Valburton School for Girls

Phoenix Cotton is a kind of awkward teenage girl, who struggles with battles with herself a lot of the time. She hangs around with her mates, who try to do what they can for her happiness, even through their own problems. She goes to the local school, doesn't always do her homework, argues with teachers, despises judgemental people. But one day a letter comes through the post that changes everything, she is going to Valburton School for Girls.


(Yellow rating content given due to moderate swearing, smoking and alcohol consumption)

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2. The Post

I was on a gravel path, once more, and instinctively I began to walk, the gravel crunching under my feet. I could see a door, a grand, wooden, old fashioned double-door, about a hundred metres away. Considering how far away from me it was I could see it exquisitely clearly; I could see two great quarter-circles scraped into the grey paving stones beneath the doors from where they had been opened and closed countlessly; I could see the hinges which, attached to the door by long strips of metal that stretched quarter of the way across the wood of the door, had once been glossy and black, were now riddled with orange-brown rust. 

The second the thought crossed my mind I realised that though I had been walking the whole time I had been observing the doors, I didn't seem to have got an inch closer to them. I began to walk faster, and though I could feel one foots worth of gravel pass from under my feet and lead onto the next, though every inch of my body told me I was moving forward, from the slight breeze of motion streaming through the tips of my fingers, to the quiet whistle of wind in my ears as I moved, my own eyes told me I had not got any closer to those wretched doors. Standing still for a moment to ponder, I could hear a distant bleeping, but it didn't bother me in the slightest, I could hear it, and I had acknowledged its being, but it didn't feel as though it was remotely near, or any danger, to me. It was like hearing neighbours arguing next door, and trying to work out what they're saying; its hopeless because the layers of brick and gas pipes and plaster and paint between you and them makes it only possible to hear them in the dead of quiet, let alone distinguish what they're saying. Awakening from my reverie caused by the bleeping I started to run toward the doors, as a last resort to reach them. As I broke into a sprint I tripped and fell toward the gravel as if in slow motion, as my falling body continued to fall, hair flying in the breeze as I fell...

***

I jerked, suddenly awake in my bed, heart pumping, fists clenching and unclenching. I took a great gulp of air in through my mouth before becoming aware of my surroundings. I was in my bed, with no doors like the one in the dream in sight, and the bleeping noise was no longer seemingly in another world, it was resting on my bedside table, in the form of my alarm clock. I pulled a hand from under the duvet and slapped it down onto the top of it, silencing the bleeping at once. I looked at my hands, they were trembling, as they always did when I had one of those dreams where you fall in the dream and suddenly jerk and are wide awake in your bed again. I took a few deep breaths and managed to steady them. 

Getting out of bed I pulled on my dressing gown sluggishly, before making my way down stairs, my feet patting softly on the carpet. My mother was in the kitchen making my brother and sister breakfast and a packed lunch each. Ugh, it was a Monday.

"Morning, Phoenix" my mother sighed, (Phoenix is me, that's my name. I don't know what went through my mums mind when she picked the name, and honestly, it's ridiculous, the only thing it can possibly be shortened to is 'Phene' since people tried shortening it to just 'Phe', and everyone thought I was called Phoebe, it was awful.) noticing my sluggish posture, she gave up on any kind of conversation worth having. I grabbed a piece of toast from the rack and began smothering it with butter. I ate absent-mindedly thinking about the dream, grasping on to the last of the rapidly fading memories of the dream. I could remember the doors, and I was certain I had seen them before, though I could not for the life of me remember when or where.

In the upstairs bathroom I splashed my face with cold water, and rinsed the sleep out of my eyes. Where had I seen that door before? I questioned myself, but unable to fathom an answer I cleaned my teeth, still wondering about it. 

I busied myself getting dressed, and pulling my grey jumper on over my shirt, tie and the waistband of my skirt. Pulling my hair out of the loose up-do I had flung it into before going to bed the previous night, I looked into my mirror, seeing that my hair had tumbled down into loose, dark brown waves around my shoulders I gave it a quick brush and then grabbed the bottle of liquid eye-liner from the side and lined my lash-line, the shiny liquid quickly setting into a matte black. Finishing the corners of my eyes with identical flicks, which I had been doing for years, I took one last look in the mirror. This was as good as it was going to get on a Monday morning. Shrugging in the closest I was going to get to approval of myself, I slung my bag over my shoulder and left my room, grabbing my boots from the doorway, still where I had flung them after coming home from school on Friday, I paused at the bottom step of the stairs, sitting down to pull my boots on and lace them up. I walked into the kitchen, stowing my lunch and a bottle of water into my bag. I had no time to dither with what to do while I waited, a familiar knock on the door told me Kate was there. Calling a goodbye to my mother I pulled the door shut. 

Meeting Cara and Sam on our way, we walked to school arriving just after the bell rang. 

 

***

 

It had been a slow boring day, like most of my Mondays. The lessons had dragged and I had arguments with three teachers, two of them, because, once again, I hadn't completed their homework, and the other because I had absent mindedly put my earphones in while she was talking, and she had been pretty pissed about it, I wasn't bothered though, it's pointless doing extra work for a subject that you've got good grades in, and honestly, I could not have cared less in that moment about what incoherent babbling I had missed from my maths teacher, because I had put Ray Toro's new song on and holy shit, the man could sing, and he was the best guitarist I had ever heard, and besides that I just couldn't be bothered to try with learning maths when all I could think of was that dream. The lessons didn't matter to me anyway, it was the last week before the 2 week Easter holidays, and I was certain no teacher could possibly hold a grudge over a two week break, unless they had absolutely no social life whatsoever. Okay, so maybe there was a chance I would end up with a few detentions, but what did it matter, the only thing they ever included is just sitting at a desk listening to the teachers gossip while you sit staring at the desk, pretending to 'reflect' on what you've done. 

Lunch, as usual was what made my day bearable, Cara, Kate, Sam and I went to our usual hideout and talked while we ate. The 'usual hideout'  was just a place I found one day when I had had enough of my lessons. I don't know how it got there, I like to think someone who really wanted a place to escape from lessons created it one day, because there's no way places like it spring up out of the ground into a perfect den. It's not much, to be honest it's a bit of a shit-hole, but it's useful. All it is is a humongous patch of leaves and trees and bushes which has an opening around the back which if you bend down just a little bit, is the perfect height for walking into, and in the middle of the abundance of leaves and weeds there's a clearing, just big enough for a few of us to sit in. I brought there Sam there one day when we were supposed to be doing extra work in the IT room, and she suggested we sit there at lunch. It doesn't take long to get to, it's just a few yards to walk once you got out of the gate at the far corner of the football pitch which no-one ever goes on. At first, Kate and Sam moaned about their shoes getting dirty, shit I thought, yet again, I hadn't considered anyone else but myself, the mud on the floor wasn't a problem for me, I wore my black leather Doc Martens to school, and could walk through it no problemo, I would just rinse the mud away when I got home, but Cara wore dainty little black shoes and Kate wore expensive suede ankle boots and they couldn't walk through as easily, but noticing it bothered me that they were upset, they quickly stopped moaning and tried to deal with it as best they could, hopping around the wet mud.

They always do that, try not to be upset around me, because they know that when they're sad I get sad and find any way I can to blame myself. They always do that, and I always pretend to be oblivious to the fact that I know exactly what they were doing. It's not that it bothers me that they try to be happy around me, I'm grateful they do it, I know I would constantly blame myself for it if they were sad all the time, but I do still feel bad that they feel like they have to act different around me, that they can't show how they're really feeling if they're feeling crappy when I'm there, but I, with my selfish needs and inconsiderate ways, haven't got the heart to tell them to stop it.

 

The rest of the day was boring, and I was positively counting the seconds until I could go home again.

 

As me Kate, Cara and Sam were about halfway home, I checked my phone, and noticed a text. It was from my mum 'Get home ASAP, love you x'  this was unusual, my mum isn't the type of person that sits on their phone for ages sending texts. She only ever texted me when it's really important like a family member given birth or whatever. 

"Hm." I said, skimming over the text once more.

"What?" Chorused  Cara and Kate, and Sam looked up at me inquisitively.

"A text from my mum, she hardly ever texts." I told them, showing them the message. Cara was the first to answer my concerns.

"Don't worry about it, she probably wants to take you out somewhere, like a surprise shopping trip." she said.

"My mum? Surprises? Really Cara?"

"Yeah, why not?" said Kate.

"I dunno, my mum just isn't the surprises type of person" I replied.

"Face it Phene, you can't be in trouble with the school, or she wouldn't have said 'love you' at the end" said Sam, she was always good at reading between the lines of what people mean.

"Hm." I said summing this up in my head. It was no use, I would just have to get home and find out.

I had been so disturbed in the mysterious text that I hadn't noticed we'd gotten to the point where Kate and I walk a different way to Cara and Sam.

"See you guys later" said Sam as they turned to walk their way.

"Phene, message us on the group chat about what happens with your mum, will you?" Cara asked, concern in her eyes.

"Yeah, sure. See you." I replied, turning to walk with Kate. As we walked on my mind pondered back to the dream I had had once again last night, somehow I thought that it and the odd text from mum were linked.

 

***

 

I finally reached the front gate of my house and calling a goodbye to Kate I pushed my key into the lock and walked into the house,boots squeaking slightly as they tried in vain hope to stop me from moving my feet.

"Mum?" I called out into the hallway.

"In the kitchen. Phene come here quick" she called back, in a light airy voice. A sense of relief flowed through my body, it couldn't be anything too bad if she could speak in such a light happy tone. I strode along the hallway, and walked into the kitchen. My mother was sat at the table, a smile embedded on her face, holding a large thick white envelope.

"Look what came in the post!" she said delight bursting through every word she spoke. She pulled out a brochure from the envelope, and there bold as brass on the front cover stood an enormous building that looked like a castle, with great brown double doors at the front, the exact doors that had been playing through my mind all day. They were the doors I had seen in my dream, and now they were on my kitchen table in glossy paper, like a slap in the face with an icy cold hand.

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