Jenny was not only wealthy by legal right, but she was also tremendously pretty.
Our friendship started immediately after her arrival. I was by the window of my attic room on a chilly winter day in early January. I saw then a big, black motorcar stopping by the gates, and a most beautiful girl of my age getting out of the car, as gracefully as one could be. Her hair was golden blonde and it cascaded down her back. She was wearing a white, silky, full length fur coat.
Madame had informed me about the arrival of the American girl, and she was to share with me my cosy attic room. I was not very happy with this arrangement, as I had been living in that room all by myself for a while, and now I had to share it with a stranger.
Anyway, Madame Neuville had refurnished it, and the result was a very pretty and comfortable room, with printed wallpaper, which had reddish blond-haired fairies with butterfly wings on their backs flying all over it, while holding their magic wands, the whole effect being in shades of light pink.
On the first night, I heard Jenny crying. I wondered if I should go to her to cheer her up, something I had difficulties in doing? Yes, I decided I should comfort her, so I went to her bed. She pretended to be asleep, maybe being ashamed of having been crying.
"Look Jenny, don't be sad. I am here if you wish to talk."
She lifted her head from her pillow.
"I am sorry to disturb you." I said.
"Oh, don't bother," she said, "you see, I haven't seen my father for more than a year, "
"and now he is dead." She went on.
"Well, you still met him on other occasions. I myself never even met my father. I have not the faintest idea what he looks like."
"How strange! "she murmured.
"Now, it's time to get some sleep. Tomorrow I'll show you around and introduce you to the other girls. I promise you that you will enjoy school. We have lots of exciting times."
Next day, I did introduce Jenny to the other girls in our class, and at once, she became very popular among them. I guess it was because she was so pretty, with her golden hair and a pair of such expressive blue eyes. In addition, she was rich - she had an outstanding wardrobe, and she always had money to spend on clothes.
So, the day I received the bad news, I decided to make Jenny a witness of my misfortunes.
Every evening, before we went to bed, Jenny would look like an elf, with her golden hair swaying down her neck and with her porcelain complexion enhancing a pair of shimmering blue eyes. Her self-confidence had no limits, so I always agreed with her, besides she was also an authority in the affairs of the heart.
That evening while she was brushing her beautiful hair, I confided in her, and although her advice startled me, I realized that it could prove useful one day. As she said, it was time for me to grow up and stop holding false beliefs. We sat by the small window, now wide open, and Jenny offered me a cigarette which I accepted that one time, as I was so nervous. I coughed a great deal while Jenny laughed:
"You are so clumsy, my poor Adele!" And so was I at least if I were to compare myself to her. And she went on:
"You see, Adele, I also have my problems."
"Which are?" I asked, not without some irony.
"Well, I told you that I didn't attend my father's funeral. You see, I have never forgiven him for marrying someone else. It explains why I avoided seeing him, "
"Now, I don't look forward to staying with my step-mother when I finish school."
"Why not, you have never met her? She might be decent ."
"Don't be silly, she married my father for his money. Besides, she was much younger than he was."
"Heavens. You never told me that. How much younger?"
"I think she is only thirty, but it's hard to know as I have never met her,"
"I will meet her next month, during our school break." She explained.
Right, the Easter holidays were approaching, and I was to stay at school, as usual, because I had nowhere else to go.
"I will be travelling to London where my father bought a town house as a wedding gift to my step-mother."
"Who knows, maybe you will like her," I comforted her.
"No, I will hate her."
I remember that suddenly it got chilly. A cold breeze burst into the room, and Jenny attempted to close the French windows.
"Wait," I said, "let me finish the cigarette."
"At last, you've learnt how to smoke," she laughed.
"And I am actually enjoying it," I answered.
On the spur of the moment, I threw the cigarette out of the window, but it didn't fall down. Instead, it wavered back and forth on the wooden eaves on the roof. I jumped onto the roof to catch it. I looked down the Rue de Passy and my head began to whirl. I almost lost balance.
Jenny was angry.
"Adele, honestly, you should be more careful. What if Madame catches us? Her room is right below ours . And besides you ought not climb up onto a roof on windy evenings, you may fall down."
"Oh, I have a good sense of balance," I replied.
As for Madame Neuville, Jenny was right, she had forbidden us to smoke.
Anyhow, before we went to sleep, she gave me some pieces of advice that I found useful. After all, Jenny was not such a scatterbrain as she seemed, and there was some practical cleverness behind that pretty face.
"Adele, you are not going to tell the other girls that your father died and left you destitute, are you?"
"Why not?" I asked, while at the same time my eyes couldn't resist closing as tired as I was.
"They are a bunch of snobs, and they will start to look down on you and to humiliate you. God knows what else."
She was right. Those girls were snobbish and very conscious of their social status. A countess remained a countess, and Mme Neuville would treat her accordingly.
"By the way, what are you going to do now that your father has left you destitute?"
"I don't really know. What do you think?"
She didn't answer. Instead, the sound of her breathing regularly indicated that she had fallen asleep.