“Happily!” Claire chirped.
The girl was quite the juxtaposition, at least to Amelia. ‘Mrs. Thompson’ had a similar air of authority as the prefect position Claire had. However, she was also still an eighteen year old student. Behind that posturing, she had some teenage energy as well. The subtle enjoyment of Amelia’s dumbstruck expression when they had come face to face, as well as the enthusiastic tone just now.
Amelia winced as she felt the girl’s fingertips running through her hair for the first time. She opened her mouth to say something, but Ashley beat her to the punch.
“Hush, Millie. You do want to hear everything, right?”
She nodded, still blushing at how many times she had shyly bobbed her head in affirmation instead of speaking up.
“Then sit still and be quiet, okay? Class starts soon, and we’d hate for you to be late and earn yourself an infraction.”
“But I’m not-” ‘actually a student.’ Amelia only made it halfway through before realizing she was about to cause the very problem the dark haired girl was talking about. More circling, more time wasting; a bigger delay before learning what exactly was going on. So, against her better judgment, she cut herself off and replaced her partial response with a, “Yes, Ashley.”
“Good girl. Try to work on your posture, too.”
“And don’t fidget,” Claire added, “It’s distracting.”
“Sorry . . .” Amelia mumbled. The apology slipped out so naturally. She didn’t even think she was fidgeting, aside from the way she fiddled with her skirt a minute ago, but now she doubted herself. Sitting up properly, feeling more like a student than ever, she managed to keep perfectly still as Claire ran her fingers through her blonde hair a second time. Amelia hadn’t heard the word ‘posture’ in years.
Ashley remained quiet for a moment. The lingering silence made Amelia feel self conscious all over again, and she immediately put a little extra effort into sitting up straight and not flinching in the slightest as Claire began separating her pretty hair into a number of strands. And, to top it all off, Amelia pressed her lips together and didn’t say a word. Quiet, and still. Therefore, not judged or the cause of more stalling on Ashley’s end.
“Let’s start simple,” Ashley finally said. Brushing back her own hair, she met Amelia’s eyes with an amused smile, “Claire and I are the only ones here that know your real age.”
‘What?’ Amelia’s eyes widened slightly. Her jaw also dropped a little, undoing her recent efforts of trying to keep her lips sealed. She was kidding, right? There was no way two separate administrators had mistaken her as a teenager. At least, not one this young. She had seen herself in the mirror after changing into the boarding school uniform and, while it definitely shaved a few years off her life, there was no way it had stolen a decade. Of course, that was before she had traded her heels for flats, and she had also been looking at herself as an adult. With unbiased eyes . . . still, thirteen years old? Not a chance.
“Mm hmm,” she affirmed, “Mrs. Lewis and Ms. Song were totally fooled. Honestly, Millie, you aren’t much of a grown-up without your fancy clothes. It’s all about perspective, right? If you look like a student, and people think you’re supposed to be one, they’ll believe it without much thought. And, as far as Westridge Academy is concerned, you’re a troublesome little transfer student.”
So this was an elaborate prank? That had been one of her initial thoughts after seeing Claire, but Amelia had dismissed it pretty quickly. Although her fleeting vision had been something where the school was on board, rather than it being two students masterminding the whole thing. Of course, now that it was being explained, she had her doubts. After all, Amelia was still in denial about the fact that she could pass a seventh grader with no one batting an eye. This could still be a psychological experiment, and Ashley could be lying to spark a reaction. There was no way two students could pull something like this off without any administrators being involved.
“Ashley-” Amelia began. She didn’t make it very far.
“Millie, you promised you would be quiet.”
Typical. Ashley and Claire might have been eighteen, but they were still teenagers. And that was such a teenage thing to do–turning silent agreement into a ‘promise.’ Amelia pursed her lips in annoyance, but went quiet again. She would hear the girl out, even if she didn’t fully believe what she was being told.
“Good girl,” Ashley said, echoing the patronizing phrase. And then she explained.
It wasn’t the full story, but Amelia didn’t need to know that. For the most part, Ashley glossed over the finer details and stuck to the highlight reel. Fake interview, edited registration form, student uniform. After that, it was simply a matter of passing her off to Mrs. Lewis and letting the school handle things from there.
The more Amelia heard, the more she actually believed that it was the truth. If this was some experiment or school sanctioned prank, then surely the dark haired girl would mess up the explanation or break character at some point. Additionally, all of this validated the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she hadn’t been able to place earlier. How dressing up like a schoolgirl was a little extreme for a ‘first day experience,’ and how neither of the adults she had met addressed her as an applicant for even a second before keeping the charade going. If it wasn’t a charade at all, then Amelia had made a horrible mistake by playing along and breathing life into Ashley’s lies.
By the end of the story, Amelia’s hair was pulled back and tied up into a simple braid. Not a horrible style, but it also took away the golden locks that had been previously been worn down for a more mature look. Luckily, the make-up still hid her freckles, but her face was more youthful without the proper framing. “Well, congrats. It worked,” she said. Mostly convinced at this point, it was a conscious effort to not slap Ashley. Or, on the other extreme, to sink down into the sofa and be mortified about the first impression she made with two potential colleagues who currently thought she was thirteen years old. “Now, you’ve had your fun. How about giving me back my things so I can clear this up?”
Despite how she felt, Amelia decided to play nice. It would be so embarrassing to go back to the office and explain everything. Difficult, too. She didn’t have any of her friends’ numbers memorized, and certainly wasn’t about to call her parents for help after so many years of cutting herself off from them. Without her cell phone and the contacts within, who could even verify her identity? If she really looked like a student, then no one was going to treat her like an adult until she had some proof. Which was a problem when her phone and purse had been confiscated.
Ashley must have been counting on that, because she didn’t seem particularly amenable to the request. “Hmm, not yet. You haven’t been a very good Westridge girl so far. If you want to be an adult, Millie, you have to show us that you can at least handle being a proper little student first.”
What? That didn’t make any sense. “Ashley, I’m serious,” Amelia frowned, “Look, I promise you won’t get in trouble or anything. Okay?”
“I’m being serious, too. Are you saying you can’t handle intermediate classes?”
“Of course I can, but that doesn’t mean-”
“And are you a bad student?”
“No! I’m not a student at all.” She was quick to clarify, but it didn’t make much difference.
“I mean in general, Millie. Are you a good student, or a bad student?” Ashley asked. Her voice was calm, and just assertive enough.
Still not in a great position without her possessions, Amelia reluctantly answered the either/or question. “I’m a good student. But-”
“Then prove it.” The same tactic the dark haired girl had used when saying that going by ‘Millie’ shouldn’t be that difficult. An annoying yet effective challenge that could often bait someone into doing something that they otherwise would prefer not to do. And, for a girl who was clearly the self conscious type, and who thoroughly lacked the backbone required to be a teacher, it would probably only take another little push or two. “Show us that you’re a good student. Make it through the day without getting in trouble. Easy, right?”
Amelia hesitated. She had already signed up to be there for the day anyway. And even though she had nothing to prove to these two girls, the peer pressure was taking effect. “And then you’ll give me back my things?”
“Details, Millie,” Ashley waved her off, “Are you going to be a good little student, or not?”
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