A modern retelling of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."
Saint Genevieve’s School for Modern Reform is small, housing only four hundred girls during winter term and two hundred girls during summer term. It was built sixty-eight years ago by a fanatical Catholic minister to teach young women how to behave in the new, scandalous century. The tuition is expensive, but the education is excellent. Professors of all nationalities flock to teach at this school, eager to impart their knowledge on the most malleable minds of all. There are few women teachers, because society says men are more educated. Classes are held in dark, austere buildings, except for theology, which is taught in the gilded cathedral. The dormitories lack luxury, but are as good a home as any. You are returning to this home, as the click-clack of the train reminds you. Wind-bent willows flash by, and it begins to rain. It always rains.
Aubrey doesn’t return this year, so you have a new roommate. Her name is Rebecca. She is tall and busty and outgoing and ugly. Her clothes are bright and revealing and don’t follow the dress code and do not flatter her. If boys went to St. Genevieve’s she would know how hideous she is. But they don’t, and her self-confidant smile tells you she doesn’t know that fact yet. You consider telling her, mulling it over for a moment. Different words slip out. “My name is Felix.”
“Isn’t that a boy’s name?”
“Yes. I don’t like your shirt.” There, it’s done and over with. She gives you a funny look with her face screwed up in a half-stunned, half-offended manner, and then turns away. The warden calls lights out, so you have to change in the dark. You’re glad you don’t have to look at her smooth tanned skin. It’s repulsive to look at. If you had that skin you’d kill yourself. Sleep beckons.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays there is American History Class. It is taught by Mr. Stevenson, who is boring and unmarried. He has no pictures on his desk because he has no family. His life is the equivalent of failure. All the girls talk about avoiding the dreaded trap of marrying a man like him. They tell stories about the “Mr. Stevenson’s” they know back home. The details are always vague.
Afterwards is English class, Mr. Kyle’s subject. Mr. Kyle is young and attractive, and all the students like him. He gives extra help after class to the girls who need it. No one leaves his class unhappy except for you. You hate Mr. Kyle. His favorite student in your class is Rebecca. She stays after for lessons once a week.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are when you have Advanced Math with Mr. Grae. He loves calculus and the color gray. His suit is gray, his hair is gray, and his briefcase is gray. Sometimes when he smiles his teeth look sharp and his hair looks spiky and the ugly girls get scared. Rebecca gets scared of him. Rebecca is stupid. You learn a lot in his class, but you’re bad at math.
Theology, which you take on Sundays, is easy. You pass it without studying.
You’re still bad at math. You fail the first semester.
Eventually, it becomes wintertime. Not much changes, except that everything blends together when the rain turns to snow. The snow is white but the sky is gray and it makes the snow look gray so everything is gray. You like it because it reminds you of Mr. Grae. This semester you’ll ask for help, maybe. You decide to struggle in his class a little longer.
Your other classes get easier and easier. Mr. Stevenson drones but the tests are easy. You like history because it’s like putting together a puzzle. Mr. Kyle doesn’t grade very harshly, and even when you write poor papers he gives you B’s. One day you decide to ask for extra help. His face turns mean and he says you’re too good of a student to ask for assistance. That’s the last time you ask, because you get A’s from then on, even though you write just the same. You dislike him even more. Theology has been replaced by Reform Class, which is okay. It’s still on Sundays and it’s still easy.
The top of your latest math quiz has an F on it. F stands for failure. For flunked. Mr. Grae doesn’t like bad students. After class you wait for the rest of the students to leave and then ask for help. He flashes a sharp smile and says that he can’t just change a grade. You insist, so he locks his door and gets very close, his hot breath washing over you. His hand grabs your waist but you don’t resist. His other hand explores your body, tearing your shirt a little. He hears a nervous gulp and lets go. “You don’t have to stay,” you hear him telling you.
You want to pass. You like Mr. Grae. And Mr. Kyle gives afternoon lessons. Maybe this is what afternoon lessons are. So you unbutton your gray uniform shirt and his yellow eyes shine hungrily and he touches you.
The dormitory cot calls your name that night, and Rebecca notices your exhaustion. “Are you alright?” she asks in her ugly voice that is like china breaking.
“Oh. Okay…I saw you stay after to talk to Mr. Grae. Are sure you’re okay?”
“Yes.” She’s wearing flannel pajamas that make her look fat and pregnant. Maybe she’s pregnant. You hope she’s pregnant. “I’m fine. Goodnight.”
She gives up and the light flicks off and you can be alone with yourself.
Next time you stay after it’s because you got a D. D for dummy. D for dog. That’s what you are. You tell Mr. Grae as much. “I’m a dog, aren’t I? Just a stupid, pointless dog.”
“You aren’t pointless,” he coos in a timbre voice, thick with lust. His hands are roaming again, and then undoing his belt. Rough lips run across your bare shoulders, coming to rest just below your collar. His teeth bite hard and you cry out, loudly. “Shut-up,” he commands, covering your mouth with his hands.
He forces you to your knees and you earn another A. Grades are earned with Mr. Grae.
Even after an hour-long shower you feel dirty. The blankets cannot hide you from Rebecca after dinner. She comes closer, wrapping her arms around you. “It’s okay, Felix. It’s not your fault.”
“What’s okay? There’s nothing wrong.”
“But, Felix, Mr. Grae…I know he made you stay after. It’s not right.” Rebecca is showing genuine concern and you think it’s disgusting of her to be such a hypocrite. “Just ask for help. Tell me.”
“I’m not going to tell you anything, slut. I know you stay after for help with Mr. Kyle. You’re just jealous that a teacher likes me and wants me to do well. I don’t even know why Mr. Kyle gives help to someone ugly like you. You’re repulsive, and a hypocrite. How could someone beautiful like him want you?” It all slips from your mouth.
Rebecca looks hurt and sad. “Mr. Kyle just teaches me grammar. He doesn’t do anything to me. I’m not his toy. We’re friends, nothing more. It’s not supposed to be anything more.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“I know the look in Mr. Grae’s eyes when he sees you, and some of the other girls.”
“Let me help you, Felix.”
She sighs, wiping away wet tears, then leaves.
Winter term is almost done and your grades have dropped in all your classes and you don’t like Advanced Math anymore. You sit in class staring blankly at the wall, avoiding Mr. Grae’s ravenous stare. The final was yesterday and you know you failed. The image of the test is in your mind, and you can count on one hand the questions you know you got right. But you need to pass.
Afterwards you stay, trying one more time to convince him to help you. His eyes are hard. Sharp teeth remind you of the scar on your chest. The wolfish, barbaric grin scares you for the first time. “You want me to change your grade.” He already knows, and you already know, and you’re on your knees. “No. Not this time.” His words surprise you.
You stumble to your feet and he grabs you, pushing you against his desk. He claws at your skirt for the first time, ripping it from you. It’s terrifying and you start to cry, but then he slaps you so you shut up. If you don’t shut-up he’ll hurt you. His shirt comes off and his pants come off; he’s hairy and smells like wilderness. Sweat clings to him.
“No! Stop, stop, stop,” you beg him. But he doesn’t stop.
He creates new spaces in you and you bleed.
It hurts and when you start crying you can’t stop this time.
When it’s all done you watch his red pen scribble across your test. C, C, C for correct. None of it’s correct, none of it’s right. You wish you could do it over and you’d study this time. Everything would be okay if you could just have a second chance.
It’s your last night at Saint Genevieve’s School for Modern Reform but you can’t sleep. You hurt inside and you’ve cried so much your face is stained. No one has said anything to you.
“Help…” you whisper to an empty room. But Rebecca moved out a long time ago. She found a new roommate, a nicer girl.
The scene plays again and again in your head. Your mind is the worst weapon of torture in the world. You need someone, anyone, to save you.
No one answers.