The threat shouldn’t have affected Amelia as much as it did.
It’s not like she actually went to school here. This was just . . . well, she didn’t actually know what it was, because neither of the girls before her were explaining. Regardless, she was an adult. A young woman who shouldn’t be intimidated by a couple of eighteen year old girls. And yet, Amelia had always been a perfect student. She got the best grades and she certainly wasn’t the type to cause trouble. Which is why her ‘good girl’ nature kicked in almost reflexively.
“Wait!” Amelia exclaimed. Her voice was a little more shrill than she expected. “Wait,” she echoed, at a more controlled level the second time around, “Please. Just, slow down.” Remembering what Ashley said about an apology being necessary before moving forward, Amelia tacked on an awkward, “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Ashley asked.
Good question. Racking her brain for the details of the recent conversation, Amelia guessed, “Sorry for being difficult. Now, can we-”
“Ah, ah. ‘I’m sorry for being a difficult little brat. Like always.’ A real apology, Millie.”
She was tempted to slap the girl for her insolence, or storm away to set things right at the front office. Instead, she repeated the apology that had been dictated for her. As frustrated as she was about all this–embarrassed, too–there were just too many questions. She needed a better grasp on what was going on, which meant she had to suck it up and play nice. “I’m sorry for being a difficult little brat. Like always.” A light blush accompanied the words.
“Good girl,” Ashley said, “Although it’s more proper to address people by their name. Since we’re cousins and all, I can cut you some slack. However, Claire is a prefect. For girls in her position, the correct title is Miss Claire. It shows respect, but also fosters more familiarity than you would have with a teacher or advisor. Do you understand, Millie?”
“Yes, Ashley,” Amelia said. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that her ‘cousin’ rounded off the brief lesson by giving an example. A sign of respect, allegedly, though it didn’t feel that way amidst her current predicament. Still, she had swallowed her pride this far. To ensure that wasn’t for nothing, she made a point to turn towards the taller girl. “And Miss Claire.”
Claire nodded. “Good girl.”
It was the third time the patronizing phrase had been used in a matter of minutes. With each iteration, it took more of a conscious effort to keep from glowering. Even if an elder said that, Amelia would have had a negative reaction despite how it was technically praise. To hear it from two teenagers, however, made it that much worse. And yet, she couldn’t chew them out for it. Not yet. She wanted to demand for the explanation she was promised, but was worried that repeating herself so quickly would just add to the immature light they were painting her in.
Thankfully, neither of the girls dragged things out. “Why don’t you sit, Millie?” Ashley said. She gestured to the space next to Claire. “We only have a few minutes, so we’re going to have to make this quick.”
Without so much as an ‘okay’ or any other verbal assent, Amelia simply walked over and delicately sat herself down. She fidgeted with the skirt almost immediately, still not used to the unfamiliar uniform she was wearing. Standing was fine, but there was a little bit too much thigh from the way the plaid skirt rode up a bit every time she sat. She had put a comfortable distance between herself and the brunette, but that effort was instantly undone when the girl scooted closer.
Ashley joined them on the sofa, although her landing wasn’t nearly as delicate as Amelia’s. She haphazardly tossed her shoulder bag onto a nearby armchair and then plopped herself down on the end of the sofa. Speaking of too much thigh . . . But Ashley didn’t seem to care. One of the perks of being an attractive girl, apparently. Overconfidence and/or shamelessness. At least, that’s the way Amelia viewed it from her own teenage years and other girls she knew back then.
“Sit still, Millie. Claire’s going to do your hair while we talk, okay?”
For a split second, Amelia assumed that Ashley was commenting on the fidgeting in a similar manner to the way Ms. Song did. So far, there seemed to be a consistency when it came to girls being ‘proper’ at Westridge, whether it was an administrator or a fellow student. Not that Amelia was a student. Instead, this was about something else. “My- my hair?” she nervously asked. There were a lot of things Amelia was self conscious about–her height, her distinct lack of curves, her youthful facial features–but she loved her hair. It was her favorite physical quality, one of the blessings she counted against all the other ways puberty had screwed her over. The gentle curl she added at the ends of her golden locks made her that much prettier and more mature-looking. Wearing her hair down was the best for her image, which meant anything Claire did would be counter-productive to that daily goal of looking her age.
“Mm hmm.” Ashley smiled. She leaned forward and placed a hand on Amelia’s bare leg, and looked right into her eyes. “You are a good girl, aren’t you?”
“I-” Amelia’s voice caught in her throat. She was instantly overwhelmed, especially since she had already been distracted at the thought of her precious hair being messed up with whatever style Claire had in mind. But now? There was the hand, the direct eye contact, the demeaning trap of a question. Amelia knew in the back of her mind that she should leap off the sofa and put her foot down to pretty much all of this, but she couldn’t find the strength. Instead, the only act of rebellion she could muster was with her words. “My hair is fine how it is . . .”
“You didn’t answer my question, Millie.” Ashley’s smile faded a bit, and her eyes narrowed, “Are you a good girl?”
Amelia was reminded of Ms. Song and her no-nonsense attitude. Even though Ashley looked nothing like the young woman, her judgmental look was enough to spark memories of the recent meeting and how small Amelia had felt by the end. “Yes, Ashley,” she mumbled. Her cheeks turned crimson.
“And a good Westridge girl would trust a prefect to know best, right? Answer quickly. Remember, we don’t have a lot of time!”
“Is that a question?”
“N-no. It’s just . . .” Amelia trailed off. Why was it so difficult to speak her mind?! ‘You can’t treat me like this.’ ‘I’m an adult!’ ‘Tell me what’s going on, right now.’ But she couldn’t turn those thoughts into words. Some combination of the uniform, the setting, and the idle threat of getting into trouble was causing her to freeze. Despite not really being a student, Amelia subconsciously hated the thought of anyone seeing her as imperfect. Her high grades and her good attitude had always been enough for a good reputation and an overall lack of negativity in her life.
Ultimately, this left her wholly unprepared for any kind of confrontation.
Ashley removed her hand and sat back, crossing her arms. “It’s just what, Millie?”
“I don’t know . . .” she muttered. Judgment, time pressure, and a desperate need to get the truth that was being dangled over her head. In a matter of minutes, she had fallen from ‘frustrated applicant’ to ‘meek schoolgirl.’ Not that Amelia viewed herself as the latter, but she certainly wasn’t doing a lot to combat the image in her current state.
Ashley, on the other hand, was reveling in the transformation she had pulled off in less than half a day. Discounting the prep, of course. “Need some help, Millie?” she gently asked, “You can nod. Remember, we’re running out of time.”
Without even thinking about it, Amelia gave a small nod.
“Good girl. Okay, all you need to do is give some permission. No one has made you do anything, right? This is the same. You need to ask Claire, alright? Nod again.”
Amelia nodded. There was a lot to unpack in that first question, but she couldn’t dwell on it. She needed an explanation, and there was only so much time to get it. Still feeling small, she waited for the directions that would get her what she needed.
With a supportive smile, Ashley said, “Please, Miss Claire, will you do my hair for me?”
She hesitated. “And then, you’ll explain?”
“Of course. Is there anything you want to ask Claire for, Millie?”
Taking a deep breath, Amelia grasped whatever courage she could find. She wasn’t sure when it happened, but at some point there became a need to seek validation from these two girls. She had no idea why; she was just flustered and confused.
Sighing, she said, “Miss Claire, umm . . . Do my hair? Please?”
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huhtu · Sep 7, 2023I made this account just to comment. Really astounding stuff here. The idea of losing access the only documents that prove your identity, then being given a new identity for someone else's amusement is totally horrifying and plausible. It's almost... too good? Like, you've given me a new pang of wanting to brood over. And also a new fear. It's hot. Complicated emotions on this.