Boredom that’s what my life is. Sheer boredom. This thought circles my head like a dog chasing its tail, as I gaze out the window of my French lesson. In the distance, I can see the white horse crests that dance and gallop on the tips of the waves, the wind egging and pushing them on.
I shiver, and return to the abandoned book of my French translation of god knows what. I do not understand French and it-and its teacher- do not understand my dislike of it. Instead continuing to dance in my face and thrust random verbs up my nose in the hope that someday I will understand thedifference between manger and mange.
This aggravating professor now pipes up. “Mademoiselle Wilde, would you like to explain why your concentration has lapsed?”
Lapsed it has, especially whilst you were talking, you old, interfering-“Miss Wilde?”
My train of thought is interrupted by a further question. It wouldn’t do to bait her, would it?
I feign interest in my fingers which are smudged with ink and a couple of scratches.
It’s an order now, that I must answer or pay the consequences. Ho hum.
“Miss Wilde! You will have a detention this evening, five thirty sharp. You know where to go I trust?”
“Because she’s been there so many times!” titters Jemima Harrisson, one of the many girls I have had the misfortune to meet at this blasted boarding school.
I raise my head. “For not answering back?” I ask, watching Madame Beaufort mount up to explosive mode.
“And sheer cheek too!”
I raise an eyebrow. Before she can give out another detention, the bell clangs, followed by the slamming of desks and the thudding of books. I throw everything down and dash for the door. Deportment begins in an hour so that hour is mine to enjoy, if enjoyment is possible for me at Grey’s Finishing School for Girls.
I struggle through the sea of pale blue uniforms and neatly arranged buns in various shades of brown and blonde. My deep chestnut, slightly reddish hair is already escaping from its prison. Pressing through the scrum, I turn off at a side corner and pass through the empty parlour. At the end there is a servant’s back door, which leads down a narrow flight of steps and into the grounds.
The girl’s stream out onto the well tended lawns and clump into their own social circles. All involve gossip. I follow a small winding trail that circles around the back of the school, down the hill toward the sea. I speed up and it turns off slightly to the left. There it joins a wider road which leads to the stables. I sidle round a haystack and approach my favourite groom.
“Hello, Jack.” He turns and his face breaks into a smile of wondrous excitement and slight anxiety.
“Gracie!” I smile and dash forward. We collide and he lifts me up in a whirl, never ceasing to amaze me with his trick. I let out a small whoop and am instantly put down again with a reproachful look.
“Sorry! It’s not my fault that my stuffy French teacher leaves me gasping for air!”
“It’s not that Grace! It’s that you shouldn’t be here. What if one of the girls followed you?” His voice, rich with laughter and laced with fun is marred by the ever present drip of worry. I sigh.
“Why would they follow me? And what’s life without a little risk if they did?” I plead with his now wavering warm brown eyes.
“Fine. But I won’t get you into trouble”
“You won’t. I’ve got a whole hour at my disposal. Besides, I haven’t given you the latest update on the devil! And I had to come and see Jester!”
Jester, the cheekiest of horses, had had a cold. At riding practise, he insisted on throwing off Jemima and co. if they so much as tapped him with a whip.
“Alright, alright Miss Petulant Child, She Who Wants Everything!” Jack whines in a very accurate impression of Jemima’s whinging tones.
“Oh do be quiet! I do not talk like that, you impudent stable boy” I repost, sticking my nose in the air like so called fashionable ladies and failing disgracefully by clambering ungainly onto an empty stall door.
“Right you are ma’m, you’ve put me in my rightful place” he bowed and tugged a forelock, grinning all the while.
My chuckling dies down. I hate the boundaries that separate us. Upper class girl from lowly stable boy. If I had my way there would be no walls between us. Then again, me having my way never happened before and was not going to happen anytime soon.
“Please don’t do that Jack. You know I hate it.”
“Yeah, I know. And I hate it to but we can’t change the impossible”
“Pax.” We shake on it as apologies for our traded insults.
“So, what’s been happening between you and the scullery maid?” I ask cheekily, swing my legs against the stall. Jack had been interested in Annie, a very pretty, golden haired girl, since he had first come to work here, around a year ago. My boarding school life, which had been so dull, had been made bearable by Jacks wit and friendship. He and I both shared a passion for horses, which had been strengthened through my classes riding lessons.
He had been forced to attend on Amelia and Abigail, Jemima’s twin shadows and about as jumpy as a bagful of cats when it came to horses. Jemima and Elizabeth, a quiet girl who allowed her sheer loveliness to speak for itself, were better than the others but rode as dainty ladies, side-saddle and no faster than a stately walk. Their horses, Piper and Pippa, were the genteel and perfect pair of dappled gray ponies, who were pleasant but just about as fun as an empty vase; nice to look at, but completely void of anything inside.
The most eventful lesson by far had been the one where Jemima, bored of Pippa‘s denial to go faster than a trot, had insisted on trying the free spirited, bold chestnut Swallow. Swallow was best kept for the most experienced of riders as Jemima soon found out. Swallow had promptly bucked Jemima off the moment she had settled herself in the saddle. Landing in a heap, screaming that she had been done a serious injury, everyone rushing to her aid, Swallow had pranced back to jack, her expression one of deepest satisfaction. I think both jack and I had cracked ribs from trying not to burst into fits of giggles and even Jester had allowed himself a snort of laughter.
I chuckle as the memories took their toll and allow Swallow an extra pat. Jack caught on and grinned to himself as he swept the floor. “She really was a sight to behold” he sniggered.
“Cart wheeling through the air” I snorted, sounding exactly like Piper who was a favourite for snorting.
Swallow pricked her ears and let out a neigh of warning. I looked up and saw jack pale as the voices of Jemima and Abigail drifted in through the open door, calling my name.
“Hide” I hiss at jack, who promptly dives into the nearest haystack. If Jack and I were found together...that thought did not bode well. I cast around for something that looked time-filling, as though I haven’t been catching up on gossip with the stable boy. The sound of their boots and chatter grows closer. I let out a little moan of frustration and Swallow nickers in sympathy. Closer, closer they’re coming and time is trickling out...
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