The Teaching Assistant, Part Seven

Author’s Note: Similar to “The Road Trip,” this is a story that’s gradually being released for free. However, there are 25 parts available on my Patreon for those impatient readers. :slight_smile:

PROLOGUE

It all started with a bored teenage girl.

Eighteen year old Ashley Roberts was one of the most popular girls at Westridge Academy. Normally, a hot, rich girl would be content with not working a day in her life, but Ashley wasn’t your average spoiled brat. There was a method to everything she did, including the hours spent working in the main office as an assistant.

It wasn’t about the money; the pennies she made for sitting at the front desk for a few hours every week were nothing compared to the allowance her parents wired to the private high school every month for her to treat herself and to pay the poorer scholarship girls to do her homework. Not that her parents knew the latter.

But money isn’t everything. The assistant position gave Ashley access. All kinds of access. Being in the main office let her suck up to teachers and administrators with none of her peers around to catch her in the act. When no one was looking over her shoulder, she could peruse the files of any student she wanted to check out. And, on those rare instances when she felt bold enough and knew she could get away with it, Ashley could go into the system and change students’ grades. Never a lot; nothing noticeable. But if a girl was irritating her, Ashley could change an A to an A- or a B+ to a B. Worst case scenario, one of those girls would notice an error or two and appeal their grade to get it fixed. If they kept copies of their previous semesters’ grades, of course. Without proof, they’d just look like girls trying to boost their GPA. For the most part, Ashley assumed that her little edits would go unnoticed. It was more for personal satisfaction and petty revenge, as flaunting her exploits would get her into some serious trouble.

There were protocols that were supposed to prevent such abuse, of course, but administrators were busy. Ashley wasn’t supposed to be at the desk without supervision, and technically the rule was to log a student worker out of the computer’s main account whenever there wasn’t an adult present in the office. No one had time for that. Ashley worked there all the time, and always with a polite smile and a helpful attitude. Micromanaging her was too much of a hassle, especially since it would mean constantly pulling her away from the computer whenever anyone had to deliver a copy, grab a signature, or take a quick meeting. Ashley was good at her job. She kept everyone’s schedules up to date, she filed paperwork like a pro, and, after a few weeks of working there, no one batted an eye when she was the only one manning the office.

Ashley was quite happy with the arrangement. Her friends bought the excuse that she worked over lunch every few days as a punishment for whatever trouble she was causing that week. The administrators trusted her enough to leave her alone, and knew nothing about her antics outside of classroom hours. It was perfect; the lies to her girlfriends gave her a rebellious reputation and the lies to the adults kept her in good standing at the school.

Most importantly, her admin-like powers just added onto what being rich and popular already granted her.

It was ideal.

Like most things, however, the job eventually grew monotonous. Her grades got a small upward boost, her enemies’ grades took a minor hit, and there was nothing else she could really get away with while still avoiding any suspicion.

Until the inspiration that struck her in the form of a little blonde haired target.

PART ONE

Amelia Martin nervously sat in her car, counting down the minutes.

She had aimed to be early, but not this early. Her interview was at 12:45 PM, and she pulled into the parking lot just before 12:20. After triple checking her hair and outfit in the mirror, all she could do was draft verbal answers in her mind. Strengths and weaknesses, why she wanted the job, etc. Fresh out of college, the still twenty-two year old really, really wanted this. Westridge Academy was the most prestigious school in the state; an all girls’ academy that groomed teenagers for Ivy League colleges and for later success in life as well. Amelia figured it was worth a shot. Worst case scenario, she could say that she tried, before looking at other private schools. Failing those, she’d get into tutoring or something, as public schools did not appeal to her at all in this day and age.

This wasn’t a full teaching job, but it was a good stepping stone. It was somewhere between a TA position and an internship. Grading papers, leading review sessions, and observing classes would all be part of the teaching side of things, but she would also be responsible for a bit of clerical work around the office. Other young women might have scoffed at the idea of starting their adult life without being a ‘real teacher’ right away, but Amelia knew better. This position offered nearly twice the salary of what she could get as a teacher anywhere else, and that number would only go up once she put in her time and proved herself as someone who could lead a classroom by herself.

After killing almost ten minutes in the car, she finally stepped out just before 12:30. Fifteen minutes early, give or take. Anything more would seem too much, and anything less seemed unprofessional for a school that had such a strong reputation.

She gave herself one last look in the car window, then walked towards the private school’s main office. Everything about her image was carefully crafted. Amelia was short and petite, and her mentors had warned her about the challenges that came with being small in the career path she had chosen. Gaining respect from teenagers was difficult enough for any young adult, and more so when it came to students who were taller than her.

Amelia’s first and last growth spurt was in middle school. She was one of the first in her class to get curves, but that excitement didn’t last for very long. Year after year, her peers developed more and more in both the height and chest department, and she found herself stuck with pretty much just enough curves to identify her as a girl. As a woman, now. She had accepted it, but it didn’t prevent that self conscious feeling from creeping in every now and then when someone assumed she was younger than she was. Liquor stores would excessively check her ID, people would often assume she was still in high school whenever she wore anything too casual, etc. Amelia figured she might appreciate her youthful features when she was older, but it was a huge pain at her current age.

For that reason, she went through plenty of lengths to subvert her immature features. Three inch heels, for height. She was always tempted to do more, but it was important to find a balance between comfort and image. Push-up bras with a bit of padding most days, save for when she was at the gym. Her long, blonde hair was always straightened and then gently curled at the ends for a mature, attractive look. Finally, tactical make-up to hide the few freckles that came with her fair skin, and whatever subtle tricks with eyeshadow and other additions here and there that completed the day’s image.

Normally that was it, but her interview called for a classy outfit as well. Hopefully the modest black skirt and white blouse combo would paint her in a mature and professional light. Amelia wanted this job so badly. She kept telling herself it was only to say that she tried, as the open position aligned so well with graduation and subsequent job hunt, and she could only imagine what kind of competition she might be dealing with. But still. Any other school in the state would be a step down from the impressive campus she had taken in during her drive.

It was easy enough to find where she had to go. The signage in the administration building was intuitive; no surprise there. However, Amelia hadn’t expected the main office to be so empty. As she let the heavy wooden door close behind her, the only face to be found was that of a dark haired student sitting behind the front desk. “Can I help you?” the girl asked, already looking her way after the door opening caught her attention.

“Umm,” Amelia hesitated. She had expected someone on staff, not some girl that was clearly a student here. The plaid green tie over the white button-down was the same as what Amelia had seen on the website during her prep research, as was the dark blazer sitting on the back of the girl’s desk chair. Though Amelia couldn’t confirm it from where she was standing, she assumed the girl also had the plaid skirt that matched the tie underneath. “I’m here for an interview with Mrs. Thompson.”

“Student teacher, I’m assuming?” the girl asked. She looked Amelia up and down without being particularly subtle about it, “You don’t look like the IT type. What’s your name?”

Rude. Or maybe ‘blunt’ would be the better word. But Amelia knew better than to let it get to her. One of the challenges of working at an expensive private school would be dealing with judgmental rich girls. “Amelia. Amelia Martin,” she said.

“Ashley. Ashley Roberts. Nice to meet you,” the girl said, her lips pursed in a small smile as she turned her attention to the computer at her desk. After a few moments of typing and clicking, Ashley glanced back up, “Sorry, Ms. Martin. Did nobody call you? Or email you?”

“Umm, no. I don’t think so,” Amelia said. Her heart dropped at the notion that somebody else might have already swiped the job up. And, insult to injury, she already dressed up, made the drive, and psyched herself up for an interview. So much for Westridge Academy being the best, at least in the communication department. “What is it?” Best to rip the bandaid off.

“Mrs. Thompson had a family emergency come up,” Ashley said, “All of her appointments today were cancelled. You should have gotten a call.”

She was lying.


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Man what a bitch

In case anyone needs some more stuff to read while hiding away from their family this weekend. XD

–Lady Lucia


PART TWO

Amelia frowned a bit as she processed what she was being told. It was better than the job no longer being available, but also an enormous waste of her time. Though that was being selfish. An emergency is an emergency, and maybe there was a voicemail waiting on her phone or something. “So, what now?” Amelia asked, “How long will Mrs. Thompson be out? Should I call to reschedule?”

“I can take care of that for you.” Ashley clicked a few times and pulled up a screen as Amelia stood awkwardly in the middle of the office. In limbo, as she had originally expected to either be greeted here, or to be sent to the administrator’s office. “How does Friday afternoon work for you? Mrs. Thompson should be back by then.”

“That works.” Amelia knew that for sure, as she wasn’t currently working. She dedicated the few weeks following graduation to looking for jobs, for the express purpose of not having conflicts with interviews. “What time?”

“Hmm, never mind. She only has a 5:30 PM slot that day. Traffic will be horrible. How about Monday morning instead?”

“No, 5:30 is fine.” Amelia quickly said. What if the other slots were other interviewees? It would be better to be seen on Friday, just in case someone else stood out and she didn’t have a fair chance to compete before her interview turned into more of a formality. “Let’s stick with Friday.”

“Yes, Ms. Martin.” Ashley nodded. She finished with the computer, then picked up a small packet of papers from nearby, “If you want to speed things along, you can fill this out and fax it back to the office. Someone will get everything processed before you arrive.”

Amelia finally crossed the second half of the room and took the stapled sheets from Ashley. Just a quick skim caused a bit of confusion, though the girl seated at the desk didn’t look like she was amused or trying to pull some kind of prank. It was a Student Registration form. Like any form, it started out asking for her name and other basic information, but then it went on with sections about high school, middle school, GPA, and more.

“Wrong form, Ashley.” Amelia turned it so the seated girl could see the bold words at the top of the page.

Without missing a beat, Ashley responded. “No, that’s the one we use. Westridge doesn’t hire frequently enough to have a separate form for that. Just cross off ‘Student’ and put ‘Applicant’ at the top or something. And ignore everything asking about your current grade and GPA. Just fill in whatever you can. We obviously don’t need you to attach report cards or transcripts either.”

The immature giggle at the end of Ashley’s explanation put Amelia back at ease, as well as the constant ‘Ms. Martin’ references. Initially, she had expected the blunt girl to be the type to call a prospective teacher by her first name, but apparently that wasn’t the case. And, as she glanced through the packet, it made sense. General information was always important, and letting them know about allergies and such wasn’t a bad idea even as a new hire.

“What about the schools?” Amelia asked, seeing the two big grids with boxes for classes and grades for high school and middle school. She could alway substitute university in one of them, but figured it couldn’t hurt to confirm with the girl who worked at the desk.

“Stick with the form as best as you’re able. Just put the name of your old schools in those boxes, and don’t worry about the classes. College and anything else can go on the back or wherever you can find space. And obviously don’t worry about parent or guardian. Either way, I wouldn’t overthink it. The office can clarify whatever they need to on Friday, but they do prefer having as much history as possible on the form.”

Ashley’s words made sense. Having multiple forms asking for the same information did seem a bit wasteful and unnecessary, and the point she made at the end drove it home. It was Westridge Academy. The kind of school that cared about details; if not between forms, then what was written on those forms. The names of her previous schools would give some insight into where she was raised, which may or may not come up in Friday’s interview. Amelia’s initial doubt was easily washed away.

“Got it,” Amelia said, “Friday, at 5:30 PM?”

“Mm hmm,” Ashley nodded, “I don’t think I’m working then, but someone will be here to greet you.”

“Sounds good.” Amelia didn’t particularly care which student was working the front desk at the time. She was more concerned with the interview itself, and Mrs. Thompson was the one she needed to impress. Not some student handling things in the main office. “Well, have a good week, Ashley. I’m sure I’ll see you around if I get the job.”

“Maybe. Oh, you should fax the form at noon tomorrow,” Ashley said, with a wink, “That’ll put you at the top of the pile.”

Amelia couldn’t help but give a small smile in response. She had definitely misjudged the girl at the desk. The cancelled appointment was still a nuisance and a waste of her time, but perhaps this would all work out for the better. Now she was familiar with the school’s layout, and had a few more days to prepare for potential interview answers, she would hopefully be more at ease when she returned in a few days.

“Thank you, Ashley,” Amelia said, “Anything else I should know?”

“Nope! Good luck on Friday.”

With another ‘thank you,’ Amelia turned and left the office, registration form in hand. Just a few more days, and she’d have her shot at being a student teacher at Westridge. Though this development meant she’d have to miss another day at work, it would all be worth it when she could drop the minimum wage job that was only a placeholder anyway. The money at the prestigious academy was much more alluring, as were the possibilities that came with it.

Lost in thoughts on the way out the office door, Amelia failed to notice the devious smirk on Ashley’s face.

PART THREE

“Hey, Amelia!”

Once again, Ashley was working the front desk. Amelia was surprised, for a number of reasons. Wasn’t the girl a student? And didn’t she say she wasn’t working today? Then again, Amelia had only been here at lunchtime and now 5:30 on a Friday. Neither of those times would conflict with classes, and perhaps Ashley was able to get her studying done during whatever down time she had in the office. As for the latter question, there was no sense dwelling on it. The girl could have easily just mixed up her schedule.

“Hey, Ashley.” Amelia gave her a nod. Realizing a second too late that she probably shouldn’t be so casual with a student that could potentially be in one of her future classes, Amelia corrected herself with a belated, “Perhaps Ms. Martin, next time?” Hopefully it would be as easy as the other day, where Ashley simply adjusted to a more respectful approach. Amelia was fresh out of college, and guessed her first few years as a teacher would be spent demanding respect thanks to both her age and her youthful appearance.

“Ms. Martin,” Ashley said, without hesitation, “If you’re ready, Mrs. Thompson can see you now. All the way down the hall, hang a right, and she’s the last door on the left. Sorry again for the mix-up a few days ago.”

“It’s no problem,” Amelia said, “Did the office get all my information?”

“Probably? I don’t work here every day, so I wasn’t the one who got it. If you want, I can pull up your file?”

“No, it’s fine. I should get to my interview.”

“Good luck! I think you’ll be a great fit here.”

“Thanks, Ashley,” Amelia smiled, “Have a good weekend.”

Amelia had done everything she was told. In the name of being thorough, she filled out every single line on the registration form, complete with the extra information added on the back. If the interview went well, then everything else could be expedited. And, while the cancelled appointment had been a nuisance as she begrudgingly drove back home the other day, maybe it was a blessing in disguise. The extra time allowed her to fine tune her canned interview answers, as walking the confident/arrogant line could be quite difficult when talking about yourself. At this point, Amelia was more sure that she could put a more genuine spin on the ways she was prepared to talk herself up for the position.

The directions were easy enough to follow. The first hall ended in a fork, and the second led to a dead end. Impossible to get lost, and the office on the end was one of the only rooms with a light on. It was late afternoon on a Friday, which made sense that most teachers and administrators were already gone. Maybe this time slot was a mistake after all? Her interviewer might be burnt out after a long day; a long week depending on what the family emergency was. But it was too late to change things now.

Amelia’s knock was met with a muffled “Come in!” through the door.

Young.

That was the first description that crossed Amelia’s mind when she laid her eyes on Mrs. Thompson. The brunette woman looked to be around the same age as Amelia herself. She wore a pencil skirt and blouse, and looked more like a teacher than an administrator. Like most women, she was taller and more endowed than the petite interviewee lingering in the doorway. “Amelia Martin?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Amelia nodded. Inwardly cursing at her southern roots coming out, she took a step into the room. For whatever reason, she had assumed an older woman would be the one interviewing her. It had thrown her enough to steal away whatever greeting she’d normally use.

Gesturing to the chair across the desk, Mrs. Thompson sat back down. “Please, come in. And close the door behind you.”

Amelia did as instructed. She quietly collected herself, once again having the thought that this could be another blessing. A younger woman might be more inclined to hire her, as gaining the trust of someone twice her age would be more difficult in comparison. “How are you doing?” Amelia asked. Small talk first, right? Breaking the ice.

“Doing well, thanks. Please, have a seat.”


The interview was smooth, for the most part.

Amelia had prepared well. After the brief awkwardness that tends to come with not only meeting someone new, but being in an unfamiliar environment, the conversation felt more natural. She touched on her strengths and weaknesses, the easiest question to have prepared answers for. The tricky part was what came next, when she had to explain how her lack of experience might impact her performance at such a prestigious school. Amelia answered as best as she was able, with the logic of how teachers who had been at the job for a while might already be stuck in their ways. She, however, was fresh out of college, and ready to be molded by the academy teachers themselves. The questions bounced back and forth between personal history and different iterations of why she might be a good fit for Westridge. All in all, the interview was a blur, despite how focused Amelia remained.

Mrs. Thompson was impossible to read. The young woman’s face was just friendly enough to not be cold, but otherwise remained neutral as she jotted down a thing or two along the way. By the end, Amelia had absolutely no idea how she stood. While the conversation itself felt natural, there was the self doubt that came with such challenging questions, as well as the knowledge that she was surely up against other candidates. The anticipation was going to be the longest weekend of her life.

“There is one more thing, Amelia,” Mrs. Thompson said.

“Yes, what is it?” Amelia asked.

“What is your availability like next week? Would you be able to audit classes for a full school day? Ideally, we like candidates to do so for a full week, but I know that’s not realistic for everyone.”

This time, Amelia managed to avoid an ‘umm’ that would normally follow a question she wasn’t prepared for. She audited one or two classes in college, but that was with peers. But it was a reasonable enough request. If she was going to work here, it would be good to have a sense of how classes were run before she started. “Of course,” Amelia nodded, “I’d be happy to observe for a day. I think that’s a really good idea.”

“Great. Does Monday work for you? You included your measurements on the form, yes?”

“My measurements?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Thompson said. Setting Amelia’s file aside, she continued with something the blonde interviewee was not at all expecting. “We’ll have a student uniform ready for you on Monday.”


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PART FOUR

A student uniform?

Why on earth couldn’t she just wear her normal clothes to observe a few classes?
That’s exactly what Amelia asked, of course, but Mrs. Thompson was quick to explain. For starters, it would be less disruptive and less distracting if there was simply another uniformed girl in the room. Having a guest in the classroom impacted the dynamic of the room enough, so it would be better for the students if Amelia could blend into the background more easily.

Additionally, it would be a good opportunity for her to experience what it’s like being one of the students; to empathize, as Mrs. Thompson put it. Since Amelia’s entire educational background was public schools and then a larger university, this was a good way for her to feel what it’s like to attend a smaller boarding school in comparison. On Monday morning, she’d change into the Westridge uniform, be given the official tour and take a standard aptitude test in the morning, and then sit in on a few different classes in the afternoon.

The process seemed a bit excessive, but who was Amelia to judge? The way Mrs. Thompson presented everything was straightforward and logical, and Amelia’s lack of experience in private schools made it difficult for her to argue against any of it. While she’d rather just be offered the job and avoid all the extra hassle, it sounded like this was an important part of the hiring process. The small blonde took some solace in the fact that she was being asked to come right back on Monday. That was a good sign, right? The school wouldn’t go through all that unless she was a serious contender for the position.

Amelia had indeed put her measurements on the registration form. Though she was told to treat it more like an application than anything else, it hadn’t stopped the young woman from overachieving in an attempt to suck up to the school. It would send the message that she was thorough, even when she didn’t necessarily have to be. In truth, Amelia was only here for the money and the résumé boost. Everything else was a lower priority, as she would much rather be teaching at the undergrad level or higher. Teaching spoiled rich girls didn’t particularly appeal to her.

“Thank you, Ms. Martin,” Mrs. Thompson said, once they got through the details of what Amelia’s audit would look like, “And again, apologies for the mix-up earlier this week. I’ll personally make sure the office communicates the necessary details before Monday morning.”

Good. The last thing Amelia wanted was for even more of her time to be wasted. The sooner she could knock out this hiring process, the sooner she could take the job and stop worrying about overselling herself and stressing about the competition. “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson,” Amelia said, “I’ll see you on Monday.”

–THREE DAYS LATER–

For the third time in under a week, Amelia was stepping out of her car and onto one of the Westridge Academy parking lots. Her weekend had been far less stressful than her previous week, complete with a shopping spree and two late nights of drinking with her girlfriends. Once her nerves had settled after the interview, she realized something on the way home–Monday didn’t really matter.

All she had to do was show up, put on a stupid outfit, and audit a few classes. Compared to an interview, that was nothing. It’s not like she had to take notes or constantly be the best version of herself. In her mind, Amelia pretty much just had to smile and shake a few hands throughout the day, get a sense of how things operated at the school, and perhaps give some feedback during a follow-up interview. Easy. With her interview prep out of the way, she could let loose a little bit now that the difficult part was done.

She was smart enough to not drink on Sunday evening, but not even a full night’s rest was enough for her to recover from Friday and Saturday. Amelia was the definition of a lightweight. The petite girl never developed much of a tolerance, which usually led to irresponsible decisions over the weekend. Cutting herself off after one drink and only having water would always be the smart choice, but the recent college grad still found herself succumbing to peer pressure when she was out with the girls.

The crisp morning air helped wake her up, though Amelia hardly appreciated that benefit as she frowned and shivered at the outside temperature. The last two campus visits had spoiled her, as the sun had been up both times. Now it was early, and overcast, and she just wanted to crawl back into bed and get a few more hours of sleep. Putting together her usual mature appearance meant waking up way earlier than she normally had to for her waitress job. Mrs. Thompson could have warned her that it was going to be a 7 AM call time, though it made sense in retrospect. This was a school, after all; middle school and high school classes would obviously start in the morning.

Just as Amelia reached the edge of the parking lot, heading once again towards the administration building, she heard her name.

“Ms. Martin. Amelia!”

She looked towards the source of the voice, and saw the same dark haired office girl standing by one of the building’s side doors. Ashley? That sounded right, though she couldn’t remember for sure. The girl had the full schoolgirl uniform this time around, unlike the last few instances where her blazer hung over the back of her chair. The familiar skirt/tie combo in green plaid that Amelia had seen on the website, and that she was bracing herself to sport as well.

“Umm, yes?” Amelia replied. She paused for a moment, not sure if Ashley was just saying ‘hello’ or if she actually needed something.

“This way,” Ashley said. She beckoned towards the side door, “The front door isn’t unlocked yet.”

Amelia believed the girl, of course, because she had no reason not to. Her lack of teaching experience, lack of familiarity with private schools, and desperation for the lucrative assistant position kept her nice and blind to all the irregularities that had been thrown at her. A canceled meeting with no warning, a ‘general’ registration form, a schoolgirl outfit just for her, and now a student leading the way instead of an administrator being the one to greet her.

She had no idea she was falling right into a trap set up by Ashley herself.


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PART FIVE

The schoolgirl fantasy might be alluring to some, but Amelia felt the complete opposite as she looked herself over in the mirror. She hadn’t expected to change into the Westridge uniform right away, but that’s the first thing Ashley had taken her to do. The handicap bathroom gave her privacy, which she was grateful for; changing in a bathroom always felt a little dirty, but having a private room was a lot better than wrestling with clothes in a tight stall.

It had been simple enough to remove her classy outfit, but putting on the uniform wasn’t quite as simple. The green plaid skirt had a stubborn zipper in the back, the white blouse was a bit too snug in the chest, and Amelia hadn’t ever tied a tie before. She wanted to leave the bathroom with the whole outfit intact, as asking for help from a student didn’t particularly appeal to her. Instead, she watched a tutorial online and mostly figured it out after a few tries.

The girl staring back at her in the mirror did NOT look like an adult. Even with perfectly done hair and make-up, she looked more like a high school senior than a recent college graduate. Her padded bra was offset by the blouse and blazer flattening things back out, as the petite girl usually paired her enhanced bras with the perfect tops to give herself a more mature image. Chest or no chest, it was more that she was dressed like all the other teenagers who had been sent off to boarding school here.

How was this a good idea? Surely some high schoolers could handle a few classes with a differently dressed woman in the room. And, while empathizing with them by going through the same process sounded logical when Mrs. Thompson explained it, Amelia was only now thinking of a major flaw in the administrator’s plan–earning respect was going to be a lot more difficult after all the students saw her dressed like this.

Unfortunately, Amelia didn’t make the rules. And she was desperate for the job. Maybe she was overthinking things. If every applicant did this, then it should simply be part of the students’ culture at this point. She was just being self conscious about her size, and had to put her ego and her usually maturity-focused attire aside for a day.

She fiddled with the tie and blazer one more time, then stepped out of the private bathroom. Hopefully Ashley wouldn’t judge her for taking so long. Or, more importantly, she hoped that her dawdling wouldn’t make her late for the first thing on the morning’s schedule.

“Millie! You look so cute!” Ashley exclaimed, the moment Amelia stepped back into the hallway.

Millie . . .?

Amelia had never, EVER been called that. Not once in her entire life. She had gotten her fair share of ‘Amy’ over the years, which she was fine with, but ‘Amelia’ was definitely her preference. It was more mature, sophisticated; especially ever since she started college. Her full name was yet another way to counteract the way that puberty had absolutely screwed her over.

But ‘Millie?’ It wasn’t just immature. The awful name sounded like what you’d name some freckled farm girl. Not that there was anything wrong with growing up out in the country, but that just wasn’t at all an image Amelia had of herself. And to be called that by a high school girl, of all people? Ugh.

“It’s Amelia.” She responded in as flat a tone as she could manage without sounding bitchy at the same time. After all, Ashley had been nothing but helpful so far. Still, the young, dark haired girl was a student. Authority was important, especially when Amelia was still fairly young herself. And at an all girls’ school, showing you disliked something was a surefire way for that thing to be used against you, even as an adult. With that in mind, she added, “Or Amy, I guess.”

A preferred nickname was better than a cringeworthy one. And a casual response was a better approach than an offended reaction.

“Amy is nice,” Ashley said, “Anyway, come on. We’ll have to find you some shoes at the Lost and Found, and then it’s time for your aptitude test.”

Wait, what? “Ashley, my shoes are fine.” Amelia said. She had checked on the school’s site the other day. Black heels adhered to the dress code as much as flats did, and she obviously preferred the former for the extra few inches of height.

“No, they’re not. You’re auditing middle school classes, Amy. Westridge only allows girls in 9th grade and up to wear heels.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m just here for the day.” It didn’t occur to Amelia that she might be sitting in on the younger grades’ classes, but her schoolgirl get-up was enough of a price to pay for the job. Wearing some girl’s used shoes and demoting herself to a more immature appearance was yet another sacrifice she hadn’t prepared for.

Ashley just shrugged. “I was told to treat you like any other student on her first day here. That means flats, Amy; not heels. But if it’s really a problem, I guess we can go check with the office.”

A trip upstairs would delay them further, and possibly make Amelia look bad if she complained about something that was objectively pretty trivial. It also only dawned on her after three uses of ‘Amy’ that Ashley was exclusively using her first name. “It’s Ms. Martin,” she said, correcting the girl. Better late than never.

“What did I just say?” Ashley gave her a curious look, “I’m not supposed to give you any special treatment. This is your first day at Westridge, you’re more or less a student, and your name is Amy.” With a smile and a friendly wink, Amy conceded at the end. “Don’t worry. If you end up teaching here, I’ll call you Ms. Martin as much as you want.”

Had Mrs. Thompson told her about this? Now that it had been a few days, the interview was more of a blur. Amelia knew that she was auditing classes, complete with a student uniform, but what about the rest? Being treated like a student was a lot different than dressing like one, though it did line up with empathy the administrator had mentioned. Maybe she had misheard, or misremembered; maybe Mrs. Thompson had left out a detail or two, considering it was the end of the day on Friday and her mind could have been elsewhere.

“I know. I’m not asking for special treatment,” Amelia said. Deciding to save face in front of her guide for the morning, not wanting to look bad in front of a future student, she just went along with it, “If it’s policy, then I can change shoes.”

Ashley just nodded, with a faint smile. “Good girl.”


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PART SIX

While accepting the full dress code seemed like the mature thing to do in the moment, Amelia regretted her decision a few minutes later.

It didn’t fully dawn on her until Ashley was handing her a pair of slightly worn black flats she had fished out from the Lost and Found. It wasn’t the fact that they were another girl’s shoes, though that certainly didn’t help. Instead, it was the matter of losing one of her most valued enhancements. Wearing heels and padded bras were the two biggest ways Amelia made up for the way she was totally screwed in the height and curves department. Changing into flats would drop her three full inches, all the way down to her natural height of five feet. Technically, she was a quarter of an inch taller than being five exactly, but that hardly made a difference.

Unfortunately, it was too late to back out. As a future teacher, Amelia knew it was better to stick to her word. There was also that casual use of ‘good girl’ that Ashley used on her, but the dark haired girl had already mentioned that she wasn’t supposed to give Amelia any special treatment. Was that a phrase they used around here? Hopefully it was an Ashley quirk, as Amelia didn’t like the idea of having to say it to anyone. It was awkward enough being called that.

Reluctantly, Amelia sat herself down on a nearby bench and undid the straps of her heels while keeping her legs and skirt positioned properly the whole time. Setting aside her expensive shoes, Amelia began putting on one of the flats that Ashley had found for her. It was tighter than she expected, even though Amelia’s feet were as small as the rest of her. She still put in the effort; she shoved her foot into the black shoe, only barely able to pull the heel over her ankle.

“Are there any others in there?” Amelia asked, wincing a little bit as she moved her foot around. The faded leather was beyond snug, and the back of the single flat was digging into the back of her foot too. “This is definitely too small.”

“Sorry, Amy. Not too many girls lose their shoes,” Ashley said, “Here, put the other one on. You’re going to be late for your aptitude test if you get hung up on every little thing this morning.”

“But-”

“No buts. Come on, they’ll feel better after you walk around in them for a bit.”

“Okay . . .” Amelia muttered. She had already come so far for this job. It would suck if Ashley’s point came to pass, as being late for one thing would potentially cause her to be late to everything throughout the day.

Knowing what to expect this time, Amelia worked her other foot into the tight flat. Surprise, surprise, it was just as tight and uncomfortable as the first one. Listening to Ashley’s advice, Amelia stood up to take a few steps in the too-small shoes. The first thing she noticed, however, was not how bad the shoes felt. Instead, Amelia had to deal with the reality of how SHORT she was.

She couldn’t remember the last time she actually displayed her true height in public. Working out was the one time Amelia had to wear regular shoes, and her self consciousness about her size had led her to exercise alone for years now. Because of her social footwear, Amelia gradually built up a fantasy of how tall she was in comparison to friends and strangers alike. At least, that’s how it felt when standing next to Ashley and having that fantasy crumble. She had already been a few inches shorter than the academy student to begin with, but now the girl had at least half a foot on her!

Thankfully, Ashley didn’t seem like the teasing type. Ever the cordial front desk worker and now first day guide, Ashley was nothing but polite and friendly. “Perfect, Amy. You’ll fit in so much better with those on,” she said. Not batting an eye at their size difference, Ashley bent over and picked up the abandoned heels by the straps, “I can hold onto these for you. Oh, and I’ll also have to confiscate your phone and your purse.”

Wait, what?

Amelia was still coming to grips with how small she suddenly was, as well as how the flats actually made her feel more off balance than slim heels did thanks to the way they tightly hugged and dug into her feet. And now Ashley was going to take her stuff.

The taller girl must have sensed her trepidation, or maybe just saw it written all over her face. “Relax, Amy,” Ashley said, with a light giggle, “You can have them back right after your test. I doubt you’d try to cheat, but it’s pretty standard procedure to restrict outside resources.”

“Oh,” Amelia said. She let out a breath she had been unintentionally holding for a few seconds after hearing the explanation. It made sense, though she still didn’t like the idea of handing a high school girl so many personal possessions. Her phone would be locked, of course, but her wallet was less protected. “I don’t really have anything in my purse. You can check, if you want.”

“Sorry, Ames,” Ashley said, “Rules are rules. But your things are in good hands, I promise. They’ll be locked away in the office. Oh, it’s almost time! Come on, this way.”

Once again rendered speechless by the student’s logic, Amelia found herself following her down another hallway. No, walking around in the flats didn’t help. Plus the shoes were already visibly broken in, so it’s not like time would help the fit. Not that she was planning on wearing them for any longer than necessary. As usual, she was in unfamiliar territory, and could hardly keep up with all the rules and regulations that Mrs. Thompson hadn’t taken the time to thoroughly explain.

“Okay, Amy!” Ashley exclaimed. She stopped just outside a closed door halfway down a hall that Amelia didn’t recognize in the slightest. At this point, she was so turned around from being led here and there. For once, she was grateful to be treated like a new student, as it meant no one was expecting her to know where to go.

With her lips pursed in the same small smile as when they first met, Ashley extended her hand to gesture that Amelia needed to hand over her things. “Ready for your test?


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PART SEVEN

Amelia didn’t like it, but it’s like Ashley said: Rules are rules.

She retrieved her phone from where she had stashed it in her blazer pocket earlier, and added it to the collection of things in her purse. Zipping it up for a sense of security, despite how easy it would be for someone to just open it back up if they wanted to, Amelia reluctantly held out her purse for Ashley to take. “I can have it back right afterwards?”

“Umm, maybe?” Ashley replied. She took the small leather bag and placed it over her own shoulder. “Depends on how quickly you finish your test.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ll have a meeting about your results, and then you’ll be sent to class. I don’t know if you’ll have time to collect your things, but you’re welcome to ask the counselor afterwards.”

The morning had barely begun, and Amelia already had so many surprises to deal with. She had braced herself for the student uniform, though the schoolgirl looking back at her in the bathroom mirror had been embarrassing nonetheless. But it was only just dawning on her that she had no idea what the day’s schedule was supposed to look like. Mrs. Thompson hadn’t mentioned any of these steps during Friday’s meeting, but she very well could have assumed that Amelia already knew the routine. Maybe it was on the website somewhere, as Amelia had mentioned that she had perused the school’s site.

Still, it would be nice to know what else was in store for her. Apparently there was a counselor meeting after the aptitude test. Was that it, or was there more than simply observing a few classes? Amelia was pretty detail oriented; the only reason she hadn’t asked for a schedule yet is because she had assumed one was going to be provided for her. After all, Westridge Academy had such a stunning reputation.

“Ashley, can I get a physical copy of my itinerary?” Amelia asked.

Ashley just patted the top of her head. “Relax, Millie. You’re in good hands. Now, it’s time for your aptitude test.”

Before Amelia could find the words for either the patronizing gesture or the awful nickname she already rejected once, the dark haired teenager opened the door beside them. “Mrs. Lewis? Our newest student is here!”

The room beyond was a spacious lecture hall; definitely too big for a single girl to be taking a test, though Amelia was technically ‘transferring’ in this little fantasy. The room probably had plenty of testing uses for full grades of girls, as she knew the school had more periodic testing than simply once at the beginning of the semester. For now, however, it would just be her.

“Come in, come in!” A middle aged woman greeted them at the door. “Thank you, Ashley. I can take it from here.” She beckoned for Amelia to enter.

“Good luck, Millie!” Ashley said, with a smile, “I’ll see you around.”

“It’s-” At two consecutive uses of ‘Millie,’ Amelia was about to get on the girl’s case. However, Ashley closed the door before Amelia could complete the thought. “. . . Amelia,” she muttered.

“Alright, Millie,” Mrs. Lewis said, “You can sit anywhere you like. I’d love to chat, but we’re already a little behind schedule. The sooner we can get you started, the better.”

That was the exact problem with nicknames. It doesn’t take much for them to stick. Thanks to Ashley’s farewell, which was probably intentional teasing, a potential colleague had taken to the gross name as well.

“I actually prefer Amelia,” she said, trying to be cordial. This time, she didn’t even offer ‘Amy’ as an option. The private school uniform and her lack of heels already obliterated a good amount of visual maturity; the least she could do was hold onto a more proper name.

“Oh, really? I thought I saw otherwise earlier,” Mrs. Lewis replied, “Amelia, then. Please take a seat.”

Saw it where?

Amelia didn’t give it too much thought. At a boarding school for teenagers, plenty of girls probably had nicknames and alternative versions of their names. It would be easy enough for someone in education to lean towards shorter names, especially after Ashley literally just called her by one.

She wasn’t too picky about where to sit. With the whole lecture hall to herself, Amelia simply found a chair near the end that was notably far away from one of the above vents. Even with a blazer on, she tended to get cold easily and didn’t know how long the aptitude test was supposed to last. An itinerary would have been nice.

A few seconds later, Mrs. Lewis placed a packet and a scan sheet for her answers. “See?” she said, tapping the sticker that was sitting at the top-right of the packet. Right there, in bold letters, read MILLIE ROBERTS. “But if you prefer ‘Amelia,’ just let the office know.”

Wait, what?

Despite her distaste for ‘Millie,’ that’s not the main problem that Amelia noticed. “Umm, my last name is ‘Martin,’” she said, “Not ‘Roberts.’”

Maybe it was just some general last name used for non-student aptitude tests, like the form she filled out for the office. After all, she also wasn’t in 7th Grade, which was listed underneath her name on the sticker.

“Separated parents?” Mrs. Lewis mused. She didn’t linger on the idea for very long. “It’s fine, Amelia. We know who you are; you’re the only new student here today. If there are any issues with your paperwork, we’ll get it sorted out. Now, are you ready to begin?”

Amelia didn’t particularly like the way she was being spoken to, but what could she do? If the point was to treat her like a student on her first day, then everyone had hit the nail on the head so far. Both Ashley and Mrs. Lewis dismissed all of her problems so casually. Still, the last few minutes created a faint nagging at the back of her head. She just couldn’t place it.

For now, the aptitude test was now and clerical questions would have to be later.

“I’m ready,” Amelia said.


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