Early the next day, Annabelle was woken up by Dorota .
“Rise and shine, young lady, you’re getting out today.”
“Give me five more minutes.”
Annabelle lay comfortably on her stomach, and her eyes were kept firmly shut.
“No, you’re going to miss breakfast.”
“I’ve been eating breakfast here for days, what is one more day?” The younger woman mumbled into her pillow.
“I’ve told the headmistress you can attend class today, the staff will be expecting to see you at breakfast.”
Dorota pulled off her duvet. Annabelle pulled her pillow over her head in protest, but was rewarded with a swat to her bottom.
“Get up, young lady. There is more where that came from.”
Annabelle groanded loudly.
She got up, looking sulky. She had been allowed to sleep longer while staying at the infirmary, having to get up early all of a sudden made her feel grumpy.
“Did Lydia check your homework last night?” Dorota asked, handing her a washcloth and steered her towards the bathroom.
Annabelle suddenly felt a jolt of happiness as remembered the night before. She had kissed Lydia, Lydia had kissed her, they were going to find Andromeda together.
“Eh… yeah. Yeah, she checked it,” she said quickly as she hurried into the bathroom to get ready. She couldn’t wait to see her again, and she had to talk to Eylion.
“Annabelle, over here!”
Eylion called for her across from the room as Annabelle walked into the dining hall. Annabelle sat down next to her, grabbed some toast and scrambled eggs, while looking around nervously for the headmistress or any of the teachers. They had a table by themselves and they were alone for the moment.
“How are you?” Eylion whispered. “Did you talk to Christophe? What did he say?”
Annabelle nodded, swallowing a mouthful of juice.
“Lydia busted us,” she whispered.
“What?!” Eylion looked worried.
“She’s coming with me.”
“What?!” Eylion repeated, a little louder.
“Will you be quiet?” Annabelle said, sharply.
“But… I don’t… I don’t understand.”
“She’s been asked to leave, it’s only a question of time. Christophe suggested she come with me, and she wants to go, she doesn’t have anything better to do. We’ll take her to the secret library later today to talk and plan.”
“Well… I guess it is safe to trust her. She seems to be on our side,” Eylion said, but she still seemed nervous.
Annabelle understood why, Lydia worked for the enemy.
“And if we can trust her, it will be a great help to you. Lydia knows her stuff. It’s not a bad idea to have someone like her by your side.”
Eylion took another piece of toast and nibbled on one corner thoughtfully.
“I kissed her,” Annabelle said quietly, looking down at her plate.
Eylion dropped her piece of toast, her mouth was open in shock.
“You kept that quiet! Why wasn’t that the first thing you told me?”
“I dunno.” She blushed.
“Annabelle, she’s a teacher. How did she react?”
Annabelle smiled, and she felt butterflies in her stomach.
“Well… I did it first, and she didn’t pull away. And then… well… she got uncomfortable, she made this whole speech about how she didn’t want to use me, even though I had kissed her first. I wanted to.”
Eylion nodded in agreement, but she didn’t say anything. It seemed she was lost for words.
“But then as she left, she kissed me back. Like… softly…on the lips.”
They heard people approaching and looked up. Their friends were coming over to the table to join them. Annabelle gave Eylion a look that told her to keep quiet, and Eylion nodded quickly. They would have time to talk later.
Annabelle suffered through her first double period in history.
“Look who has graced us with her presence,” Octavia Sprytt said sarcastically, as Annabelle walked into the classroom.
This was only the first of many times during the class where Annabelle felt like running towards her and slap her ugly, stupid face. Not only did she make everyone aware of Annabelle’s return, but she also continued to question Annabelle on their homework, and was thoroughly disappointed when Annabelle could answer all of her questions. Where a normal teacher would say “good job”, Octavia Sprytt grunted and continued to the next question, which was considerable harder than the first.
In potions class, Lydia, pretending to lean over and check Annabelle’s work, slipped a note to her where she asked to see her and Eylion after classes were over, before dinner. Annabelle showed the note to Eylion during their last break, and they agreed to go to Lydia’s office together. Lydia’s office wasn’t too far from the small hole in the wall that would lead to the passage ways, and Annabelle had to smile as she imagined Lydia crawl on the floor like she and Eylion had. They would have to find a better way in.
After lessons they hurried to Lydia’s office and knocked on her door.
“Come in,” said a voice, a voice that was not Lydia’s.
The headmistress! Annabelle froze, but Eylion gave her a push and they opened the door.
“Annabelle, Eylion, what can I do for you?” Lydia asked casually, her voice seemed somewhat cold and professional, making Annabelle’s chest hurt. She knew Leda had to keep her distance with the headmistress around, but she was very convincing.
“I wanted to talk to you about the paper, but I can wait until you have time,” she lied.
The headmistress gave her a suspicious look.
“What about your paper, young lady?” She gave her a cold gaze.
Annabelle felt her heart beating faster, afraid the headmistress wouldn’t buy her story.
“I… I was wondering if I could have an extension,” she mumbled, looking down, avoiding the headmistress’s cold eyes.
“You have had days to work on this in the infirmary, young lady.”
“I was ill, headmistress,” Annabelle said, trying to sound submissive. “It’s been hard to keep up with the others.” This was, of course, not true at all. Lydia had made sure she kept up, she was even a little bit ahead, and her paper was already finished.
“Perhaps staying behind every day after class for a week will help?”
“But…” Annabelle started.
“Lydia, you can supervise her…” She gave Lydia a condescending look. “Well… for now.”
“Yes, headmissterss,” Lydia said, quietly.
“Good, you can start now,” the headmistress said. She pointed at Eylion “You, out. Annabelle has work to do.”
Eylion hurried out of the room, and the headmistress followed her. When she heard the door slamming behind her, Annabelle let out a long breath.
“Sorry,” she said looking at Lydia. “I didn’t know what else to say.”
“It’s okay, Annabelle. I was the one who put you on the spot.” Lydia put her hand on Annabelle’s shoulder and smiled at her.
“I actually wanted to talk to you without Eylion,” she said. “I wanted to talk about last night, about what we did.”
“You mean…?” She tried to get herself to finish the sentence, but she coouldn’t say the word kiss. She didn’t want to say the wrong thing. What if she mentioned the kiss, and then Lydia meant something entirely different. But what else had they done that she might want to talk about?
“I’m talking about the kiss. Well… the kisses,” Lydia said, using her index finger to push Annabelle’s chin up so that her eyes met hers.
“Lydia,” Annabelle said, looking worried. “Please don’t take it back. It happened. I… I kissed you first, but you did it the second time, and maybe you’re worried about being busted, but we’re leaving soon. I just… I just felt like you meant it too, and I don’t want to pretend like it didn’t happen.”
Lydia smiled at her.
“It did happen, Lydia,” Annabelle repeated, looking determined.
“It happened, Annabelle,” Lydia said, her hand brushing through Annabelle’s dark hair. “It happened, and I meant it. I’m not taking it back.”
“Good.” Annabelle smiled, relieved. “Okay.”
“But we can’t tell anyone,” Lydia said seriously.
“Uh… I sorta told Eylion,” Annabelle mumbled, embarrassed. “Sorry.”
“Sorry!” Annabelle said, “but I couldn’t keep it to myself. Eylion is my best friend, and she’s not going to tell anyone! No way!”
“Okay, I believe you,” Lydia said. She kissed Annabelle’s forehead. “I guess, expecting you to keep it from Eylion would be a bit optimistic. But no one else!”
“I won’t, of course, I won’t.”
“Good. And I will be promising Eylion dire punishment if she tells anyone,” Lydia said jokingly.
“She won’t Lydia. She’s a smart girl, we should give her more credit than that.”
Lydia ruffled her hair.
“Let’s try to find her then, you guys were going to show me your secret meeting place.”
Annabelle suddenly remembered why they had come to Lydia’s office to begin with.
“Right. I hope Eylion went there to wait for us. You’re gonna be impressed, it’s a proper hideout.”
Lydia’s office wasn’t far from the entrance to the secret passages, but when they came to the corridor, Eylion was not to be seen. Worried something had happened to her, Annabelle opened the door into the tiny storage room, and looked inside. Nothing. She went inside, pulling Lydia with her and closed the door.
“Eylion?” she said, not too loudly.
“I’m here,” she heard from behind the wooden crates. “Is it just you?”
“Yes, and Lydia,” Annabelle answered, making her way towards where Eylion was hiding. “You go ahead, so there’s room us too.”
Annabelle beckoned Lydia as she was sliding behind the wooden crates.
“Ahead where?” Lydia asked, as she followed Annabelle. “Where is she going?”
“There’s a hole in the wall behind that tapestry,” Annabelle whispered. She crawled down on the floor, looking at Lydia to do the same.
Lydia looked at her suspiciously.
“But… the floor is all filthy with dust. Annabelle, this isn’t one of your jokes, right? Because I swear… I will… I will take that broom over there and wallop you both!”
Annabelle hear Eylion giggle from behind the wall. She was already through.
“It’s not a joke,” she said laughing. “I promise.”
Lydia finally gave in and got down on the floor to join Annabelle.
“This is so humiliating,” she complained. “Wait… I remember this room, I came here with Octavia once, because she swore she heard something. She was hoping to catch some students out of bed.”
“Yes, that would be us,” Annabelle said grinning as she started crawling towards the tapestry.
When she got to the tapestry, she saw Eylion’s hand sticking out of the wall, holding it open for Annabelle. She crawled through the hole. It was tricky, because it wasn’t very big. It was just big enough for a person to crawl through if they lay flat on the floor, which meant one had to use ones elbows to move forward.
Once through, Annabelle turned and help pull Lydia through. She was slightly bigger than Annabelle and Eylion, so to her it was a little trickier to get through. Annabelle and Eylion started brushing off the dust from their uniforms, but Lydia just looked around with her mouth open, her entire front covered in dust from the floor.
“This is amazing,” she mumbled.
“This?” Eylion said, giggling. “This is just a passage, where we’re going is pretty amazing.”
Lydia looked confused.
“Where are we going? What is this place?”
Annabelle started to explain.
“These are passages that can take us to different parts of the school. They can take us up and down floors if we want. For example…” Annabelle hesitated, “if we walk that way, and down, we’ll get near the headmistress’ office.”
“Really?” Lydia, said sounding amazed.
“How do you know, did you see her?”
“No… we know because…” Annabelle didn’t finish. It was hard for her to tell Lydia how they knew, but Eylion helped her.
“The day Annabelle missed class, I found her in here, and we explored the passages some more on our way out,” she explained. “Then suddenly we heard the headmistress’ voice, and she heard you…”
Lydia’s eyes widened.
“You heard our conversation? After… after she found out I had let Annabelle go to the infirmary?”
“You heard her… umh…. you heard…” she hesitated.
“We heard her abuse you and… slap you,” Eylion said, looking sad… and a little guilty.
“I’m really sorry I got you in trouble,” Annabelle said, and she truly looked it. “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
Lydia put her hand on her shoulders.
“It wasn’t your fault, Annabelle. It was not the first time she’d slapped me, but it was the last time. I am done with her and my family, if you can even call it a family. I kept following their instructions because I thought I needed them, even if they weren’t the family I wanted them to be. I thought that without a family I’d be nothing. I was scared to leave.”
“But there are other families you can join,” Eylion pointed out. “We haven’t got a family by blood, but Annabelle and I found a new one, and our family is the best!”
“It’s true. After my father died, I had a terrible time with my step-mother, until I managed to escape,” she said, looking sad. “She treated me really badly, but then I found Gwen and Aisling, and they took me in and gave me a home. That is what family is, not people who treat you like crap and who doesn’t appreciate you.”
She hugged Lydia.
“But… I thought you were a relative of Alexis,” she said, sounding shocked. “Annabelle Brown? That is your name, isn’t it?”
Eylion gave a laugh.
“Umh…” Annabelle took a minute to think. She realised she had messed up and told Lydia more than she should have. “It’s a long story,” she finally said.
“I’ll explain when we have more time.”
“But…” Lydia started.
“We really should get going,” Eylion pointed out. “We need to be out of here before dinner.”
“Oh alright,” Lydia said, defeated. “But we will talk some more about who you are, young lady.”
Eylion walked in the front and led them the way to the library. She stopped by the wall that was the opening.
“This is where you’ll be amazed,” she said, grinning. “Annabelle, if you would please open the door.”
“Door? What door?”
Annabelle loosened the tie of her uniform, unbuttoned her shirt slightly and pulled off her locket from around her neck. She always kept it hidden beneath her uniform as all items from home were supposed to be confiscated on their first day.
“How did you get that? I thought I confiscated everything,” Lydia asked, sounding as if she was doubting herself. “We did a nude check.”
Annabelle rolled her eyes.
“Don’t remind me, it was super embarrassing!”
“We hid it outside, before we came into the castle,” she explained matter-of-factly. “Now pay attention to what it does.”
She pressed her locked to the symbol matching it on the wall, and the secret door to the library opened. Lydia just stood there gaping, Annabelle had to pull her inside by the arm to get her moving.
“Let’s sit down and talk,” Eylion said, pointing at the sofa. “This sofa is comfortable, this is where Annabelle was napping when she should have gone to the infirmary,” she teased.
“This is crazy,” Lydia mumbled. She seemed almost in a daze, but apparently her brain was still working for the next thing she asked was, “How can that locket do that if you had it with you from home?” She was very sharp, even when shocked.
Annabelle looked to Eylion who shrugged.
“We have no idea.”
“But… where does it come from?”
“No idea,” Annabelle repeated. Then she corrected herself. “Well… I got the locket from Gwen, Aisling and Leda when I got my powers, but they never told me it was special. I have no idea where they got it or why they decided to give it to me. All I know is that I need to keep it safe. When we first arrived we caused a distraction so that I could hide it inside a tree trunk on the grounds, along with some other stuff…” Annabelle trailed off, smirking.
“What other stuff?” Lydia asked, raising an eye-brow.
Annabelle and Eylion giggled.
“Remember the soup that made all the teachers talk backwards,” Eylion said, reminiscing. “Boy did we get into trouble, but it was SO worth it.”
She and Annabelle laughed. Lydia shook her head.
After they stopped laughing they started planning Annabelle and Lydia’s escape. It seemed more than possible now that Lydia was on her side. She knew they would succeed, and although it would be sad to leave Eylion behind, she couldn’t wait to be out of the school. Lydia made it clear, yet again, that she would be in charge, but Annabelle found that she didn’t mind so much. She trusted Lydia and her attraction towards the older woman grew stronger and stronger, and that made it easier to accept her leadership. And, after all, Annabelle was no fool. She knew she was in the habit of getting into trouble, and she knew her control and knowledge of magic was limited. Lydia was in full control of her powers, and she was a brilliant potion maker for her age, Gwen would be impressed. Lydia did receive an education growing up, but she had never had a proper mentor like she and Eylion had. Annabelle suspected that Lydia’s talent was mostly because she herself was extraordinary, not because she had a good mentor.
“I think we should go with the vampire’s idea,” Lydia said after they had been brainstorming for a while. “What’s his name again?”
“Right,” Lydia said, nodding. “He said animals can get through the protections, and he suggested it would be easy to escape if we went under the wall. My suggestion is animal transfiguration and escaping under the wall.”
Eylion nodded in approval.
“I think transfiguring into cats would be a good choice. Anything smaller and a bigger animal can try to attack us, and we’ll have to get away from the castle before we can transfigure back. And cats have excellent night vision.”
“But…” Annabelle looked at them both with a worried expression. “You guys… I have never learned animal transfiguration.”
“And that would have been a problem if you were going alone,” Eylion reasoned, “but you’re forgetting that Lydia is coming with you. She can transfigure you first, then herself, and when you’re on the other side and well out of sight of the castle, she can transfigure you back.”
“Really?” Annabelle looked to Lydia who nodded, smiling at her.
“And you have changed humans into animals before, Annabelle,” Eylion pointed out. “Remember when you tried to make the potion that turns humans briefly into frogs?”
“Oh… yeah…” Annabelle winced.
“What happened?” Lydia asked, looking at them both.
“Well… she did turn me into a toad,” Eylion said smirking, “and that is at least an amphibian! However… let’s just say I was a toad a little bit longer than I should have.”
“Oh dear… you couldn’t turn her back?”
“Well… no… see… she was letting me do the potion all by myself because Gwen wasn’t letting me do anything fun…”
Lydia buried her face in her palm.
“Of course. You two and trouble. I guess I should have seen it coming.”
“Yeah…” Annabelle agreed. “Well… anyway… after she had been that way for an hour, I had to put her in my satchel and go home and fess up. I got so scared, you see. I was terrified I had hurt her.”
“Well had it been up to me you both would have been spanked soundly!” Lydia shook her head at them. “But then… knowing your mentors, you probably were.”
They both blushed and nodded, looking down.
“Turning people into frogs, indeed,” Lydia mumbled. “What on earth would that be good for?”
Eylion suddenly brightened.
“That’s what we’ll do,” Eylion said grinning. “Well turn the entire school into frogs for a short amount of time, so that by the time they are back to human, you two will have had the time to escape under the wall. Even after they return to normal, they probably won’t notice that you’re gone for ages. They won’t know it was a distraction, they’ll think it’s some sort of prank by one of the students.”
Annabelle grinned mischievously at Lydia.
“And by the time they notice we’re missing, we’ll be far way.”
Annabelle patted Eylion on the shoulder.
“Brilliant plan, bestie. I knew we could count on you!”
Lydia looked at them in disbelief.
“Turn the entire school into frogs? How do you two come up with things like this? It’s… so…”
“It’s brilliant,” Eylion said, defending her plan.
“It’s naughty!” Lydia countered.
“Well how would go about escaping this place? You didn’t think you’d just be able to waltz out of here all la-di-da, did you?” She rolled her eyes. “There are guards all over, but by putting a potion in the food, we can make sure that everyone who eats it turns into frogs. I’m the only one who’ll know.”
“I like the idea,” Annabelle said, supporting it.
“I think it’s best I’m the only one who knows about this plan. We should let our friends turn into frogs too, that way it won’t seem like they know anything.”
“Yeah, that’ll be best.”
“So… we’re… umh… we’re really doing this? Turning people into frogs???” Lydia looked at them both, almost begging for another plan.
“Lydia…” Annabelle sighed. “They won’t be frogs forever, just for fifteen minutes or so. Possibly thirty. And ya know… I can’t really think of a better plan. This one is pretty brilliant. It’s not like we can be stopped by an army of frogs!”
Lydia nodded. Annabelle grinned at her.
“If anyone deserves the honor of turning the headmistress into a frog, it’s you. Don’t you want to do something naughty, just this once?”