STICKY FINGERS

This is just a modern fairy tale about an orphan girl who meets a witch and goes to a mysterious castle. Please comment nicely!

More than a hundred orphan girls were lined up for inspection, but Lady Helena Norwich picked out Mallory James right away.

"Sticky fingers," the school's wealthiest sponsor said, whispering in the headmistress' ear after the long morning inspection was finally over. "You see that baby-faced blonde laughing her head off with the others? Her fingers were sticky from eating sweets."

"Lady Helena, I'm terribly sorry," the plump headmistress said, clearly frightened of losing half her budget. "Sweets are absolutely forbidden between meals here. I'll speak to the girl right away."

"No need," replied Lady Helena, laughing slightly. "My handshake with the girls is always the high point of the yearly inspection. But if you don't mind, I'd like to speak to this girl alone for a minute."

Mallory had no idea why she was being summoned to the office of the headmistress. But she recognized the raven-haired woman in black sitting behind the massive oak desk right away.

"Lady Norwich! May I help you? I mean how do you do?" Mallory stammered and felt her cheeks blushing red hot as she dropped a curtsey. She wished she hadn't loosened her school necktie the moment the inspection was over. She felt very sloppy and untidy.

"It's a pleasure to see you again, Mallory dear." Lady Helena motioned for the girl to be seated in a stiff, high-backed chair facing the desk. At the same time she held out a box of very fancy French chocolates. "Mrs. Winterburn tells me this is your last year at Barren Oaks?"

"Yes, my lady. I just turned eighteen last week." As she reached for a chocolate, Mallory wondered if the private meeting with Lady Norwich wasn't some kind of school ritual for departing girls. "I'm hoping to go to London and find work as a secretary," she said, just to show that she wasn't afraid to leave the orphanage behind. She couldn't really remember her mother and father, and Barren Oaks was the only home she'd ever known.

"Secretaries must be neat, clean, and organized. Are you an organized person, Mallory? Are you good at typing and filing?"

"Yes, my lady." Mallory squirmed a bit in her uncomfortable chair. She felt as though she were in trouble for something, even though beautiful Lady Norwich was smiling at her as she leaned forward and reached for another chocolate.

"Well, since the school year is almost over, what do you say to a summer job as my personal assistant? I can't pay you much, but you'll dine with me on a regular basis and have a lovely bedroom all to yourself at my country house in Kent. The work experience will put you miles ahead if you do try for a London job later on."

"But I'm not . . . I don't . . . Lady Norwich, you're incredibly nice! But why should you take a chance on a girl like me?" Mallory froze with her fingers still a safe distance away from a rather enticing dark chocolate cream.

"Mallory my sweet, there are two types of people in the world. There are those who take a chance and those who don't. Which type of person are you?" Lady Norwich had striking dark blue eyes that could see right through a person. But they seemed to twinkle as she pushed the fancy box of chocolates a little closer.

"I'll take a chance!" Mallory snatched greedily for the chocolate, and Lady Norwich laughed as though she'd said something clever. It was only natural to join in on the laughter, especially since the two of them already seemed to be quite good friends.