“My what?” Amelia asked.
“You heard me,” Mrs. Webb said, “One thing you need to know about this school, Millie, is that we excel at communication. Administrators, teachers, and even prefects have a well organized filing system for every student here that we can all access. Not everything is visible to everyone, but the relevant details are shared across the board. For example, it’s not just the office that knows about your issues with authority. I make a point to check up on every new student of mine before she steps foot in my classroom, so I wouldn’t bother playing dumb.”
Amelia’s mind was racing. What was this woman talking about?!
And then it hit her. Or, more accurately, a recent memory surfaced. Back when she was in Ms. Song’s office, the stern advisor had mentioned how Amelia was barely passing her classes back at her old school. When she had still been under the assumption that this was all just a vivid showcase of how a new girl might spend her first day at the academy, Amelia had made the connection that perhaps she was being treated like a difficult girl who had been shipped here by rich parents who thought it was the best solution. Now that Mrs. Webb mentioned another piece of false history, Amelia finally remembered a crucial detail that had eluded her so far:
She had faxed her information to the school instead of submitting it online.
Ashley had played nice on the first day, and ‘helpfully’ suggested a specific time for Amelia to send things to the office. Although Ashley had claimed at the time that she had no idea who was working then, that could easily have been a lie. For all Amelia knew, the smirking girl simply shredded the form in favor of inputting her own information into the system. But then, why did she ask for Amelia to send anything in the first place?
Either way, this was a lot worse than she originally thought now that the pieces were coming together. The school thought she was some troublesome girl who could barely pass her classes! In a way, that was almost more insulting than everyone thinking that she was thirteen. Amelia was an amazing student, then and now, and suggesting otherwise was like saying water wasn’t wet.
“Please, Mrs. Webb. I’m not-”
“Millie. Proper ladies do not speak out of turn, and this is your last warning. I’d hate for you to receive an infraction during your very first class, especially when the academy is the perfect opportunity for you to have a fresh start. Not another word. Do you understand?”
Just like that, Amelia’s fire was gone. Her history of being a good student left her thoroughly unprepared for what it felt like to be chastised by a teacher. Parting her lips in surprise, she almost blurted out what her adult self would say in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Instead, she simply nodded her head. She could only imagine how pathetic the gesture looked, but also didn’t know if answering the question was allowed when the directive had been not to speak.
As if reading her mind, Mrs. Webb said, “You are permitted to speak when spoken to, Millie. For example, do you have something to say about the binder and the Code of Conduct I’m giving you?”
Feeling a blush coming on, Millie awkwardly murmured, “Thank you . . .”
“That’s better. Now then, this is the Mathematics textbook you’ll be using for both this grade and the next. Your class schedule is in the binder, as is the syllabus for my class. Based on your old transcript and the results of your aptitude test, I set your current grade to 85. If you perform well over the next few weeks, we may discuss whether or not that starting number can be raised. Does that sound agreeable to you?”
NO. It didn’t. Amelia wanted to scream. She had never gotten below a 90 before university, and starting with a B made her instantly frustrated. Instead of fighting back, however, she simply nodded again. “Yes, Mrs. Webb,” she said, remembering the lecture from ‘Ms. Song’ about speaking properly. The grade didn’t matter, since none of this was real.
After another few points about expectations, Amelia was told to find a seat.
In her initial vision of observing classes at the academy, she had pictured herself sitting at the back of the room in a unique spot that would separate her from the other students despite the fact that she was wearing a uniform. That clearly wasn’t going to be the case now that she was assumed to be an actual transfer student. She didn’t even have the option to sit in the back row, as those seats were already claimed by girls who no doubt coveted the distance from any given teacher. While Amelia was normally the opposite of those girls–a front row type–she just wanted to blend in and get through the day.
All the side desks were also claimed, probably for similar reasons the back row was full. Private or public school, people liked their personal space. Amelia did, too, especially when she was about to be surrounded by a bunch of younger girls that were getting a mortifying first impression of her. At this point, she was pretty sure Westridge was no longer an option to teach at. The older girls would hear stories from Ashley and Claire, and surely at least one of the intermediate girls would recognize her later on once she had her mature image back in place.
She had been totally screwed out of the perfect job.
One of the nearby girls gave her a friendly smile as she sat down. Amelia grimaced, but managed to turn the expression into a half-hearted smile at the last second. The girl was ten years younger than her, which was all kinds of awkward. To them, Amelia was a peer, which meant she was stuck ignoring everyone or playing the part. Either way, it was a lie by omission about who she really was, but she was obviously going to go with the former option. Keep to herself. One, because she had no interest in acting more than she needed to. Two, because she was nervous about unfairly lashing out due to her pent up frustration with her ‘cousin.’ The last thing Amelia needed was some peppy girl trying to befriend her.
Although Amelia was bitter about being trapped as a schoolgirl, it was actually a relief when Mrs. Webb started teaching right away. It would be a lot easier to quietly blend in when she didn’t have to talk to anyone.
Opening her book to the page everyone was instructed to turn to, Amelia found a sheet of scratch paper in her binder and began working on Practice Problem 3b with the rest of the class. Thankfully, it wasn’t a quiz or test day, as some of the finer details of graphs and equations had been lost to her over the years. The last thing the recent college grad needed was a less than perfect grade that was a result of not being surrounded by this stuff every day like when she was younger. Even the problem they were given made her pulse race a little bit.
It was a graphing problem. Amelia could still solve the average equation in her sleep, but this was different. Suddenly feeling a little warm, though she doubted it was the blazer, she flipped back a few pages to find a formula and/or an example that would spark her memory. ‘Oh God,’ she thought to herself. Nervously glancing up, she was relieved to see Mrs. Webb at the front of the room. The last thing Amelia needed was the strict teacher roaming the room and seeing that Amelia had no idea what she was doing.
According to the aptitude test, this was supposed to be one of her strongest subjects, and yet she was totally floundering. This is the kind of stuff she would have brushed up on as a teacher before leading a class, but jumping in with no review whatsoever left her woefully underprepared to solve even one problem.
“Lyra, would you care to show your answer on the board?” Mrs. Webb finally said.
Amelia let out a quiet sigh of relief. At least the stern woman wasn’t going with the ‘spotlight on the new girl’ trope.
Her page was still almost entirely blank, but the beginning of the chapter had given her a few fragments of information from the hasty skim. Now racing the young brunette who was walking to the front of the classroom, Amelia was determined to get to the answer before it was given to her. Doing some quick mental math, she jotted down her solution and drew a curve on the graph before subtly putting her pencil down.
‘Please be right,’ Amelia prayed, as she watched Lyra step up to the chalkboard.