First days can be so unnerving, especially your first day at high school and your first day at boarding school.
Lucy was very excited to be at such a prestigious school. She was looking forward to making new friends. This was a whole new chapter of her life unfolding.
The assembly hall was a hive of chatter and laughter. Old students were reuniting with hugs after the holidays and new students were trying to fit in. The house mother, Mrs Murray, took to the stage and a silence ascended on the girls. The girls had the utmost respect for Mrs. Murray.
"We welcome all students, both new and returning. I am sure we have all had a splendid holiday and we are ready to make the new year a great success." Mrs Murray apparently never raised her voice nor repeated herself. "The following instructions will eliminate chaos and I suggest you lend me your ears. I will call out the grade eight students names and dormitory numbers. You will settle in and we shall meet in the dining hall at twelve o' clock."
Nervously the new students listened as Mrs Murray read from her list. Her voice was clear and concise and when Lucy heard her name and dorm number she took her pen and wrote 52 on her palm. No one moved until she was finished and had dismissed them.
On the first floor Lucy found her dorm. She looked at her palm to make sure that she was in the right dorm, then she hurriedly looked for her bed. Four beds, four desks, four cupboards and one full length mirror was the extent of the furnishings. Names printed on a plaque hung over each bed. She found her bed to the right of the door. For now she was going to put her suitcase into her cupboard and head off to the dining hall. Being late for anything on the first day would draw attention and all Lucy wanted was for her first day to pass smoothly.
Lucy peeked at herself in the mirror, decided that she looked respectable enough to go to the dining hall. She noticed message on her pillow, scooped it up and stuffed it into her pocket. On her way out of the door Lucy saw the name "MABEL" carved into the back of the door. It looked like it had been done with a scissor or a knife and there were strange scratch marks below the name.
That's strange to find graffiti like that in the dorm Lucy thought as she took the stairs two by two.
In the dining hall students received all the rules and regulations of boarding school life and when Mrs Murray announced that the girls had the rest of the day off, relief flowed over Lucy. It looked like things were not going to be as bad as she thought. She headed back to the dorm and met the other three girls who would be her room mates for the year. All were trying to personalize their own space and chatting their heads off.
"I received a note on my pillow," Lucy shared with them and pulled out the piece of paper in her pocket. "Did anyone else find a note?"
Circling round her, they shook their heads. "What does it say?" they asked.
'ENJOY YOUR STAY. SEE YOU TONIGHT. LOVE MABEL' Lucy dropped the note as if it had burned her fingers.
A chill ran through Lucy's body. All four girls turned and looked at the name scratched on the back of the door. Not a word was said.
Dorm 52 was very subdued that first night and when they heard final call for lights out, they all lay on their backs with the covers drawn to their chins. None of them wanted to close their eyes.
As twelve gongs sounded midnight throughout the school, the four school girls still lay on their backs, covers drawn. They had not moved and sleep had evaded them. They heard movement on the landing outside their door and then the scratching on the door started. A few seconds later someone asked "Is she back again?" and then a scattering of feet in socks along the hallway.
There was no sleep for the four occupants of Dorm 52 that night.
The girls could not wait for classes to finish each day to find out who this "Mabel' was. Being the new girls they didn't want to seem foolish so they discreetly enquired about Mabel, but after days of asking around, no one could tell them who she was. Each night they heard the scratching and the whispering of her name outside their door. They were not getting any sleep and thing couldn't go on like this.
They decided to hatch a plan.
Waiting for the twelve gongs of the clock to sound. The girls were ready. At the sound of the first scratch Lucy ripped the door open and found two startled twelfth graders frozen to the spot.
"Enough!" shouted Lucy as she grabbed one of the girls by the arm. There was shrieking and chaos in the dark as the prankers and the pranked tried to make sense of what just happened and then they heard the footsteps. Someone was coming up the stairs. There was silence as they all stood rooted to the spot.
A flashlight brought the scene into view.
The familiar voice of Mrs Murray was soothing to their ears. "I am always thrilled when the first week is over and we can put 'Mabel' back where she belongs. "Mabel, the ghost, has entertained Grade eights in Dorm 52 for twenty years. It will be your privilege girls, to carry on the tradition when you are in your final year. Tonight you will have a good nights rest. Off to bed with you all."
Some sighed with relief that it was over. Some went back to bed with a chuckle about the prank.
After a good night sleep the girls hurried down to breakfast. Lucy found a note under her plate.
'GLAD YOU SLEPT WELL. SEE YOU TONIGHT. LOVE MABEL.'