The Boarding School

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Six

One Week Later

Everything was status quo. Athletes were playing, nerds were studying, swimmers were swimming, readers were reading, and friends were being friends. Just like it should be.

For the last week, I have been becoming more and more familiarise with Hudson. I already knew all the paths and trails, every door and every room, all teachers and staff. I didn’t need anyone with me at all times now to guide me which was a relief since now I was free to do whatever I wanted.

I spent most of my free time outside, with the occasional trip at the end of the day to the library to read the book Anthony suggested. Huckleberry Finn was a story about a boy who had a drunken dad who treated him really badly, and then Huck (as they called him) ran away from home and was now friends with a runaway slave named Jim. In the beginning, I found it quite complicated to read, but then I learned to empathise with Huck. He was always lying, and he was excellent at it, a talent that surprised me.

I was a bit like him in a way. I was good at lying, but he lied for all the right reasons. I did it because I was too embarrassed and a little scared of what people would think of me if they found out the truth.

I had not yet received a letter from my parents replying to mine. If I were another kid, I would surely freak out: a week has passed and nothing. But I understood the delay, my parents were in Switzerland, working day and night, they didn’t have time to reply. Maybe the letter hadn’t even gotten there yet.

For the last week, I have been thinking about my encounter with Harry. I left The Book without reading it. I had to find out his past at Hudson, but when was the right time to go back there? The encounter also made me think, why was he there? Why was he always up at night? From what I was told, he was seen quite often. And why was he in that room anyway? Maybe he was hiding something in that Book and didn’t want people to read it, but everyone has read that entire book... Except me. He also told me “still waters run deep”. What does that even mean anyway? Was he is hiding something specifically from me?

I had been watching him in the canteen every day since then. He didn’t eat much but wrote a lot. Letters I assume. For who? And why so many? I was officially going crazy with so many questions. Whenever I saw him in the hallways, he looked at me and then away, as if I wasn’t there, as if I was air or a ghost. Also, when I had music class I went to check if Harry was playing that beautiful song, but I never found him again.

I was now downtown with Anna, Amanda and Lottie. Lucy was practising in her free time - that was not much - horse riding since the beginning of this week because she was going to have a competition in two weeks, a race actually. She took that really seriously, I admired that.

Apparently, students were allowed every Saturday to go downtown, which was super exciting since I had never been to central London. The four of us were wearing the school uniform and a grey overcoat instead of our black blazer. We looked really refined, and I felt really proud to be seen with it, to be seen with them. It made me feel superior.

We walked around and I was dazzled by everything around me. The traffic was noisy, but it gave a suitable atmosphere for the big, busy city. I could see Porches and other expensive cars parked on the roadside. There were loads of people walking in every direction, so it was difficult for us to walk together. Not every shop was opened, but there were still plenty to see.

In the first week when I arrived here, it was sunny every day, but now that we were closer to December, the days started to get colder, but I didn’t mind. I liked the sound of rain and the warmth insides of buildings that were so inviting.

We entered a candy shop. I had waited for that moment since I had arrived, and the smell invaded my whole body as I came in. There were rows of candy on the walls that seemed to never end, and being candy my favourite thing in the world, I picked a bag and started to fill it.

“Oh, I love these!” I said to Anna that was filling her own bag next to me “Caramel squares are so good!”

“Never tried then,” she said. She took one from inside the bulk box “But if you say so, I’m going to give them.”

I took more than five of those, an infinite number of gummy bears and sour gummy worms, some chocolate, and never forgetting jelly beans.

“Whoa, your bag is huge!” said Lottie as she held my plastic bag to weigh it and examine its contents.

“When it comes to sweets, I can’t control myself,” I said with a smile from ear to ear. “Besides, we never know when we are going to get a chance to be back here.”

That was when I saw the stack of lollypops. So beautifully lined up in a row. There were so many types of flavours I couldn’t choose just one.

My mum’s voice echoed in my head “This is for special occasions,” she said and handed me a small bag of candy “Save as much as you can, you won’t have more anytime soon.”

Anna was the first to pay, and I was second. I put my bag on the balance and the cashier clicked a couple of buttons on the cash machine in front of him and then said casually “Six pounds and twenty-two pence please.”

What? How could that cost so much? I was just about to say that I didn’t want them anymore when I remembered I had my friends behind me, watching, observing. I had to pay. I had to.

I took the twenty pounds note that my parents gave me on the train and gave it to the cashier. He handed me the change, and I put it inside my bag. I had warned my parents that this would happen in my letter. I hoped they wouldn’t get mad at me. Even if they weren’t, the sick feeling of regret was building up inside, but I had to contradict it. I had to act cool.

“So, you and Anthony are good friends?” asked Amanda on our ride back to school, “He is always looking at you in class with such intensity, it’s not normal.”

“Yeah, I also noticed that,” agreed Lottie “And when you talk to him his eyes shine and he has a smile from ear to ear!”

I was taken aback by those comments “Are you saying he has a crush me? Me?!”

“Isn’t it obvious!?” Amanda said “He is not my type though... He is not even in my standards so he is all yours!”

The girls laughed, and I just stared at them, my cheeks turning dark red. Anthony likes me? Why? I am nothing special. Actually, I’m very ordinary.

“You must be mistaken,” I defended myself “He is a really good friend and helped me settle in, that’s all.”

I wanted to change the subject quickly. I wasn’t used to talking about boys, especially of someone who maybe was interested in me. It made me feel awkward and self-conscious. I also didn’t want to tell them that I had never had a boyfriend before, which was once again pretty embarrassing. No one wanted anything with the poor girl.

“What are we going to do for the rest of the day?” I asked them, popping a strawberry lollipop in my mouth. Those were even better than the ones from the shop in my hometown. I thought it was possible to find such, and for that, wasting my money was worth it.

“I have to finish my English essay,” said Anna.

“Oh, won’t you stop studying for a second?!” Lottie nudged Anna in the arm “I have a much better idea.”

“Which is?” Anna asked, annoyance clear in her tone.

“We can make a plan to play a trick on a teacher!”

That made me excited. Anthony told me that it was typical students playing tricks on teachers, and I could wait to do so. But what if we were caught?

“Don’t worry sweetie,” Lottie told me “My plans never fail! We are never caught, right girls?”

“It’s true. If there were any award on playing tricks on teachers, she would win it,” said Amanda.

“She is the Queen of pranks!” said Anna “Although she always gets her ideas from the book.”

The Book.

“They are so good! It would be a crime if we didn’t keep them alive!” she explained “Remember the slice of cake we gave to Miss Augustine last year? It was full of worms! She totally freaked out!”

I didn’t really care about the prank Lottie was telling, all I could think about was the Book. That was it! It was my opportunity to go and read the Book and find out what Harry did because this time I had an excuse.

“I have a plan!” I said suddenly, interrupting their laughter. They all looked at me and waited for me to continue “What if we go read the Book in turns? I could go first, then Amanda, Anna and finally you Lottie. That way we get a lot of ideas and then we can decide which one is the best!”

“Why do we have to go separately? If we go all together it’s much easier,” said Amanda.

I just wanted an excuse to go read it, and if we went all together I couldn’t search for Harry’s name with them looking at me “Because- Because it will look suspicious if we all go together. Teachers will notice we are planning something, and they will be attentive and the prank may not work.”

“I like the way you think Summer,” said Lottie with a cute voice and touched the tip of my nose with her finger “If we go separately we can even take different conclusions. Plus, we can do it tomorrow and get the job done in a day. Summer you can go in the morning, Amanda can go during break time and Anna during lunch. I can go while everyone is having the afternoon break and at dinner we can discuss with the rest of the class. It’s perfect!”

“So is it settled then?” I asked them.

Amanda looked at Anna “I’m in if you are,” she said. Anna looked at Lottie’s puppy eyes and said “Okay, but only this time! I don’t want to get into any trouble,”

Great! If Harry found me again reading the Book I had an excuse. This time I knew I would find out what he was hiding.

Dinner came along, and our form class sat together at our usual table. Anthony sat alone at one end, and I felt sorry for him. I knew what it was like to be ignored because you were different, so I picked up my tray and sat in front of him. My friends were too busy talking about the plan to even notice I had left.

“Hey,” I said and sat down. His face immediately lit up, and I couldn’t resist but smile back. Could he really like me? I just saw him as a friend, and the idea made me brush.

“Hello, how was your day?” he asked.

“I bought a bag full of sweets, I’m ecstatic.”

“Oh, so you have a sweet-tooth?”

“You could say so, yeah.”

After that there was silence. We ate our delicious pasta in until Anthony broke the awkward silence.

“I also went downtown today, to the Post Office actually. Mr Hansen told me that he received a call from there saying they had a big delivery for me and that I should go and get it.”

“Really?” I couldn’t hide my excitement.

“I left immediately once he told me. It was a massive box, and heavy as well. I even thought it was an animal, but that was ridiculous. The school doesn’t even accept pets so...”

“Just tell me already!” I leaned forward and put my elbows on the table. He licked his lips and looked around.

“A typing machine,” He proudly said and leaned back against his chair, crossing his arms in front of him, trying to act cool, but his excitement was evident.

“What? That is amazing! That is so expensive and- and big and- wow!”

“Yeah I know. I thought they were mistaken, but there was a letter from my mother inside. She said I deserved it.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Everyone I knew wanted a typing machine. I wanted one myself, but it is too expensive. It would make my life so much easier, I would never have to write a thing by hand ever again. Lucky Anthony.

“One day you will have to let me write something on it,” I told him.

“I will take it to the library tomorrow after breakfast. If you want, I can save you a seat.”

“What a show-off! Taking it to the library to make everyone jealous!”

He chuckled “Look at you so smart! But I will take that as a yes,“.

Once dinner was over, I went to my dorm with the other four girls. We were all sat on our beds. Amanda was combing her hair, Anna and I were reading, Lucy was just lying there - her muscles hurt a lot from practice - and Lottie was talking nonstop about who we should play the trick on.

“Miss Porter can’t be: she is way too smart. We already did to Miss Augustine, so she would know we did it. What about Mr Hansen? It would be epic, but it’s too risky. The coach? Nah! Maybe we could-”

“Would you just shut up?! People are trying to rest!” Lucy groaned with her eyes closed, not moving a single muscle.

“Yeah Lottie, stop it! We can talk about that later,” said Anna putting down her book “Can I turn off the lights?”

“Wait,” said Lucy getting up on her elbows with a sigh “I have something to tell you,” We all looked at her and I put down my almost-finished Huckleberry Finn book.

“As you know, for the competition that is going to be in two weeks, all the members of the team, including myself, can choose two people to take with them to the competition as supporters. I obviously want to take you all but I can’t so I chose Amanda, because the last time was Anna, and Lottie, because you deserve to get out of this school.”

Lottie looked radiant, but Amanda had an unreadable expression on her face.

“Lucy, no offence but you know I hate horses...” she looked at me “Take Summer instead. Besides, all of us went to see you in a competition at least once, but she never did,” she continued combing her hair “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to cheer for you, and get out of here would be a bonus.”

Lucy looked at me “Would you like to come then? I would love to have you there!”

“Of course!” I said. “But now can we sleep? Tomorrow I will need to wake up really early because I am going to be the first one to read the book!”

Anna turned the lights off, and we all said goodnight. I couldn’t wait for the next morning.

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