|Angels Among Us: Georgina Jennings
Author: Helena Maria Mira PM
When Trelawney Rose finally begins school, things go very wrong. She is smarter than her classmates, who then pick on her. Her new friend Georgina comes to her rescue, but is not able to prevent her from running away and getting lost. When she is found, will she and Selena return to England? Fifth in a series.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Spiritual/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 2 - Words: 20,658 - Published: 02-09-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3099570
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Angels Among Us:
Part 1. Lost
Trelawney Rose Tressidor was eager to start school, and then she wasn't. She was looking forward to meeting new friends, but then she wasn't. She was grateful to finally have some place of her own to go each day, but she was also scared. She wasn't exactly sure of what an American school was all about and she could only hope that she would fit in. But then again, Trelawney Rose had never really fit in anywhere, except at home with Mummy, Papa, and Selena. Oh, her feelings were all such a muddle!
She missed her dollhouse. Here in America playing with her sister, Mimsy and Tansy would have had so many stories to tell. And although Tansy wouldn't have understood anything, Mimsy could have explained everything. Auntie Anna had sent a small trunk full of her clothing from home. But she didn't even bother to ask for the dollhouse. She knew that Uncle David would say that it would be too much of a bother to send such a large item by post, especially since he thought that they would be returning home soon anyway.
At least she had Tressa. Tressa was a lovely companion. But sometimes Trelawney Rose longed for a real companion. Well, Tressa was a real companion. No, she wanted a human companion. She had seen a little girl playing next-door who had a cute little white dog named Snowflake. Trelawney Rose had never seen such a dog before. She thought that if Elspeth, Mummy's little Corgi, was here then Elspeth and Snowflake could be friends. Then maybe she and the little girl could be friends.
One lonely Saturday morning when all of the other children were out at their activities, Chester, the Harrington's tri-color Sheltie came racing into the yard with Snowflake in hot pursuit. The two dogs were barking and chasing each other joyfully, but then Trelawney Rose heard a voice calling, "Snowflake! Bad dog! Come back here right away!"
Trelawney Rose knew that the voice was not Mrs. Jennings voice because it sounded too sweet. Dr. Harrington always said that her voice sounded like "nails on a chalkboard." Then, the little girl from next-door came running into the yard, still calling, "Snowflake! Come back here now!"
When Snowflake continued to ignore her, she heaved a great sigh. Then she noticed Trelawney Rose sitting on the bench that sat in the yard. Trelawney Rose smiled shyly, but didn't know what to say. She had never seen such a pretty girl so dressed up and not even going to church. She had bright, strawberry blonde hair that had been curled and tied back from her face in a big pink bow. Her large brown eyes looked kind. She wore a cute pink dress with roses sewn around the collar and cuffs.
Now that she had seen her, the other girl walked over to her and smiled cheerfully. Trying not to be afraid, Trelawney Rose smiled back a little more.
"Hello, little girl," she said. "My name is Georgina Jennings and I live next-door. I'm sorry that Snowflake ran into your yard. She likes to play with Chester, but Mother doesn't want him in our yard."
"How do you do, Georgina?" she replied, extending her hand. "My name is Trelawney Rose Tressidor."
Although a bit surprised, Georgina grasped her hand and shook it. Trelawney Rose could see that she was a very mannerly little girl. And a nice girl. She had a feeling that most American children would have rolled their eyes at the gesture.
"You must be Miss Selena's sister," said Georgina. "Mother said that you would be living here with her. I'm so sorry about your parents. Do you miss them very much?"
Her voice was very kind. Because Trelawney Rose was so intuitive, she knew that Georgina's concern was genuine. She had a delicate pink aura. She was a happy little girl. She began to feel hopeful that maybe the girl would want to be her friend. She nodded sadly.
"I miss my Mummy and Papa very, very much," she said.
"Do you miss England?"
Trelawney Rose thought for a moment.
"It is difficult to say," she replied slowly. "I do miss England because I miss all of my family there. But my Selena is here and if I were in England than I would miss her terribly. But since I would rather be with my Selena rather than away from her, I suppose that I will have to miss England for now."
She stopped talking and held her breath. If Jay was there, then he would tell her that she was talking crazy. She hoped that Georgina wouldn't think that she was crazy. But Georgina had been listening very carefully.
"Yes," she said nodding. "That makes sense. Last summer my aunt took me to New York City to see the shows on Broadway. I really liked being there, but I also missed Mother. But I had always wanted to see the shows, so even though I missed Mother, I was happy to be there."
"That sounds lovely," said Trelawney Rose. "I've always wanted to see the shows on the West End in London, but I was never out of the village before I came here. My Cousin Sylvia has promised to take me there when I got older."
"Is Sylvia the cousin who brought you?" she asked.
"No, that was Cousin Emmeline," she answered. "How did you know that my cousin brought me here?"
"Mother has the nosiest nose and the biggest mouth on the block," she said. "Since she spends a lot of her time on the phone telling the whole world everyone's business (including mine), I know everything that's going on, whether I want to or not."
"I understand," replied Trelawney Rose. "Back at home, we have a neighbor named Mrs. Penworth who is just like that. But she never uses the telephone. She just walks over to the High St. and tells her stories to everyone that will listen to her in the shops. Everyone in the village says that she is just an old gossip, but that doesn't stop them from listening. Papa always thought that she was a bother, but Mummy always said that we must show Christian charity to all God's children."
"Your Mummy sounds like she was a very nice lady," said Georgina.
"She was the best lady," agreed Trelawney Rose. "She was the best lady that I ever knew, but now she is an angel."
"Yes," nodded Georgina. "I am sure that she is. Father Bob at church says that when good people die then they go to heaven and become angels. That was what he said when my grandfather died last year."
Trelawney Rose didn't know what to say. She had never met another little girl who was so sweet and kind. Jennie was, sort of. But she was really only nice to her. And Jennie was so much younger than her that she agreed with everything that she said, just because she said it. And Jennie wasn't always kind. She could be rather mean to her brothers and very mean to Willa. And Georgina really did understand what she was talking about and agreed with her. She even knew about angels.
"What kind of a dog is Snowflake?" she asked.
"Snowflake is a purebred Bijon-Frise," she replied. "She has papers and everything."
"Oh," said Trelawney Rose. "At home my Mummy had a Corgi named Elspeth. I know that she got her from a breeder, but I don't know if she has papers. Did you know that the Queen Mum has Corgis?"
"No," she said. "Where is Elspeth now?"
"She's with my Auntie Anna," answered Trelawney Rose. "Back in the village. I am sure that she misses me very much. Mummy used to tell her to look after me whenever she went away."
"Oh, dear!" replied Georgina. "Is she worried about you?"
"I don't know," said Trelawney Rose, carefully. She didn't want to let on to Georgina that Auntie Anna had said that Elspeth did miss her and was still waiting for her to come home. It was not the kind of thing that outsiders understood. Elspeth very much felt that she was not living up to her duty. But Georgina did understand.
"I think that she must be," she said. "You know dogs have feelings too."
"Yes, they do," agreed Trelawney Rose. But then the intimate mood was broken.
"Hey! Trelawney Rose!" called Jay, walking out of the house. "Miss Selena says that it's lunchtime. Oh, it's you."
Jay looked at Georgina and rolled his eyes. She blushed.
"Hi, Jay," she said sweetly. "Have you been very busy today?"
"Very," he said coldly. "I had a Junior Scientists meeting. We are building a model of the Apollo 11 spaceship."
"Jay is just so smart," said Georgina wistfully. "I could never understand all of that scientific stuff."
"You could if you wanted to, I bet," said Jay. "It's not a big deal."
"It is to me," said Trelawney Rose. "I have never studied science before. I wonder what it will be like?"
"Well," said Jay authoritatively. "I can assure you that it will be more interesting than all of those Shakespeare plays that you're always talking about."
"Do you like Shakespeare too?" asked Georgina turning away from Jay and towards Trelawney Rose.
"I love Shakespeare," she replied. "But nobody else here does."
"I do," she said eagerly. "Maybe we can talk about him some time."
"Children," called Selena from the porch. "Please come in and eat your lunch before it gets cold."
"Yes, ma'am," said Trelawney Rose politely. "Goodbye, Georgina."
"Goodbye, Trelawney Rose," said Georgina.
"Goodbye, Jay," she called to the boy running into the house. But he ignored her.
"He's a fool," commented Trelawney Rose. "Someday he'll be sorry."
"About what?" Georgina asked.
"Nothing," said Trelawney Rose quickly, and then ran inside herself.
When she got inside the door, she took a moment to compose herself before she went into the kitchen. It would not do for Selena to know that she had done it again. But it was so difficult to remember that sometimes the thoughts that came into her head were foresight. And she was not allowed to just say things like that out here in the outside world.
But she thought of Georgina, the little girl who lived next-door. Even at home, she had never met anyone who smiled, but pretended that they weren't smiling, when she explained something. And no one her age had ever liked Shakespeare the way that she did. And she understood that animals had feelings too, even if she couldn't talk to them.
She was looking forward to seeing Georgina again. She was more hopeful than ever that she would be her friend. Trelawney Rose had always dreamed of having such a friend. She wasn't greedy. It only had to be one very good friend. A kindred spirit just like Anne Shirley had in Anne of Green Gables. Perhaps she would even be a "bosom friend" like Diana Barry.
Then she realized that she was daydreaming again. She went into the kitchen, sat down, and took a sip of her soup. It was a little cool, but she didn't dare complain. It was her own fault because she was late. The others were almost done.
"I met Georgina from next-door today," she said.
"That's your problem," replied Jay.
"What do you mean?"
"Georgina is a spoiled, little airhead," he stated.
"Who is in love with you," said Max. Then he began to sing, "Jay and Georgina sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G . . ."
"Oh, shut up!" growled Jay.
"I thought that she was a very nice girl," said Trelawney Rose. "She likes Shakespeare too."
"I always knew she was a little weirdo," said Willa, rolling her eyes. "Now you have someone you can hang out with. The two of you can be weird together and leave the rest of us normal people alone."
"Willa, that's not very nice," chided Selena. "It would be good for Georgina to have a girl her own age to play with. Then maybe she wouldn't follow Jay around so much."
"How old is Georgina?" asked Trelawney Rose.
"Let me think," said Selena. "She's a year younger than Jay so that would make her eleven."
"That's only one year older than me," said Trelawney Rose happily. "Isn't that lucky?"
"Oh, yes," said Willa, in her teasing voice. "Isn't that lucky? Now that you have someone your own age to play with, then maybe you'll treat Jennie like your real sister and ignore her like real big sisters do. And you'll see what a little brat that she really is."
"You won't do that?" asked Jennie anxiously. "Will you Trelawney Rose?"
"Of course not!" she said. "Selena has never called me a brat or ignored me, and she's older than me than Willa is than you."
"Oh brother!" commented Willa, getting up without asking permission and leaving the table.
Trelawney Rose looked after her sadly. No matter how hard she tried, she just could not get Willa to be happier. She knew that if she were happier, then she might be nicer.
Anticipation and Anxiety
Trelawney Rose's much-anticipated first day of school had finally arrived. Although she had been living with her sister at the Harringtons for some time, by the time the decision had been made that she and Miss Selena would remain in America and all of the immigration details were worked out over a month had passed.
Most people thought that is was probably for the better, because the shock of her parents' untimely deaths had hit her hard. But she had become quite restless and, just as all Tressidors were inclined to do, was yearning for a change of scenery.
During this time, Trelawney Rose had become acclimated to living in her own tangential way to the Harrington household. She shared a room with her sister in the little garage apartment. This was a comfortable arrangement for both since they had always shared a bedroom at home. During the day, Trelawney Rose spent time with her sister in the "big house," which Miss Selena tended to scrupulously. She might have been bored, except that Dr. Harrington had an old upright piano that she could play.
Each day for several hours, Selena drove over to the university to work in the campus ministry office. Trelawney Rose came with her and would quietly read while her sister completed her paperwork and other organizational tasks. The students, who dropped by to visit, found her to be a fun person to talk to. The chaplain offered to release Selena from her duties, but she refused, since she knew that once Trelawney Rose started school she would need something else to occupy her during the day.
When Jennie returned home from school, they became playmates. Because she was only in kindergarten, she had no homework. They were very compatible. The girls were like-minded in many ways and had become fast friends. Despite Jennie's claim that Trelawney Rose was her "real" sister, the girls had yet to show any inclination towards the disagreements that usually accompany a sibling relationship.
It was an entirely different story with the boys. Since the beginning, a battle of the sexes had broken out, as Trelawney Rose had been quick to jump in taking the side of the younger girl. For the most part the four children got along well enough, but Trelawney Rose's addition to the family had created some disruption, especially for Jay who found that his role as de facto leader (when Willa wasn't around) was being challenged. However, all of the Harringtons, including Justin, were willing to tolerate the upset if it meant that Miss Selena would stay with them.
And then there was Willa. Since her mother died, Willa had been determined to make herself a marginal member of the family. If Miss Selena's coming had strengthened this determination, Trelawney Rose's had confirmed it. Despite her efforts to make friends, she had an intense dislike for the little English girl who always seemed to be staring at her with her big, blue eyes. What should have been a benefit, the fact that Jennie no longer tried to tag along after her whenever she was home, became troubling. And she didn't like it at all when Jennie called Trelawney Rose her real sister.
But Trelawney Rose knew that Willa was sad because she missed her mother so much and when she had needed her family the most, they had not been there for her. She tried to reach out to her, but Willa kept pushing her away. It was almost as if she was afraid that if she let the little girl draw her in that she might get hurt again. It was safer to rely on her friends who had always been there for her. They had also helped her to cope with her pain by smoking pot and drinking alcohol.
Dr. Harrington had always assumed that it was because she was trying to get back at him and so she was rebelling. But Trelawney Rose knew better. Teenagers, who rebelled by getting drunk, did it occasionally because it was fun, like the lads in the village. Willa was self-medicating. She was trying to numb her senses so that she could not feel the pain of missing her mother. It was the only thing that she knew to do. And the little girl and her sister were the only ones who seemed to care. Sometimes Willa felt like the family would rather get rid of her and keep Trelawney Rose. But mostly, they just didn't want to lose Miss Selena.
Although Miss Selena had only been with them for a year when her family tragedy had occurred, none of them, with the exception of Willa, could imagine life without her. She had showed them the meaning of family all over again and in fact had become one of them.
The three younger children were thriving under her loving guidance and Justin had begun to build deeper relationship with his children. He still wasn't home very much, but she had taught him to use his time spent there to its fullest. Quality, not quantity, was what he now strove for. Although privately the others agreed that quantity would have been nice too.
Within the expanded family circle of five children and two adults, the intersecting bonds of parent-child-sibling-surrogate parent, though confusing to an outsider, were strengthening as time went on. And no one who knew Willa even expected that she would integrate herself into this loving unit. In fact if it had been possible, she would have prevented it from even forming.
But the others were happy to progress without her. No effort was made to properly sort these relationships out, thus they simply accepted the connections for what they were without trying to explain them. If an outsider tried to discern the actual relationships, it was more than likely that they would hear the words "love makes a family." In many ways it had become the family mantra.
Justin reflected on the movement toward the future with regret. He still missed his wife Helen very much. He knew that if she had lived that the family certainly would have thrived and Willa would never have ended up so far outside. While he knew that there was nothing that he could do to change the past, he felt remorse whenever he thought of the hours spent at work that could have been spent with her and the children.
In addition to Miss Selena's prodding he sometimes thought that he could almost feel her tapping on his shoulder and reminding him that without her, the children needed him more than ever. And he knew that giving them the attention that they needed was the best tribute that he could pay to her memory.
His greatest sense of regret was reserved for his relationship with Willa. He could not understand how his oldest daughter could have so quickly forgotten the loving attention that Helen had given her and the lessons of kindness and generosity that she had tried to instill in her. Jay was demonstrating that he had not forgotten. He was always the first to follow along when Miss Selena tried to engage them in some small act of kindness or mission of mercy and he used his influence to carry the others along.
But Willa remained intransigent. Although he had pretty much given up, Miss Selena stubbornly refused to. Then she convinced him that he needed to keep trying. Even little Trelawney Rose refused to tease her as she did Jay and Max, and she certainly could have. As time went on, his regret slowly turned into guilt. And guilt is an emotion that almost never breeds love. Where Willa was concerned, he felt like a failure.
Failure was simply not a part of his vocabulary, at least where he himself was concerned. Here he was, one of the top mathematicians in the country at one of the most prestigious universities in the country and he couldn't control his own daughter. He was determined not to fail Miss Selena and Trelawney Rose and did everything that he could to mollify the family back in England.
Yet with his own daughter, he found it impossible to move forward. It might be the only area of his life where he was willing to accept defeat. It almost seemed to be a trade off, that he could expiate the neglect of his daughter with kindness and generosity to the little orphan. He could not get out of his head though, the knowledge that Helen would not have seen it that way.
Selena was somewhat settled now. Emmeline had convinced Uncle David to let the girls remain in America until Kenneth could be found (he was still missing) and claim Selena for his bride. Grandfather Trelawney huffed and puffed, but being that he was thousands of miles away, there was nothing that he could do about it.
Neither Selena nor Trelawney Rose mentioned the betrothal to the Harringtons. Both, for their own reasons, were denying its existence. While Selena, unlike Trelawney, Rose, did not want any harm to come to Kenneth, she would be just as happy if he lost interest and released her. Of course that was not really his choice to make, but she tried to pretend that it was.
She did, however, inform Dr. Harrington of Uncle David's indulgence with regard to an immediate return and Grandfather's threat. If any bit of harm came to the child or threatened her, Grandfather would fight for her with everything that he had. And Uncle David would use his customary guardianship rights and demand her return to the village.
In that case, Selena would go with her. She would never break her solemn vow to her parents or leave the child to fend for herself among the warring factions of the family. He did not fully understand the family's concern for her safety, but he also did not know the full story of who the girl was. Selena was not yet ready to impart such a closely held family secret to an outsider.
Nonetheless, in settling Trelawney Rose's status as a foreign student, Justin Harrington had acquired the responsibility of legal sponsor within the US. Since Miss Selena was not a citizen, but there on a work visa herself and Trelawney Rose was not her child, she could not assume that role herself, despite the fact that the British government recognized her as legal guardian. The complex situation meant that Justin had stepped into the role of surrogate father to the orphan girl.
It was a role that he happily accepted, and not just because it kept Miss Selena with the family. Considering everything that she had done for his own family, he thought that it was the least he could do to make sure that the child's conditions for staying in the US were secure.
Although he would never admit it, he also enjoyed the closer bond that he had forged with her older sister on account of it. When everything was finally sorted out she had come to him with tears of gratitude in her eyes. It was all he could do to control his own emotions as she hugged him closely. He knew that he was treading very closely to a line from which, if he crossed it, there was no return.
Sitting in his study the night before the big day, he recalled bringing Trelawney Rose to the school with her paperwork and school records. The guidance counselor, Mrs. Tracy, had been a bit unsure of how to place her. Going solely by her age, she belonged in the fifth grade, however her previous education did not exactly line up with American public school curriculum.
It appeared that she had never taken courses in science or social studies. She had studied English history of course and could name the kings and queens of England in order. She had studied world geography, but her knowledge was heavily skewed towards Europe. She had only a cursory knowledge of American history, from an English perspective no less.
She had been studying French for several years and had just started Latin. When she had learned to read she had had no contact with Dick and Jane. In fact, starting a couple of years before, she had begun reading literature, including Shakespeare and Dickens among others. She could quote lines of poetry as easily as she could play Mozart from memory. Her recall of what she had read, and she was very widely read, was amazing.
Her education in arithmetic was very traditional. The "new math" that American educators were so excited about at the moment, had played no part in her background. Secretly Justin, a mathematician himself, thought that her background was probably more solid in that field than his own children's, except for Jay who seemed to almost inhale mathematical concepts as easily as he breathed.
Nonetheless the decision was made to place her with her peers by age so that tomorrow when she went to school, she would be in the fifth grade and her teacher would be Mrs. Matthews, who had taught Max in kindergarten. It had been decided that since she already knew the family, she would be the best choice to help the transition go smoothly. She was also a fairly easy-going teacher with a good sense of humor. Having gotten to know Trelawney Rose well over the last few weeks Justin knew that she would need that.
When Miss Selena brought him his refill for his evening coffee before she returned to the apartment for the night, he looked up and said, "So our girl goes off to school tomorrow. Is she ready?"
Miss Selena grimaced, "I hope she can stay awake once she gets there. She is so excited I doubt she will get much sleep. I expect that she will be up as early as Jennie was on her first day."
"Well," he replied with a smile. "At least she won't be waking me up the way that Jennie did. If Jennie ever had to fear for her life from Willa, it was certainly that morning."
"Yes, well, I will regret seeing her off," answered Miss Selena.
"Well, it will be good for her to get out of the house and be with more kids her own age," replied Justin reasonably. "And will help you to get into your old routine. It must have been a handful to have her hanging around all day."
"She's actually quite a good little companion and a great comfort," Miss Selena answered. "I suspect that I will miss her."
Without another word she turned and left the room. Her eagerness to get away was probably due to the fact that she was becoming emotional again. Since that one night under the stars, there had been no further opportunities for such intimate, albeit platonic, moments.
Try as he might, Justin had found it more difficult recently to get her stay in one place long enough to comfort her. Maybe it was for the best, he reflected. She needed to get beyond the initial deep sadness of her loss. She also needed space to do that, something that he understood well from his own recent experience. And he did want her to be happy again. He also wanted her to turn to him for something more than comfort.
Morning came early in the Harrington house and by the time Justin got down to breakfast all four children were eating. They were still on their own for breakfast, but they were all old enough to manage. And if one of them missed the bus, Miss Selena would arrive shortly and could drive the tardy child. Unfortunately, it was the older children who left first.
Three different schools meant three different bus times. Willa would be the first to leave, followed by Jay. The other two were taking the bus with Trelawney Rose to their own school. She would meet them in the driveway from where they would all walk to the bus stop together.
Miss Selena had wanted to drive them, but Trelawney Rose had never ridden a bus to school before and was eager for the new experience. Justin wondered how long it would take for the novelty of that to wear off. With the others, it had barely been two mornings before they were ready for a car ride.
Refusing to allow her sister to accompany her all the way to the bus stop, Trelawney Rose set out with Max and Jennie. From the driveway Selena watched them climb onto the bus with Georgina Jennings from next-door. As the bus drove away, she could see Trelawney Rose and Jennie seated together. For once the roles were reversed as Jennie had decided to take care of the older girl.
Georgina sat in the seat in front of them and had turned around to chatter away. It was nice that the little one had made a friend. Since their initial meeting in the backyard, Georgina had come over twice to visit. Each time the girls sat in the living room and had tea and talked about Shakespeare. Jennie tried to tag along, but all the talk of the great writer went over her head. The girls did not intentionally exclude her. She simply had no interest in the conversation.
But now it seemed that Trelawney Rose was about start her own life in the new country apart from hers. Oddly, Selena felt tears creep into her eyes. Turning around she was startled to see Dr. Harrington standing behind her. She had forgotten that he hadn't left for the university yet.
"She'll be fine," he said softly.
For now Selena had once again decided not to give in to her emotions.
"Oh I have no doubt that Trelawney Rose will be fine. It's Mrs. Matthews that I am not sure about," she said drily.
Picking up on her mood, Dr. Harrington said lightly, "Well she survived a whole year with Max. That should have prepared her for educational combat of all kinds."
Selena smiled, grateful that he was trying to lift her spirits. "Well, anyway, I don't plan on going anywhere today, just in case the phone rings."
"You don't know whether it will ring or not? You must be slipping."
Giving him a rather cryptic smile she replied, "If you don't leave now you'll be late for your first class."
"Oh I have plenty of time," he answered.
Sitting in traffic ten minutes later, he realized that she had done it again. He chuckled and shook his head. He also realized that his usual annoyance had somewhat lessened. He was happy that she was returning to her old self, even if it did drive him a little crazy.
As soon as the children got off the bus at school Max ran off to join his friends. Jennie however took it upon herself to walk Trelawney Rose to the principal's office. Georgina hesitated, but decided to let Jennie do the honors alone. Instead she satisfied herself with a smile and a wave. It had been decided that Trelawney Rose would start her day in the office and then Mrs. Clark would bring her to her new class and introduce her to the children.
The day before she had been down in Mrs. Matthews' class to talk to the students about their new classmate from England. She wanted to make sure that they would be kind and welcoming to child, who had suddenly lost her parents, from another country. She was a bit worried that Trelawney Rose might have trouble fitting in.
Fifth grade was a difficult age at best. At that time the girls especially became "cliquey" and it could be hard going socially for an outsider. Well, the kids had certainly risen or perhaps better put, lowered themselves to the unflattering stereotype. At the mention of the name Trelawney Rose Tressidor, suppressed giggles erupted from around the room.
"Now that's not nice!" chided Mrs. Matthews. "How would you like to lose both your parents and then have to go live in a foreign country?"
The children had been less than responsive. Peer pressure dictated that even those children with kindlier instincts would not dare to step forward if it meant opposing the wishes of the "queen bees." If they decided that she had a funny name it meant that she was starting off with one strike against her.
As Jennie and Trelawney Rose entered the office, Mrs. Clark's heart sank a little. Trelawney Rose was dressed as a traditional English schoolgirl, wearing a knee length navy blue jumper over a white blouse, with blue knee socks and loafers. Her long hair was tightly plaited into two braids that hung over her shoulders. She wondered that Miss Selena, who certainly knew how typical American school children dressed, would have sent her off to school looking as she did.
What she did not know was that the week before a battle of wills had gone on between the sisters. Selena had desperately tried to persuade Trelawney Rose to allow her to take her out to buy some proper American school clothes. But Trelawney Rose was stubborn. Despite her bravado she was actually very nervous about beginning school.
Since Aunt Annabel had sent the trunk filled with all of her clothes from home, she insisted on wearing those. Dressing in familiar school clothes was one way she had of projecting confidence. Even Jennie could not convince her that new school clothes were a fall tradition for every public school child. Even if it was no longer fall, a new school meant new clothes. But Trelawney Rose was still confused about what exactly a public school was, since in England, the schools called public schools were actually private schools.
Jennie proudly led the older girl into the office and announced loudly, "Mrs. Clark, I have brought my real sister Trelawney Rose."
In spite of herself, Mrs. Clark had to smile. Initially, Jennie had set the whole school laughing with her announcement that she now had a real sister. A brief playground disagreement over whether it was Trelawney Rose or Willa who was the real sister was somewhat resolved when Jennie had announced,
"Love makes a family!"
And then added,
"And Willa doesn't love me."
Mrs. Clark recalled how they had all stared at her.
"At all," she had finished.
But no one was truly able to contradict her. Willa was well known for shirking her duty to her family. The flower child, it seemed, had no real affection for any of them. It was a pity.
Now Trelawney Rose smiled shyly and extended her hand. Mrs. Clark shook it and was once again impressed by the child's excellent manners. Sadly, this would probably be more of a minus than a plus among her peers. After over twenty years in education she had learned to read the faces of small children. The one before her was filled with apprehension.
But Jennie tugged at her arm and reached up to give her a hug and kiss goodbye. Trelawney Rose turned and bent down. "Goodbye 'little sister,' see you later!"
Jennie beamed at the title and skipped off down the hallway to class. Even an old veteran like Mrs. Clark was moved. The affection between the two was evident and deeper than that of most true siblings of that age. It was no wonder that Jennie considered her, her real sister. She hoped that all would go as well for Trelawney Rose in the classroom as it obviously did at home.
After the bell rang, she and Trelawney Rose walked through the empty hallway to the fifth grade classroom. Opening the door she noticed that the classroom was active, but a bit more subdued than usual. They were a rowdy bunch on their best days.
Since it was Marcie's first year as a fifth grade teacher she had not yet quite fully adjusted to the higher levels of issues and discipline involved in dealing with older children. Marcie must have them on their best behavior today, especially since she was coming to visit. The time-honored tradition of making the best impression on the principal was clearly at work. She met them at the door with a huge smile.
"Good morning, Trelawney Rose, we are all looking forward to meeting you," said Marcie bending slightly. It was not so much that she was so tall, it was that she was used to dealing with five-year-olds.
Once again, Trelawney Rose politely extended her hand and said, "How do you do, Mrs. Matthews? I am very pleased to meet you."
The children were looking at each other and whispering about her name, her clothes, and her accent. Mrs. Clark wondered why they hadn't made the introductions earlier. But now she quickly retreated to get back to the office for morning announcements. Meanwhile, Mrs. Matthews showed Trelawney Rose to her desk near the front of the room where her textbooks were neatly stacked and waiting for her. Interested she opened the top book, a science book and began to leaf through it.
She jumped when Mrs. Clark's voice came over the PA. "All stand for the Pledge of Allegiance."
Unsure of what to do she imitated the other children and stood. Mrs. Matthews motioned for her to place her right hand over her heart. She followed, but not knowing the words, stood silently as the others recited. Next taped music came over the speaker playing "God Save The Queen" but once again she was surprised when the class began to sing "My country 'tis of thee . . ." She was so flustered that she missed Mrs. Clark's announcement welcoming her to the school.
The children sat down again and as soon as it was obvious that the PA had fallen silent once and for all, she raised her hand. Mrs. Matthews acknowledged her. Standing beside her desk with her hands neatly folded in front of her, she asked, "Excuse me please, Mrs. Matthews. Why did you all sing the wrong words to "God Save The Queen"?
It took a second for Marcie to recall that the song "America" had been set to the tune of the British national anthem. It was a perfectly logical question, but she was also trying to recover from the sight of the neatly dressed girl standing very upright and still in front of her. It was immediately clear that dress and deportment in English schools was more formal than in the US, at least at the child's old school. Trying to focus both on the question and the other eighteen children restlessly shifting in their seats she composed an answer.
"You may sit down. The tune of the two songs is the same, but here in the US we call it "America." We don't have a queen, we have a president," she answered.
"Oh," said Trelawney Rose thoughtfully. "Couldn't you think up your own tune?"
Seeing the other children listening with interest and not knowing the history of the song herself, Mrs. Matthews decided to end the conversation. "Enough of that. Now let's open our readers to page 112."
Trelawney Rose shrugged and sorted through her books looking for the one that was labeled reader. She was unsure of what to do with the others, but the girl across the aisle showed her how the top of her desk opened and how she could store the rest inside. Opening her book to the correct page she began to read silently.
To her surprise, Mrs. Matthews began calling on students to read aloud. Obediently she followed along, but she found the story boring. Used to reading books at a much higher level of difficulty and content, the text of the basal reader was dull. Well trained in proper classroom behavior she pretended to be interested, but in fact her mind was wandering.
She surreptitiously looked around the classroom. The walls were decorated with brightly colored pictures and word walls. A large chart of the multiplication tables was prominent as were pictures of various plants and animals. Near the window she noticed a cage with a large white rabbit. Not used to so many different colors and other things to look at, she soon found herself distracted from the task at hand. Suddenly she heard her name.
"Trelawney Rose," said Mrs. Matthews, "Please pick up where Julie left off."
Not knowing where Julie had left off she answered, "I'm sorry. I do believe that I have lost my place."
A wave of mirth passed through the classroom at her rather quaint way of speaking
"Well, Amy," replied Mrs. Matthews, ignoring the rest of the class. "Please show her where we are. And Trelawney Rose, in the future please keep your eyes on your book."
The little girl across the aisle gave her a sympathetic look, turned her page and pointed to the beginning of the correct paragraph, as a wave of muted giggles spread through the room. It had not taken the new girl very long at all to get in trouble with the teacher. Trelawney Rose read the words fluently, but without interest.
The story seemed to have something to do with children named Dick and Jane and how they were going camping with their family. She wondered what the point of reading it was, but suspected that if she asked, her question would not be welcome. So she got through the paragraph and managed to stay focused until it was time to do math.
Mrs. Matthews began the lesson by explaining a point of long division that Trelawney Rose had learned the year before. Once again bored, she nevertheless fixed her eyes on the teacher and copied the notes from the board as expected. Mrs. Matthews then handed out a worksheet and told the children to complete it before lunch. She sat down at her own desk to get some of her own work done.
As usual, the room was full of the restless movement of children. There was uncomfortable shuffling, passing notes, and whispers back and forth. As long as things were kept to a minimum of distraction, Marcie could tolerate it. She had a pretty high threshold for classroom nonsense and was willing to put up with a lot more from the students than a more seasoned teacher would have.
Unlike kindergartners, who had almost no attention span or self-control, fifth graders were very capable of acting properly. The kids were taking advantage of the fact that she had not adequately adjusted her behavioral expectations for her students to a higher level yet.
Trelawney Rose was puzzled by the classroom behavior, but ignoring it she looked at the numbers. Within ten minutes she had completed all of the problems and began to look around. Her classmates noticed that she was done before most of them had even settled down to start. Either she was very smart or very stupid. Engrossed in grading English compositions from the previous day, Mrs. Matthews was oblivious.
Looking back again at the rabbit, Trelawney Rose did not notice that someone had grabbed her paper and the kids were passing it around copying the answers onto their own worksheets. As the room grew noisier, Mrs. Matthews looked up. Noticing that Trelawney Rose was neither working nor even had her paper on her desk, she asked, "Trelawney Rose, I thought that I gave you some problems to do?"
Looking forward, Trelawney Rose replied, "Oh I finished those quite a bit ago. Oh, dear me! What happened to my paper?"
Mrs. Matthews noticed that one of the boys had slipped something under his desk. Wordlessly she walked over and put out her hand. He handed over the paper, which had Trelawney Rose's name neatly written across the top as well as the full set of computations, both completely finished and completely correct.
From looking at the young man's worksheet it appeared that he was about halfway through copying it. Looking around she noticed that several other children had the same answers on their papers. The kids were not very bright about the cheating however. They had even copied the European style 7's with the line neatly drawn through the center. Not sure of what to say next, she hesitated. In the intervening seconds, the boy defended himself.
"The new girl gave us the answers!"
Incensed, Trelawney Rose stood up, fists at her side, and cried, "I did not. You lot can do your own bloody work."
The outrage in the child's voice immediately convinced Mrs. Matthews of who was telling the truth. However she now had two problems on her hands; first, what to do about whoever had swiped Trelawney Rose's paper and second, what to do about the girl who was clearly advanced in math.
The problems she had set were pretty complex. She had not expected any of the children to get them all correct. Not only had the girl gotten them all right, she had done it in about ten minutes flat. And of course Mrs. Matthews had no idea that it was most certainly not appropriate for a schoolchild to use the word "bloody" in the classroom.
However the immediate problem was the disorder in the classroom as the other students began to argue that they had seen Trelawney Rose give over the paper. Within seconds that discussion had degenerated into insults about names, accents and weird clothing. Trelawney Rose looked around at the chaotic scene in dismay. She felt responsible because they were all talking about her. She had never seen anything like it before in her life.
Walking authoritatively to the front of the room, Mrs. Matthews demanded, "Everyone be quiet or you will all stay in for recess."
That shut them up fast enough. Recess was the only time in the school day that the children owned for themselves. The disagreement over the paper was not worth losing that precious twenty minutes of free time.
"Anyone who copied the answers needs to bring me their papers immediately so that you can get a new one. The rest of you get back to your work. NOW!"
With order restored, she called Trelawney Rose up to her desk. Somewhat meekly the girl came up, assuming that she was in trouble. However, Mrs. Matthews looked at her kindly and asked her if she had studied long division already. The girl nodded slowly. Still not sure of what to do, she told her to sit back down.
After thinking for a minute, she told her to take out her social studies book and begin reading it from the beginning. Trelawney Rose, an avid reader and always interested in learning new things, settled down and in a short time had tuned out the rest of the class.
Mrs. Matthews heaved a huge sigh of relief when the bell rang for lunch. As the children went off to the cafeteria, she called aside the aide and asked her to look out for the new girl. Knowing how children could be, she wanted to make sure that there were no incidents during lunch or recess.
She herself then made her way to the teacher's room to share the morning's happenings and get some advice on what to do. The idea that she should perhaps approach the principal or better yet the guidance counselor with the information never even crossed her mind.
For many children, lunch and recess are the worst periods of the school day. Where to sit and who to sit with become large concerns. It had never been any kind of an issue for Trelawney Rose since every day she had gone home from school to eat with Mummy before walking back for her afternoon classes.
She found the American lunchroom very confusing. Since she wasn't buying lunch, she simply chose a table to sit at and it was a few minutes before she realized that no one was sitting with her. She looked around for her classmates, but every time she caught someone's eye they looked away.
Out on the playground she also found herself alone until a group of girls came up to her. Smiling bravely she greeted them. However it was soon evident that their intentions were not friendly.
"What kind of a name is Trelawney Rose anyway?" a tall girl asked.
"My name," she answered smartly.
"Well I think it sounds funny," another responded.
"Not where I come from," she quickly replied, naturally very proud of her mother's family name.
The girls, despite knowing why she was attending school in the States, were heartless. Mrs. Tracy had often said that there was nothing meaner than a fifth grade girl, and this crowd was a real case study.
"You think you're so smart because you come from England," answered back the tall girl, who was clearly the leader. "Maybe you should just keep your mouth shut. You got some of our friends in big trouble today."
"They got themselves in trouble," responded Trelawney Rose spiritedly. "They stole my paper and copied my answers."
"But you told on them and that makes you a fink, and we don't like finks," the girls were beginning to look threatening. Trelawney Rose lost some of her bravado as she realized that there could be trouble.
Suddenly a rather haughty tone came from behind them, "Why are you guys picking on Trelawney Rose?"
The girls parted and Georgina Jennings walked in with some of her sixth grade friends. Georgina, as usual, was beautifully dressed, with every hair in place. Because she knew Trelawney Rose, she apparently decided to exert her influence as an older student.
Although a bit spoiled by her overindulgent mother, nevertheless, she was a talented young actress, singer, and dancer. She was popular with the other sixth grade girls because, despite being a little snooty, she was nice to everyone. It was a characteristic that she now demonstrated.
She put her arm around the younger girl and asked comfortingly, "Trelawney Rose, are these girls bothering you?"
Trelawney Rose swallowed hard. She knew that if she answered yes then there would be even bigger trouble with her classmates. Sixth grade girls were obviously higher in the playground pecking order than fifth. Ratting out classmates for copying and looking for help from older girls were probably not that far apart as social transgressions go.
Looking around at the girls who had surrounded them, both friend and foe, tears began to fill her eyes. She wanted to go home, she wanted her sister, and at this moment, she wanted Selena to take her back to England. Sagging against Georgina she couldn't answer.
Georgina had originally come over because she thought that showing her support for Trelawney Rose would help her score points with Jay. But now her better angels took over. She knew very well the story of how Trelawney Rose had come to live with Miss Selena, better than anyone outside of the family in fact. But she also knew that these girls were among the meanest in the fifth grade and would also have had to know at least a little about the situation as well.
It outraged her sense of justice that anyone could be so cruel. Georgina might be queen bee herself but she had never been a mean girl. And now her protective instincts kicked in as surely as any mother bird for a chick. With her arm still around Trelawney Rose she walked her away.
"Don't pay any attention to them, you don't want be their friend anyway. You want to have nice girls for friends," she said loudly. She was so determined to make her new friend feel better, that she forgot how it would look to the younger girls. The older girls surrounded Trelawney Rose to comfort her as the bell rang. Reluctantly, Trelawney Rose walked over to line up with her own class.
One of the mean girls got in line behind her and hissed in her ear, "You'll be sorry for this!"
Giving her a frightened look, Trelawney Rose took advantage of the post recess mayhem to run out of the playground and down the street. It was the only thing that she could think to do. But what she had forgotten was that she was in a strange place and she had no real idea of where the school was in relation to the Harrington's home. Within minutes she was completely lost and completely bewildered. Not knowing what else to do, she looked for a place to hide.
Meanwhile, back at the school the other girls laughed. Now she was going to be in real trouble!
The Teacher's Room
During her lunch break Marcie Matthews related the morning's events to her friends in the faculty room. Not much better than the girls on the playground, the adults discussed her clothing and manners.
"Sounds to me like you better watch out for her mouth," warned Connie Clement who taught Max. "She sounds a little fresh. It's also not a good idea for her take on some of those kids. They could make life very difficult for her, especially the girls."
Connie knew them from their third grade days when they were mean girls "in training" as she liked to say. When the classes were sorted out for fourth grade she had made sure to separate the biggest troublemakers, but somehow they had all ended up together again in fifth.
"It sounds to me like it's those other children who are out of line," snapped Tessie Griegan. Tessie had the reputation for being the toughest teacher in the school and did not approve of younger teachers letting the fifth graders have too much slack. It made her job all the more difficult when they reached sixth.
"Well, it is easier to deal with one child rather than a whole class," put in Laurie Langdon. Fresh out of teacher's college, she taught Jennie's kindergarten class.
"You're missing the point, young lady. It's not about dealing with children. It's about dealing with behavior," replied old Tessie with a sniff. "What the students are doing sounds mean to me. Name-calling doesn't help, nor does blaming the victim. The best approach is to call out the behavior when you see it. If you don't insist that the children respect each other in the classroom, it will only be worse on the playground."
Much as they hated to admit it, the younger teachers knew that Tessie was right.
"What about the math?" Marcie asked. "And the reading? She was very polite about it, but I could see that the book was boring to her."
"I would reevaluate all her basic skills. With the state of American education today I wouldn't be at all surprised if she were more advanced than students her own age."
Fortunately for the other teachers the bell rang. The state of American education was one of Tessie's favorite hobbyhorses. The great villain was the dreaded new math not mention the "dumbing down" of the language arts curriculum with Dick and Jane. All the women packed up their things and returned to their classrooms.
Marcie was a little late arriving back to the classroom. The aide had dropped the kids off and rushed off to her own lunch. It wasn't until she had settled into the classroom that she realized that Trelawney Rose was missing. Her desk was empty. When Mrs. Matthews questioned the class she got no answers.
Recalling the lunch aide from the faculty room, she discovered that the woman had been so busy talking with the other aides that she had lost track of Trelawney Rose. She hadn't even realized that the girl had not lined up when they reentered the building.
Knowing her class and the events of the morning, Mrs. Matthews knew that something was very wrong. She also knew that she wasn't going to get anything out of the students. Leaving the aide with her class she hurried to Mrs. Clark's office. This was bound to be trouble.
Where is Trelawney Rose?
Mrs. Clark was deeply concerned. She had promised Miss Selena and Dr. Harrington that she would make Trelawney Rose's transition as easy as possible. The school and grounds were searched, but there was no sign of her. Max and Jennie were called in, but that only served to create more upset. Jennie began to cry and even Max looked unhappy. Word had gotten out among all the classes as the search for her swept through the building. Then Georgina Jennings arrived at the office.
After knocking politely at the door she entered and asked if she could talk to Mrs. Clark.
"I don't mean to intrude," she said. "But Mrs. Griegan told me to come and tell you what happened at recess."
Mrs. Clark inwardly groaned. If there was going to be any trouble during the day, there was no doubt that recess or lunch would be the place for it to happen.
"Mrs. Clark, at recess my friends and I saw a group of fifth grade girls bothering Trelawney Rose so we went over to help," she continued after Mrs. Clark nodded.
"Trelawney Rose started crying but we couldn't do anything because the bell rang. The last time I saw her she was in line with her class."
"Did you see her go into the building with her class?" asked Mrs. Clark hopefully.
"No," said Georgina. "My class went in first. But I think that those girls were being really mean. Trelawney Rose wouldn't tell us anything, but she looked kind of scared."
Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Tracy exchanged meaningful glances.
"I didn't want to do it, but we'll have to call Selena Tressidor," said Mrs. Clark. "Thank you for your help Georgina."
"I feel just awful," replied the young girl. "Jay is going to be so upset. If I can do anything else to help . . ."
"That's all for now, dear," replied Mrs. Tracy with a smile. Georgina's crush on Jay Harrington was well known, but she also knew that the girl had a good heart. "And thank you for being a good friend."
"Oh I would do anything for that poor little girl. I can't imagine anything so terrible as losing both your parents. Jay has just been so upset," she repeated as she walked out the door.
"It's a pity that Trelawney Rose's classmates couldn't have the same kind of sympathy," commented the guidance counselor. "Where can she possibly be? We know that she's nowhere on school grounds and that she is very upset. I'm sure that she doesn't know the neighborhood."
"The only thing to do is call Miss Selena and the police," replied Mrs. Harper. "And Dr. Harrington."
"Yes, as the child's legal sponsor, he should know too."
"I was actually thinking more about Miss Selena. She puts on a brave front, but I am sure that this will be very upsetting," replied the principal. "She's going to need all the support that she can get."
Selena arrived just as they were finishing giving the policeman a full description. Fortunately the girl was so uniquely dressed that they thought that she would be easy to spot. Seeing her upset, the policeman kindly said, "Don't worry Miss Tressidor, we'll find your sister."
"You need to understand that Trelawney Rose is a very sensitive child," she said nervously. "The only reasons why she would run away are if she were frightened, confused, or both. What happened?"
Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Tracy looked very uncomfortable since they were responsible for the child in their care. But the policeman had no compunctions about telling her the truth.
"We believe that she was frightened by some of the other students in her class," he said. "Another little girl saw them picking on her."
Now Miss Selena looked like she wanted to cry. This was the exact situation that Grandfather could use to bring her sister home and try to gain custody for himself. She felt as though she had stepped into the nightmare of her worst imagining. And she was terrified at the idea of her frightened little sister alone somewhere in the city.
The tension was thick in the office by the time the Justin Harrington arrived. He had been pulled out of an important meeting, but had dropped everything knowing how devastating this would be for Miss Selena. He knew this morning that she had had an inkling of possible trouble but he doubted that she expected this. Max and Jennie were sitting with her but for once she seemed hardly aware of them.
Taking Mrs. Clark by the arm into the anteroom, he angrily demanded, "What the hell happened?"
Flinching, Mrs. Clark gave him the short version. That only seemed to make him madder.
"How could you be so irresponsible?" he fumed. " You knew there could be difficulties and yet you left the poor kid to fend for herself in that adolescent jungle you call recess. If anything happens to her . . ."
His voice had grown quite loud and he heard Miss Selena call out from the office, "Please Dr. Harrington, recriminations won't help. We can sort all that out after they find Trelawney Rose."
Seeing that he was only making things worse he returned to the office and moving Max out of the way put his arm around her. Jennie who was huddled against her on the other side, patted her knee and whispered, "There, there."
Wherever Trelawney Rose had gone, she did a good job of hiding herself. The bell rang for the end of the day and the Harringtons were still waiting. When Trelawney Rose was still missing at five o'clock, the police suggested that they go home to wait. Because she was too upset to drive, one of the policemen drove Miss Selena home in her car. The time of anxious waiting had begun.