“Should I just put this here?” Spencer asked as he put down Merril’s soaked luggage into one corner of the spacious room that the Hanover boys had given for her to use as a solo. As with other rooms in Dalton, it was large enough to hold three boys comfortably. But by united consensus, this was to be Merril’s room alone.
“Yes, thank you…” Merril’s tone remained soft and rippled lightly by the shivers. She clutched the thick cover wrapped around her. Avery had given it her as he tried to determine what was to be done with their unique house member.
Spencer nodded to the other boys helping him, and they brought in Merril’s clothes that they had managed to save. Most of them were still dry—some had gotten damp and the luggage will have to be dried off. Spencer set down some of the clothes into the closet when Merril rushed over. “L-let me do that, please,” she said, trying to take them.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Spencer smiled at her, closing the door. “You just go sit over there, get warmed up, we’ll take care of it.” He had been the one told to look after her while Avery went to call the administration about the situation.
“I just, uh…” she looked around at the room, apprehensive, as though she was still waiting for someone to make a signal that gives up the whole joke being played on her. “You guys…didn’t really have to do all this. I didn’t want to take this room from those two other boys…”
Spencer laughed. The two boys who had previously been occupying this room had voluntarily vacated it so that Merril could have the room to herself. They knew that she would want privacy and it would be inappropriate for them to room with her. “Trust me, it’s alright. Come on.” He led her over to one of the couches in the central area, and seated her, making sure the cover was wrapped around her. “Is that dress I found warm enough?” Justin had been the one to find the dress, and it was one of the dry ones.
“Yes—it’s fine, really…this is too much already, just…” Merril huddled into the blanket and closed her eyes. “…I’m alright.”
Spencer stood in front of her, cogitating. “Um…you don’t…look alright.” He sat on the low table in front of her and leaned forward cautiously. “…what’s wrong?”
Her wet hair dripped rainwater onto the clenched knuckles on her knees. Merril glanced at him. “…do you guys just…do this? With everyone like…like me who comes here?”
“You mean are we like this to all girls who come to live in our house?” Spencer smiled a little. “We’ve never had one before. You’re the first one. So…we’re kind of winging it.”
“You know what I mean…” Merril replied softly, averting her gaze.
There was a pause as the rain beat heavily down onto the windows. The rain refused to let up. A bolt glimmered past the black bellies of the clouds hanging low and a rumble vibrated through the air. The rain refused to stop.
After a moment, Spencer told her, “…I do. …I don’t see how it changes anything.”
Merril stared at him. Spencer let out his breath, looking awkward and unsure. “Listen, I—I don’t know if that’s the right thing to say, and I hope I haven’t offended you in some way but…” he shrugged a little. “I just want you to know that it’s safe here. You look cold and scared and you flinch every time someone says anything to you… I mean…I always thought I knew what it was like to be scared but…I can’t imagine how scared you must be right now.” He paused for a moment, as though lost in his own thoughts.
Merril watched him. Spencer closed his eyes and shook his head. He met her eyes and smiled again. “You don’t have to be scared here, I promise. You know they told me that some kids come here because they can be safe here. No matter what happened to you before you got to this school… it won’t happen to you here. We won’t let anything happen to you.” He smiled a bit more. “We’ve never had a princess in this house before…so pardon us knights if we decide to be a little protective. Might get a little annoying after awhile.”
For an instant, Merril’s eyes welled up again. Her mouth trembled slightly but she swallowed and blinked away the mist. She held her head up and managed a small smile back up at him. “Yeah well, I’ll let you boys know if it gets too much.”
With a soft laugh, Spencer nodded. “Alright then.”
There was a knock at the door and the two of them looked up. Justin was there and his uniform was in its usual state of unkempt disarray. But when he stood at the door, he looked strangely tall and in control. “Miss Portman—”
“Merril, please,” she whispered, nodding once to him.
“Merril,” he agreed. Spencer watched, mystified, as his usually ill-humored friend spoke to Merril with polite formality. “Avery sent me to apologize. …we don’t have any girl’s uniforms here, and…administration doesn’t think letting you wear one from Dobry Hall—that’s our sister school—would be appropriate as of this time. …they said you have to wear the school uniform.”
Spencer glanced at Merril, a little apprehensive. But when Merril lifted her head, locks still dripping, she had a small smile on her face. “That’s alright, it doesn’t matter. …I don’t want a skirt anyway.” She looked at Spencer and smiled a bit more. “I can rock a pair of pants just fine.”
Both boys laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I guessed,” Spencer grinned.
That evening, the boys of Hanover were surprised when Merril—warm, dry, and dressed in a simple peach-colored dress, and looking to express gratitude in a small way—presented the boys gathered at the common room with some cream puffs she’d managed to conjure up from the house’s kitchen. They piled around happily, taking the sweet treats and thanking her, looking delighted. With every thanks, Merril turned redder, just as she did every time they opened the door for her or stood when she entered the room (and then wouldn’t sit down until she did).
At first, she did wonder if they were just overcompensating…wondered if they treated her this way in an attempt to make her as comfortable as possible. That is until she met Spencer’s sister Sydney who came to visit at some point—haranguing her brother the whole time about military camp for the summer—and saw that they did all the same things for her too. She would slowly come to realize that they weren’t overcompensating or making extra effort; this was really just what the boys of Hanovers did in the presence of a lady in their House.
And that they simply really did see her as one.
In return, she surprised them with little things—looking after them in return by making little treats or helping them wherever she could. It took a while for her to stop being so scared, but to her surprise she found that it was sooner than she expected.
Since she arrived, whenever it rained, Spencer would come by and give her an extra blanket. Although it brought back memories of the day she first came there, she drew comfort from it. As though every time it would rain…a young knight would be by to make sure she was safe. She wondered if it was a comfort to Spencer too—as though whenever it rained, he liked to see her safe.
Maybe it was something for the both of them. Or so they both hoped.