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an essay by Annabelle D'Amour (Adult School Girl at Muir Academy)
A new term at the Academy and it was Halloween, my favourite time of year and obviously the best time for getting up to no good, as if I needed an excuse!
My nerves always start at breakfast when the beady eyes of Miss Prim begin scouring the faces sat around her at the table. Suddenly I was no longer sure my goth look would go down quite as well as I had imagined after all. Cereals scoffed with a swig of juice and just enough time to brush my teeth before the school bell rang and we were filing into class like good little soldiers.
Guardian letters and uniform inspection ensued. I was right, Miss Prim was wholly unimpressed by my representation of the darkness of the spirit world. Black blouse, black socks and black velvet knickers, (which I was accused of stealing from dear Beverley), did not go unpunished. Luckily the black nail varnish had been removed, I considered that a little overkill, one of my few moments of more sensible thought.
Lessons began and we were taken on a journey by Mr Locke back to ancient times of Greek and Latin, words about fears and phobias, of which I have many, the worst of all being - yep, you've got it - General Knowledge! Miss Prim took over and brought out my worst subject, (eyes roll), and with 30 questions in silence and her no-nonsense mood pervading the classroom we attempted to complete them. Nearly all my ideas for a term packed with mischief were all but evaporating. The Headmistress is of a more severe ilk than good old Mr Locke, pacing up and down clicking her heels across the floor.
After what seemed like an age the bell finally rang for lunch. I was so happy to be surrounded by all my friends... until of course the demerits started being handed out. Barnsley: eating too fast; Clementine: elbows on the table; Siousxie: sticking the knife in the butter; Noemie; goodness knows what Noemie had done but she got one too. Elaine narrowly escaped hers and I went unnoticed for once as I quietly contemplated my soup, slinking back in my chair. The funny thing was they then all got another demerit for not having their books with them. Oh how I chuckled. Not for long though as Miss Prim then decided to do a demerit book inspection. I knew I had overdue demerits from summer school. Not least, but I had also decorated the cover of my book with gold stars. Ma'am had only once looked at my book since I received it so I kind of thought she wasn't really bothered. I was about to be proved incredibly wrong indeed. Anyone with more than four demerits had to wait outside her office after lunch and that included Noemie and me.
Break time over, too soon as always. The bell rang and the scrambling of bodies bumping into each other resounded on the staircase. I was in the middle of a drawing and it took me a while to gather up my things. The girls all tried to help me find my crayons which were scattered across the floor. We were four minutes late. I'm convinced that clock in class is wrong. No, not today, I was called out first but took my seat again without saying thank you... (groan), so I had to return for another four.
"And what do you say?" the Headmistress, trying to remind me, as if I could possibly forget a second time around. I looked at her cheekily and said: "Well done, 7 out of 10".
Which I thought was a very good mark and quite enough of a thank you. But no, my voice did not conceal my irritation at receiving a second punishment so I was dragged back over the bench, had my knickers pulled down to my knees and received six sharp strokes of the cane in front of the whole class. I think perhaps I will try giving her one of my gold stars next time that might work better!
Pumpkin carving to the rescue. The afternoon was filled with my favourite subject and you cannot possibly celebrate Halloween without carving a pumpkin! Ma'am was obviously in a better mood by now, lunch settling and warming her stomach. We were allowed to choose a pumpkin each from a wonderful selection Miss Prim had kindly bought for us and which were all sitting neatly in a row on the windowsill in the common room, waiting for our eager hands to snap them up and get busy. It was great fun getting all messy and creating our mini masterpieces. The designs were just fabulous and there were enough pumpkins to decorate the whole school and the front doorstep. I smiled and felt very proud.
Pumpkins finished and time for defaulters. Mr Locke to oversee prep whilst Miss Prim took her first victim. Essay writing can sometimes be hard to get going, especially with all the chatter in class. But Mr Locke kindly allowed me to take my work to the Common room where my ghost story progressed nicely, until, that is, I was called to the corridor to wait my turn. I'm not even sure why I was on defaulters. Oh yes, I remember now. My guardian had complained that Miss Prim was not strict enough with me (?!?!?)
My name was called and I had to go in and I was beckoned to stand in the centre of the room. There she sat, behind her desk, a bespectacled creature, her blonde bun bobbing about on the top of her head, shuffling her papers trying to find my guardian's letter. To her left lay my demerit book so there was no getting away from that. On the right of the desk, purposefully placed, lay her heavy wooden hairbrush and much to my dismay, a bath brush... I must have audibly gulped as Ma'am looked up from what she was doing and down at me over the top of her glasses:
"Something to say, Annabelle?"
I stood there, silent, trying not to shuffle and shook my head.
"No, Ma'am, is the correct answer, Annabelle, is it not?"
"No, Ma'am", I repeated, "I mean yes Ma'am" I returned as she stared at me quizzically.
She stood up and came to the front of her desk. I stepped gingerly backwards, conscious of not making any sudden movements. It was quite obvious that I was in a lot of trouble. Needing red gingham for my Christmas patchwork projects and cutting up my summer school dress for the purpose had not proved to be such a good idea after all. On top of that I noticed I still had on my black stockings and sighed to myself. I had been so busy with my drawing that I hadn't had any time to get changed...
Soon enough I found myself across Ma'am's lap. I'm never sure what's worse, the incessant barrage of verbal reprimand or the actual physical punishment. This time it was clearly the hairbrush that won the fight. Miss Prim had counted the stars on my demerit book and decided there were 100 of them. Suffice to say I was not sitting quite so comfortably after my defaulters.
Defaulters came to an end, class was dismissed and we were allowed to get ready for the Halloween party, the highlight of the term and we hurried eagerly back to the dorm. Costumes came out, hair was brushed, faces were painted and as soon as the final little touches were complete the girls were ready to get the party going. We came down the stairs to discover many other ghosts and ghouls, completely unrecognisable in their very effective outfits. Overall I think we looked pretty impressive. Even more impressive though was the spread Miss Prim had put on for us. Her own pumpkin was filled with luminous green bean salsa which spewed out of its mouth. It looked like sick and I had to close my eyes just to taste it! There were hot dogs which looked like chopped off fingers with ketchup blood, mini pizzas made to look like mummies wrapped in cheese bandages with green olives for eyes, burgers with melted cheese slices cut to look like pumpkin faces, baked peppers stuffed with spaghetti brains, cheesy broomsticks and hard boiled eggs cut in half and stuffed to look like eyeballs. Then for pudding there was a pumpkin cake, pumpkin pretzels, ghostly chocolate and peppermint mousse and Clem's cupcakes. We all ate far too much surrounded by the pumpkin lanterns flickering proud and defiant.
The evening ended as it often does, stood outside around the fire roasting marshmallows, only this time we shared ghost stories of times gone by. I'm not sure if eyes were heavy with tiredness or with wood smoke but as the fire dwindled Miss Prim noticed the time and packed us off to bed before putting out the flames. She came up to declare "lights out" for the umpteenth time and I resentfully had to put my drawing away. I could have continued but I'd only have incurred yet another smack and would still have had to put it away so there was no point really. I suppose I was actually quite tired, it had been a long and eventful day. Once all tucked up she said "goodnight" and turned out the light as she closed the door behind her. A few whispers went on a while but soon tiredness took over and we all fell happily asleep.
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