The dormitory pleasantly surprised Belle with its quiet elegance. Where there was a surface, there was either a pretty plot plant or an empty photo frame ready to be filled; and on every seat, there was a plump cushion. There was even a window seat lined with blue, red and green pillows. Belle went over to it and sat down. It was comfortable and had a more than decent view of the grounds.
She peered out across the dark campus, cupping her hand around her right eye, and caught sight of a few other residential buildings, also lit up by nearby street lamps. Some were partially hidden by the large oak trees that stood proudly on the outskirts of the forest that made up part of the school grounds.
Then her gaze fell on the main school where she had begun her evening. It was truly huge, towering three floors off the ground. The old English building with its faded brown bricks was lit from the base by a number of pale, golden lights, covering the long breadth of the ground floor and shining light all the way up the walls. Belle hated to admit it, but it was rather beautiful.
Anne came to join her, sitting herself down on the window seat to the left of Belle. She told her a little of the history of the school as well as any details about campus she was required to know. “Warwick House, St Peter’s and Hemfield House are off limits, obviously.”
“Because they’re the boys’ quarters. Attington are very strict when it comes to houses mixing for what they see as ‘the wrong reasons’, but for good reason, I suppose.” Anne stood up and began to unpack. Belle stayed where she was and turned to face Anne, interested.
“It’s not like you’d stand a chance anyway, even if youwantedto sneak into another house. Teachers and Senior Prefects areeverywhere.”
Belle was taken aback. “Wait, they have people on patrol?”
“Only a night, obviously. But I’m glad it’s done that way.”
“You said they have prefects wandering around the grounds at night. Is that even allowed? When do they sleep?” Belle frowned at the concept she was struggling to get her head around for a moment.
Anne stopped handling her clothes and looked at Belle, a little amused smile making its way onto her lips. “SeniorPrefects, Belle. They’re the oldest group of prefects, and the most trusted. They sort of have shifts; and it’s not just them, it’s teachers too. The grounds are pretty well protected; it’s just for the purposes of keeping students in their dormitories after dark.”
Belle could tell that Anne was not used to any other way of things being done from the way she interpreted the information. It was as if what she was describing was a regular normality everywhere... She wondered if other boarding schools were like this. Anne resumed her unpacking. “You don’t need to worry about that, though, Belle. It’s not like you’ll be sneaking out anytime soon.” She giggled to herself. “You don’t even know your way around, yet.”
“I know, sorry. I must be really annoying you. It’s just things were done very differently at my old school. For starters, it wasn’t for boarders.” Now Belle made her way over to her bag and began to sort her belongings into drawers surrounding her bed.
“Don’t be silly, it’s fine. I can imagine things must have been very different where you come from.” The girls looked at each other for a moment and smiled, soundly closing the discussion for the night.