Arianna Falls hated school assemblies. She felt they were a waste of time, especially the Fall Founders Festival, an event which sounded like a lot more fun than it actually was. What the school administrators thought was so festive about a boring three-hour lecture regarding the heroism and bravery of the men and women who had originally settled Aislinn, Arianna could never understand. And it was the same lecture every year, with the same corny skits and tired jokes. The younger kids liked it, but Arianna had just seen the pageant too many times to find anything exciting about it, and so she vowed to never have to sit through the thing again. No, this year Arianna was going to escape.
She had ridden to school that morning with her mother, who was a teacher at the school. There was no easy way to get out of things at school with her mother always looming, though that was a blessing as well as a curse. Sure, she could never monkey around like the other students, but she also always had a carriage ride to and from school in, and she never had to worry too much about bullies. Still, she often wondered what it would be like to be as reckless as some of the other students, to be able to do whatever she wished without the threat of her mother's immediate reproval. It wasn't that she hated school, no, she loved learning, rather she just hated being cooped up so much. It wasn't that Arianna was impatient, it was the thickness of her teachers and the bad attitudes of her classmates that made her want to break free.
Many of the students were dressed in costume for the Founders Festival on the day that Arianna planned to escape. Some wore the native garb of Aislinn, others were dressed like characters from the Legend. Arianna had the wise idea to dress for escape, in a flowing brown robe that obscured her face. She hadn't yet figured out exactly how she was going to escape, but she was well supplied under her robe, with food and some tools. Her brother Brit had said that morning that she looked like a homeless person, which Arianna took as a compliment. It was exactly what she was going for. Who was less noticed by her Aislinnean friends than the homeless?
Arianna exchanged Promise Cards with her fellow students, colorful pieces of paper that each student wrote their favorite Founder Belief on and traded, in hopes of getting the most complete set, which gained the winning student a prize. The prize was usually pencils or something boring like that, and so Arianna never tried too hard for it. She just felt so much older than her classmates sometimes. Why were they all content to play their silly card games, when she burned for political discussion and longed to run free?
After the card exchange, a bell rang calling everyone to the Founders Festival. As the other students began filing out of her classroom, Arianna sank down into her robe and then slid from her chair onto the floor, where she puddled and tried her best not to give herself away, to not even breathe. It must have worked, as soon she heard only silence. She poked her fingers through the hood in her robe to check around the room and make sure she was alone. Success! Now, to flee.
Arianna popped her head out of her classroom, which was separated from the hallway and other classrooms by a giant swath of purple fabric. The school had been built an open-air structure, but the often cold weather in Aislinn quickly showed that to be a bad idea, and the curtains were added to buffet the northern winds. The curtains were voluminous and easy to duck behind, which was certainly to Arianna's advantage.
She fell out into the hallway and scurried down it towards the waiting exit on the other end. Just as she was nearing the exit and freedom, Ms. Pix, one of the schools oldest, kindest, and strictest teachers came around the corner. Arianna leapt and dove into one of the fabric walls. It certainly got Ms. Pix's attention, as the teacher stopped to adjust the curtain and say something about how windy it had been lately to herself. But Ms. Pix didn't leave for the assembly after that, she just stood there watching the hallway. It was as if she were posted there to keep an eye on the front door, which meant that Arianna's initial plan was thwarted. The back door it was going to have to be, a door perilously close to the auditorium, where the Festival was getting underway.
The brown-cloaked vigilante moved down the hall of classrooms again, now through the fabric walls. She passed through her old elementary classroom, where the all-too-familiar smell of cookies and urine made her sick to her stomach, then through the science lab, where jars full of preserved animal species peered out at her with their bulging eyes. And then she came at last to the hallway intersecting the main artery to the school. The coast looked clear, and so she began to sprint as fast as she could towards the open back door, which was not even ten feet away. Freedom was so close!
Just before she could reach the door, though, she was thwarted again, this time by her own father. Mr. Falls, also a teacher at the school, must have been avoiding the Festival himself, as he checked over both shoulders nervously to make sure that no one had seen him re-enter the school. Where did he think he was going? Why should he get to avoid the festival if Arianna couldn't? There was no time for such questions, though. Arianna's only option was to escape through a set of twin-doors that she thought led to the gymnasium.
She was wrong. Pushing open the doors into the waiting darkness, Arianna soon realized that she was backstage in the auditorium. How could she have gotten so turned around? She had fallen right into danger, as nearly all of the school's teachers and administrators were there, prepping and fixing scenery and costumes.
"There he is," Arianna heard a loud whisper say. "Mr. Falls, we need you. We've been waiting for you!"
Mr. Falls? They thought Arianna was Mr. Falls? Sure, she was taller than the average girl her age, and Mr. Falls was a bit stout, but how could they mistake her for him?
"Hey!" the voice whispered again. "C'mon, we need you!"
The door to the backstage area swung open again, cutting into the darkness. Mr. Falls sauntered in, making up a quick excuse about a burner he had left on in the science lab. What a sneak! Arianna thought. She was a little proud of her father, for being so bold and sly.
"Sorry I'm late," he said. He was quickly hushed.
"Where's your costume?" asked one of the other teachers. "Didn't you just have it on?"
"Costume...," Mr. Falls said, stalling for time to make up an alibi. "Costume..."
"It's right there!" the teacher scolded Mr. Falls. Though it wasn't just a costume, it was Arianna, petrified beneath her brown cloak. What could she do now? She was surely going to be revealed!
Mr. Falls tried to pick up the brown robe, but found it uncooperative. Arianna held tight and refused to let it go, even falling to the floor to escape her father's grasp.
"What on Alm?" Mr. Falls asked as he continued to try and get hold of the flailing robe. "This is the rowdiest piece of fabric I've ever..."
Arianna broke into a sweat. What could she possibly do now? As two other teachers closed in to help Mr. Falls with the difficult robe, she saw her future flash before her eyes. In it, she was grounded and her parents were very, very angry. Her plan, it seemed, had backfired.
And then, finally, the three adults won their battle with Arianna's robe, and she spilled out from underneath it onto the floor.
"Arianna?!" her father asked, astonished.
"Hey dad," she said, trying to force a smile.
"Good to see you, honey!" Mr. Falls said cheerily. He gave her a kiss on the forehead, was then helped into his robe, and the Festival commenced. The other teachers were focused too intently on the show to pay Arianna as much as a second notice.
After she stood, stunned, for what must have been a good five minutes, still expecting recognition or punishment, Arianna realized that she hadn't been caught at all. Another benefit to being the teacher's daughter was that she was never suspected to be up to anything untowards.
She quietly pressed half of the double-doors to the backstage area open and slid out from between them. And then, without having to hide or sneak at all, she strode right out the back door of the school, across the yawning play yard, and into the surrounding woods. She spent the whole day by the river, catching frogs and picking wild berries. And she was waiting just as she was supposed to at her mother's carriage when the last bell of the school day rang.
"A great ceremony this year, wasn't it?" Mrs. Falls asked happily as the carriage pulled away from the school.
"The best ever mom," Arianna said. "The best ever."