(Just a note before I begin. I was so tired today! All day long it was twenty degrees or below, and there were problems with the commute, and when I finally got home, I didn’t even feel like writing. But then I saw how many people had come to this website, and suddenly I felt better and as though it was all worthwhile, because I was writing essays or stories and you were reading them. And you know, for me that’s the whole point. So thank you. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. But I just wanted you to know that . . .)
The next morning, our conversation went something like this.
Emma: I still think we should tell Mrs. Moth.
Matilda: No. Aunt Matilda is my aunt, and she’s a nasty old witch, but we’re still going to rescue her. Without getting kicked out of school.
Thea: You wouldn’t use the word “witch” in that way if you’d grown up with witches.
Matilda: Well, I didn’t. All right?
Mouse: I think we have a couple of clues. We should look at the clues.
Thea: I agree. Let’s focus on the clues. What clues are you talking about?
Emma: Miss Lavender’s. That woman said they went to school together, and that Mrs. Tillinghast did something to her. With her friends.
We were sitting in our room, before classes. Your first year at Miss Lavender’s, you pretty much all take the same classes. That morning we had Elementary Teleportation with Miss Gray. Then lunch, then Spells and Incantations with Hyacinth, then a Magical History study session in the library.
“The Yearbooks,” I said. “We need to look at the Yearbooks.”
The Yearbooks were on shelves in the hallway by Mrs. Moth’s office. There were years and years of them, all the way back to when books were first produced, I guess. And even before, because the earliest ones were just scrolls with names on them. They took up the entire hallway, all the way down to the teachers’ parlor.
“We have half an hour before class,” said Emma. “Let’s go look! I’m so curious.”
But when we got there, to the hallway with those long shelves, we looked at one another with dismay.
“Where do we start?” asked Matilda. “I mean, there have to be a thousand books here.”
“Several thousand,” said Mrs. Moth. We all turned around, startled. She was standing behind us. Where had she come from?
“Oh, we’re just looking for the book with Matilda’s aunt in it, Mrs. Moth,” said Emma. The useful thing about Emma is that she always sounds so respectful and polite. She never sounds as though she could be doing anything dangerous or forbidden.
“That’s this one right here,” said Mrs. Moth, pulling out a dusty old volume. It was bound in leather, and had gilding on the spine. It said, Miss Lavender’s School 1963.
“Would you mind if we borrowed it for a while?” asked Emma.
“Not at all, girls,” said Mrs. Moth. “I’m glad to see that you’re interested in school history.”
Which sounded all right. I mean, it sounded as though she believed us. But as we were going back toward the students’ parlor, I looked back at her. There was an expression on her face – but maybe I was misinterpreting it, I don’t know.
Anyway, there was no one in the students’ parlor (all the other girls were either still at breakfast or up in their rooms), so we sat on the rug by the fireplace. There was a fire going, because even though it was only September, the mornings were already chilly. We flipped through the Yearbook.
“Can you believe anyone ever did their hair like that?” said Emma.
“Our uniforms look exactly the same,” said Mouse. And they were: the purple skirts, white blouses, and purple jackets or cardigans with Miss Lavender’s School embroidered on a front pocket. It didn’t allow for a lot of individuality.
“Look, there!” said Matilda. And there she was, Matilda Tillinghast. Captain of the Flying Club, on the Magical Sciences team, and a Junior Pattern-Keeper.
“No, look there,” said Mouse. “That’s her.” Each of the girls had two pages of their own, with their photographs, activities, sayings they had chosen (and pretty sappy some of them were, I thought). Mouse was pointing to a photograph of four girls together, all in their sports clothes, all holding broomsticks. Underneath, the caption read, “Me, Em, Leo, Tollie. The best roommates ever!”
“That’s her,” said Mouse again. “Leo. Who do you think she is?”
Quickly, because we only had ten minutes before class, I flipped through the pages. “There she is again. Leonora Grimsby. What about the other two?”
“Well, I can tell you who one of them is,” said Emma. We all looked at her. How did she know? “It’s just – the one called Em? That’s Mom.”
“What, your Mom?” said Matilda. “Seriously?”
“Yes, seriously. Her name is Emmaline, like me. She was Matilda’s roommate here at Miss Lavender’s. They used to get together once every couple of months, with the other one – Tollie. Anatolia. She’s one of the Mandragoras.”
“So, let me get this straight,” I said. “There were four roommates, just like us: Matilda Tillinghast, Emmaline Gaunt, Anatolia Mandragora, and the one we saw at Tillinghast House – Leonora Grimsby. And the other three did something to her. Emma, why didn’t you tell us that your Mom was Aunt Matilda’s roommate?”
“Well, I didn’t want you all going and talking to her. And I didn’t think it was that important. I mean, that woman – Lenora – she just said friends. She didn’t say roommates.”
“It was Sitgreaves who said friends,” said Thea. At the mention of his name, Mouse flinched.
“Mom told me that something had happened at school,” said Emma. “But she never told me what, and I never connected it with any of this stuff. Until now.”
“What did she tell you?” asked Matilda.
“Just that a friend of hers had done something and gotten expelled, that’s all. She told me that if I ever got into trouble at Miss Lavender’s, she was going to – well, she never said what, exactly. But I bet it would be horrible. You don’t know Mom when she’s angry! Thea, don’t look at me like that. I was the one who said that we should tell Mrs. Moth. But we’re not talking to Mom.”
“Well, we’re going to have to talk to someone,” said Mouse. “We know her name – Leonora Grimsby – but we still don’t know what happened, or why she’s so angry at the other girls. How do we find that out? Could we do some sort of spell?”
“I think we should just ask,” said Matilda.
“No!” said Emma. “I told you, we’re not talking to Mom.”
“No, I think Matilda means the other one,” said Thea. “Anatolia Mandragora. Where is she now?”
“Here in Boston,” said Emma. “All right, we can talk to her. I don’t think she would tell Mom – I don’t think she would even remember or think it was important. She’s kind of strange, thought.”
“Strange how?” asked Matilda.
“I can’t describe it,” said Emma. “You’ll see.”
I’ve decided that every Friday, I’m going to write part of the Shadowlands serial. If you want to read parts that I’ve already written, go to Serial. There, you can read all about Thea Graves, Matilda Tillinghast, Emma Gaunt, and Mouse, from the beginning.