General Fiction posted December 29, 2017 Chapters:  ...12 13 -14- 15... 


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Adele becoming Jenny

A chapter in the book Jenny Revised

Adele is dead

by antonieta




Background
Adele and Jenny are friends attending a school for wealthy girls. Adele becomes destitute when her father dies while Jenny is a rich heiress.
I went upstairs two steps at a time. The sooner I would be in the privacy of my room the better.

I locked the door and sat on my bed. My heart was racing, and my entire body was shaking as if I were having a fit. I ducked down and covered my head with my arms, but I wasn't able to calm down.

Jenny had drunk a glass of wine just before the accident, and although my legs were jerking badly I limped to the cupboard. I took a glass of wine, and for the first time I wished I had something stronger.

It was time to go to bed as the alarm clock showed two o'clock in the morning. I didn't even pull back the covers on my bed, I just lay down on the bedspread, hugging my pillow. I must have fallen asleep because someone woke me up, shaking me in a rather brusque manner. The black figure of Mme Neuville stood by my bed.

"It's time to wake up, Jenny," she said.

At once, the events from the previous night came back to me: Jenny falling off the roof and crashing down onto the asphalt of the Rue de Passy below. Now, I was Jenny and I had to announce to the other girls that Adele had died. It was not a nightmare. It was worse than that, it was a real nightmare. Should I tell the girls that Adele had committed suicide?

Mme Neuville must have read my thoughts.

"Hurry up," she hissed, "you have to get dressed before the girls wake up. You will have to explain to them what happened, and I thought about telling them that she committed suicide. After all, she was left destitute since her father passed away. But I think that would be too drastic. You'd better tell them the truth, that she fell off the roof trying to catch hold of a cigarette butt."

"Yes," I sighed, "but shouldn't you be with me, Madame? I don't think I can manage it by myself."

"Yes, you can. You shared the room with her, but I will be there some minutes later. Meanwhile, you will have to answer their questions, weeping and babbling while tears will be rolling down your face," she went on," you must show them you are Jenny, and you can't afford to make a 'faux pas'."

I got out of bed. My head ached and I shivered as if I had a fever.

"Sit over there," she said, pointing towards the vanity table, "I will start by doing your hair."

I obeyed her instruction. Looking in the mirror I got a shock when I noticed my swollen eyelids and the dark circles under my eyes.

It was five o'clock in the morning and I had only had three hours of sleep. The gong would sound at half past six, and the girls would assemble in the common room at seven o'clock before breakfast. Plenty of time for me to become Jenny. Would I be able to cope with it? Now, it was no more about poor Jenny. It was about me because I had to survive. I had no choice.

Mme Neuville dressed my hair in a similar style to Jenny's. It proved an arduous task though, since I couldn't stop my knees bouncing up and down. Yet, her steady hands managed to braid my hair before rolling it upwards towards the top of my head.

"Your hair is thicker and heavier than Jenny's," she commented, while fastening the roll with six or seven pins.

She walked all around me, inspecting the results of her hairdressing efforts.

"Perfect! Now, you are the real Jenny, and your hair shines like silk as did her hair."

Yes, the early sunrays that filled the room did show my fake golden hair shining like silk. But was I the real Jenny?

"Where did she keep her bandeaux?" She asked.

I opened a drawer from which Madame collected three velvet bandeaux of distinct colours. Then, she opened the wardrobe and glanced through Jenny's frocks, finally picking out one morning gown for me.

"Try this one," she said, showing me a high-waisted silk gown in a discreet light blue. "This colour will make your eyes bluer and disguise the green pigments."

She chose a bandeau in the same blue shade and fastened it in a bow around my hair.

"Voila!" she exclaimed and went on, "I have already spoken to Father Leopold, the funeral will take place tomorrow."

The thought of poor Jenny's funeral brought tears to my eyes once again.

"Try to compose yourself, now Jenny, and spare your tears for later when you will tell them about Adele's death," she scolded.

I was surprised because she had always been kind to me, but now her voice sounded brisk and even grim, thus I had no choice but to obey her.

"Now, I want you to repeat after me the exact words you should employ when telling the girls what happened," she urged.

I did what she asked, but somehow my French accent betrayed me, which exasperated Madame.

"Now, now," she said, trying to appease me," your English has always been excellent, just try to speak it with a slight American accent, and for goodness sake don't roll your r's."

"Jenny spoke with a sort of French accent because she had been living in Paris since her childhood," I protested.

"I know, I know," she agreed, "yet, only the French can roll their r's and remember no zees and dzees. I will give you some of my notes on how to avoid the usual traps when a French person speaks English."

Her forehead showed beads of perspiration. I knew precisely what she feared. What if things went wrong? Only the idea of it made me wish I could flee, but it was too late now. Then a thought flew into my mind.

"But, Madame, what about Jenny's relations? They would surely see that I am not her."

"Jenny had no relations except for an elderly great aunt who lives in America, and her mother and father are dead. As for Mrs. Sheffield, her stepmother, who will take you to London, she has never met Jenny," she said.

"I see," I mumbled. I knew about the great aunt, the one whom I looked like, according to Jenny.

"I'm sorry my dear, if I have been too harsh with you," she said, shifting her tone of voice into a softer one," but you see, I am just concerned about your wellbeing and one day you will thank me for it. The events of last night will just be like a bad dream that will be forgotten as time goes on. Just trust me and don't worry."

"Yes, Madame," I said meekly.

The gong sounded for the second time. It was seven o'clock in the morning.

"Are you ready?" Madame asked.

"Yes, Madame." I answered in a faint voice.

"Maybe, they already know about the accident, you know how bad news spreads fast," she speculated.
...............
Madame was right. Before I had even entered our common room, I eavesdropped and I heard how the girls were in turmoil.

"But what happened exactly?" It was Cathy's voice.

"I really don't know. It seems that Adele suffered an accident, and now she is in the hospital," answered another girl.

I stood behind the door glued to the spot and immobile. Who could have told them?

"How do you know?" Someone asked, and whose voice I could not identify.

"I heard Madame telephoning Father Leopold," she answered.

"Maybe she tried to commit suicide, poor girl. It seems that she was left destitute when her father died," commented Dominique.

"Who told you that?" asked Cathy who was probably outraged that she had missed such a valuable piece of information.

"Jenny did," said the girl.

So, Jenny had talked behind my back, although she had promised me she would keep her mouth shut. Well, it was time to enter the room and deliver the sad news, and put an end to the girls' wild speculations.

When I opened the door, several pairs of eyes stared at me, and I was suddenly surrounded by a horde of hysterical girls.

"Jenny, oh Jenny, what has happened?" the girls shouted, seemingly almost out of their minds.

"Adele fell off the roof," I stammered in a wavering voice. "She went out there because she wanted to pick up her cigarette butt."

I sat down, hoping I would stop shaking. I could not bear the silence that followed.

"Is she dead?" Dominique asked, breaking the silence.

"Is she at the hospital?" Greta, a Swedish girl, enquired.

I took a deep breath before answering her question.

"She...she died last night."

An ominous silence fell over the room, only interrupted by the girls' sobbing. I was bewildered as I didn't know I was so well-liked. I had always thought that those girls despised me, but how wrong I was. Cathy broke the silence.

"But weren't you with her in the room? You were well aware that Adele couldn't stand heights," she said reproachfully.

"I was not in the room," I said hesitatingly, while tears poured down my face, "after the party, I went to take a bath. I should never have left her alone. When I came into the room the window was open and Adele was not there. I went to close the window when...when..."

"How do you know she was smoking?" Cathy asked, cunningly.

"I smelled cigarette smoke," I answered, staring down at the floor. "I leapt over the window, but she was gone. It was too late. I then understood..."

I couldn't finish my sentence because I started to cry like a baby. Some girls clustered around me, trying to comfort me. But the more they showed their kind-heartedness the more I felt guilty. I could have saved Jenny if I had only pulled her back.

Then, Cathy spoke again.

"We'd better wait to see what Madame Neuville has to tell us."

She was right. Mme Neuville would explain Jenny's accident much better. But, where was Mme Neville? Why was she so late?



In order to understand this chapter it would be better to read the last two chapters. The story is set in 1914, some months before WW1.
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