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Kathryn Wilmer and the Lost Isle of Ruin

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First Day of School

I woke up the next morning. I heard birds singing their morning song in the meadows. It was half-past six and Ellen was still not awake! I shook her quite violently. “Ellen!” I said. “We have school today!”

Ellen sat up suddenly. “School!” she said. She scrambled out of bed and brushed her hair. Then, she got dressed. I took the brush, now, and brushed my hair (which was quite smooth, since I had brushed it last night). Then I changed. I took off my nightgown and pulled my calico dress over my head. The pattern was a navy blue base with red dots on it.

Then, Ellen tied my ribbon in my hair. It was red. I tied Ellen’s blue ribbon in her hair. We then went downstairs, where Ma was making our dinner. Our dinner was bread and butter. Ma wrapped it in paper and put it in a pail.

I took the pail, put on my black shoes, and went outside with Ellen. We walked the short, half-mile walk to school. Birds were singing everywhere. Little gophers poked their heads up from their holes in the ground. Everything was very nice.

We walked through town and to school. Young children were playing outside with a ball. Ellen made friends quickly, walking over to some girls that were her age. They started talking. But there were no other girls my age there. It was just me.

The school bell rang. All the children went into the little schoolhouse. There was a tiny porch. Inside, there was a coat hanger on the right. In the front, there was a stove. There was the teacher’s desk in the front and the chalkboard behind it. There were benches and desks for the children. I counted the children. There were eleven in all, including me and Ellen. It was a large class. The teacher walked up to the front. She said:

“Good morning, class. My name is Miss Brown.”

Then she taught us math. Then there was English, then History, and then Reading. Then it was dinner time.

“You may eat your dinners outside or in here”, said Miss Brown. “I will ring the school bell when you should come in.”

I sat on the steps in the front. There was nothing to do. I ate my dinner silently. Ellen had taken her lunch from the pail and gone inside to eat with her friends. So I just sat there silently, for recess, too.

After dinner, the whole class went inside for Grammar and Comprehension and Spelling. I spelled all my words correctly on the board. Then Miss Brown wrote a sentence with incorrect grammar on the board and we corrected it.

Then it was finally time to go home. Ellen and I walked home through the tall grass on the prairie. The grass was tall and green and yellow and golden. The sky was turning pink and orange. When we were home, the smells of a stew came through the door. Pa was putting the horses in their stables from their day at work, and Pa was milking the young cow. He came in with the pail and set it on the table.

“Fresh milk for supper!” he said cheerfully. I set the table and Ellen helped Ma with the finishing touches on supper. It was half-past five. The reason we ate so early is that we liked to see the sunset at night and we liked to look at the stars.

The stew was delicious. It was a duck that Pa had shot yesterday. The duck was so soft and the sauce was so creamy.

Then we went out to look at the sunset. There were colors of pink and gold and purple and orange everywhere. The sun was a bright golden color and the grass swayed in the wind. You could see the faintest of stars growing brighter every second and the golden colors of the sun fading…fading…fading…until it was the very darkest of night.

Now there was a light breeze in the prairie grasses and you could hear an owl, “Whooo? Whoo.” A nightingale was singing. In the west, there were still the faintest colors of pink and purple in the sky, and in the east, the sky was almost black, and the stars were sparkling brightly.

Ma said it was bedtime. Ellen and I went into the house and put our nightgowns on. When I was dressed, I stood for a moment at the window upstairs. I looked out at the stars in the sky to the east. They were so beautiful. Then I looked down at the grass. There was a gopher poking his head out of the dark ground. Then I looked back up at the stars. One caught on fire for a second! Then it went out.

I blinked. My mind was probably just playing tricks on me. Whatever. I crawled into bed, completely forgetting about it. I probably should’ve thought it over a little longer, though.

The next day, I got up, got dressed, and went downstairs. I got the dinner pail and went with Ellen to school. In the morning we had Math, Grammar, and Spelling.

Then it was dinner time. Ellen went with her friends to sit inside. I sat on the front stoop again, watching the boys play with a ball and silently eating my bread and butter. Then I looked over to the grass next to the schoolhouse. There, in plain sight, was a little ball of fire about the size of my fist!

I stared at it for a few seconds. Then, I got up, hesitating. I followed the ball around to the back of the schoolhouse, leaving the dinner pail in its place. Then the ball went down into a hole just wide enough for me to squeeze through. I stared.

I guess I should go down, I thought. So I squeezed through the hole and went down some wooden stairs. There was a wooden door at the end of it. The ball of fire had gone through the door and I followed it. On the other side of the door was…well, it was amazing.

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