I dozed off during the drive and got woken up by a car horn.
“How much longer?” I asked.
“About thirty minutes or so,” aunt Jessica replied.
I checked my phone and was faced with reality once again. All the missed calls, unread texts and notifications popped up once more. I decided to delete them because the last thing I needed right now was to think of people back home. I needed to focus on myself first.
Pulling on my ponytail, I let my hair loose and let out a sigh. We were clearly out of the city now. There were no tall skyscrapers around us anymore, only trees, houses and the road.
I watch them pass by and tried not to worry too much. I would be fine, I told myself. I wanted this.
Soon, aunt Jessica turned down a secluded road which led us to the school entrance. Seeing it for the first time... Wow.
The sight of the grand archway, the front entrance and the stone walls took my breath away. For a moment, I forgot how nervous I was as I took it all in.
My aunt parked the car in front, unbuckled her seatbelt and turned to me.
“Ready?” She asked, taking my hand and squeezing it in support.
I nodded in reply, even though that was a lie. As she let go and stepped out of the car, I noticed how badly my hands were shaking. With one last deep breath, I collected myself.
I wanted to overcome my fears. I’ve come this far and I wasn’t about to give up now. I mean, I survived a plane flight. How bad could being here actually be, right?
Before I could change my mind, I opened the door and got out of the car. Aunt Jessica was already talking to a man who came to greet us.
The school was huge. I wasn’t even up close but it seemed almost as big the entire Evergreen. I gaped at the sight.
The aforementioned man stepped forward and he gave a quick kiss to my Aunt. I stared at him because that was the first time I’ve ever seen this stranger. He chuckled at my confusion but didn’t waste any time before he offered a hand for me to shake.
“Hi,” he smiled a kind smile.
“Astrid, this is my fiancé Jamie. He’s a vocal teacher here. He’ll also be teaching you,” my aunt informed me with a smile. I just remembered that aunt Jessica was fifteen years younger than my Mom and didn’t have any kids of her own yet. But it appeared she finally found her better half. “Jamie, this is my niece Astrid.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand. “So, you’re going to be my uncle?” I planned for the sentence to come out teasingly but my nervousness took over and I just seemed confused.
“That’s right,” he replied and took my aunt’s hand.
“Awesome,” I replied. “Want to hear embarrassing stories from her childhood?”
He burst into laughter as aunt Jessica’s cheeks turned red.
“Stop it,” she told me, despite the fact a smile grew on her face.
“I think we’ll get along great,” my soon-to-be uncle Jamie stated before he picked up my things from the car and carried them to my future room.
That left me alone with my aunt.
“You didn’t tell me you’re engaged!” I gushed after her fiance left.
“Quiet down,” she said, giggling. “The whole school might hear you.”
“Tell me everything, how you met, your first date, how he proposed. I want to know,” I insisted and let her dish the details on the way to her office.
We passed the students as we walked and nobody seemed to particularly care about me.
When we got to the office, she closed the door behind her and she took a look at the papers on her desk.
“Alright, I believe we have everything we need. I’m just going to write your details in and check which room you’ve been assigned,” she explained and sat down in her chair while I sat down across from her.
“When were you planning on telling Mom?” I asked as she turned on her computer.
“I tried but it never seems to be the right time. With dad’s death and now your move to New York, it’s pretty hectic,” she tried to excuse herself.
“Don’t you think that by telling her, it would give her something to be happy about?” I countered and it earned me a long look.
She sighed in response, “I suppose you’re right. I’ll tell her as soon as we have dinner.”
“Well, when are you getting married?”
“In July.” She said.
“It’s almost March! What are you waiting for?” I scolded my aunt.
“I don’t know. I’m just... nervous.”
“There’s nothing to be nervous about. They’re going to love him, believe me.” I confessed.
“How do you know? You just met him.” My aunt asked.
“Because. I may not know him but I can see how happy you are. And if I know my Mom then I know that’ll be enough for her. Either way, he seems like a super cool guy.”
My aunt smiled, “He is.”
She focused on her work, typed in my information on the computer and all the while, I took a look around her office. My eyes immediately landed on a big bookshelf and I couldn’t help myself not to look.
She had classics mostly, but I scouted a few of the books I read before.
“Alright, we’re done,” she spoke. “You’re officially in the system and I have your room number right here.”
She stood up from her desk and went to the key cabinet where she took out one set of keys.
“These are yours. If you lose them, you have to pay for the replacement. Before I take you to your room, however, we’re going on a tour first. Here’s a map so you don’t get lost,” she handed me a map, “now follow me.”
She walked out of her office without waiting for my response. I rushed after her and fell into step as she showed me around the campus.
She led me through some long, Victorian-inspired hallways. A part of me wondered what kind of history this school had. The decor, however, wasn’t outdated at all. The furniture was simplistic.
She showed me the gathering room - a huge, home-styled living room. It had a large sofa and a TV. I figured this was the room people often found themselves in to pass time.
Connected to the gathering room was a door that led to the library filled with books ranging from classics, YA to anything from modern literature.
I was so speechless. Everything was so grand, so... so incredible. But it seemed empty at the same time. It took me a while to guess why that was.
“Where are all the students?” I turned to my aunt.
“They are in the Great Hall. It’s another word for a huge cafeteria. I’ll show it to you later now come on.” She rushed me.
Great Hall. I feel as if I had been accepted to Hogwarts.
She showed me to the gym, where the P.E. curriculum consisted of self-defense classes and fitness hours.
I already knew I was going to love that class. A memory of me attacking Kai when he sneaked into my room flashed before my eyes and I felt the same sadness again. I hadn’t even said goodbye to him. He was probably angry I just took off like that. I felt it was for the best. If I had talked to him... I would break down and cry. Which I’d had enough of already.
As my aunt showed me the rest of the school, I was trying to fight off the hole that threatened to rip open my chest. I pushed the pain and hurt deep inside before it got a chance to swallow me up.
My aunt showed me a large pool and behind it, a park. It looked like a perfect place to read. I smiled to myself and thought, when everything else fails, at least you know you still have books.
The classrooms were as far larger than the ones back home. Aunt Jessica even showed me the music room and all the instruments stored inside.
“Every student is free to use the instrument they want as long as they write their name on the paper which tells us who used which instrument last.”
I played the violin, piano and guitar. My Mom signed both Connor and I up for guitar lessons when we were eight. I moved on to the violin two years later but I still let Connor occasionally convince me to join him. And since my Mom also played the piano herself, she gave me lessons on it the moment I was able to grasp what she was saying to me. I used to practice it with Vanessa all the time.
Despite the fact that I knew how to read notes and play freely, I was nowhere near as good as I’d like to be.
Aunt Jessica proceeded to show me the dorms explaining how boys and girls’ dorms were on two different sides of campus. While it was okay for them to hang out, it was forbidden to visit the opposite gender’s room.
She said watching movies could be done in the Cinema room located in the basement. It was equipped with the latest movies, even ones in theaters and students could go and watch a movie anytime as long as it’s not during school hours. The school even hosted a movie night once a week.
There were lots of interesting places in this school and I couldn’t help but wonder what secrets it contained. A part of me wanted to explore hidden rooms and pretend it actually was as cool as Hogwarts.
To finish the tour, my aunt took us to the Great Hall, opened the door, waited for me to step inside and then said,
“Welcome to our school, darling.”