. "Would you mind demonstrating these languages?" He nodded to the three standing apart from the interview.
"If I were to ask you about the Italian Renaissance and the effect Michelangelo had on art, would you be able to answer me in fluent French?" The sentence came from Gavin, who offered it an almost bored tone of voice. The question had been delivered in perfect French. It made her think of Louis and wonder how they were related.
Cameron considered how to respond. It was actually a yes or no question and but she figured a simple "oui" wouldn't do the trick. Instead, she responded in French, "Only if you wish to speak of Italians, my impression is that the French would rather speak of their own artistic achievements."
The blonde one, Elias, allowed a smile to play across his lips as he glanced sideways at Gavin then back to her. The woman beside him, Catherine, laughed haughtily and said "Spoken like a person with French blood in their veins." Cameron only understood a few words... the woman had spoken Spanish more common in Europe, but she got the gist. Was she supposed to respond?
"Godo di sangue francese." Gavin murmured.
"Enough," the President said, looking back at the papers on his desk.
Cameron caught the words but barely understood them... yet Gavin had used one of the romance languages and she was pretty sure he had made some sort of comment about French blood. Yeah, because you probably drink it, she thought sarcastically.
The President looked up at her, glancing at the others before going back to the papers. "You play tennis as a hobby. Why not for the school?"
"There are players on our school team that cause problems for... the less popular girls. I'm not fond of harassment." Cameron had been a freshman when she witnessed one of the tennis players tormenting a girl in the hallway. Cameron hadn't done anything because she didn't think she could keep herself from giving the girl what she really deserved... a good punch to the face. But she was a freshman, and though she had been in that school district for two years, she still felt new. Goodbye popularity and Hello expulsion.
In the end, she had just watched and said nothing. Her cheeks heated at the memory.
The President waited for her to finish but she didn't. Instead, he said, "you're grades are pretty good, yet you don't belong to many clubs..." he let the sentence fade into silence and Cameron guessed the President wanted her to finish it for him.
"Future Homemakers isn't really my thing... and science club or history club, they just make you do more work. Drama takes too much time. I guess I just enjoy my spare time."
"What do you do with your spare time?"
"Horseback riding... I don't compete or anything, I just like to go for a ride sometimes... I like astronomy too, but we don't have a club at school for those things so I just do them myself... the rest of the time I spend with friends."
"And your parents? What do they do in their spare time?"
Cameron knew she only had a second to think about this before there would be too long a pause but her parents... "They're country clubbers." She answered, half in explanation of a lifestyle, the other half in embarrassment; that was pretty much all they did. "They sail." Okay maybe they didn't sail but they did own a sailboat that they'd taken out at least three times since they bought it. "My dad golfs, my mother..." drinks. No... what did her mom do really other than socialize with the ladies? "My mother collects antique jewelry." There. No need to mention she just buys it for the prestige of wearing gaudy old necklaces and bracelets that cost a fortune. Cameron's dad always joked that it was an investment... if for some reason the family lost everything they could sell her mother's jewelry and retire comfortably.
"If you attended our college, what studies would you pursue?"
"To be honest I haven't settled on anything specific yet... I planned on working on my gen-ed classes while I was a freshman. I figured it would also depend on the school."
"With your head start in languages have you considered anything along those lines? We have connections at top firms in need of translators who can travel the world with them on business trips."
No. Cameron had not thought of that. Traveling the world on a company's expense account did sound fun though, and her job being only to translate for others... well that wasn't your typical nine to five job. "I'll definitely consider it... do you have a good language department here?"
"One of the best in the country... when you're as well connected as we are, and as discreet, it's best to be able to speak for yourself rather than having another do it for you. All of our translators are former students of Shacrow VanMeter or a sister school. But you'll find we like to keep to ourselves in most cases so it is a position of trust to become employed in such a fashion by the university."
Cameron could only smile. She had no response for this. She went from not knowing what she was going to do to practically being handed a job if she took a certain path of study. Surely that's what President Arinson meant by telling her this.
"I'll open the discussion up to the Heads of Houses now unless you have any other questions." He smiled at her and sat back in his chair, steepling his fingers and thumb together above his chest.
Cameron only had a few questions, but she figured the first was more important. "This college is unknown to the rest of the world except for a select group of people?"
"And I would expect that by going here, I would have to keep such a secret?"
The President eyed her over his fingers. "Yes."
"So I guess bringing friends up to visit would be against policy."
"Correct. If you attend here, do you think you could abide by the restrictions?"
"Yes, if they are important enough. But, people talk... has anyone ever slipped up and-"
"Not without consequence." Gavin interrupted. "Everyone who has knowledge of this place understands the importance of secrecy. And the repercussions of sharing what they shouldn't."
"Enough, Gavin." Elias said. "You know she understands. There's no harm in asking for confirmation."
Cameron smiled a little at Elias' rescue, then turned back to the President. She was nervous about this next question, but Aunalita had told her that she would get honest answers to her questions. "What is so important about this school that it must remain a secret?"
The President leaned forward and looked her in the eye. "For hundreds of years we have protected certain individuals from the public eye and will continue to do so for their children and their children's children. Bloodlines are very important here."
Bloodlines again. Cameron wondered what that was all about. "One of the girls mentioned bloodlines when they were on stage... is that why I was chosen? And why just girls? I saw boys on campus as well."
"We do a background check on a scholarship applicant because we believe in adding fresh blood into the mix of students here. If a young woman is accepted, it is assured that no one in her family tree has attended our college for at least four generations, if at all. It keeps the population diverse. And we choose girls instead of boys," the President smiled, using her words, "because the scholarship was set up in the 1600s when women were not allowed to attend college. We believed in equality even then, and the only way a father would relinquish his daughter was if it were paid for and offered her marriage prospects she would not normally have. Today it is not marriage, but business contracts that seduce parents. Simply put, the scholarship and what it entails is the same now as it was then."
Cameron simply stared. It was like an underground movement by men to educate women. But there was still the catch that must be in effect today... "Why would the school offer something so wonderful? You get something in return, right?"
"Each young woman who attends under the scholarship must adhere to specific traditions during her stay at the school. Those who excel under these conditions are rewarded greatly... but everyone is different so it is up to you to determine your path here should you be given the scholarship. The school benefits from your attendance by providing us with yet another member of the Shacrow VanMeter family... and your position once you graduate is very important to us. Because it will be our position as well."
Cameron's eyebrows knitted together. The President smiled as if he knew she was questioning what he was saying and decided on a different tactic. "Let's say for example you wanted to be a lawyer. We would help you become one... we would send you to Harvard to complete your law degree. We would introduce you to some of the top firms and arrange it so that within years, you were a partner at one of the largest firms in the country. Why? Because now we would have legal representation at one of the largest firms in the country. And when the next student came along, we could send her to you and let her enjoy the same connections and benefits. It becomes a cycle... one we try not break lest we have to start anew."
Cameron understood. "So if I did go through the language courses as you suggested..."
"You would be given the chance to travel abroad and study in the countries where your languages are spoken. You would dive into the culture and learn to be a true native of that country. Then, you would be given the chance to work anywhere you'd like within our network, at some of the best companies. In return, if we ever needed you, you would provide us with your services."
There it was. We give to you so you'll give to us. Sounded good. Also, sounded like the mob or something, but in the end, if she worked hard for them, they'd give her the chance not many students had these days.
She couldn't help the sarcastic joke that slipped from her mouth. "I won't have to sign my life away or anything, will I?" She gave an unsteady laugh.
"You won't have to sign anything," the President chuckled, "except school attendance forms and the normal paperwork you go through to attend college. "Simply attend, experience life at Shacrow VanMeter, then enjoy the benefits of our society around the globe."
"Sounds good." It did. Cameron had gotten an answer for every question. And she had a feeling it was an honest answer each time. She couldn't really think of anything else to ask, so she simply turned in her seat to face the three Heads watching her.
Catherine spoke first. "Do you have a lot of friends?"
"Yes," Cameron answered with a smile, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"Will you be able to keep the school's existence from them? This may mean distancing yourself to simple visits here and there... you can always make friends here if you enjoy a social environment." The young woman gave the appearance of trying to sound friendly, but it was a little fake.
"I'm sure that's what happens to most people who go away to college... friends change." Cameron answered. "I had to make new friends when I moved to my school, and I don't really talk much to my old friends... we tried, but the calls started to dwindle and I rarely speak to them now."
Catherine smiled, amused and content with the answer. "That'd be a yes, then."
"Yes." Cameron returned the smile.
Gavin was next. "Your family... they would be okay with not seeing you very often? Most of our students tend to stay at college year round."
Cameron hesitated. "I'm sure my parents wouldn't mind so much if they knew it would be beneficial to my future.... Though I'm sure they'd want to see me for Christmas."
"And what if you couldn't go home for Christmas?" he asked, eyeing her with deep dark eyes.
Cameron hesitated. "I'm sure if it were very important..." Words suddenly failed her. Why wouldn't she be able to go home for Christmas?
Elias rolled his eyes. "Gavin, It's a rare circumstance when a student doesn't go home for Christmas, are you referring to something specific?"
Cameron caught the tone in Elias' voice... it was a challenge. It was the second time the blonde came to her rescue during a battle of words with the goth. The two young men simply stared at each other, Gavin clearly irritated and Elias, challenging, but in good humor.
Catherine tsked at the battle of testosterone and took the opportunity to ask another question. "Do you have a boyfriend? I only ask because unlike friends, significant others can be harder to dissuade from contact."
Cameron blushed and looked at her hands. "No... I don't have a boyfriend." Trenton had been a disaster, and before that Kevin and Adam, both just flirtations that went nowhere because of her silly rules. Her first kiss had been with David Lieberman, a cute Jewish boy that lived across the street from her parents' old house before the big move. Long-distance relationships were just as tough on twelve-year-olds.
Catherine pursed her lips and looked at her watch. "Right... that's all the time I have..." She looked back at the two men she was standing with. "She's all yours." She turned, smiled tightly at Cameron and nodded, before walking over to a door that blended easily within the wood paneling of the wall, and exited.
Cameron turned back to the President. Was it something she said?
"Pay no attention to Catherine, Cameron," Gavin said, "she's always doing things like that." He turned to Elias. "Well, if you have no further questions...
Elias smirked. "I haven't asked any. But don't worry Gavin, I don't feel the need to."
Gavin turned back to the President. "Ovidan House would like to put forth a request to interview Miss Ellis privately."
Cameron's heart sank in her chest. She was all for the school but she wasn't too keen on the Head of Ovidan House. What did a private interview entail exactly? And why didn't Elias 'feel the need' to ask a question? Did he not want her in his House? That would leave Ovidan..."
Elias faced the President. "Arinson House puts forth the same request."
Julian Arinson stood behind his desk, facing the two young men. They were all silent for a moment before he turned to Cameron. "Miss Ellis," the President hedged, "As tradition dictates, in the case of multiple houses putting forth such a request, it is the privilege of the chosen one to pick the house-"
"Arinson." Cameron cut him off. She probably shouldn't have -- they seemed to be in some sort of formal ceremony with all the "putting forth" going on but there was no question who Cameron would rather leave the room with.