I sat at a small table with Jocelyn during evening free time. She had decided from the start we would be friends, I had no objection, and from that point on we were together more than we were apart. Class time accounted for the most of our separation. I was enduring the indoctrination courses, being taught the essentials of life from the ground up as if arrival at the institute had not only stripped me of my dignity but of all knowledge beyond the rudimentary skills of breathing and communication. Jocelyn had progressed beyond those core classes and was enjoying a taste of real education. One of the highly touted benefits of choosing Rosecliff was the ability to gain a college degree in a variety of fields.
Jocelyn’s most endearing quality was her simple ability to fill the silence that might otherwise drive me insane. She said, “So there we were, sitting in Mr. Gunther’s class, you know the math teacher. We’re taking Advanced Algebra, I passed it in high school, but I guess I didn’t do so well on the placement exam, but I don’t test well and maybe I was a little nervous because math like isn’t my favorite subject and while I passed it in high school, I only barely passed it so I guess it’s OK that I’ve got to take it again. But anyway so there we were, Natalie and I and like twenty other girls, most of them I’ve only seen in the cafeteria at meal times cause I don’t think they live in Tanzanite, but of course they are part of Rosecliff and must live in the other houses but I don’t know which ones cause I don’t really know them and hadn’t really paid that much attention before. I’ll have to see if I can figure it out this week during meals.”
I nodded. Stories were never straight forward from Jocelyn, but that didn’t really matter. I just liked listening to her talk. “That will give us something to do.”
“Yeah,” Jocelyn said. “Well me, because you can’t find them cause you don’t know who they are or what they look like cause you aren’t in the class, but I guess you can help me keep track as figure it out. So where was I? Oh yeah, Natalie. So like we’re sitting there in Mr. Gunther’s class and she’s like hardly sitting still. Have you ever notice Natalie can’t ever seem to sit still. It’s like she always has to be doing something with her hands or tapping her feet. Do you think it’s like a disorder or something? Maybe she needs to be medicated. I don’t know. But anyway, she like pulls out her notebook and pencil and starts doodling in it. Can you believe it? Doodling in class? Like where does she think we are, in high school? This is like well, you know the expletive, starts with an F, rhymes with mucking, Rosecliff.”
“Right,” I nodded. My gaze had left Jocelyn in favor of watching Miss Watts. Someone had apparently left the new teacher in charge for the evening and she was enjoying herself at the expense Ms. Chambers, who was definitely not enjoying anything. It still rattled me that the teachers and staff were disciplined along with the students. And Ms. Chambers was being disciplined for something. She was naked, her buttocks were a shiny red that almost looked like she’d had them oiled as well as spanked. I doubted that was the case though. Miss Watts was standing over Ms. Chambers, who was literally down on her hands and knees, scrubbing at the tile floor with a toothbrush.
It seemed Miss Watts found the manner of Ms. Chambers floor scrubbing to be insufficient to the task. She was clearly enjoying the opportunity to make Ms. Chambers repeat her work. And of course, in Rosecliff style, Miss Watts was utilizing a paddle to drive home her dissatisfaction. Three swats every time she told her to clean a spot over. I did feel sorry for Ms. Chambers, but I also recalled Ms. Chambers putting Miss Watts into embarrassing positions in the corner. Perhaps this was just a fair turn of events. I imagine my judgment on the matter fails to account for the full scope of events and choosing compassion for one over the other was probably unwise. Still, I found on a gut level I empathized with Ms. Chambers.
Jocelyn continued with her story. “Well of course, Mr. Gunther noticed. He was none too happy either. Grabbed the lexan paddle handing on the wall by the door and called Natalie right on up to the front of class. She was super nervous. I don’t blame her a bit. I’d have been scared stiff, but I wouldn’t have been doodling in the first place. I mean really, who does something that stupid in class? Natalie, of course. Not that Natalie is dumb. She’s not. I like her. She’s been a roommate since I got here and we’re friends, but still that was like really not a good idea. Anyway, Mr. Gunther stripped her right down to her socks and shoes. And I mean he seriously did it. He wouldn’t let her undress herself. He took her clothes off piece by piece and totally humiliated her, turning her every which way so he and the whole class saw everything. I was blushing for her and so was like half the class and I think I said before, most of them we don’t even know. And then he paddled her, touching toes. I think it was like twenty-two swats and she has to walk around in just socks and shoes until bedtime tomorrow. That definitely s--mucks. She’s going to get paddled at breakfast too and that means no food for her until lunch tomorrow. Do you think I should sneak her some breakfast in the morning? I know I’d like it if I was in her shoes if someone did that for me. But if I get caught it could be like really bad for me. What do you think? Should I?”
I turned my attention back to Jocelyn and shrugged. “If you think you can do it without getting both of you into more trouble, sure.”Jocelyn smiled. “I knew I liked you.”