Falling in love with Jane Austen

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The next lesson was English and I found myself sitting next to Rose this time because Debbie was in a different class. I had found it hard to get to know Rose, and I wasn’t even sure if she liked me or not because we never talked that much. I kept worrying about it. I wondered if maybe Rose was really shy like me and was just overshadowed by Debbie. I decided to make more of an effort to get Rose to like me, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. Maybe if I tried to be more like Debbie then that would work.

‘Isn’t it great being back at school?’ I said, trying to sound bright, just like Debbie.

‘It’s okay, I guess.’

‘Well I’m excited.’ Rose looked at me funny and was about to say something when the teacher walked into the classroom.

‘Good morning class. I’m sorry that I’m late. For those that don’t know me, my name is Mr Norris.’

I groaned. Why did he have to follow me here when I was trying to start all over again?

‘I think I see some familiar faces, so hello to you, and welcome everyone to Year 11 English.’

I looked around the room and all the kids were sitting up straight and paying attention to him. It was completely different from my old high school.

‘We have a full program of study this year, but there will be three main strands. First of all, we will be studying the novels of Jane Austen.’

I sat up and suddenly started paying attention. Once again Mr Norris seemed to know exactly what I was interested in.

‘There will be a major essay and a creative piece due at the end of Term One. Then we will take what we have learned from Jane Austen into the world of debate. Ultimately, I will be selecting a team to take on our colleagues at that other high school across town.’

He paused and looked around the class, and then his eyes fell on me. I quickly looked down at my desk because I knew there was no way I was ever going to get involved in a debating team, particularly if it meant coming up against those kids from my old school when I had only just escaped from them.

‘For the rest of the year after that,’ Mr Norris continued, ‘We will be studying King Lear and then putting on a performance for the Christmas concert.’

He stood and looked at the class with his black beady eyes, but I thought they looked kinder and more eager than I remembered them.

After school, I walked out to the front gate with Debbie and we talked about our first day at school. I told her how excited I was that we were studying Jane Austen, but she was more interested in having been able to catch up with all her friends.

I met Mum at the school gate. ‘How was your first day of school?’ she asked.

‘Fantastic!’ I replied, and jumped in the car.

All the way home I told her about what we were doing in English for the year, but I didn’t tell her about that boy near my locker.

When I got home that night I finished reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’. My head was so full of Elizabeth and Darcy that I rushed to the library as soon as I got to school the next morning and borrowed a different Jane Austen novel. I was so eager to start reading that I sat at a table in the library and read the first chapter rather than meeting my new friends outside. I loved the way the words were so soft and gentle, and while I enjoyed the romance, I sensed there was some other message in there that I needed to figure out.

The copy of the book I borrowed from the library had illustrations in it and I fell in love immediately with the elegant dresses the characters wore. I thought if I tied a ribbon around the middle of my long white Juliet dress then it would look just like the real thing from a Jane Austen novel. I decided that I would try that with my dress on the weekend and I would have a go at doing my hair in that style as well. I studied the pictures closely and tried to work out how they got their hair tied up on top of the head like that. I could do that with a couple of ribbons as well, and with my naturally curly hair it should be easy to leave a couple of curls dangling down either side of my face. Mum should be able to help because she had lots of ribbons in her sewing room. I just needed to remember to ask her when I got home.

The bell rang and I quickly packed the book in my bag and hurried out of the library. I had five minutes to get some things from my locker before I had to get to my next class so I ran down the stairs as fast as I could.

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