Author's Note: This story is a rework of Lost Among The Wealthy. This story is one I work on as a hobby, so updates will be sporadic. Thank you.
Chapter One: Interview
May 11th, 2012
It was official. Scarlet Stanwood was now Scarlet Delacrow. Her new driver's permit had arrived in the mail. As she stared at the plastic card in her recently manicured hands, her lips spread into a small smile. Her new name was the marker of a proud memory. Delacrow had been her mother's maiden name.
"Scarlet, Dear, it's time to go," Mrs. Alcott called from the top of the stairs. She never came into the hallway, Scarlet had noticed early on.
The young girl gave herself one last look in the mirror. The fashionable and, hopefully, professional bun she'd wrangled her blond hair into was still intact and her button up blouse had remained unwrinkled. Nodding her approval, she picked up her purse from the dresser and stuffed her ID in it on her way out of the room. She met Mrs. Alcott in the foyer—Mr. Alcott was away on business—and they got into the waiting car.
On the drive to Woodwen Academy, Scarlet spent much of her time stealing glances at her fellow passenger. Mrs. Alcott was a small woman in her mid-forties. She'd inherited a great deal of money last year from her late father and used it to host charity auctions, the proceeds for which were donated to a charity dedicated to the care of children. Mrs. Alcott's passion for children was genuine.
They arrived at the parking garage of their destination faster than Scarlet had expected. The driver stopped next to a raised sidewalk. Mrs. Alcott got out of the car. Scarlet followed. They went through an archway that led to what looked like a railway station.
"We're taking a train?" Scarlet asked, as they waited on the platform.
"A trolley, Dear," Mrs. Alcott said. She had a strong habit of calling everyone "Dear."
The trolley arrived within a minute and the two boarded. Scarlet took the seat nearest the door.
"Back straight, Scarlet, Dear. Remember, appearances are everything to these people," the older woman reminded.
Scarlet straightened and crossed her ankles. Since the beginning of her arrangement with the Alcotts she'd worked hard to meet their expectations, but she struggled with the correction of her posture. Years of habit were not easily broken in a matter of months.
Upon exiting the trolley, a tall, thin man was waiting on the platform. "Hello again, Sylvia. Is your husband not accompanying you today?" he asked. He was a clean-shaven man with graying blond hair, combed to the right. Wrinkles had formed at the corners of his eyes, but otherwise he looked young, like he'd taken care of himself well.
"No, not today, William. This is my daughter, Scarlet Delacrow." She gestured to the young girl. "And, Scarlet, Dear, this is William Clyde. He's a teacher here at Woodwen Academy."
Scarlet felt unsure of herself here, but she maintained a polite smile. She put out a hand and he shook it firmly twice. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Yes, it is, Miss Delacrow. I'm always eager to meet a prospective student," he said, releasing her hand. "If you'll come with me."
The two guests signed in at the security office, then Mr. Clyde led them through a hall to the other side of the main building and out into the warm sun. As they walked along the paved path, they passed two large dorm buildings to the right.
The path they were following clung close to the buildings, creating a rectangle in the middle with branches stretching out towards other areas. Inside the rectangle, luscious green grass grew. Trees had been planted in a symmetrical pattern, creating patches of shade. Splashes of color had been added in the form of flowerbeds, each with a bench directly next to them.
In one swift motion, the teacher stretched out his left arm, then pulled his wrist close to his face to examine his watch. He nodded to himself, then straightened his suit sleeve.
They reached the library, and Scarlet sighed at the familiar scent. She adored books and spent much of her free time reading.
"If you do well in the interview, you'll have access to this library for the next two years," Mrs. Alcott said.
"Ah, a reader. What is it you like to read?" Mr. Clyde asked.
"Anything," she said without thinking. When the teacher raised his eyebrows at her, she explained further, "I read fiction mostly, but every two weeks I choose a non-fiction book in a subject I find interesting."
"What genre do you enjoy best?" he asked. His tone was casual, but something in his gray eyes hinted that he was serious about the topic.
"Either fantasy or mystery. I have trouble choosing between the two," she answered truthfully.
He nodded, then gestured to the stairs to lead them up. In this library, the spiral staircase led directly to the third floor. As she ascended the steps, Scarlet looked out and realized the second floor only spanned half of the building. There were steps going up to the second floor from the first, but there was no wall acting as a clear divider between the two. There was, however, a railing on the edge of the second floor, from which most of the first floor could be seen.
The lower floors left her view as she approached the top of the steps. On the third floor, there were a cluster of seats near a window, in which two women and two men sat. They stood when Mr. Clyde approached them.
"Sylvia, it's good to see you again. How is your husband?" The eldest man asked. His blue suit had a brown stain on the collar, Scarlet noticed.
"Marcus is well. He's in France at the moment and couldn't make it today. I hope that isn't a bother," Mrs. Alcott smiled sweetly.
"It's fine. He is a busy man," he said, looking to the side like he was thinking.
"Chairman, this is Scarlet Delacrow. She's here for the interview," Mr. Clyde said. "Scarlet, this is Simon Van Der Berg. The grandson of our academy's founder and the head of the Board of Trustees here."
Scarlet put her hand out for another handshake. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Sir. The campus is gorgeous."
"Thank you, Young Lady," he said, taking her hand. Instead of shaking her hand, he lifted it and twisted so that her wrist was visible. The chain bracelet she wore slid up her arm, leaving the horizontal scars on her wrist in plain view now.
Embarrassment raced through her, but she maintained her composure. He didn't say anything, just met her eyes. His brown irises were full of judgment. Feeling a wave of panic and need to explain she said, "Everyone has their troubles, Sir. I am proud to have overcome mine."
His expression changed to surprise and he nodded. "Alright, then. Sylvia, you may wait here." He released Scarlet's hand to gesture to the seats for Mrs. Alcott. "Miss Delacrow, if you'll follow me, we'll begin the interview."
Scarlet did so and he led her to a room with little furniture. A plain wooden chair was positioned in the center of the room for her, which she took. The board members all sat at a long table, facing her with Mr. Van Der Berg in the middle.
In the left corner, behind the table, stood a flag pole with the United States flag; in the right corner, the Pennsylvania state flag. Centered on the wall was a plaque with words "Integrity, Charity, Acuity" engraved into the metal.
"Miss Delacrow, today's interview is being conducted to assess your potential as a prospective student. Should this interview and your presentation go well, you will be attending Woodwen Academy starting this July. Do you understand all that I've said?" Mr. Van Der Berg asked.
"Yes, Sir," Scarlet answered.
"Good, then we shall begin," he said. "What school did you attend last?"
"Certon High School."
He leafed through her transcripts, which had been on the table already when they entered the room. "And where is that?"
He nodded and Scarlet couldn't help but wonder if he'd expected her to answer incorrectly.
"Do you plan on attending college in the future?" he asked.
"Yes, after graduating high school, I plan to attend Pennsylvania State University where I will earn a Bachelor's in English," Scarlet said.
"English?" the head chairman looked up at her.
"Yes, Sir. I have a strong interest in literature." She worked at maintaining proper posture; back straight, head up, ankles crossed, and hands resting in lap.
"And what are you going to accomplish with an English major?" One of the two women asked. She had a French accent, Scarlet noted.
"I will continue on to law school and earn a Juris Doctorate," the young girl answered.
"You want to be a lawyer? That's a big goal for someone so young." Mr. Clyde sounded impressed. Scarlet hoped he wasn't the only one.
The woman with the French accent gave Mr. Clyde a disapproving look, but said nothing.
"Would you say English is your favorite subject?" the third man asked. He looked to be in his late forties with thinning brown hair.
"Yes, I would," the young girl confirmed.
"And what is your least favorite?" The French-accented woman spoke again.
"Biology, I don't do well with the slimy side of science," Scarlet admitted.
Mr. Clyde smiled. The others, however, did not.
"As a person, what are your strengths?" Mr. Van Der Berg asked.
Scarlet considered this question for a moment and said, "When I set a goal for myself, I don't give up until I've achieved it."
"What are your weaknesses?" the head chairman asked.
She'd predicted this question and given it much thought, but she paused anyway. "I have a habit of focusing too much on the small details of a situation."
"Can you give us an example?" Mr. Clyde asked.
"Last year in English II the class was given an assignment to write a short story so that we might better understand the process. I did complete the assignment, but overall I spent more time researching than actually writing. My story was set during the Italian Renaissance and I was obsessed with being period accurate," she said.
"You expressed an affection for English. Are there any other languages that interest you?" Mr. Van Der Berg asked.
"Oui, Monsieur. Je parle français," she answered.
"Très bien, Mademoiselle," the French-accented woman said with approval.
Scarlet smiled, proud of herself.
"You learned this in school?" the third man asked.
"Yes, I've completed two years of French. When I realized that was all most public schools offered, I purchased a few of my favorite books in their French editions so I wouldn't forget what I'd learned. Since last February, I've begun teaching myself Spanish as well," she said.
"Why would you do that? You've already completed your foreign language requirement?" the head chairman asked.
"I love learning different languages and about the people that speak them." She gave an honest answer.
"And what do you expect to learn teaching yourself? I doubt you even know a word of Spanish," the third man laughed.
"Yo tomo la idioma muy serio." Scarlet spoke the words quickly, but was careful not to shout them. He'd annoyed her, but she knew that losing her composure would gain her nothing.
"Translation, please." Mr. Clyde looked to the French-speaking woman.
"I speak French. Not Spanish, William," the woman sighed.
"I said 'I take language very seriously,' and it's true. I do. Language is the gap between people. How can I expect to understand a person if I can't interpret their words?" Scarlet said with confidence.
"A strong point, Miss Delacrow," Mr. Van Der Berg said. He looked to the man that had doubted her language abilities and frowned. "Mr. Rickman, this is a formal interview. Conduct yourself accordingly."
"Formal interview? Those ended two months ago. She's here on the reputation of her adoptive father and his bank account," Mr. Rickman corrected.
In a calm voice, Mr. Van Der Berg said, "If you cannot behave in an appropriate manner, Mr. Rickman, you are free to leave."
Mr. Rickman didn't leave, but he did stop talking.
"Miss Delacrow, I'm sure you are aware that the circumstances of your admission process are unusual. Typically an applicant will have applied a year in advance, where as your application and personal essay weren't submitted until last month. That has left members of the board with a few concerns," the head chairman said.
"I understand, Sir, and, had I been aware that I would be adopted into a family that could provide me this opportunity, I would have followed standard procedure. However, my adoption into the Alcott family wasn't finalized until March of this year," Scarlet explained.
"Understood. Now, if there are no further questions," Mr. Van Der Berg paused to allow the others to speak. He was met with head shakes, so he continued, "it is time for a demonstration of your fine art skill."
The group moved to the auditorium on the second floor of the Main Building for the demonstration, which Mrs. Alcott was allowed to observe. When it was over, Scarlet was proud of herself. She felt she'd done well in the interview and she hadn't messed up her demonstration. Three weeks later she received a letter from the school.
She was accepted into Woodwen Academy.