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The wind was howling outside. The only noise competing with it was the rain's, as it crashed against the windows of the darkened room. It was the first autumn storm of the year, and honestly, Adélaïde could've done without it. Twisting and turning under the blankets, battling with her pillow to try and muffle the noise, it was all pilling onto the stress of all the homeworks she'd had to do that evening.

She sat up straight on her bed. Despite her exhaustion, her nerves were on edge. She'd always hated the noise of rain on windows. Never understood why people find it relaxing. If anything, it felt like an attack, as if an army of tiny demons were battling to enter. She needed to calm down somehow. As she paced around her room, breathing deeply, her eyes suddenly stumbled on her play's notebook. An idea struck her mind. She knew what to do. Or did she? Did she really want to brave the storm?

Screw it. It wasn't that far. And she would kill for some peace of mind right now. She slipped on a sweater and some pants, and pocketed her notebook with a pen. Downstairs, she slipped her rain coat on and found Judith's rain boots under the stairs.

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She rushed through the storm, the rain coat closely wrapped around her. The pavement was slipery with rain and her hood constantly threatened to flip back from the wind. And the trees bent under the wind's attacks, creating fantastical shadows projected by the streetlamps on the walls of every streets she passed. Those moving shadows made her jump periodically, as her mind created visions of people storming out of a back alley to attack her. All this didn't quite help her anxiety and she started questionning her choice.

It felt like forever but she finally reached the Theater. A thought finally dawned on her. Was it open? Of course it wasn't, why would it be? She now felt incredibly stupid. With a defeated sigh, she weighted her hand on the doorhandle and collapsed against the door.

She violently startled when it gave out instead of immovably thumping against her shoulder.

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She sighed from the warmth of the building. It was empty, which made it even weirder that it was still open. The stage room was dimly lit, and all noises from the storm were muted. Adélaïde loved that cocoon atmosphere that seemed to inhabit all theaters. The very air felt fluffy on her skin. She'd only been here for a few seconds and already she felt better. Forgetting about anything else, she climbed onto the stage like a shipwrecked sailor finally reaching the shore and lied down on the woodfloor. Somehow, it felt even softer than her bed.

After a few deep breaths, she sat cross-legged and took in the quiet rows of seat. She didn't feel like sleeping anymore. She opened her notebook and started rereading her writings. After a minute, she turned her back to the invisible audience. Later again, she decided to sit in the auditorium. She relaxed in the soft red velvet of the seat, took off her rain boots and put her feet on the backrest in front of her. From then, inspiration finally flowed. She wrote like this for a while, her notebook on her thighs, and occasionnally looking up at the stage in contemplation.

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A violent noise broke her tranquility. A heavy door had been closed. She sat up at the realisation that someone must be here. And that someone was probably a teacher. And she was out of her shared-house after curfew. She had to be in trouble.

She stayed completely still as steps approached from backstage.

Mr Samuel appeared, carrying a collection of thin rectangular boxes. He was too busy balancing them in his arms to notice her at first. And not knowing what to do, she just sat there, until he looked up.
“Who's there besides foul weather?” he asked with a startled expression.
“One minded like the weather, most unquietly,” she responded without thinking.
“You know your Shakespeare,” he commented with a pleased smile, “But more seriously, what are you doing here, Miss de Broglie?”
Adélaïde breathed. She could've done a lot worse than Mr Samuel concerning who to be discovered by, and his tone told her she wasn't in trouble.
“Uhm... Yes, I'm sorry sir. I couldn't sleep and the door was open,” she took her feet off the backrest.
“Oh, that's alright,” he approached and made a dismissive gesture, “It's partly my fault, really,” he continued, “I was supposed to close the theater for the night, but found some old piano rolls in an unused closet backstage,” he motioned to the boxes, “Got carried away trying to read the labels or guessing the piece.”
Adélaïde's curiosity was piqued.
“Piano rolls?”
“You don't know what they are?” he sat down in the seat next to her.
“Never heard of them.”
“Well, they go in a pianola, a mecanical piano that would play on its own, the melody being printed on this kind of rolls,” he took one of them out of its box to demonstrate, adopting the tone he would usually use in class, “They were invented in the late 19th century, but were most popular in the early 20th.”

He went a little in detail on the operating of the machine, and Adélaïde listened quietly.
“It probably means there was a pianola at some point in the Academy,” he suddenly thought out loud, “I wonder if it's still there, somewhere. I'll have to ask the Headmistress about it.”

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After a second of silence, he suddenly turned to Adélaïde.
“What do you have here?” his eyes indicated her notebook, still in her hand.
“Oh...” she hastly closed it, not sure what to say, “It's just a little project I've been working on.”
“Really? What kind of project?”
She hesitated a second. She always felt hesitant talking about her play to people. It was so important to her, she had an irrational fear of jinxxing or wasting it if she talked about it too much.
But to hell with it. If she had to tell someone about it, Mr Samuel was probably a good choice. He was the theater teacher after all, and pretty open-minded at that.

“Well, it's... a play I've been writing for a while now...”
“Oh wow! A play!” he exclaimed with his signature enthusiasm. How he still had any energy to talk about music or theater after a whole week of it non-stop, and in the middle of the night, was beyond her.
“No wonder you came here,” he reflected, looking around at the auditorium, “What better place to write a play if not in a theater?”
“Yes,” she chuckled, “I always feel good in places like this. And I think that sitting in the public helps with finding the right dynamics.”
“Is it the first play you write?”
“Not really. I've written a few things before, for school or for friends... but all pretty small. It's my first big project, I would say.”
Mr Samuel nodded, looking at her protectively, “And how long have you been working on it?” he asked when he saw the crinkled, used aspect of the pages.
“Oh, a good couple years now...”
He produced a small exclamation.
“And when do you plan on finishing it?”
“Oh, I don't know... I keep having new ideas, changing what I already wrote... I thought maybe Hearthstone would be a good environment to finish it, but...”
“How about this year?”

Adélaïde paused. She felt a pinch of anxiety at the closeness of the deadline.
“Sometimes, we need some extra pressure in order to reach an objective,” he leaned in as if in confidence, “It could be your objective of the year.”
She smiled a little, but didn't answer. She was indeed tired of not making that much progress on it, even though she had worked on other projects at the same time. Maybe pressure from the outside was what she needed.
Mr Samuel looked at her for a moment, deep in thought.
“I think there's a vacancy in the Academy's newspaper,” he suddenly spurted, “They're looking for a critic, to comment on the students' artworks.”
Adélaïde wasn't sure where he was going with this.
“I could put you in touch with the newspaper's head, if you want to. I think it would do you good to work on something like this. It would expand your portfolio, and I have found that writing in different mediums and styles helps with creativity.”

She hadn't expected that. Thinking about it for a second, she accepted his offer. He told her a little more. Apparently, even though the Hearthstone Chronicles is bi-monthly, the critic article would only be included every two issues. So if she was taken in, she'd only have to write there once a month. But she'd have to keep track of the student's productions.

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On the way back to her house, as the night was much calmer, she thought about the slight irony of the situation. She breaks the school's curfew, slips inside a school building without permission and comes out with a possible club position. Guess that's Mr. Samuel for you.

Only a slight drizzle harassed her face, so she didn't bother putting her hood on. She suddenly thought about her dad. He was a person of independent means, living off his properties. But as he had shares in a few newspapers, including a big parisian one, he considered himself a journalist despite never having written a line in his life. He barely even read the papers, appart from the financial pages.

She remembered one time, when they were in vacation at the beach, he introduced himself that way to a Dutch tourist. The face he made when the man then asked him about his opinion on the political climate in Sub-Saharan Africa. Priceless. And well-deserved.

A smile played on her lips as she thought that, even though it was only a school newspaper, she might still become much more of a journalist than he's ever been.

She slept at peace the rest of the night.

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