Author’s Note (A/N): This story is unfinished. Be prepared for an ending in a strange place if you actually read the whole thing. If you read the whole thing, thanks. <3 you.
(It’s a Wednesday)
“Katie! Katie!” My mom bursts into my room, frantically waving a piece of paper in the air. “Gesticule Institute wants you to come to school there!”
Instead of jumping up and down and screaming like she seems to expect me to do, I look up at her from where I lay on the bed, headphones in, writing a story.
“Come on, no response?” My mom says, frustrated. “This is the most prestigious Institution in all of Britain, only picking a few students from every town to come study every year. This is like, the biggest deal ever, and you just sit there!”
I just sigh and turn back to my notebook, glancing at my tablet long enough to pause The Lightning Thief. I’m currently writing a fan fiction of it. “Maybe I don’t want to go to the most prestigious Institute in Britain. Maybe I want to go to a less prestigious Institute a bit closer to London, instead of halfway across the universe.” I didn’t use friends as an excuse. Mom knows I don’t have any close friends.
It’s my Mom’s turn to sigh, though hers is frustrated and dramatic. “I knew you wouldn’t want to go.”
“And you were right for once. Surprise, surprise.” I roll my eyes and turn back to my notebook, careful not to write on the colorful comforter. My carpet is a soft, fluffy purple. I painted the walls myself. Somehow they turned out looking a little like this:
In my opinion, I did a good job.
“You know what? I don’t care what you want. I’m sending you to that Institute and that’s final!” Mom stalks out of the room. I sigh, and put the notebook on the dresser, then stretch and open my balcony doors. I walk out, feeling the familiar peach floor creak under my feet. I hop onto the fence rail lining the balcony and jump the small gap separating my balcony from the rest of the roof. After climbing to the peak of my steep, sloping roof, I sit on the chimney, drinking in summer air, and once I’m relaxed, I remember a story I was once told.
It was a cold winter’s day. A young girl was running around her room, pretending to be an airplane, her black hair streaming out behind her.
“Whir whir!” She murmured to herself. “Flight 127, you are cleared for takeoff! Roger that.” She jumped onto the bed and jumped off, then ran circles around the bed, pretending to be in the air, her feet making small dents in the purple carpet.
Jumping off her bed wasn’t enough. she needed to really fly. She took the blankets off her bed and made a parachute. She pushed the doors to a balcony open, then stacked books so she could get up the the top of the railing.
She made airplane noises, then jumped off. The blankets were torn from her grasp, and she started to free-fall, plummeting two stories.
As a little girl, all she knew was she was going to die. Nothing else went through her head. She couldn’t think to slow her fall, grab anything, she just fell.
At the very last second, something caught her. That something was a boy, maybe her age or a few weeks older. He probably was older, he acted more mature than he really seemed to be. His hair was powdery white, and he wore a dark blue sweatshirt. In one hand, he carried a staff of crooked wood that was taller than he was. He carried her back up to her balcony and set her down.
“You okay?” He asked her.
“I think so.” She said in a small voice. Her blanket parachute floated down and landed next to her. “You’re not going to tell my parents, are you?”
The boy laughed. “No.”
“Good. They would probably be really angry if they knew.” The little girl said with little girl certainty.
“Now are you going to jump off again?” The boy asked her teasingly.
“Probably not until I get an actual parachute, but I can’t ask my parents to buy me one. They would want to know why I want it.”
“If you’re going to wait till then, I can probably go.”
“Why do you need to go?”
“Because if other girls get the same idea you had, I probably have four or five other girls to catch.” The boy tousled her hair and pushed off her balcony, flying into the air like a rocket. The little girl watched him go. She looked at the railing where he had perched. Ice spread from that spot. She was about to go back inside when she noticed a snowflake on the ground. she picked it up. It appeared to be made of ice, with a silver metal ring poking out one branch.
To the little girl, it seemed to be a gift from the strange white haired boy. “Thank you.” She said sincerely to the air, in case he was listening, then took the snowflake inside. She left it on her dresser, then forgot about it.
I stare off the roof. When the sun starts to go down, I slip back into my room and go down to the dining room for dinner.
“Gesticule Institute begins in two days, counting tomorrow.” Mom says as soon as I sit down. “I want you to pack any personal items you want to take with you. Don’t pack a lot of clothes, maybe one outfit to wear on Saturdays when you don’t have class. Every other day you have to wear a uniform. We have to start now because you still have to take a train to Middlesbrough. Pack your toiletries. I want you to get to class on time and…” I tune her out and plan another fanfic in my head.
When Mom takes a breath, I burst in with: “Mom, I don’t need to go to a fancy Institute. I’m going to be a writer, not a doctor.”
“Even writers need to know their facts.” Mom fires back.
“That’s what Google is for.” I grumble, but Dad starts talking.
“I always knew you would be a writer.” He says, which catches me by surprise. I don’t think he pays me any attention, ever.
“Oh yeah.” Dad says, staring into the distance, his eyes far away. “You always had an imagination.”
“Here we go again.” My 19 year old older sister Lindsay says, rolling her eyes. (I’m 17)
“I remember this one time.” Dad continues.
“Another long tangent.” Lindsay groans.
“You had been alone in your room, and when we came in to check on you, you kept claiming that you had jumped off your balcony and fallen because your parachute wasn’t good enough. You kept saying that this boy had caught you and flown away. I can’t believe that you could make that story so believable, I went over to the doors and looked out as if there actually was a flying boy out there.”
My heart beats just the slightest bit faster, and my ears perk up, but Mom bursts in on that. “Oh yes, lovely story. Now…” Mom continues with what she had been saying before, and I tune out again, my mind spinning. Did I see Jack Frost when I was younger? Am I the girl in that story? After entertaining the prospect in my head for several moments, I dismiss it. I don’t dismiss the prospect of Jack Frost being real, I dismiss the prospect of me being the girl in the story. That’s just not possible.
After dinner, I toss and turn in bed, unable to sleep. I walk out to my balcony, staring out into the night. I see houses, their windows dark. Someone’s dog barks in the distance. The st Zanea re on, casting a warm yellow glow onto the street. A cool wind comes off the houses and caresses my face. There is nothing out of the ordinary.
I braid my long black hair and go back to bed. After a couple minutes, I fall into a deep sleep, dreaming about Jack with a smile on my face, not waking until my Mom comes and yells at me the next morning.
A/N I’m going to put as many references to anything as I can for the rest of the story. Get ready for a million Hogwarts references. PREPARE YOURSELF!
(From the left, Kami, Katie, Natalie, Ren)
My Mom yells in my ear: “GET UP!” I sit bolt upright, and she throws a duffel bag in my lap. “Pack it.” She glares at me until I start getting dressed, then leaves.
I put on a black spaghetti strap tank top and black yoga pants, then throw on a black jacket and gray boots. I pack up my toiletries and go through my jewelry box. I find a bronze chain, and put it on. I like simple things. I don’t find any other jewelry, so I close the box. I pack a couple stories and some pens and pencils, then throw my tablet, NextBook, and I Zanea on top, zipping the duffel shut.
Just as I’m about to leave the room for the last time until I finish 4 years of the Institution, I see a glimmer under my dresser. Leaving the duffel by the door, I get on my knees and peer underneath. I fish the glimmer out, and blow off the dust.
It’s a crystal snowflake, maybe one and a half inches in diameter, with a silver ring sticking out of one of its branches. Just like the one from the story. I realize. I hang it on my bronze chain necklace, and gently grasp it with one hand.
“Thank you.” I say to the air like the girl from the story had on the day she had gotten a pendant like it.
Then I tuck mine beneath my shirt and turn my back on the room, picking up my duffel and closing the door on the room I had inhabited for years.
By the time the train pulls up at Middlesbrough station, I am bored out of my mind. I exit the train with all the other passengers, climbing into the car marked Gesticule Institute with the other kids from London. We drive in silence up to Gesticule Institute.
Upon arriving, we park in a reserved spot just outside the Institute, which is shaped like a huge intricate castle for no apparent reason.
“Good, the last bunch is here.” Says a woman upon opening the door. “Come with me.” The three of us follow her through the halls, the two boys I’m with gaping at their surroundings and conversing with each other, saying things like: “I can’t believe I made it in!” “So this is what it looks like. I’ve always wondered.” and the occasional: “How did that girl make it in?” whispered when they think I’m not listening.
We enter a huge auditorium theater place, where all the other freshmen and women are already at. Even though there’s usually only three kids picked from each city, there’s a lot of chatter.
We take a seat as a man approaches the mike, wearing a suit and tie. I wrinkle my nose. He seems very formal.
“Hello? Is this thing on?” He taps the microphone a couple times, and the audience winces at the feedback. “Welcome, freshmen and women to Gesticule Institute. I am Mr. Zanea, the principal. Here we have some of the smartest men and women in England. We provide a start for boys and girls from everywhere, helping them get good jobs in the future. Now.” He continues. “This is a very prestigious school. Keep your grades up, and you may get rewarded. However, if your grades fall, well.” He laughs, but it’s not a nice laugh. “This is the best school in England. We have a waiting list a mile long. If your grades slip, you might find your place taken by someone else.” He smiles for real again. “Now we will all go to the Great Hall for dinner, after my lovely helpers pass out a rulebook to each of you. Every meal will be held in the Great Hall. At this time, none of the others are here. For two weeks, all classes are for freshmen and women only. They are informal, and are just there for you all to get to know each other, and to get to know where your classes are. You will not be graded, and there will be no tardies.”
His eyes sharpen. “However, you still have to go to class. Starting the second day of Zanea, you will be kicked out of this school if you have missed three entire class periods. Thank you.” Mr. Zanea steps away from the mike.
“He seems strict.” I hear a male voice say.
No kidding. I think, but I don’t say it aloud. People already think I shouldn’t be here. I make it a goal to prove that I have just as much right to be here as they do. Before, I just wanted to flunk out as fast as possible. My priorities have changed.
The woman who answered the large oak door at the front drops a thick book into my lap, and I read the title. Gesticule Institutes Rules.
Oh God. I think to myself. On instinct, I grab the snowflake pendant.
The adults guide the freshmeat -sorry I mean freshmen and women- to a hall that truly looks like a great one. Gilded arches hold up a ceiling made of reinforced glass, so you could see outside. Lamps in holders along the walls and hung on thin strings from the ceiling lit up the four large tables lining the room.
What is this, a Hogwarts knockoff? I think to myself, because that’s what it looks like to me.
Principal Stebbins positions himself at the place where Dumbledore might have sat had this really been Hogwarts. The other adults position themselves along the long staff table on the dais. There seemed to be more of them then in the Harry Potter books and movies. Maybe the other professors don’t eat in the great hall?
I yank my attention back to the present when Principal Spitballs -sorry, Stebbins- starts to talk. “Every table in this hall is for one grade. While you are the only grade here, you may sit anywhere, but when the other three grades arrive, you will sit on the far right.”
He gestures towards the table to our right, his left.
“Sophomores will sit to the left of you, Juniors to the left of that, and seniors to the left of that.” He points to each table in turn. “Now pick a table, pick a seat, sit down, let’s eat!” I almost looked for food appearing on the tables, but they stayed empty, showing their bare wooden tops. It sounded like an incantation, like, FOOD, ARRIVE NOW!!! It even rhymed.
I chose a seat at the freshman table, in the corner with my back to the wall, as far from Principal Pigsnot- sorry, Stebbins- as possible.
Three other girls find seats nearby. One has shoulder length blonde hair, one has shoulder length red brown hair, and the other has blonde hair nearly as long as mine.
The two with shoulder length hair seem to know each other. They sit across from me, side by side, laughing and talking. The other sits directly next to me.
Some people in chef hats and white robes come into the room, setting the tables with expert grace. They look like they’re the hot chocolate people from The Polar Express. They plop plates of food everywhere, then once everything is set up and ready, they vanish from the room, back to the kitchens, I guess.
I load some food onto my plate, then open the rulebook in my lap and read while eating, as is my habit.
Rule 1: You will be on time to every class. Rule 2: You will not talk during class unless called upon. The list went on and on and on, listing the dos and don’ts.
I almost fall asleep, but somehow keep reading. I read for the whole hour of dinner and only get to Rule 30. In desperation I flip to the back of the book. The last rule is Rule 530. I’ve still got a long way to go.
Spitball -STEBBINS- stands again. “Ms. Patry will take the girls to their tower, and I will escort the boys to theirs.”
Everyone gets up and follows their person. We girls follow a perky woman with long blonde hair, pink cheeks and a pretty smile. After climbing stairs after stairs after stairs, we finally get up to the girls dorm. After climbing through a trapdoor in the ceiling of the top landing, we stand in a cozy common room. Armchairs and sofas in soothing shades of blue, purple, and dull pink circle a fireplace in one wall.
Definitely a Hogwarts knockoff. I think in disbelief as Ms. Patry leads us up another flight of stairs. My feet are killing me, and all I really want to do is crash. She stops at the first dorm room and lists off names. My name isn’t on the list. Four girls break off and enter the room. We continue up to the next room. Four more girls break off. I still have to ascend more stairs. Another group. Four more girls. Another flight of stairs. Another group. Four more girls. Another flight of stairs. Another group. My name.
I stumble into the room with the three girls from dinner. We all collapse. I collapse on the floor, to tired to get to a bunk. Everyone rests their feet and puts their bags down. We sit in a circle on the floor.
“We should introduce ourselves.” The girl with the long blonde hair says. “If we’re going to be roommates for this year.”
“Name, city, age, favorite pet.” The girl with shoulder length blonde hair says instantly.
“I’m Natalie.” The girl with shoulder length red brown hair volunteers. “I’m from Liverpool, I’m 18, and my favorite pet is a cat.”
“I’m Kami.” The girl with shoulder length blonde hair says. “I’m from Blackpool, I’m 18, and my favorite pet is a dog. And Natalie is my cousin.”
“I’m Ren.” The girl with long blonde hair says. “I’m from Plymouth, I’m 17, and my favorite pet is a cat. My birthday is in two weeks.”
Natalie high fives Ren. “Cats for the win.” She says.
Kami rolls her eyes playfully. “Whatever, dogs are much cooler. They actually do something. Cats just lie there.”
“I’m Katie.” I say. “I’m from London, I’m 17, and my favorite pet is an owl. My birthday is tomorrow.”
“Happy early birthday!” Natalie says, and Kami nods along.
“I’m just going to say something now. Am I the only one who thinks this school is a Hogwarts wanna be?” Ren asks.
“No, I thought that too.” Everyone else answers in sync. We all look at each other in surprise and laugh.
“So we’ve all read the Harry Potter series.” I say. “What other books has everyone read, and what movies has everyone watched?”
“Percy Jackson.” Ren says immediately.
“Oh yes.” We all say.
“Hunger Games.” Natalie throws out.
“The Wild Girls.” I say.
“HECK YES!” Everyone says.
“Rise of the Guardians.” Kami says.
“YES.” Everyone says enthusiastically.
“Books of Bayern.” Ren says.
We keep going like that until ten, at which point we pick bunk beds. I chose the top of the bed on the left. Ren slept below me. Natalie and Kami took the other bed, Natalie on top and Kami on the bottom.
“We could tell stories every night, a different story each time.” Kami suggests sleepily.
“Okay. Who’s going first?” I say.
“I will.” Natalie volunteers.
She took a deep breath, then spun this tale:
Many years ago there was a prince. His country was at war with their neighboring country. In an act of peace, the King married his son to the neighboring kingdom’s princess.
The two got married, and upon returning to the prince’s small castle, the prince’s wife turned to him.
“I have a wish.” She said to him. “I would like for you to grant it, and you alone, with no help, to the best of your ability.”
“Anything, my dear.” Said her prince.
“I would like you to build me a room, where I am warm in the winter and cool in the summer, where I can go to relax. That is my wish.”
Now, her prince had many skills, but building a room was not one of them. Still, he loved his young bride, so he promised to do his best. He picked a stone off the ground, and slipped it in his pocket.
From that day forward, as the prince and his wife grew older, the prince would work on his wife’s room. On days he couldn’t lift a single stone, he would hold the stone he had picked up that first day. His father died, and the prince became king. He had several children.
Though there was much on his shoulders, his wife’s wish was in the center of his heart. Nothing could distract him.
When he lay on his deathbed, he looked to his wife, and said: “I did not complete the room. I failed you.”
To which his wife said, “How could one so wise be so foolish? You have built me a room in your heart. You kept me warm in winter, and cool in summer. I could always relax with you. I loved how you, throughout your responsibilities, tried your best to give me my wish. And you have, my husband.”
The king died, and his queen soon followed, but the kingdom remembered their tale as one of love.
Natalie is good at storytelling. I felt like I was actually there in the king’s shoes, building the room for his wife.
Everyone rolled over and slept. I pondered the day, then I slept.
Maybe Gesticule Institute isn’t bad after all. I thought with a smile as I fell asleep.
A/N There were about ten references in that chapter. Did you catch them all? 😀
(From left, Zanea, Julie)
I woke up on time the next morning. The four girls in my dorm stumble down to the common room, joining up with the girls from all the other dorms.
Ms. Patry is waiting in the common room, with several baskets of clothes and a tub of paper. “I’m glad to see you all up.” She smiles. “I have your uniforms and schedules. I will call your name, and you’ll come up for your schedule, okay? Everyone will just grab five uniforms. Don’t mob the baskets, there’s enough for everyone and we have time before breakfast. You won’t be late. Go!”
Ms Patry started calling names in alphabetical order. My name was at the end of the alphabet, so I risked popping back up to my dorm to change into my uniform. I come back down to hear her call my name, and grab my schedule. I glance at my schedule, trying to memorize the class, room number, and teacher.
|Lunch||No one||Great Hall|
I go back to my dorm with the other girls while they change, and struggle through more rules.
“What do you have first period?” Natalie suddenly says, appearing at my shoulder and snatching my schedule.
“I have Science.” Ren volunteers.
“Hey, me too!” Kami says.
“Katie and I do too.” Natalie says, her eyes comparing my schedule with hers, flicking back and forth. “The only classes I don’t have with her are Industrial Tech and Art. I have those two flip flopped.”
Ren compares her schedule with Natalie’s and mine. “I don’t have Art third period, I got it fourth, and the horror that is Family and Consumer Sciences third.”
“So I have a friend in Art.” Natalie smiles. “I’m not completely alone.”
Kami comes over. “I have the same schedule as Katie except for Industrial Tech. I have Oral Comm then.” She high fives me. “Ks together!” She grins.
The four of us go down to the Great Hall. I slip my rule book into my book bag, leaving the notebooks I had brought in my room instead of taking them to write stories in class. I didn’t want to get distracted during class. In their place, I had several notebooks for note taking.
The chefs were already at work, setting the tables and whisking in and out with plates of food. The four of us plopped down in the same spots as yesterday. We loaded our plates with bacon crisped to perfection, scrambled eggs at the perfect stage between runny and rock hard, waffles a perfect crisp, pancakes delectably golden brown, and toast that is buttered and ready with a perfect dusting of cinnamon sugar. We fill glasses with orange and apple juice.
“Where’s the pumpkin juice?” Ren asks, and we crack up. A couple boys a few seats down look at us funny, but we wave them off. It’s obvious they don’t get the reference. I resist the urge to yell ‘Do you even read?’ down the table at them.
We eat our food, then head off to class. I check the room. 12. We manage to find it about halfway through passing period, and slip into desks in a square, taking up the centers of the first and second rows. I let my bag fall on the floor beside me, and all of the kids in the class wait for the bell to ring. When it does, a man comes into the room.
He has brown hair, and wears a casual suit that he manages to make look formal. I just read the dress code portion of the rule book at breakfast, and it says teachers had to wear formal suits. His suit meets the dress code, and somehow makes him look younger than he actually might be.
“Welcome students, to Science!” He grins. “I am Mr. Miter, but I will allow you to call me Mr. M. The things we do will seem difficult, but they are not actually. Once you grasp the basic principle, it is easy. I see that you all are here,” He says, glancing at a class roster and sweeping his eyes around the classroom, counting students. “Excepting the Nottingham girls. Their train got delayed, sadly. They’ll be joining us shortly, I’m assuming. Their train is due to arrive this evening, unless they run into further delays.
“Now, let’s begin by going around the room, and saying our name and a fun fact about ourselves.” He continues on with get-to-know you activities for the rest of the period, then released the class half a minute early, so we could find our next class.
Ms. Patry taught English. She taught the class much like Mr. Miter did, with get to know you activities and team builders. My next two classes went much the same.
Room 94 is close to the Great Hall, so I got to lunch first. I looked at the other students while I ate, getting a feel for the other people in the school. Some of the boys looked nerdy, but I’d had them in my classes, and they were actually not nerdy in the sense that they geeked out over things, they were just smart. I saw some girls that laughed loudly and shot dirty looks at other girls. Then my eyes fell upon a boy who sat next to another group of boys, but wasn’t talking to any of them.
His hair was powdery white. He wore a school uniform like all the rest of us, but I was sure that if this school was free dress, he would be wearing cut off gray pants and a dark blue sweatshirt. His eyes were roaming the room too. I pretended to be buried in the rule book when his eyes passed over me, while secretly watching him. I swear his eyes paused on me. They looked thoughtful, then continued on as my friends sat down around me, chatting about their classes, and their favorite teachers.
“That Mr. Miter is sooo dreamy.” Natalie swoons.
Kami laughs. “Only you would think that.”
“I’m serious!” Natalie protests.
“He’s like, 40.” I laugh.
“But he looks 20. He’s sooo adorable.” Natalie defends.
We all start laughing.
“I really like Ms. Patry.” Kami says.
“Yeah, she’s probably my favorite teacher.” Ren says.
“I like Ms. Nickum.” I say. “She’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah, she’s really energetic, and she’s good at what she does.” Kami says.
“Did you see those people walking around with Ms. Tremaine?” Natalie asks. Ms. Tremaine is the angry woman who greeted my group at the door.
“Yeah. Those girls are in art. The boy wasn’t, though. I like them.” Kami answers.
“Zanea is pretty cool. She sat at my table.” I say.
“Julie is pretty cool too.” Ren agrees.
“They’re in my Oral Comm class.” Kami adds.
“I think they’re gonna be in our dorm room.” Natalie says.
“Why?” I ask.
“Have you been getting acquainted with the rumor mill?” Kami teases.
Natalie shakes her head. “No. the girls dormitory is out of freshman dorms, so they’re putting them with us. There were two extra names on our list. Remember?”
I try. Last night is still fuzzy. I was really tired then, but through the tired fog I manage to recall the two extra names. “Yeah. I remember.”
“Me too.” Ren says.
Kami playfully rolls her eyes. “I still think it was the rumor mill.”
We eat in silence for a bit, devouring our grilled cheese, ham, and PB and J sandwiches. I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but PB and J is HEAVENLY when these chefs make it. Now I see why everyone wants to go here.
“Look over there and tell me boy doesn’t look like Jack Frost.” I say quietly, pointing behind my rulebook. My friends find covert ways to look.
“He really does.” Ren furrows her brow. “Maybe he just dyed his hair?”
“Maybe he really is Jack Frost.” Natalie says conspiratorially, a sparkle in her eyes. “And this isn’t just the most prestigious Institute for teaching regular things, but they also teach magic to normal and magical beings. Maybe being taught magic is that special privilege Stebbins mentioned in his welcome to school speech.”
As one we glance up at the staff table. I feel like I’m in a Harry Potter movie, what with this big castle boarding school that may or may not teach magic.
“We’ve entered a storybook.” Kami whispers for dramatic effect.
“Finally you see things from my point of view.” Natalie grins. “Great minds truly do think alike.”
“Only if your mind is at the level of greatness mine is.” Kami teases. They start playfully shoving each other.
A warning bell rings, signaling time to start to get to class. I slip my rulebook back in my bag and stand with my friends. We walk out of the hall.
“What’s next?” Ren asks.
I glance at my schedule. “Social Studies with Mr. Davis.”
“He’s up on the fourth floor.” Natalie groans.
“So what?” Kami says.
“So that’s a long long way away.”
“So?” Kami says. “It won’t kill you to walk.”
Natalie groans again and the rest of us giggle.
We sit through another hour of introductions, then finally, free period.
The four of us head for the library, or in its general direction at least. We’re still trying to find it. Ten minutes into the period, we finally find it. Three words. IT. IS. HUGE. I’m not joking. It’s even bigger than this:
“Holy cow.” Natalie gapes.
“I don’t see any cows.” Kami jokes.
“You know what I meant.”
“Split up!” I say. “Cover more ground and check out every book you get your hands on!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Ren says. She darts off across the massive library. The rest of us split up. I go left and up, Kami goes right and up, and Natalie goes to the massive elevator in the center of the room.
I browse the shelves, hoping to find Gesticule Institute Guide or something like that. All I find is Gesticule Institute: A complete history. It’s a huge dusty book with a beaten up cover. It doesn’t even have a catchy title! Gesticule Institute, you have let me down.
I pull it off the shelf and stack it on a nearby table, then place a few other books on top. I make my way to the check out station and check out my stack of books. I drop them on a center table with a thunk. Minutes later, the other three girls join me, and we pour over books in silence.
I leave the huge boring book for last, instead reading the less thick ones. They look newer than the other one, so they probably have good information, more recent. I learned that in my Social Studies class last year. Mr. Z Zurcher was obsessed with all that.
Gesticule Institute is a school that offers the best education any school ever has, and ever will. They offer courses in… I skim past a huge list. Social studies, FCS, Wood shop, English, Calculus, Health, Physical Education… It goes on and on and on. Ugh. Why is there so much? I slam the book closed and move on to the other two. They read pretty much the same. Does anyone know ANYTHING about this school? I turn to the huge leather tome.
RIIIIIING! The bell rings just as my hand brushes the cover. I quickly shove all four in my bag. Somehow they fit in there. The four of us head out of the library. We quick walk through the halls and make it to Triar’s classroom with time to spare. We plunk our bags down next to the seats in the center and slide in.
Mr. Triar doesn’t believe in keeping kids’ attention. He probably hasn’t had much experience with kids not giving him their undivided attention. all the kids that come into his classroom are probably geeks. Not nerds, geeks.
My definitions of nerd and geek. Nerd: All around smart. Cute and funny. Not overly popular. Your typical average kid, but better. Geek: Your stereotypical nerd. Glasses, smart, obsesses over books. Typically doesn’t have a lot of friends, or a partner. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier when it comes to the opposite gender and/or popularity.
When I start to fall asleep, I give up on paying attention. I pull out the heavy tome and read it under the desk.
The first paragraphs are pretty much the same. Quick thing praising how the school educates everyone, class list. I start to close the book. Suddenly, a word catches my eye. Magic. I skim up the page a bit. ‘Magic’ is on the class list.
Frowning, I continue reading. At the bottom of the list, I notice a footnote symbol. I glance at the bottom of the page. Turn to chapter two for a more in-depth look at all of the classes. I flip the pages.
Magic. The magic course taught at Gesticule Institute is only for the best students. So, the geekiest of the geeks. Got it. The chosen students are taught how to use regular objects to conjure things out of nowhere and control the world around them. I turn the page. Instead of finding more on magic, the tome turns to a different subject.
Darnit. I tap my fingers on the page and stare off into the distance. So, magic is one of the courses. This school is evidently more than what meets the eye.
I flip pages until I get to the table of contents. A map is apparently in the third chapter, navigating Gesticule Institute. I flip to the third chapter and skim the first paragraph. Nothing of importance. I turn pages until I get to the map. I trace my finger across the page. I wish I had this map earlier. I could’ve used it.
The bell rings, and I slip the complete history book into my bag. I race into the hall and catch up to my friends. We get into the Great Hall. The girls from Nottingham sit a couple places down.
Dinner lived up to the previous meals. Everything is PERFECT. (A/N I’m probably over stressing that, but it is) Afterward, we join the small stream of kids flowing up to the girls’ dorm. The four of us climb the stairs and slip into our room. Sure enough, there is a third bunk bed in the square room, on the back wall.
“The two girls from Nottingham really are both staying with us.” Ren says.
“Yup.” I say.
“What did I tell you?” Natalie says.
“Pretty much absolutely nothing.” Kami teases.
I climb on my bunk with my huge leather tome. Ren slides into her bed beneath me. Kami and Natalie sprawl on Kami’s bed, feet by the others head, reading history books.
The door opens, and the other two girls enter. I wave at them. Zanea waves back. Julie shyly stares around at everyone. I slide off my bunk and poke Ren.
“What?” She says crossly as she looks up from her notebook. “Oh.” She turns off her music and climbs out of her bunk. Kami pushes Natalie off the bed and falls on top of her.
“Ouch.” Natalie says. “Why’d you do that?”
“Because I can.” Kami teases.
“You better sleep with one eye open tonight.” Natalie jokes. “Otherwise you might wake up with a mustache and uni brow.”
“Oh no I’m so scared.” Kami rolls her eyes playfully.
“Can you guys stop talking to each other before you start wrestling on the floor?” Ren teases.
“But what if we don’t want to?” They chorus.
“Then… Do it quietly.”
“Nah.” They get off the floor.
“Anyway…” I say. “Welcome to the dorm!”
“Do you always push each other off of beds?” Zanea asks.
“Nah, just those two.” Ren says.
“We’re cousins.” Kami says.
“Just in case you couldn’t tell.” Natalie adds.
“Make another circle!” I say. “Time for another get to know you!”
I plop down on the ground, and everyone else does also.
“Okay, go around and say stuff again.” I look around at my roommates. “Um, anyone remember what we did last time?”
“Name, city, age, favorite pet.” Kami says.
“Hey! You stole my line!” Natalie teases.
“No, you stole mine last time.” Kami fires back.
“I’m going first this time. Hello everyone, I’m Katie, I’m from London, I’m 17, and my favorite pet is an owl.” I say. “Oh, no wait! I turned 18 today. I completely forgot.” I cock my head. “Or did I turn 17? I don’t know. I don’t care most of the time.” Everyone giggles.
“Happy birthday!” Natalie says. “Don’t worry about your memory being horrible, I forgot to!”
“Okay, hi guys, I’m Ren. I’m 17 and I’ll turn 18 in one week and six days now. My favorite pet is a cat. Oh, and I’m from Plymouth.” Ren says.
“I’m Kami, I’m from Blackpool, I’m 18, and my favorite pet is a dog.” Kami says.
“I’m Natalie, I’m from Liverpool, I’m 18, my favorite pet is a cat, and Kami is my cousin.” Natalie says.
“I’m Zanea, I’m from Nottingham, I’m 18, and my favorite pet is… I don’t know. Maybe a cat?” Zanea says.
“YES! You hear that Ren? We have another cat lover slash cat kinda like-er. Or whatever you call that.” Natalie says triumphantly.
Kami turns to Julie. “Please tell me your favorite pet is a dog.” She playfully begs. “I will not be alone in this.”
“Hey! I’ll be alone if she does that!” I say.
“Stop trying to influence her decision!” Ren says.
“I’m Julie, I’m from Nottingham also, I’m 18, and my favorite pet is probably a dog. I’m not really a cat person.”
“YES!” Kami cheers. “Take that, Nat! She’s not one of you!”
“Calm down Kami, jeez. You’ll wake the school!” Natalie says.
“I’ll just wake the three students you didn’t.” She says. “It won’t matter.”
“Yeah, okay. Sure.” Natalie rolls her eyes.
“Let’s just drop this before it becomes an argument.” Ren breaks in again. “So, what did everyone find today?”
“Find?” Zanea asks.
“We’re trying to figure out if this school teaches magic.” I explain.
“What would ever give you that idea?” Zanea says sarcastically. “Of course this school teaches magic! A big castle that looks like freaking Hogwarts. OF COURSE!”
“What did everyone find?” Natalie asks. “I found absolutely nothing in every book I checked out. They all said the same things.” She draws herself up, pointing her nose in the air, and continues in a haughty voice. “Gesticule Institute is a school that offers the best education any school ever has, and ever will. No one will ever surpass us. We are the best. Bow down before our students and grovel at their feet.”
“That’s all I really found.” Ren agrees.
“Me too.” Kami says.
“That’s all I found at first.” I say. “Then I opened this book.” I hold up the huge leather tome. “It has everything the other ones have, but more also.” I flip to the class list and set the book down in front of me. Everyone crowds around.
“Social studies, FCS, Wood shop, English, Calculus, Health, Physical Education…” Kami reads aloud. “There’s nothing different.”
“Look at this.” I lay my finger below the one course other books don’t have.
“Magic.” Natalie breathes. “We were right!”
“It goes a bit more in depth.” I say. I flip to chapter two, turning pages to the magic section. I read aloud what I had read a few hours earlier. “Magic. The magic course taught at Gesticule Institute is only for the best students. The chosen students are taught how to use regular objects to conjure things out of nowhere and control the world around them.”
“There isn’t anything more.” I say, as Kami turns the page.
“Wait, look at this.” Julie points to the page number on the right page. “305.” She points to the left page number. “302.”
“It’s missing 2 pages.” Ren says. “Nice job.”
“Thanks.” Julie says quietly.
“They don’t look ripped out.” Zanea says, holding the book up and squinting at it through her blue framed glasses.
“I don’t think anyone cut them out either.” Natalie says, looking over Zane’s shoulder.
I tap my fingers on my leg. My eyes stray to my watch.
“Oh dang.” I curse. “It’s eleven ‘o clock.”
Everyone else says their own versions of ‘oh dang.’
“Guess the pages mystery will have to wait till tomorrow.” Ren says.
“Guess so.” Natalie sighs. “We were so close though.”
“I know right.” Kami groans. We all slip into our pajamas quickly. I climb up onto my bunk. The others climb into theirs. Julie picks the top of the third bunk bed, and Zanea slides into the bottom.
“Wait, I wonder.” Natalie says. She claps twice. The lights flick off.
“Cool.” I say drowsily.
“Magic.” Kami says.
“Or a motion sensor.” Ren points out.
“Probably magic in this magic castle though.” Zanea says.
“What else would it be?” Julie asks.
I roll over and fall asleep.
(Katie again c cuz I suck at finding pictures of anything else. Yay)
When I wake up, no one else is awake. I turn and face the room. Natalie rolls over and sighs softly in her sleep. I slide off my bunk and dress. Today is Saturday, a free day. I wear a black short sleeved shirt, with a short white gray skirt, with long checkerboard socks. I pick up the leather tome from the floor where we left it, then pad down the stairs to the common room.
I plop down in one of the armchairs near the fire. I set the book on my lap and start trying to figure out where the missing pages are.
I get a magnifying glass and look at the spine. No torn bits left. I guess somebody must’ve cut them out, because they definitely didn’t tear it. I rap my fingers on the pages angrily, tapping the page. I work my fingers into the spine. Suddenly, my fingers find a catch for something on page 305.
Natalie comes down the stairs to the common room, yawning. “Good morning.” She says.
“I think I found something!” I say excitedly.
Instantly she’s wide awake. “ cuz!” She says, swinging herself over a couch and darting over to me.
“Slow down!” I laugh. “It’s just a suspicion.”
“That’s better than nothing!” She says.
“There’s a weird catch here.” I say, wiggling my fingers around. “Feel.”
She wedges her hand into the spine almost before I can pull mine out.
“Yeah, there’s something there!” Natalie frowns in concentration. “Maybe if I…” She wiggles her hand around in the spine. “Got it!”
Page 305 detaches itself from the spine of the book on one side, the side labeled 305. It folds backward, revealing another page that had been inside page 305/306.
(A/N I know this really sucks as a description of the book, but this is hard to describe. SERIOUSLY. YOU TRY IT)
“We found the pages!” Natalie crows.
“Yes!” I high five her.
Kami comes stumbling down the stairs. “Nat, you woke me climbing down. Be more careful next time.”
“WE FOUND THE PAGES!” Natalie and I chorus.
“WHAT?!?!?! WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS!” Kami whisper shouts so we don’t wake up the school. Again.
“Well, we only just-” I begin.
“Never mind. I don’t want to know. Come here and bring the book.” She orders playfully.
I hide the pages again and close the book as Kami marches up the stairs to the dormitories. Natalie and I follow.
Kami walks purposefully into our dorm. She flicks on the lights. “Up! Get up now!” She shouts. I close the door behind us.
“Kami, you’re going to wake the dead.” Natalie says.
“But you’re already awake.” Kami says innocently. She walks over to Ren’s bunk and smacks the headboard. “UP! WE FOUND THE PAGES!”
“Found the what, exactly?” Ren asks sleepily.
“Those missing pages!” Kami says. “Get up so we can read them!” She smacks the headboard again. “UP!”
“Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up. Go bother Whatwhatwhatwhat and Julie.” Ren groans.
“Will do, unless they get up themselves.” Kami says, cheerfully. Natalie shoots Whatwhatwhatwhat and Julie a look, and they get the message. Get up or she will hound you for all eternity. Julie hastily slips down and Whatwhatwhatwhat climbs out of her bed.
Three minutes later, we all sit in the center of the room in our customary spots.
“So, I got up early, and went downstairs to read the book.” I explain. “I shoved my fingers down the spine, and found something.”
“Then I came down the stairs.” Natalie interjects. “And she said she found something.”
“To which she replied, and I quote, ‘ Zanea?’ and hurdled a couch.” I say. Everyone giggles.
“And then I dug around in the spine and opened the pages.” Natalie says.
“Like so.” I say, and release the catch once again, revealing the pages. Natalie immediately steals the book. Kami takes it from her, and Julie takes it from them both as they begin to playfully wrestle on the floor. Ren tries to break up the fight, while Julie, Zanea, and I examine the book.
Julie’s eyes flick across the page, then she turns the page.
“Julie, stop! I can’t read as fast as you!” Zanea teases.
“I was reading slow!” Julie protests.
“That’s slow?” I stare at her in shock. “And I thought I read fast.”
Julie blushes and flips the page back to let us finish.
The writing is still in a textbook format. Kind of disappointing, but what was I expecting? A journal? Please.
Kami and Natalie roll towards the three of us. “Look out!” Ren says.
I jump left and Julie and Zanea go right with the book. Kami and Natalie go right between us. They slam into the wall.
“Oh gods!” I say, making use of the traditional demigod curse word. Ren glances at me with a smile, getting the reference.
Natalie and Kami untangle themselves. “That was awesome!” Kami says.
“Let’s do it again!” Natalie agrees. I snort with suppressed laughter.
“Are you done fighting yet?” Ren asks them, hands on hips, mocking a mother hen type person.
“Yes mum.” Natalie teases.
“Good. Now I want you and your cousin to sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.”
“But Zanea!” Natalie whines playfully.
“No buts! Now go!” Ren says.
Natalie fake pouts.
“Can you guys stop messing around for a second?” muumuu looks up. “We’re finding stuff.”
Everyone crowds around the book again.
“Look at this.” Julie points to a passage.
Magic classes are held in a secret room- A hole Zanea the paper where the location of the room must be. I groan inside. In this room, students can use any of many supplies that can be used for magic.
“Stupid bookworms.” I hear Kami mutter.
“Hey!” Julie says, offended.
“I mean the actual worms. I found a couple in the library chewing some boring history books to death. One probably got his little feet on this book and chewed on it for a little bit.” Kami explains.
“ marrs.” Julie nods.
“He’s still here.” Natalie picks something up off the page. “Oh, no wait, it’s just a piece of paper.” It turns out, it is indeed, a piece of green paper, crumpled up into a fat cylinder. She tosses it into a corner of the room.
“So, we know there’s a secret room.” Ren says. “And that it’s for magic. What we don’t know is where it is.”
“We can change that.” Natalie says.
Ten minutes later, we’re down at the Great Hall. A couple other people our grade are up, but not many.
“So, what’s the plan?” Ohhhhhh asks.
“Okay. Grab a partner.” Kami says. “We’re going to scout around the school and find out more about it. If anyone asks, we’re trying to find everything.”
Natalie frowns. “I thought we were actually doing that.”
“No, we’re trying to look up the history of the school, and maybe find a couple hidden rooms and secret passages. If this truly is a magical school, there’re probably at least two in a castle this big.” Kami answers.
“Makes more sense.” Natalie nods. “Kami, you’re mine!”
Kami starts laughing. “No, you’re mine.”
The two cousins start bickering playfully.
“JULIE YOU’RE MINE!” Zanea yells and attaches herself to Julie’s arm.
“ Zanea, get off.” Julie groans.
“Who will help me win the Hunger Games?!” I shout.
“I volunteer as tribute!” Ren waves her hand in the air.
“We have a volunteer!” Kami says in a high pitched voice. “Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
“Thanks Effie!” Ren says perkily. “I’ll remember that when my head gets a knife in it!”
We all start laughing our heads off. As one of the Polar Express chefs whisks by to pick up a cold platter of pancakes, she grins at us. “I always love seeing a group of kids laughing their heads off, especially freshmen on their second practice school day. It’s probably happened, what, once?”
“And when was this once upon a time?” Zanea jokes.
“Exactly when all once upon a times are, upon a time.”
“Ah. Makes sense.” Zanea nods knowingly, which sets us off again. The chef whisks off again, twirling into the white sea. White. Not red, or black, or even blue, but white.
“Okay, okay, enough banter.” I say through fits of laughter. “We need to get started or we’ll never find anything. This is a huge castle in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“NO!” Natalie widened her eyes. “I thought it was a suitcase.”
“I always knew you’d grow up this way.” Ren teases, pulling out a Texas twang. “When ye left our farm for some school, I knew you’d grow up, dumb as a rock.”
“But Ma!” Natalie says, furrowing her brow playfully, matching Ren’s drawl. “I thought rocks had huge brains! That’s what Pa always said!”
“And look where he got.” Ren says.
“Where did he get Ma?”
“Kicked in the face by Zanea’ Bessie, right into the hog pen, poor man. He just hightailed it out of there.” Ren says.
“ Stooooooop!” Kami says between seizures. “I can’t breathe!”
“Are you trying to kill us all?” Julie asks, doubled over from laughing so hard.
“Yes.” They chorus.
“Girls, we got some murderers on our hands.” Zanea teases.
“GET OFF THE BANTER TRAIN!” I shout, almost crying with laughter. “OR WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”
“I’m already dead.” Kami says. “D-E-D dead.”
We stumble out of the hall, almost crying. Best. Friends. Ever.
“Okay! Okay!” Natalie gasps. “Split up and go!”
“Nat and I will go to the West Wing, Ren and Katie can take the East wing, and Zanea and Julie can take the North wing.” Kami says.
“What about the South?” Natalie asks her.
“That’s the library.” Julie and I chorus.
“The whole thing?” Natalie’s eyes bug.
“That library is HUGE if it takes up a fourth of this castle. Jeez. Talk about rich founders.” Natalie mutters.
“I think the students probably wrote most of the books. I haven’t heard of half of them.” Julie says.
“And she read the whole library at home.” Zanea cuts in.
Julie blushes. “It was just two thirds!”
“It was more than that.” Zanea argues. “You read both the fiction, and probably seven eighths of the nonfiction.”
My jaw is on the floor and rolling away, bouncing down stairs, almost saying See ya, sucker! With an effort, I close my mouth. Kami’s mouth moves with no sound, almost like a fish. Natalie’s eyes pop out and roll away. Ren, Julie, and Zanea are the only people who don’t seem to be killed inside by this information, although Ren’s eyes seem slightly larger than normal.
“I was the bookworm in my section of London, but I’ve only read half the fiction section!” I say.
“We- we should probably get going.” Julie says, her red cheeks returning to a normal hue.
Kami’s voice starts to work again. “Probably.”