The Anya Jenkins Memorial School For Girls
The Anya Jenkins Memorial School for Girls didn’t look like much. It was a largish house on the edge of the city, not too far from where I used to live with my parents. There was still scaffolding up along the outside, and plaster dust all over the interior. A construction worker in a bright yellow helmet was slathering new plaster across the front hall to the left of the entrance when I got there. The large wooden desk, where I assumed I’d be working, was covered in a large clear plastic sheet. A middle aged man in wire-rimmed glasses was scanning a couple sheets of paper and muttering to the construction worker. I didn’t see any sign of the girls who were supposed to be living here.
“Um, hi.” I waved a little at the middle aged guy, who glanced up at me. “I’m looking for. . .” I checked my post-it, not the assignment one, which was tucked into my wallet. My life is too much dictated by post-its. Another part of the almighty’s humor, I guess. “Alexander Harris?”
Middle aged man glanced to the side as the construction worker turned around. He looked basically like a construction worker, I guess, from his dusty jeans, plain t-shirt, work belt, and helmet, but his left eye was surrounded by small scars, and he sported a well trimmed goatee that was definitely at odds with the scruffy, wolf-whistling dumb carpenter look he was otherwise cultivating. “That’s me.” He smiled. It was a decent enough smile, I guess. Not stellar, but it had a lot of. . . heart in it. I liked him. “I’m Xander Harris, Dean of Students.”
“You’re the dean?” I looked back at the middle aged guy. “The dean does construction?”
“He does when the staff consists of a dean, a headmaster, and two teachers. You must be Georgia Lass.”
It took me a second to realize he was wrong. “Um. Nooo. . . . My name is Millie. I’m the temp? From Happy Time?”
Harris frowned. “Millie?” He looked at Middle Aged Guy, who was staring back at his documents.
“Well, Millie, there seems to be some mistake.” Middle Aged Guy looked back at me. “We were told to expect a Georgia Lass.”
“Yeah, but Georgia’s dead.” Ooohhh, I hated having to say that. “I’m Millie.”
“Dead, you say?” Middle Aged Guy glanced at Harris. “Odd. Well, Millie. I’m sure a simple phone call to Ms. Herbig will clear this up.”
Yes, call Dolores. Let her tell you I’m dead. I don’t wanna do it any more. “Okay. And, um, you’re Mr. Giles?”
Middle Aged Guy, who was British in an entirely different way than Mason was, looked flustered. “Of course, terribly sorry. Yes, I’m Rupert Giles, the Headmaster here at Jenkins. Most people simply call me Giles, however. I’m pleased to meet you. . . Millie.”
“Same here.” I looked at the desk. “Is that where I’ll be?”
“In the future, yes. But for now, perhaps Xander could show you around the facilities?”
“Sure.” Harris, Xander rather, dusted his hands off on his jeans and took off his helmet. He had short, dark brown hair that curled ever so slightly across his forehead. He definitely looked better with out the helmet, even if his hair was squashed to his head. “Come on, I’m sure the girls will love to meet you.”
“So,” Xander lead the way down the hall away from the reception room. I was admiring the wood work along the way, it looked like it had been freshly installed, and probably by him. A carpenter and a dean, this guy would be quite the catch. He seemed to be a few years older than I was, and those scars lent a certain dangerous look to him that, let’s face it, the girls REALLY dig. I remembered my first reaction to meeting Mason, the petty thief of our little Reaper gang. With him, it might have been the accent. With this Xander fella, it was the way he carried himself. Like he was half-uncomfortable in his own skin, almost vibrating with energy. And skilled too.
“So?” I tried to pretend that I hadn’t just let my eyes drift over toward his butt. I’m not sure it worked. On the other hand, guys are notoriously oblivious to things like that.
“So did you know Georgia for long?”
That one threw me. It took a moment to regain my Millie-equilibrium. I felt my face close. “I. . . never met her.”
“Oh.” Xander turned back to the hallway. “It’s just, when you told us she was dead, it sounded like you knew her. Bitter, you know?”
“Well, that’s okay. I mean, it’s okay either way. I must have misinterpreted.” Xander seemed to be getting into a babble mode. “We’re pretty used to death around here. Er. I mean, these girls, they’ve been through a lot together. We’re kind of like a family.” He caught my grimace. “Not in the scary, ‘think of work like a big ole family’ way, but in a ‘we’re all connected by what we’ve been through and are there for each other’ way. The girls here have had. . . unusual experiences.” He fell silent, his focus turned inward. I got the feeling he was mentally kicking himself. “Aaaanyway, this is the library. We’ve got a fairly extensive collection here already, but Dawn and Giles are working on building it up. You’ll meet Dawn later, she’s in class right now.” He glanced at me. “Not here, she’s not a student, she’s actually our part-time librarian, researcher gal. She’s studying at the University. But, like I said. Library.”
The room was large, probably spanning a good half of the ground floor, and all of the walls were lined with large, dark wood bookcases. I suspected they were hand-crafted, and that I was possibly standing next to the craftsman. It was the look of pride on his face as he peered at it. “It’ll probably be more impressive when there’s books in it,” I offered. He chuckled.
“Well, we’re still moving in, and I think Giles would kill me if all the books got wood stain on them.”
The center of the room was taken up by an enormous table. I could see a few internet jacks placed into the floor where computer stations would go. Over all, it looked like a pretty nice library for a small institution. I couldn’t help but be curious at the large, glass fronted bookcases with locks on them, that took up the far corner. “What’s with the heavy security?”
“Well, Giles is known for his collection of. . . er. . . rare books.” He looked a little uncomfortable for a moment, like he was on the verge of saying something else, but then turned abruptly. “Moving on,”
I frowned and followed. There was definitely some secret here, probably connected with why the gravelings or the whatevers had decided that I was supposed to be here.
As George, nonetheless. Bizarre wasn’t even going to cover it.
“Here’s the dining room over here, and the kitchen through there.” Xander gestured to two other doors, pushing the one on the right open to reveal a room full of more large, wooden tables. “Andrew’s the cook, he’s pretty good when he’s baking. Feel free to eat dinner with us, or if that’s too weird, you can take your lunch hour elsewhere.” He grinned. “And we, unlike other businesses, offer an ACTUAL hour.” He frowned again. “Well, dinner hour, anyway.”
There were three girls sitting at one of the tables in the corner. As we entered, I noticed them shoving something under the table and looking guilty. I figured they were hiding something from their dean, but one of them caught Xander’s eye and winked. His eyes rolled.
“These are Vi, Rona, and Margaret. Three of our students.”
The African-American and the one in the hat waved. Margaret, the one who’d winked, was staring at the ceiling and fiddling with something under the table. As I turned to follow Xander back out, I saw her pull it back out out of the corner of my eye.
Why the hell was she hiding a tent peg from me?
Why the hell did she have a tent peg in the first place?
Xander was heading toward the stairs that lead up from the front room. “Upstairs on the left are mostly the girl’s dorms. As staff, you’re only allowed in there if there’s some big emergency. Of course, if you should get to be friends with the girls, and want to spend some of your off work time over there, we don’t really mind.” He glanced at me. “No hanky-panky though. We get enough of that from Kennedy and Willow.” He grinned at my scathing look. “Hey, I refuse to assume anything any more.”
I shrugged. “I don’t really swing that way.”
He shrugged. “Okay. Anyway, here’s our classrooms.” He turned right at the top of the stairs, pointing at two small, converted bedrooms. Both looked like your usual classrooms, low bookcases, black boards, and desks. “If any of the teachers needs anything photocopied or whatever, they’ll give it to you by about a half-an-hour before class. You can just drop it off on their desk before the class begins.” A red head popped out of one of the doors behind us, straightening her shirt. She strode toward the classroom with a confidence that belied her slight blush.
“And this is Willow Rosenberg, one of our teachers.” Xander gestured in my direction. “Wills, this is Millie. She’s going to be our receptionist.”
“Hi!” Willow bounced over and shook my hand. “Welcome to the Jenkins School. We might be changing the name, though.”
Xander’s expression darkened. They held a brief staring contest, then Willow sighed.
“Or not. You have to admit though, the Anya Jenkins Memorial School for Girls is a bit of a mouthful. And why only have it in her memory?”
“When you’re Dean, you can make those decisions.”
Willow blew a raspberry at him.
“Besides, it’s her over-enthusiastic capitalism that’s funding this institution.” Xander turned back to me. “I should probably explain. Anya was a. . .” He seemed to stare off into space for a moment. “She was a good friend of ours back in Sunnydale. Loved her money more than just about anything else. She died about a year ago.”
I nodded. “Sunnydale. That’s where that big earthquake happened, wasn’t it?” I was a little fuzzy on the details, since at the time I had been failing my freshman year of college, and not really paying attention to national news. “Is that how she died?”
“You didn’t kill her.”
I couldn’t help it. I winced. He frowned at me. He seemed about to ask a question, but Willow shot him a look, mouthing “we’ll talk later”, and hurried into the classroom. Xander changed the subject again. “Let’s go see if we can find our other teacher, shall we?”
An hour later, I had seen the entire school, including the rather enormous gym in the basement. It was decked out with the best equipment money could buy, including several punching bags and a wrestling ring. That was where we found the other teacher, Buffy Summers, older sister of the librarian. Xander hadn’t been kidding when he described the school to be like a family. It seemed, from the outside, like the faculty had known each other for years. I felt a little bit like I was intruding.
The school’s backyard included even more physical training equipment, like the large archery range that Xander’s eyes had seemed to glow at. The bows themselves were kept in the “weapons shed”. Xander had tried to back off and describe it as a utility shed instead, but it was too late.
It was almost like they were training an army. I remembered what Dolores said about how I could go back to Happy Time whenever I needed to.
Of course, I didn’t want to be at Happy Time forever, I don’t think I could survive another going away party.
Xander lead the way back to the reception room, where the plastic sheet had been removed from my new desk. He waved me past him behind the desk.
“We don’t really have much for you to do yet, since the term only just started, and we only have about fifteen girls here at the moment. Giles or someone will bring you the phone later, and Willow promises to have your computer up and running by the time you come in tomorrow.” He gestured to the chair. “For now, you can pretty much just relax. I’ll be in the library if you need anything.” He held out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to have you here, Millie.”
“Yeah.” I shook the proffered hand, plastering a smile on my face. “Thank you for the, um, opportunity. I’m sure working here will be really. . . neat.”
“Neat. Yeah.” Xander’s face darkened again. It did that a lot. I really, really wanted to know what secrets he was keeping. On the other hand, I didn’t want him to know MY secret. I shrugged and sat down. “Um, there’s nothing you need me to do right now?” I glanced at the wall clock. It was only twelve-thirty. I still had two and a half hours until my appointment.
“Not really.” He shrugged again. “If you want, some of the girls might still be in the cafeteria from lunch, you could go hang out with them. Or grab a book from the library or something. Er. Or sleep, I guess.” He stared around the room. “Oh! If you really want something to do, I guess you could help me out by filing some of the information on the girls. It’s over in my office.” He pointed to the small wooden door behind me. I hadn’t noticed it before. “But other than that,”
“Okay.” I grimaced at the thought of filing. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”
“Yeah.” Xander bounced a little on his toes. “Well, if you get a yen to file, I’ll be in the library.” He half-turned. “Well, I’ll see ya.”
tbc. . .
well, that's mostly character development. There'll be a touch of action in the next chapter, I promise.