1. a title or term of respect.
  2. (in certain languages, as Chinese and Japanese) a class of forms used to show respect, especially in direct address
  3. Also, honorifical. doing or conferring honor.

“Just follow me,” Lana whispered in a hushed tone.

With a thin, pale hand she motioned for Mary to follow her down the hall toward the stairs she had polished that morning.

Mary wasn’t sure why they were whispering in the middle of the day, but the thought occurred to her, too late, that they may be doing something wrong.

Just as she was putting the pieces together, Lana changed directions. Instead of going down the stairs, the lanky 8 year old veered toward the right, heading straight for a set of closed doors at the end of the hallway.  She stopped short, her muscles tensed like a cat before it pounces, and quickly scurried toward her left, turning around to face Mary.

“And what you have here is a bust of our fearless Headmistress and founder Dorothia Watson McClure who established this home for girls in the dead of winter in 1798–”

Lana stopped short of her spontaneous presentation as if surprised that she and Mary were no longer alone.

“Oh my goodness

“Are you behaving yourself Lana Sauvan?”Loretta Beasley looked down her thin nose at the girls.

“Yes, Madamesoille Beasley,” Peyton said with a smile and curtsy. She pulled the thick material of dark floor-length skirt and dipped slightly, as she had learned over the years.

“And you’re showing our newest resident around her home?”

“Oh yes, Headmistress!” Lana gushed as if she were born with honey in her veins and a sugar-coated tongue, quick to dispense honorific.

“I knew you would do something so helpful if you had the time, but you’re so busy I took it upon myself. I just wanted Mary to feel comfortable while she’s here.”

Beasley adjusted her spectacles, taking in the petite girl’s thick dark braid hanging down her back and her large features. She appeared even smaller in the standard school uniform. The child looked as if she spent an exorbitant amount of time in the garden. Her skin was the color of sand and her eyes dark as night. She didn’t seem to talk much, only to make pointed comments in a voice that was as soft as a whisper and words as strong as black coffee. For some reason looking at the child made her uneasy in a way, but she wasn’t sure why. The headmistress silently chided herself and brushed away the disconcerting feelings with a thought.

She then gave a slight nod and walked briskly down the hallway toward her office. It was almost 3 o’clock and she had rounds to make and lessons to prepare before dinner was served promptly at 6.

“Don’t stay in the hall too long, Lana,” Beasley called back over her shoulder. “You only have 20 minutes left of free time before you’re scheduled to start on your chores and then homework.”

Beasley withdrew a key from beneath her grey smock and unlocked the door adjacent to the bust of Headmistress McClure, before quickly returning it to her pocket.

“And if I were you, Lana, I wouldn’t waste any more of that time trying to enter locked offices,” she said looking at both girls. “That would probably delay the progress of your tour.”

Lana smiled broadly. She was unflappable.

“You’re so wise, Headmistress Beasley. Where would we be without your faithful guidance?”

Lana curtsied once more before grabbing Mary’s hand and skipping back down the hall.

“We’ll try again tomorrow,” Lana whispered. “Don’t worry, my friends know I don’t give up easily.”

Mary had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that Lana was telling the truth about herself.

“You’ll be great as my new lookout,” Lana assured her.

Mary felt anything but reassured.




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