Thank you for your interest in Sister Carissa Literary School for Girls.
We’re pleased to write that your daughter has been accepted to Sister Carissa Literary School for Girls. Please take the time to read this mailer with your daughter, so that you may both become familiar with our teaching philosophy, school rules, curriculum, the faculty, and expected student behavior.
Sister Carissa’s is named after the Catholic nun Sister Carissa Vinnicombe, who served at the Vatican her entire adult life. Sister Carissa believed strongly in a safe, driven and productive learning environment for girls, focusing on the ever-important language arts. With the Church’s support, Sister Carissa founded the first Literary School for Girls under her name in Italy in the year 2019. The success of that original school allowed for others of the same name to be founded in other countries, including ours as the sole school by that name in the United States.
Though the original school under Sister Carissa Vinnicombe’s name was founded by a Catholic nun, our teaching methods do not incorporate religious indoctrination. We are not a Bible school, and instead we encourage individual belief, accepting girls of all faiths. Most of our studentry is Christian, but we have happily taught girls of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other faiths. Our goal is to provide a learning atmosphere where individual faiths are not ignored, but are respected, and do not interfere with academic pursuits.
Our school teaches both middle-school and high-school grades, for a total of six school years. Few classes contain students of mixed grades, while most classes contain students of only a single grade. Only one elective class is allowed to first-year students, while more become available to students of later years, pending minimum required performance in core classes. Older students are expected to treat their juniors with kindness, patience and understanding. Heckling, hazing and other abusive behavior are absolutely prohibited.
Sister Carissa’s curriculum has a strong emphasis on language arts. We do cover the essentials of mathematics, science, social studies, physical education and other fundamentals, but our core focus has always been on honing the skills of reading and writing. Our school is therefore recommended for those who seek careers in the language arts, including writing for various types of publications, teaching language, editing, translating, or performing in politics or diplomatic roles. Our school features close connections with several colleges that have advanced programs in various language arts, and our alumni have been known to gain careers as novelists, news columnists, pundits, politicians and ambassadors.
Our school provides an on-campus dormitory where students may live, provided that full tuition costs have been paid. While the school will cover expenses of water, electricity and heating, students are expected to pay for their own food, clothes and other living necessities. To participate in classes, each student is required to own a portable computer. A student’s portable computer is used for assignments and maintaining communication with the faculty.
Sister Carissa’s school has a standardized dress code, but we do not require students wear a school uniform. Instead, during school hours, girls must dress in business-casual wear, including slacks and polo shirts, button-up blouses and dresses with skirts that hang below the knee while standing. T-shirts and denim jeans are not acceptable. No clothing is allowed to show lettering or logos. Hats are not permitted while inside the school buildings. A complete table of the dress code is printed below.
Once again, we thank you for your interest in Sister Carissa Literary School for Girls, and look forward to teaching your daughter through six happy and productive school years.
I had read the school pamphlet over and over in the months leading up to my enrollment at Sister Carissa’s. I even carried it with me as I first set foot on the campus.
“This place is huge,” I panted, lugging a huge suitcase behind me. After being dropped off in the parking lot, I headed through the loosely-packed cars and stepped up onto a sidewalk, which curved through the campus grounds. I pulled out the pamphlet and checked the campus map printed on the back. That big building up ahead must be the student dorm, where I was supposed to check in.
The casters of my suitcase clicked and clacked on the sidewalk as I pulled it along. I should have been worried about sweating in my nice new school clothes, but I was too impressed to think about it. Sister Carissa’s had a grand old-world feel. The buildings were tall and wide, built with deep-colored wood and stone, reminding me of some classic European architecture. The walkways wound through a great open lawn, dotted with trees and patches of bright flowers. There were benches here and there, and a single small pavilion near the center of the grounds.
A small worry tugged at my heart, something I didn’t want to acknowledge. A school campus this big should have been bustling, teachers and students wandering the sidewalks and moving inside the buildings. Aside from me, the campus appeared empty.
I knew what that meant, of course. In the years before my birth, this school probably was crowded most of the time, but things had changed. I didn’t like to think about it.
The big building before me had a sign up front, near the double-door entrance. Dormitory A. According to my registration forms, I had been assigned to dorm room A-14, on the first floor of this building.
I lugged my suitcase up the steps and pulled open the front door. I poked my head in and looked around. The hallways were as empty as the campus outside. Everything was warmly colored, with dark wooden floors and big windows that let in the sunlight, but it still felt cold without anyone around. I resisted the temptation to yell into the dorm, “Hello! Anybody here?” If girls were sleeping in these rooms, shouting my arrival wouldn’t win me any friends.
With a lot of grunting and straining, I got my suitcase in the door, and headed down the hallway. I checked each room as I went deeper into the dorm, passing A-10, A-11, A-12, A-13....
I came up to room A-14, and the door was already open. I glanced back and forth in the hall, and saw this was the only open door.
“Um?” I leaned into the room, looked around. “Hello?”
The dorm room was both pleasant and compact. There was a bed, writing desk, wardrobe, chest of drawers, and a small door on the far side that probably led to a bathroom. It looked like the perfect place to rest and study, but all of that caught my notice after the girl sitting on the bed.
She sat atop the covers, her legs crossed, her back against the headboard, and she was reading a book. The girl glanced up at me as I entered.
“Hello,” she said, and then went back to reading.
I was dumbstruck for several reasons, and I stood there while my mind tumbled through things. One thought climbed to the top of the pile.
Look at her. She’s beautiful.
I admit that my excitement for coming to a girl’s private school wasn’t just for the chance of learning in a clean and professional environment. I don’t like boys, and public schools are full of boys. When a girl starts daydreaming about the female characters in the movies she sees and the books she reads, it says something about her preferences in romance.
The girl sitting on the bed matched my mental image of private school girls. She was tall, her long legs stretching out on the covers. She wore a denim skirt and a simple button-up blouse. Her hair was long and black, and her eyes were dark and sharp.
“Isn’t this...,” I leaned back out into the hallway, checking the room number, “...room A-14?”
“It is,” said the girl, without looking up from her book.
“So, uh.” I gave a nervous laugh. “Was I assigned to the wrong room, or...?”
“Magdalene Paige?” she said.
“Yeah, that’s my name.”
She continued reading, as if I weren’t there. I stood there for a minute, wondering what to do. Was this normal for this school, people going into each other’s rooms? I didn’t want to kick her out, since she was the first person I had met here. She might help me learn about the place.
“So, uh.” I began pulling my suitcase inside, but it got stuck on the door frame. “Are you a student here too?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Ah. You must be an eighth-grader then, went here last year?”
“No. First-year, like you.”
“Oh.” I heaved and pulled on the suitcase, but it refused to come inside. “Well nice to-urg!-meet you. What’s your-unf!-name?”
She slapped her book closed and set it aside. Swinging her legs off the bed, she stood up and walked over to me.
“Lorelei Brant.” She said, taking hold of the suitcase beside me. “I’ll help.”
“Thanks,” I said. Together we made a valiant effort to work my suitcase into the room without splintering the door frame. We succeeded by barely scratching the walls. We pulled the suitcase into the middle of the room, where there was the most empty floorspace. Lorelei began undoing the zippers and buckles that held the suitcase together, but I shooed her hands off.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll unpack later. I have to go get registered, I think.”
“No,” said Lorelei. “A teacher expected you, said she’d come back later.”
“Really?” I blinked. Even though this was a private school, I didn’t expect that level of personal attention.
Lorelei nodded, then went back to the bed. She picked up the book and resumed reading, once again ignoring me.
“Huh. I guess I’ll relax for a bit.” If girls at this school would hang out in each other’s rooms, then I would play along. I climbed onto the bed myself, sat back against the wall and let my muscles loosen.
Lorelei wasn’t much of a talker, I soon realized. I tried to make small chat, but it didn’t work.
“Do you like this school so far?” I said.
“Unsure,” she said. “Not attended class yet.”
“Hey, what’s that book you’re reading?”
“Biography of Pierre-Simon Laplace.”
“Oh wow. That book is in French, isn’t it? You speak French?”
“Oui, je parle Français.”
“So who is this Laplace guy?”
“Philosopher of scientific determinism.”
I put a hand on my face and looked away, giving up. This girl was amazing. She was beautiful, and much smarter than me, but her social skills were awful. It surprised me most that, with each clipped and precise answer, her tone of voice was flat. Neither her words nor body language spoke of any annoyance. I wasn’t bothering her. She was just answering questions.
I was about to slither off the bed and begin unpacking my things, but she spoke to me.
“Magdalene,” she said, setting her book in her lap.
“Hm?” I glanced back at her. “You can call me Maggie.”
“Maggie.” She took in a deep breath. “I’m happy to meet you.”
Silence. I stared at her, unsure of what I had just heard. Was that a tiny hint of emotion in her voice?
I smiled, felt my face go hot. “I’m happy to meet you, too.”
I held out a hand for her to shake, but her attention had already gone back to the book. My hand was left hanging. I rolled my eyes and climbed off the bed, then began unbuttoning my suitcase.
Lots and lots of clothes. Wallet, with student ID and money card. Cell phone. Tablet computer, with spare memory card. Toothbrush, soap, shampoo and other bathroom necessities. A few paperback books, and many more digital books on the tablet.
“Looks like I didn’t forget anything,” I said, looking at the spread of junk around me. Then I realized I had just talked to myself while someone else was in the room, and I looked back at Lorelei, embarrassed. Not surprising that she ignored me, her full attention on the book. I probably could have stripped down naked, lit myself on fire and began dancing the Macarena and she still wouldn’t notice.
“You’re not a very talkative person, are you?” I said.
She moved not at all, but for her eyes shifting slightly to look at me.
“No,” she said, her voice soft. “But I enjoy the company of friends.”
“You think of me as a friend?” I said. “You just barely met me.”
She didn’t reply. Instead she nodded to the pile of paperback books sitting on the floor beside me. I didn’t understand at first. What about the books? We were talking about people being friends, not books. Then I realized she was pointing out our similar interests. We both liked to read, and we had both come to a literary school. That alone showed we had much in common.
“Oh,” I said. “I guess so. But I don’t read smart stuff like you. I’m more into pulpy stuff, like mystery and fantasy.”
“Prodigal son. Protagonist becomes king.”
I tilted my head at her, confused. “What are you...?”
Then I noticed the topmost of the paperback books sitting beside me. It was a fantasy novel, one I had read once before but meant to re-read. The story was simple but engaging, about a wild prince who runs away from his home kingdom to go seek a life of adventure abroad. When he learns the world isn’t all dramatic and interesting, he returns home only to find that his father’s kingdom was overrun by a foreign army, and a tyrant sits on the throne. The young prince organizes a revolt and eventually overthrows the false ruler, only to be crowned king himself.
I glanced back at Lorelei. “You’ve read that one.”
“Huh,” I said. “Maybe we do have a lot in common.”
I liked this, sharing with the beautiful quiet girl. Maybe if I kept prodding, I could learn more about her.
I opened my mouth again, but something new took my attention. There came a thump thump thump sound. Someone was running up the hallway. In another second, a girl stepped up to A-14’s open door.
“Hey! The last girl is here! Awesome.” She came inside the room and fell to her knees in front of me me, holding out a hand to shake. “Nice to meet you. I hope Lori didn’t scare you too bad.”
This girl was the complete opposite to Lorelei. She was about my height, but much prettier than me. Her hair was golden and bouncy, tied back into a ponytail, and her eyes were bright blue. She wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and she breathed heavily as if she had just been running. Though taken aback, I took her hand and shook it. Her hand felt cold and clammy.
“Hi,” I said, letting her hand go. “Nice to meet you. I’m—”
“You’re Magdalene,” she said. “We know. The teacher told us about you. But it’s kind of a hard name. Can we call you Mag?”
“Maggie,” said Lorelei from the bed.
“All right, Maggie.” The blonde girl clapped a hand onto my shoulder. “I’m Cheryl. It’s great to meet you. I told Lori to wait here and welcome you when you showed up, but I know she didn’t do a good job. She’s such an ice cube, but don’t mind that. She’s really nice, and she doesn’t even turn people to stone with her gaze.”
“I, uh,” I stammered. “I didn’t....”
“Hey!” Cheryl leaned forward, putting her weight on my shoulder. “Now that you’re here, you know what we need to do? We need to go have breakfast together. It’ll be great.” She stood up, straightening her sweats. “You two wait here. I’ll go get Bianca. She likes to sleep in, but I’ll just threaten to have sex with her. That’ll scare her awake. Back in a minute!”
She turned and ran out of the room, going back into the hall. I sat, staring at the door, confused.
“What...?” I looked at Lorelei. “What just happened?”
Lorelei looked up from her book, and for the first time, I saw annoyance in her expression. It wasn’t directed at me, but at the girl who had just dashed in and out.
“Cheryl Tilly,” was all she said.
Since that Cheryl girl had just rushed in and out, I shook my head and went back to organizing my stuff. I started by re-folding my clothes and stowing them. Shirts, pants and dresses in the wardrobe, socks and delicates in the chest of drawers. Cheryl’s voice came back into the room one second before she did.
“Okay, Bianca is getting up,” said Cheryl, walking back in. “She’s a slow starter, but I trust she won’t go back to bed. Promises of violence will do that. Oh! Great, Maggie. You’ve got your underwear out. Let me see your panties.”
“What?” was the only thing I could say before Cheryl reached for the piece of underwear currently in my hand.
The next thirty seconds became a death-grip struggle between me and a girl I hardly knew, fighting over a pair of my panties. I looked at Lorelei as this went on, wordlessly begging her to tell me, Is this normal at this school? Am I being the weird one?
Lorelei gave me a shake of her head.
“Okay! Sorry!” Cheryl hopped back. “I can see you’re serious about protecting your privacy, and I respect that. I got a good enough look anyway. Basic white panties with minimum frill.”
I clutched the underwear to my chest and glared at her. “That’s none of your business!”
Cheryl held up her hands. “I’m not judging! Every girl has to start somewhere. By the end of the year, though, we should get you comfortable wearing something sexier. You never know when you might spend an intimate moment with a special someone.”
“I don’t have anyone like that,” I said, stomping past Cheryl to shove the last of my underwear into the chest of drawers. “I’m only thirteen.”
“Only?” She laughed. “We’re young women, Maggie. We’ve gotta be ready when that magical time comes.” She pointed a finger to her chest. “I know. I’ve already been in love. And, oh god.” She put her hands on her cheeks, and she was blushing. “I can’t even talk about it.”
“Then maybe you should stop talking,” said a new voice at the door.
We both turned and saw a fourth girl, standing at the threshold of my room. She was leaning against the door frame, as if feeling unsteady. Her hair was a bright red mess, and her eyes were a smooth hazel green. She wore wrinkled pajamas, making her look like she had been asleep five minutes ago.
“Bianca, you got up!” Cheryl forgot about me and hopped up to the redhead, giving her a full-on glomping hug.
“I’d have a hard time sleeping through the noise,” said Bianca, ignoring Cheryl’s hug as she rubbed her eyes. “Who’s the new girl? Our fourth student?”
“Fourth?” I said, shutting the last of my clothes away. “I guess so. I’m Maggie. Nice to meet you.”
Bianca shoved Cheryl away, then stepped up to me and offered a hand for shaking. “I’m Bianca Francesco. Nice to meet you, Maggie. I see you’ve already met the...,” she glanced back at Lorelei, who had ignored us all to keep reading, “... other girls.”
I smiled nervously, shook her hand. “Uh, sort of. But I’m still new here. I want to get to know my new dorm mates. Cheryl said we should all go to breakfast?”
Bianca clapped her hands together. “Oh, yes! The dining hall just opened a few minutes ago, I think. They have the best elephants there, with fruit and whipped cream on top.”
I paused, and dead air hung on us.
“Did you say elepha—”
Cheryl wrapped her arm around Bianca’s shoulders, and laughed off the awkward pause. “Pancakes! She meant to say pancakes. I like mine with bananas, but Bianca always gets strawberries.”
Bianca nodded. “Yes, I meant pancakes. If you’ll wait for a minute, I’ll get dressed and comb my hair, then we can go.”
“I’ll go with!” said Cheryl, hanging off Bianca’s back as they both walked out of the room.
“All right!” said Bianca. “Just get off me. And don’t try to peek on me changing this time.”
Those two left the room, and I was again alone with Lorelei. I looked over at her, confused.
“She said elephants,” I said, holding up a finger. “How could you say elephants instead of pancakes? Those two words don’t even—”
Lorelei quieted me with a look. My hand dropped to my side, and my shoulders slumped.
“I’m not supposed to ask about that?” I said.
She didn’t reply, just kept reading her book.
Next Chapter >>