Labeller

She's a wild child. Her friends all follow her lead, including her brother. Alexandria is 16 years old when he dies in a car accident. Now, Alexandria is broken and can't stand to have anything in her life again. No drugs, no booze, no fun. Nothing. How could she anyway? He's dead - it was all her fault. This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. Text and illustration copyright © A_Books_Magic_Moment 2015 Her right to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

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5. Hampton's Conduct

The Head Master droned on and on in his dull voice, greeting the students back and welcoming the new years, thanking those who had helped out with the arrival of the new and old and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Filling the hall, his entirely boring voice screamed out to everyone, making them listen despite his tone. Xandria hated it when those dark eyes touched hers, there was nothing but cold sadness there - she could tell, for that look had been in her eyes for a while. The Head Master wore a navy suit, fitting in with his students in unnecessary obligation. Gold cufflinks glinted in the light as he expressively waved his hands about, betraying his voice. The shirt underneath looked like something from the last century, with its plain collar and stripped main piece of clothing. A blue tie rested on top of it all, a Windsor knot giving Alexandria the only thought that this man must have certainly had some sort of extravagant parents.

She felt a kinship with this man, despite having only known him for a mere few minutes.

"This year will be better than the last," he carried on, breaking through Alexandria's thoughts, "for those who have come back from the last year have learnt upon their misconducts, upon their wrongs, and have bettered themselves for it. Therefore, hypothetically speaking, none of you will make the mistakes you did before. None of you will have a reason to make them again. And even if you were not here last year, you will have your elder peers to guide you through the process - and next year you will do the same as, though I'm sure the upper years are equally understanding in your situation, you may make mistakes and learn from them." The Head Master paused, thinking on his words for a moment. "Every man is the architect of his own fortune," the famous motto seemed to echo through the dining hall, everyone reacting to it in some way or the other.

"How original," Louisa drawled from the other side of the oak surface, "using the school motto in the opening speech. How the newbs must love him." Tess laughed at that, Rachel smiling secretively; they were possibly thinking back on their first day. However Alexandria was not thinking back on it, but living it. She saw nothing wrong in using the motto, it was the most truthful and most accurate bunch of words she had heard since coming here. Since her brother's death. For he would not be in the ground now, but next to her if they had never gone out in the first place. Yet they could not resist, for when one has everything - with controlling parents to boot - one wants to do the things one should never do.

The Head Master's words filtered back into her head once more, Xandria  only just catching the end of the speech. "You decide your fate this very day. You decide who you want to be during this academic year, during this section of your lives. From the age of eleven to eighteen, you will be laying down the road that, later on, you will be walking. There are only a few things that the school staff can do to guide you, though eventually and inevitably, you will be the one to actually carve out your future from the choices you took. So choose wisely." And in that moment, that slow, long and meaningful moment, Xandria knew what to label the Head Master as... Victim, the word sparked in her mind. The Head Master was like her - he had lost someone too.

And it had all been his fault.

***

Alexandria and her new friends walked steadily through the courtyard. Younger students skipped happily or ran in a rush to their dorms, eager to find out everything and anything they can before the school day started on the morrow. "Rachel," Xandria stopped for a moment as the slightly older girl looked behind to her, slightly bewildered. "Could I trouble you for a favour?" It was request, made timidly; for Xandria did not wish to be trouble on her first day, with so many possibilities of it all going wrong and only a few of it going right.

Tess and Louisa hesitated for a moment, studying the two girls talk respectfully in the slight distance. "Don't worry! We will catch up later!" Rachel called to them across the cobblestoned yard. They shrugged and disappeared into the tower, the door letting in another few students before shutting immediately. Rachel then turned back around to Alexandria. "Well, what is it?" a rather blunt way to start, though it sufficed nonetheless. Alexandria kept her hands still, despite the burning anxiety to twitch and fiddle with them - her father had always told her not to do it, especially around new people. So she kept them still, clasped behind her back.

"I was just wondering whether you could show me around the grounds?" Rachel arched an eyebrow for a moment, the pale blue eyes sparking with interest for a slight moment. "Only if it would not be an inconvenience of course. Otherwise, I shall tell you not to bother and that I most certainly will try to find it all out myself." Alexandria turned around to view the castle. It seemed rather big - though she had been in bigger - and mostly comprised of identical hallways and rooms. She never knew how she would get around the place.

Rachel sighed, almost rolling her eyes, "You really like to isolate yourself, don't you?" the tall girl asked, possibly in a condescending way, though Xandria assumed it was just her making a slight joke. "Come on, there will be a lot to see," Rachel pulled Alexandria along by the hand, "We have two hours until lunch, which should be enough time. First day back, there's always nice lunch - so you want to get there early. The first years are such a bother, they always run around - too excited to contain themselves - and mostly annoy the upper student with their idiotic sense of, well, being lost and homesick and the like."

"You were a first year once, though, who's to say you weren't annoying as well?" Alexandria thought as she struggled to keep up with Rachel's long stride. It seemed like whatever step she took, Xandria had to take another three to even get close to where her feet were. "May we slow down a slight bit? I do find I'm quite shorter than you, Rachel, and do not wish to find myself upon the floor in an embarrassing manner."

The girl smiled, her dark hair swishing about her as she looked to Alexandria out the corner of her eye. Answering the smaller girl's question, she slowed down enough that they were going fast enough, but not to fast that Xandria would unceremoniously on the floor. "First of all, Alexandria, I suspect that people may make fun of you for talking like that. It's not often that we get proper ladies here at Hampton's - but we definitely get those who like to think they are 'proper'. Now," Rachel immediately turned around, walking backwards, "do you have your time table? I'll only show you the classes you need to know where they are, that way we won't waste time."

"Here," Xandria curtly stated, passing the neatly folded piece of paper to the girl. "Do I have any classes with you?" she peeked sideways at the time table as Rachel studied it. "I don't want to be alone all day for my first school day. It would be truly - well - despairing, I suppose." A smile tweaked at Rachel's lips as she flicked those pale irises back and forth between the paper and her ignorant new-found friend.

Though it seemed she had not truly studied it, as shock became apparent on her features. "You have Science with sixth years? And Psychology with seventh years? What are you - some sort of Stephen Hawking?" Rachel froze staring agape at the paper. Sighing, Rachel sounded exasperated at the words which came next, "You're even smarter than Tess! How are we ever going to be able to compete with you?" She seemed truly distraught at the thought of it. Maybe even in denial that someone was smarter than her dear friend Tess.

"Let's keep it a secret for now, I don't think Tess would like it if she found out someone was smarter than her." Rachel agreed at Xandria's proposal and headed inside the hallways of the castle. "So, do I have any classes with you tomorrow?" Even though she knew that they would all dread it, Xandria still didn't want to be completely alone. Glancing down once more, Rachel looked at the time table - in this case, across the week.

"You have English and Maths with us, I won't take you to those classrooms. You have P.E with us, I won't take you there. So we'll go to History and French - you have those with sixth years. You also have Art with seventh years - you'll remember where the art block is easy. It's completely separate to the main building. You don't have to take I.C.T? That is totally unfair. And you don't have Philosphy and Ethics! Oh wait - you took Psychology. You have less lessons than a normal student, that's even more unfair! I'm so going to complain about this to the Head Master." Rachel rambled as they went down several passageways and up stairs and through doors. Eventually, the pair stopped in a hallway, doors coming off of it. "This is your History - French is around the corner. Science is upstairs," Rachel pointed to an almost-hidden set of stairs behind a door that looked like the panelling of the walls. "You can take those stairs to get there." Then she stormed off down the stairs they had come up from, seemingly going somewhere that Xandria had no idea what it was.

The dark-haired girl disappeared down a corridor that went to the right. "Rachel! Would you just slow down - it's not like-" Xandria would have finished her sentence but she came into contact with a person. The body was rock hard and well-built, tall like his sister. She wound up on the floor, her hands falling back to stop the impact from completely destroying her body with searing pain. Rachel immediately appeared, anxious at Xandria's side. "I told you I would wind up on the floor if we went too fast." A smile, sad and pained, permeated her features, pulling at those rose-like lips.

"I'll consider the advice with more weight next time," Rachel pulled her up, now Xandria was level with the boy who stood sheepishly in front of her. His pale blue eyes were as guarded as they had been when she had first met him, the uniform he wore all pressed and net - perfect, in fact. "You should watch where you're going next time, Mikhail." At that, shock ran across his face in a fleeting pass-by. The same blank expression returned to his profile, and he was soon walking off back into the courtyard. "Again, I will apologise on his behalf." Rachel said, her tone breathy at best.

"It's fine, I have probably dealt with worse," Alexandria dusted herself off and turned to her friend, "Where are we going now then?" Rachel snapped her attention back to her, those pale blue eyes startled as if she had forgotten about showing Xandria around.

A small smile flashed across the girl's face, "To Psychology, where else?" Alexandria smiled back, following her as they twisted down several more passageways to another set of classrooms. "Only the Sixth Form years come down here - they might be a bit rude since you're younger than them. But this is where your Psychology class will be taken for this year. Art block's down there, by the way, just through the door at the end. It's the little hut, can't miss it really."  I suppose this is the end of the tour, Alexandria thought as they headed back out to the courtyard and across it to enter the dining hall once more. Tess and Louisa waved them over, eager for their friends to sit down with them.

"We saved you some," Louisa said, gesturing to the fall plates they had pushed over at their arrival. Alexandria stared at the lunch, the food a portion of cheesy pasta with some vegetables. She had expected something more when Rachel had said that the food was really good, that students would get there early to eat it all up. But this just seemed rather boring. "I think the new girl doesn't like what she has," Louisa piped up once more, leaning on the table. Her own plate was finished, as was Tess'. Rachel was already digging in hungrily with her utensils, the food being gobbled up like she hadn't seen any in years.

"Trust us," surprisingly Tess pushed her for it, "it doesn't look good at all - but it tastes amazing!" This time, she was without gum, but still twiddled a piece of her bob on the forefinger of a hand. Alexandria looked to Louisa, then Rachel with her full mouth - she nodded, swallowing the enormous bite of pasta. Glancing back at Tess, the urgency in her eyes imminent, she took a bite and her eyes widened. It is good, she thought as she took another. Not that she was rushing, but it seemed like a minute before the meal was finished. Xandria definitely wanted more. "Told you," Tess goaded as they left the hall to return to their dorm.

***

Alexandria sat on her bed, reading her copy of The Divine Comedies. She was on the second third, enjoying it too much to put down. The other girls were getting ready to bed, still in the bathroom removing their makeup and tying up their hair, brushing their teeth and laughing. She could hear the mirth trickling from the crack under the doorway. Alexandria was sure that the whole tower could hear them - it was not like they were being exactly discreet. Curfew was in a few moments and Xandria's friends were probably not in anyway ready. The other students were probably asleep. Only a few lights shone across the courtyard, Alexandria had no doubt that they would be descending into darkness very soon.

The bathroom door opened, Rachel, Tess and Louisa filing out one after the other. They put away their toiletries silently, but then Louisa whispered something that sent another wave of laughter through the group. "Lights out girls," the matron spoke from the slightly open doorway, her toes just peaking over the edge. Rachel turned off her bedside light, Alexandria finishing the verse off and putting the book on top of her bedside table. Her own light went out too after she climbed under the covers and humped down on the pillow. She never liked being away from home. Tess and Louisa giggled for a moment before getting into bed too. Their own lights went out and the matron disappeared along with the warm glow of electric bulbs.

Moonlight washed across the room from Xandria's window, casting a silver glow over all the things inside. Stars shined with fervour in the pitch sky, something she could never tire of, or wish to be rid of. Even though they reminded her of that night. "Alexandria, could you close the curtains? I can't sleep with the light." Louisa asked from next to her. Corresponding with the request, Alexandria reached up and drew the curtains closed. Then, despite the regular breathing and three other beings in the room, without that soft light... Alexandria felt alone.

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