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The Song Alone



Eric Schaefer


Smashwords Edition


THE SONG ALONE. Copyright © 2017 by Eric Schaefer.


All rights reserved. This book or any part thereof may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the holder of these rights except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All characters portrayed are fictitious. Names, places and incidents are from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.



To Phyllis



When the melody captures my heed

And the horn is of good tone

The world agrees with my vision

Hearing the song alone.

Henry Dixon Butler


Part One


1971


Chapter I



“I don’t believe in unnecessary risks.” As it was her right arm being talked about, the patient did not disagree. The bones had healed, and the cast could have been cut off before leaving San Francisco. The girl stated forthrightly how tired she was living with an L shaped arm that she felt sure was growing weaker by the day, but her doctor thought it best to leave the cast on for the journey. He did not want to risk any strains or something worse before physical therapy began. On a September Thursday Marianne Fallbrook flew from San Francisco to New York where she was met by her aunt and uncle, the latter being Fred Fallbrook, her father’s younger brother. The couple had last visited San Francisco seven years before and were initially afraid that they would not recognize the little girl they had known who was now sixteen, but Marianne’s father had reminded them that all they had to do was look for a tall blonde with a cast on her right arm.

The threesome dined in the uncle’s favorite steakhouse that night. Marianne ordered the one fish item on the menu, broiled salmon, to be able to eat one handed and not have to ask for help. Her aunt and uncle asked many questions in an attempt to get to know her. The girl did not know how much they knew about her recent life, and she did her best to keep the conversation on sports and music. When her uncle asked why she wished to come east to a boarding school when she was already going to one of the best public high schools in the country, the same high school that he and his brother had attended, she blandly replied that she wanted a change.

“Were you having trouble making friends?” asked Aunt Judy.

“I suppose you could say that. Some people I thought were my friends turned out not to be so friendly.”

“Were the other girls mean to you?”

“Some of them.”

“Girls can do that. A lot of insecure girls will lash out at the beautiful and the accomplished if they can get some others to go along.”

“Let’s hope that I do better beginning tomorrow.”

“I am sure you will,” said Uncle Fred. “You know it was basketball that got you admitted to Waterman so late in the academic year. When your father told me what you wanted to do, I asked all my partners who had been to prep schools whether there was any way to apply in June for admittance in September. Most said it was almost certainly too late. But one, John Clough, said there was a possibility at his old school if the boy or girl was a really good athlete. I said you were. Your father told me you were the best player on your undefeated basketball team. Clough called his old headmaster and a couple of days later he told me to have you apply to Waterman Faith Martin. They must have checked you out somehow.”

“I know you told us to send the application directly to the headmaster.”

“Yes, it must have been one of the easiest acceptances to a prep school in modern times.”

“It’s nice to know something good has come out of basketball. My parents and my piano teacher thought I was crazy when I decided to teach myself the game.”

“You didn’t think you were crazy, did you?”

“I knew I was a tall girl who could run fast. Part of it was to do something different that was completely my own doing. Part of it was to get some exercise. Part of it was to see if I could play with boys as an equal.”

“Do you play with the boys as an equal?”

“I do.”

“I understand that you have always had the same piano teacher.”

“Yes, Madame Cheboshova.”

“A new teacher will be a big change. Are you concerned?”

“A little. Technically, I don’t have much to learn. What I need from a teacher is critiques on how well I am bringing a piece alive and advice as to how to do that if he thinks I am a bit dull. If the teacher isn’t well trained and very good at the piano, it might be a waste of time, or even worse. But if I really am to consider myself a professional, I will have to figure out most things by myself.”

“Very wise,” said the aunt, not knowing what more to say on hearing a teenager make such a statement.

The next morning her aunt drove Marianne to the school in Connecticut. The campus, a collection of red brick buildings and wooden houses surrounded by well-tended green lawns and the occasional shade-tree sat at the northeast end of a small town. The school had begun in a pre-Revolutionary War bungalow eighty years earlier when what was now the campus was a residential neighborhood. The fields and woods to the east had quickly been bought, and gradually the houses in the neighborhood were bought as well. A few of the old wooden structures were remodeled into dormitories; the rest were torn down to make way for new school buildings and open space.

Aunt Judy followed other cars up a paved driveway to the steps of Post House, a four story plus basement brick building with four white ionic columns supporting a portico at the top of a wide and substantial set of steps. On stopping they were greeted by a sixth form girl who introduced herself as Sarah Lear. While Aunt Judy waited with the car, Sarah shepherded Marianne inside to meet the dean, Mr. Paulson, who gave out room and class assignments. The dean greeted her effusively with what struck her as a note of forced joviality as he assured her that it was wonderful that Waterman Faith Martin should have such a poised young lady coming all the way from California. Marianne thanked him, and she and her chaperone returned to the car where Sarah gave directions to Marsh House, named after an early headmistress of Faith Martin. Marianne would soon find that all the girls could not help noting its proximity to a pond full of reeds and algae. Once there, the three unloaded Marianne’s four pieces of luggage: two suitcases full of clothes; a large duffel bag with two basketballs, two pairs of athletic shoes and assorted athletic clothes; and a small suitcase containing sheet music and piano tuning tools that weighed as much as the larger bags.

Miss Earnshaw, the housemistress, stood in the center of the common room with clipboard in hand greeting all comers. Sarah introduced Marianne and her aunt. Marianne extended her left hand, and Miss Earnshaw tentatively accepted it with her right hand, giving the impression to the girl that the woman thought there was something improper about being offered a left hand even if the right was disabled. “And where are you from, Marianne?”

“San Francisco, California.”

“I don’t think we have any other California girls in the house this year. Linda Cook is from Denver. She is the only other girl from the west I can think of.”

“That’s fine. I came here for something new.”

“That’s the spirit.” Miss Earnshaw looked at her list and said, “Marianne Fallbrook. You are in room 206. Is that what Mr. Paulson told you?”

“Yes.”

“Good. It’s always nice when the records agree. Go up the stairs, turn right, and it is down the hall on your right. Your roommate is Penny Scott. She is a returning girl and will be coming tomorrow.”

The threesome hauled the luggage up the stairs and proceeded to the room. It was a plain room with brown wainscoting on the lower half of the walls and white plaster on the upper half. It held two single beds, two small desks with chairs, two dark-stained chests of drawers, two closets and one well-upholstered easy chair and one bookcase. “The easy chair and the bookcase must belong to Penny Scott. The school does not provide those. The rest is basic Faith Martin furniture moved here a year ago from our old campus.”

“Did you go to Faith Martin before the merger?”

“Yes, I was there for two years.”

“Were you for the merger?”

“I was, although now that I have had a year with the boys, I can understand why some of the alumnae opposed it. A classroom with boys and girls together is very different from one with girls only. With boys in the room, one of them usually has to be the class clown, and the ones who are unhappy with anything are sure to let everyone else know it. Girls are better at sticking to the subject and keeping quiet about their unhappiness.”

“Why did the schools merge?”

“Money. Women don’t give to their old school like men do. Faith Martin was always begging and skimping when it wanted to do anything like build a new building or equip a new laboratory. It had no endowment to speak of. At Waterman, a lot of the sons and brothers of graduates were refusing to come here because there were no girls, and that jeopardized future contributions. So they merged. Now the women trustees don’t have to worry so much about money, and the girls get to watch the boys throw specimens at each other in biology lab.”

“I’m used to that. I’ve always gone to public schools.”

“I have to get back to the Post House steps. Do you have any questions?”

“I understand there are some piano practice rooms. Can you tell me where they are?”

“In the basement of Drew House. That is back up the hill to the north of Expedition House. Do you play?”

“Yes.”

“I used to, but I don’t play much anymore. You know, Faith Martin was not an old fashioned finishing school, and it certainly isn’t now that it has merged with Waterman. Colleges and graduate schools have opened up and a girl can be anything she wants to be. I’m aiming for medicine, and I advise you to prepare yourself to be something more than a well turned out young lady.”

“Thanks. I’m sorry. I forgot your name.”

“Sarah Lear.”

“I’ll remember your advice.”

The sixth form girl said, “See you later. I hope you have a good experience here.”

“Rather full of herself, I’d say,” said Aunt Judy after Sarah had closed the door behind her.

“Maybe she doesn’t like the piano.”

“Or pretty girls from California.”

“Until I get my right arm back, I have enough to worry about. It’s very hard for me to live without both hands at the piano. The left handed repertoire doesn’t do it for me. If I was Wittgenstein, I would have shot myself in 1919. Three or four hours a day just seems so natural. The composers of the great music are more real to me than somebody like Sarah Lear will ever be. ‘I advise you to prepare yourself.’ I’ve been preparing myself since I was four.”

“I know, dear. You are going to meet difficult people wherever you go. Choose your friends carefully. And in a few weeks your arm will be just as good as new. Be grateful nothing worse happened.”

“I know. This broken arm has given me some new understanding of my father.”

“Yes, your uncle says he came back from the war a changed man. But who wouldn’t be under the circumstances?”

“I agree.”

Aunt Judy helped Marianne unpack by putting clothes on hangers and into the closet. Doing such a chore one handed was tedious. Marianne put her other clothes in drawers.

“Where did you go to school, Aunt Judy?”

“I went to Greenwich High, then Vassar, and I took an eight week course in New York about how to be a legal secretary. I had already learned typing and shorthand in high school. Then I went to work at a law firm and met your uncle and have so far lived happily ever after. If I was your age, I would probably be aiming at law school just like that girl is aiming for medicine. Not all secretaries marry the boss. Some just keep working for forty-five years for not much more money than when they started. But in those days very few women went to law school, and most of those had no hope of a job when they graduated. It was the old story that for a woman to succeed in a man’s world she had to be twice as good. A few years ago there was only one woman partner in all the major New York law firms and that woman never married and often worked six day weeks.” She paused a moment, and when Marianne did not say anything continued, “That’s not to say a young woman has to turn into a know it all or worse in getting ready to train for a profession. If that Sarah Lear behaves like that all the time, she is going to find that she needs to do some work on her bedside manner.”

“Yes, Miss Lear seems like a good one to stay away from.”

“There was a little joke that went around ten or fifteen years ago that said, ‘Be nice to the little people on your way up, so that they will be nice to you on your way back down.’ Few people have a life that is one success after another. For most people, life is a kind of bouncing around.”

“My mother was a legal secretary. Have you two ever compared stories?”

“Not really. From what I understand your father snatched her up so quickly she never got out of the typing pool.”

“Is that what happened? They never told me that.”

Aunt Judy paused for a moment. “I want to change the subject. What I am about to say may be none of my business, but I feel it needs to be stated plainly. We touched on it last night, but I would like to hear your true thoughts on the matter. From what I can see, this place is going to do nothing for you musically.”

“That’s possible, but I have reached the point where I have to figure out how and what I play for myself. Anything anyone else says is something to be considered and nothing more.”

“Are you sure that is true?”

“Yes. Trust me. I’m pretty good.”

“I haven’t heard you play since you were nine, and you were pretty good then, so I cannot know for sure. But even if your playing is perfect in all respects, what about the study of theory and composition. And you have a nice speaking voice. Have you had any singing lessons?”

“One thing at a time. I play the piano. That is my gift. I’ve studied theory with Madame. As for writing music, I don’t think I’m really meant for it. Creating new melodies does not come naturally. My enjoyment is mastering and playing the works of the greats. And I don’t want to sing. I am not a natural soprano, and that is where ninety per cent of the good roles for women are in opera.”

“O.K. No singing. No composing.”

“Did you ever see the movie, The Great Waltz?”

“Long, long ago.”

“There is a scene where the birds are chirping in the trees, and by the end of the scene Strauss has pretty well written Tales of the Vienna Woods. If only it were so easy. And I have ears that can place an accurate musical note on paper for every sound I hear, but that has nothing to do with writing a decent melody.”

“I understand. But I had to say it. You are here to get something out of this place, not just to be one of their ornaments. They don’t even know what they have in you. Don’t let this turn into two wasted years.”

“I won’t. Believe me. I won’t. But I am also here for the conventional academic experience. I don’t want to be somebody who knows a lot about music and nothing about anything else.”

Aunt Judy refrained from pointing out that she could have that out of any good high school, including the one she left behind.

The unpacking, putting away and making the bed were finished. Aunt Judy said good-bye. She assured Marianne that she looked forward to seeing her in four weeks when the whole school had a short weekend from 10:30 Saturday to 6:00 P.M. Sunday. She promised her house would have a piano when Marianne came. Marianne told her not to spend a lot of money. A used upright would be fine, as long as the keys worked. “When you buy it you might be able to get a tuning thrown in. But if you don’t, I can do it.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Alone in her room, Marianne sat down in the armchair. She could hear a group of girls in another room talking and laughing. She thought she should go and introduce herself, but knew that if she did not immediately fit in, it would be awkward to excuse herself after a few minutes to come back to an empty room. Better to stay by herself for a while until it was closer to lunch time. The solitude did not last long, however. Four knocks sounded. Marianne rose from the chair and opened the door. “Hi, I thought I saw somebody go in here. A bunch of us are getting to know each other at the end of the hall. Would you like to join in?”

“Sure. I’m Marianne Fallbrook. Excuse me if I don’t offer you my right hand.”

“Yes, I see. How long have you been in that?”

“It seems like forever, but it is actually seven weeks.”

“How awful. I’m Betty Preston. Come and meet everyone. We’re all new, too. Where do you live?”

“San Francisco.”

“That’s a long way.”

“Where do you live?”

“Darien.”

“That, I believe, is a short way.”

“Long enough. If the schools hadn’t merged, I could be a day student.”

They walked to a room at the end of the corridor that contained four other new girls. Betty introduced Marianne and the other four introduced themselves. Julie Hagen came from Short Hills, New Jersey. Bonnie Price was from New York City. Margaret Henry was from Wilmington, Delaware, and Linda Cook came from Denver and was the girl mentioned by Miss Earnshaw. The latter three were fourth formers while Marianne, Betty and Julie were in the fifth.

When Marianne had entered the room the conversation had been about whether or not the Beatles would ever get back together. After introductions Bonnie said, “I was once told that for a boy to be admitted to the fifth form at Waterman, he had to be either a very good athlete or a top student. Does that now go for Faith Martin girls?” She looked directly at Marianne as she spoke her question.

“Maybe. I understand basketball helped me be accepted.”

“So you are a good basketball player. You certainly have the height.” Marianne was the tallest of the six.

“As you can see, I am not playing much at the moment.”

“What about you, Betty?”

“I made all A’s in my last school, but so did a couple of others.”

“So, Betty is a scholar. Julie, are you athlete or scholar?”

“Athlete, I guess. Tennis.”

“What do fourth formers have to do to be admitted?”

“Have parents who can afford it.”

At one o’clock the six girls went to the dining hall and ate lunch together. Immediately after, Marianne excused herself from the group and walked over to the Drew House basement where she found six small acoustic tiled rooms containing spinet pianos. She entered one of the rooms, played a couple of scales and was pleased to find the piano in tune. She left the room and walked up and down the hall listening for anyone else who might be there. Hearing no one, she re-entered the original room and proceeded to play the piano part of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.

That afternoon all the new students went to the Williams Exercise building, known as the Williams Ex, for a physical where height (5’11” for Marianne) and weight (146 with clothes on) were measured. “Aaah” was said for Dr. Meyers as he looked down each throat and listened to each diaphragm with his stethoscope, and every student blew into a mechanical contraption in which a cylinder rose to measure lung capacity. The device appeared to be something out of the 19th century and ready for a museum. The doctor told Marianne to come to the infirmary after lunch on Monday to have her cast removed, and she would then be sent to a physical therapy clinic in town. The master presiding over the ancient lung measurement apparatus was Mr. Bryce, a white haired piano teacher with a pronounced southern accent. He recognized Marianne as being one of the new piano students. “Yes, I remember all of the piano students’ names. You will be studying with Mr. Piera. He is a graduate of Juilliard, and he looks forward to working with beginning students.”

“Thank you. That is good to know.”

As the senior piano teacher, Mr. Bryce always grabbed the six most advanced students for himself and left the rest for the other teachers. Before the girls came, it was rare to have as many as fifteen piano students out of 650 boys, but now with 850 students, over 300 of them girls, they had thirty-four. The serious students had four sessions per week with the teacher. The other students had one session each week. The four sessions’ students were given academic credit toward graduation like any other full time course. One session classes were considered personal development and no credit was given. Parents paid extra for musical instrument classes as the teaching was one on one.

Mr. Bryce’s method for keeping his job interesting had not gone unnoticed by Mr. Brodie, the director of studies, or by the headmaster. Most of the piano teachers, other than Mr. Bryce, had come and gone at two year intervals over the years. Now that three piano teachers were needed such a turnover was going to be more difficult to deal with if it kept up. Not informing Mr. Bryce of Marianne’s abilities had been deliberate on the headmaster’s part.

After completing her physical, Marianne walked over to the basketball courts where six boys were having a half-court game. She watched for a minute secure in the knowledge that she was better than all of them. She assumed they were all sixth formers, as all the new students had been going through the physical and then receiving their locker assignments and equipment, if any, for their fall sport. Initially, at least, there would be no sport for her. First would come physical therapy, and after that she had no intention of risking her arm playing soccer or volleyball late in the term shortly before basketball season. If she was forced to do something, she figured she would run cross-country, not that she had ever done any long distance running before or had any interest in it. But if she had to, she believed she could begin with a dash, walk and trot the middle of the 2.1 mile route and finish with a dash.

The other task new students were encouraged to do that afternoon was to purchase their textbooks and supplies. The bookstore occupied a room in the basement of Post House where a master and some student helpers presided over the stacks of new and used books. A line formed at the room’s Dutch door, where the student would present the list of classes received from the dean at arrival. One of the students in the room fetched the books, the master wrote a receipt and the student signed. The dollar amount would be billed to the parents. The line of students that went down the hallway, U-turned, and came back up the other side gave evidence that it was not a particularly efficient form of retailing, but it was only once a year. After this, most of the books purchased would be the novels assigned in the English classes every two weeks.

Marianne took her place in line and silently inched her way forward. She had no desire to get to know anyone she did not have to know. The last thing she wanted was to meet someone from California who might know anyone at Monroe High. She did not even want to meet anybody who had ever heard of her old school, although she knew that was a bit much to hope for. Most of the others in the line had arrived in groups of two or three and were chatting happily with their new friends. Marianne stared at the wall or into the distance and made no eye contact with anyone.

When she had purchased her books, she saw that she was meant to take them in a pile. There were eight books in all: three for English; three for history; a geometry text and a French text. She asked if they had a bag. They said they were sorry, but they did not. She momentarily thought of using her casted arm as a base on which to balance the books, but the thought of Marsh House being a quarter of a mile away made her quickly discard such an idea. She would not do anything that would put her arm at added risk. The thought of being a two handed piano player now verged on the obsessive. It would have to be two trips, she thought. She would come back with a bag, even a suitcase if need be.

“If you can wait a couple of minutes while I run my books upstairs, I’ll be happy to carry yours to your house,” said the boy behind Marianne who had also not spoken the whole time they were there.

“Thank you. That would be very nice.”

“Give me two minutes. My room is on the second floor.”

The boy, whose name she would learn was Michael Barnfield, soon returned and took seven of the books while Marianne took the heaviest. Together, they headed for the stairs and the exit.

“Where do you live?”

“Marsh House.”

“Where’s that?”

“Down in the girl’s part of the campus.”

“Where do you come from?”

“San Francisco.”

“I’m from Rochester, New York. Are you in the fifth form?

“Yes.”

“Me, too.”

Having just spent forty-five minutes standing in line hoping not to have to speak to anyone, Marianne decided she had better make an effort to be friendly to someone who had offered to help her. “You are really very kind to do this. I thought I was going to have to make two trips.”

“You are most welcome. You would think they could have improvised something to help a girl with only one good arm.”

“Not very thoughtful, was it.”

“I don’t think so. Anyway, what makes someone from California come here? Haven’t you ever heard of New England winters?”

“I have. I wanted a change. Plenty of snow should fulfill that. How about you? Why did you come here?”

“They say they are going to make a big effort to make the school more friendly to those of us interested in science. Next year they will begin a third year physics course, and anyone who can handle it will be allowed to take two science classes each year. And they gave me a partial scholarship.”

“Wow. That’s pretty good.”

“Yeah, and the funny thing about it, I never even thought about going to a prep-school. They found me. They had to convince me to want to come, and they had to convince my father to pay for the non-scholarship portion.”

“That’s interesting. Obviously, your father said yes.”

“He did. But he had to think about it first. What about you? What are you interested in?”

“Music. I play the piano. I can play some other instruments, but the piano is my love.”

“I guess you are not playing much at the moment.”

“No. The cast comes off on Monday, but I have a few weeks before I will be anywhere close to normal.”

“What kind of music do you play?”

“Classical.”

“I don’t know much about classical music.”

“Not many teenagers do.”

“Not many teenagers know much about physics, either.”

“Me included, I’m afraid.”

When they reached Marsh House, Michael put the stack of books on a table in the common room. Boys were not allowed in the girls rooms. Marianne thanked Michael profusely and carried her books up to her room in three trips. Michael left thinking that he wanted to see more of Marianne, but was not sure how to go about asking. He was too new to even be sure what the school schedule was and what time was free before classes began on Monday.

The next item on the schedule was chapel at ten minutes past six. Everyone was asked to arrive by six in order to be given their assigned seats and allow the service to begin on time. The headmaster, Mr. Seaver, ordained in the Episcopal Church, presided over the twenty minute service. He welcomed all the new students to the school, read Mathew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” and gave a little sermon based on the passage. Its message had taken on legendary proportions in the school, he said, because the term “two mile man” was part of the school vernacular. It was a lesson that he hoped and believed every Waterman boy, and now every Waterman Faith Martin girl as well, took with them through life. Going the extra mile when one does something one wants to do, or volunteers to do, is comparatively easy. Giving your all to the things you are compelled to do is much harder, but in doing so, one is a better person in so many ways. Two mile men and women are the ones who can be relied on when the going gets tough. They are the ones who see the difficult projects through to completion. They are the ones who don’t panic in a crisis. Most importantly, they know that they will fulfill their promises and know that they can be relied on by their family, friends and coworkers.

After chapel Marianne met up with the other five new girls from the second floor of her house and walked with them up the hill to Post House and the dining hall behind. It was open seating and they picked a table with no students yet there, and soon four other girls joined them. The table was Mr. Blaine’s, a math master in his fifties who until the previous year had never taught girls. He was almost tongue tied in their presence if he could not talk about mathematics. Fortunately, his wife joined them that night and managed to lead the conversation by talking about the girls’ interests. Marianne talked a little about music, but when the subject segued into rock she clammed up and let the others go to it.

After dinner all the houses had meetings. In the common room of Marsh House, the girls filled the chairs and sofas which had all been turned toward the empty fireplace. Those who arrived last stood in the rear. Miss Earnshaw entered from the door to her apartment, walked up to the hearth and began, “Good evening, girls. I have already met everyone, of course, but in case anyone has forgotten, I am Miss Earnshaw, the housemistress of Marsh House. I also teach ancient history and European history where I shall see a few of you. Seated on the couch are Miss Godowski and Miss Vincent. Miss Godowski lives on the third floor and teaches French. Next to her is Miss Vincent who teaches English and whose apartment is on the second floor. The eight girls standing to the left of the fireplace are the sixth formers. They help us run the house. In our absence, they are in charge. If you ever have a question or a problem and we are not here, go to one of them. Now, in the interest of all of you getting to know each other, and for me to refresh my memory, I would like each of you to state your name and where you live.”

Bonnie Price from New York began. In the middle of the group a girl named Felicity Elliot from Atherton introduced herself. So much for being the only girl from California, thought Marianne. Standing in the back, Marianne was next to last to give her name. When she did, Felicity turned and stared. Marianne noticed and did her best to pretend not to notice.

Miss Earnshaw proceeded to state some of the school rules. Attendance at all meals was mandatory except for sixth formers who could miss dinner and Sunday night supper if they left a note for the dean at his office, known as the sanctum. Chapel was every day at ten minutes past six on Monday through Saturday and at an announced time on Sunday. Attendance was mandatory. Those who were late were shut out and would receive five hours. Hours were the school’s method of discipline, and they were hours of work at tasks that needed doing such as cleaning classrooms, raking leaves or shoveling snow. Those who were late to class or any scheduled activity had better have a good excuse or that too could mean five hours. Everyone was awoken at seven in the morning for breakfast at 7:25, and first period began at 8:05. Being caught smoking meant expulsion, as did drinking alcohol. Being caught cheating or stealing could mean expulsion, although some cheaters and thieves were let off with a suspension or probation. Waterman had for many years expelled about twenty-five boys a year. The belief was that many of those boys no longer wanted to be at the school, and they were just acting up so that they would be thrown out. Faith Martin had a different philosophy. Any girl who was genuinely sorry and promised to behave better and follow the rules in the future was given another chance, or at least allowed to stay until the end of the school year. But on these matters of smoking, drinking, cheating and stealing Waterman’s rules are in force. Get caught smoking, drinking or cheating on an end of term exam, and the student will be gone as fast as his or her transport out could be arranged.

Miss Earnshaw went on to give some advice that she described as “the most important thing I have to say to some of you: if you get into a frame of mind where you do not want to be here, don’t do something to get yourself expelled just so you can leave. Come and talk to me about your problems, and if you don’t think I am much help, the school has counselors and the assistant headmistress and the headmaster. Most problems can be resolved. Remember, you have to get your education somewhere, and as schools go, this is a good one. The day is over where the sixteen year old dropout can go out and conquer the world. And if you think that being pretty and charming and accommodating will get you what you want in men, don’t be so sure. Men may not like their girlfriends to beat them at golf and tennis, but if you are a bonehead you won’t be any intelligent man’s girlfriend for long.

“Speaking of men and boys, boys are allowed only in the common rooms of girls’ houses and girls are allowed only in the common rooms of the boys’ houses. This house has a further rule. Boys will not loiter in the common room. If a boy comes here, it should be because he was invited by one of you. And the only reason one of you should have invited him is that you are going to walk together to somewhere else. Any boy I or Miss Godowski or Miss Vincent or the sixth formers see here by himself will be asked who invited him, and when he gives us a name, we will go right to that girl’s room to hurry her along. So if you don’t want us to barge in on you when you are applying your makeup, be ready for him when he arrives. And then off you both go. No hanging around here.

“Tomorrow will begin with the regular wakeup at seven and breakfast at 7:25. Breakfast for the girls in this part of the campus is next door in the basement of Bridge House. As you know, lunch and dinner are in the dining hall behind Post House. Returning fourth and fifth formers will arrive between nine and noon tomorrow. All of you should have had your physical this afternoon. Raise your hand if you did not.” No hands went up. “If you have not yet bought your books, the bookstore will be open this evening from eight to nine. Also, this is a school where homework is assigned before the first day of classes. Read your assignment sheets and try to get your work done at a leisurely pace. Don’t wait until Sunday night and then try to do it all at once. You won’t make it. As I said before, any questions or problems, come and see me or a sixth former. That’s enough for the first night. Get to know each other. Make friends. Walk around the campus tomorrow and Sunday. Take advantage of the athletic facilities.”

Marianne wasn’t sure whether to immediately head back to her room or say hello to the girl from Atherton. She initially decided to head for her room, but on the stairs she looked back at the common room and saw that Felicity was looking at her. Marianne made a slight motion with her head to tell Felicity to follow her. In Marianne’s room Felicity asked, “I’m sorry to be so direct, but are you the girl who was the star basketball player at Monroe last year?”

“I do have to confess to that.”

“Gee, it’s a shame about your arm. Will you be able to play this winter?”

“I should. The cast comes off Monday. I’ll have the fall term to get ready.”

“Why did you come here?”

“Why not? It’s supposed to be a good school.”

“Monroe is supposed to be the best public school in California.”

“I’ve heard that, too,” said Marianne with a smile. “Atherton is a nice town. I would think they have a good high school.”

“My mother went to Faith Martin. She convinced me to come.”

“Let me just say that I wanted a change. I had some personal problems. I would like to ask you not to tell anyone what you know about me. Let the rest of the school figure it out when basketball season begins. How do you know about me?”

“My brother saw one of your games and could talk about nothing else at dinner that night. He said you were the best high school player he had ever seen, boy or girl, and was amazed you were only a sophomore. After that I followed you in the newspaper. Monroe always won, and you were always the top scorer.”

“It’s nice to know that I had a fan in Atherton.”

“My brother is not much of an athlete. I’m not sure why he was at one of your games, but you certainly made an impression on him. He will be most impressed when I tell him that I know you.”

“If you could hold off on doing that for a while, I would be most grateful.”

“Why?”

“Nobody in the Bay Area knows where I have gone, and I would like to keep it that way for now.”

“O.K. Top secret. Mum’s the word. I guess there is more to the story than you are going to tell me.”

“There is. I’ll tell you someday, but for now I am just trying to lie low and mind my own business.”

“You make it sound like you are on the run from the law.”

“I know. It’s not quite that bad, but it is a bit of a mess. I’m just here to try to be a normal school girl and get myself ready for college, if I go to college. Just treat me like I’m nothing special.”

“Got it. You’re nothing special.”

“I’ll tell you something else about me, but keep this one to yourself for another few weeks, as well. I play the piano better than I play basketball. I am sure good basketball gets more respect than good piano around here, but the piano is my real passion. I’m not sure how long it will be before I can begin using my right hand again, so if I am wandering around looking lost that is the real reason.”

“Fascinating.”

“Enough about me. What are your interests?”

“I play tennis. Where I want to go to college or what I want to do after college, I don’t know. Marry Mr. Right, I suppose. That is what my time here is supposed to help me figure out. My mother thought Faith Martin was a wonderful school. But of course that was a different time, different place and no boys. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the merger. She thinks girls learn more when there are no boys around.”

“A lot of people think that. It may be true, but I have to wonder. Things one really wants to know seem to stick in the brain no matter who is around. Things that don’t seem so important seem to fall away after a time, if they make their way into one’s brain in the first place.”

The two girls talked about their mothers, fathers and brothers. They compared living in the city with living in a suburb. They wondered if the school work would be harder at Waterman than at the schools they had come from. After an hour, Felicity excused herself and went up to her room on the third floor. Marianne changed to her pajamas and went off to find Miss Vincent to say goodnight. All the girls who lived on the second floor were shaking hands with her, and Marianne remembered too well the expression on Miss Earnshaw’s face that morning. I am not offering my damaged right arm in its L-shaped plaster case, she thought. “Goodnight, Miss Vincent,” said Marianne brightly with her left hand stuck out. “Goodnight, Marianne,” replied Miss Vincent taking Marianne’s left hand with her own left. That is an improvement, thought Marianne.

In her room she sat in the easy chair and looked out the window that faced south. Next to the window she could see the moon rising in the east and the main part of the campus to the west. In the chair, a few feet back from the window, she looked into darkness in the south. Two lonely lights burned softly over the entrances to the Old Gym and the Williams Ex. The darkness covered the athletic fields and the hockey rinks and the creek that bisected them and flowed into the pond next to Marsh House. Up the hill to the east were more athletic fields that she had not seen yet. The school owned over 400 acres.

She remembered the remark about Wittgenstein she made that morning to Aunt Judy. She thought of her stoic one-handed father. Now she knew what it was like to live with only one usable hand, and yes it was doable, but it still had its everyday moments of nuisance and help that needed to be asked for. These weeks of left handed piano, a little bit of left-handed basketball on an empty court, and no golf at all had made her realize that the piano was the important thing. The ability to play great music was, she now knew for certain, the greatest gift that could have been bestowed on her. Life was incomplete without it. In leaving San Francisco she had brought to an end her relationship with the only piano teacher she had ever had. Would the teacher here be any help? She hoped he would not be a hindrance.

And what was up with this place? The new girls all seemed very nice, and Michael, the science student, seemed straightforward and friendly, but she had met the dean who came across like a ham actor, a teacher who had looked at her as if she had committed a gross faux pas when she offered her left hand even though the right was obviously hindered, and a sixth form student who assumed she was some flighty girl who played piano because that is what girls from good families did in 1890. Try not to turn into one of these self-important types, she thought. Be yourself. Be normal.

She went to bed, rolled onto her left side and wondered how long it would be before she would dare to go to sleep on her right side



Chapter II



After breakfast the next morning Marianne took the time from eight to nine to have a walk around the athletic fields. A hundred yards south of Marsh House Maple Street bisected the campus. The varsity football field lay directly across the street. The Old Gym stood beyond the south end of the field. Fields for football practice in the fall and baseball in the spring were on its far side. On the north side of the creek were wooden pilings for two natural hockey rinks in the winter, a football field, and an artificial hockey rink. The Williams Ex building sat to their east at the base of the hill. Up the hill was a quarter mile oval track, the interior of which held the varsity soccer field in the fall and the field events in the spring. To the south were more fields for soccer and field hockey which would be converted to baseball and softball in the spring. “Everyone should be well exercised around here,” she thought.

Marianne returned to her room shortly after nine. She wanted to be there to greet her roommate when she arrived. She looked at the assignment sheet and saw that she was supposed to read the first nine pages of a history text. She opened the book and began to read. After three pages she realized that she was not absorbing much about Bradford and the Pilgrims, and returned to the beginning and began again. After forty minutes she had completed the nine pages to her satisfaction. “Time for the real stuff,” she thought. She pulled out her bag of sheet music and took out Beethoven’s Thirty-first Sonata and began to read. After a few minutes a knock sounded, and Felicity entered after hearing Marianne’s, “Come in.”

“Is that what you do for fun?” pointing at the music on Marianne’s lap.

“Exactly. It’s a different world.”

“Do you hear the notes as you read them?”

“I do.”

“Amazing! I started to play the violin when I was in the fifth grade, but I wasn’t very good, so I gave it up after a year. Do you play any other instruments?”

“I learned how to play the violin and the clarinet, but I don’t really play them. I just wanted to get an idea of the difficulty of other instruments.”

At that point the door opened and in walked a brown haired girl and her mother. Marianne stood up. “Hello, I am Penny Scott and this is my mother, Joan Scott. I assume only one of you is my roommate, and they haven’t crammed three of us into this space.”

“I am your roommate: Marianne Fallbrook. This is Felicity Elliot who is upstairs. We are two Californians getting to know each other before we charge out to take on Connecticut.”

“Good for you. You never know what hidden dangers lurk around this place.”

“Oh, Penny! Don’t start that with the new girls,” said her mother.

“Mother went to Faith Martin and loved it. I went to Faith Martin and loathed it. Merging with Waterman improved it a little.”

“Oh, Penny. Stop! What will these girls think?”

“My mother went to Faith Martin. She was Grace Mortenson, class of 1947.”

“Thank you for changing the subject, Felicity. I was class of ’45. I have to admit that my memory of the girls in the forms behind have faded over the years. Which form did she begin in?”

“Third.”

“Well then, I should remember, but I have to be honest and confess that I do not.”

“Perfectly understandable. It was a long time ago.”

“Yes, and I have to tell you that most of us in those war years loved our school. On the weekends we were allowed to work as volunteers at the local hospital. It taught us to take responsibility out in the real world, and helped us to grow up quickly. It was so unfortunate that Penny got off to a bad start in the third form, but that is all behind her now.”

“Maybe,” said Penny.

“Please think positive, dear.”

“Yes, mother. I’ll give it the old Norman Vincent Peale try.”

Her mother looked at her with an expression that combined pity with mild disapproval. Penny looked back with teenage defiance. “Can I help you bring anything up from your car?” asked Felicity.

“Yes, let’s go get the rest,” said Penny.

All four of them went down to a Ford station wagon and brought up the rest of Penny’s luggage. Back in the room Marianne said, “Felicity and I will take a little walk while you two say your good-byes.”

“My goodness, are we that bad?” asked Mrs. Scott.

“No, not at all. I just thought maybe you needed a few minutes of privacy.”

“We just had two hours of privacy on the drive from Boston. I know how Penny feels. She knows what I think. I’m happy she has such a thoughtful roommate. I also understand that you are a good athlete.”

Marianne looked dumbstruck for a moment and then said, “Yes, I am.”

“What sports do you play?”

“Basketball and golf.”

“Why did you come here?”

“I thought I needed a change.”

“Did you come here with the idea of going to an eastern college?”

“I’ve never really thought much about it. My father went to Stanford, and I’ve always thought I could go there if I wanted to.”

“That’s fine. They say Stanford is just as good as Harvard and Yale.”

“Californians think it is even better.” Marianne smiled at her little joke, but Mrs. Scott showed no recognition of the implied humor.

“Well, it’s nice to meet a sensible girl from San Francisco. We read so much about hippies and people smoking marijuana and taking LSD that it is easy to think everyone’s lost their mind out there.”

“The drugs are there for those who want them. But it is calming down now. The riots of 1968 turned Haight Street into a dump, and a lot of the hippies went back to wherever they came from.”

“You are a very sensible girl.”

“Don’t be so nosy, mother. You’ve interrogated Marianne enough.”

“Yes, yes. I’m sorry. I asked Miss Stiles who would be rooming with Penny and she told me a girl from San Francisco who was a good athlete. I embarrass my daughter sometimes, but if I didn’t, I would never find out anything.” The three girls looked at each other and tried to suppress smiles.

“I can see the conspiracy of youth is beginning, so I’ll be on my way. I hope you like the school, Marianne. It has a lot of good points, and it does prepare its students for college.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Scott.”

“I’ll see you in four weeks, Penny.” Mrs. Scott said good-bye to Marianne and Felicity and was gone.

The three looked at each other in silence for a few seconds. “I suppose it looks like my mother and I have a strained relationship. We don’t really. It’s just that she loves Faith Martin based on close to thirty years ago, and I don’t, based on the present. But please don’t make my unhappiness your own. Some girls are very happy here. Study hard, enjoy your sports, join a club or two, find a boyfriend. You may have a great time.”

“I think I’ll take off and let you two get to know each other,” said Felicity. “I’ll see if I can find a tennis partner.”

“See you later,” said Marianne as Felicity closed the door behind her.

“Did I scare her away?”

“I don’t think so.”

“When I arrived at the old campus two years ago, my head was full of my mother’s stories about what a wonderful place it was. She was full of stories of the girls all pulling together and doing their little bit to keep the country going during the war years. I thought I was coming to a place where everyone would be friendly and encouraging and living happily. That was certainly not true in my case, and I have never gotten the feeling that the majority of the girls were particularly happy here. The boys aren’t either, but that’s another story.

“Faith Martin used to have a fairly strict dress code. To meals, chapel and classes the girls had to wear a white blouse buttoned all the way up to the top button, and a skirt of either navy blue or the Martin plaid that ended at least an inch below the knee. Third through fifth formers had to wear white socks. Sixth formers wore white socks or beige nylons. Third through fifth formers always wore flat shoes. Lace-up brown oxfords were mandatory Monday through Friday; something more stylish but still flat was allowed on weekends. Sixth formers could wear heels on Saturday night and to Sunday chapel and dinner. Allowed jewelry was one ring on a ring finger, small gold or pearl ear rings, and a cameo, or something small on a gold chain around the neck. When I arrived two years ago, that was pretty much dropped. Then we only had to wear the uniform for Sunday chapel and dinner, and even that was dropped when we moved to Waterman. Dresses, slacks, colored blouses, colored socks and nylons were allowed for all forms. Anyone could wear heels on Saturday night and Sunday. They still didn’t allow mini-skirts, but if your skirt ended an inch above your knee instead of an inch below, nothing was said.

“My mother convinced me to stick with the old uniform. ‘You know what you are going to wear every day. It will be one less thing to worry about,’ she said. So I showed up with two blue skirts, one plaid skirt, a dozen white blouses and not much else. I had a light green summer dress, totally unsuitable as the fall got colder, and a pair of blue jeans and plaid wool shirt in case I ever took a walk in the country or did any dirty work crew jobs. The first day of class I was the only one in the whole school wearing white blouse, plaid skirt, and white socks and oxfords. The second day I wore my green dress. The third day I was the only one in the whole place in a blue skirt. I called my mother and said, ‘I need some more clothes.’ ‘We will get you some when you come home for Thanksgiving,’ was her reply. That whole first term I was wearing the uniform six days a week and the dress one day a week. Every girl in the school was either laughing at me or feeling sorry for me. And the two worst offenders were a couple of girls named Ruth Larkin and Jennifer Sloane. They lived on the same floor of the same house as I did, and they formed a little clique from which I was excluded. They really are a nasty pair. Anything I said or did was grist for a snide remark. By the end of the year, I wanted nothing more to do with Faith Martin. But with the change of campus, a much larger school with boys, it was bound to be different, and mother convinced me to try it for another year.”

“How about this year?”

”I decided this place was my destiny, so I am going to let it all play out."

“On the more basic level, when I arrived yesterday, I claimed the bed by the window and put my things in the nearest dresser and closet. If you do not like what is left, we can change around. Everything here is new to me. I don’t really have any preferences yet.”

“Don’t worry. I’m fine. I am actually glad that you took the bed near the window. The center of the room tends to feel a bit warmer on a winter’s night. The cold seeps through the walls and under the windows. And sit in the easy chair anytime you wish. First come, first served.”

“Thanks.”

At that moment Penny heard some talking in the hall. She opened the door, saw a girl and her mother carrying luggage, and closed the door quietly. “That was Ruth Larkin. It looks like she will be down the hall. Another great year begins.” Penny looked out the window for a few moments and then said, “I don’t want to be too negative. There are good points. Science teaching is good for the most part. There are AP classes in biology, physics and chemistry. The food is good for a school. The athletic facilities are great. There are lots of extra-curricular clubs. The boys behave fairly well around us most of the time. They are very glad to have girls here. The downside is living with and putting up with some of the other girls, and a few of the teachers are just old lunkheads. A couple of the younger ones aren’t the greatest either, but once you are here you can request your teachers for the coming year so the new students are the ones who get stuck with the really bad ones for the most part.”


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