My college life

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My father remarried when I was 15.  My brother and sister were already out of the house, but all of a sudden I now had a step-sister who was a year older than me.  While I always seemed to get along with her, I can’t say the same about her mother.  Her name was Meredith Walker, a divorcee, who was a little younger than my dad.  I could tell from the start that she was up to no good, but my father was lonely and needed a partner.  My mother had died when I was 13, so for 2 years my father let me do as I pleased, as long as I got good grades and was home at a decent hour.  Things like my clothes and hairstyle were all my own decision.


Within weeks of the marriage things were starting to change.  Meredith kept telling my father that I needed to be reigned in before I get a bad reputation.  I was never that kind of girl, and seldom did anything that I wouldn’t want my dad to know about.  Meredith’s daughter, Jenny, on the other hand, had been brought home by the police several times, often caught drinking with other kids, and even for being caught in the back seat of some guys car.  My dad certainly wanted to keep his new wife happy, so after 2 years of proving myself to my dad, Meredith decided that I needed to be saved from myself.  One of the first things she did was give me a curfew that I hated.  I was to be home directly after school, and in bed by 10:00.  Friday and Saturday nights if she approved of where I was going, I could stay out until 10:00, and in bed by 11:00.  I had feathered hair that went just past my shoulders, this it was decided made me look slutty.  I tried to explain that 90% of the girls in my school had the same hairstyle, but was told it had to go.  I asked my dad to take me to the appointment I already had scheduled at the salon in the mall, but Meredith was having none of that, she told my dad she was taking me to the lady who does her hair.


I was already tired of being treated like a child.  After 2 full years of making my own decisions, I was being marched into some ladies house.  Just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse we are greeted at the door by Edith.  I was quickly hit with an array of smells, one worse than the next, and the equipment looked nothing like the salon at the mall had.  I was led to a wash basin and Edith scrubbed my hair like she was trying to take off a layer of skin.  I asked if she was going to condition my hair and Edith quickly responded.  “I know what your hair does or doesn’t need young lady”.  Meredith then chimed in with “Let’s see if we can make her look like a nice young lady”.  It was the worst thirty minutes of my life.  I walked in with a perfectly styled haircut, but was now walking out with a mushroom cut.  Meredith thanked Edith and told her “This should keep her out of trouble for a couple years”.   That’s just what happened.  I had very little social life during high school.  All of my friends had moved on, partially due to my severe curfew, and some because I looked like I was a 12 year old.


I spent the next three years in a bit of of funk, having been defeated by Meredith in everything I wanted to do.  I didn’t put my best effort into my schoolwork, and when the time came for college I didn’t have many options.  I could go to either of the 2 colleges near my home town, but that would mean living at home while I went to school, and I wanted none of that.  Then something surprising happened.  Meredith announced that she had gotten a scholarship for me.  She showed some brochures to my father and I for a college about 100 miles away.  The college had a special program that would allow me to become a teacher in a little more than 2 years.  I smelled something fishy, but my dad was all in on it.  All I wanted was to be out of that house so my application was sent, and just a week later I received a letter welcoming me to the program.


It was only 2 weeks after I graduated High School that We were headed to “The Holy Reformation College”.  It had been a private catholic college for years that trained nuns to be nurses and teachers.  About 20 years ago it became a coed public school and the whole campus was modernized.  I was very happy as we drove through the small campus, eventually finding our way to the registration area.  There were only about 24 students in the reception area, and I began to notice that all of the students were girls, and almost all of them looked like me, kind of plain and almost homely.  This was certainly not what I pictured in my head when I thought about college.  I was called up to sign all the necessary forms for admission.  I thought that my father would be the one to sign, but the woman told me “You are an adult now, it is time to act like one.”  I signed all the forms in the places they told me to.  A shuttle bus came to take us to our dorms, and with that I said my goodbyes to my parents.  We were told to leave our luggage at the curb and it would be collected for us.


I was one of the first on the bus, and then I saw someone I knew, well kind of.  Her name was Janey, and she was the biggest loser from my high school.  Her mother had died when she was very young and all her father would never give her money for new clothing, so she always wore second hand clothing.  She had short greasy hair, and while most the girls in school either shaved or waxed everything from the neck down, Jodi never learned about any of that.  Janey sat in the seat across from me and started to chat me up “Hey Brooke, surprised to see you in this program.  I’ve been waiting to come here for 4 years now”  I had seldom, if ever talked to Janey in the last 5 years, but at least it was a familiar face.  I asked Janey “Why is it so surprising for me to be in a teaching program?” All Janey said was “We’re going to have so much fun”


To my surprise we rode past several dorm buildings that also looked like they were nearly new.  We rode thru the new section of campus, then to the very rear area where the buildings all looked as if they had been there since the school started.  The bus stopped in front of what looked like it was the old church building. I assumed this was now a school building until I saw large group of very old nuns, fully dressed in black outfits, heading towards the door.  Confused, I decided to ask Janey if she knew what we were doing here.  Janey looked straight at me and said “It’s time for afternoon mass”.


I sat thru the 90 minute mass, trying to figure out what was going on.  After the mass finished, the 2 women from the administration building told us to gather together for our room and job assignments.  I was again confused by what they were saying, so Janey came up to me and said that this was part of the original college campus, but was now used as a retirement village for the sisters that had retired from teaching  The retired nuns were all from a strict conservative order, and would be our instructors.  Janey then went on to say we would be living and eating with them, and would live as they do.  The director told us that we would be doing all of the cooking, cleaning and laundry for the nuns, and all of our rooms would be in the same buildings as the retired nuns.  Our daily schedules included making all the meals, attending mass three times per day, plus 8 hours of class work 6 days per week.  The only day we didn’t have class was Sunday, but we were expected to be at the church for the whole day.


I was starting to have a panic attack.  My idea of college life was never like this and I knew that I had to get out of there right now.  I went to the director and told them her that there was a mistake as I was not even a religious person.  Her answer was I had signed the contract for the program and they would be there to guide me to my new life as a teacher.  I told them that I wanted to leave the school and go home.  They then told me that the agreement I had signed meant that if I wanted to withdraw I had to immediately reimburse  the college for my tuition, plus the cost of hiring a teacher to fill the 5 year commitment I had agreed to.  The said I would have to pay full $120,000 cost of the program, or fulfill my commitment to the school.  I was now totally confused.  “What do you mean 5 year commitment?”  She then told me it was all in the paperwork I had just signed, and I had every chance to back out before I entered into this contract.


I had no place to turn other than Janey.  When I asked Janey to explain the program to me she got a big smile and explained to me  “It’s such a wonderful thing they are giving to us.  We get to live a wholesome, simple life while we learn to do away with all our bad habits.  Then, after we complete the program, we will be sent to one of the Reformation church schools to properly educate the children.”  Confused, I asked when we would get our teaching certifications.  Janey quickly added “The church has their own certifications”  Instantly I thought of Meredith.  I was now certain that she knew all about this program from the start, because before she was married to my dad she had worked for the Reformation Church near our town.


We were then led to another building.  The building was very musty and smelled of moth balls.  Then, just like we were joining the army, we told to line up to be measured for our uniforms.  I was still trying to take in everything that was happening when Janey pulled me into the line.  “Come on Brooke get with it.”  As I looked at Janey, she was already undressing. I asked “What are you doing that for Janey”  Just then this mean old nun yells at me to “get those clothes off.”  I reluctantly start to take off my clothes, and mistakenly asked “Why can’t I just wear the clothes that I brought.  The mean nun smiled (something that not would happen again) and told me “Your bags were given back to your parents to take home.  We let you think you can do what you want until after you’re on the bus”


We were each given 2 jumpers that were made of the heavy wool and 2 button down shirts.  We were told that we had to launder one every day while we wore the other.  We were then sent thru another door.  Inside the room there was a wooden stool and about a dozen ancient nuns.  To my horror one of them announces to us “You girls will be treated just as we were many years ago:”  She then called for the first person to sit on the stool.  Janey pulls me by them arm and says”Come on Brooke, lets go first”  Janey seemed to know what was going to happen as she sat down, but I was still in the dark about it.  Next thing I see is one of the nuns holding a strangle metal device.  She goes straight to Janey’s head and as she squeezes it her hair begins failing to the ground.  Janey is being sheered like a sheep and surprisingly seems to be enjoying the process.  Before I could comprehend what was happening I am pushed down on the stool and I see the device heading towards my forehead.  As badly as I had wanted to get rid of the mushroom cut for the last three years, this was never what I had in mind.


Janey and I were assigned as room mates and after a few weeks of settling in to the routine of the school, I actually began to really like her.  The very intense programing and chores we had to service the nuns meant that surprisingly I had not thought the things that I was missing.  I had all but forgotten about all the things that I associated with college life, boys, parties, etc.  Instead, Janey was becoming like a twin sister to me.  We would wash each others clothes, help with each other’s chores and even cut each others hair every 3 or 4 weeks.  We weren’t required to keep our hair that short, but Janey and I both grew to like the simplicity of our buzzcuts.


We finished our training in just under two years.  Unlike finishing college there was no graduation ceremony, or graduation parties.  My parents never even called to congratulate me.  We were given our teaching assignments for our 5 year commitments, and Janey and I were both being sent to the same school.  This for me was the happiest time of my life.  Even though our relationship was totally non-sexual, Janey and I loved each other.  We continued to live with each other even though the church gave us enough of a living expense to have our own apartments.  We no longer have to wear those nasty uniforms, or cut our hair, but we still dressed in very conservative, matching dresses, and our hair never goes more than a couple weeks before one of us pulls out the clippers.


Five years after graduation our commitments had expired.  It would have been easy to turn back to my old life, but Janey and I were committed to each other.  We both agreed that it would be best to stay together, so we both just signed the paperwork for another 10 year contract.  I hadn’t talked to my old family in almost 7 years, but I didn’t mind as long as I Janey and I were together.






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