Tia didn’t lift her head, but she peeked up at her grandmother through her lashes as she pretended to read her book.

She was still glaring.

They’d been in a huge fight and Tia didn’t really understand it. Her grandmother had zero vested interest in where she went to college. None. Tia hadn’t even known she HAD a grandmother until seventeen days ago! Four days before her highschool graduation, BOTH of Tia’s parents had been killed in a drunk driving incident. Her fathers fault, he’d tested off the charts and that meant no insurance money.

Tia had been at a complete loss on top of being absolutely devastated. Until an unknown man had shown up, the lawyer of her grandmother. He’d taken care of everything, then drove Tia back to a huge old colonial mansion in the deep south of South Carolina.

Now, the woman she’d known 3 whole days was DEMANDING Tia attend the local college, the one she went to, her mother went to and everyone in their family went to. She was a legacy and since their family put so much money into the institution, she didn’t have to pay to go.

While she had scholarships to MU, where she WANTED to go, she couldn’t pay for the rest on her own. She’d told her grandmother she was going to get a student loan and the woman had gone into a raging rant about throwing away money and abusing her kindness.

Tia had been at a loss over the, up until then, quiet woman’s tirade. She didn’t want to go to this tiny, unheard of community college so small that it was all in one building, INCLUDING the dorms. It seemed absurd to her! There was no way they would have the classes she wanted and needed!

Her grandmother didn’t care.

The woman finally spoke. “You’re mother and I had very different opinions about many things, but she agreed with me on this!” the woman spat. “She had applied in your name, you’ve already been accepted!”

“No, she didn’t! She couldn’t have, she KNEW I wanted to go to MU with my friends and my boyfriend! I want to be…”

“You’re already enrolled! You will go and no more arguments! Look around you, Hipatia.”

“Tia. It’s just Tia.”

“You’re Hipatia after MY mother, I will call you Hipatia! Look around! You can see that you come from a very comfortable background. As of this moment, you are the sole heir listed in my will. If you try to change tradition, spit in my face and my family’s face, you will get nothing!”

“It’s no loss if I never knew in the first place, and money doesn’t drive me, Ghaline. Does this little school have a biomedical sciences program?”

“It has ALL you need and more! It is tradition! You attend Roanoke and graduate and I will send you to any school you like afterward for anything you want to get into. It’s important! To us, to the family, to everyone!”

“Is this why my mother ran away?” Tia asked petulantly.

“She did not leave until after she attended school,” Ghaline scowled. “This is NOT a debate. You will attend Roanoke in the fall!”

Tia sighed and huddled into her book, trying to find a way out of this. She had no car, her friends were just as poor as she was and she and her boyfriend had been very rocky when everything had happened. He’d refused to take anything seriously, graduating by the skin of his teeth and relying on his charm and swim team status to get him through the classes he by all rights should have failed. He’d held her hand through the funeral, but once she’d left and been taken to South Carolina, neither of them had texted each other at all. It was a mutual going of separate ways, though nothing was actually official.

Not that she was certain of that. Her phone rarely got signal out here in this swamp and her grandmother didn’t have internet. Tia couldn’t even throw up a hotspot on her phone, it just wouldn’t load.

She was well and truly fucked.

Her summer went by slowly, dragging by at a snail’s pace.

She learned quickly that while her grandmother was an older woman, she was VERY active in the community. Some community. Tia wasn’t sure what, she was never invited. The old woman rarely spoke to her at all, always scowling at her and mumbling about how spoiled she was and out of touch she was.

Tia could only snort. Who was out of touch? Out here with NO internet, NO television, NO cellphone, only an old fashioned landline WITH an actual cord. All that was here to do was walk around outside or read books. Tia read a lot of old books.

A few times she walked to the top of the drive, a good mile walk, and texted with her two best friends. She’d considered walking into town, but it was HOT and WET and GROSS. Town was 7 miles away and walking that far in the heat was more than she could manage. Even walking to the end of the driveway for signal was almost too much. Humidity was basically a 4 letter word in her book. Yuck.

As fall loomed closer, she’d been able to do absolutely nothing. Her choices were going to this local little community college or staying in her grandmother’s old house in the swamp with her, even though she was never ever there.

When the day came, her lawyer showed up again to drive Tia. Her grandmother had her own car and drove it everywhere, but she couldn’t drive Tia to school? She felt a little salty about that. She didn’t even come out to say goodbye after the man loaded her bags in the trunk.

“See ya’,” Tia sighed at the house, letting the man open the car door to the back seat for her. She couldn’t even ride up front with him like a normal person.


She’d been hoping to get her first look at the town, but Malcolm turned off on a road two miles down and started heading northeast. Away from the town and her grandmothers both. She lost track of the turns on the old roads, winding gravel roads, dirt roads. Where was this place?

45 minutes in, he finally turned onto a road with a huge, open, wrought iron gate, like a very long drive. In the far distance, Tia could see what looked like a castle. A HUGE castle.

Leaning up in the seat, she stared in awe. “Is that the college??”

“That is Roanoke University,” he agreed, his tone reverent.

“Did you go here?”

“No,” he chuckled, and it sounded bitter. “I didn’t have the right family to get into this institution, or the money back then.”

“You make it sound elite.”

“It IS elite.”

“Then why haven’t I ever heard of it?”

“Because it is THAT elite,” he snorted. “Be sure to behave yourself and bring no disgrace to your family name.”

“Yeah, not that kind of kid,” Tia told him, looking around at the other cars and other kids as they pulled up.

She was definitely out of place, she saw that right off. Rich kids, nice clothes. Money. Nice cars.

Tia felt like a grubby kid as she got out of the car, Malcolm opening her door for her. “Go there to the woman directing freshmen,” he told her. “I will see your things to your room. Your phone too, they aren’t allowed on the tour.”

Tia handed over her phone with a sigh before trudging over to the woman up on the steps, waving people over.

Pushing her way to the front, people scowled down at her as she passed, but there was nothing for it. If she wanted to see, she had to be in the front.

“Stay close!” the woman up the steps called. “Make sure there is room for the others to get inside and go to their dorms, they’ve had this tour already! We’re only missing two more! Have patience!”

“Have her!” a boy called, hugging a girl to his chest as she giggled.

Tia looked the two over as other people chuckled. As she looked back, she noticed a lot of people looking at her curiously. Most of them.

A girl sidled close to her. “Hi! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around here before? But obviously you’re from here?”

Tia gave her a shy smile, noting that a few people had gone quiet, listening. “No,” I’m not from here,” Tia told her softly.

“Right,” a boy snorted. “Then how did you GET here?” he demanded, laughing viciously, the others joining him.

“That’s enough!” the woman on the steps called, then looked at Tia. “Hipatia Piedmont?” she asked.

“Yeah… just Tia though. I really don’t go by my first name, just Tia.”

“Hipatia, like Hipatia Beaumont?” the girl who’d spoked to Tia asked, surprised.

The woman on the steps nodded. “She’s the great granddaughter of Hipatia Beaumont. Everyone settle down! Hipatia, it’s nice to meet you, I’m Miss Talley.”

“Really, it’s just Tia,” Tia told her a little impatiently.

“Of course. Everyone,” Miss Talley called, making everyone stop talking and pay attention to her, “I’m going to need you to understand something here and now. Hipatia wasn’t raised around here, she is… other. Like an outsider almost, but still of us. She was raised out in the world. Her family is from here, but her grandmother informed us she is completely ignorant of the old ways and…”

“Then why is she here?” a boy demanded loudly.

“She shouldn’t be here!”

“You should make her leave!”

“She isn’t one of us!”

“Is it true about her father?”

“Why is she here? Why is this being allowed?”

“Everyone quiet! Everyone! This is Hipatia, daughter of Elise, daughter of Ghaline, daughter of Hipatia …”

“That is enough, Miss Talley,” a middle aged man called loudly from the front doors of the huge building. “Hipatia Piedmont, come with me, please. You’ll be skipping the group tour.”

Tia sighed, then followed the man quickly as he turned and went back inside. Ducking between bags and students and parents, she had to run to catch up to him. “It’s just Tia!” she told him breathlessly when she caught up and fell in next to him.

“We don’t deal in that sort of informality here, Hipatia. Your transcripts say you’re a clever girl. You wish to go into biomedical science? You’re going to have to rethink things a bit, I’m afraid. We have a great many courses here, but nothing like that. You never went through our testing program to see what you were most suited for, at any rate, we will take care of that now. For the rest, you will simply have to catch up as you can. It is a good thing you seem to be smart. Now then, have a seat, Hipatia.”

“I really don’t like…”

“I’ll not hear another word about your name. It is what it is, like it or not and it is how you will be addressed. Have respect for those who came before you, girl,” he snapped angrily. “Sit!”

Tia sat, scowling at the man.

“Now then! I have Miss Cinnia coming to test your aptitudes to see where to place you in the classes! You will not balk or argue at ALL once she places you, things are done differently here. You will see that soon enough! Basic rules, quickly, you aren’t allowed off the school grounds, EVER, during the school year. You must be in your dorm wing by 8 PM and in bed by 10 PM. Wake-up is at 6 AM sharp, no sleeping in or being late! You will always look presentable and never slovenly,” he scowled, looking over Tia’s jeans and t-shirt like he was disgusted. You will be courteous and respectful to your teachers and elders and other students. The outside world and it’s ways do not carry over here.”

The man droned on, but Tia was beginning to block him out. She should have taken off, left. Walked into town, taken a bus back home and couch surfed with her friends over the summer until school started. Got a job, got the student loan. This place was hell.

The door opened, making Tia snap out of her self pity as she looked at the giant of a woman standing in the doorway.

“Miss Cinnia, this is Hipatia Piedmont,” the man nodded. “You may take her and test her.”

Miss Cinnia gave a single nod, then held the door open for Tia wordlessly.

Tia turned to the man. “You never said your name,” she told him grumpily.

He gave her a grim smile. “You may call me Mr B.”

Tia rolled her eyes at the unfairness of a teacher getting a nickname and not her. Quietly, she followed the giantess out of the room and down the hall to what looked like a nurses office. The woman didn’t speak at all as she gestured Tia to sit on the tall table. Tia climbed up and sat down, slumping dejectedly, then cringed back when the woman unceremoniously grabbed her by the head and held on.

That was all.

She gripped Tia’s head in both hands and stared at nothing for a moment, then let go. Opening the door again, she gestured for Tia to leave, all without a word.

Tia left, feeling a little wary now.

What the hell was that?!?

MR B was waiting outside, looking amused as Tia came out. “You will get your course list Sunday, before classes start on Monday,” he told her with a nod. “I will see you to your room. If you need anything after this, you will ask your Wing matron first, then Miss Talley if your wing matron can’t help you. Use the hierarchy, never jump the list unless there is dire need. I am the last person you will see. Am I clear?”

“Sure. Hey, if…”

“Yes, Sir. Respect, Hipatia.”

“Ok. Yes, sir. If I can get what I need in time, can I transfer out of…”

“No. You are here now, Hipatia, and you will not leave these grounds again until school is out next summer.”

“What about winter break? Christmas?”

“YULE is celebrated in these halls.”

“Yule? Not Christmas?”

“Enough of these silly questions. Down those steps there is the dining hall. Breakfast at 8 Am, lunch at 1 PM and dinner at 7 PM. You’ll not be late to any meal and you will attend every meal, am I understood?”

“I don’t really eat breakfast, can…”

“I don’t care what you USED to do, Hipatia. NOW you will eat breakfast. NOW you will eat every meal. Do you understand?”

“Uhh… sure, I guess. Got it.”

“Yes, Sir. I’m beginning to think they will call anyone brilliant in the outside world,” he muttered under his breath.

“Yeah, look, it’s a habit thing, ok? You don’t have to be rude. Most teachers anymore don’t demand the ‘sir’, they try to be more personable.”

“We are not your friends here, we are your teachers! You WILL learn to be civil or you WILL be punished. Do you understand? How old are you, Hipatia?”

“18. 19 in February. Does it matter?”

“You simply seem young.”

“Comes from not topping out at 5 feet,” Tia muttered.

“That is the library, it’s open from 10 until 8. Down those steps is a gym so you can stay fit. There’s an indoor pool as well. Turn here, go up these stairs. The first floor is the senior bays, keep going. All the way up. Freshman floor is at the top before the stairs are blocked off. Women’s showers and bathrooms are at the end of the girls hall. Kallissa! Kallissa Montgomery, this is Hipatia Piedmont. Hipatia, this is Kallissa, she is your wing matron. Kallissa, Hipatia’s course roster won’t be ready until Sunday and she’s new to things around here. Keep an eye on her and make sure she is given no issues. She is being roomed with Naomi Hallifax, I figured she would be the best fit for a relatively new student to our organization.”

“Of course, sir!” the girl smiled, looking down at Tia in excitement. “I will take care of everything! Come along, Hipatia, I’ll show you to your room!” she smiled, catching Tia’s arm and pulling her down the hall.

Tia followed, turning to glower over her shoulder at Mr B.

“This is your room,” the girl smiled, opening a door and Tia paused at the door, blinking. The room was large and very ornate and over the top. Plush. There were two full king sized beds with canopies, piled high with blankets and pillows. One in reds and oranges, the other in purples and blues. Each side of the room was done in the separate colors and both sides were lavish and over the top.

“Holy shit!” Tia breathed, looking around.

“I know, it’s a little outdated, isn’t it? Old timey and all that. It’s ok, you can bring in your own stuff when it gets here.”

“My own stuff?” Tia asked faintly. She’d never seen such luxury before, let alone think it not good enough and want to replace it with her own stuff.

“Yeah, the stuff you’re having delivered? Aren’t you having anything delivered?”

“Ahh… no,” Tia laughed, a little frantically. “But my things should be here somewhere? Malcolm said he’d bring them up? My clothes?”

“Closets over there,” Kallissa offered, shrugging.

Tia went to the closet and opened it, but her things weren’t there. Instead it was full of uniforms, black with crimson trim.

“Oh, wow,” Kallissa breathed, stepping closer to look at the closet. “Didn’t know you were founding blood! Wow! Ummm… Piedmont? What was your mom’s maiden name?”

Tia looked at the tall girl, blushing. “So where are my clothes? And my other things? My laptop, my cellphone?”

“Oh, that sort of thing isn’t allowed here,” Kallissa shrugged. “No electronics at all.”

“All year?!? But how do we keep in touch with family and friends?!?”

“Well… you don’t? That’s sort of the point? You’re really like a baby to this, aren’t you?”

Tia threw herself on the closest bed, feeling completely lost. What the hell was this place?!?

“So, what’s your mom’s maiden name?” Kallissa persisted.

“Why does that matter?”

“It doesn’t! I just… you know. Founding blood, people will wonder.”

“Let them wonder,” Tia sighed, rolling over. “Is this my bed?”

“If you want. You’re here first and your clothes are in this closet already, so yeah, I guess it’s yours. Umm. I guess, let me know if you need anything. I’m fourth generation, so I’m orange. You won’t see many reds like you. In a normal situation, YOU would be wing matron, not me. Umm… do you know about families? And generations?”

“In general, or as in how they apply here at this place? I know jack shit about this place.”

“Don’t let the professors hear you talking like that. I’m not supposed to allow it either, really. Cursing. It’s simpleton language.”

“I don’t really give a fuck,” Tia told her softly, feeling angry with how she’d been forced into this and tricked as well.

She should have run.

“Wow. Umm… anyway. I guess… it’s like this. I’m 4th generation, so, I get to wear orange and I have a little more clout than most. 3rd generation wears yellow, 2nd green and 1st blue. The servants and employees wear purple. Mostly there’s a lot of yellow and green right now. Umm… so how are you red but know nothing about this place?”

“Why is this place so secretive? What is this place?”

“A college,” she answered slowly, warily, her eyes huge. “I… have to go. The others will be here any minute and they’ll need me. If you need something, I’ll be down in the dayroom where the wings meet.”

Kallissa left quickly as Tia sat up to turn and look at her. What had just happened? Why had she gone all weird? What was this place?

Not ten minutes later, a girl came in pulling a small bag on wheels. Tia recognized her from outside, though she couldn’t recall if the girl had spoken or not. The girl hesitated, looking around with her nose in the air. “Gross! This is NOT going to work for me, I don’t do fall colors. I want to switch,” she told Tia, her tone demanding.

“No thanks,” Tia shot back, immediately on the defensive against the bossy girl.

The girl rolled her eyes. “Are you really going to make this hard? Ugh. You suck so bad! Do you know who I am?”

“Naomi Hallifax?” Tia guessed.

“So you know why you have to move.”

Tia rolled her eyes and threw herself back on the bed, splaying out all over it. “Fuck off, Naomi, I’m not going anywhere.”

“Cursing is for people to stupid to come up with more clever words.”

“Fuck more clever words. Fuck you works great for me. My things were here when I got here, so I was basically assigned this bed, so fuck off. I’m not moving.”

“We’ll see!” she snarled, then left after slamming her bag down.

She was back moments later with Kallissa.

“Tell her she has to move! She has to switch me spots!” Naomi demanded. “My things will be here soon and I want her moved before they are!”

Kallissa turned red, refusing to look at Tia as she lay stretched as far as her tiny body would let her across the bed.