A/N: Well, here it is, finally. I've been working on this a few weeks before I finished 'Sweet Lolita', and came up with the idea around halfway through 'Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own', and now, as I type at about one AM, I'm pretty darn glad to FINALLY be getting this up. I'd like to thank everyone who read and reviewed 'Sweet Lolita', and request your patience on this one, because you don't actually see Darcy until next chapter… Yes. But I hope you like it :D
"Well I've been here before,
Sat on the floor on a grey, grey room
Where I stay in all day,
I don't eat, but I play with this grey, grey food
Desolé, if someone is praying, then I might break out,
Desolé, even if I scream, I can't scream that loud"
-Damien Rice, 'Grey Room'
3rd of May, 2009
You aren't going to believe this. I'm really, really freaking out now.
Okay Eli, just… calm down. This can't be happening. It's impossible. It just can't be.
I mean, I'm only sixteen, and he's only eighteen. It makes absolutely no sense, it can't have happened. Why would he even… no. Not possible.
Oh my God.
The ring… It's true.
Darcy just asked me to marry him.
Eighteen year old, snobby, stuck-up life-ruiner, fucktard man-wench PRICK Darcy (how completely ARROGANT is it that he just goes by his last name?) wants ME to marry HIM!
And by 'ask', I really mean order. Because that's what it was, an order, an assumption, like I was some sort of pre-awoken Edna Pontellier or just some mindless, money grasping bimbo! In fact, he didn't even ask, he just assumed I would marry him! And he doesn't even like me! He's only doing this because he was told to do it! And I don't even think I have a choice in this – because people keep on saying things like 'contract' and 'parental permission' and 'pre-nuptial', I'm surrounded by people that I don't know who seem to be planning my life, and –
My fucked up excuse for a mother has a lot to answer for!
Ever since she made friends with that COW who happens to run my school… I bet they planned this all in their little covens whilst they roasted crows and cackled away…
Okay Eli, reading too much these days. Just… think…
I can't believe I just let him kiss me like that! Now everything is up in ruins, what can I do? I can't run – but I've just lost Dorr because of this! I can't just let it take over my life! But what options do I have? I should have listened to Llewellyn, I should have kept my distance! Dammit, now look what's happened, I think I might be falling for the one man I've vowed to hate above all else! And what's worse, I'm now going to be forced to marry him! I can't do it!
But can you believe this? Can you believe, Journal, what's going on?
This is all my Dad's fault. He moved us to England. He was the one that sent me to be tested all those years ago.
No, this isn't Dad's fault, it's Darcy's.
And it's my stupid, fucking label's fault.
The only word right now that sounds worse than 'gifted' is 'marriage'.
~ * ~
Eli visibly shivered as she pulled her coat closer to her body, burying her chin into her scarf to stop her teeth from chattering together.
"Get out of the car, Eli," Jay ordered her patiently.
"It's fucking cold," she chattered in response, glancing outside of the fogged up window, everything covered in watery ice.
Why does it rain so much in England, she thought miserably. This is just ridiculous! Why would anyone want to live in such a horrible place?
"You're wearing tights, a skirt, a singlet, a blouse, a jumper, and a thick coat, not to mention a beanie, gloves and a scarf. You'll survive," Jay countered, her voice starting to grow stern.
"N – no I won't," she managed to get out through clenched teeth. "It's so bloody cold!"
"Eli, we're in a heated car! Get your backside out of this vehicle right now!" Francie cried angrily from the front seat. Eli sighed miserably, and squeezed her eyes shut as she slid out of the open door, onto the icy footpath.
She let out a squeal; feeling her lips turn blue as the cold air surrounded her. She heard the car door slam behind her, and then the other as her mother climbed out of the front seat, her stiletto boots clacking sharply on the asphalt coated sidewalk.
"Hurry up. We'll be late," she snapped, gripping her daughter's arm, pulling her towards the large stone and iron gates, separating Rosings Park College from the rest of the world. Eli pulled back from Francie's grip, but followed Jay in a miserable, angered silence. Her mouth felt like it had frozen shut, the cold biting painfully at her face.
"We've been in England for two weeks now, Eli! You have to be used to it by now!" Jay exclaimed, linking her arm into her sister's. Eli moved closer to her for the added body warmth – and gave a small humph of disagreement with her eldest sister's statement.
"What, Jay? Getting used to being shoved in an assing freezer, buried in the centre of Antarctica in the middle of winter? No, haven't quite adjusted yet, sorry about that," she spat sarcastically, adjusting the strap of the black leather messenger bag hanging over her shoulder, a large white emblem stamped onto the surface. "Oh, and by the way, this uniform does shit all for the cold," she added, glaring down at her own appearance.
She had almost thrown out her uniform after her mother came home with it the day before. During the winter, the senior girls wore flat black leather shoes, Eli's with a cute little bow around her ankle, but they were almost invisible against the black stockings and black waist high pleated skirt that ended a few inches above the knees. Next came a long sleaved white satin blouse that tightened at the wrists, and flowed out pleasantly around the rest of the arm, with an inbuilt cravat just under the neckline. Eli had tied hers into a bow (she had a thing for bows). Senior students wore burgundy cardigans or jumpers over their blouses, and, depending on the weather and how cold it was, a nicely cut wool trench coat with large black buttons, the hem ending a little above the knees. The formal girl's hat was a little black cloche, which was often abandoned for a wool beanie.
Due to the cold, Eli was wearing her cardigan, coat, beanie, wool scarf and black leather gloves, and was still shivering violently. She found the uniform quite cute – but she knew full well that there wasn't a chance she was going to be able to survive through the winter wearing stockings.
She was definitely a pants kind of girl.
Eli allowed herself to be pulled up towards the grand building, peering around at the extensive, perfectly manicured grounds, flocks of students clustered beneath leafless trees, staring back at her with curiosity.
Yeah right, she thought to herself, they're probably staring at Jay.
Jay was the perfect stereotype of an Australian girl. Tall, leggy, with clear skin still golden from the sunny beaches, thick yellow curls tied back from her beautiful, and a perfect face. She had a stunning smile, bright blue eyes, and a figure that looked like it belonged in a bikini. She was something to be in awe of, a creature of beauty and grace.
Eli, on the other hand, was almost the exact opposite. Petit and quite slim, with cleanly defined lines and soft curves, she was almost unrecognisable compared to her gorgeous sister. Jay had inherited her mother's genes, the blue eyes, the blonde hair, the ability to tan, whilst Eli was pale, and burned with impossible ease. Where Jay had blonde hair that came close to being bushy with its glorious thickness, Eli's dark brown curls fell well past her shoulders were much thinner, much more… ordinary. Her eyes were large and dark, framed with long coal lashes beneath strong, arching eyebrows. They sparkled a veritable rainbow of shades, green, grey, burgundy and amber, her lips full and stained red, making her look unusual, occasionally even ill. It was well known that Jay was the beauty of the Bennett family.
I would hate her for her looks, Eli had often thought, if she wasn't so bloody nice. It's a bit of an inconvenience.
"Be on your best behaviour. Smile. Don't say a word," Francie ordered her daughters sternly as she continued up the front path to the huge, daunting building.
What would possess someone to design a school like this? Eli thought to herself. It's all in one bloody building. What the HELL?
Back in Australia, her schooling was, in the most part, conducted at the local high school, Port Stephens Public. Having spent her entire life in Port Stephens, a coastal district not far from Sydney, Eli saw no reason to pick up her life and shift it across continents. Particularly when said continent had an average daily temperature that not even liquid nitrogen could reach.
This school is just a piece of highly polished crap, she mused, with about two dozen gardeners.
She was then led shivering up the grand staircase to the front of the school by Jay and Francie, pulling her coat closer to her body, all rational thought leaving her mind, to be replaced simply with 'I hate England'.
"Isn't this exciting? Oh, this place is so beautiful!" Jay whispered in her sister's ear, as she linked arms and gazed around the front hall in wonder. It was huge, like Harry Potter, with giant paintings and impressive statues scattered around, large mahogany doors scattered like sprinkles, a colossal staircase leading upstairs, but it was to a little reception desk that Francie was leading her daughters, with her firm, iron grip.
They attracted a few glances and stares as the other students moved to their first classes for the term. They all wore the same Rosings Park uniforms, yet the majority had discarded their trench coats in favour of cardigans and jumpers, all of them having been forced to get used to the freezing temperatures and constant drizzly downpour from the miserable grey skies. They sent over inquisitive glances, peering over each other's shoulders to get a better look at the new students. Eli had the sudden image of a caged monkey in a zoo flash momentarily before her eyes.
"Good day," Francie began in her overly-sweet voice, stalking up to the front desk with a wide, plastered and painted grin. "I'm Mrs Francine Bennett, I have an appointment with Headmistress du Bourg concerning the enrolment of my two girls," she said, measuring her words out with precise care, as if they were teaspoons of Equal in her coffee or the ounces of affection that she would give to her children and husband.
The miserable look receptionist peered at Francie behind black framed glasses, and nodded morosely.
"We've been expecting you," she said, in a despondent, clipped English accent. She pulled out two forms, and handed them to Francie. "You need to fill these out whilst you wait for the Headmistress to become available," she informed her. Francie gave another over-the-top smile, and pulled a pen out of her purse.
"Now go make friends until the Headmistress can see us," she hissed to her children, as before Eli rolled her eyes. She allowed Jay to link their arms and pull her away from the front desk, their footsteps echoed throughout the gigantic hall, blurred reflections of their own forms, walking in mirrored movements across the highly polished, dark granite floor.
"So? What do you think?" Jay questioned, as Eli tilted her head upwards to look at the pillars reaching up to the impossibly high ceiling.
"But it's so pretty!" Jay exclaimed in response. Eli shrugged, her eyes narrowed.
"I don't care. It's freezing here – everyone is staring at us, and more importantly, it's not Australia," she listed in a snappish, matter-of-fact tone.
"Eli, it's a very good school, one of the best in England, particularly for the creative arts," Jay reminded her. She scoffed in response.
"Jay, I don't care if it's the best fucking school on the planet – I just want to go back to Australia," she replied pointedly.
"I'm sorry, but are you two the new Australian students?" a curious voice questioned from behind, cutting any response Jay had been preparing short. Eli turned to face two girls that she had never seen before.
"We're just starting today," Jay replied politely. The girls squealed in delight, and Eli stepped back in hesitation.
They looked to be about her age, if not a year or two older. The first was slender and petit, only an inch or so taller than Eli, with pale blonde hair falling in soft curls past her shoulders to be tied in a loose bun at the bottom of her neck, two curled locks falling on either side of her forehead, drawing out her big, well set eyes. They were the colour of ice, very pale, with only the slightest hint of blue within their depths. Unlike most blondes with such pale skin, her eyelashes were quite dark, and her well defined eyebrows were not as fair.
She was beautiful. As in, heart stopping, cover of Vogue, I-hate-you-you-gorgeous-bitch beautiful. She somehow made the Rosings Park uniform look like the most sophisticated new fashion coming straight out of Milan. She beamed at Eli and Jay with perfectly painted lips, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
The second girl wasn't as attractive, not by a long shot. But then again, Eli wondered if anyone was as attractive as this slender angel, even Jay paled in comparison. She wanted to feel intimidated by her, but there was something so pleasant about the girl's full red lips that made it impossible. The second girl was about as tall as Jay, with coarse, slightly frizzy raven hair and eyes of dark chocolate, but they were just a little too small for the rest of her face. She wasn't unattractive, only a little plain. There was nothing wrong with her face, but there was nothing that you would look twice at either. She too smiled warmly at Jay and Eli, and the image of a monkey in a cage returned to the latter's mind's eye.
"Can you say 'put another shrimp on the barbie'?"
"Do you have pet kangaroos?"
"Can you surf? Why aren't you tanned?"
Eli was bristling slightly with irritation. Where the hell did all the Australian stereotypes come from? she thought. Don't these people realise that we have a population of over twenty-two million people? That we use cars for transport? That not everyone in the country surfs, drinks VB from the back of a ute and hails for a passing wallaby to take them to the pub?
"First of all – we call them prawns, not shrimp, and a barbie is a doll," she began pointedly. "That phrase doesn't even make sense. And kangaroos are vicious overgrown rodents that have no hesitation to scratch your eyes out, as cute as they are, and yes, I can surf, but not everyone can, and I'm not tanned like Jay is because I'm a genetic failure," she continued, with the tone of one weary of hearing the same question repeated over and over again.
"I just love your accent," the blonde practically squealed. "But you don't talk like everyone says Australian's talk! It doesn't sound stupid at all!" she exclaimed.
"Kind of like… slowed down cockney and a bit of Northern European," the darker headed one mused, tapping her lips thoughtfully.
"Most stereotypes of Australians aren't true," Jay informed them politely, with a pleasant smile.
"But do you live right next to the beach?" the dark headed girl asked curiously.
"We used to," Eli admitted. "So that much is true. But we really aren't bogans, we hate cricket, we don't drink VB, and my Dad doesn't own a Ute," she explained. Their eyes widened at this information.
"I didn't think so, because they didn't do that sort of stuff on Home and Away," the dark haired one commented. Eli almost visibly winced. She had a very strong hatred for Home and Away, as did about two thirds of the Australian population.
"Would it be insulting to ask if you have a brother called Bruce and a sister called Cheryl?" the blonde asked curiously.
"You've seen Finding Nemo too many times," Eli retorted. "We don't know anyone with those names. I'm Eli, and this is Jay," she informed her.
"Ee-lie? Is that short for Elijah? Is that not a boys name in Australia?" the blonde questioned with confusion.
"It's actually Elizabeth. But it's a vile name and I hate it."
"Jay is short for Jasmine – neither of us like our names," Jay added with a small smile.
"So why did you move to Australia? How come you're in England?" the blonde questioned inquisitively.
"Our Dad got a job here, I don't know why, but he just wanted to move," Eli answered. "But as soon as I'm eighteen, I'm going back to Australia – it's too cold here," she muttered, hugging her coat tighter to her body.
"George went to Australia once, he said it was lovely," the blonde sighed happily.
"Who is George?" Jay inquired politely. "Your brother?"
"Sort of. His former step-brother is married to my sister. So he's my former-step-brother-in-law," she explained. "Oh! I'm Emilia Woodhouse, by the way," she informed the two.
"Charlotte Lucas," the dark headed girl added. "What form will you two be in?" she questioned. Eli shrugged.
"I'm not sure. I'll be turning sixteen in about a month, but I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be," she admitted. "Jay is in year thirteen, I think, which makes no sense to me," she added.
"Oh, you'll probably be in year eleven," Emma sighed. "That's a shame, Charlotte and I are in thirteenth," she explained. "But at least we get one Australian!" she added cheerfully.
"Girls, who are your new friends?" Francie questioned, popping out of nowhere with a big, fake grin plastered across her face. She looked like a tiger, waiting to pounce.
"Mum, this is Emilia and Charlotte," Jay informed her, like the obedient daughter she was.
"Such a pleasure, it's good that my girls are making friends already!" Francie said with delight, taking in the good grooming, and obviously wealth, of the girls. "I'm so sorry, but I have to tear them away now, we have a meeting with the Headmistress," she explained, placing hands on her daughter's backs with her fake nails digging into their spines. Eli almost jumped at the foreign contact.
"Good luck, the Headmistress is horrid," Charlotte whispered to them. Eli sighed.
"If I can handle this weather, I can handle a Headmistress," she replied with a wink, before they gave their goodbyes, and were led away.
"Good girls, you're making excellent friends already," Francie praised excitedly, leading Eli down a hallway, following the receptionist, who looked distinctively like she had swallowed a lemon.
Eli wasn't an idiot – her mother's primary motive in sending her daughters to such a prestigious, not to mention expensive school was so that they could make rich connections. She had no true concern for her children's friends, just their bank balances.
"The Headmistress will see you now," the receptionist informed the trio, after peeking her head behind a large, mahogany door. Francie strode in, clutching her girls like they were prizes that she had won at the Royal Easter Show.
"Mrs Bennett, it is a pleasure to finally meet you," came a horribly commanding voice as they entered the large office. It was very, very clean, with impressively large and expensive looking furniture; a wall filled with credentials behind what could only be assumed as the Headmistress of Rosings Park College. She stood as they entered, giving off immediately the feeling of extreme power with her overwhelming height. She was dressed sharply in a black skirt-suit, her dark hair with flecks of grey pulled back into a severe bun, her eyes cold and expressionless. "Please, sit down," she requested, however, her tone suggested more of an order than a request.
"Headmistress du Bourg, it's a pleasure," Francie crooned, as they took their seats in chairs pulled up to the desk. Eli sat uncomfortably. It was tall and hard, and the only way to sit without causing herself injury was right against the very back of the chair, so her feet didn't even touch the floor, dangling uncomfortably over the side. After a glare from Francie, she took off her beanie, a few strands of rich dark hair falling before her eyes.
"Now. Have you filled out the enrolment forms for your girls?" she questioned, staring at Francie, not even bothering to look at Jay or Eli, the latter of whom didn't like her almost immediately, but still knew that she needed to be silent, or it would be her head on the chopping board.
"I've filled out Jasmine's, and most of Elizabeth's, but there is the matter of Eli's year," she explained nervously, passing the woman the two enrolment forms, and a folder that she had in her oversized purse. Eli almost groaned.
Oh joy, she thought, the manila folder. There goes any chance of being normal.
"I have already been informed of the younger Miss Bennett's circumstances, Mrs Bennett," the woman said, taking the folder anyway, and sifting through it. "I saw both your girl's DVDs. We have offered full scholarships to the two of them," she added.
"Yes, Headmistress, and we're very grateful for that, however, the matter is a little more complicated than -" Francie began, but was cut off.
"I see," the Headmistress murmured, obviously finding the right report. She raised an eyebrow. "A serious of Intelligence tests undertaken over the course of Miss Elizabeth Bennett's life from age five to fifteen would suggest that she –"
"Has an intelligence level measuring in the 'gifted' category. Yes, we've all heard it," Eli interrupted her, growing impatient. She had heard it a million times before – and knew quite well by that point that it wasn't as wonderful as one would think. In fact, in Eli's mind, it kind of sucked.
Dorr and Frances Bennett worked out quite early on that their youngest child was clever. By the time she was three she knew her alphabet and could count up to a hundred, at age four she was beginning to read and write, and by five she was reading a book a day. So that was when they took her to be tested – and when she first received her label. She didn't start school until she was eight years old, her father having tutored her from home, and even then she was in a class higher than others of her age group. When she started at high school, she had special tutelage from a University Professor, and completed her HSC equivalent with a combination of TAFE and in-school work.
"But clearly not clever enough to hold her tongue," the Headmistress sneered. Francie glared at Eli furiously, but the Headmistress had turned back to the folder, and was flicking through it intently.
"Miss Jasmine Bennett – you will be starting your final year here at Rosings Park. We have the best dance department in the country, so your talents will be encouraged and improved," she announced to Jay, taking a folder out from her desk, and handing it to her curtly. "This folder contains the Rosings Park College code of behaviour, your class schedule, a map of the premises, and an overview of the work you've missed," she informed her.
"Thank you, ma'am," Jay replied politely, accepting the folder with her usual submissive manner.
"Now Miss Elizabeth, I think it is best you begin year twelve today, and complete your A-levels next year. Perhaps you will need to share your music classes with the year above you – but I'm sure you will excel in your grades," she stated, looking over another folder she had pulled out. Her tone didn't suggest that she had any faith in Eli, it sounded like if she failed, she would be eaten alive.
"Sounds jolly good," Eli replied sarcastically, earning herself another glare from Francie, and a little tut from the Headmistress.
"Headmistress du Bourg, I would like to thank you for the wonderful opportunity you have given my girls. I can assure you that regardless of your excellent hospitality in giving them both scholarships, I would have gladly paid the school fees, just so they can have such a wonderful education," Francie began to croon. The Headmistress gave a little smirk, as if being flattered and fawned over was pleasing to her.
"I'm sure they will be valuable assets to the school, Mrs Bennett. Despite the younger one's manners – I've seen the videos of their performances," she stated, growing serious. "I'm quite certain that under correct guidance, they could both be stars in their fields. The elder Miss Bennett has extreme amounts of talent for the ballet, and the younger for music. I'm determined that the credit shall go to Rosings Park when they succeed," she continued, a great deal of self-pride in her tone. Eli felt Francie's angry glare upon her person, and swallowed her pride for a brief moment.
"I apologise for my manners, Headmistress, I'm still growing accustomed to the traditions of British society," she lied, barely disguising her sarcasm, but it seemed to pass over the woman's head. She nodded.
"That is much better, Miss Bennett. I shall be keeping my eye on you," she informed her. Eli said nothing, but could sense Jay's happiness at her compromise. "This folder contains all you should need. I'll have our Head Girl will show you around the school, your first classes will start after break. You may leave," she finished. Eli released a sigh of relief as she stood, and practically ran to the door.
"What a splendid woman! You two have to be on your best behaviour around her – she's incredibly rich, she could be useful to you," she advised them, pushing her girls through the hall. Eli pulled her beanie back on immediately. It was still so cold!
"This is so exciting," Jay whispered to her. She rolled her eyes.
"Cold, is the operative word, Jay," she hissed as a response, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. They were once again in the hall, before their mother stopped.
"Now, I'll pick you two up this afternoon at three-thirty, you will behave, or else," she said sternly, giving Eli a quick glare.
"Bye, Francie," she said tiredly. Francie scowled, threw her scarf over her shoulder, and disappeared out the front doors. Eli shivered, and looked around the hall miserably. "What do we do now?" she questioned in confusion.
"You must be the Australians then."
A/N: Well, I guess you all remember what to do! :D Oh, and can I apologise now, because I don't know a huge amount about English school systems, so my information might be a little bit out… :D