The walk to the cafeteria took less than a few seconds. “Once you know where you’re going, you’ll get there almost immediately,” Taylor told her. They stood outside wooden double doors. There were tall and heavy. Taylor pulled one open, exposing a huge room full of children ranging from 6 years old to 18. Ashley stared in awe. There were 14 long tables lining the walls and every seat had a plate and utensils on it. There were 3 huge round tables in the middle of the room with adults sitting at them. Ashley looked up and saw chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, along with older teens levitating in the air, chasing each other. Ashley could tell that the tables were separated by age and grade and there weren’t many people mixing with the other age groups.
Taylor turned around with a smile.
“Time to meet everyone!” she squealed, pulling Ashley along by her hand. Ashley stumbled after her, the door closing behind her with a loud bang. Taylor led them to a random spot at one of the tables to a group of kids that looked their age. When Taylor approached, they all turned around to smile at her and say hi. Then their eyes settled on Ashley.
“Who's your friend?” asked a caramel skinned boy with a faint Indian accent. He smiled a toothy grin and winked at her with dark brown eyes. Ashley cleared her throat.
“My name’s Ashley and you are?” she said before Taylor could respond. The boy laughed at her and stood up. They were the same height. He took Ashley’s hand.
“My name is Jerry and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said while leaning down to kiss her hand. Ashley quickly snatched away and scowled. Taylor laughed and shoved Jerry away.
“No fraternizing with students,” she said in a mock adult voice. The group of kids laughed while Ashley was busy wiping her hand off on her shirt. Jerry sat back down. “Well, make some space. We are not that small,” Taylor said pushing a boy and girl away from each other in order to make room for two.
“Aw, come on, Taylor, your friend can sit next to me,” Jerry said while wiggling his eyebrows. Ashley rolled her eyes.
“Never in a million and three years,” she told him and sat down next to her. A girl next to her with long red hair and green eyes tapped her shoulder.
“Jerry’s nothing to worry about. He’s just a loser.” Ashley nodded.
“Hey! You’ve only known me for about a month. You don’t even know me,” he protested from the other side of the red head girl. She rolled her eyes at him.
“Trust me, I know you enough to know that you are a loser...14 year old,” she added the last part as an insult which promptly shut Jerry up. Taylor scoffed.
“What’s wrong with being 14, Cara?” Taylor asked. The girl called Cara shrugged her shoulders.
“Well for starters, you barely have a source for your powers, which is number one on the list of things you need to be a good sorcerer,” she stated matter of factly. A boy with blonde hair and gray eyes who Ashley hadn’t noticed before, suddenly spoke up.
“Oh shut up, Cara. You know good and well that all of the 14 year olds at this table would beat you in the games anytime, anywhere,” he said with a quiet but stern voice. Cara focused her attention on him.
“Yeah? And who just might those 14 year olds be?” Ashley felt a challenge coming on. This time Taylor spoke up.
“I know! How about a challenge at the games next month? You, Jack, Jackie and Travis against me, Jerry, Connor and,” she looked around the table and settled her eyes on Ashley. “Ashley. Us four against you four and whoever loses has to clean our dishes and rooms for a week. No magic.” Taylor’s eyes sparkled with anticipation.
“Ha! You better get your cleaning supplies ready because you’re on!” Cara said, highfiving a girl with curly black hair. Connor looked over at Taylor and whispered out of Cara’s earshot.
“Are you insane?”
“What? You’re the one who said that any 14 year old can take her,” Taylor pointed out. Then, Jerry peered around Cara with big eyes.
“Um, guys? We’re going to lose!” Taylor shushed both of them.
“Well, since we all have the same quarters we will discuss this after dinner, okay?” She looked at all three of them. Ashley faintly nodded as so did the boys. Taylor smiled. “Great.” Just then one of the adults sitting at the round tables stood up. Silence fell over the whole room. Even the levitating children stilled. It was a girl who stood up. She was small, around 5 feet and thin. She had long brown hair that stopped at her hips and attention grabbing eyes that seemed to change color.
“She’s not really a child,” Taylor whispered to her. The girl seemed to smile at everyone before she spoke.
“Good evening, sorcerers and sorceresses,” she said with a smile. Her voice was light and airy but firm and demanding attention.
“Good evening, Mrs. Shire,” everyone said collectively. Her smile broadened.
“Now, I know you all are waiting to eat but today our usual events will be delayed a bit. We have a new student joining us today. Ashley Gaine? Please stand.” It took Ashley a few seconds to respond and then jumping to her feet, she knocked the chair down. She heard the snickers of the older kids. Ashley closed her eyes and shook her head and then looked at Mrs. Shire. She beckoned for her. Slowly, Ashley made her way to the center of the room. Ashley was a few inches taller than Mrs. Shire and was looking down at her.
“Hello, Ashley. I would like to properly welcome you to the Sorcerers Learning of the Arts School,” she said with a happy and loud voice. As if on cue, the students clapped. “I know this is a bit of an abrupt change for you but I can assure you that you will fit in nicely here.” Ashley nodded and forced a smile.
“It’s great to be here.” Mrs. Shire nodded.
“I hope that your new peers in your living quarters will explain all of the rules here, after all, this isn’t just another school.”
“That’s good. And which quarters are you in, may I ask?” Ashley looked around the room again. All of the students were staring back in various stages of boredom and ready to eat.
“Um...Quarters 203, ma’am,” Ashley said. She could feel the students and teachers all snap to attention. All of them looking at her. Mrs. Shire’s smile faltered as she looked back at the other adults and back to Ashley.
“Well, that’s nice, dear. You can have a seat now.” Ashley was all too happy to sit back down. She rushed to her seat, picked up the fallen chair and sat down with a thud, her eyes focused on her lap.
“Don’t worry, Ashley. They had the same reaction when they heard what room I was in, too,” Taylor said. Ashley only nodded and blocked out the rest of what Mrs. Shire said until everyone started eating. Taylor looked at her and smiled. “Wow, I thought it would never end. Okay, so the way you eat is basically think of whatever you want to eat or drink and there it goes. Like this,” Taylor looked at her plate and then popped up steak and mashed potatoes and her cup filled with a red liquid. “Shirley Temple. My favorite,” she said with a smile. She looked back at Ashley. “Your turn.” Ashley looked at her plate and thought of the first thing that came to mind. Immediately, her plate was filled with blueberry pancakes and her glass filled with almond milk. She heard Jerry laugh.
“Breakfast for dinner? Okay, newbie,” Jerry said.
“Why’d you choose that?” she heard Connor ask. He sounded generally curious. Ashley looked up at him. His gray eyes looked stormy, almost like her mother’s. Ashley cleared her throat.
“My father used to make it for me,” she said quietly. Connor nodded. Taylor patted her shoulder.“Well, it looks delicious,” she said smiling. Ashley nodded and dug in.