Somehow, Ashley had pressured Amelia to temporarily accept the nickname. It had been done so casually, so effortlessly; which made pushing back nearly impossible. After dealing with Ms. Song’s constant scrutiny earlier, Amelia was a little disarmed by the time she met Ashley for the tour. With so many other reasons to already feel self conscious, she couldn’t bring herself to argue about something so trivial.
The conversation ended as easily as it began. With a chipper attitude, Ashley had exclaimed, “Cute! Okay, Millie. Ready for the tour?”
Amelia distinctly remembered Ms. Song using the word ‘brief.’ However, the circuitous route Ashley took her on felt like the complete opposite. Maybe it was the uncomfortable flats, or the schoolgirl uniform, or the constant use of the new nickname, but time seemed to drag on and on as they walked nearly the entire campus. Without her phone, it was difficult to get a sense of how long she had been there. Changing, then the aptitude test, then the advisor meeting, and now this. When was she going to get to observe classes?
Westridge Academy was a boarding school, but it reminded Amelia a lot of her experience at university. A smaller campus, sure, but that was the only notable difference. Two big dorm buildings; one for girls grades six through eight, the other for girls grades nine through twelve. Amelia knew they used ‘intermediate’ for the middle school aged girls, but only because Ms. Song referenced it earlier. She couldn’t remember the phrase for high schoolers, but it was probably just as unnecessarily posh.
A few academic buildings, a library, a modest gym alongside a variety of outdoor sports areas. It would have been much simpler for Ashley to gesture to most of those things from the top of the large hill that the campus was on. Instead, they walked everything. Amelia’s feet were killing her by the time they made it back to the quad. Just when she thought it was over, Ashley led on.
To the intermediate students’ dorm building, where they ascended two stairwells. “You’ll be in a suite with nine other girls,” Ashley said. She took Amelia’s hand and tugged her down the hallway; the gesture was just as difficult to shake as the new nickname. Throughout the tour, the dark haired girl had held her hand and let go just frequently enough where it would feel awkward to bring up an issue with it now. “That’s four doubles and two singles. And lucky you, Millie! I was told that you’d be getting one of the singles.”
At this point, Amelia wasn’t surprised. More of the role, more of the act everyone managed to keep up despite her real age. An hour or two ago, she would have questioned the implication that she was being given a room. That was then, however, and this was now. “A single sounds lovely,” Amelia said. Just because she was being treated like a teenager didn’t mean she was going to talk like one.
“Trust me, it will be nice to have some privacy at night. It’s the only time you can really be yourself, you know?” Ashley winked. Then she opened the door to the common room. At the end of the room was a table with a handful of chairs, no doubt meant for studying. And, in one corner, there was a sofa and loveseat, as well as a small coffee table. Other than that, six closed doors surrounded the room. The area wasn’t particularly extravagant; it was just enough for a group of girls to study and hang out before curfew.
As Amelia walked over to her door, hand in hand with Ashley, she was reminded of a detail she had put out of her mind earlier. Similar to the name pairing on the aptitude test, the private dorm room door was already labeled for ‘MILLIE ROBERTS.’ Before, Amelia had been too distracted by the new setting and the impending test. Now that she was with Ashley again, she flashed back to her first day in the office. “Roberts? Like you?”
“You remembered!” Ashley exclaimed. She gave Amelia’s hand a squeeze. “I’m flattered. And here I was, thinking I was just another student to you.”
“But-” Amelia hesitated. She hadn’t been prepared for the enthusiastic response. It also wasn’t the thing she wanted to focus on. “But, it’s ‘Martin’” Hopefully the girl would pick up the uptick at the end of that thought.
“Yeah, but ‘Millie Martin’ would sound silly, don’t you think? Relax! I thought it would be fun to make you my cousin for the day. My little cousin, that is.”
“Wait, you did this? You changed my name?”
“Technically, the office did. I just suggested it after I learned that I’d be your tour guide. If anything, blame Mrs. Thompson!”
“Yeah, but you-”
“Are you saying you don’t like my last name, Millie?”
It was such a typical girl tactic. The question was obviously a trap, but this new development sparked Amelia to pause and act more like the adult she was. She wasn’t about to fall victim to some eighteen year old’s logic. “I’m saying I like my last name better,” she finally replied. Avoiding the yes/no trap, and focusing more on what she actually cared about, “And I should have been involved in this conversation, Ashley.”
Ashley didn’t seem bothered by the fact that Amelia deflected. She just shrugged and said, “That’s not how this works, Millie. You’re an intermediate student here. Thirteen year olds don’t get to make decisions. You are thirteen, aren’t you?”
’NO. I’m twenty-two!!’ Amelia wanted to scream the correction.
But she couldn’t. Ashley worked at the main office, which means that she would have more interactions with the administration than your average student. This tour could even be a sneaky part of her interview process. While Amelia doubted that Ashley was directly involved with the evaluation, it would be easy for someone on the staff to ask the dark haired girl to at least report her observations afterwards.
Like so many times before, the sunk cost fallacy was real. She had already put on the schoolgirl outfit. Taken the aptitude test. Gone through a patronizing advisor meeting. And now this–learning that she was apparently supposed to be Ashley’s younger cousin for the day. This was all for the job. And, if she could suck it up for a single day, then there would possibly be a chance to reprimand Ashley later on for sticking her nose where it didn’t belong.
So, swallowing her pride, Amelia agreed with the lie. “Thirteen and a half, actually.” It was meant to come across as a little sarcastic, to show how none of this bothered her. Instead, she ended up blushing when the delivery of the words sounded more petulant than playfully snarky.
“Mm hmm. And you’re my little cousin?” Ashley asked.
“Of course, Ashley,” Amelia replied, “Your cousin, Millie.”
And that was that. Ashley gushed over how cute she was for a moment, then showed Amelia the private bedroom. Like the common room, it wasn’t anything special. Just a twin bed and a small dorm room desk. It was completely empty, save for a small stack of linens sitting on the end of the bed. Ashley explained how the school would supply anything that Millie needed until her luggage arrived. Sleepwear, toiletries, spare notebooks, etc.
While Amelia knew this was all pretend, it was still interesting to hear about what Westridge offered. Although it wasn’t surprising. The academy was comprised of so many students from wealthy families. A new student meant more tuition money coming in, so dropping a few dollars on hospitality was a drop in the bucket.
At long last, Ashley began wrapping up the tour. Hand in hand yet again, they left the dorms and walked towards the academic building.
Amelia hadn’t heard a bell, but the previous hour of classes had clearly concluded. A few small groups of girls scurried across the quad in the opposite direction that she and Ashley were walking, probably to stop by their rooms before the next round of classes. That was nothing compared to the sheer volume of girls walking the halls in the academic building itself. There were no lockers in the old stone building, but the area still had the same energy as a public school in terms of the brief chaos that happened between every class. The main difference, of course, being that every single girl was wearing the same outfit.
“This way, Millie!” Ashley tugged her to the right, guiding her through the crowd.
Amelia expected to be taken to a classroom, in order to start her first observation, but Ashley had other plans. They took a detour to a study room off one of the side hallways, where a familiar brunette was waiting for them just around the corner. “Hey, Claire!” Ashley exclaimed.
Claire, or ‘Mrs. Thompson,’ was lounging on a nearby sofa. Instead of administrative clothes, however, she was dressed the same as all the other academy students.
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Andrea Foster · Jun 14, 2023I'm thoroughly enjoying this story so far, and look forward to future instalments eagerly. The trap is closing nicely round Millie.