Jeffrey pulled into a service station, the car empty on fuel. Giving a swift apology, he climbed out of the car and strode to the pump. "Alexandria, darling, would you be so kind as to get us some water?" Ida asked, handing her a ten pound note in her gloved hand. They were only a half of the way there, having to go from Kent to Nottingham was no easy task. Though Alexandria would not say it was directly Kent to Nottingham since Hampton's was just a few miles further north of it. Alexandria had been told, however, that she could go to Nottingham on the weekends - and she was especially excited to see the forest.
"Of course, mother," she accepted the note and climbed out of the car. Nodding to Jeffrey, his cap bobbing as he returned the gesture, she carried on into the small service station. A heater roared in the background as she walked inside. A man, rather plump and lazy she would say, sat behind the counter watching the news. The reporter spoke of some crime involving a twenty-two year old being killed. Lovely, Alexandria mused as she continued onto the fridge. Pulling out three bottles of water, she turned back to the counter, wandering through the aisles containing all sorts of food and other things. There was a particularly large section devoted to magazines and newspapers, rather disfigured in its organisation as it were. "Just these thank you," Alexandria put them on the counter as the man pushed some buttons and lowered them into a plastic bag. "Oh, no bag, please. Thank you." He certainly seemed annoyed after that, grumbling something unintelligible under his breath. "Thank you," she said again after giving him his money, taking the change and picking up the bottles. Opening the door, with trouble, she stepped out into the cold air.
Wind blew fiercely, snapping back her coat and tie towards the service station. Alexandria hurried back to the car, soon dropping some change. It rolled to a coach on the opposite side of the station, stopping with that metallic ring against concrete. "Damn it," Xandria hissed, but then silently cursed herself again in hope that her parents had not heard her speak in such a horrid manner. Pocketing the rest of the change, she walked steadily to the coach and picked up the pound coin. Soon turning back to her car, she felt someone grab her arm.
"What are you doing off of the coach?" It was a man's voice, deep and irritated. Alexandria turned around to see a boy, a Hampton's boy, clutching at her arm. Children - eleven year olds - were staring at them through the windows. Now I really have been insulted, she thought, knowing she was small but not small enough to be thought as an elven year old. "Do I have to repeat the question? Have you no manners?" The boy squinted at her, his blue eyes glinting in their own paleness. Dark hair covered his head, seeming as if it were that sort which could never be tamed.
"Excuse me," Alexandria turned to face him fully, taking back her arm, "but it seems as if you are the one being rude here. I am merely trying to pick something up that I dropped - and here you come, storming in and handling me as if i were some child in need of some correction on its behaviour. I dare say that I would call you the one without manners, sir, since you have no possible idea about polite society." She knew that she was fuming with rage - not that her face was boiling red or anything - and she should not have spoken so directly. Jeffrey came over, hurriedly and like an angel about to save someone who were to be damned to Hell. The boy snapped his startled attention to the driver, weighing up this new acquaintance.
"Miss Alexandria, is there a problem here?" Jeffrey asked, having removed his cap, you could see his full profile. The ginger hair a shock after the dark uniform he wore. The children at the coach still pining after some entertainment from the long and boring journey they had so far had. Alexandria mutely shook her head, killing any remnant of an argument there had been. The eleven year olds quietened down inside, Jeffrey took the water from Alexandria and the boy kept his pointed stare at Alexandria as she returned to the car.
Staring out of the window, she saw the boy talking with a girl. The two had the same irksome eyes, probably brother and sister, Alexandria thought. It stung at her like wasps on skin. She would never not miss her brother, that was totally inconceivable to her. It was just that the pain sometimes hurt more than other times. "Are you okay, darling?" Ida asked, Robert returning to the car after having paid for the fuel. Alexandria smiled, somewhere between sincere and fake.
"Yes mother," she repositioned her seat, "shall we go on?" the car lurched forward as they began their journey again. It would not be long before they would arrive at Hampton's, and she just hoped that the boy from the service station would not trouble her again.
"Darling look," Ida pointed out of Alexandria's window, to a stunning mass of forest that seemed to go on forever. Sunlight broke through the clouds, casting beams of yellow that brought the trees to life with several different colours. Light green and pale blue, vivid indigo and burnt orange all called up from the dreary tones of the dark - almost black - leaves. Xandria could not help but gasp at the ancient and hidden land, yet there was a more stunning shock in store as the car followed the road to drive into the acreage.
Quickly, she rolled down the window to stick her head out and stare up into the early-autumn sky. It's like heaven, Xandria thought blissfully before being scolded. "Get back in the car at once, Alexandria!" Her father snapped from the right side of the car. Turning back inside and rolling up the window, the girl subsided back into a docile stare; never once speaking up. "Never do that again, you know how I feel about you messing around with cars." Robert sighed, Ida patting his hand gently.
"My apologies father, I never thought of it like that. I'm sorry," keeping her green eyes pointed on her leather shoes, Alexandria realised how selfish she had been. They had already lost a child from an accident with a car - it was a miracle that she was even allowed in one anymore. How could I have acted like that? It's just a forest and they're my parents. I could never hurt them again, casting her eyes over to her father and mother, she saw Ida whispering in Robert's ear. Hushed and calming tones were used while her father fumed with rage.
After a while, they came out of the forest road to have an age-old castle loom over them from atop a hill. The forest grew around it, pastures of long grass open for horses to graze breaking up the continuous range of trees. With six turrets and enormous walls, the castle was a man-made monster in the beautiful country-side. Carrying on up the hill, they soon came across congested traffic. Parents and family all trying to drive their children or nieces and nephews into the fort making the road jam-packed. Eventually the line moved and they were in the drive. Jeffrey hopped out to open the door for Xandria and her parents. "Jeffrey, if you could be so kind, would you mind waiting just over there? I think we shall want to get Alexandria settled before leaving."
"Of course, ma'am," Jeffrey replied, touching his cap for a moment before walking round to the front of the car. Just before he slid into the driver's seat, however, he stopped to touch Xandria on the arm, "Have a good first term, Miss Alexandria." She smiled at his fondness, the man had been her family's driver since she was six years old - almost like he were family as well.
"Certainly, Jeffrey. I'll see you at Christmas." He nodded to her, then Robert and finally got into the car and parked it on the other side of the gigantic drive. In the middle was a beautiful statue of an archer, mistletoe in his hair. All the cars drove around in a circle, students getting out and leaving their family with heart-felt goodbyes and affectionate embraces. Gravel crunched under the trio's feet as they walked to the doorway. A double door with black iron plated across it in some Tudor-fashion opened and closed with the coming and going of the inhabitants of the school. hey certainly got some weird looks as they passed the threshold. With Ida's brown suit, fur curling around the collar, her hat screaming out her wealth along with the stockings and 1940's styled shoes and Robert's dark coat and pin-striped suit with the red tie; they looked like some sort of retro style family in the old castle. They stood in a wood-panelled room, Persian carpets covering the floor. Two staircases lead up to a small landing, a door that probably left to dormitories on another level of the building. Below that, though, was another door; open to the cold that leaked in so easily. Xandria could see the exquisite courtyard from where she stood.
She had already fallen in love with the place.
A woman walked over, wearing a long navy skirt and white blouse, she was most obviously the head matron. "Hello," she greeted Ida and Robert, shaking their hands, "I believe you are new here?" Muttering yeses, Alexandria's parents explained how they had signed her up last year for the boarding school, the way they had gotten there and that her trunk should be here already. "Ah, yes!" The matron recognised the whole thing as her parents mentioned their daughter's name, "I remember now - Alexandria Ross. What of her brother? Is-" Ida cut off the matron before the name was said.
"We would rather not speak of that," surprisingly, Xandria's mother's voice didn't break. Catching a glimpse of the young girl's face, the matron probably understood straight away. She apologised and told the small family where Alexandria's room was. "Helios' tower? I remember where that it, we won't need a guide, thank you matron for all your help." Ida politely shove the woman away, knowing that anymore help would certainly not be appreciated. "Come along, darling," Ida took Xandria by the shoulders, leading her through the doors into the courtyard. It was cobbled, stone benches all around the place with patches of earth housing exotic plants and a tree that rose up in the centre. Mistletoe hung from the branches, indicating the reason behind Hampton's shield.
Her parent's led her right past the natural giant, to the other side of the courtyard where one of the six turrets stood. On it was a sun, bronze metal shaped and hammered so that it fit easily against the stone wall. They entered inside, the door opening out into a small foyer that buzzed with energy from the arrival of fifth-year students. Another matron was there to direct lost new-years or recently joined students. She informed Ida and Robert where Alexandria's room was and then left to deal with some argument over lost luggage in another corner. "Well," Ida turned to Alexandria, "This is it, darling."
"You'll be a good girl, won't you Alexandria?" Robert questioned from behind Ida. Her mother was gripping on to her hands tightly, as if letting go would mean losing Xandria forever. "I expect excellent reports when you come back for Christmas. Now, hop along and make some friends. But always remember you're a Ross, you need to stay proud and act like it. No more of this nonsense, agreed?" Those green eyes of her father's stuck to her like glue, never losing focus until Alexandria nodded.
"Yes, father," she replied. Knowing it was coming, Xandria finished his sentence before he even got the chance to start, "Success nourishes hope, I know. I'll be good father, you have my word." Robert nodded, a curt action before squeezing her into a hug. Ida had tears in her eyes as she did the same, placing a kiss onto Xandria's forehead before leaving.
Finally having a sense of freedom, she turned and rapidly walked up the stairs. They were a spiral set, leading to the second floor, a common room. The third and fourth were dormitories, but not hers. Room 3, you'll be housed with another group of fifth-years. They've been here since the start and I'm sure they'll help you get settled. The matron's voice rang in Xandria's head as she stopped in front of a door. Gold leaf was left in the number three on the door, only proving that it was her doom. Taking in a deep breath to settle her nerves, Xandria grasped the handle and stepped inside.
Four beds were laid out in the almost semi-circular room, three were already occupied, obvious from the amount of possessions cluttered over them. The fourth was under a window, which looked out over the forest to the east, with her trunk at the foot of the bed. To Alexandria's right was a bathroom, complete with a toilet, shower and basin. Hesitantly walking over to the bed, now hers, she plummeted down onto the soft mattress. A wardrobe was given to each of the room mates, two either side of the door. Finding herself easily bored and worried at the same time, Alexandria began to unpack.
Opening out the doors of the oak wardrobe, she noted where things could and couldn't go. There was a brass rack for things to be hung on, a drawer at the bottom for shoes and to the left of the storage space, a column of shelves for clothing to folded and piled in neatly. Bringing over outfits and shoes, Xandria stored them in the correct places. As she continued with the process, her trunk emptied and the closet filled. Then, the only items which remained were her beloved books. Luckily, they all fit inside the bedside table, with its two deep draws that extended rather well for full optimisation of the space.
After putting her toiletries in the bathroom, removing her shoes and coat, Xandria began to feel slightly at home - thought it was drastically different to her room. Pulling her hair into a loose braid, she daydreamed until the door abruptly opened and three girls walked in. At the front was a tall girl, her pale eyes flicking over the new roommate. She had long dark hair, tied back into a ponytail - the girl reminded Xandria of someone. "Didn't I see you at the service station?" She questioned bluntly, her hand pointing a finger towards Xandria.
"I believe you did," Alexandria rose to greet her new roommates. The other two were smaller, how they not be? The girl in front was enormously tall. To her left was a cute girl, sandy blonde hair and warm brown eyes that only reminded her of a Labrador pup. The girl on the right studied Xandria cautiously, those dark eyes looking her from head to toe. She twirled a strand of her short brown bob with her forefinger, seemingly chewing on gum. "Was that your brother who handled me like some sort of brute?" Alexandria returned the direct tone with one of her own intrusive queries.
"Yes, I'm afraid it is. He's not usually like that - so I'll have to apologise on his behalf. We were bringing some first years up and they can be dreadfully annoying sometimes." The girl had wandered slightly closer, the other two drawing in to their beds. "My name's Rachel, by the way. Rachel Ives." She stuck out a hand by way of greeting, a rather pompous thing to do.
"Alexandria Ross," taking the hand in her own dainty way, she responded politely and then turned to the other two. Soon enough, the girl with blonde hair spoke up, informing Xandria on her name: Louisa Blackmarsh. The other girl turned out to be none other than the unknown Theresa White - though she liked to be called Tess. Louisa and Rachel seemed to be from similar sorts of backgrounds to Alexandria, though Tessa was here by a scholarship. "You must be quite clever then," Alexandria assumed.
"I get by," Tess concisely countered. Her friends seemed to be surprised at the tone she took, and the words she spoke. Soon they were arguing over how she thought she 'got-by' as being top of almost every class. Very clever indeed then. Alexandria thought, returning to her bed. The room very quickly lapsed back into silence. "Seems all family have gone," Theresa mused, staring out of the other window. They were far from the drive, but Xandria imagined that they were high up enough to see despite the distance.
Rachel wandered over to the window, looking at whatever Tess saw. "You're right - which means first call of the term." Xandria saw the dread in their eyes. Whatever this first call was, it certainly wasn't going to be fun. Or maybe it would seem fun and become dull as the time passed. Riiiinnnng, Riiinnng, went a bell just outside of the dorm room. "Come along Alexandria, we've got to go to the first call."
The roommates swiftly went down the spiral staircase, ending up in a tide of students that were striding quickly out of the tower and across the courtyard to some sort of hall. "What exactly is this, this 'first call'?" Alexandria, never having been to school before, knew nothing about what they were doing or what it would be like. Tessa and Louisa giggled to her right, then turned to their new room and class mate.
"Alexandria, you really are proper, aren't you?" Louisa asked, a smile on her adorable features that could probably light up a graveyard. Carrying on in the tide, students of all heights and sizes gathering into a hall on the western side of the castle, Rachel soon explained to Xandria what it was all about.
"Practically, it's like an assembly, the teachers call us in here and greet us for the first term - it'll happen every month with different pieces of news and information the teachers feel obliged to give us." Rachel sat down at one of the long tables in the hall, the other two following suit. Xandria stared at all the students who flowed in through the door and simply comfortably sat at the seats provided - as if this were their home. "Have you ever been to school before, Alexandria?" Rachel looked up to the small 16-year-old, her chestnut hair hung over one side of her shoulders in a braid, those green eyes fascinated but nervous at the same time.
"No, I can't say that I have," she slowly sunk down onto the wooden bench. Tess, Louisa and Rachel all gaped at her. Xandria could see the questions popping up in her minds - at least they were polite enough to keep to themselves. The hall suddenly quietened before the girls could speak further, a man in a suit standing at the front - probably the Head Master.
Rachel abruptly turned around to Xandria and whispered something in her ear, "don't worry - we'll be here for you." As if she knew everything that had happened to the girl over the past few months. Something twinged in her heart, making Alexandria truly feel at home.