A Photographic Novella in Twenty Episodes 1
Text and Makeup by Jennifer Broome
Photography by Allie Mullin
ÂŠ2012. All Rights Reserved 2
The next time we meet Mina, many months have passed in her world. Her father, as he predicted, died soon after the term began. He left strict instructions to keep Mina from his funeral, but she was escorted weeks later to his grave. Even now, she could not think of him without crying, or acknowledge the fact that she was alone in the world.
Death interrupts life, but life insists on continuing. Despite her grief, Mina began to love the school. She liked wandering through the spacious halls to class, she liked getting lost in the stacks and stacks of books in the library, she loved drinking hot cocoa with friends in her drafty attic room. But of all the wonderful things about the school, the thing she loved most was no longer feeling out of place. She did miss her father, but the constant noise of other students embraced her, providing a comfort she had heretofore never experienced. Much of Minaâ€™s recovery was due to the schoolâ€™s faculty. Minaâ€™s teachers all showed care and concern for their students, but one teacher was especially adored.
He bore no normal name, but was simply called The Professor. His sympathetic manner, combined with his knowledge of all the esoteric branches of knowledge, made The Professor one of the most respected figures in the school and the village. Mina, who was placed in the back of a cavernous classroom with the other new students, never thought The Professor knew her name, much less her history.
Yet one day, as The Professor passed Mina in the schoolâ€™s courtyard, he drew close and whisperedâ€”
“Your mother’s not dead, you know.” Mina whipped her head about in astonishment, but saw only The Professor’s back as he shambled towards an unknown destination. She stood, still and vulnerable, as crowds jostled her, and Mina felt truly alone for the first time in her life. *** 8
Mina could not get The Professorâ€™s words out of her mind. She blotted two successive pages in her copybook before Ms. Snick could arrest her hand. She broke a foil during fencing practice and forgot to saddle her horse for her riding lesson. Worst of all, Mina hopelessly knotted the threads of her weaving and had to remain at the loom into early evening, picking out her mistakes. She bore the quizzical looks of her friends and the concerned questions of her teachers with equal diffidence, but revealed to no one The Professorâ€™s mysterious declaration. Once the sun set over the crenellated towers of the building, Mina scurried from the weaving rooms. Carefully and silently she picked her way across the school to the small library. The Professor, she knew, kept his office somewhere among the stacks of books, manuscripts, and 9
codices that tilted towards the ceiling. Softly she crept, looking for a light. Eventually, Mina found an open door and slipped inside. Before Mina could draw breath or take in her surroundings, a voice spoke from somewhere in the room. “I see you’ve arrived,” said The Professor. Despite his soft tone, Mina was startled. She whipped her head around to face the voice, and witnessed a most incongruous sight: The Professor, cheerfully wrapped in an alarmingly frilly apron, was dispensing tea into two cups.
The Professor removed the frilly apron and settled himself in a chair opposite the tea tray “Please,” he gestured towards a chair, “Have a seat. Drink some tea.” Mina stood by the door, hesitating. “I really just came—”
“—To have me explain about your mother. I know. Still, you’re thirsty, and I can talk while you have your tea.”
Mina took herself in hand and, with what she hoped was an intelligent, grownup look, settled in the other chair.
She busied herself with the tea as The Professor watched. When he was satisfied that Mina was going to drink, he began to speak. ***
*Is Mina’s mother really alive? *What is the Professor’s true role, and what secrets is he about to reveal? *Will the alarmingly frilly apron make an appearance? Find the answers to all these questions and more in the next episode, “The Professor’s Tale,” which will be live and available to the public Monday, September 3, 2012, at literaturecouture.com/mina