St. Agatha's School for HermsbyYKN4949©
Chapter 1: The New School
I felt so disoriented. It was probably even worse than when my family had first moved me to America ten years before. I was just starting to getting ready to start my last year high school, I was eighteen and all of the sudden my parents told me that they wanted me to go to some private school in the middle of nowhere for TWO MORE YEARS. This school had some sort of weird age policy about grades and 18-year-olds were always juniors and 19-year-olds were always seniors. Weird. I knew my parents were loaded, but I didn't think that it meant I had to be snobby. I loved my slightly run down public school and my hand full of close friends. Yet here, I was at St. Agatha of Sicily's School for Girls in some tiny little town in New Mexico.
As I said, I am an immigrant. My name is Akhila Chopra and I moved to California with my family from New Delhi, India. My father started a data processing company there in the mid-eighties and we moved to San Francisco just before the big outsourcing boom. My dad made a ton of money and all the sudden I was a rich kid without even realizing it. I got the feeling when I was sitting in Headmistress Taylor's office that my father had provided some sort of huge gift to get me in. Because, I assume, I could not get in on my own. I thought my father was kind of ashamed of me for several reasons and this opportunity to ship me away was just what the doctor ordered in his view.
However, one thing my father was always proud about was how pretty I am. I tend to disagree, but it is the only thing I really had to hang my hat on at that time so I tried to believe it. I was (and still am) 5'2 and was a pretty skinny thing at 100lbs. I have very long, thick, dark hair and brown eyes. I have an exotic look in America with my long eyelashes, large eyes, and olive-brown skin. I have small breasts and wear a 30-A bra. I have a small, crystal stud in my nose. I am actually somewhat proud of my flat stomach and lithe legs. Despite my short stature and low weight I have a slight flair in my hips that gives me an almost-but-not-quite hourglass shape that looks youthful and attractive.
Not that I was showing this form off as I sat in the Headmistress' office after my parents had already left me. I was curled up in as small a ball as I could manage without embarrassing myself and waiting to go to my new dorm room and close myself in. I had been waiting quietly for almost twenty minutes when the door finally opened and the Headmistress walked in. She was an older woman, probably in her early sixties. She had a dumpy build and a severe look on her face that looked like she was quite uncomfortable.
"Hello Miss Chopra," the headmistress said in a clipped manner as she sat down at her desk, "I hope you trip went well. Put your feet down." She said it in almost one breath and I was a bit confused, but finally managed to set my feet on the floor.
"The trip was fine," I stammered. The voice that came out of me was weak and wavery and I recognized it from all those years ago when I started kindergarten in America and my accent was much thicker. I felt scared and alone like I did that day. Confidence...never my strong suit.
"Excellent," she said, looking at some papers on her desk. Without looking she reached into her desk and pulled out a thick package wrapped in brown paper. "Here are five uniforms, you are to keep them clean at all times. They are machine washable and pre-shrunk. Your mother gave us your measurements. You are to wear then on all school days, you can wear whatever you want on the weekends."
"Thank you," I said, reaching across the desk and taking the package from her.
"I assume that your parents told you the nature of our little school here, so if you do not have any questions, I will have someone show you to your room. Your roommates can show you to where your classes will be," The headmistress said, looking up briefly and expectantly as though she was ready for me to flee to the room. But I had no idea what she was talking about.
"The nature of the school? I don't know what you mean. My parents didn't tell me anything," I explained to her and she sighed.
"I cannot believe this. There is a reason why we generally do not allow transfer students. Students should begin here at least at lower high school at age 16 and 17. You shouldn't be learning about these things at upper highs school at 18 or 19," she said as though it were to herself. I knew what that meant. My father's gift had been very, very generous.
"I am sorry," I said, squirming in the seat. She sighed and her demeanor softened. It was almost grotesque to see her suddenly looking matronly and understanding.
"No, no it isn't your fault. I am sorry," she said smiling, "Well then let me officially welcome you here to Saint Agatha's. This is a very special school with a very special and small student body. There are currently 669 students in the school from grades K-12 with around 50 girls in each grade. You will be enrolled in the upper high school which covers 11th and 12th grade. Girls come to this school from all over the country, but they have something in common." It was obvious that she had given this speech many times and had practiced the correct places to pause.
"Roughly two-tenths of one percent of all people born in this country are genetically hermaphroditic," she explained to me and I felt a bolt of lightning go through my body. What did she mean? How did she know? "That may not sound like a lot, but in the aggregate that is around 600,000 people of all ages in the United States. Now, of those around a third appear as men when dressed in clothes, a third an androgynous, and a third, like yourself Miss Chopra, are hermaphroditic and appear to be a woman in all ways except one. This school caters to girls like yourself, growing up in America looking like beautiful young women, but with male genitalia. Now, some of the girls in this school are true hermaphrodites with penises and vaginas, some have the very rare condition of having both completely operative. Some girls, like yourself, have female bodies but with internal ovaries, penises and no vaginas. Other girls have normal vaginas with what appears to be a very enlarged clitoris. Now I don't mean to get too graphic, I just want to explain to you the nature of the school. I assume your parents were too embarrassed to discuss it, which is terrible. We do not need to be embarrassed.
"Now as I said before, we generally do not allow girls to enroll after initial enrollment. There is a reason for this. The topic of our gender is not considered in the lower schools, meaning K-10. The girls there believe that they are at a regular all-girls school and if they know that they are different, they believe that they are the only ones. We do this for several reasons. First, we do not want to broach such a difficult issue with young girls, the other reason is that we want all the girls to see themselves as young ladies. If they grow up with girls and see them as girls and then learn that all of the girls they grew up with are just like them, well they will stop seeing themselves as different. At least that was the theory of our founder.
"When girls get graduate 10th grade they are told in a large assembly that all of the girls are hermaphrodites and encouraged to be secure and proud in themselves. However, we like to think that beyond that academic excellence is the hallmark of our school. We have many acclaimed alums including famous scientists, doctors, lawyers, and professionals. Furthermore, the entire faculty of this school and the administration are alumni. I myself an alumnus of the first class to graduate from St. Agatha's." With this she paused for a moment.
"I see," I said, sensing that she wanted me to say something.
"I understand this is very difficult. I think the revelation is going to be tougher for you. I find that the other girls bond very closely growing up and that 10th grade assembly really cements things. But we have some excellent girls here and I am sure that they will accept you with open arms. I have decided to place you in a dorm room with two of our seniors. They are very sweet girls and are excited about meeting you."
"Thank you," I said. I found myself staring at my crotch. I felt so embarrassed. My father had hated me since the moment I was born. I had been born with several minor birth defects that have since been cured. However, during the course of the doctor's investigation into my illnesses they incidentally discovered they I had ovaries and a uterus that appeared to be largely non-functioning. They were unsure of the gender I would more closely attach to as I aged and they talked my father out of removing my penis. I grew up and always felt like a girl. I began to grow breasts as I aged and my voice remained high. I have no Adam's apple. I truly think that I am a woman except for a very small area located between my bellybutton and upper thighs. I knew my father was embarrassed by me, sometimes I heard him talking in hushed whispers with my mother, spewing angry words and begging her to allow him to castrate me. Now he had gotten me out of my hair forever. In a sense he had given up on castrating my shame and had instead violently ripped me from his own life. I felt hot tears on my cheeks and before I could control myself I was sobbing in the headmistress' office.
She was around the desk in a few minutes with her arms around me. Telling me that everything was going to be alright and explaining to me that I didn't need to be embarrassed. I felt sick and gross and didn't want another person who was an embarrassment to their family trying to console me. I managed to pull myself back together and dried my eyes.
"There you go," the headmistress said, heading back behind her desk and grabbing her papers, then she called out to the door, "Ms. Pfeiffer, please show Miss Chopra to her room in Doyle Hall." A short, pretty woman in her early thirties came into the room and smiled at me.
"Follow me honey," she said with a comforting southern drawl. I hoped that my eyes weren't red and puffy and stood up. I almost forgot my package of new clothes but grabbed them and headed out.
"Your bags and personal items are already in your room, but you must unpack them yourself," the headmistress explained as I walked out the door. All the warmth had drained out of her again, as though she had summoned all she had for the year just for me. The door closed behind me and then it was just me and Ms. Pfeiffer walking out of the office door and into the quad.
The campus was quite beautiful. It consisted of ten total buildings. There were two dorms, four buildings with classrooms, the office, a gymnasium, and a library. They were organized in a wide circle with a large lawn called the quad in the middle. There were several trees on the quad and it looked quite pleasant. The buildings themselves were covered in a rough-cut grey rock façade covered in vines that gave it an Ivy League college appearance and the illusion of great age.
We immediately began walking to the upper school dormitory. The dormitories were the tallest buildings, both were ten stories tall and had over 100 rooms. The High School Dorm, Doyle, was where I would be living. There were generally two three girls to a room and I would be in one of the three girl rooms. Juniors and Seniors had the higher floors. I was very nervous about meeting my new roommates. We walked into the building and it looked quite modern despite the outside appearance.
"So are you from around here," Ms. Pfeiffer said, shaking me out of my thoughts.
"What...oh no. I am from California," I said finally.
"That isn't too far," She explained, "When I was going here I had to travel all the way from Georgia. I am glad that I did, but that is a long drive." I was surprised. I almost stopped walking. I remembered that the headmistress had said that the people who worked here were also...like me. But I hadn't even thought of it until just then. Ms. Pfeiffer was a young and pretty woman. I had noticed a wedding band on her left ring finger. She was a normal person, not obscene in some strange way like the headmistress. I felt noticeably lighter all of the sudden. We rode up the elevator of Doyle together. Ms. Pfeiffer left me at room 810 at the very end of the 8th floor.
Chapter 2: The Roommates
I used the key that the headmistress had tied to my package of clothing and made my way into my new home. I was nervous that it would look and feel like a prison and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was warm, sunny, and inviting. Because it was on one end of the building it actually had three large windows with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. It was bright and sunny in the room and would have felt like an expensive penthouse if not for the three beds. There was a bed directly underneath of each of the windows with a surprisingly large amount of open space in the middle of the room. There were three small desks against the wall with the door and I noticed that there were things on two of them already. Two of the beds were already made. One had a big, pink comforter and comfortable looking baby blue pillows. The other had a thick, handmade quilt and goose feather pillows. The other one, in the middle, appeared to be mine.
I spent the next hour or so unpacking my things. First things first, I made my bed and then opened up the drawers underneath of my bed and folded all of my clothes and put them away. It didn't appear that I would need them anyway. I opened up my little package of uniforms and took them out. I was surprised to find that they were not entirely unappealing. I put them on. There were white knee stockings, a red plaid, pleated skirt that fell right in between my knees and my hips, a white blouse with short sleeves, and a red tie. There was also one grey sweater with the school's insignia on the right breast. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt good. I looked kind of cute.
I hung the other four uniforms in the closet and noticed that there were eight other uniforms already there, apparently my roommates were also wearing the little outfit. I put away the rest of my things and got my computer set up on the one remaining desk. Then I was completely out of chores. I felt nervous and anxious and just wished my roommates would come back so that I could be finished with this torment. I knew they were both nineteen but beyond that I had nothing. I was so nervous; I had to get my mind on something else.
I lay down on my bed and looked out the window. It was a pretty view. I overlooked an area of desert and could see a small range of mountains in the far distance. I realized then that they must have had quite an expensive irrigation system to keep the quad so green and the vines on the building so un-fried. I supposed my father had something to do with that and I instantly fell in love with the desert and resolved to stay out of the quad except when I was walking to class. The desert should have stayed a desert; that was how it belonged.
I fell asleep at some point but I don't even really remember it happening. What I do remember was being suddenly awakened by a clatter at the door. I sat up quickly and got that light headed feeling you get when you nap in the middle of the day. I hoped I wasn't looking too spacey when the door opened up and my two roommates walked in.
"So then the Headmistress came in and she said that she could hear the class from her office and that if we couldn't 'respectfully use the privilege of a Latin class' then we didn't need to have one at all. Which is bullshit first of all and she can keep Latin for all I care. She is just in a bad mood about something else..." One of the girls said to the other as they stepped into the room. I felt uncomfortable. Like I was intruding on a conversation. And a room. And a friendship.
The girl who was speaking was the classically beautiful All-American girl. She was tall, probably 5'10 and very thin, no more than 110lbs. She had long blonde hair that she had braided and tied into two pigtails. Her eyes were wide and deep blue. She was chewing gum as she talked and spoke with a valley girl sort of inflection. She had small breasts, probably 32-A. Her body was exactly like supermodel. Her stomach was flat and her legs long and deceptively muscular.
"Oh hi!" she said in the warmest, most inviting way that I had ever heard and she ran across the room and wrapped me up in a big hug around the shoulder, "It's soo great to meet you. I am Quinn Heather. No I didn't say my name backwards, my parents gave me a backward name. This is Lucretia Domingo. We are your roommates this year. What is your name?" I was surprised by her earnestness and the easy acceptance she gave to me and I felt at home. I accurately guessed she was the one with the big pink comforter.
"Akhila Chopra," I said confidently for a change. This girl had a charisma about her that drew people out. She let go of me in the hug and the other walked forward and handed me her hand. I shook it.
"Nice to meet you," she said. She had a slight accent and I could tell from her name and look that she was from Italy. She was a little shorter than Quinn at 5'8 and 113lbs. She was curvier than Quinn as well with 36-C breasts and slightly wider, more hourglass hips. Her skin was lighter than mine, but much darker than the Anglo Quinn. Her most striking feature was her hair. It appeared as though she had waxed it completely bald. I knew didn't have cancer and wasn't on chemo because she still had sensuous eyebrows and incredible long, beautiful eyelashes. She chose to look that way and it was quite beautiful actually. I was surprised by that. Some of it may have been that it drew attention to her large, violet eyes. I had never seen eyes like hers before. It was like looking at frozen fire. That was her personality as well, cool on the exterior, but with obviously passion underneath. But I would learn that she was a dependable and loyal friend given to affectionate outbursts.
"I didn't think that you were for real," Quinn said, sitting down on her bed and crossing her legs. Lucretia sat down at her desk and I was standing in the middle of the room, in the middle of my new roommates, like I was on stage.
"Don't say that," Lucretia said, smiling, "That sounds like it is a bad thing."
"Sorry. What I meant was that I have known all the girls here for years. We have never had a new student before. All the new students are kindergartners," Quinn explained.
"I think my dad donated an airport or something," I said and they both thought it was hilarious. I would later come to find that this school was a place where wealthy parents dropped their embarrassing children. They knew how it was.
We talked for a little while about the school in general. I learned that the food was pretty good, especially on the weekends when they got some stuff from a caterer. I learned that most of the teachers were really good and that my impression of the Headmistress was pretty much spot on. I also learned that there was almost no contact between the school and the nearest town and that the only way to be absolutely sure you were expelled would be to spill 'the secret' to someone in lower high school or below. I learned that my class had a lot of girls who I would apparently like and that despite the fact that it seemed like a weird and unpleasant place, everyone here from the janitor to the headmistress had the same experience and they wanted to make sure that we were happy and healthy. I got the impression as we spoke that the girls were excited to have me around. I was new and different and a break from the somewhat monotonous drone of everyday life.
"So what kind of hermaphrodite are you?" Lucretia asked matter-of-factly. I suppose I should have known that this was not a taboo subject here, but I was used to thinking it was the most painful secret you could possibly have. I remember not showering after gym class in middle school and being afraid that I smelled bad just so no one would see me even though we had private stalls. I remember going to a special doctor hundreds of miles from home so that no one in the area, even a doctor bound by the patient-doctor privilege, would know about me. And my shame.