“No no, that awful one with all the poofs, that’s it!” Jo said as I pulled one of my new dresses out of the wardrobe.
“It’s not that bad!” I said.
“Mine is, all white and poofey and ruffley and bowey and everything.” Jo pulled a mass of white fabric out of her side of the wardrobe. “On the positive side, we hardly ever wear these.”
“Really? Why not?” I asked as we dressed.
“These are evening dinner dresses.”
“Yes, I know, don’t we usually get dressed for dinner?”
“Most days us younger girls have dinner at midday then tea in the evenings.”
“Oh! What about the older girls?”
“Friday and Saturday they have dinner in the evenings, often there’s special guests, but during the week they have tea and supper in the evenings. And their evening dinner gowns are much nicer than ours. Still, if I have to wear an ugly dress I know I’m getting above the usual standard of meal, right?” Jo giggled and I joined her.
“I just don’t like the collar things” I said.
“At least your dress isn’t white. We had over half a bolt of this white at home and I’m sure it all went into this monstrosity.”
Soon we were dressed and we headed out into the hallway, where we happened to met up with Henri and her roommate Marjorie.
“Marjorie, this is Bobbie, the new girl I as telling you about. Bobbie, this is my roommate Majorie. She’s from even further away than you are!”
“From Freedonia.” Marjorie said.
“That’s a bit more special than the Highlands!” I said. “How long does it take to get here from Freedonia?”
“Almost three months…”
“Come on!” Henri said. “We better get going!”
“You three go ahead.” Marjorie said “I’ve—I’ve forgotten something!” She then dashed off.
“More like she wants to walk down with Mariah and Valerie!” Jo said rolling her eyes.
“Is she a nice girl?” I asked.
“She’s one of the enemy!” Jo said dramatically.
“Oh, Jo!” Henri said. “She’s not that bad! She can be really pleasant once you get her on her own!”
“Isn’t this a bit early for dinner?” I asked to change the topic.
“Oh, yes, but there is a rotation.” Jo said.
“There are three dining halls.” Henri continued. “Two small ones and one large. We younger girls dine apart from the older girls, especially at the beginning of a school year, so that we don’t disgrace our class with bad table manners! And that you don’t want to do!” Henri gave an exaggerated shudder. “The first two years dine at six and the next two at seven using the smaller dining halls then the older years dine at eight in the larger one. At Christmas the whole school has dinner and a ball all together, it is more than fun! We can wear whatever we like and there are all sorts of guests… you’ll love it!” “I won’t be here for that!” I said. “I am only to stay half a year.”
“Really?” Jo said as she pushed open the doors of the dining room. “Whatever for? Lady D’Winter doesn’t usually take girls for half years or terms only.”
“I am only here while my parents are touring on my father’s ship for six months.” I said. “I do have a full year’s place for me here but I’ve never been away from home before and six months is an awful long time! I expect I will be happy to go back home with my parents at the end of it. Lady D’Winter said I might stay the full year if I change my mind though.
“Oh, do!” Jo said. “Winter term is just wonderful!”
“I’ll see!” I said.
Soon we were all seated for dinner. I met Valerie who was very beautiful and very good friends with Mariah. We were seated Jo, Henri and I down one side of the table and Mariah, Valerie and Majorie down the other. Miss Jane sat at the head.
“Now Miss Hilton,” Miss Jane said to me after the thanksgiving prayer “I understand this is your first year here and indeed your first visit to Fraitessa. However, I still expect your manners to be the same high standard that we ask of all girls.”
“First, I expect you to know and use decent table maners, look to Mariah opposite you if you’re unsure and I am always here to help if you get very stuck.”
“Second, dinner conversation as a group is allowed but I won’t have chattering and gossiping amongst small groups to the exclusion of the others.”
“Roberta daarrling.” Mariah said leaning forward to give the impression of speaking just to me but using a voice which easily carried to both ends of the table.
“That spoon there is for the soup and then afterwards you work from the outside in. And do try not to put your elbows on the table as Josephine is doing, it IS considered such bad manners…”
“Thank you Miss Luxum.” I said, fuming. “I do know that much.”
“Why I am glad!” she said with fake looking smile. “We Fraitessians do try to spread culture to all the corners of the globe but one never knows how well the locals take it up!”
“Apparently not.” Said I.
“And my elbows aren’t on the table!” Jo said. “That’s my forearm!”
“So, how is everyone settling in!” Henri said, quickly changing the conversation away from dangerous territory as Mariah gave Jo’s arms a disgusted look.
“Oh, you other girls should see how we’ve done us our room!” Valerie said. “It is all pink and prettiness. My mirror from home arrived safe and sound, I went without it all last year and the ones here never show me the same as my one back home! I am so glad it survived the journey!”
“What difference can there be?” Jo asked. “Once you get past the frame, isn’t one mirror the same as the other?”
“Oh dear, please don’t despair! I am sure that once you are older you have every chance of slimming down a bit!”
And so the evening continued. It was with some relief that I made my way up to bed that night as even I had realised that our class was divided in two; us and them. This wasn’t at all like in the school stories I had read. In those all girls were nice and friendly with maybe one or two that weren’t, and by the end of the term those girls either left or were made into nice people by the majority of the girls. One thing I could be sure of was that we weren’t living in some old school story!