A New Acquaintance
Elise jumped in surprise and turned around. Behind her was a young woman who looked in her late twenties to thirties. Her brunette hair was done up in a French twist, makeup quite simple with bright red lipstick, large black-rimmed glasses, a simple polka-dot tea dress accompanied with a cosy sweater and two-inch black heels.
“Are you lost?” the young woman asked Elise again.
“Unfortunately, yes,” replied Elise who was slightly embarrassed. “I’m new here and it’s my first day at this school. I was trying to find my way to the History of Art classroom.”
“Oh!” exclaimed the young woman, “You must be the scholarship student Elise Benoit-Smith. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I am the school’s librarian, Miss Evelyn Halloway.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” said Elise. “Do you perhaps know where the classroom for History of Art is?”
She showed Miss Halloway her timetable and pointed to today’s schedule. Adjusting her glasses, she read the timetable carefully.
“The History of Art classroom is in another building,” replied Miss Halloway. “The main school is the original country house that belonged to the Duchess of Ruswarp. The grounds were expanded, twenty years after the school was established. Hence why, some of the subjects taught at this school are in a different building. History of Art is one of them.”
“Is it alright if you can show me the way?” asked Elise, “If not, I can always ask the receptionist.”
“It’s not a problem!” said Miss Halloway quickly, “I have plenty of time on my hands, so please follow me.”
Elise felt a pang of relief as she followed Miss Halloway to the History of Art classroom. She seems to be a nice person. she thought to herself. Miss Halloway led Elise to the back door of the main school and through the gothic arches leading to the next building.
“How was your first day so far?” Miss Halloway asked Elise.
“I guess a bit intense,” said Elise nervously. “or I’m just the type of person who doesn’t open up to others so easily.”
“That’s natural!” said Miss Halloway, “It’s alright to be nervous on your first day. You are entitled to feel how you feel.”
Elise eyes widened in surprise. This is the first time someone has encouraged me to be myself. She thought. For a long time, Elise had convinced herself that it was better to distance herself from others, just because they judged her personality. Better than making an effort to prove to the other orphans that she was not who they thought she was, nor exposing her vulnerable side.
“Elise?” asked Miss Halloway who had paused to peer at her face, “What’s wrong?”
“No one has ever told me to be myself before.” said Elise quietly, “My experience at my previous school wasn’t exactly the most pleasant.”
“How so if I may ask?” said Miss Halloway out of curiosity. “If you feel uncomfortable sharing with me, you don’t have to force yourself.”
“It’s alright!” said Elise quickly, “I don’t mind telling you. The school I previously attended was part of an orphanage I grew up in. I lost both my parents when I barely two-years-old and have lived at St. Jerome-Emiliani Orphanage in County Durham since then.”
“Oh my!” exclaimed Miss Halloway, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“Growing up at the orphanage,” continued Elise. “I was bullied by the other orphans because of my inability to socialise and relate to others. I think it’s probably because I never knew my parents, besides the fact that I’m half-French and half-British. No matter how many times they’ve been told off by the orphanage director, they never stop. I even wondered why my parents had to die and leave me alone in this world. Did they even love me prior to their deaths? Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel scared of not knowing my identity.”
“Elise,” said Miss Halloway. “you are already privileged to be born into this world.”
“What do you mean?” asked Elise.
“Everyone is God’s gift,” explained Miss Halloway. “I am sure that your parents did not die on purpose. Death is always an unexpected occurrence. I believe that no matter what has happened to your parents, they will always love you, even after death. They would want you to live your life to the fullest. As for the people who have hurt you, it is their own fault for not understanding your feelings. There are people in this world who like to look down on those who have experienced misfortunes. You should be proud that you were able to come here to study at this school.”
Hearing all this, Elise felt tears slowly welling up in her eyes. Someone actually willingly listened to her and understood her insecurities. They offered her reassurance and encouragement. She sniffled a bit as she wiped the tears away from her eyes. Miss Halloway offered her a handkerchief, telling her to keep it as a token of their acquaintance.
Just as Elise sobered up from almost crying, they arrived at the History of Art classroom. The teacher agreed to let Elise’s tardiness slide just for today after Miss Halloway explained the situation.
“If there is anything else you’d like to share with me, or any problems you have,” Miss Halloway whispered to Elise. “you can always find me in the library.”
“Yes, Miss Halloway.” said Elise as she watched her figure exit the building.
While catching up with today’s History of Art lesson, Elise decided to visit the school’s library during lunch break. For some reason, being with Miss Halloway gave her a sense of ease. This was the first time in her life that she was able to open up and talk to someone properly.
I’ll probably have to find my way to the library first. She thought. Elise had memorised the route back to the main school building, but she still had not gotten around the other areas of the school. Perhaps she could ask Lucius, only if she could find him. Hopefully he might give her a proper tour of the school when given the opportunity.
History of Art was a two hour session, and Elise felt relieved when the bell rang to commence lunch break. After quickly packing her bag, Elise followed the crowd of students back to the main school building. Just as she reached the exit, Elise was surprised when she spotted Lucius waiting in the gothic arches by the door.
“So,” said Lucius. “you managed to find your way to your next lesson. Cause you still are unfamiliar with the other areas of the school, I thought I would show you where the cafeteria is.”
“How did you know that I was in History of Art?” asked Elise, “I don’t remember showing you my timetable.”
“I caught a glimpse of it during homeroom,” explained Lucius. “Vampires also have increased vision compared to that of a human’s. Anyway, you must be hungry so let’s go have lunch.”
Lucius turned and began walking away, Elise followed behind him. Is this his way of showing his concern? She thought. Mr. Courbet did tell him to be my escort for my first day after all. She was still too nervous to stick close to Lucius at school. She did not want anyone to mistake them as a couple, nor did she want to become a victim of bullying by any female students vying for his attention.
“The school librarian, Miss Halloway showed me the way to my History of Art classroom!” exclaimed Elise, attempting to strike up a conversation, “I was planning to visit the library during lunch to express my thanks.”
“I see,” said Lucius. “she is indeed a very nice woman. I also like spending my time in the library.”
“So you like reading as well?” asked Elise.
“Yes,” said Lucius. “it’s also a place where I can be alone. Very few students use the library. People nowadays rely on the internet for information, but to me, books are more resourceful.”
“Can you take me there after lunch?” Elise asked.
“I suppose,” said Lucius as he shrugged his shoulders. “You weren’t comfortable being in the classroom anyway.”
Hearing this, Elise recalled how she clammed up when she was swarmed by her new classmates during the first break. She understood how eager they were to get to know her, but the memories of her life at St. Jerome-Emiliani just had to come into her mind.
The only person who had understood her feelings so far, was the librarian, Miss Halloway. Although they had formed a mutual friendship, it was still too early to judge Miss Halloway’s character. There was always this possibility that a seemingly kind and caring person could actually be cruel and malicious behind their mask.