The rest of that first week, was almost the same, with every new teacher questioning my hair.
But what the highlight was when I started to talk with a girl named Beatrice Northon, she approached me, around noon of the second day.
— Hi! I'm Beatrice –, she said with a mischievous smile –, I know we were rude yesterday about your hair color and all that, it's not common to see someone with red hair, and with a color like yours, usually its more bright, like orange, but yours its darker. So, we were surprised about it.
— It's alright – I said, relieved to know they were not going to keep mocking me for it.
— So, Jane, do you want to eat with us at mealtime? We don't want you to be alone, it's not right that specially you stay alone on a faraway corner.
And with that I started to get along with them. When we were at the classes, they would send me small smiles, and by the meals, they would wait for me to seat with them. So, not getting to get along with my cousins was not that bad now, since I had got to get some friends of my own.
The week passed like that, and Friday evening I went back to the Mansion excited to get back on Sunday and be again with Beatrice and the other girls.
. . . . .
I got to see my adoptive father on every meal that weekend, but seeing him a bit tired, not so spirited like always, and with my situation better at the Academy, I decided not to tell him about the first day incident, and only talk about the good thing that happened after.
He got really happy to know I was doing fine. I was not having that much trouble to get with every class, thanks to my tutors from the last three years, although I could not be called the best of the class I was not staying behind my peers who studied almost from the day they were born.
When the Saturday night approached, I started to remember Mrs. Smith request to fix my hair color. But I could not get to know how to talk about it with father. He was really resourceful, but I didn't know if he could help me with something like my hair color.
While I tried to get myself to expose it to him, Grandmother saw me and guessed there was something I needed.
— What is it that you are still awake at such an hour? –, she said while finally getting before me –, Don't you know it's improper for you to be still around, and furthermore, before a man's door, even if it's your adoptive father?
— I'm sorry, Grandmother, but I really need help with something from the Academy.
— Just tell me, although it is already late, you should have said so earlier.
— I got some issues with my hair –, I said while lowering my eyes.
— Look at me when we are speaking –, she said making me rise my head at once.
With still some nerve from the memories of Mrs. Smith, and the other teachers, I explained to her about them wanting me to tint my hair, even when I told them it was my natural color. And how awkward had been with them afterwards, specially being like, the only girl with such a hair.
— Ah, I knew something like that could happen. But we cannot fix something like that. Just go back to your room and attend your classes properly. Good night.
And just like that I was dismissed.
I could not do anything but follow her orders, at 11 years old, like when I just arrived here, I didn't have the strength to defy or disobey her. So I went back to my room, since I really needed to wake up early to be on time back to the Academy.
. . . . .Next morning I woke up early and went to take breakfast but my adoptive father was nowhere to be seen.
— Edward went out much earlier –, I heard Grandmother from the right side of the table –, he had a business trip to New York, so he will not be coming back the following weeks. Take a seat and eat, don't just keep standing by the door, it's unsightly – She continued to cut and portion her meal –. You need to learn to not depend that much on him, after all, he is not your real father, and he has lots of matters to attend.
I took some bread and apple butter, along with some fruit to eat while listening to Grandmother's advice. Not saying a thing, I had already learned when she was imparting pieces of her wisdom, it was not wise of you to interrupt her, if you didn't want to get scolded and another advice about not interrupting when someone talks.
— Do not provoke any more issues with the teachers and Sisters from the Academy. Behave yourself, and remember everything you do, it is not about yourself but the Rochester's name and pride. Do not embarrass yourself, if not for you, for your adoptive father's sake.
And so, I went back to the academy.
The more the carriage approached the Academy's property, my heart raced more and more. I was somewhat fearful for what the teachers would say to me when they saw me still with my hair color, but at the same time I was consoled by the thought of seeing my friends again.
I was even thinking that maybe by the next year I could even share room with Beatrice, and my heart happily jumped at the idea of it.
Finally, the carriage stopped, and I got down with more confidence than last week. Grandmother had promised that she would try to talk with the Principal about the issue with my hair, so I tried to grab that to keep myself thinking about the positive things.
Again, we were starting at Mrs. Smith class. I took my seat and waited for everyone else to get inside, I was the first one to get in the classroom. Beatrice's place was in the front, at the first row on the right, so I knew I could not talk to her until later, so I just sat down there, waiting for the class to start.
About five minutes before classes started, I saw Mother Quiney approach the classroom, along with Mrs. Smith. They looked my way and then, Mrs. Smith called my name to go outside. As I walked out of the room, I could feel again the strange gazes from my classmates.
— Miss Rochester. Were you not advised about fixing your hair color? Why are you still with such vulgar hair? –, said the Principal with a stern voice.
— I apologize, Mother Quiney, but I cannot do anything, as I have told Mrs. Smith, this is my natural hair, I was born like this –, I responded while controlling the tremble on my voice.
— This cannot be. Such a poor excuse to contravene school regulations. You will get an advisor notification; we hope by next week you have fixed it.
— But I really can't do…
— Do not argue with my, Miss, even if you come from such a respectable family, that should be an even higher reason for you to behave and not do such vulgar things like alter your hair in such an unsightly manner. Your family will know about your poor attitude.
And with that she left.
I was urged to get back inside the classroom, and I scurried my way back to my seat. Sitting down I glanced upon Beatrice, but she was looking to the blackboard and didn't notice me looking at her.
. . . . .
When mealtime came, I searched for Beatrice and the other girls to go to the dining room, but they already left. I tried to catch up to them but they were already seated. So I approached them with a smile on my face trying to put behind the events from the morning.
— Ugh, here she comes. Do we really need to get along with her?
I got to hear as I got close to them. It was Leticia's voice. Last week I didn't talk that much with here, but she was part of Beatrice group of friends, and I didn't have any issue with her.
I tried to ignore and keep my smile when I got with them.
— Hi, Beatrice, everyone. I could not talk with you all morning, you were really fast to come here –, I said as I seated myself and started to eat.
But just as I was going to bite my first bit, they cleaned themselves, and got up from, the table.
— We have already finished. We were getting out –, when I looked at their trays, they had still enough food to know they have not finished –, let us go girls.
I could not understand, but it made me feel awkward again. And now, seated by the middle of the table, alone, I could start to hear some voices.
"Did your hear? My cousin said she heard she is not really a Rochester", "That's right, I heard Lucille say herself she was adopted from a rural place", "No wonder she goes with such color on her hair, now I understand it", "Shh, Lucille and Hellen said their family didn't want for everyone to know about it", "Well, too late, every high class family now got to know about it".
With scorching eyes, I willed myself to eat and swallow my food.
I really didn't want to go to the next classes. I was seriously considering to run away. But again, my adoptive father face, and his trust in me kept me from doing anything like that.
I finished my food and got out to the Park, but even there I could feel their gazes, and I got to believe everyone was talking about me, and not just about my hair color, but my origin.
Again, I have never felt shame about where I came, my adoptive father never put any importance, and he always told me I was her daughter, and nothing else mattered. But when you get in front of so many people shaming you for something, even if you do not feel shame, they can make you feel that way.
And this moment, they made me feel like I should be ashamed of "pretending" to be a Rochester, when I was not.
. . . . .
The rest of the week passed by with me not noticing much more, I tried to keep myself calm, paying all my attention to the classes, distracting myself with walks whenever was possible, by the end of the Park where not so many girls would go or just going to my room to keep away and let my feeling out to not drown in them.
And so. The next weekend came. But I could not get any excitement, the only one who showed to be really glad about my presence was far away in New York, while I was stuck in Philadelphia.
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