A/N: I don't own anything!
It was a bright, sunny day at Malory Towers. The skies were of the bluest shade Miss Eliza Linnie had ever seen, without a cloud in sight. A perfect day to sketch and paint. The girls were all very pleased to be working outdoors for once; Eliza had decided it would be a true shame to stay inside the stone walls on a beautiful day like this, when so many beautiful, inspiring things were outside, just waiting to be painted. She looked around at her students as they worked. Belinda seemed to be lost in her own artistic heaven, her face concentrated and radiant with happiness. Eliza smiled. That girl would be a first class artist one of these days; it was truly quite rare to see someone with such a natural gift and love for painting. Irene, on the other hand, seemed to be more interested in the sounds the birds were making, and was tapping her drawing-pad with her pencil, humming a little tune under her breath. Eliza laughed softly, shaking her head. At the end of every class, when she asked each of the girls to hand in their work, Irene would always look sheepishly at her and utter apologies for not having drawn anything.
"I'm sorry, Miss Linnie, I truly am. I had this tune in my head, and I just forgot where I was!" she would say. Eliza would just sigh and smile exasperatedly, shaking her head, with a sparkle in her eye. She wouldn't scold her, for she knew very well the feeling of getting lost in inspiration, and forgetting about everything but your art. After all, Irene couldn't help tapping and humming absent mindedly whenever a tune came to her head, any more than Miss Linnie could help reaching absent mindedly to her sketchbook whenever she saw something that took her fancy.
Like Jane Peters.
She reached for her sketchbook, as she saw Jane taking her horse out of the stable, and began to draw. She drew her short, dark brown hair as it moved slightly with the warm breeze. She drew her long, solid legs as they straddled the back of the horse. She drew her strong, rough hands as they held on to the reigns…
"I say, how can you possibly draw so fast, Miss?" said a voice next to her, snapping her out of her daze. She turned to face Daphne, who was looking at the sketch in admiration. "It looks exactly like Miss Peters! How do you manage to make your sketches look so real?"
Eliza flushed a deep red. If only Daphne knew how many times she had drawn this particular person, memorizing each expression on her face, every color in her eye…
Of course, she did not tell the girl that. She merely smiled at her and proceeded to show her the way she had done it.
Half an hour later, the bell rung, and it was time for lunch. The girls handed in their work (except for Irene, of course, who, as usual, came up to Miss Linnie and started apologizing immediately) and then went off to eat.
Eliza went into the dining hall and took her usual seat at the staff table, next to Mam'zelle Dupont. She and the French mistress had become very close over the years. Mam'zelle was very fond of her, for Eliza reminded her very much of her youngest sister, Pauline, and she often complained that Eliza was the only person in this English school that understood her "artistic French temperament".
"Ah, Eliza, moi petite, how are you today?" asked Mam'zelle, smiling at the red-haired woman.
"Fine. Starving! It seemed as though the morning classes would never end."
"Ah, and no wonder, with the tiny breakfast you had! It is not good, how little you eat for breakfast. Only one egg! You get skinny!"
Eliza smiled. Mam'zelle was the biggest eater of the entire staff table. Eliza always had to smother a laugh at Miss Potts disapproving face each time she saw Mam'zelle filling up her plate with an alarmingly large amount of food. Eliza herself was not a big eater, and Mam'zelle was forever nagging at her to eat more, claiming that if she got any skinnier, her bones would pierce through her skin.
"Look at you!" Mam'zelle went on. "All bones, no meat! It eez no wonder you…ah, there comes Jane!"
A grinning Miss Peters walked up to the table and took a seat on the other side of Mam'zelle.
"You are as bad as one of the girls, Jane, coming late to lunch! I will make you write out lines if you aren't careful! What is your excuse for this tardiness?" joked Mam'zelle. Jane laughed, rolling her eyes.
"I have none, I'm afraid, so you're just going to have to punish me! I was out riding and I lost track of the time" she replied, in that deep, husky voice that always made Eliza feel weak in the knees.
"Tiens! What a dreadful sport! I will never understand it, this love for riding on these big monstrous creatures! It is not good" said Mam'zelle, with her signature exaggerated facial expressions.
"Maybe you should try it sometime, Mam'zelle. I'm sure you would love it." Said Jane, with a glint in her eye.
"Ah, Jane, do not tease me so! It is not kind to poor Mam'zelle! You and that girl Bill, you both always tease poor Mam'zelle."
"As if I would ever tease you, Mam'zelle! I really do think you'd love it once you gave it a try. Don't you agree, Eliza? Just picture Mam'zelle, galloping across the grounds…" said Jane teasingly, winking slyly to the art mistress. Eliza laughed.
"Oh, certainly. Wouldn't you like to try it, Mam'zelle? Jane here is so willing to teach you, it would be rather rude to say no" she replied teasingly.
"Ah, you betray me! You choose to side with the horse-lady! I would never have thought it of you, you traitor!" joked Mam'zelle, pretending to be hurt. "Do not tell me you enjoy this monstrous sport too, Eliza? I shall be very disappointed in you if you say yes!"
"I do, although I haven't ridden in a while. Back home we used to ride all the time, me and my siblings. I always preferred watching them ride and sketching them, though" replied Eliza, smiling.
"I hope you're not too disappointed in me, Mam'zelle."
"Ah, but I am! How can you like it, with all that galloping and truttering!"
"I think you mean trotting, Mam'zelle" said Jane, helping herself to some potatoes. "Anyhow, I'm certainly not disappointed. You should come and ride with me sometime, Eliza. It would be nice having a companion."
She looked up at the art mistress and gave her a warm smile. Oh, how she loved that smile. She had drawn it so many times, with every single detail: the crinkle of her eyes, the slight scrunch of her nose, the perfectly white teeth. She felt the familiar blush creeping up her cheeks and smiled and nodded before quickly bending her head over the plate, so that the other woman wouldn't see it, cursing herself inwardly for behaving like some stupid love-struck schoolgirl.
A/N: What do you think so far? Love it? Hate it? Please review! :)