The Witch in the Mirror – Part 15

Emily noticed the new girl at school early in the week. It wasn’t often that new students came to Pemblebury Grammar. Mostly it was just the children of rich parents who had attended the school themselves when they had been children.

Although she normally kept to herself there was something about this girl that drew Emily to her. She didn’t need friends, she told herself, but she couldn’t help watching this girl and the way she nervously flicked her curly red hair out of her eyes. Or the way she moved, like as if every step might draw unwanted attention. Emily noticed the girl always had a book in her hand. Maybe that was it.

Whatever it was Emily couldn’t stop watching her. The only thing she had learnt so far was that the girl caught the Nangle bus to school each day.

That’s why Emily was standing behind the bus shelter, waiting for the school bus to come in.

But then Anar and Heather walked into view, giggling and walking arm in arm. Emily grimaced as the crowd of school girls magically parted as they walked past. She drew further back into the shadows so she wouldn’t be spotted. The last thing she needed was for Anar to see her hiding behind the bus shelter. It was bad enough they had to share the same classes.

Emily’s attention was drawn back to the road as an old bus pulled up with a squeal of brakes and a cloud of diesel smoke.

A group of middle school kids got off first and then there was a gap.

Maybe she’s not coming today. Emily felt a twinge of disappointment.

But then there she was, stepping off the bus and right into the path of Anar and Heather.

‘Oh, sorry.’ Anar deliberately bumped the girl with her shoulder.

Emily fumed as the girl bent down to pick up her book. Anar and Heather had already walked away laughing.

The girl brushed some dirt from her book and then moved toward the classrooms. She held the book close to her chest with her arms folded as though she were protecting it.

Emily waited until the girl had walked past and then followed her to her locker. She seemed to be just as out of place as Emily. Maybe she did want a friend. The trouble was that Emily was too shy to make the first move toward friendship. Instead, she sat near the girl during class and hoped the other girl would make the first move—but nothing happened.

Later Emily sat in the school library at lunchtime and thought about the new girl. She didn’t know her name yet but in her mind she constructed elaborate stories about how they would meet. Each time it would finish with the girl with red hair reaching her hand out to touch Emily’s arm. Maybe if she tried a spell. Emily took the green book from her bag and opened the booklet hidden inside. She quickly checked that nobody was watching before flicking the pages until she found what looked like a friendship spell. Emily began repeating the words over and over.

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Thursday fragments 16

That night at dinner, the girls were still talking excitedly about the show.
‘Did you see how cute the lambs were?’
‘I didn’t go anywhere near the animals,’ said Samantha. ‘It was too dusty and smelly in there.’
‘Oh, but they were so cute, and the smell wasn’t that bad,’ said Jasmine.
‘What about the trick riders?’ Catherine said, ‘They were fantastic. There was this one guy that leaned right down off his horse and picked a girl up from the ground and then she climbed on his shoulders as they rode.’
‘Yeah, I saw that. They were so amazing.’
‘I’ll tell you what was amazing was the rides. Did you go on the zipper?’
‘No way! It made me feel sick just looking at it.’
‘I nearly was!’ said Samantha as she swallowed a mouthful of peas. ‘It looked tame but as soon as I climbed in the cage it took off, and then I was upside down and suddenly spinning around. My legs were all wobbly when I got off.’
There was no way I would have gotten on a ride like that. I thought about how much fun I’d had with Stephanie on the dodgem cars and smiled to myself.
‘Well it’s a good thing you all had fun,’ said Dad, ‘Next year we’ll be at a different show.’
‘What do you mean?’ Mum suddenly put down her knife and fork and looked sharply at him.
‘I just heard this afternoon, we’re moving again. It’s only a rumour, but you know how these things work out.’
‘I thought we had decided to stay here while the girls were at school?’ I watched Mum’s face because she didn’t look very happy.
‘Well, we’ll talk about it after dinner,’ said Dad.
The girls had gone quiet and everyone had forgotten about the show.
As I lay in bed after dinner I could hear Mum and Dad talking in the lounge room. Every now and then Dad would raise his voice, not quite yelling but I could tell he was putting his foot down and wasn’t going to budge.
When Mum came into my bedroom to tuck me in bed, I knew she had been crying. I gave her an extra hard hug when she kissed me goodnight.
‘Mum, what’s happening?’ I asked quietly.
‘There’s nothing to worry about, Molly,’ she said. ‘Just go to sleep, darling, and everything will be all right.’ She turned out the light but left my bedroom door slightly open.
That night I had a dream that was full of images of colourful things spinning around. Suddenly I was on the back of a horse, riding over jumps and through hoops; then I was in a dodgem car and laughing my head off, but when I turned to smile at Stephanie it was actually Dad holding the steering wheel and we were driving out of the showground.
The next morning at breakfast the girls were talking about how we were going to be moving to a different town. I didn’t understand what they meant at first, and then Samantha said we would be going hundreds of kilometres away to a town in the south western part of the state.
All I could think about was Stephanie and how I would get to see her if we were going to be so far away. I felt numb at the thought of leaving her behind and missing all those things that were comfortable and familiar.
At school that day I told Stephanie that I was meant to be moving away.
‘You’re kidding me aren’t you Molly?’
‘No,’ I said sadly, ‘It’s true. We go at the end of the month.’
‘What about all our plans? Who am I going to sit with at lunchtime?’
‘I’m sorry, Steph. I don’t want to go.’
We hugged each other and moped around the playground until every day started to be full of last things – the last game of soccer, the last time I went to Stephanie’s house, the last day of school.
As the time drew closer, I had to start to pack all of my things, feeling sad as each toy or book disappeared into the bottom of the box. I wrote my name on top in big letters using a marking pen so that it wouldn’t get lost when the men came to take it away in a truck.
On the morning we were leaving I woke up very early, before anyone else was awake. The house was quiet and I walked slowly around looking in each empty room, trying to soak as much of it into my memory as I could so I would never forget. I went outside and sat down under the mulberry tree, looking up into the branches and thinking about all the fun times I had played with Stephen there.
I closed my eyes to hold the tears in and then must have fallen asleep because I woke up hearing my name being called from the house.
‘Molly,’ called Mum. ‘Molly, where are you?’ The men with the truck had come back to take the last of our furniture. I looked up in time to see my bed disappearing into the back of the truck. I sat there with tears in my eyes when Mum came along and picked me up. I felt really heavy and sad.
‘Oh Molly, there you are. What are you doing out here, sweetheart?’
‘Mum, do we have to go? I want to stay here forever.’
‘Come on Molly. This is just something we have to do as part of growing up. It will help you grow into a big strong girl.’ Mum kissed my head softly.
‘But I don’t want to grow up.’
I pressed my face against her shoulder and cried as she carried me back to the house. I was still sniffling when I climbed into the car and Dad drove out of the driveway. As I looked back through the window and watched the house disappear, I could see Stephanie standing on the corner waving goodbye.

Thursday fragments 15

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When I was eight years old my class at school started drawing pictures and writing stories to enter in the local agricultural show. Mrs Mills made us do them again and again until she thought they were perfect. She ripped one of my stories out of my school exercise book and screwed the page into a little ball. I watched as she threw it in the rubbish bin.
‘That is for being so untidy, Molly,’ she said. ‘You need to keep working hard on making your handwriting neater or I will start to make you write with your right hand. I really don’t know what to do with you.’ She hadn’t even bothered to read my story.
I went back to writing and tried to remember as much of my story as I could. It was about a girl falling asleep at her desk and dreaming that she woke up in a strange world a thousand years ago. There were knights and kings and princesses and the girl had to find her way back home, before she eventually woke up back in her own classroom. I wrote really slowly so that it would be neat enough for Mrs Mills and eventually she said it was okay and that she would let me put it in the show.
Everybody at school was talking about how exciting the show was going to be. I had never been before so I was really looking forward to it and every day I could feel my excitement rising and I had trouble sleeping at night.
When show day finally arrived, I wore a pretty white dress and nice sandals. Mum said it was important that I dressed nice because there would be lots of people there. There was excitement in the air as we crossed the river to the showground and parked the car, then followed the crowds in through the dusty gates. There were lots of people lined up to buy tickets and Mum handed over the money and suddenly we were inside the showground.
Stephanie was waiting for me just inside the gates and we wandered off together to watch the show jumping as the horses went up and over, through the water and past the barrels again and again. We lingered amongst the cattle displays, watching the deep red and white cows, while I liked looking at the dainty Jersey dairy cows best with their big sad brown eyes. I thought they must have been feeling sad to be locked up in that smelly shed when it was such a beautiful day outside and they would much rather be roaming around green grassy paddocks. I stood there staring into those sad eyes for ages until Stephanie got bored and we moved off to the pavilion full of arts and crafts to find our drawings and stories from school. Stephanie’s drawing had a blue ribbon on it and we jumped up and down in excitement. I gave her a big hug and then looked for mine. My story was pinned to the wall, partly hidden under some other pieces of paper. It didn’t win a ribbon.
‘Don’t worry, Molly,’ said Stephanie. ‘I loved your story and I’m sure you will get a ribbon next year. Maybe they just forgot to read it.’
‘Yeah, maybe,’ I said doubtfully.
Stephanie and I walked out of the pavilion and into a world of rides, clowns and show bags. With all the excitement and noise spinning around me I soon forgot to be sad and we lined up for a ride on the dodgem cars. Stephanie and I climbed into the same car and she steered because I couldn’t reach the pedals or steering wheel. The bell rang and we were soon off, whizzing around and around, sometimes bumping into other cars and swerving all over the place. We were laughing our heads off the whole time and I was quite breathless by the end.
My head was still spinning after I got out of the dodgem car and Mum had bought some fairy floss for Stephanie and me. As we walked along holding hands and eating our fairy floss I told Stephanie that I had never had so much fun in my life. We swore we would be best friends forever and I felt my eyes sparkling with joy. We gave each other a big hug and I thought how amazing it was that I felt so perfect and happy when I was with Stephanie.
I was really tired by the end of the day, but I was floating with happiness as I sat in the car. I kept watching the showground through the back window of the car as we drove away and I could see the tops of the ferris wheel and some of the rides poking above the trees. There was still some fairy floss left on my stick and I licked it with my tongue, giggling at the way its sugary spider webs dissolved in my mouth. When I closed my eyes, I could picture the clown’s heads with their wide open mouths turning from side to side in the middle of all that noise and dust.

Thursday fragments 13

The night before I turned six years old there was a big storm that rattled the house throughout the night. The loud thunder and flashes of lightning were so scary I wanted to sleep in Mum’s bed, but she said I should be brave now I was about to turn six. As I lay in bed hugging Mr and Mrs Bear with my eyes wide open I thought the house was going to wash away from all the rain on the roof and the sound of the wind blowing outside.
I must have eventually fallen asleep because when I woke in the morning the sun was shining brightly through the windows and I was six years old. I looked outside and there were big puddles everywhere and I quickly got dressed so I could go out and play in the water. Mum saw me from the kitchen window and yelled at me to come inside out of the wet grass. I got into big trouble for getting my shoes and dress muddy and felt terrible when she made me have a bath even though it was only breakfast time. She said it was so that I would look clean and pretty for my birthday.
When I got out of the bath and was dressed again, everyone crowded around the kitchen table to watch me open my presents and I gave each of my sisters a hug and a kiss to say ‘thank you’. Stephen gave me a book about Pinocchio and I gave him an extra special kiss and hug before I was left alone to play with my new presents. I went into the lounge room and sat on the floor and read about how Pinocchio dreamed of being a real boy. But he was very naughty for telling lies and seemed to get into trouble all the time, even when he didn’t mean to. I thought that was why he told lies, because he didn’t like getting into trouble. I wondered what it would be like to be made of wood, but I didn’t think I would like to be changed into a donkey and get long pointy ears and hooves like Pinocchio did. I much preferred being a real girl and I hoped getting into trouble in the morning wouldn’t make my ears grow. I still felt a little sad, even after all the excitement of opening my presents.
After a while Mum came into the lounge room and told me I should go and have a look on the back verandah. I rushed to open the door and there I found a brand new girl’s bike, all shiny silver and yellow with huge wheels. It had a bow tied around the handle bars and a sticker on the tube that read ‘Little Angel’.
The bike was a bit too big for me but I found that I could get on by climbing onto a chair first then pushing off. I turned the pedals and suddenly I was flying up and down the backyard with my legs spinning round and round.
I spent all morning riding under the mulberry tree, through the gate to the front and then back again. Stephen said I was going to wear a track in the muddy lawn. Mum said when I got bigger I could ride up and down the laneway and then the lawn would be safe. The laneway was dirt and ran down the back of all the houses along our street and it’s where all the big kids played.
‘Molly,’ I heard Mum calling out from the back verandah. ‘It’s time to come in. I think Stephanie is here. I just heard a car pull up out the front.’
I jumped off my bike and ran to meet my best friend at the front door. ‘Stephanie!’ I squealed and gave her a big hug.
‘Hi Molly, happy birthday,’ she said as she handed me a present. It was wrapped in purple paper with a pink ribbon tied around it. I was so excited that I ripped all the paper off in one go and there inside was a beautiful book of stories about fairies. ‘Oh Steph, I love it,’ I said and gave her another hug.
‘Why don’t you girls go outside and play for a while before lunch?’ Mum said.
‘Come on Steph,’ I said. ‘Come and see my new bike.’ We went out the back and took turns riding my bike around the yard for a little while.
‘I’ve had enough of riding, Molly. Let’s go and play on the swings,’ Stephanie said. I wasn’t tired of the bike, but I leant it carefully against the wall and followed Stephanie across to the swing set. I didn’t mind playing on the swings for a little while but it made me feel sick if I went too fast.
‘Come on, Molly… go higher like me.’ Stephanie was already swinging high, kicking her legs right up into the sky and she looked just like a blur. I tried to keep up with her and kicked my legs to make the swing go faster. Every time I went forward to the top of the swing I would feel like I was going to fly off into space, then my stomach would plunge as I suddenly started to swing backwards. Stephanie was giggling loudly and she kept urging me to go faster and faster. Each time I would kick my legs and go higher and higher, but then I started to feel dizzy. I tried to hang on until it suddenly felt like I was floating in mid air. Everything froze for a moment and then I started falling, down, down forever, until I landed with a thump on the ground. I was stunned for a moment, and then started to scream because my arm hurt where I had landed on it crookedly.
‘Molly! Are you okay?’ Stephanie jumped off the swing and put her arm around me as Mum raced out of the house. By the time she arrived I was sobbing uncontrollably.
‘What happened? Let me have a look.’ Mum felt my arm and it really hurt. ‘Well I don’t think it’s broken, so you will live.’ She picked me up and carried me inside the house. ‘You girls should play inside where it’s safer.’

By Light of the Third Moon – Part 2

Bea sat and looked up at the stars. Their twinkling brightness in the autumn sky was comfortingly familiar. At least one thing wasn’t all screwed up.
The moon was large on the horizon.
Mist drifted slowly over the precipice, shrouding the valley far below.
Bea couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here but she knew she was being followed. There wasn’t much time. She had to keep moving.
Then she heard it. At first it was just a dull drumming on the breeze. It got louder. Wind swirled the trees violently.
A voice came from behind her and Bea quickly stood up in fright.
A woman appeared out of the mist, reaching out her hand. She wore a long red velvet gown with strange symbols embroidered in golden thread. The gown closely fitted the elegant, shapely figure beneath. A wild tangle of dark curls hung over the woman’s shoulders.
Bea found herself reaching out. She had no control of her own body.
Her heart was racing.
As the woman moved closer Bea was pressed back against the rock wall. She couldn’t move. All she could do was watch the red dress coming closer. The golden patterns swirled hypnotically in the mist.
Bea felt the woman’s breath against her cheek. She could smell her perfume. The woman stroked Bea’s hair and then closed her eyes as she began chanting.
‘Forces higher
I call on thee
Awake this child
From her dream.’
‘Who are you? Who are you?’ Bea cried out.
There were tears on her cheeks.
The woman hesitated for a moment then began to fade.
Bea woke in the darkness of her bedroom.
She was shivering uncontrollably.
Through the curtains she could see clouds slowly clearing to reveal a full moon. Stars were beginning to appear and the bright moonlight cast shadows on the ground below. As Bea laid her head back on the pillow a shadow moved silently away from the house.

Elizabeth and Darcy

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At school the following week we began reading parts from Jane Austen’s novels. Mr Norris let the group move all the chairs and tables to one side and we sat on the floor in the centre of the room. We each had to read a page and then pass the book to someone else at random to read until everyone had taken a turn.

It was nice hearing the stories being read out loud, but each time the reader got to the end of the page I could feel the tension in the bottom of my stomach as I waited to be the next person picked. The book passed around the room and then it was David’s turn.

He took the book and started reading confidently. It was the ball scene in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and Darcy was approaching Elizabeth to ask for a dance. David kept pausing for emphasis, just as though he was acting out the part rather than just reading it, and whenever Darcy spoke to Elizabeth, David would look straight at me. When he reached the bottom of the page, David reached over and handed me the book.

‘It’s your turn,’ he said.

I opened to the page where he had left the bookmark. I took a deep breath as I looked at the words on the page. Elizabeth and Darcy were still dancing, but Elizabeth had rebutted all of his approaches so far and was saying something about Wickham. I tried to speak but it came out in a whisper. I paused and took another deep breath.

‘It’s okay, Molly,’ said Mr Norris, ‘Just take your time.’

I looked up and he was smiling at me kindly. I turned my eyes back down to the book and started reading again, trying to sound confident but I could hear my voice wavering and I knew I wasn’t doing justice to Elizabeth’s remarks.

Eventually I got to the end of the page and looked for Rose and handed her the book. She smiled and squeezed my hand as she took it from me and then started reading.

Once everyone in the class had finished their turn, Mr Norris stood up and asked us what we thought was going on here. David was the first one to put his hand up. ‘Yes, David?’ said Mr Norris.

‘I think they both like each other, but neither is willing to admit it yet. Darcy knows he likes her, but she has developed a prejudice against him for some reason and so she is pretending to herself that she doesn’t like him. I think they will get together in the end.’ He didn’t take his eyes off me the whole time he spoke.

‘Thank you, David. That is pretty insightful, although we should watch out for spoilers. Does anyone else have a view?’ He looked around the group, but nobody spoke up. ‘Molly White, how about you? What do you think is going on here?’

I had to take another deep breath and stop my heart from racing. Why did Mr Norris have to single me out? ‘Ummm…,’ I began hesitantly. I had an idea in my mind but it was hard to form it into words with everyone looking at me. ‘Ahhhh…, I think, ummm, that Jane Austen is trying to make a statement about, ummm, relationships between men and women.’ I started to warm up and feel more confident as the idea solidified in my mind. ‘I think she is trying to breakdown stereotypes that a woman has to say ‘yes’, just because a man asks her.’ I looked up at David.

‘That is an excellent analysis, Molly,’ said Mr Norris. ‘You have struck right at the heart of the theme we will be exploring throughout the term. Now, does anyone else have anything to add?’

Rose leaned over and squeezed my hand again. ‘Molly, you were wonderful!’ she whispered. I smiled at her and felt a flood of warmth in my chest.

‘Thanks, Rose,’ I whispered back.

‘Okay, well I don’t think we have time for any more today. Make sure you have finished ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by the end of the week because next week we are starting ‘Sense and Sensibility’. Now we had better put the chairs and tables back and you can have an early lunch.’

I stood and started to pick up some chairs. ‘Here, let me carry that for you,’ said David as he tried to take the chairs from my hands.

‘Thanks, but I can carry them.’

‘I know you can, but I just wanted to help.’ I let him take one of the chairs off my pile, and while that made it easier to carry, I didn’t want to admit that to him.

So many boys

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When Friday night came, I put on my best skirt and brushed and curled my hair. Mum then dropped me off at the hall where the youth group was held and kissed me goodbye as I hopped out of the car.

‘Have fun, Molly. I will pick you up at eight,’ she called behind me. I waved my hand without turning around as I walked toward the old brick building that stood next to the chapel of the church. When I saw a group of kids sitting around the front steps of the hall I suddenly felt really nervous and started to wish I hadn’t dressed so differently from everyone else. I didn’t know any of them and they just stared at me as I walked toward the group.

‘Hi, I was looking for Debbie Long,’ I said, trying to sound brave and confident but hearing the shaky softness of my own voice and wishing I was stronger.

‘She’s inside.’ One of the kids pointed inside the doorway, so I said ‘thanks’ and walked between them to go inside.

The hall was a rectangle with wooden floorboards and a stage at one end. There was a picture of the queen on one wall and the other wall was covered in posters that some of the kids must have made. There was a group of about a dozen teenagers sitting around in a circle and holding hands. Their heads were bowed and one of them was saying a prayer. I stood there awkwardly and waited for them to finish.

Debbie noticed me when she lifted her head and came bounding over to take my hand.

‘Come and meet the gang,’ she said brightly. I followed her nervously, feeling out of place and wishing I had never come. ‘This is Molly everyone, she’s coming to join us. She sings and writes poetry.’ I felt myself blushing from embarrassment. I should have expected something like that from Debbie but I thought she might be gentler for my first time.

‘Molly, I want you to meet everyone. You know Rose, of course, and this is Bruce, and Anne…’

Debbie went around the group and introduced me to everyone. Each one of them stood up and said ‘hello’ until there was only one guy left sitting on the ground. I hadn’t noticed him at first because I was so nervous, but now I saw that he had short sandy hair and looked a little shy. ‘… and this is Andrew. Andrew, this is the Molly I have been telling you about.’

Andrew stood up and I realised he was much taller than I had thought. He made me feel even shorter than usual as he reached out his hand. As our fingers met, I half expected him to kiss my hand like David had done, but instead he shook it gently but firmly. His skin was cool against my hot fingers, and I looked up into the most dazzling blue eyes I had ever seen. They were so hypnotic that I found myself staring into them for longer than I should have. Suddenly Andrew smiled and my heart started racing. ‘I’m really pleased to meet you, Molly. Debbie has told me so much about you, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy being part of our group.’ I gave a little smile back, but I was too flustered to say anything. His voice was as gentle and smooth as his hand, and I realised that he wasn’t shy at all, just… I searched for the right word, confident? Controlled? Or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He let go of my hand and I stood there awkwardly, realising everyone had been watching us.

Debbie suddenly put her arm around me. ‘Come and sit, we were just about to do some singing.’

I sat on the floor between Debbie and Rose. The rest of the group spread around us in a circle. Andrew was sitting directly opposite me and he picked up a guitar and started strumming for a few moments. Then he lifted his head and looked straight at me as he sang. All the others joined in after the first verse, but I didn’t know the song so I just sat there with my eyes hypnotised by Andrew’s gaze.

When the song finished, Andrew held the guitar up. ‘Who else knows how to play the guitar?’

‘Molly can,’ Debbie leapt in straight away.

I felt so embarrassed that my face was burning as I tried to explain how I didn’t really know how to play properly, but Andrew stood up and brought the guitar over to me.

‘Whatever you do, it will be beautiful,’ he said.

I sat with my legs crossed and placed the guitar on my lap. I tried to remember how Shawn’s song went and I tentatively strummed a chord. It sounded okay, so I strummed a few more times and tried to find the rhythm. I was too embarrassed to look up, so I kept my head down and looked at the guitar and tried to pretend that I knew what I was doing. Then the words came to me and I opened my mouth to sing, ‘Can you imagine anything…’

My voice sounded hollow and thin in my ears and my fingers stumbled a few times, but I managed to get through the song and then looked up. Everyone in the group was staring at me. Some had their mouths open and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. I could feel the tears coming and I was suddenly upset because I hadn’t been sad in ages and now Debbie had embarrassed me in front of all her friends. I was about to put the guitar down and run out of the hall, when Andrew leant over to take it from my hands.

‘That was so beautiful,’ he said kindly. Suddenly everyone started clapping and talking all at once and I couldn’t believe that they had actually enjoyed what they’d heard. I thought they were just being nice, but they made it believable and I started to smile as the tears went away.

Just another day at school

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When I got to my locker I found David was standing in front of it again with his own locker door open. He had the locker next to mine, but he was talking to a friend instead of getting his books out.

‘Hi David, can I please get to my locker,’ I said quietly.

David turned around and grinned at me, then stepped aside.

‘Why if it isn’t mademoiselle,’ he said, ‘What’s the rush, belle petite rousse?’

‘I have to get to class,’ I blushed.

‘So do I. Why don’t you let me walk with you? I can show you the way.’

‘It’s okay, I know where to go.’ I closed my locker door and started walking away down the corridor, but then David appeared right beside me.

‘So what brings you to our fair school?’

‘Oh, ummm… we just moved here.’ I didn’t really know why I lied, but I also didn’t want to tell him I had been at the other high school before in case he knew some of the kids from there.

‘I have to go now,’ I said as I reached the door to my classroom.

David put his arm across the door and blocked my way. ‘I’ll see you later, l’amour de la vie.’  He brushed a stray strand of hair from my face and stepped to one side with a bow. I rushed past and sat in my seat feeling flustered.

‘Where have you been all morning?’ asked Debbie.

‘Oh, gosh, ummm… I went to the library to get some books.’

‘So that’s why your face is all red?’

‘Oh, is it? Ummm… I was just running.’ I opened my textbook and pretended to be looking closely at the words, but I was aware that Debbie was still looking at me curiously when the teacher walked into the room.

‘Okay ladies and gentleman. Algebra…’

I opened my notebook and wrote down a little verse that had popped into my head,

 

‘In that moment between breaths,
No more clouds, but light
Shining brightly, clear beauty.’

 

I looked at my words for a moment then closed my notebook and quickly opened my maths book. Then I noticed Debbie look away. ‘Oh my gosh! Did she see what I had written?’ I went red from embarrassment but tried to concentrate on what my maths teacher was saying.

‘To solve an equation, you must find the common factors and cancel them…’

I needed to pay attention more, because I really had no idea what he meant. Debbie leant towards me and said, ‘Don’t worry, Molly. I can help you later.’

I looked at her and smiled. She really was my best friend.

After class, Debbie followed me outside and pounced on me straight away.

‘What were you really doing before class?’

‘I told you, I was in the library.’

‘So how come I saw you walking with David?’

‘Oh, ummm… he followed me from my locker. I was trying to get rid of him.’

‘That’s not what it looked like to me,’ she said. She looked thoughtful for a moment then added, ‘Say, why don’t you join us on Friday night? Rose and I go to youth group for our church. It’s a lot of fun and hardly religious at all. We play music and do lots of stuff… like reading poetry.’

‘Oh, I’d love to Deb. That sounds like fun.’ I was glad she had changed the subject.

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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