Jacynta sat in a corner of the room and looked round at the girls having fun around her. It was her second night at the Chalet School and she was completely confused. She had always wanted to some to the Chalet School but this was not what she had expected. She had begged to be allowed to attend from the moment she had realised that the Chalet School actually existed as she had read her mum’s collection of the books from an early age and thought it sounded like the ideal school.
Then about two years ago when she was nearly fourteen she had spotted an article about the Chalet School in a newspaper and at the bottom there had been a website which she had quickly typed into her laptop. She had spent hours looking at the site and the photographs of happy girls around a lake in Austria, climbing mountains in Switzerland and of girls swimming in the sea. She clicked on a link and arranged for a brochure to be sent to their house.
She came home one day to find her mum standing in the kitchen with the brochure in her hand. “No way are you going here,” she had said as soon as Jacynta had walked in the door. “We can’t afford this.”
“But Mum,” said Jacynta with a whine in her voice. “Think of all the opportunities a place like this would offer. And look, it looks just like the books.”
Her mum’s expression had softened as she looked at the pictures carefully. “I really loved those books and this looks just like I had imagined it. Look Jacynta love, I really would like for you to have the opportunity but there is no way this is going to happen.”
Jacynta had stomped off to her room and had slammed the door as she entered. When her father had come home she had tried talking to him but it was obvious that he had been prewarned by her mother and he had said “Not going to happen, so don't even ask,” as seen as he had come through the door
Jacynta had spent the next couple of weeks in a complete state of rebellion. She wasn’t spoilt by any means but she had had her heart sent on going to this school. She liked the school she was at now but it was so ordinary. Nothing exciting ever seemed to happen. Her closest friend had left at the end of the previous year and she didn’t fit in as well with the others. So Jacynta had started a major sulk. She slammed every door that she needed to shut and walked round with her IPod in ignoring everything her parents had to say.
Her parents had grounded her. She had to come straight home from school every day and was only allowed to go out for netball practice. Then they had banned her from using the computer when they found her looking at the website for the school over and over again. After the first week her teachers called home, as they were concerned about her changed attitude at school.
By the third week Jacynta was thoroughly miserable. She had never been in so much trouble before. She had been kicked out of netball practice the previous night for arguing with her coach, she seemed to be spending most of her lunch breaks in detention and no one was talking to her as she had practically ignored everyone round her. Her mother had talked to the school counsellor but when Jacynta had been called in to talk to her she had refused to say anything.
The atmosphere at home was horrible. Her parents attempted to talk to her but everyone just ended up yelling at each other. She had even heard her parents arguing loudly when they thought she wasn't around. Her mother wanted to try and send her somehow as she hated seeing her so unhappy but her father had said that with her present attitude she didn’t deserve anything and anyway they simply couldn’t afford the fees.
It was just after this that Jacynta had come home from school early, having decided to skip her last class, that as she was sneaking into the house she had seen her mum in the kitchen crying. Jacynta had rarely seen her mum crying. The last time had been when they had gone to her grandmother’s funeral the previous year. She suddenly realised that not only was she miserable but that she was making everyone around her miserable.
It had taken a lot of work to make up for her sulks. Her parents were the most forgiving and were happy to have their happy daughter back but she had so much school work to make up and the kids at both school and netball took longer to start talking to her again. Jacynta had banned herself from looking up the school website anymore and put all her Chalet books away.
About 6 month later posters advertising exchange programs had gone up around her school overnight and presenters came to talk to them about the benefits of being an exchange student. Jacynta thought it all sounded very exciting but knew that her parents couldn’t afford it and also thought there was no way that she would ever be allowed to go after her performance earlier in the year. Many people talked about applying for the different programs and for a couple of weeks all talk seemed to revolve about going to study overseas with students weighing up the merits of different countries.
Jacynta tried to ignore it as much as possible but her ears had pricked up when she heard two girls talking about a school in Switzerland. They were standing in front of a small poster and commenting on how although how beautiful the scenery looked the uniform was ugly. When they moved away Jacynta looked at the poster. The pictures of the girls wearing blue uniforms looked very familiar. It was for the Chalet School and they were offering full scholarships.
Jacynta had walked home slowly that day wondering whether she should even try to bring up the topic with her parents. She was so deep in thought that she just waved acknowledgement to her mother as she walked in the door and headed straight to her room where she lay on her bed. She hadn't even heard her mother come into the room.
“Cyn,” her mum had said and Jacynta had sat up with a start.
“Oh hi mum. Did you say something?”
“Cyn darling I’m so proud of you”
Jacynta just stared at her mother totally confused. Her mum had laughed at the look on her face and her given her a piece of paper to read.
Dear Mr and Mrs Fielding,
We are delighted to offer your daughter Jacynta a full scholarship to the Chalet School, Swiss Campus, for the next school year.
There was more but after this reading this she had looked up at her mother who had laughed again.
“But I didn’t apply for this,” she had said.
“No but your father and I saw an ad in the local paper a couple of months ago. We talked it over and although your father was initially reluctant after some investigating, we forwarded your name, school reports and some references from your teachers to the Chalet School. They wrote back saying they were interested and that we would hear from them when they had made a decision,” her mother had replied.
“But what about interviews and such? I thought anyone who wanted to be an exchange student would have to go through interviews.”
“If you had kept reading you would have seen that they prefer not to interview students. They instead send out some of their staff to observe the prospective students in their own schools. They believe this allows them to know what a student is really like rather than them being prepped for an interview. Apparently the person who observed you posed as a relief teacher for the day and that she reported that you worked hard and was polite even though the others in your class played up for her,” her mum had said with a note of pride in her voice.
Jacynta had jumped up off her bed and squealing had given her mother a hug. The she had stepped back and asked in a trembling voice, “So I am really going to the Chalet School?”
“What about Daddy? After what I was like earlier in the year he probably thinks I don’t deserve to go”
“At first he would even look at the ad. But as I said before he went off and did some research, spoke to some people who all highly recommended the school and came to the conclusion that this was an opportunity that was too good to be missed.”
When her father came home Jacynta had greeted at the door with a massive grin on her face and more sequels of delight.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are the best dad in the whole wide world.”
“Just remember that when I tell you off for something,” he said smiling down at the obvious happiness of his daughter.
That night they had talked about what going away was going to mean. Jacynta was warned that she had to achieve good grades for the rest of the year or they would pull her out. She was told that her father had found out that the school was old fashioned in many ways but that both her mother and father thought this was a good thing.
Fearful of losing her place at the school, Jacynta had worked hard in her last few months at school. She had ordered some language CD’s from Amazon to try and learn as much French and German as she could before she went and pestered her French teacher to help her at lunchtime.
They were asked to send her measurements over to Switzerland and were told that she would be issued with her uniform once she arrived. Jacynta wasn’t happy when she was told that she wasn’t allowed to take her IPod or her mobile phone and whinged to her mother about it.
“Well you don’t have to go,” was always her mother’s response.
A couple of days before Jacynta was due to leave, she had come down with a big cold. Her mother rung the school and talked to one of the staff and had explained the situation. A few phone calls later and everything had been arranged. The school did not want her to start ill and also did not want her to spread her cold amongst other students. Jacynta could fly over when she was better and would be met by one of the staff.
After the last phone call her mother had looked at her strangely. “I spoke to someone different today. Apparently all week the person I have been talking to is the assistant secretary, but today the person I spoke to is the head of office staff and her name is Rosalie.”
“Rosalie. You have to be joking. The Chalet School actually has someone called Rosalie working in the office,’ laughed Jacynta even as she was having a coughing fit. “Next you’ll be telling me that Hilda Annersley is head mistress.”
“Come on Cyn. That was in the books. This is real life. The school is run by a large corporation and was established by someone who loved the books. All correspondence has come from the Chalet School Corporation and was signed by Karen Williams. She is also the women who your father and I met after we sent in your application.”
At the airport Jacynta had hugged her parents and boarded her flight to Switzerland. Her parents had looked sad and she herself had shed a tear or two, as she had never been away from them for this long before. Her mother had told her that she wished that she could come too.
It was after she had disembarked and gone through customs that the strangeness had begun. A small woman holding a sign with her name on it had met her. Jacynta, suddenly feeling shy, had approached her slowly. The woman had smiled at her and then said, “You must be Jacynta Fielding. Welcome to Switzerland and the Chalet School. My name is Kathie Ferrars and I am going to be your form teacher.”
This is the first of the Jacynta stories.