He was a middle-aged man, with chestnut brown hair and warming eyes. He seemed rather friendly, but I couldn’t understand one thing; why was the headmaster of a boarding school for girls? Shouldn’t it be a woman?
“Thank you,” I said and mimicked his smile “The school seems lovely. The gardens are beautiful!”
“Yes, they are indeed,” He said, scanning the gardens proudly. He instructed me to come inside. The school looked old. It had wooden floors, and the furniture was dark brown, but it was charming. It was comforting, cosy. There was this girl with short blond hair and big blue eyes standing there with her hands by her side and an incredibly straight back. She looked my age and was wearing the uniform, a white shirt, a squared grey skirt and a forest green tie with a black blazer, accompanied by shiny shoes that looked incredibly sophisticated.
“I want to introduce you to Anna. She is going to show you the school and tell you how everything works,” He said, and the girl smiled widely at me. Her blond, flavescent hair was impeccable, not one strand out of place. She seemed amiable despite her respectful posture, her smile reflecting her excitement and enthusiasm “Alright, have a good day. Summer, if you need anything come and ask me.”
Mr Hansen went to his office and left me and Anna alone.
“I’m Summer Daniels,” I introduced myself rather shyly. It was a bit awkward, so I looked at the ground, avoiding eye contact.
“Anna Holden,” she said. “Have you ever been in a boarding school before?”
“No, never,” I told her. I could see she was looking at my old clothes, and it made me uncomfortable.
“Oh, don’t worry, you are going to love it!” She took my hand, a gesture I found quite surprising. Her hand was warm and sweaty. “I’m going to show you the room where you are going to stay. Well, I’m actually going to show you the whole school, but let’s start with that so you can drop your baggage,” she said. I followed right behind her. We went through a hall and at the end of there was a door. She opened it, and we were outside. The gardens were as stunning as I thought they would be, but I was concentrating more on the path than anything else. I didn’t want to get lost. We walked to one of the buildings, where I guessed the dormitories were.
“Okay so, as you can see we have three main buildings. We are going to the girl’s hall of residence - all the female teachers and staff sleep there as well - and it is called Hall A. The one we came from is the main building, and it is also the biggest one. There we have the classrooms, the canteen, the auditorium etcetera,” She explained.
“So the third building is what, the gym?”
“No, it is the boy’s hall. It’s Hall B,” she said.
"But this is a boarding school, boys and girls can’t mix, right?” I said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Well, I know it’s not usual. This is the first boarding school to accept boys and girls in the UK. This school was only for boys before, but when Mr Hansen was nominated as headmaster, which was about five years ago, he decided to accept girls as well, God knows why. It was Mr Alfred Hudson, his great grandfather who created this school a long time ago. The school has been in the family’s control for generations. I suppose it’s going to be Mr Hansen’s son or daughter who is going to take over when he is too old,” she explained.
“I see… And why did you come to Hudson then?” I asked.
“My brother used to study here, now he is studying at the University of Cambridge. My parents thought that it would be good for both of us to attend the same school, to continue the tradition,” she said. “Don’t worry, you will eventually get used to the idea,” she said. She must have seen the look of surprise on my face because she seemed quite amused.
“But hey, look on the bright side, some guys aren’t total jerks,” she said with a smile. I laughed at her statement, “and some, I dare say, are quite handsome.”
We entered the building, “Downstairs are the bathrooms and the community rooms,” she said. “We have four community rooms which are used in our free time. There is a community room for each year group, eight, nine, ten and eleven. Ours is the one that says eleven the door, of course,” she said.
“What about year twelve?” I asked.
“They have a study room in their individual rooms,” she said, “next year will be our time to have them, I can’t wait!”
I continued to follow her as she indicated everything and explained as best as she could. We went up some stairs. “Now I’m going to show you your dorm room.”
We went through a hall and then we stopped at the door that said ‘Year 11, group C’.
“Are you ready?!” She asked me, a pleased grin on her face.
She opened the door. There were five beds, each with a little wardrobe and a bedside table on each side. The ceiling was in a diagonal because of the roof, and there was a huge window at the end of the room. Four of the wardrobes and bedside tables were full with clothes (mainly uniforms and school shoes), pictures of families and books. There was a bed that was free of anything, except a box.
“That one there is your bed,” Anna pointed in the direction of the empty bed. “In that box, you should find some brand new uniforms that should be your size. If they aren’t, you can ask the governess to give you the right size. There is also a little book with all the rules and schedules that you should read afterwards.”
“A governess?!” By now, the impression that I had of Hudson was beyond than great. It looked like a palace. The corridors were wide, the ceilings high, the carpets looked incredibly expensive as well as some painting. The floor compared to the one of my house was immaculate, and everything looked so organised and clean.
“Yes, how do you think this whole building would run smoothly otherwise?” she said and put her hand on her forehead “You have a lot to learn... C’mon, get dressed quickly so that I can show you the rest of the school.”
I put my bag on top of the bed and changed quickly. As I struggled to make a decent tie knot, Anna continued to talk.
“So, I sleep in this room too with three other girls. Lucy, Amanda, and Lottie. They are so friendly and fun, you are going to love them. Well, you will meet them later. But anyway, where do you come from Summer?” By now, I had concluded that Anna loved to talk. I didn’t mind, though I was avoiding awkward silences.
“Birmingham,” I answered. Anna helped me do the knot since I was a complete disaster. I never understood how people made those.
“I have cousins who live there,” she said, “why did you come here anyway?”
As I looked around the room, I knew that this was no ordinary school. Hudson was a school for wealthy people (or at least richer than me). I knew I was only there because my father and Mr Hansen were friends because my parents couldn’t possibly pay for me to stay in such a spectacular place. The truth was that I was embarrassed to admit the real reasons why I was there, and somehow I felt out of place. Anna seemed so sweet, and I was afraid that she would stop talking to me if I told her that I was not like her. I decided not to tell her the entire truth.
“Huh... My parents went to work in Switzerland for a year,” I said with no expression on my face.
“Sounds important!” she said. I gave her a smile. She didn’t even imagine how important.
When I was fully dressed, I looked in the mirror inside my wardrobe. I looked exactly like Anna and that made me feel more confident. In fact, I saw in myself something I didn’t think was possible; I felt rich. The fabric was just so smooth, the tie making me look more respectful and wise, the shoes making my walk seem more gracious.
“You look good,” Anna smiled.
“Thank you,” I agreed with her one hundred percent.
After she helped me settle in, Anna took me on a tour around the school. She showed me the tennis courts and the football field, the beautiful gardens and the lake that had a bridge crossing it, another building (much smaller than the main ones) that was the gym, the much to my surprise, the stables where they kept their horses. I kept my cool as I admired the beautiful animals, but inside I was ecstatic. She showed me the laboratories that were not being used and the classrooms. Each classroom had a small window on the door so that people could see inside. Girls and boys had classes together. I still couldn’t believe Hudson accepted boys.
As we walked through the corridors, we heard a teacher shouting inside a classroom. I snapped my head in the direction of the sound instantly.
“This is the third time I warn you, I will not tolerate your behaviour in my classroom anymore Edwards. Out! Immediately!” the teacher shouted. Anna seemed concerned by the expression on her face, but we kept walking.
A boy came out of the classroom. I immediately noticed his height and his strong figure. He had curly brown hair and coffee-brown eyes. He was wearing the same uniform as us, but instead of skirts, he wore trousers. He looked at me intently and then at the ground with a sigh.
“Who is he?” I whispered in Anna’s ear so the boy couldn’t hear us.
“That is Harry Edwards. He is in form twelve,” she said. Then she lowered her voice even more “He is known for his atrocious behaviour. Everyone hates him, even the teachers. Stay away from him.”
I looked back. The boy was leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets. He was watching me, I could tell. I immediately turned my head and Anna took me down some stairs again.
The next thing I heard was the sound of a roaring bell.
“This means classes are over. Most of the students go grab something to eat in the canteen,” she said. “Then they usually go do some sports or go outside. Are you hungry Summer?”
“Actually, I am,” I told her. She smiled and took me to the canteen. Many students were coming out from their classrooms, and I was feeling intimidated because I didn’t know anyone, but especially because of the curious glances I received.
When we reached the canteen, there was a group of girls sitting together at a circular table who waved at us. They all had bright smiles splattered across their faces.
“Hi, you must be Summer!” one of them said, “I’m Lucy!”
“Hi,” I said to her. There were two more girls at the table “And you must be Charlotte and Amanda.”
“I see Anna has already told you about us,” one of the girls said. “I’m Charlotte, but you can call me Lottie.”
“And she told you we’re amazing, I’m sure!” Amanda said, and we all laughed.
Each circular table and the long, dining tables - all decorated with a white cloth over them - had tea, scones, sponge cake, milk, cookies, juice, bread, jam, amongst other things. I stared in awe at the sight in front of me. I never saw so much food in my life on one table. I couldn’t imagine what the food they served at lunch time and dinner was like.
These thoughts took me to my parents. I supposed they were on a plane heading to Switzerland already. I decided to write a letter to them as soon as I could, telling them how wonderful my first day was going.
I couldn’t believe how amazing Hudson was! I couldn’t wait to meet the teachers and my classmates. I was also incredibly interested in starting to do some sport.
The canteen was starting to get fuller and fuller as more and more students got in to eat. Suddenly, I felt a hand touch my shoulder.
“Hello Summer, I hope you enjoy your stay at Hudson,” Harry? Was that the guy I saw being punished just minutes ago? His voice was deep (proper of an eighteen-year-old like himself, I supposed) and I noticed a hint of mockery in his tone. He walked away and didn’t look back at us.
I looked at the girls. Their eyes were wide open and with their chins on the floor.
“Harry Edwards,” Lucy affirmed, shock clear in her tone “I can’t believe he just talked to you!”
I was incredibly confused. It was obvious that my new acquaintances were as equally surprised as I was, but I also noticed a hint of disapproval in Lucy’s tone and their facial expressions.
“So what?” I asked, not sure how to respond.
“So what?!” Lottie replied, shock clear in her features. She looked at her friends in search for words.
“This might be confusing to you Summer, but Harry is not the kind of person you want to talk to. He doesn’t deserve anyone’s respect,” Anna spoke for Lucy, encouraging us to move forwards to close our circle “I have no clue why he spoke to you, maybe it is some sick game of his… Trust us Summer, he is the most horrible person alive, the scum of the earth!”
“He is the most despised person in this school!” Lucy added, her eyes wide open.
With Anna’s and Lucy’s comments, I grew even more confused.
“How did he know my name?” I asked, more to myself than to anyone else. If Harry was that despicable, the fact that he was aware of my name both frightened and intrigued me.
“News travel fast here. When we knew we were going to have new students joining our class, by the end of the day the whole school knew it. That’s just how Hudson works.”
With my adrenaline subsiding, I could feel my heart beating faster, and I got goosebumps all over my skin. Even without knowing the bad things Harry had done, I could feel that he wasn’t a decent person. He seemed like a rich kid who was being forced by his parents to stay in Hudson, spending his time amusing himself by acting like a troublemaker.
“Stay away from him,” Amanda warned me “He is not and will never be welcomed here.”
It was true they were warning me about Harry, but they weren’t telling me exactly what he did to deserve such low opinion and respect. For more curious that I was, I didn’t have the courage yet to ask them. After all, I had met those girls that same afternoon, I didn’t want them to think of me as being inquisitive or intrusive.