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“Just checking: You suffered an attack, moved countries, met a family that you never knew you had, but it’s only because it’s your first day at school that you look like you’re about to puke or faint at any given moment… Not to mention that this is the first time I see you awake before six o’clock! Why?”
I tried to fix the tie from the uniform once again and threw my arms, giving up. Behind me, I could see Chuck from the mirror reflection.
“Do I have to go to school if I end up fainting or puking?” I asked, turning around as Chuck got closer, asking if he could fix the tie for me, which I agreed to. He started to move my tie around, making a perfect knot “Wow. You’ll have to teach me this”
“You’ll, after you answer me what you are so afraid of” he said, moving away.
I shook my head and then took a deep breath, trying to gain courage to enter the principal’s office, leaving Chuck at the entrance hall.
“Oh, you must be Nicolle” she announced with a British accent. She looked like she was about forty or fifty years old, had light brown hair and wore glasses with thin hoops.
“Welcome to the École pour les filles Thérèse de Lisieux de l’Enfant Jésuset de la Sainte Face. Or, if you prefer to, like the other ladies that attend this establishment, Lisieux School. I’m Quinn Moore, the principal” she informed me, with a smile on her face, getting up “Sit down, I’ll pick up your schedule and will explain everything you need to know”
I walked towards one of the two chairs that were in front of the principal’s office table, trying to figure out how to pronounce the school’s name because even “Lisieux” sounded difficult to pronounce.
“As you are sixteen, I can’t place you among the other newbies, once some of our students start attending Lisieux at the age of five” she paused, with a smile, walking towards one of her wooden cabinets, starting to look for something “So, you’ll have to follow and adapt with the girls around your age, but your aunt has guaranteed that this wouldn’t be a problem, so I imagine you must be used to a good education, such like ours…”
Of course she said that, I thought.
“So… Where did you study before coming here?” she asked, turning herself. She held a thick brown folder.
“I studied at Abeley High School before coming here, ma’am. It’s placed at the border of the city I lived in”
“Hum, I’ve never heard of this school before. I’ll look it up once I have some time to spare. Here you have a folder with your schedule and, since you’re thirty minutes early, we can talk some things out and then you can take a look at the folder’s content with attention” she asked, sitting on her armchair.
I opened the folder and found out that everything was written in French, but I couldn’t panic. I had to give a fast excuse to principal Moore.
“Madam Moore, if you allow me to, I’d like to know the dependencies and head to my classroom. I wouldn’t like to caught attention and present myself in front of everyone”
“Sure, darling. I understand, but you don’t have to worry about that. Here in Lisieux we take care of each other and your class is very united and full of incredible girls. Soon enough you’ll be full of friends. Now, excuse me while I call Kate to show you around and to lead you to your classroom” she said, picking up her phone and starting a call “Kate, darling, come to my office. I have a new friend, BFF or whatever you call your friends today”
I laughed, clearly nervous, as the principal hung up the call and I looked at the folder once again, without understanding anything, until someone knocked on the door and entered the room.
“Good morning, principal Moore. How can I help you?” a blonde girl greeted us. Her hair was long, close to her shoulders, had freckles and dark brown eyes. She also had a strong British accent.
“Good morning, Kate. This is Nicolle. She’s in your class and she needs a tour around the school, so of course you were the best option, right? I’m sure you’ll be like an older sister to her” the principal announced with a smile. She clearly liked that girl.
“Sure. Welcome to Lisieux, Nicolle. Come with me” she asked, giving me a smile that showed her perfect white teeth.
Kate looked like a porcelain doll. Her traits were delicate and she moved easily, besides being tall and so thin that, when she raised her arm, asking me to go ahead, I could see the green and blue veins in her left arm.
However, when I got up and started to walk with her, I noticed that her uniform, even if the blazer was on top of it, looked way cooler than the one I was wearing. Instead of wearing black shoes with buckles, she was wearing a black high heel and, when we left the principal’s office, she unbuttoned the top two buttons of her blazer, revealing her high waist skirt.
“So, Nicolle, what are you?” she asked me, starting to walk.
“Huh?” I asked.
“You have a bodyguard, you’re probably fifteen or sixteen and got the golden ticket to our group. So, who are you?” she didn’t even look at me when she asked that question.
“I don’t understand it” I couldn’t understand where Kate wanted to go with that conversation.
“She’s a princess. We’re from Combellmont” Chuck explained. He was walking behind us.
Kate turned herself, looking at him. She analyzed him from head to toe and then looked at me.
“Do you speak Spanish? French? Do you understand what I’m saying?” She asked slowly.
“I do understand you” you moron, I completed mentally.
“Oh. That makes things easier. Even though we are in France, we mainly speak in English here at Lisieux since we all are foreigners and we thought it would be easier to communicate. However, the anthem and everything else that comes from the principal and the adviser is in French”
We went down the stairs, arriving at the administrative part of the school and, after that, it looked like everyone was paying attention to us. Actually, to Kate. From everyone who passed by, children, teenagers and even those that looked around our age, all of them greeted Kate, who smiled and nodded to everyone. While we were walking, I noticed that everyone wore their uniform the way they liked, unlike me, who was wearing it normally.
I felt embarrassed as we walked because I knew I was receiving some analytical looks and that everyone was mocking me.
We entered a wing with an open courtyard and then we headed straight to a classroom.
“My God! Someone call the principal and tell her that Saint Teresa is alive again!” I heard someone saying out loud and everybody laughed, looking at me.
A girl whose skin was tanned was the one that said that. She had dark hair and brown eyes and she laughed really hard, hiding her face on someone else’s arm. The other girl had blonde hair with black highlights.
“Jeez, is today the school’s birthday? Sam, why didn’t you say anything?” a girl that was around Chuck’s height scolded someone. She had red hair and looked like she was in a hurry.
I noticed, even though they were mocking me, that they all had different accents.
“We are not going to the auditorium today, Alex. Don’t panic. The newbie decided to dress formally for her first day” the girl with black hair explained and she was still laughing “Good luck on your charity job, Kate”
“You should pray that this luck falls upon us, Sam. The newbie is from our group and” Kate sighed “Is under my protection”
Everyone stopped laughing little by little and the room became silent.
“Choose a chair, Nicolle. And as for you” Kate turned to Chuck “You’re not allowed inside the class”
To my surprise, Chuck didn’t say anything, but bowed in reverence to me and Kate and left.
I looked around, feeling like an animal at the zoo and, as I was really unlucky, the only empty chair that didn’t have either a backpack or coat on it, was the one behind the brunette girl’s chair. I sighed and sat down, wishing that the day ended as soon as possible.
“Did principal Moore really put her under your wings?” the blonde girl with highlights asked.
“Yes. And she’s also a part of our group. She arrived yesterday, but as we didn’t see her, I assume that she arrived after the curfew” Kate replied.
“And what is she?” the redhead asked, seeming curious. She leaned her chin on her hand and her arm on the chair.
“The hot guy out there said she is a princess. From Combellmont” Kate repeated, shrugging “This explains why she was put in our group and that hot security’s existence”
“Combellmont? We studied about that island” the redhead thought, narrowing her eyes, like she was trying to remember something.
“Combellmont is an island close to Spain, France and Italy. And, when I say close, it is because it’s always willing to make deals with the other nations in order to seek peace or whatever. It’s been around fifty years that they have a solid structure and their goal was achieved. But almost everything, like currency and language, depends on who is in power. The island emerged as a French territory, that’s why it’s called Combellmont, but then it was dominated by the Italian and, after the First World War, it was invaded by the Spanish. That’s why our new friend has French and Spanish offspring and is basically my cousin” the black-haired girl explained, smiling with her perfectly white teeth, writing something down.
“Sam,” Kate called, picking up her phone to read a text “the librarian just texted me to tell you to spit down the encyclopedia you swallowed. You do know that you have to return the books that you borrow from the library, don’t you?”
The girls that were around laughed and Sam raised her head, shrugging, like she didn’t care that Kate had just humiliated her.
Then, a lady with white hair, wearing an ivory shirt with all the buttons up and a long skirt entered the room and started the class. As the class happened, I kept observing the group in front of me and I noticed that Kate was the leader of whatever was going on there, and, in her group, there were Sam and two other girls: the redhead and the blonde one with black highlights. All of them moved with grace and sophistication, kinda like Aunt Nina. I asked myself how much I’d have to train to become something like that.
We had math as our first period and soon enough I gave up on checking them out in order to pay attention to the teacher.
“Chuck, do you know French?” I asked when I met him sitting on a stone table under a tree, at lunch time.
“Princess, I am French” he replied, getting up and bowing, then sitting down again.
“Okay, right” I said, nodding like an idiot. I didn’t want to ask why Jean had a French accent whilst Chuck sounded Spanish.
I sat down on the table, right by his side, and handed the folder that the principal had given me earlier.
“I need your help” I said, before biting the apple I had brought to lunch.
Chuck picked up the folder and looked at its content. Then, he took a pen that was inside one of the books I was carrying and started to write under the things that were printed, translating my schedule to me.
“Won’t you sit with your new friends?” he asked, while he was writing.
I wheezed and kept eating, looking around. Chuck was sitting on a table outside the dining hall. It looked like we were in a courtyard, with tables made of stone and two angel sculptures on the walls behind us.
“You know you’ll have to learn the languages and take everything you learn here really seriously, don’t you?” he warned me, handing my schedule, which now I could understand and read.
“I do” I said, sighing.
“You’ll get used to it, Nick. You’ll get over this” he affirmed, smiling a bit and holding my shoulder with one of his hands before starting to write again.
“Can we join you?” I heard Kate’s voice and turned around to see her with her other three pets.
“Sure” I said, even if I didn’t want to.
After they sat down, I noticed that my tray was way fuller than theirs.
“Good morning, Kate” greeted a girl with red dye on her hair, wearing a green bandana.
Kate smiled and waved back.
“Good to see you, Kate” said another girl that looked like she was around twelve and had curly blonde hair.
I couldn’t hold back anymore, so I decided to speak up.
“Kate?” I said, grabbing everyone’s attention.
“Yes?” She turned her head to look at me.
“You asked me what I was and now I have to ask you… What are you?” I asked, and I couldn’t hold back the grimace on my face as I spoke.
Kate smiled and the blonde girl with highlights was the one that answered me.
“Kate suffers from something called beauty and popularity, but don’t worry, popularity isn’t contagious and beauty is hereditary. You’re safe” she explained and the other ones laughed.
“Emma, for God’s sake!” she exclaimed, rolling her eyes “I’m Kate Thompson, Nicolle. People know me because I’ve been living here for a while. Since I was seven, to be more precise”
“In other words, as you can see, it takes a long time to become perfect” Sam explained, sighing.
“Girls, the red or the green apple?” the redhead asked, looking undecided whether she should eat the only things that were on her tray.
“Eat whatever you want, Alex. You won’t lose weight to fit that dress so soon!” Emma said, shaking her head “Maybe you should pray for a miracle to the newbie, she’s probably the reincarnation of Saint Teresa”
Alex pressed her lips.
“Thanks to God that Kate only share half your genes, Emma. God knows that only one of you is enough”
The table went silent when everyone started to eat, as Chuck kept writing and translating the papers from the folder.
“Is your bodyguard doing your homework?” Sam asked after a while.
Chuck raised his look, but didn’t reply to that and continued to write.
“It’s not my homework. It’s the documents that the principal gave me. He’s translating to English” I explained.
“Oh, you have difficulty with French? I have access to the translated document. Tell me your number and I’ll send it now” Kate asked, holding her phone.
“How come?” I asked, searching for my phone through my backpack and, when I grabbed it, all of them laughed.
“Wow! Archaic technology. Cool” Sam said, trying not to laugh.
Kate looked at my phone, trying not to laugh too, but paused to say:
“It’s better if I print it. I’ll give it tomorrow”
“Hi, girls! Nicolle, I see that you’re getting used to the girls” principal Moore said, making the other girls straighten their backs and they immediately smiled.
I looked around and noticed that the principal was waiting for a response.
“Yes, ma’am” that’s all I said and then the principal waved and pet Kate’s head, like she was a kitten, and when she left, Kate passed her hands through her hair, and everybody went back to normal.
After a while, they looked at each other and Alex raised her head, looking around like she was looking for someone.
“Done” she said, biting the apple.
A few moments later, like they were programmed to do it, the girls got up with her trays untouched and left, but not before Kate turned around and said:
“We see you around. Tell me if you need anything”
It didn’t look like she wanted me to make contact with her… Or that she cared at all.
When they left, I kept staring at Kate’s back, not knowing what had just happened.
“Chuck, what the-”
“They came because they wanted the principal to notice how nice they were to you” he explained, still concentrated on what he was writing “After the principal noticed them, they left”
I shook my head and put the tray away. I had lost my appetite.
“Hey, that’s only the first day. You’ll get it” Chuck told me, emotionless.
“Really? Did you really choose today to be the guy with motivational speeches? Thanks for the support, that’s all I needed to hear”
He then pressed his lips, trying not to laugh, and gave me the folder back.
“You’re worried about something that you shouldn’t be, princess. You’re not here to make friends, remember?”
“But it wouldn’t hurt if I made friends with someone” I said, sighing.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, you have me” he assumed, shrugging.
“Chuck, I appreciate it, but if my bodyguard is the only friend I have on the first day of school, then I couldn’t say that things were great, don’t you think?” I asked, looking at Kate and the other girls.
At the end of the day, I wasn’t sure if I should be shocked or desperate. Lisieux had a schedule that exhausted me even before the last class, which was English - so I slept until I drool at the chair, being noticed by Kate, but she didn’t turn me in and one of the worst classes was ballet. When I studied at Abeley, my father insisted that I should take some ballet classes, but I always thought that it was a little bit ridiculous, and so I used to laugh whenever I saw the other girls trying to keep their posture during the classes.
“Are you lost, sweetie?” A tall lady with her hair tied in a fancy bun who had blue eyes and a Russian accent spoke.
“No, ma’am” I replied, checking the paper that had Chuck’s handwriting.
“So what are you doing here, without the appropriate clothes?”
All the girls looked at me, forming a line in a grid close to the mirror. Kate’s group looked like they were having fun. Kate, on the other hand, seemed angry and rolled her eyes.
“Errr… I don’t… Have it… Where can I get the clothes? Ma’am” I added quickly.
The teacher narrowed her eyes and asked me to give her the paper I was holding, which I did.
“Oh, you’re the new student” she concluded, giving the paper back and turning to Kate “Is this a joke?”
Kate sighed and got off of the bar, straightening her posture and walking towards us.
“No, miss Petrova. Nicolle was transferred and this is her first day”
The teacher analyzed me from head to toe and then shook her head.
“That’s okay. But help her change and only come back once both of you are ready” she demanded, and turned away.
The whole class was staring at me.
“Come, Nicolle” I heard Kate speaking, clearly angry, and I ran behind her “Where are your clothes?”
“In my room” I said.
“So why didn’t you change before coming?”
“Because I didn’t know that I had to. And, to be honest with you, I don’t have those clothes” I assumed, pointing to what she was wearing.
Kate stopped, looking at me like I had just turned myself into a unicorn.
“You don’t have it?”
“No” I said, unsure, wanting to head back and run like crazy.
Kate took a deep breath and started to walk like she was in a hurry.
“You don’t know how to behave, you don’t know French and it looks like you never had a ballet class before. Honestly, I’m not sure what you’re doing here anyways”
Honestly? Me neither. I replied mentally.
“I don’t know if you noticed, but I already have a little sister. And it’s hard enough to deal with her, so I’d appreciate if you adapt soon or if you just stop making me take care of you”
We entered the corridor of my room, but we headed straight to the last door. Kate took the keys outside her hoodie, opened the door quickly and we hurried to get in.
After twenty minutes, I was holding myself back not to cry.
“Well, since my clothes clearly don’t fit you, that’s what you’ll have to work with until you get yours” she announced, looking at me with her arms crossed.
I felt ridiculous with those tight clothes. They were uncomfortable and I couldn’t believe that I’d be obligated to use that on Mondays.
“Come on. Hurry up. Miss Petrova said I couldn’t go back without you” Kate said.
When we started to walk back, the ballet shoes annoyed me and I moved around, trying to stretch the pantyhose.
“Now, tie your hair, go to the bar and just try to copy what everyone is doing” Kate ordered, hiding her cruel smile when we got back to the classroom.
I tied my hair as usual and went to the grid that Kate had just called “bar”.
The teacher nodded once to Kate and looked at me with a disgusted face. She said something that I didn’t understand, but everyone raised their arms and started to move around, so I copied them.
“No, no, no, no, no.” the teacher complained when she stopped in front of me “What are you doing? Every movement is wrong! You need to stretch yourself first, princess” she demanded, grabbing my wrist and taking me to the back of the class.
“Come on, you’re late already and I have a class to give. I can’t lose my time with you” she complained, putting her hands on her waist and then she left me alone.
I took a deep breath and started to remember the stretches I had to make at the castle’s gym. I remembered what to do and, if I took my time to do it, I wouldn’t have to go back to the bar, and that would be the best part of my day. I smiled and started to stretch like I had seen the guards doing, staring from my head, then my shoulders and my arms. However, to my disgrace, when I stretched my legs while I was still standing, Kate’s pantyhose ripped off on the right side, showing my skin even more.
That moment grabbed everyone’s attention and, since the class was full of mirrors, I couldn’t hide myself.
The whole class started to laugh and some even pointed at me, as the teacher ran towards me to give me her hoodie, tying it to my waist. I couldn’t move as I watched everyone laughing and some girls, including Emma, picked their phones and pointed them at me. Kate took the mobile from her sister’s hand and hid it, crossing her arms and looked at me like she was angry, but like she also felt pity.
After that, I ran.
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