“It’s not fair sending me here,” said Izzy. “I would rather stay at the local school, even if the staff did tell lies abut me.”
She was in the process of being shown round her new boarding school by the head girl, who pointed out the portraits along the corridor, generations of stern bluestocking Headmistresses and grim-faced formally dressed men. Just one stood out as different.
“That’s the wife of the Victorian Founder, William Acklam,” said the girl. “There are stories about her strange behaviour, and it didn’t end well. That’s why the roof space is out of bounds. However, he insisted the portrait should stay up for posterity.”
Seeing the painting gave Izzy an idea.
Thereafter, every time she passed it she checked to make sure someone was watching, then swung her eyes upwards until only the whites were visible, and twitched as if from involuntary muscle spasm. At meal times she often sat looking disoriented for a while and then interrupted conversation with an outburst in an eerie tone such as “Mr Acklam, please, no.” Night time saw no let up from her pretence as sometimes she sat up in bed and screamed, or was found on the landing by the House Matron, whom she stared at wordlessly with an empty expression. One day, after being helped out of double maths, where she’d faked a swoon and asked for her fan, she found the hiding place of the key to the roof door. It was the events that followed that predictably achieved her goal of getting expelled.
As she was marched off the premises by her parents, she had a sense of triumphalism, soon dispelled when they threatened to send her straight to another boarding school. Despite her pleas, they soon had her bags re-packed and accompanied her to Kings Cross station to travel to a new nightmare.
It was as Izzy began to give up hope that she looked over at the sign and noticed it said Platform 9 and three quarters. With a smile, and a wink at mum and dad, she boarded the train.