Trying my hardest not to stare at Harry who had sat at a table on his own, head down and scribbling on a notepad, I forced myself to stare at the food in front of me once again, forgetting about what happened. I served myself a cup of juice and a slice of toast. They tasted like heaven, even though they were so simple to make. There was something about the bread that made it taste better than any other that I have ever tasted, and the juice was so fresh you couldn’t get enough of it.
“So, how many students are there here?” I asked them after I finished a whole glass of juice with one gulp.
The girls looked at each other and wrinkled their noses “About six hundred. More or less three hundred boys and three hundred girls,” said Amanda “With the teachers and staff we are about seven hundred I guess.”
I thought they weren’t many compared to the size of the school. But in a way, I liked that. I didn’t like many people, I wanted to know every single face.
A boy who seemed our age approached our table. He had jet black hair and was a little skinny. He didn’t seem very athletic although he was rather tall “Hey Anna, can you help me with the maths homework? I don’t understand a thing, and I told the teacher I would have it completed this afternoon!” he said, and only he finished did he notice me “Oh, you’re new!”
“My name is Summer,” I said to him and gave him a smile.
“Nice to meet you, Summer. I’m Anthony,” he responded with a smile.
“Anthony is in our form class,” Anna told me.
“I will be looking forward to working with you,” he said, “Have you girls shown her the library?” They told him they hadn’t “That place is huge and even if you don’t like books you will when you see it!”
“Do you want to take a look?” asked Anna.
“Of course I want to.”
The six of us, Lucy, Amanda, Lottie, Anna, Anthony and myself went up the stairs in that same building. The stairs were so wide we all could walk in a horizontal line. That was one of the things I noticed about that school; the grandiosity of it.
There was a hall that only had two big glass doors at the end. They reminded me of a picture I had seen of the literal doors to heaven. Some students were chatting outside, and once they saw us, they moved aside to let us in.
I stared in amazement when we walked in. I had never seen a library as big as that one. It had two floors; the top one had balconies which protected people from falling and four bridge-like connections that we could cross to reach the other side, and architectural design I had never seen before. On both floors, there were mahogany bookshelves all around, each and every single one of them filled with books. There were also big tables which had lamps with dark green lamp shades, the exact green colour of the ties we wore. The library’s walls, both on the first and second floor, were occupied with massive windows which almost reached the ceiling, creating the impression that the room was almost entirely made out of glass. I was dazzled.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” asked Anthony, nudging my elbow. He had a great smile on his face. It was evident that those students were immensely proud of their school.
Anna rolled up her sleeve and looked at her watch “Girls, it’s almost time for our practice! Do you want to come with us?” she asked as she turned to me.
“No thanks, maybe some other time. I just want to see all this!” I said with honesty.
“Okay then. Anthony, can you stay with her until dinner and help her out?”
“Yeah sure,” he said. Then he turned to me “Follow me.”
Anthony took me through the endless aisles of bookshelves and perfectly waxed tables “We have the biggest and oldest collection of books in London. Sometimes we have visitors like literature teachers and journalists and even historians who come here for research, so it is common to see unfamiliar face around here.”
He guided me to the second floor. The wood of the stairs made a cracking noise with each step we took. “Now this is my favourite section,” Anthony said and opened his arms. On the top of a shelve was written ‘Fiction’. It was one of the biggest shelves that was there, and there was a girl, probably from Form nine, scanning the books.
“So you are a reader?” I asked. It came more like an affirmation, not a question.
“Yeah definitely. It is a good distraction from the world, you know?” he said.
“What is your favourite book?” I asked him.
“It’s impossible to choose a favourite, there are so many!” he said, “Huckleberry Finn is one of my favourites, The Great Gatsby, oh my God I just love it so much, Moby Dick...” I had to cut him off or he would continue forever.
“Okay, I think I got it!”
“I know, they are quite a few...”
I looked at all of those books, they were all in excellent conditions, and there was more than one copy of each.
“It is not common for boys to like reading you know, especially classics. They usually like to play football, and if they know how to read it is a miracle!” I said. He turned crimson, and I instantly regret what I said.
“I didn’t mean it like that!”
“It’s okay, I get that a lot,” he said “I am not very interested in playing football, or any other sport for that matter,” and then he whispered “I also don’t play very well, don’t tell anyone,” making me giggle. “I should though, this school values sport a lot.”
I was extremely relieved he didn’t get offended. I didn’t mean to be rude, especially that being the first time we meet.
“Usually boys that play a lot of football either want female attention or are stupid and have nothing else to do, so it is nice to know that at least there is one guy with brains around here,” That made him laugh, and the ninth grader gave us a death look due to the excessive amount of noise we were making. I looked back at the bookshelf “What do you recommend?”
He frowned in concentration “I guess you could try Huckleberry Finn. It’s amazing,” he looked down at me “Yup, it’s decided, you’re taking it.”
He grabbed the book and handed it to me. “Let’s go downstairs and request it.”
After we had done that, we left the library because we couldn’t have a normal conversation without having someone “shhh!“-ing us, so we went outside and on our way we bumped into a woman in her thirties with chocolate coloured hair and big glasses. She was a little small and walked too fast, but she looked really friendly, “Miss Porter!” Anthony called her “Summer arrived today.”
“Summer! I thought you were only coming tomorrow,” she said. Her chubby face had something that amused me, and I couldn’t help but smile “I’m your form teacher, and also the Science teacher. Are you enjoying yourself so far?”
“Yes I am,” I said. My voice wasn’t so small, and I wasn’t as nervous as when I talked to Mr Hansen.
I thought that on my first day I would be embarrassed and shy, that I would speak quietly due to lack of confidence, and that I wouldn’t look into people’s eyes, but surprisingly what happened was the opposite: I felt self-assured, which was not natural since I usually panicked when I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, or better, that I knew to be wealthier and of higher status than me. Everyone so far had been treating me very well - with the exception of that guy, Harry Edwards - and everyone that passed by me gave me a warming smile. I felt very comfortable at Hudson, and I had a feeling I could someday call it home.
We eventually reached outside, and the first thing I noticed was all the different activities the kids were doing. Some were riding their bikes in small groups, other were running all over the place, and some girls were laughing their hearts out in a circle by the trees.
“Anthony,” I called, and he turned to face me. I was pulling some grass from the ground, so I wasn’t looking at him “What is the best thing about Hudson? Apart from the library of course.”
It was a little cold outside, but I didn’t care. The gardens were so beautiful that I just wanted to be there. The leafs of the trees were of a yellowish-brown colour, some of them were red, and some were still green. Many were on the ground, making a colourful path. The sun was almost disappearing into the horizon, making the walls of the buildings nearby seem coloured with orange.
“Good question,” he said. He had a frown on his face as he thought “I would probably say The Book of Judgment.”
“What is that?”
“It is a book where Mr Hansen and all the previous principles wrote things that students did wrong. It is like a record of punishments or something like that, and back in the old days it was a private document were only the teachers had access to, but Mr Hansen had the great idea of putting it in a particular room so that everyone can read it,”
“Interesting...” I said, “But what is the point?”
“Imagine you did something wrong, like for instance, you cheated on an exam; then everyone would know what you did. It’s pretty embarrassing.”
“So that is why it’s called The Book of Judgment, because you judge people.”
“I guess so. There are records since nineteen ten or somewhere near that date. It’s really interesting to read all the stuff that past students did. It gives us ideas for pranks, that is why I like it. Some people like it because they can see all of what is happening in the school and then they can gossip about it, mainly girls. But when there is something serious, even the boys like to read it.”
I nodded as he spoke, interested on that new form of punishment.
“Is it updated every Sunday morning, so we get the news from that week,” he continued and laughed a little at the end. “It is the perfect punishment I guess. Happened to me once and it wasn’t fun at all… Feeling embarrassed is possibly the worst punishment of all if you think about it. I certainly learned my lesson, so it is pretty efficient.”
That gave me an idea. I could read that book and see all the things Harry did to have such a bad reputation. Maybe he was just rude like most of the kids in my old school, but maybe it was worse than that. Curiosity filled my mind, and my imagination started to work.
Suddenly a bell went off “Time for dinner,” said Anthony. We got up as well as all the other students outside and went to the canteen.
During dinner, I met a lot of my colleges. They all talked to each other as if they were family, as if they knew each other since birth. It was amazing really, to see such strong bonds. I didn’t have brothers or sisters, so I didn’t know what it felt like, but it looked pretty much like this. Not just with the people in my class, but with everyone in general. I liked that feeling, Hudson felt like a big home.
They asked me a lot of questions which I had anticipated. Where do you come from? Why did you come in the middle of the first term? Do you like the school? Of course, I did twist the truth a little bit as I had done with Anna, but nothing too serious. I wanted to be like them, I wanted that place to feel like home, so I had to be just like them. I had to fit in their family. I just didn’t want to be left alone.