Amelia wasn’t prepared in the slightest to handle the logic Ashley was using.
Normally, when you tell someone you prefer a certain name, that’s the end of it. They might slip up once or twice afterwards, but eventually it’s familiar enough that they’ll always get it right. This was quite the exception. Not only was Amelia’s name incorrectly filed in the office, apparently, but now Ashley was actively working against her attempts to correct it. Not maliciously; at least, not on the surface. Instead, she approached things in a similar manner to when a parent pushes vegetables on a child.
“How can you say you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it?” Ashley asked, “I mean, I tried ‘Ash’ for like a month one time, and it really grew on me.”
“That’s not the same,” Amelia said. She had already gone through a short ‘Amy’ phase, which was more or less the same as the way Ashley shortened her own name. But Millie? Not great. Although it’s not like she could deny the dark haired girl’s point. Over the course of her meeting with Ms. Song, Amelia had already gone from subtly grimacing every time she was called ‘Millie’ to not batting an eye at it by the end. Maybe it was an acquired taste. Or maybe she was just going numb to it, which is distinctly different than growing to like something.
Either way, she’d have to deal with it for a little while longer. Ashley seemed fixated on the idea now that they were talking about it. “Let’s walk and talk, Millie,” she said. Taking Amelia’s hand, she gave a small tug towards the double doors. “And you can tell me all about why trying new things is so scary.”
What . . . ?
Amelia was both caught off guard and a little insulted by the girl’s casual words. It wasn’t like that! She considered herself a fairly adventurous person. To have a total stranger imply the opposite, even if it was in a teasingly patronizing way, put her at a loss for words for a moment. It was also a second problem to face; girls talked, and it would be better if Ashley liked her. Positive gossip meant a good reputation on the first day of class. Negative gossip, however, was twice as powerful.
More than anything, Amelia wanted the former. Not to be a ‘cool teacher’ or anything like that. She just hoped to avoid the uphill battle that would come with a bunch of girls not respecting her from day one. But what could she say? It’s not like Amelia could talk about all the bars and clubs she went to on the weekends. What kinds of ‘new things’ would be relatable and impressive to an eighteen year old?
With all the thoughts sparked from Ashley’s nonchalant yet offensive question, Amelia didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with her hand being taken. Reluctantly walking forward from how the hand cupped around hers led forward, Amelia tried to tackle both the ‘Millie’ thing as well as the conversation it was leading towards. “I’m not scared of anything, Ash,” she said. Despite the schoolgirl outfit, Amelia was still an adult and a future teacher. Confidence was a little more difficult to grasp, however, after doing so poorly on a test and going through such a demeaning meeting afterwards.
“Oh?” Ashley replied.
She pushed one of the doors open and tugged at Amelia’s arm again to guide her through. The autumn air was noticeably colder with only a skirt to protect her legs, although the blazer helped. The mid-morning sun shone down onto an empty quad; all the other girls must be in class, which meant that she wouldn’t have to be seen by dozens of students. Not yet, at least. Amelia assumed she would have to walk from class to class like everyone else that afternoon. Not only for the ‘first day experience,’ but also because only observing one teacher didn’t make as much sense as observing several.
“Mm hmm,” Amelia nodded. She was just now registering that they were holding hands. Lightly blushing at the fact that she would definitely look like the younger girl from afar compared to Ashley’s mature height and figure, Amelia resisted the urge to pull her hand free. Now that she had allowed it to begin with, there was less of an opportunity to voice that it didn’t feel super appropriate. Amelia was a future academy teacher, and Ashley was a student. Not wanting to add yet another layer of potentially complicated conversation about what should be simple topics, however, Amelia let her hand remain where it was.
She was so distracted by everything Ashley was throwing at her that she didn’t pause for even a second to think that being escorted around like this would make her appear more like a lost little lamb of a new student, rather than a slightly younger girl walking side by side with the office assistant who probably did tours like this all the time with new students.
“Well, if you’re not scared of anything,” Ashley said, pausing their walk only a few steps from the administration building with a squeeze of Amelia’s hand. “Then prove it. Go by ‘Millie’ for the rest of the day. You can handle that, right?”
“Umm. Well . . .” Amelia trailed off. It wasn’t quite as simple as that. If a college friend had dared her to do something similar, especially if they were out where no one knew her, it would be different. But she was supposed to be an authority figure at Westridge, and her current attire was already screwing with her image. Adding an embarrassing name to the mix would only make things worse.
Squeezing her hand again, Ashley just smiled. “Come on, Millie. What’s the harm? Everyone’s going to be calling you Ms. Martin anyway, right?”
She had a point there. But, still. “I don’t know, Ashley.”
“Just try it. Be brave! Tell me that your name is Millie.”
Swallowing hard, and crumbling to peer pressure and a need to prove herself after being treated more like a tween than an adult all morning, Amelia reluctantly gave it a try.
“My name is Millie . . .”
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