Author’s Note: Hello, folks! It took a while, but finally, the arrival of the first chapter. Hope you enjoy. Oh, and all your characters will be appearing soon.
Piper May Magenta stared glumly at the clock on her desk, innocently ticking away the seconds without a care in the world about Piper and whatever problems she had. There were two, actually; her grades were dropping like a meteor and she was going to move to a different school, leaving behind all of her amazing friends and perhaps even the town she lived in. The only reason Piper was getting bad grades was because she already knew everything that her teachers taught her. Consequently, she was constantly bored in class and spent her time doodling in her sketchbook. If she wasn’t doodling she was napping or attempting to concentrate on the teacher, although this was a feat accomplished so rarely that Piper had given up on trying many months ago.
She received her report card at the end of the year. As Piper had expected, it was so terrible that her mother hadn’t slept for a few days and her father had sighed with disappointment every time he was around his daughter for a whole week. Over the holidays, she had spent most of her time in her room, studying and talking with her friends on the phone about the bottomless pit she was in. If only her parents understood that she knew so much more than her report card said… She just didn’t put any effort into her schoolwork. And now the end of the holidays was nearing. Her fate wasn’t sealed just yet; her dad had to find a school that would accept a student with such a bad track record. He had sent out dozens of applications and almost all of them were declined. The other schools had not yet replied to the Magenta family, but Piper knew it was just a matter of time before an acceptance letter arrived in the mailbox and she would be shipped off to some stupid school, which wouldn’t help at all. She would still be bored and still have disastrous grades.
Piper wished she could converse with her clock. She wished it would transform into a friend, a friend who wanted to talk. The clock read six o’clock – obviously, all of Piper’s friends were enjoying what would be one of their last holiday sleep-ins for a long time. But she was too worried to sleep. All she wished was that her new school would be interesting and in a nice town with nice people, nice parks and nice smells.
Sighing, Piper dressed into comfortable yellow pants and a loose shirt. She grabbed the latest book she was studying – A Book of Legends – and trudged moodily downstairs to find her older sister, Candace, and her parents all dressed in robes.
“Hey, sis. Nice sleep?” Candace joked good-naturedly, but Piper glared at her sister and sat down next to her, whipping out her book. Her parents exchanged looks.
“Good morning, darling. I hope you like pancakes,” Mrs. Magenta said cheerily, placing a plate of pancakes with cream and syrup in front of Piper. It was her favourite dish, but she wasn’t hungry at all. Only two days were left until school resumed, and there was no telling what her new school would be. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach that had started a few days and had continued to grow, the more time moved on.
“Thank you,” Piper mumbled quietly and poked at her food.
“You’re welcome, dear,” her mother said, proud of her work. “Candace, could you please get the mail?”
“Piper, could you please get the mail?” Candace said through a mouthful of blueberry pancakes.
Piper sighed and got up. She opened the door and was greeted by a warm gust of Australian summer air. The clear, blue skies couldn’t have opposed her mood more. Piper opened the mailbox and took out quite a few letters. Returning to the house, she browsed through them. There was a bill, a bill, a grocery store catalogue, a bill, a notification from Mr. Magenta’s golf club, a bill… and a letter addressed to Piper May Magenta, from Mirriam Academy.
Curious, Piper dumped the other letters unceremoniously on the table and examined her own. In emerald green writing, her address was written, and on the back of the letter Piper could see the wax stamp of a crest. It was a large M with swirly lines attaching the M to the shield-shaped outline of the crest, and underneath “Mirriam Academy” was written. Piper knew that this must have been either a declination or acceptance letter to this fancy school.
She ripped the letter own and took a rather old-fashioned looking piece of parchment. She read her fate eagerly.
Dear Miss Magenta,
We are pleased to accept your application of enrollment to our school. You will be placed in the G section of the academy.
The school year starts on the twenty-first of January. Please be ready for your first year; find a piece of parchment containing all of the essentials enclosed within the envelope.
Take the Mirriam Academy bullet train on the twenty-first of January at noon. Upon leaving the train, follow Professor Chance up to the school. Further instructions will be given later.
Professor Lillian Lyleton,
Headmistress of Mirriam Academy
Piper held the letter in her hand, staring at it. She already didn’t like the sound of this school – honestly, who called their principal “headmistress” nowadays?
“Dad, Mum…” Piper said quietly. She held the letter out to them. “One of them actually wants me.”
Mrs. Magenta looked ecstatic. She took the letter from her daughter’s hand and read it silently with her husband. Both looked like they had just seen a double rainbow. When they finished, Mrs. Magenta clasped her hands together and hugged her daughter, who hugged back half as enthusiastically. She had had a small sliver of hope – hope that all of the schools would reject her and she would have to go back to the same school. But now, Piper’s grasp on that hope was gone, and her future was planned for her.
Then again, perhaps everything would be okay. Perhaps the school would be amazing and interesting and have wonderful students. Yes, being optimistic was the wise choice.
Piper beamed at her mother and hugged her tighter.
“So this is it, huh?” Piper said to her joyful dad. “I’m really going… we’re really changing schools?” She gestured to herself and her sister.
“Actually, honey…” Her father looked uncomfortable. “Mirriam Academy is a boarding school.”
The jaws of Candace and Piper fell to the floor. “You’re sending me to a boarding school?” Piper screeched, all memory of deciding to be optimistic gone. “You’re shipping me off to this prim and proper school and I have to actually sleep there? No one who goes to a boarding school turns out well. No one,” she said coldly.
“Piper, that’s not true,” Mr. Magenta, his voice holding a dangerous tone. “Your mother and I went to a boarding school and we loved it.”
“Oh, that makes me feel so much better!” she screamed sarcastically, her statement holding a hidden meaning. She was insulting her parents in a way. Both her parents looked offended, and Candace was shocked that Piper even had the nerve to say something like that.
Huffing, Piper snatched up her book and stormed angrily up to her room, where she collapsed into the swivel chair in front of her computer. Furious, Piper almost smashed her keyboard as she Googled “Mirriam Academy”. She clicked on the first link that came up and scanned the text.
When she finished reading the first few lines she shut off her computer. According to the website, Mirriam Academy was an academy dedicated to the behavioural and educational improvement of its students. Piper’s anger was slowly being replaced by dread – her bad marks obviously wouldn’t be tolerated at this stupid academy. What sort of punishments did they have? Did they encourage the use of the cane, as Piper had read in so many fiction tales about students in boarding schools?
The poor fourteen-year-old calmed relatively after a few minutes and realised that she still had the envelope in her hand, along with the piece of parchment listing the things she needed. A lot of the things on the list looked extremely strange; it asked her to bring things like lizard eyes and legs of newts. But other things looked reasonably normal, like history books and school robes.
Sighing and deciding to accept her fate, Piper grabbed her suitcase and gym bag and packed everything that she could. All that was left was a few apparatus, those strange animal parts and her school robes. She knew where to get the apparatus but not the last two items. Those could be bought tomorrow.
Piper spent almost all of the rest of her day in the room, coming out only to have lunch and dinner. She slept with dreams of a zombie teacher whipping her with a cane.
Piper woke up at six, like she had the last morning. Again, she stared at her clock glumly, then dressed in jeans and a singlet before going downstairs. Unexpectedly, no one was up yet, so she scrawled a message on a scrap piece of paper and left it on the table. Slinging her backpack over her shoulders and slipping sunglasses on, the girl left with the list from Mirriam Academy in her hand and stepped onto the road.
Piper realised she had no idea where to go.
Honestly, what kind of shop sold lizard eyes, newt legs, spider eggs, snake venom, rat tails, mashed slug and so on? Piper’s shopping trip was going to be much more difficult than she had first anticipated.
The girl navigated her way out of the neighbourhood and to the main road. She sat down at a bus stop and got out her phone to Google the big question. Feeling that her attempt of a search would not produce any good results, she typed in “Mirriam Academy” and all of the weird animal parts and plants she needed. To her amazement, a link popped up. She eagerly tapped it and read the text of the website. There wasn’t much at all – just a few paragraphs saying that this was a shop that sold potion ingredients essential for Mirriam Academy students in G section. So they were potion ingredients? Piper was beginning to get the impression that her new school was a bit eccentric, or some other adjective akin to that.
At the bottom of the website, Piper found an address and figured out what bus she had to take. Ten minutes later, her desired bus came and she hopped on. After a grueling and sleepy hour sitting on a seat, she got off at a street with cheerful, small bakeries, grocery stores, clothing stores, toy shops and more. The fourteen-year-old scanned the sunny street and found her target: Mirriam’s Emporium.
As Piper walked closer to the store, she got a better view of the place. In a large glass display window, she could see plants, quills, ink, robes, telescopes, scales and, most disturbingly, jars full of different animal parts. This was definitely the place she was looking for.
When she opened the door, a little bell tinkled. The interior of the shop was dark and dusty. Shelves lining the walls were piled with jars of gels, animal parts and parts and plants, and more of the things she had seen in the display window. In the corner was a long rack of Mirriam Academy uniforms. Piper stood patiently by the vacant counter and rang the bell.
No one came. Piper was disappointed.
“Ah, yes,” said an old voice from somewhere, and Piper jumped. “Another fresh first-year!”
Piper turned around to see an old man with twinkling green eyes and shaggy white hair holding several brass scales. He placed them carefully next to a jar of small, orange eggs before walking behind the counter.
“Um, I-I’m looking for, er…” Piper hurriedly rummaged around in her backpack and took out the list. Everything she already had was crossed out, and unfortunately, only half of the items were crossed out.
“There’s no need for that, dear. Most students who come here are in need of the same things as you are. Over the years, I’ve memorised everything,” the old man said, placing a jar of small eyeballs in Piper’s arm. He continued grabbing things from shelves and putting them in Piper’s strained arms.
“My name is Reginald, if you were curious,” he murmured, bending down to get scales from a low shelf. “Brass or silver?”
“Uh, I, um….” Piper was unsure. What was the difference?
“Brass will do,” Reginald said, and placed them on in a few small containers he had gotten Piper. “Perhaps it would be wise to place these objects on the counter?”
“Oh, right,” Piper said, and obeyed him. She carefully put everything on the table and resumed following Reginald around the shop. Jars and apparatus piled up in her arms.
“Medium or small?” the shop owner asked, running his hands over two heavy cauldrons.
Piper was unsure again. She ran over to the counter to deposit her new items and returned.
“Medium will do. You want space when stirring your potions,” Reginald said, dumping a cauldron that weighed a ton into Piper’s arms.
“Right, of course…” Piper said with the strain of the cauldron’s weight. Yes, of course she needed space when stirring potions, because stirring potions was obviously something she did in her spare time as a hobby. Not.
She staggered over to the counter and was relieved to hear Reginald tell her that all that was left was her uniform.
“But I don’t my size,” Piper said, setting the cauldron down.
“Not to worry,” Reginald said. He beckoned Piper over to a little spot next to the rack and she waited patiently as he searched for a tape measure. When he finally got one, he started measuring her arms, legs, head, waist and full body height, muttering things as he progressed. He jotted all her measurements down on a notebook and, after a few minutes, came up with the answer.
“You are a size 327. I will get your uniform now.”
Thus began the process of throwing stuff into Piper’s arms all over again. Reginald browsed the rack, flicking various bits of clothing behind them. Piper skilfully but only just managed to catch them all before they hit the dirty floor.
“There, that should be all,” Reginald said proudly. Piper searched through the things she had and set them down on the counter. She had black robes, white shirts, a black skirt, stockings, school shoes, a jumper and a black hat.
“Reginald, I thought I was meant to also get…” Piper got out her list again. “A scarf and a tie.”
“You will get them soon, dear. First you must be sorted into your house and then you will receive the correctly coloured tie and scarf,” the old shopkeeper said, busily counting how much Piper needed to pay.
Oh dear, Piper suddenly thought. She didn’t have much money. Well, she had a hundred dollars, but it was it enough? And if it was, would it fit in her bag? Her potion ingredients would take up all the space of her bag, but then there was her uniform and the apparatus.
Reginald spoke after a good five minutes. “That’ll be ninety-nine dollars and fifty cents, thanks.”
Piper breathed a sigh of relief and handed over a hundred-dollar note. She got back fifty cents and commenced the packing. Grunting, Piper stuffed all her potion ingredient jars into her bag (Reginald watched, amused).
“Could I please have a few plastic bags?” Piper asked breathlessly.
Reginald went into the back and came out with two bags. Piper put all her apparatus in one bag and her uniform in the other.
Bidding Reginald goodbye, she exited the shop and caught the bus back home.
“Where have you been?” Mrs. Magenta shrieked when her daughter got back at nine o’clock that morning.
Piper flinched, even though she had been expecting this. “I-I just went shopping for stuff I need a-at my new school. And I left a note.” She pointed innocently at her scrap piece of paper.
“Oh, thank you for letting us see it so easily!” Mrs. Magenta screeched. “You could have been kidnapped! You could have been run over! Your father and I were having a heart attack!”
“I’m sorry, Mum,” Piper said meekly, and said nothing else. She knew that if she did her mother would go off her head and she wouldn’t hear the end of it for a week, even if she was in a blasted boarding school and their only communication was snail mail (or email, if Mirriam Academy had Internet).
“You had better be, Piper May Magenta,” Piper’s father scolded.
“Yeah, Piper,” Candace chimed in for the fun of it.
“Candace!” Mrs. Magenta snapped, and then lectured Piper about making notes easier to see and going off to places only with either her or her husband’s permission. Piper endured it, deciding a long lecture was better than her mother trying to lecture her all the time.
When Mrs. Magenta was out of her words, she told Piper to go to her room, and Piper did so gladly. In the safety of her bedroom she began to examine the new things she had bought, thinking what strange subjects Mirriam Academy must have. Her stomach lurched at the sight of all the disgusting potion ingredients but she faced her fears and packed it all into her suitcase, which was on the verge of bursting. Piper used her gym bag to put her books and uniform in, then retired to the computer to chat with her friends. Tomorrow, she was going off to her to her weird boarding school, and she wanted to spend the remainder of her time communicating with her friends.
Today was the day. She was going to go on the train, straight to a school of doom, and she was going to lose a lot of communication with the outside world, and she was going to make potions with her medium-sized cauldron, and she was going to wear her stupid looking school uniform. Joy.
Grumbling, Piper woke up at six a.m. as usual, stared a little at her clock and then dressed into a comfortable outfit for the train ride. She dragged her bags downstairs and ate breakfast quickly. Her parents and sister then came down and she smiled at them.
“Hello, guys. I’ll miss you,” she said, and miss them she would. She’d miss the perfume of her mother, the plumpness of her father and the cheek and natural blonde curls of her sister. But she had to go.
There was a sad goodbye scene, in which everyone cried (even Candace, much to Piper’s amazement), and suddenly Piper was on the bus, on the way to the train station. It was an extremely long trip, and already Piper missed her family. She sighed and leaned her head against the vibrating bus window.
Welcome to your new life, Piper thought bitterly.