Chapter 04: New Classes
CHAPTER 05: BLACK SHEEP
The only people who hadn’t spoken many words among the First Years were Lucy and Lacy Linton, Trent Sawyer, and William Evans.
“Hey!” Angelina went up to where the Lintons were quietly mending some tears in their dresses in the First and Second Years’ common room. “I’ve been wondering… Are you twins?”
Lucy and Lacy looked up, exchanged glances. “Well, you can say we are,” replied the latter with a small smile. “We’re just a few months apart.”
“That’s nice!” remarked Evangeline. “No wonder you’re in the same class!”
“Well, we didn’t want to be separated if we could help it. I think you two feel the same.”
“Yes, yes, we do. So, where are you from?”
“We’re from the Southern Province. This is our first time in a boarding school, but I expect it is so for all of us here. Where are you from, twins?”
“We’re from the Central Province – the same as this one.” Angelina smiled. “We live on the other side.”
“That must be closer to home, eh?”
“Yes, I suppose.”
On the other side of the room, Trent sat reading a book. Janet Mary Swenson crouched down near him and with shining eyes, tried to read its cover. Trent, noticing her from the corner of his eye, turned a little away, to block her vision. At once, Janet Mary moved accordingly.
Trent instantly flared up and jumped to his feet. “Hey, girl, what’s your problem?! Why don’t you just leave me alone!?”
Little Janet Mary, who looked a little too young to be in the First Year at a higher studies school, gave him a sweet smile. “But I want to see what it is! I love books so much!”
Trent made an irritated noise and stamped out of the room, leaving a dismayed Janet Mary.
American Jessica Morton sidled up to her. “Ignore that guy, JM. Come, I discovered the library yesterday, right here in school. I think you’ll love it!”
Janet Mary insisted that it was her first name and that Mary was not her middle name. So, the girls began to call her ‘JM’; she didn’t mind one bit.
Now, she accepted Jessica’s kindness with a small smile and a nod. “Thank you.”
As they left the room, Jessica asked, “Where are you from, pal?”
“I’m from the UK. Though really, you couldn’t tell it from my accent, eh?”
“Well, I’ve never seen a British or heard them, so I wouldn’t know.” She winked.
Back in the room, Amelia Johnson, a Second Form33 student, stood up. “Anybody object if I turned on the radio?”
They all shook their heads and she turned it on. The radio was tuned to a classical songs channel; she changed it to Russian songs.
“Ooh, I love that one!” said Nina, the little Russian Second Year girl. She and her twin, Antonov, began to nod along to it.
William Evans looked around when the radio started blaring out music, and snorted. ‘Silly little Slavans and their stupid ways. I wish I could go back home to my own room. I don’t owe anything to these idiots!’
Marie and Louie sat in the playground where some of the older kids were playing hockey.
“I wish there was badminton here,” she whispered, as she watched the game idly. “I even brought a racquet in the hopes. Eh?”
“We could ask around. There actually is a court – that Sixth Former showed us, remember?” he told her.
“Yes, yes, I know… but it’s not a one-person game.”
“Oh! Yes, I can always play with you – you know that.”
“But your heart lies in table tennis. I don’t want to deprive you of that!”
“Hush now, my darling sister. When I’m not playing that, I’ll play badminton with you.”
She kissed his cheek affectionately. “Merci. Still, I wish somebody else we knew played.”
“Pourquoi pas? We don’t know the rest of the class yet – perhaps if we ask them, somebody will come forth.”
As they made their way up the stairs, tall and strapping Philomena Thomas was descending the stairs with Sunny Peterson, one of the sports captains.
“Hey there!” Philomena exclaimed, stopping the twins. “I know you guys! You came with me on the tour yesterday, didn’t you? Ain’t you First Formers?”
The twins nodded. “We are,” replied Louie. “This is Marie and I’m Louie. What’s up, Philomena?”
“Is there a William Evans in your form? I believe he is in your form, isn’t he?”
Louie’s face scrunched in thought, but Marie said, “Oh yes, isn’t he that tall brooding boy? Ma parole! – I do believe I haven’t seen him open his mouth for anything!”
“Oh, that boy? Yes, I did – to yawn!” Louie giggled behind his hand.
The older kids suppressed giggled themselves. “Yes, I can understand,” remarked Sunny. “Well, tell him that Sunny Peterson – me – is calling him, will ya? I’ll be in the badminton court.”
At this, Marie’s eyes shone. “Oh-oh! May I come, too, please, frère? I’ve been wanting to play badminton here!”
Sunny laughed light-heartedly. “I’m afraid not, mon chéri. It’ll be a private conversation.” He paused, as a rather embarrassing thought come to him. “I… actually, I want him to meet me there because…” he went red. “Well, because it’s usually empty these days.”
Marie was disappointed. “You mean… there won’t be anyone playing at all?”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He perked up suddenly. “Hey, are you meaning to play sometime?”
“Yes! Will you amuse me, please, Sunny? Not now, but whenever you want. When my brother isn’t able to!”
He cast a glance at Louie. “Yes, sure, I’d love to! You know what? You share a common room with the Second Formers, right? Go and collect names of who all would like to participate in the badminton matches coming up this term. We had hardly none last term and – because the few who wanted to play either fell sick or had some family emergency. In the end, me and a former Sixth Former played and… well, it wasn’t overall encouraging, you know?”
Marie nodded. “I am sorry about that. Well, I’ll do as you say. Where shall I meet with you, please, frère?”
“Same place. But please wait until I’m done with William, eh?”
“Yes!!” She hugged Louie. “Thank you, Sunny Peterson!”
The four said their goodbyes and went merrily on their ways. They rushed the rest of the way to their common room and burst in. Everybody present – even Trent and William – whirled around immediately, as the twins stood at the entrance panting.
“Well, first things first,” said Louie, sensing his sister’s impatience. “William Evans? Yes, you. Sunny Peterson is calling you. I expect you know him?”
For the first time that they all saw, the boy in question opened his mouth: “Yes, I do.”
“Well, you’re to meet him in the badminton court. You remember where that is?”
William looked impatient now. “Yes, I do. Obviously!” He grunted and moved towards the door, brushed rudely past William on his way out, hurting Marie, who stood just beside her brother, who clashed with his back onto her. She whimpered, suppressing a full-on groan, as her head collided with the door frame. William didn’t even turn around.
“That boy makes me angry!” growled Louie, his little fists in balls. “Wait till he –”
But Marie caught his wrist and pulled him into the common room. “It’s no use, frère, and you know it. Just forget it.”
Louie was not to forgot such a slight to his sister so easily, it seemed, as was proven soon enough.
Susie rushed towards them. “Hey Louie!”
The boy, still angry, looked suspiciously at her. “What?”
He frowned. “Uh… hi?”
“Look, I just… I wanted to tell you that… Well, while I appreciate your love for your sister and to protect her, please don’t pick a fight so publicly. Try and talk with tolerance instead.”
He nodded, albeit reluctantly. “All right, I’ll try.”
“Well, at least take him aside… then fight,” quipped Philip, who had a younger sister he felt the same way towards.
“Philip Rangers!” exclaimed Susie in astonishment. “Don’t put such ideas into his head!”
“No, Susie, he’s right,” said Louie, his mind made up. And when that happened, he was usually obstinate. “One fistfight should keep that guy on his best behaviour.”
No amount of appealing and cajoling by Susie or Marie would get through his head. Fed up, the former went to confront Philip.
“What in the world is the matter with you?” she asked, her face scrunched in annoyance. “Were you brought up with gypsies or in a circus, maybe? Well, they’re more well-behaved… so, perhaps some animals brought you up, like Tarzan?”
“Love that comic!” Philip said with a grin.
She smacked him hard on the arm. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”
He was shocked; he hadn’t been expecting firmness from a girl smaller than him. “Er – yes, ma’am,” he muttered.
“If you can’t talk anything better, you’d better not give people advices,” she hissed, before she stamped out of the room to her own dormitory, leaving behind a gaping audience.
For a few minutes, the entire room was filled with silence. Philp felt uncomfortable, for he knew Susie had been right and he should’ve apologised. He sighed.
He looked around, badly wanting to change the subject. “So guys, how was your summer vacation?” Nobody spoke; most of them were hiding behind their books or other material, though he felt sure they were secretly eyeing him. “I’ll start. I was quite alone at home, what with my parents going to some place or the other on work and having only Martha for company! But Martha was good company and we played a lot sometimes, when she did not have much to do!”
“Oh.” The students started and looked around. It was little Pauline, who had sympathy in her eyes. She was always sensitive to other children whose parents didn’t spend much time with them. “What did you and Martha play?” she asked in her small voice.
Philip smiled at her, grateful. “We played badminton.”
At once, a gasp resounded in the room. All eyes now looked up and around. It was Marie; her face was flushed.
“Philip, you play badminton?” she asked. “Oh dear, now Susie’s gone… I wanted her to be around, too! – William, too!”
“Well, idiot, don’t just stand there freaking out,” said Jessica boldly. “Spill it!”
“Oh yes!” She cleared her throat, suddenly calming down. “Sunny was very excited when I told him I played badminton and he wanted me to collect a list of names of those interested in playing for the school.”
“Me!” Philip raised his hand confidently.
“She!” suddenly cried Carla, raising a terrified Pauline’s hand. The latter covered her face with her other hand.
“Not me, please not me!” she kept muttering.
“Well, at least try,” Marie told her, going to her place in the common room to get a pen and a sheet of paper. “You can always do badly on purpose and get out of being put into competitions.”
“Isn’t that awfully dishonest, though?” Jack countered.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t care.” This from Joan Wilton of the Second Form. “You want something done, you make it happen.”
Jack didn’t seem convinced, though he didn’t say anything.
Marie went around the common room and wrote down names of students interesting in badminton. Some weren’t sure if they would be chosen to play for the school, but wanted to play the sport nonetheless. The Carlson twins were excited to go in and give it a shot. Janet Mary was more of an indoorsy person; if anything, she liked to fool around in the table tennis court. She didn’t know a thing about badminton.
“I could teach you if you want,” Jessica offered her. “I had played for some junior tournaments before I came here, though I didn’t win anything. We could have fun and learn together.”
Janet Mary’s eyes went wide and sparkly at this. “Really?! You will?!”
They should’ve been at the library, but came back when they saw that it was locked and the library hadn’t returned from his vacation yet.
Carrie was very interested, too, as was Joan Wilton of the Second Form.
When she was done, Marie stood up with a grin, going over the list of names. She looked around the room. “Did I miss anybody?”
“No!” replied the others.
“Great! I’ll be giving this to Sunny then. Louie, come with me, please!”
The twins headed towards the door, Marie in the lead. No sooner had she skipped out, than she hit face first into a fleshy wall and fall down with a groan.
“I don’t remember there being a wall here!”
“Hey, that’s the second time you’ve been inconsiderate!” Louie’s voice startled her. She opened her eyes and saw that she had bumped into William, who was also lying on the ground.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” She instantly went to give him a hand up. “Come, take my hand!”
William blinked several times at her, as she repeated her instruction impatiently. He finally took her hand and got up. ‘I really don’t need help, you know,’ he thought, ‘I could’ve done on my own. But, you know, if you insist, who am I to refuse?’
She gave a courtesy. “Please ignore my brother. I should’ve seen you coming. It’s my fault. Please forgive me!”
William was so shocked that he actually heard himself say, “Uh… yes, yes, of course! No problem!”
Marie stopped talking at once and turned her startled blue eyes on him. He saw the disbelief.
“No, really. It’s all right. No harm done!” A ghost of a smile appeared on his face, which relaxed her.
“Ah! Thank you. William. Oh! Also… do you know if Sunny is still in the badminton court?”
“Yes, he told me he was meeting with a First Former. I expect that’s you?”
“Indeed. And, um, are you… do you play badminton?”
He frowned, but his response was polite: “No, actually, but I’d like to give it a try. Why, are you playing now?”
Marie gave a nervous laugh. “I wish I was… but no. Maybe another time?” She looked at him hopefully.
He turned away. “Whatever, man.” And walked back into the room.
Marie turned to a bewildered Louie. “Well, if that ain’t success, I do not know what is!” She skipped away, leaving him to follow her when he recovered in his own time.
The children inside the room had seen the little episode, too, and were most astonished.
When the brother-sister duo left, silence reigned for what seemed like a long time.
Then, everybody began talking excitedly at once:
“Did you see that?!”
“William Evans being nice to someone!?”
“That guy doesn’t seem half bad now, does he!”
“Marie seems to be some kind of fairy!”
For some reason, the last remark stood out and everybody agreed that Marie was a fairy.
But as the term went along, they realised this may not so true after all…!
End of Excerpt