Boarding School Blues: Ch. 59

Boarding School Blues: Ch. 59

By Louise Peloquin

Ch. 59: Wilted Balloons

Madeleine’s report on the headmistress’s telephone exchanges with Docteur and Madame Rejean discomfited Andy, Titi and Blanche.

“So you’ll be able to go home every single weekend from now on PF” Madeleine announced. “Your father woulda pulled out outa here if the headmistress had said no. That’s what he said anyway. I’m not supposed to tell anyone but you gotta know ASAP, right?”

Before Andy and Titi could comment, Blanche repeated “well, next weekend the dentist…”

Andy cut her off. “Yeah, yeah, we know. Gonna fill your teeth and remove your whistling skills. Bummer. Coulda come in handy in class. I should be jealous of you PF. I am and I’m not at the same time. How can the headmistress give you a break and leave the rest of us out of it? How ‘bout the time that senior cut her hand really bad on a cracked vial in chemistry class? Sure, the nurse stitched it up but how come she didn’t get to go home? No fair.”

“Not the same thing Andy” rationalized Titi. “Sister Marie-Ange wouldn’t be a nurse if she couldn’t even sew up a cut. Didn’t that kid only get a couple of stitches anyway?”

“Please change the subject.” Blanche’s request was punctuated by a whistle. And so the conversation moved on.

Blanche was waiting in the front hall for her second consecutive weekend home and Sister Gerald whisked by. Her haste was tainted with a tad of edginess. “I must deal with urgent issues immediately. My greetings to Madame ta mère. Au revoir ma fille.”

Blanche noticed that nothing was said about her academics and ensuing privileges. Her performance had not been particularly outstanding that week. No aced quizzes, just an A – – in Latin. None of the students had ever figured out how Sister Alice came up with double minus grades. After all, double plusses never appeared in red ink on any test papers. Fortunately, no other teacher had adopted the unusual evaluation grid. Blanche thought writing “Cesar” rather than “Caesar” had whisked away the A with a single minus in Latin? Who knew and who cared?

The musings drifted from academics to ambiance. When she had returned from her first weekend home, the vibes from fellow boarders had mutated. Sure, she got the expected “glad you’re back, feeling’ better?” But it sounded a bit empty. It reminded her of Ma Tante Lucie’s used balloons. Never one to shirk recycling, her aunt had blown up a dozen old ones to enhance last year’s fourth of July backyard family barbecue. Once the breath traveled from her lungs to the balloons, the red, white and blue plastic came out pale.

Mon dou, my oh my” she had commented. “These balloons look pas mal fanés. J’comprends pas. (1)

After a good guffaw, notoriously talented balloon blower Antoine had explained. “Ma Tante, when you blow up a balloon, the air stretches the rubber wicked tight. A brand new balloon always comes out shiny and bright. But when you let the air out, there’s that funny sound, just like when you cut one loose. Sorry for sayin’ that but it’s true. All the air puffs out and the balloon looks kinda wilted. And then when you blow it up again the balloon doesn’t look very nice the second time around. But that’s OK, Ma Tante. Worry pas. Fourth of July is always great at your house cuz your barbecues are the best. Maybe next year you’ll use new balloons though, huh? Are you gonna grill kielbasa before the hotdogs and hamburgers today Ma Tante?”

Blanche thought the ambiance at SFA was just like Ma Tante Lucie’s wilted balloons. For over six months, the boarders formed a tight, teenage girl community. The occasional sputters of lost air had not deflated their cohesion. Blanche’s weekend home had the same effect as recycling used balloons. They would make do but they wouldn’t shine.

The second weekend home flashed by like a series of nano seconds. The dentist’s fillings had silenced the whistling. Dr. Wissing’s extra soft, silky-bristled toothbrush, powder-pink toothpaste in a jar and Sam the Sham office music made the late Saturday afternoon appointment a fitting epilogue to the cafeteria tray tobogganing fiasco. After more soup and egg custard around the family table and a final round of sibling hugs and kisses, Blanche returned to SFA.

Madeleine was still on dishing-washing duty with the novices and was able to gather more intel about the headmistress’s telephone conversations. Seeing how the jaded sophomore thrived in the espionage role amused Blanche. The novices heard that several parents had called to complain about the unfairness of making an exception for one student and not for others with equivalent academic performance.

Telephone calls home were not allowed and Blanche wondered how the parents had learned about the special treatment. But she knew that teenage girls always find a way to leak out messages. Moreover, the higher the challenge, the more delicious the excitement in reaching it.

“Get a load of this you guys” Madeleine gloated. “The ole headmistress is gonna announce somethin’ at dinner tonight. Here it is, and I’m the first to tell ya. Home leave every single weekend for everyone from now on. Naturally, it’ll depend on grades and stuff, you know, ‘academic performance and proper comportment’ and all of that. Guys, PF’s the trailblazer. Thanks to her accident and her Dad tellin’ it like it is, we get a break too. We should never ever be jealous of PF, or anyone else for that matter. It’s plain stupid. Good things come outa bad ones, right? Come on over here PF. We’re gonna make a sandwich outa you!”

Before Madeleine, Titi and Andy approached, Blanche blurted. “Guys, can’t take hugs right now. I’m still sore all over.” Forgetting that her teeth were newly filled, she tried, in vain, to whistle.

1) pretty faded. I don’t understand.


Read Chapter 1: The Announcement

Read Chapter 2: Facing the Inevitable

Read Chapter 3: Readying

Read Chapter 4: Au revoir!

Read Chapter 5: Arrival

Read Chapter 6: Settling In

Read Chapter 7: Beginning to Belong

Read Chapter 8: Quick Showers

Read Chapter 9: Inside & Outside Study Hall

Read Chapter 10: Math Manoeuvres

Read Chapter 11: Cinephiles

Read Chapter 12: Camera, Action, Lights

Read Chapter 13: Reconnecting

Read Chapter 14: Back to the Fold

Read Chapter 15: In the Night

Read Chapter 16: Parlez-vous?

Read Chapter 17: On the Agenda

Read Chapter 18: Dress up, sit up, chin up

Read Chapter 19: Post Conference Assessment

Read Chapter 20: Orderliness

Read Chapter 21: Inspection

Read Chapter 22: The Inner Sanctum

Read Chapter 23: Going Home

Read Chapter 24: Merci Mon Oncle

Read Chapter 25: The Food Fairy

Read Chapter 26: Bon appetit!

Read Chapter 27: Friends

Read Chapter 28: A Grocery Stop

Read Chapter 29: Tempus Fugit

Read Chapter 30: The Chapel

Read Chapter 31: A Nice Kind of Weird

Read Chapter 32: Mnemonic Device

Read Chapter 33: Cuisses de grenouille

Read Chapter 34: Run along now

Read Chapter 35: Consequences of playing hooky

Read Chapter 36: Good Vibes

Read Chapter 37: Never too many, never too much

Read chapter 38: Dust Bunnies

Read Chapter 39: I’m into something good

Read Chapter 40: Wistful and Admiring

Read Chapter 41: “Anywhere Out of the World”

Read Chapter 42: “If you really want to hear about it

Read Chapter 43: “Why don’t they go and create something”

Read Chapter 44: Squiggles, snowmen and angels

Read Chapter 45: A Measure of Mirth

Read Chapter 46: Advienne que pourra

Read Chapter 47: Smile upon our joys

Read Chapter 48: “Venez, venez, venez!”

Read Chapter 49: “C’est si bon”

Read Chapter 50: Naughty or nice

Read Chapter 51: We all fall down

Read Chapter 52: The Eve of Destruction

Read Chapter 53: A turtle’s heart

Read Chapter 54: Airlock

Read Chapter 55: Here Lies . . .

Read Ch. 56: An elixir and a frappe

Read Chapter 57: We can work it out.

Read Ch. 58: Peeps & Twinkies