Georgiana always knew she was named too grandly to be much of a farm girl. No, farm girls were not named Georgiana. They were named Beth, Mary, Nell, or perhaps even Penny. Indeed, those were simple names. They weren't hinting at grandeur. But Georgiana, now there was a fine name, she would ponder while she weeded the vegetable garden. Nobody with a name such as Georgiana should be weeding carrots, she would add to herself. Not at all.
Anoushka didn't want to be beautiful. Anoushka had once overheard her mother say to a friend of hers, "Anoushka is not very useful, but she is very pretty. She will be a very good image for our family." So when she was to sit through her mother's parties, she loathed it. Not only was she an ornament, but once she got to the age of marriage in a year, she would also be viewed by mothers of rich men, like her father views property at estate auctions, ready to pounce for the next bid. No, she did not want to be beautiful.
Ingdora was sixteen and engaged. To a man that she knew would surely make her miserable. Thorsten was a son of a very important lawyer in the city. Thorsten would not make her happy, no matter how much money he would make once he took over his father's office. She couldn't refuse him, though. Ingdora knew better. With her father's illness, she would never dream of ignoring such wealth that could be put to use for medical bills. She would take his hand in marriage with a smile, even if she didn't feel like smiling.
Dear Miss G. Foster,
Congratulations. You have been accepted into the International Girls Academy. Your application for a full scholarship was also accepted and you need only pay for transportation. Your schooling, book, and boarding fees have been attended to by the scholarship committee.
The school year starts August twentieth. You are given between August first through the fifteenth to move in to your room and register.
Mme. Isabelle Roux
Anoushka frowned at the paper her mother handed to her. International Girls Academy? Whatever happened to Anoushka being the showcase piece? Had her little sister, Stasja, replaced her? Not that she was complaining. A whole year away from home? It was more than she could have hoped for! "A school?" she asked.
Her mother examined her new eggshell-colored gloves. "Yes, it looks good if the prince might look your way in a year."
Of course. The prince must always have something to do with it. Anoushka knew better than to expect a prince's attentions, but mentioned nothing to her mother. "Yes, perhaps it shall help."
Her mother frowned. "School will not fix everything." She took Anoushka's arm, inspected her sleeve, and dropped her arm. "If you continually insist on painting, make sure you're not covered in it, please, Ana."
"I'm sorry, mother."
She gave a half smile. "It's fine, Ana. Just promise me you'll become a greater lady than you already are when you are there."
"I promise," Anoushka said, giving her mother a kiss on the cheek.
"Show me your painting, dear," her mother urged, grinning.
Anoushka couldn't be angry with her mother, even if she sometimes was not as motherly as might be hoped or expected, but her mother was not a neglecting one. She loved both of her daughters very much, and she only wanted her family to be well observed and well off.
She walked with her mother upstairs to her room. She pointed to her current piece.
"Oh, Anoushka. It's beautiful. You captured her so well."
She was beginning to paint Stasja reading one of her colorful children's books. Stasja was such a curious child and Anoushka had attempted to portray her as such in the painting.
Her mother chuckled. "She looks so… quizzical. You had that exact look often when you were a child, Ana."
Anoushka laughed. "Really? How interesting." They stood in silence for a moment and she asked, "What is the school like?"
"It's a beautiful school with many gardens. There are girls from all over the world. You will stay with other girls in a little cottage. You will learn a great deal, and I even believe they have art programs. Trust me, darling, you will love it."
All she could do was nod. She hoped she would love it.
Ingdora wrung out the wet cloth, wiping off her father's brow for the last time before she left home. She hated her mother more than ever. First she engages her daughter to a man she barely knows, then sends her off, away from her dying father!
"Father, I hate to leave you," she murmured, pressing her face to his shoulder. He was in a deep sleep from the fever. He would miss seeing her off. It was unbearable.
A shadow appeared in the doorway. "Ingdora, your mother says we must go."
Thorsten. Why was he here? She ignored him and kissed her father's forehead. "Goodbye, father. Stay strong," she whispered. She turned around, refusing to even look at Thorsten, and walked out the door with Thorsten trailing behind.
"Ingdora, stop please. I would like to speak with you alone before you leave." She stopped at the request. With his financial support, she did not want to make him angry. She had to listen to his requests of her. He towered above her already tall stature. "Ingdora, we shall not see each other for a year, and I should like to ask you if I may be so bold as to kiss you. Do you mind?"
She cringed. She did mind, actually. She did not want a kiss, not from anyone. "Isn't that breaking the rules of our engagement?" She somewhat recalled a rule that they may not touch in any affectionate way until after the wedding.
"No," came the confidant answer. "Besides, who would find out? We are alone, and I shall dearly miss you while you are at school. Please, Ingdora." He reached out to touch her face.
She let him touch her. He was gentle, but it felt so awkward. She did not love him, and she had been certain he held no true affection for her. Now she was not as certain. "Thorsten…" His quite handsome face (yes, she had to admit it was handsome, but also very loathsome) begged her. "If you can tell me why you want my kiss so badly, I shall allow you to kiss me." Her sick father flashed through her mind. He needed the money this marriage was bringing in.
"If I answer well enough, may I kiss you twice?"
Now he was pushing it. It was almost- almost- sweet at first, but now he was making Ingdora sick.
"I suppose, but that's it."
Thorsten grinned. "I want to kiss you because you look so very pretty right now. You're leaving for a whole year and we will only be able to write. I won't be able to see your beautiful face, and I want to remember you the whole next year like this. A kiss would only make the memory better, and it will make me happy."
She couldn't refuse a second kiss, although the speech was hardly worth even one kiss at all. She nodded. "You may have two kisses."
Thorsten leaned down and pressed his lips lightly against her own. He pulled away and said softly, "One… and…" He kissed her again, this time a little longer and not quite as light. She couldn't complain about the kisses, they were fine, but she wanted just to leave. He stopped kissing her and said, "Two." He smiled. "Thank you, Ingdora. I'll miss you. I can't wait for your return."
She suddenly couldn't wait to leave.
Georgiana stood in her room at the school. It was one of three in the little cottage. It had, besides three bedrooms, a spare room with an extra desk, a small kitchen, parlor, and powder room. A small gold plaque on her door read "G.F." The others read, "A.A.," and "I.T." She went to the hall and leaned against the wall, staring at the three lilac doors, wondering, for the hundredth time since arriving a week ago, what their names could be. All were, of course, grand and brilliant, names worthy of royalty. "Alexandra Akers?" she wondered aloud. "Imogene Turner?"
"Actually," came a voice with a thick accent. "It's Ingdora Toov."
Georgiana straightened herself as a tall girl with blonde hair pinned back walked up to her. "That's my room, then," she said, opening the door. "A.A.," she said, glancing at the plaque after making a split-second inspection of her room. "Astrid Arud."
Georgiana wrinkled her nose. "Astrid?"
Ingdora looked down at her. "My best friend's name was Astrid. There were many Astrids back home."
Georgiana blushed. "I'm sorry."
The other girl shrugged. "No problem." The girls went on for the next couple minutes sharing names they thought could possibly be the mysterious "A.A." They decided that she was an Annette Arthursen and brought Ingdora's bags in. Once Ingdora was settled, they went to the front parlor.
"I'm Georgiana, by the way," Georgiana said as she sat down on a sofa. She smiled. Ingdora smiled back.
"Ingdora." She paused. "Call me Ing. I despise Ingdora. Only my fiancé calls me that."
Georgiana stared at the girl, shocked. She hadn't even been courted yet! "Fiancé?"
Ing made a face. "Yes. Fiancé. It was arranged. We're to marry when I return from school. He's a sweet enough man, and isn't deformed, but he's not going to make me happy. I can tell."
Georgiana felt suddenly like the scholarship farmer-girl that she was. A fancy name wouldn't change that. She felt ignorant of the world and cursed her luck of being born to farmers. Ing broke her train of thought.
"Oh, I think Annette Arthursen is coming."
Georgiana swung her head to the window Ing was looking out of. A petite brunette in an elaborate dress was making her way towards their cottage. She stepped into the cottage, thanking the men that carried the luggage to the cottage behind her before she shut the door. "Annette Arthursen?" Georgiana asked, giggling. Ing laughed with her. The alleged Annette looked confused.
"We were making an attempt to guess your name before you got here. Your initials are on your door," Ing explained.
The girl looked a little apprehensive and said, in an accent not as thick as Ing's, but very different, "My name is Anoushka Alkaev."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Georgiana Foster."
"Ingdora Toov, but do please call me Ing."
Anoushka smiled. "Where are you from?"
"Germany," came Ing's answer promptly. They turned to Georgiana expectantly.
Georgiana shuffled her feet, jealous of Ing's confidence and feeling insignificant in the shadow of these two beautiful girls from places other than a farm in the English countryside. "Here in England. Where are you from, Anoushka?"
"Russia," she replied.
"Anoushka," Ing said thoughtfully. "It's a pretty name."
"Thank you," she said. "You both have beautiful names as well."
Georgiana smiled. This was one thing she counted on. Georgiana was a very grand-sounding and beautiful name.
Ing just snorted. "Ingdora? It's awful. Only my fiancé calls me by it."
"You are engaged?" Anoushka asked, shocked. "I have a year before I am able to be married."
"As do I, but we became engaged early. He's very wealthy and our family needs the financial help," came the explanation.
"My mother hopes our prince will find me to his liking once I return from abroad," Anoushka said.
Georgiana stared. Very wealthy? Their prince? She was a farm girl, she was lucky if she got the baker's son to get a fancy for her!
"Be grateful for your nonexistent relationship, Anoushka. Once you're engaged, you won't be able to have any fun."
"Oh, I'll be sure to treasure my time without a man by my side," she said, laughing.
The girls laughed together and Georgiana finally felt like she belonged, no matter how insignificant she felt. Being with these glamorous and foreign girls thrilled Georgiana. She couldn't get enough of their accents and silly laughs. She took the scene in. The quaint cottage, the soft yellow parlor. She made an attempt to memorize the details of this moment, from Ing's bold blue dress to Anoushka's elaborate red skirts. Her own despairingly simple green dress was rough under her hands. She didn't care anymore, though. The happiness that came from being in exciting company overcame any awkwardness she felt from the simple life she was born into.
I think about you day and night. Your gorgeous face is vivid in my dreams, and I wish I could come to England this second and take you away from that school. However, I cannot do such a thing, for I'm sure you're having an enormously grand time there. Tell me about your classes and your cottage roommates. Where are they from? Any from Germany? According to your mother, it's your favorite time of year right now. Do you miss being at home during this season?
The twins are enjoying your absence, I am sorry to say. They run around chanting, "Ing's not here, Ing's not here!" However, they are as young boys are. No need to fuss about them, right? I'm sure they shall become fine young men just as their elder sister is a beautiful and fine young lady (of course, I am not at all biased).
Your father's health is faring the same. You will be glad to hear he has not worsened, though I wish I could relay news of great joy concerning his illness.
It is with great sadness I end this letter. I hope it has found you in happiness and good health!
Anoushka rushed across the campus to the first day assembly. She could not be late, no. She was never late, and she refused to start the year off being late. If she had remembered where she had packed her hairpins, then she wouldn't be hurrying about in the unladylike manner she was. The darling girls staying with her tried to help, but after long enough Anoushka insisted they move on with getting themselves ready. She wouldn't be responsible for all three of them being late.
Just as she pushed the assembly room door open, Ing waved at her from a seat in the back row. The girls in the room were still chatting and she sat down with a sigh. "I didn't miss anything?" Ing shook her head. Anoushka looked around the room. There weren't that many girls there, perhaps fifty. She had been expecting many more.
A stout woman strode onto the stage. A polite applause came from the audience as the girls turned their attention the woman. She smiled and began in a strong voice, "Welcome to the International Girls' Academy. I am Madame Roux, the founder of the school. I am proud to welcome you. Each of you were chosen, along with others, by the school board. As you sit here, I can tell you that of those chosen by the board, you were chosen by me specifically. Each of you, I hope, have learned new things about your fellow students already, and the ones you room with. What are their names? What country do they come from? Are they rich or poor, or maybe just average?
"Some of you come for a specific reason. Whether it be to leave home, to become educated, or maybe even waste time- which would be such a pity in my opinion- you are here. If you do not like your stay, I ask you to come and talk to one of your counselors. They will do their best to help you with your dilemma. If it is something completely silly- such as, oh, the grass is not soft enough- we will dismiss it. For any future questions, yes, we had a girl complain about the grass." The audience chuckled in amusement.
"All of you are new here. There are older girls, maybe even younger ones, on campus that have been here before. Some of the older girls will have on a white sash. They are the ones you go to if you're lost or have any simple questions about being here. You may have a couple of these girls in your classes, some will be helping the professors and others will be taking the class itself. Now I will call your cottage and you can go to the dining hall, where you will find your nametag on a table. Each table will have an elder girl sitting there, so you may ask her any questions." She was handed a list from offstage. "Shell, Rose, Lavender, Delilah, and… Sky Cottages. Please make your way to the dining hall."
As soon as those girls had made their way to the back of the room and out the door, Madame Roux continued. "Flora, June, Teal, and Bella Cottages."
Ing, Anoushka, and Georgiana stood when they heard Bella Cottage called. The strode across the wooden sidewalk, excited. Anoushka linked her arms with Georgiana and Ing. "Girls, this is the beginning of a wonderful year."
Ing grinned. "Wonderful is one outrageous understatement, 'Noushka."
Anoushka laughed at the nickname. "Alright. A spectacularly brilliant year!"
"Oh, much better!" squealed Georgiana. "That's a perfectly elegant way of putting it."
They walked into the dining hall, searching for their names. They found Georgiana's, but Anoushka and Ing did not sit at the same table. Georgiana's smile faltered as they reluctantly left her. Anoushka found Ing's name next, again not at the same table.
She finally found her name at a table with other Russian girls. She smiled at them as she sat down. Anoushka began to introduce herself in Russian, but the elder girl with the white sash interrupted. "In English. We're to speak in English during classes and campus activities like this. It's the rule. Between your classes or during free time are you only allowed to speak in Russian. I'm Katerina." The girl smiled politely. "I had a hard time with it when I was placed at a table of all Russian girls like this my first year, too. We're placed like this so we can get used to speaking only in English."
Anoushka smiled uncertainly. "Oh. Well, my name is Anoushka."
A plain girl with thick, curly hair said, "Anastasja."
"Lidiya," a mouse-faced girl said.
The other girls were Yeva, Tatiana, and Sofya. Anoushka felt like she could not relate to any of these girls, despite their common heritage. She kept quiet and waited until they were dismissed from the dining hall for free time until lunch.
Ing and Georgiana looked just as thrilled as Anoushka felt. Ing agreed that their lesson in the English-only rule helped them little and Georgiana hated the girls that had been at her table. "They only said, 'Ha, how fortunate we already speak English for our first language! The other girls, they must keep up.' They were so snobby."
Ing shrugged. "The German girls? They only complained how unfair it was that we had to speak English."
Anoushka sighed with them. "These Russian girls should be ashamed of their lack of culture. I asked them about famous painters and artists of all kinds, even popular Russian ones! They looked at me like many little innocent baby deer. Even the elder girl. They acknowledged the recognizable names and made it known that the names were recognizable, but I took pity that they went straight back to fashion."
The girls frowned and contemplated silently. Finally Ing sang out, "Let's go back to the cottage. I have no desire to mingle with these people. Perhaps tomorrow. For now, let's go speak of other things."
When they got to the cottage, Anoushka lifted the lid on their mail box and peered inside. "A letter for you, Ing."
She snarled at the envelope immediately and stomped inside. "As if this day were not awful enough."
"Ing, don't you wish to read it?" Georgiana asked as the brash girl tossed the letter away without even opening it.
"No." The reply was short and to the point. "If you're curious, you may read it. I do not mind. However, don't read it aloud. I hate reading, let alone hearing, his words."
Georgiana immediately picked it up. Anoushka rushed to her side with curiosity. Georgiana opened the letter. When both girls finished reading it, they sighed. "Oh Ing, it's so romantic, though! He speaks of you so fondly."
"Reading it is like eating a piece of my great-aunt's triple chocolate layered cake. Meant with good intentions, but I hate it and it makes me sick to the stomach. I despise both things strongly."
"Ooh," cooed Anoushka. "How well-written! 'Your gorgeous face is vivid in my dreams, and I wish I could come to England this second and take you away from that school.' Ing! He yearns for you, how sweet."
She grumbled. "If you wish to quote it, then only quote what he writes of my family. Especially my father. I worry about him."
Georgiana gave her a playful swat. "He writes a lot of your family. Just read it, Ing."
She huffed and took it from Georgiana. The lovey-dovey part of the letter was atrocious. She gave a little 'hmph' and crumpled it up. "I hate him so much."
Anoushka and Georgiana exchanged glances. "Surely he's not completely intolerable?" Anoushka asked.
Ing scoffed. "He is, actually."
"Perhaps… you should speak with him about how you do not agree with his… romanticism and flamboyant displays of affection," Georgiana suggested timidly.
Ing's eyes widened. "No, I couldn't possibly! If he takes offense, he'd call off the engagement!"
"Isn't that what you want?" Anoushka asked.
"Noushka, you don't understand. My father is gravely ill. If Thorsten were a poor man with no help to my father, I'd dump him myself in a heartbeat. But he's not poor. He has a great deal of wealth that he uses to pay for my father's medical bills."
The girls rushed to Ing's side. "Oh darling," Anoushka said. "We didn't know it was so bad."
Ing shook her head defiantly. "It's fine," she said.
Georgiana grinned wickedly. "Let's have a ceremonial burning of the letter, then."
Anoushka laughed. "It sounds brilliant!"
Thus the three girls began a tradition. Every time a letter from Thorsten for Ing came, and any upsetting letter for Anoushka and Georgiana came, the girls promptly took it and tossed it into their fireplace together, or if it was too hot for a fire, such as Ing pointed out on that warm August day, they tore the letter to pieces and tossed it into the fireplace anyway, letting it sit there until the next fire was lit. When they finished, they brushed their hands on their skirts and smiled at their accomplishment.
So, here's the new story! Please review? Virgin pina coladas for all!