Even the girl's careful footsteps stirred the dust in the infrequently used part of the library. Francine couldn't help but to sneeze twice, covering her nose and mouth with a curled hand as proper young ladies did. With the offending particles expelled, she pushed her glasses, which had slid precariously to the end of her nose, back into place.
Forgetting the slip of paper on which she had written the location of the tomes she sought, Francine gawked at the treasure of leather-bound knowledge all around. Had she not lived at the Gilchrest Academy since she was three, she would have been deprived of this. During the odd occasion when she thought back to her mother, she only had a hazy recollection of a nervous woman fidgeting with her little daughter's tattered dress prior to the interview. Of her father, Francine had an even vaguer impression of bristly cheeks and the aroma of machine oil and fish from the great trawler on which he spent most of his months.
Francine didn't recall the interview at all except for meeting some nice grown-ups who asked her questions and gave her plenty of time to answer. Afterward, her mother said goodbye and Francine remained in the care of the school. Gilchrest's mission was to produce young women of the finest education and culture to enhance society throughout the continent of East Vespana. In Francine, like the others in her class, they had seen the potential in the three year-old and had lifted her away from gritty streets of Ashburnham.
Gilchrest's funding was kept tastefully anonymous. The staff reverently spoke of The Beneficent, who supplied the school in actual gold every year. But that was not all. When the annual bequest was made, one remarkable student in the fifth grade was chosen to intern with them for ten years, a ceremony known as The Giving. Francine knew that Miss Celwyn, a dashing, raven-haired young woman had interned before returning to the school as a counselor two years earlier. Miss Celwyn would soon move on to higher circles of society but she served in her current role in selecting a student for The Giving with the utmost passion.
While Francine excelled in her studies, she knew she had never stood a chance for The Giving. Her ballet was a stumbling mess before the teacher kindly allowed the girl to take extra scholastic lessons in place of the dance. Overall, she was rather clumsy - the sort who might spill her afternoon tea and that sort of thing. No, the girl chosen for The Giving must have top qualities all around.
Francine reached the last row of shelves. Interspersed down the aisle between the shelves and the wall were heavy wrought iron grates that allowed heat from the basement furnace far below to keep the high-ceilinged top floor quite cozy. Pausing at a small window, Francine grinned as she spied the edifice of the great Fenway Greens just four blocks away.
Everyone of all classes shared a passion for Boston's rugby team. Generations of players in their blue pinstriped jerseys had won an unassailable number of World Series Cups, bestowed upon the overall champions of Wendria. Adding to the pride of the fans was that quite a few of these titles came at the expense of their red-stockinged archrivals from Yorkton.
Remembering her project, Francine put away thoughts of the rugby pitch and went looking for the book she sought. She had been very secretive, not even asking any of the librarians who knew her so fondly for assistance. While Francine was not even considered to be the girl for The Giving, she was overjoyed to learn that her own roommate, Camilla, would be the one.
Over course it should be Camilla, Francine thought with no trace of envy. With her crystal blue eyes, golden curls, impeccable manners and grace, and an overall sweetness in character, who better to represent their class? Francine thought of herself as kind of homely with her dark brown hair that refused any attempt at styling except to hang straight down. Her finest achievements of grace were the few times she had managed to make it through the day without some collection of stains on her white school pinafore. Her best features, in her own opinion, were her dark eyes but even those were usually imprisoned behind the wire-rimmed glasses she had needed for these past four years.
Francine sighed. But none of that was Camilla's fault. In the privacy of their room, the pair often shared every intimate secret and dream their young lives had produced thus far. Francine's only regret in Camilla having been chosen was that she would not see her best friend for ten years.
That impending separation was all the more bittersweet because of the latest discover the two of them had shared. For years, the girls at Gilchrest at giggled and whispered about the mysteries of kissing. While chaperoned events with boys from another school did occur, many a girl pondered what it would be like to be alone with a member of the opposite sex.
It was Camilla who had approached Francine after an older girl of fifteen named Charlotte had taken her into the woods.
"It was so wonderful," Camilla had gushed. "Just the two of us sitting together on a blanket. We had our paints and easels, of course, to do nature studies for Mrs. Meredith's class. But, oh, the things she knew!"
"It's just a kiss," Francine replied, confused at her normally level-headed friend's infatuation with a simple act. "We've kissed each other plenty of times."
"But those were pecks on the cheek. It's very much different when it is mouth to mouth and...well, more than that."
"How can it be more?" Francine giggled. "Honestly, Camilla, you're being very flighty."
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
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Changes last made on: Monday, January 08, 2018