Chapter 2: Academic Probation

I sat in one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs in Professor Firestone’s office. I’d been in a few offices much like this one in my lifetime, but this one lacked the most personality.

There were a series of filing cabinets along one wall each one lined up neatly. Two more walls were completely covered in bookshelves, scattered with books, both professionally bound and college bound. The wall behind the desk was entirely covered with diplomas and credentials; more than I had seen on any guidance councilor or shrink’s walls. This guy was just bragging. The desk had stacks of neatly placed papers. A yellow file folder was open on his desk in front of him, with what appeared to be my school transcripts, an application filled out by my parents and various other papers I couldn’t see. I was sure that my signature was at the bottom, but I was probably high at the time, which explained why it was nearly illegible.

There were no knick-knacks or personal items. There wasn’t even so much as a personal photo or keepsake or anything.

I sighed and slouched in my chair.

“There are a few things we need to discuss.” Professor Firestone removed his glasses and laid them on the desk beside him.

I didn’t respond. I didn’t have much of a choice. I could disagree, but I was already pretty much stuck here.

He moved his hands together on the desk, leaning on his arms toward me.

“First things first. As you’re probably well aware, the students wear uniforms here. You’ll be given enough for a week’s wear. Each dormitory has a laundry facility on the main floor. You will be required to wash your own linens and clothing. Each uniform consists of a white shirt, a tie, a sweater, a belt, slacks, and shoes. In the winter you will be given a jacket to wear, and it will be part of the uniform. It seems like a lot, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it. Most students I’ve spoken to actually prefer or don’t mind the uniform.”

I nodded absently. How could anyone like that uniform? It looked ridiculous.

“Socks and underwear are of course your providing, but it goes without saying that neither can be visible. Detention is a consequence for your first offence, then after that more drastic measures are taken. Of course I’m sure you won’t need to get that far…”

I nodded again, resisting the urge to keep my eyes from rolling.

“You’ll be in the sixth dormitory. I have found a room with a very good roommate. I know the young man well, and he’ll be happy to assist you if you need anything. Young Thomas Hardwicke’s family has been going here for almost a century…. Of course, you’ll have your own room, but with him you’ll share a common living space and a kitchen. You’re given a food allowance with your tuition. There are four floors in your dormitory; floors two and four are all female, and one and three are all male. With each floor you will be required to swipe in. After ten at night, you will not be granted access on any of the floors. Ten is the curfew for all students and you must be on your floor by then or you’ll be locked out. In which case you must go to the front desk of your residence and they will let you in, but it will go on your permanent record. Of course if it becomes a habit, there will be consequences.”

Professor Firestone opened the top drawer of his desk and removed an ID card. He slid it across the desk toward me.

I picked it up and studied it, trying to hide my dismay. Ten o’clock? Was he kidding? Even my grandmother stayed out later than ten on week nights.

“Your class schedule will be very similar to the one you had in your old high school. We’re on the semester system here as well. Your first semester, you’ll have biology, math, English and history. Your second semester you’ll have a choice between the arts: drama, music or visual arts. You may also elect a gym class. As of right now, you’re on academic probation for three months. If you attend your classes, do your assigned homework and turn in all assignments… it is my discretion to take you off academic probation within a month. You will also be given a job, one hour after school every day, putting away books in the library. It’s a fairly easy job, but once your academic probation is over with, you can choose to drop the job and focus on your school work. Unfortunately this is part of your academic probation, so you will not be getting paid for it. However, if you keep this job after your three months, you will be able to collect a wage. And it is mandatory that you do show up for it.”

This hardly seemed fair to me.

“This campus is equipped with everything you should need. We have a convenience and grocery store, should you need anything. We are also equipped with a small hospital, doctor’s office and even a security office. We have a cafeteria, should you need anything there, you can swipe your student ID—the card I just gave you—and the computer system will automatically take the amount off of the allowance you’ve been given for dining. The library will have all the books and computers you could ever need. And if a book you’re looking for is not there, the librarian may order it for you. Speaking of computers, you have also been issued a laptop, which you are responsible for.”

Getting a laptop was actually kind of cool. That was definitely a perk.

“You’ll have maps and everything will be waiting for you in your dorm, all of your books and everything will be there too. If you need anything, your roommate will be able to help.”

I blinked.

“I’ve got some time; I’ll escort you to your dormitory.” Professor Firestone stood from his desk.

“My parents…” I began.

“They have already left. I had your things brought up to your room. We thought it might be best if they said their goodbyes to you earlier and you could get adjusted on your own before school starts tomorrow for you.”
I nodded. It probably should have bothered me that my parents had left without speaking to me, but all it really saved me was my dad’s stern lecture and my mom’s tears. Both of which I’d had enough of in the car on the way here. I wasn’t sure I could endure either again.

I pushed myself to my feet and followed the dean from his office, through his waiting room and to the main lobby.

“Theresa, please hold my calls. I’ll be back within the hour,” was all he said to the secretary.

She blinked up at him with adoring eyes and muttered. “Yes sir.”

I walked a step behind the dean as we stepped out onto the same cold stone as before. As soon as the cold wind whipped around the building, the desire and gut wrenching craving for a cigarette hit me again; almost like one of the stone buildings had toppled over on me.

He led me down the back stairwell, around a large curved turret in the original building. He folded his arms behind his back and walked with his chest pushed out. The very air around him seemed to exude his self-confidence.

“Your parents have also made me very well aware of your prior issues with controlled substances, and I am sympathetic. There is a councilor on staff if you wish to use that service, and I am always available to my students when needed. I have not told any of your fellow students, or your professors. You may do so at your own wish, but for now I have kept your confidence.” He said through tight lips.

I glanced away to hide the fact that I was rolling my eyes. I wasn’t about to use either. I didn’t need it.

“One more thing I forgot to mention in my office. The faculty holds a highly supervised fieldtrip on Friday nights. The nearby town is Willow’s Creek. I’m sure you passed it on your way here…”

I honestly couldn’t remember.

“This trip is entirely optional and free of charge for students to take the trip into town. They are usually given about three hours there do to whatever they please before returning to the buses for their scheduled departures. Any student who misses the departure is subject to severe academic punishment. Of course due to your academic probation…”

“I’m exempt from these trips.” I guessed.

“Precisely. Though, of course, if you do well here, you should be clear of all this probation mess within a month. And there is no doubt in my mind that you will do well here, Mr. Hanson. Your grades were excellent up until this mess you’ve gone through in the last year… I’m sure once you get adjusted, your excellent grades will return.”

Two female students passed us on the grass, both of them smiled shyly. “Hello, Professor Firestone.” They chirped in unison.

“Good afternoon, girls.” He nodded casually.

We soon found an overgrown stone path, leading between the smaller buildings on campus.

“Pine Crest was built in the late eighteen hundreds. Originally as-“

“An asylum?” I guessed, interrupting.

Surprisingly the dean chuckled. “I can see why you would think that, but no. It was founded as a university; a school for the gifted to be more specific. It is far from that now. I’m sure you’ll find that a lot of the students here are just like you; average students just trying to complete high school before going on to bigger and better things. Of course, Pine Crest still looks remarkable on a college transcript…”

I nodded, glancing around. How was I ever going to find my way here on my own?

“This is your dormitory: number six. The numbers are printed on each building so you don’t get lost. They are all the same; it’s quite easy to loose one’s bearings here.”

He held open the door for me, and I slipped in. directly across from the front doors was a large, modern desk with two people sitting behind it. They too were wearing the uniform, one was a guy and the other a girl.

“I realize the buildings all appear to be quite dated and old fashioned, but you’ll soon see they have all been modernized quite adequately. All of the comforts of home… TV, internet, phone lines; both internal and external, of course.”

“Sure.” I tried not to mock his way of speaking.

“Of course, the elevator. A god-send when you need to reach the eighteenth floor of the main building.”

I wanted to sigh with relief.

The elevator opened and a handful of students filtered out. I stepped inside with the dean and after a few moments of insufferable silence, we reached the third floor.

“This will be your floor. Your room is this way.” He approached a large, heavy looking glass door. He removed a key card from his breast pocket. “I have a master key, so I can open any door, but fellow students who do not live on this floor will not have such a luxury.” He assured me, swiping his card and opening the door.

It was a long, concrete hall with dark grey carpet.

I followed the dean, watching the decorated doors as I passed them. Students had used these doors to post pictures and messages.

At last we came to the end of the hall.

“Three-eighteen. This is your dormitory.” He informed me. “Your card will also open this door.”

However, instead of opening the door, he knocked loudly. After a moment, he called loudly through the door “Mr. Hardwicke, your roommate has arrived!”