Chapter one: the deadly hour
Angelica couldn’t sleep. And it wasn’t because of the lethal bombs and guns of the war taking place outside, though it left her home in London in ruins. A vivid shaft of moonlight sloped through the dark shady curtains, which shone right onto her pillow—and, of course, her face. The other children in the dormitory had dozed off for ages, however, Angelica closed her eyes for the first time in hours, and lay quite still. She tried hard to fall asleep: she had had insomnia for six years.
It was no use, though. The moonbeam was a silver dagger slicing through the room onto her face.
The orphanage was ghastly silent and still. The downstairs floor was completely vacant, as well as the upper rooms. No voices, just stillness; peacefulness.
The bombs had died down a little; there was nothing but hush and calm. No one was on the pavement. Neither the tiniest voice nor sound could be heard. No one in Angelica’s dorm had ever experienced or known this silence.
Fed up of sleeping, Angelica got up and dusted her curly red hairs out of her peachy face. Rubbing her ocean blue eyes, she patiently looked for her favourite novel on the drawer beside her. ‘Perhaps,’ she said to herself, ‘This is the deadly hour.’
The deadly hour, someone had whispered into her ear, was the time all of the buried souls could come out of hiding and have the earth for a whole sixty minutes. Some said it was the demons who came out of hiding to wreak ghastly havoc, but still, the silence was just the same. Some girls say it start at 01:00 in the morning, but
Angelica says it starts at midnight, which seems most preferable. The five girls sleeping beside her rubbed their eyes and sat up. ‘Don’t get us into trouble, Angie,’ Samantha groaned. ‘Lie in bed, if you know what’s good for us.’
‘It’s only light reading, Sam,’ Angelica murmured. ‘It won’t do a thing to the peace.’ Suddenly, the girl at the very end of the room, named Rebecca, dropped her hand on the lamp, which fell and shattered into pieces onto the floor. They all froze in terror, for the housemistress was going to come into their room and tell them to get up and start sweeping the floors.
You got punished if you stayed up past nine-thirty, which was lights out. Either by cleaning the room top to bottom, or arranging all the beds in the orphanage. There were all other punishments, though. Most are just too
horrible to mention altogether. ‘What’s all the bother?’ the housemistress shrieked across the hall. ‘You’d better be in your beds!’ They all ducked under.
‘Told you!’ Samantha whispered under the covers. Angelica crawled under too and laid there for what seemed to be an hour and a half, when the Deadly Hour was finally over, and the housemistress had gone downstairs. But, for some reason, it was still deathly silent. Angelica was confused. The deadly hour was always coming in four years’ time, and after it was over, rampaging and noise would lay siege again. Tonight was different, though. It was still silent, as if the war had just…ended.
But that wasn’t possible. After reading and studying on wars, it is so erratic for them to end as soon as they start. No. It wasn’t the war. It had to be something different. Something far more intriguing—something never
witnessed by human eyes. And Angelica just had to see it for herself. But the chances of being caught would ruin it: She would just have to take a risk. So she crept out onto the floor and slowly slid open the curtain. She looked out to the street. She saw no one.
It is surprising, she said to herself, that silence seems to create suspense for some more than others. Very mysterious, she might add. As she peered down the road, she noticed a white figure in the corner of her eye, and gawked longingly. The moon dust, she thought, is coming through the window. Possibly from a broken crack near the top. She sneezed into her white silky night dress. When she looked back outside, the white figure was gone. ‘Weird,’ she whispered, crawling back into the bed.
Chapter two: A genius is born
The next day, she was woken by Rebecca, who seemed to be shaking her all over. ‘Come on,’ she said, shaking
Angelica to bits. ‘Housemistress says we need to be dressed for school, and the Headmistress will be in our class tomorrow. You know her, she was your mother’s close friend. It’s all you would talk about when you came here.’
‘Oh yes,’ she murmured. ‘Aunt BlackBull,’ She jumped out of bed and quickly showered; brushed her teeth; made her breakfast, and prepared for school. She was twelve years old, and in the sixth form of Bailey Towers Academy and orphanage. It is really fascinating, how regular children call their aunts as “Aunt Kristy” or something like that, but somehow, for Angelica it was very peculiar. She called her aunt by her surname. Her aunt rarely ever visited—not even for holidays.
She went down to the third floor and sat down at her desk, with the other twenty-seven children. They were safe in the building, where the war was rampaging outside. Approximately ten minutes later, the homeroom teacher, Miss Bluebell, stepped into the classroom, swaying her blonde hair out of her green eyes. ‘Good morning, class,’
‘Good morning, Miss Bluebell,’ they chirruped. They all sat correctly in their seats, their pencils and notebooks correctly placed on their tables, their desks neatly arranged; their textbooks shelfed neatly inside the desks.
‘Need I remind all of you,’ Miss Bluebell said softly, ‘that the headmistress, Miss BlackBull, will be with us at twelve o’ clock tomorrow, so immediately after lunch, come straight back to class. I will also need someone to prepare a jug of water and a glass on my desk for her. Who will take charge of that?’ she asked.
‘I will,’ said Samantha.
‘Very well,’ Miss Bluebell said. ‘be sure not to forget. I will still be in class, but as a silent witness. Be sure to study maths and English at home, because she will be testing you on that. Make sure you are very clean. Do not talk when she does. Do not argue with her. Now, let us revise our multiplication: 14 times 19?’
Angelica raised her hand. ‘Two hundred and sixty-six,’ she said.
Amazed by her fast calculating, Miss Bluebell worked out the sum. ‘What did you say it was?’ she murmured.
‘Two hundred and sixty-six,’ Angelica said, neither scoffing nor showing off; just sitting kindly, folding her legs under the table.
‘What is your name, child?’ Miss Bluebell asked.
‘Angelica Rosetta Greys, ma’am,’ she said solemnly.
‘Your name is beautiful, my dear,’ Miss Bluebell marveled. ‘How about an even harder sum, like two hundred and fifty-five times a hundred and fifty…wait, no, that’s too hard…’ she stuttered.
‘Thirty-eight thousand, two hundred and fifty, Miss Bluebell,’ she said softly.
Astonished by this young girl, who could change academics as she knew it, Miss Bluebell asked, ‘How does your
mind work, dear child?’
‘Well, I just follow five simple steps: Sound out the place value, Times them separately, evaluate my answer, add them together, and make my answer.’
‘Which spells…’ Miss Bluebell murmured.
‘STEAM,’ the young maiden replied.
‘That isn’t fair,’ a young girl, named Julie, pouted. ‘How come she can do it and we can’t?’
‘It is because she has had a lot of practice, and wonderful parents to teach her. Was it your mother?’ Miss Bluebell said.
‘Actually, I don’t have parents,’ Angelica whispered.
‘So you mean you taught yourself?’ Miss Bluebell exclaimed.
Angelica nodded, wiping salty tears. ‘I guess,’ she sniffed.
‘Okay, then,’ Miss Bluebell said, ardent for Angelica’s young mind. ‘Let’s get on with English. Angelica, can you hand me that dusty old book on the top shelf?’
Angelica dusted off the book and her hands when she handed the book to Miss Bluebell. ‘Ah,’ she sighed. ‘Old poems. Do you think you know this poem, class?
‘“Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows and horses and cattle…”’
‘Oh, that was a lovely one by Robert Louis Stevenson—From a Railway Carriage. One of my personal favourites.’
Angelica sighed. Miss Bluebell marveled at the young genius. She gawked at Angelica, as if she was staring into the eyes of the Ancient of Days; the Beholder himself; the Creator of Life as we know it.
‘What else do you know, child?’ Miss Bluebell uttered.
‘I know about Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare…Mark Twain….’ Angelica muttered. Before she could continue, the end of school bell rang. All orphans headed upstairs; children with families went onto the train to depart home.
CHAPTER THREE: ANGELICA’S DARK PAST
Angelica stayed back and took her textbooks from her desk. ‘What are you doing, young child?’ Miss Bluebell
‘I am taking my books to the orphanage, so that I can study for any tests.’ Angelica said, busily stuffing the textbooks into her knapsack. When all her things were in the knapsack, she left the third floor and scurried up the steps to her dormitory. She took out her textbooks and began to study. Suddenly, Rebecca jumped onto her and covered the pages of the textbook.
‘What are you doing reading? Haven’t you heard of the word “fun”?’ Rebecca exclaimed. Angelica pushed away her hands and continued to read. She did not care to quarrel with her friends.
‘Please excuse me. Some people like to get ahead in learning.’ Angelica grunted. Rebecca shrugged and ran to her friends. After a long two hours of studying, she ran to Samantha in the hall. ‘Why is it so hard,’ Angelica
complained, ‘for you to leave me be a moment, so I can focus on what is really important, like studying and
learning new things? I’m all for a good laugh and fun, but when it gets to my reading time, you had better watch it.’
‘I am sorry, but most of us just want to have fun. We try to understand why you can’t have enough.’ Samantha said amiably. Angelica closed her eyes and cried silently for a while.
Then she spoke in a saddened tone. ‘It is because of the way I was treated with my parents. My mother gave birth to me only a month after my father died, and so I came out very weak. I grew up in solitude, for my mother was afraid I would faint as I often did when I used my energy. The only things I could do was play with my toys; talk to my mother, and read my Bible and my novels. When I was about five, I was visited by a tall, solemn man with streaky black hair and soulless black eyes.
‘He became close friends with my mother, and soon asked for her hand in marriage, but I hated him at the
start; I knew he hated me too. A few years after he moved in, and became my step-father, he used to teach me and spank me till my backside was blue and black. I never, ever had a friend. I ran away, and got to this orphanage. I wonder what ever happened to my mother…’ They sighed quietly for a few minutes, and hugged Angelica. The housemistress called them for supper, and, after Angelica and her friends had a delicious dinner of pork chops and salad, they bathed and crept into their beds.
The deadly hour seems to be upon us again, Angelica mumbled to herself. But she did not want to bother about it. For the first time in six years, she could finally sleep for a whole night. The next day, as she walked in the halls of her school, she saw her aunt.
CHAPTER FOUR: MISS BLACKBULL
The giant was about six feet; had massive strong calves, poking out like warts on a frog; her face was none of beauty, and she had small, beady soulless eyes that stared right through you; her mouth was nothing more than a thread of pink. Quickly, Angelica scurried off to class. Most people believe the best headmaster or headmistress is picked out either by his/her love of learning and teaching, along with experience; or his/her love of teaching children and proper care of them, but no one knows how Miss BlackBull got her job. She was an Olympic medal winner back in the day, and had enormous muscles, which could be used to tackle a beluga whale.
Some children say she tossed about ninety kindergarten children over the playground fence into the play field. Most teachers believe that she wants to get back in the Olympics game, and that an average preschooler weighs
about that of a vaulting ball, so she thought it was great practice. This is just to show her hatred of small children, or any age of child, for that matter.
As she marched into the classroom—for she never walked—she faced the intimidated young minds, staring at her, hypnotized. Her hands were behind her back; her legs far apart; her head up, and her beady eyes glaring right through them. ‘It has come to my attention,’ she bellowed, ‘that you have been taught the Basics of Algebra.’ The children nodded and seemed to form a plain, little smile on their faces. ‘How pathetic!’ she yelled. The class shook, and so did Miss Bluebell. ‘Algebra should be your expertise! That is, if you aren’t stupid enough. You! In the front row! Four X minus six Y=92. If “x” is equaled to fifty, what is “y”? Answer or receive a slap! Stand up when you speak to me!’ She pointed to a twelve-year-old boy named Walter. He shook in his seat.
‘It’s…l-let’s see…the x is fifty…times four which is two-hundred…minus ninety-two—…’ he stuttered, staring at the massive beast advancing upon him as that of a tigress stalking a fearful gazelle.
‘Answer child!’ she shrieked, seeing red. ‘Answer now and I’ll let you go!’ she then began to trot behind him and gripped onto his silky black hair and held him up that way.
‘Please, Miss BlackBull, release him! His hair could come out!’ Miss Bluebell pleaded.
‘T-two-hundred m-minus ninety-two is one hundred and eight…six times eighteen is equal to a hundred and eight! Y is e-equaled t-to e-eighteen and t-the answer i-is n-ninety-two!’ he squealed, pedaling his feet in the air. Whereupon the BlackBull, true to her word, let him go, flinging him all the way to Angelica’s seat, where she caught him in her arms.
‘Are you okay?’ she whispered to him.
‘Y-yes, I am quite all right,’ he said, still shaking. Gently, she put him down and Walter crawled back to his seat. The BlackBull regained her position back at the front of the class.
‘It doesn’t surprise me,’ she said softly, ‘that all you idiots are too…idiotic, to answer this question. Still, if any of you think you have a chance, here it goes: Who wrote the poem, From a Railway Carriage?’ None dared to raise their hand. None, except Angelica. They all shook their heads and stared at her, as if to say, “No! Don’t!”. The BlackBull nodded at Angelica. ‘Ah, my best friend’s daughter,’ she smiled, for the first time in her life. ‘Show them what you know.’
‘Miss BlackBull, that poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.’ She said solemnly.
‘Good show, Angelica. You see, this is a child that actually knows something, unlike the rest of you worthless slobs. Especially Rich kid Allison over there! You are not fit to be called “royalty”! Get out of my class, NOW!!!’
she shrieked. Allison ran out, sobbing. ‘Class is over!’ The BlackBull bellowed. All the children hurried out, and so did Angelica, for while the BlackBull spoke, she shoved her books in. Patiently, she waited behind the lockers as Miss BlackBull screamed at Miss Bluebell. ‘Honestly, why do you even bother?’ she bellowed. ‘These children are complete menaces. It is a good thing they’ll be with a new headmaster in the next year, for they will be in higher secondary school. I wish there was a school without children. I have always wanted one of those. I will start it up someday. I believe it will be very successful. Still, you must be strict with them. I suggest carrying a cane around so if they make a single mistake, you can paint their backsides black and blue.’
She’s off her rocker, the old bat, Miss Bluebell said to herself. Minutes later, they both left. Miss BlackBull went to her office and Miss Bluebell was walking towards the lockers Angelica was hiding behind.