A guillotine is an apparatus designed for efficiently carrying out executions by beheading. At least, that's what Aurelia Sabella believes of her high school, Winterville Institute. WI is an old sanitarium from the early 1900's that was converted to a school in the 40's, resting in a suburb of Winterville, Minnesota.
What is Winterville Institute?
- Winterville Institute was a sanitarium for Tuberculosis patients founded in 1904 and later converted to a high school after its purpose was extinguished by the development of antibiotics. Everyone at this school has their own...malady, per say.
- 17 years of age, Aurelia moves to WI to live with her exchange family, John Egbert and his dad. One of the only things she brought with her was her favorite plushie whom she affectionately refers to as Associate Professor Dotmatrix, a "Scalemate". It's the start of the new year, Junior Year, and she's already hating the environment of the renovated sanitarium.
Chapter begins below. Told in Aurelia's POV.
The ear-shattering blare of my alarm plucked me from my sweet serenity, sleep. Groaning excessively, I slapped my hand down on the alarm to cease its annoying sounds. I rolled out of my bed and scooted into my Yoda slippers, a gift from John. Him and his father were my exchange family for this school year, allowing me to explore outside of Milan, Italy where I was from.
"Aurelia! It's almost time to leave!" John called from outside my room door.
"Va bene, let me get dressed..." I acknowledged, opening up the laptop on my nightstand to check the weather.
My body was used to being around humidity, heat, and every synonym for not cold. Living in Minnesota for the year was really going to throw me off my groove. Luckily, the Egbert's were generous enough to stock me with adequate clothes for where we lived. I'd brought along very little things, enough to fill one suitcase. My phone, laptop, favorite scarf, but most importantly was my favorite plushie. He was a light green Scalemate with blue belly and white dots, appropriately named Associate Professor Dotmatrix.
I changed into a shirt that John had greeted me with when I arrived at the airport. It was black with the school I'd be attending's logo. Winterville Institute, home of the Snow Leopards. If I was from here, I'd definitely be annoyed by all the analogies relating to the winter season, especially with where we lived. I zipped up my jacket halfway, going to pick up Dotmatrix, which should've been next to my phone. Panicking, I just took my phone and rushed out of my room.
"John, have you seen Dotmatrix?!" I yelled, rushing through the halls and down the stairs into the living room.
"I put him on your backpack last night after you went to bed. Just to be sure you wouldn't forget him!" John's dorky, round toothed smile was convincing, so I dropped the subject.
I found my purple Jansport laying against the front door. Sure enough, Dotmatrix was on top of the bag. Grabbing him, I slung the backpack over my shoulder and stepped out the door. John followed close behind me, as we waited for the bus at the end of his paved driveway. John wasn't much of a conversationalist, I guess he inherited that trait from his father. At least he was active with words if you got him started on something he was interested in. Or heavily loathed, like Betty Crocker.
"I'm excited for you to meet my friends. They're all a little overbearing in their own way, but for the most part they're good company. What about you, Aurelia? Are you excited?" John turned, his blue eyes holding restrained joy.
"Yeah, alquanto. Back in Italy my parents never really let me explore much outside of our town. So having all of this free will is new to me." I finished my sentence right as the rattling yellow bus turned on our street.
"Happy thoughts, Aurelia. You've got most classes with me, so I'll help you out. Come on, let's go." The bus stopped right in front of us, John giving me a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
Climbing on, I noticed we weren't the first to be picked up. There were about 6 or 8 other people already sitting in seats, solemnly staring out of the window. John chose a place in the back, allowing me to enter the seat first. There was a boy across the aisle from us, his blond hair sitting over his ears, the front layered down. He was also wearing sunglasses...
"Good morning Dave! Are you ready?" John tossed his bag on the floor, looking over at the boy.
"John, it's too early for your enthusiasm. Hey, is that the new chick?" He gestured over to me, sitting to where his body was facing us instead of forward.
"Certo, I'm Aurelia Sabella. Foreign exchange student from Milan, Italy." I brushed back the hair that'd fallen behind my glasses.
"Italy, man. That's fuckin' awesome. Think you can teach me some Italian? I hear it's one of the romance languages." Dave turned to john, giving him a sly smile.
"Dave!" John cried out in embarrassment, slapping Dave on the arm.
"Chill, Egbert. Don't flatter yourself." Dave pushed up his sunglasses, facing forward again.
John was still strawberry red. The blush obvious on his pale skin. It was moments like this I was thankful for my darker color, if I were to blush it wasn't so apparent. I smirked, to which John smiled. He was really worried about me not enjoying this place. I liked John's house, and so far I think Dave and I were going to get along swimmingly. We picked up a few more kids, and about 10 minutes later arrived at the school.
Winterville Institute is an old converted sanitarium from the 1900's. I researched it a bit after the exchange program had told me I'd found a family. They'd added floors, buildings, and basically completely redone the whole place. But, it was still a sanitarium. As we walked off the bus, the crisp air of a Minnesota August nipped at my nose. The place had a huge grand entryway, the statue of the school mascot hanging out in the courtyard.
"I'll take you to the office, Aurelia. We've got to pick up your schedule. Dave, I'll see you third hour." John waved to Dave, who clicked his tongue and flashed a thumbs up.
"John, how big is this school exactly? It's very intimidating." I walked a little behind him, not wanting any more attention than I already got for being an exchange student.
"It's only 2 stories, its just big in terms of square feet. You have my phone number, and you can always ask a student for directions." John held the door into the office open for me.
An office aide helped me in getting my schedule. She was really nice in listening to my accent. I still have worries of being made fun of for it, though. I hear a lot about bullying in American schools. Reading my schedule, I saw we had 5 classes in a day, with school ending at 3:15. I traced my finger along the laminated card stock, saying them in my head.
Hour One: Theatre, Mrs. Skyler -- Performing Arts Auditorium
Hour Two: General Chemistry, Mr. Stoke -- Room 823B Second Floor
Hour Three: Dramatic Literature, Ms. Llannel -- Room 37A First Floor
Lunch Break, 12:55 to 1:30
Hour Four: Latin Studies, Doctor Evanston -- Room 685B Second Floor
Hour Five: European History, Mrs. Jacobson -- Room 597B Second Floor
"You've got quite the eccentric schedule. We've got Chemistry and European History together. I know some people in Theatre and Dramatic Lit, you'll know when you see them. I told them about you, so you'll be in good company." John smiled.
He showed me the way to the auditorium, which is where he departed for his first class. The doors were massive -- at least 10 feet of glass and metal towered above me. I put my palm on the chilling handle, and pushed. The warm air from inside washed over me, giving me oddly timed goosebumps. In the auditorium, sat a whole collection of characters upon the stage. Some asleep, some with their legs dangling off the front of the stage. As I clenched Associate Professor Dotmatrix, the massive doors behind me shut.
I walked forward reluctantly. My anxiety finally kicked in, waving a giant flag that says you didn't take your meds this morning. As the doors came to a close, their echoing sound is all that stuck in my mind as I stared forward. Everyone raised their heads up and turned away from their conversations to peer towards me. The sound from the doors closing might as well have been a guillotine falling down upon my neck, freeing my body of the dead weight that is my skull.
"Ah, Miss Sabella. Come on up to the stage. We've been expecting you!" The person I only assumed to be Mrs. Skyler boomed from the middle of the seats, waving me towards her.