I surfaced at 8:00am the next morning, my alarm apparently forgetting to chime at its usual time of 7:30am. Emily was nowhere to be seen in our room, which was rather odd when we would head down to the cafeteria together at this time in the morning. Could she have left for breakfast without me?
I quickly showered, threw on my uniform and a pair of black shoes, combing through my unruly hair and tying it in a neat pony tail. The time was now 8:30am and assembly started off our day at 9:00am promptly, which didn’t leave me much time for breakfast.
I left the bedroom, locking it behind me before strolling down the main staircase to the cafeteria. As I entered, my eyes scanned the room looking for Emily, expecting her to be with Claudia and the other girls, but none of them were there. In fact, only about a third of the cafeteria was full. Perhaps they finished breakfast and headed off to the main hall already.
I grabbed a tray and filled it with some toast and a bowl of cereal, found an empty table and sat down to eat it quickly. The girls on the surrounding tables were chattering amongst themselves in an inaudible tone. I gazed down into my cereal, contemplative, my mind replaying the events from last night, inducing worry that perhaps my night time outburst had frightened Emily and that’s why she headed off without me. I felt silly, wishing I hadn’t woken her. Claudia warned me that they wouldn’t understand the ghostly world. They were skeptics, after all.
“You best finish up, girl, assembly starts in ten minutes.” A voice broke my moment of rumination, causing me to look up and find the face of one of the cafeteria ladies. Her badge read ‘Mrs Stonely’. It occurred to me, as my eyes scanned the cafeteria, that I was now the only one in here. “Thanks Mrs Stonely. I’m finished.” Grabbing my tray, I placed it on the discard rack and quickly headed toward the main hall for assembly. The corridor leading towards it was eerily quiet except for the sound of my feet on the wooden floor, my block heeled shoes clunking on every step taken.
“You are late, Miss Appleton.” A deep stern voice belonging to Mr Ford, rang outside the doors of the hall as I approached. He must have been waiting for me. “Why are you late?”
I hesitated to respond, worried I would be in trouble if I told the truth about sleeping in.
“Why are you not with Emily Harris? She should be accompanying you around the school in your first two weeks here.” The same question was fumbling around my own mind, but truth be told, I didn’t know why she abandoned me this morning.
“Take a seat with the rest of your form class, Josephine, and do not talk to anyone, I will not have you distracting any of the students with your tardiness.” Mr Ford opened the door and signalled for me to head in. I walked in to the sound of the usual classical music playing over the speakers, heading promptly toward my form tutor Mrs Cronenboom, who looked at me with concern, signalling for me to pass by and be seated in the empty chair between her and Emily who was staring straight down at her feet refusing to acknowledge my arrival. Her face was solemn and I wondered whether Mrs Cronenboom had spoken to her about leaving me behind this morning.
The music stopped playing, and Mrs Manden, the headmistress, stepped up to the platform to begin assembly.
“Good morning, everyone.” Mrs Manden said brightly.
My mind was distracted. I desperately wanted to talk to Emily and apologise for waking her last night, no doubt that was the reason why she left me alone this morning. Emily, who was kind to everybody, most likely wanted to avoid the confrontation.
“…remembering to think of your fellow students in need…”
I wondered whether she had mentioned what had happened to the others, especially Claudia.
“…look towards your peers today and help someone who you can see is…”
I would have to speak to her as soon as I can about this. She’d have to believe me, surely. Why would I make something like this up.
“…to support one another…”
If I could only persuade her to take me back to the attic so that I can have another look around, perhaps something -” Then it dawned on me. That night in the attic, that feeling which crept over me as I stared toward the wall nearest the pile of picture frames. There was something there, something which was biding for my attention and as I drew near it, Claudia told me it was time to leave because of Mrs Jeffrey. The moment in the common room I mentioned the girl with the doll, she denied her existence and walked off before I could respond. She definitely knows something and is clearly keeping quiet about it. I need to get back in the attic and she has the key. I would have to be careful how I would approach her, hoping Emily hasn’t mentioned anything to her about last night. If she had, then there was a chance she may never take me back up there.
“…why honesty is so important…”
What did she know that I didn’t. Why would she take me up to the attic in the first place if she was worried that I’d find out about the girl with the doll? Something didn’t add up. She showed me the attic for a reason, but why if she wasn’t going to listen to me when I mentioned about the girl?
Without even thinking, my eyes were drawn down our row of chairs and they met with Claudia’s. She was staring straight at me, her eyes refusing to budge, wearing an expression that clearly showed she knew about last night and she wasn’t happy about it.
We filed out of the hall in silence, the same classical music playing before it slowly faded away as we continued down the wooden floored corridor to our form rooms. We entered the classroom taking our usual seats.
“Josephine and Emily, may I have a word with you two outside, please?” Mrs Cronenboom asked, her eyes making it clear it was an order and not a request, whilst the rest of the class started muttering amongst themselves. “Quiet!” Her voice reverberated around, silencing everyone instantly.
“Now, Josephine, I have already spoken to Emily, however her scarce explanation filled with silence, shoe staring and ‘I don’t know’s’, means I am still quite unclear as to the reasoning behind your tardiness at assembly today, and rather concerned. Have you two had a falling out?” I looked over at Emily, her eyes finally meeting mine with a pleading expression. She clearly didn’t want me to drop her in it. If I told Mrs Cronenboom she left me asleep, she’d likely get detention. I couldn’t let that happen.
“No, Mrs Cronenboom. It’s my fault, I realised I had forgotten my pencil case and I had to go back to the bedroom to grab it. Emily did offer to come back with me, but I told her not to worry.” That was the best I could conjure up on the spot.
She looked at me disbelievingly, then at Emily, and sighed. “Emily, it is your responsibility to ensure Josephine is accompanied at all times during school hours so she is not late, absent or unprepared for either assembly or class. Do not let this happen again.” Less than satisfied with my brief and pitiful explanation, she ushered us back in the class, whilst hushed whispers were replaced with a deafening silence, eyes gazing upon the both of us as we reclaimed our seats.
“Emily, are you okay?” I whispered as she took out a pen and scribbled today’s date down into her work book. Her eyes lifted from the desk to stare ahead to Mrs Cronenboom. “I’m sorry I woke you last night.” I continued. “You’re right, it was just a really bad dream and I panicked.”
“I’m sorry I left you this morning, Josy.” Emily finally said with a tone of regret in her voice, choosing not to elaborate on her reasoning. I was about to ask when the room turned unnaturally cold, instantly sending alarm bells ringing in my ears. As I scanned the classroom, some of the girls began to rub their arms for warmth, whilst one or two began to whisper to each other as if in secret knowledge as to what was happening. I met eyes with Claudia’s, an expression of understanding spreading across her face, then she turned away, remembering her frustration toward me. A ghost was here in the room, there was no question about it. The coldness spread like wild fire, bouncing off the walls, landing with force on each student as they recoiled in its frosty lathering. My eyes darted around the room in a desperate bid to locate the source of eeriness, whether it be the elusive Mrs Jeffrey or the girl with the creepy looking doll, only to find nothing but coldness emanated around us.
I looked at Emily, her own eyes staring down something at the front right corner of the classroom, held in a trance like state until the cloud of coldness dissipated, relieving her from its grasp as she then settled back down to her work as if nothing had happened. The rest of the room quietened and Mrs Cronenboom continued the lesson in abnormal silence, refusing to acknowledge the previous ghostly presence.
I would be sure to add this experience to my diary later tonight, another piece to the mystery puzzle of the schools supernatural lore. I may not be the only student who was able to sense them, but something told me they were trying to communicate with me, the girl specifically and I was now committed to find out who she was and why she was here.