“Enter” I heard Ms Lourdes shout from behind her door.
I opened the door and the woman before me looked nothing like the intimidating headmistress we saw this morning before class. Instead she looked nervous and tired. When I looked at her from close up I saw she used make-up to hide the obvious signs of fatigue. It was clear she had been over working. The strict personality that radiates when she talks in front of the student body seems to have been a well played act.
“Ah Claire, enter, it is good of you to join. The police would like to ask you some questions. I called your mother and she gave me permission to sit in on the interview as your guardian.”
What!? They called my mother? I did not want that, I did my best not to worry her. My mother was a single working parent that ran her own business and the last thing I wanted was for her to worry about me. My mother and Ms Lourdes went way back, I do not know the specifics but I know she often visits mom at work, and she had sometimes been the babysitter when my mom was in a pinch when we were still too small to be left alone. I used to call her aunt Bernie back then, but her real name is Bernadette. So it should be all right to trust her. I nodded to show I understood.
“The interview will be conducted by Ms Lyst who has been trained to talk with minors. While detective Gerard Menfroid and myself will be present in the room.” Ms Lourdes said. I could hear a bit of worry in her voice.
“Sit down Claire”. I went over to the large desk, sat down, and took a quick look around the room. It was the principal's office alright. Some school trophies were displayed but mostly there were file cabinets all around the room. Like all Catholic schools, it had a rather old-fashioned look. You would have expected the file cabinets to have been replaced by digitized documents ages ago.
“You can call me Anna” Ms Lyst said, using the first name technique to close the distance.
My attention snapped back to Ms Lyst. Seeing her from this close, I felt intimidated by the beautiful radiant calm adult in front of me. I still had no idea what was happening but I felt treated like a criminal.
“Could you tell us a bit about your relationship with Louisa?” she asked.
I nodded and started to tell I had not known Louisa very well.
“Hmm that is odd, because she talked of almost nothing but you in her diary, some details would only be privy to close friends I would think.”
Ms Lyst said, watching my reactions closely.
What was happening? I felt like I stumbled into a real life Kafka story.
“What do you mean? She ran away every time I tried to talk to her”
“Yes we heard reports from several sources of your bullying. We heard that in the end one sentence from you was enough to have her running away crying.”
Bullying? Me? The person that did her best to be friends with everyone. I started to become nervous, it seemed like I left a witch hunt to be interrogated by the inquisition.
“I am sorry, I don't quite follow?” I said
Ms. Lyst then showed me a copy of Louisa's diary with a righteous smirk on her lips. And I could not believe my eyes. It was showing a detailed account of almost everything I had done in the last few months. She had even talked with my mom about my childhood years and had a picture of me as a toddler. If not for this situation, I would have felt a bit creeped out instead of flabbergasted.
Then to deliver the critical hit, Ms. Lyst took out a copy Louisa's suicide note. Apparently she had overheard me saying that I do not understand people interested in same-sex relationships and that had devastated all her hope and dreams. That sounded like something I could have said. Heck the same went for any romantic relationship. I was just not interested in that kind of waste of time. And these declarations often kept unwanted confessions away. But this time the words I used to protect myself and keep a respectable distance to everyone had caused someone to kill herself.
Having this realization my mind started to go blank, what was happening? This cannot be real. When I snapped back to reality Ms. Lourdes was holding me and wiping my tears with a handkerchief.
“There there, Claire.” she said. “What are you doing Ms. Lyst, is this what you call facilitating in a positive and constructive manner toward children?”
“In order to create, sometimes we must first destroy” she answered matter of factually.
“This interview is over", Ms Lourdes said.
“OK we will take a break and continue this afternoon, that way Claire can think a bit about what she is going to tell us”
I was well in shock and before I knew it I laid down in the infirmary and fell asleep. I was woken up by Ms Lourdes and taken in again for a second interview. She guaranteed me that she had a stern talking with Ms. Lyst and that the same would not happen again. Instead they wanted to discuss some options with me.
Back in the office I sat in front of Ms Lyst and Ms Lourdes. This time they let me do my story on how I perceived Louisa and how things seemed in my eyes.
Both of them nodded, and then Ms Lyst started talking.
“After having talked to more people, it seems you were unaware of Louisa's actions and I apologize for jumping to conclusions earlier. But it is exactly that kind of unawareness we need to fight in order to prevent these kinds of dreadful events to ever happen again. Like Socrates said, unawareness is the source of all evil. And for an all-girl school this school is seriously lacking in yuri-awareness up to the point we had a death as a result.”
I nodded carefully, this was getting absurder by the second.
“I discussed it with Ms Lourdes and she agreed that in view of recent events we must take drastic progressive measures to show the parent committee and the outward world that we are serious. Therefore we would like you to volunteer spearheading our new found organization: the First Bureau of Yurification, (FBY in short). Its goal naturally will be to spread yuri-awareness, and to help young girls such as miss Louisa and yourself find their true yuri selves in each other.”
“And if I refuse?” I asked. How could a girl like me that was not interested in romance at all have anything to do with something ridiculous like a bureau of yurification. I could feel this was gonna cut into my time for cooking...
“Let us just say volunteering for this function could be seen as a sign of good will and strengthen the case of your innocence in the current investigation. So it is a win-win situation to volunteer” Ms. Lyst said to me with a little smirk on her lips.
Volunteering or the gallows. What is this, the Foreign Legion?
“But why me, I could not care less about this stuff!?” I blurted, out losing my calm.
“I think that question alone explains it. You are not aware, and your Yuri-unawareness has caused damage, you can view this as community service to make repairs for the damage that you have done. Of course you don't have to do this alone, I will supervise the project and I will allow you to recruit other volunteers to fill out your team. I heard you are quite connected.”
“It would seem I have no choice.” I replied reluctantly. It was clear that even though presented as a choice in reality I would have no choice on the matter. With Ms. Lourdes involved, I also knew I would not have to expect any support at the home front for getting out of this.
“I am glad we could all come to a positive agreement, '' Ms. Lourdes said relieved, “There will be a school assembly later where we will present you as the director of the FBY.”
“We are expecting documented results in order to keep the public prosecutor's office happy.” detective Menfroid added.
This is how I became the director of a troublesome organization named the FBY.
Education is free in Belgium. It is a constitutional right. In reality there are still fees for school trips and day-care fees if you bring your child early or pick it up late. But there are no attendance fees.
University costs without books between 500 EUROS-2000 EUROS a year which is by my knowledge cheap in comparison to other countries.
There are not many school clubs in Belgian schools, they are most of the time a temporary project (Like a play or group of friends that wants to create a sports team that wants to compete in a tournament) and they are always considered extra curricular and on a voluntary base. The going home club is the standard. People go to non-school related cultural,sports or youth centers to do what in other nations is done in clubs.
Legal drinking age:
Legal drinking age in bars is 16 for beer and wine. 18 for spirits. So on Fridays after school it is possible to see high schoolers hanging around in bars and drinking. I remember the bar next to our school being so packed that the pavement in front of it was packed with a mountain of satchels. The proportion of this phenomenon somewhat lessened because bars have become ridiculously expensive in comparison to when I was in high school.
Furthermore in family kids get to drink wine at family gatherings as soon as they did there solemn communion which is a Catholic holy sacrament performed at the age of 12. Of course 12 year olds only get to drink 1 glass of wine with there food. The reason they are allowed to do so originates from the sacrament itself where you drink the blood of Christ (=wine) for the first time in church. If God allows it, who are we to refuse?