ELITES

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Hannah doesn’t even know if she’ll have enough money to pay the next month’s rent, so how is it that her mum can afford to pay the tuition for her twin sister, Clover, to attend the prestigious Kinsley College? That’s the question Hannah has too, and it’s even more bizarre when her mum reveals Hannah has a place as well – prepaid and non-refundable.

At Kinsley College there’s two types of student, the scholarships and the ELITES. One enters through their own merit, the other their parent’s wallet. Hannah and Clover are the latter, but something doesn’t add up. The ELITE populous are the children of multi-millionaires. Hannah and Clover are the children of a widow with five part time jobs.

Hannah soon realises she's caught in a web of lies, a web involving the memory of her dead dad who might also have attended the school, and involving Lucas - son of the college president and heir to a billion-dollar fortune. Someone isn't being truthful and someone is guilty. Who has the answers?

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1. Chapter 1


“You’re closing up for us tonight, Hannah! Need to get home early and the manager's away for the weekend already,” my co-worked Ben shouted from across the empty restaurant, throwing the ring of keys between both his hands as he approached me.

I sighed as I scrubbed the invisible dirt from each counter and table for what felt like the fifth time in my ten hour shift. “Come on, we could both close up now and be done with it. Just this once?” I begged. My hands were red raw from scrubbing, my feet dead from walking, and mind numbed from lack of any human interaction other than the occasional customer… and of course Ben who most of the time didn’t talk much anyway.

He shook his head and began to tut. “Can’t close up early, you know what the boss would be like if he found out.” He threw the ring of keys in my direction narrowly missing my face.

Blowing a piece of hair away in frustration, I passed an incredulous look. “We’ve had no customers for the past three hours, I’ve mopped the floor so much the shiny coating has come off, I’ve scrubbed the tables so hard I have blisters on my palms, and the boss isn’t here. Let me close up when you leave and that’s the last we’ll speak of it?” I asked as I slouched against the counter, feeling like my back was going to give way any second.

He shook his head and laughed. “No can do, Hannah – if he ever finds out, I’m out of here. You know I’m on my last warning.” Ben untied his apron and folded it over the counter I’d paused in the middle of wiping down. “I’ve got permission to leave early, not you.”

I sighed, giving in. I ran my dry hand through my fringe which wouldn’t stay out the way and dropped the cloth onto the floor. “Fine. I’ll see you next week then.”

A smile lit up his face as he strolled towards the exit. He peered over his shoulder and said, “Don’t look so sad. Another hour and you can be out of here. Call me when you leave.”

I nodded at him as the door swung shut behind him, letting in a gust of cold night air before it settled. Leaning against the counter, I pulled out my small phone – older than what most people had these days but it had served me well – and dialled my mum’s number.

“Hello?” she picked up on the second ring.

“Oh hey, just calling to let you know I’ll be home a little later. I’m closing up,” I mumbled down the line as I clenched and unclenched my aching hands.

She began to complain. “You know I don’t like you staying out late, Hannah.”

“Mum, I’ll get a taxi. I’ll be careful.”

She was silent on the other end for a second before saying, “You’re still my little baby, you know.”

“I know,” I replied quietly. “Are you home?”

She paused amidst chaos in the background of her line. That was my answer. She sighed before she answered. “No, no, I have some things to finish up. A customer wasn’t happy with their sheets so I had to clean them again and stay back a little longer to help with the housecleaning.”

I laughed lightly and said, “Why are you worrying about me, then? Make sure you get yourself home alright, ok? You take a taxi.”

“How can I not worry, Han, you shouldn’t have to work as hard as you do. You’re seventeen years old!”

I could feel that pang of guilt hit me like a broken guitar string. “Don’t work yourself too hard, mum. I’ll be home soon. Look, I need to go – a customer just came in. I’ll be home in an hour.”

After she muttered a tired goodbye I flipped the lid of my phone down and shut off the call. Of course, there wasn’t any customer.

Sourly I thought, none of this would be necessary if not for my sister Clover. She was my twin but we were nothing alike. While I wanted nothing from my mum and aimed to repay every penny she’d given me, my sister wanted nothing but more. More money, more clothes, more friends, more attention. That’s why she was away in the US at a private college still funded by my mum through god knows what means. I knew we barely had the money to feed ourselves never mind Clover’s lifestyle.

I shook those thoughts and decided concentrating on work was best – not that there was much work to do. I began to wipe the floors once more pretending like it didn’t hurt my whole aching body.

For the rest of that night till closing time, there never was any other customers.

***

The next morning I didn’t wake to an alarm… For the first time in months I woke up myself and felt completely refreshed. Through my damp window I realised the sun was up and high in the sky – it certainly didn’t look like 6am to me.

I threw myself from the bed and grabbed my bedroom door in panic. I was late. Late meant warnings, too many warnings meant fired.  

As I ran through the house gathering the things I’d laid out the night before I didn’t expect anyone to be home; mum was away at her Saturday morning cleaning job and it was always just the two of us. That’s why when I passed the frame to the kitchen I stopped dead in my tracks. There my mum was, hunched over the kitchen table with two or three letters opened in front of her.

“Mum?” I asked amidst my own internal chaos.

She turned ever so slightly and smiled. “You’re awake,” she said.

“Yes, and I’m late!” I yelled as I hopped about trying to pull on my socks. “Why aren’t you at work?”

She shook her head. “Sit here for a minute.”

I protested. “Did you hear me, I’m late!”

“Hannah, Please!” Mum said impatiently, “I have something to tell you.”

I let the panic ease from my body and the void filled with worry. I flicked between looking at the torn letters and my mother’s face and briefly wondered if these were more letters demanding we repay loans and credit cards. I took a seat like a timid mouse under the gaze of a lion and asked quietly, “what do the letters say?”

She waved her hand as if they were nothing. “Some from the bank and a few others. The usual,” she said casually. It pained me knowing this had went on for so long that letters now about repossession and debt collectors were now ‘the usual’. “And,” she continued, “a letter for you.”

Mum sorted through the thick pile of letters until she came across the one she was looking for and looked up with an unsure expression before looking back at the paper. Slowly she slid it across the table.

I picked it up with two hands. It’d already been opened. Sliding the sheet out, I opened it up and saw the distinct Kinsley College logo. The college my sister attended. “Just because she’s my twin doesn’t mean it’s for me. It’s for her-,” I began to say, until my eyes suddenly met my name scrawled on the front, clear as day – ‘Hannah Anderson’.

‘Dear Hannah Anderson,

I am writing to you to congratulate you on your acceptance to our Tomorrow’s Leaders programme at Kinsley College.’

I couldn’t read any further as my mind became clouded with confusion. “Mum, I didn’t apply to anything at Kinsley College. I wouldn’t do that to you. This wasn’t me.”

Mum raised an eyebrow. “Do you not want to go back to school?”

“You know how much I hated it. I left as soon as I could. I love working so much better than school.”

She looked down at the table and away from me. “Well… For a while I noticed you’ve lacked friends, fun – stuff you should do at your age. Maybe going back to school is the answer.”

I shook my head in protest, refusing to read the rest of the letter. “Even if I agreed with what you’ve just said, how are we supposed to pay for not only my tuition but Clover’s too? I don’t want to go to any school,” I argued as I tried to get up to leave. Before I could have the final word, my mum grabbed my wrist.

“Well too late. I applied on your behalf and I’ve paid the first semester. It’s non-refundable.”

I should have expected it considering where the conversation seemed headed. A black cloud rolled over my mood and I felt nothing but guilt. “Where is the money from this time?” I asked.

She dodged the question and replied, “I’ll survive, but you certainly won’t if you live your entire life like this.”

How was I supposed to respond to that?

“I want you to go to school, get an education whether it’ll do you any good or not, and make amends with your sister.”

I could have exploded in that moment on a rant about Clover – my unappreciative sister. If not for her demands my mum would ever have felt the need to give me the same. I didn’t need the same as my sister, I didn’t need the tuition to a fancy college in a foreign country and I didn’t need luxury goods and friends. I needed my mum and our house and clothes on my back. That was my happiness.

“We can’t afford it. We can barely make Clover’s tuition never mind my own. How are you supposed to live with me gone too, mum?”

Mum looked down at the pile of papers again. I would have reached out, grabbed them from her and read through them just to prove a point but she didn’t deserve that. That’d be like spitting in her face, telling her she was wrong when all she wanted to do was something right. That was something Clover would do – not me. Gradually, I felt my mum recoil.

As she slowly got up from her seat more thoughts than my brain could handle came thundering into me – I was a horrible daughter, she was only doing what she thought best, she didn’t mean to raise us in such poverty.

Before she passed the doorframe I found myself giving in, like we both knew I would. “I’ll go,” I muttered under my breath. Mum hung back in the door frame and waited. “But only because you can’t get your money back.”

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