“My name is Helen Rosecliff.” The blonde woman said from the front of the small classroom. She wore her hair in a tight bun that gave her angular features a severe look. Her hand thrust into the air displaying a delicate diamond ring. “I am Walter Rosecliff’s wife which means you will address me as Mrs. Rosecliff.” She looked over the ten of us standing before her. “When you have been given information it is appropriate to acknowledge it with a polite affirmation.”
I knew what she expected. Some of the others did as well, but a few of the girls seemed completely oblivious to Mrs. Rosecliff’s expectations. Those of us who knew spoke in rough unison, “Yes, Mrs. Rosecliff.” The oblivious girls followed a moment later.
Mrs. Rosecliff gave the slightest of nods. Her expression betrayed no emotion, good or bad. She looked us over for a long, silent moment. “Starting from the left, each of you will step forward and introduce yourself, your age, your house assignment, your conviction and the length of your expected stay at the Institute.” Her hand gesture made it clear she meant her left, rather than ours.
“Yes, Mrs. Rosecliff,” we replied.
The first girl stepped forward. Her legs trembled and she wrung her hands together in front of her skirt. She kept her head low, staring at the floor while her blonde hair dipped in front of her face. Her voice was soft and quiet like water trickling from a faucet. “I’m Teresa Martel from Sapphire House. I’m 22 years old and I was convicted of hazing and sentenced to four years here.” She immediately walked back to her place on the wall.
Mrs. Rosecliff fixed her gaze on Teresa once she was facing forward again. “We’ll work on your speech and grammar.”
Teresa lowered her head farther. “Yes, Mrs. Rosecliff.”
The next girl stepped forward. She exhibited all the confidence Teresa lacked. Her brown hair was tied neatly back in a ponytail and it bounced off her back as she walked and smartly turned to face the line of us. She smiled, friendly and domineering. “Rhonda Bartley. 24. I’m assigned to Ruby House. My conviction was for perjury because my dumbass boyfriend couldn’t keep his story straight. I’ll be here for three years.” She marched back to her spot.
Mrs. Rosecliff stared stared straight into Rhonda’s brown eyes. “We do not tolerate derogatory language at the Institute.” She tapped on her tablet for a moment and then returned her stare to Rhonda. “Strip down to your socks and shoes. We’ll wash your mouth out with soap after everyone else has done their introductions and give you a 22 swat spanking. After class you’ll visit Dean Rosecliff for another mouthsoaping and spanking. I trust you’ll have learned your lesson by bedtime and will allow you to dress again tomorrow morning.”
Rhonda’s expression soured. “Yes, Mrs. Rosecliff.” Her tone said the opposite, but she stripped down to her socks and shoes without another word.
From beside Rhonda, another brunette stepped forward, similar in build to Rhonda. She appeared less confident though, her hands pressed flat against the sides of her skirt. “My name is Celeste Simons and I am 23 years old. I was assigned to Citrine House. My crime was shoplifting and I am here for the next four years.” She returned to her place in line.
Mrs. Rosecliff said. “Thank you, Celeste.”
Following Celeste, a tall blonde stepped forward. Her blue eyes were watery as if she were fighting back tears. Her legs seemed to tremble and voice wavered as she spoke. “I am Misty Hauser, 18 years old. Peridot House is my current residence for the next three years because I was found guilty of breaking and entering into the administration building at my former high school.” She returned to the line.
Next, was my turn. I stepped forward and faced the line. “My name is Margaret Lange and I’m 21 years old. I am assigned to Tanzanite House. My conviction was for accessory to theft and I’ve been sentenced to five years.” I returned to my place.