"If you hate leaving me here so much, then why are you still driving?" Paul said shortly. His mother turned around from the passenger seat. She had a sad, sympathetic smile on her face.
"We have no choice, Paul," his stepfather whispered. "We'll see you for Midterm Break in three months. If things have changed, we'll transfer you back to Polk High. Otherwise, you'll go back to Summer Wood to finish the term."
"What situation? I'm sixteen years old, but you never tell me anything!" Paul yelled as the car turned under a large, iron gate.
"It's better that way, honey," his mother whispered.
Paul leaned back heavily in his seat. The car moved through the campus, stopping in a courtyard in front of the entrance. His parents exited the front seat, popping the trunk. But they did not have to carry the bags: a uniformed young man arrived with a small cart. He loaded it with Paul's bags and closed the trunk. Paul's stepfather opened his door.
"Come on, Paul. Let's not keep Headmistress Meloni waiting," he murmured, standing aside so Paul could exit the car. Paul did as he was asked, though unwillingly.
The Mail Hall was filled with busts and portraits of former school leaders. The dates went back hundreds of years, back when the school was a European entity. Judging by the origin of the oldest names, the school once had religious ties. But they followed the wrong religion, and they were driven out of wherever they came from.
Now the school was making other changes: The last two busts before the office entrance were of women. Paul eyed their busts carefully: Judging by their roles as deans or curriculum leaders, the school's teachings took a new turn as well.
"Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Longdale. I'm Margie Meloni, Headmistress and Dean of Music," the headmistress smiled, shaking hands with them both. She smiled and stuck out her hand. "You must be Paul. Welcome to Summer Wood."
Paul shook her hand weakly.
"You might be nervous now, but you'll soon find yourself having the time of your life. You see, Summer Wood tries to not only offer top-notch education, but a sense of education freedom as well. Our independent study courses are highly popular, and our resource center contains all subjects, enough to please any young scholar."
"Paul loves science and mechanics," his stepfather smiled. The headmistress smiled and nodded.
"We offer several lab courses for many different sciences, and we have local businesses offer study position for any student with a specialty in mind. What are your special interests?" she asked, looking up to the standing Paul. He played with his hands for a moment. Admitting his interest would show he wanted to be there, but he would rather do anything than be there.
"He enjoys astronomy and airplanes," his stepfather whispered, his voice frustrated. The headmistress wrote them down without question, a smile on her face.
"Every other morning, aside from weekends, there is an astronomy course. I've signed ou up."
"What about seeing the stars and such?" Paul's mother asked. The headmistress nodded, handing her a pamphlet from the desk.
"The visual part of the course happens the night after the class. The next morning off allows the students to sleep in, keeping them well-rested and content," she explained. "As for your other interest, the local airport's positions are filled, but an independent study on the history of wings is available. Does that sound good to you, Paul?"
Paul nodded quietly, leaning against the wall as if he was bored or uninterested. The headmistress wasn't fazed by this: She merely wrote down the information.
"What about the other subjects?" Paul's mother asked. The headmistress nodded, handing her a sheet of paper.
"The classic subjects are filled by our entrance exam or outside standardized testing. Paul has already been tested, so I've placed him in these classes based on them," she explained, handing Paul and his mother a schedule. Paul eyed it carefully. He'd be in classes all day, and hour-long break between each one.
"Looks like he has a lot of down time," his stepfather said gruffly. "He'll have time to study, correct?"
"That's why we provide such long breaks. Students can study before their next class, and teachers can give tutoring sessions before or after, as well as prepare for upcoming courses. Both sides benefit, especially around testing times. Here is a testing schedule, a meal lineup, and the shower and laundry schedules for your dormitory. Your dorm leader is Professor Haddunt, and his office is in that building, along with all other male professors of history and science that have chosen to live on campus."
"Can students live off-campus?" Paul asked. The headmistress laughed as his parents gave him a dirty look.
"Your parents can agree that living on-campus allows you to receive the best possible education. But we do allow some students to live off-campus. I'm afraid you do not qualify. Your being a first-time student means that you must stay on campus at least six days a week unless you drive, which you do not."
"We at least get one day off?" Paul asked. The headmistress smirked, holding up a card.
"This is a one-day pass, which allows students to take a school bus to the neighboring town of Brooke Mille. You'll get one if you are on your best behavior and show satisfactory daily marks in each course."
After a few more questions from his parents, Paul was led to the dorm by the waiting attendant. The campus was very large, but the attendant gave descriptions of each building.
He seemed brainwashed to Paul, like a puppet on a string. Paul felt like something was very wrong with this seemingly-perfect Summer Wood Boarding Academy.