Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Ordeal

The young girl ascends the stairs. Her mouth dry, her heart pounding, will she survive the ordeal to come? Her foot misses a step, her sweat slicked hand fails to grip the rail, she lands awkwardly bruising her knee.

Abruptly, the door at the top of the stairs opens,

"You're late." Snaps the young woman. "Hurry up!"

The girl rushes up the remaining stairs, stumbles at the top, and falls through the door landing at the feet of the young woman who, for the next two years, will be her leader, her guardian, and possibly her nemesis. Hopefully it won't come to that, she will perform well today, she will triumph and they will love her.

The room is small, cosy, slightly shabby, but homely and filled with elegant decorative touches. Four young women fill the room; one lounges in a window seat, beautiful, elegant, poised; another two are on a sofa, one serious and stern looking, the other, plumply pretty with a merry glint in her deep black eyes; the fourth is the woman who opened the door, tall, stunning, with masses of tightly curled hair falling about her shoulders in careless abandon. These are the ladies of the Lower Sixth, prefects who oversee the younger girls of the school. These are the people who subject every new girl to a terrifying ordeal.

The first day you get a note in your pigeon-hole:

Dear Nobody,

One week from today you will be summoned to the prefect's room, if you do not find it, or if you fail to attend you will be punished and will not receive your name.

When you arrive you will be expected to; sing the school song, in full,
                                                          recite the school prayer,
                                                                                            have memorised the school rules and be able to                                                                                      tell us randomly picked rules when we ask,
                                                                                        read passages from a book of our choosing,
                                                                    and sing a song of our choosing.

If you fail in one or more of these tasks you will be punished, if you fail all of these tasks you will not receive your name and will be "Nobody" for the duration.

Yours sincerely,
the Prefects.

No one tells you where the Prefects room is, you have to find it for yourself. They do, however, tell you in great detail about their ordeals and the kinds of punishments meted out by Prefects. Everyone agrees that teachers punishments are preferable to Prefects punishments.

A week later, your summons arrives, you have ten minutes from receiving the summons to get to the Prefects room, no more, regardless of where in the school or grounds you may be.

"Well? What are you waiting for child? Get on the table." says the elegant woman on the window seat.

The young girl gets to her feet and climbs onto the table, it is old and rickety and she does not like heights at the best of times. She is terrified.

"Sing child" says one of the Prefects and a book is lobbed at her from the direction of the sofa.

The girl opens her mouth and tries to sing but all that comes out is a nervous croak.

"You'll have to do better than that if you want to earn your name" One of them says with barely suppressed laughter in her voice.

The girl clears her throat and tries again. This time she manages, she sings the school song from start to finish in her beautifully clear soprano voice. Her Prefect, the one who opened the door, raises one eyebrow.

More books are buzzed at her.

"Now the Prayer, come on, get on with it." The voice says again.

The girl gets through the ordeal, in the end it wasn't nearly as bad as she had anticipated. When she walks through the door her Prefect whispers,

"Well done, you've earned your name back Stephanie."

Stephanie practically skips down the stairs eager to go and tell her classmates the good news.

As usual if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions then please do share them.


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