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Genealogies of Silence

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Harriet Bamford is one of the so-called odd Geeks, one of the rare ones. She is Lo-Tech.

Oh, she handles technology just fine, thank you very much. She is not ignorant; no one can be, not really, not at St. Trinian’s. A Posh-Totty may specialize in the uses of the body, but they can wire a bomb just as effectively as a First Year, and an Eco knows how to be just as brash as a Chav. And the Geeks have long been split into two factions, though few outside of the Geek clique know it. Geeks keep their secrets well.

Hi-Tech is what most people think of when they think of Geeks. Harriet gets that; they are certainly the majority. She once ran statistics (using a pencil and formulas, no calculators for her) and found that 95% of Geeks are Hi-Tech. Every single leader of the Geeks, with a single exception, has been Hi-Tech. There have been five Geek Head Girls in the last twenty-five years. They were all Hi-Tech.

Being Lo-Tech means knowing that St. Trinian’s has a library. It means turning to books first. It means doing things by hand instead of using a computer. It means finding a way to live off the grid. It means using old-fashioned maps instead of creating 3D images. Harriet uses binders to record her observations. She studies languages from real people, whereas the Hi-Techs turn to software. She plays musical instruments and sings, makes her own tools and utensils as she needs them, prefers records and cassettes to CDs and mp3s, VHSs to DVDs. She uses post-it notes, not a PDA or mobile, to remind herself of things. She doesn’t even own a PDA or mobile. Not until she graduates, she’s promised herself. Not until the mobile is the only way to connect herself with the people she needs.

Everyone claims that being a Lo-Tech Geek does not mean secondary citizenship in the Geek Clique. Everyone rushes to say that all Geeks are Goddesses, no matter which path they take. In the same breath, most people will point out that Lo-Techs are a bit backward, a bit behind the times, and without technology, unable to live a modern life, but certainly not that they are Less Than the Hi-Techs. Different, people say. Different but equal.

Harriet knows this to be a lie.

She knows, of course, that she knows as much as any Hi-Tech Geek. More, even, than some of them. She doesn’t need computers and fancy programs to run statistical models for her; she’s quite content to do it all in her head, or with graphing paper and pencils. She can find patterns in numbers and figures without a machine interfering. While a Hi-Tech Geek pays lip service to Lo-Techs being Geek Goddesses as well, it is only the Lo-Techs who really believe it. They are the only ones who believe that they can be oracles without machines. They are the only ones who believe in themselves and only themselves. Harriet wakes each morning and reminds herself that she is a Goddess as well, no matter how the others treat her, no matter what they think.

Still, she considers revoking her divinity on the day that Polly announces that Lucy and Harriet will be succeeding her as Leader of the Geeks.
******
When Harriet arrives at St. Trinian’s, she spends enough time with the rest of the First Years to know that she absolutely will not be a First Year. She has been at Trinian’s for only eight hours, but she is observant, and so she marches over to where Najwa Khan, leader of the Geeks, sits on her bed.

Najwa Khan is a short, round woman with eyes like stone and a mouth that seems permanently carved into a frown. She wears her hijab like Harriet imagines knights wore their helmets, with a fierce pride and belief in its protective properties. Her uniform is modified, like most everyone’s that Harriet has seen so far, but rather than show more skin, Najwa wears something like a dress- an abaya, Harriet thinks it’s called- in dark blue, with a vest with numerous pins attached, the only concession to the regular St. Trinian’s uniform. She sits with her back perfectly straight, her feet planted firmly on the ground, and when Harriet gets closer, Najwa looks straight at her, narrowing her eyes.

She is, frankly, one of the most intimidating women Harriet has ever met, going by looks alone.

Harriet stops at the foot of Najwa’s bed and stares at her for a moment. Najwa just stares back, refusing to blink or speak, and so Harriet licks her lips once, twice, and then says, “I refuse to be a First Year.”

Najwa raises an eyebrow, which only heightens her intimidation factor. Then, imperiously, she gestures at Harriet to sit down on her bed. Harriet swallows, but sits anyway, crossing her arms and scowling. She won’t compromise about this, she absolutely won’t.

“You realize, of course, that you are a first former,” Najwa says finally, her voice low and, shockingly, amused. Harriet scoffs.

“I may be in my first year here, but I’m not a First Year. There are seven-year-olds in that group! They care about noise and chaos, and I am above such childish things,” she announces.

Najwa makes a sound in her throat that sounds a bit like a chuckle. Her already idiosyncratic frown drifts into a small smirk. “Where do you think you belong, then, if not among the First Years?”

Harriet tilts her chin upward. “The Geeks. I’m a Geek, just like you.”

This time, Najwa laughs out loud, a dry sound. “Just like me, then?”

“Yes. Just like you. I-I have the glasses to prove it,” Harriet says, tapping the overly large frames that obscure half of her face. She doesn’t point out that Najwa doesn’t wear glasses.

Neither does Najwa. She simply sets aside the book she has been holding and presses a finger to her lips, eyes running over Harriet speculatively. Harriet straightens instantly, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt, trying to imagine what Najwa is seeing. A small Black girl with nothing much to offer, she thinks miserably, but then Najwa starts to nod slowly.

“Perhaps,” she says. “Perhaps.”

Then she stands. Harriet rises, but Najwa shoves her back down.

“Stay here. I need to speak to the others. It may take awhile. Feel free to peruse my books.”

Najwa sweeps away, calling for two other girls in the dormitory to follow her, before disappearing out the door and likely to one of the other three dorms. Harriet follows her advice and flips through the pile of books already next to Najwa’s bed before pulling out a book of poetry that looks interesting. She fluffs Najwa’s pillow up and then reclines, opening the book.

About an hour later, the book is plucked out of her hands. Harriet sits upright to yell at whoever took it, only to see Najwa looking down at her. Her mouth is once more in a frown, but her eyes have relaxed from stoniness to bright amusement.

“You are very defiant,” Najwa declares, and Harriet shrugs a shoulder.

“I prefer the term willful,” she says, and Najwa bursts into laughter.

“I like you,” Najwa says after a moment, sitting back down on her bed. She runs a hand over Harriet’s face. Harriet swats her away, which merely causes Najwa to grin wider. “Yes, I think I’ll keep you. You can be a Geek if you like.”

Harriet grins at her, and Najwa smiles back, more relaxed now. She hands the book of poetry back to Harriet and nods at a bed across the room.

“You’ll sleep next to Polly Hopkins. She was our youngest Geek ever, but you’ve just beaten her record by a year. Now go, defiant one. I am tired.”

It’s a command, not a request, but Harriet hops away happily. She sticks her tongue out at a few other first formers who are still First Years, and drags her trunk over next to Polly Hopkins, a slender, red-headed girl who is a year or two older than her. Polly glances at her, but says nothing, and Harriet changes into her pajamas in a rush.

When she lies down, all she can think is, this is going to be wonderful.

******
Everyone knew Lucy would be the new leader of the Geeks. Lucy is kind, has Geek pride flowing out of every pore, knows nearly as many equations as Polly, is so Hi-Tech that the Hi-Techs can’t keep up with her, and is generally one of the most loveable girls in the school. She takes being a Geek seriously. She comforts crying Geeks, she shares her biscuits, she helps everyone with chemistry and then turns it into a yummy baking session, and she makes being a Geek fun as well as making it something serious. When the whispers began months ago, Harriet pointed out that Lucy was the obvious choice, and while Lucy blushed and stammered, in her modest and adorable way, everyone joined in. Lucy is pretty much the poster child for Geekery; it would be laughable for anyone else to be declared leader.

No one expected Harriet.

Harriet thinks herself nice enough and polite enough. None of the Geeks hate her, at any rate. But she’s never quite mastered her willfulness and her defiance. She questions everything; she argues with everyone. Harriet recognizes in herself someone who was born to fight. While Lucy comforts crying Geeks, Harriet goes out and finds who made them cry and does something about it. She cannot share biscuits, due to having no money to buy them, but she does share self defense techniques. She and several Chavs run monthly sessions, and Harriet has made sure that every single Geek has been to at least one. Geeks, she knows all too well, look like easy targets. Lucy conducts baking sessions; Harriet conducts homemade poison-making sessions.

Lucy is the fun Geek. Harriet is the angry one.

And no one expected Harriet because she’s, well, Harriet. The last time a woman of color ran the Geeks was Najwa. The last time a Lo-Tech led the Geeks was also Najwa. And everyone knows the story of Najwa. No one wants a repeat performance.

Women like Harriet are not meant to lead the Geeks. That job goes to people like Polly, who are silent and serious and brilliant, or people like Lucy, who are bright and generous and clever. Women like Harriet are the tools of the Geeks. They provide the background support, the research, the good will to the important Geeks. It makes Harriet angry, but she learned her place well. She had to.

The thing about St. Trinian’s is that it’s a school for bad girls. Harriet thinks that “bad girls” originally meant girls who refused to conform and lived their lives the way they pleased. In a way, it still means that. Girls are St. Trinian’s are, by nature, more willing to take their own road, happy to ignore what other people think about them. But then there are the bad girls, the ones that are bad by anyone’s standards, not just societies. The girls who are cruel. The girls who are violent. The girls for whom hatred is as natural as breathing.

Women like Harriet are treated like tools, and it infuriates her, but she grew tired of bleeding for it. So she learned her place, and bides her time. It would appear, she realizes, staring up at Polly, that her time has come.

The weekly meeting ends with Polly announcing the new or returning leaders of other Cliques, the new Head Girl, and the current status of the school (still partially burned down, but they’re getting a new Clique out of it, apparently, so no one begrudges the newly-named Flammables). Harriet listens with half an ear, nodding numbly when the others do. She can feel their eyes upon her, furtive and fleeting, and while normally it would annoy her, today she can’t be bothered.

Polly dismisses them, disappearing into her office, and everyone surges to their feet, eager to discuss the new developments. Harriet walks swiftly over to Lucy, ignoring the back slaps and happy chatter from her fellow Lo-Techs, and smiles at her. Lucy smiles tentatively back, and Harriet thinks, fuck it and sweeps Lucy into a hug. Despite her bitterness, Harriet loves Lucy. She loves all the Geeks, for all their complications and complexities. She could not stop loving them if she tried, which she has done many times before. Lucy grips her tightly, her breath hot against Harriet’s ear, and she imagines that she might be shaking a little bit because when Lucy releases her, she pats her on the shoulder.

“It will be fine, Harriet,” Lucy says confidently, and Harriet just peers at her through her glasses. Lucy blushes. “Well,” she amends, “it will be better, anyway.”

Harriet makes her way back through the Geeks, smiling and accepting their congratulations with polite nods and modest words, and then finally reaches Polly’s door. Without knocking, she turns the knob and steps inside, shutting the door, the noise, and the claustrophobic feeling of responsibility behind her.

******
Every morning, Harriet wakes up, dresses, and then goes to sit at the end of Najwa’s bed, watching as she finishes her morning prayers. Then, in silent agreement, they do their hair. While Harriet solemnly straightens her hair and twists it into two neat buns, wearing her hair like most Geeks, Najwa tugs her hair into a complicated knot before securing her hijab in place, carefully tucking stray hairs beneath the lovely scarves. It is their daily ritual, and no words are spoken between them. Harriet finds it strangely peaceful, despite the chaos of the dormitory around them.

Of course, outside their daily ritual there is no peace, at least for Najwa. Harriet manages to pass by fairly unnoticed by most girls, other than the occasional shove and racial slur, but she can see the harassment Najwa receives nearly every minute of every day. Her ethnicity is the subject of most remarks, and Harriet watches as grasping hands reach out in an attempt to yank the hijab off, only to be thwarted by Najwa’s near supernatural awareness of the people around her.

One morning, after Harriet has finished her hair and is watching Najwa begin to fasten her hijab, she plucks up the nerve to ask, “Why do you wear the hijab?”

Najwa looks at her, her frown twisting bitterly. “Ah yes, the question of the veil. I was wondering when that was coming.” At Harriet’s silence, she continues with a sigh. “I’m a Muslim, Harriet. It’s part of my faith.”

“But it brings you so much trouble,” Harriet says.

Najwa shakes her head. “The other girls bring me so much trouble, not my hijab.”

“If you didn’t wear it, though, they wouldn’t be so mean to you,” Harriet protests and Najwa chuckles.

“I’d still be Pakistani, which is bad enough in some of their eyes. Besides, Harriet,” she continues, smiles and bitterness vanishing, replaced by a stony seriousness, “I would think you know something about being deliberately defiant.”

Najwa stands and grabs her bag, walking through the door and leaving Harriet to scramble after her. She spends her day in classes thinking about deliberate defiance and refusing to back down. After classes are done, she looks for a familiar face in the crowd and then rushes to catch up with her.

Bianca is a First Year and, like Harriet, a first former. She is loud and pushy, everything that Harriet is not. She predicts she’ll be either a Chav or a Posh-Totty when she eventually chooses a Clique, but for now she is just a First Year who wears her hair in a proud, chaotic afro that everyone teases her about. Harriet has a pressing desire to know why she wears her hair like that, and not in a braid like most of the First Years. So she walks up to her, introduces herself, and asks.

Bianca looks at Harriet’s hair, and then shrugs, playing with her own for just a moment. “The way I figure it,” she says, her voice high and her words punctuated by the constant smack of gum, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to wear my hair. My momma wear her hair this way, and her momma, and her momma, and her momma before her. Just because everybody here wears braids or buns don’t mean I should, innit?”

Harriet hears the words between, and comes up with, I will not be defeated.

Just like Najwa.

She thinks it over for a moment, and imagines her own mother, who has always kept her hair straight. Her father is white, and his hair is boring and doesn’t do anything interesting, so she can’t turn to him for a model. She looks back at Bianca, who is looking at her in confusion, and asks, “Do you know how to do box braids?”

The next morning, Harriet sits on the end of Najwa’s bed, listening to the flow of Arabic and feeling her new box braids tentatively. She has never worn her hair this way. She doesn’t think anyone in her family has. But she pushes aside the unease and instead focuses on the prayers, on the hope and rebelliousness that Najwa manages to instill in Subhana rabbiyal adheem. She wishes desperately to reach out and touch those words, to understand what they mean. She wants to be able to say “I will not be defeated” like Najwa and Bianca and mean it, believe it. She wants to not be eleven and suddenly questioning the way she wears her hair, because it’s just hair, and it doesn’t mean anything. Not really. Except to the other girls, who reach out and touch, grab, yank, and mock.

She doesn’t realize that she’s closed her eyes until she feels Najwa take her hands.

“Are you all right?” Najwa asks. Her low voice rumbles with concern.

Harriet snaps her eyes open. Her braids sway gently against her face. She licks her lips once, twice, and nods decisively.

“Teach me Arabic,” she demands.

Najwa looks at her for a long moment, and then nods back. “Very well.”

******
Polly looks up when Harriet walks into her office and immediately closes her laptop. She waves one long hand toward the chair across from her, inviting her to sit, and just for a moment Harriet is overwhelmed with nostalgia, remembering Najwa’s silent gestures. She ignores the feeling. Najwa is gone; there is little point in remembering.

“Harriet. Yes, I thought I would see you tonight,” Polly says, her voice cool and distant. Harriet grins. Polly always sounds cool and distant. Cold, unforgiving, and harsh have often been attributed to Polly. In many ways, she is just as intimidating as Najwa was. In some ways, moreso. But Harriet knows Polly, has been friends with her since her first year at St. Trinian’s, and is too familiar with the coolness to be put off by it. Some personality traits can be ignored and accepted with time.

“Your power of omniscience hasn’t failed you, then,” Harriet says, flinging herself down in the comfortable armchair unique to Polly’s leadership. Polly pushes a cup of tea across the desk, and Harriet accepts it gratefully. Polly really had known she would be coming. The tea is just as she takes it. After a few sips, she puts the cup back down and looks hard at Polly. “My powers of omniscience, however, have apparently disappeared. Co-Leader of the Geeks? Really, Polly?”

Polly’s smile is tight and small and utterly familiar. She has smiled like that since they were children. She is the most controlled person Harriet has ever met. Every movement, gesture, and facial expression is economical and precise, serving its purpose and then disappearing again. In some ways, Harriet muses, Polly is the very personification of Hi-Tech.

“It’s complicated,” Polly allows finally.

“Geeks specialize in complicated.”

“Not when it comes to our own Clique.” Polly stops and sighs, running a hand over her face. She looks, Harriet realizes, thoroughly exhausted. Of course, it has been a busy year, what with the Museum Heist, the school burning down, and various other adventures, but she thinks it’s more than that. This is bone deep. Polly has looked exhausted for a while now. Since last year. Far too long to be normal. She’s asked, many times, but Polly has always brushed her off. Now, Harriet wishes she had pressed the issue.

“I didn’t forget her, you know,” Polly says suddenly, and Harriet blinks.

“Of everyone, I would think that you and I would be the least prone to forget,” she says. Polly nods distractedly, and places both hands flat on the desk in front of her. Her nails have been bitten to the quick, Harriet notices. That is unusual.

“Do you think I’m stupid, then? Do you really think I’m like the others?”

Harriet opens her mouth to deny it all, but then closes it again because to an extent, yes, she did. Oh, Polly loved Najwa, in her own, quiet way, but she was always arguing with her, disagreeing with her. Harriet just assumed that Polly, like the others, thought Najwa was exaggerating, bitter, and too angry. That if she would only take off the hijab, hide her Qur’an, stop arguing about the importance of her prayers, then things would be miraculously better.

But, Harriet reflects, she was also there. She was there through the worst of it, which the others weren’t.

Polly smiles at her once more, and stands, moving to dig through the filing cabinet behind her desk. “Lucy has been given strict instructions, of course. You will be named the sole leader of the Geeks after next year. Do with it what you will. Fix things up or just enjoy the power, it’s up to you.” Tucking something into a folder, Polly turns and leans against the cabinet, looking even more exhausted than before. “I just wanted to give you the opportunity. You’ll do more with it than anyone else.”

Harriet frowns, eyeing the slump in Polly’s shoulders and the shadows under her eyes. She leans forward. “Polly,” she says carefully, “you know you’re one of my best mates, right? You did a lot, you know? You tried.” She pauses. “Why didn’t you ever talk to me?”

Polly gives her a long look and huffs out a soft laugh. “You’re not the only one trapped, Harriet. You never did figure that out.”

They finish their tea in silence.

******
Polly Hopkins is a girl of cold restraint. Harriet finds her fascinating.

They don’t talk, of course, despite sleeping next to one another every night. Harriet doesn’t think Polly speaks to anyone other than an Emo girl named Kelly. She stands up each week to give a report of some sort at the Geek meeting, but it’s always concise and to the point, and Harriet can’t figure out anything about her from the reports other than she has an eye for details and patterns that even most Geeks would find hard to imitate.

At St. Trinian’s, everyone has to be a First Year for two years before they select their Clique. It’s not an official rule, but most Clique leaders won’t officially accept a girl until they’ve been at the school for two years, sometimes more. According to the older Geeks, Polly was in her second year when she became a Geek and, like Harriet, she demanded her way in. And, like Harriet, Najwa supported her early entrance, even though she wasn’t the leader of the Geeks at the time.

It is the Najwa connection that makes her most interesting. One week, during her Arabic lessons, Harriet puts down the Qur’an she’s learning from, a gift from Najwa. Najwa raises an eyebrow, but does the same. Harriet thinks for a moment, tugging at the end of one braid, and then smiles as charmingly as she can at Najwa.

“Tell me about Polly,” she says.

“No,” Najwa counters, picking up her Qur’an again.

“I want to know about her!”

“And I don’t engage in idle gossip, so I guess you’re out of luck.”

Harriet grits her teeth and scowls. “I’m not asking for gossip. I want to know her background. How she’s done at St. Trinian’s and why she’s here. What you think of her. Statistics, numbers, that sort of thing.”

Najwa looks amused rather than forthcoming, and shakes her head, turning a page in her Qur’an. “Still not telling you. If you want to know, you’ll have to get to know her.”

“Why should I do that,” Harriet complains, “when I can just get someone to tell me?”

Najwa shuts her Qur’an again and looks at Harriet, her gaze hard and unyielding. Harriet looks away.

“Because it’s lazy, and Geeks are not lazy, Harriet. We observe, we gather information, and we ask. We do not simply demand the answers. Now open your damn Qur’an before I get bored with you and go work on my nuclear reactor instead.”

Harriet does as she’s told, thinking about what Najwa said instead of absorbing the Arabic and Qur’anic lessons she’s supposed to. She’ll have to completely relearn it in a day or two, which will likely irritate Najwa, but for now she is thinking about Polly and how best to approach someone who acts like the Arctic is too warm for them. She finally decides that the best approach is the blunt one, so after her lesson, Harriet goes to find Polly.

She expects to find Polly in the dorm or, barring that, at one of the Geek workstations. But she isn’t at either, despite the late hour, and Carole informs her that Polly has, for the last two weeks, gone for a nightly stroll after curfew.

“A project,” Carole says, looking up from her computer and adjusting her glasses. “She gives a report on it each week, but to be honest, I don’t pay much attention to what she says. She’s thirteen.”

Unlike Carole, Harriet has been paying some attention to Polly’s reports, and knows that Polly is searching for the smartest places to install her CCTV cameras. Polly uses complicated algorithms, too complicated for Harriet, so she settles for wandering the corridors until she finds her, taking pictures of a wall. Harriet walks up and stands next to her, not saying anything until Polly looks at her and frowns.

“Yes?”

“Hi, Polly,” Harriet says, smiling. Polly doesn’t smile back, just gestures for silence. Harriet shrugs apologetically. “Sorry. What are you doing?”

Polly stares at her and continues walking down the hall, pausing briefly in front of a trophy display case and taking five photos. The flash is bright and distracting, and Harriet winces. She hates digital cameras. They’re too clean for her tastes. Give her the grainy quality of regular film cameras or Polaroids any day.

“You heard my reports,” Polly says, running a finger along the trophy case, and then continuing. Harriet shrugs.

“A lot of people hear your reports. Most people don’t listen to them.”

Polly smiles tightly. “You do.”

Harriet nods. “I do.”

Polly looks down at her. Polly is unnaturally tall for a thirteen-year-old, Harriet thinks, only slightly bitter about the family genetics that keep her so short. “Why?”

“Why do I listen? Why shouldn’t I?”

Polly takes a few more pictures (a suit of armor, a dusty corner, an abandoned coffin), her low heels tapping a soft rhythm in the halls. Harriet follows her, observing her carefully. She doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be observing, but Najwa told her to observe, and she’s going to do it. So far all she sees is a red-headed girl who has amazing posture.

“I already have Kelly,” Polly says suddenly. Harriet frowns.

“What?”

“I assume you’re trying to be my friend. I already have Kelly,” Polly explains. She takes a picture of an air vent.

Harriet licks her lips. “It seems sad to only have one friend.”

Polly’s eyes go cold, and she stops. She looks at Harriet and folds her arms over her chest, holding her camera in her left hand. “You only have Najwa. And she leaves after next year.”

Harriet’s breath catches. Polly is right. She only has Najwa and Arabic. A lump rises in her throat, but she looks back at Polly and manages to say, almost casually, “You don’t.”

Najwa will leave St. Trinian’s well before she does. But Polly, who appears to have absorbed the three basic elements of Geekery- observe, gather, ask- and added an extra one (wound), will not. She’ll be at St. Trinian’s for years to come.

Polly taps her camera against her arm, her eyes narrowing. Then, slowly, a smile appears on her face, just lifting the corners of her mouth. “No. I don’t.”

Harriet doesn’t get a chance to smile back before Polly has grabbed her around the wrist and drags her to the front hall. She pulls Harriet in front of her and points to the corner.

“I doubt a Lo-Tech would really understand this, but that’s where I want to put the first CCTV camera. The other Geeks don’t think I can put in a full network, but they’re wrong. I can do it, and better still, I can do it this year.”

Polly goes on for over an hour and half, dragging Harriet through the halls, into rooms she has never seen before, into corners she swore didn’t exist but apparently do, and then sneaks them into Miss Fritton’s office, which Harriet thought would terrify her, but actually gives her such an adrenaline high that she nicks a few things, like personal files of some of the girls she’s been curious about. Polly grins at her when she does so, and tells her that a Hi-Tech would have used a computer to get them, and only a Lo-Tech would be so crass. Harriet ignores her. Knowledge is knowledge, no matter if it comes in 0s and 1s or in words written on a page.

When they return to the dormitory, it is only a few hours until morning, and most of the girls are asleep. Polly squeezes her hand, tells her she’s a good Geek, and retreats to her bed. Harriet watches her for a moment, and then walks over to where Najwa is sitting, a book in hand and upright in her bed.

“She never asked a single question about me,” she tells Najwa quietly. Najwa shuts her book quietly and sighs.

“Yes, people sometimes forget to do that.”

The next day, Harriet skips all of her classes, locking herself in Najwa’s office. Something has been bothering her about Polly’s comments about Lo-Tech Geeks, and Najwa’s office has records about Geeks going back to when St. Trinian’s was founded, in 1792. She pulls out stacks of files and pours over them. It doesn’t take her long to notice a pattern, and she meticulously copies it out on a piece of scrap paper. When she’s done, she puts the records back in Najwa’s filing cabinet and stares at her paper for a long time, thinking.

That night at supper, she puts her plate down across from Najwa, and slides her piece of paper across the table. Najwa puts her spoon down and scoots the paper closer with two fingers. She raises an eyebrow at the words and looks back at Harriet.

“Did you know that Lo-Techs are almost always non-white girls?” Harriet asks Najwa.

“Yes,” Najwa says, and begins eating her soup again, her eyes skimming over the list of names that Harriet wrote down. It’s not a very long list. Non-white girls didn’t attend St. Trinian’s until 1954. Earlier than a lot of public schools in England, Harriet knows, but not early enough.

“And that you’re the first Lo-Tech to ever lead the Geeks?” Harriet asks again.

Najwa nods. “Yes.”

“Did you know that Geeks are Head Girls more than any other Clique, but a Lo-Tech has never been Head Girl?”

Najwa slowly puts her spoon down and props her chin up on her fist, staring at Harriet thoughtfully. Harriet shoves her glasses back up her nose and looks down at her plate. It’s silly, really, but it bothers her, that Lo-Techs have never- that they’ve never done anything, not like the Hi-Techs.

And now that she knows all this, Polly’s comment about Lo-Techs being crass doesn’t sit so well with her.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Harriet mutters, poking at her food listlessly.

Najwa sighs and picks up her spoon. “Yes.”

******
Harriet manages to find Kelly and tells her to sit with Polly. She doesn’t want Polly to be sitting alone, an unacknowledged legacy of St. Trinian’s festering and burning her up. She forgets, sometimes, that a woman like Polly can be affected by it. Harriet, of course. Najwa, more than anyone. And others, like Bianca and Taylor, or even Peaches, have all experienced it, lived it, survived it. But Polly? No, Harriet forgets all the time that Polly sees it and maybe even feels it, too.

But she can’t focus on that right now. Now, she needs to find Lucy.

Lucy is not in her dorm, nor is she in the chemistry lab baking brownies or biscuits, nor is she in the lavatory or the Geek workstations or the computer lab or any classroom at all. Harriet frowns, and then heads to the kitchens, where students are forbidden to go. Not like that matters. There is no real forbidden place at St. Trinian’s.

Lucy is there, but she isn’t eating. She’s drinking something from the teacher’s stash, it looks like. Harriet sits across from her. “I’ll take a swig of whatever that is,” she says hoarsely. Lucy pushes the bottle across to her, her face flushed rosier than usual.

“A surprise for you, then?” Lucy asks, her voice slurring a little. Harriet nods, tilting the alcohol down her throat. It tastes vile. She doesn’t care. She’s just been told she can lead a revolution. “I knew,” Lucy continues. “Polly told me a week ago. She explained the last five or six bloody years to me. Jesus Christ, Harriet, this shite is- it’s so-”

“Complexity was meant for the Geeks,” Harriet says softly. Najwa said that to her years ago, picking glass out of her own face. Najwa had not cried; Harriet can feel herself starting to cry even now. She forces the tears away, taking another drink. She had promised she would never cry for her again.

“But it’s not just five or six years, it’s the entire history of St. Trinian’s. It’s in the shape of everything. Polly showed me, she showed me your old projects, all your papers and the records. The journals. Real people wrote those, Harriet, people I could have known, people I feel like I did know. It’s like they’re still here…” Lucy trails off, and then grabs the bottle back from Harriet, drinking from it swiftly.

“It’s not just here, Luce,” Harriet says quietly. Lucy nods miserably.

They pass the next few minutes in silence, handing the bottle back and forth, listening to the clock tick. It’s beginning to get late. Harriet knows she should get back to the dorms, make herself visible, maybe talk to Bianca. She needs to talk to Bianca. But she can’t, not just yet. She isn’t ready.

Lucy pulls out a handkerchief from her pocket and dabs at her eyes carefully, and looks at Harriet seriously. “I want you to know, Harriet, I didn’t want to be the leader of the Geeks. When Polly called me into her office, I fully intended to say no. I was going to until she showed me the genealogies.”

Harriet is surprised. After months of everyone whispering about Lucy being the leader, it never occurred to her that Lucy would say no.

“But-” Lucy pauses. She licks her lips a few times. “But things aren’t right here, and I want to help you fix that. I know what it’s like, to be hated because you don’t- because you don’t look the way everyone thinks you should. It’s not the same,” she says quickly, raising a hand. “Being fat, I mean. It’s different. I mean, at least fat girls could go to school.”

Lucy smiles weakly at her, and Harriet can’t help but return it. There really isn’t much to say about that. Lucy pours more alcohol- Harriet thinks it’s rum, but she can’t be sure, alcohol really isn’t her bailiwick- and they drink it back in one fell swoop before Lucy goes on.

“Not a single fat girl has been the leader of anything. Ever. Leader of a Clique, Head Girl, even captain of the hockey team. I’m the first, did you know? I think Polly knew,” Lucy says, and looks down at the glass in her hands. “It’s hard, being ignored and teased and hated because I’m fat. But when I read your genealogies… I think about what you’ve been through, and the others.” She looks back, and there is steel in her eyes that Harriet hasn’t seen before.

“I chose this position, Harriet. I chose this. So that I can help you fix this place.”

Lucy pushes her empty glass aside and catches Harriet in a tight hug, nearly knocking the breath out of her. She flies out of the room, and Harriet stares after her. She thinks of Najwa, of her calm understanding and belief in revolution even as her eyes blazed with silent anger. Najwa built firecrackers and exploded them on the yard when she felt helpless against the many tides of injustice; Harriet has no outlet. She just fights and fights and fights.

Perhaps she and Lucy are more alike than she realized.

She walks slowly back to her dormitory, where people are slowing down for the evening. The quiet hum of activity is a comfort, but it is not the comfort she wants. Instead, she reaches into her trunk and pulls out her copy of the Qur’an. She is not a Muslim, but the faith brings her peace. She sits down on her bed, opens the book, and begins quietly reciting to herself. She can feel people staring at her- Harriet learned a long time ago to know who was watching you- but she ignores it, trailing a finger over the Arabic letters and getting lost in the familiar verses, hoping for answers to questions that she can’t put into words.

******
She spends three months struggling to build something that resembles a friendship with Polly. It’s hard- Polly keeps making offhand comments about the differences between Hi-Techs and Lo-Techs, and they’re never nice things, and half of the time she ends up losing her temper and yelling at Polly. Polly never responds well to being yelled at; she simply goes silent and walks away, leaving Harriet fuming and angry and desperate for someone who will yell back.

Despite the difficulties, Harriet finds that she genuinely likes Polly. She likes how controlled Polly always is, and she envies that. She likes the depth of Polly’s curiosity, which is never-ending, and she likes that, if she doesn’t scream, Polly will stay and argue with her about anything and everything. Polly never dismisses her. She doesn’t agree with her, but she doesn’t dismiss her either, and Harriet likes that. Most of the other girls just ignore her.

But in those three months, most of the time they spend together is on whatever Polly wants to work on, which is always something Hi-Tech, so Harriet finally invites Polly to join her for Qur’an lessons. Polly stares, her pen hovering over her homework.

“I’m not Muslim,” Polly says, scowling all of a sudden, and Harriet smiles.

“Neither am I.”

The lure of new knowledge is eventually enough for Polly, and she packs up her calculus homework, grabs a notebook, and follows Harriet to Najwa’s office. Harriet has a key, and she lets them in. Polly holds her notebook close to her chest.

“Najwa teaches you?” Polly asks, and Harriet gestures to the table in the corner where she always sits to learn her Arabic. She nods.

“Yeah. They started as Arabic lessons, but she teaches me out of the Qur’an, so it slowly became a mix of both Arabic and Qur’an lessons. It’s interesting,” she says and sits down in her usual chair, pulling out her Qur’an and opening it.

Najwa is running late, which is unusual, so Harriet shows Polly her Qur’an, pointing out the way the alphabet works, which letters connect and which don’t, and how the position of the letter sometimes changes how it is shaped. Polly nods appreciatively and wonders how a computer would form the letters, and where they would be on the keyboard. Harriet rolls her eyes, but fondly. At least she didn’t call Islam crass or backwards. That would have caused a real row.

They don’t get much further. The door to Najwa’s office bangs open and Najwa storms through, slamming the door behind her. Harriet looks up, startled, but immediately knows what is wrong. Najwa’s hijab is gone, her clothes are crooked, and her eye is going darker by the minute. She can feel Polly getting to her feet behind her, but she shoves her back down in her chair. This is something Polly wouldn’t understand. Can’t understand.

Harriet jumps up and opens one of the filing cabinets, pulling out a second hijab. It’s one Najwa’s been showing Harriet how to use, because she thinks every woman should know to use a hijab properly, for many reasons. It’s not perfect, but Najwa doesn’t feel comfortable without one. Then Harriet sets to work finding some ice.

“What happened?” she hears Polly asking, and Harriet cringes. She wishes Polly would keep quiet; she wishes Polly would leave. She regrets bringing her- she didn’t even ask Najwa if it was all right for her to come.

“Gina and Alison jumped me,” Najwa growls, winding the hijab carefully around her hair. “They stole my hijab.”

Harriet gasps, a tight, hot feeling burning in her gut, but Polly scoffs.

“That’s ridiculous,” she says. “What would Posh-Totties do with a hijab?”

Harriet brings back the ice she found in a cooler kept in the back of Najwa’s office. She can’t believe that Polly doesn’t understand this. She doesn’t expect Polly to understand everything, but really, some things are just obvious.

Najwa just smiles softly, though, her lips barely quirking up from their customary frown. “Oh, Polly. Chrome and Steel, all the way, aren’t you?” Polly shifts nervously as Najwa focuses on her. Harriet understands. It’s unnerving to be the focus of Najwa’s attention. “They don’t want to wear my hijab, Polly.”

Harriet clears her throat. “It’s not the hijab they wanted, Polly. It’s what it stands for. It’s because Najwa is Muslim, and Pakistani.” She looks over at Najwa. “What did they call you this time?”

Najwa smirks, but her eyes are cold again, distant. “A Paki bint. Not much creativity, sadly. Then again, they’re young. They’ll learn. They always do.”

“That kind of thing doesn’t happen here at St. Trinian’s,” Polly insists stubbornly. Her face is red. “Cliques are superficial. We’re friends here.”

Harriet can feel her stomach growing hot with anger again, and she wants to punch Polly in her perfect Geek face, wants to hit her with one of her laptops that she holds so dear. She wants to rage at her. She wants to stamp on Polly’s bones until they break and she wants to mash them until they’re dust; she wants to bury her. But Najwa grabs Harriet’s wrist and looks at Polly seriously.

“Really, Polly?”

Two words are all it takes to make Polly squirm, and Harriet feels the anger drain from her. She spares a moment to feel for her. Harriet isn’t an all-knowing Goddess either. If she were Polly, maybe she’d be that naïve too.

Polly inhales sharply. “Well-”

“No, Polly. Do your homework, and then talk to me about what is impossible. Now get out of my office,” Najwa says dismissively. Polly swallows and looks at Harriet. Harriet wants to say, yes, this is my life and her life and no, it isn’t always nice here, and yes, it is partially your fault. But she doesn’t. She just shrugs and frowns and looks away. Polly bows her head and walks out.

As soon as she does, Najwa is, to Harriet’s utter shock, laughing. The hijab doesn’t match her outfit, and by morning she’ll have a full black eye, but she’s laughing, and Harriet doesn’t get the joke, but she grins anyway. When Najwa’s laugh turns to a slow chuckle, she points a stumpy finger at Harriet.

“You,” she declares with profundity, “are not to let that one go, do you hear me?”

Of all the things she could have said, that was not what Harriet expected to hear. “I don’t understand,” she says.

Najwa stands with dignity, tossing the melting ice into her trash can. “Polly is young and stupid. I am quite fond of her, if only because she is as defiant as you are. One day, she will be very important. Importance is nothing, Harriet. You can make her great.”

Harriet doesn’t understand how she’s supposed to accomplish that, since she’s just Harriet and while she likes Polly, she can’t imagine Polly ever really listening to her opinions, let alone agreeing with them. But she ignores that, and instead walks next to Najwa as they head back to the dormitories. “What will you do about Alison and Gina?” she asks. “Tell Miss Fritton?”

Najwa laughs again. “Miss Fritton, al-Hamdulillah, would come down on them like a pile of angry bricks. They would be given a year’s worth of detention. And every moment they weren’t in detention, they’d be harassing me. No, no, my defiant one, there are some things I must settle on my own.”

“Are you going to hurt them?” she asks tentatively. Najwa rests a hand on the top of Harriet’s head, tugging gently on one of her braids. She’s frowning, and Harriet gets the feeling that she said something wrong.

“No. Muslims don’t hurt people,” she says simply, and breezes into their dormitory.

Now Harriet is intrigued. Najwa walks over to her bed to trade the hijab for a better one, one that matches her uniform. When she is finished, looking strong once more, no longer vulnerable and wrecked, Harriet asks, “What will you do, then?”

Najwa grins, dark, and brings out a few lengths of rope, gags, and scissors. “For Muslim women, the hijab is a sign of our piety and our devotion to Allah. For a Posh-Totty, their hair is a sign of their devotion to their Clique. They took my hijab; I will take their hair.”

And she does. Gina and Alison struggle and try to yell through their gags, and Harriet fends off the Posh-Totties who try to intervene. Many do, but some just watch. A few, and Harriet makes note of them, watch with glee hidden in their eyes. A girl about Polly’s age, who calls herself Peaches, is the most excited. There is another girl as well, a Korean-British girl who is probably fourteen or fifteen, who actually walks over to Najwa and says “Mind if I take a turn there?” and Najwa replies, “You certainly may. In fact, anyone who has a vendetta with these two is welcome to take their turn.”

No one else steps forward, but Harriet can see the girl who calls herself Peaches has desperately twitching hands. Harriet wonders what else these girls have done. How many other girls have been harmed by their hands.

******
When she feels a hand on her shoulder, Harriet concludes her recitation with a smile and looks up. Only one person would interrupt her while she’s reading the Qur’an. Bianca is looking at her and frowning slightly.

“You ain’t read the Qur’an since the Museum Heist,” Bianca says, and sits down on the foot of Harriet’s bed. Harriet shrugs. She has a tendency to read the Qur’an when she’s stressed. She didn’t realize the habit was so obvious to everyone else.

“It’s been quite the day,” she says. Bianca studies her, then glances at the Qur’an.

“You done here? We can go for a walk,” she says, and Harriet lets out a long sigh.

“Let’s.”

Bianca nods sharply and jumps up from Harriet’s bed, wandering over to her own. Harriet carefully closes the Qur’an, running her hand over it. She puts it back in her trunk and then rummages around, searching for a light jacket. It’s nearly summer now, but the night breezes can be quite chilly, and she doesn’t know how long they’ll be walking. She’s needed to talk to Bianca for hours now, and it feels like the words have built up just underneath her sternum.

She meets Bianca by their dormitory door, and they wander out together, silent. They’ve been on enough walks over the years to know that talking while still within the school is not a good idea. Polly’s cameras are everywhere and know everything. Her coverage is less extensive on the school grounds and, as Polly’s friend, Harriet knows where the blind spots are. They slip past teachers and other students and then, finally, they’re through the doors and outside, the spring air brisk and heavy with impending rain.

They walk for a ways, Harriet humming a new song by The Banned underneath her breath. Every now and then Bianca adds a beat for a few bars before getting distracted by something else. Finally, when they’re far enough from the school, Bianca looks down at her and raises her eyebrows.

“Gonna tell me what’s on your mind, or do I have to play mind reader?”

Harriet smiles faintly at her and shrugs one shoulder. “Polly named Lucy and I co-leaders of the Geeks next year. And I’ll be the sole leader our last year here.”

Bianca stops walking and faces her, crossing her arms across her chest. “Wait, you’re all pouty over that? Here I am, thinking your mum has died or something, and instead it’s good news you’re frowning about?”

Harriet stops too and scowls, looking at the ground. The soil is soft beneath her shoes. The rain that’s coming will end up flooding the school grounds for a day or two. “It’s good, yeah. But- it’s a lot of responsibility,” she says, knowing it’s a pathetic excuse.

“Only a Geek,” mutters Bianca. She reaches up and tugs on one of her earrings. “I was elected the new Chav leader, did you know?”

Harriet jolts, looking up at Bianca. She hadn’t known. Polly hadn’t announced the Chav leader, saying that it was still being discussed. She blinks twice, and grins, reaching out and grabbing Bianca’s hands. “Congratulations, Bianca!”

“Yeah, well, congratulations, Harriet,” Bianca says, and shakes her off. “See, if you’re all perky about me, why are you brooding over your Qur’an and scaring off the First Years? Same responsibility, same position, same everything.”

Harriet frowns. “Not the same.”

Bianca crosses her arms again. “The same, Harriet. Or are you going to tell me that Geeks have it harder than Chavs?”

Harriet winces. She said that once, years ago. It had been an ill-considered remark, and the only time she and Bianca had fought. She doesn’t want to bring that up again. “No. But- Polly named me leader of the Geeks because she wants me to change things,” Harriet blurts, and cringes mentally. That was not the most eloquent way of explaining. It doesn’t explain anything, even.

Frowning, Bianca starts walking again, and Harriet follows. They are silent for a while, and then Bianca clears her throat. “Change things? Like… like the things we’ve been talking about for years now?”

Harriet nods, focusing on where she’s walking. The First Years have booby-traps laid everywhere, and they’re harder to see in the dark. “Yes.”

“Like the genealogies project?”

Harriet nods again. “Yes.”

Bianca lets out an unsteady breath. “She’s asking you to lead a revolution, then, eh?”

“Yes,” Harriet says, and pushes her glasses back up on her nose. Bianca snorts.

“Nice of her to stick around for it.”

“She’s been laying the groundwork,” Harriet protests. She doesn’t know why she’s defending Polly. Polly doesn’t need defending. “And she’s giving me more than anybody else would have. Lucy would never have willingly chosen me as her successor, you know that.”

Bianca nods. “No one would have chosen you as successor. Everyone would think they’d gone round the twist.”

“Thanks, Bianca,” Harriet says, rolling her eyes. Bianca grins at her, her smile bright even in the dim light.

They walk for a ways, quiet. Harriet likes St. Trinian’s at night. She doesn’t think it could ever be called quiet, and even now she can hear music blaring out from one of the dormitories- Dorm C, she thinks, where most of the First Years are this year- and see people moving past the windows. But at night, when the sun has set and it is nearly pitch black, Harriet likes to come outside and just look at St. Trinian’s, all aglow and shining out into the darkness. There’s something beautiful about the dingy old building then, something that she has trouble seeing in the daylight.

“I’m changing the Clique name,” Bianca says suddenly, interrupting Harriet’s thoughts, and she looks over in surprise.

“What do you mean?”

Bianca licks her lips and doesn’t look at Harriet. “You know I hate that we’re called Chavs,” she says, and Harriet nods slowly. Bianca tosses her hair over her shoulder impatiently. “It’s an insult, and- and every other Clique got to choose their name, shaped themselves, and I hate being called a Chav, that’s what other people call us, and they never say it in a nice way, y’know?”

Harriet nods again, and Bianca continues. “So the way I figure it, if you’re gonna be leading a revolution, the least I can do is finally get rid of that awful name. So we ain’t Chavs. So people stop looking at us and sneering.”

“What will you call the Clique?” Harriet asks. Bianca shrugs.

“Don’t know yet. I’ll figure something out.”

“Do you think the other girls will be okay with you changing the Clique name?” Harriet asks. Bianca looks over at her and smirks, a little sadly.

“Do you think everyone will be okay with you leading a revolution?” she asks in turn, her voice bitter, and Harriet looks away. She knows the answer to that. She knows what Bianca means.

Of course not- but I’m going to do it anyway.

******
A week after the disastrous Qur’an lesson, and a week where Gina and Alison are generally the most talked about girls in the entire school, Polly shows up at Najwa’s office during Harriet’s usual Arabic lesson time, clutching her own copy of the Qur’an and generally looking like it would take a natural disaster to remove her from the area. Harriet is surprised. She would have thought Polly done with it all, but she’s standing there, face stony and lips turned down in a frown, and Najwa welcomes her smoothly, as though she were expecting her the entire time.

“Chrome and Steel,” Najwa says, beaming at Polly. Polly looks back at her calmly, and sets her copy of the Qur’an down on the desk.

“Sand and Dust,” she returns. Harriet frowns in confusion, but Najwa’s grin just widens. She gestures for Polly to sit down next to Harriet, taking her own seat across from them. Polly sits next to Harriet carefully, smoothing her skirt and staring down at her hands.

“You did your research,” Najwa says, opening her Qur’an. Harriet gives up trying to understand what is going on and opens her own Qur’an, looking at the words that are slowly becoming familiar, listening half-heartedly to Polly and Najwa.

Polly shakes her head. “I tried, but I didn’t know what I was looking for.”

Najwa smiles lightly. “Patterns.”

“That’s not an answer,” Polly replies.

“I’m not going to just give you the answers. You have to search for them yourself. You have to want them.”

Harriet nearly snorts, despite her effort to pay them no attention. Of course Polly wants answers. She’s a Geek. Polly’s hand steals beneath the table and slips into Harriet’s hand. Harriet looks up, but Polly isn’t looking at her. She squeezes Polly’s hand instead, and returns to scanning the Qur’an.

“You gave Harriet the answers,” Polly says. Harriet rolls her eyes. If only that were true.

Najwa flips through her Qur’an, stopping when she finally reaches where she and Harriet left off. Then she looks at Polly and smiles again. “Harriet lives the patterns. If she thinks about it, she knows the answers already.”

Harriet looks up and frowns at Najwa, but Najwa is looking at Polly, not her. She doesn’t know what she means by that. She doesn’t understand most of this conversation.

Polly mumbles something about kohns and Muslims and Buddhists, but Harriet doesn’t quite catch it because Najwa is beginning to speak, in Arabic, and she has to pay careful attention in order to understand. For over an hour the three of them sit and practice Arabic, reading verses from the Qur’an while Najwa carefully corrects pronunciations and explains what the words mean. Polly struggles along, not familiar enough with the alphabet to just read the words, like Harriet, but Najwa is patient and by the time they finish, they’re able to recite two lines perfectly.

Polly stares at Najwa. “That’s it? We’ve been here for over an hour, and we’ve only learned two lines?”

Najwa grins, sharp and bright, at her. “You’re going to learn how I learned. Which is nice and slow.”

Polly scoffs. “Well, that’s dumb. It would be easier to learn from a computer program.”

Harriet looks at Polly incredulously, feeling anger rise up in her throat. Then she looks at Najwa, whose face has gone carefully blank. Najwa carefully closes her Qur’an and folds her hands, looking at Polly with a sort of intensity that Harriet hopes is never directed at her. She clenches her fists in her lap and waits for Najwa to kill Polly.

But Najwa doesn’t kill Polly. Instead, she says, “Sometimes, knowledge must come from people you love, not objects you love, Polly.”

When Najwa stands to put her Qur’an away, Harriet turns and glares at Polly. “You bloody idiot,” she hisses. “Not all of us have the money to pay for your fancy computer programs.”

She expects Polly to become sheepish, or confused, but instead Polly glares back at her and stands up so that she’s towering above Harriet. Polly grabs her Qur’an- a horrendous, atrocious version, one that Harriet wants to throw away as soon as possible- and holds it tight in her left hand, looking like she’d smack Harriet with it if she weren’t so self-controlled.

“My grandmother,” she says icily, “sold three family heirlooms to buy me my computer. I did not ask her to; I did not want her to. She did it anyway. Haven’t you ever wondered why some girls become hackers, Harriet?”

Polly turns on her heel and flies out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Harriet stares at the space she left behind for a long moment and, to her shock, finds herself bursting into tears. Najwa starts humming softly and hands her a cup of tea. She wipes futilely at her eyes, feeling like an idiot. She’s not the one who insulted Najwa. She shouldn’t be the one crying.

“What do I keep doing wrong?” she asks Najwa, who is sitting across from her, fixing her own tea. Najwa smiles.

“You keep assuming that you’re the only one who is right.”

“But she insulted you!”

“And you insulted her. Didn’t your mum ever tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right?”

Harriet glares at Najwa, who grins at her from around the rim of her teacup. She doesn’t find this amusing at all.

She changes tactics. “Tell me about Polly.”

“No.”

“Tell me about Polly!”

Najwa puts down her teacup and rolls her eyes. “Because repeating yourself is going to make me change my mind.”

Harriet scowls and gulps down a mouthful of tea. It’s still hot and scalds her tongue and the back of her throat. She ignores the pain in favor of glaring again at Najwa, who is smiling at her. “Why won’t you tell me about her?”

“I want you to learn about her yourself.”

“I can’t find her file.”

“That’s because I hid it from you.”

“Then how am I supposed to learn about her?” Harriet whines

Najwa raises an eyebrow and stands up, collecting Harriet’s books and shoving them at her, opening the door and directing her out. “In the proper Sand and Dust way, Harriet. You talk to her. Now go tell Polly I want to talk to her. Good night.”

As Harriet walks back to her dorm, where she is sure Polly is not, she wonders if Najwa has a grand scheme, or if she’s just being obstructionist for fun. Still, she knows she needs to fix things with Polly sooner rather than later, and Najwa did tell her to get her, so with a sigh of frustration she redirects her path toward the dorm where Kelly sleeps, knowing Polly will be there instead.

Sometimes, she really resents Najwa.

******
When she wakes in the morning, there is a First Year staring at her. Harriet can’t help it but scream and fling herself off the bed, falling with an ungraceful thud that makes Zoe laugh at her from across the room. She stands up, glares at Zoe, and then looks at the First Year expectantly, grabbing her glasses off the table and putting them on.

Once she focuses, she recognizes Artemis Yang almost instantly. It would be hard to not. Most girls at St. Trinian’s call her The Girl With The Sticks. She walks with forearm crutches, the only girl in the entire school who does, instantly marking her as different. Some girls can blend in at St. Trinian’s. Artemis cannot. She’s a small girl, with an intense gaze and a way of standing that makes her seem taller, despite the crutches. Harriet’s spoken to her a little bit over the past year, though not much. She’ll be a shoe-in for the Geeks next year.

Harriet gets off the floor and sits down on her bed, gesturing for Artemis to do the same. In that moment, she feels like a leader. Najwa did that. Polly does that. Now, it’s her turn. It feels odd. She clenches her hands awkwardly and puts them in her lap. Artemis stares at her, then shrugs and sits.

“What can I do for you, Artemis?” she asks her. Artemis sits for a long time without saying a thing, just eyeing her. Harriet shifts uncomfortably, but then Artemis nods sharply.

“I sit in on all the Clique meetings, you know,” she says abruptly.

“I wasn’t aware other Cliques had meetings like ours,” Harriet admits. One of the disadvantages of joining the Geeks so young, she can admit now, is that she knows next to nothing about all of the other Cliques, other than the obvious.

“Not quite like yours, Harriet. I don’t think the Prime Minister can claim to run meetings quite like the Geeks,” Artemis says dryly. “Each Clique is different. But that’s not my point. My point is, you’re the leader of the Geeks now.”

Harriet frowns. “With Lucy,” she reminds Artemis gently, and Artemis waves an irritated hand in the air. Harriet shuts her mouth hastily. Artemis is young, yes, but she clearly doesn’t need Harriet telling her anything.

“I’m not stupid, Harriet. None of the First Years are. We keep an eye on the Cliques, knowing that we can’t all be Tania and Tara. We have to go to a Clique at some point. I read up on your project from when you were my age when I found out you would be the new leader.”

Harriet doesn’t bother asking how Artemis knew that Harriet would be co-leader before Harriet herself knew. Artemis seems remarkably well-informed. “And?” she asks instead.

“And I liked it. A lot. When do we start?”

Harriet is in the middle of a yawn, but cuts herself off almost immediately when she hears Artemis. She pushes a hand underneath her glasses and rubs one of her eyes. “I’m sorry, what?”

“The revolution. That’s what Polly is calling it, at least,” Artemis says, and Harriet gapes at her before closing her mouth with a click.

“Of course she is,” she mumbles. She is too, of course, but then, she’ll actually be here next year.

“Lucy, too. When do we begin?” Artemis says again, staring at Harriet with an intensity that she finds unnerving in a twelve-year-old. She wonders if that’s what she was like at that age. If so, she sends a silent apology to wherever Najwa is now.

“I don’t have a timeline yet,” she stalls.

It appears to be ineffective, because Artemis sighs. “Do you know when you will?”

“I-no,” she admits, and Artemis nods sharply.

“All right. I’m in.”

Harriet blinks quickly. “You’re in?”

Artemis smiles. It’s a lovely smile, bright and infectious. Harriet finds herself smiling back. “Of course I am. I’m sick and tired of the prejudice here. St. Trinian’s functions better than most schools I’ve been at, but I think we can make it higher functioning. No need to settle for less than perfection.” She slips her arms into her forearm crutches and stands quickly. “I think we should have our first meeting to discuss strategy in a day or two. Figure out a time and place.”

She starts to walk away, and Harriet can’t help but say, “You’re going to be an unstoppable Geek, you know.”

Artemis freezes and turns slowly, her face mischievous. “I’m not going to be a Geek.”

Harriet feels like she’s stepped into an elaborate prank. “You’re not?”

“No,” Artemis says, tossing her short, black hair over her shoulder. “I’m joining the Posh-Totties.”

With that proclamation, Artemis turns and walks away, yelling at an Emo who tries to stop her, swatting at the girl’s ankles with one of her canes. Harriet watches her leave, feeling a bit like she’s been caught in a hurricane. She ponders the past twenty-four hours for a few minutes, and then narrows her eyes.

There are other forces at work here, clearly.

******
When Polly arrives at the next Qur’an lesson, she has two Qur’ans in hand. One is her cheap, ugly copy. The other, Harriet is glad to see, is obviously a gift from Najwa. It is different from Harriet’s own. Harriet thinks that Najwa finds a unique one for every girl she teaches. A unique Qur’an for each unique girl.

Najwa isn’t there yet, but she had warned Harriet in advance that she’d be late and not to worry, so instead she taps Polly’s old Qur’an and asks, “Why did you bring that one if Najwa gave you this one?”

Polly looks at her, like she’s trying to decide what sort of tone she wants to use. Harriet remembers what Najwa said, and waits. After a moment, Polly says, “My grandmother bought it for me when I told her a girl at school was going to teach me Arabic from the Qur’an.”

“Oh,” Harriet says, nodding. “I understand. It’s important to you.”

Polly nods sharply, and looks away. “Yes.”

They sit in silence for a little while, and then Harriet forces herself to speak again. “Do you live with your grandmother, then?”

Polly scowls. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“No! No, my mum was raised by her grandmother. Be dumb of me to have a problem. I was just curious. I know a lot about your love of technology; I don’t know much about your life outside of St. Trinian’s,” Harriet explains awkwardly. It sounds stupid even as she says it.

“It isn’t anyone’s business,” Polly says coolly.

“But I’m not anyone,” Harriet replies.

There is a long silence, and Harriet thinks she has messed everything up beyond fixing, but then Polly sighs and grabs her hand, squeezing gently before letting go.

“No. You’re not.”

She doesn’t tell her anything, then Najwa sweeps in and smiles at them both. She pulls out her Qur’an, and doesn’t blink when Polly opens both of hers, and soon they are reciting, and Harriet finds her peace, and nothing else matters.

******
Harriet takes a shower to try and process Artemis’s enthusiasm, running numbers through her head as the water beats down upon her. She reflects on her nervousness as she dries and straightens her hair, arranging it into two neat buns, thinking about the implications of a revolution at St. Trinian’s. While dressing, making sure everything is neat and pressed, prim and perfect and as pretentiously posh as possible, she thinks about her own fury, the stories she knows, her research into race at St. Trinian’s. She thinks about all the things they don’t talk about. Then she goes to Polly’s office.

She’s there, naturally, but she isn’t alone. Kelly is with her, of course, her long legs draped over Polly’s lap even as she lounges in the chair next to her. Annabelle is standing by the small window in the corner, and oddly, Chloe is there, and Andrea and Taylor. Harriet looks around, and then shakes her head.

“Sorry, you’re in the middle of something, I’ll wait,” she says, and begins backing away.

“No, no,” Kelly’s drawl stops her. “Where’s the infamous defiant one that I’ve heard so much about?”

Harriet cringes mentally. Najwa’s name for her really only belongs to Najwa, and she would prefer it stay with Najwa. Never mind that she has not heard from Najwa at all since she vanished. Some people, she thinks, never really leave.

“Kelly,” she says dryly, “even if it were wise to defy you in the first place, I certainly wouldn’t defy you while you were in your best friend’s office. I’m just saying.”

The room bursts into laughter, and Harriet smiles shyly at them. She really only knows Taylor and Polly well. She knows Kelly all right, since she and Polly are attached at the hip, but Annabelle is an unknown entity. She knows she’ll be Head Girl next year. Nepotism at its best, she thinks wryly. She’s always been nervous around Andrea, uncomfortable with the girl’s nonchalant destructiveness. And Chloe is almost as unknown to her as Annabelle.

“Damn straight,” Kelly says, pressing a kiss to Polly’s check. It leaves a stain of red behind, but Polly only grins and doesn’t bother to swipe it away. A long time ago, that might have bothered Harriet. Now it just makes her heart twinge a bit. Kelly swings her legs off Polly, and walks to the door. “All right, ladies, I think we can be done here for now. We’ll reconvene in my room tonight, what do you think? Yes? Excellent. Let’s leave Harriet here to speak with my Polly dear.”

After everyone leaves and shuts the door, Harriet looks at Polly and raises her eyebrows. Polly looks at Harriet coolly and smiles tightly.

“Kelly gets protective,” she says simply.

“And possessive,” Harriet says blandly.

“Because Najwa didn’t mark you as hers from the moment she met you,” Polly replies.

“Point taken,” Harriet admits, and sits down. She pulls out folders she’s made on Lucy and Artemis and slaps them down on the table. Polly looks at them passively.

“You’re sending me allies,” Harriet says neutrally. She tries not to make it sound like an accusation, because it’s not. She forgot that other people might want to be involved. She forgot to look around her and see others. Najwa called her self-absorbed once, in a fit of anger, and Harriet had ignored her, but now she thinks she can see it’s a bit true. She has her rage, her music, and her closest friends, and no one else matters. Everyone else blurs at the edges.

She would have hated herself if she’d forgotten them, in the end.

“You tend to forget that you’re not alone,” Polly says, and stands up from behind her desk, heading for the coffee pot displayed prominently on top of a file cabinet. She looks questioningly at Harriet, who nods. When she returns with their mugs, she continues. “You forget that others can help. And sometimes not the most obvious people.”

“I wouldn’t have thought of Lucy,” Harriet confesses, accepting her mug from Polly.

“Because she’s white?” Polly asks. It’s not an accusation. Years ago, it would have been, but they’ve had that fight too many times for it to wound now.

Harriet shrugs. “Because I just- I wouldn’t think she would ever care.”

“She does. She’s furious. I had to convince her that setting fire to Miss Fritton’s office was not the solution.”

The image makes Harriet smile. “I’ve wanted to do that a few times, myself,” she says, and Polly chuckles.

“I’ve wanted to join you.”

Harriet smirks, and then sighs. “How am I going to lead a revolution, Polly? You’re just- how could you just dump all of this on me and leave?”

Polly looks at her steadily, and takes a sip of her coffee. Harriet wants to smack her. Instead, she drinks her own coffee. It’s better than usual. She wonders if Polly remembered to get the Fair Trade shade-grown stuff that Celia insists upon. She wonders if that’s why Celia wasn’t in the office when she arrived.

“I’m sorry,” Polly says finally. Harriet looks up, surprised. To say that Polly isn’t much for apologies is like saying the Pope isn’t much for Satan. She isn’t looking at Harriet anymore, and is instead staring at the papers on her desk. “I was tired, I think. And between the two of us, you were always the brave one.”

Harriet’s stomach twists. “Polly-”

“I want things to change. And I did what I could where I was able. But revolution?” Polly finally looks up, and her eyes are sad behind her glasses. “That was always you, Harriet.”

Harriet can’t think of anything to say. There isn’t anything, really. She settles for looking across the table at Polly, her friend, her rival, her ex-girlfriend, a woman she has loved and hated in equal measure for years. Her unimagined ally.

She reaches for Polly’s hand and grips it, interlacing their fingers, just like they did when they were children. Polly’s hand is cool but firm, just like the rest of her, and they sit there for an hour, staring at each other, remembering.

******
For some reason, Polly struggles with Arabic while Harriet grasps it far easier. It gives her a sort of vicious pleasure, to find something easy and watch as Polly struggles when usually it is the other way around. Each week they sit in Najwa’s office and read through the Qur’an and Harriet memorizes the words and verses, watching as Polly stumbles over the phrases, her pronunciation sloppy and thick, words coming out completely wrong, not sounding like Arabic at all. Still, she works hard. She seems determined, and she listens to what Najwa has to say, not just in Arabic.

The next time Najwa comes to her office wounded, with glass embedded in her face and hands, Polly doesn’t question the reality of it, just quietly helps remove the shards alongside Harriet. Najwa doesn’t have much to say either, other than a soft, “Complexity is meant for the Geeks,” which doesn’t mean much, Harriet thinks, when you have glass in your skin.

When Polly murmurs something under her breath, Najwa looks up in surprise.

“Hebrew?” she asks. Polly blinks and nods. “You’re Jewish?”

“Yes,” Polly says, looking suddenly nervous. Najwa smiles.

“If I had known you knew Hebrew, I would have taught the Arabic differently,” she says, and Polly smiles tightly at her, removing another sliver of glass from her hand.

Later, when Polly has left, Najwa lets out an appreciative hum under her breath and says, “I didn’t know she was Jewish.”

Harriet throws away a piece of glass and shrugs. “Does it matter?”

Najwa smiles. “It helps me understand her better.”

“One little factor like that makes it easier to understand someone?”

Najwa bursts into laughter. “My defiant one, if I were not Muslim, how do you think things would be different for me?”

“You might not have glass in your face, for one thing,” Harriet says, scowling and throwing away a bloody washrag. Najwa shrugs one shoulder, wiping her face off with the last clean one. She still hasn’t told Harriet what happened. Harriet doubts she’ll find out.

“Maybe, maybe not. I’m still Pakistani. But being Muslim shapes the way I see the world, just as being Jewish presumably shapes the way she sees hers. It shapes our existence. It’s genealogies, Harriet. They mean something.”

She waves Harriet off and finishes cleaning the office herself, but Harriet thinks about the analysis she presented to Najwa not long after they met. She remembers the list of Lo-Techs and Hi-Techs, and who they were. She thinks about the patterns she found but didn’t write down. Connections she found. Genealogies, she thinks. The ultimate story of St. Trinian’s. The way we connect, the way we don’t. It stops her cold.

It shapes the way we live, she thinks.

What are the things we don’t talk about?

“Najwa,” she says abruptly, and Najwa looks at her. “May I pursue an independent project?”

“If I said no, you’d just defy me anyway,” Najwa remarks calmly. “Besides, is a Geek really going to say no?”

“I’ll need access to all the student records, new and old,” Harriet warns. Najwa looks at her.

“Only the old ones,” Najwa says. “I can’t ethically give you the current student records.”

“Najwa!” Harriet whines, but Najwa shakes her head.

“The oral tradition has been nearly wiped out, darling. I ask that you trust me in this. Talk to people. Know them. You’ll only learn things from knowing them. Paper doesn’t tell the full story. For instance,” Najwa says, staring at the door, “there is nothing in Polly’s record that says she’s Jewish.”

******
Polly doesn’t tell her much afterwards. Because, much to Harriet’s dismay, Polly is a cold, stubborn bint who also learned from Najwa, and one of the things she learned was how to drive Harriet bonkers.

“So who are the rest of my allies?” Harriet asks.

Polly just looks at her flatly, bustling around her office, monitors beeping and lights flashing. She’d turned them off when meeting with Kelly and the others, and left them off as a courtesy to Harriet, but now she is done with Harriet and is ready to go back to her world of Hi-Tech and schemes and politics and patterns that Harriet, while smart, will never fully understand. “They’ll approach you when they’re ready,” she says.

Harriet sighs, and moves quickly out of the way when Polly pushes by her, flipping switches that don’t do anything discernable inside the office. Harriet decides she really doesn’t want to know.

Feeling overwhelmed, Harriet decides that a walk around the school will help her think. Most of the girls are in class, and those that aren’t are unlikely to be roaming the halls, too busy with their own lives and matters. The halls echo with booms and shouts and laughter, but there are few people shoving past her, which makes it a good enough atmosphere for thinking.

She thinks about Lucy’s epiphany and Artemis’s intensity, and how each end of the spectrum had really meant the same thing in the end- that someone had been forgotten, ignored, destroyed in the wake of other girls, of other things deemed more important. She thinks about the blood she’s seen over the years, mostly from girls of color, but from white girls, too, who pushed too hard, too fast, and never knew when to quit. She thinks about the girls who were shoved down stairs for more than the usual prank, but with real viciousness, with hatred in the faces of those who did the pushing. She thinks of the experiments that weren’t so harmless, that weren’t an expression of curiosity and defiance but of a desire to cause pain, real pain, on a real person. She thinks of girls tied up, tied down, gagged and beaten. She thinks of things thought harmless, of Geek politics that favored certain girls over others, like the grants. She thinks about Dorm D. She thinks about how their Religious Education class only studies Christianity. She thinks about how their history classes are mostly about white people- and white men, which she’s always thought odd, given the generally woman-positive message at St. Trinian’s.

She remembers Bianca, on the fifth day of their third year, coming to class with her hair chemically straightened and pulled back in a ponytail, and Harriet staring at her in bewilderment until Bianca had shrugged, not meeting her eyes, and said, “Well, you know how it is.” She remembers that night, when Bianca turned up at her bed and cried for hours, desperately wanting her mother, who had been killed, it turned out, three weeks earlier, in a robbery.

“They buried her with her hair straightened,” Bianca sobbed into her arms. “Fucking people didn’t give me no choice in the matter, because I’m too young and I ain’t got no daddy to tell them no. They wanted her to look pretty in her grave, and apparently, a Black woman ain’t pretty unless her hair been straightened. They got her, in the end, Harriet. They got my momma.”

She thinks about the other things as she roams the halls, restlessly. Peaches finally told her the story of the Korean-British girl who so desperately wanted to do something to Gina and Alison. Catzie, she was. Gina and Alison forced her to dress as a Geisha for the video chats. No one knew until Peaches found out and told everyone who would listen, and Gina and Alison were finally de-Cliqued. She remembers Catzie later, proud and fierce and protective, willing to give anything to protect her Posh-Totties.

This is St. Trinian’s, Harriet thinks. This is the legacy that no one talks about. They are all felons, criminals, in their own way, and so some of it is expected. Harriet doesn’t mind some of it- after all, some of it really is all in fun. Some tumbles down the stairs are just expressions of affection, and everyone knows it. Some people are left hanging upside down with girls laughing, and the one left hanging ends up laughing too. Some fighting is normal; it prepares them for the world, because God knows they’ll need it. No one likes a St. Trinian’s girl, after all.

But some of it isn’t in fun. And some of it is because of who the girl is or what she represents, and that is what Harriet hates. That is what Harriet wishes people could see, if they weren’t so willing to turn a blind eye, if they weren’t so willing to say, “Oh, it’s just a St. Trinian’s girl being a St. Trinian’s girl.” After all, if they’re all felons and criminals in their own way, doesn’t it make sense that some girls would be so much worse? Most of them are decent people at heart. But some are not, and Harriet wants people to look around and see that.

Too many tears and too much blood, Harriet thinks, and realizes that she’s come to a halt outside, by her favorite tree. She sighs and looks at her watch. It’s nearly time for band practice. Two hours a day when she can just relax. She loves it.

She turns and screams. Saffy is standing directly behind her, clutching her hands to her chest.

“Christ, Saffy, you scared me!” Harriet gasps, and leans back against the tree. Saffy smiles furtively and glances around. Harriet looks at her carefully and comprehension dawns. “You need to talk to me?”

“I-yes. Can you miss the Banned practice? I’d like to get it over with, if that’s all right.”

Harriet could really do with burying herself into her music right now, plunging her fingers onto the keyboard and harmonizing as Jess or Beth or even Daisy writes new songs right in front of her, but Saffy looks anxious so she nods.

“Yes, of course. Let me just send a quick message.”

Lo-Techs prefer to avoid using the ear pieces that most Geeks use to communicate throughout the school, and Harriet refuses to use a mobile. And anyway, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Telegraph machines, tucked all over the place in the school, are still manned by First Years in an effort to make sure they learn Morse code before they choose their Clique. Every St. Trinian’s girl knows Morse; even after it’s long defunct, every St. Trinian’s girl will still know Morse. Sometimes, you need to communicate with only each other.

The outdoors telegraph machine happens to be in the tree, which is lucky. Harriet reaches into the hidden hole and tugs it out, quickly tapping out H WILL NOT BE AT BANNED PRACTICE STOP PLEASE TELL DAISY FULL STOP. She tucks the machine away, and then turns back to Saffy.

“Let’s talk.”

For a while, they just walk around the grounds. Saffy doesn’t seem inclined to dive into conversation, and as impatient as Harriet is, she knows that some subjects are hard to talk about. They walk by the graveyard of cars, the ones that have been sacrificed for science, or rather, explosions that were later explained as science. Except for the Prime Minister’s car, of course. That one had been purely for entertainment value, all those years ago. She and Saffy smirk at the car at the same time. Not everyone knows the full story, but everyone knows the legend.

The outdoor firing range is empty- Miss Cleaver has been teaching grenades, it looks like- and a number of First Years are working on rebuilding the tool shed that was blown up earlier in the year for the Museum Heist. It looks more like a barn now, but Harriet supposes that’s appropriate. That way they can practice blowing up small things, like door handles, or entire buildings, depending on what they need. She waves at Caliope and Gerald (who is, in all technicality, Geraldine, but prefers to be addressed with male pronouns, which St. Trinian’s girls respect, even if Gerald’s parents do not), who wave back cheerfully enough before returning to banging at each other with sledgehammers.

When they approach the outdoor wash area (Celia’s invention, earlier this year, in order to reduce their carbon footprint from washing machines- it’s actually a big hit), Saffy gestures toward the bench. Harriet nudges some chickens out of the way and sits down. Saffy swings into the out building and grabs a bag of chicken feed before joining her. She hands Harriet the folder and begins scattering the feed on the ground, the chickens squawking in pleasure as they rush forward.

Saffy still isn’t saying anything, so Harriet begins.

“Congratulations on your election to the Triumvirate, Saffy. That’s quite the honor,” Harriet says gently. Saffy blushes prettily and nods.

“I’m quite touched. It’ll be an honor to work with Chelsea. And Bella, of course, but everyone knew it would be Bella.”

“You were surprised, then?” Harriet asks. She doesn’t quite understand how Posh-Totty politics work. If there are politics. While the only real rivalry in the school is between the Emos and the Chavs, she supposes that the Posh-Totties and Geeks could be said to have a mild one as well. Geeks don’t tend to think much of Posh-Totties in the end. Harriet thinks it’s a bit ridiculous, herself, but that’s the way it has always been.

Saffy shrugs. “Bella and I do everything together, so I shouldn’t have been.”

“Will she be coming to speak to me, then?” Harriet asks, trying to steer the conversation. Saffy ducks her head.

“Possibly. I haven’t spoken to her yet, but I’ll have all summer.”

Harriet smiles softly. “Okay, then.”

Saffy falls silent again, but Harriet waits. She doesn’t have to for long. Saffy jerks her head up, her blond hair falling in front of her eyes.

“Polly told me about your genealogy project, and I saw the question. What don’t we talk about? And at first, I wanted to talk about being raped, because a lot of us have been, and we don’t talk about it,” Saffy asks, sounding pained. Harriet stares at her. She didn’t know. She wonders if anyone knew.

“But then I really thought about it, and I realized- St. Trinian’s is actually my safe place. And that’s why I want to help you, Harriet. Because- because it should be a safe place for everyone. Not just some of us,” Saffy stammers. She tosses some more chicken feed on the ground, staring at the birds intently.

Harriet swallows. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Saffy smiles at the birds, and then looks at Harriet shyly. “I talked to Chloe. The Posh-Totties started a Survivors Support Group. We have a hotline, and we meet on Tuesdays at ten p.m., if you ever hear about a girl who needs help. But thank you.”

“Sometimes,” Harriet sighs, “I wonder if things will ever get better.”

“So do I.”

They sit together for a while, feeding chickens, listening to First Years scream and shout in the distance, not saying anything. There are, Harriet thinks bitterly, still some things that cannot be talked about.

Eventually, Saffy stands and looks down at Harriet. “I don’t know what use I’ll be,” she says honestly. “But I want to try. I want things to be safe for everyone.”

Harriet nods at her, and Saffy walks away, leaving her to sit with the birds.

******
The next time Harriet steps into Najwa’s office, she is startled to see Polly there. Polly is never with Najwa, not without Harriet there with her. Polly doesn’t belong to Najwa, not the way Harriet does. Harriet leaves her hand on the door knob and stares at the two of them, standing in the middle of the office chatting and smiling, and her stomach burns.

Najwa’s smiles are hers, not Polly’s.

Najwa looks up at Harriet, who stays in the doorway, uncertainty and jealousy freezing her in place. She beckons Harriet forward, and returns her attention to Polly, who is holding a book awkwardly in her hands.

“I appreciate the offer, Polly. Let me figure out when it would work in my schedule and get back to you?” Najwa says as Harriet slinks inside. Polly nods.

“Of course,” she says, and then looks at the book still in her hands. Suddenly, she thrusts it at Najwa. “For you,” she blurts, and then rushes past Harriet and out of the office, slamming the door shut behind her.

Harriet immediately turns to glare at Najwa. “What was that?” she asks.

Najwa isn’t paying attention to her, instead focused on the book that Polly gave her so forcefully. She’s looking at it oddly, her eyes wide and suspiciously bright. Harriet steps closer and looks at the book.

“A Bible?” she asks, confused.

“A Hebrew Bible,” Najwa corrects. She flips it open and shows it to Harriet. The words aren’t in English, but in some sort of script. It’s blocky where Arabic is all flowing lines. Harriet guesses it must be Hebrew. She certainly doesn’t recognize it.

Harriet walks further into the office, nudging past Najwa and over to the filing cabinet where Najwa lets her keep her files. She opens it and begins pulling her papers out before saying, casually, “I don’t see why she would bother giving you a Hebrew Bible.”

Najwa puts the Bible on her desk and sits down in the visitor’s seat. “Because she figured out that I wanted to learn Hebrew and offered to teach me.”

Harriet scowls. “You already know Arabic and English. Isn’t that enough?”

“I want to learn,” Najwa repeats firmly. She looks over at Harriet, frowning. “Some things are sacred, Harriet.”

Harriet turns her back on Najwa, looking at the papers in her hands. Suddenly, they don’t seem so precious.

“I don’t like you spending time with her,” Harriet admits sullenly, still refusing to look at Najwa. She hears Najwa shift in her seat as she begins chuckling.

“I spend time with many people, you and Polly being only two of them.”

“Who are the others?” demands Harriet, spinning around. She can feel heat rising in her cheeks, but she ignores it. She knows Najwa won’t be able to see it.

Najwa raises an eyebrow. “Lila and AJ, my best mates, for one.”

The admission makes Harriet angry. “Who are they?”

Najwa gets to her feet and folds her arms. “Lila is a Chav and you know AJ, Harriet. She’s the leader of the Emos. I also spend time with the other Clique leaders, and all the other Geeks, and even people that you don’t know.”

“You give Polly special time!” Harriet protests.

“Sit down,” Najwa says, sounding irritated and unyielding. Harriet starts to argue, but Najwa points firmly at the chair, and so she sits, clutching her papers. “Now. You may be my defiant one, but you do not get to dictate who I spend time with. Why are you so angry that Polly and I are friends?”

Harriet doesn’t look at Najwa, instead looking at the names on her papers. “She’s not like us,” she murmurs.

“And what’s ‘like us,’ Harriet?”

That’s the problem, really. Harriet doesn’t have the words. So instead she stares at the names she’s spent three weeks pouring over, and looks at her own childish writing detailing what she could find in the archives. They all have the same stories. She has their story, too, and Najwa. What she means doesn’t have words, not yet, but she can come up with something similar.

“Bullied,” she mumbles.

Silence hangs heavy in the office for a long moment, and Harriet ducks her head further down. She doesn’t want to be here. When Najwa bursts into laughter, Harriet only feels worse and tries to sink into her seat. It wasn’t the right word. She thinks she knows the words, she’s read them, her mum says them, but she doesn’t want to say them. Saying them makes it real.

But Najwa is laughing, and that makes Harriet angry, and she’s never dealt well with being angry.

“She’s not like us,” she spits angrily over Najwa’s laughter, “because she doesn’t deal with racism. She’s not oppressed.”

The words are thick with history, and when Najwa goes silent, Harriet thinks she still used the wrong words. She thinks they’re right, though. The racial slurs, the beatings, the suspicious looks and the sneers and the hatred, she knows what they represent. Being eleven doesn’t make you stupid. You can’t be an eleven-years-old and biracial and not know about racism and oppression, even if the words don’t always make sense.

“She is Jewish, Harriet,” Najwa says gently, her laughter dying away. Harriet scowls.

“I don’t care.”

Najwa doesn’t reply, and Harriet looks up slowly. Najwa is staring at her, her face drawn and troubled. Her arms aren’t folded any longer, but her hands are clasped tightly, so tightly that her knuckles are pale. They stare at each other for a long moment, and then Najwa reaches up and begins unpinning her hijab.

“I honestly don’t know what to say to that,” Najwa confesses, tugging the scarf off her head. She tosses it onto her desk and unwinds her hair as she walks over to her bookshelves. “I forget, I guess, that you’re eleven, and still stupid.”

The words sting. “But she isn’t like us,” Harriet insists, and Najwa snorts.

“I doubt you even know what you’re saying.”

Harriet stands up and throws her wrinkled papers at Najwa. They scatter and flutter to the ground, like dying birds, and Harriet watches as Najwa watches them fall.

“These girls were bullied too! They went to St. Trinian’s, and they were like us. They got bullied, and they got ignored, and St. Trinian’s is the way it is because no one ever said anything. But apparently you’re all concerned about Polly now, so my work doesn’t matter!” she shouts.

Najwa’s face twists. “Of course your work matters!” Najwa snaps, and grabs some of the papers from the ground. “And you matter, if that’s what you’re worried about. But Polly matters too, and you can’t just say ridiculous things about her being Jewish!”

“She doesn’t get hurt like you do!”

“Well, praise Allah for that! Maybe it means the world has progressed a little over the last fifty years!”

Harriet stares at Najwa, and then bursts into tears. She doesn’t even know what they’re arguing about anymore. After a moment, Najwa tugs her into a tight hug, sighing. She lets herself cry for a while, and then looks up at Najwa. She doesn’t look soft and gentle and understanding, like Harriet had hoped. In fact, she still looks angry.

“You’re angry with me,” Harriet says miserably. Najwa hums and presses a kiss to the top of Harriet’s head.

“I’m so furious with you that I don’t think I can find all the words for it,” Najwa admits. She doesn’t sound angry, merely disappointed. Harriet thinks that is worse. “But my being angry doesn’t mean anything, since you don’t even know why I’m angry.”

Harriet shakes her head, and Najwa releases her, looking back at her bookshelves. She pulls out three or four books and sits on the edge of her desk, giving Harriet a serious look.

“Jealousy I can understand, Harriet. You want me all to yourself, which is adorable if stupid. But expressing that jealousy in anti-Semitic, hateful ways is not all right.”

“I wasn’t being anti-Semitic,” Harriet protests, and Najwa scowls.

“Just like the girls who beat you up would claim that they aren’t being racist?”

“I…” Harriet tries to argue, but stops. She can’t find anything to say to that.

Najwa points to the papers that Harriet threw at her, the ones still on the ground. “It’s admirable that you are looking at who gets bullied at St. Trinian’s, but if you want to do that, you need to understand things beyond general racism.” She hands Harriet the books she pulled off the shelf. “Read those. Don’t talk to me until you’re done with them. Now get out.”

Harriet leaves.

The books are on the history of Judaism and Jewish people. Harriet carries whichever one she’s reading with her everywhere, to the point where Polly looks at her one evening and raises an eyebrow.

“That’s a good book,” Polly says, and Harriet glances at her.

“Is it?” she asks. Polly nods and comes to sit next to Harriet on her bed. They’re both so small that they fit easily, even if Polly is ridiculously tall. Polly lifts the covers and tucks her feet underneath Harriet’s knees. Her feet are freezing.

“I didn’t know you were interested in Judaism. I thought it was all Islam, all the time,” Polly says, and Harriet shrugs uncomfortably.

“It was brought to my attention that maybe I didn’t understand Judaism,” she replies.

“Judaism or Jews?” Polly asks dryly, and Harriet winces. “That’s what I thought.”

Harriet lapses into silence, returning to her book. Polly cuddles up closer to her, reading over her shoulder and making comments here and there about Jewish history, about the destruction of the Temple, about the Crusades, about pogroms. When she gets to the chapters on the Holocaust, Polly sneers and explains about ha’Shoah being her preferred term, and then tells Harriet stories she’s heard from her grandmother about the camps.

“She was just a kid when her family was taken away,” Polly says sleepily, whispering in Harriet’s ear. “She only escaped because different Gentile families passed her among them. She lived with fifteen different families in six years. She doesn’t like to talk about it, but she says that someone must.”

The next day, Polly gives her a different book to read. “I like this one more,” Polly says, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. “It explains things better.”

So Harriet reads her way through Weimer Germany and then the rise of the Third Reich and description after description after description, until her stomach turns and she realizes she knows nothing, nothing at all.

She asks Polly when she’s done with her book, and Polly shrugs. “I mean, we aren’t being rounded up and executed en masse,” she says softly, “but that doesn’t mean things are miraculously better.” Her smile is bitter. For a moment, Harriet can see herself in Polly. For just a moment, Harriet sees what she missed, and she wants to throw up.

She finishes the last book at four a.m. Polly is asleep in the bed next to hers, and Harriet just stares at her for a long time. There are things that she doesn’t think she can fully understand, no matter how similar the experience. So she stands and walks over to Najwa’s bed, and touches her on the arm.

Najwa is awake immediately, and Harriet can feel her own face crumble as she begins to cry, this time for entirely different reasons. And Najwa pulls her close again and presses a kiss to the top of her head while she cries.

“Shhh, habibiti,” Najwa whispers in her ear. “It is a painful history, yes, but you missed the most important part. Shhh, now. You missed the part where they survived.”

******
She considers going to practice with The Banned even after meeting with Saffy, as she could still make a good hour of the practice, but somehow the thought of sitting perfectly still behind her keyboard while Jess and Beth argue over lyrics doesn’t comfort her. Harriet settles instead for heading for the piano room.

As a member of The Banned of St. Trinian’s, she’s willing to concede her Lo-Tech ideals and play on a keyboard, but her preference is to play pianos, and St. Trinian’s only has one that suits her perfectly, a Steinway grand piano. Unfortunately, it was in the part of the school the Flammables had set aflame. She had gone tearing off, only one thought in her head: save the piano. Later, scorched and suffering from smoke inhalation, she’d had to listen to Bianca scream at her, but it had been worth it, because she’d saved it, and other than reading her Qur’an, playing her piano is one of the few things that brings her comfort.

Under Kelly’s supervision, most of the school has already been rebuilt, so Harriet walks over through the halls and into the room where her piano is, greeting it with a smile. She sits down, puts her hands on the keys, takes a deep breath, and begins to play.

Harriet doesn’t know how long she’s there, but she plays all of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, dabbles with a few Debussy pieces, sings through some Faure, and butchers Mozart while laughing.

“Still don’t like Mozart, I take it?”

Harriet slams her hands down on the keys and spins around. A Black girl is standing in the doorway, pink strips of fabric tied in her hair, her mouth curved up in an ever present sardonic smirk as she lights a Zippo over and over again. Harriet knows her immediately. She would know her anywhere. She’s the newly elected Flammable leader, Gloria Carby. She is also one of her ex-girlfriends.

“No,” she says, taking her hands off the keys. “You know I prefer the Romantic era.”

“I’m more of a Baroque girl, myself, but to each their own, I guess,” Gloria says easily, walking more into the room, still flipping open the flame and shutting it repeatedly. Harriet can’t help but watch it nervously. Gloria laughs at her nervousness. “Don’t worry, Harriet. I’m not Tammy. You know I have more control over the fire than her.”

Tammy is the (former) Posh-Totty who set the school on fire. She’ll be much happier as a Flammable, Harriet is sure.

“Will the Emos miss you?” Harriet asks. Gloria snorts, snapping the Zippo shut and tucking it away in her polyester jacket.

“There used to be debates over whether pyros were appropriately Emo,” she says, sitting next to Harriet on the piano bench. She plays a quick scale, and then looks at Harriet, smiling faintly. “I’m much happier in my own Clique, where fire is natural.”

“The Geeks have been debating how to define you,” Harriet says, and Gloria chuckles.

“For your genealogies?”

Harriet raises an eyebrow, and Gloria mirrors her. “No,” she says finally. “Because a few are considering switching Cliques, and they’re not sure if listening to pop music and dancing is a requirement.”

Gloria tosses her head back and bursts into laughter, slapping her hand down on the bench. “Why did we ever break up, Harriet?”

Harriet can’t help it. She grins in spite of herself. “Because neither of us could talk about our emotions if we were paid? You’re really an awful Emo, Gloria.”

“And you’re a wonderful Geek,” Gloria says admiringly, and gives her a peck on the cheek. Harriet shoves her shoulder gently.

“We’re not all emotionally repressed,” she scolds, but her heart isn’t in it. “I think of myself as a warm, open girl.”

Gloria stares at her. “I think you’re confusing friendliness with openness,” she says finally. She snaps her fingers a few times. “But I’m not here to discuss why our relationship crashed and burned.”

“Literally, burned,” Harriet mutters. “You set fire to my books.”

“Only the ones I knew you didn’t like! Much!” Gloria protests. “And I didn’t hurt anyone.”

Harriet glares at her. “You hurt my books.”

“Whatever,” Gloria says carelessly. She’s never liked to read, and has never understood why Harriet was so angry at the wanton destruction of her books. “I’m here to say that this revolution I’m hearing rumor of sounds wicked, and I’d like to offer myself up as a general in your armies.”

“Rumors?” Harriet asks, alarmed.

“Focus, Harriet. I want to be a general.”

“What rumors?”

Gloria sighs and pulls out a box of matches. One thing Harriet always admired about Gloria was the various flammable paraphernalia she secreted about her person. She lights a match and stares at the flame. Harriet looks anywhere but the flame, trying not to think about what will happen if she drops it on her piano. “Polly’s been talking to people. And those people have been talking to others. Word has been getting around that things will be changing in the next two years for those of us who have been more than a little tormented.”

Harriet licks her lips. “Any backlash?”

Gloria blows out the match and takes a deep breath. “Some. You might want to talk to the girl with the sticks. She was spouting her mouth off and got shoved down the stairs.”

The piano makes an almighty shrieking noise as she slams her hands down on the keys. Harriet stands, but Gloria grabs her. “She’s fine! Chelsea Parker, Bella Jamison, and Saffy Gillespie were with her. From what I hear, the girl with the sticks walked away just fine, but the girl who shoved her is in the infirmary.”

“Her name is Artemis,” Harriet says tightly. Gloria sighs.

“I’m sorry.”

“I am too,” Harriet says, and sits back down. Gloria pats her knee.

“You didn’t think it would be a bloodless revolution, did you? It’s never been completely bloodless, not here. Not anywhere in England.”

Harriet places her hands back on the keys and nudges Gloria to do the same. Gloria instinctively moves her hands into the starting position of their favorite Rossini piece. Gloria taught her how to play the piano. It was what brought them together originally, their love of music. Harriet takes a deep breath, Gloria imitating her, and they begin simultaneously, the duet as familiar as anything between them.

“Not anywhere in the world,” she says softly, and feels Gloria sigh without actually hearing it.

******
Harriet enjoys the start of the new term, because it means she has new classes, new teachers, and a new schedule. She enjoys change; it makes things more interesting. She adapts well to the minor adjustments, and she amuses herself by watching other girls get flustered and whine about it.

She is sitting in her dormitory, working on her algebra homework (not everyone can be a mathematical prodigy like Polly and do calculus at thirteen) when Najwa soars in. Harriet is not particularly surprised- it is about time for her afternoon prayers- but she is startled to see a look of twisted rage on her face.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, sitting upright. Najwa flaps a hand at her, ignoring her in favor of pulling out her prayer rug. Harriet shuts her math book and slides off her bed. “Najwa, what is it?”

“Mrs. Cooper wouldn’t let me out of class,” Najwa spits, pulling out her cassette tapes and setting them up. Mrs. Cooper is their newest English teacher for the lower sixth form.

Harriet frowns. “But you have afternoon prayers.”

Najwa glares at her. “I know, Harriet. Excuse me, I still need to do my ablutions.”

Harriet knows better than to disrupt the ritual prayers, so she goes back to her bed and opens her textbook again. If Najwa wants to tell her what the problem is when the prayers are done, she will. If not, she’ll pester her over supper until Najwa caves. Harriet has found it to be a very successful formula. She may not be a math prodigy, but she does understand formulas.

Najwa disappears back to class after her prayers are done, so Harriet has no choice but to wait until supper. That night, sitting across from Najwa, she pokes at her peas, wrinkles her nose with distaste, and says, “So why wouldn’t Mrs. Cooper let you out of class? You always leave class for prayers.”

Najwa is in the middle of a conversation about bland English food with an Indian Posh-Totty, but she scowls when she hears Harriet and stabs her fork into her chicken, leaving it standing there. “She doesn’t think it’s appropriate for a student to leave class,” she sneers.

Harriet has never seen Najwa so obviously angry. Usually she’s collected and calm in her anger. She puts her fork down gently. “Did you explain to her that you have to pray?”

“She tried to explain to me that in Islam, you’re allowed to put off your prayers until later if you absolutely must.” She pauses and smirks. “Because clearly, I don’t understand my own religion and need someone else to explain it to me.”

“Can you put off your prayers until later?” Harriet asks, confused. Najwa sighs and rubs her eyes.

“I could, but I don’t need to. Miss Fritton has always allowed me to leave my classes for the time it takes to complete my prayers. She says that as long as my grades don’t suffer, it isn’t a problem.” Najwa frowns. “It’s important to me. I want to pray at the right time.”

“Did you tell Mrs. Cooper what Miss Fritton said?” Harriet asks, feeling at sea. She’s learned a lot about Islam from Najwa, but there is still so much she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t think she’ll ever understand it all, even if she were able to read Najwa’s mind.

Najwa exchanges glances with the Indian girl, who is smirking bitterly. Harriet thinks she’s missing something. “She says she’ll take it under advisement,” Najwa says. “This means that until I complain to Miss Fritton, I’m going to have to keep storming out of class in order to pray and take a failing grade for the day. Which means that Mrs. Cooper will be able to say that my prayers are interfering with my grades.”

“Cheers to the catch-22,” says the Indian girl, whose name is, Harriet thinks, Aasha. Najwa and the-girl-who-might-be-Aasha clink milk glasses together in a sort of macabre toast. Harriet frowns.

“Why not complain now?”

Najwa props her chin up on her hand and lifts her chicken up on her fork, muttering something in Pashto that Harriet doesn’t understand. She thinks it’s a curse. “Because I already know what I’ll get told,” Najwa says, and she looks at Aasha.

Aasha laughs, and she and Najwa speak in unison. “Give her a chance!”

The two girls burst into laughter. When Harriet doesn’t join in, Najwa leans across the table and pats her hand. “Don’t worry, Harriet,” she says wearily. “In a few years, you’ll see the humor, too.”

“If you don’t laugh,” Aasha says, sighing, “you just cry all the time.”

As it happens, Mrs. Cooper doesn’t last long enough at St. Trinian’s to become a huge problem. Najwa and her friends make sure of that.

******
For three days, no one else walks up to Harriet with a mission on their mind. Harriet spends time with Lucy, Saffy, Gloria and Artemis and flips through notebooks with them, asking questions and hearing stories. They talk- they tell each other about all the things they never talked about before, the things they saw that they never mentioned, the things they know are unfair but kept their mouths shut about. Artemis, Harriet, and Gloria are quick to point out the smaller things to Saffy and Lucy that they are quick to brush aside. Harriet pulls out her old genealogies, the diaries and files of old students, digs out the mentions of non-white servants, and shows them to the others. She reads them out loud and lets them absorb the old tragedies, the old horrors. There are triumphs there, too, and victories, because they are St. Trinian’s women, but the good does not need fixing. It is the bad they are there to correct. They argue and shout and gradually agree, and they’re allies, which Harriet finds so odd after years of defensive isolation. It’s good. It’s nice. It’s stomach-churning.

For three days, Harriet has a migraine.

After their first meeting, she pulls Artemis aside. “Are you all right?” she asks, trying to see if there are visible cuts and bruises. “Gloria told me…”

Artemis gives her a funny look. “Told you what?”

“That someone shoved you down the stairs,” Harriet says bluntly. “That happened to me, once, and I wanted to make sure you weren’t going to get targeted because of your work with all of this.”

Artemis stares at her for a moment longer, and then bursts into a peal of laughter. Lucy and Gloria look up from where they’re standing across the room, curious. Harriet waves them away and frowns at Artemis. “What?” she asks. “What’s so funny?”

“You thought I got shoved down the stairs because of this?” Artemis asks, gesturing around the room.

Harriet’s frown deepens. She doesn’t understand. “Gloria said that you were talking about the project.”

“Did Gloria also tell you that I get shoved down the stairs almost every week?” Artemis says dryly, raising an eyebrow. Harriet’s eyes widen, and she looks over at Gloria. Gloria meets her eyes and frowns. She looks back at Artemis.

“What?” she hisses.

“Do you think these are for decoration?” Artemis asks, jerking her chin at her forearm crutches. “Being a crippled Chinese chick makes you an excellent target. I could talk about- about the importance of fiber in ones diet and still get shoved down the stairs.”

“Oh,” Harriet says numbly. She leans against the edge of the table, feeling ill. “I see.”

Artemis smiles at her. “Do you need a paper bag? I’m fine, by the way. Chelsea, Saffy, and Bella took care of it. Seven inch heels make excellent weapons.”

Harriet supposes they do.

After that, she’s almost thankful that she doesn’t gain any new allies. New allies would mean having more conversations, and she isn’t sure she could handle that at the moment. The only people who approach Harriet during those days are the usual mass of people; friends looking to chat or people who want to pick a fight, throwing rocks at her, calling her names, insulting her friends and her work and her attitude. When she was younger, Harriet would get in a fight with them. Now that she’s older, she normally ducks her head and scuttles away as fast as possible. But instead she just stares at the girls and wonders what they’re thinking and why they see her as a threat. She wonders if the threat they see in her is that she simply is.

The day Miranda spits in her face, Anoushka walks past Harriet, and grabs her as she does so. Harriet simply walks backwards. She and Anoushka have been good friends for a few years now, and she trusts her. She will not be left in a closet naked when she’s in Anoushka’s hands.

They do wind up in a closet, so that part of Harriet’s prediction is incorrect, but Anoushka presses a kiss to the corner of her mouth, and she relaxes instantly. She kisses back, because that’s her and Anoushka. That’s how they’ve always been, how they always will be.

“The girl who spit at you today, I have taken care of her. She will not be spitting so much anymore, I think,” Anoushka says, and grins wolfishly. Harriet smirks.

“Anoushka, our love is so pure. And yet, so dangerous. What did you do to her?”

“The twins make me drink their vodka, so I make them give me special medicine. This one dries up the… ah, the salivary glands, I think. She will drink a lot of water, and will be fine, but she will not have enough to make spit.”

Harriet grins again, and kisses Anoushka’s palm. This is what they do. They adore each other, in an almost sweet and innocent way, except for the occasional wicked twist. Harriet can’t imagine what will happen when either of them actually fall in love. If this is what they’ll do for friends, she can’t imagine what they’ll do for lovers.

“I wanted to wish you luck on your revolution as well,” Anoushka continues. “If I could stay another year and assist, I would. Alas, I must graduate. It is a tragedy, I know.”

“Yes, a tragedy that you have to graduate on time,” Harriet says wryly, and Anoushka smiles at her, sitting down carefully on a bucket.

“It was a near thing, with my English,” Anoushka points out. Harriet rolls her eyes.

“Your English is fine.”

“Some people, they disagree.”

“If it had really been that close, it would have been a quick dip in the computer system, and voila! Graduation!”

Anoushka laughs and kisses Harriet’s palm. After a moment she sobers and looks and Harriet, her eyes soft. Harriet looks back. She and Anoushka have been friends for years. She doesn’t quite know what she’s going to do without her. It was Anoushka who first said to her, years ago, “Consider the living death- consider silence.”

“Come find me, when you graduate. I will teach you Russian,” Anoushka says softly. Harriet’s eyes fill with tears and she nods rapidly. Anoushka smiles again and stands, sliding past her.

Then Harriet is alone in the closet, with only the memory of kisses to keep her company.

******
The first time Harriet is really hurt at St. Trinian’s, beyond the usual punches, slaps, trips, and kicks, it’s partially about her, but it’s mostly about Najwa. She knows that hatred toward Muslims is at an all-time high, and that Pakistani-Brits are treated poorly at the very best of times, but she can’t imagine this sort of hatred directed toward Najwa, even as she is shoved down the stairs and the words “Black bitch!” and “Paki fucker!” and her favorite, “Member of the Muslim bint’s harem!” follow her on her way down.

She wakes up with Matron peering over her with wide, nervous eyes. Harriet shuts her eyes again and groans. Familiar hands on either side squeeze her arm gently. One is Najwa, and one is Polly. She would know either hand immediately.

“Am I all right?” she asks, needing to know.

“We’ll take care of this, Matron,” Najwa says curtly, and Matron murmurs something gently and wanders away. Harriet opens her eyes as soon as she is gone. She looks at Najwa.

“You have three cracked ribs,” Najwa says immediately.

“And a broken ankle,” Polly tells her helpfully. Harriet shuts her eyes again.

“Bloody hell,” she breathes.

“Language, Harriet,” Najwa says, and for some reason, that’s the thing that makes Harriet snap. She opens her eyes and looks at Najwa.

“Shut up, Najwa! Do you know what they called me when they shoved me down the stairs? They called me a Paki fucker. They only targeted me because I’m friends with you. I’m a mess because of you!” Harriet hisses.

Najwa recoils, looking bewildered, confused and hurt. Harriet glares at her. She doesn’t care about Najwa’s feelings right now. She’s the one lying in a hospital bed with broken bones. Polly stares at Harriet and frowns.

“I get called that all the time. They don’t push me.”

Harriet whips her head around to glare at her instead. “Well, aren’t you lucky,” she snaps. “But I’m a better target, so down the stairs I go.”

Najwa sighs, and reaches out to touch Harriet, but Harriet swats her away. “Don’t you dare touch me. Don’t even talk to me anymore. Get out of here!” she yells, and by then Matron has appeared again.

“I can’t have you upsetting the patient, Miss Khan. I suggest that you and Miss Hopkins say goodbye for now. You can visit tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to see them tomorrow,” Harriet says angrily, twisting in the bed, her ribs protesting immediately.

“You may have changed your mind by then. You can decide tomorrow. Goodnight, girls.” Harriet yanks her sheets up around her, not bothering to look up as Najwa and Polly slip out of the infirmary. Part of her knows that she’s angry at the wrong people, but she doesn’t know who shoved her. It’s easier being angry at Polly and Najwa. She needs to be angry at someone.

Matron sighs and takes the sheets out of her hands, carefully pulling them into place over Harriet. “Why don’t you rest up, Miss Bamford? You’ve had quite an ordeal, tripping down the stairs like that.”

Harriet stops squirming in favor of staring at Matron. “I didn’t trip; I was pushed.”

“Nonsense. Lie down, dear. It will all be better in the morning.”

It won’t be, and Harriet knows it. In the morning, she will still be broken up, and those girls will still have gotten away with it. She’ll still be angry at Najwa for being her friend, which apparently makes Harriet a target, and she’ll be angry at Polly, who is a target for verbal abuse but nothing else. And she’ll still know that it’s stupid to be angry at them, but she won’t be able to stop herself, which will just make herself feel worse.

She scrunches her eyes closed, but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t sleep. Two hours into trying, she hears a slight scratching at the door, and Harriet opens her eyes. Bianca is standing by her bed, looking ill.

“I heard that some girls pushed you. I needed to see. This is a godawful mess, Harriet, swear to God it is,” Bianca says. Harriet tries to smile at her, but her body hurts, and she’s angry, but she’s sad too, because it isn’t Najwa or Polly’s fault, and she may have just destroyed her friendship with them, and instead of smiling, she bursts into tears.

“No, girl, didn’t mean to make you cry. Budge over there, it’ll be a sleepover then. A tomorrow, we’ll make it better. I know a girl, you’ll like her. Posh-Totty, yeah, but real smart and real loyal, and we’re tight. You’ll be tight too. And we’ll make this right. And if I know Najwa, she’ll want to make this right, too.”

Bianca pulls Harriet gently into her arms, mindful of her ribs and ankle, and just lets Harriet cry until she finally drifts off to sleep. In the morning, Bianca sneers at Matron when she tries to kick her out, and sits by her side when Harriet makes awkward apologies to Najwa and Polly. Later that afternoon, she brings Anoushka, a sullen looking Russian girl, to her bedside, and they have a good, long chat.

******
Harriet, like most everyone at St. Trinian’s, has read all the Harry Potter books (Zoe once wrote an essay about how if Harry had been a girl, he would have been an Emo at St. Trinian’s), and more than anything else, she wishes there was a St. Trinian’s, A History to make this easier. Of course, it would be heavily edited, just like she imagines Hogwarts, A History is, no matter how much Hermione swore by it, in all her Geeky ways, but it would be an organized start, at least, rather than the disheveled mess that is the St. Trinian’s library.

Lo-Techs come into the library regularly, of course, but there are five of them right now, one of whom isn’t an official Geek yet and only thirteen, and if the stuff Harriet is working on makes her cry, she’s not going to dump it on thirteen-year-olds. Not yet, anyway. Not until they express an interest on their own. If the small plan that she’s forming in her head comes to fruition, there will be a lot of people interested next year, when she and Lucy are actually in charge.

The only person besides the Lo-Techs who seems to be aware of the library is Celia, the leader of the Ecos. Harriet and Celia have had many, many disagreements over the years, and unfortunately, most of it has been about her genealogy project. So she tries not to groan in disappointment when she gets to the library, hoping to find someone there who might help her sift through some old records, and instead finds Celia.

“Hello, Celia. Congratulations on the consensus that reelected you leader of the Ecos,” Harriet says, trying to remember the best way to congratulate an Eco. Celia beams at her.

“Harriet. Congratulations on your tyrannical uprising.”

That is not the right way to congratulate a Geek (that would be, congratulation on the recognition of your skills by another leader), but Harriet has lived with this for years, so she just shrugs and starts pulling out the boxes she made for herself years ago, full of old school records, all the way back to the school’s founding in 1792.

(Someone, Harriet thinks, was very moved by Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women.”)

Celia hovers nearby, and Harriet works through organizing a few files before finally sighing. “Are you here to tell me that you’re going to be my ally next year?”

“Oh, no,” Celia says, and comes to sit next to Harriet. “You know I think your little pet project is a bunch of nonsense. I was just curious.”

“It’s not a bunch of nonsense, Celia,” Harriet says, for probably the ten billionth time. Celia shakes her head.

“We need to pay more attention to ecological issues, to the fact that we’re totally destroying the earth,” Celia insists. Harriet nods.

“We do. And we need to pay attention to the people we live with. If we forget them, soon we’ll find that we have all this earth, and no one to share it with.”

It’s an argument they’ve had for years, and Harriet doesn’t expect to win. Not with Celia, at any rate. She does like Celia, and if they avoid talking about her genealogies, they get along fine. Harriet isn’t an Eco, and she gets in loud arguments with them about some of their simple fixes that ignore the existence of people and the complexities therein, but she does care about things like renewable sources, and food justice, and water. She doesn’t understand it all, but she does care about it.

“That’s what Polly said,” Celia says after a while. Harriet looks at her. Polly is one of Celia’s closest friends. She listens to what Polly says. Celia bites her lip and starts twisting her hair around her fingers, and suddenly she says, “I’m not making, like, a long term commitment, but I can at least help you sort this stuff, can’t I? Just for today.”

Harriet tosses her a box, tells her to alphabetize by name within their Clique and categorize by year, and then goes in search of journals. She thinks of Polly, and how she can move mountains with just a few words, and how Najwa could do the same thing. Harriet will never have that ability, she knows. She doesn’t think Lucy has it either.

Maybe they just have sheer nerve.

******
She meets Taylor in quite possibly the worst way ever. There are worse ways, possibly, but she hasn’t yet encountered them, so Taylor has the honorary position in her brain. Honestly, if there are worse ways, she’d prefer to never find out.

Harriet wakes up in the middle of the night toward the end of her first year, needing to use the lavatory. She slides on her house shoes, ties on her dressing gown, and walks as quietly as possible out into the hallway, careful not to disturb the people around her. St. Trinian’s girls are vicious when woken prematurely. Draco dormiens and all that.

It’s quiet in the hall, the only sound the occasional scuffle from her house shoes, which is why Harriet hears the pounding coming from the closet. It’s a muffled thumping sound, so faint that it would normally be obscured by the hustle and bustle of a usual St. Trinian’s day. She stops and frowns at the closet. She can’t imagine what would be making the sound, and she isn’t sure she wants to find out. When there is another thump, Harriet sighs in exasperation. I never should have had that last glass of water, she thinks to herself, and inches closer to the closet. She puts her hand on the doorknob, takes a deep breath, and then twists the handle, throws open the door, and jumps back.

A third year Chav tumbles out of the closet, wrapped up in the British flag. Harriet stares at her in shock. Scrawled on the girl’s face in what appears to be Sharpie is “There’s no Black in the Union Jack.”

“Oi,” the girl snaps. “What you buggin’ at?”

Harriet just stares at her for a moment longer, and then swallows tightly. “Would you like some help?”

“That’d be nice, yeah! I’m a bit done up!”

Harriet drags the girl into the middle of the hall and then carefully unrolls her from the flag. She’s been tied up with ropes in the middle of it, and Harriet gets to work untying those as well, desperately trying not to stare at the ugly words written on the girl’s face. When she gets the last knot undone, the girl sits up with a groan.

“Thanks,” she says. “I’ve been stuck in there all day. I’m Taylor.”

Harriet takes the hand that Taylor sticks out and shakes it gently. “Harriet.”

Taylor whistles. “So you’re the first former that everyone is talking about? Najwa’s little protégée. Not much to look at are you, then?”

“Can’t say much about you, either,” Harriet snaps back before thinking about it. She claps a hand over her mouth seconds after the words come out, though, realizing what she’s said. Taylor sneers at her.

“Yeah, I ain’t much to look at right now, am I? What’d they write, anyway?”

Harriet looks at the ground. “There’s no Black in the Union Jack,” she mumbles.

Taylor bursts into laughter immediately, and Harriet looks up, startled. She doesn’t see what’s so funny about having such a horribly racist comment scrawled on one’s face, getting tied up inside a flag, being locked in a closet all day, and being discovered well after hours.

“Why are you laughing?” she asks, and Taylor gestures to the flag she’s still sitting on.

“Well, that’s all wrong, innit? I’m Black, they wrapped me up in the Union Jack, so clearly there’s some Black in the Union Jack after all!”

Taylor starts laughing again, and Harriet can’t help but giggle along with her. She still doesn’t think it’s all that funny, what happened, but getting the insult wrong is pretty funny, she admits. She imagines this is one of those moments like Aasha said- if you don’t laugh, you’d just cry. Taylor stands up, offers Harriet a hand, and then cracks her back noisily.

“I mean,” Taylor says, grabbing the flag from the floor, “if you’re going to be a racist shithead, at least be a smart racist shithead. I hate dealing with the really dumb ones, don’t you?”

Harriet finds herself nodding back. “At least the smart ones use clever racial slurs you haven’t heard a million times,” she says, and Taylor grins.

“I think I’m going to color in the white with a black Sharpie. Want to help me?”

They go to the lavatory, where Harriet uses the loo and Taylor washes off what turns out to be black dry-erase marker. She sneers a little more about lack of intelligence when it comes to decimating people, and how her attackers really needed a good lesson in how to annihilate the enemy. They sit up for an hour or two coloring in the lines of the flag, and then Taylor hangs it above the bed of one of the girls who attacked her as she drives knives in through the covers, trapping her in and sending home a very effective message of what happens when you mess with Taylor Pearce.

“You get Pearced,” Taylor snarls, holding up a knife.

Yes, Harriet thinks, handing her a new knife as she stabs that one between the girl’s feet. I think she made the connection.

While walking back to Harriet’s dorm, Taylor looks at her and raises an eyebrow.

“Najwa, then, eh?”

“Yes, Najwa,” Harriet says calmly. This is a fairly routine interrogation by now. Most people have learned, after Anoushka got through with Bunny and Jerrica and Lois, the girls that pushed her down the stairs, that messing with Harriet was not a good idea. And that was before Najwa issued a general threat. Which, she explained, she wouldn’t actually act on, but if people were going to treat her like a scary Muslim, then dammit, she was going to act like one, if it kept the people she loved safe.

“She seems like the all right sort. Keeps her own safe, when she can. When she isn’t busy turning black and blue herself,” Taylor says, wincing a little.

Harriet doesn’t cry about it anymore. She doesn’t think there are any more tears left. “It’s a crime, what they do to her.”

“It’s a bad time to be Muslim,” Taylor agrees.

“And it’s never a good time to be Pakistani,” Harriet says back bitterly.

Neither wonders out loud if there’s a good time to be Black in Britain.

******
When Harriet returns to her dorm from the library, Taylor is sprawled across her bed, rummaging around in her things. Harriet rolls her eyes and clears her throat loudly as she approaches. Taylor shoots upright, but relaxes when she sees it’s only Harriet. Once upon a time, Harriet thinks, Taylor would have at least asked before digging through her stuff. Or looked guilty afterwards. Now it doesn’t even seem to matter to her.

Harriet looks around on instinct. Andrea is hovering a few feet away, watching them both with wide eyes. She wonders if Andrea will ever calm down and understand that Taylor isn’t going anywhere, that Taylor-and-Andrea is pretty much For Good.

Probably not, she thinks. If Harriet found the real thing, she thinks she’d handcuff herself to it and never let it out of her sight.

“Can I help you?” she says dryly, putting her files from the library on the bookshelf beside her bed. Taylor looks at her and beams.

“Polly told us you’re the new leader of the Geeks.”

“With Lucy.”

“Of course. But that after next year, you’ll be the sole leader of the Geeks.”

Harriet sighs. “Yes.”

Taylor rolls over onto her stomach and kicks her legs into the air, her grin growing wider. It’s a little scary. A bit like watching a tiger smile. “I’m sad that I’ll be missing the party.”

“It won’t be a party, Taylor,” she says sharply. “It will be hard work, and I doubt that it will be a lot of fun.”

Taylor shrugs and raises a fist in the air. “All the same, viva la revoluçion! Call me when you have speeches and the lot; I’ll bring the hors d’oeuvres.”

She pronounces it “whores derves,” precisely, and Harriet knows that she’s doing it just to annoy her. She reaches over to smack Taylor, but Taylor catches her wrist and drags her onto the bed with a laugh. Harriet shrieks something about Andrea watching, but their usual tackle-and-tickle fight winds up turning into a tight hug. “Seriously, Harriet,” Taylor says in her ear. “Call me if you need something. Graduated doesn’t mean dead. I’ll be in London with Spiderella over there.”

Taylor lets her go after pressing a wet kiss to her cheek, and Harriet can hear Andrea’s squawk of displeasure despite her distance. Taylor winks over at Andrea, ruffles Harriet’s neat buns, and then walks away, wrapping an arm around Andrea and whispering something in her ear that makes her blush underneath her makeup. Harriet doesn’t want to know.

When Taylor’s hand slithers down to grab Andrea’s arse, Harriet becomes very invested in a book. Any book. Whatever book is within reach. Some things she doesn’t need to see.

******
Harriet comes back for her second year at St. Trinian’s refreshed, excited, and ready to go. She managed to avoid most of the fights over the summer, mostly by being in her room, working on her independent project. Her parents were a little concerned that she wasn’t getting enough sun, but they were also pleased to see that she cared so much about her schoolwork, and that she wasn’t coming home with bloody teeth, so they let it go.

She walks through the dormitory and over to her customary bed, only to find it’s been reassigned. She freezes for a long moment, thinking she’s been sent back to be among the First Years, or worse, been de-Cliqued, but she finds her new bed a moment later. It is next to Najwa’s. And next to her bed is Polly’s. Something warm fills Harriet, and when she hears familiar footsteps, she turns to thank Najwa for this gift, but the warmth is chased away as soon as she sees Najwa, Polly trailing behind her.

Najwa is covered in eggs.

“The First Years were lying in wait,” Polly whispers. “The eggshells all had ‘Muslim Slag’ written on them.”

Najwa ignores them both and calmly takes out clean clothes and takes herself to the loo. As soon as she is gone, Polly begins pulling out candles, and Harriet picks the lock to Najwa’s trunk and pulls out her prayer rug, her tape deck, and her cassettes of recitation. Polly is murmuring her own prayers, and Harriet can only catch every third word or so; though she began taking lessons from Polly last year, Hebrew is still harder for her than Arabic.

Najwa comes back, dressed in a black abaya but not wearing her head scarf, socks, or shoes. She rewraps her hijab while they watch. Downstairs somewhere the welcome dinner is probably starting, but Harriet doesn’t particularly care about it, and apparently, Polly doesn’t either.

“How do you do it?” Polly suddenly blurts, her voice angry despite her outward calm. “How do you do this every single day, knowing that someone you know might hurt you?”

Najwa laughs. It sounds a bit frail to Harriet’s ear, but she may be imagining things. “Not well,” she confesses, smiling slightly. “But I try to remember the women who came before me, who went through this exact same thing and survived. This is fairly commonplace for Shi’ite women.”

“We have our women, too,” Polly says quietly.

“Perhaps one day you’ll tell me. And besides, what else am I going to do? Crawl into a hole and die? Forget that,” Najwa declares, and brushes her hand across her copy of the Qur’an, which Harriet had put upon her bed.

“Could we recite, Najwa? I think I’ve forgotten some,” Harriet says timidly, not sure if this is the right moment. But Najwa grins.

“My defiant one, how I’ve missed you. Yes, let’s recite. Let’s show those bastards some defiance and recite the Qur’an right now. Let’s bless the hell out of them.”

So they do.

******
Harriet stares at Polly’s desk in sheer helplessness. The amount of information collected could take years to sort through. There is a brief moment when she wishes she were Hi-Tech so she could just shove it all into a computer and let it tell her the end result. But then she wouldn’t be able to remember. Then she wouldn’t know their faces.

Her project, when it began with Najwa, was meant to show how there was a genealogy of racism that permeated St. Trinian’s. That girls had been ostracized for being the wrong color from the very beginning, and that nothing had changed much. That was all. It wasn’t so much about patterns as it was about people. It was just a long list of people, showing what Clique they were in (if they were in a Clique at all, instead of servants at the school, when the school had servants), their race, and excerpts from whatever records Harriet had found. It had showed that Gwen, a servant in 1879, was bullied just as much as Tamina in 1999, and that what they had in common was that they were both Black.

But it isn’t just a list of names anymore, she thinks. Oh, Harriet knows the names are important. And it’s still genealogies. But it’s more than that. She thinks she can see now how one person’s actions in 1801 have affected how St. Trinian’s operates in 2008. When she flips through her archives, she thinks she sees how politics invaded and insidious attitudes pervaded. Harriet thinks she can see the silence. She thinks she can see now the outlines of people who were hurt and then forgotten. How, in many ways, they’re still at St. Trinian’s, haunting the halls, waiting to be recognized.

There are so many people lost, Harriet thinks. She presses a hand to her mouth.

Someone clears their throat, and Harriet turns around, swiping the tears from her eyes quickly. Kelly is lounging in the doorway.

“Mind if I come in?” Kelly says, and Harriet just waves at her.

“It might as well be your office, too. Whenever Polly is here, you’re sure to be beside her,” she mutters, distracted.

“Sometimes I’m in my office,” Kelly says.

“And when you are, Polly is with you. Laptops move, after all, and Polly has legs.”

Kelly laughs, and Harriet turns back to her stacks of paper, sorting through them. She needs to focus far more carefully than other Geeks would. While Harriet does see patterns and statistics, and enjoys them, she’s actually far more brilliant in music theory and composition, and that’s her area of Geekery. Patterns like these are actually Polly’s bulwark. Or Lucy’s, in a way, though Lucy certainly prefers to stay within the financial realm.

It doesn’t take long before Harriet makes a connection not linked to the genealogies. She turns around and looks at Kelly.

“Where’s Polly, then?”

“Working on breaking up the First Year riot.”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“We’ve always worked together at this Head Girl thing. Annabelle’s helping her. Poor kid looks terrified. Besides,” Kelly says, shrugging, “I thought you might like some help.”

Harriet sets down her pencil and looks at Kelly skeptically. “You aren’t one of the allies Polly is sending.”

Kelly shakes her head and smiles. “No, graduating. But I am Head Girl.”

“So?”

“Everything that goes on in this school is my business. I happen to care about your project.”

Harriet can’t help herself. She lets out a derisive snort and goes back to working, ignoring Kelly’s frown in favor of the people on the page. She doesn’t know what to do with all of them, she thinks. She doesn’t know how to lead a revolution. She doesn’t even know what the revolution would be.

“You think I don’t care,” Kelly says flatly, and Harriet sighs.

“If you care, it’s only because of Polly.”

“Is that a bad reason? She’s my best friend. All of this has hurt her, too.”

Harriet nearly starts to argue, but stops herself. Because Kelly is right, and Harriet, despite the research she did, always has to remind herself of things like this. She’s never been able to stop that impulse. She’s gotten much better, of course, but not perfect.

She’s not perfect either, she knows, when it comes to dealing with oppression.

“As it happens,” Kelly continues, “Polly isn’t my only reason. Being Head Girl has put me in the position of seeing a lot of nasty things this year. I’d rather not have it continue.”

Harriet stares at her for a moment, and then turns a bunch of the files toward Kelly, figuring it can’t hurt to get a fresh perspective. “These women, it’s like they haunt the school,” she explains, tapping her fingers over their pictures. “What happened to them, what they experienced- even though they’re gone now, though it’s over, it’s almost as if they’re here, lurking in the corners. And their stories keep repeating through the years. What happened to one girl in the early 1800s has a direct impact on what’s happening now, and none of us are talking about it,” Harriet says. “None of us are talking about anything at all. We just say we’re a happy family, and ignore anything that suggests otherwise.”

Kelly flips through the files, her bright red nails a splash of color against the black and white, and then looks up. “Is talking part of the cure, then?”

“I don’t know,” Harriet groans, rubbing her hands over her face. “How do you solve hundreds of years of oppression at St. Trinian’s?”

“And not just St. Trinian’s,” Kelly muses thoughtfully. “This extends beyond our walls.”

Harriet looks at Kelly, who frowns and runs a hand through her hair. “I don’t know what to do, Kelly,” Harriet admits. Kelly nods sharply.

“Well, let’s get started.”

******
Harriet is doing real homework for once, settled on her bed, when Najwa bursts into the dormitory carrying someone. A fairly small someone, by the looks of things. The dormitory is immediately in a buzz, but a glare from Najwa and a snarl from Harriet keeps them at bay long enough for Najwa to deposit whoever she has in her arms to her bed.

It’s Bianca.

“No, no, no,” Harriet moans and rushes forward, but Najwa holds her off, just like Harriet has held everyone else off, and she fights her, but Najwa is stronger, has always been stronger.

“No one hurt her, Harriet. She tripped over her own feet and fell into a wall,” Najwa reassures her, pulling out her first aid kit and dabbing at the small cut at Bianca’s hairline.

“Are you sure she just tripped?” Harriet asks bitterly, thinking about her St. Trinian’s medical file that lists three cracked ribs and a broken ankle after her own “trip” down the stairs.

“I was right there, Harriet. I watched,” Najwa says. She places some plasters on Bianca’s head, frowns for a moment, looks at Harriet, and says, “Well, I can’t have some idiotic second former cluttering up my bed. She’ll just have to stay with you, then.”

She drops Bianca unceremoniously on Harriet’s bed, gives Harriet a kiss on the head, and strolls right back out of the dormitories, giving Elizabeth, the new head of the Ecos, a challenging look. And because it’s Najwa, Elizabeth backs down. With fondness, Harriet watches Najwa leave, and returns her gaze to Bianca.

She hasn’t changed much, over the summer hols. A bit skinnier, a bit taller. She’s wearing her hair in little locks now, which Harriet thinks are nice. She wonders if Bianca or her mum thought they would be cool to try. Harriet has always wanted to do locks, but her own family has Thoughts on them, and there aren’t many people at St. Trinian’s to help her learn. Maybe, she thinks abstractly, when I graduate.

“Cor, girlie, you look like I died. Did I die?” Bianca croaks at her, and Harriet brightens.

“You’re awake!” she exclaims.

“Of course I’m awake, you silly wanker, how could I sleep with you worrying away above me?” Bianca says, sitting up.

“I was actually admiring your locks,” Harriet confesses, touching her own hair, which she long ago took out of the box braids and now keeps in two frizzy buns. Her mother has begged her to use a flat-iron on her hair, but Harriet just can’t be bothered. Bianca mimics her, grabbing her locks and grinning.

“Wicked, right? My momma was talkin’ bout some great aunt of ours or some such, and we started going through some family albums, and so this great aunt, her name is Whisper, right? Weird name, I think, but momma tells me that it wasn’t so much her birth name as the name that everyone called her, and she’s got this head full of crazy, wild locks. And momma starts telling me about her, and it turns out she’s this wicked activist, and the Tories hated her, she went to jail loads of times but she kept getting out, and she was pretty much a legend where we’re from,” Bianca tells her, excited and hushed at the same time. Harriet grins.

“That’s wicked awesome.”

“Yeah, right? So then I tell momma, I’m gonna be just like Whisper when I’m older, and my momma laughs and says they’d be calling me Shouty, not Whisper, but then teaches me how to lock my hair,” Bianca concludes. Harriet laughs and hugs her hard.

“Teach me, one day,” she murmurs.

“Swear down, mate,” Bianca says with certainty.

They spend the rest of the day in Harriet’s bed, catching up about the summer. Bianca thinks she’ll join the Chavs at the end of the year, no matter how much she hates that name. Harriet asks if she knows Taylor, and Bianca promises to talk to her. In the evening, Najwa returns and brings two plates of food, handing them over and looking carefully at Bianca, who glares at Najwa. Harriet remembers that they met under less than pleasant circumstances last time, and touches Bianca’s wrist, not that it cools her down any.

“You need better shoes,” Najwa says suddenly. “It’s why you tripped.”

“Well, good for you,” Bianca sneers. “I do love when the posh ones sneer down at the working class, makes me all warm and glowy inside.”

Harriet can’t help but snort; Najwa just raises an eyebrow.

“If you think an immigrant from Pakistan is posh, I would invite you to visit Newham and my flat. Here,” she says, and drops a pair of trainers on the bed next to Bianca. “Your size and style, I think.” Then she is gone again, out the door and down the hall before either of them can say anything.

Harriet picks up her plate and pushes a fork through her mashed potatoes. Bianca looks over at her, scowling.

“I ain’t some charity case,” Bianca snaps.

“No,” Harriet agrees idly.

“She can’t just buy a girl shoes like that.”

Harriet gives her a bland look. “She didn’t buy them, Bianca. Ten to one odds that she stole them. Or stole the money to buy them.”

“Oh,” Bianca says. She looks at her shoes. They’re scruffed up, and there are holes in the toes and the soles. Then she looks at the new ones next to her. They’re nice, Harriet thinks. She doesn’t know much about trainers, but she’s fairly sure this type is popular. “Well then. That’s different, I guess.”

“Eat your potatoes while they’re still warm.”

******
“Girl, do you know what time it is?” Bianca asks, and Harriet looks up from her stack of papers in surprise. She’s been working in Polly’s office for ages; Kelly left for supper with Polly hours ago, promising to come back tomorrow. Harriet hadn’t bothered with food. She doesn’t like to eat when she works. It distracts her.

“Nearly midnight, I think,” Harriet mumbles, going back to her work. It’s sweet that Bianca has come to get her, but she won’t leave. She knows she sees something in these girls, something important, but she can’t figure out what it is. She won’t leave until she finds it.

“Try again, Harriet. It’s three in the morning. Bedtime for good Geeks everywhere,” Bianca says, coming around the desk and grabbing her elbow.

Harriet shakes her off irritably. “Now is not the time, Bianca.”

“Now’s a great time. You have class in the morning.”

“I’m not going.”

“Miss Cleaver won’t take kindly to that,” Bianca warns.

“Let her flunk me,” Harriet snaps, flipping open a new file. “This is more important.”

To her surprise, the files slam close in front of her and disappear. Harriet blinks, and then squints up at Bianca, who is scowling and holding her entire stack of folders in her arms. “Harriet. You can’t lead a revolution if you fail out of school.”

“It’s only two computer clicks away to fix my grade,” Harriet protests, standing up to get her folders back from Bianca. Her knees wobble underneath her and she grabs the table for support. Bianca snorts at her.

“First of all, you’re Lo-Tech. I know what that means. Second, I saw what happened there. You need sleep, Harriet. Come to bed.”

Harriet looks at Bianca, then back at the desk, and then back up at Bianca. Her eyes well up with tears and she finds herself sobbing before she can think about why. She doesn’t even get out a full sob before Bianca is in front of her, wrapping her arms around her shoulders and pulling her close. Harriet responds immediately, putting her arms around Bianca’s waist and holding on for dear life as she shakes with agony she didn’t even realize she had.

“Why does this happen, Bianca?” she sobs. “I keep reading these files about these girls, and I find their diaries in the library, and they had such a shitty time here, and yet sometimes it was wonderful, and how come everything is so lovely and so awful?”

Bianca sighs into her hair and Harriet can feel the pressure from her lips on the top of her head. “I don’t know, Harriet,” she says softly. “I really don’t.”

“Do you think we’ll look back at St. Trinian’s with fondness?” she asks, which just makes her cry harder. St. Trinian’s is her home, more a home than her actual home, but it’s the dreadful home she loves and hates simultaneously. She doesn’t want to hate it, but right now, she can’t imagine ever thinking about St. Trinian’s without a mixture of fondness and bitterness in her heart.

Bianca takes a long time to answer. “Moments of it,” she says finally. “And you. I’ll always have you.”

She ends up sleeping with Bianca that night, too upset to sleep alone, and too frightened of potential nightmares to willingly consider sleep. Bianca pillows Harriet’s head on her shoulder and strokes her hair until she drifts off, murmuring gentle things into her ears, and while Harriet doesn’t know what she says, it works, because she falls asleep and dreams of nothingness all night long.

******
Harriet spends most of her second year going to Arabic and Hebrew lessons with Najwa and Polly, and working on her genealogy project, which she’s pinned to the walls of Najwa’s office. Najwa displays it for all to see when people come to see her, and she tells Harriet with amusement that many people have seen it, and while most have ignored it, a few have commented.

“Good comments?” Harriet asks hopefully.

“Miss Fritton was impressed by your very thorough research,” is all Najwa will deign to say, and Harriet just sighs.

For the most part, this year has been better. Mostly verbal attacks, which Harriet has long since learned to ignore, and while Najwa occasionally returns to the dorms with new bruises, it’s nothing like glass or black eyes or blood. Polly stares grimly, but says nothing every time. Harriet always asks who it was this time, but Najwa has stopped telling her.

“In the end, the faces and the names, they all run together. In five years, these petty squabbles will mean nothing,” Najwa says. “Now recite with me. You look upset.”

Harriet has gotten used to casual bullying, casual racism, casual classism. She sits with Bianca a few times a week and they complain about it. She enjoys her time with Bianca, and Bianca seems to enjoy spending time with her. They take walks around the school when it isn’t too cold out, avoiding First Years and attacks from other students with the ease of St. Trinian’s girls much older than themselves. They sit and listen to various music albums, lounging and singing along. Harriet discovers she has perfect pitch, so they have to start picking their music more carefully. They toss around the idea of forming a band, but Bianca admits that she prefers the idea of breaking out on her own than being part of a group, and Harriet likes the idea of playing a musical instrument over singing but doesn’t know how to play one. The idea dies quickly.

Anoushka starts hanging around her, following her in the hallways, an obvious bodyguard. Harriet laughs and asks if she’d like to have a cuppa, which seems to cement their fragile friendship all at once. Anoushka doesn’t have many friends, and she’s eager to have the chance to really talk to someone.

“It is hard, yes, because my English is bad, and so they think, stupid Russian girl, can’t even speak right,” Anoushka tells her, haughtily tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “I will show them, though.” Harriet can appreciate the sentiment.

They end up sitting together at meals, whenever Harriet isn’t with Najwa, whom Anoushka seems wary of. Bianca likes her, too, which helps. Occasionally Taylor wanders over and sits with them as well, and the four of them will gossip and rant and talk about whatever comes to mind.

And so it goes. It’s all going smashingly until shortly after winter hols. Harriet is in the dorm with Polly, and Polly is showing her some computer models of the stock market so that Harriet can start predicting the stock market from an end of the day print out or the newspaper, when she hears someone scream.

Several someone’s, actually. And not the good kind of scream, either, the one that means that someone managed to actually undo all the locks on the contraband box.

A moment later, Bianca slams open the door, locks eyes with Harriet and Polly, and starts shouting, “Out! OUT! Everyone out except Harriet and Polly. This room has just been co-opted for a medical emergency. Sorry for the inconvenience, but grab a bag and hole up in another dorm for the night, ladies.”

The other girls leave quickly enough, and Bianca looks at Harriet and Polly, who are frozen to their spots.

“It’s Najwa,” she says simply. “It’s bad. Anoushka, Catzie, and some other Posh-Totty, Peaches I think, are bringing her in. I’m going to break into the infirmary. I don’t think Najwa has got anything in her kit for this.”

Bianca leaves, and Harriet and Polly scramble. They know this routine well. They get the prayer rug, the Qur’an, the tape deck and the cassettes. They clear off Najwa’s bed, which is covered in books on Punjabi and Farsi and Sunni Islam. Harriet grabs Najwa’s first aid kit, despite what Bianca said. It has helped them before.

Then Anoushka and Catzie help Najwa through the door, and Harriet realizes nothing will ever help again. Next to her, Polly sits down hard on the bed, like her legs gave out. Harriet’s can’t, though, because she has to be there for Najwa, has to make it better.

Nothing will make this better.

Her hijab is gone, that Harriet expected. People always go for the hijab first, attacking that which makes Najwa seem most strange, most foreign. But her abaya is torn as well, and Harriet can see cuts and gashes beneath the strips of fabric. They look, for the most part, superficial. Her face is a mess, though. Harriet thinks something might be broken. And her hands are so bloodied she has to wonder if there is any skin left.

Peaches- and it is Peaches, she would recognize her in a heartbeat- is singing softly in Arabic, and it takes Harriet a moment to realize what she’s saying, but she’s reciting the Qur’an. After a second, she joins her. Peaches looks at her, startled, but they sing together. Peaches’ voice is low, and Harriet’s is higher, but they sound good together. After a moment, Harriet starts to harmonize with Peaches, and they watch as Anoushka and Catzie lower Najwa to her bed. They walk away immediately, and Harriet rushes to her side.

Behind her, she hears Polly walk softly over to Anoushka and Catzie. “What happened?” she hears Polly ask.

“We were walking back from a club, and- we found her. I think you can figure out what happened,” Catzie says. Then her voice hardens. “Anoushka and I are already taking care of it. Peaches has superb connections.”

Najwa isn’t really looking at anyone. Polly walks back over and sits on the edge of her bed. She swallows, looks at Harriet, and when Harriet nods, begins talking. “I know you don’t want to talk, Najwa, but before we can do anything else, I need to know: are you reporting this? Because you should.”

Najwa takes a long deep breath, and then smiles bleakly at Polly, her eyes finally focusing. “And who would ever believe a Paki slag?”

There is silence for a long moment, underneath Peaches and Harriet, and then Polly takes a deep breath, and tries again. “Are you sure?”

“It’s not the first time, and I doubt it will be the last. I’m going to take a shower.”

It’s sickening to hear the words, and Harriet falters in her recitation. Peaches reaches across the bed to steady her, and draws the words to a close for her, making her mistake seem like a natural conclusion. Najwa stands up carefully, wincing, and pulls out fresh clothes, disappearing out of the dorm and down the hall.

Harriet sighs and runs a hand over her face, looking up at the other girls in the room. “We’re too young for this,” she says bleakly.

“We’re St. Trinian’s girls,” Anoushka says with a sigh. “No one cares how old we are.”

“The blokes were drunk,” Catzie says. “That’s- I don’t think it would have happened if- they were very drunk.”

Anoushka looks at Catzie and purses her lips, looking far more sullen than usual. “Is not an excuse.”

“No,” Catzie breathes out slowly, tilting her head back and letting it thud against the wall. “No, it isn’t.”

Bianca returns, carrying a basin of warm water and a bag full of things she nicked from the infirmary. She hands it to Harriet, and she sets it to the side. “What are we going to do?” she asks, looking at the water and then over at the doorway. Polly looks up at her from the bed, composed and resolved, though pale.

“What we can. Wrap her up, listen to her, and hope we’re enough.”

The five of them sit in silence, absorbed in their own thoughts, until Najwa walks back into the room, wearing a clean black skirt and black shirt, instead of her usual abaya. She looks better now that she isn’t covered in blood, but Harriet doesn’t want to imagine what happened to her outside the club. Harriet grabs the first aid kit.

“Are you ready?” she asks, and Najwa frowns.

“You’re going to be here?”

Harriet gives her an odd look. She’s always helped patch Najwa up after she’s been attacked. There’s never been a problem before. “Of course,” she says. “I always am.”

“I’m going to help as well,” Polly says.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to see this through,” Peaches adds, and Najwa looks at her, eyes narrow.

Sensing the tension in the room, Anoushka and Catzie excuse themselves, brushing kisses to Najwa’s hair as they go, promising that with the phone numbers Peaches gave them, they’ll find the men. Najwa goes blank for a moment, but after they leave, she returns to glaring at Harriet, Polly, and Peaches.

“You don’t need to stay,” she says stiffly, and Harriet just shakes her head.

“And you don’t need to be alone right now.”

Najwa sighs, then winces, touching her obviously broken nose gently. “Fine,” she says. “Let’s get this over with.”

Najwa rolls up her sleeves and slides up her skirt, revealing gashes that Harriet hadn’t seen before. She’s avoiding everyone’s eyes again, instead staring at her hands, which are so torn up that Harriet doesn’t understand how she isn’t crying. It looks like she’s missing four fingernails. Harriet gently takes her hands in hers, pulls out some white bandages, and begins wrapping as carefully as possible.

Najwa drifts off, staring vacantly into space, but Peaches brings her back by talking for a while about Aminah, the mother of the Prophet. Which, of course, gets Bianca started.

“Cor, the woman sounds wicked! Too bad you don’t know much about her. She sounds like my great-grandmother, a bit.”

Najwa looks up with interest. “Tell us about her,” she says, and Bianca shakes her head, locks falling down across her face.

“Naw, I couldn’t. Aminah is the mother of a prophet. She’s all sacred, and my great-grandmother, she’s just, she’s just my family.”

Najwa grabs Bianca’s arm all of a sudden, and Harriet thinks it must hurt, with her hands all to pieces. But her face is tight and angry, so viciously angry, and for the first time in two years, Harriet is scared of Najwa.

“All women are sacred,” Najwa says angrily. “We speak prophetic words every day, Bianca. Your great-grandmother was a prophet, too.”

She lets go and withdraws once more, and Harriet returns to winding long white bandages up her arms, hiding away the marks of where the blade had sliced, if only briefly. Bianca is looking at Najwa oddly, and then she clears her throat.

“Right, so my momma’s grandmother, she’s this tough ol’ bird, right? Poor as a dormouse, and marries the first guy she falls in love with…”

They go on for most of the night, telling stories about the women who came before them, mostly religious women from Najwa and Polly, but Peaches shares about her family, like Bianca, tossing in the occasional Sunni woman that Najwa wouldn’t know. When they finish with the bandaging and the mending, Najwa is nearly a mummy, but she’ll survive. Harriet presses a tender kiss to Najwa’s palm, and Najwa stands to light some candles.

Crisis averted, Harriet thinks to herself, smiling at the others, even if it’s a weak smile.

But she’s wrong, because she sees Najwa catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror and the twisted, ugly look that passes over her face just before she grabs the candlestick and slams it into the mirror, repeatedly, glass flying everywhere.

“Najwa, no!” Harriet yells, jumping over the bed to reach her. Najwa swings around, waving the candlestick at Harriet.

“You don’t get to tell me no!” Najwa yells, and everyone backs off. “You don’t get to say that! Why is it that everyone else can say no, and it means something, but when I do, nothing happens? Do I say it wrong? Is my accent too thick?”

She throws the candlestick across the room, forcing Bianca to duck. Harriet watches in horror as Najwa storms around the dormitory, ripping people’s beds apart, digging through their belongings desperately.

“It isn’t fair,” she shouts at them. “This isn’t fair. I am kind, I am gracious, I take the beatings and the abuse, and the bullying, and do little in return. I am not the scary Muslim girl that everyone fears, and yet it never ends! They just keep coming! It isn’t getting better, Harriet, it’s getting worse.”

Najwa finally stops in her tirade, and looks at her bandaged hands, then back at Harriet. The anger suddenly drains from her, and she crumbles. Bianca and Peaches are close enough to catch her, and Harriet flings herself so that she is right in front of Najwa, cradling her head in her hands. Najwa’s crying, tears pouring down, but her sobs are eerily silent.

“It never ends, Harriet,” Najwa says softly. “It never fucking ends.”

She sits there and cries for a while, Peaches and Bianca holding her up while Harriet just hugs her gently and lets her cry. Polly stands behind her, and Harriet knows she’s calm and blank, because that’s how Polly functions at times of crisis. It makes her a good operations manager, but a shitty friend sometimes. But then she hears a thin strain of Hebrew coming from Polly, and she smiles into Najwa’s neck. Polly’s Arabic is mostly bollocks, but she knows her Hebrew, and Najwa does love a good Hebrew prayer.

“Sim shalom tovah u-ve-racha,” Polly murmurs.

“Sam'i Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbana wa lakal hamd,” Harriet adds. She reaches out and grabs Polly’s hand, listening as Polly whispers her way through the entire peace prayer.

Eventually, Najwa calms, and Peaches carefully squeezes her shoulder. “Would you pray with me?” she asks.

“I can’t pray for peace and blessings right now,” Najwa warns.

“That’s all right,” Peaches says serenely. “You pray for vengeance. I’ll cover the peace and blessings.”

Harriet can’t sleep right away, and Polly goes to her own bed to pray in her own way. Bianca curls up on Harriet’s bed and falls asleep as two different prayers start at the same time. Harriet watches for a while, listening to the two prayers slam against each other, as though competing for dominance, the words sounding strange together, until after nearly an hour, she hears Najwa’s pattern change, and she hears tears as Najwa begins to pray for peace, blessings, and above all, a divine justice that only Allah can give.

After that, she can sleep.

******
When she wakes up in the morning, Bianca has her legs draped over her and is painting her nails, headphones wrapped around her head. Harriet groans and rolls over, trying to pretend that her outburst last night didn’t happen. Bianca kicks her in the side instead.

“Oh no, girlie. No running away.”

Harriet reaches down and scoops her glasses up off the floor and puts them on. Her skin feels disgusting. She hates sleeping in her clothes. “We’re really getting too old to sleep in the same bed, Bianca,” she says, tugging on the cord to Bianca’s headphones. Bianca grins at her.

“Tell that to your screaming abandonment issues.”

“Gloria says I have commitment issues,” Harriet points out.

“You never had a problem committing to me,” Bianca says, and leans down to press a sloppy kiss to her forehead. Harriet wrinkles her forehead.

“Gross.”

“You love it,” Bianca says, and kicks her again. “Now. Last night.”

“Let’s not,” Harriet says, and rolls over, burying her face into Bianca’s pillow. It smells nice, like the lotion Bianca uses for her skin. She needs to ask Bianca what she uses. Hers doesn’t smell as nice.

“You know, instead of shouldering all of this yourself, you really need to ask all your allies for help. That’s what we’re here for, innit? Contrary to the song, you are not a one girl revolution,” Bianca says. Harriet hears a rustling sound, and then Bianca slides her headphones over Harriet’s ears and she hears the song in question blaring in her ears. She cringes.

“Thank you, Bianca.”

“You’re welcome, Harriet.”

She sits up and pulls off the headphones, dropping them onto the sheets. Bianca blows on her nails and looks at Harriet, raising her eyebrows and smiling. Harriet can’t help but smile back. There’s a reason Bianca is her best friend. “You’ve been listening to that song on repeat, haven’t you, just waiting for me to wake up?”

“I made a playlist. ‘Songs for the Revolution’. I had a different speech planned for whichever song was playing when you finally entered the land of the living,” Bianca confesses.

Harriet laughs. “You’re incorrigible.”

“Don’t know what that means, but whatever. Consider that playlist my first contribution to the revolution, by the way.” Bianca pauses and tilts her head to the side, considering. “Well, my second. My first was keeping your head from exploding last night.”

Harriet raises her eyebrows. “You want in?”

Bianca scowls at her and hits her with the heel of her hand, careful not to smudge her nail polish. “Harriet. Not only does our revolution affect me personally; not only have we been talking about this for years; not only have I been working a miniature revolution in the Chavs- oh, I’m calling us Rude Girls now, by the way- for years now; you’re also my best mate. If you’re caught up in a revolution, you’d better believe I’m right there with you.”

“Oh,” Harriet says. She shifts awkwardly. “Well. That’s… nice.”

Bianca snorts. “Only you, Harriet. Only you would call loyalty to the death ‘nice’.”

Harriet reaches over and hugs her in lieu of anything else to say. Bianca hugs her back for a moment, and then shoves her away, looking around immediately to see if anyone saw them. Harriet can’t help but smile. Bianca is, in her opinion, inordinately concerned about her reputation as a tough girl.

“All right, my third order of business in the revolution is to tell you to get your head out of your arse,” Bianca says.

Harriet suddenly wishes for less loyalty.

“What?” she asks, baffled.

“You keep skulking around in the shadows, doing all your Geeky research stuff, planning for the revolution in Polly’s office all by your lonesome. But you have Artemis, Gloria, Saffy, Lucy, and me, ready to take on some oppression, break some barriers, and you’re wasting us. It’s not your revolution, Harriet. It’s ours, innit? Start acting like it,” Bianca sniffs.

Harriet stares at her. “Did you wake up early and prepare speeches?”

“Artemis was very irritated. I’m repeating what she said,” Bianca says. “She wanted me to wake you up at dawn. She woke me up instead.”

Harriet cringes. “She’s intense.”

Bianca gives her a flat look. “She reminds me of another girl I know.”

“I’ll go talk to her,” Harriet says, climbing out of bed. The dorm is fairly quiet. She looks around and frowns. “Where is everyone?”

Bianca snorts. “It’s two days before the end of classes. Not here, that’s where.”

She’d completely lost track of time. Harriet hurries over to her bed, changes into her uniform, cleans herself up, and then goes to find Artemis, trying to form a plan even as she walks.

Artemis is with Chelsea, actually, which is not where she expected to find her, but she suspects that she’s stupid for not considering it. Chelsea waves her into the Posh-Totties Ready Room cheerfully, and Harriet nods at her. She actually likes Chelsea a great deal, though they aren’t close. But she’s always liked the spirit of firm optimism that surrounds Chelsea.

“I was actually hoping to speak to Artemis alone for a few minutes, if that’s okay?” Harriet asks, looking at Artemis. Chelsea immediately looks at Artemis, who considers her for a moment, and then nods.

“Be back in a few, darling, and we can discuss tattoos,” Chelsea says happily, and wanders away. Harriet stares after her, and then sits next to Artemis.

“Tattoos?” she asks. Artemis grins.

“What do you know about Posh-Totty communication networks?” she asks. Harriet adjusts her glasses.

“Um, nothing?” she says, not knowing what this has to do with tattoos.

“Good. I take it you got my message?” Artemis says, pushing some of her hair behind her ear. Harriet smirks.

“To get my head out of my arse?”

“That was actually the clean version,” Artemis replies. “Bianca is too gentle with you.”

“Yes, well, best friends. Curse them.”

Artemis leans back in her chair. She’s dressed in full Posh-Totty regalia, which Harriet has never seen her in. Her skirt is so short that Harriet fears seeing her knickers if she moves wrong, and the white blouse that all First Years wear has been replaced for one with a plunging neckline. She’s wearing stockings with garters, and her makeup has been tastefully done. The only difference between her Posh-Totty outfit and the others seems to be that she’s wearing flats, not pumps.

“Is this your Posh-Totty look, then?” she asks, distracted despite herself. Artemis smiles.

“Chelsea and I are experimenting. This is a potential look. And while that technique would change the topic any other time, it’s not going to work today. If we’re going to fix the school, you need to let us help too.”

Harriet rubs her face quickly. “I’m sorry. And I’m sorry for not involving you and everyone else. I’m not used to confiding in others.”

Her eyes are closed, and so she starts when she feels Artemis’s hand on her arm. “I read in a book once,” Artemis says, “that a really great way to make sure revolutions fail is to make sure potential allies never speak to each other. Harriet, our revolution can’t fail. We have to speak to each other.”

Harriet stares at her. Then she slides her hand into Artemis’s. “I promise I won’t run off on my own anymore,” she says, and Artemis grins at her.

“You’d better not. Or I’ll find you and hit you with my crutches.”

Harriet stands to leave, not wanting to be around when Chelsea returns to talk about sticking needles under Artemis’s skin and injecting her with ink. Tattoos are interesting when they’re done, in her mind. The process is what disturbs her. She pauses, a thought occurring to her.

“You should visit me,” she says. Artemis pauses in her reach for a lipstick.

“Excuse me?”

Harriet grabs the lipstick from the vanity and hands it to Artemis absently, pursing her lips. “This summer. We should- anybody who can meet this summer should. We should try to meet this summer and work on it. Get some plans in place before the school year begins. If it’s feasible. Maybe find someplace in the middle of everyone. I don’t know yet,” Harriet babbles. Artemis touches her on the waist to get her to stop.

“It sounds like a start,” she says. “Give me your mobile number.”

“Don’t have one,” Harriet says. “But my parents have a phone.”

******
The day that Najwa blows up the Prime Minister’s car is the day that Harriet knows for sure that Najwa is not fine. No one is hurt, of course, and Najwa had even removed all of the Prime Minister’s objects from the car first before driving it out into the middle of the field and destroying it, but still. Miss Fritton was amused, and didn’t seem to mind the Prime Minister threatening to shut down the school (“they always threaten but they never will,” she said loftily, patting Najwa on the shoulder with pride), but Harriet stared at the destruction with worry.

“She’s never built bombs before. She doesn’t like them,” she tells Polly.

“I know,” Polly says grimly. Then Lila and AJ walk in, and Harriet just stares.

She knows who they are, of course, because she’d be foolish if she didn’t know Najwa’s two best friends. But they’ve never spoken before, and neither Lila nor AJ have ever just walked into their dormitory like this. And they’ve never looked like they were specifically looking for Harriet and Polly. Polly squeaks and shuts her laptop, and Harriet resists the urge to thrust her abacus under her blanket when AJ and Lila walk toward them.

“Okay, which one is Harriet and which one is Polly?” asks AJ, and Polly raises her hand slowly.

“I’m Polly,” Polly says, and Harriet nods at them both. She lets them fill in the blanks about who she is.

“Right then, let’s get to this. Najwa’s a bloody mess, and we ain’t gettin’ through to her, could you lot take a stab at it, then?” Lila says.

“I’m twelve and Polly’s fourteen,” Harriet says, putting stress on their ages. “You’re both seventeen or eighteen. Don’t you think you’re more qualified to handle Najwa’s emotional distress? You’re her friends; we’re her protégées.”

AJ sighs. “You discount yourselves,” she says airily. “Najwa defines herself by you.”

“She thinks you’re the gold standard for the future. The people who are going to save the world. Don’t much see what needs saving, myself, but I’m just some dumb Chav,” Lila says, her words unusually bitter. Harriet frowns.

“Did Najwa say that to you?”

“That’s what we mean,” AJ says. “She’s off balance. She can’t find her center anymore. Najwa believes in the power of all the Cliques, in the fact that we are maligned, marginalized people in mainstream society. She would never call a Chav dumb, because that is part of the unfortunate stereotype designed to keep them oppressed.”

Polly blinks. “Are you sure you’re an Emo, and not some strange mix of an Eco and Najwa?”

“Do you know where she is now?” Harriet interjects, ignoring Polly.

“Her office,” Lila says. “I may have punched her. Just a little, though. I don’t think she’s used to being punched just for being a bad friend. Swear, though, it wasn’t ‘cause she’s Muslim or Pakistani. Just ain’t right being called a dumb Chav when I gots better grades than she’s got.”

Harriet waves Polly off, and heads down to the office. She can see people playing outside. It’s a nice day. Normally, she would go out and study or work on her genealogies, but ever since that night, she’s pretty much figured the genealogies are fairly pointless. She doesn’t want to dig through those records again.

When she opens Najwa’s door, she isn’t particularly surprised to see Najwa’s hands roaming restlessly over her Qur’an, eyes a bit wild. Her window is open, which is odd. She prefers it closed.

“I thought you had the Qur’an memorized,” Harriet says, sitting down. Najwa looks up, hums, and looks back down.

“I do,” she says. “But sometimes you go looking for an answer that you can’t just find in your mind.”

“What’s the question?”

“Don’t know that either, I’m afraid,” Najwa says with a sigh, and then closes her Qur’an with a huff, kissing it. Then she looks at Harriet and drops her chin on her hand. “My defiant one, why are you here when I so clearly want to be left alone?”

Harriet grimaces, and glances at the door to make sure she locked it. She did. “Because Lila and AJ just sought Polly and I out and asked us to make you feel better. Which is odd, you have to admit.”

Najwa groans and rubs her eyes. “Yes, I know I owe them an apology. Especially Lila.”

“No bruises where she hit you?”

“She wasn’t trying all that hard. I think she knows better than to hit me, of all people.”

“Why did you bomb the car, Najwa?”

“I’m fine, Harriet,” Najwa says, and begins shuffling through the papers on her desk.

Harriet frowns. “That isn’t what I asked, Najwa.”

“I would think it rather obvious that I don’t want to talk about this,” snaps Najwa, pulling a random pile of papers from her desk and scanning them.

“That’s why I’m your defiant one,” Harriet replies, smiling slightly. When Najwa doesn’t look up from her papers, she continues. “So why did you bomb his car? Exactly?”

Najwa puts down the papers and closes her eyes. “I was angry.”

They sit quietly for a long time. The sun sets before Harriet finally finds something else beyond Najwa’s voice in her head.

“You’re not fine, Najwa.”

“I know,” she says.

******
Gloria and Saffy are quick to agree to meeting during the summer. Gloria, of course, used to visit her from time to time and has no problem with returning to the habit. And Saffy insists that she loves visiting people during the summer and, while she and Bella are neighbors, it does get dull only seeing the same person every day.

“Plus, I really want to work on this. I was beginning to think you’d decided you didn’t want me to help after all,” Saffy says, her eyes wide as she stares at Harriet. Harriet winces.

“No, that wasn’t it at all, Saffy.”

“I know I’m not very smart,” Saffy continues, “but I really want to try.”

Harriet cuts her off. “You’re very smart, Saffy. I was just being silly.”

Saffy smiles gently at her. “I know that most Geeks think that Posh-Totties are brainless slappers, Harriet. It’s all right if you don’t want my help.”

Harriet sometimes hates the Clique system. She really does. “Saffy. I can’t do this without you,” she says honestly. “And I don’t want to.”

Saffy squeals and gives her a tight hug. “Thank you! I won’t let us down!”

That just leaves Lucy.

She finds Lucy immediately, because a Geek, Hi-Tech or Lo-Tech, Chrome or Sand, it doesn’t matter which, can usually figure out where another Geek is hiding. And Lucy isn’t even hiding. She’s in the Chem lab, making her usual batch of farewell biscuits, this time with personal notes to each Geek. Harriet feels a bit bad. She’s really rubbish at this whole leader thing.

Lucy smiles at her. “I left room for you to sign. I’m not a despot or a tyrant, no matter what the Ecos might say about our leadership process. Pull up a chair and start signing.”

Harriet grins back gratefully and starts writing her name on all of the notes. They’re cute little things, anecdotes about each girl, things that Harriet knows, of course, because Harriet knows almost everyone in the school. She never got out of the habit of talking to people after Najwa left. Watch, gather, ask. It left her and Polly as two of the best socialized Geeks around.

“Do you think we’ll get many Geeks next year, when the First Years make decisions?” Lucy asks her. Harriet frowns, thinking about the second form First Years who will be thirteen and ready to decide. While Artemis might be already donning the garb of a Posh-Totty, most of the others will not be officially selecting their Clique until the very beginning of the school year.

“Misty, I think. The Ecos have been leaning on her pretty hard, but I heard her tell them that her name does not automatically make her a tree hugger. Daisy was pretty put off by that,” Harriet admits with a laugh. Lucy chuckles as she bags a few more biscuits. “Danielle. Gayle, I think, though she might wind up choosing Emo in the end. Rebekah, Tracy, Grace, Sarah, Samira, and-”

She hesitates. Lucy fills it in for her. “And Sheema.”

Harriet has kept on eye on Sheema since she entered St. Trinian’s. She is not Najwa, who was older and harder, and Pakistani and a Shi’ite, but she is still a Muslim girl. And things have calmed down since 2003 and 2004. She and Anoushka have been watching Sheema very closely, and Harriet has spent a lot of time with her, and people seem to have realized that terrorizing a girl because of her religious identity is perhaps not the wisest idea, but still. The lines blur, and all Harriet remembers when she looks at Sheema is a different Muslim woman with blood on her face and tears in her eyes, praying simultaneously for vengeance and blessings.

“Is it going to be a problem?” Lucy asks calmly, tapping the unsigned card in front of Harriet.

“No, of course not,” Harriet says, picking up her pen and signing. She doesn’t even know to whom it’s going.

“We weren’t friends, when Najwa was the Geek leader,” Lucy says conversationally, “but everyone could see how close you were. I know there was a lot that happened to Najwa that none of us ever saw. I’m only asking because sometimes, it can be too much.”

Harriet sighs. It was too much. Far too much, and the reason she eventually stopped with her genealogies. But just because something is hard doesn’t make it not worth doing. “If Sheema chooses to join our Clique, I will welcome her with open arms,” Harriet says softly. Lucy nods, but Harriet continues, her voice hard with anger she thought she had forgotten. “And if anyone hurts her, I will rip their throat out with my fucking teeth.”

They sit in silence for a long while, which Harriet supposes is all they can really do after a statement such as hers. Then, when she has finished signing cards and has helped Lucy seal up all the biscuits, she asks Lucy for her address and mobile number.

“We’re going to try to get some of the work done this summer. Get some plans in place. I’ve been told,” she says dryly, “that I need to get my head out of my arse and remember that we’re all allies.”

Lucy giggles. “Absolutely. Here.” She scribbles down her information quickly and hands it to Harriet.

Harriet looks at the information in her hands, and then looks back at Lucy. “Until later, then,” she says, feeling a bit adrift. Lucy catches her in a tight hug, and she walks back to her dorm alone, the hum of St. Trinian’s filling her head.

******
In the last week of Harriet’s second year, and Najwa’s last year, Najwa names her replacement as Geek leader. She talks to Polly and Harriet well in advance, and while she considers what Harriet and Polly want in a leader, she still selects Tamsin, a mild brunette who has never pushed a single boundary in her life. She’s intelligent and definitely a devoted Geek, but she doesn’t stand out at all. She won’t add anything to what it means to be a Geek.

“Why Tamsin?” Harriet asks, when they’re finally alone. Najwa runs her tongue over the new cut in her lip. Apparently there are a few people who want to get their last kicks in before Najwa is gone, but it’s so mild that Najwa doesn’t bother to mention it anymore.

“My defiant one,” she says fondly, sliding another thick book into a box. “I tell people not to ask me, and you ask anyway.”

“You’ve never said no to me,” Harriet points out. Najwa snorts.

“The only time I said no where you respected my wishes was about files of current students. I’m glad to see that still holds. So. Tamsin. You can’t figure out why yourself?” She grins at Harriet. “Polly has already told me why I chose Tamsin.”

“Polly could look at a pile of paper and see fifty patterns that no one else could ever find unless they were a supercomputer. She’s weird. Watch, gather, and ask. I’m asking.”

Najwa smiles softly to herself, and picks another book from her shelf to put in the box. She’s being oddly selective. Whenever Harriet carts her books back and forth, she just fits as many as she can in a box and goes. Except for her Qur’an, which travels separately. “I selected Tamsin because people are tired of two years of me. They need a break.”

Harriet frowns. “But we’re about pushing the limits, and making people wake up and see what’s around them.”

“No, habibiti. That is what you’re about. Tamsin is a good Geek. And, knowing her as I do, she will select Polly as her replacement,” Najwa explains. She puts one more book in the box and begins sealing it.

“But Polly doesn’t push for things!” Harriet objects. “I love her, she’s one of my closest friends, but she’s never stood up and fought for anyone or anything.”

“Trust me, my love. Geeks have plots inside of plots. I know what I’m doing,” Najwa says, and then hands Harriet the box. “That’s for you.”

“You’re giving me some of your books?” Harriet asks.

“Yes. Carefully selected. You will enjoy them, but don’t read them in a rush. They are meant to be read over time, over many years,” Najwa explains. Harriet nods slowly. “Now, go away. I need to finish cleaning, or I’ll never be free of this office, and Tamsin will be quite displeased.”

When she returns to the dormitory, Polly is sitting on her bed, a box sitting in front of her. “You too, huh?” Harriet asks, sitting down in front of Polly on the end of her bed.

“Yes,” Polly says, eyeing the box suspiciously. “I know she does things like this, but it’s…”

“Strange. Too formal,” Harriet fills in.

“I always feel like she’s saying good-bye,” Polly confesses, and pulls out her scissors. “A peek won’t hurt,” she explains.

So they open their packages and look inside. Harriet doesn’t bother to look at the titles of the books, figuring that can be part of the surprise later, but flips them open. Every book has an inscription from Najwa inside. There are notes tucked throughout, small ones sometimes, long ones others. There are pictures, drawings, scribbles. She sees some poetry here and there. Outside of the books are sealed envelopes, marked to be opened on very specific days. When she looks at Polly, she is still outwardly calm and cool and collected, because this is Polly, but she can tell she’s moved.

Harriet looks back at the collection, and then carefully, pulls out the first book and opens to the inscription. She needs to see. It’s in Arabic. Of course it is. It takes her a moment, but she finally translates it.

In times of darkness, you were always my light

Harriet stares at the words for a long while, running her fingers over them, tracing them with her fingertips. Her throat feels tight, and tears rush forward. She forces them back, and instead looks back at Polly.

“I think she’s been working on this since the day we met,” Harriet says, and grabs the roll of packing tape off her bed so she can seal it once more. When she’s home, she’ll look over it again, to memorize the dates and decide when she’ll read each book.

“I do too,” Polly says, her voice hushed.

“Did you ever think she loved us so much?” Harriet asked, wondering if she is the only one this blind.

“I just always thought she viewed us as trainable, but this… Harriet, do you feel like you missed something?”

“I feel like I missed something everyday. God, I wish I had more time.”

The rest of the week passes like a typical last week at St. Trinian’s- parties by night, packing by day. Harriet tries to split her time between Polly and Kelly, Anoushka and Catzie and Peaches, Bianca and Taylor, and all the others she considers her friends, but keeps coming back to Najwa, who spends most of her days now sitting in an empty room on the third floor. It has a huge window seat that she seems to enjoy.

Most days, they don’t talk. Harriet has exams to study for, so she brings her books and takes notes and revises, and occasionally Najwa will look over and make corrections. Sometimes they recite together, Najwa making last minute corrections to her Arabic. They bring their food up and eat together, they listen to Fauré together. Once, Najwa has Harriet show her how to work a laptop so they can watch a movie together.

It’s on the very last day, three hours before Najwa leaves her for good, that Harriet messes it up, of course. They finish reciting, and then just lie down on the prayer rugs, chatting idly about random things, and Harriet can’t stop thinking about the fact that Najwa has spent two years loving her in spite of the fact that her life has been a bloody mess, and she doesn’t think. She sits up, leans over, and kisses Najwa.

She thinks the kiss lasts all of three seconds before Najwa grips her shoulders gently and pushing her away. Her smile is soft, because Najwa’s smile is always either fierce or soft, at least for Harriet, and she brushes away some of Harriet’s hair.

“Oh, Harriet,” she says gently, and Harriet starts to cry. Hard, ripping sobs, and she isn’t fully sure what she’s crying about, and God, when is she ever sure what she’s crying about? The kiss, of course, but also that Najwa is leaving, and that Najwa gave up on living three months ago, and that the world hurt Najwa so bad, hurt Harriet so bad, and it doesn’t get fucking easier, and Najwa will be gone in three hours, and she’ll be alone. No one will call her defiant one anymore.

Harriet can feel Najwa’s arms around her, can feel the rocking sensation, and she wants to tell Najwa that she isn’t a baby anymore, that she’s twelve and all grown up, but mostly she wants to tell Najwa to hang on, to stop her from drifting away.

“I’m here, habibiti,” Najwa responds. “You cry until you can’t cry anymore.”

So she does. It takes her half an hour, but she does. Then she looks at Najwa, who looks sad. “I’m sorry I kissed you,” she mumbles, ashamed, and Najwa suddenly looks angry, and yanks her chin up.

“Don’t be ashamed. Please don’t be ashamed. You should ask, love, that is all,” Najwa explains.

“Would you have kissed me back?” Harriet asks, curious. Najwa sighs.

“You are twelve, and I turn eighteen in four days.”

“Oh.”

“As for the rest, you must stop worrying about me,” Najwa says, and Harriet stares at her. “You were talking through your tears. I am doing better, Harriet. But it takes time.”

Harriet nods slowly, wiping the remains of her tears away as best she can. Najwa unwraps her hijab and hands it to Harriet, who feels stupid now because all she can do is stare. Again. Najwa grins, sharp and feral, her best humor returning full force.

“A hijab is just a scarf until it is on your head. And my graduation scarf is over there. Blow your nose. I’ll wash it later.”

Harriet does so, feeling embarrassed, and clambers to her feet. Her parents will be here soon, and she needs to help load the car and then get dressed for the graduation ceremony. Najwa takes the soggy hijab and tosses it into a pile of clothes and begins to wander about the room, but Harriet follows her, stops her and then clears her throat. “Thank you for being my friend,” she says, in clear, precise Arabic. “Thank you for loving me.”

Najwa’s eyes fill with tears, but she holds them back. She repeats the words to Harriet, and then presses a long, chaste kiss to her forehead.

Five hours later, Najwa is gone.

******
On the very last day of school, Harriet goes to what will be Polly’s office for the last time ever, a thought that terrifies her, and steps inside to what will soon be a joint office. Hers and Lucy’s. It has already been decided that Lucy will manage most of the day-to-day Geek things, while Harriet learns lessons of real leadership and focuses on their revolution, so while Lucy will have the official space, she’ll have the bookshelf for research and the walls for pins, and the chair by the window. It works.

She’s already shipped a crate of research home and is just pulling a few final materials into her suitcase when she notices Polly standing in the dark corner. She startles, and then smiles.

“Polly. I was hoping I would see you before you went off,” Harriet says, but Polly ignores her, and touches the desk.

“Do you remember learning Arabic here?” she asks instead, and Harriet’s grin dims a little.

“Of course, Polly,” she says. Polly moves forward and sits down at the desk, so Harriet sits down across from her, wondering why Polly looks so grim, so desperately unhappy. She graduates today; she’s been informed that it is supposed to be a happy day.

“Do you-” Polly stops for a long moment, and considers the bare desk before continuing. “Do you think it ever really gets better?”

“Polly…” Harriet starts, concerned, but Polly continues, calm and neutral as usual.

“All leaders of the Geeks share a bed, you know. Passed down over the years. It’s a tradition. Lucy will get it next year, but it will be yours the year after. I was stripping my sheets to scrub the mattress, and it is, of course, filthy.”

“Nothing shocking here, Polly,” Harriet says, smiling. Polly does not smile, not even one of the small, tight ones.

“There were bloodstains, too. And because I am curious, and will never have access to this much equipment again, I decided to run them, because they looked new enough to have been within the past ten years. Then I cross-referenced them with the blood types of the last leaders of the Geeks. Do you know what I found?”

Harriet can guess, but she wants to hear it from Polly. “What?”

“It was all hers.”

“She bled a lot, Polly. I’m sure you remember.”

“Harriet. It was the sort of blood that comes from miscarrying.”

Harriet doesn’t know how Polly has always been calm and neutral, but she guesses that’s why Najwa called Polly Chrome and Steel while Harriet was always Defiant One. Different styles for different people. But she packages it away, to be dealt with later, because she has mourned for her too many times, in too many ways.

“I see,” she says finally.

Polly looks down at the table, her finger tracing the grain. “I always wondered- she seemed more angry and sad- the car-”

“Don’t,” Harriet says, stopping her. “I’d rather not think about it.”

Polly nods curtly. “I understand.”

Harriet considers leaving, but Polly is staring at her intently, looking exhausted and somewhat sick. A look she has worn for nearly two years now. Polly reaches up and begins pulling pins out of her hair, her buns slowly collapsing down around her face. She never wears her hair down. Harriet stares in shock.

“You know why she chose Tamsin, right?” Polly asks. It’s such a non sequitur that it takes Harriet a moment to catch up. She licks her lips and shrugs.

“She told me it was because people needed a break from her style of leadership. Or because the Geeks needed a leader that wasn’t getting beat up every twenty minutes, either one.”

Polly smiles quietly and laughs a little. “A little, yeah. But you never really gave Najwa enough credit.”

The comment stings. “I did, too,” Harriet says, scowling, and Polly shakes her head.

“You were so angry about Tamsin- for good reason,” Polly says quickly, seeing the storm gathering in Harriet’s face. “But you- Najwa- she played a long game, Najwa did. Did you know that?”

Harriet shrugs again. Of course she knows bits and pieces of Najwa’s old plots, but they’re ancient, now, all spun to fruition years ago. “A little.”

“Did you know she chose Tamsin because she knew Tamsin would choose me?”

“Yes,” Harriet says. Polly’s smile widens.

“And did you know that she knew, before I even knew, that I would choose you?”

Harriet frowns, and Polly pulls out a letter from inside her sweater vest. The envelope is old, yellow, and stained, the ink faded. Harriet recognizes Najwa’s handwriting instantly. Polly holds the letter out to her and says, “The last letter in my box. I wasn’t allowed to open it until today.”

Harriet pulls the letter out of the envelope carefully. She unfolds it and begins to read. It’s a short letter, overall.

My darling Polly,

Congratulations on your graduation. While it is my dearest wish to be there, I suspect I will be worlds away by now. Nonetheless, know that I am thinking about you. Also, thank you for selecting Harriet to be the new leader of the Geeks. I once told her that you were important, but she would make you great. I do not have to be there to know that is true. She was great, but now you have made her important. Between the two of you, I know that St. Trinian’s will never be the same.

My love always, Najwa

Harriet can’t help but smile slightly. “Plots within plots,” she murmurs, and Polly laughs.

“Imagine my reaction when I opened that.”

“A bit like a gut punch?”

“A bit.”

Polly stands up and paces behind her desk, restless. Harriet watches her, silent, knowing that Polly has something more to say, something to add.

“I wanted to ask you something,” Polly says finally, brushing her hair out of her eyes.

“Anything,” Harriet says honestly, and Polly smiles slightly.

“Please watch after the Jewish students. I did some reading into our history here, and it’s not- well. Do you want to know something about Jewish students at St. Trinian’s?” Polly asks, and Harriet frowns.

“Sure.”

Polly leans down and opens one of the drawers in her desk, pulling out a thin file folder. She puts it down on her desk and slides it across to Harriet, who opens it and stares in confusion. It’s empty. She looks back up at Polly, who is pursing her lips into a tight line. “We don’t exist,” Polly says quietly, her voice hard.

Harriet blinks. “What?”

Polly scowls fiercely, and Harriet sees her hands clench into fists, her body practically thrumming with repressed anger. She holds her breath. Polly is rarely angry, but when she is, it’s a bit like being caught in a storm.

“It was something Najwa once said to me, though it didn’t register at the time, because I was so angry at her. She said she didn’t know I was Jewish because my record didn’t say anything. I was just angry she looked at my record.”

Harriet raises an eyebrow, and Polly laughs. “I know, pot, kettle, whatever. But after she left, I thought about what she said, and I looked at some of the records of other students, and she was right, religious preference is marked in our records. But according to the records, no one is Jewish.”

Polly starts to pace. “Then I thought, well, maybe they stopped marking the Jewish students during World War II, in case the Germans got a hold of the records, in case we were occupied. But I went back to the beginning, and according to all the records, St. Trinian’s has never had a Jewish student.”

“I could certainly look at names,” Polly says, sounding angrier, “and point out who has a Jewish name, not that it means anything. And I could read the journals and the old homework that talks about religion and note who claimed to be Jewish, even though that excludes people who are culturally Jewish, but Harriet, I’m a Geek. In case of religion, which is marked for every other student in the school, I’m going to go with empirical evidence. Which says that an entire people never existed at St. Trinian’s.”

Polly is extremely angry. Her face is bright red, and if there were anything left to throw in the office, Harriet is sure she would throw it. But then Polly forcibly calms herself, and Harriet knows that she’s spent time with Annabelle and Kelly talking about this, because if this were the first time, there’d be no end of the fury.

“I don’t know which is worse,” Polly finally says, sitting down behind the desk again. “Existing and being hurt for it, or finding out that you never existed at all.”

Harriet sighs. “I’m sorry,” she says simply, knowing that it isn’t enough. It’s never enough.

“I don’t even know why Jewish students aren’t recorded,” Polly says, gesturing helplessly, sounding so hurt that it pains Harriet. “Surely there’s a reason.”

Harriet reaches across the desk and grabs Polly’s wrist, squeezing gently. Polly looks at her. “I’ll try to find out,” Harriet says. “I’ll fix it.”

“There have been a few incidents with me, over the years,” Polly says, glancing at Harriet’s hand on her wrist. “But Kelly is my best friend, which affords me a certain amount of protection. Emily Toshiba, Winona Lempkin and June Post will be leading the Chanukah ritual next year. Rebekah- she’s joining the Geeks. Just… watch over them.”

Then Polly shoots to her feet, shaking Harriet’s hand off, schooling her face into her usual neutral expression. She dusts off invisible dust particles from her skirt, pins her hair up quickly and efficiently, and looks at Harriet.

“I’m afraid I must be going. You have all my contact information if you need it. Good luck next year. Don’t forget about me,” she says, smiling.

Harriet stands up, grabs Polly’s hand and tugs her back. Polly looks at her curiously, and Harriet leans up and kisses her on the mouth, quickly. It’s just a peck, it’s something she hasn’t done in years, and Polly doesn’t even like kissing, but she’s going to miss her. “I could never forget about you,” she replies, smiling up at her. Polly carefully removes herself from Harriet’s space, squeezing her hand gently.

“Salaam,” she says, gliding toward the door.

“Shalom,” Harriet responds in kind.

******
The return to St. Trinian’s at the start of her third year is terrifying. Harriet knows older Geeks, of course, but they aren’t… they aren’t Najwa. When she first sees Polly, Polly is huddled with Kelly, who just looks worried over Polly, and it’s no good to approach them when they’re like this, cocooned in their own protective field of friendship.

She’d read a number of the books that Najwa had given her, and some of the letters. They are all wonderful and special in their own way, but also confusing. It seems that Najwa will always be a bit of an enigma.

She spots Anoushka in the crowd and joins her. They exchange kisses and catch up on their summers, and then Catzie joins them. She’s been elected as part of the new triumvirate, which Anoushka is silently thrilled at. They coo appropriately over Catzie’s new bob haircut, and when Peaches joins them she does a quick runway of the new St. Trinian’s trouser style.

“It’s much more convenient,” Peaches says, smiling brightly.

“Perhpas not effective for a Posh-Totty,” Anoushka points out, running a hand over her own short skirt. Harriet laughs.

“Surely you have some clientele who enjoy girls in trousers rather than those things?” she asks. Anoushka and Catzie exchanged glances, shrugging, and look at Peaches.

“I think so, yes. I guess we’ll find out,” says Peaches.

Harriet sees Anoushka’s pained look and wonders, for a moment, but pushes it aside in favor of looking across the courtyard for familiar faces.

She spots Bianca and Taylor and, after giving Anoushka a swift kiss, she runs over to meet them. She throws herself into Bianca’s arms and hugs her tight, much to Bianca’s chagrin. She doesn’t care. She missed her. Chavs may insist on acting tough, but Bianca understands more than anyone else that Harriet is terrified. Despite the fact that Bianca makes a lot of noise about not wanting to hug Harriet, she clings to Harriet. Harriet is startled to find that she’s shaking a little. She doesn’t ask, though, because Bianca keeps talking loudly about how irritated she is that Harriet hugged her.

Harriet tries to socialize with some other people, but it’s just too hard. St. Trinian’s feels different with Najwa gone. Eventually, she gives up and goes to her dormitory, only to find that she’s been moved to an entirely new dorm. Her bed is not next to Polly anymore; Polly is in a separate dormitory. Harriet sets down her backpack, looks at all the Geeks in her dorm, then goes to look in all the others. When she returns to her own, she sits and thinks for a while, and when she is done, she picks up her pen to write a letter.

Dear Najwa,

I return to St. Trinian’s to discover that, at least with the Geeks, our dorms have been segregated thusly: all the Lo-Techs are in one dorm, the one that leaks during rainstorms and has only fifteen beds despite the fact that fifty girls have to fit in here. All the Hi-Techs are in the other three.

You are right. Tamsin does have more spine than I thought.

Harriet

When the others move into the dorm, Harriet just sits on the end of her bed and tries to figure out why each of them were chosen to be in this particular dorm. Bianca is in with her, and Taylor, and Anoushka. Every single Eco at St. Trinian’s is in the dorm, including their leader, Ruby, but the Ecos are the smallest Clique, only fifteen people. She only recognizes one of the Emos, a girl in her year named Zoe, but there are a few others huddled around her. There are no First Years at all. Harriet doesn’t quite know what to make of it all. She just sits down on a bed next to Anoushka, leaning against her, and waits to see if Ruby will take charge of the whole bed situation.

She doesn’t. Ruby is a wonderful person, and while Harriet has never spoken to her much, she knows she’s very down-to-earth, in a way that a lot of Ecos aren’t. But she’s also incredibly shy, and getting up in front of a group of people to work out how they’re all going to sleep in a dorm with too few beds is not really her area of expertise. So Harriet looks at the older girls, most of whom are only fifteen, then grabs Anoushka’s shoulder for balance and stands on top of the bed.

“Okay, so, beds,” she says, and there is an immediate rush of noise as people start arguing over who will get which bed, who has seniority, which Cliques are superior, who’s prettier, who’s better, who deserves it more. Harriet tries to clap her hands to get their attention, but that fails, of course, until Taylor winds up getting to her feet.

“You bunch of brainless tits, listen up! Harriet’s got something to say. And Marienne, everyone knows that Jackie’s trainers are wickeder, so shut up already,” Taylor huffs, and then throws herself back next to Bianca. With a low grumble, everyone looks back at Harriet. She’s suddenly aware that she’s only thirteen, and Najwa isn’t next to her, looking severe and serious. She nearly freezes completely, but then Anoushka stands up and crosses her arms, making it very clear that anyone who interrupts Harriet will have to answer to her. She smiles slightly.

“So somehow, we won the unlucky lottery this year, but we can make this work,” she begins slowly, making eye contact with whomever she can in the room. “There are only fifteen beds right now, but look at who we are! Is it really so hard to build bunk beds? I’m sure some of us have some skills with a hammer. Geeks, I’m sure we’d be eager to learn? Ecos, you prefer to live naturally, can’t you help build things?” Harriet offers.

“My grandfather is a carpenter,” an Emo girl in Polly’s year says. She thinks her name is Andrea. “I know my way around saws and hammers.”

A Posh-Totty raises her hand, a girl named Chloe. “I’m great with tools,” she says.

“But that only brings us up to thirty beds, and there are fifty of us,” Marienne says, gesturing around the room. Another third year stands up, an Eco named Celia that Harriet hasn’t met yet.

“Hammocks,” she says definitively. “Hammocks are the ultimate earth-friendly bed space. No trees, no metal, just, like, a piece of cloth and some hemp.”

Ruby frowns and tugs Celia back down. “We do have the ultimate problem of space, though, Celia. With bunk beds, we still have twenty spots left to fill, and while hammocks can take some of those spaces, twenty hammocks would leave no room for people. It will have to be ten.”

They sit in silence for a while, everyone looking at each other trying to decide how to solve the problem of the ten extra girls. Harriet can’t think of anything, short of getting the building permit from Miss Fritton and extending the walls, and no one else can come up with anything either. Harriet’s about to suggest sleeping bags when she hears a loud sigh.

“So we buddy up,” Bianca says, smacking on her gum. Everyone turns to look at her, and she shrugs. “Look, we can’t make the space magically bigger, unless someone’s got a sledgehammer they can take to the wall. So twenty of us have to sleep with friends. Most of us be skinny birds anyway. Ain’t a hardship.”

It takes twenty minutes of arguing and whining, and a lot of people asking the Geeks and the Ecos to fix the problem, before people agree that twenty people will have to share beds, at least until a new fix comes along. As people begin to discuss the details of building bunk beds, Harriet slips out of her dorm and walks down the hall to where she knows Tamsin will be.

Tamsin is sitting upright in her bed, her hair tied into a complex plait that Harriet could never figure out. Her glasses are small and square, and it seems she wears a long nightgown to bed. Her laptop is in her lap, a headset wrapped around her head, and she’s arguing with someone in Japanese. Harriet wonders if that could be her someday, minus the technology. If someday she could look small and neat in the Geek leader’s bed, making order out of chaos. But it isn’t her, not today. Today it is Tamsin, and she has a question.

She stands at the end of Tamsin’s bed, and Tamsin glances up, nods, and hurriedly tells whoever is on her headset that she needs to go. Harriet does not know Japanese well, but she knows enough to trade stocks and to gossip. Tamsin hangs up, yanks off her headset, closes her laptop, and smiles. Her teeth are very neat. Braces, Harriet thinks idly.

“What can I do for you, Harriet?” Tamsin asks. Harriet sighs.

“I just wanted to know the logics behind Dorm D,” Harriet asks. “I have the right to inquire.”

Tamsin looks confused for a minute, nodding. “Of course you do. Hold on.”

She throws back her covers and starts digging through the piles of notebooks next to her bed. Each one is neatly labeled, but the contents aren’t neat, with extra papers, charts, graphs, and whatever else sticking out of them. It’s really quite the mess, but Tamsin seems to know what she’s looking for. Harriet glances over and smiles sadly when she sees that Polly has her old bed. She’s on her laptop and seems absorbed, typing rapidly and biting the edge of her lip in frustration. Harriet hasn’t said hello yet.

“Here it is!” Tamsin says happily, and sits down on her bed. Harriet joins her gingerly, not having been invited, but Tamsin doesn’t seem to notice. Either that, or she doesn’t care. “All right, do you want to know the logic behind the Geeks, or for all the Cliques?” Tamsin asks, looking up at her. For a moment, Harriet regrets writing the angry letter to Najwa. Tamsin doesn’t seem malicious. She’s seventeen, and a Geek that, while Harriet despairs of her lack of spine, is still intelligent and well-respected, including by her. But she grits her teeth.

“Start with the Geeks, please, and then I’d like to hear it all, if you have it.”

“All right. Dorm D lacks proper space and it leaks. When reviewing who I should assign to that dorm, and knowing that Ruby was going to move in all of the Ecos in order to give them an experience as close to no carbon output as possible, I chose to put all the Lo-Techs in there.”

Tamsin pauses, and rustles her papers. “I chose this for the following reasons: you are Lo-Tech, so you do not use laptops, like we do, and the leaks won’t destroy your expensive equipment. There are only four of you this year, so you wouldn’t take up much space. As you are Lo-Tech, what you need, you can find in alternative ways. Putting anyone else in there would have been inconvenient for them.”

Harriet takes a deep breath. “You realize it’s inconvenient for us, too, right? It’s always damp in there, so our books will get moldy. And we’ll get sick more. Also, Lo-Tech does not mean No-Tech,” she explains. Tamsin sighs.

“That dorm is inconvenient for everyone, Harriet. I had to make a choice.”

Harriet takes the paper and stares at it. Of course, it looks logical. But everything can be made to look logical on paper.

“Tamsin,” she says slowly, “do you realize that all of the Lo-Tech Geeks this year are non-white?”

She watches as Tamsin’s jaw tightens. “Honestly, do you think after Najwa I could be anything but aware of that fact?”

Harriet nods. “Okay. Tell me about the other Cliques.”

It’s all more of the same. The Posh-Totties chosen are used to lower living conditions (which doesn’t explain Anoushka, former daughter of a diplomat, or three others of the ten); the Emos chosen sleep in coffins and will be protected from the worst of it (not true: three of the ten selected Emos are terrified of coffins); no First Years are selected because no one would put a child in such a condition (despite the fact that most of the First Years like to sleep outside); and as for the Chavs, well, they’re Chavs, and if anyone can live like that, they can.

Tamsin finishes explaining, and hands over her notes to Harriet. “It wasn’t an easy decision, you know,” she says sadly. “A lot of us have lived there, and choosing other people to live there too, that was hard. Did you know that Clique leaders arrive a week early? When we were putting the names on the beds, we felt so guilty.”

Harriet takes the notes, nods, and stands up. She notices that she’s shaking a bit, but she’ll take care of that later. Bianca, Taylor, Anoushka, and the others are waiting for her. She begins to walk out, but then stops and looks back at Tamsin.

“In the week you were here before us,” she says coldly, “did it occur to any of you at all that instead of feeling guilty you could have fixed the dorm?”

******
Harriet sits on the end of her bed, staring at her knees. Her Sharpie is hanging around her neck, her suitcase is in front of her feet, and her glasses are polished to the edge of perfection. In a few minutes, she’ll take her suitcase and go into the main hall to wait for her parents. But for now she just wants to sit.

She hates saying good-bye. Later today, Polly, Kelly, Taylor, Andrea, Peaches, Anoushka and the others will be graduating and she doesn’t know if she’ll see them again. Most don’t have jobs lined up, but none of them seem worried. She has everyone’s mobile number, but people stop calling after a while, they stop writing, and then people you once considered friends become distant memories.

Harriet clenches her hands into fists.

“You know, even for a Geek, you think too much,” a voice says from behind her, and Harriet looks up and sees Chelsea lounging in the doorway.

“Can a Geek ever think too much?” Harriet asks, smiling slightly. Chelsea walks slowly into the room, her heels clacking loudly against the wooden floor. She looks gorgeous, as always.

“Perhaps not; but you can,” Chelsea says, and sits down next to Harriet on her bed. She places her hand on Harriet’s knee. “Why aren’t you downstairs?”

Harriet shrugs. “Oh, just sad about graduation.”

Chelsea groans and nods. “Isn’t it just tragic? Whenever I think about Peaches and Chloe leaving, I just start to cry.” As if to demonstrate, she pulls a lacy handkerchief out from her bra and dabs at her eyes, which look bone dry to Harriet, but she understands the sentiment.

“They’re your best mates, aren’t they?” she asks, already knowing the answer.

Chelsea smiles, and now her eyes aren’t dry and she starts dabbing in earnest. “I met them my very first day of school. Peaches said she l-liked my s-s-shoes!” She bursts into tears and buries her face into her hands. Harriet looks at her in alarm and pats awkwardly at her shoulder. Chelsea looks up at her, and presses a hand to her mouth. “They were knock-offs!” she wails. “She never laughed at me!”

Harriet finds herself with an armful of Chelsea. She holds her carefully, patting her on the back, unsure of what to do. “There, there,” she says, uncomfortable. “Everything will be all right.”

Chelsea sniffles into her neck. “Chloe taught me everything I know about designer shoes,” she says, her voice muffled. “And she’s a scholarship girl, did you know? She learned from watching runway shows on television. She’s so smart, no one gives her the credit she deserves.”

Harriet isn’t quite sure being able to distinguish designer shoes from knock-off brands makes you smart, but then, she certainly couldn’t do it, so there you are.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without them,” Chelsea sighs, leaning back. Her mascara is a mess. Harriet doesn’t want to know what the collar of her shirt looks like. Her parents are going to kill her.

“At least you still have Bella and Saffy,” she offers. Chelsea brightens.

“I do. And I have Artemis. And you and the others.”

Harriet is too busy wiping at her collar to register what Chelsea has said for a moment, but when she does, she looks at her in shock. “Me? The others? What others?”

“The other revolutionaries, silly,” Chelsea says, laughing. She pulls out a compact mirror from her purse and flips it open, scowling at her reflection. She begins digging through her purse, pulling out wipes and various makeup things. Harriet watches her, knowing that she’s blinking far too fast.

“I- what?”

Chelsea wipes the smudged mascara off and then looks at Harriet, raising her eyebrow, unimpressed. “After Cassandra pushed Artemis down the stairs for being disabled, I talked to Bella, and she and I decided to join your revolution with Saffy.”

“She was pushed for being Chinese,” Harriet frowns.

Chelsea re-applies her mascara quickly, and then snaps her mirror shut with a sharp click. “It seems to me,” she says slowly, tapping a finger against her cheek, “that we’re both right. I mean, how does one divide up what part of you is being bullied for being disabled, and what part is being bullied for being Chinese? And what part of you is being bullied because the person who is bullying you just likes bullying people and you happen to be the first person they see?”

Harriet feels like she’s been hit with a sledgehammer. “Oh,” she says. “That’s- smart.”

“Thank you,” Chelsea beams. “Now, Saffy tells me that you’ve been taking down addresses and mobile numbers. Here is mine. You won’t need Bella’s, since she and Saffy are always together. But make sure you call me. I’ve been informed,” she says, lowering her voice, “that the revolution will not be televised. I don’t want to miss this.”

Harriet smiles. “Been listening to Bianca’s playlist, then?”

“Oh yes. Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution,” Chelsea recites. “Yes, finally, the tables are starting to turn.”

******
With construction in Dorm D well under way, permission secured from Miss Fritton by Andrea- apparently, Andrea has a real talent for building things, and is already planning ways to expand the space, including a skylight, and Miss Fritton was absolutely enamored with her designs- Harriet forces herself to relax. Tamsin screwed up, but everyone does, and while Harriet is used to jumping at shadows, she tries to remember that not everyone has a malicious intent. Certainly not her Clique leader.

On the fifth day of the school year, she sits down across from Polly at lunch and taps on the piles of papers that her friend is pouring over in order to get her attention. Polly looks up, her gaze distant until she recognizes Harriet. She brightens immediately, much to Harriet’s pleasure.

“Harriet! I’m so sorry I haven’t said hello yet- I’ve been busy,” she says apologetically. Harriet shrugs a shoulder.

“It’s all right. I’ve been busy fixing Dorm D.”

Polly cringes. “I heard about that. All the Lo-Techs?” she asks, lowering her voice. Harriet doesn’t know why. Harriet hasn’t exactly made her displeasure a secret. She and Tamsin have had loud arguments almost every night about the potential construction plans.

“Yes,” Harriet says, scowling.

Polly sighs. “I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.”

“I’m sure she didn’t,” Harriet says easily, “But she still did it.”

Polly looks uncomfortable, and Harriet takes pity on her. “What are you working on?” she asks, looking at the paperwork that Polly has been engrossed with for the past several days.

“I spent my summer at the Max Planck Institute of Physics,” Polly reminds her. Harriet snorts in amusement. She remembers the epic fight Polly and Kelly had about that. “These,” Polly says, gesturing to one pile, “are my notes. These,” she says, gesturing to the other pile, “are the drafts of my Geek Grant proposal.”

Harriet smiles. The Geek Grants are handed out by the Geek leader at the first meeting of the Clique every year, after every Geek presents their research topic of the year. Everyone always gets some money, but the best projects get more. It’s highly competitive, but mostly symbolic- Geeks can always just siphon money from various accounts around the world, or play the stock market, or do a little insider trading.

“What’s your topic this year?” she asks.

“More string theory,” Polly says, smirking. She knows how dull Harriet finds string theory. Harriet shudders. “And yours?”

Harriet beams. “I’m going to translate planetary harmonics into a symphony.”

Polly’s eyebrows shoot up and she leans forward, propping her elbows up on her paperwork and wrinkling it carelessly. “Really? That sounds- wow.”

“I thought you might like it,” Harriet confesses. Polly grins suddenly, which is startling. Polly rarely grins. Harriet feels something in her chest tighten.

“Like it? Harriet, it’s brilliant. The others will be stunned. Do you know which planets you’ll be using? What sort of instrumentation will you be using? Will a particular instrument be featured, or is it truly an ensemble piece?”

Polly peppers her with questions, and they finally give up on the idea of eating lunch and go back up to the dorm so Polly can look over her grant proposal and make critiques and comments. She’s a bit stunned, really, at how excited Polly seems to be about her project. Harriet, of course, thought it was interesting- she loves music theory, and she’s hoping to use the grant to not only fund the general research, but to provide the money for music lessons. She still doesn’t know how to play an instrument, and so all her knowledge is solely theoretical.

“I can show you violin,” Polly offers, looking unsure as she scans Harriet’s proposal, “But frankly, I’d suggest piano. It’s a good foundation for any musical education, really.”

The first Clique meeting is scheduled for Sunday, and so Harriet splits her time between sitting with Polly and trading drafts of their proposals back and forth, and working on Dorm D. She and Anoushka usually wind up sitting together on the roof, working on the skylight. Anoushka insists on tethering Harriet to her.

“If you fall, I can hold you, da?” Anoushka says, and Harriet rolls her eyes.

“I’m not going to fall.”

Anoushka’s smile is grim. “Better to be safe than splattered on ground below.”

Harriet can’t help but chuckle, shaking the cord that connects them with the strength of her laughter. “Better safe than sorry, Anoushka.”

“I think my version is more accurate.”

They’ve managed to patch most of the leaks, though not all, and Andrea has finally come up with the finalized plan for construction in order to expand the dorm. Harriet thinks it looks good, as does Ruby. Which is, of course, when things become very, very tense.

She’s on her way to physical education, digging through her bag to make sure she brought her new gym kit, when Ursula, the Chav leader, materializes in front of her, blocking her way. Harriet frowns, and tries to walk around her, but Ursula sticks out an arm and blocks her path.

“Stay a while,” she says, smiling. It’s not a friendly smile.

Harriet freezes. Behind her, she hears footsteps. She can see the other girls disappearing into their classrooms, and soon the halls are empty, and it’s just her, Ursula, and whoever is behind her. Harriet turns and sees Tamsin, holding the blueprints she had left on her bed this morning.

“You want to knock out the outer wall and expand the dorm,” Tamsin says, pursing her lips. She unfurls the blueprints, sighs, and rips them in two. “You see, of course, why that won’t work.”

Harriet shakes her head mutely. Ursula presses her into the wall, and Tamsin steps over to stand beside her. Another girl, Betty, a Posh-Totty Triumvirate leader, completes the group, filing her nails in a way that looks dangerous, which Harriet knows is patently ridiculous, but there it is.

“If you knock out the walls,” Ursula says slowly, “then you’ll all have to sleep elsewhere until you finish construction.”

“You can see why that might be a problem,” Betty says, smiling and not looking up from her nails.

“We don’t have room for everyone to sleep right now,” Harriet says again. She’s said this so many times to Tamsin that she’s lost count. “Andrea assures me that expanding the walls won’t take much more than a week.”

“Andrea isn’t good at math. If you saw her grades, Harriet, you’d understand why you can’t trust her. She isn’t smart enough for a project like this,” Tamsin says gently.

Harriet scowls and tries to edge towards her class, but Ursula blocks her way, pressing her back against the wall. She swallows. “She knows what she’s doing.”

“It’s sweet,” Tamsin continues on blithely, ignoring Harriet, “that you want to fix the dorm. But you have to be realistic, too.”

“I am,” Harriet says through gritted teeth, clutching her bag to her chest. “If the other three dorms take on about sixteen extra girls, share beds and hang hammocks or whatever, for one week, then it will all be fixed.”

“It’s inconvenient,” Betty says with a sigh. “You just don’t get it.”

Harriet has been outnumbered in fights before. But not in several years, and she would rather avoid a fight now. “I’m late for class,” she says tightly.

“Too bad,” Ursula says.

“Problem here?” asks a voice behind the trio of girls pinning Harriet to the wall, and they spring back to show an unamused Kelly. Harriet hadn’t heard her approach. From the looks on the others faces, neither had they.

“No,” Tamsin says, smiling at Kelly. “Just chatting.”

Kelly looks less than impressed. “Jog on, then. We’re late for class.”

Tamsin shoots Harriet a dark look, and walks away. Harriet lets out a shaky breath and slides to the floor.

Kelly sits down next to her, slowly, her bright red nails a strange splash of color against the dull stone. “Everything all right?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Harriet lies, as if she hadn’t just been basically threatened by three Clique leaders. By her Clique leader. “Everything’s fine.”

“Doesn’t look that way,” Kelly says softly.

“Yes, well,” Harriet snaps, jumping to her feet. She can’t deal with this right now. “What would you know about it?”

She storms off before Kelly can say anything else to her.

******
Being home is a bit dull. Harriet loves her mum and dad, of course, but they’re solid, steady people, and she likes her world a little less… concrete. She spends her first few days at home picking up her bedroom, hiding away anything potentially embarrassing, and then maps out where everyone lives, calculating Tube and bus routes. Her parents have never minded if she has friends over, and she is the most centrally located, so it only makes sense for her house to become headquarters. Plus, that way they can store things in one place and not have to carry it everywhere. One week into the summer holidays, Harriet starts making phone calls.

And so it is on a Saturday that Harriet’s doorbell rings, and there stands Chelsea, looking like she stepped out of a magazine and into Harriet’s rather dingy flat.

“Oh, your house is so adorable!” Chelsea squeals, and then spots Harriet’s mum. She flings herself forward and hugs her. “Are you Mrs. Bamford? Your house is lovely, I simply adore it!”

Harriet laughs at her mother’s flustered look, which is exactly what most people look like when confronted with an armful of Chelsea Parker.

The others arrive in short order, Bianca looking perfectly at home, Gloria bringing homemade brownies, Artemis bringing takeout Indian food for lunch, and Lucy glaring daggers at the Posh-Totties.

Harriet makes a mental note to find out what that is all about.

They congregate to her room, which really isn’t large enough to hold them all, but they fit, barely. Harriet sits at her desk, Bianca perched on top of it and kicking her lightly in the side every now and then, and she takes a deep breath.

“All right, then,” she says. “How do we want to begin?”

No one says anything for a long moment, and then Artemis finally clears her throat. “How about introductions? Because… I doubt we all know each other.”

Harriet smiles sheepishly. Of course.

They go around, giving their names and Clique. Harriet is surprised to realize that she has more Posh-Totties than anyone else. She’s never thought consciously about Clique representation, but now that she sees it all in one room, she’s startled by the amount of couture in the room.

“Brilliant,” Gloria says, when they’re all done. “That was lovely. What’s next?”

They drift into silence once more, interrupted only by the occasional sound of chewing as they make their way through their boxes of takeout. Harriet wishes she had prepared a bit more for this, beyond giving everyone the best route to her house in terms of both miles and finances.

“Well,” she says slowly, poking at her curry. “What if we made a list of things we’d like to see change at St. Trinian’s? Not talking about how we’ll address it yet, just- you know, just to see where we are.”

“All right,” says Artemis. “I’ll go first. I’d like it if people didn’t use racial slurs when insulting each other.”

Harriet pulls out a notebook from her desk and quickly writes it down. Bianca kicks Harriet’s chair and looks at her lap. “I’d like it if certain Cliques weren’t valued over others, and racialized, like.”

“I’d like it if non-white girls weren’t automatically placed in lower classes,” Chelsea says, fiddling with the hem of her skirt. Everyone in the room immediately looks at her. Chelsea glances up and blinks. “What, was I not supposed to notice that? It’s… rather obvious.”

Bella puts her head on Saffy’s shoulder and sighs. “I’d like it if we could get rid of the incredibly offensive extracurricular classes that rip off other people’s cultures. Or at least adjust them so that they’re respectful.”

“I’d like it if we could increase our staff diversity,” Lucy offers.

“I’d like it if we could increase our student diversity, natch,” Gloria snorts.

“I’d like it if the school policies were more accepting of differing cultural needs,” Harriet adds.

And so they go around, tossing out general thoughts, from the incredibly obvious to the slightly less-so. The list is lengthy, three pages in Harriet’s notebook, and when they finally run out of ideas, Harriet stares at what they’ve got in despair.

“This is a lot,” she says weakly.

“Darling, are you surprised?” Gloria asks, laughing a little.

“No, I just…” Harriet trails off, looking at the list in her hands. This is just the everyday things. This doesn’t even take into account the history of St. Trinian’s.

“You know we’re not going to be able to fix it all, right?” Artemis says. Harriet looks at her, startled. Artemis is staring at her, her face serious.

“What do you mean?” she asks, confused.

Artemis sighs. “We won’t be able to fix all of this. It’s just impossible, and it would mean fixing- I don’t know, people. Getting into their brains and completely readjusting everything they’ve ever learned.”

“Are you saying-” Harriet starts, but Lucy cuts her off.

“She’s not saying we shouldn’t try, Harriet. She’s just saying that we can’t expect miracles. People are still people.”

“We’ll do what we can,” Artemis says, glancing at her watch and standing up. “But I think we should all go into this knowing, realistically, that we’re not going to fix St. Trinian’s. We’ll just make it better. Higher functioning. Now then, when is our next meeting? I have a bus to catch.”

They agree to meet on Wednesday, and slowly trickle away, laughing and chatting as they drift out the door. Finally, it’s just Harriet and Bianca.

They wander around each other for a while, Bianca helping Harriet throw away takeout boxes and wash forks and knives. She follows her back to her bedroom and, when Harriet flops onto her bed, carefully folds herself down next to her, tucking her face into Harriet’s neck. Harriet smiles faintly.

“You’re too tall for that,” she says, amused. Bianca is a good five inches taller than her.

“Too bad. Deal with it. I’m tired,” Bianca says, her voice muffled. Harriet shifts slightly, getting more comfortable, and then drops her hand on Bianca’s shoulder, sighing.

“What do you think? Have we got a shot?”

“Of getting shot? Yes,” Bianca says.

Harriet scowls and smacks her. “Not funny.”

When Bianca sighs, her breath tickles Harriet’s neck. She wriggles, uncomfortable. Bianca throws her arm over Harriet’s waist and holds her still. “Sorry,” she says finally. “I think we have a chance, yeah. Maybe. But I think… yeah, it’s gonna be hard.”

“Can’t be harder than the last five years,” Harriet muses.

“Gonna jinx it.”

“What should we do on Wednesday, do you think?” she asks.

Bianca shrugs against her. “You’re the brains. I’m the muscle.”

Harriet shakes her loose and rolls onto her side, propping herself up on her elbow so she can look at Bianca. Bianca rolls onto her back and looks up at her, eyes soft and steady. Harriet thinks, idly, that Bianca is always steady when it comes to her.

“Don’t say things like that,” she says, “You know I don’t like it when you say things like that.”

Bianca raises her eyebrows. “What, that I’m tough?”

“That- that we divide up like that. That I’m the smart one and you’re the tough one. You’re smart, too, and I’m tough,” Harriet says, frowning.

Bianca laughs and grabs Harriet’s face in her hand, shoving her back and rolling so that she’s straddling Harriet, pinning her to the mattress. “Not as tough as me,” Bianca says, smirking down at her. Harriet rolls her eyes.

“Yes, whatever, good on you, pinning the girl who trusts you, aren’t you a big, strong one. Now honestly, what do you think we should do on Wednesday?”

Bianca considers her for a moment, and then slides back down so that she’s lying on top of Harriet, tucking her head underneath Harriet’s chin. “I dunno. Maybe pick out the things we think are most important, so we can strategize or whatever? Like, figure out what the big issues are, tackle those, and then the little things will fall in line?”

Harriet closes her eyes and wraps her arms around Bianca. “See? And you say that you aren’t the smart one.”

******
Polly sits down next to her, holding her proposal in her hand, and gives Harriet a dark, serious look. Harriet glances up from where she’s adjusting her model of the planets and frowns.

“What?” she asks.

“Kelly told me about the other day,” Polly says. Harriet purses her lips together and looks back at her model of Mars. It’s slightly lopsided, and bothering her.

“Kelly doesn’t know what happened the other day,” Harriet mutters.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, Harriet, and I happen to be a genius. So you can imagine how easy it was for me to figure out that they were threatening you,” Polly says flatly. She glances around the room, where the other Geeks are chattering happily, showing off their own proposals. She lowers her voice. “Tamsin threatened you?”

Harriet shoves her fingers underneath her glasses and rubs her eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it, Polly.”

“Last year you wouldn’t have shut up about it,” Polly says softly.

“Last year I had someone to watch my back,” Harriet hisses, jerking her head up to look at Polly. “But now it’s just me, and I have to pick my battles a little more wisely.”

“You still have me,” Polly murmurs. Harriet ignores her.

Tamsin steps up to the table in front of the crowd and smiles at the assembled Geeks. Obediently, everyone falls silent, and Harriet turns her attention to her papers and her models, her hands shaking. This is her first Geek Grant proposal, and she’s terrified. Polly’s been reassuring that her project is brilliant, but it’s different, showing it to a crowd of people. She does love hearing the other project proposals, though. Geeks have some of the best ideas.

Tamsin introduces the idea of Geek Grants, for the new Geeks, and announces the fund amount for the year (twenty thousand pounds- not their largest, but not their smallest, either), and then opens the floor for volunteers to go first. Harriet settles in.

The proposals are only ten minutes long, and all the Geeks have perfected the art of speaking quickly, cramming as much information as possible into an incredibly short period of time. Harriet is mildly interested in some of the Hi-Tech proposals, with their focus on chemistry, computers and physics, but as usual, she’s most intrigued by the Lo-Tech projects. Niobe wants to do something with zoo animals and their behavior; Maria’s project has something to do with the linguistics of Malay; Laura babbles for ten minutes about studying the war poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Polly’s proposal goes wonderfully, of course. She’s calm and confident throughout, and Harriet claps enthusiastically when she’s done.

To Harriet’s amazement, she too gets loud applause at the end of her proposal. When she sits back down, Polly nudges her.

“Told you it was brilliant,” she whispers, and Harriet grins at her lap. Polly’s words are even better than the applause.

When everyone has gone, Tamsin collects the written proposals and asks for fifteen minutes to figure out how to divide the money. She leaves the room, disappearing into the Geek office, and Polly turns to Harriet immediately.

“She threatened you?” Polly asks, and Harriet sighs.

“Not in so many words,” she says. “She just- she wants me to drop the construction on Dorm D. She thinks it’s inconvenient for the other girls.”

Polly frowns and taps a finger to her lips. “Well, it is,” she says, and Harriet jolts, glaring at her. Polly shrugs. “It is! But it’s more inconvenient to have, what, forty-eight girls or so? trying to fit into a space meant for fifteen.”

Harriet nods. “That’s my point. So Andrea figured out how to knock out a wall and expand the dorm and have it done it just over a week, and… some people don’t want me to do that.”

“And they approached you?” Polly asks, looking confused. “Why not Andrea?”

Harriet gives her a sour look. “Maybe because Andrea isn’t the one who has spent the past week arguing with Tamsin every night.”

Polly sighs. “You make yourself too much of a target, Harriet. If they’re threatening you, maybe you should just let it go.”

“I’m not going to let it go,” Harriet snaps. “And if it were you, you wouldn’t let it go either.”

Polly looks at her, stricken, and then looks at her lap, straightening her skirt and folding her legs. Harriet bites her lip. She doesn’t want to upset Polly, but she just doesn’t understand. She isn’t the one living in a substandard dorm. She isn’t the one getting surrounded in the hallway. As usual, Polly is untouched by it all.

Sometimes, Harriet really hates her.

They don’t bother resuming the conversation after that, Polly picking at invisible lint on her skirt, Harriet fussing with her models. It’s awkward, and uncomfortable, and Harriet hates it so much that she’s almost glad when Tamsin comes back.

The conversation dies down when Tamsin steps up to the table, putting the stack of proposals down and smiling at the crowd. Harriet finds herself smiling back reflexively.

“Everyone did an excellent job, as always. After reviewing all the proposals, I’ve made my decisions. This year’s largest grant, of five thousand pounds, will go to Polly Hopkins,” Tamsin announces. Harriet grins and hugs Polly. Polly nods demurely at Tamsin in acknowledgement, and blushes faintly.

Tamsin continues to announce the grants, going through her list, each grant getting continually smaller. Harriet’s grin grows smaller and smaller as she does the math in her head, and by the seventh Geek, Harriet looks at Polly in shock. Polly is frowning and looks at Harriet.

“She’s-” Harriet whispers, but Polly shakes her head sharply, cutting her off. Instead, she reaches over and grabs Harriet’s hand, interlacing their fingers.

“That’s all,” Tamsin announces, smiling at the assembled Geeks. “If you’d like to collect your proposals, you are welcome to do so. Otherwise, they’ll be kept in my office. Thank you all for participating, and have a good evening!”

Tamsin disappears into her office, and Harriet stares numbly at the place where she had been standing.

“She didn’t give everyone money,” Harriet says blankly.

“No,” Polly says.

There are murmurs of confusion and distress around the room, and Harriet twists in her seat. Maria and Niobe are crying, and Laura looks sick. Harriet imagines she must look the same way. Their friends are patting them on the shoulders, hugging them, and trying not to draw attention to the fact that they received grant money.

“She didn’t give the Lo-Techs grant money,” Harriet says.

“No,” Polly replies, her voice empty. Harriet looks at her.

“All the Hi-Techs that applied got it, though, right? I stopped listening.”

Polly is paler than usual and is avoiding her gaze. That’s how Harriet knows. She stands up and starts walking toward the office. Polly dives for her and grabs her wrist. “Harriet, wait!” she whispers. “Think about this before you do it!”

“Polly, you know this isn’t fair,” Harriet says angrily. “And maybe she could logically justify putting all the Lo-Techs into the bad dorm, but she cannot- she cannot- justify refusing to give us grant money. Especially since that grant money has always been divided up among all the Geek Grant participants.”

Polly licks her lips. “Just- be careful? If she’s already angry at you about Dorm D- I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Harriet shakes her off and walks over to the office door. She hesitates before knocking. She still thinks of this as Najwa’s office. Seeing Tamsin in it will hurt, she knows. She takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and knocks.

“Come in,” Tamsin calls.

Harriet pushes open the door and walks inside. The office hasn’t changed much from when Najwa used it. It’s sparser now; the table that used to be in the corner for Arabic and Hebrew lessons is gone, replaced with a rocking chair, and the bookshelves are mostly empty, but the desk and the filing cabinets remain the same. Tamsin looks up from whatever she’s working on and frowns when she sees Harriet.

“Oh, it’s you,” she says with a sigh. “What do you want, then?”

“Why didn’t any of the Lo-Tech Geeks receive grant money?” Harriet asks bluntly. She sees no point in skirting around the issue.

Tamsin puts down her biro and crosses her arms across her chest. “Are you asking for the logics?”

Harriet folds her own arms and scowls. “Stop playing, Tamsin. You know there are no logics.”

“There are, actually,” Tamsin says, taking off her glasses and setting them down. “Your proposals simply don’t need money.”

“All right, leaving aside the fact that Polly doesn’t need money to study her M-theory whatevers, and I’m not trying to stab her in the back, it’s just a fact, did you miss the fact that Niobe needs money for transportation and to bribe the animal handlers at the zoo? And that Maria needs airfare to Malaysia? And Laura needs to buy Yehuda Amichai’s works!” Harriet says. She doesn’t point out that she needs money for music lessons. She knows perfectly well that Tamsin knows.

Tamsin waves a hand. “That isn’t money for real science.”

“I didn’t realize the Geek Grants were strictly for science,” Harriet says coldly. “I thought they were just for aiding research.”

Tamsin smiles at her. “As the Clique leader, I define what they’re for.”

“Then why did you approve a grant for Annie, whose proposal included money for soda?’

“Look, Harriet, it’s nothing personal,” Tamsin deflects, and Harriet snorts.

“Bollocks. You don’t like me, so you’re determined to shoot down everything I stand for. Including my branch of the Clique. What do you have against Lo-Techs, Tamsin? What did we ever do to you?”

Tamsin stands up and plants her hands firmly on the desk. “You’re out of line, Harriet. I suggest you think very carefully about what you’re saying, and to whom you’re saying it.”

Harriet stares at her for a long moment, considering. Tamsin can’t really do anything to her. Yes, she could send people to beat her up, but Harriet has been in scrapes before, and she knows how to get out of them. She can block her projects, and she can refuse the Lo-Techs things they need, but they’re Lo-Techs; they’ll find ways around it. Plus, Clique leaders are largely symbolic. No one has ever gone against theirs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. She can make Harriet miserable, but Harriet has been miserable before, and Tamsin will only be around for a year.

“What else could you possibly do to me?” Harriet sniffs, and turns to go.

“I could take away Polly’s funding,” Tamsin says simply, and Harriet freezes.

She hadn’t counted on that.

“You love Polly,” Harriet says softly. Everyone knows that Polly will be leader next year. Even before Najwa told her about why she chose Tamsin, Harriet had figured Polly would eventually be leader. And despite what she said at the time, she wants Polly to be the Geek leader. The idea of anyone other than Polly… it makes her feel a bit ill, actually.

“No, I don’t, actually,” Tamsin says.

Harriet frowns, still staring at the door. “Why not?” Tamsin has never acted like she disliked Polly before. Like everyone else in the Geek Clique, she looks at Polly with awe in her eyes. Harriet has always found it laughable, herself, but she suspects that’s because she actually knows Polly, and doesn’t think of her as some sort of goddess.

“Oh, well,” Tamsin says, suddenly sounding awkward. “I just… I don’t think she’d be a good leader. Her kind rarely are.”

Harriet’s stomach bottoms out at the casual remark. She turns around again. Tamsin is standing, looking uncomfortable with the entire conversation. Her glasses on once more, the light bouncing off the lenses and hiding her eyes away. She’s grateful for it, really. If she had to see the ugliness there, she thinks she’d be sick. Or punch her, either one, really.

“Her kind?” Harriet repeats, feeling the familiar anger roll up into her throat.

Tamsin runs a hand over her chignon. “You know.”

“No, I don’t,” Harriet snaps. “Say it, Tamsin.”

“Jews,” Tamsins says finally, biting her lip. “They’re very good at finances- look at Polly’s stock portfolio, it’s amazing- but I just can’t imagine her leading the Clique, can you? She’s always so wrapped up in her own matters.”

Harriet and Tamsin stare at each other for quite a while. Harriet wants to punch Tamsin so, so badly. But it would work out poorly for Polly, she knows that now.

Tamsin sighs and sits back down, rubbing her forehead. “It’s all very logical, when you think about it. You just don’t need the money, Harriet. The Hi-Techs do. We’re advancing real science; you just want to tinker with some instruments. I mean, for God’s sake, poetry? What good does poetry do the world, over cancer research?”

“Fine,” Harriet says stiffly.

Tamsin’s smile is soft, almost warm. “It really is nothing personal, Harriet.”

Harriet walks out, wrapping her arms around herself. She thinks Tamsin means it when she says it isn’t personal. Her actions really do have nothing to do with Harriet, per se. It’s just that she’s Lo-Tech, and biracial, and so she gets swept up in that wave of hate that Tamsin manages to keep wrapped up so tidy inside her, the hate she manages to make look so logical. She doesn’t know Harriet at all. She doesn’t even want to.

Polly is waiting for her, looking anxious. “Everything all right?” she asks.

Harriet looks at her. “I’m going to throw up,” she says honestly, and Polly dives for the rubbish bin.

******
Wednesday… does not go as well.

It begins just fine. Gloria brings sushi that she made herself, and Bella and Saffy bring biscuits that they made together, and everyone is cheerful and excited to get to work. Harriet and Bianca had spent Monday painting one of her walls with whiteboard paint, so now they can write things down where everyone can see, and she has all their ideas written on the wall already. She explains what the day’s agenda is, and they decide quickly to try to focus on ten items. Some things get circled right away (elimination of race-based bullying and racial slurs being two of them), while some take some more debate, but when their slots start to get tight, the arguing gets a little more fierce.

And then Chelsea makes a snarky comment about one of Lucy’s ideas, and Harriet watches in shock as Lucy and Chelsea start screaming at each other.

“You stupid slut!” yells Lucy.

“Fat pig!” Chelsea yells back.

Harriet just sits on her desk, holding her dry-erase marker and staring, unsure of what to do, because this wasn’t what she imagined when she thought about the day. Bianca is sitting next to her, tense. Saffy and Bella are curled up together on Harriet’s bed, pressing themselves as far into the corner as they can get. Gloria and Artemis, sitting in chairs on opposite sides of the room, stand simultaneously and grab the girl closest to them.

“Sit down,” Artemis snaps, yanking Chelsea backwards and into the chair she had just been sitting in.

“Shut up,” Gloria says, shoving Lucy into her chair.

Chelsea tries to stand up again, but Artemis shifts her weight onto one arm and smacks her across the shins with her other crutch. Chelsea glares at her but sits back down. Lucy moves to walk out the door, but Gloria gets in her way, folding her arms and cocking her hip out to the side, giving her a flat look. Lucy sits back down.

“What the hell?” Harriet says, finally finding her voice.

“What she said,” Bianca says weakly.

“So, what I’m gathering is that you two have some history?” Gloria asks, eyeing them both and raising her eyebrows. Neither girl meets her eyes, and Gloria sighs. “Yeah, okay, whatever. That’s fine. You got issues, I get that. But you don’t get to have your issues with each other here, okay?”

“Not your space,” Artemis says, nodding.

“We can make you a space,” Gloria offers, “if you want to act like real adults and figure this shite out. But not here and not now.”

“But-” Chelsea begins, and Artemis cuts her off with a look.

“No,” she says firmly. “This space is for discussing racism and how we’re going to fix it. You don’t get to take away from that. Do you two need to go to the kitchen? Because I think you need to go to the kitchen.”

Harriet glances at Bianca, to see if she’s as startled by all of this as she is. Bianca is watching, wide-eyed, and Harriet takes that as confirmation.

“We need to go to the kitchen,” Lucy says grimly.

“Fine,” Gloria says. “But no slut-shaming and no fatphobic remarks, got me? I’m putting Mrs. Bamford on it.”

Gloria opens the door and walks out, Lucy and Chelsea following her. Harriet blinks rapidly, and then says, “I have no idea what just happened.”

“Oh,” Saffy says. “Lucy and Chelsea hate each other. They have ever since they were First Years.”

“According to Chelsea, Lucy called her a cheap whore. According to Lucy, Chelsea called her disgustingly fat. They… haven’t really varied their insults much, over the years,” Bella confesses.

“No one thought to say something before we put them in a room together and said ‘let’s be allies!’?” Bianca asks dryly. Saffy and Bella look at each other and frown.

“We rather hoped they could work with each other anyway,” Bella says.

Artemis sighs and sits down again, propping her forearm crutches against the wall and folding her arms. “They’ll work together,” she says, sounding unhappy. “They just won’t like it. And we might have to send them to the kitchen a lot.”

Harriet frowns. “We can’t really afford to be interrupted every time we meet by them.”

Gloria walks back into the room and shuts the door. “No, but if it helps them get over their issues and talk to each other, then we can cope. Besides, might be good for everyone. Might get rid of some of the non-racial slurs that get flung around the school, since those two lead the charge.”

Harriet sighs and rubs her eyes. She feels Bianca shift next to her, and then she drapes her arm across Harriet’s shoulders. Harriet smiles faintly and looks up at the wall. “Where were we then?”

Later, after everyone else has left, Harriet stares at the wall, with their itemized list. It really doesn’t look like much, and she still doesn’t know how it’s going to translate into an actual strategy within the school. It’s all well and good to say that they want to get rid of racialized bullying, but how do they actually go about doing it? It’s not like any of them were in favor of it before today, she’s sure. And breaking down self-segregation? Harriet is as guilty of self-segregation as anyone else, and she knows it.

She rolls over and buries her face in her pillow, groaning.

“Dammit, Polly,” she mutters. “Plans were always your thing, not mine.”

******
Polly offers her half of her grant money, quietly furious, but Harriet refuses it. She also doesn’t tell her about her conversation with Tamsin. She doesn’t know why. If she told Polly, then Polly would tell Kelly, and Kelly would annihilate Tamsin to protect Polly, which would solve Harriet’s problems, too.

But then she’d have to tell Polly that Tamsin made a disparaging remark about ‘her kind’, and Harriet doesn’t want to see what Polly’s face would look like if she told her that.

“But you need music lessons,” Polly says softly, running her thumb up and down the back of Harriet’s hand. Harriet sighs.

“I’ll just… I’ll wait until next year. It’s fine, Polly.”

It isn’t, actually, but Polly looks crushed already. If she found out that Tamsin actually thought she was incapable of leadership because she was Jewish? If Tamsin yanked her funding? Harriet doesn’t want to see that. Harriet is already upset enough without seeing that.

She quietly withdraws from the Dorm D project, though it continues without her. She’s pleased to see that Andrea sticks by her timeline and Anoushka takes over harassing Tamsin and the other Clique leaders when they complain. Harriet shares a bed with Bianca and curls into her side, trying to ignore the world around her. Bianca, still mourning the loss of her mother, doesn’t seem to notice her silence. She doesn’t mind. She doesn’t want to talk about it.

It shouldn’t be this, of all things, that makes her back down. She shouldn’t just give up because Tamsin is holding Polly over her head. Harriet knows that when she was threatened, Najwa just became fiercer, angrier. She wishes she could do the same. Instead, she watches Polly sit at her chemistry bench, working on a defense system for the school, and aches.

“I do not understand why you’ve stopped,” Anoushka says during dinner one night, licking her fingers meticulously. “You spoke at the first meeting; you stood by it. Then, poof! No more Harriet. Why?”

Harriet looks down at her plate, pushing her peas about. She really isn’t fond of peas. “Something came up,” she says.

Anoushka looks at her for a moment, studying her, and then scowls fiercely, leaning across the table. “Did someone threaten you? I will make sure they never do it again, if you ask.”

Harriet smiles faintly. “No. No one threatened me.” And it’s true, of course, so Anoushka backs off with a faint look of concern. She starts hovering more, as does Taylor, talking loudly about her skills at fighting. Harriet rolls her eyes, but loves them all the more for it.

When the wall comes down in Dorm D, Harriet and Bianca split up. Bianca goes to stay with Jess, a First Year that she’s grooming to be a Chav, and Harriet goes to stay with Polly. Tamsin looks at her when she sits down on Polly’s bed, frowning slightly, but Harriet ignores her, hugging her bag close to her while Polly bustles around the bed, making room for her.

“I don’t usually like to share my bed,” Polly says, “but I’ll make an exception for you.” She looks up and smiles tightly at Harriet, and Harriet, embarrassed, smiles back. She’s only shared with Bianca and Najwa before. For some reason, the idea of sharing with Polly makes her chest feel tight.

“Where’s Bianca going this week?” Polly asks, pulling out her laptop while Harriet settles in next to her and tugs out her composition notebook.

“She’s in Dorm B, with Jess. Um, Agombar, I think,” Harriet says, flipping open her notebook to where she’d left off. In the middle of a measure, of course. Figures.

Polly squints at her. “First Year, yes?”

Harriet nods and sketches in a middle C. “Yeah. They’re friends, I guess. And Jess is a bit like Bianca’s protégée, I think.” She fills in a chord, thinks about it, erases it, and switches it to a different one.

Polly types in silence for a little while, and then glances at Harriet’s notebook again. “Are you working on your composition?” she asks.

Instinctively, Harriet glances over at Tamsin’s bed. Tamsin doesn’t appear to be listening, so Harriet shrugs a shoulder. “Not the one I wanted to do, but I thought I’d take the year to play with some ideas. Just jot some melodies on paper.”

“Even though you can’t hear them?” Polly asks.

Harriet smiles. “Perfect pitch. I can hum them.”

“But what if you have chords?”

“I can hear it in my head, a bit.”

Polly lets out a frustrated sound and taps something out on her computer. Harriet glances at what she’s working on. She lets out a laugh. Minesweeper. Only Polly could make Minesweeper look urgent and necessary.

“I spoke to Kelly,” Polly says, and Harriet nudges her with her shoulder.

“I imagine you did. I imagine you speak to her every day, about lots of things, given how much time you two spend together,” Harriet says. Polly gives her an unamused look.

“I spoke to Kelly about your music lessons,” she clarifies.

Harriet frowns. “I told you-”

“Don’t be stupid,” Polly snaps, slamming her laptop closed and glaring at Harriet. “I don’t know why you’re being so self-sacrificing all of a sudden, but it isn’t attractive, so stop it. Kelly knows a girl, an Emo in your year, who is apparently a prodigious piano player and is willing to teach you for free. So it isn’t costing me anything, and you still get what you need.”

Harriet stares at her, startled, and Polly sighs, running a hand over her face. “There isn’t much I can do, but I can do this,” she says, softer, and looks down at where her hands are resting on her laptop. Then, quickly, she glances over at Tamsin and away again.

Harriet wonders, suddenly, if she knows.

She doesn’t ask.

“Thank you,” she says instead, and Polly nods.

“Room 179, tomorrow at noon. I checked your schedule; you’re free then.”

She is, of course. “Cheers,” she says.

“Of course,” Polly says perfunctorily, and turns out the light.

******
The rest of the summer continues on much the same way. They make plans, they discard them. They argue strategy, they poke holes in it, and they fling it away in disgust. Chelsea and Lucy can usually go two or three meetings without fighting, but then they erupt and spend a session in the kitchen under Mrs. Bamford’s watchful eye. It’s incredibly frustrating for everyone involved.

“All right, look, here’s where I’m seein’ the problem,” Bianca says one afternoon, three weeks before school is set to begin, two weeks before most of them have to return to get the school ready. “This is all well and good, right? But it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. Makin’ people not use bad words ain’t gonna help much if they’re still thinkin’ ‘em, innit? These are all- whassit, Harriet, we talked about this.”

Harriet digs through the post-it notes she wrote on while on the phone with Bianca at three in the morning. They’re mostly illegible, but she remembers the general ideas.

“These are all negative. They’re all ‘nots’. I will not use racial slurs, I will not beat up non-white girls, I will not put non-white girls in lower classes because I think that’s where they go.”

“Right,” Bianca says, pacing around the room. Harriet watches her with a smile. For someone who insists that she’s the muscle, she’s done an admirable amount of work on the project this summer. “What we need is positive stuff, yeah? I mean, take away the bad, they ain’t gonna have nothin’ left to say, which ain’t much better. At least when they’re hating us, they’re talking to us.”

“I see what you’re saying,” Saffy says, lighting up. “We need a new way to interact.”

Bianca snaps her fingers and points at Saffy. “That’s it. Our old ways don’t work. We need new ones.”

“So, like, are you saying we shouldn’t call people out if they say bad words?” Chelsea asks, frowning.

“No,” Harriet says, shaking her head. “That’s still part of the process. But only a part of it.”

“Where do we even begin with that?” Bella asks, scrunching up her nose and looking at her notebook. Harriet’s found that Bella is an incredibly serious student; she’s taken more notes this summer than Harriet has.

“Fuck me if I know,” Bianca says, grinning.

“All right,” Lucy says with a sigh, standing up and taking the dry erase marker from Harriet. “Back to the drawing board, then.”

******
Gloria Carby is not what Harriet expects from an Emo. She expects someone like Kelly, who is bright enough but still tends to explode into melodramatic beat poetry from time to time that makes people cringe, or Andrea, who mutters to herself about destroying people and laughing at their pain, or Zoe, who waxes rhapsodically on the beauties of death and chaos. All three of them wear thick white face powder with dark eyeliner and dark lipsticks.

Gloria doesn’t. In fact, Gloria looks like a fairly average student, and bubbles effervescently at Harriet.

“You must be Harriet,” Gloria says, storming into the room, combat boots thumping awkwardly on the ground. “Pleasure to meet you, darling, absolute pleasure. Kelly has told me so much about you.”

Harriet shakes her outstretched hand, wondering what Kelly could have possibly told her. Kelly barely knows her, and generally, the only time they talk is when Kelly and Polly are fighting. Given that Harriet always takes Polly’s side, their conversations usually aren’t pleasant.

“Charmed,” she manages, and Gloria raises a sardonic eyebrow, her frighteningly large smile dying down into a sarcastic smirk. It fits her better than the overly exaggerated bubbling.

“I’m sure,” she replies dryly, and flings herself onto the piano bench, patting the space beside her. Harriet sits. “What do you know about the piano so far?” Gloria asks, putting her hands on the keys and playing a chord. Harriet winces.

“I know that this one is out of tune.”

Gloria laughs. “Kelly told me you have perfect pitch. I would say I’m envious, but I’m really, really not. Anything else?”

Harriet shrugs. “I know how to read music, but I don’t know what it means, practically. I know plenty of theory.”

Gloria turns her head and smiles at her. She has a lovely smile, Harriet notices. Still, she prefers the smirk. “Yes, but what do you know about the piano?”

“It’s made of wood?” Harriet says, just to see if Gloria will laugh again. She does. Harriet bites the inside of her cheek to stop herself from grinning.

“Okay, so we’ll start from the beginning.”

“A very good place to start,” Harriet deadpans, and Gloria beams.

“Precisely. This, Harriet, is do. Or, as we musicians call it, middle C.”

The lesson goes quickly, and Harriet finds herself inexplicably charmed by Gloria. She also finds herself fast falling in love with the piano, which she didn’t anticipate. Polly had played her violin for her, once, and Harriet had loved the melancholy sound. But she much prefers the versatility of the piano, and its ability to take on all sorts of qualities. By the end of the lesson, Gloria has her playing simple children’s melodies.

“Very good,” Gloria says, nodding her approval. “I brought some of my old books for you to look at. Make sure you read the pages between the songs, too; they’ll help you figure out finger positions. Practice every day until our next lesson, okay?”

“Can we have our next lesson soon?” Harriet asks quickly. “In a few days, maybe?”

Gloria glances at her sideways, raising her eyebrows in surprise. “You like it that much?”

“I love it,” Harriet says honestly.

“Sure,” Gloria says after a moment. “In two days, then, same time?”

Harriet goes back to Polly’s dorm, clutching her practice books to her chest and grinning, knowing perfectly well she looks like an absolute idiot. Polly looks up when she walks up and smiles at her, one of her rare, broad smiles, and Harriet’s heart lurches.

“It went well, I take it?” Polly asks dryly.

“Will you go out with me?” Harriet asks, and then blinks, because that is not what she meant to say at all.

Polly’s eyebrows inch upwards. “I take it it went very well, then.”

Harriet frowns and sits at the end of Polly’s bed, kicking off her shoes and folding her legs into a pretzel. Polly watches her, patient, and when it becomes apparent that Harriet isn’t going to say anything immediately, she returns to the book she’s reading. Harriet appreciates that. She needs to think.

She likes Polly, of course, there really is no doubt about that. She gets frustrated with her, sometimes, but Harriet gets frustrated with everyone. And this year, she keeps- she keeps feeling things around Polly. The urge to protect her. The desire to make her happy. A general warmth whenever she’s around. She wants to spend more time with her. She wants, she finds, to kiss her.

That’s a bit of a surprise, Harriet will admit, but it probably shouldn’t be.

“No, I meant that,” she says finally. Polly looks up again and sets her book aside, folding her hands in her lap. “Will you go out with me?”

“Clarify your parameters?” Polly asks, and Harriet smiles.

“As in, will you be my girlfriend?”

“Like Kelly and Andrea?” Polly questions further. Harriet hadn’t known the two of them were dating, but she nods.

“Yes.”

Polly considers her for a moment, tilting her head to the side and narrowing her eyes. She licks her lips, unfolds her hands, and then nods. “All right,” she says.

Harriet grins. “All right.”

They look at each other for a long moment, and then Polly’s mouth twitches into a small smile. “Of course, this is slightly awkward, as you’re sleeping in my bed for the next several days.”

Harriet bursts into laughter.

******
They have a few general plans in place when Harriet and the others return to the school a week early to prepare it for the new school year. Miss Fritton attempts to give them all time to catch up with one another, to chat about their summers, but really, the only ones who didn’t spend most of it in Harriet’s bedroom are Zoe and Celia. And Celia isn’t able to come back until the first day of school, due to her foster parents’ rules. So they make awkward conversation with Zoe, and then get to work on the usual start-of-school stuff, like dividing up dorms and making general repairs.

Harriet insists on pulling names out of hats in order to choose who goes into which dorm. Bianca, remembering the disaster of their third year, backs her completely.

“And we shouldn’t all be in the same dorm,” Harriet says to the other Clique leaders. “We should divide ourselves up evenly. That way we can monitor things.”

What she doesn’t add, for the sake of Zoe, is that she wants them all split up so that they can handle any incidents that may occur, the sort they’ve been talking about all summer.

“Whatever,” Zoe says dismissively. “It’s all artifice anyway.”

It isn’t, of course, but Harriet doesn’t want to get into it with Zoe. They’ve never gotten along.

They split the dorm populations up as evenly as they can, making sure that no one dorm is populated mostly by non-white girls. Harriet even manages to get the Clique leaders to split up, though it’s difficult, especially for the Posh-Totties. They do it, though. Harriet admires their commitment.

She and Lucy also spend time in the Geek office, dividing it up and figuring out how they’re going to Geek Grants for the year. They agree that it’s best to split up the money evenly, but still do the presentations.

“That way,” Lucy says triumphantly, “everyone gets the opportunity to learn how to present a proposal, but no one feels like their project is worth less just because it isn’t Hi-Tech or Lo-Tech or whatever.”

Bianca breaks into Miss Fritton’s office one night and retrieves the class rosters. The Force Against Racism, or FAR as Chelsea insists on calling them (“Because we’re going to go FAR, get it?”), sits down with the lists and argues passionately about the placements.

“Why is this First Year in biology?” Saffy asks, staring at the transcripts. “It says here that Alexandra Warren took biology last year and passed.”

She passes it around the table, and they all study the sheet. Alexandra Warren, Black, incoming First Year, has average marks in biology, nothing astounding, but neither does she have poor marks. Her record ends up in Gloria’s hands, and she nods.

“Hack it?” she asks.

“Hack it,” they agree. Lucy hits a few keys on her keyboard, and Alexandra is moved up to the first course of St. Trinian’s Chemistry, where she belongs.

In the end, they move seventeen different non-white girls into more advanced courses, based on their marks or from what they know of the girl. Harriet is fairly insulted when she finds Niobe, a fellow Lo-Tech Geek in her year, has been placed in regular level Physics rather than the advanced level, given her penchant for science. But that is corrected with a swift keystroke.

“This is only a start,” Harriet warns when they’re finished and congratulating themselves. “Eventually, we need to get the teachers to do this themselves, without our intervention.”

“But maybe seeing more non-white students in their classes, succeeding, will help move that process along,” Bella says hopefully. Harriet shrugs. She’ll believe it when she sees it.

There isn’t much they can do in advance for handling fights and insults. Instead, they organize themselves into patrols, making sure that at least one of them is in each section of the school at all times. They’ll be on hand, listening and watching and ready to intervene at a moment’s notice.

They’ve also prepared a list of tough questions to ask their teachers and examples of non-white people to bring up in class: authors, scientists, revolutionaries, mathematicians, whatever they thought applicable. They intend to push.

Then, of course, there’s the recruiting.

While Harriet is impressed with how many people are in FAR already (and yes, she’s using the acronym, it’s better than always talking about the revolution and then having to listen to a song from Bianca’s playlist), the fact of the matter is that the eight of them, working by themselves, aren’t going to change the character of a school of two hundred students and thirty teachers. They need to convince other girls that their cause is important. And to do that, they need to talk.

Even though Artemis can’t be there the week before, she sent them with a variety of posters that she designed, pulling excerpts from the diaries and history of St. Trinian’s, with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations of various non-white graduates over the years. Gloria, much more comfortable with audiences than most of them, has prepared speeches, which Harriet finds incredibly amusing. Chelsea, Bella, and Saffy have informed Harriet that they intend to bring up racism during their first Clique meeting.

They have a plan, is the point. They’re ready.

******

Chapter Text

******
Polly is a horrible girlfriend.

Harriet thinks this with all possible love, of course, and recognizing that she’s not much better, but still. Having a girlfriend that you have to sleep with every night while your dorm is renovated should have obvious benefits. Such as seeing her regularly.

Instead, it seems that Harriet spends less time with Polly than before. Admittedly, part of it is because Harriet is busy with her piano lessons, and she’s still trying to get Bianca through the grieving process, but Polly is suddenly not available.

She isn’t with Kelly, even, which is where Harriet always expects to find her. But Kelly is busy with her girlfriend, to the point where she’s ignoring Polly. Instead, Polly is busy working on the defense system for St. Trinian’s, and working on her string theory project, and of course there’s schoolwork…

Harriet listens to the excuses and nods, trying to be patient.

“If she didn’t actually want to date me, then why did she say yes?” Harriet complains to Bianca one night, her head on Bianca’s stomach, Bianca’s arm draped around her waist. She feels Bianca shrug.

“Don’t know, love. She’s fifteen. Maybe she just thought it was time to get a girlfriend, and you were convenient.”

Harriet sighs and twists to look up at Bianca. “Do you hate me for whining at you?” she asks, knowing she sounds utterly pathetic and not caring.

Bianca’s smile is slight but warm. “You can whine at me any time.”

There’s also the problem of kissing. Polly hates it. Whenever Harriet kisses her, just swift pecks, Polly wrinkles up her nose and endures it rather than enjoying it. After the fifteenth time, Harriet finally sits back on her heels and says, “Do you like me?”

Polly stares at her, not blinking. “Of course.”

“Then why do you look like I’m coming at you with a knife whenever I try to kiss you?”

“It’s gross,” Polly says, suddenly refusing to meet her eyes.

Harriet frowns. “It’s kissing.”

“It’s an exchange of germs and saliva and other disgusting things.”

Harriet rubs at her eyes and goes to find Bianca.

“Why doesn’t she just break up with me?” Harriet asks Gloria at one piano lesson, running through her scales without paying much attention. Gloria says she progressing at a terrifying rate. She chooses to take that as a compliment.

“Maybe she’s telling the truth,” Gloria suggests, flipping through her old piano books. Harriet’s already completed two of them, and Gloria has decided it’s time for something harder. “Maybe she does like you, but doesn’t like kissing.”

“I just feel like she’s humoring me most of the time,” Harriet sighs. “And she’s always busy with her work.”

Gloria shrugs, putting a book of Mozart piano concertos on the piano stand. “She’s a Geek; she’s going to be the next Geek leader. Work is important for you lot. After all, you’re here with me practicing piano rather than trying to work things out with her.”

Harriet stares at her in disbelief. Because she’s right, of course. Harriet could be with Polly right now. They could be working on projects together rather than separately. She could be helping with the defense system. But every time Polly has offered, Harriet has turned her down in favor of her own work.

“Oh,” she says, and Gloria grins at her.

That night, Harriet lies awake and stares at the ceiling while Polly buries her face into Harriet’s neck. She’s discovered over the last two weeks that Polly is very clingy in her sleep, pressing herself against the person sharing her bed. She’d seen her sleep with Kelly before, had seen her plaster herself all over her, but she always thought it was because they were Kelly and Polly, BFFs, never to be separated. She looks at Polly’s hair and tries to figure out how she feels about her.

Polly is one of her best friends. They’re intellectual equals, though in completely different fields. They’re excellent rivals, pushing each other to be better than they would otherwise be. They have a history. Harriet is incredibly protective of Polly, and Polly tends to be the same, albeit in different ways. She loves her.

But, she realizes, not in the right way.

Before she can stop herself, she shakes Polly awake. Polly’s eyes fly open and she looks at Harriet, immediately alert. Harriet envies that.

“I think we should break up,” Harriet says without preamble.

“All right,” Polly says, and shuts her eyes again, asleep almost immediately.

In the morning, they will talk about how important their work is to them, and how they’re excellent friends and rivals, but terrible girlfriends. They will talk about how they love each other, always will, but not in the way that inspires romance. They will review Polly’s defense plans and make changes. They will talk about Harriet’s progress with the piano. And that will be it. From friends to girlfriends to friends once more in only two weeks.

But at the moment, Harriet can only stare at Polly in disbelief before mentally shrugging it off and going to sleep herself.

And then it all falls apart.

******
Their plan falls apart so rapidly that Harriet wonders if people can see her head spinning. They’re only at the school for two hours before the new girl, Roxy, steals everyone’s attention, Celia reveals an ancient ring, Annabelle loses the reward money, and everyone’s attention shifts.

Harriet retreats to the Geek office only to find Lucy there. “So much for the plan happening right away,” she says bitterly, shutting the door behind her and taking a seat on the sofa they found in one of the storage rooms and dragged down to keep in their office.

Lucy smiles at her. “Well, you know St. Trinian’s girls. Short attention span, all of us.”

Harriet gives her a skeptical look. “We’re Geeks.”

“With Posh-Totty allies. I could have told you that they’d become more interested in Gucci than racism.”

Harriet scowls at her. The Geek/Posh-Totty rivalry isn’t the stuff of legends, like the Emo/Rude Girl battle, but it’s beginning to drive her insane. Polly wasn’t rabid about the rivalry; she mostly ignored it and instructed everyone in the Geek Clique to get over it. Lucy seems to want to renew it, which frustrates the hell out of her. They’ve been working on this all summer; Lucy had been getting better. Apparently, returning to school has just increased it.

“Lucy, don’t be a prick.”

Lucy has the grace to look chastened, at least.

“You have to admit, though, it’s very exciting. A mysterious ring, a stranger who is only a voice on the phone…” Lucy says, a smile creeping onto her face.

Harriet shrugs a shoulder. She supposes it’s interesting enough, but mysteries have never really interested her. And she certainly doesn’t care about the money. Although, she supposes, it might have been nice to have a chunk of that change to put toward FAR (and God, yes, she is using Chelsea’s ridiculous acronym all the time now). She doesn’t lament it, though. She’s not the poorest girl in the school, but she still knows what it is to live on a budget.

And then, of course, the strange voice cuts their power, and they learn about a potential treasure, and everything gets blown out of hand. Even Harriet finds herself caught up in it all, in part to play referee between Lucy and Chelsea (and then Bianca, and really, Bianca knows better, though she can’t help but be proud when it’s Chelsea and Bianca who crack the riddle, because that will show the school that Rude Girls and Posh-Totties have brains, too), in part because she doesn’t want that pompous git Pomfrey to get the treasure.

It’s an interesting adventure, she supposes, but it has its downfalls. For one, Harriet wants to choke someone when she realizes the optional Sunday course is apparently on voodoo, and they have little Julie jumping around in furs and face paint. The other is Zoe repeatedly call Bianca a Chav, and having to watch as Bianca has a minor meltdown afterward.

“We aren’t fucking Chavs,” Bianca snaps, pacing the dorm that night. “Why doesn’t anyone understand how fucking insulting that is?”

Harriet can’t really say anything. She just nods and listens and holds Bianca close.

On the upside, there’s Alex and Jemima.

When they realize they’re going to have to research the riddles, Harriet volunteers to spearhead that avenue while Lucy handles the Pomfrey angle. She tries to recruit people, failing horribly, until Alexandra Warren shows up at the foot of her bed and says, “What do you need?”

Alexandra, or Alex, as she prefers to be called, is a thin, pointy-faced Black girl with a halo of hair around her head. She’s stern-faced and serious, which is a complete contrast to the girl who shows up at their research session the next day.

Jemima is a bright, bubbling young white girl with messy blonde hair and a perpetual smile on her face. She reminds Harriet vaguely of Peaches, except that Peaches had a sort of quiet dignity around her at all times, while Jemima just… burbles… everywhere. Harriet finds her optimism and excitement disconcerting.

She can’t deny that they get things done, though. They’re a scarily competent team, between the two of them and their little collection of First Years that hang on their every word. Harriet has no doubt that the entire Shakespeare Scandal would have happened differently if it weren’t for them.

Also, she likes them. Alex reminds her of herself when she was a First Year. Jemima, with her bright attitude, doesn’t remind her of much of anyone, but she supposes that’s part of the charm.

Then it’s done. They discover Shakespeare was a Fritton; they discover Shakespeare was a woman. The school receives millions for the final manuscript, ensuring that the next time the Flammables set something on fire they’ll be able to put the school back together again. Miss Fritton laughs delightedly at the student body’s idea of buying a beach house, manning an all-girl moon mission, and all the others, and then locks the money up tight where none of them can get it.

“You did a great thing, girls,” Miss Fritton says, smiling beatifically, “And now you’ll do an even greater one by donating the money to the school.”

Strangely, the complaints are few.

With the Shakespeare Scandal basically completed, other than the school being mobbed by reporters (and, predictably, the reporters being mobbed by the school), Harriet and the others finally have a chance to sit down.

“Well, that was grand cock-up,” Gloria says as soon as they all manage to cram themselves into the Geek office.

“I’m going to murder Zoe in her sleep. That will help our cause, right?” Bianca asks hopefully.

“Voodoo class? Voodoo class?” Harriet shrieks.

“Did we manage to accomplish a single one of our goals this entire time?” Artemis asks idly, studying the ceiling.

“I forgot,” Chelsea says.

“There was a mystery on,” Lucy protests. “We were a bit distracted.”

“I was too furious to say anything,” Harriet admits. “Which I suppose defeats the point, in the end.”

They sit in silence for a moment, each examining their relative failures, until Artemis snorts and waves a hand in the air. “All right. So we messed up. I call do over.”

“It’s only been a week,” Bella points out.

“Plenty of time to recover,” Saffy adds.

They start talking, discussing what they heard and saw, how they felt, and possible approaches to handling it. Bianca promises not to murder Zoe. As for herself…

“I’m going to talk to Miss Fritton,” she announces, interrupting a spirited debate between Gloria and Chelsea about how best to recruit other people, and who had shown themselves to be potential allies.

All the eyes in the room turn to her in shock. “What?” Bianca says finally.

“I want that voodoo class gone,” she says firmly. “She and I are going to have a little chat.”

“Oh my God,” the four Posh-Totties say in unison.

“You’re going to die,” Saffy says faintly.

******
Harriet initially thinks things are getting better. Certainly, Tamsin and her friends leave her alone. She sees the threatening looks from Darla, Ursula, and Betty, but they don’t approach her. Possibly this is because Kelly has taken to hanging around, but she isn’t always there, and still, nothing happens. So maybe, Harriet thinks, they’re done.

But she’s been at St. Trinian’s long enough to know that it isn’t always the overt things that show the threat. Trinian’s girls are a bit like sharks, Harriet imagines. You see the fin well before you see the teeth. It takes her a bit, but she does start to notice the perpetual bruises on Niobe’s arms, Maria’s jumpiness, the fact that Laura doesn’t smile anymore. She can see Polly sinking further and further into her work, no longer speaking up at Geek meetings.

They may not be targeting her, but they’re certainly targeting someone.

She tries to talk to her fellow Lo-Techs, but they’ve started avoiding her. She isn’t sure if it’s her they’re avoiding, or her reputation. She wonders if Tamsin and the others have warned them away from her, if they’ve threatened harm or worse if they tell her. She can’t get any of them to talk to her long enough to find out. She can feel Tamsin watching her, though, whenever she approaches them. That’s answer enough.

Polly refuses to tell her anything.

“I’m fine,” Polly says, holding her books to her chest and walking briskly down the hall. She’s still ridiculously tall, and Harriet practically jogs to keep up with her.

“You’ve just been… distant, recently, with the Geeks.”

Polly gives her a tight smile. It isn’t at all like her normal smile, which is small and firmly folded but still genuine. This is bitter, and slightly angry. It takes Harriet a moment to figure out where she’s seen it before. When she realizes, it’s like a bucket of water over her head. That’s Harriet’s angry smile; she’s seen it in the mirror.

“I’m busy,” Polly replies shortly. “Some things are more important than Geek politics.”

That brings Harriet up short. Polly has never found anything to be more important than Geek politics. Equally important, certainly, but never more. Polly takes the opportunity to disappear into her classroom, leaving Harriet in the hall feeling sick. She doesn’t know what Tamsin has done, but she’s clearly done something if she’s managed to make even Polly retreat.

That night, she sits on her own bed, Dorm D now completed, with Bianca behind her and carefully picking her hair into an afro. “I just don’t understand it,” she says, twisting her bed sheets in her hand. “Things were bad when Najwa was our leader. It wasn’t a great time. But nothing ever silenced people this completely.”

Bianca makes a contemplative sound behind her, hands tugging and teasing her hair into shape. “Maybe that’s ‘cause Najwa was your leader,” Bianca suggests. Harriet can feel her breath against the back of her neck. It’s comforting. “Why go after the small fish when you can have the whale?”

Harriet scowls. “That’s ridiculous.”

“I’m not saying it ain’t. Just sayin’ that’s how people think,” Bianca points out. “Najwa was a noisy bird. Brought a lot of attention to herself. And she was a Clique leader. Takin’ her out was symbolic or whatever.”

Harriet sits quietly for a while, letting herself sink into the feeling of Bianca doing her hair, and trying to sort out what this all means. She comes up blank.

“There,” Bianca says, dropping her hands on Harriet’s shoulders. “Gorgeous.”

Harriet goes to look in the mirror. When she had met Bianca, she’d worn her hair like this. Harriet has always worn her hair in braids or buns, too afraid to try an afro, but she must admit, she likes it. She reaches up and touches it carefully. She likes how it feels.

“Wicked,” she says, turning to grin at Bianca. Bianca grins back. It’s the first real smile she’s seen from her since her mother died.

Harriet wears the afro proudly to breakfast the next morning, daring people to comment. Polly shoots her a small smile over her porridge, but doesn’t say anything. Taylor comes over and spends ten minutes lamenting her own hair, which she finds quarrelsome, before seeing Andrea across the room and going to fight with her. Gloria sits with her and asks Bianca questions about what she should do with her own hair. Anoushka drops a kiss on her cheek, not bothering to say anything, and not needing to. It’s a wonderfully routine morning.

She’s walking to class when that changes.

She has English Lit this morning, and is heading for her classroom when she hears voices whispering behind her. Normally, Harriet would ignore this (Trinian’s girls are notorious gossips, and some of them are bad enough at it that they gossip literally behind your back), but a tingle down her spine makes her tense. This isn’t regular whispering. She tightens her hands on her bag and tries to see if any of her friends are nearby, but she doesn’t see anyone.

“Oi, Harriet!” someone shouts from behind her. In the months since school started, Harriet has come to recognize Ursula’s voice. She speeds up.

“Now, Harriet, that isn’t nice,” says someone else. Darla. Of course.

People are sliding into their classrooms all around her. The halls are clearing out. It would figure, Harriet thinks dimly, that her class is on the other side of the school, and she’s running late for the first time in weeks. Everyone will be in their own classes before she makes it to hers.

She’s just about to consider running when a hand clamps down on her shoulder and spins her around. Harriet stares back at Ursula and tries to smile.

“Hello,” she says. Behind Ursula are Darla and Betty. Naturally.

“How are you, dear?” Betty asks, her voice dripping sweetness. It’s enough to make Harriet want to gag.

“I was better before I ran into you,” Harriet replies honestly. She tries to twist out of Ursula’s grip, but she just tightens her hands before Harriet can do much. She licks her lips and tries again. “Fine.”

Ursula’s face is dark, and she glances around the halls. Everyone has left. It’s just them. Again. Harriet has managed to avoid this for months now, always on time or early, walking with friends, and though she had resented Kelly’s hovering at the time, now she misses it. She thought they were done with this. That they’d moved on.

“And you?” Harriet asks, trying for polite and just missing the mark. It comes out sarcastic instead.

“Better until we met you,” Darla parrots, and Ursula shoves Harriet back. She considers resisting, but she decides against it. They haven’t done anything yet. Maybe they just want to insult her a bit. She can handle that. She’s handled it before. She’ll be fine.

They maneuver her back into a room. A classroom, Harriet realizes, one that’s currently empty (at least, ever since they (sort of) accidentally scared the teacher away by bombarding her with stink bombs. And slugs. And maybe a frog or two.) Betty closes the door behind them, grinning. And then she pulls a pair of scissors out of her bag.

Harriet’s mouth goes dry.

“See, the thing is,” Ursula begins, a smirk on her face, “we’ve noticed that you like to try different hairstyles. And we thought we’d help you out with that.”

Harriet twists desperately and manages to wrench herself out of Ursula’s grip. She makes a run for the door, but Ursula tackles her around the waist, and she crashes to the ground, the impact reverberating up her elbow. She wiggles, clawing at the ground, but Ursula’s grip is firm. Ursula flips her onto her back and Darla crawls on top of her, pinning her to the ground. Harriet hits her, hard, and hears Ursula snarl something before grabbing her hands and slamming them down.

“Hold still,” Ursula growls. Darla grins down at her.

“This isn’t going to hurt, darling,” she coos, and then nods up at Betty, who is approaching with the scissors. Harriet watches with wide eyes, her heart hammering in her chest.

And here’s the thing. Harriet has done this before. When she was young, a bunch of kids in her neighborhood thought it would be fun and funny to hold her down and cut her hair, because she was small and fragile-looking and Black. She’d worn her hair in pigtails then; they’d sliced one braid completely off, and the other had been butchered. She hadn’t fought back, just lay still and cried, and then she’d gone home to her mother, who had cried while she tried to fix it.

Something inside Harriet snaps. No one would ever call her passive; she’s just always preferred arguing over actual fighting. But here, now, with two girls holding her down while another comes toward her with scissors, Harriet thinks, not again. She is still small, and fragile-looking, and she’s a Geek and they’re always considered unthreatening, and she is still Black, but none of that matters and she lashes out.

She bucks up, dislodging Darla enough that she can pull a leg up. She kicks her as hard as she’s able. Darla howls and falls back even as Harriet uses the movement to jerk her hands free of Ursula. She rolls to the side, scrambling to get to her feet, but Ursula manages to grab her again. Harriet doesn’t even think about it. She twists and punches her. Ursula shrieks, and Harriet gets up.

Betty is looking at her, shocked, scissors still in hand. Harriet dives at her, ripping the scissors away from her and tossing them to the side. Betty goes down, and Harriet crawls on top of her, hitting her twice before someone- Ursula, again- drags her off. She tries to hit her again, but Ursula is too quick this time, catching her fist and punching her in the stomach instead.

Harriet falls back to the ground, and Darla kicks her once, twice, three times. Harriet yells and grabs her ankle, trying to pull her down. She succeeds, but Darla falls on top of her, which wasn’t exactly what she was hoping for. Darla bats at her ineffectively, and Harriet slams an elbow into her head.

“Get the scissors!” she hears Ursula snap, and she twists to see Betty run across the room to grab them, tossing them to Ursula. Before she can do much else, Ursula drops down next to her and places the point of the scissors against Harriet’s throat.

She freezes.

“You fucking darkie. You deserve this,” Ursula whispers.

Harriet stares up at Ursula and thinks, oh God, she’s going to kill me.

She’s going to die because a bunch of girls were playing a prank, and she couldn’t just let it happen. Her stomach feels like ice, and she hears herself vaguely, begging and pleading, but mostly she’s just thinking, I’mgoingtodieimgoingtodieimgoingtodie over and over again. If she had just let them cut her hair, this wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t fought back, and God, Harriet is a Geek, she knows how to play the odds, and one to three aren’t good ones. She wonders if Najwa fought back. She wonders how Najwa managed to survive.

Ursula pulls back the scissors, and Harriet closes her eyes.

And then the door slams open, and someone yells, “What in bloody fuck?” Harriet opens her eyes to see Taylor standing there, Anoushka just behind her.

“Help!” she screams, and then the room erupts into chaos once more.

Later, she won’t remember what happened. She won’t remember Taylor kicking Ursula in the face, or Anoushka using one of her high heels to knock Betty unconscious. She certainly won’t remember biting Darla and breaking her nose. But it happens, because soon, the girls who attacked her are unconscious, and Harriet is sitting against the wall, breathing hard and trying not to throw up.

Anoushka stares at her for a long moment, taking everything in, and then says, “I’m going to get Miss Fritton.”

Harriet doesn’t say anything, just focuses on breathing. Taylor kicks one of the unconscious girls in the side, spitting something garbled and unintelligible at her, and then crouches down in front of Harriet, her hands spread wide, eyes concerned. “Oi, Harriet. Harriet? You with me?”

She nods quickly, trying to get her breathing to slow down. If she doesn’t, she’s going to hyperventilate, which would be… bad.

“Yeah,” she says, sucking in a breath and closing her eyes. She takes a moment to focus, and then opens her eyes again, staring at Taylor. “I’m here.”

“You’re bleedin’ a bit, but I don’t see nothin’ broken. You feel all right, mate?”

“They nearly killed me, how do you think I feel?” Harriet snaps before she can stop herself. Then she closes her eyes again, trying to find her calm. Trying desperately to regain control of herself.

It doesn’t work. The sobs come out of her unbidden. She presses a fist to her mouth, trying to stifle them, but that only makes them harder, louder. She feels tears leak out of her eyes, and dammit, she shouldn’t be crying. She’s alive, they’re sure to be expelled, and she’s alive, there’s nothing to cry about.

Taylor wraps her arms around her. “Go on and cry, girlie,” Taylor says gently. “You just cry, now.”

And she does.

******
She dresses in her best jumper vest for her meeting with Miss Fritton. She pins her hair into the neatest buns she can manage, polishes her glasses and shoes, and makes sure her argyle socks are even. Then, smiling at Beverly and wishing her Namaste (and tasting something sour in her mouth as she does so, because she’s dressed in a sari, wearing a bindi, it’s like she’s playing dress up, and she loves Beverly, but it makes her feel sick to see this), she walks into Miss Fritton’s office right on time for her appointment.

Miss Fritton is sitting behind her desk, partially hidden behind a pile of folders. Harriet cannot imagine what it must be like to be Headmistress of St. Trinian’s. She cannot imagine deciding what to ignore, and when to intervene. She cannot imagine being an authority figure in a school full of students hell bent on defying any authority figure around. Still, Miss Fritton makes it work. Everyone loves Miss Fritton.

Even Harriet loves her, despite everything. She has trouble with her, and if she were in a position to do so, she would argue with Miss Fritton until her face was blue, but she loves her.

“Ah, Harriet. Now then, what can I do for you?” Miss Fritton asks, looking up from her files and adjusting her glasses. Harriet sits down in the chair in front of her desk and folds her hands neatly, trying to remember what Polly looked like when conducting her business. She was always prim and proper. Harriet is… less so, but she’ll try, just this once.

“Voodoo class,” she says, and Miss Fritton nods, a small smile gracing her lips.

“I was wondering when you’d show up in my office.”

“Then you know I want it gone.”

Miss Fritton releases an almost girlish chuckle and leans back in her chair. “Of course, my dear. I was just waiting for you to say so.”

Harriet frowns, trying to work out the meaning behind Miss Fritton’s word. Over the years, she has come to understand that Miss Fritton layers her meanings. She decides to go with her gut and asks, “Are you saying you knew the voodoo class was offensive, and were just waiting for me to raise a fuss?”

Miss Fritton holds her gaze, steady and calm in all things. “I respond to what the students want, Miss Bamford. I received requests for a voodoo class. I gave the students what they wanted.”

Geek politics are more complicated than this, but it all still gives Harriet a headache. “So, are you saying you found it offensive as well?”

“I’m saying nothing. Other than I respond to my students’ needs and wishes.”

“Not always,” Harriet snorts before she can stop herself.

Miss Fritton raises an eyebrow. “I respond to the needs of all my students. Even if they are gits.”

“So when you didn’t expel Tamsin?” Harriet challenges. It still rankles, after all these years. Ursula, Darla, Betty, they had all been expelled after attacking her. But Tamsin, whose attacks were less obvious, less violent, was allowed to remain at St. Trinian’s, no matter what damage she did. And Bunny, Jerrica and Lois, the girls who pushed her down the stairs, they weren’t expelled. Gina and Alison were merely de-Cliqued. Harriet knows that being de-Cliqued is social death, but it was not enough for her. It still isn’t.

“I didn’t expel her because she needed St. Trinian’s. And the girls who pushed you down the stairs needed a firm, guiding hand that they wouldn’t have received elsewhere. As for Gina and Alison… if you knew what they went through, after they were de-Cliqued, you would let your grudge go.”

Another thing about Miss Fritton is that she has always been able to read the minds of her students. “People got hurt,” she snaps.

“If they were here, I could do something about it. Out there? There isn’t anything like St. Trinian’s out there, Harriet. I do what I can.”

“You don’t do enough,” she replies.

“No,” Miss Fritton says. She says it simply, gently. It just about breaks Harriet’s heart.

“You can do more.”

“If that is what my students want.”

Harriet meets Miss Fritton’s gaze clearly. “It is.”

******
It’s like being attacked released something in Harriet. For about two weeks, she remains quiet, sticking close to her friends, refusing to venture away from the crowd. Taylor snaps at anyone who comes near her. Anoushka keeps a sharp hockey stick with her at all times, one hand curled around the handle, the other curled around Harriet’s wrist. Bianca curls up around her at night, stroking her hair and muffling her sobs.

Polly watches her from a distance, eyes wide, mouth tight. She doesn’t smile as much anymore.

Harriet thinks that’s how she would have spent the remainder of her third year at St. Trinian’s, curled into herself and hurting, if it weren’t for seeing a couple of girls laughing and pushing around a First Year. The girl is tiny, her eyes wide as her books fall out of her hands.

“Pick it up,” one of the girls laughs, and Harriet throws herself into the fray.

She doesn’t like to fight. She never has, and she never will. So she just walks over, glares at the circle of girls and says, “Is there a problem here?”

The youngest of the crowd must be at least a fifth former, and they all look distinctly unimpressed.

“Nothing to fret your pretty little head over,” says the tallest. She has auburn hair that’s tied up in a complex braid. If Harriet weren’t so familiar with all the Geeks, she might mistake her for one. An Eco, maybe.

“She looks upset,” Harriet snaps. “Which makes it my problem.”

The girls chuckle. “You’re cute,” says another one, a Chav. Harriet thinks her name might be Lola. Lily? L-something, at any rate. “But really, it’s just harmless fun.”

Harriet can see the First Year nodding rapidly out of the corner of her eye, but she ignores it. “Bullying people isn’t harmless,” she says.

The tallest rolls her eyes. “We aren’t bullying her.”

“Her books are on the ground.”

“This is St. Trinian’s,” giggles a shorter girl with dark brown, almost black, hair. “Books are always on the ground.”

Harriet takes a deep breath, trying to keep her temper reined in. She can still feel the bruises on her arms. The scrapes on her knuckles. She glances at the First Year (blonde, blue eyes, a chain bracelet around her wrist, probably a future Emo), and thinks, tomorrow she could be me, and then tilts her chin upwards at the girls, putting her hands on her hips. Defiant One, Najwa called her. She needs to remember that.

“Pick them up,” she says.

Lola-Lily-Lavender-L-girl sighs. “Jesus, if it’s so important to you…”

She stoops down and grabs the books, shoving them at the First Year. The First Year takes them, blinking, and the group of girls move on, grumbling to themselves as they go. Harriet watches, and then looks back at the First Year. “What’s your name?”

“You didn’t need to do that,” the First Year says instead, shifting her books in her arms. “I could have handled it myself.”

“But you shouldn’t have to,” Harriet says blankly.

The First Year gives her a sour look. “Now they’re just going to be extra annoying later. Thanks a lot.”

With that, she walks away.

Harriet’s first victory seems somehow empty. It doesn’t stop her, though. When she sees girls being mean, she steps up, scowling at them and arguing with them until they sigh and walk away or get angry and try to start a fight. She doesn’t fight them, though. She won’t do that. But she starts to get a reputation.

Mostly, they call her obnoxious.

“Girl, you got to stop seeing abuse everywhere you look,” Bianca tells her one night, carefully painting her nails. “Sometimes, we just havin’ some fun.”

“It isn’t fun, picking on other people,” Harriet protests, her head on Bianca’s thigh. Bianca looks down at her, face pinched with disbelief.

“Have you looked around to see what school you’re at?” she asks. “You need to pick your battles.”

“Bianca…”

Bianca puts down her nail polish and sits back so that she can look at Harriet fully. Her face is stern, almost angry looking. She sits up, knowing that whatever Bianca is going to say is important. She never looks like that.

“Harriet, you know I love you,” Bianca begins. “But God help me, mate, you’re going to get your arse thoroughly kicked if you don’t stop. I understand you’re angry, but- but there are some people in this school who would rather make you bleed than finish their education. And if you ain’t careful, you gonna meet them, and they gonna wipe the floor with you.”

Bianca grabs her hand, smearing her nail polish. “I need you right now. Please stop aimin’ for the infirmary. Or worse, the morgue.”

Harriet stands up and walks away.

She doesn’t go far. She walks over to Polly’s dorm. To Tamsin’s dorm.

Tamsin has been… subdued, really, since her friends were expelled. She keeps insisting that she knew nothing about the attack on Harriet, and she almost believes her, the wild desperation in Tamsin’s eyes too real to be feigned.

“Harriet,” she’d said, catching her on the way to class two days after she was attacked. “I swear, I didn’t know they would do that.”

Harriet had just stared at her coldly before saying, “You knew enough,” and walking away.

The expulsion has caused an uproar, with so many Clique leaders suddenly gone. If Kelly hadn’t been there to sit all of them down and discuss what exactly happened, there may have been a mutiny. Instead, the Cliques who lost their leaders simply split apart and chose new leaders, however they did it. The new Clique leaders are all craftier and more subtle than Ursula, Darla, and Betty. And they leave Harriet alone. They don’t have any time for a third form Geek.

Harriet walks past Tamsin’s bed, ignoring her scowl, and sits down next to Polly.

“Bianca wants me to stop getting into fights with people,” she says.

Polly carefully sets her laptop to the side and folds her hands. “Your thoughts?”

“I don’t want my thoughts right now,” Harriet says, frustrated. “I don’t know if I’m thinking right. Run me through the options and consequences.”

Polly stares at her through her glasses, eyes distant and vague for a moment. Her gaze flickers for a moment, darting over to where Tamsin is obviously eavesdropping, and then she stands, grabbing Harriet’s hand.

“Let’s go for a walk,” is all she says, and then they go.

They wander the halls in silence. It feels, in so many painful ways, like Harriet’s first year, when she would walk the halls with Polly, listening to her plethora of ideas, wishing she would shut up and ask Harriet something, anything, if only to show that she cared. She knows better now. She knows Polly cares.

“You’re antagonizing people,” Polly starts, and Harriet lets out an explosive sigh.

“They’re antagonizing everyone else,” she argues. Polly raises an eyebrow at her.

“This is St. Trinian’s,” she begins, but Harriet interrupts.

“Polly, that’s what everyone says. ‘This is St. Trinian’s, so it’s okay.’ ‘This is St. Trinian’s, so bleeding is just fine.’ ‘This is St. Trinian’s, so we’ll just turn a blind eye because, oh, girls will be girls, it’s all right, that’s just fine.’ And that’s bloody ridiculous, and you know it.”

Polly looks pained. She reaches out and grabs Harriet’s hand, squeezing it tight in her own. “It’s not all right,” she whispers. “God, God but it’s not. But Harriet… getting yourself killed, that isn’t all right, either.”

“Do you know what they say about you?” Harriet chokes out, tears welling up.

Polly’s eyes are soft. “Of course.”

“About me?”

“Harriet,” she says gently, “I run the CCTV network. I know what everyone says about everyone.”

“Some of the girls call you a- a kike. Ursula and her friends did,” she says, and Polly sighs.

“I know.”

“And you expect me to walk away?” Harriet asks incredulously.

Polly stops walking all of a sudden, halting in the middle of the hallway. They’re by the science classroom that Kelly and Polly favor, their horrific graffiti poetry scrawled all over the wall. She places her palm against the words, Polly Hopkins sucks, and smiles faintly.

“I expect you to take care of yourself, so that you’re still here to be outraged tomorrow,” she says finally. She looks at Harriet, and points at the wall. “She used to hate me, did you know?”

Harriet hadn’t, actually. “No,” she says.

Polly nods, and traces the words with a fingertip before looking at another poem with the exact same words. “It wasn’t because I was Jewish, or anything like that. She thought I was pretentious and snobby, and she stole something from me, and I retaliated, and we spent our entire first year here fighting. The only reason she and I became friends is because her parents told her to stay away from me.”

“Because you’re Jewish?” Harriet asks.

Polly shrugs a shoulder. “Maybe. Probably because my parents are… well. They are what they are, and respectable society knows it. But the point is, Harriet, as long as we were fighting, we couldn’t- we couldn’t really see each other. We just saw outlines, fragments.”

Harriet frowns. “You want me to stop fighting because as long as I’m fighting them, I can’t get to know them? I don’t want to get to know them, Polly. They’re bullies, and racists, and-”

Polly raises a hand up. “I’m not saying that you should stop arguing with them. I’m saying… all they’re going to see is the worst parts of you. And they’re going to hate you for it. They’ll just see this angry girl, and they’ll never- they’ll never stop long enough to actually listen to what you’re saying.”

Harriet feels a bubble of anger rising in her throat. “So, basically, you’re saying I should watch my tone?” It’s nearly a shriek.

Polly’s smile is so sad, so hopeless, that it burns. “No. I’m saying, do what you need to in order to survive. I don’t want you to be the next Najwa, Harriet. We may not- maybe we don’t love each other the way that you asked for, but I do love you. And I don’t want to watch you bleed. All right?”

They walk back to the dorms in silence. Harriet watches from the doorway as Polly walks back to her bed and smiles at Tamsin. She watches as they talk for a minute. Tamsin pats Polly on the shoulder as she passes, her smile bright. Polly’s eyes are gentle as she nods enthusiastically at whatever Tamsin is saying, but Harriet can see them dim when Polly turns.

Harriet wonders if they both know that the other is pretending at friendliness. If it matters. Tamsin is the current leader. Polly will be the next Geek leader. That isn’t going to change. They are playing their roles perfectly. Harriet doubts that anyone suspects how much Tamsin dislikes Polly, just for what she is, and how little respect Polly has for Tamsin.

Polly catches her eye as she sits back on her bed. She nods gravely, and then pulls out her laptop. Harriet walks away.

That night, Harriet sits in front of a mirror for a long time. And then, slowly, she pulls out her at-home hair relaxer kit and gets to work.

******
“So, all right,” Gloria says, pacing. “What next?”

It’s a great question, really. Harriet has no idea.

“How about something small?” Artemis says slowly. “Let’s try the de facto segregation, maybe?”

Which is how Harriet finds herself sitting with Daisy, Beth, Winona, and Celia at lunch as they argue about the windmills that are being installed to power St. Trinian’s.

“I still think we could add some solar panels,” Daisy says, stabbing her salad viciously. “We have the money, yeah?”

While Miss Fritton had told all the Cliques that they would do their duty by donating all the Shakespeare manuscript money to the school, she’d done herself the disservice of mentioning that she would dole out money for truly worthy projects. Hence, the windmills. Unfortunately, it opened a whole new avenue of fighting, with each Clique certain that they knew what was best done with the money. The Ecos had won one fight, but they still insisted it wasn’t enough. Harriet finds these arguments tiresome.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” Beth hisses, “but there is still an entire wing of the school that needs remodeling.”

“And,” Winona adds, slurping her water noisily, “we could afford to add that art gallery we’ve been talking about for years.”

Celia flicks her fingers dismissively. “Forget that dumb art gallery. We should totally add a garden. We need to be self sufficient. We don’t want to buy food from corporations.”

Harriet wants to sink into her seat. She looks across the dining hall and sees Bianca arguing loudly with Zoe, while Bella and Saffy are sitting with Niobe, Emily Toshiba, and Jenny Wilkers, a Geek, Rude Girl, and Flammable respectively. They are smiling and giggling, but that doesn’t really tell Harriet anything about their conversations. They’re always smiling and laughing.

“What do you think, Harriet?” Beth asks, finally.

“What?” Harriet asks. She hasn’t been listening, really.

“What do you think we should do with our money?” Winona asks.

Harriet frowns. The money has never really concerned her. If she were loyal to her co-leader, she’d bring up the all-girl moon mission. But she tends to roll her eyes at Lucy’s aspiration for that, if only because she has no interest in visiting the stars, only writing their music. Plus, while she believes St. Trinian’s women can do just about anything, building a viable space shuttle is beyond her powers of belief. Instead, she ends up reluctantly talking about something that she’s wanted since she was a first former and starting her research.

“I’d like,” she says slowly, “to make my genealogies project a reality.”

Daisy, Winona, and Beth all frown, but Celia lets out a long sigh. She’s familiar with the project.

“What’s your genealogy project?” asks Winona.

“It’s…” Harriet trails off. She doesn’t quite know how to explain it, all these years later. “It tracks the reality of non-white girls at St. Trinians,” she settles on.

“Like… their test scores?” Daisy asks, confused.

“Like, how they lived,” Celia says, wrinkling her nose.

Winona leans forward, looking interested. Harriet remembers that she’s one of the (unnamed, unmarked) Jewish students at St. Trinian’s. Beth looks interested as well.

“How so?” Winona queries.

Harriet winds up explaining how she went through the old student records and looked at how many non-white girls matriculated at St. Trinian’s each year; how many graduated; what classes they took, what grades they received. She tells them how she dug out old journals from the library and read them. She explains the history of Cliques to them, how they evolved over the years, how the devolved, how the leadership was passed. She tells them that she found all the graffiti that mentioned girls by name and figured out which girls were non-white, which were white, and how the graffiti differed. She details the employment history of St. Trinian’s. How attitudes changed. How they didn’t.

“They’re just stories, really,” Harriet ends with. “The stories we don’t hear. The ones we don’t talk about. The ones we ignore.”

“Stories of silence,” Winona says softly. She’s looking at her hands.

“It’s really one story of silence,” Celia corrects. Harriet looks at her sharply. Her face is serene, gentle. There is none of the usual hostility that rises up when Harriet talks about her projects. “The same one repeating through the years. It’s just one long emptiness in our history.”

“Well, that’s dumb,” Daisy snorts. “You’re right. We ought to fix that, shouldn’t we?”

Which is how they wind up discussing using the money to build a museum.

******
Polly is named the new Geek leader. No one is surprised. It’s announced two weeks before the end of the school year, Tamsin smiling brightly at the room. Her smile is brittle, and Harriet wonders if anyone else can see it. Polly stands and smiles at everyone, tight and thin, and it’s nothing like her usual smiles. Harriet looks at her with alarm.

“Thank you,” Polly says. “I appreciate this show of your esteem.”

Then she sits, and says nothing else for the rest of the meeting.

When they break apart, Geeks milling about and chatting, excited over Polly’s rise to leader, Harriet pushes through them, desperate to reach Polly. But when she reaches where Polly was sitting, Polly is gone.

“Have you seen Polly?” she calls over to Maria.

Maria shakes her head. “I think she was going to talk to Tamsin, maybe. Didn’t see for sure, sorry.”

Harriet feels dread sitting in the bottom of her stomach. She has been so good (so passive, so quiet, so pathetic) for this last bit of the year. She’s been careful to wear her hair straight, in neat buns, her jumpers carefully pressed. She hasn’t rocked the boat. She’s nodded at whatever Tamsin has said. There is nothing for Tamsin to use against Polly, in regards to Harriet. She shouldn’t be worried.

She is, nonetheless, and maneuvers her way to the Geek office. The Geek office is traditionally left unlocked whenever the Clique leader is in it, but when Harriet tries the doorknob, it doesn’t budge.

She turns automatically, scanning the crowd of Geeks for one of the girls Harriet knows can pick locks. Really, she needs to learn the skill at some point. She’s a St. Trinian’s girl, after all. After a moment, she spots Loretta talking enthusiastically with Adela, and waves her hand in the air.

“Etta! I need your help,” she calls. Loretta says something to Adela, and then walks over.

Loretta is a Geek in Harriet’s year, and one of the few Hi-Techs that she considers a real friend. She’s a smirking, cunning girl, and her expertise is in “security” as she puts it. Harriet has always considered her a cat burglar in training, but Etta considers such terms déclassé.

“Yes?” she says, almost in a purr. Harriet resists the urge to roll her eyes. Etta may consider the term “cat burglar” déclassé, but she acts feline enough to earn it.

“I need you to pick the lock to the Geek office,” she says briskly. Etta’s eyebrows shoot up. Harriet immediately clarifies. “I think there’s something wrong. Tamsin and Polly are in there, and the door is locked.”

“Maybe they’re discussing the direction of the Geek Clique,” Etta says, but even she sounds unconvinced. She kneels in front of the door immediately, digging out a set of fancy looking picklocks from her trouser pockets and getting to work.

Like everything else in St. Trinian’s, the lock is ancient, and Loretta spends less than a minute tweaking at the innards of the door. The door unlocks with a faint click, and Harriet throws the door open without thought.

Tamsin has Polly’s wrist in her hand and is standing far too close, looking furious and ready to take Polly down. Polly, though, simply looks smug.

Harriet doesn’t know what she’s witnessing. From the look on Etta’s face, she doesn’t either.

“Simply put, Tamsin,” Polly says, clearly concluding the conversation while pulling her wrist free with a quick tug, “I win.” Her smug look devolves into what Harriet would normally call a cruel smirk, if it were on anybody else’s face. “And you lose.”

She turns on heel and brushes past Harriet and Etta, not bothering to acknowledge them. Her spine is straighter, Harriet notices absently. Her chin is lifted higher.

Tamsin looks at them, her face clouded with fury. “What?” she snaps. “Did you need something?”

Harriet finds herself without words, possibly for the first time all year.

“No,” Etta says smoothly. “Just noticed the lock was sticky.”

******
“Harriet!” a voice shouts above the bustle of the crowded hallways. Harriet glances up from her bag, searching for the source, and her eyes come to rest on Georgiana.

Geek, her mind supplies. Recovering alcoholic.

Georgiana catches up with her, panting slightly from the effort of getting through the hall. It’s only a minute or two before the next class starts, and people aren’t in any hurry to go anywhere.

“Hi, Georgiana,” she says simply, pulling out the book she was searching for. She’s giving it to Mr. Grimly, her world history teacher, in order to show him that there’s more in the world than the West.

“Maria said something about a museum?” Georgiana says, pushing her hair out of her eyes.

“She told you about that?” Harriet asks, surprised. Georgiana is Hi-Tech, and despite Polly’s efforts for the past two years, the division is still fairly chasmic. Hi-Techs and Lo-Techs exist peacefully together, but it’s a side-by-side habitation, rather than an integrative one.

“She’s my sponsor,” Georgiana says, shrugging.

(The story of Georgiana is one rarely discussed at St. Trinian’s, but it is discussed. Her mum was an alcoholic, and drank while she was pregnant with Georgiana. No one knows how she escaped Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but escape it she did, only to have her dad give her tequila from a bottle when she was two. It wasn’t until she came to St. Trinian’s that she realized something was a bit off about her childhood. Then Miss Fritton came down hard, and Georgiana became a ward of St. Trinian’s.)

“Isn’t that supposed to be, uh, secret?” Harriet asks. She doesn’t know much about Alcoholics Anonymous, but the “anonymous” part is pretty obvious.

Georgiana scoffs. “As if anything is actually a secret here. Anyway. What can I do to get this museum ready?”

Harriet cringes. The excited discussion about a museum had taken up an entire afternoon at her table that day, but she still feels uneasy about it. Because a museum, in Harriet’s eyes, implies the past. Over and done with. A relic to be examined with interest. And racism at St. Trinian’s isn’t any of that. She hasn’t told the others about it yet.

“We’re not… I don’t- that is to say- all right.” She pauses, organizes her thoughts, and tries again. “So far, the museum is in discussion stages only.”

“Okay,” Georgiana says with a brilliant grin. “Just keep me in the loop. I’d love to help out.”

She skips away, humming blithely to herself, and Harriet watches her go with a growing feeling of sickness. Around her, students are disappearing into their classrooms, but Harriet stands still for a moment, and then decides that she needs to talk to someone now.

Harriet strides to the nearest classroom and opens the door, poking her head inside. To her dismay, it’s a class of first formers. None of the FAR members are there. She starts to close the door, murmuring apologies to the teacher, when she sees Alex Warren staring at her in her typically intense way. She pauses.

“Miss Warren is requested in Miss Fritton’s office,” Harriet lies, and Alex stands up, gathering her books.

When Alex gets out into the hall, she gives Harriet an amused look. “I’m not really needed in Miss Fritton’s office, am I?”

“No,” Harriet confesses. “Come with me.”

Alex follows her silently through the hall as Harriet leads her to the Geek office. She knows Lucy is in Advanced Computer Science right now, and so it will be empty and silent and perfect. Perhaps it’s wrong to unload on a First Year, but Harriet doesn’t much care at the moment. She likes the girl. She’s intelligent, and thoughtful, and she sees through the knot of problems too easily. If Harriet knew which class Jemima was in, she’d get her, too. As a team, Jemima and Alex are terrifying.

She unlocks the door and opens it, gesturing for Alex to come in. Alex nods her thanks and gingerly takes a seat on the edge of one of the armchairs in the office, left over from Polly’s era, a welcome reminder of saner times.

“What can I do for you?” Alex asks. Harriet walks around behind the desk, taking her seat and feeling old all of a sudden. She’s sat behind the desk before, of course, but this is the first time she’s done it with a youthful face peering back at her from the other side.

Is this how Najwa felt? she wonders, and brushes the thought aside. “I need your feedback,” she says.

Alex’s surprise is there and gone in the blink of an eye. She settles back in the chair, drawing her skinny legs up to her chest and resting her chin upon them as she closes her eyes. “Go on,” she says, and Harriet feels an impossible fondness for her.

She summarizes her genealogy project as quickly as she can, explaining her first years at St. Trinian’s and her work with Najwa. She explains the far subtler divisions at St. Trinian’s, like the two types of Geeks and Posh-Totties, which are so rooted in class and race that no one even realizes it anymore. She explains Polly, and the origins of FAR, and their current efforts. She explains it all, and then delicately moves onto the issue of a museum.

“I just don’t feel that it’s what is appropriate,” she concludes slowly. “I view museums as something to showcase history, and St. Trinian’s has a lot of history, but racism is a present issue. Not just one from the past that we’ve solved and are done with, and now we can marvel at our backwards ways.”

“Yeah,” Alex replies, opening her eyes. “I mean, you can add new exhibits to museums, but it’s not quite the same, is it? The history connects to the present, but most people don’t make those connections.”

“And if they don’t make the connections,” Harriet says, “Then the entire point is lost.”

“It sounds,” Alex says slowly, “like you need more of a living monument.”

Harriet stares at her for a long time, long enough that she notices Alex starting to shift uncomfortably. Finally, she says, “Explain.”

“Well, you could use all the information that you gathered, and create a sort of living exhibit. Where, um, people add things as they feel inspired. Their own work. Their own diaries, or journals. Their pictures. Their stories. And so it’s interactive, and living, and is still a monument to what happened here, and so we can look at it and see our past reflected in our present. In a really clear way,” Alex says haltingly.

Harriet knows that she’s staring again, but she can’t help it. A living monument. A living memorial. A living testimony. An ongoing testimony, for that matter.

No more silence.

“You,” Harriet says, standing up, “are brilliant.”

Then she turns to the telegraph machine in the office (Polly and Lucy both argued for its removal, but Harriet pointed out that it wouldn’t do to alienate potential Geeks by cutting off immediate contact with First Years) and taps out a quick message.

“Can I go?” Alex asks after a minute.

“May I,” Harriet corrects absently, watching the messages that get sent back to her. “And no.”

She and Alex sit in silence, Harriet scribbling things down on a piece of paper, Alex picking uneasily at her pinafore. Normally, she’d try to make Alex feel at ease, but she needs to write while she still knows what she’s thinking.

The door opens, and Lucy walks in, closely followed by Bianca and Chelsea. Harriet looks up and waves them in.

“We might have a breakthrough,” she says, grinning. “I sent a message out to the couriers to get all the FAR students. And Jemima,” she adds, glancing at Alex. Alex relaxes slightly, though she’s still tense, looking at all the girls who’ve just walked in.

“Blimey,” Bianca says, sighing. “I thought something bad had happened.”

Artemis comes in, sitting next to Alex and beaming at her. Gloria, Saffy, and Bella come in next, and then Celia, Beth, Daisy, and Winona arrive, the newest members. Jemima is the last to arrive, looking incredibly confused.

The office is cramped enough when it’s just Lucy and Harriet. They spent a great deal of time figuring out the arrangement of furniture to optimize space. With fourteen girls packed in like sardines, it’s almost hard to breathe. She sees Bianca maneuver herself to throw open the window. It doesn’t help much.

“A few days ago, I had the opportunity to sit with Daisy, Winona, Celia and Beth during lunch,” Harriet begins. People begin to move to sit down, and she ignores them, trying to organize her thoughts. “We were discussing what to do with the Shakespeare money, and when they asked my opinion, I mentioned my genealogies project.”

Everyone in the room nods, except for Jemima, who is just looking more and more confused, her usual enthusiasm dampened by lack of knowledge. Harriet sees Alex look at Jemima and purse her lips. She figures it’s a sort of signal, because Jemima just accepts everything with a shrug after that.

“They suggested creating a museum,” Harriet continues, and then explains everything to her friends. They nod along, making appreciative noises and glancing at their newest members with respect.

“But,” Harriet says, “there was something about a museum that made me uncomfortable. Because museums make me think of history and things that have passed, and maybe that’s not true, but it’s how I feel about museums, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

“I think of mummies,” Bianca offers helpfully, and Harriet grins at her, unable to help herself. She’s taken Bianca to museums before. She hates them, finds them tedious and boring and, most of all, irrelevant. It’s one of the things they’ve agreed to disagree about.

“Then I spoke to Alex, and she had a great idea.”

Harriet explains it quickly, watching Alex relax when it becomes clear that Harriet isn’t about to throw her under the bus. The rest of the room brightens considerably, too, and she can see Jemima beginning to bounce up and down where she’s standing.

The only person who doesn’t look interested, really, is Daisy.

“But if you think of museums as something that showcases the past, then why wouldn’t you have a museum?” she asks when Harriet is done. “Like, everything you told us about, it was done with. Cause, that one girl, Beatrice? The girl you told us about? She graduated eons ago. That’s the past.”

Beatrice is one of the more powerful examples that Harriet tells people about when describing her genealogies project. She was a student in 1956, and for her first two years, the only students who actually talked to her were other non-white students. Harriet found her diary behind a bookshelf in the library and read the girl’s anguished words with a dull ache in her heart. She talks about Beatrice whenever she can, if only to keep the girl alive, to keep people talking about her even if they wouldn’t talk to her.

“Is it?” Artemis challenges, twisting to look at Daisy. “How many non-white girls do you talk to, Daisy?”

Daisy splutters for a moment, looking around the room. “I-”

“Besides Harriet,” Gloria adds, smirking.

There is a long silence from Daisy, which everyone takes as a concession, and they return to the living monument idea.

“Do we want to petition Fritton for the money?” asks Lucy, sitting down on the edge of Harriet’s chair and pulling out a calculator. “I don’t want to even imagine what it will cost to build a building.”

“What do we have in mind?” Chelsea asks. “Violet Kelmel, remember her? The Chav-” Chelsea pauses and glances at Bianca before correcting herself. “-Rude Girl leader, two years ago? She might do it for free.”

“Andrea might design it,” Gloria says, nodding.

“Does it have to be a separate building?” Bianca asks suddenly, looking away from the window and frowning. “Cause ain’t no one gonna take the time to go out to a separate building. Gotta be somethin’ they see everyday, I think. No way to avoid it.”

“Good point,” says Saffy, nodding. “If it is tucked away, it’ll just continue the legacy of silence.”

Everyone looks at Saffy. Harriet doesn’t know if she’s ever heard Saffy string so many multi-syllabic words together in one go. She smiles and shrugs defensively. “I listen to things,” she explains.

“All right,” Alex says, standing up and startling them all. “Let’s get to work then, shall we?”

******
If Harriet’s third year was terrible, frightening, and incredibly eventful, she thinks she would classify her fourth year as relatively tame.

The new Clique leaders are mostly familiar to Harriet. Polly, obviously, and Kelly. But Peaches is elected onto the Triumvirate, which is thrilling, and she would have to be blind to not have noticed Violet Kelmel, the new Chav leader, wandering the halls. She’s a hulk of a girl, and utterly terrifying. Eve is one of the slightly less flighty Ecos, following in Ruby’s footsteps. JJ French is not Harriet’s ideal Head Girl (oily and too chipper- Harriet thinks she’ll either be a politician or an entertainer, in the end), but she isn’t the worst of the lot, so she really can’t complain.

Polly’s edicts on Geek Grants are far more fair than Tamsin’s, and this year, every girl gets at least some money. She still scales them, but Harriet is thrilled to receive two hundred pounds toward her composition. She rushes to tell Gloria immediately.

“Gloria!” Harriet shrieks, racing over to her bed. They’re in a different dorm, but she’d asked Polly immediately where she was staying this year, and didn’t hesitate.

Gloria looks up from her mirror, where she’s carefully applying thick eyeliner with a frustrated tilt to her eyebrows. “Harriet?” she asks.

“I got the money for my composition!” Harriet yells, ignoring the people who glare at her. St. Trinian’s is perpetually loud. They might as well get used to it.

Gloria jumps up, dropping her eyeliner on her bed. She holds out her arms, and Harriet races to hug her. Gloria’s grip is tight and comforting, and Harriet is just so thrilled to see her again. They’d written each other, and called, and Gloria had even visited a few times, but it’s different, seeing her here, where they belong.

“Finally!” Gloria says, laughing in her ear.

“It wasn’t the biggest prize,” Harriet babbles, “But it will be enough to get me going. To buy my own music books! I can buy composition paper, I can- I could get a telescope, I could, if I wanted, with the money. I can visit an observatory!”

Gloria pulls back, but keeps her hands on Harriet’s shoulder. Her smile is broad, and once again, Harriet can’t help but wonder how, exactly, Gloria became an Emo, of all things. “You can do anything, really, Harriet,” she says warmly.

Harriet considers for a moment before nodding. “Yes, I can.”

Gloria’s gaze is intense, and for a moment, Harriet wonders if she has something serious to bring up, if something happened over the summer. Her throat clenches, remembering Bianca, but then the look disappears and Gloria simply says, “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead,” and the moment is over.

Harriet has to wonder.

The dorms are better now, too. Harriet doesn’t know who assigned the beds, but there is a strong sense of mixing. She can’t detect a bias, in terms of race, and even the Cliques are broken down and thrown together. No dorm can be said to have more of one Clique than another and the dorms are all decent enough now that Harriet wouldn’t really resent it if it were true.

She is in the same dorm as Polly and Bianca, which is also lovely. She doesn’t have the bed right next to Polly, who sleeps in the Geek leader’s bed (that privilege is reserved for Chelsea Parker, Posh-Totty, who seems to enjoy babbling at Polly any hour of the day; strangely, Polly doesn’t seem to mind), but she has a bed across the room. Bianca sleeps two beds down.

Things are almost back to normal, almost the way they were when Najwa was her leader. She sits down during her first week back and writes Najwa a letter, letting her know that Polly is every inch the good leader that Najwa had thought she could be.

She and Najwa have been trading letters for a year now, and the occasional phone call when Najwa has the funds to pay for her mobile, which she hates but admits is a necessity. She works in some sort of clinic, from what Harriet understands. Teaches urban kids how to read. She’d mentioned, once, treating bullet wounds. Harriet still admires her, even if it’s from a distance. Najwa complains about the way her flat leaks, and her neighbor’s meth lab, and Harriet complains about teachers and the other girls.

She never told Najwa about Tamsin, not the details. Some vague outlines, things she couldn’t avoid telling her in order to give her stories context, but she never explained the way Tamsin had thrown them all the wolves in an attempt to secure her own position. The way she quietly hated Polly. Or any of the non-white students, though Harriet never saw it directed at the others, only the effects, which she admits to not knowing if that came from Tamsin or if it was initiated by her three friends. She’s never told her about the attack. She likes to think that Najwa got out whole, and she doesn’t need reminders. She doesn’t want Najwa to think she made the wrong choice. So she’s always written about silly things, like her fear of failing biology (Najwa had written, biology is all chemistry, in the end; the cellular level is obvious, but think about food webs as though you were balancing an equation), her laughably short relationship with Polly (oh, darling, you have many things yet to learn about Polly Hopkins), about the new defense system (why didn’t we think of that? I sometimes wonder what our predecessors were thinking), and other whimsical anecdotes. Najwa wrote back faithfully, every time.

Which is why it’s a shock when her letter is sent back to her, a stamp telling her that Najwa no longer lives at that address.

******
They break up into teams. Alex and Jemima volunteer to dig through all the old materials from the genealogy project.

“I’ve never theen it,” Jemima lisps. “I think we should look at it, thee what we’re looking at. How big it ith.”

Chelsea, Saffy, and Bella want to locate the perfect place for the living monument- or memorial, they haven’t decided on the terminology yet- to be located. “It’s all about location,” Bella gushes, “And I take these things very seriously.”

Lucy insists that they need to contact the women who are still living and ask them if they are okay with their words and lives being put on the memorial. Harriet eagerly joins that team. She’s known these girls for years, it feels. She wants to know who they grew up to be. With all her doubts about St. Trinian’s, she wants to know that they got out alive. She needs to know if they love St. Trinian’s, despite the pain. Bianca glances at her, and volunteers to help her.

Which leaves two tasks, really. Convincing Miss Fritton to give them the money, and the actual design of the memorial.

Lucy is the obvious choice to talk to Miss Fritton. She likes charts and graphs, enjoys the masquerade of carrying a briefcase and laying out documents. She also isn’t a great presenter, Harriet knows. She gets flustered easily. So Gloria smirks and says she would love to talk to Fritton about a few things.

Harriet hastily reminds her that she’s just supposed to talk about the memorial.

Winona, Celia, Daisy, and Beth aren’t completely committed to FAR yet, though both Winona and Celia tentatively offer to do some small tasks, here and there.

“It’s just that I’m helping plan the Chanukah celebration this year,” Winona explains apologetically, not looking at Harriet. “Emily is really relying on me.”

“No need to explain,” Harriet says, smiling. “I love the Chanukah celebration. If you need help, don’t forget I’ve helped with them from the beginning.”

Daisy offers no explanation for not volunteering for anything, Beth is a different story. “I’m getting really serious about my music career,” she says. “I have some auditions coming up, and…”

Harriet wants to start carrying a banner that says, YOU DON’T NEED TO EXPLAIN. She’d much rather have people who are fully on board than people who promise to help and then never come through.

Which leaves Artemis to design the memorial. Harriet calls Polly.

“Harriet,” Polly says, her voice warm and solid through the phone. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I need some help,” Harriet says. “You keep tabs on St. Trinian’s alum, right?”

Polly’s laugh is tinny. “I can tell you what they eat for breakfast.”

Harriet grins and presses the phone closer to her ear. It’s good to hear her voice. Seeing Kelly had been amazing, but while she liked Kelly well enough, she was no Polly. “Well, I don’t much care if they have a poached egg or that awful porridge you eat for breakfast every morning-”

“It’s healthy,” Polly interjects. It’s her usual argument. Harriet ignores her.

“But some phone numbers would be great.”

She can hear a flurry of keystrokes, and then Polly says, “Who do you need? I can track down anyone from the graduating class of 1945 and on.”

And this, Harriet thinks, scribbling down phone number after phone number, is why Polly is the best.

Later that day, she hands Artemis two phone numbers. “Violet and Andrea,” she explains when Artemis frowns. “They were the major designers and architects of Dorm D, and the southwest terrace. If you want.”

Artemis nods slowly. “Thanks.”

The other numbers are for all the living women from the archives. Harriet slaps the list down in front of Bianca and borrows a phone from Saffy (the girl has four- Harriet does not understand this at all). She knows exactly who she is going to call first.

“Hello?” she says when the phone connects. “Is this Beatrice Holloway? Yes, my name is Harriet Bamford, and I’m a current student at St. Trinian’s. If you have some time, I’d like to ask you some questions.”

******
She can’t find Najwa.

This isn’t really surprising, technically. Geeks- all Geeks- are excellent at networking, but it’s the Hi-Techs who have the advantage in this. They use computers, whereas Lo-Techs tend to rely on the tried and true word-of-mouth method. If Najwa went underground, it’s really not a surprise that Harriet can’t find her. She’s too young to have a fully developed network.

What’s more disturbing is that Polly can’t find her, either.

“I’ve done everything I can think of,” Polly whispers to her late one evening. Harriet is curled up in Polly’s bed, against Polly’s side. Kelly is sitting at the foot of the bed, watching them with a bleak look. “But she’s gone.”

Harriet swallows and shuts her eyes. “Do you think she’s dead?”

Polly’s response is immediate and firm. “No. I would have found her if she was. Even if she were a Jane Doe, I would have found her. She’s alive. She’s just off the grid.”

Harriet feels Kelly shift at the foot of the bed. “Why would she do that?” she asks. Harriet wonders why she cares. She wasn’t Najwa’s friend. She didn’t love her, not like she and Polly did. It’s possible, Harriet reflects, that she’s bitter.

“There are lots of reasons to go off the grid,” Polly replies carefully. “As for Najwa’s reason, I don’t know. She might have found some trouble. Trouble may have found her. She’s… not like me, Kel. She doesn’t keep an electronic presence on purpose.”

The split between Lo-Techs and Hi-Techs isn’t something widely known by non-Geeks. Still, the concept seems to get across, and Harriet hears Kelly hum thoughtfully.

“Maybe she just doesn’t want to be found anymore,” Kelly says. That’s too much. Harriet sits up and glares at her, violently angry.

“Maybe not, but she would have told me. She wouldn’t be hiding from me.”

She storms out before either Kelly or Polly can say anything else. Unfortunately, storming out means she can’t go to her own bed, or Bianca’s. She finds herself standing by Gloria’s bed and shaking her shoulder gently.

She wakes up quickly, eyes flashing open. “Harriet?” Gloria asks, after peering through the dim light to see her. “What’s up?”

“Najwa’s gone,” she says numbly. “We can’t find her.”

Gloria takes in a quick breath, and then pulls back her covers. “Oh, Harriet. I’m so sorry. Come here, love.”

It’s with Gloria that she lets herself cry. Polly doesn’t invite tears, even at the worst of times, and Harriet refuses to cry in front of Kelly Jones, definition of strength. She would have cried with Bianca, but she’d taken that option away. Gloria is warm, and quiet, and while she’s strong, too, hers is the sort of strength that invites people closer instead of making them wary. She curls up tight and cries until she drifts into sleep, Gloria’s continuous, “Ssshhh, ssshhh, go ahead and cry, Harriet, go ahead,” her lullaby.

When she wakes up the next morning, Gloria is writing something on a notepad, one arm pinned beneath Harriet. Harriet sits up and winces. Her back is killing her. She really needs to stop cramming herself into single beds with other people.

“What are you working on?” she asks, wincing at the rasp in her voice. She hates falling asleep when she’s crying.

“I have a list of people I know in London who might know Najwa. We,” Gloria says, grinning, “are going on a road trip.”

Which is how they wind up stealing the St. Trinian’s bus and driving to London. Gloria, it turns out, is excellent at hotwiring things, and offers to teach Harriet when they’re not trying to avoid getting caught by Miss Fritton or, worse, Mr. Henry, the groundskeeper. He’s not exactly sympathetic to St. Trinian’s girls’ exploits, possibly due to having been on the wrong end of far too many. Carolynn promises his eyebrows will grow back. Eventually.

Gloria is excellent at hotwiring, but she’s an awful driver, so Harriet takes over. “Tell me if you see any police,” she says grimly. “And get me a book to put on the pedals.”

“Cops won’t go near this bus,” Gloria says cheerfully. “Will the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes do?”

When they get to London, they leave the bus in an abandoned lot (“No, really, Harriet. No one will touch this bus. They don’t want to risk the wrath of St. Trinian’s.”) and head straight for the clinic that Najwa was working at. It’s a strange mix of soup kitchen, emergency aid, and literacy project. The woman in charge, Melody, shoves some hair back in its clip and says, “Really, it’s whatever the people who come in need it to be. We do what we can.”

“Is Najwa Khan here?” Harriet asks hopefully. Melody smiles sadly.

“No, unfortunately. She was one of our best workers. But she left last week.”

“Did she say where she was going?” Gloria asks.

Melody shakes her head. “No.”

“Was she-” Harriet pauses for a moment, taking a breath. “Was she ever threatened?”

“You mean anymore than the rest of us are? No,” Melody says.

“What do you mean?” Gloria asks, frowning. Melody sighs, and glances around the room. Two old Black men are playing backgammon, a third one watching. In another area of the room, a white woman is holding a small child on her lap while they watch cartoons on the ancient television. A small group is sitting and eating sandwiches at a table set up in the middle of the room.

“Things happen in a place like this,” Melody explains. “Sometimes people get angry. They yell a lot. Or you get community members that don’t like the work we do here. You get used to it.”

“But never anything specifically at Najwa?” Harriet persists.

“She didn’t leave because she was scared for her life, if that’s what you mean,” Melody says. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”

Next, Gloria and Harriet meet up with some older Emo girls who graduated and know Gloria. They all remember Najwa (Harriet has to resist punching one particular girl who sneers and calls her a rag head), but none of them know where she is now.

“Sorry,” says Keesa, former Emo leader, sighing. “She was wicked, but I haven’t heard from her since she graduated.”

They head back to St. Trinian’s, no closer to finding Najwa than when they left. “I’m sorry,” Gloria offers on the drive back to the school. “I am.”

“If she doesn’t want to be found,” Harriet says dully, “then we won’t find her. She’s a St. Trinian’s girl. We know how to disappear.”

“I won’t,” Gloria says, squeezing her shoulder.

When they get back, Miss Fritton is up in arms about her missing bus. When she sees it’s still in one piece, though, she simply assigns them mechanic duty for a month and moves on to discuss if she should replace the rubber duckies in the anger management with ceramic ones, “All the better for shattering.”

Harriet really doesn’t understand Miss Fritton at all.

Polly looks up hopefully when Harriet trudges into the dorm, but when she shakes her head wearily, Polly merely bites her lip and looks back down at her textbooks. Harriet resents her for a moment, hating that she can so easily give up on Najwa, but forcibly reminds herself that Polly isn’t much for emotional displays. Not like her.

“No luck?” Bianca asks when she goes to sit on her bed.

“Gloria and I did what we could,” she says.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Bianca replies, and pats Harriet’s knee. It isn’t enough, though. Bianca liked Najwa, but she didn’t spend the day stealing a bus in order to scour London for her. Harriet stares at her for a moment, and then stands up to go and find Gloria again. Gloria didn’t really know Najwa, but she seems to care more.

Gloria welcomes her with open arms. She spends the night with her again. At least she is worried, Harriet tells herself. At least she cares about how Harriet feels.

The last thing Harriet sees before she falls asleep that night is Gloria’s smile.

******
There aren’t many non-white women who are still alive, really, at least when compared to the rest of the vast network of St. Trinian’s alum. A little over five hundred. It would seem like a larger number, Harriet thinks, if it weren’t for the fact that St. Trinian’s has hosted about two hundred girls each year, and those five hundred women are the sum total of fifty-four years. Four percent, she thinks bitterly. A mere four percent of the network is non-white women.

She wonders how that compares to other schools, but then shoves the thoughts aside. Their calls have been going well, and they’ve brought Harriet a modicum of comfort. Beatrice remembered St. Trinian’s fondly.

“Oh, I admit that I wish things had been different,” she’d said, her voice wistful. “Better. But for the times? Well, they did better than most.”

She was enthusiastic about their project. Harriet can’t help but smile whenever she picks up the phone now, eager to hear their stories, what they’ve done with their lives. Some of the stories are less successful. Some are in jail, and some are dead. But others are teachers, scientists, artists. Many are criminals, which Harriet thinks has less to do with race or class and more to do with the St. Trinian’s mentality. She enjoys this part of the project.

Lucy is having less fun. “I don’t think I can do this,” she says one afternoon, walking into the Geek office and slumping dramatically against the door. “I mean, this is too much! Miss Fritton is terrifying, I don’t want to talk to her, and I definitely don’t want to talk to her about money.”

Harriet glances up from her files. Bianca, who was leaning over her shoulder, shifts to give her room. “Problems?” she asks mildly.

Lucy glares at her. “Really, Harriet.”

“Oh, sounds like the girl genius ain’t up for it,” Bianca needles. “Looks like she’s a little chicken.” She starts making clucking sounds. Harriet rolls her eyes and goes back to her files. She doesn’t need to listen to Lucy and Bianca’s pissing contests. Again.

If anything, Lucy’s glare just intensifies. “I didn’t say that, now did I? Learn how to listen.”

“Funny, ain’t it, Harriet, how I’m never listening when she don’t like what I say?” Bianca asks. Harriet continues to ignore her, flipping a page in her files. Tracking down the Jewish students over the years is, understandably, harder. And she still can’t figure out why they aren’t recorded. She’s considering passing the task over to Jemima and Alex. They love research more than she does, and she’s a Geek.

“You’re never listening,” Lucy grumbles, “because you’re never listening. All I said was that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.”

“You said, and I quote,” Bianca begins, and draws herself up into a haughty stance, her nose in the air, “‘I don’t think I can do this.’” She mimics Lucy’s accent perfectly, all trace of Rude Girl vanishing, and then smirks at Lucy. “Sounds like givin’ up to me, innit?”

Harriet has to give Bianca that one. She glances up long enough to nod matter-of-factly at Lucy.

“Oh, bugger it,” Lucy snaps. “Nearly impossible to get any sympathy from you sods.”

“Too true, mate,” Bianca says happily. Lucy gives her the two fingered salute and collapses into a chair, pulling her own files out of her bag. They’ve all taken to carrying files with them at this point, even Bianca, who generally scorns anything that could even look academic. At least she isn’t Artemis, Harriet thinks, nibbling on her pen. Artemis has started hauling around her designs, and her bag is enormous. Harriet is surprised she hasn’t gone arse over teakettle yet.

The door to the office opens again, this time admitting Bella, Saffy, and Chelsea. Harriet sighs to herself. They really need to get a bigger office.

“We’ve found a location for the memorial!” Bella announces, beaming.

“Monument,” Saffy corrects.

“Thing,” clarifies Chelsea. “The corridor full of windows.”

The corridor full of windows is one of the most popular halls in St. Trinian’s. One entire wall is windows, while the other side is dark stone. It runs along the outside of the building and connects the back classrooms to the front halls. Its real purpose, though, seems to be looking beautiful. Most St. Trinian’s girls enjoy sitting there during their off periods.

“It does have a lot of open space,” Lucy says, licking her lips. “And it’s well lit.”

“Lots of foot traffic,” Bianca muses, turning and leaning against the desk. Her hand drifts down to rest on Harriet’s shoulder. She squeezes it once, briefly.

“How long are those walls?” Harriet asks. She reaches into the desk and pulls out the St. Trinian’s blueprints that have been lingering in there for years, since Najwa was the Geek leader, maybe even before. She’s never bothered to look at them before, never had need, but she supposes there is a first time for everything. She locates the wall quickly enough and does the math in her head. “Thirty meters?”

“It’s big,” Saffy says confidently. “Maybe even too big.”

Chelsea laughs. “Bigger is better.”

“That’s a myth,” Harriet says absently, still staring at the blueprints. She’s trying to imagine the monument-memorial-thing on that wall. The pictures, the journal pages, the connecting lines. The names. The wall is made of stone. She looks up at Lucy.

“What sort of stone is that wall made of?” she asks.

Lucy bites her lip. “Geology isn’t exactly my strength,” she confesses.

Harriet turns and begins tapping out a message on the telegraph machine that she keeps within reach of the desk. “One of the new Lo-Techs studies geology. She’ll probably know,” she explains.

“Why do we need to know?” asks Bella, frowning.

“We need to know how hard the stone is. If we can carve into it.”

The Posh-Totties nod in unison. It’s always startled Harriet how connected Posh-Totties are, how they almost seem to think with one mind. Geeks are always too absorbed in their own work to really connect like that, and no other Clique seems to be the same. The Ecos come close, she supposes, but they’re still nothing like the Posh-Totties. At times, she envies it.

There is a knock on the door, and Lucy calls for whomever to enter. Harriet smiles when Grace walks in, looking vaguely terrified. She imagines that, had she not been friends with her Geek leader when she first became a Geek, she would have been scared to be called to her office, too. Grace is a little girl with big eyes that perpetually look frightened, though, so she supposes the fear might be in her imagination.

“Hello, Grace,” Harriet says, smiling. “We were hoping you could help us with something.”

Grace looks around the room, and at all the people gathered, and then rolls her shoulders back, tilting her chin upwards. “Ji, Harriet,” she says softly.

“Do you know the corridor with the wall of windows?” Lucy asks her.

Grace blinks, and then nods. “Ji, the long one?”

“Yeah,” Bianca says. “We want to know what it’s made of.”

“The windows?”

“The wall,” Chelsea says.

Grace closes her eyes, obviously visualizing. “It’s granitic gneiss,” she says finally.

“How hard would it be to carve into?” Lucy asks.

Grace opens her eyes and frowns a little. “You’d have to have a special diamond blade. And blast it with carbide sand. It would be quite the project,” she says. “Why?”

“We’re turning that wall into a monument,” Harriet says, scribbling down what Grace said.

“Memorial,” Lucy says.

“Thing,” Bianca finalizes. Grace doesn’t look any more enlightened than before, but Harriet is already trying to figure out if there is a St. Trinian’s connection anywhere involving access to diamond blades and carbide sand. She’ll have to contact Polly later.

“Dhannyabad, Grace,” Harriet says in Bangladeshi, glancing up briefly. Grace’s smile is small, but there.

“You’re welcome, Harriet.” She turns to the door, waving a hand behind her. “Ta!.”

A quiet descends over the office, interrupted only by the sound of her pencil scratching over the page. She’s only seen some of Artemis’s designs for the- project, but they’ve all been beautiful. Complicated, like the history of St. Trinian’s. Elegant, like it isn’t. She sketches one on the page, trying to add the light from the windows, the shadows from the corners, thinking about how it will all come together.

“It’s perfect,” she announces.

Bella, Saffy, and Chelsea immediately touch their fingertips together in triumph.

******
Najwa’s disappearance has only one benefit- Harriet and Gloria become much closer. It isn’t that Harriet is angry at Polly or Bianca; she understands that they can’t allow themselves to spend every waking moment searching for her. Polly has a Clique to run, a Clique to put back together after the damage that Tamsin wreaked. Bianca just doesn’t understand why anyone would search for someone who clearly doesn’t want to be found.

“She’s got a reason, mate,” Bianca says one afternoon, carefully brushing her hair. “Got to respect it.”

And to an extent, Harriet does. She stops searching for Najwa. But Gloria understands her grief, and stays by her side. They start playing duets together on piano, Harriet’s natural talent making up for the years of experience that Gloria has. They play Schubert and Mozart (although Harriet must confess, she does not like Mozart much; his music is too clean for her taste), Fauré and Bizet. She falls in love with Debussy, and when turning to beam at Gloria, she realizes that she might love her piano partner as well.

Later, in her dorm, Harriet lies down to contemplate how to best approach her. With Polly, it was like a business proposal, and failed like one as well. She just kissed Najwa, which also failed horribly. She tries to remember what Polly told her about Kelly and Andrea’s relationship, and how it started, and comes up blank.

She goes to Bianca. “Bianca?” she asks, looking down at Bianca, who is lying on her bed, a novel held high above her head. Their English assignment, Harriet thinks. “How would you ask someone out?”

Bianca rolls over onto her stomach and tilts her head, grinning wickedly. “Someone caught your eye, Harriet?”

“Maybe,” she says, refusing to let herself be embarrassed.

Bianca stares at her for a minute, her eyebrows raised, and says, “Hey blud, you peng. Wanna go with me?”

Harriet blinks in confusion. Chav slang, despite all the time she spends with Bianca and Taylor, isn’t something she understands most of the time. “Translation?”

Bianca sighs. “Hey, mate, you’re really attractive. Do you want to date me?”

“All right,” Harriet says.

For a minute, Bianca lights up, which confuses her. Harriet ignores it and says, “Wish me luck.”

“Luck?” Bianca asks.

“I’m going to see if Gloria, um, wants to go with me.”

Bianca dims noticeably, but her smile stays in place. “Luck, then,” she says, and then rolls over and goes back to her book. Harriet frowns at her, but walks away. She suspects that Gloria is sitting in the hall full of windows. She’s always been fondest of that hall. So she heads right over and is pleased to see that she’s correct. Gloria has her back against the wall and is staring out the windows, a forgotten cigarette dangling between her fingers.

Harriet reaches over and plucks the cigarette from Gloria’s hand, taking a quick drag. She isn’t much of a smoker, not like Kelly, whose new smoking habit has made Polly bitch endlessly, but she likes the occasional smoke. Gloria looks up at her, amusement dancing across her face.

“Help yourself, please,” Gloria says dryly.

Harriet licks her lips. “Hey blud, you’re peng. Would you like to go with me?”

Gloria stares at her for a long moment, and then stands up, dusting off her trousers. She gives Harriet an incredulous look. “I’m sorry, was that your approximation of Chav slang?”

Harriet shrugs a shoulder and lifts the cigarette to her lips. “Um, maybe.”

Gloria bursts into laughter and yanks the cigarette away from her. “Oh, Harriet, you’re fucking adorable.” Then she leans over and kisses her.

It’s a sweet, chaste kiss, reminiscent of the way Polly kissed her, except without the obvious reserve and distaste. Harriet leans into the kiss, thrilled to finally kiss someone who obviously wants to kiss her back. Gloria pulls back after a moment and drops the cigarette to the ground, stubbing it out with the toe of her boot.

“Yeah, Harriet. I would very much like to go with you. You, too, are peng.”

Harriet smacks her shoulder, and then leans forward to kiss her again.

******
By far the most exciting interview, Harriet thinks, is with Princess Lalla Fatima. Fatima was the first non-white student at St. Trinian’s, back in 1954. The Princess is sixty-four now, and it hardly seems appropriate to call her a princess, but she seems proud of her title, and wears it with a dignity that Harriet wouldn’t expect.

Princess Fatima spends most of her time in England these days. According to the newspapers, she used to go back and forth between England and her country, but now she only goes back for special occasions. Meeting her, Harriet can understand why. The years have not been good to the Princess. She is shrunken, sitting small in her chair, though her spine is unbearably straight. Her hands are curled in on themselves, and she has a cane leaning against her chair.

“Arthritis,” Princess Fatima says dismissively, waving one claw-like hand. “I do not worry about such things.”

Her face is lined with deep wrinkles, almost shocking to see in a comparatively young face. She looks a bit like Miss Wilson, their Chemistry teacher, but Miss Wilson is in her eighties and taught the Princess. Harriet stares at her, trying to conceal her shock and knowing that she’s failing miserably. The Princess smiles faintly at her.

“If we do not concern ourselves,” she says gently, “then neither should you.”

It’s sound advice, she supposes, so she licks her lips and opens her notebook. “It was very kind of you to allow me to visit,” she begins.

Princess Fatima snorts. It’s a startling sound, coming out of royalty. “Camilla Fritton called me. She told me about your project. How could I resist? The first non-white student being interviewed is quite the feat, I imagine.”

“What was it like?” she asks, her pen poised over her paper.

Princess Fatima purses her lips. “It was difficult,” she says finally. “I don’t think they would have taken me if I weren’t royalty, if I didn’t have money. The students… they manipulated me, used me to get at my father’s various assets.”

“You let them?” Harriet asks. She cringes as soon as it comes out of her mouth. She sounds accusing, which she certainly doesn’t want to do.

Princess Fatima just smiles, though, a little sadly. “I so desperately wanted to be liked. If they had told me to run around starkers, I would have done it. I was away from my family, my friends, my entire country. And sometimes, I didn’t even realize it. I was only fourteen.”

Harriet thinks about herself at fourteen. She thought she was in love. She stopped fighting, for a long time. She trusted Polly’s protection. She lost her friend and mentor, and let her stay lost. She wrapped herself up in silly, selfish things, things that she doesn’t regret one bit, because she was just a kid, and kids shouldn’t feel like they’re fighting for their lives every moment of every day.

She understands.

“Were any of them genuine friends?” asks Harriet.

Princess Fatima laughs. It’s a thick, phlegmy laugh, with a strange hoarseness behind it. A smoker’s laugh, she thinks, trying to remember how Georgiana sounds when she laughs. Similar. “Of course. Oh, you should have met Florrie. She was a Geek, and the best source of knowledge in the whole school. And Arabella! That girl was so clever.”

Her smile fades slowly. “Florrie died last year. Breast cancer. Arabella Fritton, you know her, of course. Headmistress for thirteen years. She was killed. Wrong place, wrong time.” She considers for a long moment, her tangled hands beating a pattern into her lap. “Too many of them are gone. Too young. I’m still young, you know.”

Harriet nods. “I know.”

“There’s Cecelia. She and I have tea once a week. And Gladys, but she’s in hospital right now. Emphysema. Lucretia and I never got along in school, but we’re bosom buddies now. I think that’s it.”

“How long were you the only non-white girl at St. Trinian’s?” she asks.

Princess Fatima chuckles, closing her eyes. “One thing that St. Trinian’s has always done right is that it adapts quickly. The next year, my little sister Meryem came. And another girl started, a Black girl. Jamaican, I think. Came from that Windrush ship.”

Harriet’s eyes widen. She’s always been vaguely interested in the stories of the immigrants from the Empire Windrush. To know that one girl had gone to St. Trinian’s…

“Do you remember her name?”

“Lucille, I think it was. We never really spoke. If anything, we avoided each other,” Princess Fatima says. “I couldn’t tell you if she is dead or alive. I hope alive. Too many of us are gone.” She opens her eyes, her smile even fainter now. “What else do you want to know, Miss Bamford?”

******
The rest of Harriet’s fourth year flies by. Without constant harassment from the other students, it’s almost restful. Polly looks continually exhausted, more worn down each day, and it worries her, but not enough that she asks. If Polly needs to talk, she’ll talk. But she’s famously tight-lipped, and frankly, Harriet is too busy to take the time.

Anoushka seems more worried than Harriet. “You do not think she is doing herself harm, do you?” she asks before their physics class, frowning pensively.

“She’d tell me if she wanted to talk,” Harriet says dismissively.

“This is Polly,” Anoushka says frankly. “She will not talk.”

“Then I won’t push her,” Harriet shrugs, pulling out her textbook. It’s held together with duct tape and spit, and it’s still in better shape than most of the girls’ books. They really need to find the money to buy new ones.

“You were once not so ready to talk,” Anoushka frowns. “If not pushed, you and I would not be friends now.”

Harriet scowls down at her textbook. She isn’t going to make Polly talk to her. For once, she’s happy, and she doesn’t want to ruin that. “I love you, Anoushka, I do, but drop it.”

Anoushka gives her a troubled look, but does as she asks, opening her own textbook after untying the strings that keep the poor thing together.

Harriet and Gloria get along fabulously, and she could kick herself for thinking that she had a real interest in Polly. What she had with Polly is but a flicker compared to the full blaze of warmth she has for Gloria. Gloria is funny, witty, intelligent, patient, and altogether perfect.

Bianca scowls whenever Harriet rambles about her. “You know, some of us are trying to eat here,” she snaps at supper one day. Harriet pauses, her fork hovering over her salad.

“And?”

“And your sweetness is sickening.”

Harriet chalks her up as jealous.

Polly breaks her arm in the middle of the year, and calls upon Harriet to help her with writing her articles. Harriet sits in front of the laptop and quietly types whatever Polly says. They haven’t spoken, just them, in weeks. Anoushka’s admonition eats away at her as she types. For someone whose English is so accented, she communicates perfectly well.

“And so the Polyakov actions-”

“Is everything all right?” Harriet blurts, slamming her hands down on the keyboard in frustration. Polly jolts back, wincing slightly. Harriet stares in shock. Polly has never winced away from anything, from anyone. Except once, last year. When Tamsin was in charge. Harriet still doesn’t know what she did to scare the Lo-Techs and Polly so badly.

“Who’s hurting you?” she demands. Polly’s look immediately turns fierce.

“No one.”

“Then who’s being a fucking arse?”

Polly rubs her good hand over her face, shoving her fingers up underneath her glasses and tightening her face up. It’s disturbing, to see such a look on Polly, who hides all of her emotions now, guards everything, gives away nothing. She was good at it when she was thirteen; she’s brilliant now that she’s sixteen.

“No one, Harriet. I’m just tired.”

Harriet scowls and saves the document before closing the laptop. “You flinched.”

“You startled me.”

“I’ve done that before, and you’ve never flinched.”

“More tired than usual.”

Harriet huffs out a sigh. “I can see that, Polly. But why?”

Polly’s look is distant, vague. It’s painful to see. Polly never looks at her friends like that. She has always had an intense focus, almost frightening, and it doesn’t seem right for it to disappear now. Not when Tamsin is gone, and things are so much better in the Clique and the school.

“It’s just a lot of work,” Polly says finally. “School, being the Geek leader, my own research, my other research… it’s exhausting. I guess I’m getting old.” She gives Harriet a cracked smile on that last bit, but Harriet just sighs.

“Can I help?”

“You’re already helping,” Polly replies, gesturing to the closed laptop with her broken arm.

“Anything else?”

Polly pauses. “No,” she decides, shaking her head. “Nothing.”

Harriet opens the laptop and reboots it. “Let me at least help with the Chanukah celebration, then. Planning and organizing.” Polly started the Chanukah celebration last year, amidst much frustration and displeasure from Tamsin and the others. Most of the school, though, had quite enjoyed it, Harriet included.

Polly hesitates for a moment, and then finally says, “All right.”

She also joins the Banned of St. Trinian’s. That’s a completely random thing, really. She’s sitting, playing the piano and singing along, a stupid little Italian piece, when she hears someone behind her. She turns, and there’s Daisy, her hair in those stupid white girl locks that Harriet hates so much.

“You’re good,” Daisy says conversationally.

“Yeah,” Harriet agrees, not seeing the point of modesty.

“You should join our band.”

“What band?” asks Harriet, frowning. There’s always one band or another- St. Trinian’s actually has an official choir, but Peaches is always complaining about how often she has to take over, because their teacher is so incompetent and scared, and from what Anoushka tells her, the orchestra isn’t much better- but she’s never heard of Daisy being in a band.

“The Banned.”

“Well, that’s descriptive,” Harriet says, rolling her eyes. She’s never had a lot of time for Ecos.

“No, like. Ugh. Banned as in ‘not allowed’. The Banned of St. Trinian’s.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. We need a keyboard player,” Daisy explains. “We got the rest, but we haven’t got keyboards. You’d be good at harmony, too, I think. You got a good voice.”

“Thanks,” Harriet says.

“We meet in Dorm A on Mondays. That’s where Jaelle keeps her drum kit.”

Jaelle is a Roma girl, an Eco. The other girls call her a pikey. Harriet hates that. She doesn’t know what Jaelle thinks. She’s never spoken to her before.

Harriet considers it for a moment. She’s never really thought about playing for other people before. Playing piano has always been for her research. It’s been a way to thumb her nose at the people who tried to stop her from succeeding. It’s been for her, or for Gloria. For Polly, sometimes.

“All right,” she says. “I’ll be there.”

And that’s it, really. Her fourth year is about her and Gloria, joining the Banned, and trying to figure out what’s wrong with Polly. The flood at the end of the year catches them all off guard, but Kelly organizes them all, and they force back the floodwaters. The school year ends with the knowledge that Kelly will be the new Head Girl (as if there was really a doubt), that Polly will continue her work as Geek leader, and Taylor has been promoted to Clique leader of the Chavs. Harriet lets herself get excited for her fifth year. It’s going to be amazing.

******
Harriet is merely resting her eyes. And setting her head in the most convenient area. That she happens to have her head down on the table, resting on her pile of papers, is completely coincidental. That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.

“All right, then?” comes Bianca’s voice from a few feet away. Harriet doesn’t even bother to look up.

“Of course,” she grumbles. “I often stare down at the dining hall tables. It’s practically a hobby.”

“Jess told me you missed the Banned practice,” Bianca says, ignoring her. Harriet can hear her walking over, her sneakers squeaking on the wooden floors.

“So?”

“Ain’t like you,” she says. She sits down next to Harriet, resting a hand on her back.

“Sure it is,” Harriet says.

“Have you even moved since supper?”

Supper was when Harriet set up camp in the dining hall. The office was being used by Artemis and Lucy, the two of them bickering over designs, and Harriet’s headache is bad enough without having to listen to architectural debates. If they accidentally knock down a wall in the school, well, it won’t be the first time.

“No,” she sighs, and lifts her head up to look at Bianca. Her hair is down around her shoulders, and she’s wearing her sleeping kit. Harriet looks at her watch in surprise. She hadn’t realized it was so late. “Fuck,” she groans.

“Yeah,” Bianca says, grinning. “Come to bed, Harriet.”

“I can’t,” she says, looking at her papers in despair. “There’s too much to do.”

Bianca smiles at her, looking immeasurably fond. It’s a look that she saves just for Harriet. Harriet can’t help but smile back, and Bianca reaches out and touches the corners of her mouth. “I’ve always admired that about you,” she says. “You’ll work until you drop.”

“It’s not really admirable,” Harriet says.

“It is to me,” Bianca says. “’Sides, you’ll always have me here to take you to bed.”

There’s something in Bianca’s inflection that makes Harriet’s smile fall away. She looks at Bianca in askance. “Bianca…”

“Hey blud,” Bianca says softly. “You peng. Wanna go with me?”

It is, word for bloody word, the exact thing that Bianca told her to say to Gloria when she asked her out. She pulls her face away from Bianca’s hand. “You-”

“You didn’t understand, back in the fourth form. Wasn’t tellin’ you how to ask out Gloria. Was askin’ you myself.”

“Back in fourth form?” Harriet asks weakly. Bianca’s grin is sharp and a little pained.

“Started in third form. You damn nang when you’re righteous.”

“Really?” Harriet asks, aware that she sounds like a knob.

“Swear down,” Bianca confirms.

Harriet runs. Doesn’t even think about it. Just stands up and bolts out of the dining hall, leaving her papers behind her, leaving Bianca behind. She doesn’t know where she’s going, or what she’s doing, but she can’t be there all of a sudden. Third form. That’s- that’s three years. Three years where Bianca didn’t date anyone, and was just there for Harriet. Every moment. Every day.

She knows, intellectually, that she shouldn’t have just left Bianca there (or her papers…) but when Harriet panics, she panics hard. She finds herself heading for the office, hoping to God that Lucy and Artemis have finished their argument, or at least taken it elsewhere, so she can sit down and work things out. Or ignore it all. Preferably until she graduates.

God is not on her side, however, because when she opens the door, Lucy and Artemis are sitting on the couch that is wedged in the corner, bottles of alcohol on the small coffee table and the television on the filing cabinet turned on and blaring Star Trek: The Next Generation. Artemis pauses it when she walks in and while Harriet intended to keep it a secret, their curious looks undo her, and she instantly blurts, “Bianca just told me she’s in love with me.”

“Oh?” Artemis says blandly, turning the DVDs back on.

“I was wondering how long it would take her to admit it,” Lucy says, eyes affixed to the screen.

“I think this means that Zoe wins the pot,” Artemis replies. “I’ll have to check with Tania, though.”

They seem to be done arguing. Unfortunately.

“I bet this never happened to Picard,” Harriet says gloomily, sitting down between Lucy and Artemis.

Lucy gives her a weird look. “Are you joking? This happened to Picard all the time.”

Artemis nods. “Are you forgetting the time he woke up with Q in his bed?”

Lucy leans forward, mixing a few liquids together, and then hands her a cocktail and continues blithely on, ignoring Harriet’s dark look. “Though really, I’d say you’re really more Spock in this situation.”

Harriet sips her drink, wrinkling her nose a little at the taste. She’s never gotten the hang of drinking. Unlike every St. Trinian’s girl ever. “Spock?”

“You know,” Artemis says, rolling her eyes, pausing the episode once more. “Tragically in love with ones best friend, but also tragically in love with ones duty?”

Harriet stares at her, and then looks at Lucy. “Wait, what? Who- Spock- he didn’t love T’Pring. And they weren’t best friends.”

Lucy bursts into laughter, Artemis only seconds behind, and Harriet feels like she missed something. Something really obvious. Star Trek really isn’t her fandom, not really- give her Doctor Who any day- but she knows the canon, well enough to know that Spock didn’t have any other obvious love interests. Well, other than the occasional other woman, but they don’t count, and there was usually sex pollen involved. And he always ran from poor Nurse Chapel.

“Oh, Harriet,” Lucy chortles. “She’s talking about Kirk.”

“Although,” Artemis says, leaning forward to talk around Harriet’s spluttering reaction, “she may actually be Kirk in this scenario, since she’s the oblivious one.”

“No, no,” Lucy says, taking away Harriet’s drink before she spills it by accident. “All Geeks are Spock in any romantic entanglement. Or at any convention. It’s in our Charter. We added the addendum in the 70s. We also have the right to name all our equipment ‘Khan’.”

“Kirk?” Harriet finally manages to say, and Lucy and Artemis look back over at her.

“I suppose you could go with McCoy, if that’s more your liking,” Artemis allows, leaning back and plumping the pillows.

“I would permit Uhura, but Bianca isn’t male, and the Spock/Uhura analogy is only relevant if the romantic equivalency is heterosexual,” Lucy says wistfully.

“And while Reboot Spock and Uhura are sexy as hell, and I do love Nichelle Nichols, everyone knows that the one true pairing is Spock and Kirk,” Artemis says bluntly.

“Hey now. Don’t hate on Spock and Uhura,” Lucy says.

“I’m not! I’m just saying, when Spock says, ‘I am, and always shall be, your friend,’ what he’s really saying is ‘Jim, I love you.’ And as Henry Jenkins said, slash is what happens when you take away the glass.” Artemis looks up at Harriet and grins. “I’m totally slashing you and Bianca.”

Harriet looks back and forth at them in disbelief. “Somehow, this conversation is not actually about me and my problems anymore.”

Lucy shakes her head quickly. “No, no, it really is! You’re Spock-”

“Who believed in the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, or the one,” Artemis quotes dutifully.

“And Bianca is Kirk-”

“Who blew up his beloved ship in order to save Spock. And, if you recall, said that sometimes the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the few, or the many.”

“And they saved the universe-”

“And then they went camping.”

Lucy looks at Artemis, who smiles back innocently. Harriet rubs her eyes tiredly.

“I am familiar with canon, girls. It’s just that I somehow missed boys kissing.”

Artemis rolls her eyes. “It’s implied. God, how can you go to St. Trinian’s and not get subtext?”

Lucy nods. “Look at all the touching! And the shirts off! And the mind-melding!”

“The t’hy’la!” Artemis adds. “The t’hy’la.”

Harriet stands up and puts her hands on her hips. “Okay, first of all, they were best friends. Best friends touch. They do that. It happens. You can’t- you can’t just not touch your best friend, it would be weird. Second, Starfleet is a military culture, and so shirts come off. You’re reading into things that shouldn’t be read into. Third, Spock mind-melded with Kirk in order to save his life many times, or to ease his pain. And he mind-melded with other people! And a rock. Finally, t’hy’la is a term that was never actually used in canon, it was used the tie-in novel for the first film, and it has many different meanings, only one of which is lover, so- so nya!”

Lucy and Artemis stare at her in shock after her outburst, and Harriet feels guilty for a moment. It was a little uncalled for, she thinks, and she considers apologizing, until Lucy leans over and whispers, loudly, in Artemis’s ear, “She probably slashes Spock/McCoy.”

“Also, Horta. Not a rock.”

“Oh my God, I don’t slash any of them! And I just found out my best friend is in love with me, and all you can do is make inappropriate Star Trek references!” she shrieks. She throws herself back down in the chair and buries in her face in her arms, feeling like her world has come crashing down around her. She doesn’t know why- she adores Bianca, she does, but this is inconvenient at best.

“To be fair, you started it with Picard,” Artemis says.

“Would it help if we talked about slashing the Doctor and the Master instead?” Lucy asks tentatively. “I know you like Doctor Who more.”

“Which Doctor?” Artemis asks seriously.

“Not the time, Artemis,” Lucy whispers.

Harriet laughs, choking a little on her tears. She feels someone pat her on her shoulder- the hand is small, so Artemis probably- and feels somewhat reassured.

“No, that’s okay. I can see Kirk and Spock. They’ll work as my paradigm for this conversation. Though I would like to point out that you’re total nerds.”

“Geeks, darling,” Lucy says immediately. Artemis snorts.

“Speak for yourself. I am a Posh-Totty, not a Geek.”

“And yet,” Lucy says dryly.

“Sulu and Chekov,” Harriet says suddenly. Lucy and Artemis look at her in confusion.

“What?”

“Sulu and Chekov. That’s a pairing I can get behind. That’s one I can really see,” Harriet explains. “Or, hey, even better- Janeway and Seven-of-Nine.”

While Lucy and Artemis launch themselves into explaining why each couple does or does not work for explaining her and Bianca, Harriet drifts off, doing her own thinking that does not involve Star Trek (or Doctor Who) characters. She and Bianca are best friends. She knows she cares about her, would do anything for her (would blow up her beloved ship for her- yes, all right, maybe there are some Star Trek references, dammit), would sacrifice anything for her. Except this, right now. She can’t sacrifice her focus. And every person she knows who has gotten involved with someone else has immediately lost focus. Including her. This isn’t grades or a job. This is her revolution. She can’t set aside her revolution for some nookie.

She wrinkles her nose at the thought.

“Oh dear, she’s being Spocky again,” Artemis says.

“Harriet, are you thinking about how you can’t reciprocate Bianca’s feelings because you’re busy leading a revolution?” Lucy asks. Harriet sighs.

“I really don’t feel the analogy is an apt one. Spock didn’t lead a revolution.”

“Fine,” Artemis says. “Whatever. It’s not a direct comparison. The point is that you can balance your mission and your love life. Spock and Kirk did, Sulu and Chekov did, Janeway and Seven-of-Nine did. So I’m sure Harriet and Bianca can. It’s not like she hasn’t been helping you with this entire thing already.”

“And really,” Lucy says, tossing back the last of her glass of wine, “I think only one question matters.”

Harriet laughs dully. “Did Spock only have sex during Pon Farr, or could he have sex more often?”

Lucy glares at her. “No, you twat. Do you want to be with her?”

The simplicity of the answer takes her breath away. She stares at Lucy, poleaxed. Lucy grins.

“Well, then. There you go.”

******
Then there is fifth form.

Fifth form, and the arrival of Annabelle Fritton, whom Harriet takes an instant dislike to, if only because Polly seems infatuated with her. Kelly, too. And Taylor turns her eyes to her, and Peaches, and even Anoushka makes an idle comment one day about how fit Annabelle is, and Harriet scrunches up her nose in disgust. The new girl is a swot, and a snob, and she won’t even talk to most of them.

“Like Hogwarts for pikeys,” she’d said when she arrived. Polly’s cameras are everywhere and record everything.

She’s too new to insult their school, Harriet thinks spitefully. Harriet herself has hateful thoughts about the school on a regular basis, but she’s been here for five years now, and she’s earned them.

Kelly is an excellent Head Girl, though, better than Harriet would have expected. Gloria likes her, too.

“I’m not surprised, though,” Gloria says idly, staring up at Harriet. “She’s been all over the school for years now. Doing everything. Remember when the plumbing broke, our first year?”

So there’s Annabelle, and Kelly. Polly is even paler now, looking nearly sick most days. She doesn’t smile anymore. Harriet worries, but says nothing. There is nothing to say.

Harriet spends every waking moment that she’s not with Gloria with Bianca. She’s been writing songs over the summer, recording them on her computer, and Harriet sits and listens to them all, grinning. It isn’t the type of music that she generally likes, but she likes Bianca, and that’s more than enough to make her delight in the strange pop music.

And then there’s Gloria.

She adores her, she does. But she’s not very good at saying so, and Gloria is, if anything, even worse. They’re great at action (the sex, Harriet must admit, is amazing), but then they have nothing to talk about afterwards. Eventually, they start talking about music, but they can only talk about it so much. Gloria has a vague interest in the genealogies that Harriet used to work on, but only a vague interest. She has her own stories (the debate about if a Black Emo should wear white face powder or not is something that still makes Gloria seethe), but seems mostly used to it.

“What is there to do, Harriet?” she asks one night, an arm draped over her eyes. “I don’t see you doing much, either, other than being so fucking angry.”

Gloria talks about music, and clubbing, and has a strange passion for the Pythagorean Theorem and triangles. The only thing they can really talk about is the music.

“Not much of a relationship, then,” Bianca says calmly, working on knitting something. She’s terrible at it. Harriet can see all the gaps and tangles and mentally cringes. She thinks it’s supposed to be a scarf. It’s narrow at the top, wide in the middle, and narrow again where she’s working on it now.

“It’s plenty of a relationship,” Harriet insists. She’s crocheting. She doesn’t know why Bianca talked her into this sort of domestic-y handcraft stuff. Lo-Tech’s still buy most of their stuff. “She loves me.”

“Has she said it?” Bianca asks, looking up with interest. She’s been on the other end of each phone call during the summer when Harriet ranted about Gloria’s inability to say anything emotional at all.

“No,” Harriet admits.

“Have you?”

Harriet crochets even harder.

“Well, there you are,” laughs Bianca. “Talk to her, girlie. Not me.”

She tries, she really does, but then Polly is pulling Harriet into a closet (and really, Harriet thinks, disgruntled, they’d dated for two weeks, and Polly never pulled this before) and looks on the verge of tears, and Gloria is forgotten.

“Polly, Polly, what?” she asks urgently, hand groping behind her for the bloody light switch. She finds it and flips it on, the lighting doing nothing to dispel the look of distress on Polly’s face.

“They’re closing us down,” she says hoarsely. “We’re broke, debt, so they’re closing us down.”

“St. Trinian’s?” Harriet asks, her brain still caught on how ill Polly looks, and Christ, isn’t Kelly feeding her? She’s too thin and too pale by half.

“Je- yes, St. Trinian’s, Harriet. They’re going to shut us down unless we come up with 500,000 quid. I can’t steal that much that quick, Harriet. And my investments are good, but they can’t-”

“Nobody is expecting you to pay St. Trinian’s debt out of your own investments,” Harriet insists, grabbing Polly’s hand. “Or to steal electronic numbers.”

Polly’s laugh is low and bitter. “You’d be surprised.”

“Kelly?” Harriet guesses.

“She’s desperate. She asked, and- and I couldn’t say yes, and she’s just so upset, and she doesn’t know what to do. If she doesn’t have the miracle save, I always have, and I don’t have it this time, Harriet, I don’t have it, and I can’t- and- fuck.”

Polly never babbles. Harriet, as if she weren’t worried enough, starts to panic.

“We’ll fix it,” she says quickly. “We’ll fix it, stop worrying, we’re going to fix this. Kelly will come up with something, and if she doesn’t, we will. We’re Geeks, Polly. We have more brains than the rest of the school put together.”

Her smile is wan, but still there.

Harriet leaves Polly and goes straight to Bianca. “The school is shutting down unless we find a way to get 500,000 quid,” she says quickly.

“What have Kelly and Polly got so far?” Bianca says, sitting up and dropping her feet to the floor.

“Nothing. Polly’s panicking.”

Bianca’s eyes go wide. She isn’t really friends with Polly, but Harriet is, so Bianca knows enough about Polly to know that she doesn’t panic. “Fuck,” she says.

“Yeah,” Harriet agrees.

Bianca closes her eyes for a minute, biting her lip, and then looks up at Harriet with surprise. “What are we good at?”

“Um,” Harriet says.

“St. Trinian’s,” Bianca says impatiently. “What are we all really, really good at?”

“Anarchy,” Harriet says promptly.

Crime,” Bianca says. “And anarchy, yeah.”

“Flash,” Harriet says instantly.

“Tonight?”

“Select members from each Clique?”

“Go tell Polly,” Bianca says. “I’ll tell Kelly.”

Walking away, Harriet wonders if the fact that she and Bianca can communicate in half thoughts, while she and Gloria can barely communicate at all, is worrisome.

It’s all worked out quickly. Kelly contacts Flash, because Flash always comes when she calls, and Harriet doesn’t know when the school started its association with Flash, but she wishes they would dissolve it already. It’s creepy, how he drools over schoolgirls. Polly talks to all the Clique leaders, urging them to select a handful to come to the meeting.

Annabelle is markedly absent, Harriet notes viciously. She is perhaps being unfair, but she wants Annabelle to stand up and stop resisting. For all that Harriet has issues with St. Trinian’s, she still believes that they are the best, so screw the rest. She wants Annabelle to be one of them.

After that, there isn’t really time for worrying about Annabelle. Polly is planning the entire heist, with Kelly working on the personnel involved, and someone needs to take care to watch the rest of the school. Harriet isn’t sure how she gets selected for the job, but she is, and she spends her days talking to students, reassuring them that it’s going to get worked out, and spying on the teachers, trying to figure out who is on the verge of quitting and talking them down from the ledge.

Gloria catches her one night as she’s leaving to dig through Miss Fritton’s mail, and asks, “When are we going to hang out?”

“When I have time,” Harriet says.

Gloria’s frown is tight and pinched, but she says nothing, just lets Harriet go.

Later, Harriet will realize that that moment was the death knell for their relationship. That they didn’t talk about it, or argue about it, or even agree to talk about it later says something. That Harriet went off to read Miss Fritton’s mail, Bianca joining her, while Gloria went back to her dorm and went to sleep… well. That was the end, right there.

But that’s later. Three days later, while Harriet is working with Polly on a new design for the earbuds, Gloria walks into the room and says, “Fuck you, Harriet.”

Polly immediately stands up, nods politely at Gloria, and says “Excuse me,” abandoning Harriet.

“What?” Harriet says, frowning.

“Fuck you and your self-righteous bullshit,” Gloria snaps.

“I- what

“You couldn’t even try, could you? I know that we’re all busy planning this thing with The Girl with the Pearl Earring, but you couldn’t even sit down to have lunch with me? Too good for even that?”

“I have no clue what you’re going on about!” Harriet shouts, getting angry quickly. “I’ve been busy-”

“You’ve spent time with Polly, with Bianca, even Kelly and Annabelle, Taylor and Anoushka, but not with your girlfriend!” Gloria shouts back.

“Well maybe,” Harriet screams, “if I thought that my girlfriend actually cared, I would have tried.”

Gloria shuts her mouth with a snap, looking furious. “As if you’re any better,” she says, suddenly calm. “You’re bloody shit with feelings, Harriet.”

“You never talk to me!”

“You never talk to me!”

“Oh my days,” says Harriet, realizing afterwards that she said exactly the wrong thing.

“Spending time with Bianca, I see,” Gloria says frostily.

“She’s my best friend.”

“I’m your girlfriend.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be,” Harriet says before she can stop herself.

“Fine,” replies Gloria, tipping her chin upwards. It’s an unconscious mimicking of Harriet, an unconscious mirroring. It’s the perfect metaphor for their relationship, part of Harriet muses. Unconscious. Unthinking. Careless.

Then Gloria leaves, and Harriet looks down at the bits of metal in her hands and scowls. She has earbuds to fix.

When she gets back to her dorm, most of her books have been burned. Sadly, that bothers her more than the break-up.

******
“I think I might love you,” Harriet announces, standing at the foot of Bianca’s bed, “But honestly, I thought I loved Najwa, and Polly, and Gloria, so my track record is bollocks.”

“You did love them,” Bianca says easily, propping herself up on an elbow. “Just not in a romantic way.”

Harriet thinks about this for a moment, trying to stretch her emotional memory back to those times. Of course she loved Najwa, she doesn’t doubt that. But it was the sort of love a child gives to a beloved friend, a mentor, a sister. A protector. And Polly, well, she can admit now that she may have dated Polly simply because she was scared for her, and wanted to keep her close. She loves Polly, but again, like a friend.

But Gloria?

“I did love Gloria,” Harriet says, folding her arms over her chest and looking down. “But maybe not enough.”

Bianca sits up fully and smiles gently at Harriet. “You and me? It’ll be enough. I promise.”

Harriet has trusted Bianca since she was a little girl. It’s easy to trust her again when Bianca stands and tugs Harriet forward, kissing her gently.

Harriet pulls away long enough to say, “This can’t interfere with our work,” and then Bianca’s laughing and pulling her close again, and Harriet happily goes, grinning like a loon.

******
The breakup hits her hard when she’s least expecting it. They manage to secure The Girl with the Pearl Earring, they cash in the reward, and they manage to win School Challenge, all in one fell swoop. They party hard, as St. Trinian’s is prone to do after a victory, and slowly but surely, things return to normal.

Normal isn’t good if you’re trying to avoid dealing with reality, Harriet realizes as she sobs into her pillow. Without the distraction of trying to prep Peaches, Chelsea, and Chloe for the competition, or adjusting their equipment, or even just listening to Polly run variations of the plan over and over, Harriet finally has time to realize what she’s done.

She’s lost Gloria, and all because she was… too Geeky, really.

“Polly,” she asks, after she’s calmed down enough to be able to speak, “do all Geeks ruin their relationships in the end?”

Polly glances across the room quickly, and Harriet doesn’t need to look up to know that she’s glancing at Kelly. And then she looks down at her hands, frowning tightly. Harriet feels bad for a moment, for asking. Polly has a string of exes.

“I doubt it,” Polly says finally. “But I’m not exactly the greatest example.”

“Tiffany forgiven you yet?” Harriet asks dryly, sitting down on the bed. Polly laughs hollowly.

“Not quite, no. Something about how I’m too withdrawn.”

She has been, lately, but Harriet won’t dare bring that up. Instead, she asks, “Have any Geeks that you know had successful relationships?”

Polly looks up at her in surprise. “Najwa did.”

Harriet stares. “What?” she says finally.

“She- she had a boyfriend, at the local boys’ school. She dated him for three years, that I know of. Maybe even after she graduated. His name was- um, Timothy? Thomas? Something with a T.” Polly frowns. “I thought you knew.”

She shakes her head, her stomach clenching. “I just always thought of her as rather alone.”

Polly bursts into laughter, startling Harriet near to death. Polly has been so quiet, a shade of herself, in the past few months, that she’s come to expect thin smiles where laughter would have been, a blank face when she would have given a thin smile. To hear her laugh is… well, it’s a relief, to say the least.

“She was never alone, Harriet.”

“Well, no, of course not. She had us.”

Polly is gazing at her with a curious disbelief, as though Harriet has suddenly started speaking in a different language. “No, I mean she had her friends.”

“Lila and AJ.”

“Are you being purposefully dense?” Polly asks, her tone turning sharp. “They were her best friends, not her only friends. Najwa was- did you really think that her years were one misery after another? That that’s how she lived? Completely alone except for two girls her own age, and two little admirers?”

“She was attacked!” Harriet argues, feeling that they’ve somehow gotten off track. They haven’t spoken of Najwa since she disappeared, a mutually agreed upon silence.

“Harriet,” Polly says seriously. “There are a few bad eggs everywhere. She went to a school for bad girls, and some bad girls are not charming or interesting. Some of them are just bad. But only some.”

“But-” she starts to say, but Polly cuts her off by waving a hand in the air.

“Tell me, Harriet. When youwere getting beat up, was it everyone in the school, or just a few people? The same people, over and over?”

Harriet knows the truth to what Polly is saying, but she doesn’t want to hear it. She remembers her early years well, the constant worry, the sick feeling that she was going to get jumped. She remembers Catzie and Taylor, and what happened to them. She remembers the remarks directed at Polly. And of course, Najwa. Najwa, Najwa, Najwa, it always comes back to Najwa in the end. It began with her, and it will end with her, always and forever.

“No,” she says stubbornly. “Things were bad.”

“Of course they were,” Polly says in exasperation. “But not always. Najwa was happy here. She had tons of friends, she had a boyfriend, and yes, she had more than her fair share of awful people coming after her, but it wasn’t the entire school. What the school is guilty of is standing aside and letting it happen, not all jumping her at once. Or you.” Polly pauses, and a ghost of a smile drifts across her face. “Or me, for that matter. Tamsin was awful, and rude, but she never laid a hand on me. Or anyone else.”

“Ursula, Betty, and Darla-”

Polly rubs her face. “Rude, thuggish sorts, but they acted on their own. They targeted the Lo-Techs because Tamsin was obviously disgruntled by the work in Dorm D, and they were her friends. They were trying to protect her, in their own way. But you’re the only one they hurt.”

Harriet finally sits down, looking at the stack of books on Polly’s bed. They have something to do with anthropology, strangely. Polly isn’t much for the social sciences. “The other Lo-Techs looked scared. You stopped talking. You still don’t- you’re different now, Polly.”

Polly sighs. “They threatened. They said awful things. But they didn’t touch.”

Harriet decides to skip over the fact that Polly is conveniently not talking about herself, and chooses the other question that keeps running through her mind. “Why me, then? Why was I the one they hurt?”

“I don’t know,” Polly replies. “I don’t. God help me, Harriet, if I knew why… if I had known… I would have tried to spare you that. But sometimes, people are cruel, and we’ll never know why.”

Harriet looks up at Polly, studies her face. Her eyes are pained, and her left hand is resting on her right hip, where Harriet knows her tattoo sits. Shalom in Hebrew, her continual reminder.

“She was happy?” Harriet asks finally.

“She found a way,” Polly says. “We all find a way, somehow, in the end. Being happy is the best way to get revenge.”

******
Harriet thinks about happiness all throughout the next meeting of FAR. They’ve managed to recruit a few members, somehow. Gloria likes to credit her public speaking skills.

“They can’t really resist a girl shouting at them from the top of the staircase,” Gloria grins. “Who can resist a good pontificator?”

It’s girls that Harriet knows fairly well, all things considered. Jess, her fellow Banned member, is sitting in the corner of the classroom popping her gum and nervously playing with her bling. Sheema, the Muslim Geek that Harriet had been somehow terrified of, is sitting next to her, reading a Jane Austen novel, headphones in her ears. Tara and Tania are there, whispering to themselves, and Gerald, hunched in on himself. Younger people, for the most part. Harriet is thrilled to see them.

Absent, however, is Winona. The absence is even more noticeable since Daisy, Beth, and Celia are all there. They had all promised minor participation, if that. Daisy hadn’t promised participation at all. Harriet pushes the thought to the side. Chanukah is coming up, after all. She is probably just ridiculously busy.

“All right, all right,” Bianca shouts, waving her hands in the air. “We call this meeting to order, or whatever. You lot listen up!”

Harriet looks over to Lucy, who stands up and smiles primly at the gathered girls. “Hello to our new members, first of all. We’re thrilled to have you, and welcome any and all ideas in the spirit of friendly communication and debate. If you have any questions, feel free to ask at any time. To start the meeting, we thought we’d give you an update of where we are currently.”

Lucy turns and looks at Chelsea, who beams and stands up, towering over them all. Harriet bites back the stab of envy.

“So, we found a place for our living monument, and we thought we’d share it with the general membership,” Chelsea says.

A hand shoots up. It’s Sheema. “Living monument?” she asks.

Chelsea nods gracefully. “In order to break the silence that has condemned past non-white students at St. Trinian’s to a perpetual and deadly racism, we have decided to put together a living monument in recognition of the experiences of past non-white students. The monument will be interactive, in a sense, as we add new parts to it to track our progress and thoughts. It will both honor the past and acknowledge that our past is still with us, a ghost that affects how St. Trinian’s has grown and developed over the years.”

Harriet cannot help but stare at Chelsea. She tutored the girl, of course, during the Museum Heist, and knew she was intelligent. She’s been working alongside her for months. But this is… surprising, to say the least. She catches Bianca’s eye and raises her eyebrows. Bianca grins back, giving the hand signals for “in your face”. As if Bianca and Chelsea weren’t bickering about who was smarter just a month or two ago.

“Brill,” is all Sheema says, returning to her notebook.

“Anyway,” Chelsea continues, “it’s going to be in the corridor of windows. Which we’ll have to name, by the way, because we can’t just keep calling it that, it’s so plebeian.”

Bella, Saffy, and Artemis nod in unison. Harriet rolls her eyes.

“Any questions?” Lucy asks. No one says a thing.

“All in favor?” Harriet asks. There’s a chorus of “ayes.” “Opposed?”

There are no nays, and so they move onto the next order of business. “The design of the monument has been directed by Artemis Yang,” Harriet says. “Artemis, would you like to tell us what you’ve come up with?”

There’s a long silence, and Harriet glances around the room at Artemis. She’s sitting in a desk, staring at her knees. “Artemis?” she asks.

“My name is Qiu-Yue,” Artemis blurts suddenly.

“Uh- what?” says Bianca.

“Artemis isn’t- it’s not my name. My primary school teachers called me that because they couldn’t figure out how my name was pronounced,” Artemis says in a rush, looking pained. “And it’s a lovely name, yes, but it’s not my name, and I really think that if I’m going to do this, I should be called by my real name.”

There’s a long silence that no one dares to break. Harriet holds her breath. Then she sees Jemima shrug. “All right,” she says. “Thoundth good.”

Qiu-Yue shoots her a grateful look. “Thank you,” she says. Then she stands up, sliding her arms gracefully into her canes, and smiles broadly at the group. “I think I’ve come up with a design that work for us.”

She’s in the middle of explaining how the carving process will go when there is a knock on the door. They’re meeting in one of the English classrooms, Chelsea’s idea, and Harriet can’t think of anyone who would know that they’re there. They try to post flyers about FAR meetings, but most of them are impromptu, and besides, with Gloria in charge of flyers, they usually get forgotten. Harriet frowns and then says, “Come in,” curious to see who has tracked them down.

Annabelle strides inside, her heels clacking against the stone floor. Trailing her is Roxy, the new girl and Annabelle’s girlfriend. Harriet’s eyebrows shoot upwards. Of all the people she never expected to see, Annabelle was close to the top. Roxy was at the top of the list, but she looks bored and distracted, so Harriet supposes she’s only there to humor Annabelle.

“Is this the Force Against Racism meeting?” Annabelle asks timidly.

Harriet glances around the room. Chelsea is smiling happily, easily, but everyone else looks tense and unsure. Annabelle may have helped get them through the Shakespeare Scandal, but very few of them trust her. She was accepted last year because Kelly took her under her wing, but none of them really think she’s Head Girl material. She and Lucy may have ranted about this over too many glasses of wine.

In the silence, Annabelle is looking more and more unsure. Harriet wants to smack her. St. Trinian’s girls, even when confused and scared and unsure, always put on a confident front. They always look like they know what they’re doing. They have to, otherwise they’d be trampled. It’s one of the reasons Harriet just does not respect Annabelle. She’s nice enough, and she tries, but she’s just not- she’s not strong. She can dress however she wants, but she’s not truly a St. Trinian’s girl.

“Yeah,” Bianca says finally, shooting a glare at Harriet. “You’re in the right place. You here to do somethin’?”

“I-I want to help,” Annabelle stammers. Roxy stares defiantly at the group and drops an arm over Annabelle’s shoulders.

Harriet can’t help herself. She snorts. Gloria smacks her on the arm. “I’m sorry,” she says, “but what help do you think you can be?”

Annabelle’s eyes harden suddenly, and she straightens, shaking Roxy’s arm off and allowing herself to stand at her full height. “I would think,” she says coolly, “that the help of the Head Girl and the Headmistress’s niece would be invaluable.”

“We’ll take it,” Gloria says quickly, stomping on Harriet’s foot. “Come and sit. We were just discussing the design of the living monument.”

Annabelle looks confused for a moment, but she just goes and sits next to Gerald. Gerald smiles at her and pats her hand. Roxy goes to sit in the back of the room, messing around with her mobile.

Afterwards, Gloria grabs her by the arm and drags her over to the corner of the room. The other girls are milling about and talking, but the look on Gloria’s face convinces them to leave them alone. “I don’t know what you’re thinking,” she says bluntly, “but we cannot afford to alienate the Head Girl. She’s got a point. Having her allegiance would be invaluable.”

“I don’t trust her,” Harriet says.

“Why?” Gloria shoots back, looking irritated. “Because she’s white?”

“No!” Harriet snaps. “I am best friends with Polly!”

“Harriet, that sounds exactly like white people saying ‘some of my best friends are Black’ and thinking that makes whatever they’ve said all right,” Gloria says, rolling her eyes. “You have issues with white people.”

“I got beat up by white people,” Harriet points out.

“Did you get beat up by Annabelle?”

“No, but-”

“No, shut up. You know I love you, Harriet. Always have done, always will. But you have issues to work out,” Gloria says. She says it frankly, bluntly, like Gloria has always said everything to her. She’s never been much for beating around the bush, a fact that Harriet has admired until now.

“It’s not because she’s white,” Harriet says.

“Then is it because she’s close to Polly? Her newest friend? I know how jealous you can get.”

“No! It’s because she doesn’t act like a St. Trinian’s girl,” Harriet insists.

Gloria gives her a strange look. “Because St. Trinian’s girls all act alike.”

“We have confidence,” Harriet says. “And a spine. We take things on. We don’t hesitate.”

Gloria starts laughing gently, and Harriet glares at her. She isn’t kidding. St. Trinian’s girls have differences, of course- that’s where the Cliques come in- but they all have a core of steel, something that gets them through the bad times. Annabelle doesn’t have that. She falls apart at the slightest sign of trouble.

“If you didn’t know Saffy, would you say she has confidence or a spine? How about Lucy? How about me? Celia? Anoushka? Artem… Qiu-Yue? If you didn’t know us, just saw us every day, would you think any of us were St. Trinian’s girls?”

Harriet wants to say yes, of course she would, but she pauses. In their daily lives, from a stranger’s perspective, she could see the conclusions that people could come to. Celia and Saffy look like complete airheads, albeit airheads of a different quality. Anoushka was sullen and silent except around friends. Lucy seems malleable, ready to turn to the nearest strong opinion like a flower to the sun. Qiu-Yue doesn’t work to make waves, though she winds up making them anyway. They’re quieter, perhaps, than other St. Trinian’s girls. They fade more easily, more readily. If some of them weren’t Clique leaders, Harriet doubts they’d receive any notice at all.

“I would know you as a St. Trinian’s girl from a kilometer away,” Harriet finally says.

Gloria smirks. “That’s because I’m always my charming self. But you have to admit, Harriet, some people play a long con. They wear masks, depending on who they’re with. How can you deny Annabelle and not deny Ar- fuck, Qiu-Yue? That’s going to take some getting used to.”

Harriet licks her lips. “I just don’t like her.”

Gloria shrugs. “Give her a chance. Think of her as a First Year. Not entirely sure where she belongs yet. Let her help.”

“And Roxy?” she shoots back.

“Her too. She deserves a chance.”

Harriet looks at Gloria for a long time. Annabelle is not her ideal leader. But for this, she doesn’t need to be. She just needs to be willing to help. “All right,” she says finally. “But if she says something dumb, don’t expect me to bite my tongue.”

Gloria smiles. “I would never expect that of you, darling.”

******
Some notes about Harriet’s fifth year:

Polly looks more and more ill as the months progress. She finally can’t stand it anymore and goes to Kelly.

“She looks so sick,” she says, twisting her skirt in her hands. “I just- can’t you do something?”

Kelly looks unhappy. “I’ve been trying. She’s working on this project, something big and important, and- she won’t tell me what it is.”

Harriet looks at her in shock. Polly tells Kelly everything, things she won’t even tell Harriet, and if there is something Polly won’t talk about, it must be serious.

“Nothing?” she asks finally.

Kelly shakes her head. “No. All I know is that it’s a history project, and she cries, sometimes. I’m doing my best. I’m trying.”

“Try harder,” Harriet says, and walks away.

She tries dating again, this time an Emo named Mabel. They don’t last long, only a month, and Harriet can’t claim to love her. Peaches laughs at her and tells her that dating isn’t the end all and be all of the world. Harriet thinks it’s a bit strange to hear that coming from a Posh-Totty, especially a Posh-Totty like Peaches, but she accepts the advice and stops dating frivolously, for the sake of dating.

Gloria starts speaking to her again, albeit grudgingly and rarely.

Anoushka gets spectacularly sick from something the twins make. Harriet offers to hang them up by their pigtails, which makes Anoushka laugh, enough so that Harriet goes to find them and says, very seriously, “No more testing your alcohol on my friends, or I swear, they’ll find you dangling in the dining hall by your braids.” Tara and Tania are apologetic, and buy Anoushka a bottle of vodka, which she shares with Harriet, toasting her protectiveness. It’s the first time Harriet has ever gotten drunk. Anoushka takes blackmail photos.

Taylor starts to date Andrea. Harriet looks at her in shock and says, “You? And Andrea? You hate each other!”

Taylor shrugs and drapes an arm around Harriet’s shoulders companionably. “Sublimated sexual tension, mate,” she says, which is more than Harriet ever needed to know.

The school burns down. Harriet rescues her piano.

Rumors start to spread about who will be the next leader of each Clique.

And then:

“Now, as to the question of my succession,” Polly says, tamping down her papers on the podium and staring down at them. Harriet can feel every Geek in the room shift with interest. She continues doodling pictures in her notebook. Lucy will be the next leader, and Harriet knows it. She’s been predicting it for months. Polly has been grooming Lucy for leadership. And besides, she knows Polly. Lucy is the obvious choice.

“I am naming Lucy MacPherson and Harriet Bamford as co-leaders of the Geek for the upcoming year,” Polly says.

Harriet’s world implodes.

******
The Geek office is terrifying to behold.

Harriet stares at the mess from the desk, a sense of dismay curling around in some small corner of her brain. She’s never enjoyed clutter much, and this can’t be classified as clutter. A danger zone. A disaster area. A place to be quarantined from the general public. Not clutter.

It’s late, and she suspects Bianca will come to drag her away from her files soon enough. She’s left the door open for that reason. But with Qiu-Yue already preparing the monument, and Lucy having secured the funding (though not, it should be said, without some emotional scarring; apparently while Miss Fritton was supportive of the project, she was also quite intense in her interrogation of what, precisely, the funds were going to be used for) it’s really up to Harriet to select what will go into the final project.

She has the names of all the non-white students, of course, but she wants to include the Jewish students as well. And there she reaches her roadblock.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, she knows what drove Polly to the brink of illness, back in her sixth and seventh year. Harriet doesn’t pretend to know the full story- she’s certain that Polly was holding back the ocean at some point- but she can imagine Polly sitting in this office, digging through the archives for a Jewish student, any Jewish student, and coming up empty each time. She has Polly’s notes, wrinkled, sloppy things with cramped and erratic handwriting, but none of them tell her why.

“Where are the Jews?” she mutters to herself, one hand gliding over the papers.

“Hidden,” says someone from the doorway.

Harriet looks up, one hand going down to her desk drawer, instinctively looking for something to protect herself with. It’s a silly instinct now, perhaps, but she’d rather live with it than without it. She relaxes, though, when she sees Winona in the doorway.

“Winona,” she says, sighing. “What’s up?”

Winona walks in, her polished shoes reflecting some of the light from the halls. She looks tired, and Harriet imagines she must have been working on the Chanukah celebration with the others. It certainly explains her absence from the past several meetings. She comes and sits down across from Harriet, her smile still tired and strained.

“I never knew Najwa Khan,” says Winona suddenly.

Harriet raises an eyebrow. “All right.”

“I don’t think I would have liked her. June and Emily have mentioned her, from time to time. They didn’t like her.”

“They were First Years in her last year here,” Harriet replies, confused. She can’t understand why Winona would tell her this. It isn’t relevant- Najwa is long gone- and besides which, everyone knows she adored Najwa.

“There’s history there, nevertheless,” Winona says. She reaches up and pulls her hair down from its sloppy chignon, the coils of dark curls tumbling down. She’s a pretty girl, Harriet notes absently. The Emo makeup always obscures people’s features, and it is hard to tell, at times. “I’m Sephardic.”

Harriet frowns. She read about Judaism years ago, and can’t claim to actually remember much. What she does know all comes from Polly, who was observant yet somewhat secretive. She wasn’t one to advertise her faith. “I’m sorry,” she says finally. “I’m not sure what that means.”

“It can mean a few different things. For me, it means my family is Israeli. Ever since the Palestinian Mandate. Before that, we were Egyptian. My parents moved here during the First Intifada. They didn’t want my brother and then me to live in such violent times,” Winona says. She is looking everywhere but Harriet’s face. She realizes that Winona has been avoiding eye contact with her for weeks. “They lost everything.”

“I’m sorry,” Harriet offers.

Winona shrugs. “It’s our story. We settle, we lose it, we rebuild. The point is, Harriet, that Polly was the only Jewish student at the time who would have anything to do with a Muslim student.”

Harriet bites back her immediate flash of anger. There is history that she cannot understand, the sort that she’ll never understand. Racism is part of her life, but she doesn’t have a homeland somewhere that is contested. “All right,” she says, feeling like she has nothing to offer.

“Not just because she was Muslim,” Winona sighs. “For a lot of reasons, really, and too complicated to explain.”

“Fine,” she says shortly. She doesn’t know where this is going.

“We know that this project originated with your friendship with Najwa,” Winona says, after a lengthy pause. “But we don’t think that means we shouldn’t be part of it.”

“Polly didn’t think so,” Harriet says.

“Polly doesn’t have family in Israel,” Winona snaps back. “She doesn’t understand this.”

“Najwa’s family was from Pakistan,” Harriet says carefully.

“Sheema is Palestinian,” Winona says sharply. “But the point is Polly told us. About the fact that we’re not marked down in the records as Jewish. And Emily wanted to know why, and June thought it was somewhat interesting, so we looked into it.”

Harriet tamps down the anger she feels and nods shakily. “So you figured it out?”

“Yes,” Winona says simply. “We were hidden.”

Harriet squints at her in the dim light. Of course, she already knew this much. It was rather obvious, given Polly’s presence and the lack of indication on her forms. “I don’t know what that means,” she says again.

“You know we weren’t emancipated in England until 1858, right?”

She hadn’t, actually, but she nods anyway.

“It wasn’t until 1846 that the De Judaismo law was revoked,” Winona continues. “The one that made Jews wear special attire to indicate that we were Jewish. Among other things. Anyway, we weren’t exactly welcome in public schools.”

“So the school hid you,” Harriet realizes slowly.

“We think the first Jewish student was allowed in St. Trinian’s in 1819. Listed as Christian. Nothing outwardly indicating that they were Jewish. Her name was originally Rivka Goldenberg. She was known as Becky Golden.”

Winona hands over a piece of paper. It’s a picture of a rather plain looking girl, probably fourteen or fifteen, looking sternly at the camera. Harriet flips it over. In a firm hand, Becky Golden is scrawled across the back. She turns it back to the photo, staring at the serious face. She had blonde hair, or light brown. Freckles, even.

“How did you find out?” she asks.

“Even Polly knew we had to be here, somewhere. But Polly’s grandmother is German. She isn’t as familiar with the history of British law,” Winona explains.

“You’re Israeli.”

“June isn’t. The Union Jack is in her blood. Anyway, there was no way a Jewish student would be at St. Trinian’s before 1871, unless they were incognito. June knew that much. We just had to find her.”

Harriet frowns down at the photo, tracing the girl’s face with her fingertip. Rivka Goldenberg. Becky Golden. One girl, two histories. “But why wouldn’t they start noting the Jewish students as Jewish after that?”

Winona shrugs. “I suspect they just got into the habit. It wasn’t like things got miraculously better after that. Maybe the girls didn’t want to say.”

Polly did, Harriet thinks, but then checks herself. She doesn’t actually know what Polly wanted.

“Then the Second World War happened,” Winona continues, waving a hand, “and during that, I doubt anyone wanted to say anything. After that? Who knows. Ask Miss Fritton why we’re not marked now. We at least found out why it started.”

“The school was trying to help,” Harriet says.

“The school was trying to help,” Winona repeats firmly. She stands up, pulling her hair back swiftly and sloppily. “We have to clean house, Harriet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good things there, somewhere.”

Winona starts to leave, but Harriet can’t just let it go. She rises and asks, “Is Sheema the reason you won’t come to FAR meetings anymore? Is she why you keep making excuses?”

Winona hesitates, and then says sadly, “It’s not as straightforward as that, Harriet. I can’t speak for Emily, June, or Rebekah, but I don’t have a problem with her. She doesn’t have a problem with me, as far as I can tell. But she’s still Palestinian, and I’m Israeli, and that makes things… difficult. We’re trying.”

Then she’s gone.

Harriet stares at the photo of Rivka-Becky for a moment longer, and then stands up. She needs to see Miss Fritton. She doesn’t care how late it is. She grabs the file that Polly left for her, the notes, and the photo, and heads out. She suspects Bianca will come looking for her, wondering where she’s gotten to, but she can’t be arsed to care. This is important.

All the students know where Miss Fritton’s private quarters are, just in case of an emergency, but Miss Fritton has always made it perfectly clear that it had better be an emergency for any girl to knock on her door. Harriet ignores the threats and knocks anyway, as loud as she can.

There’s a muffled curse, a sharp bang, and then the door creaks open. Miss Fritton is wearing some sort of facial mask, her face plastered with green goop, and her hair is pulled back into curlers. Harriet wrinkles her nose. If that’s the price of beauty, she’d rather be wrinkled and saggy when she’s old.

“Bamford,” Miss Fritton says after a moment. “To what do I owe the dubious pleasure?”

“We need to talk about the Jewish students at St. Trinian’s,” Harriet says firmly.

Miss Fritton gives her a long, level look, and then opens the door fully, gesturing her inside.

Harriet wonders if she’s the only student to see Miss Fritton’s suite in person. Then she tosses the idea aside, because of course Polly had been here before, when she set up the CCTV feed. Still, she feels a bit awed. The wallpaper is peeling, and the sheets on Miss Fritton’s bed are turning gray with age, but it’s still magnificent.

Miss Fritton points to an antique wingback chair. “Sit,” she orders. Harriet sits down quickly, surreptitiously checking to make sure her knee socks are still in place. It’s a silly thing, really, but she hates approaching Miss Fritton looking anything but her best.

“Now then, what is this about the Jewish students that couldn’t wait until morning?” Miss Fritton asks, settling herself carefully in an ugly pink armchair that squeaks alarmingly beneath her.

Harriet hands her the files. Miss Fritton looks through them quickly, humming contemplatively to herself and murmuring something about the thoroughness of Polly’s work, and how pleased she is to see that research is being taken up by Posh-Totties, Emos, and Rude Girls, too. Harriet waits through it all impatiently, tightening one hand in her skirt.

“All right,” Miss Fritton says finally, closing the files. “It’s a lovely bit of research that the girls did. I assume this will go up with the monument?”

“That isn’t the point,” Harriet says. Miss Fritton raises an eyebrow. “I want to know why Jewish students aren’t marked in their official school records, while the rest of us are.”

“It says here-” Miss Fritton begins, opening the files again. Harriet cuts her off.

“Not why it began. I know why it began. But why did it continue?”

Miss Fritton studies her for a long moment. It should be difficult to take her serious through the facial mask, but somehow, Miss Fritton is at her most respectable while at her most ridiculous. It’s a paradox that Harriet has never tried to unravel.

Finally, Miss Fritton says, “My great-aunt Millicent was a schoolgirl here, before she became Headmistress in 1926. St. Trinian’s was different then. Oh, it was still a school for girls who didn’t really fit elsewhere, but it was more restrictive. England at the time wasn’t overtly anti-Semitic, but many of the girls then lived in the East End, and there were a large number of Russian Jewish immigrants, fleeing pogroms and whatnot. I can’t believe your history courses haven’t taught you this.”

“They don’t really focus on things like that,” Harriet says. They’re working on that.

“At any rate, Auntie Millicent never really talked much about Jewish students at the time, but she did mention that many of the girls who lived in the East End were… less complimentary about the influx of Jewish immigrants. Even if they did try to assimilate. Even if immigration was restricted in the early 1900s. They just didn’t like seeing non-British things in their neighborhoods.

“And then the school shut down during World War I, and it didn’t matter much. There was a war on.”

Miss Fritton pauses for a moment, smiling bleakly at Harriet. “After that, there was the Balfour Declaration, and the Palestinian Mandate, and the fact that Russia was on the other side of the war, and things just became messy. When Aunt Millicent reopened the school, she felt it was best to continue marking Jewish students as Christians or atheists. For their own protection.”

“That was 1926, though,” Harriet argues. “What about now?”

Miss Fritton hushes her. “I’m getting there. You need to understand the history to understand the present, Harriet. And you call yourself a Geek. Now then. That was 1926. From what I remember from my own history lessons, there were some tensions among Jewish people and Gentiles in the lead up to the Second World War. When it became clear what was happening in Nazi Germany, Aunt Millicent decided it was best to continue to hide Jewish students’ identities.”

Harriet doesn’t understand much of this, but she nods anyway. She’ll read a book later, maybe. Ask Winona, even. She knows enough about the Palestinian Mandate to know that an Israeli might know what it all means, historically speaking.

“After World War II, not many students wanted to reveal their identities. In case. We… failed, as a country, during the Holocaust. Did better than some, maybe, but not as well as we could have done.”

“Ha’Shoah,” Harriet corrects automatically. She remembers Polly’s words to her, years ago.

Miss Fritton nods absently. “After that came a long line of Headmistresses, and I can’t really speak to why they kept up the convention. Harker-Parker listed everyone as Christian, regardless. Spottiswood removed any religious mention in the records, did you notice that? She felt that such things were unimportant and divisive, and so did away with it all. Vandemeer added religious preference back into files, but she was such an opinionated woman that I suspect many students preferred to keep it a secret.”

Harriet nods slowly.

“Then Aunt Arabella came along.” Miss Fritton’s voice turns bitter. Harriet looks up in surprise. Arabella Fritton was the Headmistress before their own Miss Fritton, and rumor has it she was an excellent Headmistress. Firm, unyielding, and competent, if not competent enough to prevent massive debt.

“Was there an issue with the previous Miss Fritton?” she asks.

Miss Fritton’s face is pinched beneath her green mask. “She was a vocal anti-Zionist. In the 80s. You see, she was good friends with Princess Fatima, and felt that in order to support her friend, she needed to support Palestine unreservedly. She had trouble drawing the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and alienated a lot of people. The Jewish students that I knew never felt comfortable telling her they were Jewish, and so they always listed themselves as non-religious.”

Harriet frowns. “But you took over in 1995.”

“But I took over in 1995,” Miss Fritton agrees, “and had the last name of Fritton. For years, if my students were Jewish, I found out by accident, by walking in on a discussion about Yom Kippur or whether or not fasting was required. They didn’t trust me. I don’t blame them.”

“What about Polly?” she asks. “Didn’t she tell you?”

Miss Fritton smiles at Harriet, her eyes turning kind. “How often did Polly announce that she was Jewish?”

“Never,” Harriet says. It’s true. Polly never announced it. Najwa figured it out, and most of her friends put the pieces together over time. Harriet thinks nobody else would have known if it hadn’t been for her pursuit of the Chanukah ritual. Polly would celebrate Shabbat, but it was always a quiet little affair, the lighting of candles by her bedside and soft Hebrew prayers. Harriet found it comforting.

“The Christian students don’t announce it either, of course, but their application forms have a little box they can mark.”

“There isn’t a box for Jewish?”

“No,” Miss Fritton says.

“Why don’t you add one?” Harriet asks.

Miss Fritton’s gaze is level. “Perhaps I will.”

“You could have before,” Harriet points out. “Surely you realized it was a problem.”

Miss Fritton closes her eyes and leans back in her armchair. Harriet looks at her for a long moment. She’s just an old woman, she realizes. She thinks about Polly, telling her months ago I was tired, I think; of saying, You’re not the only one that’s trapped. She tries to remember her last six years at St. Trinian’s. The building falling apart and being set on fire. Floods, attacks, increasing debt. Angry parents. One disaster after another, really. She wonders if Miss Fritton was just doing the best she could.

“I’m not perfect, Miss Bamford,” Miss Fritton says finally. “I just never deemed it important enough. I always thought, surely, if it bothers someone, they’ll tell me. In the meantime, I did what I could.”

It’s almost exactly what she said when Harriet went to her about removing the voodoo class. “I saw an epitaph like that once,” Harriet says finally. “It said, ‘She hath done what she could.’ It always struck me as somewhat sad.”

Miss Fritton opens her eyes, and Harriet continues. “Because it always felt like that meant she hadn’t done enough. That in the end, she failed.” Harriet looks at Miss Fritton, biting her lip quickly before continuing. “But now I’m thinking that it means she worked for perfection in an imperfect world and no, she didn’t get it, but she tried. And we should acknowledge that effort and continue her work from there.”

Miss Fritton looks at her, smiling to herself. “Perhaps someday you will mark that on my gravestone.”

Harriet holds her gaze. “Perhaps I will.”

*
“I need a volunteer or two to assist with correcting the anti-Semitic history of St. Trinian’s,” Harriet announces at their next meeting. There are a few more girls now than before, a few older, a few younger, all looking unsure and somewhat sullen. Harriet doesn’t know what their reasons are for joining FAR. Some of them are white, some of them are non-white, and she can’t claim to know them all particularly well.

Rebekah raises her hand, which makes sense to Harriet. It is her history, after all. To her surprise, however, both Sheema and Annabelle raise their hands as well. Harriet blinks and glances at Bianca, who is slouched in the chair next to hers, arms crossed over her chest and cracking her bubble gum. Bianca raises her eyebrows in askance, and jerks her head at Sheema.

“Ain’t you Palestinian?” she asks.

Sheema’s smile is thin. “Yes.”

“You ain’t got no issues?”

“I’m sure Rebekah will tell me if I do,” Sheema says, and grins at Rebekah. Rebekah grins back. Harriet feels her eyes widen. She hadn’t realized they were friends. She wonders if Winona knows.

“Annabelle?” asks Gloria.

“My- my mother was Jewish,” Annabelle says haltingly. She clears her throat. “I found out last year.”

Harriet doesn’t ask, just nods, and starts to move on, but Rebekah says loudly, “Aren’t you going to ask me why I want to be involved?”

“You’re Jewish,” Harriet says. Rebekah scowls.

“Just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to involve myself with projects involving Judaism. If you’re going to ask them about their motivations, you ought to ask me as well.”

Harriet watches Sheema give Rebekah a grateful look. From the back of the room, where she’s running financial projections, Lucy scowls at her. Roxy is laughing.

“I’m sorry,” Harriet says. “That was inconsiderate of me. Rebekah, why do you want to be involved in researching the history of anti-Semitism at St. Trinian’s?”

“Because it’s an ongoing problem, and I’d like to find its roots,” Rebekah answers succinctly. “Why are you interested in adding the history of anti-Semitism into this project, Harriet?”

“I like her,” Bianca murmurs, and Harriet kicks her.

“Because a friend of mine showed me a few years ago that I could be an anti-Semitic arse, and I want to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes,” she replies as steadily as possible.

“And I want to be part of FAR in general because one of my friends told me I was a racist git, and I needed to get over myself,” Rebekah says. “Now, if we’re done questioning people’s reasons for being here?”

Harriet considers herself thoroughly schooled.

*
There aren’t many moments of rest anymore. With the work on the monument picking up, and more and more people joining FAR, Harriet finds that after she completes her homework and her FAR work, it’s usually four in the morning, and she has to be up in three hours. Normally, this wouldn’t bother her, but she wants to spend more time with Bianca.

“You’re the one who said the revolution comes first,” Bianca points out over breakfast. Harriet scowls at her eggs.

“Couldn’t the revolution take a little less time?”

Bianca snorts. “You’re kidding, right? A revolution that’s hundreds of years in the making?”

Harriet smiles faintly. “You mean it’s too much to ask for it to be over by supper?”

“We’ll have our time,” Bianca says fondly, reaching over and grabbing her hand. Harriet squeezes it gratefully. She’s exhausted, and stressed, and there are little fights starting in the meetings. It’s small things, mostly, which she’s thankful for, but it’s difficult. Grace apparently can’t stand Niobe, and the two spend most of the meetings insulting each other. Most of the students avoid Jaelle, which Harriet finds infuriating, which leads to her jumping to Jaelle’s defense, which Jaelle finds even more insulting, which usually ends with Jaelle refusing to speak to her until Harriet apologizes. And then it starts all over again at the next meeting. Emily Toshiba, one of the Jewish students, has started coming to meetings, and she spends half of her time insulting Sheema, Alex, Gloria, or Gerald, whichever one strikes her fancy, and none of them are interested in turning the other cheek. Lucy and Chelsea have returned to petty quips amidst all the other squabbles, and Harriet is ready to rip her hair out.

“We’d have more time if we weren’t mediating fights left and right,” Harriet grumbles.

“You didn’t honestly expect us to all come together as one big happy family, did you?” Bianca asks, sounding astonished. “Don’t you remember all the arguments you had with Najwa and Polly?”

Harriet tends to remember either the happy times or the really, really awful times, so she shakes her head. Bianca laughs. “All the times that Najwa called you naïve or young or self-absorbed? And you and Polly never agreed on anything beyond the fact that you were friends.”

“And that was just three people,” Harriet says. Bianca grins.

“And that was just three people.”

“Still…” Harriet begins. Bianca leans over and kisses her, lips firm and no nonsense.

“We have time, Harriet. We’ll get time.”

They’re smiling sappily at each other when Chelsea sits down across from them, her face stormy looking. “We have a problem,” she announces briskly.

Harriet feels an electric hum down her spine, and she turns away from Bianca immediately, knowing that her girlfriend is doing the same. “What?”

“Alex is in the infirmary,” she says, and Harriet storms to her feet. Behind her, Chelsea starts to fill her in on the details, heels clacking ominously in the nearly empty halls. Most everyone is at breakfast or sleeping in. “She was working in the computer lab, and a few girls started hassling her. She tried to stand up for herself and they didn’t like that much.”

“Why were they bothering her?” Bianca asks.

“They called her an upstart First Year,” Chelsea replies.

Harriet frowns as she turns the corner leading to the infirmary. She tries to work out the implications of what that means. “Who was it?” she asks instead. When there’s no response, she glances over her shoulder and sees Chelsea looking extremely uncomfortable. “What?”

“I don’t really want to say.”

Harriet stops and whirls around. “You’re going to protect the people who put a First Year in the infirmary? Really, Chelsea?”

“It’s just- I don’t want anyone else to get hurt,” Chelsea stammers, looking suddenly unsure of herself. Harriet has watched Chelsea grow into her confidence over the past year, and the resurgence of this Chelsea is surprising.

“I wouldn’t hurt them,” Harriet reassures her.

“I might,” Bianca says. Harriet glares at her.

Chelsea sighs. “It was Mary and Samantha,” she says.

“My Mary and Samantha?” she asks, stunned. They’re both Geeks, both Hi-Tech; Samantha is the year above her, Mary the year below. They’re both quiet girls. Samantha plays cello for the orchestra and had been both Polly and Anoushka’s friend. She doesn’t know Mary as well, but she won a fairly substantial Geek Grant for her work in artificial intelligence.

They’re good girls. Harriet would swear to it.

“Yes,” Chelsea says softly. She looks at Chelsea for a minute longer, and then closes her eyes. She’ll deal with it later. Now, she needs to be there for Alex.

The infirmary is quiet except for the sound of someone crying quietly. Harriet quickly locates Jemima and offers her a weak smile. She looks awful. Alex, however, is sitting up in the infirmary bed and arguing with Matron.

“I’m fine,” she insists.

“You have a concussion,” Matron says patiently. Harriet does not envy Matron her job. She thinks she too would resort to alcohol if she had to argue with bullheaded St. Trinian’s girls every day.

“A minor one,” Alex replies. She looks up as Harriet, Bianca, and Chelsea approach. She has a black eye and a goose egg near her hairline, but far more impressive is her scowl. “Harriet, tell her I’m fine.”

Matron gives her a bemused look. “Try it,” she suggests.

“No, thank you,” Harriet says, and rubs her eyes. “Alex, whatever Matron is telling you, listen to her.”

“Wouldn’t that be a first,” Matron mutters, and moves away to give them some privacy.

“What happened?” Bianca asks.

“It was dumb,” Alex says. “You don’t need to worry about it.”

“Why don’t you let us be the judge of that?” Chelsea says, and sits down on the edge of her bed, reaching over to rub Jemima’s back. Jemima hiccoughs and wipes her eyes, smiling gratefully at Chelsea.

For a moment, Harriet wonders if this is what it was like to be Najwa and Polly, when the group of girls sent her tumbling down the stairs for a laugh. Except she was angry and wanted revenge, whereas Alex just looks put out. Alex also has the benefit of having an entire group of girls devoted to protecting her from these sort of situations.

“I was in the computer lab,” Alex says, sounding exasperated. “I was listening to one of the audio versions of my textbooks, and Samantha and Mary told me to turn it off. I told them that I needed it on to do my homework, and they told me to read it silently like everyone else. I told them I couldn’t read it, and they called me illiterate.”

Harriet feels a rising sense of disbelief. She and a few others figured out Alex was dyslexic shortly after the Shakespeare Scandal and had arranged for her to have electronic textbooks that she could listen to. It has nothing to do with illiteracy.

“I told them to bugger off, they called me an upstart, and I called them conceited, arrogant, ignorant twats.”

“Who threw the first punch?” Bianca asks. Of course she would. Bianca has always been concerned about things like that.

Alex shrugs and winces. “I think it was more or less simultaneous.”

“And yet you’re the one in the infirmary,” Harriet mutters to herself. Which, really. Of course it is. Alex is a First Year, and was fighting by herself. She never stood a chance.

“I chose the fight,” Alex says sharply.

“You’re eleven,” Chelsea says.

Alex sniffs. “Tell me that Harriet and Bianca weren’t fighting when they were eleven, and I’ll concede the point.” Harriet and Bianca exchange guilty looks, which is answer enough for Alex. “I chose the fight,” she says again. “I could have walked away, and I decided not to.”

“It shouldn’t have been a fight, though, Alex,” Jemima says softly. “There shouldn’t have been a problem.”

Harriet nods, knowing the others are doing the same. She needs to talk to Lucy. She needs to talk to Qiu-Yue, too. Her disabilities are different, but she understands the intersections so much more than Harriet ever will. She still thinks everything has to do with race, in the end. Qiu-Yue is more than willing to point out that Harriet can be a bit blind.

“Can we not make this into a big deal?” Alex sighs.

“No,” Harriet says. “Because it is a big deal. And we’re done with this sort of thing.”

“I’m not a victim!” Alex yells. Jemima grabs her hand and buries her face into Alex’s shoulder. Alex automatically comforts her, still glaring daggers at Harriet.

“Of course not,” Bianca sneers. “We ain’t sayin’ you are. We’re sayin’ that we ain’t standin’ for this no more. There’s a difference.”

Harriet nods. “Silence, remember, Alex?”

Alex immediately quiets and looks down at her hands. She has a thin, narrow face, and the bruises are ugly to look at. She’s too small to carry such marks. Harriet wonders if she was ever that small, and hates Bunny, Lois, and Jerrica even more.

“Yeah,” she says finally. “Yeah, all right.”

Harriet leaves.

She sends a few messages on the telegraph machine, grabs a First Year and sends her to find a few others, and by the time she reaches her office, Lucy and Qiu-Yue are sitting there, looking concerned.

“Is she all right?” Qiu-Yue asks immediately, her hands clenching around her walking sticks.

“A mild concussion,” Harriet says. “She’ll be fine.”

“Samantha and Mary?” Lucy asks, looking distressed. Harriet pauses. Samantha, she realizes belatedly, is Lucy’s friend as well. She should have realized. All Geeks tend to stick together, but Geeks in the same year are always closer, more friendly.

“Yes. I’m sorry. But we need to figure out what our response is going to be.”

“Right,” says Qiu-Yue (and really, Harriet is having far more trouble getting used to her real name than she should), moving her sticks to the side and pulling out a notebook from her bulging bag. Harriet grins when she sees blueprints fall out when she pulls the notebook loose. Qiu-Yue flips open to a clean page and pulls a pen from behind her ear, poising it over the page. “No more silence. Let’s get to work.”

*
It’s Qiu-Yue who stands up at supper that night, rapping one of her crutches on a table until she has everyone’s attention. With everyone’s eyes on her, she says, clearly and boldly, “Today, a Black First Year was attacked while using assistive software in the computer lab. Whether this attack was based on her race or her disability or simple juvenile hostility, we do not know, but we at St. Trinian’s will not stand for such things. There will be no more silence. Therefore, let it be known that Samantha Whittaker and Mary Ernest have been de-Cliqued. That will be all.”

Qiu-Yue smiles blandly at the crowd and sits back down, ignoring the sudden uproar of voices. Harriet watches people’s faces closely. Mary and Samantha had been informed earlier that evening, after she, Lucy, and Qiu-Yue had reached their decision, so it isn’t as if they’ve blindsided them, but it’s the rest of St. Trinian’s that Harriet is interested in at the moment.

“There are a few Emos looking nervous,” Bianca murmurs in her ear. She gestures with her chin, and Harriet follows her gaze. It’s a group of Zoe’s friends, though Zoe is looking surprisingly comfortable with the announcement. Given her track record with Bianca, Harriet thinks she ought to be concerned.

Gloria drops down into the seat across from her, looking carelessly relaxed, but Harriet knows her well enough to recognize the tension beneath her skin. “This is going to make waves,” she says easily, reaching over and grabbing a roll from Harriet’s plate and biting into it.

“It’s supposed to,” Harriet replies.

“It’s one thing to build a monument,” Gloria points out, crumbs falling from her mouth. “Another thing to yell at people from the stairs. But to de-Clique people… that’s big, Harriet. People are going to be upset.”

“We know,” Bianca says for her. She scowls at Gloria’s messy eating habits.

“Qiu-Yue is going to be in the hotseat, since she made the announcement,” Gloria says.

“She knows,” Harriet sighs, pushing her plate to the side. She’s suddenly not hungry. “She wanted to do it. Chelsea, Bella, and Saffy are with her, though. She should be all right.”

They sit staring at each other for a moment, the angry buzz filling their ears. Finally, Gloria shakes her head and smirks. “Things were going a bit too easy, weren’t they?”

“It’s time for the hard part,” Bianca agrees.

*
Harriet remembers the tension in her first year at St. Trinian’s. She supposes that part of it probably wasn’t real, that it was her being paranoid, and the other part was because of her association with Najwa, but still, she remembers being nervous to walk in the halls alone. She remembers looking at the older St. Trinian’s girls and wondering if they’d hang her over the banister or lock her in a closet in the name of fun and the spirit of maliciousness. She remembers worrying constantly about Najwa.

It’s worse now, she thinks, because she has an entire group of people to worry about. And this time, she doesn’t have a mentor to try and shelter her from the worst of it. Now, she’s the mentor.

“There are a number of Posh-Totties who want Qiu-Yue de-Cliqued,” Chelsea says, sounding exhausted. They’re sitting in the Geek office once again, drinking ridiculous amounts of tea at a ridiculous hour. Harriet doesn’t want to imagine what their grades are going to look like at the end of this semester.

“What did you tell them?” Gloria asks. Her eyes are shut and her feet are in Chelsea’s lap. Even in the shadowy light, Harriet can see the massive bags under her eyes.

Chelsea scoffs. “No, of course. I’m not going to de-Clique her. They’ll have to de-Clique me first.”

“And considering they need the two other members of the Triumvirate to agree to that, it’s unlikely to happen,” Bella says wryly.

“The Rude Girls are excited about the changes,” Bianca says. She and Harriet are squeezed together in the armchair, their legs tangled together. Lucy keeps giving them pointed looks, but Harriet’s been ignoring her. “They’re hoping it means people will stop calling us Chavs.”

“Geeks are in an uproar,” Lucy says darkly. She’s on the floor, piles of paper in front of her. Harriet doesn’t know what she’s working on. It could be FAR stuff, it could be homework, it could be her individual research. Harriet remembers the days when they had time for individual research. “They think Harriet and I are overreacting.”

“Even if Alex weren’t Black, even if she didn’t have a learning disability, they still attacked a First Year,” Gloria points out.

“Try telling them that,” Harriet sighs. “As they keep reminding us, this is St. Trinian’s. Home to bad girls.”

“What did we expect?” Lucy says, mimicking their voices.

“Lovely,” Gloria snorts.

They slide into silence for a moment or two. Harriet tries to think about the Cliques’ reactions, tries to anticipate where the next major issue will appear. She can’t decide. The Ecos tend to be disconnected, most of them, and a lot of them are like Celia, thinking that these issues aren’t as important as environmental issues. Admittedly, Celia’s been coming around, attending most of the FAR meetings. The Flammables are a wild card, given their newness. Even Gloria doesn’t know which direction they’ll go. The Emos wouldn’t be a problem, except that they’re led by Zoe, who is… frustrating.

“Any word from Miss Fritton?” Gloria asks finally.

Everyone looks at Harriet. She shakes her head. “She’s never interfered with a de-Cliquing before.”

“Well, there haven’t been many,” Chelsea points out. “Gina and Allison, back when.”

“There was that Eco girl, in our third year,” Lucy says to Chelsea. Chelsea nods in remembrance.

“It was the right decision,” Harriet says softly. “No matter what the consequences. We did the right thing.”

“Well, yeah,” Gloria says. She shifts on the sofa, tilting her head back to look over the arm at Harriet. “But will we be able to say that with surety in a month or two? Before we were just fighting against a passive, unresisting audience. Now they’re angry. What’s that going to mean for us?”

Bianca grins at her. “We didn’t want silence anymore.”

“We’re certainly not going to get it,” Lucy says, smiling.

“Better to be hot or cold, rather than lukewarm,” Harriet says.

“Oh my days,” Bianca laughs, causing Harriet to bounce slightly. “Did you just quote the Bible at us?”

Harriet tilts her face upward, smiling at Bianca. “Maybe I did.”

“That settles it, then,” Gloria announces. “Things are going to get Biblical.”

Everyone groans and throws things at her.

*
It starts small.

At first, it’s no worse than it has been for the past several years. A sharp push in the halls, an ugly look across a classroom. Feet conveniently getting in the way, making people trip. Homework disappearing. Nasty rumors. Harriet’s seen it all, lived it all. None of it really fazes her.

She can see that it bothers Chelsea, though, who’s never been on this side of the aisle before. She bears it well, though, simply grinding her heel into the feet and making duplicate copies of her homework. Saffy and Bella ignore it better than she does. The younger members of FAR look troubled by the sudden shift in climate, but they grin and bear it.

There are other shifts, too, of course. There is a sudden influx of members, girls with wide eyes and firm mouths.

“You stood up for Alex,” says Tessa, a First Year with autism and a penchant for fire. Gloria already has an eye for her. “If you helped her, maybe you can help me. And I can help you.”

The other girls have similar stories. Some of them are white, some are non-white. Some have disabilities, others are able-bodied. A fair number of them are poor, but then there are those with trust funds that exceed St. Trinian’s yearly operating budget. They’re a good mix.

It leads to more disagreements in meetings, but at least they’re talking now.

Then it starts to turn really ugly.

Harriet stares at Gloria’s trunk in disbelief. Go Home, Blackie! is scrawled all over it in red spray paint. She turns to look at Gloria, who looks mostly amused, but Harriet can see the discomfit behind her eyes. “Go home?”

“I can’t decide if they mean Birmingham or the Caribbean,” Gloria says, licking her lips. “I can never tell with these people.”

Harriet takes pictures to add to the monument. So people can see that it isn’t all in the past. Then she helps Gloria scrub it off. They do it in silence.

Someone calls Jaelle a pikey. Jaelle just laughs it off, telling them they’re unoriginal and boring and that St. Trinian’s girls should have a little creativity to them. When they call Qiu-Yue a chink, though, Jaelle jumps them. Qiu-Yue drags her off and reports the incident to the others, all furious dignity, while Jaelle bristles with rage.

“It’s one thing when it’s me,” Jaelle says sharply. “I can deal with it just being me. But just me. I don’t handle it well when it’s others.”

“Neither do I,” Qiu-Yue tells her, rubbing her eyes and smudging her mascara. “But if we fight them, we lose the moral high ground.”

“Fuck the high ground,” Jaelle says. “I’m tired of it. It’s never gotten us anywhere.”

Harriet just listens to the arguments. She’s heard it all, thought it all, probably said it all at one point in time. “We don’t throw the first punch,” she says finally. “We defend ourselves, if necessary, but we don’t start anything.”

It would help, of course, if Bianca understood that. Bianca’s been in four fights in one week, and has started them all. Harriet despairs.

Lucy spends her evenings in the office crying. Most of the Geeks won’t speak to her anymore. Harriet feels bad for her. Lucy was chosen to be leader in part because she was friendly with everyone. She wants to call Polly and ask her, “Is this what you wanted?” but she doesn’t dare. She knows Polly would never have wished this on anyone.

Annabelle has her hands full, trying to be Head Girl and FAR member all at once. Roxy disappears one night, too, leaving St. Trinian’s and Annabelle behind her. The circles under Annabelle’s eyes are deep, and she looks persistently sad, her mouth twisted into a grimace most days. Harriet doesn’t envy her at all.

“I don’t think they’re even doing it because they’re inherently racist gits,” Annabelle tells her, sipping her tea at breakfast. “They’re just angry that you de-Cliqued those girls, and they’re trying to get even without realizing who, precisely, they’re targeting.”

“That doesn’t make it right,” Harriet says.

“No,” Annabelle agrees. “But I’m saying that their intentions aren’t racist.”

“People’s intentions,” Harriet sighs, “rarely are. Actions, though. Well.”

They have FAR meetings every other day now. Harriet hears the same things every time. It’s just name calling. It’s just petty vandalism. It’s just little fights, no one in the infirmary or anything. It’s just a little push here, a little shove there.

“No,” Bianca says loudly over all the rationalizations. “We ain’t standin’ for it. We made up our mind. We’re done. Ain’t no just about it. It all adds up to the same thing, and we’re done>.”

“Well, what do we do, then?” asks Tara, scowling. “We can’t de-Clique everyone.”

There’s a long silence as everyone thinks about the consequences of such an act. Then Qiu-Yue says, slowly, “But it isn’t everyone, is it?”

Gloria looks at her. “What do you mean?”

“It isn’t the entire school. Maybe a bunch of people are upset about the de-Cliquing, but it’s only a few of them who are doing anything about it, right?”

They toss out a few names, and Harriet’s surprised to discover that, for the most part, it really is the same ten or fifteen people over and over again. It always feels like more, she supposes, when you’re one person against several.

“What’s your point?” Rebekah asks.

“Remember that holiday traditions class?” Qiu-Yue says.

Harriet nods immediately. “Of course.” It was a special, week long course run by the students in the winter last year, when it became clear to Miss Fritton that students needed their own traditions for the season. Harriet remembers it fondly.

“So let’s have an Anti-Racism class,” Qiu-Yue says.

“With special students selected for attendance,” Bianca realizes. She starts to grin. It’s infectious. Harriet watches other students around the room slowly begin to smile.

“I have the perfect time slot,” Harriet says, laughing suddenly. “There’s been a gap on Sunday ever since the voodoo course was eliminated.”

The room bursts into laughter at the irony.

*
Miss Fritton is thrilled with the idea, and immediately sets up the class. She asks the teachers if any of them would be willing to participate and mediate, as well as ensure that no fights erupt. Miss Heferton, their Black biology teacher, volunteers, as does Miss Cleaver and Miss Maupassant.

Harriet decides that she isn’t going.

“Does that make me a bad person?” she asks Bianca. They’re curled up together in Bianca’s bed, holding hands. Bianca sighs.

“I can’t say I’m thrilled with your choice, though I know why you made it. No, it doesn’t make you a bad person, Harriet.”

Harriet purses her lips. “I just don’t think I could remain calm and reasonable,” she says.

Bianca lifts their joined hands up to her lips and kisses Harriet’s fingertips. “I know, mate.”

“And Gloria will be there, and Qiu-Yue, and they’re so much better at remaining rational than I am.”

“I’ll be there,” Bianca reminds her.

“So we’ll have the sheer rage, too,” Harriet says, and laughs when Bianca smacks her. “Chelsea said she’ll sit in, and Emily, Niobe, and Sheema have agreed to stop fighting with each other long enough to fight with the others.”

“Wonderful,” snorts Bianca.

“If it gets them to stop yelling at each other for a bit, I’ll take it.”

“Lucy will be there,” Bianca says slowly. “She’ll get a lot of grief. Do you think she’ll be able to handle it?”

Harriet considers. She’s gotten to know Lucy much better over the past three months. On the surface, she seems flighty and shaky, weak at best. But she knows, now, that there’s a core of steel underneath that trembling exterior. She trusts Lucy. “She’ll be upset,” Harriet says finally. “But she won’t show it until she’s alone, or with us.”

“Alex and Jemima said that they’ll be there, too.”

Harriet nods. She’d suspected as much. “So really, everyone will be there except me,” she says.

“No,” Bianca corrects, rolling over to tuck her face into Harriet’s neck. Harriet has never been able to figure out how she can make herself short enough to do so. “Most of the younger ones ain’t goin’. At least not regularly.”

“But I’m the only older one not going.”

Bianca sighs gustily into her neck. “Most of the older ones didn’t go through three years of hell, innit? You’re not a coward for realizing that you don’t want to go through it again.”

“I still feel guilty,” Harriet whispers. She should be there. To protect the younger ones, to argue with the hand selected students, to make sure that no one says something stupid. She’s the so-called leader of the revolution. Polly handed all of this to her.

Next time she sees Polly, she decides, she’ll punch her.

“You do guilt better than anyone I know,” Bianca grumps. “Can’t you just accept that you’re doin’ lots already, and that in this one area you’re takin’ a pass?”

Harriet considers. There’s a lot of other work that needs to be done, of course. They need to sit down and take a serious look at the curriculum. She also has wanted to look at the enrollment statistics and figure out what, precisely, prevents non-white girls from attending St. Trinian’s. Those are both huge projects. That doesn’t even include the work she’s been doing on securing a prayer room for Muslim students and an exemption from classes in order to pray, or her work on creating more fair tests for placing students in classes, or trying to convince Miss Fritton to hire a special education teacher in order to better identify students with learning disabilities.

Or the monument, of course.

“Yeah,” she says finally, shutting her eyes and tightening her grip on Bianca. “I guess I can.”

*
She’s discussing her symphony with Maria at supper when Miss Fritton stands up, looking regal and furious all at once. She raises a hand in the air, and the room falls silent.

“It has come to my attention,” Miss Fritton says, her pronunciation crisp, clear, and absolutely frigid, “that there have been several incidents between students largely because of the race of one or two of them. I wanted to take this moment to make it clear that such things will not be tolerated here at St. Trinian’s. We are all sisters here, and as such, we should act like it. That will be all.”

Miss Fritton sits down again, and the room erupts into harsh whispers.

Maria raises an eyebrow. “Hasn’t she ever heard of estranged sisters?”

*
Harriet has always thought that things were bound to come to a head at some point, and she isn’t wrong. She wishes she were, though, when the news comes through the telegraph wires while she’s at practice with the rest of the Banned.

She’s chewing on the pencil between her teeth, squinting at the difficult chords she’s written, while Beth and Jess sing something ridiculous about love in the wintertime (their new song; they want it ready in time for the winter concert) when Ami looks up from her bass, eyes wide, and says, “The telegraph is going off.”

Harriet looks over in surprise. She’s pretty sure she’s the only older student that still uses the telegraph machines, and the First Years have never sent a message to their rehearsal space before, except for the time when she was the one who sent it. Daisy sets her microphone down and goes over to it, listening to the dashes and dots with studied concentration. Then she looks up, biting her lip. “There’s a fight in the main hall.”

“So?” Jess asks.

“It’s between Zoe and Bianca,” Daisy says. Immediately, everyone drops everything. Harriet is worried about Bianca, and she imagines Jess is as well; Beth is probably concerned about Zoe. As for everyone else, Harriet doesn’t want to know what lines they’ve drawn.

When they reach the hall, Harriet can see that Bianca’s lip is bleeding. Pushing her way through the crowd, she looks around anxiously for Zoe, hoping that Bianca hasn’t hurt her too badly. She’s relieved when she finally sees her, walking around the edges of the gathered girls. Zoe’s eye is beginning to swell shut, but that is the only obvious thing.

She feels someone grab her arm. Harriet jumps, but it’s just Gloria.

“Do something,” she says fiercely, and then pushes Harriet into the center of the makeshift ring.

Bianca’s eyes widen when she sees her, and she shoots a glare at Zoe. Harriet doesn’t spare a glance for Zoe. Instead, she glares at Bianca. “What part of moral high ground did you misunderstand?” she yells.

“Yeah, Bianca,” Zoe says, laughing. Harriet turns and points a finger at her.

“Don’t even pretend that you are in the right here. I don’t care who said what, who threw the first punch, whose feelings were hurt, this is ridiculous.” Harriet feels years of rage and pain bubbling up inside, and rather than using it to fight back against bullies or to cry on someone’s shoulder or blame someone else, she finally talks. It’s the one thing she has never really tried.

“With all the other people gunning for St. Trinian’s girls, did it occur to any of you that maybe we shouldn’t be gunning for each other? Yes, we’re all different races and classes and religions and- and abilities and sizes and God, it matters, but it shouldn’t tear us apart like this!”

She looks at the amassed crowd, sees the sea of white, and closes her eyes for a minute, taking a calming breath. She can get through this. She can. “I spent my first three years at St. Trinian’s getting spit on, sneered at, and beat up because I was Black, because I was friends with other non-white girls, because I was in the wrong place in the wrong time, I don’t even know all the reasons. I was scared. We’re not supposed to be scared here! We’re supposed to be safe.”

Harriet looks at Zoe, and her voice breaks as she says, “You took that away from me.”

There’s a long, deep silence. Harriet considers turning and walking away. She’s so much better at research. She likes burying her head in a book, making lists, looking at numbers. She doesn’t like making speeches.

Then Zoe says, “I’m sorry.” Harriet looks at her, stunned. Zoe licks her lips, and shrugs defensively. “I was just picking on Bianca. I didn’t realize…”

“But some of you do,” Gloria says, walking through the gathered girls. She looks around the circle. “Some of you know exactly what you’re doing. You’re looking at us and you’re choosing to make us feel unsafe and unwelcome.”

Zoe sucks on her teeth. “Fascism.”

“Racism,” Bianca corrects.

“Which can lead to fascism,” Harriet adds, figuring if Zoe’s going to take a step forward, she might as well make the road a little easier.

“I hate fascists,” Zoe says.

“Then you should hate racists, too,” Gloria snaps. “Or, if not hate them, fight their ideology as much as the fascists.”

Zoe considers them for a moment, her swollen eye making her look even more serious. Then she turns and looks at the crowd, scowling mightily. “Any Emo heard making racist statements is immediately de-Cliqued. And I’ll go to Miss Fritton and demand your expulsion. Got it?”

The gathered Emos nod, though Harriet can see that some of them are glaring at Zoe. Zoe looks back at Harriet. “You have this class thing, right?” Harriet nods. Zoe faces the crowd again. “And all Emos will attend the class. No arguments!” she says, when she hears the immediate protests.

The crowd slowly disperses, leaving Zoe, Bianca, Gloria and Harriet behind. Zoe folds her arms over her chest and wrinkles her nose at Bianca. “I hope you know that I still don’t like you.”

“Feelin’s mutual,” Bianca says. “But that was a good thing you did.”

“I’m not a fascist,” Zoe says, tilting her chin upwards as if daring any of them to disagree. “I don’t want to be a racist, either. My fight with Bianca isn’t a fight with either of you,” she says, nodding at Gloria and Harriet.

“Doesn’t always seem that way,” Gloria says.

“I’m going to the class too,” Zoe says. She nods at them again, and then walks away.

Once she’s gone, Harriet lets go of the tension she’s let build in her shoulders and arms. She starts to shake, already feeling tears well up in her eyes. Bianca grabs her and pulls her into a tight hug.

“That was brill,” Bianca breathes.

“Can you do that to all the Clique leaders?” Gloria asks from somewhere behind Bianca. “It would take a lot less time to get everyone on board.”

Harriet pushes Bianca away, wiping her eyes. Her stress reaction is stupid, and she hates it, but it happens every time. She gets angry and upset and she cries. Sometimes she envies Bianca, who just punches something and is fine. “Most of the Clique leaders are part of FAR already,” she says.

Gloria frowns. “Then we should make it mandatory for our Cliques, too.”

“Seems simplest,” Bianca agrees. “Zoe just saved us a lot of arguing with the Emos.”

“Maybe we could talk to Miss Fritton, too,” Gloria says. “See if we can get it as a mandatory class for all incoming students.”

“Like a pre-term seminar,” Bianca says.

Harriet just closes her eyes and leans against Bianca. She doesn’t need to be present for this conversation. She’ll let them put together the details. She’s done her part for the day.

*
Things don’t suddenly become perfect, but they certainly become somewhat better. The Emos who were a problem just glare at them sullenly (or more sullenly- it’s hard to tell with an Emo) and go on their way. Celia reports having a long chat with the Ecos about how people are part of nature, too, and they can’t neglect the human element of environmentalism, and if they do, they’ll no longer be Ecos, so they won’t have to worry about it. Saffy, Chelsea, and Bella won’t tell Harriet the details of their little talk with the Posh-Totties, but they’ve shaped up too, lipstick vandalism disappearing almost overnight. Gloria threatened the Flammables with being burned at the stake. Tara and Tania said they would conveniently forget everyone’s paid up TNT protection fee if the First Years didn’t fall into line.

“I’d feel better if it weren’t like we were threatening them into compliance,” Harriet muses, tapping her pen against her notebook during a FAR meeting.

“Fuck that,” Emily says. “Ain’t no one gone and called me names in a week. Let’s threaten them into compliance some more, yeah?”

The Clique leaders have made it mandatory to attend the Anti-Racism seminar. They’re tailoring the extra benefits to each Clique. Chelsea, Bella, and Saffy explained that eliminating a significant portion of the population from one’s pool of potential sex partners is just ridiculous; Gloria told the Flammables that after they hear all the shite that non-white people go through, they’ll have a whole new set of things to set on fire. Harriet doesn’t hear all the justifications, all the explanations, but all the girls show up, some reluctant, some eager, some obviously hostile. But they’re there.

Except for the Geeks.

“Geeks don’t respond well to force,” Harriet tells Bianca pathetically, knowing it’s a weak, flimsy excuse.

Bianca glares at her. “That’s a load of bollocks and you know it.”

Harriet leans back in her chair and sighs. They’re sitting in their literature class, waiting for it to begin, and of course Bianca would corner her where she can’t run away. “It’s just not that easy.”

“You think telling Rude Girls that they had to go to this extra seminar was easy?” Bianca asks incredulously. “They’re Rude Girls. They’re rude, in case you hadn’t noticed. At least Geeks thrive on propriety.”

Harriet scowls. “That isn’t true.”

“Whatever. Look, if you don’t want to do it, make Lucy. You’re co-leaders. You can do that.”

At that point, Miss Evanson, their newest English mistress, walks in. Harriet sits upright. Miss Evanson is rather no-nonsense and stern. She rather misses Miss Dickinson. At least she had enthusiasm and dedication mixed into the sheer terror of working at St. Trinian’s. Miss Evanson approaches her subject with apathy and doesn’t seem to care if her students learn. She just plows through the curriculum, ignoring her students’ interests. Harriet settles in for a long, boring class.

She avoids Bianca after class, and for the rest of the day. Once her last class is over, she goes to look for Lucy. Lucy only had a handful of classes today, and she knows she’s probably in one of the computer labs or the chemistry lab. She finds her standing over a puffing beaker, holding a pipette and squeezing out a liquid drop by drop.

“What are you working on?” Harriet asks, sitting down on one of the stools.

Lucy doesn’t look up. “I’m replenishing our weapons cache,” she says.

Harriet squints at the beaker. “That doesn’t look like our regular smoke bomb material.”

Lucy finally looks up, setting the pipette down and picking up the beaker. She smiles at Harriet. “No. I’m improving it. Adding a corrosive agent.”

“It won’t hurt people, will it?”

“No. It will cause their hair to fall out, though.” Harriet grins. Lucy moves the beaker to the side, still puffing away, and looks at her seriously. “Now, what do we need to talk about?”

Harriet falters. “What makes you think we need to talk about anything?”

“Because usually you hole up in the office after classes, and I join you after supper. Whatever it is, you think it’s more urgent than that, so you tracked me down.”

Harriet silently curses the logical minds of Geeks everywhere. Then she rubs her eyes. “All the other Clique leaders have made attending the Anti-Racism class mandatory,” she says.

“I know,” Lucy says calmly.

“Except us.”

“Yes.”

Harriet looks at her. Lucy is still looking calm and put together. Usually, Harriet’s the calm one and Lucy is faffing about all aflutter. She doesn’t really like this role reversal. “Do you think it’s hypocritical of us to be the founding members of FAR and not require our Clique to attend the class?”

Lucy smiles. “Yeah, I do. But I wasn’t going to do anything without talking to you first. You know Geeks…”

“They hate being forced into anything,” Harriet agrees. “So how do we make it more palatable for them?”

Lucy shrugs. “Who says we need to? We tell them it’s an intellectual opportunity that we’ve deemed necessary, and that as their Clique leaders, we’re telling them to go.”

“They know we’re part of FAR,” Harriet points out. “They’ll know we’re just making excuses.”

“And most of them don’t have an issue with FAR. Just like every other Clique. You’ll have the few that are pissed off, a sizeable portion that doesn’t care either way, and a few that are eager. Either way, we may get some new members out of it and lowered resistance from others.”

“I doubt the awful ones will change,” Harriet says.

“Me too. But the others won’t let them get away with it, afterwards.”

It’s true, of course. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Harriet can’t figure out why she’s hesitating so much. It would be far more like her to have been the first to make it mandatory for her Clique, and yet.

She remembers what Najwa went through, being disliked by so many in her own Clique. She knows Najwa was very brave for having endured it all, but Harriet does not want to have to endure the same. She likes to think that she’s brave, but she’ll never be as brave as Najwa.

“If you’re thinking about Najwa,” Lucy says, sighing, “stop. It was a different time. She was a different leader. It won’t be the same.”

“How did you know I was thinking about Najwa?” Harriet asks, surprised.

Lucy rolls her eyes. “Because it would either be Najwa or Polly. And Najwa is always first in your mind when it comes to things like this. So stop. We’re doing this. We’ll be all right.”

“Aren’t you the one who cries whenever a new Geek stops talking to you?” Harriet snaps, and immediately regrets it. It’s a low blow, and she knows it. She shouldn’t have done that.

Lucy’s eyes narrow. “And I’ll keep crying, because I’m not going to stop feeling things. Yes, I’ll be upset. Yes, I’m still going to do it. But this is the right thing to do, and I know it, so I’ll take this silence over the other kind.”

Harriet remembers Polly telling her, you were always the brave one and thinks that Polly had it all wrong.

“You’re a good person,” Harriet says.

“Of course,” Lucy sniffs. “Anyway, call a meeting for tonight. I’ll be there.”

*
Harriet did the math once, a long time ago. There are roughly two hundred students in the school at any given time. Which means that there are roughly twenty-nine girls in each form, one hundred and forty-five Clique-eligible girls total, excluding the First Years. Divided evenly among the Cliques, there would be roughly twenty-four girls in each Clique, with about fifty-six First Years at any given moment.

It doesn’t work out like that in reality, of course. In reality, some Cliques have more and some less. The Geeks have, historically, had fewer girls. In a school of bad girls, it isn’t always apparent how someone devoted to intellectualism can be just as bad as the other Cliques, with their sex and fire and fights. Right now, there are only twenty Geeks. They only had three Geeks each in the fifth and fourth forms, but now that Mary’s been de-Cliqued, they have two Geeks left in the fifth form. Harriet has always bitterly reflected that the fifth forms would have joined their Cliques when Najwa was still the Geek leader. She’s always wondered if that had a part in it.

Most of the Geeks now are third forms. New Geeks. They’re eager to please and Harriet intends to take advantage of that.

When she walks into the room that they’ve always used for Clique meetings, most of the girls are already there, talking to each other. Harriet knows them all, knows which ones will probably be furious about this and which will simply shrug it off as their Clique leader’s quirks.

They look up when she walks in, and she simply nods at them, heading for the desk in front. She’ll wait for Lucy to arrive before she goes near the podium. The girls watch her for a moment and then, realizing she isn’t going to begin right away, return to their own conversations.

Harriet watches them, wondering how much this is going to tear apart the Geek Clique. Of the twenty, only four of them are Lo-Techs. They’re already part of FAR. Etta will be fine with attending the class, if only because Harriet is her friend. But Etta is best friends with Adela, who has been less than enthusiastic about the vocal protests that FAR has made. She’s one of the girls who won’t speak to Lucy due to the de-Cliquing. Harriet can’t help but worry that this will rip apart their friendship. Audrey will be furious, she already knows. Audrey was best friends with Mary. Annie was best friends with Sam, but from what Harriet has heard, Annie and Sam aren’t talking right now. Conflict in ideologies was cited as the reason.

Harriet Bamford, destroyer of friendships, she thinks ruefully. She might as well be the destroyer of worlds, considering how friendship is viewed by St. Trinian’s girls.

Lucy walks in, her bag bumping against the desk as she hurries around it. Harriet hopes she wasn’t carrying their newest chemical weapon in there.

“Hey,” she says softly.

Lucy smiles. It’s a weak smile. “Hello. Ready for this?”

The answer is no, will always be no, but she nods anyway. If Lucy can do this, so can she. Swallowing tightly, she steps up to the podium and claps her hands twice. The room falls into an immediate hush.

“Thank you for coming,” she says. “We apologize for the last minute nature of the meeting.”

“Not a problem!” Etta calls out, smiling silkily at Harriet. Harriet smiles gratefully at her for setting the tone.

“As many of you know, the Force Against Racism group has put together a Sunday seminar about anti-racism. At this point, all of the school is attending. After much discussion, Lucy and I have decided that we, too, are going to make it mandatory for our Clique,” Harriet says, gripping the podium tightly.

The reaction is immediate. Everyone starts talking all at once, some angrily, some enthusiastically, but it’s all noise to Harriet, who can’t pick out individual voices. She can tell who is angry, though. Their faces show it extremely well.

Lucy claps her hands sharply, and the noise dies down. “We’ll take hands,” she says primly, sounding all the world like Miss Heferton.

Audrey’s hand shoots up first. Lucy points at her. “Why is it necessary for all of us to attend?” she asks, scowling.

Harriet and Lucy glance at each other, and then Harriet looks at Audrey, trying to smile. “Because we feel it’s an excellent educational opportunity, and that people would end up regretting it if they did not attend. Especially since everyone else in the school will be attending,” Harriet says.

Adela raises her hand and then immediately starts talking before Lucy or Harriet can recognize her. “Shouldn’t we have the right to choose our intellectual pursuits? We’re Geeks, after all.”

“That’s dumb,” Etta says, and Harriet gives up trying to manage this. Geeks don’t like to be handled. “Adela, don’t be dumb.”

Adela looks at Etta, confused, and Annie raises her hand. Harriet nods. “How is the class structured?”

Harriet blinks. “Uh, that’s a great question,” she says, trying to buy herself some time. “I don’t actually know for sure. From what I understand, it’s being run as a series of discussions between everyone who attends, mediated by FAR members and some members of the teaching staff.”

“So it’s fairly Socratic, then?” Annie continues.

“Somewhat,” Lucy says.

Annie nods, and Georgiana raises her hand. “What if we have a conflict?” she asks. “A conflict that we knew about in advance, not one we make up to get out of the seminar.”

Harriet thinks she’s talking about the weekly AA meetings. They switch days each week, so one of them is bound to be on a Sunday. “We’ll discuss the conflict. If it’s truly important, something you can’t miss, you’ll be excused for that seminar.”

Georgiana gives her a long look, and then nods, apparently satisfied. Harriet looks around the room. Etta and Adela are whispering viciously to one another. Niobe is smiling faintly at her, apparently pleased with the turn of events. Sheema and Rebekah are talking animatedly with Grace. The others seem indifferent to it all, though some look dubious.

So that’s the Clique, then, Harriet thinks. Lines being quietly (or not so quietly, as Adela and Etta’s whispered argument gets louder and louder) drawn, and she realizes that she may have possibly created a new split between the Geeks.

Lucy says, “That’s all for now. If you have any additional concerns, you know where to find us.”

Harriet looks at the Clique, her Clique a moment longer, and then turns and walks out the door.

She heads straight for Bianca’s dorm. Bianca is sitting at the foot of her bed, talking to some Rude Girl (Cassie, she thinks). Harriet walks over, smiles politely at the Rude Girl, and then catches Bianca’s face between her hands and kisses her.

“I’ll just go… somewhere else, then,” Cassie says, and Harriet is grateful that she has sense enough to know that this kiss is going somewhere.

When she breaks the kiss, Bianca’s pupils are blown. “Hi,” Bianca says stupidly.

Harriet smiles. “Hi.” She grabs Bianca’s wrist and tugs her up. “Come on. Not here.”

Bianca follows her, and Harriet imagines that her own smile is just as ridiculous as Bianca’s. She doesn’t care. She’ll take Bianca to the private room that Najwa used to hide in, and they’ll lock the door and avoid interruption. It won’t be perfect, but at least it won’t be in the dorm.

She walks faster.

*
Afterwards, Bianca rolls onto her stomach and gives Harriet a sharp look. “All right. What upset you so much that you just had to have me right then?”

Harriet covers her face with her hands. “I’m that obvious?”

“Mate, I watched you self-destruct your relationship with Gloria. The pattern is sort of obvious.” Harriet spends a moment wanting to die, or for the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Bianca reaches over and pats her hand. “I don’t hold it against you. Now, what upset you?”

She sighs. “We had the Clique meeting. The Geeks will be at the class.”

Bianca waits for a moment, clearly expecting Harriet to say more, but she has nothing more to say. “All right,” Bianca says finally. “So?”

“So, Loretta and Adela are fighting, and some of the third forms look dubious, and I think Audrey may kill me in my sleep.”

“You already expected that,” Bianca points out.

Harriet purses her lips. “There’s a difference between expecting something to happen and actually seeing it.”

Bianca hums to herself, a habit she’s picked up from Harriet, who got it from Polly. “Yeah, I guess.”

“There’s just so few of us, and we’re already divided, and I hate to split us up more,” she explains. She has never been very fond of Adela, but she adores Etta, and doesn’t want all of this to destroy their friendship. All of the Lo-Techs this year are non-white girls; she doesn’t want to see their status in the Clique fall even further, to earn more scorn. She might be worrying over nothing, but she thinks that is what a Clique leader does: worry. Incessantly.

Bianca sighs. “You ain’t the only Clique what’s got splits.”

“I know that.”

“Chelsea tells me that things with the Posh-Totties are tense right now. Real tense. The really Posh ones still don’t like acknowledging that the other kind even exist, let alone have feelings and lives or whatever.”

Harriet thinks of Anoushka, and how isolated she was. She doesn’t think Anoushka had any friends, real friends, from her own Clique, outside of Catzie. She knows Peaches was nice to her, of course, but she wouldn’t call them friends. At least Lo-Techs can claim a sort of friendship with the Hi-Techs.

“The Rude Girls are all talking about how this’ll help them connect with the community,” Bianca continues, her face twisting up bitterly, “as if it’s their community. I keep telling them that’s a fucking racist thing to say, but they ain’t listenin’ yet. You got Ecos like Celia, who are spacey but well-meaning, and Ecos like Daisy, who call themselves Eco Warriors-”

“Daisy is with us,” Harriet points out.

“’Course she is, ‘cause she ain’t a berk. Point is, other ‘Eco Warriors’ don’t care about human collateral so long as they save the hedgehogs.”

Harriet thinks she’d very much be interested in seeing a Save the Hedgehogs campaign. It would interesting, at least.

“The Flammables are their usual mess, still trying to figure out their raison d’etre, or whatever. And now all the Emos are playing oppression Olympics, saying that, well, they’re poor, their lot is so much worse, and there are non-white members of Parliament, so clearly we’re all right, and isn’t it just ridiculous? Or that they’re lesbians, and they’ve felt the agony, or God, my favorite- we’re white, and it’s just so hard,” Bianca tells her, and Harriet rolls her eyes so hard it hurts.

“All right, so we’re possibly in a better place than the other Cliques,” she admits. “But I think it’s harder when it’s your own Clique that you’re watching fall apart.”

Bianca scoots over, throwing an arm over Harriet’s stomach and burying her face into her shoulder. “I think you’ll find that they surprise you,” she says. “They had Najwa, and Polly. Now they have you and Lucy. They’re used to headstrong, demanding leaders.”

“They also had Tamsin,” Harriet says, tilting her face down into Bianca’s hair.

“Who was a racist, spineless leader who followed the crowd, but she came across as headstrong and determined.”

“True,” Harriet admits grudgingly.

“Don’t worry until it’s time to worry, love,” Bianca murmurs. She sounds like she’s about to fall asleep. “Makes your face all wrinkly. Not cute.”

Harriet laughs gently and kisses the top of Bianca’s head. Then she closes her eyes and lets herself drift off to sleep, the weight of Bianca a pleasant reminder that things will work out.

*
The one downside to making the entire school attend the Anti-Racism seminar is that now Harriet has to go, too, or risk questions about hypocrisy from everyone else. She vows to sit in the back and work on something else, but when she walks in, Miss Heferton says to the room, “All right, pull the chairs around into a circle.”

There goes that idea.

She winds up sitting between a Posh-Totty named Rose and Prudence, an Emo. Across from her, feet thrown in front of her with careless disregard, is Emily, looking annoyed and ready to yell at someone. Harriet hopes it doesn’t come to that.

The rest of the school trickles in, in small groups or, occasionally, one at a time. They manage to all find a seat (and Harriet wonders why they don’t use this room for more than their annual school play, as it’s so large) and Miss Heferton stands up.

“All right. The question we’ll begin with today is: what is racism? And if you get out of hand, please know that Miss Cleaver is standing by.”

She sits back down, folding her arms over her chest, and they begin.

It starts off slow, with everyone reluctant to say anything. Harriet refuses to speak up. She’s tired of always talking. When she glances at Gloria across the room, Gloria smirks and makes a zipping motion over her lips. She apparently feels the same way. It’s Mabel, Harriet’s ex-girlfriend, who is the first to speak.

“Racism is a set of assumptions and prejudices that are unfair towards non-white people,” she says, glancing at Harriet. Harriet gives her a soft smile. Part of the problem with their relationship, beyond the fact that they struggled with communication, was that Mabel always expected her to behave like the stereotype of a Black girl. She’s over it now, but it didn’t exactly make their relationship easy.

“The privileging of one group of people over others,” a second form First Year named Irene tosses out.

“And that group of people having power to restrict others access to privilege,” adds Etta, who looks over at Adela. Normally, they’d be sitting together. Now, Adela won’t even look at her. Harriet feels a twinge of regret somewhere in her chest.

“Bullshit,” snorts an Eco named Nell. Harriet sees Annabelle look over, eyes widening in surprise. She doesn’t know what that’s about. She doesn’t want to know.

“You think?” challenges a Posh-Totty, Patty, and then it starts to get lively, loud, and Harriet watches with fascination as girls she barely knows start challenging definitions of racism, challenging the people who challenge the definition of racism. The FAR members don’t actually contribute much, other than to point out when one of the girls uses a racist or hurtful remark. At one point, Gloria breaks her silence and gets into a screaming match with one of her Flammables, but Miss Cleaver clears her throat and touches the bowie knife she keeps on her hip, and they bring it back to polite if angry debate.

When the three hours is over, Harriet thinks that they may have actually gotten somewhere. Some of the girls that looked resentful and angry at the start are… well, they still look resentful and angry, but also contemplative. Miss Heferton dismisses them, and Harriet wanders out with the crowd, listening to snatches of conversation as they take the debate back with them to their dorms or to the labs.

For once, she realizes, the entire school is talking about racism. Maybe they haven’t solved anything, maybe attitudes haven’t changed, but people are talking.

She looks around for anyone from FAR and sees Qiu-Yue carefully navigating the crowd, grimacing when people bump into her. Harriet looks around again and sees Saffy a few feet behind her. She jerks her head toward Qiu-Yue. Understanding dawns in Saffy’s eyes, and she shoves through the crowd to get to one side of Qiu-Yue. Harriet presses sideways to end up on her other side.

“Thanks,” Qiu-Yue says, rolling her eyes. “I hate crowds like this. Nobody pays any attention.”

“Think it went well?” Saffy asks, not looking at them.

“Well, they’re talking,” Harriet says wryly.

“Thank God,” mutters Qiu-Yue, carefully pivoting one of her arm crutches sideways to avoid a First Year’s backpack. Harriet pokes the First Year in the back and tells her to pick up her damned bag. “Let’s hope they keep talking.”

“I guess talking was our ultimate goal,” Saffy says doubtfully. “But I was hoping for something more.”

Harriet shrugs. “It was only the first class. Next week it will be a slightly different question, and we’ll move forward. It takes time.”

“I can’t help but wish it was immediate,” says Saffy, and Qiu-Yue shoots her a crooked grin.

“What, and make this entire year’s effort wasted?”

Saffy bursts into delighted giggles, and Harriet can’t help but grin, too.

*
It continues on that way. The seminar persists in asking hard questions, and sometimes they discuss and argue well past the three required hours. Harriet hears students discussing the seminar topics during the week, catches them whispering to each other while a teacher drones on about something, snapping at one another over meals. She watches people reconsider their views from week to week, growing less defensive and more thoughtful.

It’s terrifying.

She steals Chelsea’s mobile and calls Polly after three weeks of the class. Polly answers on the second ring.

“Chelsea,” Polly says sharply. “What’s wrong?

Harriet smiles fondly. She can imagine Polly straightening her blouse and pushing her glasses up her nose, planting her feet on the ground in preparation to move. “It’s Harriet,” she says.

There’s a pause on the line. “Harriet. What’s wrong?”

Harriet laughs quietly. “Does something need to be wrong for me to call you?”

“No, of course not. But when people call me, there’s usually something wrong.”

“No. Everything is fine. I just- I wanted to call. Say hello.”

“Hello,” says Polly immediately. “Is the project going well? Chelsea tells me that you’re calling yourselves the Force Against Racism.”

Harriet rolls over onto her back. She’s lying in bed, the hum of the dorm all around her. Everyone is starting to settle down for the night, pulling out unfinished homework or mp3 players, books and e-readers. She’d considered reciting, but decided that she needed to hear Polly’s voice.

“It’s going fine,” Harriet tells her. “I’m sure Chelsea has told you all about the Anti-Racism class.”

Polly’s voice is amused. “I hear that the topic of conversation in the seminar tends to spill over into the week.”

“People approach me the halls, wanting to know my opinion,” Harriet confesses. It’s strange. Terrifying. Exciting. She isn’t sure how she feels about it.

“Annoying, isn’t it?”

Yes,” Harriet says with feeling. Polly laughs.

“Just act like you know the answers, and eventually people will think you’re omniscient,” she says. “It worked for me.”

“But I want them to leave me alone.”

“Oh. Well, then. Don’t act like you have all the answers. Feign ignorance, if you must.” Harriet cringes. Such a thing goes against the Geek ethos. “And I can sense you cringing, so you understand why I never did that.”

“You never did that,” Harriet says, “because you really are omniscient. You just caught me cringing, and you can’t even see me.”

Polly makes a humming noise and then, softly, says, “Why did you really call me, Harriet?”

Harriet considers. There are a number of reasons, really, from the most innocent to the most selfish. She finally decides to go with the most honest reason. “I needed a moment where I wasn’t Harriet, Geek leader.”

Over the line, she can hear the soft shuffling of paper. “The responsibility weighing on you?”

“I understand why you always looked so ill, now. Why you stopped laughing. Why you rarely smiled.”

Polly scoffs. “Come now, it wasn’t nearly so dire as that.”

“If you laughed or smiled,” Harriet says, “then you saved it for Kelly. You scared me.”

“Don’t be like me, then. Save your friends the concern,” Polly advises.

“How did you balance it all? The responsibility of leadership with school, with the emergencies. With your research for the genealogies project, and your regular research, and your relationships and… everything else?” she asks. She genuinely doesn’t understand how she did it. Harriet feels like she’s falling apart at the seams, most days.

“I didn’t,” Polly says simply. “If you’ll remember, I looked sick most of the time, rarely smiled, never laughed, as you say. I also was barely sleeping and barely eating. I nearly failed Chemistry, did you know? I ended up giving up on job interviews in order to work this shitty IT job, because I couldn’t be arsed to aim for better. Kelly and I got into a fight nearly every week, and I think Annabelle is still frightened of me, given how incredibly sharp I could be with her.”

“Oh,” Harriet says.

“Yet,” Polly says quickly, “I survived it all. I felt like I was falling apart, but I survived. You will too, Harriet. You’ll handle it all much better than I did, too, because you’re not doing it alone.”

“Yeah,” Harriet says fondly. “You’re rubbish at working with people.”

“One thing we have in common is that we’re shit at communication,” Polly laughs.

“Lone wolves till the end.”

There’s a silence on the line, and then Polly says quietly, “Don’t be a lone wolf if you can help it, Harriet. You don’t have to take all of it on alone.”

Harriet thinks of Bianca and Qiu-Yue, of Gloria, Chelsea, Lucy, Saffy, and Bella. Of the new students, Alex and Jemima, of the enthusiastic ones like Georgiana, and the reluctant ones like Winona. She nods. “Yeah. Yeah.” She licks her lips. “I miss you, you know.”

“I miss you, too,” Polly sighs. “Maybe you can visit me over winter hols.”

They talk for a while longer, and then Polly rings off, citing exhaustion and an early work day as excuses. Harriet clicks the phone shut and stares at it for a long moment. She feels her bed dip and smiles over at Chelsea.

“How is she?” Chelsea asks.

“Still a mentor,” Harriet replies, handing her back her mobile. “Still one of my best friends.”

Chelsea smiles at her. “I never would have considered Polly a mentor. She’s too prickly. But if you say so.”

“I miss them all, you know?” Harriet says. “Peaches and Kelly and Anoushka. Taylor. I wish they were here.”

“Well, I don’t think we need them right now. They had their time. It’s ours, now.”

Harriet stares at Chelsea for a long time. Her blonde hair is tumbling down on her shoulders, all soft curls and artfully arranged disarray. Her makeup is still perfect, despite the hour, and she’s wearing a skirt so short that she must be wearing skin tight pants, otherwise she’d be able to see part of them. Her heels are at least five inches high. She is the very picture of someone Harriet wouldn’t have taken seriously two years ago.

She’s also brilliant, Harriet knows now.

“Thank you for being my friend,” Harriet blurts.

Chelsea raises her eyebrows. “I think you’re sleep deprived, dearest. Rest up, all right?”

Harriet grabs her hand. “I am, but I’m also serious. We couldn’t do this without you.”

“The same goes both ways,” Chelsea says gently, extricating her hand. “Now go to sleep while you still can. We start work on the monument tomorrow.” She stands up and walks away. Harriet watches the hypnotic swish of her skirts and feels her eyes droop closed.

She is not responsible for people changing their minds. She merely gave them the option to do so, with the other FAR members. She is not alone. She has others.

The thought is comforting enough to drop her into sleep. She doesn’t even wake up when Bianca slides into her bed, wrapping her arms around her.

*
So it turns out that Harriet isn’t much into construction.

Some of the girls relish it, standing there with measuring tapes and chisels, wearing hard hats and yelling commands. Harriet finds it not only tedious- one can only hold the measuring tape in place for so long before wanting to kill something- but loud. Fixing Dorm D was nothing like this, she reflects, covering her ears and wincing.

Miss Fritton has given them her blessing to take the wall apart in whatever way they need. A number of the girls had checked its structural integrity and how much they could remove or add before it became compromised, and then they’d set to work with jackhammers, chisels, sledgehammers; really, anything they could get their hands on was fair game. Which means that fifteen girls are hacking away at the wall, pausing every now and then to check their measurements, and Harriet wants some paracetamol.

That evening, they hold a Breaking Metaphorical Ground party, FAR members gathering around in a classroom and drinking knockoff champagne. Harriet curls up in a chair and snuggles against Bianca, watching everyone party with a smile on her face. They’ve come so far in just four months.

She looks up to see Annabelle sitting by herself. Harriet bites her lip. Ever since Roxy left, Annabelle has been frighteningly quiet. She’s dating again, Harriet knows, but she still seems listless. Pecking Bianca on the cheek, Harriet slips out from underneath her arm and walks over to their Head Girl.

“Hey,” Harriet says, pulling a chair over and sitting down next to her.

Annabelle glances up and blinks quickly. “Harriet, hey. Nice party.”

“Be nicer if everyone were here, yeah?” she asks, smiling slightly.

Annabelle bites her lip and looks down at her lap. She twists the fabric of skirt a few times, finally tightening her hands so much that her knuckles turn white. “I didn’t really expect her to stay,” Annabelle says finally. “But I’d hoped, you know?”

Harriet feels an unexpected pain rise up and pour into her throat. She takes a deep breath, trying to calm down the panicked feeling. “Yeah.”

“She was just- she was what I needed. I was alone, and she- she was there.”

“And then suddenly she wasn’t,” Harriet says. “I understand that.”

Annabelle’s eyes turn bitter. “I guess I never really knew her after all.”

Harriet can withstand many things. She can withstand verbal and physical abuse; she can withstand despair; she can withstand leaving and being left. What she can’t withstand, though, is doubt.

Roxy and Najwa, Harriet knows, are nothing alike. They have nothing in common. But hearing Annabelle doubt Roxy forces her to sit up straight and lean forward, to grab Annabelle’s hand and squeeze it tightly.

“She loved you,” Harriet says fiercely. “She loved you, and she had to go, but you cannot doubt for one second that she loved you. You need to understand that if she could have stayed, she would have, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t, and you need to love her anyway, because it wasn’t lack of love that made her leave. It was never that.”

“Did you talk to her?” Annabelle asks, her voice cracking in the middle. “She didn’t- she just left me a note, and- I just had a note.”

“At least you had a note,” Harriet says, swallowing her bitterness.

Comprehension dawns in Annabelle’s eyes. “Someone left you,” she says, her voice turning sad and sympathetic all at once. It makes Harriet want to hit someone. Not Annabelle, because Annabelle is just being a friend. But she wants to hit someone because nothing should ever make Annabelle look at her that way.

“You heard of Najwa Khan, I presume?” Harriet asks, dropping Annabelle’s hand and leaning back in her seat. Across the room, she sees Bianca glance at her and frown. She ignores her.

Annabelle shrugs. “A bit, yeah. Polly mentioned her from time to time. I’ve heard her name mentioned in connection with the genealogies project a few times.”

“She was my best friend,” Harriet says. “She allowed me to join the Geeks in my first year, and she protected me from whatever she could. After she graduated, she just disappeared. I’ve never been able to find her.” Annabelle starts to open her mouth, and Harriet adds quickly, “Neither has Polly.”

Annabelle shakes her head. “I’m sorry,” she says simply.

“She left,” Harriet says, “but I don’t doubt that she loved me. She just had to go.”

It has taken Harriet a long time to understand that.

“You’re doing this for her, aren’t you?” Annabelle asks, gesturing around the room to the girls covered in dust from the construction, to the girls debating and arguing, to the area of the room where Qiu-Yue and Lucy are debating the final layout of the monument. “All of this is hers.”

“No,” Harriet corrects, taking a sip from her champagne glass. “All of this is ours. This is our movement, and our time. But she was here. And to an extent, she still is.”

Annabelle pauses, and then raises a glass. “To those who left,” she says.

Harriet raises her glass in turn. “To those who never leave.”

*
Miss Fritton summons her to her office. Harriet collects her bags from her Maths class, nodding to Gloria as she leaves.

Miss Fritton has tea waiting for her, and pours her a cuppa as Harriet sets her bags down and takes a careful seat on the ancient loveseat. She hands her the cup, the tea smelling delicious, and then takes a seat next to her. Harriet watches her carefully.

“Congratulations, my dear,” Miss Fritton says, smiling gently.

“For what?” Harriet asks, frowning. She takes a sip of her tea. She’s pleasantly surprised. Apparently, Miss Fritton’s genius extends into knowing how to brew the perfect cuppa, and she even knows how Harriet takes her tea.

“For the success of your revolution,” Miss Fritton says.

Harriet’s frown deepens. She would not call the revolution a success. There are still glares, and people still shout horrible things at one another in the halls. Some of the FAR members have been cornered and threatened a few times. Nothing physical, not yet, but Harriet doesn’t doubt that it will happen. The dam will burst eventually. And there are other things, of course. She is struggling to get enough signatures on her petition for a prayer room for Muslim students (“There aren’t enough Muslim students to justify a special room for them,” one student said. Another snapped, “No other students get a room of their own, so why should they?”), and getting her English professor to recognize the merits of non-white authors has been an uphill battle. Enrollment is abysmal, and since none of the FAR members can really be spared to tackle recruitment yet, abysmal it shall stay. There is still so much work to be done.

“I wouldn’t call it a success just yet, Miss Fritton,” Harriet says evenly.

Miss Fritton’s smile turns sly. “Perhaps,” she says. “But you’ve made huge strides.”

“Strides that could have been made ages ago.”

“We’ve had this discussion before, Harriet.”

“Are you doing better, then?” Harriet asks.

Miss Fritton stands up and meanders over to her desk, looking every inch the absent-minded, doddering woman that she pretends to be. Harriet feels a flash of admiration for her. She’s a brilliant woman. Harriet admires brilliance in all its forms.

Miss Fritton pulls out a stack of documents and brings it over to the loveseat, setting it between her and Harriet. She pulls the top sheet off and hands it to Harriet, her smile growing wider.

It’s a revised St. Trinian’s student record. Under the religious preference section, a checkbox for “Jewish” has been added. There are also added boxes that say “Other” and “Prefer Not To Say”. She’s startled to see that a gender section has been added, with a variety of options. Harriet imagines Gerald will be thrilled. The race section has also been expanded. She touches the form, running her fingers over all the changes, smiling despite herself.

“It’s a start,” she says, looking back at Miss Fritton.

“I’m also working on hiring more non-white teachers,” Miss Fritton says, taking the form back. “Of course, in general, I’m just working on hiring more teachers, but I’m trying harder.”

“The curriculum?” Harriet asks, returning to her tea.

“We’ll be meeting about it over the summer. I don’t guarantee any spectacular changes. We’re a stubborn lot, we St. Trinian’s women,” Miss Fritton warns.

Harriet shrugs. She can demand perfection. She just can’t demand it to happen over night. “I look forward to seeing the results,” she says.

Miss Fritton sets her tea to the side and folds her hands in her lap, looking serious all of a sudden rather than slightly batty and beneficent. “We’ll also be adding a mandatory Socratic Seminar on Race for all new students,” she says. “It will be a required course. I’m hoping to add more Socratic seminars in the future, but I thought…”

“We’ll start here,” Harriet says, grinning. “And then we’ll take our success and it will help others.”

“Can’t wait to explain it to the Ministry of Education,” Miss Fritton chuckles. “They’ll be thrilled, I’m sure, that I’m adding a course that isn’t required by the National Curriculum.”

Harriet and Miss Fritton drink their tea in silence for a moment. Harriet looks at the stack of papers that Miss Fritton brought over. As far as she can tell, it’s all the recommended changes that FAR presented to Miss Fritton a few weeks ago, with action plans attached. She wonders how many other schools there are in the country where the headmistress would not only listen to her students, but take their advice. Very few, she imagines. Miss Fritton is a rare woman: willing to admit her mistakes and ready to fix them.

“Thank you,” Harriet says.

Miss Fritton waves her hand lazily. “Miss Bamford, there is absolutely nothing for which to thank me.”

*
The monument takes up most of FAR’s time in the next five months. Harriet spends a part of her winter hols with Polly, which is fun if nervewracking. Polly is distracted and on edge, and Harriet just wants to shake her and ask what project is killing her now. She spends the other part with Bianca, which- well. Harriet already knew that would be amazing.

School is dull, for the most part, after that. She works with FAR on the monument, wearing ear plugs in order to preserve her sanity and a mask to preserve her lungs. There is a flurry of fights when they return from the holiday, but things die down again, resentments left simmering but not overflowing. Harriet finally gets enough signatures on her petition and turns it in, trusting Miss Fritton to make the right decision. After that, she directs her focus on enrollment and revising placement tests. It becomes her new pet project, a beautiful mix of statistics and intuition.

One evening, two weeks before the monument is scheduled for a public opening, Harriet is working on writing letters to primary schools in the area, inviting students to take a tour, and when she looks up to turn on her lamp, Qiu-Yue is standing there, completely silent.

Harriet fights back her startle reflex. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she decides to say.

Qiu-Yue laughs. “I can be stealthy despite having four legs,” she giggles. Harriet grins back, and gestures for her to take a seat. She sits, shaking her arms out of her crutches and setting them to the side. “So.”

“So,” Harriet replies obediently.

“The monument is going live in two weeks,” Qiu-Yue says.

“I’m aware,” Harriet says dryly, raising her eyebrows. Since she’s the one who picked the date, it would be rather obvious that she knows what, precisely, that date is.

“It doesn’t have a name.”

Harriet frowns. “That can’t be right. Surely it has a name.”

Qiu-Yue shakes her head, her black hair falling momentarily over her face. “No. We all got so caught up in building it and designing it that we forgot to name it.”

Harriet sighs and rubs her face. “All right. We’ll meet tomorrow and-”

“I thought you should name it,” Qiu-Yue interrupts. “It began with you. It should end with you.”

Harriet licks her lips, and looks down at the desk. It’s Lucy’s desk, really, even if it is perpetually covered in her work. Underneath her papers, she can see a desk calendar with several days circled in red ink, Lucy’s sharp handwriting noting the date of a particular Geek’s birthday, the anniversary of a relationship, the return of a difficult test that should be celebrated. Harriet touches them with her fingertips for a moment, and then looks up. “I can’t,” she says. “It’s not mine.”

Qiu-Yue snorts. “Of course it isn’t yours. I’d smack you if you ran around proclaiming all of this yours. But you haven’t involved yourself in a lot of the flashy stuff. You’ve mostly directed us, stayed out of the spotlight. I figured you deserved something, since really, all of this was your idea.”

“I wouldn’t have the first idea of what to name it, Qiu-Yue,” Harriet says bluntly.

“So take a moment to think, Harriet,” Qiu-Yue says equally bluntly.

Harriet concedes. It’s pointless to argue with Qiu-Yue anyway. She closes her eyes and tries to visualize the final product. She thinks about all the conversations she and the other members of FAR, the other members of the school, have been having all year. Then she thinks about Polly, and her determination to give her the chance to change things. Of Tamsin, and her careless weakness that nearly destroyed them all. Of Miss Fritton’s, “I did what I could,” and of the lonely gravestone she saw all those years ago. Of Najwa. Of others.

She opens her eyes.

“Genealogies of Silence,” she says.

Qiu-Yue nods. “All right.”

*
She paces back and forth nervously. She wants to find Chelsea and kick her in the shin. Repeatedly. And then she’ll track down Gloria and punch her in the face, albeit gently. After that, she’ll track down Qiu-Yue and smear her makeup and rip her fishnet stockings. Behind her, she can sense Bianca laughing.

“That’s what you get for being a child of the revolution,” Bianca says.

She finds a new reason to track down Chelsea. She’s been playing that damned Songs for the Revolution playlist for an hour now, and too many people have started using quotes from the songs to fill in the blanks of their conversations. She’s going to destroy Chelsea’s iPod, and then Chelsea.

It’s the day they’re revealing the monument, and despite the fact that FAR has forty members now, they’d all somehow decided that Harriet should be the keynote speaker. Harriet wants to choke someone. Maybe Alex. Alex hasn’t really done anything to deserve choking, but Harriet can’t find it in herself to care. Someone must pay.

“Blud, you gotta calm down. It’s fine,” Bianca says.

Harriet shoots her a quick glare. “You would say that. You don’t have to give a speech in front of the entire school.”

Bianca rolls her eyes. “You’re great at speeches. You’ll be fine.”

“I’m great at speeches when they’re delivered to a crowd of ten, not two hundred,” Harriet hisses. Bianca, to her irritation, bursts into laughter again. Harriet gives her a dark look. “A pox upon you.”

Bianca stands up and walks over, draping her arms languidly over Harriet’s shoulders and leaning close, kissing her gently on her nose. “You don’t mean that.”

“You’re right, a pox is too nice. A plague, Bianca Jefferson.”

Bianca laughs again, and then shoves her toward the podium. It’s the one they use at Geek meetings and is, apparently, the only podium in the entire school. Gloria had insisted on dragging it down to the hall. Harriet walks up to it, placing her hands carefully on the sheets of paper she wrote her speech on. Miss Fritton, standing in the middle of the crowd and drinking a glass of contraband champagne (Harriet’s pretty sure it’s the same stuff they drank at the Breaking Metaphorical Ground party), sees her and uses the arms of her glasses to rap on her champagne flute.

“Attention, attention, please!” Miss Fritton calls out. The student body quiets down almost immediately, all turning to look at her. “If you’ll please give Miss Bamford your full attention, we’ll get started.”

One by one, the eyes that were focused on Miss Fritton turn to look at her. Harriet swallows. She closes her eyes a moment, taking a deep breath, and opens them again.

“I believe in ghosts,” she says. Everyone bursts into laughter almost immediately. Harriet clenches her teeth and tightens her hands on the edge of the podium, staring down at her speech with determination. If she can’t kill any of the people around her, maybe she’ll call Polly later and yell at her. Then she lets a smirk creep across her mouth as she raises her eyes and looks out at the laughing audience.

“Oh, you may laugh, but you see, I’m not talking about Caspers and poltergeists, things that go bump in the night. I am talking about specters that have not yet moved on. I am speaking of the things that have never left us, and cannot, because their past is our present.” Harriet pauses for effect, making eye contact with Qiu-Yue. “You see, I am speaking of the people who were silenced and forgotten.”

Harriet shifts her weight and watches as one by one, the audience stills, staring at her. She takes a deep breath, feeling the adrenaline biting at her throat, and goes on. “We have many a grand tradition here at St. Trinian’s. We have our coat of arms and our battle song, our school motto, and our hockey team. We also have the tradition of ostracizing and abusing our non-white peers. Of ignoring them, forgetting them, and pretending that they aren’t really St. Trinian’s girls. We refuse to listen to them- you refuse to listen to us.

“And so they-so we- become ghosts.”

Harriet looks out into the crowd and looks at Princess Fatima, sitting in her wheelchair, hands gnarled, lips smiling. Lucille, formerly of the Empire Windrush stands next to her, nodding seriously. She sees Beatrice Holloway, former Beatnik, looking fit and sharp, her hair done in gorgeous bantu twists. She sees Agatha Winters, class of ’72, and Gytha Anderson, class of ’66. Melanie, class of ’85; Timia, class of ’89. If she squints her eyes, she can pretend that she sees Najwa Khan, class of ’05. But that, she knows, is just the ghost.

“They speak, foretelling doom if you repeat the past mistakes, and you ignore them. They whisper, begging you to see them, to hear them, and you do not listen. They scream, we are here!- and you look away.” She takes another steadying breath, and then continues, forcing herself to move forward. “They existed, you see, as hard as that existence may have been. But the record is scarce, and their names are not spoken, and the pain they endured continues on in our lives. The mistakes and miseries of the past become our mistakes and miseries. We are living ghosts. We are your living reminder of they who came before.”

Harriet carefully flips to the second page, ironically unwilling to disturb the silence that fills the hall. She smiles to herself, and licks her lips. “It is silence that raises a ghost. Silence today, as non-white girls are harmed in our halls and we say and do nothing, as we look away. Silence about the past, when we do not talk about the girls who came before and what happened to them, when we do not talk about their lives. An enduring silence blankets our school, as we ignore the history of non-white people around the world, as we ignore our complicity in that silence. The silence continues when our tests are designed to work against non-white girls, when our records create ugly boxes we are forced to fit in. The silence lives when we do not demand change.”

When Harriet looks up, everyone is watching her. No one is looking away. But she only wants to see one person looking at her right now. She scans the crowd and sees Bianca at the very back, smiling faintly as she stares at Harriet. Harriet smiles back. She’s almost done. She’s almost there.

“We open this living memorial today in order to examine our history at St. Trinian’s and bring forth the ghosts, inviting them to speak so that they may be freed at last. We are demanding change. We are ending the silence.” Harriet shouts that last part, and the FAR members, knowing a cue when they hear it, immediately raise their hands in the air, cheering wildly. The rest of the audience joins them, yelling and shouting, applauding and stomping their feet. Harriet smiles at all of them, tears pricking her eyes.

“No more silence,” she says. “No more ghosts.”

She steps away from the podium into the waiting audience, watching as Qiu-Yue steps forward and throws open the doors to Genealogies of Silence, their living monument.

Harriet has seen the entire monument before, of course, but seeing it with over two hundred people makes it an entirely new experience. The wall is thirty meters of words and photos. There are old school photos of the girls, of course, and some photos of the alumni they were able to reach and interview in person. Certain journals are displayed, their pages covered in protective sleeves so people can flip through them at will. She hasn’t figured out how the Hi-Techs managed it, but there are computers in the walls, completely interactive, showing video recordings of the interviews that Harriet did in person, a playlist of audio interviews also selectable. There are documents, old school papers, and really anything that FAR was able to uncover within the school library. Long string links a few of the documents together, text alongside to demonstrate the similarities and connections over the years. The repetition.

The real masterpiece, though, is the names.

The wall, once individual stones, is now one long, smooth stone, sandblasted to perfection. Carved into it, stark and bold, are the names of every non-white girl who ever attended St. Trinian’s. Harriet sees Princess Fatima reach out and touch the wall, tracing her own name. When she looks over, Harriet nods at her, smiling. Princess Fatima nods back.

“It’s beautiful,” Bianca says in her ear. Harriet turns and pulls her head down to kiss her. She can feel Bianca smiling against her lips.

“It’s still not enough,” she says, pulling back. “We’re still trying to figure out how to recognize the Jewish students’ history here. And a couple of girls wanted to work on unearthing the history of Irish students.”

Bianca shushes her with another kiss. “It’s a start,” Bianca whispers. “It’s an end to silence.”

Harriet watches the girls read through the journals, eyes wide, and sees them touch the names with a reverence usually reserved for mayhem and chaos. They’re dragging each other over to different exhibits, experiencing it all. They’re talking. The noise is unreal.

“Yeah,” she says, closing her eyes and resting her head on Bianca’s shoulder. “So it is.”

*
There is still a lot of work to be done. During the last week of classes, Harriet walks around and gathers mobile numbers, addresses, and general interest. People are enthusiastic. FAR now has fifty members. They are losing eleven of them to graduation. Still, it’s many more than the eight they began with. They’re moving in the right direction.

She drinks her farewells with Lucy, and they discuss the future of the Geek Clique. Harriet hopes to break down the divisions between Hi-Tech and Lo-Tech in time. She knows that it might be a ridiculous dream, at least right now, but she’s hopeful. Lucy suggests naming Vivian as the next Geek leader, which would guarantee the ascension of Demi after her. Harriet promises to think about it.

She joins Bella, Saffy, and Chelsea for a night on the town, strangely enjoying club life in a way she never thought she would. Bianca comes along, and Harriet enjoys snogging her in the bathroom even more.

Miss Fritton calls her into her office two days before the end of school. Harriet supposes it’s time to talk about the placement tests again. They’ve been hashing it out for the past two weeks, but they haven’t been able to find a satisfactory middle ground yet. Harriet nods to Miss Cleaver, walking out of her class and to Miss Fritton’s office, opening the door without knocking.

“Miss Bamford,” Miss Fritton says, not looking up from whatever she’s writing. “So good to know that your manners remain intact.”

Harriet smiles. “I’ve never seen the point in knocking when you yourself invited me.”

“Ah, shortcuts,” Miss Fritton says fondly, and finally looks up. “I always forget how fond of them you Geeks are. Now then, to business. I’m naming you Head Girl.”

Harriet stares at her in shock. “You- what?”

Miss Fritton grins at her. “Good to know I still have some surprises up my sleeve.”

Harriet’s mind races. She thinks about the Geeks, trying to figure out who would be the Clique leader if not her. She thinks about Bianca- will things change between them if she is Head Girl? Will Gloria resent her? What about the other girls?

“What?” she repeats stupidly.

“The position of Head Girl usually goes to two sorts of girls. The girls who have earned the position by performing great acts of service to the school, or the girls who have much to offer and have not yet bloomed,” Miss Fritton explains.

“So, the Kelly Jones versus the Annabelle Fritton approach,” Harriet says numbly.

“I told my dear niece that some women are born great; others have greatness thrust upon them.”

Harriet can feel tears building behind her eyes. “Najwa once told Polly that I was great, but someone- Polly- was needed to make me important.”

“Najwa was a brilliant woman,” Miss Fritton says. “And a great one.”

“Yes, she was,” Harriet says, her throat tightening uncomfortably.

“You have performed great acts of service over the years, Harriet, and especially this last one,” Miss Fritton says. “You led a revolution. So I’m recognizing your work the only way possible. You’ll be a superb Head Girl.”

“Thank you,” Harriet says.

Because really, there is nothing else to say.

*
That night, Harriet climbs out of her bed, sliding her house shoes on quietly. She has a mission.

Her friends are thrilled for her. She’d told Bianca first, silently scared, but Bianca had screamed with joy and jumped around in circles, more enthusiastic for Harriet than Harriet herself feels at the moment. Then she’d told Gloria and Qiu-Yue. Gloria had kissed her, laughing at Bianca’s outraged face; Qiu-Yue had started to cry and hugged her.

“Finally,” she says. “Finally.”

Then she went to find Lucy, and made her decision about Clique leader. Loretta was startled.

“Why me?” Etta asks, blinking.

“Because you kept an open mind. Because you fought for what was right,” Harriet explains. She intends to talk to Etta, work with her on choosing a future Clique leader that will continue the progress and lead to Alex’s eventual ascension- because Harriet intends for Etta to ask Alex if she’d like early admission to the Geeks- but that’s for later. Right now, it is nearly four in the morning, and Harriet has her mission.

She walks swiftly, sure of her steps. The halls are eerily quiet, more so than she has ever heard them before. No one is walking about, just her. She can’t even hear the teachers partying in the lounge; usually, that’s a universal constant. She walks down multiple flights of stairs until she reaches the ground floor, and then heads directly for the monument.

At night, there are no lights in the hall. There is some dim moonlight drifting in through the windows, but it’s so faint that Harriet doesn’t even cast a shadow. It doesn’t matter. She knows exactly where she’s going. She walks over to the exact center of the wall and sits down. Then, reaching out with unerring accuracy, Harriet places her hand on the wall.

Najwa Khan, Class of 2005 it says beneath her hand. The stone is cool, the carved lines pressing insistently against her palm. She closes her eyes and takes a breath. Najwa is gone and yet.

And yet, she can always find Najwa.

If Najwa were there, she’d have so many things to tell her. She’d tell her all about the school year; about the fights and the tears. About the plans and alliances. About the eventual triumph. She’d tell her that she and Bianca are dating now. She thinks Najwa would like that. She’d tell her, I’m Head Girl. A Lo-Tech Geek is finally Head Girl, and she thinks Najwa would say, I never doubted you for a minute, or perhaps, You were always great; now you are important, just as she wrote the inverse to Polly in her graduation note. She’d hug her, she’d tell her that she loves her, and misses her, and Najwa would hug her back and comfort her in that way she had. They’d sit there in the hall, admiring the work, talking about the girls they’ve brought to the light. About the ghosts they’ve released.

But Najwa is not there, and she hasn’t been for years. Harriet has come to terms with the fact that she is gone, that she left. None of that matters now.

What matters is that Najwa is still a ghost. She haunts the school, her legacy whispered but never discussed in the light. Harriet runs her fingers over her name, tracing the letters carefully, and then leans forward, pressing her forehead against the cool stone. It is time.

“I release you,” Harriet whispers.

Then, standing up, she walks away.

She has work to do.