Rain drizzled from the dull grey clouds as a silver Honda rolled along the wet street. In the car, it was silent. No words were spoken between the father and daughter within. The daughter, Olivia Franklin, sat with her head in her hand, looking almost longingly at the passing buildings. The car rounded a corner, plunging into a puddle as it went. The bump shifted Olivia’s headphones off her ears. They had been gifted to her by her mother, but that was a sore memory. Her mother was dead. She had lost her battle with cancer; Olivia lost her battle with grief. She thought of how disappointed her mother would be if she saw her now, ignoring her surroundings and fading into numbness as the sound of Nirvana pulsed through her noise canceling headphones. When the car stopped, Olivia didn’t even look at her dad before pulling on her backpack and trudging up to the front door of her “new school”. She looked up and read the sign on the large metal front door. St. Catherine’s Institute.
It sounded like one of those strict Catholic schools to Olivia, so she didn’t know what to expect when she walked in. She pulled off her headphones and rested them around her neck, pinning her dark blond hair to it. She wasn’t surprised by the fancy church-like foyer or the fact that the secretary had her greying hair pulled into a tight bun that hid her wrinkles. What she was surprised by was how the secretary had merely handed her a paper on which she found a dorm number and a map, then sent her on her way alone.
The dorm number on Olivia’s paper read 219, so she trudged around the corner and went up to the carpeted stairs. At the platform on the second floor, she walked through a set of double doors and the atmosphere completely changed.
The hall was long and narrow, it had hardwood floors, and the air smelled less metallic. Along each wall were several doors decorated personally. One of the doors had wilting flowers taped to it. Another housed a large poster of Rosie the Riveter. The door with the number plaque 219 above it had only one item attached to it: A whiteboard. There was a line dividing the board in two, one half labeled ‘Ruth’, the other empty. Olivia opened the door and stepped into the room.
Her immediate reaction was that the room was very, almost unusually, organized. The room was perfectly split, a window dividing the two twin sized beds. On one side, there was an empty bed, bookshelf, and a desk. On the other, there was a bed, bookshelf, and desk that was all bursting with pastel colors. The bed had neatly folded pale pink and green sheets. The bookshelf had two shelves worth of books lined in alphabetical order, the third had pastel colored binders neatly lined across it. The desk held nothing but a five subject blue spiral notebook, with a perfectly sharpened pencil resting next to it. Olivia moved over toward the empty bed and set her bag down on it. She was about to sit when a voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Oh, um, hi.” Olivia turned around to see a girl standing in the doorway. Her voice was warm and sweet, like lemonade on a summer day. She had soft, amber eyes, dark, curly hair, and beautiful bronze skin. She had a kind face and warm disposition, but within her eyes, Olivia could see pain. It was clear that this room belonged to the girl because of the way her sweater sat evenly on her shoulders, her jeans rolled up at the same height, and her boots perfectly tied the same way.
“I knew I was getting a new roommate, they just never said when. My name’s Ruth. Ruth Jones.” The girl, Ruth, stepped forward with her hand held out and shook Olivia’s. “It’s Olivia, right?”
Both girls stood in silence for a moment. Then Ruth spoke up. “It’s actually not that bad here. And, who knows, you might even make some friends.”
“I’ve never had friends.”
“Oh, well…” Ruth appeared uncomfortable with the new girl’s abrasiveness. “I can be your friend.” Olivia seemed even more taken aback by the stranger’s shy offer. She looked down and shrugged. Ruth walked over to her dresser and pulled out a neatly folded pajama set. She then placed it on the bed next to where Olivia sat, hoping she would take them as a peace offering, and left the room.
Olivia looked at the pajamas sitting next to her and ran
her hand over the soft, cotton shirt: They must have been freshly laundered and possibly even ironed before being folded. She got up and closed the door to change. Pulling off her red flannel, Olivia tried to ignore the scars that resided on
wrists. Her hands ran across the slashes, then she pulled off the rest of her clothes and put on the soft cotton pajamas. She walked over to the closest and pulled out a blanket and pillow, placed them on her bed, and tucked herself in, preparing for the dreamless sleep that would soon come.
In the weeks that followed, Olivia was able to slowly become more comfortable with Ruth and her friends. She had introduced Olivia to her brother Solomon, who, like Ruth, had OCD. Olivia also met Solomon’s roommate Ben and their friend Mason. The four friends made it their job to show Olivia around and make her feel welcomed. Her favorite place to be with them became the Arts Wing. They would talk in the craft room, frolic in the theatre, and listen to each other play instruments in the band room. Solomon and Ben were both actually very skilled cellists and would sometimes play for the others when they were bored.
Needless to say, the friends had a lot of free time on their hands, which could sometimes get them in trouble. This was the case the day Olivia met Sam.
She was strolling through the halls mindlessly when she heard the sweet sound of music drew her toward the theatre. She was hidden by the dimmed lights, so the boy playing the piano didn’t notice her at first. When he played the last note, he stood up and turned to leave, but stopped short when he saw Olivia.
“Oh, uh, hey,” he said, clearly fazed by her presence. “Liv, right?”
“Olivia,” she responded nonchalantly.
“Right. I’ve heard Mason talking about you. He said your name was Liv.”
“Well, that’s what they all call me. Ruth, Solomon, Ben, and Mason–”
“How long were you standing there?” he asked, cutting Olivia off.
“Not too long.”
“But long enough to hear?” His question wasn’t accusing, but judging by his tone and the expression on his face, he was embarrassed.
“I heard you from down the hall. But, I was alone out there.”
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re really talented.” The boy blushed at her comment, then sat on the edge of the stage.
“Well, you’d be the first…but thanks. The name’s Sam, by the way.” He reached out to shake Olivia’s hand. With his hand, outstretched Olivia could see the familiar slashes protruding from under his sleeve. She took his hand and shook it.
“I hate to break up this cute little moment here, but no one’s introduced me to this new girl yet,” came a voice from the auditorium exit. Sam looked up as Olivia turned around to see a girl standing in the doorway. She had long, honey blonde hair and stood confidently as she walked toward the stage. She took Olivia’s hand and shook it enthusiastically.
“This is Calliope Miller,” Sam introduced. “But she only goes by Calli.”
“So, so good to meet you, hun,” Calli said putting her arm around Olivia’s tense shoulders. “Oh, and of course we all know it’s a pleasure to meet me. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“It was a rhetorical question sweety. You guys coming?” She looked back and forth between Sam and Olivia.
“Where?” Olivia asked timidly.
“To the coffee shop down the street with me, duh. I mean, I have only just met you, but we all know the best way to make friends is to break the rules with them.”
“Calli, we talked about this. Not gonna happen,” Sam stressed.
“Oh, come on Sammy! We never do anything fun and I’m tired of being locked up in here,” Calli begged.
“I’m in,” Olivia said.
“No, really. We shouldn’t do this,” Sam argued.
“What if I told you I already got the Jones’ to agree?”
“You got Ruth Jones to agree to break the rules?” Sam asked, obviously impressed.
“You doubt me?”
“Fine, I’ll go,” Sam finally gave in.
“Yes!” Calli cheered.
“But only if you get Ben and Mason in on it”
“Done! Meet you guys in the craft room.” With that, Calli bounded away. Sam sighed exasperatedly, then hopped off the stage. He and Olivia exchanged looks before going to the craft room to wait for their friends.
Not long after, Solomon, Ben, and Mason came down and chatted while waiting for Calli and Ruth. Calli practically skipped into the room with Ruth trailing nervously behind her, another girl behind Ruth.
“Livie, this is Grace,” Calli introduced. Grace looked at Olivia and nodded to her nonchalantly. “Grace’s my roommate, so she’s also my best friend and is obviously joining us on our adventure.” Olivia stuck her hand out for Grace to shake.
“I’m Olivia,” she introduced. “But these weirdos all call me Liv, so I guess that’s my name now.” Grace took her hand but said nothing.
“Ok, so here’s the plan…” Calli went into detail explaining how they were going to sneak out the back door of the craft room and jump the fence, then walk down to the coffee shop. Olivia– Liv –had many questions, such as how they were going to pay when they got there, but she asked none of them.
“What if we get caught?” Sam wondered aloud.
“We won’t,” Calli replied. “Have a little faith will you. I know what I’m doing.”
And she really did seem too. Liv almost wondered if it was a normal activity of Calli’s, to sneak out and go to the little coffee shop down the road. She would have asked, but she too feared someone would hear them. They weren’t very far from The Institute; Just across the back lawn and through the brush. Liv could hear Ruth mumbling her nerves away while Calli climbed up the chain link fence. In the blink of an eye, she was over it. Liv stepped onto Sam’s hand as he gave her a boost so she could swing her leg over the fence and hop down.
She was out.
Liv had little time to celebrate though because a stern voice rang out across the lawn. “And just what do you all think you are doing!?”
“Busted,” Calli mumbled under her breath.
“Well, shit,” Mason said as the secretary, Ms. Adams, marched the friends back inside and into the main office.
“Never, in all of my years here did I imagine eight students trying to sneak out,” Ms. Adams chided. Liv almost laughed when she called the students, as though they were at school. Though she had to admit, she was quite glad the McGonagall-like secretary hadn’t called them ‘patients’ like they were in some insane asylum.
“Miss Franklin, I understand that you are new to this establishment, but you should know that we do not tolerate behavior such as this here at St. Catherine’s Institute.”
Liv looked down the line at each of her friends to see Ruth looking down in shame, Solomon on the verge of tears, Ben pale-faced. Mason was beet red, Sam sat with an ‘I-told-you-so’ look on his face directed at Calli, who sat looking annoyed and bored. Grace was staring into space and didn’t even seem to notice they were being yelled at.
“I don’t have time for this,” Ms. Adams continued in a softer tone. She sighed and looked at the broken teenagers in front of her. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but The Institute may be closing.”
“Why?” Ben asked, suddenly very concerned.
“Lack of funding. But it’s nothing for you to worry about. I just need you all to stop behaving like… like such… renegades! Dismissed.”
Slowly, the friends all stood up and walked from the main office to the craft room together.
“I can’t believe it,” Ruth said as they all sat on the tables facing each other.
“I know,” Calli cut in. “I can’t believe she had the nerve to call us renegades! I mean, who is she to call me that?”
“I think Ruth was talking about the fact that The Institute is closing,” Mason said.
“You know what, we can’t let this happen,” Liv said. “We can’t let this place close. I mean, I know that when I first got here I wanted nothing to do with it, but now I see how close it’s brought us and… We can’t let it close.” The friends sat in silence processing Liv’s words.
“You know what,” Sam started. “We are renegades.”
“What d’you mean?” Ben prompted.
“I mean exactly what I said: We are renegades. We’re crazy, but that’s okay. Because we keep on fighting our sick minds knowing one day we’ll be alright. And because of that, we aren’t going to let The Institute close.”
“Okay, but how?” Ruth asked.
“I have an idea.” Everyone turned to look at Grace. It was the first thing she had said all day. She looked up to see everyone waiting for her to finish. “Well, it’s no secret you guys are super talented and shit.”
“So we should have a talent show. We make it open to the public and raise money selling tickets,” Grace explained. They thought over what she said.
“That’s actually a really good idea,” Liv said. “I mean think about it: Solomon and Ben are like cello gods. That enough would be a killer show, but there’s more. Sam, you’re really talented. I’ve only heard you play once, but it was ridiculous. And Ruth, you think I don’t hear you, but I do. You sing like an angel and I know you can play guitar. What d’you say?”
“I don’t know, Liv,” Ruth mumbled
“Mason can rap,” Sam said. Mason looked at him like he was mad. “Dude, you can.”
“Guys! I can finally prove that I was meant to be on Dancing with the Stars!” Calli exclaimed. It was quiet for a moment before Grace started to laugh, nodding. Everyone laughed with her and the plan was put into action.
Grace created show pamphlets and flyers which they showed to Ms. Adams who surprisingly approved of the idea. Solomon and Ben went straight to work practicing their cello cover of Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson. Calli, as it turned out actually, was a very talented dancer and practiced endlessly for her performance. Mason hesitantly got started on memorizing Heavydirtysoul by Twenty One Pilots. After much begging from Liv, Ruth finally agreed to perform at the show. Sam, who had been on board with the show right away, suddenly became very secretive in his preparation.
Liv went ahead and organized the event for the end of the month. The night of the show, Liv dressed nicely and held her clipboard that had the line up on it. First to perform was Mason. Liv stood with Grace in the wings of the stage as he performed his rap, leaving everyone in the audience thoroughly impressed.
When Mason finished, he walked off stage and the lights dimmed. Solomon and Ben carried their cellos out on stage and killed it with their cover of Smooth Criminal. The crowd watching was getting larger. Liv smiled excitedly as Calli went out to perform.
Calli was almost done when Liv felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see Sam standing behind her.
“Oh, hey,” she said looking at him. “You’re on next, right? Can’t wait to–” she was cut off by the feeling of Sam’s lips on hers. The audience cheered as Calli finished and walked off stage. Sam pulled away leaving Liv speechless.
“This is for you,” he whispered walking on stage and playing an unforgettable cover of Fix You by Coldplay.
Liv’s eyes began to sting as the sound of the piano pierced her ears and straight through her heart.
“I saw that,” Ruth’s voice came from behind her. Liv turned around to see Ruth standing with an acoustic guitar in front of her. “I think you’ll make each other happy.”
“Knock ‘em dead out there,” Liv said before pulling Ruth into a tight embrace. “You were my first friend here and, well…thanks for not giving up on me.”
“And you, me.” Liv nodded as Ruth walked onto the stage and strummed a few chords on her guitar before bursting into a magical cover of Renegades by X Ambassadors.
As Ruth sang, Liv thought back to where she was nearly two months ago. Her mother had just died and she almost lost herself as well. But her new friends were able to help save her. Liv realized now, it didn’t matter if they raised enough money or not because she had learned not only how to love others, but to love herself as well.
At the end of the performance, Liv went on stage with her friends for the final bows.
“You probably think we’re insane,” she concluded the show. “That’s what we’ve been told: We’re all crazy. But we aren’t. We’re all beautiful. We’re all golden… We’re all renegades.”