A week passed, and then two. Every day Isabella rushed to get her homework done, only to find more chores waiting for her. She wanted desperately to tell her father, but by the time she was through with the work her stepmother invented for her, her father was closed away in his study, not to be disturbed.
She wondered if he noticed her absence.
One afternoon she did open her bedroom door a crack when her father came home, and felt a thrill of hope when he asked, “Where is Isabella?”
Her heart clenched and a knot formed in her throat when she heard her stepmother’s reply.
“I’ve been getting very disturbing reports from school about Isabella not paying attention, and failing her assignments. I’ve told her she must spend more time at her studies.”
Isabella held her breath, waiting for her father to scoff at the idea, but she heard only empty silence.
The next day after school Isabella was in no rush to get home. She lingered after the final bell, chatting with her friends until every last one of them had said goodbye. Finally she was forced to exit the building.
As she descended the front steps, she waved to the driver who stood holding the door open for her.
“Hi Hunter,” Isabella greeted him with a smile. “Sorry to keep you waiting. How are you today?”
“Just fine Miss White,” he answered, but he did not smile.
“Is something wrong?” Isabella asked. He never called her Miss White.
“No, no, everything’s fine,” he replied, a bit too quickly. “Let’s go now. We don’t want to keep your mother waiting.”
“Stepmother,” Isabella corrected.
“Yes, of course.”
Hunter closed the door behind her and walked to the driver’s side.
Isabella watched him closely, certain that she’d never seen him look so sad.
As they pulled away, she rested her head against the seat and closed her eyes. She was not looking forward to getting home to the pile of work that she knew waited for her.
She must have dozed off, for what seemed only seconds later she opened her eyes, and realized they were not on the familiar route home. They were on the freeway.
“Hunter, where are we going?” she asked, leaning forward to try to get a better look at her surroundings.
Hunter didn’t answer.
“Hunter, what’s going on?”
Finally, after an overlong stretch of uncomfortable silence, he responded.
“I’m so sorry, Snow.”
“Sorry? Sorry about what?” Isabella asked.
Hunter passed an envelope back to her. It had already been opened, and it was addressed to her stepmother. A growing sense of unease spread through her chest as Isabella pulled out the letter.
Dear Mrs. White,
We have reviewed the application of your daughter, Isabella S. White. We are pleased to inform you that she has been accepted to the William A. Forrest School for Girls.
Isabella stopped reading, and the letter fell to her lap.
School for girls?
“Hunter, is this where we’re going?” Isabella asked as her heart began to race. “Are you taking me to a boarding school?”
The driver’s eyes met hers in the rear view mirror.
“I’m so sorry,” was all he said.