New Schools Are Weird, Man
“Boarding school.” Those words kept running through Ashley’s mind like haywire. She didn’t understand why her mother was sending her away so suddenly. Then again, she didn’t understand a lot of things her mother did. Ashley looked out the window at the gray sky. “New York.” She shook her head, her dirty blonde hair shaking around her. She put her head in her hands and leaned forward. The seat belt around her torso tensed then released her, allowing her to rest her elbows on her knees.
“Mom?” she said, breaking the silence that had been standing for the past hour. Her mother glanced up into the rearview mirror at her daughter. She smiled, allowing her gray eyes to crinkle around the edges. Ashley had her father’s blue eyes and always envied her mother’s eyes for their dark gray qualities.
“Why are you sending me away?” Her mother sighed and gripped the steering wheel tighter.
“I’m not...It’s just school,” her mother said.
“But why do I have to go to New York to go to school. I don’t want to go to boarding school. I don’t want to leave home,” Ashley insisted.
“Honey, I’m doing this for your own good. The SLA School is what you need right now. We wanted to wait until after you were 15,” Ashley cut her off.
“We? You mean you and,” she took a shaky breath, “dad?” Her mother nodded.
“Yes. But I couldn’t wait any longer. I need to protect you. You need to be safe.”
“What do I need to be protected from? Why can’t I be safe with you?” Her mother shook her head.
“I can’t protect you. Not anymore. You will be fine,” her mother told her. They drove off the correct exit for the school.
“But.” It was her time to be cut off.
“No more questions, Ashley!” her mother yelled in irritation. Ashley sunk back in her seat, her mouth shut. “I’m sorry. I really am. Look, when you get there, I need you to go by Ashley Gaine.” Ashley looked up.
“Why am I going by your maiden name?” she asked despite her mother’s requests. Suddenly, rays of sunshine broke through the windows. Ashley looked out as they pulled in the parking lot. “Wasn’t it just overcast, mom?” Her mother stayed quiet. Ashley stared through the window at the school. For one thing, it was huge. It had at least 4 stories and many windows. The main door was large and wooden with big windows on it. The building was made of red and brown bricks and despite its elegancy, she knew it had to be at least 50 years old. They stopped right outside the door. Her mother turned around.
“Look, it’s just easier for you to go by my name and not your father’s, okay? Please, do it for me.” Her mother smiled at her. Ashley had always thought her mother was beautiful and when she smiled, the beauty became more apparent. Ashley reluctantly nodded. “Thank you.” Ashley nodded and got out of the car, grabbing her bright green bookbag with her. She was told that she was leaving only two days before and therefore only had time to pack the essential toiletries, two pairs of jeans, a skirt and various T-shirts that could fit in her bag. She swung the backpack over one shoulder and closed the door. She looked at her mother, waiting for her to get out of the car.
“Aren’t you coming inside with me?” Ashley asked. Her mother rolled down the window and shook her head.
“Not today. You have to go in by yourself.”
“What? Why? You can’t just leave me here, can you?”
“You will be fine, Ashley. Just fine. I love you.” Ashley shook her head at her mother and turned away from her,
“Bye,” she spat and started walking up the brick steps without a look back.
When she closed the doors she saw a long empty, brick hallway.
“Hello?” Ashley called out, her voice echoing down the hall. She started walking down the hall. She walked for 5 minutes then decided that she had passed the lobby. She turned back around but the hallway looked different than the hall she just walked down. She turned around again but there was a brick wall.
“Hello?” she called again. “Is this some type of joke?” she asked no one in particular. She walked around for another 5 minutes before finally giving up and sitting on the ground, her back against the wall. “I just want to find the lobby,” she said in exasperation. She took off her backpack and stared at her shoes. They were old sneakers and the laces were unraveling. She rubbed her eyes and ran her hand through her tangled hair. She looked up and saw a room right across from her, where a wall was a few seconds ago. She grabbed her bag and stood up. She looked around the hall and there were just walls surrounding her, other than the room. She shrugged and went in.
The room was well lit and filled with people. The walls were brick but there were many candles lining them. There was a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. There was a wooden desk in the center of all of the people standing around. Ashley walked to the desk and rang the bell sitting on it. Almost immediately, a woman with red hair and purple eyes was sitting in the vacant chair. She smiled at Ashley.
“You must be the new student!” she said cheerily. Ashley looked at her and nodded her head once. The woman clapped. “That’s just great! Sign in there,” she said pointing to an empty spot on the desk. Ashley looked back at the woman with a confused look.
“There’s nothing there.” The woman smiled.
“Look again.” Ashley looked back down at the desk and there was a black clipboard with a white sheet on it. The sheet asked for her full name, her age and her birthdate.
“I don’t have a pen,” she told the woman. She motioned to the ink and quill next to the clipboard that wasn’t there before. Ashley nodded and picked it up, placing her name as Ashley Gaine. She gave the clipboard to the lady. She took it and barely looked at it.
“Ashley Gaine, 14 years old?” the lady asked.
“Funny. Gaine isn’t a name I recognize.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure you don’t know all last names,” Ashley laughed. The lady looked Ashley in the eyes with her purple ones.
“I never forget a name,” the woman shook her head, “or a face.” Ashley stood awkwardly as the woman studied her again. She took the opportunity to look around the room. There were many adults, all with various eye colors and clothes. They looked like they were all from different centuries and they were talking in a language she hadn’t heard before, but understood. She found herself translating their words without realizing it.
“Yes. You’re definitely a sorcerer,” the woman said. Ashley snapped her head in her direction.
“A sorcerer, dear,” she said dismissively. “Why else would you be at the Sorcerer's Learning of the Arts School?” Ashley shook her head.
“I don’t know. But magic is not real,” she told the woman. The lady laughed and shook her head, grabbing a piece of paper out of thin air.
“Oh, honey, anything’s possible.” She handed the piece of paper to Ashley. “Those are your living assignments and schedule. Good luck,” she said and then vanished. Ashley looked around the busy room, but the lady was nowhere to be found. She gripped the paper tightly and backed out of the room. Once outside, the room disappeared. Ashley sighed and started walking.
She had been walking for about three minutes until she ran into a girl. The girl was walking fastly, with her head down when she crashed into her. They were both on the ground in an instant.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the girl said, helping Ashley up.
“No, it’s okay. I have no idea where I’m going,” she admitted. The girl laughed.
“Are you new?” Ashley nodded. “Me too. I’ve only been here for about a week. And I know, the halls are so confusing. They change at every turn.”
“Well, if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll get nowhere,” she laughed. Ashley studied her. She had on an unbuttoned green flannel shirt with a white tank top under it. She was wearing dark blue jeans and black boots. Her hair was shorter than hers, stopping just above her collarbone. Her skin was tanner than Ashley’s and her eyes were brown. The girl stuck out her hand. “I’m Taylor, by the way.” Ashley shook it.
“Well, Ashley, let me show you to your living quarters,” Taylor said with a smile. Ashley showed her the sheet. “I can’t read that,” she told her.
“Why not?” Ashley asked.
“It’s spelled, like most of the documents here. They can only be seen by the people who they are assigned to. And trust me, it makes it really hard to cheat in class or copy homework.” She laughed again. Ashley nodded and read the paper.
“Quarter 203.” Taylor clapped her hands.
“That’s my living quarter! We’re going to be roomies. I know the way. Let’s go,” Taylor said, grabbing Ashley by the bookbag. Ashley followed. In less than a minute, they were standing in front of a huge wooden door.
“So, like most things here, you need a spell to activate it,” Taylor said.
“But, I don’t know magic. I didn’t even know I was a sorcerer until 10 minutes ago,” Ashley said. Taylor laughed.
“That’s okay. It’s not hard. Just repeat this phrase: ‘Reserare fores nunc.’ It’s latin. Most of the spells here are, Latin being one of the oldest languages still available to use.” Ashley looked at the door.
“Reserare fores nunc.” The door swung open.
“Good job. See? Told you it wouldn’t be hard.” Ashley nodded. “Well, come on in!”
Inside was one room with two windows. There were two couches facing each other with a table in the middle of it. There were two smaller rooms connected to the big room that were the bedrooms. There were two bunk beds in each room with two small dressers under the window.
“The bathrooms and showers are on a different hall,” Taylor told her. Ashley nodded.
“Who else lives here?”
“The boys, of course. There are two of them. Connor and Jerry.”
“They sleep in the other room?”
“Of course they do! That’d be...weird if they didn’t.” Taylor laughed. “Come on, put your bag down. Your uniform is on the bed.” Taylor led Ashley into one of the side rooms. One side of the room was decorated with polaroid pictures of people and cities Ashley’s never been to. The top bunk was made up while the bottom one was bare. The other side of the room was empty and devoid of life.
“That’s your side,” Taylor said. Ashley walked over and set her bookbag down next to her uniform. There were three white button down shirts and two light blue ones with 5 grey and navy blue plaid skirts. There were two navy blue bowties, a navy blue vest and a pair of blue tights. On the ground was one pair of black shiny flats and 6 pairs of white socks.
“Wow,” Ashley breathed. “How do they know my size?”
“They don’t have to. The clothes are spelled to mold to your body. And you only have to wear them during learning periods.”
“Oh. Okay.” Taylor nodded.
“You can unpack. Put your stuff in the drawer. Get comfy. It’s going to be your home for a while.” Ashley sighed and sat down on the bed. Taylor sat across from her. “Look, I don’t know you much but I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you were dropped here, by yourself and out of the blue. It is the middle of October and not only are you being moved to a new school, but you are also being introduced to a totally new and different side of you. And you may feel lonely or angry or neglected but I’m going to tell you that, well, that you’re not alone.” Ashley nodded and smiled.
“Thanks. That makes me feel a lot better, honestly. I just...I wasn’t given much of an explanation prior to me coming here and I wish I did. A lot of things happened right before I left and, it’s all so blurry. It all happened so fast.” Ashley trailed off. Taylor stared at her in silence. Ashley suddenly perked up. “Well nevermind that! Now, I can make new friends.” Taylor nodded. Just then a bell sounded throughout the room. Taylor smiled.
“Dinner! Time to meet everyone!”