Her Royal Highness

By: Rachel Hawkins


When it comes to boarding schools in Scotland, none can beat #4 on our list, Gregorstoun. The forbidding fortress up in the Highlands of Scotland has been the chosen spot for matriculating Scottish royalty and nobility since the early 1900s, but it’s never had the same gloss as some of the other schools on our lists, possibly because of its remote location. It could also be the school’s reputation for strictness and austerity keeping some notable names away. In any case, the school sits on 200 acres and was once the showplace estate of the McGregor family, hence the name. Students at Gregorstoun may have to face early wake-up calls, bracing exercise in the frigid Highland winters, and a particularly grueling Outward Bound–esque competition known as “the Challenge,” but they can do so among some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland and among the country’s most famous residents—Prince Alexander graduated from the school in 2009, and his brother Sebastian currently attends. Next year, the school becomes co-ed, welcoming its first female class in the school’s hundred-year history.


(“Best Boarding Schools for Landing a Royal,” from Prattle)





CHAPTER 1



“There’s a unicorn on this.”

Grinning, I take the letter out of Jude’s hands, leaning back on the nest of sleeping bags and pillows we’ve built inside the little orange tent I’ve set up in the backyard. The sun set about an hour ago, and the only light left comes from my Coleman lantern, which is affixed to a little hook on the ceiling of the tent. We haven’t done a backyard campout since we were in fifth grade, but it’s summer, and we were bored, and setting up the tent seemed like a fun thing to do.

“Now you see why I wanted to go to school there,” I say, stuffing the letter back into its envelope. “Anyplace that uses unicorns in its official correspondence is a good place for me.”

“Obviously,” Jude echoes, leaning back, too. Her long blond hair is dyed turquoise at the ends, and as she gets situated on the sleeping bags, those bright blue strands brush against my arm, setting my pulse racing and a whole fleet of butterflies loose in my stomach.

Propping herself up on her elbow, Jude looks at me, the freckles over the bridge of her nose bold in the lantern light. “And you got in!”

Nodding, I look back at the envelope from Gregorstoun, a fancy boarding school in the Highlands of Scotland, fighting the urge to pull the letter out and reread the heading.


Dear Miss Amelia Quint:

    We are pleased to offer you a place at Gregorstoun . . .



The letter has been sitting in my bag for over a month now. I haven’t even told my dad about it. And I hadn’t planned on talking to Jude about it, either, but she saw it while she was looking for lip balm.

“So why aren’t you going?” she asks, and I shrug, taking the letter and tucking it back in the front pocket of the beat-up canvas satchel I bring everywhere with me. A light breeze rattles the nylon of the tent, carrying the smell of summer night in Texas—freshly cut grass and the smoky scent of someone grilling.

“Millie, you’ve been talking about this school for, like, a year now,” Jude presses, reaching out to push me with her free hand. “And now you got in, and you’re not gonna go?”

Another shrug as I sigh and fiddle with my bangs. “It’s super expensive,” I tell her, which is true. “So I’d need to apply for financial aid. And it’s pretty far away.” Also true, not that that stopped me from dreaming about it all last year. Gregorstoun is up in the Highlands of Scotland, surrounded by mountains and lakes—sorry, lochs—plus all the cool rock samples a geology freak like me could want.

But last year, things were different with Jude.

We’ve been friends since we were nine, and I’ve had a crush on her since I was thirteen and realized that I felt the same way about Jude as I did about Lance McHenry from Boys of Summer (look, everyone liked Boys of Summer back then, it wasn’t as embarrassing as it sounds now).

And my crush on Jude had just as much a chance of being requited as the flame I’d carried for a floppy-haired boy bander.

Or so I’d thought.

Now she scoots closer to me on top of the sleeping bag printed with daisies she’s had since that first fifth-grade campout. Unlike me, Jude isn’t much for camping.

She trails her fingers over my arm, nails lightly scratching my skin, and my breath comes out all shaky as I break out in goose bumps. Each fingernail is painted a different shade of purple, her thumb a pale lavender, her pinky a violet so deep it almost looks black. There in the tent with the summer night all around us, it feels like we could be the only two people in the world right now.