The thick blanket of fog assaults the car as we pull up to the gates of Ashwyn Hall. This place has quite the level of prestige and exclusivity if the whispers and articles I was able to dig up hold any truth. I find this strange because until the accident, I had never heard of it, nor to my knowledge had anyone else. Mr. Plum has assured me, numerous times, it was my parents’ wishes for me to be sent here. If that were true, I should think that they would have sent me here at the beginning of my high school career instead of the middle.I would say I’m heartbroken to be torn from my old friends, but there weren’t many to begin with. After the accident, they all but disappeared.
“This place is beautiful, isn’t it?” Mr. Plum asks as he clears his throat. My father’s friend since childhood, Mr. Plum has been handling everything for me. Any family I had was distant and he’s been an adopted uncle since as long as I can remember.
I decide to look around as we drive through the monogramed wrought iron gates. They seem to teeter between intimidating and impressive, either way they are clearly meant as a deterrent for those not invited onto the property. They close silently behind us and I feel as though they are the last gateway to my old life. The driveway is lined by ancient oaks leaning over the road, guardians of its travelers. Their leaves are the dulling green of summer fading into the muddied browns and oranges of autumn. Beyond the seemingly endless tunnel of trees lies the illusive Ashwyn Hall.
In all of my research, I couldn’t find a single picture of the place or anyone who knew exactly where it was. It strikes me as odd considering how large this place must be. Since entering the gates, it feels like we’ve driven at least five minutes. As if reading my thoughts, Ashwyn Hall materializes out of the mist. It is majestic. The faded stone and large glass windows remind me of European mansions from days of old. Simple touches update it into a perfect blend of old world elegance and East coast design. It boasts a stone staircase and a similarly encased front porch, cold, but regal. Ivy weaves its way through the stone to hug and encase the building with its beautifully deceptive choking embrace. I get the impression that within its depths lie wood floors and at least one spiral staircase.
The car stops and I take in a deep breath. I can do this. I can put on a normal expression and be a whole new person. There’s no one here from my old town. No looks of pity as I walk down the aisles of the grocery store or hushed whispers and averted glances in school. I could have avoided it all and stayed home, but that was difficult when the home you returned to wasn’t your own. Everything I owned was in the suitcase stowed away in the trunk, nothing with any history of being mine, just the things that had been bought since that night. A change of pace could be refreshing.
“Ready to go?” Mr. Plum asks and I nod. He steps out of the town car and unlocks my door. I stare at the entrance, ready to devour me. I nod briefly and we make our way up the stairs. Mr. Plum opens the double oak doors before us and I’m instantly assaulted by the beauty before me. Wood floors as I expected and a crystal chandelier that hangs from the generous ceiling. A grand double staircase is the centerpiece of the room leading up to the second story. I almost don’t see the woman standing in the middle of the room; I’m so taken with its beauty, though when her eyes lock on mine, I’m unable to look away from her commanding gaze.
“Greetings Headmistress,” I hear Plum say from behind me. The title seems cold and impersonal, but fitting of the woman in front of me. Her features are sharp and angular and behind her gray eyes lay a mass of intelligence. Her dark brown hair is pulled back into a perfect bun and her mouth is turned up into a small, knowing smile. I tune them out as they discuss my placement here. The paperwork is done and I know the words are merely to put Plum more at ease. He feels guilty leaving me with strangers, but this was in my parents’ will.
While they talk, I look around. Beside us is a large room converted into some sort of cafeteria or main hall. I get the feeling it’s frequently converted for whatever purpose is necessary. I can sense the stares of the other students. They are filled with curiosity and another emotion I can’t seem to place.
“I do believe you will enjoy your time here. Grata ignis.” Headmistress’ words interrupt my thoughts. She gives me a small smile that sends chills down my spine. Either her Latin is rusty or she knows of secrets that died along with my family.