I am working on Matlock College as both a novel and a screenplay.
Hogwarts meets St Trinian’s in Matlock College. Aurora Daniels finds herself at a boarding school for the supernatural. Seen as a rival to the current Female School Captain, she must fend off life threatening attacks, the insincere affections of the Deputy Male School Captain, the flirtatious banter of the most dangerous boy in school, literally – he kills people during Sports – and her odd comfort with the school loner. Can Aurora stay alive long enough to get through the rest of high school so she can go back to her pretending-to-be-human life?
I was unceremoniously thrown from the bus with my trunk, suitcase, sheath belt, hockey stick, and bow and quiver, and was left standing amongst it all in the rain. I watched the now empty bus drive away and turned to face the school I had been abandoned at for the next twenty-one months of my life. I silently cursed my family, belted on my sheath, picked up my hockey stick, bow and quiver, and forced my trunk and suitcase to hover off the muddy driveway. The trunk and suitcase wavered alarmingly for a few seconds before settling, and I began sloshing up the drive towards the imposing building over which storm clouds hovered.
How very clichéd, I thought as I mentally pushed my gear ahead of me.
Up until now, I had been allowed to go to a normal, daytime only school. But, for the last two years of schooling, my family had decided it was time for me to go to what they considered normal school, and I had been shipped off to boarding school without so much as a warning. I’d missed the first couple of months of school, so I had resigned myself to being the outcast and butt of many jokes, especially as the school catered to boys as well as girls.
I had heard stories about Matlock College and the infamous Matlock Castle, but they always seemed to make me think of the school out of the St Trinian’s movies. Little was I to know at the time, but I would soon find out Matlock College was nothing like St Trinian’s and yet it was also so much worse…
Waiting at the door, when I finally got to it, was a stern-faced woman with her arms crossed.
“Aurora Daniels.” It wasn’t a question. “You are late. Class starts in twenty minutes.”
“Late? I’m late?” Shall we just forget how long it took me to trudge up the driveway on my own? Who on Earth was this woman?
“Yes, you are late. The school will expect you to work on your punctuality.” She turned around and walked into the darkened entry way.
My trunk and suitcase thudded to the floor. I wasn’t quite sure what was expected of me, so I stood there in stunned silence. A part of my brain wondered how it was possible that the inside of the building was darker than out here. Just as the woman was about to disappear into the darkness, she snapped around.
“Aurora!” She trilled. “Hurry up.”
When I didn’t move, she sighed audibly and my trunk and suitcase rose up from the ground and swanned inside behind her. I hitched my bow more comfortably across my chest, swung my hockey stick around, and scurried behind my things.
As my foot hit the paved entry way, the door slammed shut behind me and I heard distinct grating noises that sounded like locks closing.
“Aurora!” the woman shrieked again.
I sighed and continued following her.
Hexball at Matlock College was different from any other Hexball I’d ever played. All Hexball I’d been stuck in was played by the rules and the umpires paid close attention. As my first Hexball practice was held on my first day at Matlock College, I didn’t have to actually play. And, for that I was truly glad. Oh, you have no idea.
Firstly, the boys and the girls often played Hexball together. There were four games going on at once; two all-male games, one all-female games, and one mixed game. Half-way through the first half of the all-male game, I got my biggest surprise of all. Although, I’m surprised I caught it between the yelling and screaming of those watching.
The male captain of the school – recognisable only by pictures I’d seen in the hallways – ran down the pitch rather aggressively, brandishing his knife. I could feel myself rise onto the balls of my feet and I saw him close in on his opponent, being faced down by two other defenders from the opposite side. After the first half of the game – which included many a kick to an opponent’s balls and punches in the face – I really shouldn’t have been surprised. But that didn’t stop the awful flop my heart took as the male school captain plunged his knife straight into the stomach of the guy with the ball.
As my hand slapped across my mouth, a great roar ripped through the watching students; half in joy and half in outcry.
After my hand had slipped from my mouth, I stood in absolute horror. The stabbed boy fell silently, blood bubbling from his mouth. I looked around at the spectators and the coaches and the players, and no one seemed to mind. In fact, the only thing anyone said was, “bloody hell! Coach Spyers, I had better not need a new forward!”
The boy was carried off on a stretcher by one man. I watched as the man checked the boy’s pulse. I saw the man shake his head and motion to the boy’s team’s coach. I sidled closer to try to hear what they were saying.
“He’s dead, coach.” The man was saying.
“Damn it, he won’t be back on soon then.”
The man shook his head. “I’ll call for Nurse.”
The coach walked away and readied another boy for the game.
I felt my heart rate rise and my head felt dizzy. A boy was dead! Where on Earth had my parents sent me!
The nurse arrived and tutted over the body of the dead boy. “I’ll need to take him up to the infirmary. He’ll be down for a few hours, I’m afraid. Need to stitch him up first.”
As the man walked ahead of the stretcher, the nurse held the dead boy’s hand and they walked towards the school building.
All I could do was stare around me. I had seen violent Hexball matches. I’d even come off the pitch bleeding myself a few times. But, even in professional games, I had never seen anyone die, and it had certainly never been okay.
“How are you doing?”
I looked around and saw a tall, slim, dark-haired girl standing next to me. I had seen her in the halls during the day, but had not seen her in any of my classes.
“Trudy Breach.” She held her hand out to me and I shook it uncertainly.
“Oh, I know who you are.” She smiled knowingly.
“Yes. Aurora Daniels. Only daughter of Talbot and Riviera Daniels, school captains of their year at Matlock College.”
I attempted not to sigh out loud. I had thought it was bad enough that friends of my brother thought it was so great that both my parents were school captains, I was really hoping it wasn’t actually a real thing. I mean, there are current school captains, what does it matter if both my parents were school captains? Seriously people.
The Trudy person hadn’t said anything, so I did, “Yeah, that’d be me.”
“You know what they say about school captains.” She blew a bubble with the gum she was chewing as she looked towards the Hexball game I was standing next to. I had the distinct feeling she was looking at the male school captain.
“You’re ours then?”
“Just like my parents.”
I wanted to scream at her. Everyone knew the stories about school captains and the children of school captains. But, she was welcome to be the female school captain. I had no interest whatsoever in being school captain…not that I would be eligible for another year anyway. I just wanted to get through school and back to pretending I was human.
“So…you and…him?” I pointed towards the other school captain, running around on the pitch not currently stabbing people. I had no idea what his name was.
“You need to ask?” She laughed. But, I saw a hint of uncertainty in her face that I wished I could investigate.
“Well, he seems…nice.” I tried my best smile and, when she answered in kind, I assumed I succeeded.
“Declan’s special.” She twirled her hair as she seemed to stare at Declan playing on the pitch.
“I bet he is.” I smiled. She looked at me sharply, and I felt a moment of panic imagining her knife going through my stomach. “But, there’s a guy I’ve seen in the hallway that I think would suit me.” I wanted to slap myself, I sounded so stupid. However, her face lit up.
“Really? Do you know who he is?”
“No, no, I don’t. I barely know anyone’s name.”
“Well, let me help you out a little.”
I waited for her to continue, but she didn’t. I wouldn’t find out til the next day what she meant.
I was ridiculously pleased that we had our own rooms at Matlock College. When my parents first told me that I would be going to boarding school, I had images of sharing a room with up to twelve girls and having to shower with them every day. I was amazed at the lack of roommate, but the small size of the bedroom soon made up for that.
As I sat up in bed on my first morning at Matlock College, I looked around the room. It looked different that morning than it did the day or even night before. And, by different, I mean a lot smaller.
The morning before, the woman who had met me at the door – Miss Trench – had dragged me up to this room before going to see the headmaster.
“This will be your room, Miss Daniels.” Miss Trench opened the door. She sent my trunk to the end of the bed and the suitcase seemed to lay itself on the bed.
“My room, as in, on my own?”
“Yes. All on your own. Had you joined us as a Junior, you would have shared a room with your fellow classmates. But, over the centuries, we have noticed that older students do better with their own room.”
“Over the centuries…” I mused, looking around at the room.
At the time, I thought the single bed, desk and chair, built-in wardrobe, sink, and chest of drawers filling the room looked…well, roomy. Sitting in bed the next morning, I felt a little less so. Looking around the room, I noticed that it was about half the size of my bedroom at home.
I seemed to only just then feel the loneliness of the day before.
I still hadn’t unpacked my things. My trunk was sitting at the end of the bed where Miss Trench had set it, still locked, and I had thrown my suitcase on the floor when I fell into bed.
When I saw the principle the day before, I had been given my timetable. My plan was to paste it into my diary, but after the Hexball match of the day before I hadn’t felt much like cutting and pasting in the old fashion sense.
I wanted to call my brother, but anytime of the day was too early for him, let alone any time that required me to be up in time to get to first lesson. I flopped back down on the pillow and let the sense of loneliness wash over me, knowing that it was hampering my “fitting into Matlock College” as Miss Trench would say.
There was a knock at my door and I heard Miss Trench’s shrill “Aurora” through it.
I groaned as I heard her yell that it was time for breakfast.
Rifling through my trunk, I found some more of my uniform and threw it on, knowing that my mother would have fainted at the creases I neglected to iron out. I found a pair of tights, a skirt, a shirt, a tie, a jumper and a pair of mary-jane, ballet flats. My blazer was hanging on the desk chair. As I tugged it on, I wondered how I was supposed to do my hair. Shrugging, I opened my bedroom door.
Students, girls and boys, rushed backwards and forwards, yelling and laughing. I stood in the doorway, not remembering which direction I was supposed to go in to get to the dining hall.
“Need a hand?”
I turned and saw Trudy. I would have liked to not smile at the sight of her, but I let myself down. As the corners of my mouth rose, I could feel my plan to stay aloof until I graduated dissipating.
“Thanks,” I said, unsure of what to say next.
“Let me take you to breakfast.” She held her hand out and, when I didn’t take it, she grabbed my hand and pulled me down to the dining hall.
As I was dragged along, students smiled and greeted Trudy and I. Trudy seemed to relish the attention. At least, I assumed so based on the way she flicked and twirled her hair, and giggled when people talked to her.
Despite the strange day before introduction to Matlock College, I was very pleased with the eggs, bacon, toast, beans and sausages offered in the dining hall. I had always had a high position on my old Hexball team and my old coach always said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Since there was another Hexball practice that afternoon, I anticipated that I would need an enormous breakfast. Especially since I knew I would be expected to play. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure how practices worked yet, but I was fairly sure that every student in the school played Hexball.
“Girl!” Trudy elbowed me in the ribs, bringing me out of my reverie.
“What?” I cried.
“You played Hexball before you came here, yes?”
I groaned inwardly. I had hoped that an elbow in the ribs would announce something other than what I had been thinking of.
“Sure, yes.” I shovelled another lot of scrambled eggs onto my plate and, from there, into my mouth.
“What position do you play?” Trudy looked around at the girls who had sat down with her.
“Erm…” I began.
“I’m the captain of the girls’ team as well as of the school.” Trudy flicked her hair behind her ear and took another piece of toast. “Coach asked me to grill you about your skills for your first practice. We’re playing the boys tonight.”
My breakfast tried to kill me. “I’m sorry…who’s what?” I knew there were mixed teams, but boys versus girls? What the hell? Plus, I remembered Declan’s stabbing of that poor kid the afternoon before.
“The Firsts girls’ team is playing the Firsts boys’ team at this afternoon’s practice. I want you on my team.”
“But, you’ve never even seen me play. I’m not all that good.” The knives at my hips suddenly felt heavier than they had before. “Besides, I often took my bow onto the field, so I never got that close to the ball.”
“Well, we’ll see this afternoon” A girl I didn’t know said, taking a sip of orange juice.
I smiled at her uncertainly, hoping that she wasn’t going to stab someone on the pitch.
“Maire.” She nodded at me as she got up from the table.
“Aurora.” I replied in kind. She smiled and walked off.
“Maire’s a very good Hexball player…considering.” Trudy said.
“Considering she’s in your year.”
“But, I’m in my year.” I said.
Trudy looked at me and I was disconcerted by the look on her face. “I know.”