Sadie entered the hall just moments before the group approached the door and swung them wide with one swift movement. Outside she could see dozens of people walking through the iron gates of the school, looking around in amazement just as John and the others had only an hour or so before.
“Sadie!” Gladys said excitedly. “What do you need me to do?” She rushed to her side, eagerly glancing in the direction of the new arrivals.
“All of these people—figure out what their injuries are! Major things like blood and broken bones, send them immediately to the infirmary wing. Smaller injuries can be placed in the section of the lunchroom that you prepared. If they don’t have any injuries put them in the student dormitories.”
“Okay!” Gladys chirped, running to meet the now buzzing crowd.
“Gladys!” Sadie shouted after her before she could disappear. “Which way is the infirmary?”
“To the left at the end of the hall!” she yelled before turning to soothe the crowd.
Sadie moved as fast as her feet could carry her. The sounds of her shoes echoing the hall rang loudly in her ears. She burst through the doors of the nurses quarters, briefly noticing the two rows of beds that were lined on either side of the room, the back wall lined with shelves lined in jars of herbs. A small fire blazed in the corner fireplace where a cauldron dangled over the heat.
She took a deep breath and slapped her hands together. “Okay.” She said confidently.
She could hear the sound of the growing crowd making its way down the hall and into her presence.
A bear-like snore startled Sadie out of her dream. She was still in the infirmary office. Glancing around the room and through the small window above her desk, she saw that almost all of her patients were still fast asleep. In the bed nearest to her station, a frustrated elder was squinting in the direction of the offending party.
“He’s been like that all night!” she said loudly, crossing her arms and glaring accusingly.
Sadie hopped from her chair and walked slowly over to her. “I’m so sorry ma’am,” she whispered kindly. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
The old woman looked at her and smiled, “Thanks, baby,” she said, patting her hand and rolling back over to her side.
Sadie silently cast quietus in the direction of the man that had now flopped to his back, mouth wide open. The sound lowered it’s frequency to that of a cat’s purr.
The soft rosy glow of dawn was coming through the windows and casting itself throughout the room. Sadie walked slowly down the row, making sure that she wasn’t needed by anyone. The guests were all rightfully asleep after the night’s events.
Her legs and feet still felt heavy and the aches and pains were starting to catch up with her. She silently cursed herself for spending the night asleep in a chair. As she neared the end of the row, a loud stomach grumble reminded her that she hadn’t eaten in several hours. A trip to the kitchen would be just the trick. The doors of the infirmary gently opened as she approached and she slipped through them with a small glance backward.
As she turned her head, Sadie immediately slammed into the strong frame of Ezekiel. Her legs gave way at the sheer force of impact, but he caught her by the elbow, saving her from clashing with the floor.
“Everything alright?” he asked, looking towards where she’d just come with a hint of worry.
“Oh. Yes.” Sadie said slightly embarrassed, “I was just on my way to look for some coffee.”
“Funny, I was just coming to ask you if you needed anything,” he said sheepishly, “Uh. Let’s go check out the lunchroom, huh?”
She nodded quickly and followed his lead a moment before joining his side as they strolled down the hall.
Sadie felt her face flush slightly as she noticed the sideways glances Ezekiel failed to cast at her discreetly. With tension high she drew a deep breath.
“I just wanted to say that—” they both said in unison.
“I’m sorry, you go first.” Ezekiel said awkwardly, facing forward again.
“Umm…you really had me worried last night.” Sadie said without thinking. She looked down at her shoes, silently cursing herself as they continued down the hall. That was dumb.
“Really?” he said with a hint of amusement, raising his eyebrow.
“Yea—I mean…you’re one of the first people that I’ve met since I got here. I would hate to think that I put you in a dangerous situation,” she said smoothly.
“Well…” he said, suddenly turning to face her, “you weren’t the only one feeling that way…”
“Oh.” Sadie felt her face betray her as warmth rose from her belly. Had his eyes always been that…that… A large metal clang from the kitchen broke their eye contact and Sadie had never been more grateful. He smiled quickly and moved to her side.
“Let’s um…yeah,” he said awkwardly, leading the way.
The smell of bacon and sausage lingered in the air as they grew nearer to the kitchen and the soft clinking of dishes could be heard as they rounded the corner to the archway. Bernard moved his arms skillfully through the air as medical supplies danced their way to their respected positions. Waste into the trash, sheets into large laundry carts, tables moving from the sides of the walls and into the middle of the room.
Gladys was happily cracking eggs into the largest mixing bowl that Sadie had ever seen, humming softly to herself.
“Let me go see if he needs some help,” Ezekiel said, nodding in Bernard’s direction.
Buckets full of soapy water slipped between them and lined up near the newly positioned table. Cloth rags flew above and dived into them and happily rose and wrung themselves out and began the hard work of wiping down the tables as Ezekiel motioned for the large draped windows to unfold and let in light from the day. Sadie shook her head in agreement and began walking towards Gladys.
The night had gone a lot better than expected, most of the Pégik arrived at Greenwood with minor cuts and scrapes that they received from running through the woods, things that were easily maintained by the ever helpful Bernard and Ezekiel. Sadie had spent the bulk of her night zipping from patient to patient with Gladys at her heels. The woman showed the knack for being a quick study and a comforting presence to all she encountered. Wounds were stitched and bandaged, healing draughts dosed and plotted on clipboards near the patients’ beds, and laundry whisked away before Sadie had to give too much instruction.
In the early hours of the morning Mayella returned to the entrance hall after successfully closing the gap in the protection charm.
“Good morning, Sweetie,” said Gladys. “Were you finally able to get some sleep?”
Sadie yawned heavily, “Oof. Excuse me…I got a little bit.” She covered her mouth.
“Well, under the circumstances, I’m surprised any of us really got any sleep,” Gladys said, wide-eyed.
She put the mixing bowl down on the counter and walked over to the shelf, bringing down a coffee mug and sliding it over in front of Sadie. The coffee pot on the stove had just begun to steam when she walked over and plucked it unceremoniously from the burner.
“Here you go, this outta help you out a little,” she said, pouring into the mug.
The icebox opened suddenly and Sadie watched as a small carafe of cream sailed lightly through the air before landing right in front of her. A sugar bowl slid its way across the counter, coming to a full stop next to her left hand.
Sadie looked up in amazement at Gladys.
“Don’t look at me,” Gladys said, throwing up her hands, “My mother enchanted every part of this school.” She giggled, picking back up the mixing bowl and whisk.
Sadie suddenly realized why Gladys looked so familiar. The woman in the painting!
“Miss Sadie! Miss Sadie!” yelled a voice across the room, interrupting her thoughts.
Norma came running up to her with a smile beaming on her face. The girl’s pigtails fluttered heartily off her shoulders as she made her way over.
“Miss Sadie!” she yelled again, “Ms.–Ms. Mayella said that I can go to school here! I’m gonna come here now! She just told Mama and Poppa,” she continued, looking back over her shoulder.
Sadie looked up and saw just beyond the archway a tall able bodied man and skinny woman holding the infant and Petey tightly, burying her face in the child’s neck. The father shook hands with Mayella, looking slightly overwhelmed at the news.
“That’s fantastic, sweetheart.” Sadie said quickly, looking back down at her. “Miss Norma, I do believe that you will be an excellent addition to this school.”
The girl beamed at Sadie once again and gestured for her to move in closer, “I think I want to learn how to turn into a weasel first,” she whispered.
Sadie laughed loudly and smiled back at her, “I have no doubt that you will figure it out.”
At this, Norma winked and was off running back to her parents.
Soon the lunch hall was filled with people. The patrons had come in waves, no doubt following the scent of the morning’s meal. Sadie and Ezekiel were quickly joined by Mrs. Johnna, Ms. Catherine, John, and Leola. John had taken to being much less moody and suspicious of the party after a good night’s sleep.
“I’m not asking any more questions. All I know is that our lives and everyone else’s life in this room were saved last night,” he said before taking a big bite of bacon.
Leola looked in much better shape than she did upon arrival. She gave a solemn nod to Sadie and Ezekiel. “Seriously, thank you,” she said, gripping Sadie’s hand and looking back at John and Catherine.
Mayella made her way to the front of the room. “Attention. Attention, everyone,” she said calmly, her voice amplifying over the crowd. “I know that most of you would like an update about what is happening in town.”
The murmurs of the crowd became absolutely still.
“I wanted you all to know that I have been sent word from a brave soul that went to observe the damage. Most of the town has been ruined. I can’t tell you exactly if your homes are still intact. As of right now, I am extending a few nights stay to all who feel inclined to do so. If you would like to go and assess the damage, I suggest that we make group trips in order to have a bit of saf—”
A loud pop echoed from the hall through the open doors, causing many to jump. “We can continue this later,” she continued, looking quickly at a nearby clock. “Please enjoy your breakfast.”
And with that she dashed out of the room and into the hall. Sadie watched as Mayella rushed to greet a burly gentleman in a well-made suit and bowler hat and a stout older gentleman, who she remembered as Mr. Aloysius Walker, the school’s principal.
“Y’all, excuse me,” she said quickly, hopping from her seat and following Mayella into the hall.
Before she had a chance to call out, Mayella turned to her. “Oh, good!” she said quickly, “I want you two to join us in my office.”
Sadie turned around to find Ezekiel right on her heels.
As Mayella, Sadie, and Ezekiel recounted the events of the night, Haywood Bellgrove looked at them stoically and unphased. Sadie couldn’t help but be intrigued. From the looks of his clothes and shoes, the N.A.N.W. council member looked as if he had never seen a hard day’s labor.
“Well,” he said dryly, ”I understand why you did what you did last night.” His eyes flickered between the three of them. “The N.A.N.W. was created on the basis of protection for magical-kind. The events that have taken place here have had innumerable consequences for both conjurers and well…” he said, waving his hand, “it is in the best interest of us all to make sure that all of those people out there forget that this place exists.”
“EXCUSE ME?!” The three of them said in unison, Ezekiel slamming his fist on the desk for emphasis.
“You can’t be serious!” Mayella said, looking from Aloysius to Haywood. “Those people have nowhere to go. Do you say that we just…leave them out on the street? Aloysius, step in here!”
The walrus-looking Aloysius jumped in his seat and looked toward Haywood. “Ah. Mr. Bellgrove, we saw the damage, sir. I think that it would be in the best interest of the people out there to be taken care of for a few more days. The school term doesn’t start for a few weeks.”
Haywood jumped up from his chair and tightened his jaw staring down at him. “We have very clear rules about the separation of conj and non-conj. I don’t believe I have to tell you why that is the case.” He said sharply.
“What you have all done, while noble, is very stupid! You have opened us all up to exposure! MACUSA will certainly come sniffing around and realize that there are more than three Negroes with abilities. Not to mention what they will do when they find out,” he said, pointing toward the town.
“Give us a few days. I will be writing a letter to the council in order to find the best practice we should use going forward this afternoon. In the meantime, we will keep everyone here while the smoke from the woods clear.”
“So be it.” Haywood said, grabbing his bowler hat and placing it on his head before disappearing with a large pop.
The group looked at each other in disbelief. The air of the room felt tight and dry.
“What are we going to do Aloysius?” Mayella asked, forcefully staring at the principal. “There’s almost one hundred people out there. Surely we can’t erase all of their memories!”
“He doesn’t make all of the decisions.” Aloysius said wearily, sitting back in his chair. “I’m going to reach out to some of the other members…Ms. McCoy and Ms. DeLonge are nearest, so maybe they could be here within a few hours.”
“Sir,” Sadie said, bravely stepping forward. “I will gladly stand before the council on behalf of those people in there and for the reputation of this school. I know that I—”
“We,” Ezekiel said, walking up to her side. “We are to blame for bringing each and everyone of those people here and we did it for a good reason. I don’t think that the council will fault us for this….I‒I’m willing to talk to them too.” He reached for Sadie’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Nobody is to blame here,” Mayella said quickly. “We all acted in good faith to protect people from a sure death. Aloysius, have the council assemble here. We can show them the people and the damage out there. We’re all ready to fight on their behalf.”
“Ok.” Aloysius said with a sigh.
Sadie walked the long halls back to the infirmary where all but two of the beds were now empty. The others, refreshed and rejuvenated from the draughts and magical creams, had made their way to the lunchroom largely unaffected by their former wounds.
She flopped herself into her desk chair, opened a drawer, and found a sheet of stationery.
Embossed in gold lettering, the top of the sheet read From The Desk Of Miss Sadie Latimer, Greenwood Academy Healing Attendant.
She let out a deep sigh and scratched away with a nearby pen.
Dear Mama and Papa…