Unlike the rest of the other girls who wore plain grey dress they were given a different uniform theirs was a deep black most of them were tight around their waist
"Apart from a woman's face the most beautiful thing about her body is her waist and the tighter the dress is around the waist the better! It builds womanliness and makes you lovelier looking!"said one of the Sisters, Sister Agnes when any girl complained about the tightness of the waist.
Although it made the girls "lovelier looking" it was very uncomfortable and some of the girls would even loosen the waists of their uniforms themselves.
Their uniforms stood out from everyone else's they looked like mini nuns dressed in their uniforms that looked like habits.
While all the other girls were allowed to style their hair however they wanted, theirs was to always be held up in a bun unless they were going to sleep and then only would they be allowed to braid it. The older girls were responsible for the younger girls even though they had matrons to care for them.
They had to clean their dormitories, collect water for them that they used to bathe, make sure they all ate their breakfast and were always disciplined. The most important part was that they be up before anyone else, some of them would wake up as early as four in the morning then divide the work, a certain group of girls would prepare the gruel, others would set out all the buckets and fetch water, while the rest cleaned up the dormitories and woke up the rest of the girls.
To the girls it seemed insane that they had to care for the other girls but the Sisters made them do all that because of the low staff and also because nobody wanted to spend money when clearly they were capable of taking care of everyone else. Having the responsibilities of an older girl started when you turned fourteen, then you would take different classes than the rest while everyone learnt science, art, history etc the older girls were taught different lessons like writing, music and needle work.
These subjects were believed to be more in line with their abilities to help them become better women in the society.
Even though the girls hated the classes it honestly helped girls who wouldn't get adopted and would be sent away as soon as they were of older ages like nineteen or twenty.
They would be sent into the world on their own, most would find work and become seamstresses, nannies, teachers or even nuns while others got married and had children.
None of the girls ever complained about it of course, they had no choice and if any of them acted out of hand they would be punished with a smack on their bare butt with birch twigs and if any of them were more out of hand than others they would be put in a punishment room called "the tank" which actually was a real tank and the Sisters put any misbehaved girl in there overnight for a week. Even some of the younger girls were put in there. If you did something wrong you would all get the same punishment your age did not in any way matter.
The day usually started off with breakfast and if you weren't early enough you would not get any. The head nun, or the Prioress as they called her, said it was to teach them time management but everyone knew it was because there wasn't enough food for all of them to eat.
Later in the morning the girls would go for the morning mass at the church built right next to the orphanage then later everyone would be expected to go off to their classrooms. Then recreational activities at noon, lunch and more classes and right after that everyone would be dismissed for supper and bed.The same schedule every single time.
And the morning of Addilyn's seventeenth birthday was not any different it was quite possible that no one even remembered, which was was not a problem because even she would forget most times. Birthdays weren't special in the orphanage, most of the girls didn't even know their actual dates of birth often the Sisters would mark the day they were brought in as their birthdays which made it less important to the girls thus very little cared and Addilyn was one of many.
"Happy Birthday Addilyn!" Someone shouted loudly from behind her
When she turned around she saw it was her best friend Eliana who shortly embraced her in a long hug.
Eliana and Addilyn met when both were only eight years old , at first Eliana only spoke French and understood zero English so it was hard for the two girls to communicate. But by the time Eliana turned fourteen she could speak English fluently but every once in a while Addilyn could still hear her French accent popping out.
When Eliana was five her parents moved their whole family all the way from Paris to London to start a new life but soon her father caught a serious case of influenza and died just shortly after their immigration.
Things got hard for her family and they soon fell into a state of poverty, her mother felt unable to support her and her siblings forcing her to send them away. While her older brothers were auctioned off to farmers and craftsmen who needed them to work, Eliana was brought to the orphanage and after that she never saw any of her family ever again.
Eliana was beautiful she had long black wavy hair, she was tall, taller than most of the girls, she had the most beautiful freckles that looked perfect around her nose and when she smiled the prettiest dimples showed on her cheeks. She was kind and very intelligent which made everyone very found of her and being able to speak French made her even more interesting to everyone around her.
Eliana loved flowers, always drew them, picked them out and stuck them on the windows around the orphanage and each year on Addilyn's birthday she drew her one.
"I drew you something" Eliana said jumping around happily eager to show her best friend a folded piece of paper she held tightly in her hands
In it was a beautiful drawing of a fully bloomed pink flower with long glossy petals
"Eliana this is beautiful. It looks so real" Addilyn beamed with joy tracing the perfectly drawn flower in complete awe of her best friend's talent
"It's a peony they bloom in different colours but I thought you'd like pink more"
"I do, I'm going to keep this safe with all your other beautiful art"
At lunch the dining hall was full and like always half of the girls got no or little food. Even though the orphanage was one of the largest in all of Canterbury there was a lot of things it lacked and the Sisters depended on donations that most of the times they didn't get and when they got any they were usually tables, books, chalkboards all needed but not as important as food.
Most times during lunch breakfast or dinner to make the lines move faster the some cooks would push away the fat girls and the girls that didn't look hungry enough away from the line. These girls would have to wait for supper to get anything and half the time there was not enough supper for everyone.
Supper was usually left overs from lunch accompanied with some bread and cheese, a few pieces of meat and if you we were lucky maybe even turnips and onions on the side.
It was not the best food but it was not like the girls had any options.
At night, before supper everyone had to freshen up so it was always loud and busy with girls running around with buckets making sure to reach the bathroom first before they all got packed or dirty and the Older girls trying to control the chaos while some of the Sisters had meetings in the church and others cleaned the classrooms or waited for people to visit the orphanage hopefully to bring in donations or adopt children.
A lot of the girls were fetching water into the buckets, some of them had holes and them usually taking longer to fill up.
Everybody headed to their dormitories to change into their night dresses and go down for supper. All of them were given the same plain blue night dress just in different sizes.
Sometimes when they were not enough for girls the Prioress, Sister Christine would make the other sisters make dresses out of old potato sacks they kept up in the attic to give to girls that didn't have night dresses or if they weren't small enough to fit in the ones they did have.
The sisters hated that they were used as seamstresses so they would sometimes just cut out holes on the sacks for the head and arms to go into and they were awfully ugly.
Once everyone was finished they all resigned to their dormitories impatiently waiting for supper to be served.
Each dormitory had twenty-five girls in it and some even had more than that, earlier when the orphanage had just started, girls were sent away at fourteen because it was too crowded but due to new laws it was not allowed so half the time the dorms were always full . They weren't separated by anything like a wall to separate the girls and make enough room for everyone it was just a really big room with beds lined up neatly and four big large windows on the walls.
Cracks formed on the ceiling almost every month making them leak and a lot of the girls had to move and rearrange their beds to avoid getting wet in the middle of the night. It always took a long time for someone to mend the walls so in every dorm you would find a bucket that was used to collect water from the leaking walls.To someone new the dorms would look scary and depressing but to the girls they seemed normal, of course it was the lifestyle they were used to.
The girls always found ways to entertain themselves and with them being in a large number it was hard for anyone to get bored.
Everyone had someone to talk to and laugh with and share books with and study with in fact it was fun most of the time.
"Could you braid my hair for me?" Eliana asked Addilyn and she undid her bun parting it easily braiding a Fish tail.
"I got a note from Ollie today" Eliana said happily to Addilyn who cringed lightly.
Ollie was Eliana's nineteen year old lover also the milk boy that delivered milk to the orphanage once every month. They met while Eliana was outside kneeling on punishment and he offered her some milk. They talked for the whole hour she was outside and for the last year they sent each other notes and letters and every time Ollie was to arrive Eliana would get up extra early to get the milk before he left just so she could talk to him.
"What does it say?" Addilyn asked with interest
"He's going to be here in three weeks he says he was supposed to be here last week but his sister got married so he couldn't make it"
Addilyn nodded in response and suddenly Eliana's happiness faded "Do you think he actually likes me? You don't think he's trying to take advantage of me or anything?"
Addilyn thought about it for a moment and then answered sincerely"No, I don't think he is because first of all you're an orphan and you two have never really been alone together so I doubt he's with you to take advantage of you and if he didn't like you he wouldn't be coming here so often and writing to you all the time"
That statement reassured Eliana bringing her happiness back which made Addilyn smile
They chatted for a while going on about their days and plans they had for tomorrow and the books they were reading.
While Eliana explained her plans for when Laurie was to come, he was originally to show up for only a couple of minutes to deliver the milk and leave but once he met Eliana he stayed extra long to speak to her, often making him late for other deliveries.
Addilyn always wanted to be just like Eliana ever since they were little, she always thought of her best friend as lovelier looking and she tried so hard to be like her in every way.
She even tried to learn French which didn't go so well since Addilyn picked up slowly and after a while told her friend to stop teaching her. Addilyn was skinny her figure wasn't anywhere near Eliana's , she had brown hair and brown eyes she was ordinary looking and she felt ordinary too.
She was not as smart as her best friend certainly not as beautiful and not as confident so it was very hard for her to make friends other than Eliana.
But Addilyn had some great qualities of her own she loved to read and write at only twelve she had read all the books in the tiny library they had at the orphanage, she wrote amateur poetry that was often dismissed by her English teachers and she was a beautiful singer Eliana had always told her so but she found it very hard to believe.
Addilyn was never jealous of her best friend infact she admired Eliana they were the perfect pair of friends.
Shortly, while everyone was talking the headgirl Beatrice walked in and the whole dorm got so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Although she was head girl no one had voted her to be one, in fact no one even liked Beatrice all she did was ask for permission to be head girl and the position was hers.
A lot of other girls asked too but they were denied and no other posts were open it was just head girl which was really unfair to all of them.
Beatrice was her real name but she made everyone call her Birdie because one of the cooks was named Beatrice and she didn't want to be compared to her because in her words "she was of a higher standard" even though she was orphan. Birdie was sixteen but acted older and more mature than the other girls, she was often strict and rude to everyone even to girls that were older than her which made everyone fear her instead of respect her and because of that she didn't have any friends. Birdie had really long red hair that she loved so much. No one in the orphanage loved their hair more than Beatrice Posey she avoided cutting it every chance she got and every time the girls were supposed to get their hair trimmed she would hide and get in trouble for it. One time while all the girls were getting ready for a hair trim thirteen year old Birdie hid in the bathrooms and one of the Older sisters, Sister Edith caught her. Birdie was beaten with a whip twelve times! In front of everyone and Sister Edith did not stop there she proceeded to cut all of Birdie's hair with scissors leaving her hair uneven and half of her head bold
"Let this be a warning to anyone who wishes to go against the rules that we have set up in this institution!" Sister Edith addressed everyone at an assembly that was held to shame Birdie
" I am not afraid to do far worse than I have done and if anyone crosses me I surely will"
After that incident Birdie was different, her hair grew back though more beautiful than it was before but her manners changed forever. She bullied people that got in her way, she made friends with awful girls and just for fun they would bully and hit girls in the attic.
All her friends got adopted and she was left alone. After making the prioress appoint her as headgirl a lot of the girls started to hate her even more than they already did,so much that someone snuck into the Prioress's office found Beatrice's files and spread everything about her. According to what she found when Beatrice was not older than eight years old her parents were killed after stealing jewelry from their land lord's wife who they worked for, leaving Beatrice an orphan alone in the world. Of course the girl was later punished but that did not stop everyone from bullying and teasing Birdie.
Everytime something went missing everyone blamed it on her and instead of doing the bullying it was done to her no matter what title she held in the school. Eliana always called it karma.
"Addilyn?" Birdie read aloud, and Addilyn immediately looked up, she was terrified of Birdie even though she was older but Birdie's whole demeanor made her shiver with fear and she often tried to stay out of her way
"Is that you?" Birdie asked
"The Head nun wants to see you" and without another word Birdie walked away
"Did you do anything wrong?" Eliana asked her friend seriously she was nervous even though it wasn't her name that was called, being called to the prioress's office usually meant you were getting adopted or you did something wrong.
The Head nun wants to see me? She's never wanted to see me I highly doubt she even knows of my existence well i thought she did Addilyn thought to herself she was beginning to shake
"Well did you?" Eliana asked again
"No I didn't do anything I don't know why she wants to see me"
"Well you better hold your hair up she doesn't like it when it's down" and immediately Addilyn began to do so hurriedly unbraiding her hair
"also change back into your uniform if you don't she'll be extremely upset to see you in your nightgown"
Addilyn did everything her best friend told her to do she had been to the office far more than her anyway and She honestly didn't want to make a bad image of herself by doing anything she knew would upset the Prioress.
"Good to go?"
Eliana looked even more nervous as she looked over at her best friend
"Theirs no time to fix you now just go"
"I'll get supper for both of us!" She shouted.
Addilyn walked away and headed to the Prioress's office
She walked down the stairs away from her dorm her heart pounding so hard she could hear it in her ears am I getting adopted? that can't be true nobody wants a seventeen year old. What if it's a man looking for someone to marry? I'll have to kill myself.what if I'm in trouble? oh Lord please help me please let this be good news
Addilyn prayed as she clenched her heart tightly almost tearing out a button.
She made to the office door but her nerves grew by the minute. She took three deep breaths before knocking at the door
She knocked twice and waited for an answer and she didn't hear anything
She tried one more time and was told to come inside she opened the door slowly and entered the large office with her head bowed starring at her worn out shoes.
In a chair was a man sipping tea he looked very old and was wearing and beneath it Addilyn could clear see that he was bold, he was wearing a suit that looked really expensive and shoes that look so shiny she swore see the reflection of the candles from them.
The man looked up at her
making her immediately stop staring coming back to her senses, the realization of what is about to happen makes her heart drop
"I'm getting adopted?" She says in a whisper
"What was that? The Prioress asked her looking up
She was a very serious looking lady, she had a few grey hairs which indicated that she was a bit old at least around fifty and she moved around with a cane. Around the Orphanage she looked unkind but right now she looked a bit softer Addilyn wondered if it was because she was in the presence of a guest
"Nothing" She replied quickly
"You are Addilyn Baker right?"
"Okay so this is Franklin Grey and he would like to discuss some things with you"
Addilyn looked over at the man who was already looking at her, very seriously at that, and suddenly the whole room was quiet.
Franklin gestured for the Prioress to leave, which shocked her for a moment but soon left and walked out of her own office.
"I was sent by your father he left me with a job to do a really long time ago " Franklin said getting right to the point
Addilyn was stunned she had never once heard anyone mention her father and for a moment it kind of scared her
"My father? What do you mean my father?"
"I mean your father" he said going quiet for a while pulling out a cigar from his pockets which he immediately lit
"I worked for him and your mother for a while. They are both dead now." He quickly reached into his other front pocket pulling out an envelope
"He told me to give this to you once you were old enough. What are you 18 now?"
"I'm 17. And I don't know what kind of game you're playing with me but I think you have got the wrong person." Addilyn said almost chuckling. This man could not be serious
Usually she was afraid of speaking up but this was too unbelievable it made her scoff and she almost left but she was afraid she'd pass by the Prioress who would have labeled her as disrespectful.
Franklin stood up, he was taller than she was. A lot taller than she thought he was.
He put out his cigar and glared at her. The glare was icy and annoyed and this terrified Addilyn making her swallow her saliva and begin to sweat.
She took a few steps back wiping her sweaty palms on her uniform and Franklin softened his look
"Take it" he said handing her the envelope which she quickly took.
To Addilyn it looked old and it smelled like old books. At the top it said "For my beautiful Addilyn"
"I'm sure you have a lot of questions but they will be answered once you read that letter"
"I hope to see you soon" and with that he opened the door and walked out.
Addilyn stood alone in the office starring at the envelope she was given hardly able to breathe she began to think and before she knew it she was running out of the office and looking for the man.
She went outside and saw an expensive looking carriage drive away.
He had already gone
She walked up the stairs of her dormitory her heart beating with fear and curiosity thinking of what had just been told to her.
At first she decided to pocket the letter to read later with Eliana but the suspense became too much for her to handle and without thinking and she opened it.