The Swiss Family Watson - Part 2 by Josie
Summary:

Second part of my story following the lives of Evadne, Edgar and family.

Part 1 and the two prequels, Long Road Home and A Second Chance can be found in my stories. 

Hope you enjoy!

NOW COMPLETE


Categories: Ste Therese's House Characters: None
School Period: Future, Switzerland
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Domestic, Drama, Family, Friendship, Humour, Romance, School Story
Challenges:
Series: Josie's Quintette Universe
Chapters: 41 Completed: Yes Word count: 110385 Read: 21572 Published: 06 Nov 2017 Updated: 12 Jan 2018

1. Chapter 1 by Josie

2. Chapter 2 by Josie

3. Chapter 3 by Josie

4. Chapter 4 by Josie

5. Chapter 5 by Josie

6. Chapter 6 by Josie

7. Chapter 7 by Josie

8. Chapter 8 by Josie

9. Chapter 9 by Josie

10. Chapter 10 by Josie

11. Chapter 11 by Josie

12. Chapter 12 by Josie

13. Chapter 13 by Josie

14. Chapter 14 by Josie

15. Chapter 15 by Josie

16. Chapter 16 by Josie

17. Chapter 17 by Josie

18. Chapter 18 by Josie

19. Chapter 19 by Josie

20. Chapter 20 by Josie

21. Chapter 21 by Josie

22. Chapter 22 by Josie

23. Chapter 23 by Josie

24. Chapter 24 by Josie

25. Chapter 25 by Josie

26. Chapter 26 by Josie

27. Chapter 27 by Josie

28. Chapter 28 by Josie

29. Chapter 29 by Josie

30. Chapter 30 by Josie

31. Chapter 31 by Josie

32. Chapter 32 by Josie

33. Chapter 33 by Josie

34. Chapter 34 by Josie

35. Chapter 35 by Josie

36. Chapter 36 by Josie

37. Chapter 37 by Josie

38. Chapter 38 by Josie

39. Chapter 39 by Josie

40. Chapter 40 by Josie

41. Chapter 41 by Josie

Chapter 1 by Josie

Evadne returned to the terrace, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a plate of Guilia’s mouthwatering biscotti in another. She’d only had lunch a couple of hours ago, but she could always make room for her cook’s delicious biscuits, especially when they were warm out of the oven. 

Pulling back her chair, she sat down at the table again, popped a biscotti in her mouth and picked up the 1955 album. She opened it to the first page, smoothing back the tracing paper. Seeing the first photograph, she started laughing, almost choking on her coffee, and turned her head to look fondly at the big, wooden wendy house standing near the long hedge that hid the view down to the tennis court. She had completely forgotten what that house had started out as… 

== 

“DAD, CAN WE GO NOW?” 

Edgar stopped hammering and turned to face his son. “Did you say something?” 

Ned put his hands on his hips and shook his head in despair. “I’ve been shouting at you for the last five minutes!” 

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the hammer. What did you want?” 

“Can we go and get the boat now? You promised we could pick it up today and it’s already two o’clock.” 

Edgar looked at his watch and frowned. “I don’t know, Ned. I promised Evvy I’d listen out for Henry while she got some sleep. You know he’s been playing up for the last two nights.” 

“He’s already screamed twice and she’s had to get up - you can’t hear anything out here with all that banging. She said your babysitting skills were ‘about as good as mudguards on a tortoise’!” Edgar winced and his son grinned back at him. “So can we go?” 

“Okay, I’ll go and talk to her.” Putting his hammer down in front of the kennel that he was building, he got to his feet. “You go and get the ropes from the basement and put them in the boot of the car – they should have plenty, but you never know.” 

As Ned ran off to do his bidding, Edgar surveyed the kennel quickly. There wasn’t much left to do now – just the last of the roof to fasten on and a quick lick of paint to apply to the front and that would be everything done. He had plenty of time to go and collect the boat and still get it all finished before dinner. Satisfied with his work, he made his way across the lawn, in through the side door, and upstairs to go and find his wife. She had been in bed since they had eaten lunch, an hour and a half previously, trying to catch up on some sleep as Henry’s incessant crying had kept her up for the two previous nights and she was feeling dead on her feet. As Edgar had slept through most of the din, she had told him in no uncertain terms that he was on Henry-watch this afternoon, but if his son was to be believed, he was not doing a very good job. 

He opened the bedroom door as quietly as he could, poking his head inside to check up on her, and was relieved to see her lying in bed, her back towards him. He was just about to tiptoe out again when she suddenly spoke. 

“You may as well come in – I’m wide awake anyhow.” Edgar gave her guilty smile as she sat up and glared at him. “Fat lot of use you are as a babysitter! You haven’t heard him once over that racket you were making out there!” 

“I know, I’m sorry. I just wanted to get the kennel out of the way this afternoon,” he replied, walking across to sit down on the edge of the bed. “You did ask me to get it finished, after all.” 

Evadne rolled her eyes. “Put it all on me, why don’t you! You’re the one who started the thing instead of getting a professional to do it! Have you finished it then?” 

“Almost. No more than an hour’s work to do, I’d say. Ned wants to go and pick up the boat though.” 

Now?” 

Edgar nodded. “I did promise them we’d go and fetch it today. Would you mind dreadfully if we went? We’ll be back by four at the latest.” 

“I suppose not.” She heaved a sigh of resignation. “I’m not gonna get any sleep today anyway, at this rate.” 

“Well Guilia and the girls’ll still be here. Maybe they can listen out for him?” 

“Maybe.” She didn’t sound entirely convinced. “Go on then, be off with you. Are you taking the Mercedes?” 

Edgar shook his head and grinned. “I was thinking your Renault might be more suited to the job, seeing as it’s already got a few dents here and there.” 

“Excuse me!” his wife replied indignantly, hitting him on the arm. “They’re not dents, they’re marks of character!” 

“Whatever you say!" Pecking her on the cheek, he got to his feet. “Right, I’ll see you in a couple of hours tops. I’ll ask Guilia to keep an ear open for Henry - you try and get some rest.” 

“Should have more success with you not here!” she muttered loudly, as she wriggled back under the covers, and chuckling, Edgar left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. 

 

Half an hour later, Thea, Marcia and their friend Ann Bown were playing in the back garden when through the open window of the nursery, they heard Henry start crying again. They could hear Guilia in the kitchen, singing loudly and banging pots and pans around, clearly oblivious to the noise that the baby was making, and mindful of her sleeping stepmother, Thea decided to take matters into her own hands. Running in through the open French doors, closely followed by the other two, she managed to reach Henry's bedroom before her stepmother awoke. Making her way over to the crib, she bent down and picked her little brother up in her arms. 

She rocked him back and forth, cradling him gently against her shoulder, but it seemed to make little difference. His yells died down but he continued to wimper, and Thea, who of all the family was the one who generally had the most calming influence on the baby boy, looked at the other two confused. 

“Why won’t he stop crying? He’ll wake Mummy soon!” 

“Let me try.” Marcia held out her arms, but Thea shook her head and backed away. 

“No, you might drop him,” she replied somewhat officiously and, it has to be said, unfairly as Marcia was extremely careful with her brother, whatever she may be like with everything else. 

Unsurprisingly, Marcia was more than a little offended. “I won’t drop him!” 

“You might!” 

Won't!” 

Before Thea could retort, Ann decided to step in and quell the argument that was clearly brewing. “Maybe he needs changing?” 

This seemed to make sense. Forgetting her quarrel with her sister, Thea walked him across to the dresser that doubled as a changing table, stood on a stool that Ann pulled up, and laid him gently down on the towels spread out on the top. Then jumping off the stool, she bent and opened the bottom draw to pull out a nappy, only to find it empty. 

“Marcia, go and get a nappy from the laundry,” she ordered, turning to face her sister. 

Fed up with being bossed about, Marcia pulled a face at her. “Get it yourself!” 

“I have to stay here with Henry!” 

“No you don’t, Ann and me can stay here!” 

Thea rolled her eyes. “Fine, watch him then, but don’t touch things – Mummy showed me how to do the changing.” 

“She showed me too!” Marcia retorted, sticking her tongue out at her sister’s retreating back. Then walking over to the dresser, she climbed up on the stool and began to undo the pins on her brother’s nappy. 

Ann watched her, a little concerned. “Shouldn’t we wait for Thea like she said?” 

Marcia shook her head vigorously. “She thinks she knows everything! I’ve watched Mummy loads of times, it’s easy.” Ignoring the dubious look her friends was giving her, Marcia laid the pins to one side and pulled off the nappy, screwing her nose up at the stench. “Here, take this,” she said, hnding it to a horrified Ann, who took it gingerly, holding it out at arms length. 

“It smells horrid!” 

“That’s ‘cause it’s a number two,” Marcia friend replied knowingly. “Put it in that bag on the floor and we’ll take it downstairs when we’re finished,” then grabbing a flannel, she rinsed it under the nearby sink, and began to wipe her brother clean. That done, she picked up the talcum powder, turned it upside down and shook it hard, sending a cloud up in the air and causing herself to cough. 

“Isn’t that too much?” Ann asked, regarding her sceptically. 

Marcia shook her head. “Mummy always uses lots,” she replied, dusting herself down, as the front of her red pinafore was now speckled with white. “It stops rashes or something.” Then turning back to her brother, she placed the talc back on the dresser and surveyed him proudly. “See, told you it was easy – we just need the clean nappy now! That’ll show Thea for being a know-all.” 

As if to prove her wrong, Henry suddenly decided that he was not quite done and sent up a graceful golden arc of pee, hitting his sister square on the forehead. She shrieked and toppled backwards off the stool, landing on her backside on the rug, as Thea returned with the clean nappy, just in time to see what happened. She and Ann stared at each other for a split second, and then both dissolved into fits of giggles. 

Maria got to her feet and glared at the pair of them. “Shhh you ninnies, you’ll wake Mummy!” she hissed, reaching for a towel to wipe her face. 

“Too late, Mommy’s already awake,” came a new voice from the doorway, and the three of them swing round to face Evadne. “What’s going on?” she asked, surveying the scene. 

Marcia glanced at her brother, who was now gurgling happily on top of the dresser, waving his legs in the air, and then looked back at her stepmother with wide eyes. “Henry started crying so we tried to change his nappy, but then he sprayed me!” she responded honestly. 

“So I can see,” Evadne replied, trying hard not to laugh. “Why didn’t you wake me?” 

“’Cause Daddy said you needed to sleep,” Thea put in, trying to stifle her giggles, “and we’ve watched you lots of times, so we thought we’d do it ourselves.” 

“Well that’s very kind of you, but you should still have woken me or gotten Guilia to help you,” Evvy replied sternly. “You’re too young to do this on your own, and now you know what happens when you don’t know what you’re doing.” She looked Marcia up and down, a smile twitching at the edge of her lips. “You’re not to try changing him again without either me or Daddy here, understand?” All three nodded earnestly. “Right, Marcia, go and put that pinafore in the laundry and then go and run yourself a bath. I’ll come and help you wash your hair in a few minutes. And you two take that dirty diaper down to the trash," she added, turning to Thea and Ann, "and then go back outside and play.” 

Marcia departed to do as she was told, Thea and Ann following behind, still giggling, and Evadne sighed and turned her attention to her son. By the time she had him cleaned and dressed, he was wide awake, and deciding to give sleep up as a bad job, she gathered a few of his things, put him in his basket and made her way downstairs. 

 

And so, when Edgar returned an hour later, he found his wife and eldest daughter settled on a rug in the garden, Henry lying next to them in his basket, sucking on one of his toys. As it happened, he needn’t have worried which car he took to collect the boat, for the previous owners offered to sail it round to the Watsons’ jetty free of charge. Ned had clamoured to go with them, with the excuse of showing them which was the right house and as Edgar appeared in the garden, he saw the boat just coming in to moor. 

“Boat’s here if you’re interested,” he called out with a grin, and Thea instantly jumped to her feet and ran off towards the lake have a look. 

Edgar followed her down to the water and they stood on the jetty as they watched it approach. “Where are your sister and Ann?” 

“Taken Scrabble for a walk,” Thea replied, staring open mouthed at the family’s newest acquisition. She had been imagining a small two-man dinghy, not the sizeable yacht that Edgar had decided would fit the bill. ‘Daddy, it’s really big – look at it next to the rowing boat!” 

Edgar smiled. “Well there are lots of us to fit on if we want to go out all together. Good job we’ve got a big boathouse, eh?” 

Thea nodded as the boat pulled alongside the jetty and Ned jumped off, a wide grin lighting up his face. “Dad, it’s so cool! It’s got a little room in there and everything! And they let me hold the ropes for a bit too – sailing’s so much fun! Can we go out in it now? Please?” 

“Can we, Daddy?” 

Their faces fell as Edgar shook his head. “Not today, Mummy’s too tired to take us out and I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to start. There’s no point in grouching,” he added sternly, as they both began to complain, “I’m not changing my mind. If your mother agrees and the weather holds, we can go out tomorrow. There are plenty of other things to keep you occupied for now - why don’t you go and play tennis or something,” then ignoring what else they had to say, he turned to thank the previous owners and offer them a lift home. 

They declined, stating that it was only a mile or so and they fancied the walk, so Edgar saw them out and then returned to join his wife. She looked up with a smile as he sat down next to her on the rug. 

“I gather from the noise that the boat was a hit?” 

“Something like that!” he replied with a grin. “I rather think I’ve volunteered you to take everyone out tomorrow though.” 

“That’s fine – just so long as it’s not today. I don’t think my mind’s quite right just now!” 

“How are you feeling?” he asked, a little concerned at the dark shadows below her eyes. 

“Tired, but I'll be okay. Oh Edgar, you’ll never guess what happened to Marcia,” she said with a giggle, and recounted the story of Marcia’s attempt to change Henry, causing her husband to guffaw loudly. 

“She never learns, does she? Sorry they woke you though. Do you want to go up and get some sleep now I’m home?” 

Evadne shook her head. “It’s the weekend, I’d rather spend my day with you and then sleep tonight - providing this young man does so as well, of course,” she added, leaning over and glancing at her son. 

Edgar smiled and shifted position so that his back was against the trunk of the large tree under which they were sitting. “Well why don’t you get some rest here now,” he said, patting his lap. “I’m not going anywhere else this afternoon, so I can watch him while you have a bit of a nap, at least.” 

Evadne returned his smile and curled up on her side, her head resting on his legs. It didn’t take long for her to start drifting off in the peace and quiet of the late afternoon, where the only sounds were the birds singing, the quiet hum of activity on the lake and the odd distant yell from the tennis court where Ned and Thea were now playing. Edgar gazed around him for a while, soaking up the rare moment of tranquility and gently stroking his wife’s hair, and then for want of anything else to do, he picked up her copy of ‘Tender is the Night’ from where she had left it on the rug, and began to read. 

He had just finished chapter three when there was a shout from the terrace and Scrabble came haring out of the french doors, closely followed by Marcia and Ann. As her friend followed the puppy down towards the lake, trying her best to catch him, Marcia came to a halt in front of her parents. 

“Daddy, Scrabble’s…” 

Shhh!” Edgar hastily brought a finger to his lips and pointed to his now-slumbering wife and son. 

His daughter stared at him for a second, and then continued in a whisper. “Daddy, Scrabble’s just piddled on Millicent Mary again!” 

Edgar heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes. For reasons unbeknownst to them all, Scrabble had recently decided that he could no longer tolerate Millicent Mary, and had taken to either barking viciously at her or cocking his leg on her at varying intervals. They had tried everything to deter him, with no success - Marcia was convinced that he was jealous of their original ‘pet' - and it was this that had prompted Edgar to begin building the kennel in the first place, as the girls were insistent that the dog would get cold if just left outside with no shelter, especially overnight. 

“Right, that’s it." Gently lifting Evadne’s head, he slipped his legs out from under her, being careful not to wake her, and got to his feet. “Marcia, go and get some soapy water and clean it up, will you. Then you and Ann can come and help me finish painting the kennel. I’ve had about enough of this,” and striding across the lawn to far side of the terrace, he picked up his hammer and got back to work. 

 

Evadne awoke a couple of hours later to see everyone crowded around the kennel hooting with laughter. Smiling to herself, she got to her feet, lifting her son out of his basket as the noise had woken him as well, and made her way across to join them. 

“You finished then?” she asked her husband as she approached him. 

Edgar looked round with a grin. “Certainly have! She’s in already, and very happy about it if Marcia’s to be believed,” he added with a wink. 

At that moment the children moved aside, giving her a clear view of the owner ensconced in her new abode. Evadne burst out laughing. “I still can’t believe you’ve spent the last two weekends building a kennel for Millicent Mary,” she chuckled. 

“The things we do for our children, eh?” he replied, raising an eyebrow, and then he started laughing as Scrabble sat down at his feet, tail wagging and what looked like a wide grin on his face. “Not to mention our pets!”

Chapter 2 by Josie

“So one last time, what are the rules?” 

“Water is not for messing about on, and always do what Mummy says.” 

Edgar smiled and nodded at his two daughters, who beamed back at him, standing very proud and upright in their brand new lifejackets. 

“Excellent. Ned, I didn’t hear you say anything just then. Come on, what are the rules?” 

Ned rolled his eyes. “Water’s not for messing about on, and always do whatever Evvy says,” he recited mechanically. “Can we go now?” 

“Don’t take that attitude with me, young man! Safety’s important – if you can’t take it seriously then…” 

“Okay,” Evadne interrupted hurriedly, seeing her husband was on the verge of giving them all yet another lecture on the subject, “I think we all understand it’s important, Edgar. Shall we get on, or we’ll still be standing here when it gets dark,” and holding out her hand, she helped Thea and Marcia aboard the boat before climbing on herself. “Come on, Ned, get a shove on. Edgar, we’ll be back in about an hour, and then I’ll take you out, okay?”

Grunting an acknowledgement, Edgar untied the boat from the jetty, tossing the rope to Ned and using his foot to push the craft a small distance away. Evadne started the engine and they pulled out onto the open water, Thea sitting at the rear chatting to her stepmother, and Ned and Marcia up front, arguing over which of them got to hoist the jib. Thea looked back and gave her father a cheerful wave. Edgar returned it and then went to join his youngest son, who was fast asleep in his basket in the shade. 

It was now their second day as boat owners, and today Evadne was giving them all their first lesson in how to sail. Once they were well away from the shore, she showed the three children how to hoist the mainsail, and her husband watched on as for the next hour she showed them basic tacking and jibing and let each of them have a turn themselves. When they finally returned to the jetty, all three had flushed cheeks and beaming smiles, and leaving Evvy to tie the boat up, they jumped off and ran over to their father, all talking at once. 

“Daddy, did you see? I sailed all the way past Onkel Anton’s and turned it round, but it was a bit heavy and Mummy had to help…” 

“…I tacked and everything, Daddy, and Mummy showed me how to jibe too, but I got it wrong…” 

“…I went right down to the Di Giovanni’s, Dad, past their house to the park. Evvy said I was best by a mile…” 

“…No she didn’t!” Marcia put in indignantly and Thea stopped, mouth open, and stared at her brother. 

“Don’t tell fibs, Ned, she didn’t say that.” 

“She did too – she said I was the best.” 

“No, you said you were best and Mummy said that's only ‘cause you’re bigger than us so you can hold the ropes better, so there!” Marcia pointed out, sticking her tongue out at her brother. “Doesn’t make you the best, it just makes you older!” 

Ned opened his mouth to retort but, seeing the makings of a full-scale row between his children, decided to intervene before his son could speak. 

“Well I was watching you from here, and you all looked just as good as each other,” he put in quickly, as his wife finished tying up the boat and came across the grass to join them. “Isn’t that right, dear?” 

Evadne raised her eyebrows questioningly. “Isn’t what right?” 

“That they were all as good as each other out there.” 

“I’d say so.” She grinned at each of them in turn. “Very impressive for a first go. We’ll make sailors off you all in no time! You ready then?” she added, turning to her husband. 

Edgar nodded. “Right'o, you three, keep an eye on Henry please, and no arguing or it’s bread and water for dinner and then straight to bed! And can one of you go and feed Scrabble? It’s almost his food time.” Then as Thea ran off to do as he asked, he turned and followed his wife back down to the boat. 

 

“Okay, hold it, hold it…and tack. Edgar, I said tack! Edgar! EDGAR!” 

Letting go of the jib sheet, Evadne jumped to the back of the boat and flung out a hand, pulling the rudder hard towards her and causing her husband to yell and let go of the mainsail. The boat turned slowly, drifting and bobbing gently on the lake's small waves, the boom swaying to and fro. 

Edgar glared at her indignantly. “What did you do that for?” 

“I told you to tack!” 

“I was going to!” 

“When? You were about to hit someone!” 

“No I wasn’t, I…” He fell silent as a small dinghy sailed passed them, dangerously close, the irate occupants haranguing them in French. 

Evadne apologised profusely to the people in the other boat, and then turned back to her husband in despair. “Right, either you stop being an ass and pay attention to me, or we’re going back in now!” 

“There’s no need to talk to me like I’m an idiot, I know what I’m doing!” 

“No, you don’t! We’ve been out twenty minutes and that’s the second collision we’ve almost had, you’ve been hit by the boom twice and we nearly capsized a minute ago, all because you won’t listen! Maybe you should've paid more attention to the lectures you gave the kids - Marcia did better than this and she’s nine!” 

“Well I’d have tacked sooner if you’d told me there was a boat there! And I’d be perfectly capable of doing this if you weren’t shouting at me every ten seconds – how am I supposed to concentrate with you nagging at me like an old mother hen!” he replied huffily.  

Evadne stared at him, open-mouthed. “You arrogant pig!" she eventually cried, outraged at his cheek. "I’m not nagging you, I’m attempting to teach you, and you’re not even trying to concentrate! You think just because I’ve told you something once, you’re an expert.” Edgar glared back at her, unrepentant, and she reached out to grab the rudder. “I’ve had my fill of this for today, we’re heading back.” 

“I can turn the boat around on my own, thank you,” he snapped, pulling the rudder away from her and causing the craft to sway dangerously. 

Evadne sighed and gave him a withering look. “Edgar, stop being so stupid – you’re gonna have us over in a minute. Just let me take us in!” she pleaded, reaching for the rudder again. 

Acting more like a petulant child than a thirty-eight-year-old adult, Edgar snatched the rudder back towards him again and in doing so, brought about his undoing. The boom swung around violently, before he had time to duck, and hit him square on the chin, catching him off-balance and tipping him into the water. Thankfully he kept hold of the main sheet so the boat didn’t drift away from him, for rather than rush to aide, his wife stared at him for a split-second and then collapsed in the bottom of the boat in fits of laughter. 

Edgar spluttered, lifting his spare hand to wipe water out of his eyes, swam towards the boat and hauled himself up so that his head and chest were over the rear. “You could at least stop howling like a hyena and help me back in,” he exclaimed indignantly, as he caught sight of her. 

Evadne sat up straight and tried to get a grip on herself, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. “I’m…I’m sorry…oh that was too…” 

She went off into peals of laughter again. Edgar finished hauling himself up the small steps that hung over the back of the boat, and then sat himself on the wooden seat, a large puddle of water rapidly forming at his feet. “I’m glad you think it’s so funny – I could have drowned!” 

“Oh stop being such a baby!” she retorted, still giggling, as she pulled herself up so she faced him from the opposite side of the boat. “You’re wearing a life-vest – you’re hardly going to drown! Anyhow, it’s serves you right – it’ll teach you not to listen to me,” and leaving him to brood over his misfortune, she lowered the mainsail, started the engine, and steered them back to the jetty. 

From their vantage point on the shore, the three children had seen the entire episode unfold, and greeted their parents with hoots of laughter as they docked the boat and came ashore. 

“I can’t believe you fell out! How clumsy can you be?” Ned shouted at his father, causing his sisters to dissolve into giggles once more. 

Edgar squelched his way towards them, an injured look on his face. “Why do my family find my misfortune so funny? It could have happened to any of you!” 

“No it couldn’t,” Evadne put in with a grin, “they actually listened to what they were told! And to think you were worried about them having accidents!” 

Edgar glared at her for a moment, and then deciding not to rise to the bait, he stalked off towards the house stating, “I’m going to have a bath!”, leaving the rest of them to pack the boat up without him. 

 

With the boat was safely stowed back in the boat house for the night, Evadne took Henry up to the nursery to feed and bathe him, and once she had settled him in his cot, she made her way along the landing to the master bedroom, where she found her husband, bathed and changed, sitting on the edge of the bed pulling on a clean pair of socks. 

He looked up as she entered the room. “I suppose you’ve come to rib me some more.” 

“That depends." She grinned and walked over to sit next to him. "Do you admit that I was right and you were wrong?” 

He shot to give an indignant glare. “Fine – you were right and I was wrong.” 

“And do you agree that next time you get in the boat, you’ll listen to everything I tell you?” 

“Next time I get in the boat, I’ll listen to everything you tell me.” 

“And you’re sorry you acted like a complete ass?” 

“I’m sorry I acted like a complete ass,” he muttered through gritted teeth. 

Evadne's eyes twinkled with mischief. “And you admit that I’m always right, and you promise to do everything I ever tell you from now on and wait on me hand and foot?” 

‘Now you’re pushing it!” 

“Come on, you have to admit it and agree or I’ll never let you live down today." 

“You’ll never let me live it down anyway!” 

“Admit it!” 

“No.” 

“Admit it!” 

“Right you’ve asked for it!” and sitting up, he grabbed her, pinned her down on the bed and began to tickle her sides. 

Evvy shrieked and tried to wriggle out of his grasp. “No…ow, Edgar…stop it…okay, okay I won’t make you admit it.” He relented and she lifted a hand to brush some hair out of her eyes. “You’re a big bully, Edgar Watson – they were unfair tactics.” 

Edgar grinned down at her. “Unfair, maybe, but you have to admit they were effective!” Evadne laughed and rolled her eyes, and he stooped down to peck her on the lips. “I really am sorry though – I should have paid more attention to what you were telling me," he added, having the grace to look a little sheepish, "I really was a bit of an ass, wasn't I?” 

“You can say that again!” she retorted, just as Thea’s voice rang out, calling her stepmother to the phone. Edgar sat up, letting her get to her feet, and she walked across to the door, before turning back to face him with a grin. “I forgive you this time, but do it again and I’ll push you overboard myself and leave you in the middle of the lake to swim home!” and she quickly ran out of the room to take her phone call, leaving him to splutter out his indignant response to thin air.

Chapter 3 by Josie
Author's Notes:

In case anyone's wondering why fibroids seem so much more serious here than they often do now (not that they're not serious now, if that makes sense!), from what I could find out when researching, knowledge about how to treat them and the effect they had on fertility was a far greyer area in the 50's than it is today (hysterectomy was a common treatment then), and it seems to have been presumed that infertility would result from them in more cases than not.

“Charles says he’s been going over the books and Richardson - the new man - seems to have a good grip on the company. He says he’ll go into more detail when they come out in a couple of weeks, but it’s all looking very good - your father certainly knew what he was doing appointing him by all accounts though.” 

“Well Poppa had a good business brain, I guess.” 

“Very true.” Edgar skimmed through the rest of the letter from his brother-in-law, and then taking a sip of his cocoa, he looked up from his correspondence just in time to catch his wife wince and surreptitiously clutch her stomach. “What’s wrong?” 

“Nothing much,” she replied through gritted teeth as she felt more pain in her abdomen. “Just cramps again – women’s things. Nothing you’ll want to hear about,” she added with a grin. 

Rather than return her smile, Edgar stared back at her, concern showing on his face. It was now the first week of August, and he and Evadne were sitting in the snug, catching up on each other’s day and spending some quiet time together before heading off to bed. For the past few days he’d noticed that she hadn’t seemed too well, and after watching her closely of late, it was beginning to worry him. 

“Evvy, you’ve been like this for over a week now. I didn’t think this was normal when you…well…you know. You were never this bad before Henry came along.” 

Evadne shrugged, trying hard to hide another twinge of pain. “Maybe things change after having a baby?” 

Edgar remained unconvinced. “Well I think you need to go and see Dr. Schreiber. At the very least, he might be able to give you something for the pains.” 

“I’m not making a fuss for a few cramps,” she retorted impatiently, returning her attention to the magazine she was reading. “It’ll go away soon enough.” 

Her husband was not put off so easily however. “Yes, and then it might just return again next month too. Come on, Evvy, you’re so tired as well – and I know it’s not just Henry, because he’s sleeping through most nights now.” She opened her mouth to protest again, but he preempted her. “Please go and see the doctor – to humour me, if for no other reason.” 

She rolled her eyes, but not being in the mood for an argument, decided to give in. “Fine, I’ll go tomorrow. But I want it noted I’m only going to please you, not because I think I need to!” 

“That’s absolutely fine – I don’t care why you go, just so long as you do. I don’t want you…” 

“Edgar, you have your way, okay?” she interrupted wearily. “Now can we talk of something else, please – what else does Charles have to say?” 

 

The following morning, after the family had eaten breakfast and her husband had disappeared off to work, Evadne left the children in Monique’s charge, and set off into the city to fulfill her husband’s request. 

She had not been entirely honest with him the previous evening. The cramps and excessive bleeding that she had been experiencing for the past ten days were beginning to concern her a little as well, and she felt as if all her energy was gradually draining away. She had had similar problems the month before, and had just put it down to changes in her body after having the baby, but this month it seemed far worse. Not wanting to deal with it, however, she had been pushing her worries to the back of her mind and hoping that it would all go away. Now Edgar had forced her to face up to it, and she was not sure whether to be annoyed or grateful. 

Arriving at the International Medical Centre, she made her way through to the reception, explained to the receptionist why she was there, and then took her place among the other patients in the waiting room. Twenty minutes later, she was reading a copy of French Vogue, studying the key pieces for the upcoming winter season, when the receptionist spoke. 

“Lady Watson, Dr. Schreiber will see you now.” 

 

Two days later Evvy was once again sitting in the snug with Edgar, following their usual evening routine – her reading, him going through his day’s correspondence and both catching up with each other’s news. Pretending to be concentrating on her book, Evadne surreptitiously watched her husband as he read through a letter that the masthead told her came from the girls’ school. 

Edgar smiled as he finished and folded it up, returning it to its envelope. “Just some information on the middle school, now that Thea’s moving up there,” he said, standing up from his chair and handing it to his wife. Sitting down again, he heaved a sigh. “I can’t believe she’s eleven in a few months time – even Marcia’s nine and a half now. Where have the years gone?” 

Evadne didn’t reply. Instead she watched him for a few more moments, and then shifted position on the window seat, tucking her legs underneath her. “Edgar, I need to talk to you.” 

Her tone of voice made him look up sharply, and placing the letter he had just opened onto the table next to him, he regarded her with mild alarm. “What’s happened?” 

Staring down at her hands, Evadne picked at her nails briefly. Then taking a deep breath, she raised her eyes to look him in the face. “I didn’t tell you the truth on Tuesday – after I’d been to the docs I mean.” Edgar stared at her, his eyes widening, and she swallowed hard before she continued. “He didn’t tell me everything was fine. He set up an appointment at the hospital. I…I went in today – they did these tests and…” 

Her voice trailed off and there was silence as Edgar took in what she had just said - his mind racing, imagining all manner of things. He knew he should ask her what else the doctor had told her, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. His stomach was churning - it felt like Madeleine all over again. Eventually, swallowing hard, he pulled himself together enough to ask, “Wh…what tests?” 

She bit her bottom lip and shook her head. “I’m not sure. He said something’s wrong, but he’s not sure what it is. It could be nothing much, or it could be…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words, but he knew exactly what she meant. Seeing him battling hard with his emotions, she added, “I have to go back to Dr. Schreiber’s on Wednesday to get the results. Will you come with me?” 

He nodded, blinking furiously, his eyes suspiciously bright. Getting up from his armchair he walked across to the window, sat down next to her and wordlessly took her in his arms. Evadne buried her face in his chest, and they clung together in silence for a long while. Eventually, pulling back a little, Edgar brought his hands up to either side of her face, staring down into her bright, blue eyes. 

“We’ll get through this, Evvy. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it together, I promise you.” 

 

The next few days dragged by, and it felt like an eternity to both of them before Wednesday finally came around. All weekend they had been putting on a cheerful face for the sake of the children, anxious not to worry or upset them in any way, and the strain had been exhausting. Now they just wanted to know either way.

When they arrived at the medical centre, the receptionist asked them to take a seat, and she disappeared into the doctor's office. Two minutes later she returned. 

“Lady Watson, go straight on through,” she said with a smile. As Edgar got to his feet as well, the receptionist shook her head. “Sorry, but your husband will have to remain out here.” 

Evadne turned to look up at Edgar. “But I want him to come in with me!” 

“Sorry - it’s medical centre policy,” the receptionist replied apologetically. “They’re sticklers for confidentiality I’m afraid.” 

Evvy opened her mouth to argue the point, but realising they were unlikely to change their minds, and not wanting to delay things any further, Edgar squeezed her hand and said quickly, “It’s okay, darling, I’ll wait out here.” 

“But…” 

“Go on, it’ll be fine,” and bending down, he pecked her on the cheek and pushed her gently towards the doctor’s door. 

She glanced back at him nervously as she knocked, and he flashed her a heartening smile. Then as the doctor called ‘Come in” and she disappeared through the door, closing it behind her, he sat back down in his chair, heaved a sigh and stared up at the ceiling, waiting for her return. 

 

It was half an hour before she reemerged, her face grave and her eyes a little bright. Edgar jumped up to talk to her, but she shook her head at him and walked straight across to the receptionist to make an appointment for the following Monday. Then taking hold of her husband’s hand, she led him outside towards the car. 

“Evvy, what…?” 

“Let’s just get in first, Edgar, then I’ll tell you, okay?” 

He nodded, a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Fumbling in his pockets for his keys, he eventually found them and unlocked her car door for her. She climbed in and he shut it behind her, before hurrying round to the driver’s side and climbing in himself. 

Turning to face her, he asked, “So? What did he say?” She didn’t reply at first, and his expression fell. “It’s not…?” 

She shook her head. “It’s not that, don’t worry. It’s something called fibroids apparently” 

“What’s that?” 

She shrugged her shoulders, still not looking him in the eye. “They grow inside me – I’ll show you all the information he gave me when we get home.” 

“But are they…I mean could you…?” 

Shaking her head again, she gave him a slight smile. “They may have to operate, but I’ll be fine.” 

An intense feeling of relief flooded through Edgar’s body and, reaching out, he pulled her towards him and enveloped her in a tight hug. “Thank you, God,” he muttered into her hair as he clung to her. "Thank you." 

Hugging him back, Evadne screwed up her eyes and bit her lips, trying desperately to keep her tears at bay. After a couple of minutes, Edgar pulled back and looked down at her, lifting his hand to gently stroke her cheek. “Hey, come on, darling, it’s okay,” he said, noticing the tears glistening in her eyes. “Everything’s going to be alright.” 

She swallowed hard as she stared back up at him, her eyes threatening to overflow. “That’s just it, it won’t be.” 

“What do you mean?” he asked, thoroughly confused. “You just said you’ll be okay – won’t you?” 

She nodded. “I will be, it’s just…” She paused and took a deep breath, trying to steady her voice. “They may have to operate because they’re so big apparently, and because of where they are. Edgar, Dr. Schreiber thinks I should probably have a hysterectomy. And even if I decide not to, he says I…I probably won’t be able to have any more children.” As she finally said it out loud, tears escaped from her eyes and ran down her cheeks. “We won’t be able to have our two,” and she dissolved into noisy sobs as Edgar took her in his arms again. 

Chapter 4 by Josie

Gradually Evadne’s storm of tears began to subside, and as she pulled her head back and lifted her hand to scrub her eyes, Edgar took his handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her. He watched her closely as she dried her tears, occasionally gulping for air as she tried to control her sobs. Eventually, she turned her eyes upwards to look at him, and seeing him gazing tenderly back at her, she gave him a slight smile. 

“Sorry.” 

Smiling back at her tenderly, Edgar raised a hand to the nape of her neck. “You’ve nothing to be sorry for, sweetheart.” 

The mixture of love and sorrow in his eyes was almost too much to bear, and Evvy averted her gaze as her tears threatened to return. She was still shaking from the shock of the news and the intensity of her outburst, and had to take several deep breaths to bring herself back under control. 

“I…I think I knew,” she said quietly, blinking hard and looking sideways out of the rear window. “I had a notion it was…that something was wrong.” She gulped down the lump that was rising in her throat and stared down at her lap. ‘Everything seemed too good – something had to happen.” 

“Evvy, don’t think like that!” 

“But it always does.” She raised her eyes, still glistening with tears, to his face. “Why us, Edgar?” 

Edgar shook his head. He didn’t have an answer. Instead he reached forward to kiss her forehead, and then turned to put the keys in the ignition. 

Evadne stared at him as he started the engine. “I can’t go home yet.” 

“I know. But we need to get you away from here.” 

He reversed the car out of the parking space and they drove off in silence, Edgar still trying to take in the news, and Evadne fighting a constant battle to stop her tears resurfacing. The day was overcast, but she took her sunglasses out of her bag and put them on, attempting to hide her red, puffy eyes. 

Ten minutes later, Edgar pulled the car up in the delegates’ car park outside the Palais des Nations, choosing the most secluded parking space he could find. As he turned off the engine, Evadne stared up at the imposing building, and then turned to look at him. 

“Why are we here?” 

“I need to let my secretary know I won’t be in today.” He paused for a second and studied her face. “Do you want to use the cloakrooms to freshen up?” 

She shook her head. “I don’t want to see anyone – not yet.” 

“Okay.” He kissed her forehead again. “I’ll be back as fast as I can.” 

She watched as he walked up the pathway to the side door and as he disappeared through it, she sat back in her seat and closed her eyes. Dr. Schreiber’s words were running round and round in her head. Her initial reaction had been the same as her husband’s – intense relief that it was not anything life-threatening. For once, fortune seemed to be smiling on them. Her mind had wandered as he had explained what fibroids were, and how they would be able to treat them. She had nodded and smiled as he told her that an operation would be necessary, imagining how pleased Edgar would be when she gave him the news that she was going to be okay, and then she had come crashing back down to earth as Dr. Schreiber had dropped his bombshell. 

Edgar was as good as his word, and returned to the car ten minutes later, his arms full of papers. Opening the rear door, he threw them in the back, not caring where they landed, slammed the door shut, and climbed back into the driver’s seat. 

Evadne glanced behind her. “What are they?” she asked wearily, looking at the papers that were scattered everywhere. 

“Work. I’ll look at them tomorrow.” Starting the engine, he pulled out of the parking space and began to drive out of the grounds. Turning right onto the main road, he reached out to squeeze her hand. “Let’s go to our view.” 

Evvy gave him a shadow of a smile, squeezing his fingers in return, and they fell silent again.

Edgar drove out of the city, heading through the suburbs on the main road leading up into the Rhone-Alps. After half an hour, he turned onto a smaller road, and then down a shaded track before coming to a halt when it became too narrow for the car to go any further. Climbing out, they walked in silence, hand-in-hand, down a muddy pathway, apparently heading deeper into the dense pine forest. Then all of a sudden, the trees thinned out, and they emerged onto narrow, sloping plain. It was a spot they had discovered, quite by accident, when they were still on their honeymoon and had just moved to the city. They had been out exploring the surrounding area, trying to get to know their new home, and had decided to go into the forest to investigate. Emerging onto the small plain, they had been instantly enchanted as a magnificent view across the lake and the city opened out before them. It had immediately become their special place, their secret, their retreat from the pressures of everyday life where they could spend some time alone. 

Evadne released her hand from her husband’s grasp and walked a little way down the slope. The clouds were lying low on the mountains on the far side of the lake, and in the distance she could see the rain falling heavily on Nyon and further round towards Lausanne. “It even looks beautiful on a day like this, doesn’t it?” she said, coming to a halt and gazing down at the city below. 

Edgar watched her for a moment, and then made his way down to where she was standing. “It certainly does.” 

Feeling his hands on her shoulders, she leant back into him. “All this on our doorstep - I guess people think we’re real lucky.” Turning around, she stared up at him, her eyes welling up again. “I’m sorry, Edgar.” 

“What for?” 

“The bad stuff – it follows me around.” Her jaw shook as she spoke, and Edgar lifted a hand to cup the side of her head. “Now I’ve brought it on you too.” 

Shaking his head, Edgar pulled her towards him and rested his cheek on her hair. “Stop that nonsense now. You’ve brought nothing to me but love and happiness, Evvy. Do you have any idea how lonely I was before I met you - despite the children, despite my friends?” 

“But…” Edgar raised a hand to her lips to silence her, but Evadne pushed it away. “Don’t, Edgar, please.” Pulling away from him, she folded her arms across her chest and looked down at the grass. “When we go to church, I don’t ask Him for much, you know. Just that He looks after you all and keeps you safe. And what happens? Pops and Veronica die.” She paused for a moment, then looked up, anger flashing in her eyes. “Two children, Edgar – that’s all I asked. Not broods like Joey and Jack, just the two. But He couldn’t let that happen, could He? He had to wreck it like He wrecks everything else!” Her voice was raised and tears started to flow down her cheeks again. “We’re good people, aren’t we? Why do these things keep happening to us? Why can’t He just leave us alone to be happy?” 

Edgar reached out for her but she backed further down the hill, turning her back on him and looking down at the lake. Then lifting her eyes to the sky, she shouted, “Why can’t you just leave us alone? You hear me? LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!” 

Hurrying towards his wife, Edgar grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her, refusing to let go as she struggled against him. 

“Get off of me, Edgar! Just leave me be.” 

“No! Not until you calm down.” He tightened his grip around her, holding her lower arms to stop her fighting back. 

Suddenly, she ceased struggling and collapsed against him, sobbing once more. Edgar turned her around and held her tightly, stroking her hair and murmuring comforting words until she finally ran out of tears. Then lowering himself onto the grass, he pulled her down with him and held her close, cradling her in his arms. She sniffed and wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. 

“I just want us to be happy.” 

Edgar pulled his head back and gazed down at her. “I am happy, Evvy. You and the children - you make me very, very happy.” She looked up at him, and he lifted his hands to either side of her face. “Do you know what I asked Him at church on Sunday, and every day since you had those tests?” She shook her head. “I asked him to let me keep you, for you to be alright. I thought I was going to lose you.” His voice choked a little as he spoke and he swallowed hard to clear his throat. “Evvy, I don’t know why this has happened – why any of the bad things have happened. But I do know that you’re going to be alright, that I get to keep you, and I am more thankful for that than I can say.” 

Evadne was quiet for a moment as she took this in. Then she shook her head and closed her eyes. “I just wanted one more, Edgar.” 

Edgar wrapped his arms around her again, rocking her very gently and kissing the top of her head. “So did I, darling, and I hate that this has happened too, but it’ll be alright. I promised we’d get through whatever it was together, remember? And that’s just what we’ll do. However long it takes us, we’ll get through it, okay?” 

She nodded and lifted a hand, placing it over one of his. They relapsed into silence, Evadne staring down at the grass, Edgar looking out across the lake, both momentarily lost in their own thoughts. After a while, Edgar released her and got to his feet, holding out his hand to pull her up. 

“Come here, I want to show you something.” He led her a little further down the grass, and then pointed down towards the suburb where they lived. “That’s our house, just there. You can see Guilia’s car in the forecourt.” Evadne nodded, he lips turning up in a slight smile. “There are four rather wonderful children in there, waiting for their parents to come home so they can drive us to distraction. Shall we go and see them?” 

Evvy gazed down the mountainside at their home, nestled among the trees of their leafy neighbourhood, her heart still feeling very heavy. Turning to her husband, she lifted a hand to his face and reached up to peck him on the cheek. At that moment she felt a spot of water of her forearm, and looking up at the sky, saw the dark clouds gathered up above. 

Edgar followed her gaze skyward.“Come on - let’s make a dash for it before we get drenched,” and slipping his arm through hers, he led her back up the grass towards the car.

Chapter 5 by Josie

Three days later, Evadne was still trying to come to terms with the doctor’s diagnosis when Charles, Sarah and their two boys arrived to spend a week in Geneva. Concerned about his wife’s state of mind, Edgar had been keen to cancel or postpone the arrangements, but Evadne had persuaded him otherwise, hoping that the presence of her stepbrother and his family would help to take her mind off things a little. 

So they duly arrived Saturday lunchtime, as planned, and by the time the evening came around Edgar could see that his wife had been absolutely right. 

The afternoon had been a riotous affair. This was the first time the Watson children had really got to know their two step-cousins – the days running up to Arthur and Veronica’s funerals had been too upsetting for them to really play together – and they were discovering two new friends after their own hearts. The eldest, Peter, was a year older than Ned, and as obsessed with motor cars as his younger cousin was with planes. The two of them wiled away a happy afternoon talking about engines and building models in Ned’s basement workshop. 

In James, meanwhile, Marcia found a willing partner-in-crime and the pair of them spent the afternoon devising ways to wind up their elder brothers over the coming week. They spent the afternoon causing havoc until Edgar had eventually snapped and sent the pair of them upstairs to play quietly, under threat of being banned from all excursions if they didn’t behave themselves – a threat that seemed to be effective, for a few hours at least. 

The mischief-making had amused Evadne no-end, though she made sure not to let Marcia and James know that, and it had certainly taken her mind off her problems. Although she was still subdued, the hilarity of the afternoon had brought some colour back to her cheeks again and her eyes, though still sad, were beginning to regain some of their usual shine. 

The majority of the household were now sleeping soundly after the excitement of the day.  Edgar was propped up against the headboard, his legs under the covers and his back resting on one of his pillows, watching his wife as she got changed for bed. “You were right, you know. Them visiting has done you the world of good.” 

Evadne pulled her nightdress on, smoothed it down, and then turned to her vanity and began pulling out her hairpins. “Did I just hear that right?” she asked, watching him in the mirror, a feigned look of surprise on her face. “Did you admit you were wrong?” 

She wore a mischievous grin as she began to brush out her blonde curls, and after the turmoil of the last few days, the sight of it warmed Edgar’s heart. “I don’t remember saying that!” he retorted, returning her smile. “I believe I just said that you were right.” 

“Adds up to the same thing in my book!” 

“And what book’s that, may I ask?” 

Evvy put her brush down on the dressing table and turned to face him. “The book that says that your wife has undeniable strokes of genius and you should recognise them more often!” 

As her husband chuckled at her response, she walked across to the bed, pulling back the sheets and climbing in between them. Edgar turned to face her, slipping an arm around her shoulders, and she leaned in towards him and kissed him gently on the lips. 

“What was that for?” he asked, smiling tenderly at her as she pulled back again and wrapped her arms around his neck. 

“Because I love you.” Bringing a hand down to rest on his chest, she paused for a moment and then gave him a tentative smile. “I know I’m not so great right now, but I’ll learn to live with this, Edgar, I promise you.” 

Edgar entwined his fingers with hers. “Just remember you don’t have to do it alone, okay?” 

“I know. D’you want to know something?” 

“What?” 

Pulling her legs up underneat her, she shuffled round a little so that she was curled up tightly in the crook of his arm. “When I was a kid, I used to try and imagine what my husband would be like one day.” 

“And do I fit the criteria?” 

Evadne frowned. “Promise me you won’t ever let on how mushy I’m about to be?” 

“Not even to Mike and Corney?” he asked with an innocent air. 

Evadne looked horrified. “Especially not to Mike and Corney!” 

“You spoilsport!” he chuckled, then as she hit him on the chest he relented. “Alright I promise. It’s worth it to hear you be mushy anyway.” 

“Okay, well,” she blushed a little and gazed up at him from underneath her eyelashes, “you’re a thousand times more wonderful than anything I ever dreamt up.” She smiled as she looked up into his soft, green eyes. “I’m not really sure I deserve you.” 

He held her gaze for a moment, a little amused but very touched, and then releasing her fingers, he brought his hand up to cup the side of her face and replied softly, “Yes, you do.” He kissed her and grinned. “And you’re right, that was mushy!” 

“I warned you!” she returned his kiss, before pulling out of his arms. “Now, stop talking to me, " she ordered, wriggling down under the covers and turning her back on him. "I need to sleep a while before Henry decides to wake. He’s napped far too long today for my liking and I just know he’s going to start screaming the house down around three a.m.” 

Chuckling, Edgar reached across her to turn off her bedside light. Then switching off his own, he snuggled down next to her, draping his arm around her, and they both fell silent as they drifted off to sleep. 

 

Overnight, the rain that had been teeming down for the past few days inally ceased, and the followig morning dawned bright and sunny. Mindful that the children had been cooped up inside for long enough, Evadne ordered them outside to play as soon as breakfast was over. 

“…and take Scrabble with you too,” she shouted at Marcia’s retreating back, as she, Thea and James ran out of the room. “He’s had next to no exercise these past few days and he’s going haywire.” She sat back and took a sip of her coffee. “Hopefully a few hours outside’ll calm them down a bit,” she added with a frown. “I know I was always at my worst when I was stuck inside for days on end.” 

“And how terrifying that worst must have been!” Edgar put in with a wink. 

Charles chuckled as his stepsister pulled a face at her husband and threw her napkin across the table at him. “Were you really that bad?” 

“You’d best believe it!” she returned proudly, as Ned came running into the room. 

“Dad, did you make up your mind about Mr. Schulstad yet?” he asked his father eagerly. “I want to write to him.” 

Edgar frowned. “Hmmm…I’m not sure.” 

“Oh Dad, pleeeeeaaaase!” 

The pleading look on his son’s face made Edgar laugh and he relented. “Alright – Evvy and I have talked it over and decided you can go. I’ll write to Mr. Stevenson to let him know, and you can take the letter back with you. But you make sure you behave yourself, or it’ll be the last time we let someone take you on unscheduled exeat. And don’t forget Harry has to get permission from his own parents – I can only give permission for you.” 

“I know – I’ll write and tell him now! Thanks, Dad, you’re the best!” and turning on his heel he charged out of the room again at top speed. 

Edgar watched him go. “I do wish Mr. Schulstad hadn’t mentioned the flying thing,” he said with a grimace at his wife. “He’ll do no work until it comes round, you know.” 

Evadne shook her head. “Give him some credit, Edgar. I think he learnt his lesson last year, don’t you?” 

“I hope so,” he replied, looking far from convinced. 

“Who’s Mr. Schulstad?” Sarah asked. 

“Someone we met on the plane a couple of years ago on the way to Boston,” Evadne replied, draining her coffee cup and wiping her mouth on her napkin. “He and Ned took rather a shine to each other – he’s crazy about airplanes too - and he writes to him regularly. He’s visiting England in October and he wants to take Ned and his friend Harry out for a day’s flying. Now,” she added, scraping her chair back and getting to her feet, “I’m gonna go get Henry and make the most of this sunshine. Anyone joining me?” 

“I will in a while,” her husband replied, “I’ve just got some correspondence to catch up on first.” 

“And I need to take a bath,” Sarah added, glaring at her husband. “Someone managed to take an absolute age in the bathroom this morning!” 

“Well I’ll join you,” Charles responded, ignoring his wife and getting to his feet. “Shall I save you a sunlounger or chair?” 

“Sunlounger I think,” Evvy replied with a grin and left the room to go and get her son. 

 

Fifteen minutes later she made her way out onto the terrace, carrying Henry with one arm and a heap of his blankets and toys with the other. 

Charles got to his feet and held out his arms for the little boy. “Here, let me take him,” he said, lifting his nephew from her arms. Sitting down again, he held the baby above his head and pulled faces at him, causing him to smile and gurgle. “He really is adorable, isn’t he?” 

Evadne settled herself on the lounger next to her stepbrother and smiled across at her son, who was now holding tight to his uncle’s finger and trying to put it in his mouth. “Well I think so.” 

Reaching out a hand, she ran it through the little boy’s fair curls. Charles caught the wistful look on her face as she did so and he looked at her curiously. “Evvy, I realise I’m being awfully nosy, but is something wrong? You don’t quite seem yourself.” 

Evadne smiled and shook her head. “Everything’s fine,” she said holding her hands out for her son and avoiding her stepbrother’s eyes. 

Charles raised an eyebrow as he handed Henry over and then sat up and gave her a stern look. “Now listen here you,” he began seriously, “I’ve waited a long time for the opportunity to play big brother, so don’t you go depriving me of it now!” She smiled and he caught her eye. “I’m perfectly capable of protecting my little sister,” he added, “blood-related or not.” 

Evadne chuckled and sat back, making Henry comfortable in her lap. Then after a brief pause, she poured out everything that had happened over the past couple of weeks. The sympathy grew in Charles’ eyes as she talked, and when she’d finished, she heaved a sigh and gave him a weary smile. “Sorry - nobody for you to take to task, I’m afraid.” She ran a hand across her son’s hair and bent to kiss him on the forehead. “The thing is, I know I’m so lucky to have this little one, and the other three, but I still feel cheated somehow. It’s pretty selfish of me, I guess, but I can’t help it. Edgar’s been so wonderful but I still feel so empty about it.” 

Charles watched her as she gazed lovingly at her son. “What are you going to do? About the operation, I mean?” 

“Edgar and I talked it through, and I’m not going to have the hysterectomy – not yet, anyhow,” she replied, looking up at him and shrugging her shoulders. “We’ll see how it goes and reassess in a year, unless something happens in the meantime. There's always a chance I might…well, you never know, I guess,” she added, smiling thinly at her stepbrother. 

Charles nodded and returned her smile. “Very true.” Reaching out, he squeezed her shoulder, then let his hand drop back to his side. “I’m very proud of you, you know - for not giving up I mean. And it’s a good job too,” he added with a grin, “no sister of mine should roll over and take these things lying down!” 

Evadne laughed. “I do like having a big brother - I think I’ll keep you!” 

“You may think differently when I start beating you up and pulling your hair!” he replied, a twinkle in his eye. “Isn’t that what elder brothers do?” 

“You do that and I’ll set my husband on you!” she retorted, still laughing. “He’s bigger than you, remember?” 

At that moment, Thea came running out onto the terrace, giggling so much she was holding her sides. “Mummy…Uncle Charles…you have to come and see!” she cried, and then ran off again. 

Raising an eyebrow at Charles, Evadne got to her feet and hitched Henry up on her hip. “Now what, I wonder?” 

“I’m not even going to hazard a guess!” Charles replied as he stood up and the pair of them followed Thea in through the house. 

Meeting Sarah in the hallway, the three of them emerged into the forecourt to be greeted by the sight of their children gathered under the flat roof above the corner of the dining room. It formed a balcony outside Thea’s bedroom window, though the children were forbidden from going out there at present unless there were adults with them. Looking up, she saw her husband on top of it, standing somewhat awkwardly in front of the railing that ran around the edge. His face was bright red and he was shouting at his son. 

“I mean it, Ned. Get the ladder back now, or I won’t be responsible for what I do to you!” Ned’s response was to double up with laughter and Edgar was about to shout again when he caught sight of his wife. “Evvy, talk some sense into the stupid boy, will you?” 

Rather than do as he asked, Evadne cocked her head to one side and regarded him sceptically. “What are you doing?” 

“James threw a ball up here so I climbed up to get it for them, and our idiot son decided it would be funny to remove the ladder leaving me stranded!” he responded indignantly, his voice sounding oddly high-pitched. 

“That’s not really why you’re stuck though!” Ned called up, and as all five children started to giggle again, Thea grabbed her stepmother’s arm to get her attention. 

“Daddy’s got his shorts stuck on the railing,” she managed to say through her giggles, and Evadne spluttered and stared up at her husband in disbelief. 

“Are you a little trapped there, baby?” she called up, an innocent look on her face, and Edgar glared back down at her. 

“I’m glad you all think this is so funny! I’m actually in pain while you’re all there laughing like village idiots!” 

“I’m not sure we’re the village idiots,” Evvy replied with a grin, and then without waiting to hear his response, she handed Henry to Thea and headed in through the front door. 

“Evvy!” Edgar bellowed after her, but she failed to reappear. “Evadne, get back here and help me now! EVADNE!” 

“Did you holler?” 

Hearing her voice behind him, he twisted sharply, suppressing a yell of pain as the railing dug into his backside. “How did you get here?” he asked as she walked across to stand next to him. 

“Through Thea’s window – how do you think?” Edgar gaped at her, peering round her at the open french door and if it were possible, turned even more scarlet. She smiled at him sweetly. “I guess you didn’t think of that then? May have been a little easier than climbing over the railing, ladder or no ladder.” 

Edgar opened and closed his mouth a few times, as the watchers down below doubled up with laughter again. Regaining his power of speech, he disregarded her comments and muttered, so only she could hear him, “Just help me off here before I damage myself permanently. You, at least, should care about that!” 

Evadne grinned “Okay, hold still.” She tried a few times to pull the trapped material from the railing, to no avail – it was stuck fast. “Wait here a second,’ and she disappeared back through the french doors. Remerging a minute later, Thea’s scissors in hand, she bent down ready to cut him free. 

“You’ll damage my shorts!” he exclaimed and she looked up at him, eyebrows raised. 

“Well it’s this or leave you trapped here all day – which would you rather?” 

Edgar glared at her for a moment and then shook his head. “Fine, just watch where you cut.” 

After much snippng, and much wincing on Edgar’s part, she finally freed him and he climbed back over the railing, the redness finally disappearing from his cheeks. “Thank you,” he said to his wife, his voice back to normal again, then leaning over the railing he glared at his son. “You thank your lucky stars for your stepmother, young man!” 

“Oh leave him alone,” Evvy put in, throwing the ball down for the children and then grabbing her husband’s arm and towing him towards the window. “It’s as much your fault as it is his – if you’d used your brain, this wouldn’t have happened. And you’re still intact – just!” she added with a grin. Edgar stared at her, indignant, and she slipped her arms round his waist. “Oh come along, smile! You’ve cheered me up, anyhow, so something good came out of this!” 

Edgar looked down at her and pouted. “It hurt.” 

Trying hard not to laugh again, Evadne reached up and pecked him on the cheek. “I know, baby. How about you go put some different shorts on and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea to make it better!” she said in a motherly voice. 

“Are you enjoying patronising me?” 

“What do you think?” she replied with a grin. Edgar rolled his eyes, and she patted him on the backside and pushed him towards the open window. “Go on, go get changed and I’ll make the tea. If you’re lucky I’ll even throw in some of Guilia’s cookies,” and still chuckling, she followed him back inside.

Chapter 6 by Josie

The two girls kissed their stepmother goodbye and waved as she drove off, then made their way down the path towards the school gates. As they approached them, Marcia glanced at her sister out of the corner of her eye and her face took on a sad expression. 

“Are you excited about being a Middle?” 

Thea grinned. “Yes – it feels really grown up though. But then I am eleven in two months, so I am grown up really.” 

“Well I don’t think I like it now you’re a Middle,” Marcia replied, staring down at the pavement and pouting. “I won’t get to see you nearly so much.” 

“Yes you will. You see me all the time at home,” Thea replied, giving her a puzzled look, “and we never saw each other in class anyway.” 

“I know, but it’s not the same,” Marcia continued, still pulling a sulky face. “You’re in a different playground and everything. What if I need to talk to you at break? It’s not fair.” 

Thea watched her for a second, then put an arm around her younger sister’s shoulders. “Don’t be such a ninny! You’ll be fine without me – you still have Ann and all your other friends. And I’ll only be in the Middle’s playground if you want to talk, or we can talk after school.” She looked up at her – Marcia had shot up over the summer and was now an inch or so taller than Thea – and gave her a sisterly smile. “Anyway it’s only for a year, then you’ll be a Middle too!” 

Marcia returned her smile, looking a little consoled. “Daddy said he can’t believe you’re a Middle now ‘cause you still seem too young, but I think it’s ‘cause he wants to pretend he’s not old! Ooo – there’s Ann! Ann!” and forgetting her woes, she ran off towards her friend. 

Thea laughed and turned in the opposite direction towards her new playground. Today was her first day in the Middle School and truth be told, she was feeling very excited and very grown up. She had a small, tight-knit group of friends now, and her best friend Kate was due to join her at the school today too. Walking into the Middle’s playground, she instantly spotted Kate waving to her from the far gate and ran across to meet her. 

Kate greeted her with a wide smile, almost jumping up and down in her excitement. “I can’t believe I’m here! This is so much better than the other smelly old school. And there’s no Franny here!”

Thea laughed as Kate said goodbye to her mother, Mrs Cranston feeling better about leaving her daughter now she was in her friend’s charge. Taking Kate by the arm, Thea said, “Come and see Celine and Lucy. You remember them from my birthday, don’t you?” Kate nodded and Thea towed her across the playground to her friends. 

 

The bell rang ten minutes later, and as they filed into their new classroom, all nineteen children chattering at the tops of their voices, Thea pulled Kate towards two seats near the window. “Come and grab the desk next to me – we sit two people together her.” She ran forward just in time to claim the last two window desks, and as Kate took her seat, Thea threw herself on two more desks across the aisle and waved at her other friends. 


“Lucy, quick – I’ve saved your places!” 

Lucy and Celine came to claim their new seats, and Thea returned to her own. “Our teacher’s called Miss Engel. Ann’s brother had her before he went to England and says she’s really nice.” Then turning to fully face her friend, she gave her a beaming grin. “I’m so glad you’re here – it’s going to be so fun!” 

At that moment, the classroom door opened and the aforementioned Miss Engel appeared. The class jumped to their feet. “Good Morning everyone! I’m Miss Engel, and I’m your teacher this year.” 

“Good Morning Miss Engel,” nineteen voices chorused back. 

The teacher looked around at them all and smiled. “Sit down, all of you. Now,” she said, taking her seat behind her desk and pulling a thin, hard-backed book from her bag. "Let’s start by taking the register, shall we? Then I can try and familiarise myself with your names.” She opened the book and picked up a pen. “Timothy Adams?” 

“Here!” a small, American voice answered. 

“Charlotte Beasley?” 

“Here!” 

“Kate Cranston…?” 

Miss Engel made her way through the register, the pupils answering to their names with the required ‘Here’. Thea was paying little attention, knowing her name would be the last on the list, and was staring around her, taking in her new domain with enthusiastic eyes. 

Miss Engel had just reached the letter ‘G’, when the door opened and Mademoiselle Pattieu, the school secretary, came into the room. 

“One more for your class, Miss Engel,” she said with a smile, pulling her small charge forward. “This is Francesca Harford.” 

Kate, who had been gazing out of the window, sat up sharply, almost overturning her desk, and looked round at her friend in horror. Thea was staring at the new girl, her mouth wide-open and her face as white as a sheet. 

 

==

 

“Marcia Watson?” 

“Here!” 

“Berndt Weissmann?” 

“Here!” 

Mr. Jones shut his register and looked around his new class. “Excellent - all present and correct! Right, let’s get down to business, shall we? Appointments first, I think. As you all know, now that you’re the top junior class, the Class Captain this year will also be head of the Junior School.” A hum of whispers went around the room, and he held his hand up for silence. “Class Second will be Suzette Schumann. Well done, Suzette” A smatter of claps sounded at this and Suzette, a small, dark, Swiss girl, who was hail-fellow-well-met with almost everyone, beamed at the news. Mr. Jones held his hand up for silence again. “And I'm very pleased to announce that Class Captain will be Ann Bown!” 

A loud squeal sounded from the back of the room and, as the rest of the class applauded, Marcia threw her arms around her friend’s neck. “I knew it!” 

Mr. Jones laughed. “Well somebody’s pleased, anyway. Calm down, Marcia, there’s plenty of time for that at break.” Ann was staring at her teacher in shock, and he gave her a warm smile. “Congratulations, Ann, I’m sure you’ll do very well. Now for the rest of the appointments. Stationary Monitor – Carl Haasen, Flowers – Linda…” 

As he continued, Marcia turned to her friend and hissed, “I knew it would be you! Everyone likes you, even the teachers!” 

Ann stared back at her, still stunned by her appointment. “I thought it would be you.” 

Marcia shook her head. “I get in too much trouble." She paused and gave Ann a wide grin. “It’ll be so good! It’s almost like being head girl!” 

Her voice squeaked in her excitement and Mr. Jones stopped mid-announcement and glared at her. “Talking, Marcia? Care to share it with the class?” 

Marcia went bright red and mumbled something incoherent, and Mr. Jones did his best to suppress a grin. 

“Here's an idea. Let’s see if you can manage to get the first day of term out of the way without getting in trouble, shall we? Start the year off with a new record – you never know, it might be fun,” and as Marcia went even redder and Ann tried hard not to giggle, Mr. Jones turned back to the rest of the class. 

 

==

 

“I don’t believe it! That’s so unfair!” 

Tearing his eyes away from a notice from the new Games Monitor regarding house rugby trials, Ned looked round at his best friend, who was busy poring over the new study lists, and raised his eyebrows. “What’s so unfair?” 

“This!” Harry pointed to the board in front of him. “Stevenson’s split us up!” 

What?” Ned hurried across to join his friend. “He can’t do that!” 

“Well he has – see for yourself! You’re in with Burgess…” 

“That’s okay – Burgess is a good egg.” 

“Well it’s alright for you then, isn’t it!” Harry retorted, with not-a-little sarcasm, as his friend pushed next to him to have a look. “Look who I’m with!” 

“Piers Lloyd-Kitchen? Who’s he when he’s at home?” 

“How’m I ‘sposed to know! Some ass of a new boy, probably, if his ghastly name’s anything to go by!” 

“He might not be. Why don’t you give him a chance?” Ned grinned as Harry glared at him. “Anyway, our studies are next door to each other, so it’s not so bad.” 

“Alright for you to say!” 

“Stop sulking, you big moke!” Ned retorted. 

“Oh get lost!” and as Ned laughed at the outraged expression on his friend’s face, Harry pushed past him and stormed up the stairs towards his new room.

Chapter 7 by Josie

Miss Engel nodded at the secretary as that lady withdrew from the class, and then turned to her new pupil. “Welcome to the class, Francesca,” she said with a smile. “Now, let’s find you somewhere to sit, shall we?” 

“Please, Miss,” Franny replied in a sweet, girlish voice that made Miss Engel raise her eyebrows. “I already know Kate Cranston – could I sit with her?” 

Miss Engel’s sharp eyes caught the expression on both Kate and Thea’s faces, and she shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Kate’s new herself, so we’ll leave her where she is. Now let’s see - Lucy is it?” The owner of the name nodded. “Can you move to this spare desk up at the front here, please, and Francesca, you can take Lucy’s place next to…Celine?” Celine smiled and acknowledged her name. “Celine, you can show her the ropes for the first week or so. Now, let’s get started, shall we? Marc Leconte? Will you go along to the stationary cupboard, please – take, let’s see, Timothy Adams with you – and here’s the list…” 

As Miss Engel continued giving her orders, Franny walked down the classroom to take her seat, flashing Thea a nasty smile and staring at her intently. Thea dropped her eyes to stare down at her desk, her earlier happiness evaporating completely. Truth be told, she was trying very hard not to cry. Oblivious to her friend’s discomfort, Celine smiled at the new girl as that young lady took the empty seat beside her. 

“Hello, I’m Celine, and those are my friends Thea, Kate and that is Lucy,” the Swiss girl hissed in her almost flawless English, pointing down the class at her friend who had been moved. 

“I’m Franny,” Franny replied, with a sickly sweet grin. “I already know Thea and Kate, we were at our last school together – before Thea had to leave, of course,” she added spitefully, with a sideways glance. 

Hearing every word of this exchange from her seat across the aisle, Thea continued to stare down at her desk, trying her best to ignore it. Kate glared at the newcomer, who simply smiled at back her. Thoroughly confused – Thea had never mentioned having to leave her old school – Celine was about to ask Franny what she was talking about when Miss Engel called for silence, so her questions had to wait. 

 

They were kept fully occupied for the next hour and half, as Miss Engel got to know them and went through various new rules and regulations that were part of their new status in the middle school, so it wasn’t until break that Thea found herself face to face with her old nemesis. She hurried out of the classroom as soon as the bell went, not waiting for Kate and making straight for her locker, eager to avoid Franny if she possibly could. She had just finished unpacking her bag and was about to head outside when she heard the familiar, malicious voice. 

“Bet you didn’t expect to see me here?” Thea closed her locker, keeping her back to Franny, and turned to walk away. Not to be discourated, Franny grabbed hold of Thea’s arm. “When Daddy said I could change schools, I told him I just had to come here, ‘specially as I knew you and Kate were here.” Her eyes narrowed and her stare bored into the side of Thea’s face. “You got me in trouble and made me lose my friends, Thea Watson, and now I can pay you back.” 

Hearing the voices of her approaching classmates, Thea wrenched her arm out of Franny’s grasp and made her way quickly towards the playground. Kate saw her go, and ignoring the school rule of no running in the corridor, she sprinted after her friend, catching up with her just as she stepped outside. 

“Thea, wait!” Kate tried to catch Thea’s arm, but that young lady pulled it away. 

“Leave me alone.” 

“Thea, you have to ignore her! I’ll tell Celine and Lucy how mean and nasty she is, and then they’ll tell everyone else and it’ll be okay, you’ll see.” 

Thea shook her head. “No it won’t,” she replied in a quiet voice, and then turning she started to walk away. “I want to be on my own.” Thea began to pick up speed as Kate tried to follow her, and seeing that her friend meant what she said, Kate stopped and watched her go. 

“Thea! Thea, over here! You’ll never guess?” 

Ignoring the attempts to get her attention, Thea continued on her path to the opposite side of the playground, her head bowed. Disgruntled, Marcia pulled a face as she watched her go. 

“What’s wrong with her?” Ann shrugged her shoulders and looking around her, Marcia suddenly spotted Kate. “Kate! Over here, quick!” 

Kate looked up as Marcia shouted, and made her way across to the gate between the two playgrounds. “What?” 

“Ann’s been made Head of Juniors! I knew she would be!” Marcia announced proudly, and then before Kate had a chance to reply or congratulate Ann, she added, “What’s wrong with Thea?” 

Glancing back towards the door that led into the Middle School, Kate caught sight of Franny coming out into the playground with Lucy and Celine. “That,” she replied, pointing towards them. 

Marcia turned in the direction of Kate’s hand and her eyes widened. “What’s that pig Franny doing here? Did you know?” 

Kate shook her head. “She never said she was coming here,” she responded, looking around her to see where Thea had got to. “I didn’t know 'til she came to class this morning.” 

Marcia glanced across to where her sister was sitting alone on a bank of grass on the far side of the yard, and then stared back at Franny. At that exact moment, Franny happened to look up, and spotting Marcia, she waved, a nasty sneer on her face. Marcia’s temper began to rise. 

“I’m telling her she can’t be here!” she stated, jumping down from the gate. “C’mon Ann.” 

Ann stared at her as if she had gone mad. “You can’t stop her being here!” 

“Well I’ll tell her she’s to leave my sister alone then!” and she stepped back and pulled open the gate. 

Ann caught the back of her cardigan and held her back. “No you can’t ‘cause you’re not allowed in the Middles’ playground,” she said, sounding very officious. “You’ll get in trouble and you know what Mr. Jones said.” 

“So? It’s Thea – I have to!” Marcia retorted, trying to pull her cardigan free. “Let go!” 

Seeing the makings of a full-scale argument, Kate decided to intervene. “Don’t, Marcia, please. It’ll cause a fuss and Thea’ll hate it.” Marcia opened her mouth to argue back but Kate was too quick for her. “I’ll tell Lucy and Celine how horrid she is, I promise, and then she won’t be able to be nasty to Thea.” 

Marcia succeeded in freeing her clothing from Ann’s grasp and glared at her two friends. “Well I’ll wish for her to disappear or get hit by lightening or eaten by a giant spider then – I can do that!” she said absurdly and stalked off, not in the least consoled by Kate’s promises. 

Ann rolled her eyes and turned to follow in her wake, and Kate set off to go and see if she could get Lucy and Celine alone. 

 

When the bell sounded, signifying the end of lessons for the day, Marcia tore out of the classroom, threw her belongings haphazardly into her locker and then ran outside and across the playground to where Evadne was waiting. 

“Mummy, guess what…” she cried, coming to a halt in front of her stepmother and gasping for breath. “Thea’s…Franny…” She began choking from dashing around too fast and Evadne bent down, a little concerned. 

“Calm down, Marcia, take a deep breath.” Marcia did as she was told, and soon began to breath properly again. Once she was satisfied the young girl was back to normal, Evadne stood up. “Now, what’s this about Franny?” 

“She’s here!” Marcia stared up at her stepmother, her large green eyes open to their widest extent, a look of dismay on her face. “Ann was made Head of Juniors and I went to tell Thea at break, only she wouldn’t talk to me, and then I told Kate and asked her why and she showed me Franny was there! I wanted to tell her to go away but Ann and Kate wouldn’t let me. Mummy, Thea’s really sad about it and went off on her own and everything. It’s not fair.” 

Evadne stared at her in shock. “What do you mean she’s here? At the school?” 

Marcia nodded but before Evadne could say any more, Thea herself appeared at the school gates, a sullen look on her pretty face. As she approached them, Evvy reached out to her and pulled her into a hug. 

“Let’s get you home, shall we?” 

Thea glanced at her sister, realising that young lady must have broken the news to their stepmother. Nodding, she slipped her arms around Evadne’s waist. Evvy kissed the top of the smooth, brown locks and led her towards the car. 

 

Later that evening, Thea was getting ready for bed when there was a knock at her bedroom door and it opened to reveal Marcia’s worried face. She had rushed to get changed so that she could speak to her sister before lights out, and her nightdress was on inside out, her fair curls wild and bushy, as if she had been given an electric shock.

“Thea, are you alright?” 

“I’m fine.” Thea turned her back on her sister, finished brushing her hair and bent down to close her bottom draw. 

Marcia watched her for a moment and then shook her head vigorously, causing her hair to bounce around wildly. “No you’re not, I know you’re not. It’s not fair that she’s at our school – I hate her!” 

Saying nothing in reply, Thea made her way towards the bed and climbed between the covers. Marcia stared at her. 

“Why won’t you say anything?” 

There was silence for a moment, while Thea thought about this, and then she shook her head. “You’d better go to bed, Marcia, Mummy’ll be up soon for light’s out and you’ll be in trouble.” 

“I don’t care, I’m not going to bed yet.” Moving up the bed towards her sister, Marcia reached out and grabbed her arm. “Franny’s a horrid pig and I’m not going to let her be nasty to you! I’ll tell Mr. Jones what she did and he’ll tell all the teachers and then they’ll make her Daddy take her away! It’ll serve her right too.” 

“Oh no you won’t.” They looked up at the sound of their stepmother’s voice, and Evadne gave Marcia a stern look. “What are you doing in here, young lady? I thought you were supposed to be getting ready for bed.” 

Marcia turned innocent eyes on her stepmother. “I was, but I wanted to see if Thea was alright.” 

“Well now you’ve seen, so how about you go back to your own room and get into bed. I’ll be along to turn the light off in a minute.” 

Marcia jumped down and ran off to do as she was told, and Evadne took her place on the edge of Thea’s bed, taking one of her stepdaughter's small, slim hands in her own. “How are you feeling, sweetheart?” 

“I’m okay.” Thea stared down at her lap for a moment and then lifted her eyes to her stepmother’s face. “Are you going to tell Daddy?” 

Evadne nodded. “Yes, Thea, he needs to know.” 

“But he’ll tell Miss Engel, and then everyone’ll know and I don’t want them too,” came the pleading reply, and Evvy raised her hand to Thea’s shoulder. 

“No they won’t, I promise you. We’ll have to tell Miss Engel, and she may have to tell the Headmaster, but nobody else will find out, okay? I’ll have a word with Marcia in a minute and ask her to keep quiet too.” 

Thea nodded, and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. “It’s not fair, Mummy. Why did she have to come to my school?” 

“I don’t know, sweetie, I really don’t.” Evadne reached out and hugged her, stroking her hair as she sobbed. After a couple of minutes, Thea pulled back and scrubbed her eyes, and Evvy looked at her, concerned. “Are you okay to go to sleep?” 

Thea nodded. “I’ll be alright. I’m tired.” 

“Okay, well you snuggle down then, and maybe it won’t seem so bad tomorrow.” Thea wriggled down beneath the covers and Evadne kissed her goodnight. “We’ll make this okay, Thea.” 

Thea smiled thinly and kissed her stepmother on the cheek, then turning onto her side, she closed her eyes. Evadne watched her for a few seconds, and then getting to her feet, she left the room. 

 

It was gone eleven, and Evadne had just got into bed herself when Edgar finally arrived home. He was chairing a big project, and had consequently been working very long hours for the past few days. Making his way upstairs, he went to kiss his sleeping daughters and young son goodnight before making his way to bed. As he entered the bedroom, Evadne put her book down on her nightstand and smiled. 

“I was wondering how late you were going to be! Did you get much done?” 

Edgar bent down to kiss her and then made his way to the adjoining dressing room and began to get changed. “Quite a bit, actually. One more late night should do it, I think, then I’ll be back to more normal hours. I am sorry about this, darling, I really can’t help it.” 

Evvy watched him as took off his suit and tie. “I know, it’s okay. Listen, Edgar, I’ve something to tell you.” 

“Sounds serious,” he replied, frowning as he put his suit on its hanger and hung it on the rail. “What’s up?” 

“It’s Thea. Franny Harford turned up at their school today – turns out she’s a new pupil this year.” 

“She’s what?” came the muffled response, as Edgar got his shirt stuck while pulling it off over his head. He wrestled with it for a few seconds, cursing as he did so, and finally managing to extract himself, he threw it over a nearby chair. “Damn thing!” 

“Well if you’d undo all the buttons and take it off like a normal human being, then that wouldn’t happen!” 

Edgar dismissed her insult with a wave of his hand, and making his way back into the bedroom, he pulled his pyjamas from underneath his pillow. “Are you serious about Franny Harford?” 

Evadne nodded. “Thea’s trying to be brave, but she’s real upset, Edgar. From what Marcia told me after school, I think Franny may have already started needling at her again. I’m not sure what to do. We’ll have to tell her teacher about last time, of course. I was thinking I should do that tomorrow, first thing?” 

“Absolutely! Try and nip it in the bud now,” he replied, tying his pyjama bottoms at the waist and then climbing into bed. “That damn child – why can’t she just leave Thea alone?” 

He rested his head back against the headboard, looking upset, and Evadne moved across to cuddle up against him, her head on his shoulder. “I promised her we’d make it okay. We will be able to, won’t we?” 

Edgar looked down at her, his hand stroking her fair curls. “We will if I have anything to do with it,” he said quietly, his mouth drawn into a straight line. Then turning off the light, he slid down between the sheets and took his wife in his arms, holding her closely as he stared up into the darkness, making a silent pledge to help his daughter in any way he could.

Chapter 8 by Josie

Evadne got to her feet and held out her hand. “I appreciate you giving me your time, Miss Engel. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to know that her teacher is sympathetic to it all this time around.” 

Getting to her feet and shaking Evadne’s proffered hand, Regina Engel smiled. “You’re welcome, Lady Watson. If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate in my classroom, it’s that sort of spiteful behaviour.” She paused for a moment and considered the open, friendly, sophisticated woman in front of her. She could not imagine this lady being indiscrete or betraying a confidence, and taking a deep breath, she decided to say what she had been wanting to ever since the interview had begun. “I was unlucky enough to be in Thea’s position when I was her age, and the staff of the school I was at did nothing – they refused to believe I was telling the truth. One of the reasons I teach at this school is because they don’t allow anyone to get away with this sort of nastiness, and so far we’ve been remarkably free of it. I intend to keep it that way.” 

Evadne returned her smile, feeling overwhelming relief. “Thank you,” she replied, her voice a little shaky, "sincerely, from both my husband and myself. I dread what it might do to Thea if she had to go through all that again." Then, as the bell went for the start of morning lessons, she said her goodbyes, and turned and left the classroom. 

Making her way back outside, she passed through the gate to the Junior playground, where she had left Thea playing with Marcia and Ann. The two younger girls had already made their way inside to their own classroom, and Thea was now sitting on the grass verge, awaiting her stepmother's return and looking a little anxious. Evadne made her way across to her. 

“Come on young lady, get a shove on or you'll be late for class,” she said briskly, smiling and holding out a hand. Thea allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, but she still looked a little unsure of herself and Evvy pulled her into a brief hug. “It’ll be okay, sweetie. Go on, you run off and get to your classroom before I get in a row with Miss Engel for making you late! I’m too old to be in trouble at school!” 

Thea smiled nervously, and ran off through the gate towards the Middle School building. Evadne watched her go, before heaving a sigh, she turned and made her way back to her car. 

 

The first half of morning lessons passed without incident and by the time break came around, Thea was beginning to feel a little more relaxed. Despite sitting across the aisle from her, Franny had paid her no attention whatsoever and Thea was begining to feel hopeful that this time maybe it really would be alright. 

As her classmated filed out of the form room for their twenty minutes outside, Thea had one or two questions she wanted to ask her teacher about the book they had started reading. Miss Engel answered her queries pleasantly, and then sent her off to join her friends and Thea headed off feeling much better about life. They had just begun reading Moonfleet, a book she had read before and enjoyed immensely, and she thought to herself that literature lessons this term were going to be fun. 

Stepping out into the fresh air, she spotted her chief group of friends on the far side of the school grounds, sitting on the grass and chatting amongst themselves. She was halfway across the playground towards them when she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around to find herself looking at Franny. 

Thea stared at her, her deep brown eyes searching the other girl’s face. She had decided that morning that she was going to do her best not to let the other girl upset her, so taking a deep breath, she asked, ‘What do you want, Franny? I’m in a hurry.” 

Francesca looked her up and down. “Is it true your stepmother had a new baby?” 

“Yes, that’s right,” Thea replied, a little confused, wondering why Franny had brought this up. “He’s called Henry and he’s really sweet.” 

Franny’s smile had a nasty edge to it. “That’s good. I s'pose your stepmother will probably love it more than you, ‘cause you and Marcia aren’t her real children, are you? I heard my Mum say that’s what my aunt did when she had her real baby. She didn’t need her stepchildren anymore.” 

Thea could not believe her ears and she could feel her hackles rising as Franny insulted her family. “No she won’t!” she shot back, her voice raised, her eyes flashing. “Mummy’s not like that! How dare you say she is!” 

“Course she is,” Franny sneered, enjoying the reaction she was getting. “Your Dad probably loves it more too.” 

Don’t talk about Daddy like that!” Thea shouted. People were turning to stare at them now. 

“Your Dad really thinks he’s someone, doesn’t he?” Franny continued. “Mr. Anthony told my Dad everything about how he pushed his way into Mr. Anthony’s office and ordered him about…” 

“Daddy doesn’t think that!” 

“…You Watsons think you’re all so important, but I’ll show you you’re not! I’ll…” 

The next second, Franny stumbled backwards, landing on the concrete playground with a thump. Thea was standing over her yelling. “Don’t you ever say things like that about my family! I hate you, Franny Harford! I HATE you!” 

Thea!” 

The sound of her teacher’s voice brought Thea to her senses, and she spun round to face Miss Engel, still shaking and a little scared at what she had done. Franny took advantage of the silence. 

“I didn’t do anything. She pushed me, Miss Engel,” she cried, crocodile-tears springing to her eyes. “Everyone saw her do it!” 

Miss Engel stared down at her, contempt written all over her face. “Get up please, Francesca,” she said, her voice quiet, “and do stop crying. Are you hurt?” 

Franny had been about to launch into more self-pity but something in Miss Engel’s voice stopped her. She remained silent and shook her head. 

“Right, then go inside and clean your hands and face, please.” Franny had dirt smeared across her cheeks where she had rubbed away her tears. “Go on, hurry up, we don't have all day,” she added as Franny stared at her. Seeing nothing else for it, Franny did as she was told, and Miss Engel turned to Thea. “Thea, come with me, please. The rest of you return to whatever you were doing. You still have ten minutes break time and there’s nothing left to see here,” and leaving them to do her bidding, she turned and led Thea back towards the school.

Chapter 9 by Josie

“Take a seat.” Miss Engel waved her hand towards the chair she had pulled up in front of her desk, and then sat down in her own. 

Thea timidly did as she was told and stared down at her lap. It was beginning to dawn on her just what she had done. She had never lost her temper like that, even during her fiercest arguments with Marcia and Ned, and she had certainly never pushed someone before. Truth be told, she had scared herself a little and was feeling thoroughly ashamed. 

Miss Engel watched her for a few moments, considering carefully what she was going to say before she spoke. “Now, how about you tell me what just happened out there?” There was silence as Thea continued to stare at her lap. “Thea, I’d like an answer, please. I know Francesca said something that upset you. What was it?” Thea mumbled something in return. “What was that? I didn’t quite catch it.” 

“She said horrid things about Mummy and Daddy,” Thea repeated reluctantly, still staring at her fingers. 

“What horrid things?” Thea shook her head and remained silent. “Thea, if you don’t tell me, then I can’t do anything about it, can I? You’re an intelligent, likeable girl who’s fitted in very well at this school so far, and you’ve certainly shown no signs of a temper. I’m well aware that you would not have reacted like that for nothing.” 

Her words were greeted with yet more silence and Miss Engel heaved a sigh. Generally she would punish a student for blatantly refusing to answer her like this – dumb insolence, they called it in the armed forces - she remembered her father telling her so. But from her own childhood experience, she knew that the reason Thea was reluctant to speak was her fear of how much worse Franny might get if she thought that Thea had told tales on her. 

Deciding not to push the matter further, she sat back in her chair. “Very well. If you don’t want to tell me, I can’t force you.” She paused for a moment, and when she spoke again, her voice took on a more officious tone. “Now, I’m afraid I can’t let what you did go unnoticed, either. However much someone provokes you, you should never react like that, regardless of how hurtful their comments are.” When she still drew no response, she added, “Thea, look at me, please.” 

Thea lifted her head to stare at her teacher, her deep, brown eyes unnaturally bright. One look at her face told Miss Engel how sorry the young girl was, and she softened her voice. 

“Violence never solves an argument, Thea, it only makes it worse, even if it’s only something like pushing. And apart from anything else, you’ve landed yourself in trouble for nothing, haven’t you? It’s very important you try and keep hold of your temper when someone's deliberately needling you. Do you understand?” Thea nodded and swallowed hard. “I would like you to write a three-hundred word essay, to be given to me in the morning, on why it’s not right to do what you did.” She paused for a second, and then added, “More importantly, you’re to tell your parents what happened when you get home this evening. I’m going to trust you to do that, so please don’t let me down. I haven’t met your father but from what I’ve seen of your mother, I don’t think she’s going to be very impressed, is she?” 

Biting her lips and blinking hard to keep her tears at bay, Thea shook her head. She could imagine exactly what her parents would have to say on the matter when she told them, and how ashamed her father would be. 

Seeing her obvious discomfort, Miss Engel decided to take pity on her. “Right, we’ll leave it at that, shall we? The bell will be ringing for the end of break at any moment, so why don't you go and take your seat.” 

As if to prove her right, the bell rang just as she finished speaking, and Thea got up to walk back to her desk. 

“Thea?” She stopped and turned back round to face her teacher again. “Remember, if you ever need to tell me anything – and I mean anything - you can come and find me whenever you like. Sometimes it helps to talk things through.” 

Thea stared at her for a moment, and then nodding, she continued on her way to her seat. The next second, the classroom door flew open and the rest of Upper Two filed in, all chattering at the tops of their voices. 

Kate sat down and turned to face her friend with an urgent whisper. “What happened? We saw Miss Engel take you off and Franny looking all dirty. Did you really push her like everyone’s saying? I bet it served her right, if you did!” 

Seeing Franny walking towards them down the aisle, Thea shook her head. “I’ll tell you at lunch,” she replied in a subdued voice. 

As Franny approached them, she shot Thea a smile laced with spite. Taking her seat, she turned her back on Thea and Kate to talk to Celine. To Franny’s surprise, the Swiss girl pointedly turned her head away and began to speak to the Marc Leconte, who was sitting just across the aisle. Franny, who had been expecting sympathy for what had happened, stared at Celine in shock. Before she could say anything, however, Miss Engel held up her hand and gave a slight cough, and the class fell silent. 

“Get your books out and settle down, please. Herr Fleisicher will be along shortly for German and I don’t want him to find you squawking like a flock of seagulls!” A small chuckle went round the room at this simile and Miss Engel smiled. “Francesca?” 

Franny looked up in surprise as Miss Engel got to her feet. 

“I’d like you to swap places with Lucy, please. Jean-Luc can look after you for the next two weeks while you find your feet.” Franny opened her mouth to argue, but Miss Engel pre-empted her. “No discussion, thank you, I’ll be back at the end of morning lessons and we’ll talk about it then.” 

Realising that she had no choice but to move, Franny collected her belongings together and got to her feet, glaring at Thea as she made her way to the front of the class and sat down next to Jean-Luc, who was looking far from impressed. It had not taken long for gossip about what had happened at break to go around the playground, and Franny was the last person he wanted to be stuck with looking after, even if it was only for two weeks. Miss Engel waited until both Franny and Lucy were seated in their new places, and then satisfied that all was well for now, she gathered up her papers and left the room. 

 

When the bell rang for lunch, Upper Two began packing up their bags, chattering loudly as Herr Fleisicher tried in vain to get them to listen to the homework he was setting. Giving it up as a bad job, he wrote it on the blackboard, hoping they would copy it down when they noticed it, and left the room. The pupils began filing out of the classroom to get their lunch. Franny dawdled at the front, waiting for Thea and Kate to pass her before she made a move. There were one or two things she wanted to say to them. Eventually they decided to leave, and Franny was just about to follow when Miss Engel entered the classroom, stopping her in her tracks. 

“A quick word please, Francesca,” she said, closing the door behind Thea and Kate, and making her way over to her desk. 

Franny gaped at her. “But…my lunch…” 

“Your lunch can wait,” Miss Engel replied firmly, inwardly astonished at the cheek of this child. “I’d like to have a quick word with you about what happened at break. Take a seat, please.” 

Franny did as she was told, beginning to feel a little apprehensive. Surely Miss Engel had not overheard what she’d said? She knew her teacher had not appeared until Thea pushed her - she had seen her come out of the door herself. Perhaps Thea had sneaked? If that was the case, Franny thought, she’d be very sorry she ever opened her mouth. 

Miss Engel gave a slight cough, drawing the young girl’s attention back to her. “Now,” she began briskly, her voice sounding very matter-of-fact, “I don’t know what went on this morning, and I don’t want you to tell me,” she added hurriedly as Franny opened her mouth. “But I do want you to know that spiteful, bullying behaviour will not be tolerated in this class or this school.” 

“But she pushed me!” Franny exclaimed, sounding aggrieved. 

“I’m well aware that Thea pushed you, Francesca, and she has been punished for it appropriately. But you know as well as I do that that was not all there was to it. Jean-Luc will be looking after you from now on instead of Celine, and I would advise that you steer well clear of Thea and her friends, unless they invite you to join them. I want you to be aware,” she continued as Franny tried to speak again, “that I will be keeping a very close eye on you from now on, so you will do well to heed my words. Now, you can run along and get your lunch,” and without waiting for Franny to do as she was told, Miss Engel got to her feet and walked back out of the room.

Chapter 10 by Josie

Thea sat in her bedroom, pen in hand, staring out of the window at the empty forecourt. She was supposed to be doing her homework but she couldn’t concentrate, no matter how hard she tried. She was waiting for her father’s car to turn into the drive. Her stepmother had said she was expecting him home by seven-thirty at the latest, and the nearer it got to that time, the more nervous she felt. 

She had finished her essay, at least, so that was one thing off her mind. Not wanting to face Evadne, knowing that she would realise instantly that something was wrong, Thea had headed straight upstairs the minute Ann’s mother had dropped them off, shouting that she wanted to get on with her homework before dinner. Then she’d made an immediate start on the essay, determined to get that part of her punishment out of the way. 

The afternoon at school had passed by in relative calm. Franny had thrown her a few vicious looks but had otherwise kept her distance, and to Thea’s great surprise, her classmates appeared to be on her side. It was such a contrast with what had happened at her old school that she scarcely believed it, and kept waiting for someone to turn around and say something nasty. But of course, nobody did, and by the end of the day, she was beginning to feel that maybe, just maybe, this time everything would be alright. First, though, she had to face her parents. 

Her stomach flipped as she heard a car approaching along the top road, but it carried on past the house and out of sight. Heaving a sigh, she sucked hard on the end of her pen, trying to calm herself down. A sudden knock at the door interrupted her reverie, and she turned around as Marcia came into the room. 

“Thea, can you help me with my maths?” Marcia asked, a pleading look in her large green eyes as she crossed the room and flopped onto the edge of the bed. “I don’t understand!” 

Welcoming the distraction, Thea smiled and walked across to her, taking her sister’s book from her hands. “You never understand maths,” she said, sitting back down at her desk with a grin. Then opening the book and seeing all the scribbles and doodles over the page, she frowned. “You haven’t even tried – you’ve just been drawing pictures!” 

“I have tried!” Marcia retorted indignantly, getting to her feet and walking over to her sister’s desk. “See, I’ve tried there!” 

“That’s not trying, that’s writing down the question!” 

“Well it’s hard!” Marcia muttered, sticking out her tongue. “Anyway, I’m not clever like you and Ned. Daddy says it’s ‘cause I’m good at art.” 

“No he didn’t, he said it’s a good job you’re good at art! Anyway, you’re are clever – you’d understand it if you tried to.” 

“No, I wouldn’t, it’s a stupid subject. Pleeeeaaaaaaase will you help me?” Marcia begged, fluttering her eyelashes. 

Thea laughed. “Fine, I’ll help you,” and turning back to her desk, she picked up a pen and a spare bit of paper. “Come over here then, so I can show you what to do.” 

Marcia, who had been rather hoping that Thea would just do the hated maths for her, got reluctantly off the bed and pulled the vanity stool up next to her sister, dragging her feet as she did so. She watched, only half-listening to what she was being told, her mind on something else entirely. After five minutes, she gave up all pretence that she was listening and sat up straight. 

“Thea, is it true?” 

Thea, who had been in the middle of explaining the principles of long division, looked up in surprise. “Is what true?” 

“That you had a fight with Franny?” 

Thea turned bright red and stared intently at Marcia’s exercise book. “How do you know that?” 

“Everyone knows,” Marcia replied complacently, chewing the end of her pencil. “Did you really slap her like they’re saying?” 

“Course I didn’t!” Thea looked up, horrified. “Are they saying that?” 

Marcia nodded. “I didn’t believe it though, I knew you wouldn’t slap her. You’re too nice – I told people so! What really happened?” 

Thea shot her sister a grateful smile and then told her the truth of her argument with Franny. When she had finished, Marcia gaped at her, apparently lost for words. 

“She…she really said that about Mummy and Daddy?” she exclaimed at last. Thea nodded and Marcia began to bristle up with anger. “I’ll show her tomorrow…!” 

“No, Marcia, don’t.” 

“But it’s not true!” 

“I know it isn’t,” Thea shook her head wearily, “but you’ll get in trouble as well and that's just silly.” 

Marcia stared at her for a second before replying. “What did Miss Engel say?” 

Thea swallowed hard. “I have to write an essay…” 

“But that’s okay – you’re good at that!” 

“...and I have to tell Mummy and Daddy that I pushed her.” 

“Oh!” Marcia gulped. “Daddy’s going to be cross!” 

“I know.” Thea stared down at her desk and bit her lips. Just thinking about it made her want to cry. 

Pulling her legs up underneath her, Marcia sat up on her knees and leaned forward, putting her arms around her sister’s neck. “Please don’t be sad,” she said, hugging her sister tight. She hated seeing her upset. 

At that moment, they heard the sound of tires on gravel, and standing to look down at the forecourt, they saw their father’s car grind to a halt. Thea turned to leave and Marcia grabbed her sister’s arm. “I’m coming with you – I’ll tell them that it serves Franny right!” 

Thea shook her head. “S’okay. I need to go on my own,” and giving Marcia a small smile, she made her way out of the room. 

 

“Hello? Anyone home?” 

The sitting room door flew open and Evadne appeared, an amused expression on her face. “Where were you expecting us to be?” 

Edgar grinned. “Here ready to wait on me hand and foot, of course,” he responded, throwing his briefcase on the floor by the dresser and hanging up his coat. “I was just making sure!” Evadne laughed and he put his arms around her, bending to give her a kiss. “So how was your day?” 

“Oh you know,” she replied, reaching up to brush some imaginary dirt from his collar, “chatted to Henry about world politics and the latest catwalk fashions, he gurgled insightfully back and sucked on his rattle. Scrabble ate a couple of Ned’s old shoes. Nothing out of the usual!” She grinned as Edgar chuckled. “ I hope you’re hungry because dinner’s ready. We’ve been waiting for you and we’re all famished – I’d wager Marcia’s ready to eat her right arm by now!” 

“Well in that case I’d better go and get changed, hadn’t I? We can’t be doing with a one-armed daughter – what would the neighbours say!” Evvy laughed again, and he pecked her on the cheek and released her. “Where are the girls?” 

“Upstairs doing their homework. Give them a shout to wash up and come down, will you?” 

“Will do. I won’t be long,” and he turned to head towards the stairs. 

“Daddy?” 

Pausing with one foot on the bottom stair, Edgar looked up at Thea with a smile. “Hello sweetheart, how’s my favourite ten year old?” Then catching the look on her face, he added, “How was school?” 

Thea swallowed hard and shook her head. “Can I talk to you and Mummy, please? 

Edgar shot his wife a quizzical look, but she simply shrugged, as much in the dark as he was. “Of course you can. We’ll do it after dinner, shall we?” 

“Can we do it now please?” 

Edgar looked back at his wife, who walked across to join him at the bottom of the stairs. “Yes, sweetie, if you like,” she replied, holding out her hand. “Why don’t you come down,” and as Thea made her way down the stairs, Evvy nudged her husband in the direction of the sitting room. 

Thea directed her parents to the nearest sofa and perched herself in front of them on the coffee table, staring down at her feet. When she had not said anything after a full minute, Evadne reached forward and put her hand on the young girl’s knee. 

“Thea, what’s wrong? Has something happened at school?” Thea nodded but remained silent, and Evadne tried again. “Is it to do with Franny?” 

Thea nodded again. “I…” Her voice choked and she swallowed hard to bring it back under control. “Miss Engel said I have to tell you what I did.” 

She relapsed into silence and Edgar stared at her, a frown furrowing his brow. “What did you do?” 

“I pushed her.” 

Edgar’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You pushed Miss Engel?” he asked, incredulously. 

“No, I pushed Franny.” 

“What do you mean, you pushed Franny?” Edgar asked, confused. “Why?” 

“She said things.” 

“What things?” 

“Horrid things about you and Mummy, and I got cross and pushed her and she fell over.” Her voice was beginning to break as she spoke, and she brushed the back of her hand across her eyes. “Miss Engel saw me and told me off and said I had to write an essay and tell you what I did. I’m sorry, Daddy, I didn’t mean to do it, I just got so cross ” and unable to keep her tears at bay any longer, she put her head in her hands and began to cry. 

Edgar exchanged astonished glances with his wife, and then reaching out, he took hold of his daughter’s arms. “Oh sweetheart, come here.” 

Now Thea had started crying, she didn’t seem to be able to stop and she looked up at him, tears pouring down her face. Rather than the anger and disappointment that she had been expecting, there was nothing but worry and love in her father’s eyes, and she moved across the small gap between them, sitting down in his lap. Edgar held her tightly until the storm of tears subsided, and then taking his handkerchief from his pocket, he handed it to her. 

Thea pulled her head back and scrubbed her eyes. “I’m really sorry, Daddy." She gulped down another sob that was threatening to rise in her throat. "I didn’t mean to do it, I really didn’t. I couldn’t help it.” 

Edgar ran a hand over her smooth, brown locks. “I’m sure you didn’t mean it, sweetheart, don’t worry. What did Miss Engel say about it?” 

Thea took a deep breath. “She said it was wrong to be violent and to push anyone, even if they prov…provoke me, ‘cause then it makes me just like them. Daddy, what does provoke mean?” 

“It means saying things or doing things to make you angry or upset.” Edgar glanced at his wife, who was watching them intently, and then lifted Thea’s chin so that she looked him in the eyes. “Do you understand why Miss Engel said that?” 

Thea nodded and scrubbed her eyes with the handkerchief again. “I know it was wrong, but she’s so horrid and said really nasty things about Mummy, and it made me so angry. I won’t do it again, I promise.” 

“I believe you won't, sweetheart. Did Miss Engel say anything else?” 

“She said I could talk to her if I needed to, and she asked me what Franny said and she couldn’t help me if I didn’t tell her, but I didn’t want to say. I think she told Franny off though ‘cause she moved her in class.” 

Edgar looked across at Evadne in relief. At least their daughter appeared to be getting the support she needed. Evvy gave him a slight smile, and leaned forward to grasp Thea’s leg. 

“Thea, what did Franny say to you?” Thea screwed up her eyes and shook her head. “Come on sweetie, tell us, please. It’s okay, I won’t mind.” 

Thea looked imploringly at her father, but he nodded his head in agreement with his wife. Seeing nothing else for it, she took a deep breath. “She…she said…Mummy, it’s horrid.” 

Evadne squeezed her knee. “It’s okay, Thea, really.” 

“She said that you…that you didn’t love me and Marcia anymore now you had Henry instead.” Tears welled up in Thea’s eyes again as Evadne stared at her in shock. “I’m sorry. Mummy, I didn’t want to say.” 

Evadne’s face was white with anger, and Edgar grasped her arm firmly and shot her a warning glance. "Thea, you know it’s not true, don’t you?” he said, looking at his daughter anxiously. 

“I know, I told her so, but then she said you thought it too and that you really think you’re someone and that we all do too, and that she’d show us that we weren’t.” 

“But you know Mummy still loves you very much - and so do I?” 

“Yes, Daddy, I know.” 

“Alright then.” Leaning forward, he kissed her on the cheek, and then pushed her up off his lap. He could see that his wife was catatonic with rage and was dying to let rip, and he wasn’t sure that having Thea in the room when she did so was such a good idea. “Have you written your essay?” 

Thea nodded. “I did it first when I got home.” 

Edgar smiled. “Good girl. Well why don’t you run off and wash your face and hands, and call Marcia for dinner. Mummy or I will read your essay afterwards if you like.” 

Thea hesitated for a second. “Daddy, aren’t you cross with me?” 

Edgar shook his head. “No, Thea, we’re not cross with you. I think Miss Engel said all that needed to be said, and I believe that you won’t ever do it again. Now go on, run along.” 

Unable to believe her luck, Thea turned on her heel and left the room as quickly as she could, before her father could change his mind. The second the door was shut, just as Edgar had been expecting, Evadne exploded. 

“How dare she! That little…” 

“Evvy, calm down!” Edgar turned to his wife to try and placate her, but she was having none of it. 

“No, Edgar, I won’t calm down! That stuck-up, good-for-nothing, spoilt, little louse! How dare she tell my children I don’t love them! I’ll…I’ll…” 

“You’ll what?” 

“I’ll go see her parents and…” 

“Oh no you won’t! 

“Don’t you tell me I won’t, you can’t stop me!” 

Edgar grabbed hold of her forearms to prevent her getting up from the sofa, and held onto her tightly, despite her struggling to free herself. “Evvy, will you please calm down. I know you’re upset, and I don’t blame you, but you going and shouting at the Harfords is not going to help Thea. You’ll just make things ten times worse.” 

“But she told her I don’t love them!” 

“I know she did, darling, but Thea knows it’s not true. I’m sure Miss Engel’s got things under control, and we shouldn’t interfere unless we’re needed.” 

Evadne stared at him in stony silence, and it was a minute before she spoke again. “But what if she does think it’s true, Edgar?” Her voice was quieter now, and he could see tears starting to well up in her eyes. “What if she really thinks I don’t love them anymore.” 

“You heard her - she doesn’t think that, Evvy.” Edgar put a hand on her shoulder and leaned forward to kiss her head. 

Evadne looked back at him, anger still bubbling inside her, but she knew that he was right. Her going to talk to the Harfords would do nobody any good. Nodding, she got to her feet. “I need to go talk to her. Guilia’s left dinner in the oven to keep warm – can you serve it up?” and leaving him to do as she asked, she left the room and made her way upstairs. 

She knocked on Thea’s door and opened it tentatively, poking her head round and forcing a smile on her face. 

“Can I come in?” 

Thea was standing at the wash basin, drying her hands and face. On hearing her stepmother’s voice, she looked up in surprise and nodded. Evvy made her way across to the bed and sat down on the edge, giving her daughter an anxious look. 

“Thea, I need to talk to you. I…” 

“Mummy, I know it’s not true.” 

“Are you sure?“ Evadne reached out to her, and as Thea came to stand in front of her, she took hold of her hand. “You’re not just saying that? Because I love you very much, Thea, all of you. It’s so important you know that.” 

“I do know that, so do Ned and Marcia. That’s why I was so cross with Franny. She can’t say things like that about you, it’s not fair!” Thea smiled, feeling much better now she had spoken to her parents, and put her arms around her stepmother’s neck. “I love you too, Mummy.” 

“So do I!” 

Evadne and Thea both jumped at the sound of Marcia’s voice, and looked up to see her standing in the doorway. Despite herself, Evvy smiled. 

“Have you been eavesdropping, young lady?” 

Marcia opened her eyes wide and vigorously shook her head. “No! The door was open and I heard when I was going downstairs.” She bounded over to the bed, jumping up next to her stepmother and throwing her arms around her. “I love you too, Mummy, and Franny’s a big, fat pig with a curly tail for being so nasty about you!” 

The other two stared at each other for a second and then started to laugh. Evadne opened her arms wide. “Come here, both of you,” and collecting them into her, she hugged them very tightly. “Maybe if we all imagine hard enough, she’ll turn into just what Marcia said.” 

The two girls giggled. 

“What’s going on here?” They all looked round at the sound of Edgar’s voice. “I don’t know,” he continued, his eyes twinkling. “I slave over setting the dinner out and you don’t even come down to eat it when I call. I’m just not appreciated in this house, am I? Maybe I should just feed dinner to the dog.” 

Evadne laughed and shook her head, and Marcia jumped down from the bed again, grabbing Thea’s arm. “Race you!” 

The pair of them tore out of the room at top speed, knocking something over on the landing as they went, which landed on the polished floor with an almighty crash. Evadne grimaced. “Do you think that was expensive?” 

Edgar chuckled and held his hand out to her as she walked towards him. “Probably a priceless heirloom! You feeling better now?” 

Evadne nodded. “I’m still angry.” 

“I know.” 

“But I won’t go talk to them, I promise.” 

“Good good.” Edgar bent to kiss her. “She’ll get her comeuppance, you know. Those sort of children always do eventually.” 

Evadne slipped her arm around his waist as they walked down the landing towards the bookend and books that the two girls had knocked onto the floor. “Marcia said she was a big, fat pig with a curly tail, and I told them if we wished hard enough, she may turn into one!” 

Edgar laughed. “Well, I didn’t quite mean that kind of comeuppance but you never know, it might work. Leave that, they can clear it all up after dinner,” he added, as Evadne bent down to retrieve the bookend. “We may love them, but they can still pick up after themselves!”

Chapter 11 by Josie

“That’s it, I’m moving out to live in the rec. room!” 

Burgess looked up in surprise as Harry threw his bag across the study and flopped down on Ned’s bed, a black look on his face. 

Ned turned from his desk and grinned at his friend. “Why’s that?” 

“You know why! If I have to spend another day sharing a room with that pompous dung-headed twerp I’ll…I’ll…” 

“You’ll what?” Ned asked innocently, as his friend’s face slowly turned purple with rage. 

“I’ll smother him in his sleep, that’s what!” 

Burgess laughed. “No you won’t, don’t be an ass!” 

“That’s all you know!” Harry glared at his friends. They were now two weeks into the term, and he was in no doubt that his initial assessment on seeing the new boy’s name had been entirely correct. “It’s alright for you two to laugh, you don’t have to live with him! ‘Oh has your house only got five bedrooms? You poor chap, how the devil do you cope?’ ‘Faaaather drives the new Bentley, don’t you know. We find other cars are just soooo parochial.’ ‘You mean you don’t know the Humpty-Pinkington-Smythes? Well of course Mumsie and Father are soooo well connected blah blah blah blah blah!’ I don’t care if his dratted Mumsie and Father know the Queen and Prince Philip – he’s still the world’s biggest nosebleed!” Ned and Burgess had both dissolved into fits of laughter at Harry’s impressions of his roommate, and he crossed his arms across his chest, a heavy scowl on his face. “Oh shut up both of you! It’s not funny! Stop howling and tell me what I’m supposed to do about His Highness Lloyd-Saucepan” 

Seeing the disgruntled look on his friend’s face, Ned did his best to pull himself together and sat up, wiping away tears of mirth. “Sorry. Only you’ve got him just right!” 

“Well so would you if you had to listen to his boring voice all day long!” 

“I don’t see what you can do, though,” Burgess put in, still chuckling. “Can’t you just try and ignore the twerp?” 

“I’d like to see you try! It’s not just his stupid boasting, I could ignore that, but he seems to think I’m his butler. He keeps trying to order me to do things – he asked me to hang up his clothes last night!” 

Ned gaped in amazement. “What did you say?” 

“Told him to go and boil his head.” 

“The maggot! I don’t believe it!” 

Burgess didn’t look so surprised. “I’d believe it. He thinks he’s Lord High-and-Mighty – he slammed the door in my face going into the common room the other day. We’re all just dirt as far as he’s concerned.” 

“He’s not been like that to me.” 

“That’s ‘cause your Dad’s a Sir.” 

Ned looked incredulous. “Tosh!” 

“Not it’s not,” Harry replied, shaking his head. “That’s how he works. Your father’s a Sir so he licks your boots, our fathers aren’t so he treats us like his servants.” 

“What difference does it make who my Dad is?” 

“Every difference to a worm like him. Just ‘cause you're oblivious to who your father is, doesn’t mean everyone else is!” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” 

“That he’s a rotten little snob, that’s what,” Burgess responded. “He needs taking down a few pegs if you ask me.” 

Before the other two could reply, there was a knock at the door and it opened to reveal Piers himself. Without waiting to be invited, he strode into the room and plonked himself down on Ned’s bed, almost sitting on Harry, whose presence he appeared to miss entirely. He was a striking-looking boy, brown haired and blue-eyed, with high-cheekboned features and an arrogant air about him. 

Ned glared at him. “Please, come in, why don’t you? Have a seat on my bed.” 

His voice dripped with sarcasm but Piers seemed utterly oblivious. “Thanks. I’m glad I’ve caught you, Watson. I’m trying out for Torpids tomorrow - as a wing, you know. I cut quite a dash, I can tell you. I gather you know Cameron rather well? I was wondering if you might put a good word in for me? Us being form-mates and all,” he added, with what he clearly thought was a matey grin. 

Ned looked horrified. House rugby trials had been postponed for the last two weeks, due to the new captain, Cameron, falling ill the day after they returned. With rowing also postponed, and only the school rugby team to keep him occupied out of hours, Ned had been bemoaning the lack of sport he had been able to do, much to his classmates chagrin, and both they and he were eagerly looking forward to trials taking place this weekend – him for obvious reasons, and them purely because it would shut him up. Now Ned could see his fun about to be spoilt by the presence of Piers, and he was less-than-impressed. 

“I’d like to see what Cameron would say if I tried!” he retorted indignantly. “You’ll have to turn up and try out, like everyone else.” 

“Ah, don’t want to agree in front of these two fellows,” Piers replied with a wink. “I get you.” 

“No, I don’t want to agree at all!” Ned replied incredulously, wondering just how stupid this boy could be. “How much of an idiot d’you think I am?” 

But Piers wasn’t listening. He had hauled himself to his feet and was staring down at Harry with disdain. “I’ve been looking for you, Pepperell. When you’ve got a moment, my Sunday shoes could do with a shine, if you don’t mind. I’m sure you can fit them in when you do your own. Handy having these chaps to help us out, isn’t it?” he said, looking at Ned and inclining his head towards Burgess. Then turning on his heel, he walked out of the door, shutting it loudly behind him. 

“Not on your life, you pompous ass!” Harry shouted after him. Turning back to the other two, "See, I told you!" 

Burgess shook his head as if he was trying to take it all in. “Is he real?” 

Harry nodded and slumped back against the wall, sinking further into his dark mood, and Ned got to his feet and walked across to the bed, sitting down next to his friend. “That’s it, we have to do something. He can’t treat you like that, and I’ll just die if he makes the team!”

“Why don’t you stick your foot out and trip him up a few times,” Burgess replied with a grin. 

“Oh I will, don’t worry! Doesn’t help Pepperell though, does it? We need to come up with a plan to take the stuck-up toad down a few thousand pegs, and then some.”

At that moment the bell rang for lights out and Harry got to his feet. “Well you better think of it quickly, before I really do end up smothering him!” He picked up his bag from next to Ned's desk and dragged his feet across to the door. “It’d be worth the row just to be rid of him!”

Chapter 12 by Josie

Cameron blew sharply on his whistle and the players on the pitch came to a halt. “Okay that’s it, everybody, thanks for turning out. I’ll be posting the team up tomorrow evening. Watson, give me a hand to pack up will you? The rest of you can go.” 

As the rest of the boys filed back towards The Park, Ned began collecting up the bibs that they had tossed to one side, and walked across to join his house rugby captain. “We seem to have some decent players,” he said, as he began to fold the bibs up and pile them neatly into the basket on the floor. “Should be able to replace Bennett and the others okay.” 

Cameron nodded and watched the younger boy thoughtfully for a moment before replying. “Hopefully, yes. Listen Watson, what’s up with you and Lloyd-Kitchen?” 

Ned shrugged. “Nothing much.” 

“Oh come on, I’m not a fool. You avoided him all morning and you hardly passed to him at all, even when he was wide open – that’s not like you. What’s going on?” 

“He’s just an ass, that’s all.” 

“Yes, well be that as it may, he’s an ass who’s a very good winger so you’ll have to get over it.” 

Ned looked up in horror. “You’re not putting him on the team, are you?” 

“Now who’s being an ass?” Cameron replied with a grin. “Of course I am – he was the best player out there apart from you and Bronson, and we need someone else on the wing now that Adamson’s gone.” 

“Terrific. It’s bad enough I have to see him all day in the house and class, now I have to see him here too.” 

“Yes, well I can’t help that so you’ll have to just live with it, won’t you,” Cameron replied unsympathetically. “We need a new wing, and I’m not dropping him just because someone doesn’t get along with him, even if it’s you.” Ned opened his mouth to reply, but the elder boy cut him off. “I’m not arguing about it so don’t bother trying. Go on, get off. I can finish this now,” and turning his back on him, Cameron refused to say another word. 

Seeing nothing else for it, Ned made his way across the playing fields and in through doors leading to the changing rooms. Most of the boys had gone by the time he got there. Only the aforementioned Bronson was left and as Ned sat down and began to unlace his boots, the third-year closed his locker and turned to face him. 

“Can you believe Lloyd-Kitchen turned out? He’s such a chump!” 

Ned looked up with a grin. “That’s one word for him! He was actually good though, wasn’t he?" he added with a grimace. "Cameron’s just told me he’s in the team.” 

“You’re joking?” 

“Wish I was. Now we’re going to be stuck with him even more.” 

Ned threw his boots into his locker, slammed it shut, and the two boys made their way out of the changing rooms, still bemoaning the presence of Piers on their team. As they neared the common room, they could hear a commotion going on inside and saw a crowd of boys around the door. Harry was standing near the back on his tiptoes, trying to see over people’s heads, and Ned walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. 

“What’s going on?” 

“It’s Burgess and that idiot Lloyd-Toilet,” Harry replied, using one of his array of nicknames for his dorm-mate. “He tried to get a first year to move out of a seat for him and Burgess started telling him to back off, apparently. Of course Lord Muck didn’t so now they’re having an almighty row.” 

Peering round Harry’s head and squinting to see through a tiny gap, Ned saw Burgess, bright red and furious, standing with a hand on the shoulder of a terrified first year who was cowering in his seat. Piers stood in front of them, regarding them both with utter disdain. 

“You could do with learning something about who your betters are, Burgess. Just because Watson takes pity on you, doesn’t mean we all will. Now get out of the way – I’ve every right to ask for this seat.” 

If it was possible, Burgess went even redder – he looked as if he was about to explode. “I'm not moving out of the way, especially not for a sod like you. You’re not the king, you idiotic moron, even if you think you are.” 

“Tsk, tsk, language,” Piers replied patronisingly, and then taking hold of the first year's arm, he pulled him up out of the chair and sat down himself. “Now, if you’d just done that to start with, it would have been lot easier. Don’t be fooled by your gallant defender – he’s nothing of the sort.” 

For Burgess, this was the final straw and las he lost his temper completely, he let rip at Piers, using the full range of the wide vocabulary he had inherited from his four older brothers. He was in mid-flow when a new voice, cold and furious, stopped him in his tracks. 

“Burgess, what are you doing?” 

Spinning round, Burgess found himself face-to-face with Atkinson, the new House Monitor. “This scum,” he shouted, pointing at Piers and forgetting who he was talking to, “tried to shove Donaldson out of his seat.” 

“Lloyd-Kitchen?” 

Piers shrugged and looked the prefect up and down. “Don’t ask me, it’s him making all the fuss,” he replied nonchalantly, tipping his head towards Burgess, who spluttered and turned to glare at him. 

Atkinson looked from one to the other. “Come with me both of you. Donaldson, the seat's all yours,” and turning on his heel, he marched out of the room, leaving the two second-year boys to follow in his wake. 

It was not until the bell rang for lunch that Burgess finally returned to his study, to find Ned, Harry and the fourth of their little coterie, Anthony Laskar, sitting on the beds waiting for him. 

“What happened?” Ned asked anxiously. 

“Got a detention,” he replied despondently. “Have to spend this afternoon weeding under the holly bushes.” 

Despite himself, Ned started to laugh and as Burgess glared at him, Harry decided to intervene. 

“What about Lloyd-Kitchen?” 

“Same thing.” 

“Well I suppose Atkinson couldn’t really let you off, but it’s still not fair,” Harry replied, hitting the still-giggling Ned as they all walked out of the room. 

They had just reached the bottom of the stairs when they heard a familiar braying laugh and turned to see Piers exiting the common room with two of his cronies. Catching sight of them, he threw filthy looks at Burgess, Laskar and Harry and then turned to Ned. 

“I really don’t see what you see in those three you know, Watson. Surely you should be mixing with people more your type.” 

Turning on his heel, he began to walk off, but Ned called him back. “What exactly is ‘my type’?” 

Piers turned back to face him with a sneer. “People more your class, if you know what I mean. I’m sure your father would prefer it. Does he know the kind of company you keep?” 

Harry made a move forward, but Ned grabbed his arm and held him back. “My father says class is how you treat people, not what family you’re born into. As far as I’m concerned, you’re as low-class as you can get.” 

Piers shrugged. “Each to their own. You’ll learn one day that attitude won’t get you anywhere. It’s all about connections, old boy, connections,” and turning again, he sauntered off towards the dining hall. 

The three boys stood and watched him leave, Ned glowering at the taller boy’s back. “I’m going to get him if it’s the last thing I do.”

Chapter 13 by Josie

As was his duty as captain of the Under 14 school team, Ned stood at the front of the crowd waving off the visitors from St Paul’s School, and then turned dejectedly back to the house. As he slouched along, shoulders hunched, Laskar, his team-mate and fellow Park boy, appeared at his elbow, his rugby boots slung over his shoulder. 

“Buck up, Watson, it could have been worse.” 

Ned glanced at him for a second, and then shaking his head, he stared back at his feet as he made his way across the forecourt. “Don’t see how it could’ve been. We lost 45-0 and I got sent off.” 

“We all know whose fault that was,” Laskar grimaced, as he heard a braying laugh ahead of them. 

Lifting his head, Ned followed his friend’s glare inside the entrance door to the main school. “Yeah, I ‘spose.” 

Piers guffawed with laughter again and then turning his head, he saw Ned staring at him as he walked towards him. “I say, Watson, wasn’t exactly the done thing bellowing on the pitch like that, was it? Hardly the example a chap of your breeding should be setting – not surprised you got sent off. Makes one wonder if you should really be captain anymore, frankly.” 

“I wouldn’t have had bellow to if you hadn’t kept hogging the ball and had actually passed it,” Ned snapped back. “Rugby’s supposed to be a team game, or is your brain too small to work that out?” 

“Now, now, no need for that,” Piers replied loftily, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, you know.” 

“That wasn’t sarcasm, you great oaf, it’s the truth!” Laskar interrupted incredulously. “Can’t you tell the difference?” 

Piers merely sneered at him. “I wasn’t addressing you, Laskar.” 

“Oh go and play in a dung heap,” Ned retorted stroppily, “it’s where you belong anyway.” 

“Watson, a word, please, in my office.” 

Spinning round, Ned saw Mr. Bristow, the Games Master, calling him from his office door. Resignedly he turned and started walking towards him. 

“Jolly good. Going to get the dressing down you deserve,” Piers called after him. 

Ned ignored him, but Mr. Bristow heard and frowned. “What are you still doing here, Lloyd-Kitchen?” he called. “Get yourself back to the The Park right away, please. I’ve seen just about enough of you for one day,” and leaving Piers to do as he was told, he turned back to Ned. “In here please, Watson. You can wait if you like, Laskar, we won’t be long. 

Laskar nodded. “Thank you, Sir.” 

Ned grimaced at his friend and followed Mr. Bristow into his office, shutting the door behind him.

It was now the end of October, and he was settling in well to his second year at Harrow School. In class, he had continued the good work of the previous year, and was regularly among the top ten pupils in the class. Elsewhere, he was excelling on the rugby field, as ever, and having discovered a new passion for rowing, had also joined the school squad. To top it all off, Mr. Schulstad had paid his promised visit a couple of weekends previously and had taken Ned and Harry up in his plane, even allowing Ned to take the controls for a few minutes, which had thrilled him to pieces and made him even more determined to fulfill his ambition to join the R.A.F. So all in all, he was finding life rather good. 

The one blot on his happiness was Piers Lloyd-Kitchen. Despite their best efforts, the rest of the second years in The Park had failed miserably when it came to trying to bring him down a few pegs, and they were beginning to realise it was not going to be as easy to teach him a lesson as they had first thought. Narrow-minded and thick-skinned, he had simply sneered at their attempts, missing their point entirely and patronisingly telling them that it was what he expected of ‘people like them’. The Masters and Prefects found him as irritating as his classmates did, but as he did all his work and never actually broke the school rules, there was little they could pull him up for other than talking out of turn and occasionally being rude. 

From Ned’s point of view, matters were made worse by Piers’ sporting abilities. The house rugby trials had proved that he really was as good a sportsman as he claimed to be, and Ned soon found himself having to put up with him not only in the house team, but in the school squads as well. Being his teammate was bad enough, but it was in the Under 14 rugby team, where Ned was captain, that he found Piers hardest to deal with. His constant questioning of direction and refusal to obey team tactics drove Ned to distraction. His constant questioning of direction and refusal to obey team tactics drove Ned to distraction, and the growing tension had culminated in today’s shouting match on the pitch, which in turn had resulted in Ned being sent off in disgrace for using language that had shocked one or two of the spectators and had the opposing team in stitches. As a result, Harrow had been soundly beaten and Mr. Bristow was in none too good a mood. 

 

It was late afternoon by the time Ned finally got back to his boarding house. On entering the common room, he found a noisy game of indoor cricket going on. Catching the ball as it was hit towards him, he declined an invitation to join in, threw it back to the bowler and made his way to the far side of the room, where Harry was sitting at a table wrestling with some prep he had not finished the night before. As Ned pulled out a chair and sat down next to him, he looked up with a grimace. 

“I’m never going to get this stupid geog. done. It’s beyond me which contour lines go where.” 

Ned peered over at his friend’s book and pulled a face. “You’re not joking! You can borrow mine if you like – it’s up in my study, help yourself.” 

“Thanks.” Harry grinned and pushed his book away from him, sitting back in his chair. “I’ve got my things for The Harrovian to do too, and I thought I’d never get round to it.” 

It was Ned’s turn to grimace. “Want to write my match report for me whilst you're at it? Not sure I can face it.” 

“Yeah, I heard,” Harry replied, giving his friend a sympathetic smile. “Laskar told us. Did Britches roast you?” he asked, referring to Mr. Bristow. 

“Almost. He made me clean all the eccer kit and scrub out the changers. I smell like a rotten pond.” 

Harry laughed and at that moment, the common room door opened to admit Piers. He caught sight of Ned and Harry and started to walk towards them, a smug look on his face. Then something made him think better of it, possibly the murderous expression on Ned’s face, and he turned and made his way across to an empty chair on the opposite side instead. 

Ned glared at him for a moment and then pulled a face. “I haven’t hated anyone this much since Donkey-Face,” he said, referring to his father’s former girlfriend. “He’s so dense – nothing gets through his thick skull.” 

Harry glanced at their foe and then turned back to his friend with a wicked grin. “Maybe we should set your stepmum on him. I bet she’d get through to him alright!” 

Ned laughed inspite of himself. “I’d say. He wouldn’t know what hit him if Evvy got going – she’d tear shreds off him. I’ve heard her let loose at Dad a couple of times - and she loves him!” The two boys stared over at Piers for a moment, both happily imagining what Ned’s stepmother would say to their nemesis given the chance, and then Ned heaved a sigh. “Shame she’s in Geneva,” he said, resting his hands on his chin and staring out of the window. 

“Yeah pity,” Harry replied, mimicking his friend’s action. 

They stayed like that for a minute or so, staring wistfully out at the gloomy autumn day, before Ned scraped back his chair and got to his feet. “Right, I’m off to the Tosh, I reek,” he said, referring to the shower block, and with a “See you later,” he headed off out the door. 

A second later, he remembered that Harry wanted to borrow his geography book, and turned back to the common room again. Pushing the door open hard, he was about to shout to his friend when he felt it connect with something solid and a familiar drawling voice yelled, “You imbecile, can’t you be more careful!” 

The room fell silent as everybody turned to stare, and Ned peered round the door to see Piers clutching his nose, his eyes watering. 

Fighting the urge to laugh, Ned put on his best ‘Piers voice’ and said, “Sorry, old chap, didn’t realise you were there. Bad luck eh?” Then turning to Harry, “Did you want my geog?” 

Choking down his laughter, as Piers’ continued demanding sympathy at the top of his voice and got none in return, Harry nodded and made his way towards his friend. They closed the door behind them and both burst out laughing. 

“That was brilliant! You should have seen his face when the door hit him – it was priceless!” 

“And it wasn’t even on purpose,” Ned choked, clutching his stomach and gasping for air. 

The common room door opened, and Piers came out surrounded by a couple of his hangers-on who were fussing around him, even as he tried to brush them off. 

“Go straight to Matron and do stop making such a fuss,” Atkinson, the House Monitor, called after them, having followed them into the hall. “Anyone would think your nose was about to fall off!” Ned spluttered at this and the prefect turned to face him. “Stop loitering in the hall, you two, go and do something useful, before I find you something to do myself. And be more careful when you open doors in future, Watson.” 

Still chuckling the two boys made their way up the stairs towards their studies, the odd gurgle of laughter coming from them as they struggled to regain control. Atkinson watched them go, and then with a smile touching the edge of his lips, he turned back into the common room and shut the door.

Chapter 14 by Josie

As half-term approached, things at school were finally beginning to settle down for Thea once more. It had not been an easy start to the year at all. Despite Miss Engel’s warnings, Franny had done her best to continue her campaign against her, making attempts at starting malicious whispers, ‘accidentally’ spilling ink on her work, tripping her up in corridors and generally trying to make her life a misery. 

The difference from a year previously, however, was that this time Franny found herself with no sympathisers at all. Thea’s gentle and unassuming manner had won her many friends among her classmates, a fact that Franny failed to recognise, and the kindness and generosity she had shown them was now paying dividends. Rather than siding with Franny, as that young lady had presumed they would, they instead found her behaviour abhorrent and the longer she continued with her campaign against Thea, the more isolated she found herself. 

Seeing what was happening within her class, Regina Engel had tried several times to speak to Francesca and point out the error of her ways, but she refused to listen, instead sitting in front of her defiantly, her arms crossed, claiming that she had not done anything wrong. In the end Miss Engel gave up and instead talked to the whole class about bullying and its effects, in the hope that they would at least listen and not turn on Franny herself. 

Thea, in particular, had taken this lesson very much to heart. She had gone home that evening and discussed it with her parents, who had explained to her the fine line between not liking someone and bullying, and that maybe Franny acted the way she did because she had problems of her own. Mindful of this, Thea had been careful not to be nasty to the other girl in any way, and had even gone as far as picking her for her teams in games lessons and trying to talk to her on occasion, much to her friends’ amazement and Marcia’s disgust. Franny, however, had shown no interest whatsoever, and Thea was beginning to wonder why she was bothering to make the effort. 

It was now two days before half-term was due to begin, and the class were all out in the playground after lunch, playing a game of Red Rover. Laughing as she watched Jean-Luc get swallowed up by the opposing team’s line, Thea glanced round and spotted Franny sitting alone on a bank, watching them playing, a look of longing on her face. It was quite clear that she wanted to join in, but did not feel that she could. 

Thea turned to Kate who was beside her in the line. “Back in a minute.” 

“Where are you going?” 

“To ask Franny if she wants to come and play.” 

Kate stared at her friend incredulously. “Why d’you want to do that?” 

“’Cause she looks like she wants to,” Thea replied, “and anyway, she’s being left out and you know what Miss Engel said.” 

“She could join in herself if she wanted to,” Kate replied unsympathetically. “We didn’t make her sit on the bank.” 

“I know, but I’m still going to ask her.” 

“You’re crackers if you ask me!” 

Thea grinned at her friend, and leaving her team to catch Lucy without her, she made her way across to the bank. 

Franny looked over at Thea as she approached, and her expression turned to a malevolent glare. Ignoring her, Thea forced a smile onto her face. 

“Hi Franny. Do you want to come and play with us all?” 

Franny wanted desperately to join in, but her stubborn pride and stupidity was not going to accept an olive branch from Thea, so instead she arranged her face into a scowl. 

“No thank you, I’m fine here.” 

Thea looked at her questioningly and tried again. “Are you sure? You can be on mine and Kate’s team if you like.” 

“I said no,” Franny snapped back. “Just get away from me, Thea Watson. I’d rather eat a cowpat than be on your team! Other people may not know what you are, but I do, so don’t bother with your pretend niceness!” and getting to her feet, she stalked off towards the opposite side of the playground. 

Thea watched her go, and then shrugged her shoulders and walked back towards her classmates. Franny’s insults did not upset her and she no longer took them personally, something which frustrated young Franny even more. 

Kate, who had watched the whole thing, gave her friend a grin as she moved up to let her back in line. “She didn’t want to come then?” 

Thea shook her head. “Said she’d rather eat a cowpat.” 

“I can get her one if she wants,” Kate replied, laughing, and Thea giggled and hit her playfully on the arm. 

“Don’t be mean!” 

“She deserves it!” Then as she heard ‘Red Rover, Red Rover, send Thea over,’ she gave her friend a shove. “Go on, your turn. Bet you don’t make it!” 

“Bet I do!” Thea retorted, and with Franny forgotten for the moment, she set off at a run towards the opposing line. 

 

==

 

Back at the Watsons’ home, meanwhile, Edgar had just finished his lunch and was sitting on a large sofa in the family room, reading the paper and sipping a coffee. He was supposed to be working, but had decided to give himself a few hours off. The large open fire was roaring in the grate, as there was a distinct autumn chill in the air, and Scrabble was stretched out on a rug in front of it, warming his belly on the heat from the flames. Henry was sitting in his father’s lap, propped up against his right arm, and Edgar was reading him bits from the paper and pointing out pictures while his son played with some discarded pages, scrunching them up in his tiny fists and trying to put them in his mouth. 

It was a few minutes before he realised that his wife was standing in the main doorway, watching them with a wide smile on her face. 

“What are you two up to?” 

Henry looked up and squealed at the sound of his mother’s voice, and Edgar laughed and dropped a kiss on his curly head. 

“We’re reading the paper, aren’t we Henry?” Then turning back to his wife, “I’m starting him young – I have high hopes for him becoming prime minister!” 

Evadne laughed. “Not aiming too high for him then?” 

“Not at all.” Edgar chuckled and Henry squealed again and held out his arm towards his mother. “Do you think Mummy should come and join us, little man?” Henry looked up at his father and giggled, and Edgar raised a hand to stop him putting some newspaper into his mouth. “I think that means yes. Come on, Lady Watson, do as your son tells you. I've given Monique the afternoon off by the way - didn't think we'd need her seeing as I don't intend to do any work!” 

"That's fine." Evvy smiled and made her way across to the sofa, sitting down and slipping a hand through her husband’s arm. Edgar dropped a kiss on her fair curls before turning back to the newspaper. 

“Now then, where were we?” He began reading a column about some recent policies passed by the British Government, and then pointed to a picture nearby. “And that’s Princess Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend – she’s going to marry him and people aren’t happy about it.” Seeing Evadne listening intently, Edgar grinned. “This is marvellous – I’m educating two people at once!” 

“Hey! “ his wife exclaimed indignantly, poking him in the chest. Henry gurgled and copied her and Evadne laughed. “Say, look at that! I have a defender now! 

“Well I like that!” Edgar said, looking indignantly at his son, who simply giggled and poked him again. “Has Mummy been teaching you bad habits? You’re more trouble than the children!” he added, turning to his wife with a twinkle in his eye. 

Evvy grinned. “Aren’t you supposed to be working anyhow?” 

“I am, yes, but this is so much more fun, don’t you think?” he replied, putting an arm around her shoulders. 

“Oh, much!” she agreed, lifting her face and reaching up to kiss him on the lips. 

Unimpressed at the lack of attention being paid to him, Henry let out a loud squeal and kicked his legs, sending the newspaper sailing out of Edgar’s hand and onto the floor. As Evvy laughed and bent down to pick it up, Edgar fixed his son with a stern glare.

“What’s wrong with you, young man?” 

“He’s jealous, aren’t you sugar-pie?” Evadne said, sitting back up with the paper and leaning across her husband’s lap to kiss her son on the tip of his nose. He giggled and grabbed hold of a one of his mother’s loose curls. “There, see?” she added, as she extracted her hair from his grasp with an ease that spoke of having done so many times before. “He just wanted a kiss.” 

“Ah, so that’s what it is!” and bending down, Edgar blew a raspberry on his son’s cheek, causing him to laugh and kick his legs again. 

At that moment, the phone rang, and leaving them to it, Evadne stood up, throwing the paper down on the sofa, and went to answer it. She returned seconds later, her blue eyes wide with concern. 

“Edgar it’s Clare, Paul’s sister. She wants to talk to you – says it’s urgent.” 

Edgar got to his feet, apprehension showing in his face. “What’s happened?” 

“I don’t know – quick, she may not have the line for long.” 

Handing Henry to his wife, Edgar hurried out of the room to take the call. It was some minutes before he returned, by which time Evadne was sitting on the sofa, Henry in her arms, and she looked up anxiously as he came back in the room. 

“Evvy, I have to go.” 

She was alarmed to see his face sheet-white and setting Henry down on the sofa, she stood up and hurried over to his side. “Go where? What’s happened?” 

He looked down at her, his eyes glazed over with shock. “Accident I think or…I don’t know, Paul’s been crushed or something, I’m not sure. He’s in hospital - lost lots of blood.” He was starting to shake a little and lowered himself into a nearby chair and stared straight ahead of him. “They…they don’t know if he’ll pull through.” Evadne gasped and put a hand to her mouth, and Edgar stared up at her in a daze. “I have to go.” 

Seeing that her husband was in a state of shock, Evadne did her best to pull herself together and take charge. Getting him a steaming cup of tea, she pressed it into his hands and then went to his study to call the airlines and see if there were any free seats on the afternoon London flights. That done, she ran upstairs, leaving Henry in his playpen, and hurriedly threw some of Edgar’s clothes and his wash things into a bag. Three quarters of an hour later, they were in her Renault on the way to the airport, Henry in his carrycot in the back seat. 

Once there, Edgar hurriedly checked in and they made their way towards the departure gates. On reaching them, he came to a halt and turned to face his wife and son. He was still in shock and his voice sounded flat and empty as he spoke. 

“Tell the girls I said goodbye and I’ll talk to them on the phone. Can you call my secretary and let her know what's happened?” 

“Edgar...” 

“I’ll call you as soon as I can once I'm there,” he continued, interrupting her and stooping to kiss Henry. “I should be at the hospital by about six this evening…” 

“Edgar, please, listen.” She was beginning to choke up and her voice was shaking. “Look after Elsie okay? Send her all my love. Tell her…tell her I’ll come if she wants me.” 

Edgar stared at her for a second and then nodded, bending to kiss her mechanically on the head. “I’d better go. I’ll speak to you later,” and turning on his heel, he made his way towards passport control. 

“I love you,” Evadne called out impulsively, but he didn’t acknowledge her, didn’t even turn around. She watched him as he handed his passport over for checking and then disappeared through the gates. Then hugging Henry to her, she turned and walked sadly back to the car.

Chapter 15 by Josie

It was seven o’clock in the evening by the time Edgar finally reached the London hospital where Paul had been taken after the accident. Tired and overwrought, he made his way hurriedly through the corridors to intensive care, where a nurse pointed him in the right direction once he had explained who he was. Paul’s sister Clare was sitting in a chair pushed back against the wall, her head in her hands. She looked up as she heard footsteps approaching down the corridor, and seeing Edgar coming towards her, she jumped to her feet. 

“Oh, Edgar, thank goodness you’re here. Elsie’s been asking for you - I didn’t know what to tell her, didn’t know if you’d make it, if you were coming or....” She was babbling in her relief at seeing him, and Edgar took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes. 

“What happened?” 

Clare shook her head and looked down at the floor for a moment, tears welling up in her eyes. “’m not entirely sure. There was a car, it…it swerved or something…I…I don’t know. He was walking and it pinned him against a wall and crushed his legs.” Her voice began to choke up and she had to take a deep breath to bring herself back under control. “Edgar, they…they had to amputate part of his leg, it was crushed so badly - said it was that or he would have died. He’s still unconscious and he lost so much blood. They’re still not sure if he’ll even come round.” 

As she finished speaking, she began to shake, trying hard to hold back her sobs, and Edgar held her briefly to him before pulling back and taking her gently by the shoulders again. “Clare, where’s Elsie?” 

Clare pointed to a closed door near to where they were standing. “She’s in there with him. She won’t leave him and the nurse didn’t have the heart to force her to just yet. He’s got a room to himself - the other bed’s empty - so they let her stay.” 

Edgar nodded, squeezing her shoulders again and giving her a weak smile, and then made his way towards the door. He had his hand on the handle and was about to open it when a sharp voice called him back. 

“Excuse me, sir, you can’t go in there.” 

Edgar was about to explain who he was, prepared to argue hard with the nurse if necessary, when Clare stepped forward and intervened. “This is Sir Edgar, who Mrs. Rodwell’s been asking for. He’s like a brother to Paul, they’ve been friends for so long. I know he shouldn’t but won’t you let him in, just for a few minutes? Please?” 

The nurse hesitated for a moment, looking from one to the other, and then gave a nervous glance back to her colleague who was seated behind a desk at the end of the corridor reading a magazine. “I really shouldn’t you know.” Then glancing at Clare’s pleading face again, she relented. “Okay, but only for five minutes, no more,” and turning on her heel, she hurried off again back to her post. 

Edgar turned the handle, opened the door slowly and entered the room. Closing the door behind him again, he took a couple of paces and then stopped, shocked, as he took in the scene. Paul was lying in a bed directly opposite the door. He was very still, his face drained of all its colour, save for a red gash on his forehead that seemed to stand out even more against his pale skin. He looked like he had aged about twenty years. Looking down the bed, Edgar could see the bedclothes raised over his legs where a cage protected his wounds. Elsie was sitting in a chair to the right of the bed, leaning forward, her head resting against her husband’s side. She was holding his hand tightly in her own, his bent arm clasped firmly to her chest. 

Edgar gave a small cough. “Elsie?” 

She raised her head slowly from the bed and turned her face towards him. Her eyes were barely open, the area around them red and swollen from crying, and it took her a few seconds to focus on him, to recognise who was there. 

As she stared at him, he crossed the room to stand beside her, placing a hand on the top of her head. Elsie looked up at him for a moment, her husband’s hand still clasped firmly in her own, and then buried her face in her friend’s side and began to sob. Edgar placed an arm around her shoulders, holding her closely to him, staring down at the inert form of his oldest friend in the bed below him, and then slowly closed his eyes.

Chapter 16 by Josie

Paul remained unconscious for the next couple of days and as time went on, Edgar could tell that even the doctors were beginning to lose hope. The day after he arrived in London, he drove to Oxford and collected Tom from school, bringing him back to the Watsons’ Kensington home, where Elsie, Clare and Lily were now staying in order to be closer to Paul. Elsie was returning to hospital every day, spending every possible minute either at her husband’s bedside or on the chairs outside the room, accompanied by either Clare or Edgar, while the other stayed behind to look after the two children. 

Elsie did her best to remain hopeful, but she was absolutely distraught and by the end of the second day, Edgar called his wife and asked her to come over to be with her friend. Their daughters' half-term had just begun, and Evadne hastily arranged for them to stay with Anton and made her way to England with Henry the very next day. Ned was staying with the Pepperells for his own half-term, and with their elder children being looked after elsewhere, the Watsons were able to give all their attention to helping the Rodwell family through this difficult time. 

From Evadne’s point of view, Elsie and her children were not the only ones who needed looking after. Edgar was remaining very stoic, refusing to discuss things with his wife, insisting that it was Paul’s family who needed the help not him, but Evadne knew her husband too well for that and she could tell that this was tearing him up inside. Not sure what else to do, she made a point of making things as easy as she possibly could for him, letting him know that she was there if he needed her and hoping that he would eventually open up. 

Then suddenly, on the evening of the third day, as Elsie and Edgar were just preparing to leave the hospital to return home, Paul stirred and finally opened his eyes. Elsie cried out as she looked up to see him staring at her blankly and Edgar ran from the room to call a nurse. By the time they returned, Paul was unconscious again, but this time it was in a deep and peaceful sleep. 

Over the next couple of days he began to rally a little, getting gradually stronger, and things were looking hopeful. Then on the third day, the doctor finally deemed him strong enough to be told about the amputation and suddenly things took a turn for the worse. To begin with Paul refused to believe it, claiming that he could still feel his leg, could still wiggle his toes. As he had also bruised his back in the accident, he was unable to sit up so the doctor had to use a mirror to show him that it was true. Then, while the nurse changed the bandages on his stump just above where his knee had been, the doctor sat with him and gently explained that the sensations he was feeling were what was known as a phantom limb. 

Once he realised that he really had lost part of his leg, Paul sank into a deep depression and had remained in it for over a week. He seemed to have no will to fight, to want to live, and as time went on he gradually became weaker and weaker, until the doctors became increasingly concerned for his wellbeing, to the point that they were thinking that his death was only a matter of time. 

As a last ditch attempt to try and get him to put up a fight, the doctor pulled Elsie and Edgar aside one evening as they took a break from sitting with him, and spelled out his concerns to them in no uncertain terms. As the doctor finished speaking, Elsie stared at him for second, her face ashen, and then turning on her heel, she walked quickly back in the direction of Paul’s room. Edgar went to follow her, but the doctor grasped his arm and held him back. 

“Let them be for a few minutes – maybe she can get through to him now she knows.” 

Reluctantly, Edgar did as he was asked, and sinking into a nearby chair, he leaned forward and put his head in his hands. 

 

Paul slowly turned to face Elsie as she returned to the room and sat beside him, taking hold of his hand. She watched him for a few moments, her jaw shaking, and then tightened her grip on his fingers as tears welled up in her eyes. 

“Paul, please, you have to fight this. The doctor says it’s all down to you, they can’t do anything else. Please you have to fight, I need you, the kids need you - you have to do this.” 

Paul stared at her for a second and then shook his head and tried to pull his hand from her grasp. 

“You’re better off without me,” he replied, his voice flat and cold. “I’m not much use to you now. I’ll have no job, no leg, nothing to offer. The savings won’t last us long with what it will cost to take care of me. I can’t look after any of you. You’re free to go whenever you want. I won’t hold you back.” 

Elsie stared at him in disbelief, tears falling down her cheeks as what he had just said began to sink in. “But I don’t want to go, I want to be with you,” she pleaded, gripping his hand even tighter. “We’ll manage somehow. Tom doesn’t have to go to Harrow, he can go to a local school, so can Lily. And I’ll get a job - I’ll do anything, I don’t care. Paul, please just try and fight. You have to live, I need you.” 

Paul bit his lips hard, and shook his head. 

“Paul, please, listen to me…” 

Ignoring her, he turned his head away to stare at the opposite wall. This was too much for Elsie and unable to bear it, she got to her feet and ran out of room. Edgar jumped up from his seat as the door opened and she tried to run past him down the corridor, tears streaming down her face. Reaching out, he grabbed her arm and stopped her, pulling her towards him and holding her as she buried her face in his shirt and sobbed. 

It was quite a few minutes before she managed to calm herself enough to tell him what had happened. When she finally got it out, Edgar was staggered at what Paul had said. Walking Elsie over to the nearest seats, he sat her down, leaving her his handkerchief and checking that she would be okay alone for a few minutes, and then strode purposefully towards the private room, ignoring Elsie’s feeble attempts to stop him. 

Paul was staring blankly at the ceiling, lost in his thoughts, when the door opened and a stony-faced Edgar entered the room. 

“I hope you’re proud of yourself?” 

Paul glanced at him briefly and then turned his eyes back to the ceiling, saying nothing. Edgar shut the door firmly and crossed the room to stand at the foot of his friend’s bed. 

“Do you have nothing to say for yourself?” he asked, his anger evident in his voice. “You’ve just broken your wife’s heart and all you can do is stare at me?” 

Paul’s face flickered for a second before he straightened it back to its former blank expression. “It wasn’t my intention to break her heart,” he replied flatly, “I’m sorry I had to. I just had to tell her the truth.” 

“Which is?” 

“She’s better off without me.” 

“Don’t be so bloody stupid…” 

“How do you know I’m being stupid?” Paul interrupted, his voice still quiet. “You’ve never been here, you don’t know what it’s like. I can’t provide for her or the children anymore. There are plenty of other men out there who can, she should be with one of them. I told her she’s free to go, I won’t hold her back. I’m no use to anyone, there’s no point in me being around.” 

For a second Edgar was speechless, staring at his friend in utter disbelief. Then his anger took over and he regained his voice. 

“How dare you, you selfish bastard?” he shouted, not caring whose attention was drawn by his raised voice. “She has sat by your bedside and on those chairs outside day after day since this happened praying and hoping for you to get better, for you to come around, and now you have, you’ve decided you can’t be bothered to live? Your six-year-old daughter said this morning that the only birthday present she wanted was her Daddy back, and your son’s trying to look after his mother and sister, despite being upset himself, because it’s what you’d want him to do. Your family would give up everything they have to keep you, and this is how you repay them? Do you really think this little of them?” 

Paul just stared at him, saying nothing, and Edgar gave an incredulous shake of his head. 

“You know what? Maybe you’re right, maybe they are better off without you if you honestly think that this accident has made a blind bit of difference to how they feel about you. Your wife is sitting out there utterly heartbroken – she can’t understand why you don’t love her anymore. She doesn’t deserve to be feeling like that.” 

There was silence for a moment, and then Paul said quietly, “Of course I love her.” 

“Then bloody well fight, man. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for her. It’s the very least you can do.” 

“I’m no use to her like this, can’t you see that?” Paul was starting to raise his voice a little, sounding more spirited than he had since he had come round, and noticing this, Edgar continued on. 

“You’re still the same man aren’t you? That’s all she wants,” he replied, softening his voice. “She loves you Paul, you’re her life. She doesn’t care how she has you as long as she does have you. Can’t you see that?” 

Paul stared at his friend, his eyes suddenly very bright, and for a moment Edgar thought he had finally broken through. Then Paul shook his head and looked away. 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t want her pity or yours.” 

Edgar was gobsmacked. “You’re pathetic!” he shouted. 

At the exact same moment the door burst open and a nurse came bustling into the room, drawn by the raised voices. “What’s going on in here? Get out,” she cried, shoving Edgar out of the way and running across to the bed to check on Paul. 

“No, I’m sorry, but he needs to hear this,” Edgar replied, and she swung around, a furious look on her face. 

“He’s a very ill man, in case you hadn’t noticed, and you shouting will make him even worse.” 

Edgar was beyond caring who he was rude to. He just knew he had to get through to his friend. “It won’t make any difference,” he snapped back, “he doesn’t want to live anyway.” 

The nurse gave an exclamation of horror and hurried off in search of a doctor to come and help. Edgar turned back to Paul. 

“You’re right, I don’t know what it’s like but I hope that if, god forbid, anything like this ever happens to me, I’d have the backbone to fight for the sake of my wife and kids. If you give a damn, Evvy and I will make sure we look after yours when you’re gone.” 

As he finished, the doctor burst into the room, followed by the same nurse, and went to grab Edgar’s arm, but he pulled it hastily out of the way. “It’s okay, I’m leaving anyway. There’s nothing else left to say,” and pushing past the shocked medical staff, he stormed out of the room. 

 

He and Elsie arrived back in Kensington three quarters of an hour later, to find Evadne, Tom and Lily sitting in the front room playing ludo. The two children had waited up for their mother to come home, desperate as they were for news of their father. As they ran towards Elsie, who drew them in for hugs and kisses, Evadne took in her friend’s red, tearful eyes, and turned to her husband with concern. 

“He’s not…?” 

Edgar shook his head. “He’s still alive. There’s no change.” As Evvy breathed a sigh of relief, he looked at his watch and yawned. “Is there any dinner left?” 

Evadne nodded. “There’s some stew in the pot on the stove. There’s enough for you too, Elsie,” she added, turning to her friend. 

Elsie stood up, an arm around each of her children, and shook her head. “Thanks, Evvy, I think I’m just going to go to bed,” she replied, as a couple more tears ran down her cheeks. “I…I don’t think I could eat…” 

As her husband left the room in search of his dinner, Evadne hurried across to her friend and put her arms around her. “Hey now, it’ll be okay, you’ll see.” 

Elsie drew back and shook her head, scrubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, and realising there was more to this than met the eye, Evadne sensibly refrained from saying anything further on the subject. 

“Tell you what, let’s get you all up to bed, shall we?.” 

“I want to sleep with Mummy tonight,” Lily replied, clinging to her mother, and Tom added his intention to do the same thing. 

Evadne nodded and shepherded the three of them up the stairs, following on behind to help Lily get changed for bed. 

It took a good forty-five minutes to get Lily ready, as she was full of questions about when her Daddy was coming home, and Evadne took her time answering them as best she could. Finally Lily agreed to go to her mother’s room and get into bed, and once Evadne was sure she was no longer needed, she made her way up the stairs to the top floor, where she peeped in at her sleeping son before retiring to her bedroom. Edgar came out of the ensuite bathroom as she entered the room, and giving her a weary smile, he walked across to the bed and pulled his pyjamas out from under the pillow. 

“Edgar, what’s happened?” 

Edgar looked across at her for a second, and then shook his head and returned his attention to unbuttoning his shirt. “I just want to go to sleep, Evvy. Can we leave it ‘til tomorrow please?” and turning his back on her, he pulled off his shirt, throwing it over a nearby chair, and tugged his pyjama top on over his head. 

Seeing that he meant what he said, Evadne let it go for now and walked across to her vanity, taking off her jewellery and placing it in its case. She quickly changed into her nightdress and paid a visit to the bathroom, returning to the room just as Edgar was climbing between the sheets. Switching on her bedside light, Evvy turned off the main bulb and then climbed in beside him. He had his back to her, and she leaned across and pulled his shoulder towards her. 

“Edgar, please, don’t do this. Don’t shut me out.” She tugged at his shoulder again. “Tell me what happened.” 

Edgar hesitated for a moment and then rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling as she propped herself up on one elbow, her other hand resting on his chest, and gazed down at his face. 

“Paul’s told Elsie she’s free to leave him and take the children,” he replied, covering her hand with his own. 

“How can he think she’d do that? She loves him!” 

“He doesn’t care anymore, Evvy, “ he replied slowly, shifting his gaze to look her in the eyes. “He’s given up, he doesn’t want to fight. I tried shouting at him to see if I could get through to him -  I said some truly awful things - but he still didn’t care.” As his voice began to shake, he stared back up at the ceiling and then closed his eyes. “I’m failing him. He’s been there for me all my life, pulled me out of so many holes and helped me so many times and the one time he needs me, I can’t even return the favour. I don’t know what to do, how to get through to him. I’m hopeless, Evvy, I’m really failing him. And if anything happens tonight he’ll go to the grave believing what I said today is what I really think of him, and it isn’t even true.” 

As he finished speaking, his jaw started shaking and tears began to roll down his face. Evadne was stunned. It was the first time she had ever seen her husband actually cry, and for a split-second she had no idea what to do. Then instinctively, she reached across him, placing her hand on his far shoulder. Edgar rolled onto his side so that he was facing her, his eyes still closed, his whole body now shaking, and she wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly as he finally let his pent-up emotions flow.

Chapter 17 by Josie

Edgar stirred, rolled over and opened his eyes. His wife’s half of the bed was empty and as he sat up and rubbed away the sleep, he could see daylight glinting through a crack in the heavy curtains. Blinking hard in an effort to wake himself up properly, he reached out and lifted his watch from the nightstand peering at it to check the time. Almost one o’clock. 

He was out of bed in a flash, suddenly wide-awake, and began to wrench off his pyjama top. He had it halfway over his head when the bedroom door opened and Evadne came into the room, Henry in her arms. 

“Hey, you’re awake! How…” 

“Why didn’t you wake me?” Edgar interrupted angrily, finally managing to pull his top off and throwing it onto the floor. “How could you have let me sleep this late? You know I have to get to the hospital – anything could have happened…” 

“Edgar, calm down!” Evadne replied, as he began rifling through his top draw to find a clean vest. “Give me some credit! Don’t you think I’d have woken you if anything had happened? 

“How would you know whether it has or not, you’re here!” he replied, throwing underpants and socks onto the floor in his rush. 

“How do you think? I’ve been telephoning the hospital all morning. There’s no change, and Clare’s taken Elsie in. I let you sleep because you needed to – you’re exhausted. You’re not going to be any use to anyone if you make yourself sick, are you?” 

Edgar stopped rifling and stood up, vest in hand. He stared at her for a moment, and then had the grace to look a little shamefaced. “Sorry, it’s just…” 

“I know.” Stepping forward, Evadne put her free hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze. “Now, there’s a gentleman here who’d like to spend a half hour or so with his Daddy, if that’s okay with you? He’s not seen a whole lot of you over past couple of weeks.” 

Henry was leaning with his head against his mother’s shoulder, pulling at the top of her blouse and staring at his father. Edgar reached out and stroked his fair hair, and Evadne gave him a smile. 

“Why don’t you hop back into bed for a while, and I’ll leave Henry with you and go make you a cup of tea. You can go to the hospital this afternoon. Please?” 

Edgar stared at her for a second, seeing the concern in her eyes. Then nodding, he reached out and took Henry from her, holding him with one arm as he climbed back under the covers and sat with his back against the headboard. Once he was settled, he shifted Henry in his lap, propping him up with the crook of his arm. He gazed tenderly down at his son for a moment, and then bent to kiss the top of his head. 

“How are you, little man? Sorry Daddy’s not been around too much.” 

Henry stared up at him, his wide, blue eyes focused on his father’s face, and with a gurgle, he reached up to touch Edgar’s chest, catching his fingers in his chest hair. 

“Ow!” Edgar reached down to try and remove his son’s fingers, but the little boy had a tight grip and he held fast. “I suppose I deserve that for neglecting you, do I?” 

Evadne laughed and sat down on edge of bed, kissing Henry’s head and leaning forward to prise his fingers away from their catch. She managed to do so easily, much to Edgar’s chagrin, and Henry grabbed hold of her fingers instead, rocking back and forth and making some noises that sounded like he was trying to get out a word. 

“Are you trying to say something?” Evadne asked, bending down and looking at him with a grin. “What is it? Tell Mommy what it is.” 

Henry stared back at her, squealed loudly then giggled at himself, waving his arms in excitement. Evadne and Edgar laughed, and as Edgar cuddled his son to him, Evvy squeezed his leg and got to her feet. “I’ll just go make the tea, okay? I shan’t be long,” and leaving her husband and son together, she left the room. 

 

She returned fifteen minutes later, a steaming cup of tea in hand. 

“Sorry, Lily needed some help with cutting out for her scrapbook.” 

Edgar looked up and gave her a smile. “That’s alright, we’ve been catching up with each other’s news, haven’t we, Henry?” 

Henry ignored him, sucking his fingers and holding out an arm to his mother. Evadne put the tea down on the nightstand and sat back on the bed, taking hold of the little boy’s hand. 

“Hey there, you having fun with Daddy? Are you?” 

Edgar grinned as Henry smiled up at his mother, seemingly entranced by her face. “How are they today? Tom and Lily, I mean?” 

“They seem okay so far. Lily’s doing craft and Tom’s playing with the chemistry set, so I’m just waiting for him to blow up the house!” Edgar chuckled and she studied his face carefully. “How’re you feeling now?” 

Edgar ran his hand down her arm and gave her a smile. “Better. I’ll head in and see him after I’ve finished this and had a bite to eat,” he replied, inclining his head towards his cup of tea, “have another try at talking some sense into him. I’m not giving up on him, Evvy, even if he’s given up on himself.” 

“I never thought you would.” 

They were interrupted by Henry squealing and they looked down to find him rocking back and forth again, holding tight to the blanket and trying to pull it towards his mouth. 

“Aren’t you vocal today?” Evvy asked with a grin. “Here, let me take him while you have your tea – it’ll be all over the place otherwise, the way he’s going,” and putting her hands under his arms, she lifted him up and into her lap. 

Edgar picked up his cup of tea and took a sip. “How was Elsie this morning?” 

“She’s not too bad. A little fragile, but she’s not giving up either. She said at breakfast that she’s not ready to let him go.” 

“Jolly good.” He took another sip and shifted position slightly to make himself more comfortable. “Listen, I think we should offer to help them out – we can call it a loan if he won’t take it any other way. It might take one worry off his mind at least. What do you think?” 

“Of course we should. We can do anything you want for them, Edgar, you know that.” Evadne smiled and leaned forward to peck him on the lips. “And I mean anything, even if it means bringing them all to Geneva to live with us for a while if needs be.” 

Edgar nodded and squeezed her elbow, then placed his cup back on its saucer. “Right, I should think about getting up and dressed.” 

Evadne stood up and heaved Henry up onto her hip. “Come on you, let’s leave your Daddy to get up in peace shall we? We’ll go see if Tom’s blown his room up yet. See you downstairs in a little while,” she added to her husband, and went to walk out of the door. 

“Evvy?” She paused and turned to look back at him. “Thank you.” 

Evadne smiled at him warmly, then as he got to his feet and made his way towards the bathroom, she and Henry left the room and headed downstairs. 

 

As it turned out, it was late afternoon before Edgar finally made it to the hospital, and Clare was waiting agitatedly outside her brother’s room when he arrived. 

“Oh thank goodness! I was beginning to wonder if you were coming.” 

“Why? What’s happened?” 

“Nothing, don’t worry. I just promised I’d try and get home tonight – I haven’t seen the family for a couple of weeks and they’re getting a little fractious, I think.” 

Edgar gave her a sympathetic smile. “I know the feeling. We’ve not seen our elder three for a while now either. The girls weren’t too happy when I called them the other night, but it can't be helped just now – I’m not leaving here til I know Paul’s on the mend, and Elsie needs Evvy around at the moment.” Then as Claire returned his smile he added, “Go on, you get going.” 

Claire said her thanks and took her leave, and Edgar turned to his friend’s room, just as the door opened and Elsie came out. She smiled in greeting and shut the door gently behind her. 

“How is he?” Edgar asked, nodding his head in the direction of the door. 

“About the same. He’s not said anything about yesterday and I didn’t want to bring it up, so we’ve been sitting there saying nothing for most of the day.” She looked down at the ground and shuffled her feet. “I thought if I just sat with him he might begin to change his mind - realise I meant it when I said I wasn’t going to leave. He’s letting me hold his hand, so I suppose that’s something.” She looked thoroughly dejected and Edgar reached out to squeeze her shoulder. Giving him another weak smile, she shrugged and shook her head. “I’m going to get a cup of tea. Do you want one?” 

“No thanks, I’m alright. I’ll pop in and see him while you’re gone.” 

Elsie nodded and checked her watch. “Nurse said we have to leave by five, so we’ve only about half an hour left,” and turning, she walked off in the direction of the stairs. 

Edgar watched her go, and the sight of her bowed head and slumped shoulders, so very different to her usual alert and happy demeanour, made him doubly determined to try and get through to his friend. He opened the door tentatively and peered round. Paul looked around to see who was there and glared at him, before turning his head back to stare at the ceiling. Shutting the door behind him, Edgar made his way across to the bed and sat down, folding his arms and stretching out his legs. 

They sat in silence for a while, until Paul finally spoke. “I’m surprised you’re here. I thought you’d decided I was pathetic.” 

Edgar heaved a sigh and shook his head. “Don’t, Paul, please.” 

“Why not? It’s true, isn’t it?” 

Edgar said nothing, and a few more minutes passed before Paul eventually turned his head to look at his friend and spoke again. “I really do love her, you know.” 

Edgar stared at him. “I know you do.” 

“But she's better off without me - she deserves to be taken care of and I can’t do that anymore, I don’t even have a job.” 

“Do stop talking rubbish! Think how many people lost limbs in war, for heaven’s sake, and they’ve got themselves jobs now they’re home.” 

“Not all of them,” Paul replied stubbornly, “not even half of them, in fact.” 

Edgar ignored him. “One chap even flew with no legs at all, remember? What was his name – Douglas Bader, that’s it. If he can do that, then you can get yourself some work behind a desk somewhere.” 

Paul gave a wry smile – the first of any sort that Edgar had seen from him since the doctor had broken the news about his leg. “Yes, but the irony is that good old civil service chaps like me don’t get to keep their jobs when it happens to us – I suppose we’re not heroic enough.” 

“Yes, I know that but my point is that you can get another job,” Edgar responded, refusing to give up. “It’s not the end of the world, Paul, whatever it feels like right now. You hated that job anyway – at least this has forced you to move on at last! And Evvy and I can make sure you're all taken care of, until you’re able to do so.” 

Paul’s expression darkened. “I don’t want your charity.” 

“It’s not charity, it’s friendship, you stubborn idiot! It can be a loan if you want, just til you get back on your feet…” Edgar stopped abruptly and cringed as he suddenly realised what he’d said. “Sorry, bad choice of words.” 

There was a tense, heavy silence as Paul glared at him, and Edgar was convinced that he had blown it. Then all of a sudden, Paul began to laugh. Edgar stared at him in amazement, and the expression on his friend’s face merely served to make Paul laugh even harder. Edgar chuckled nervously, and then as Paul leant back against his pillow, shaking with laughter, his friend joined in. 

As a result, when Elsie returned to the room a few minutes later, she found them both clutching their sides, tears of mirth streaming down their faces. She gaped at the pair of them open-mouthed. 

“What’s going on?” 

Edgar sat up and wiped the tears from his eyes, and Paul shook his head. Before either of them could reply, however, the door opened again and the nurse came in. Taking in the scene before her, she gave her patient a wide smile. 

“Well this is an improvement on yesterday, I must say. I was considering banning you from visiting,” she added, turning her attention to Edgar, who looked rather ashamed of himself. 

“Yes, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be so rude to you.” 

“Well, we’ll let it go this time,” she replied amiably. “Now, visiting time is over, so both of you need to leave I’m afraid. I’ll be back to check on you in a few minutes,” and directing her final words to Paul, she bustled out of the room. 

Edgar got to his feet and stared down at his friend. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

Paul nodded and Edgar stepped back, letting Elsie nearer to the bed. She smiled down at her husband’s face, and then bent to kiss him on the forehead. 

“I’ll be in again first thing in the morning, okay? I love you.” 

Paul simply turned to look back up at the ceiling again, his expression blank. Elsie’s eyes welled up with tears, and turning on her heel, she pushed past Edgar and left the room. 

Edgar shook his head, shooting his friend a look of disappointment, and hurried out after her. Paul lifted his head to look at the door, as it closed behing them, and then lying back on his pillow, he slowly closed his eyes. “I love you too,” he said quietly, as a tear ran down his cheek.

Chapter 18 by Josie

Evadne glanced down at her son and heaved a silent sigh of relief to see that he was finally fast asleep. He was in the process of cutting a new tooth, his first, and had been either screaming his head off and whimpering pitifully all night. Anxious for him not to disturb the others any more than was necessary, she had spent the last few hours sitting in front room with him, rocking him gently and trying desperately to soothe him. Leaning back slowly in the armchair, she rested her head against the curve of the back and shut her eyes. It had just gone six o’clock. If she was careful not to disturb him, she may be able to get in a little bit of sleep before the rest of the house woke for breakfast. 

Fifteen minutes later, she had just drifted off when the shrill ringing of the phone cut through the peace and quiet of the house. She woke with a start, sitting bolt upright, and her violent movement jerked Henry awake. It took her a moment to realise what was going on, and then as her son began to whimper again, she got quickly to her feet and hurried across the room, hoping to get to the telephone before it woke anyone else. 

She had just opened the door into the hall when she heard running footsteps, and turned to see Elsie come flying down the stairs, darting across the hallway and grabbing the receiver urgently, as if her life depended on it. It was then that Evadne remembered the time. Surely nobody would be ringing this early unless it was an emergency. It must be the hospital. One look at Elsie’s face convinced her that she was right. 

She watched her friend anxiously as that lady asked some hurried questions, her voice sounding strained and upset. Her face was white and drawn and it was obvious that she had barely slept a wink all night. She was wearing only her sleeveless nightgown and Evadne suddenly realised how much weight she had lost since Paul’s accident almost three weeks before. The thin material hung loosely around her shoulders, her collarbones protruding markedly, her arms looking lanky and gaunt. 

Elsie threw the phone back on the receiver and turned to face her friend, panic written all over her face. “Evvy, I have to go in – Paul’s asking for me – I have to go now,” she gabbled, grabbing Evadne’s arm. 

“What’s happened?” 

“I don’t know. The nurse said it’s urgent.” She looked confused, as if she wasn’t sure what to do next, and taking hold of her arm, Evadne steered her towards the stairs. Elsie tried to pull away and reach for her coat. “I have to go, Evvy, let go of me.”

Evadne kept a firm hold on her and stood in front of her, blocking her path. Henry was murmuring quietly into his mother’s shoulder, but neither woman paid him any attention. 

“Elsie, listen to me,” she said, gently but firmly, looking her friend straight in the eye and shaking her gently with her free arm. “You can’t go as you are - you have your nightgown, remember?” Elsie glanced down at herself and then stared back at Evadne, her eyes dazed. Evvy pushed her gently towards the stairs again. “Go get dressed, be as quick as you can. I’ll wake Edgar, he can drive you there,” and as Elsie nodded mechanically and turned to walk up the staircase, Evadne followed behind her, her hand on her friend’s back, making sure she went to do as she was told. 

Once she had seen Elsie safely to her room, she turned and made her way up the second flight of stairs to the top floor of the house. Henry was falling asleep against her shoulder and she placed him in his cot in the makeshift nursery, before making her way to the bedroom that she and Edgar shared. Her husband was dead to the world, slumbering peacefully, curled up on his side. She wished dearly that she didn't have to wake him, but she knew she had no choice. Heaving a sigh, she sat down on the edge of the bed and shook him firmly by the shoulder. 

Edgar muttered something to himself, turned onto his back, and stared up at her, bleary-eyed. “Morning,” he said sleepily, giving her half a smile. “What time is it?” 

“Around six-thirty,” she replied apologetically, running her hand down his arm. “Sorry to wake you, baby, but the hospital’s just called Elsie and told her to head in as fast as she can. Paul’s asking for her. I thought you’d want to drive her.” 

Before she had even finished speaking, Edgar jumped out of bed, almost upsetting her onto the floor, and began tearing off his pyjamas and pulling on his clothes as fast as he could. 

“What else did they say?” he asked urgently, as he hastily fastened his shirt, not caring that he had the buttons in the wrong buttonholes. “Why does he want her?” 

Evadne shook her head. “No idea. She didn’t seem to know either.” 

Edgar nodded and then fell silent as he pulled on his trousers and jumper, picked up his shoes, sat down, and began to tug them onto his feet, not bothering with any socks. 

“Edgar…” 

“What?” he asked irritably, standing up and making his way towards the door. 

“I was wondering about the kids – Tom and Lily, I mean,” she added, as he shot her a confused look. “If the worst’s about to happen, shouldn’t…well, shouldn’t they go see him too so they can say goodbye? I know if it were me, I’d want Ned and the girls to see me, and I’d bet that you would too.” 

The pleading note in her voice made him pause for a second, and he walked back over to her and stooped to kiss her on the forehead. “You’re right, they should. How about I call you from the hospital when I know a little more?” She nodded, and he turned back to the door. “I’d better get going – the sooner I can get Elsie there, the better,” and he disappeared onto the landing, leaving her standing in the room alone. 

“I hope he’s okay,” she called after him, but there was no response, and a minute later she heard the front door slam, telling her that they had left the house. 

She stared around her at the empty room, listening to the silence that had fallen now that Edgar and Elsie had gone. Then checking the clock, she saw that it was only quarter to seven. Realising that there was nothing she could do now until Edgar called, she decided to leave Tom and Lily to sleep for a little while longer, and climbed into bed herself, determined to make the most of Henry finally having fallen asleep. 

 

It was almost ten o’clock before the phone finally rang again. Evadne jumped up from the game of snap she was playing with Tom and Lily, and ran to grab the receiver. It was Edgar, asking her to bring the children in as Paul had asked to see them. He answered a couple of her questions and then rang off hurriedly, and Evadne replaced the receiver and turned around to find the two children standing in the doorway, watching her. Lily was clinging to Tom’s side, and he had an arm placed protectively around his sister’s shoulders. 

“Was that Mum?” 

Evadne shook her head. “No, sweetie, it was Uncle Edgar. He just rang to tell us to come into the hospital – your Dad’s asking for you.” 

On hearing this, Lily perked up considerably and stared up at her brevet aunt with wide eyes. “We’re going to see Daddy?” 

“That’s right.” Evadne smiled at the little girl and reached out to ruffle her light brown hair. “How about you two run and get your shoes on and I’ll go wake Henry. Then we can get going as soon as possible.” 

Lily ran off to do as she was told, and Evadne reached up to take the young girl’s coat off the rack and lay it over a nearby chair before going to wake up her son. As she turned back, she saw that Tom was still standing by the door, a look of intense worry etched on his young face. 

“You alright there, Tom?” 

Tom stared down at his feet. “Is Dad…” he swallowed hard and lifted his head to look at Evadne, fear in his eyes. “…is he going to die?” 

His jaw trembled as he spoke, and Evvy could see that he was fighting back his tears. Hurrying forward, she drew him into her arms and gave him a tight hug. Torn between wanting to reassure him and not wanting to lie to him, she shook her head and said, “Hopefully he’ll be okay, sweetie. Uncle Edgar said he’s feeling a little better today, that’s why they’re letting him see you.” 

Tom pulled his head back and stared up at her. “Really?” 

“Yes, really.” A look of relief crossed his face and Evadne dropped a kiss on his head before pushing him in the direction of the stairs. “Now go on, you go get ready. Then you’ll be able to see all for yourself.” 

 

When they arrived at the hospital, they were met by Edgar, who was waiting on some plastic chairs outside the room. He looked up as he heard their footsteps coming down the corridor, accompanied by a nurse, and he jumped to his feet, a wide smile lighting up his face. 

“There you are!” he exclaimed, holding his hand out to take hold of Lily’s, and pulling her gently towards him. Lily hesitated, clinging to her brother’s arm, and Edgar crouched down and squeezed her shoulder. “It’s alright, sweetheart, Daddy can’t wait to see you. Go on, the nurse will take you both in.” 

Tom gave his brevet-uncle a nervous smile, prising his sister’s fingers away from Edgar’s hand and, with his arms still firmly round her, they followed the nurse towards the door. Evadne watched them as the nurse ushered them into the room, and then she turned to her husband, with a quizzical look. 

Edgar gave her a beaming smile in return. “It’s okay.” 

Returning his smile, laughing nervously out of relief, Evvy set her son’s carrycot on a nearby chair and threw her arms around her husband’s waist, holding him tight. Edgar hugged her back, his eyes closed, his chin resting on the top of her head. Then dropping a kiss on her fair curls, he pulled back and looked down at her. 

“I said we’d go home, leave them all in peace for a little while. They need some time alone without us hanging around. I’ve left Clare the car keys so she can bring the children home, and if we leave your keys at the desk, then Elsie can drive herself home in the other one later. We can jump in a taxi,” and as his wife nodded in agreement, he bent to pick up his son’s carrycot and they headed off in the direction of the exit. 

 

Back in the hospital room, the two children eyed their father nervously as the nurse showed them in and then withdrew quietly, shutting the door behind her. Elsie was sitting in a chair next to her husband’s bed. Her eyes were red from crying, but her face wore an expression of real happiness for the first time in the past three weeks. Clare was in a seat by the window on the opposite side of the bed. Paul was propped up with several cushions under his back, tipping him forward into a sitting position of sorts, the bedcovers raised across the cage protecting his legs. He smiled as he caught sight of his children, and held his hand out towards them. 

Lily gave her brother a quick glance and then ran across the room to the side of the bed. Elsie reached out to help her daughter scramble up carefully, warning her not to touch her father’s legs or hips, and as Paul wrapped his arms around her, Lily buried her face in his shoulder and started to cry. Keeping an arm firmly around her, he kissed her light brown curls and looked back towards his son. Tom hesitated for a moment and then walked across to the bed and bent to hug his father, putting his arms around his sister at the same time. 

“I thought you were going to die, Dad,” he said quietly, his voice noticeably choked. 

Paul glanced at his wife over the top of his children’s heads, and gave her a smile. “I’m not going to die, Tom. Not if I can help it,” and as he hugged his children tighter to him, Elsie returned his smile with tears in her eyes. 

 

Edgar and Evadne managed to quickly hail a taxi, and after making sure Henry’s carrycot was secure on the seat beside her, Evadne turned to her husband, bursting with questions as to what had gone on. 

As they pulled away from the kerb, Edgar grinned down at her and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m not oahundred percent sure what happened, to tell you the truth,” he replied in answer to her questions. “Apparently Paul started asking for Elsie urgently at around four o’clock this morning, and after a couple of hours, they gave in and called us, as you know. When we got there, they rushed her straight through to his room. I don’t know what was said in there, but she came out crying about an hour and a half later saying that he’d told her that he still loved her and everything was going to be alright. Clare had arrived by then and we left them to it for another hour or so, and then she came back out again saying Paul wanted to see the children. That’s all I know. I didn’t like to intrude.” He stared down at his lap for a second, and when he lifted his eyes again, they were looking suspiciously bright. “I think he’s going to fight, Evvy. I know it’ll be a long process, but I think it’s going to work out alright.” 

Evadne smiled back up at him, and lifted a hand to his chest. “Thanks to you.” Edgar shook his head and looked back at his lap, and Evvy put her fingers under his chin and tilted it so that he looked her in the eyes again. “Don’t underestimate your influence, Edgar, you’ve been a wonderful friend to him - you always are.” 

“You don’t know that.” 

“Yes I do.” 

“How? You weren’t there.” 

Evadne lifted her hand so that it cupped the side of his face, her thumb caressing his cheek. “I didn’t need to be. I know you. You couldn’t be anything else.” 

Edgar gazed down at her briefly, and then bent down to kiss her. "I've had you rather worried, haven't I?” he said, as they parted and he pulled back. She nodded and he pecked her on the lips again. “Sorry I’ve been all over the place these last few weeks." 

“I’d have been even more worried if you'd be calm.” 

“Well I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” 

Evadne smiled and shook her head. “You don’t need to make it up to me, you moke! If you can’t be all over the place with me, then you shouldn't have married me!” 

There was silence for a moment as Edgar stared down at her, looking deeply into her shining blue eyes. “I love you, Evvy Watson, d’you know that?” 

Evadne grinned. “I did hear a rumour along those lines!” 

Edgar laughed and then sat back against the taxi's leather seat, taking his arm from around his wife's shoulders and running his hand across her fair curls. “You still going to see Ned tomorrow?” 

Evvy nodded. “I thought I might take him and Harry out to tea if Mr. Stevenson doesn’t mind. Henry’s grown so much since Ned was last home and I want him to see. Do you want to come, now Paul’s a little more settled?” 

“I won’t if you don’t mind. I need to go and pay Charles a visit – I think I’ll drive up tomorrow early." 

“Charles? Why?” 

Edgar grinned at her surprise and shook his head. “That’s for me to know!” he replied tantalisingly, giving her a wink as she exclaimed indignantly. “I’ll tell you tomorrow night, if all goes well,” and despite her best efforts to persuade him otherwise, following that cryptic remark, he refused to say anything else.

Chapter 19 by Josie

Seated securely in his highchair next to the large kitchen table, Henry gurgled happily to himself as he scooped more food out of his bowl with his fingers and tried to get it in his mouth, smearing most of it on his face instead. Glancing up from her breakfast, Evadne laughed at the sight of her son daubed with the orange paste. 

“You bored of feeding yourself yet, sugar-pie? Will you let Mommy help you?” 

She reached out to pick up his spoon and dipped it into his food. As she tried to lift it to his mouth, Henry squealed loudly and waved his arms to keep her hand away, catching his bowl in the process and sending it tumbling onto the floor. As her son waved his arms again and giggled at the mess he had created, Evadne rolled her eyes and bent to pick the bowl up from the floor. 

“I’ll take that answer as a no then, shall I?” 

Elsie came into the kitchen just in time to hear her friend’s question, and seeing the baby food all down the leg of the table and on the floor, she quickly put two and two together. 

“I gather he wanted to feed himself again?” 

Evadne sat back upright and grimaced. “How did you guess?” she replied sarcastically. Then placing the bowl back on the table, she heaved a sigh. “I wouldn’t mind, except he rarely manages to get any of it in his mouth and I’m worried he's not eating enough.” 

Elsie grinned. ‘My two were exactly the same,” she replied, ruffling Lily’s hair as her daughter entered the room and came to stand beside her. “I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. He’ll soon holler if he wants more!” As Evadne laughed, and got up to wash Henry’s bowl and put some more food into it, Elsie took her hand from behind her back and held a wrapped present out to her friend. “This is for you, by the way. Happy Birthday from all of us. And before you say I needn’t have,” she added, as Evadne opened her mouth to reply, “I’m not listening.” 

Evvy stared at her for a moment as she placed Henry’s bowl back on the wooden tray of his highchair, and then smiled and reached out her hand to take the gift. “How did you know I was going to say that anyway?” she retorted, a wide grin on her face. Unwrapping it carefully, she pulled back the paper to find a couple of books that she had been wanting to read for a while now, but had not got around to buying or borrowing from the library. “They’re perfect, thank you.” She pecked Elsie on the cheek, and then bent down to do the same to Lily. “Thanks to you too.” 

Lily beamed back at her. “Mummy chose the books, but I chose the paper!” 

“And mighty fine paper it is too.” 

Elsie grinned as Evadne stood up again. “You’re lucky we did it that way round – you almost found yourself with a copy of The Second Form at St. Clare’s!” Evadne laughed and Elsie cast her eye over the two books in her friend’s hand. “Sorry it isn’t much.” 

“Nonsense, they’re exactly what I wanted.” 

Elsie shook her head. “I feel like we should have got you more, after everything you’ve done,” she replied, as Lily wandered round to the far side of Henry’s highchair and picked up the spoon to try and feed him. “You’re not even getting to see your family on your birthday because you’re here with me.” 

“Rubbish, you shouldn’t have gotten me anything more, these are more than enough for me!” Evadne retorted, though her soft tone belied her stern words. “As for the family, I have a birthday every year and they’ll be here in just a few days for Christmas, so I’ll see them then. It’s far more important that I’m here with you.” Elsie gave her a slight smile, and Evvy returned it with a wide grin of her own. “And I have Henry here with me, and you and Lily, so I’m not all alone.” 

Before Elsie could reply, they heard a loud squeal and a crash from behind Evadne, and turning around, they saw Henry with yet more food plastered on his face, and Lily looking guiltily down at his bowl, that was upside down on the floor at her feet. 

“I was trying to help, Auntie Evvy,” Lily said hurriedly, bending down to pick up the bowl. 

Evvy grinned. “Don’t you worry, sweetpea. He did the same to me just before you came down. Why don’t you go help yourself to some cereal, I’ll sort this monster out,” and as Lily went to do as she was told, and Elsie went to grab a cloth to clean up the mess, Evadne washed and refilled the dish yet again. Then placing it down on the table, she put her hands under her son’s armpits and lifted him out of the highchair. “Right then, you little tyke, I’ve had about enough of this,” she said, sitting herself down at the table and using her napkin to wipe the food from around his mouth. “I’m feeding you whether you like it or not,” and despite her son’s attempts to protest, she proceeded to do just that. 

 

A couple of hours later, Evadne was sitting on the floor in the salon, watching Henry play with some of his toys and feeling distinctly put-out. Elsie and Lily had left for the hospital shortly after breakfast, leaving her alone in the house with her son. Deciding that she may as well try and catch up with some of her correspondence, Evvy had settled herself and Henry in the salon for the morning, but when, after a couple of hours, she had written only half a page of her letter to Cassie, she had decided to give it up as a bad job. Truth be told, her heart really wasn’t in it. Despite what she had said to Elsie at breakfast, she wished dearly that it had been possible for her family to be there for her birthday, and with only her young son for company, she was feeling very lonely. 

A few days after Paul had finally begun to turn the corner, Edgar had flown home to Geneva, needing to return both to work and to his daughters. After a long discussion with her husband, Evadne had remained behind in London. They had both realised that it was far too soon to leave Elsie alone to cope, and this seemed to be the best solution. Despite the progress that Paul was now making, he was still not out of the woods at that point in time, and the Rodwell family needed all the help they could get. 

It was now the fifteenth of December, and Evvy had not seen her husband for a month, nor her stepdaughters for seven weeks, and had only been able to see Ned on the odd occasion, and she was missing them all terribly. She had been trying to put a brave face on things, telling herself to stop being selfish and to think of what Elsie was having to go through, but the longer she spent away from them, the harder she was finding it to be cheerful. To make matters worse, the postman had arrived twenty minutes before, bearing nothing from her family and friends. She had then tried to phone through to Ned’s school to see if she would be able to take him out for tea that afternoon, only to be told that it would not be possible. Consequently, she was feeling thoroughly miserable. 

Looking across at her young son as he tried to give a gummy bite to one of his building blocks, she gave the little boy a smile. “At least I have you with me, hey precious?” 

Henry looked up and smiled at the sound of her voice, and Evadne chuckled. He was sitting up by himself now, a skill he had acquired in the last few weeks, and she felt a twinge of sadness that Edgar had missed him doing so for the first time. 

At that moment, she heard a key in the lock and the sound of someone opening the front door. 

“Is that you, Elsie?” she called, getting to her feet. “Listen, how’d you like to go out to dinner tonight? I’m sure next door will happily mind the kids. Maybe I can throw Edgar’s name around, pull a few strings and get us into somewhere real nice? I need to do something on my birthday,” she added, glancing down briefly to check on her son. 

“We can take you out to dinner instead if you like, Mummy.” 

At the sound of the unexpected voice, Evadne swung around, kicking over her glass of water as she did so. Thea grinned at her from the doorway, and then ran across the room to meet her, throwing her arms around her stepmother and hugging her tight. Evadne returned her embrace, closing her eyes and holding her, not quite believing that she was really there. 

“Oh Thea I…what are you doing here?” Evvy muttered into her hair. 

Thea pulled back and grinned up at her as Evadne rained several kisses down on her face and then hugged her tightly again. “We all wanted to see you for your birthday,” she replied, her head resting on her stepmother’s shoulder, “so Daddy said we could finish school early and come over now instead of next week. We didn’t tell you ‘cause we wanted to surprise you.” 

“Well it’s the best surprise I’ve ever had.” Evadne pulled back, kissing her stepdaughter on the forehead again and staring affectionately down at her delicate face. “I’ve been longing to see you all so much. Where are Daddy and Marcia?” she asked, suddenly realising that nobody else had followed Thea into the house. 

“Marcia spilled her sweets all over the taxi, so Daddy’s making her pick them up,” Thea replied, giggling, “and Ned’s helping the driver unload the cases. We picked him up on the way from the airport too so we could all be together. Marcia was so funny, Mummy, she had Sherbet Pips and they’ve gone everywhere!” 

Evadne chuckled. “That sounds just about right!” 

As she spoke, a cry sounded from behind her and she turned to see Henry screw his face up in temper at the lack of attention being paid to him. Bending down, she lifted him into her arms and cuddled him, and he instantly stopped crying and rested his head on her shoulder, looking suspiciously at his sister. 

“See who’s here, Henry. It’s Thea!” 

Thea looked up at her brother’s face and reached out to take hold of his hand. “Hi Henry. Do you remember me?” 

Henry stared at herm before deciding that she was a friend and reaching out an arm out towards her. Evadne passed him over. 

“Here, Thea, you take him while I go and see the others,” and leaving her two children to get reacquainted, she made her way through to the hall. 

Outside, Ned was heaving the final case out of the boot of the taxi, refusing to let the driver help him as he wanted to prove he could do it himself, and Marcia’s bottom was sticking out of the door of the car as she picked up all the sweets. Edgar was standing to one side, making sure she did as she was told, and as she stood up and backed out of the car, he looked down at her sternly. 

“Is that all of them?” Marcia nodded sheepishly and held up the paper bag that she had clutched in her hands. “Good. Now lets see if you can actually hold onto them this time, please. You’re almost ten now, it’s high time you learnt not to make such a mess everywhere you…” 

As she spoke, Marcia glanced up and spotted her stepmother in the front doorway, watching them with a smile on her face. Ignoring her father’s lecture, she thrust her sweets at him and ran up the steps to greet her. Evadne crouched down, and as the young girl reached her, she held out her arms and gathered her in. Marcia threw her arms around her stepmother’s neck and burst into tears. 

“Mummy, I’ve missed you so much.” 

Evvy held onto her tightly, feeling tears pricking the back of her own eyes. “I’ve missed you too, sweetheart.” 

She kissed the side of her daughter’s blonde curls, and then as Marcia pulled back and scrubbed her eyes on her sleeve, Evadne planted another kiss on her cheek and gave her a smile. 

“Have you been good while I’ve been away?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye. 

Marcia grinned back at her and nodded her head. “Daddy told us we had to be, so we’ve been extra good, even Scrabble ,” she replied enthusiastically. “He’s gone to stay with Onkel Anton while we came here. And Mummy, guess what? I got an A for my essay the other day!” 

“That’s wonderful, sweetie, well done!” 

“Didn’t think you were clever enough to get an A!” 

Marcia rounded on her brother who was now standing behind her holding a suitcase, a wide grin on his face. “I am too, Ned Watson, so that’s all you know! I’m cleverer than you are!” she retorted, sticking out her tongue. 

Ned gave her an incredulous look but thankfully at that moment, Thea appeared at the door, Henry in her arms, and Marcia ran forward to give her brother a hug. Evvy watched her go and then turned to face Ned with a frown. 

“That really wasn’t called for, Ned.” 

Ned had the grace to look a little ashamed of himself. “Sorry,” and then with a rapid change of subject, he gave his stepmother a hug. “Happy Birthday.” 

A chorus of Happy Birthdays sounded from behind her as well, and as she returned Ned's hug and turned around, an arm still around his shoulders, Marcia added, “We’ve got lots of presents for you, Mummy, and things from Onkel Anton and Guilia and Auntie Corney and Auntie Cassie and cards from Mrs. Bown and Mrs. Cranston and lots of other people.” 

Edgar’s deep laugh rang out as he came up the front steps with the two heavy cases. “Well how about we get all these things inside, and then you can dig them all out,” he said, walking past his wife and daughters into the entrance hall and setting the cases down against the dresser. Then as Marcia and Ned ran down the steps to collect the remaining bags, and Thea took Henry back into the front room again, he turned to face his wife. 

Evadne grinned at him, her face the picture of happiness. “Hey you.” 

Edgar smiled and collected her in his arms, lifting her up as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Goodness I’ve missed you,” he whispered, as he buried his face in her hair. Then lowering her back down to the ground again, he kissed her on the lips. 

When he pulled back, Evadne opened her mouth to say something to him, but before she had a chance, they heard the sound of a loud squabble coming from the front steps. Rolling his eyes, Edgar released her and made his way back outside. 

“Now what?” Looking down, he saw Marcia's small bag lying on the ground, its handle torn off and its contents spilling out onto the steps. An angry looking Ned was glaring at his sister, who was picking up her belongings. “What on earth are you two doing?” 

“Ned broke my favourite bag,” Marcia burst out, tears brimming in her eyes. “He wouldn’t let me carry it and then he grabbed it and it ripped.” 

Edgar raised his eyebrows at his son. “Is this true?” 

“Yes, but I told her to leave it and she wouldn’t.” 

“It’s my bag!” Marcia retorted angrily. “I can carry it if I want to, you pig!” 

“That’s enough, Marcia,” Edgar put in hurriedly. “Ned, apologise please.” Ned muttered something unintelligible and Edgar gave him a stern look. “A little louder.” 

“Sorry!” came the sulky reply. 

“Thank you. Now Marcia, take those things inside and go and start finding Mummy’s presents, please.” 

“But my bag…” 

“We’ll go shopping tomorrow and get you another one. I said inside, now!” he added, as she opened her mouth to argue back. Picking up the last of her things, she stomped up the steps and into the house, and Edgar turned to face his son with a sigh. 

“Why can’t you just leave her alone?” 

“But she’s such a pain, Dad!” 

“Well what do you expect if you constantly tease her? She’s nine years old, for heaven's sake.” Ned tried to argue back, but Edgar silenced him with a stony look. “I’m not interested, Ned, this is your fault, not hers. You’ve been needling her ever since we picked you up. She had every right to bring her own bag inside if she wanted to.” 

Ned stared at the ground and said nothing, a mutinous look on his face, and Edgar shook his head wearily. 

“Look, I realise you find her annoying at times, but that’s part and parcel of having a younger sister.” 

“Thea isn’t annoying, and she’s younger than me too!” 

“Yes, well Thea’s a very different person to Marcia. But she’s done nothing wrong today, that argument was entirely your own fault. Now this is Evvy’s day, and I’m not having you two spoiling it. If you can’t be civil to your sister, then I’ll take you back to school right now. Your choice.” 

Ned glared at his father, mumbled that he wanted to stay at home, and then stalked past him and in through the front door. Heaving a sigh, Edgar picked up the bags that his son had left behind on the steps and followed him into the house. 

 

Ned was as good as his word, and remained pleasant to Marcia for the rest of the day. It was clearly under duress, but Evadne was so overjoyed to have her family around her that she couldn’t have cared less, and by lunchtime, everything had settled down once more. 

Elsie and Lily arrived home late afternoon, not in the least bit surprised to see the new arrivals, Elsie having known for a couple of weeks what Edgar had been planning to do. She had managed to book a private room in a smart restaurant nearby for the entire family, the two Rodwells included, and leaving Henry with a neighbour who had offered to mind him, they all set off for the meal in high spirits, even Ned, who had taken it upon himself to apologise to his sister, and was much more cheerful as a result. In fact, the pair of them began plotting mischief together, the result being that when Evadne put her hand in her handbag to get something, she found herself clutching a rubber frog. Muffling a scream, she threw it at Elsie, who shrieked and jumped up, overturning her drink in the process, much to everyone’s amusement. 

Thankfully for the two children, Edgar had been in the entrance hall talking to the maitre d’ at the time and missed the whole scene, and some imp whispered in Evadne’s ear that it would be amusing to put the frog in his soup. The look on his face when he picked it up on his spoon and almost put it in his mouth was a sight to behold. Even more so when he discovered who was responsible, and as his wife descended into fits of giggles reminiscent of her past as a mischievous middle, he glared at her and promised to get his own back in due course. 

It was almost ten o’clock by the time they arrived home, and as Edgar thanked the neighbour and showed her back to her own house and Evadne checked on her son, Elsie chased the other four children up to bed. When she finally returned downstairs, she found Edgar and Evadne standing in the hallway, their coats and scarves still on. 

“You two going somewhere?” 

Edgar smiled. “We have a favour to ask. Would you mind if we went out for a walk for half an hour or so and left you with the children?” 

“Of course I wouldn’t mind! It’s about time you had five minutes to yourselves anyway.” 

“Thank you, you’re a gem.” Evadne leaned in to peck her friend on the cheek. “We won’t be more than thirty minutes, I promise.” 

“Don’t be silly, take as long as you want. I’ll probably just head up to bed anyway. I’ll make sure everything’s shut up properly before I do, then you won’t need to worry when you get back,” and with that, she shooed her friends out of the front door, shutting it as they went. 

Edgar took hold of his wife’s hand and led her down the steps and left onto Pitt Street, heading in the direction of Hyde Park. For the next forty minutes they strolled around the streets, talking and laughing, enjoying each other’s company and catching up with all their news, making the most of this precious time alone. When they finally arrived home again, Edgar went to take his keys from his pocket when Evadne pulled on his arm to stop him. 

“Can we stay out here a little longer? I’m not ready to go in just yet.” 

Edgar smiled down at her as she looked up at him with pleading eyes. “Aren’t you a touch cold though?” 

Evadne shook her head. “I don’t care about that. Please, Edgar.” 

Bending to peck her on the forehead, he released his arm from her grip and took out his keys. “Okay, wait here then,” and unlocking the door, he entered the house and disappeared off the hallway into the front room. 

A little confused, Evadne watched him go, and then shrugging her shoulders, she sat down on the top step to wait. He returned two minutes later, and sat down behind her, pulling her between his legs and wrapping his arms and coat around her. Evadne smiled and twisted round so that she was sitting sideways on to him, leaning into him, her head against his shoulder. 

“You warm enough?” She nodded and snuggled closer, and he kissed her on the nose. “Have you had a good day?” 

“I’ve had a wonderful day. Thank you so much for coming over early, Edgar, it was the best present I could have imagined.” 

“You’re very welcome.” He gazed down at her, running his hand up and down her arm. “It was partly selfish on my part, to be honest. I’ve missed you so much, I just wanted to get over here to see you, so did the girls.” 

“I’ve missed you too.” She smiled wryly. “Do you know it actually hurt not to see you every day?” 

“Yes, I do know.” Edgar grinned and pecked her on the lips. Then reaching into his coat pocket, he pulled out a small, wrapped present. “Happy Birthday, darling.” 

Evadne raised her eyebrows in surprise as she took hold of the gift. “You already gave me my necklace.” 

“I know, but this is a little something extra.” 

His wife regarded at him suspiciously. "Is this payback for the frog?" Edgar laughed and shook his head, and curious, Evadne peeled back the paper, revealing the back of a picture frame. Turning it over slowly, she found herself staring at an old photograph, slightly faded with age, of herself and her parents in the garden of her childhood home in Salzburg. She had never seen it before, had no idea that it even existed, and she stared at it mutely, memories flooding into her mind. 

Edgar ran his fingers through her curls, his hand coming to rest on the back of her neck. “I had to go through a box of Arthur’s old papers, and I found it tucked down one side,” he said quietly, feeling her shoulders start to shake. “I thought you might like it. I know you don’t have one of all three of you together.” 

Tears pricking the back of her eyes as she stared at her parents' image, Evadne bit her lips for a moment to calm herself. Then clutching the frame tightly in one hand, she lifted her arms to wrap them around her husband’s neck, pulled his head down towards her and kissed him hard on the lips. Edgar returned her embrace, holding her close, twisting her hair around his fingers as he kissed her back. When they finally pulled apart, Evadne kept her face close to his and gazed up into his soft, green eyes, a smile touching her lips. 

“I love you so much.” 

Edgar stared down at her in silence, his eyes searching her face and then releasing her, he got to his feet and held out his hand. Evadne took it and pulling her up, he led her in through the front door, shutting it firmly behind them.

Chapter 20 by Josie
Author's Notes:

Several years ago on the CBB, Patmac was writing a story called The Village Boy about Reg Entwhistle. She and I used to very occasionally have each other's characters visit our stories, as they were both within EBD's canon universe. My Mike van Alden (Corney's husband) popped up a few times early on in her story, and her Dorothy (Dorothy Hatcherd, a minor character from the Tirol days) and her husband Hugh (patmac's own character) pop up in mine here, and once more later in this part of Swiss Family Watson.

The Village Boy is in The CBB archives - it's a great story, if you want to check it out.

Evadne tucked her son’s blankets tightly around him to keep him warm, pulled the cover over the front of his pram to keep the wind out, and then turned to her family.

“Right then, do we have everyone? Where’s Thea?”

“She’s over there, looking in the window with Lily.”

Following the direction in which her husband was pointing, Evvy saw Thea and Lily staring in the window of a shop several yards away. “Thea! Go get them will you, Edgar? It has to be about minus ninety out here and I want to get Henry inside again.”

As Edgar went to do her bidding, Tom looked curiously at his brevet-aunt. “It can’t be minus ninety, or we’d all be dead.”

“He’s right,” Ned put in.

Evadne pulled a face that made the two boys laugh. “Well aren’t you a pair of know-alls! It sure feels like minus ninety to me anyway – my fingers and toes are about to drop off.” Hearing Henry squeal and then laugh, Evadne had turned around just in time to see Marcia jump back from her brother’s pram. “Marcia! What are you doing? I’ve just settled him and tucked him in so he’s nice and warm, and now you’ve set him off again – just leave him be ‘til we get inside, please. You know not to do that by now!” and after settling her son again and tucking the cover back into place, she grabbed hold of Marcia’s hand to make sure she did as she was told.

“Okay, all present and correct. What’s the plan now then, chief?” Edgar asked with a grin, as he returned with the other two girls.

“Well who still needs to get things?” Evvy asked the clan.

It was now five days before Christmas and the entire Watson family had made the journey to Oxford Street to do their Christmas shopping. They had brought the two Rodwell children with them, in order to give Elsie a full day at the hospital with her husband without worrying that she should be at home. They had been shopping since eleven-thirty that morning, and now everyone except Marcia indicated that they had finished all that they wanted to do.

"Marcia, can you buy Daddy’s present in here?” her stepmother asked, pointing to the large department store, in front of which they were standing.

Marcia looked up at the imposing frontage of Selfridges and nodded her head. “I think so, I’m getting …”

“Let’s not tell him shall we, sweetie,” Evadne interrupted hurriedly, “keep it a surprise.” Then turning back to the others she added, “Okay, well I can get the last things for Elsie here too, so how about we do that now, and then we can all head up and see Santa Claus like we promised.”

While Lily, Marcia and Thea grabbed each other’s hands and exclaimed excitedly at the prospect of a visit to Santa, Ned turned to his father with a grimace. “Dad, do we have to? Seeing Father Christmas is stupid – he doesn’t even exist.”

“Ned, keep your voice down!” Edgar exclaimed, casting a wary glance at his daughters and Lily. “You and Tom may know that but the girls don’t, so don’t you go spoiling their fun or there’ll be trouble, young man.”

“But do we have to go, Dad? It’s so boring!”

“It is boring, Uncle Edgar,” Tom put in, screwing his face up to show just how boring he thought it was.

Edgar looked from one to the other. To be honest, he didn’t really want to go either.

“Okay, let me have a word with Evvy. But if she wants you to come, then you’re coming, no more arguments,” and leaving the two boys to pull faces at his back, he walked across to join his wife. “Evvy, do you mind if I take the two boys off for a bit? They’re starting to get restless and fed-up. We can meet you for tea at four-thirty,” he finished, sounding hopeful as his wife looked up at him with a frown.

“Are they really fed-up, or are you just bored?”

“They’re fed-up!” he retorted indignantly. Then as she raised an eyebrow, he added, “Okay, fine, I’m bored as well. Come on, darling, we’ve been shopping all day. We’ll only be gone a couple of hours.”

You haven’t been shopping all day, you spent half the morning at the solicitors!” Evadne stared at his pleading face for a moment and then shook her head with a wry smile. “Fine, you can go on one condition. Call in at Fortnum’s and make sure everything’s still okay for the food delivery on Friday, will you? I've not had a chance to check and we won’t have time to get things if they don’t turn up.”

Edgar grinned. "Consider it done! You sure you’ll be alright with the other four?” She nodded and he bent to peck her on the lips. “We’ll see you at Claridges at four-thirty then. Come along boys, let’s get going!” and he strode off purposefully down the street, followed by an excited Tom and Ned.

Evadne watched them go and then turned back to the girls. “Come on then, let’s go get these last bits and pieces and then we can go see Santa Claus. Thea, keep hold of Lily’s hand, please,” and with the three girls in front of her, she turned Henry’s pram and they made their way into the store.

 

An hour and half later, all the shopping had been done and Evadne, Thea and Henry were waiting at the exit to Santa’s grotto for Marcia and Lily to emerge.

“Mummy, can I tell you a secret?”

Evadne bent down to pick up the teddy bear that Henry had just thrown out of his pram. “Of course you can, sweetie, go ahead.”

Thea checked around her quickly to make sure no youngsters were with earshot, and then whispered, “I know Father Christmas isn’t real.”

Still crouching, Evadne spun round in surprise and hit her head on a pram wheel, causing her to bite her tongue. “Damn, I mean, blast, I mean, bother!” she exclaimed, suddenly remembering where she was, as Thea giggled. Nobody seemed to have heard her, so she rubbed her sore head and then took Thea by the arm. “Who told you that, Thea?”

“Timothy from school. His sister told him – she’s older than Ned. Is that why Ned and Tom didn’t want to come? ‘Cause they know too?”

Evadne nodded. “You've not told Marcia, have you?”

Thea shook her head vigorously. “Course not!”

“Good, girl.”

Before Evvy could say anything else, she spotted six-year-old Lily coming towards them from the grotto, and putting her finger to her lips, she stood up and held her hands out to the little girl, while Thea turned her attention to her brother.

“Auntie Evvy, I asked Father Christmas for a new bike and a dolly and a kitten,” Lily exclaimed, as Evvy lifted her goddaughter up and gave her a hug. “D’you think he’ll bring me them?”

Having bought two of the three things on Elsie’s behalf that morning, Evadne smiled. “Maybe not all of them, sugar-pie, but I’m sure he’ll bring you some of them.”

Lily grinned, looking satisfied, and Evadne kissed the end of her nose and set her back down on the floor.

“Evvy! Evvy Lannis! It must be!”

Evadne turned in astonishment at hearing someone calling her maiden name, and saw a slim woman with dark-blonde hair and glasses coming towards her. A girl of about Marcia’s age and a boy a few years younger were clinging to her arms. She looked vaguely familiar, but for the life of her Evadne could not place her. As the stranger reached her, she gave Evadne a wide smile and looked her up and down.

“It is Evvy Lannis, isn’t it?” Evadne nodded. “I knew it! I’d recognise you anywhere – you haven’t changed a bit! Oh but wait, you’re married aren’t you? To a Lord or something – I’m sure I remember reading the announcement in The Times.”

Evvy smiled and nodded. “Well he’s not quite a Lord, but near enough. I’m Evvy Watson these days – Lady Watson if you want to be official,” she replied with a grin.

She was still trying desperately to place the woman in front of her, and seeing the confusion on her face, the stranger smiled. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“No, I do,” Evadne replied, flushing red. “At least I know I know you, I just can’t dredge up the name!”

The other lady laughed. “I’m not surprised – I look a little different these days! I’m Dorothy Douglas, though you knew me as Dorothy Hatcherd – we were at school together.”

Comprehension dawned as Dorothy said her name, and Evadne gave her old friend a warm smile and grasped her arm. “Dorothy Hatcherd, of course! Say, are you ever a blast from the past! I didn’t recognise you without your big, old glasses! You look wonderful – so much better than at school!” Dorothy stared at her for a second and then started to chuckle and Evadne flushed again as she suddenly realised what she’d said. “Oh, say, I…er…I didn’t meant it like that!” she stammered, but Dorothy waved her apologies away.

“Don’t worry, I remember what you’re like,” she replied with a grin. “And you’re right, I do look much better these days – I was so mousey and quiet at school. My mother’s convinced that being a wife and mother have brought out my better side!”

She laughed again, making her grey-green eyes sparkle behind her frames, and once she was sure that she hadn’t offended her friend, Evadne joined in.

“Well I’ve never have been famed for my tact, as you know. So what are you doing here? Have you all been to see Santa? Do you live in London then?”

Dorothy shook her head. "We live up in Yorkshire. We’re just down visiting for a few days – we go back tomorrow, in fact. My husband grew up in London and he’s always wanted to bring the children down and show them the city, so we saved and decided to make it a special Christmas treat.”

Evadne looked down at the young girl clinging to Dorothy’s elbow and gave her a smile. “So what do you think of London, sweetie?”

The young girl smiled shyly but didn’t reply, and Dorothy ruffled her light-brown hair. “She’s a little overwhelmed, I’m afraid. They’re not used to this many people and this much noise and bustle. This is Hilary by the way, and this young man’s Thomas – Tom for short. Are these three yours?”

“Well this one is,” Evvy replied, putting a hand on Thea’s head, “and so’s the one in the pram. This is Thea, my stepdaughter, and that little man’s Henry, our new son. And this is Lily – she’s on loan for the day,” Evvy added with a grin, as the two girls said hello to Dorothy and her children. “She really belongs to Elsie Carr – you remember her don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” Dorothy responded, glancing around her, struggling to see over the top of some people’s heads.

“You waiting for someone?”

“My husband, Hugh. He went off to buy some things while I took these two to see Father Christmas, and we said we’d meet him back here at about four. I say, we’re not keeping you are we?”

Evadne smiled and shook her head. “Not at all. We’re still waiting for Marcia, my other stepdaughter, to emerge. She’s taking an awful long time, now I think about it. She’s probably asking for the entire store knowing her – she’s not one to do things by halves.”

At Evvy spoke, Marcia appeared from the grotto, a wide grin on her face. “Mummy, you’ll never guess what? Father Christmas was really nice and I talked to him for ages, ‘til one of his elves came and told me to move on ‘cause lots of children were waiting. I asked for a penguin and a new best dress, but he said he was going to bring me a surprise instead.”

Evadne smiled at her youngest daughter, inwardly thanking Santa for not promising her the first of her wanted gifts, and safe in the knowledge that the new dress was bought and in Edgar’s possession. “Well that was real nice of him.”

Marcia beamed up at her. “I know.” Then noticing Dorothy and her two children standing nearby, she asked, “Mummy, who’s this?”

“This is Mrs. Douglas who I was at school with and these are her children Hilary and Tom,” Evadne introduced.

Marcia said hello to Dorothy and then turned to Hilary. “Hello, I’m Marcia and this is my sister and brother and sort-of-cousin, though she’s not really a cousin, but her Daddy’s my Daddy’s best friend,” she said, pointing to Lily, who was playing pat-a-cake with Thea, while Thomas watched on.

Hilary smiled shyly. “Did you really ask Father Christmas for a penguin?”

Marcia nodded. “Yes, but I don’t think I’ll get one. We live in Geneva and it gets hot in the summer, so there wouldn’t be any ice for him, and penguins need ice.”

Hilary stared at Marcia with open-mouthed awe, while Thea and Lily giggled and Evadne rolled her eyes. “Yes, sweetie, that’s exactly why you won’t get a penguin.”

She flashed a grin at Dorothy, who laughed as Marcia ignored her stepmother and carried on chattering to Hilary at top speed.

“Quite a livewire, isn’t she?”

“You could say that!”

“So do you really live in Geneva?”

Evadne nodded. “Edgar’s working at the U.N. at the moment - some farming thing or other - so we’re out there at present. I’m rather hoping we’ll stay put there if I’m truthful, it suits us so well and it feels like home now. Do you know it?”

Dorothy shook her head. “I’ve never been. We’re going though – at the end of April, I think. We’re going to visit a former pupil of Hugh’s who’s a doctor out there somewhere, and he’s promised me we can go to Geneva for a couple of days as well. I’ve always wanted to go.”

“Oh you must! And you have to come stay with us while you’re there. We’ll take you all over and show you the ropes!”

“Really? Evvy, that would be marvellous. Oh Hugh, there you are!” Dorothy cried, as she spotted her husband coming towards her, “Come and meet my friend Evvy from school. Evvy, this is my husband, Hugh,” she said with great pride.

Evadne turned to see a man around her own age, tall and upright, with a slight limp, coming towards them smiling. He had scars on his face and wore an eyepatch – marks she recognised instantly from her war days. She had lost count of the number of times she had seen young pilots from her base with similar injuries after their planes had been hit. Hugh saw her looking at him, and caught the recognition but, he was pleased to note, no pity in her eyes.

Evadne shook his proffered hand. “Evvy Watson, pleased to meet you.”

“Pleasure to meet you too,” he replied with a grin. “So you were at school with Dorothy then?”

“Somewhere back in the Middle Ages, yes!”

“We haven’t seen each other since we left Austria,” Dorothy put in. “Oh, and Hugh, guess what? Evvy and her family live in Geneva, and she’s invited us to go and stay with them when we’re over there next year! Do you think we might be able to?”

Hugh gave Evadne a warm smile. “Well that’s very kind of you, thank you. We may well take you up on that, if you’re sure,” he said, much to his wife’s pleasure.

“Sure I’m sure!” Evadne responded with a grin. “We’ve heaps of room and then Dorothy and I can catch up properly on all our gossip – there’s not nearly time just now! Here, let me give you our details,” and she opened her handbag and began fishing around for a pad and pen.

Hugh felt a tug on his arm, and turned to find himself looking down into Marcia’s curious face. “Hello, who are you?”

“Marcia,” that young lady replied firmly. She looked up at Hugh for a moment, and then asked, “’Scuse me, but are you a pirate?”

Hugh stared at her for a second and then roared with laughter, while a horrified Evadne turned to admonish her stepdaughter for being so rude. Hugh stopped her with a shake of his head. “Don’t, Evvy, really,” he said, still chuckling. “I don’t mind her asking.” Then turning to Marcia, he added, “No, I’m not a pirate, though I could be with the eye patch, I suppose. I was a pilot and my plane got shot down in the war and my face was burned.”

Marcia accepted this calmly with a nod of her head. “My brother Ned wants to be a pilot - in the RAF.”

“Does he now?” Hugh replied, “Well it’s a very noble profession.” He flashed her another smile and then turned back to his wife. “We’d better be getting on, my love, we’ve still a fair amount to do and it’s already ten past four.”

Dorothy nodded and turned to call her children to her, and Evadne hastily finished scribbling down her details and passed them over to Hugh. “Please do come and stay. We really would love to have you.”

Hugh replied in the affirmative as he took the piece of paper and tucked it into his wallet, and Evvy turned to kiss Dorothy on both cheeks. “Dorothy, I’m so glad we bumped like this. Make sure you write me at the address I gave Hugh, and then I promise I’ll write you back too. We’ll be back in Switzerland around the end of January.”

“I will, Evvy, I promise. Goodbye girls, glad to have met you,” and to a chorus of goodbyes from Thea, Marcia and Lily, the Douglases made their way out of the shop.

Evadne watched them go, and then turned quickly to marshall her own troops. “We’d better get moving too. We’ll have to hail a cab when we get outside or we’ll be fearfully late. Thea, keep hold of Lily, please. Marcia, come here and hold my hand – I’m not having you wandering off around the store.” She grabbed Marcia’s arm with one hand and Henry’s pram with another. “Have we got everything? Right, let’s go!” 

Chapter 21 by Josie

At five minutes past five, Edgar and the two boys turned into Brook Street, battling against a bitter headwind as they made their way towards the hotel where they were due to have afternoon tea. Edgar’s long legs covered the ground quickly, and Ned and Tom were almost running in their efforts to keep up.

“Dad, slow down!”

“No, Ned, we’re late,” Edgar replied, without breaking his stride. “We’ve only a few more yards to go, stop moaning.”

“It’s not as if two more minutes are going to make any difference,” Ned retorted grumpily, “we’re already half an hour late!”

Ignoring his son, Edgar continued striding up the road towards the hotel, and was relieved to see that his wife was not waiting outside. At least they’d had the sense to go in out of the cold. Hurrying in through the front door to the foyer, Edgar greeted the receptionist with a smile and explained who he was, and a minute later he was shown into the private room that the family had booked for tea, Ned and Tom trailing his wake.

Evadne looked up as the door opened, glared at her husband, and then turned her attention back to her young son. Ned and Tom ran over to the table to join their sisters and Edgar followed them, sliding into his seat between Marcia and Lily as if trying to make himself invisible. Reaching out to help himself to some sandwiches, he carefully avoided looking at his wife.

“Do you think I can’t see you?”

Edgar glanced up guiltily, cucumber sandwich halfway to his mouth, and saw her staring at him, a stony expression on her face. Putting the sandwich back on his plate, he gave her an apologetic smile. “Sorry! We lost track of time,” he replied sheepishly, arranging his face into what he hoped was his most beguiling expression. “We went to Fortnum’s though, everything’s as it should be with the delivery.”

“Is that supposed to make it all better? You were supposed to be here at half-past four! We hailed a cab to make sure we got here on time, and you couldn’t even be bothered to show up!” Edgar muttered something and looked down at his plate, and Evadne sat back, repositioned Henry to make him more comfortable, then asked, “Where have you been, anyway?”

“Science Museum. The boys got rather carried away pressing all the buttons on the front of the display cabinets and…”

“Don’t blame us!” Ned interrupted, open-mouthed at his father’s cheek, as Tom choked on his sandwich and stared at his brevet-uncle. “It was you who kept on pressing everything, not me and Tom! It was so embarrassing,” he added, turning to his stepmother, “we had to drag him away!”

“That is not true!” his father exclaimed indignantly, turning bright red.

“Yes it is, Uncle Edgar,” Tom put in, a wide grin on his face. “You were almost fighting with that other boy’s father by the steamboat case over who would make the wheel go round.”

Edgar spluttered, his face turning from red to beetroot, and the others laughed - even Evadne was finding it hard to keep from smiling. Recomposing herself, she glared at him. “Well next time, you just make sure you’re here when you’ve said you’re going to be, or we’ll be long gone when you do turn up.”

“Evvy…”

“That’s all I’ have to say. I don’t want to speak to you right now,” and with that, she turned her attention back to her young son.

 

Before long the food was all gone, as the newcomers tucked in with a gusto worthy of a better cause. Once the children were chattering happily amongst themselves, Edgar decided to brave Evadne’s temper and swapped places with Thea so that he was sitting next to his wife.

Evadne had not said a word to him since her last proclamation. Now she glanced up as he pulled his chair up next to her, and he took hold of Henry’s foot, tugging on it and making his son giggle.

Edgar arranged his face into a contrite expression. “Sorry.”

“So you should be!” his wife retorted, breaking her silence, but not ready to forgive him just yet. Edgar pouted, pulling a sorry-for-himself face, and Evadne shook her head. “It’s not going to work. I’m cross with you and that’s that.”

“Are you sure?”

His expression became more exaggerated, and she bit her lips together and averted her eyes, trying not to laugh. Seeing this, Edgar pouted even more, giving her his best doe-like eyes and fluttering his eyelashe. Glancing up again, Evadne finally gave an involuntary chuckle and rolled her eyes.

“Fine, I give in,” she retorted, with an air of exasperation. “But I expect you to make it up to me.”

Edgar smiled. “Will flowers work?”

Evadne shook her head. “Too easy and far too obvious.”

“Chocolates?” She shook her head again. “Jewellery?”

“Are you trying to buy me?” she responded in mock indignation, a twinkle in her eye.

Edgar raised his eyebrows. “Well excuse me if I think my wife might like some romantic gifts!” She shrugged her shoulders. “How about a kiss then?”

Evadne stared at him for a moment, then grinned. “That’s more like it!”

Edgar glanced around surreptitiously, as if checking that they were not being watched, and then leant forwards to peck her on the lips. His wife returned his kiss and then sat back in her chair with a smile.

“Okay, you’ve made it up. Just don’t do it again!”

“I’m not sure I’d dare!” Edgar replied, looking horrified, and then taking hold of his son’s foot again, he bent down and in a conspiratorial stage whisper, said, “I’d be careful not to get on the wrong side of Mummy if I were you, Henry. She’s a tough one to crack!”

Evadne laughed and bent to kiss her son’s head. “Don’t you listen to Daddy, sugar-pie - so long as you don’t follow his example you’ll be just fine!”

I can’t believe she let you off so lightly!”

Edgar turned to grimace across the table at Ned. “Be quiet! I’ve been forgiven, don’t you go spoiling it!”

“But…”

“One more word out of you, and I’ll return all your Christmas presents to the shops and you’ll get a lump of coal!” Ned laughed and subsided, returning his attention to Marcia and Lily, and Edgar turned back to his wife. “So how was Father Christmas?”

“Very fat and jolly, just as he should be!” As her husband chuckled, Evadne added, “Marcia asked him for a penguin.”

“Well, we’ve got…she did what?” he exclaimed, as his wife’s words sank in.

Evadne grinned. “Just as I say – she asked him for a penguin! Thankfully he told her she wasn’t likely to get one, and she decided Geneva wouldn’t have enough ice in the summer anyway, so I reckon we’re safe!”

“Thank goodness for Father Christmas!” Edgar replied, with some relief, and then a wide grin spread over his face as he had an idea.

“What are you scheming?” Evvy asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

“I’ll tell you later,” came the reply, as Edgar cast a wary glance in Marcia’s direction.

Evadne gave him a confused look and then shrugged. “Okay. Oh, and I almost forgot! You’ll never guess who we bumped into…” She proceeded to fill him on the meeting with Dorothy and her family, explaining how she had nots een Dorothy since their schooldays, that she’d invited them out to Geneva to stay in the spring, and telling him all about Hugh’s injuries.

As she finished, she gave an involuntary shudder. “Seeing his scars brought back all these memories of being at Debden, seeing all those poor boys coming back all burnt up and bloody,” she said quietly, as her face took on a solemn expression. “I've not really thought of them in so long, but meeting Hugh like that makes me wonder what became of them all - whether they managed to live their life as he has. I do hope so.” She stared down at the top of her son’s head, unconsciously tightening her hold on him as she spoke, and Edgar reached out and squeezed her knee. Lifting her eyes to his, she gave him a smile and shook her head, as if trying to clear the memories from her mind. “Anyway,” she said, forcing a cheery note into her voice, “you're sure you don’t mind me asking them to come and stay? I know I should have checked with you first, but I just had to ask them when they said they’d be in Geneva.”

“Of course I don’t mind. I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun, and you can catch up properly with your friend too.”

“Thank you.”

Edgar took his eyes away from Henry, who was pulling at the rings on his mother’s wedding finger, and gave Evadne a warm smile. “You’re welcome. And talking of catching up, that reminds me - I had a letter from Andrew this morning. I know it’s not the new year yet, but he mentioned the possibility of them coming to Europe and us all getting together next summer, and I thought it sounded like a good idea. Maybe we could make enquiries about renting that villa in Cap Ferrat where you stayed with Rosalie that time?”

As Edgar had hoped, the possibility of seeing Cassie and her family took his wife’s mind away from her wartime memories, and she beamed back at him. “What a terrific idea! It’ll be such fun – and Cassie can meet Henry too!”

Edgar chuckled at her enthusiasm. “I thought that might make you happy! Do you think the villa would sleep all of us okay? There are…” he used Henry’s toes to count everyone off, causing the young boy to squeal as it tickled, and then looked back up with a grin. “…ten of us, including this little man.”

Evadne nodded. “We’d have to double up the kids, but that’d be okay.”

“Excellent! I’ll write back tomorrow and let him know, as soon as I get back from seeing Paul.”

Evadne had bent her head to talk to Henry, but she looked up again at this comment, eyebrows raised. “Did you get everything squared up with the solicitor then?”

Edgar nodded and grinned. “Now he just has to accept!”

“Accept what?”

Edgar turned to look at Ned again with a frown. “None of your business, nosy! Stop earwigging on our conversation!”

Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he caught sight of something that instantly turned his attention away from his eldest son. Some demon had moved Thea and Tom to see how high they could build a stack of crockery, and they had appropriated everything they could lay their hands on from the table whilst Evadne and Edgar were talking and not paying attention. The stack was now teetering dangerously as Thea tried to add the pepper shaker to the top.

Thea! Stop that now before there’s an accident!”

At the sound of her father’s voice, Thea stopped, pepper pot still in hand, and her cheeks turned bright red. Unfortunately Edgar’s voice startled Tom, who jumped, caught the stack with his elbow and sent the whole lot crashing to floor. The door was flung open, and a waiter appeared to find out what was going on. His hands flew up in horror as he surveyed the broken china, and as Edgar got up hurriedly to calm him down and to offer to pay for all the damages, Evadne got to her feet.

“That’s it! Come along, you rotten lot, get your things together. We’re leaving before anything else happens! And don’t think you two have got away with this,” she added firmly to Thea and Tom. “We’ll deal with you when we get home!” and leaving the two guilty parties in no doubt that she meant what she said, she turned to settle Henry in his pram.

 

==

 

The following morning, Elsie was sitting by her husband’s bed, chatting and laughing, when there was a tap at the door, and Edgar’s head appeared. “Can I come in?”

“That depends,” Paul returned with a grin. “Do you come bearing gifts?” Edgar nodded. “Okay then, you’re very welcome!”

Edgar shut the door behind him, walked across to the bed, and sat down, holding out a tin. “Evvy’s rock cakes. I don’t advise you actually eat them, mind you, but they make marvellous paperweights!” Paul and Elsie both burst out laughing, and as he placed the tin on the bedside table, Edgar added, “Don’t tell her I said that, whatever you do! So, how’s the patient today?”

“The patient is very well, thanks for asking,” Paul replied. He glanced at Elsie, who was watching him with a grin on her face, and then turned back to his friend. “The doc told me this morning that if all goes well, they’ll allow me home in a couple of weeks’ time. Not quite in time for Christmas, but near enough!”

Edgar beamed back at him. “That’s wonderful news!”

“Isn’t it?” Elsie put in with a wide smile. “I’ve been just longing for him to be allowed home, and now he will be very soon!” Paul smiled at her and squeezed her hand, and she got to her feet. “Time for elevenses I think – or at least as near as I can get from the hospital shop! Do you want a tea, Paul?”

“Yes please, my love”

“Edgar?”

Edgar shook his head to indicate that he was fine, and she left the room, a spring in her step that had not been there for a good couple of months. Edgar watched her go, and then turned back to see Paul staring after her, a glum expression on his face.

“What’s eating you?” Edgar asked in surprise. “I thought being allowed home was good news?”

Paul heaved a sigh. “It is, it’s just I can’t help mulling over the money issue. And now it looks like we’re going to have to sell the house too.”

“Why’s that?”

“My wheelchair won’t fit through the gate of the cottage or get up the steps. Typical, eh?” he replied with a wry smile

“Oh Paul, I’m so sorry. Does Elsie know?”

Paul nodded. “Yes, she does. It was her who actually realised what the problem would be, as it happens.” He heaved another sigh and then shrugged. “Hey ho, that’s life, I suppose,” he said, trying hard to put a brave face on things. “Having to move is not the end of the world, and I’m sure we’ll manage with the money somehow. Luckily we’ve a few savings for now, and according to the specialist I’ll be able to start thinking about prosthetics in a year or so’s time, which will make getting a job so much easier.” He stared at the bedclothes for a second, looking thoroughly downcast, and then lifted his head with a smile. “Still, at least I’m still alive, and I have Elsie and the children, so I shouldn’t really complain.”

Edgar watched him carefully, thinking to himself how different things were from just over a month before. Then taking a deep breath, he said, “Well I may be able to help with the money thing, at any rate.”

An exoression of frustration flashed across Paul’s face. “I’ve told you already that I’m not taking your money.”

“I’m well aware of that.”

Fishing in his coat pocket, Edgar pulled out a thick envelope, threw it on the bed and sat back in his chair. Paul glanced at him suspiciously, picked it up and pulled out the sheets of paper from within. Unfolding them, he quickly read the first couple of lines, a frown deepening on his brow, and then glared at his friend, throwing the papers back at him.

“I told you, no charity. Why won’t you listen?”

Edgar heaved an exasperated sigh. “It’s not charity, you pig-headed fool! That is a job offer and contract from AJL Ltd, inviting you to head up the new London office. The job starts on the first of January, and you will be paid a working managing director’s salary from that date forth. Arthur had plans drawn up to open an proper office in London before he died, and Charles, Doug Richardson and I have decided to see them through.” Bending to pick the papers up from the floor, he handed them back to Paul. “It’s due to open in the spring of ’57, if all goes to plan. For now, we will be handing you all the papers to go over, you’ll be working closely with Doug to get everything ready and thinking about recruiting staff. Doug will be over from Paris from time to time, and the rest of the work can be done by letter or telephone. Then by the time it’s ready to open, you should be more or less able to work from the office.”

Paul had been listening to this in silence, too stunned to speak. Now he opened his mouth to argue, but Edgar had not finished and hastily cut his friend off.

“Before you complain that this is all because of your leg, that’s absolute tosh! We were going to offer you the post anyway, but it would not have been until the end of next year. We’re all fully in favour of nepotism if we believe the chap is up for the job, and we happen to think you are. We’ve been discussing it since midsummer. Your accident has simply meant bringing it forward, that’s all. As it happens, it works better for everyone, because Charles and I have our own jobs to concentrate on and Doug is snowed under with other work, so having you onboard now will be a huge help.” He paused for a moment to see if Paul still had anything to say, but there was silence. “Oh, and part of the benefits package is paid private schooling for your children – it’s the same deal that all management have. It was something Arthur wanted to do, and so do we. And I think you’ll find the wage will cover all medical expenses more than satisfactorily.”

Paul looked down at the papers again, scanning the pages for the figure, and when he found it, his eyes widened. Edgar got to his feet, as Paul stared up at him in shock.

“I’ll leave that here for you to talk over with Elsie. We hope very much that you’ll come onboard, but obviously that’s your decision and I won’t attempt to force you if you decide against it. But I do need you to let me know either way in the next couple of days. I’ll see you tomorrow,” and with that, he turned and walked out of the room, passing a surprised Elsie in the doorway.

Elsie stared after him for a moment, watching his back as he strode away from her down the hostpital corridor, and then returning to her seat at the side of her husband’s bed, she placed his tea on the bedside table and looked at him, concerned.

“What’s happened? Have you two had a row?” Paul shook his head and continued staring at sheets of paper in front of him, skim-reading them. “What’s going on then?”

“He’s offered me a job. Or, at least AJL have – Arthur’s old company,” he added, as she looked confused.

“What job?”

“Managing Director of the new British side of the company, starting in January.”

He passed the wedge of paper to his wife, and she skimmed the first four pages quickly and then looked up at him in shock. “It’s so much money!” Paul nodded. “And the children’s school fees would be paid!” Paul nodded again, and as she stared at him, her eyes filled with tears. “We’d be okay, Paul. We could afford the best prosthetics for you, and a full-time nurse for when you come home and everything else too!”

“I know.”

Please say you‘ll take it. You will, won’t you?” She saw the hesitation on his face and her voice took on an even pleading tone. “I don’t care if Edgar’s done it just because of the accident or not, we need it. If we don’t have to worry about money, we can concentrate on getting you better, and it’ll stop you from getting bored or miserable as you’ll have something to do. Please, Paul, say you will.”

Paul gazed at her and  reached out his arm, running his hand over her hair, before bringing it to rest, cupping the side of her face. “It would mean a great deal to you, wouldn’t it?” She nodded and he gave her a smile full of love and affection. “Okay, I’ll take it. I’ll tell Edgar tomorrow - or you can tell him when you get home later, if you like. I think I’ll enjoy the challenge of it as well,” he added with a grin.

For a split second, Elsie stared at her husband, overwhelmed. Then leaping out of her chair, she threw her arms around him and burst into tears. “Oh Paul, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Paul laughed as he returned her embrace. “You’re very welcome, darling. I think that with everything that’s happened these past two months, it’s about time I gave you a little something back, don't you?”

Chapter 22 by Josie

Christmas Day in the Watson household was a resounding success, with everyone in their most festive mood, knowing Paul would soon be coming out of hospital. Stockings were opened at the crack of dawn, followed by a trip to church and then more present opening, and by midday Evadne and Elsie (mainly Elsie, truth be told) were in the kitchen preparing a huge feast, while the children played with their new presents. Marcia had not been gifted her penguin after all, but seemed perfectly happy with what she had received, and Lily was so overjoyed with her new bike that she insisted on riding it up and down the hall for most of the morning. Edgar, meanwhile, occupied himself with his youngest son’s toys whilst Henry crawled in and out of the cardboard boxes, which he frankly found far more fun. 

Immediately after lunch, the Rodwells collected up the remaining gifts and headed into hospital to spend the afternoon with Paul. Meanwhile, Edgar and Ned were set the task of clearing the table whilst Evvy, Thea and Marcia made headway with the mountain of washing up, once Henry had been put down for his afternoon nap. 

The two girls had begun flicking water at each other with their fingers, giggling and gradually soaking each other more and more, despite Evadne’s pleas for them to stop. Marcia shrieked as Thea decided to go a step futher and threw the dishcloth at her, hitting her square in the face. Picking up the nearest pot, Marcia retaliated by throwing the dirty water at her sister, covering her from head to toe. 

“Right, that’s it! Stop it now, the pair of you, before there’s…” 

Evadne was too late. Thea had grabbed an even bigger pan, and she threw the contents at her sister, not bothering to check what was in there. Marcia neatly sidestepped the greasy water and bits of potato that were headed in her direction, just as Ned came through the door, a pile of bowls in his hand. He yelled as the deluge hit him and dropped the stack of china on the floor, where it shattered into tiny pieces. 

“I-SAID-THAT’S-ENOUGH!” Evadne yelled and the two girls stopped in their tracks. They had heard that voice before and knew they had gone too far. 

“What did you do that for, idiot?” Ned spluttered as he recovered his voice, wiping bits of potatoes from his hair. 

“I meant to get Marcia,” Thea muttered, going bright red. 

Ned opened his mouth to shout at her again, but he was silenced by a glare from his stepmother. 

“Right, all three of you out of those clothes now,” she said coldly. Thea and Marcia meekly did as they were told, taking their sodden skirts, blouses and other garments off until they were standing in their underpants. 

Evadne handed Thea a broom and Marcia a mop and bucket, and told them to clear up the mess as she threw their clothes in the corner of the room. Then she turned back to Ned. 

“Come on, you too.” 

“That’s not fair!” he exclaimed, turning bright red. ‘I’m not taking my clothes off in front of them! It’s not my fault I got wet!” 

“I know that, Ned, but you’re not dropping that greasy mess all though the house. Now stop being so stupid and strip off – we’ve seen it all before.” 

Ned knew better than to argue with his stepmother when she was in this mood, and still muttering under his breath, he stalked over to the corner of the room, facing the wall as he took off his shirt, trousers and vest, throwing them onto the pile. Then still facing the wall, he shuffled sideways in his underwear until he reached the kitchen door, and then ran out into the hall. “I’m going to have a bath!” he yelled as he disappeared. 

Edgar was coming through from the dining room, the remains of the crockery in hand, and he watched his son in amazement before turning to his wife. 

“What’s going on?” he asked, looking around at the mess on the floor. 

“Someone,” she replied, glaring at her stepdaughters, “decided it would be fun to have a water fight, and that’s the result,” she said, pointing to the bin full of broken china. 

“I’ve finished, Mummy.” 

Evvy turned to see Thea standing next to her, holding out the broom. “Marcia?” 

“Almost,” came the muffled reply, as Marcia crawled under the table to get the last of the watery mess. 

“Right, you can both get upstairs and have a bath when Ned’s finished, and then you can go sit in your rooms until tea. No toys or anything.” 

“But…” 

“No buts. If you can’t do as I ask when I ask it, then this is the result.” Then as Marcia stood up and sulkily put the mop back in the bucket, leaning it against the wall, Evvy turned to her husband. “Make sure they do as they’re told, will you?” 

As Edgar chased the two of them out of the kitchen and up the stairs, Evadne smiled to herself and turned back to the washing up.  

Five minutes later, Edgar returned and seating himself at the kitchen table, he began picking at the remaining turkey, which Evadne had sliced and placed on a plate to cool down. 

“Hey!” she exclaimed, slapping his hand out of the way, before removing the plate to the other side of the room. “That’s for sandwiches later!” As Edgar pouted, she added, “Surely you had enough at lunch? We could have fed a family of four with the amount you put away!” 

“I need to keep my strength up!” he retorted, not noticeably perturbed. 

Evadne rolled her eyes and turned back to the washing up. “Well how about you put some of that strength to good use and give me a helping hand – it’ll be done twice as fast then!” 

“Do I have to? It’s Christmas!” 

He fluttered his eyelashes at her, pretending to be all sweet and coy, and laughing, Evadne marched back to the table, took hold of the back of his chair, and with great difficulty, dragged both him and it over to the draining board. Then throwing the tea towel at him, she said, “There you are, you lazy lump! Now you don’t even have to get up to help out!” 

Edgar heaved an exaggerated sigh. “What sort of housewife are you, putting your poor henpecked husband to work?” 

“Don’t you ‘housewife’ me!” she retorted, flicking washing up water at him with her fingers. 

“Stop it! We’ve already had one disaster doing that today, we don’t need another. Honestly, woman, you’re worse than the children!” 

Muttering under her breath, Evadne turned back to the sink again. A second later, she surreptitiously flicked the dishcloth in her husband’s direction, spraying him with water again. 

“Right, that’s it!” and grabbing her around the waist, Edgar pulled her into his lap and wrestled the sopping wet cloth from her hands, brandishing it close to her face. “Apologise or you’re for it!” 

“No, it’s your own fault for claiming to be henpecked!” she responded, trying to wriggle free. 

Edgar was having none of it, however, and simply tightened his grip around her waist. “Apologise!” 

“No!” 

“I mean it, apologise or you get a face full of soggy cloth!” Evadne grinned and shook her head, and Edgar shrugged. “Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!” and as she buried her head in his shoulder, laughing, he tried his best to rub the dishcloth on her face. 

“Gerroff me!” came the muffled cry, as he tickled her, causing her to lift her head, and then gave her cheeks a good scrubbing before she could knock his hand out of the way. “Okay, okay, I surr…hic! Now look w…hic…what you’ve done!” 

Edgar chuckled as she grimaced and hiccupped again. “Try holding your breath.” 

Evadne did as she was told, holding her nose and puffing out her cheeks until she just had to breathe out again. Sitting up straight, she paused for a second, waiting to see if she hiccupped, then grinned. 

“I think they’re go…hic!” 

Edgar burst out laughing. “You were saying?” 

Evadne glared at him as she tried to hold her breath for a second time. He stared back at her, and then suddenly leaned his head towards her and shouted, “Boo!” in her face. 

“What was that supposed t…hic…to do?” she asked incredulously. 

“Scare you, of course!” 

“Gee, th…hic…anks,” she responded with a grimace. “Nice job.” Then as her husband patted her hard on the back, “Will you…hic…stop manha…hic...handling me!” 

Edgar grinned. “I know what’ll stop them,” he stated, as she hiccupped again. 

“Wh…hic…what?” 

“This!” and leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers. 

Evadne responded, leaning into him as he deepened their kiss, pulling her as close to him as he could and running his hand up and down her back. When they finally pulled apart, she stared at her husband, slightly breathless. 

Edgar grinned. “There - you’ve stopped hiccupping now, haven’t you?” 

She paused for a few seconds, and grinned back. “Hey, it worked! I’ll have to start hiccoughing more often!” she added, a wicked twinkle in her eye. Then as Edgar slipped his hand under her legs and got to his feet, hitching her up in his arms, “What are you doing?” 

“Well,” he returned, eyebrow raised as she wrapped her arms around his neck, “the childrens will be quite a while having their baths, Henry’s down for his nap, and I think perhaps the remaining washing up can wait for now.” 

Evadne smiled. “And?” 

For an answer, Edgar kissed her again and began to walk towards the kitchen door. They had just reached the hallway when the sound of loud squabbling reached their ears from the floor above. 

“Get off it, it’s mine!” 

“I want to wear it!” 

“Well you can’t! Let go!” 

There was a yell, followed by “Give it back, you pig!” then as Marcia ran along the landing, Thea’s voice shouted, “Give it to me now or I’ll tell Mummy!” 

“Go on then, sneak!” 

“I mean it, Marcia! Mummy!” 

Evadne rolled her eyes at her husband, just as Henry, who had been woken by his sisters’ argument, began screaming at the top of his lungs. The next second, Ned tore along the landing heading for the stairs up to the top floor, a towel wrapped around his waist, yelling, “I’ll get him!” 

Edgar heaved a sigh and lowered his wife to the ground. “Bang goes that idea then! Go on, I’ll finish the washing up, you go and see to them, seeing as they’re shouting your name.” 

“Thanks for that one!” 

“It’s because I love you, honestly!” 

“Of course it is!” she replied, rolling her eyes again. Edgar laughed and turned to walk back into the kitchen. “Edgar? About that idea…” 

“Hmmm?” he asked, turning to face her again, eyebrows raised. 

“We can always come back to it later!” and with a wink, she made her way up the stairs to deal with their unruly brood. 

 

A week and a half later, Paul was finally released from hospital and the following day, the Rodwells headed down to Arlesford, near Winchester, to the home of Clare and her family, where they would be staying until they found themselves a new home. Paul had reluctantly asked Edgar to put the house on the market for them, as Elsie could not bear to do it herself, and Edgar had reported back that everything had been taken care of. Now they just had to find themselves a new place to live. 

Clare and her husband Simon had driven up earlier in the day to collect some of the luggage and the two Rodwell children, leaving Edgar to follow on behind with Elsie and Paul. Evadne insisted on coming along for the ride, much to her friends’ bemusement, so having organised one of their London neighbours to babysit the elder Watson children, the adults all piled into the car, Evadne holding Henry’s carrycot, and they set off for Hampshire. 

An hour and a half later, they drove through the centre of Arlesford and instead of turning towards Clare and Simon’s house, they continued south towards Tichborne on the country roads. Paul and Elsie recognised the route immediately. It was the way to their old home. 

Paul turned to Edgar, his eyebrows raised. “Where are we going?” 

“It’s a surprise,” Edgar replied, keeping his eyes firmly on the road. 

Paul glanced back at his wife, who shrugged and looked as confused as he was. Setting his face into a hard expression, Paul stared straight ahead of him and said no more. There was a tense silence in the car as they drove on, crossing the Petersfield Road and passing through the village of Cherriton. It was not until they entered Kilmeston that Paul spoke again. 

“Why are we here?” he asked grimly, glaring at his friend. 

“You’ll see.” Edgar replied maddeningly. 

Paul was having none of it. “Edgar, we really could do without seeing a house I can no longer even enter, thanks very much.” Edgar said nothing and this inflamed Paul’s temper even more. “You could at least say something you inconsiderate bastard…” 

Paul! Henry can hear you!” Evadne admonished from the back seat, where her son was sitting up on her lap, gazing out of the window with awe. 

Paul muttered an apology, then catching sight of Elsie, whose eyes were bright with tears as she stared out of the window at the village where they had lived for so long, he turned on Edgar again. “Why the heavens are you bringing us on this trip down painful memory lane, you idiot?” 

Edgar raised an eyebrow and glanced at his friend. “Instead of insulting me, why don’t you trust me for once?” he replied, as he pulled the car up a couple of doors down from the Rodwells’ cottage and turned off the engine. ‘Elsie, why don’t you get out and go and have a look – I’ll see to Paul.” 

Looking thoroughly confused, Elsie hesitated for a moment and then opened the car door, climbing out to go and do as she was told. Evadne made a move to follow her, but just as she did so, Henry decided he had had enough of travelling and began yelling at the full pitch of his lungs. 

“I’m gonna go walk him down the road, see if I can quieten him down,” she said, grimacing as she opened her door. 

Edgar smiled and nodded, and then turned back to his friend. “I’ll get your chair.” 

“I’ll stay here thanks.” 

Ignoring him, Edgar climbed out of the car and retrieved the wheelchair from the boot. He unfolded it, setting it down on the pavement, and then opened the front passenger door. 

“I said I’ll stay here,” Paul said angrily, as Edgar bent down to help him out. 

“Stop being an ass.” 

“Don’t you dare start on me when it’s you who’s brought us here in the first place,” Paul snapped back, getting more furious by the minute, as Edgar tried his best to pull his friend out of the car and into his chair. “Did you not see Elsie’s face? What the hell do you think you’re playing at? This isn’t a joke, you know.” 

“I know that Paul, what do think I am? Instead of talking to me like I’m a simpleton, why don’t you just get out and have a look. Then you can shout at me all you want.” 

Paul was about to argue back, when Elsie suddenly came running down the path towards them. “Oh my goodness!” she shrieked as she reached them, throwing her arms around Edgar from behind. “Thank you, thank you so much!” 

Edgar laughed and stood up, twisting around to give her a hug. “You need to thank Evvy really, it was her idea. I told her about you having to sell the place and this is what she came up with. I just bankrolled it,” he replied, as Paul gaped at the pair of them. “Is it alright?” 

“It’s a hundred times more than alright!” she replied, wiping tears of happiness from her eyes. 

“What’s going on?” Paul asked in amazement, staring from his wife to his friend and back again. 

“You’ll see,” Edgar replied over his shoulder. Then turning back to Elsie, “Good, because there’s more inside.” 

“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” Paul shouted from the car. 

Suddenly remembering her husband, Elsie pushed Edgar out of the way. “Oh Paul, you’ll never believe what they’ve done! Come and have a look!” 

“About time!” he grumbled, as she helped him out of the car and into his chair. Then making sure he was settled, she wheeled him down the road towards the cottage. 

Despite his grumbling, he sat up as straight as he could as they approached their home, and as they reached the gate, he suddenly saw what had got his wife so excited. The wall around the previously narrow entrance had been broken away and widened, a new gate put in the old one’s place. The cobbled path and gravel driveway had both been paved over and cleared of weeds to make wheelchair access easier, and the previously upward-folding garage door had been replaced with two that pulled open sideways. Like the gate, a new wider front door had been fitted to the cottage, and two steps leading up to it had been turned into a narrow ramp. 

As Paul stared around him, open-mouthed, Edgar came up behind them, opening the new front door and holding it as Elsie pushed her husband’s chair through and into the hall. They soon found that their bedroom had been moved downstairs in place of the children’s playroom, and a new ensuite bathroom, half-finished, was being built leading off itinto an old storage room. In the kitchen, all the cupboards were in the process of being moved to a lower level so that Paul could access them, the door handles on all the doors had been moved to a lower height to make them easier for him to reach, and the steps leading into the garden from both the back door and the living room’s French doors had, like the front steps, been turned into ramps. 

Elsie started crying again and hugged Edgar, exclaiming how wonderful it all was, and Paul stared around him, a lump in his throat. It was everything that he and Elsie had considered doing themselves but had come to the conclusion they could not afford, even with Paul’s new job. 

As Elsie began rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, inspecting the builders’ work, Edgar turned to his friend with a grin. “So?” 

Paul stared up at him in disbelief. “ I can’t believe you did this for us! It must have cost a fortune!” 

“Let’s just say Merry Christmas from the Watson family. I’m only sorry it’s not quite finished, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple more weeks.” 

Paul shook his head. “I can’t believe you’ve done this much already! How did you ever get it done in so little time?” 

“Simon called in many favours,” Edgar replied, referring to Paul’s brother-in-law who was an architect by trade. “He and Clare are going to help you move back in when it’s finished.” 

“Thank you,” Paul said slowly, pausing as his voice caught in his throat. “I…I don’t know what to say.” 

“You don’t need to say anything,” Edgar replied quickly, holding out his hand. “I’m only glad we could help.” 

Paul took hold of his friend’s hand, shaking it warmly, unable to reply as he was momentarily overcome with emotion. 

Evadne entered the room, carrying a now slumbering Henry in his carrycot, and cast an anxious glance at her two friends. “Is it okay?” 

At the sound of her voice, Elsie turned from the cabinets and ran across the kitchen, throwing her arms around Evadne and bursting into tears yet again. Evvy laughed as she handed Henry to Edgar and then returned her friend’s hug. 

“You like it then?” 

Pulling back, Elsie wiped away her tears as she nodded, a wide grin on her face. Wheeling himself over to Evadne, Paul took hold of her arm. “Come here you,” he said, pulling her down into a hug. “Edgar tells us this was all your doing?” 

Evadne returned his embrace and then stood up straight again, smiling. “I just thought we could help you out. You do like it, don’t you?” 

Paul stared around him, and then looked up at her with a grin. “It’s perfect.” 

 

The following afternoon, a taxi turned into the long driveway of the Watsons’ Geneva home and made its way down towards the house. They had dropped Ned back at school that morning and then caught the midday flight from London to return home. As the car stopped, Marcia wrenched the door open and ran towards the house, closely followed by her sister, and the pair of them opened the front door hurriedly and almost fell over the pile of post as they entered the hall. A loud barking sounded from the kitchen, and the next moment Scrabble came bounding through the door, throwing himself on his youngest mistress who sat down, giggling as he licked her face. Thea laughed and began to collect the letters together, and Anton appeared in the kitchen doorway. 

“I told him you were coming and he insisted on being here to welcome you all home,” the Swiss man announced with a wide smile. 

“Aren’t you a clever boy?” Marcia exclaimed, as she cuddled the Labrador to her. “Mummy, you’ll never guess?” 

Evadne, who had just entered the hall, Henry under one arm and a bag of his toys in the other, looked up with a grin. “I’ll never guess what? Hello Anton! How are you?” 

“Scrabble asked to be here to welcome us home!” Marcia cried, drowning out Anton’s reply. 

“Very clever of him. Now how about you get up and go help Daddy bring some of the bags in, while I go change Henry’s smelly diaper,” and as Marcia scrambled to her feet to go and do as she was told, Evvy said a couple more words to Anton and then made her way up the stairs. 

She soon had her son cleaned and changed, and then took him through to her bedroom, propping him up on the bed against a mountain of pillows. Then leaving him sucking on his teething ring, she turned to the bags that Edgar had already brought up and began to unpack. She had almost finished the first one when Edgar appeared, an enormous case in his hand, which he set against a dresser with a huge sigh. 

“That the last one?” she asked, smiling. 

Edgar nodded and flopped down on the bed beside his son. “However have we accumulated so much stuff in the last month?” Evadne laughed and he held out his hand towards her. “Anton’s gone home by the way. He said he’d pop back later for a chat.” 

Evadne chuckled as she took his hand and let him pull her down into his lap. “I thought he’d take off when he saw he might be expected to help unpack! We’ll get him doing manual labour one of these days!” 

Edgar grinned as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “So Lady Watson, we’re all back to normal then?” 

“Thank goodness! I’ve missed this old place,” she replied with a smile and pecked him on the lips. 

Henry gurgled beside them, and they turned to see him grinning at them, little bubbles of saliva coming out of his mouth as he tried to make noises and suck on his ring at the same time. 

“You trying to talk, my little man?” Edgar asked, reaching out to ruffle his fair curls. 

Evadne grinned. “He’s trying to say it’s good to be home!”

Chapter 23 by Josie

Putting his head around Marcia's open bedroom door, Edgar grinned as he saw her rifling through her chest of drawers, her backside sticking up in the air. Piles of clothes covered the bed and floor behind her, and she was muttering to herself under her breath. 

"What are you up to, young lady?" 

Marcia stood up, a bright red pullover clutched in her hand. "Trying to find something to wear tomorrow." 

"I'd have thought a very warm jumper and the thickest tights you own would do the trick," he replied, walking across to the bed and pushing the clothes out of the way so that he could sit down. "There are not that many places inside at the zoo. What's wrong with this one?" he asked, picking up a thick, woollen skirt. 

"That's a kid's skirt," she retorted haughtily, snatching it from him and rolling her eyes. "I'm ten tomorrow - I need to wear grown-up clothes now. And I don't have any," she finished, pouting and flopping down next to him. 

"Why can't you just wear the same things you wear now?" 

Marcia heaved an exasperated sigh and shook her head. "'Cause I can’t! You're a boy, you don't understand!" 

"Sorry - I can’t help that, I’m afraid. Can't you borrow something of Thea's if it's so important?" 

"She's in the bath!" 

"Well she's not going to be in there all night, is she? At least I hope not or she'll turn into a prune!" 

"Spose," Marcia said grumpily, standing up again and returning to her drawers. "I'll have to ask Mummy to buy me some new things." 

"You do that," came Edgar’s amused reply, as he imagined just what his wife's response would be to that particular request. "Now, I need to ask you a favour. Please can you two remain up here until bedtime? I'd like to spend the rest of Valentine's Day with Mummy on our own, as I didn't manage to do anything special for her." Her head now buried back in her chest of drawers, Marcia muttered something that he took as a 'yes', and he got to his feet. "Thank you. You can do what you want, as long as you don't wake Henry and are both in bed with the lights off by half past nine. Let your sister know, will you?” and with that, he turned and left the room. 

 

Whistling happily, he made his way downstairs, arriving in the hallway just as his wife emerged from the kitchen, munching on sa fresh baked pastry. 

“What do you have there?” he grinned, as he caught sight of her. 

“A wurst roll,” she replied, swallowing and returning his grin. “I’ve been helping Guilia with the picnic for tomorrow. We’re all done now – she’s just left for home.” 

“When you say helping, do you actually mean helping, or do you mean watching and eating?” he enquired, eyeing the food in her hand. 

“I’ve been taste-testing,” she retorted importantly. “It’s a vital part of the procedure.” 

Edgar raised an eyebrow. “Really?” 

Evadne nodded. “She relies on my eating expertise in order to produce such consistently great food. Here, see for yourself,” and reaching up, she put the last piece of the pastry in his mouth. 

“Delec’able,” he replied with his mouthful. 

“And all because of me!” 

Edgar swallowed and put a hand on her waist, pulling her towards him. “Of course it is.” 

He bent to kiss her and Evadne grinned up at him. “What are your evening plans?” 

“I was just coming to ask you the same thing!” he responded with a smile. “Thea’s in the bath and Marcia’s busy deciding what to wear tomorrow. It’s a very complicated process, or so I’m led to believe. One has to dress in a more sophisticated manner as a ten year old, apparently!” 

“One does indeed!” she replied knowingly. “So does that mean we’ve a few minutes peace and quiet then?” 

Edgar nodded. “We have more than that – they’ve promised to stay upstairs until bedtime so I can have you all to myself!” 

“Good-o! I need to talk to you anyhow.” 

“Oh?” Edgar raised his eyebrows quizzically. “Sounds ominous.” 

Evadne laughed and shook her head. “It isn’t, I promise. I’ve an idea I’ve been mulling over, that’s all. Come on, let’s go get comfy,” and taking him by the hand, she led him through to the family room. 

She kicked off her shoes and seated herself in the corner of one of the large, comfortable sofas, hugging a cushion in her lap and watching Edgar as he stoked the fire to get as much heat out of it as possible, for it was a cold February night. After a couple of minutes, he came across to sit next to her, taking her stockinged feet in his lap and massaging them gently. 

“So come on then, don’t keep me in suspense! What’s this idea of yours?” 

Evadne took a deep breath. “Okay, so you know how Marcia’s ten tomorrow?” 

“She’s mentioned it once or twice, yes!” 

“Well are they…I mean have you…have you thought about them going to school?” 

“They’re already at school!” he replied, a little confused. 

“I don’t mean that school, dummy!” she retorted. “I mean away to board, like Ned. Were you planning on sending them to Madeleine’s old school?” 

Edgar shook his head. “Madeleine hated her school – she vowed no daughter of hers would ever go there, even if she were offered a million pounds!” Evadne chuckled and he gave her a curious glance. “Why do you ask, anyway? Are you trying to get rid of them?” 

“No! Of course not!” she exclaimed, outraged at this accusation, and then she caught sight of the twinkle in his eye. “That’s not funny!” she retorted, kicking his legs with her stockinged foot. “I thought you meant it for a second!” 

“As if I’d actually mean it, you fool!” he replied, laughing and shaking his head. “So come on, why do you ask?” 

“I have an idea,” she stated, and then fell silent as she looked at him intently. 

“And?” he prompted with a smile, when she still had not said anything after a few seconds. 

“Well…” she hesitated. “Oh I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid.” 

“Try me,” he encouraged, gently squeezing her foot. 

“Right, well, it’s just something for you to consider…” 

“Evvy, for goodness sake spit it out before we’re old and grey!” 

“You’re already grey!” she retorted, sticking out her tongue. 

“Yes, well that’s by-the-by. Now come on, what’s this idea?” 

Evadne went bright red for no apparent reason. “If you’ve no other plans, I was wondering if you might consider sending them to the Chalet School,” she said hurriedly, looking down at her lap. 

Edgar released her feet and sat back on the sofa, a little surprised, a frown furrowing his brow. 

Evadne watched him anxiously. “You hate the idea, don’t you?” 

“No I don’t. I mean…” he hesitated, looking doubtful. “It’s not that I hate the idea of the Chalet School, it’s just that I’m not sure I want them to go away to any school.” He paused for a second and took a deep breath. “It was difficult enough parting with Ned, and I still miss him horribly when he’s not here. I’m not sure I can send the girls away as well – I’ve not even given it any consideration. Seeing that they’ve no mother in whose footsteps to follow, I’d sort of been hoping to keep them at home.” 

A look of hurt flashed across Evadne’s face at his final sentence, and she quickly got to her feet, saying, “Sorry, I should never have brought it up. I’ll go get us some coffee,” and then hurried from the room. 

“Evvy?” Edgar watched her go, confused at her reaction. He followed her through to the kitchen, where he found her standing in front of the sink. “Evvy, what’s wrong?” 

She was silent for a minute as she finished filling the kettle and set it on the hob to boil. Then returning to the sink, she kept her back to him and replied quietly, “I guess I just forget sometimes that they’re not mine.” 

Edgar frowned. “What aren’t yours? What are you…?” He broke off as he realised what she was talking about and what he had said. “Oh sweetheart, I didn’t mean that,” he exclaimed, moving hurriedly towards her.

“Yes you did,” she replied, shrugging away the hand he had placed on her shoulder and reaching up to take two coffee cups and saucers from the cupboard. “It doesn’t matter anyway, it was a stupid idea.” 

Edgar took the cups from her hand and set them down on the counter. Then placing his hands on her shoulders again, he turned her around to face him. 

“Look at me, Evvy, please.” 

She stared resolutely at the floor, and he put his hand under her chin and lifted her head. Her eyes locked on his for a moment and then she pulled away, pushing him aside and making for the door. 

“I think I’ll just head to bed.” 

“But it’s only just gone eight!” 

“I guess I’m more tired than I thought,” and she left the room before he could say anything else. 

 

Twenty minutes later, she was sitting at her vanity, her thick winter dressing gown wrapped around her as she brushed the day’s knots from her hair, when the door of the bedroom opened slowly and Edgar came into the room, carrying a tray with a pot of coffee and two cups. Setting them down on the dresser by the door, he poured her a cup and then walked across to the vanity, placing it beside her. 

“You forgot your coffee.” 

She murmured a thank you and then returned her attention to her hair. Edgar sat down on the edge of the bed and watched her face in the mirror. 

“Evvy, I’m sorry I…” 

“It doesn’t matter, Edgar, I’m fine,” she interrupted quickly, putting her hairbrush down and turning around to face him. “You’re right, they’re not my daughters and I’ve no right to expect you to change your mind for me,” she added, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. 

“Don’t, Evvy, please. I didn’t mean it like that - it came out completely wrong. I wasn’t thinking.” 

Evadne shook her head. “Don’t you see that that makes it worse? Your reaction without even thinking was that they don’t have a mother.” She swallowed hard and stared down at her lap. “It’s my fault for getting my hopes up, I guess. I just thought it would be nice if…” 

The hurt in her voice as it tailed off cut Edgar to the core and getting to his feet, he crossed the room and crouched down in front of her, taking hold of her hands. 

“Of course they have a mother.” 

“Stop it, Edgar, please,” she replied, averting her eyes. “I’m not an idiot, I know why you’re saying that.” 

“I’m saying it because it’s true. Darling, I really didn’t mean it the way it came out, I promise you. I simply meant that as Madeleine isn’t alive, I’d never really considered them going away to school, that’s all. I phrased it badly, I’m so sorry.” He could see her blinking furiously as she stared over his shoulder at the wall, and he lifted a hand to her face. “I honestly do think of you as their mother now and more importantly, so do they. They couldn’t love you more if you’d given birth to them.” 

She gripped his fingers, touched by his words. “I just thought…” 

“You thought that maybe they could follow in your footsteps and go to your old school?” 

Evadne nodded and swallowed hard again. “I was so happy there – I thought maybe they would be too. I know it’ll be hard not having them around every day, but I always thought if I had a daughter then she’d go there and…well, they’re the only daughters I’m ever likely to have.” 

Edgar smiled and tenderly stroked her cheek. “I think it’s a lovely idea,” he replied softly. 

She looked back at him in surprise. “You do?” 

Edgar nodded. “Yes, I do. Tell you what, can I have a think about it for a little while? I need to work out if I can part with them or not. But I promise that if they're going to go away to school, then it’ll be the Chalet School, okay? In the meantime, why don’t you telephone the school and ask them to send a prospectus through. Then I can have a better look at it – it might help me make up my mind.” 

Evvy smiled and kissed his forehead, considerably cheered now that their misunderstanding had been sorted out. “Deal.” 

“And I’m sorry for being an insensitive clod,” he continued, looking sheepish. 

“You weren’t.” 

“Yes I was.” 

Evvy chuckled. “Well maybe just a little,” she said, holding her thumb and forefinger a few millimeters apart. “But I forgive you, so it’s okay.” 

“Glad to hear it. Now how about we go back down and make the most of what’s left of our evening?” 

Evadne grinned back at him and kissed him gently on the forehead again, and then on the bridge of his nose. “We could,” she said, moving her lips down to the tip of his nose, “but I have better idea,” she finished, as she covered his mouth with her own. 

==

Bright and early next morning, the Watsons, Ann Bown and Ingrid Meier, another friend of Marcia’s from school, all piled onto the Olten-bound train at Geneva station, for the first leg of their journey to Basel. For her birthday treat, Marcia had wanted to visit the zoo, and as it was the girls’ half-term, Edgar had decided that instead of Geneva zoo, where they had been before, they would instead make the journey to Basel and stay for a couple of nights, allowing them to take in the city as well. They finally arrived late afternoon, the train having been delayed several times due to heavy snowfalls, and deciding to give the zoo a miss for that day, they made their way straight to the hotel where they gave Marcia her presents, cut her cake and sang her happy birthday instead. 

The following day dawned crisp and bright, perfect for an excursion. Wrapping up warm, they set out for the zoo, and spent an enjoyable morning wandering from cage to cage, looking at all the animals that were able to be out in the wintery weather. Edgar disappeared off mid-morning, but the children were having so much fun watching the polar bears that they barely noticed his absence. He returned in good time for lunch, and as soon as they were finished eating, he jumped to his feet. 

“Come along then everyone, over to the penguins – it’s almost time for their march!” 

Marcia squealed and the others laughed. Ever since she had found out that they were coming to Basel, she had talked over and over again about the famous ‘penguin march’, where the the birds take their daily stroll around the zoo accompanied by two of the keepers. There was little doubt that it would be the highlight of her day, and it was one of the reasons that Edgar and Evadne had pitched on Basel Zoo in the first place. That, and one other reason. 

“Did you get it all taken care of?” Evadne asked under her breath, as they all stood up and put on their coats, scarves, gloves and hats. 

Edgar nodded, grinning like an excited child. “All arranged as planned. I can’t wait to see her face!” 

Evadne laughed and then turned her attention to Henry, who was beginning to grumble. He had been very good so far, being too fascinated by all the animals to worry about anything else, but now he was starting to get sleepy and crotchety, and Evadne decided the time had come to put him back in his pram. Once he was well tucked in and wrapped up against the cold air, they all made their way outside. 

“Over here, all of you!” Edgar bellowed from his vantage point at the edge of the penguins’ enclosure. “This way we can see them leave and come back. Marcia, you stand here so you can get the best view,” he added, marshalling them all into place. 

Evadne looked up at him, amused. “Anyone would think it was your birthday treat!” 

“I didn't even have a party on my tenth birthday – my parents decided I was too old,” he replied with a martyr-like air. “So instead I choose to live vicariously through my children’s treats!” 

“Awww, poor baby!” Evadne replied, slipping her hand through his arm and giving it a squeeze. “I had an enormous party on my tenth birthday. We were living in Paris at the time and my folks went all out,” she added, just to rub it in. 

“And they bought you half the contents of Paris’s toy shops, I’d imagine!” he replied with a grin. “Arthur told me once that you could always wrap him round your little finger!” 

Evadne shrugged complacently. “Nothing I didn’t deserve. I was a model daughter!” 

Thea overheard and spluttered with laughter, as Edgar raised his eyebrows in disbelief. The next moment there was a flurry of activity from the enclosure as the keepers emerged and began to marshall the penguins into line. A few minutes later, they all marched out of the enclosure, heads held high and wings held back, to rapturous applause. 

They disappeared over the bridge and off around the zoo, leaving the Watson party talking amongst themselves and watching and waiting eagerly for their return. Twenty minutes later, they heard a squawking and turned to see the penguins coming back down the path. Marcia was jumping up and down in her excitement as they passed her, and as the last one returned to the enclosure, the keeper shut the gate and came over to stand in front of her. 

“You are young Marcia?” Marcia nodded her head, speechless that this man knew her name. “Sombody tells me that you are fond of penguins. Would you like to come and meet them?” 

“Can I really?” Marcia’s voice almost squeaked as she stared wide-eyed from the keeper to her father and back again, and both smiled and nodded their heads. 

“Of course you can. Come along,” the man said, reaching over the fence to lift her across onto the path. Then taking hold of her hand, he led her towards the gate. “Now you stay close to me and do as I ask.” 

“I promise.” 

“Good girl. In you come,” and he led her into the enclosure, shutting the gate behind her. 

The rest of the Watson party were unable to hear what was happening, as the keeper conversed with Marcia in low tones, but they watched on with amusement, able to see from her body language just how excited she was. Then all of a sudden, she let out a loud, high-pitched squeal and threw her arms around the keeper, who looked rather taken aback. The noise set off the monkeys in the nearby enclosure, who squealed even louder than Marcia had, and the small crowd who had stayed on to watch all laughed, as the young girl began gabbling even more animatedly than before. A couple of minutes later, she emerged at the gate again, the keeper by her side. As soon as he opened it, she hared out and threw her arms around her father, oblivious to the railing in between them. 

“Daddy, it’s the best present I’ve ever had!” she exclaimed, smiling so wide that it seemed as if her face would split in two. “Mummy, thank you!” she cried, turning her attention to Evadne and hugging her round the waist. “You really got me a real live penguin!” She sounded as if she could not quite believe her luck. 

“They got you a penguin?” Thea, Ann and Ingrid chorused in almost perfect unison, utterly dumbfounded. “They can’t have done!” Thea added, sceptically. “How will you get it home?” 

“It’s not coming home, silly!” Marcia explained, grabbing her sister’s arm. “And he’s a ‘he’, not an ‘it’, so there! Mummy and Daddy adopted him and he’s mine, but he’ll stay here so the people can look after him and feed him – that’s what the keeper man told me. And I’ve called him Stan!” 

“You’ve called him what?” Evadne asked, incredulous, and Marcia turned to her with a grin. 

“Stan! They said I could name him what I wanted and I picked Stan ‘cause he looks like a Stan.” 

“And what does a Stan look like?” Edgar asked, drily. 

“Like him!” she retorted, pointing to the nearest penguin. “No, I mean him!” she added, changing her mind. “Or maybe him.” She pointed to another one. “Oh I don’t know! Anyway, he’s all mine and it’s the bestest present ever in the whole wide world!”

Chapter 24 by Josie

Ned flopped down in the middle of the nearest settee, stretched his legs out, resting his feet on the low coffee table in front of him, and grinned around at his friends. 

"Good hols everyone?" 

Harry shoved his friend up in order to make himself some space, and sat down next to him. "More boring than I can say, thanks to Tara,” he replied, referring to his little sister, who was now three. “She was poorly all week with chicken pox, so I did nothing but sit around the house. What about you? How’s your Uncle?" 

"Much better thanks," Ned responded with a smile. He had spent his half-term with Paul and Elsie, ostensibly under Edgar’s orders to help out, but in reality being thoroughly spoiled by his brevet-aunt. "We had a terrific time. Auntie Elsie organised a huge snow fight the day after it snowed - Uncle Paul even joined in his wheelchair - and Tom and I built heaps more models and practiced our rugger kicks. He’s getting rather good now. How ‘bout you, Burgess?" 

"Same as Harry, but without the chicken pox,” Dan replied. Then grinning at a memory of one of his elder brothers, "Olly did have a close encounter with a bull though…" 

A drawling voice interrupted him. "I had a marvellous time." 

"Bully for you!" Harry retorted, glaring at Piers who was seated in an armchair nearby, and then turned back to the others with a roll of his eyes. 

Piers was not to be easily put off, however, and continued in his booming voice. "Mother and Father took me off to the Riviera – sometimes you just have to escape this ghastly snow, don’t you? You ever been, Watson?" 

Ned was about to tell him to mind his own business, then changed his mind and decided to humour him in the hope that it might shut him up. "No, but we’re going to Cap Ferrat this summer with family friends. Why?" 

Piers screwed up his nose, looking as if he had smelled some particularly nasty rotten drains. "Cap Ferrat? Oh dear me, old boy, not the place to be at all. So passé! You need to be in Cannes – that’s the place to be seen these days. We’ll be going there this summer too. You should tell your father – he wouldn’t want to make such a faux-pas." 

Ned stared back at him, a thoroughly bored expression on his face. "We’d rather be passé and stay in Cap Ferrat, if it’s all the same to you. Less chance of bumping into you if we do that." 

Piers ignored him and continued on with his rhetoric. "Honestly, it was just fabulous, though I don't expect you three to understand!" he added, glancing imperiously at Ned's three friends. "I was out at every party there was…" 

"Rot!" Burgess interrupted, "you’re fourteen, you can’t have been! Your parents wouldn’t have taken you anywhere with them!" 

"I scarcely saw my parents at all," Piers replied superciliously. "I spent most of the time out with my aunt. I can easily pass for eighteen…" 

The other four choked and Laskar muttered "You wish!" 

"…so it was all perfectly easy. She’s quite the talk of the town, you know - beautiful, rich, knows all the right people, always with a handsome man on her arm." 

Ned grinned. "You sure she’s talk of the town for the right reason?" 

As the other three spluttered with laughter, Piers got to his feet and glared at Ned, his face apoplectic with rage. "How dare you!" he shouted, and turning on his heel, he stalked out of the common room, slamming the door behind him. 

Harry turned to Ned, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. "That was just brilliant! Wicked, but brilliant!" 

"There’s no chance he went to those parties and he knows we know it," Laskar put in. "I’ve been to Cannes – they’d never have let him in anywhere in a million years!" 

Ned grinned and shook his head. "I know. Serves him right for lying, the pompous ass! At least we’re rid of him now, anyway. Where were we?" 

Burgess grinned. "I was about to tell you about Olly and the bull…"

 

==

 

Evadne popped her head around the door of Edgar’s study, a pile of letters held out in her hand. 

"Postman’s finally been!" she said, approaching his desk and throwing the letters down on top of his work. 

Edgar grimaced and moved them to one side, and she threw a brochure down in their place instead. 

"What’s this?" he asked, putting down his pen, and picking it up and looking at it curiously. 

"Prospectus for the Chalet School. It came this morning." 

"That was quick!" 

"Yes, well Rosalie’s very efficient," she replied with a grin, seating herself in a nearby chair. "When I telephoned, she was real excited that the girls might go, so she sent it right away." 

"Hold your horses!" Edgar replied hurriedly, "I’ve not even looked at it yet!" 

"I know, but it’s a maybe and that’s good enough. She had a terrific plan as well, but I didn’t want to tell you until that arrived. She suggested we go to the Platz for a week’s vacation at Easter. Then you can see for yourself what it’s like, and we can watch how the girls react too. If they hate it, our minds’ll be made up for us! What do you think?" 

Edgar gave her a wry smile. "Never give up, do you?" 

Evadne grinned back. “It’s always worth a try! I know you can’t resist my fluttering eyelashes!” 

“Go on, get out woman, leave me be,” he retorted, shaking his head in an exasperated manner. “I have work to do,” and as she pulled a face at him and left the study, he chuckled and turned back to his report. 

 

==

 

Climbing up onto the gate that separated the two playgrounds, Marcia swung her left leg over the top and sat down, the gate wobbling precariously as she balanced herself. Her friends watched her with a critical eye. 

“You know you’ll get in trouble if they catch you?” Kate asked, but Marcia simply shrugged. 

“I’m always in trouble anyway, so it won’t make any difference!” 

“You could try and stay out of it, though,” Thea said with a frown. 

“No I couldn’t, I’d still get in it,” Marcia retorted. “I can’t wait 'til we’re Middles like you. They treat us like babies in the Juniors.” 

“Well you are one!” Ann put in with a grin. 

The others laughed and Marcia stuck her tongue out at her friend. “I know I’m grown up even if you don’t. What’s she doing here with them?” she added, changing the subject suddenly, as her friends laughed again. 

Turning around, they saw Franny crossing the Middle School playground, flanked by two adults who looked so like her that they were evidently her parents. The elder three girls looked puzzled. 

“I don’t know,” Celine put in with a frown. “She has not been in class all day. Maybe she is not well?” 

“Is she still as bad as ever?” Ann asked. 

“Worse!” Kate retorted, and Thea nudged her friend in the ribs. 

“No she’s not, don’t be mean!” Kate rolled her eyes, and Thea turned back to address Ann. “She’s not as bad as she used to be – she never says anything anymore though. I kept trying to be nice to her before half-term, but she doesn’t want to know.” 

Celine shook her head. “I do not know why you try. She was so horrible to you, she does not deserve it.” 

“’Cause I know what it’s like not to have any friends, that’s why,” Thea replied seriously. “Anyway, surely she can’t always be nasty? Maybe she just needs someone to be nice to her!” 

“You’re screwy!” Marcia muttered under her breath.

Kate shook her head. “You’re too kind for your own good, Thea Watson.” 

“See, told you so!” Marcia put in knowingly, staring pointedly at her sister. “I said some people are just born horrid but you wouldn’t believe me!” 

Thea grinned back at her. “Like you were born scatty, d’you mean?” 

“Was not!” 

“Yes you were!” 

“Wasn’t!” 

“You were!” 

The others joined in Thea’s laughing and teasing, and jumping down from the gate, Marcia faced them with her hands on her hips. 

“I’m not, thank you very much!” she retorted with a scowl. “I’m as not scatty as you!” and turning on her heel, she stropped off across the playground amid hoots of laughter from her friends. 

“Do you think we have upset her?” Celine asked, looking worried. 

The other three shook their heads. 

“Doubt it,” Thea replied, still chuckling. “She’ll most likely have forgotten all about it in thirty seconds.” 

A moment later, as if to prove her point, Marcia came running back across the playground, a wide grin on her face. 

“Ann, we can sign up for country dancing!” she shrieked, grabbing hold of her friend’s arm. “Let’s go now!” 

Ann did as she was told, half of her own volition, half because she was being towed, and Thea turned to Celine with a smile. “See? Told you!” Then as the bell went for the end of break, she linked arms with her two friends. “Come on, it’s French next and you know what Monsieur Sofort’s like if we’re late!” and with that cheerful thought, the three of them made their way back to class.

Chapter 25 by Josie

Almost half an hour into Monsieur Sofort’s French class, there was a knock at the door and it opened to reveal the Mlle Pattieu, the School Secretary. 

"I beg your pardon, Monsieur, but Mr. Kraus would like to see Thea Watson in his study," she said apologetically. Monsieur Sofort nodded, and Mlle Pattieu beckoned to Thea. "Come with me, please." 

Getting to her feet, Thea gave her friends a surprised look and bent to pick up her bag from the floor. 

"Leave it, dummy, just go!" Kate hissed under her breath. "I’ll bring it later if you need it." 

Nodding mutely, Thea gave her friend a small smile and then walked across the classroom, feeling everyone’s eyes upon her. Mlle Pattieu steered her out of the room, closed the door behind them and led her down the corridor. Thea followed in her wake, wracking her brains trying to work out what this could be about. She was sure that she had not done anything wrong – or nothing that would merit a summons from the headmaster, at any rate. Then a sudden thought crossed her mind. 

"Please, has something happened at my home?" 

Hearing the small, scared voice behind her, Francine Pattieu turned around, gave the young girl a smile and shook her head. Then waiting for her to catch up, she placed a hand on her back and steered her towards the office. 

They had just reached the door through to the small outer room where Mlle. Pattieu did her work, when they heard the sound of a commotion inside and a few moments later, Franny Harford appeared with her mother. Mrs. Harford had an arm around her daughter’s shoulders, seemingly comforting her, and Franny was scrubbing her eyes with balled-up fists. Thea stared at her in alarm and then glanced up at the secretary, wondering what on earth could have happened to make her classmate so upset. She was so lost in her thoughts, that she failed to notice the satisfied smirk that Franny shot in her direction the moment Mrs Harford's attention was elsewhere. Instead, Thea allowed herself to be steered into the office, where she came face to face with Mr. Harford, who was sitting in a chair next to the secretary’s desk. The malevolent glare that he shot in Thea’s direction shocked the young girl, and seeing it, Mlle Pattieu hurried her through into the Headmaster’s study. 

Mr. Kraus looked up as the door shut behind her. "Take a seat please, Thea. I’d like a few words with you," he said in his gruff American accent, indicating an empty chair in front of his desk. 

Feeling extremely nervous, Thea did as she was told, and glancing around the room, she suddenly noticed Miss Engel sitting to one side, her back against the wall. Seeing the anxious expression on her pupil’s face, Miss Engel gave her a heartening smile, and Thea returned it with a timid one of her own. Then, as Mr. Kraus gave a small cough, she turned back to face her headmaster. 

"Thea, I’ve a couple of questions to ask you," he began, watching her intently. "First of all, I wonder if you could tell me how you get along with Francesca Harford?" 

Thea blinked at the unexpected question. "I…we…" she faltered, her history with Franny flashing through her mind. She glanced round at Miss Engel, feeling a little perplexed. 

Miss Engel smiled back. "It’s alright, Thea, Mr. Kraus already knows what happened at the beginning of last term and at your last school. He just wants to know how the two of you get on now." 

Thea’s shoulders visibly relaxed, and she turned back the Headmaster, a slight frown on her pretty face. "We’re not friends," she began slowly, not quite sure what to say. 

Mr. Kraus nodded. "Have you had any trouble with her at all, other than what happened at the start of last term?" 

Thea shook her head. "She doesn’t talk to me very much, but we haven’t argued or anything," she replied, wondering what this was all about. 

"But you have spoken with her?" 

She nodded. "I’ve tried but she…" Thea glanced at Miss Engel again, and that lady nodded for her to continue, "…she doesn’t want to talk to me." Then looking from Mr. Kraus to Miss Engel and back again, feeling thoroughly confused, she asked, "Have I done something wrong?" 

Not expecting quite such a direct question, Mr. Kraus was a little taken aback. Pulling himself together again, he took a deep breath. He had already decided that straightforward honesty would be the best policy; he just hoped that it was going to work. "Thea, Francesca has told her parents that you have been picking on her in the playground, calling her names and suchlike, and that you have turned other pupils against her," he stated bluntly, as Thea gaped back at him. "Have you anything to say about that?" 

It took a few moments for Thea to pull herself together enough to reply. "I...but...I...I didn’t!" she stammered, her face turning white. 

"Are you absolutely sure? There’s nothing you want to tell me?" 

Thoroughly shocked, Thea felt tears suddenly springing up in her eyes, and she fought hard to hold them back. She stared in stunned silence at the Headmaster and then turned to her teacher with imploring eyes. "Miss Engel, it’s not true, I promise! I’ve been trying to be nice to her but she won’t let me. I wouldn’t do that!" 

Her jaw began to shake as she spoke and Miss Engel rose out of her chair and hurried over to her, crouching down and placing a hand on her arm. "It’s alright, Thea, calm down," she said, pulling her handkerchief from her sleeve and handing it to her, seeing that she was close to tears. "I believe you wouldn’t." Then turning to the Headmaster, "Mr. Kraus, is there really anything else you need to ask her?" 

"Well, I should really…" Miss Engel gave a surreptitious shake of her head, and Thea stared at him intently, biting her lips, the handkerchief balled up in her hand as she tried very hard not to cry. He watched her for a few moments, then his haggard face broke into a kind smile. "Okay, Thea, that will be all…" 

Suddenly the door of the study burst open, and the three of them turned to see Mr. Harford standing in the doorway, a raging expression on his face. "Is that all you’re going to ask her?" 

"Mr. Harford…" 

"What about my daughter and…" 

"Mr. Harford, please…" 

"Sorry, I tried to stop him," Mlle Pattieu’s voice sounded meekly from behind him. 

"…what she’s had to go through…" 

"Mr. Harford, will you please wait outside…" 

"…That spoilt little brat thinks…" 

"MR. HARFORD!!" The icy tone in the Headmaster’s voice as he bellowed stopped the ranting man in his tracks, and taking advantage of the silence, Mr. Kraus turned to Miss Engel. "See Thea back to her classroom, please." 

Not needing to be told twice, Miss Engel placed a hand on Thea’s shoulder, hurrying her out of the room. As she closed the door behind them, they could hear that Mr. Harford had regained his voice and begun ranting again, and thinking it best to get Thea as far away as possible, Miss Engel led her into the corridor as fast as she could. Once they were far enough away that they could no longer hear the shouting from the Headmaster’s office, she stopped and looked down at her small charge. 

Thea gazed back up at her, evidently very upset. "Miss Engel, I didn’t do it, I really didn’t," she burst out, unable to fight her tears any longer, as a couple ran down her cheek. 

Miss Engel crouched down in front of her and gently squeezed her arm. "I believe you, Thea, don’t worry. So does Mr. Kraus," she said, gently. 

"But why would she say that?" Thea asked, as a few more tears fell and she scrubbed her eyes hard with the handkerchief. "I’ve tried to be nice to her and everything." 

Reaching out, Miss Engel drew the small, slight girl towards her for a brief hug. Then pulling back, she gave her a warm smile, her hand still clutching Thea’s arm. 

"It’ll be alright, Thea, you’ll see. Now, how about you run along to the washrooms and dry your eyes, and then get to your next class," she said as the bell rang. "You’ve P.E. now haven’t you?" Thea nodded, scrubbing her eyes again. "Okay, well off you go then and join your friends. Try not to think too much about what just happened, okay? And make sure you come and find me at lunch if you’re still feeling upset." 

Thea said a quiet thank you, handing the soggy handkerchief back to her teacher, and then set off down the corridor to find her class. Miss Engel watched her go, making sure she turned in at the washroom. Then, heaving a sigh, she got to her feet and made her way to the staffroom, intent on finding the P.E. teacher to warn him to keep an eye on her pupil. 

 

Back in the study, Mr Harford was still ranting and Mr. Kraus let him continue, sitting behind his desk and waiting for his visitor to run out of steam. When the shouting finally ceased, the Headmaster took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and sat up straight. 

"Mr Harford, I…" 

"So what are you going to do about her?" Mr. Harford interrupted rudely. 

"Nothing," came the short reply. 

"Nothing?" 

"Yes, nothing," Mr. Kraus responded, with complete calm. "I have asked Thea for her side of the story, she assures me she has done nothing to our daughter and I believe her. Simple as that." 

Mr. Harford turned puce with anger. "I beg your pardon?" 

Mr. Kraus sat back again and folded his arms across his chest. "Just as I say, Mr. Harford. I have spoken to Thea, and given what she had to say, along with the reports I’ve received from Miss Engel over the past six months and the past history between the two girls, I believe she has done nothing whatsoever to upset Francesca. Quite the opposite in fact. It appears she's made every effort to befriend her, but your daughter chose not to respond." 

"Are you calling my daughter a liar?" Mr. Harford raged. 

"I’m saying she may have been mistaken. In…" 

"Absolute rubbish, you’re calling her a liar!" 

"However you wish to look at it, Mr. Harford," the Head responded, refusing to get riled. 

"Don’t patronise me, I know exactly what you’re trying to say. I've half a mind to take her away from this school right now if you don’t punish that Watson girl! You call yourself a headmaster, yet you refuse to do anything when my Franny is suffering at the hands of that spoilt child!" 

Mr. Kraus sighed. "You're free to remove Francesca whenever you choose," he replied calmly. "You may care to remember, however, that she was asked to leave her last school in disgrace, and we were the only ones willing to give her a second chance. We still are, as it happens, but she has to begin to grow up and learn to get along with others, and I’m afraid you and your wife have to take some responsibility for that. If you choose to ignore the behaviour that has led to these ridiculous allegations, then you could seriously damage her future." 

"We’ll see about that!" Mr. Harford shot back, his voice now low and cold. "And don’t think I’ve finished with you either. I’ll take this to the board if I have to." 

"Please do," Mr. Kraus replied, beginning to lose patience with this objectionable man, "but I think you’ll find they’ll come down on my side." 

Mr. Harford glared at him. "You’ve not heard the last of this!" he spat, and turning on his heel, he stormed out of the study, slamming the door behind him. 

"I don’t doubt that at all," the headmaster muttered to himself, and then heaving a sigh, he turned his attention back to his desk and picked up the phone.

Chapter 26 by Josie

As Edgar finished his tirade against Mr. Harford and his daughter, Mr Kraus sat back in his chair, a little shocked. He had met Sir Edgar Watson a few times since Thea and Marcia had been at the school, and had always found him very genial and laid-back. He would never have imagined him losing his temper like that. Not that he could blame him, of course. Anyone would have done the same. 

“We don’t believe a word of it, Sir Edgar, I assure you, and even if he tries to take it further, you have my word that we will defend her to the hilt.” 

Edgar nodded, still shaking a little from his outburst. Truth be told, he was a little shocked at himself as well, but the thought of that family victimising his daughter yet again was just too much for him to take calmly. 

Getting a grip on himself, he gave the headmaster a grateful smile. “Thank you, Mr, Kraus. We appreciate your support, we really do. I’m sorry about…” 

“Please, don’t mention it,” Mr. Kraus interrupted hurriedly, anxious to let his visitor know that he didn’t mind. “I really don’t blame you in the least. I’m just sorry to have had to break it to you like this, but I wanted to let you or your wife know as soon as possible. Thea seemed rather upset by it all, and I thought you should be prepared.” 

Edgar took a deep breath to steady his voice. “Of course. Thank you.” Then after a brief pause, he added, “If it’s alright with you, I think I’d like to take her home with me now.” 

“Yes, of course. Keep her off as long as you need to. We’ll make sure any work is sent home with Marcia so she can keep up with her class. I’ll ask Miss Engel to take you to her now.” 

Getting up from his seat, the headmaster walked through to the outer office and asked his secretary to go and find Miss Engel. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on the door and the lady herself arrived. 

“You wanted to see me?” 

“Would you mind taking Sir Edgar to find Thea please? She’s going to be going home for the rest of the today, and possibly a little longer.” 

Miss Engel nodded. “Of course. Follow me,” she added, turning to Edgar with a smile. 

Getting to his feet, Edgar thanked the Headmaster again, and then followed Thea’s teacher out of the study. They headed in the direction of the Middle School playground, and had just turned the corner leading to the outside door when they heard a commotion and looked up to see a crowd of pupils outside the girls’ washrooms. 

“I’d better go and see what’s happening,” Miss Engel said under her breath. “I won’t be a moment,” and she hurried down the passageway towards the crowd, leaving Edgar to follow in her wake. 

The children fell silent as she approached, and spotting Celine and Lucy nearest the door, she asked, “What’s going on?” 

Lucy turned worried eyes on her teacher. “Thea’s in there. She’s locked herself in and Kate’s trying to get her to come out.” 

Edgar came up behind them just in time to hear Lucy’s words, and instantly tried to push his way through. Miss Engel put her arm out to stop him, and nodded her head towards the ‘girls’ sign on the door. 

“I’ll get her, don’t worry,” she said quickly, as Edgar stopped reluctantly, and pushing her way into the washrooms, she found Kate wrestling with a cubicle door and calling her friend’s name. 

Kate looked round at her teacher, her distress clear on her face. “Miss Engel, please help. Thea won’t come out and she’s crying and I don’t know what to do.” 

She was near to tears herself, and Miss Engel put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and moved her away from the door. 

“It’s alright, Kate, stand back. Thea?” she called, knocking on the toilet door. There was no reply. “Thea, it’s Miss Engel. Can you open up please?” 

There was silence again for a moment, and then they heard the sound of a muffled sob. Pulling out one of her hairpins, Miss Engel crouched down and proceeded to fiddle with the lock. Eventually it opened, and pushing the door back slowly, she found Thea curled up in a ball on the floor, tears streaming down her face. Rushing forward, Miss Engel put her arms around her and pulled her up. Thea tried to resist her teacher’s help, but Miss Engel was persistent and eventually got her to her feet. 

“It’s okay, Thea, your father’s here, he’s waiting just outside. He’s going to take you home,” and holding Thea firmly to steady her, she led her slowly out of the washrooms, as the young girl did her best to stifle her sobs. 

Edgar pushed through the crowd of children towards them and Miss Engel steered Thea gently in his direction, his daughter barely registering that he was there. Then nodding his thanks to Miss Engel, he wrapped his arm tight around Thea's shoulders and led her down the corridor and out towards the car. 

 

The journey home passed in silence. Thea was doing her best to check her tears, without much success, and Edgar drove with one hand on her arm, trying to reassure her, only removing it when he had to change gear. 

He pulled the car up in front of the house, and before he had even switched off the engine, Thea wrenched open the door and jumped out. Evadne had been waiting anxiously for them to get home, and as she opened the front door to greet them, Thea raced past her and up the stairs. Evvy watched her in amazement, and then turned back to her husband as he followed his daughter towards the house. 

“Edgar what’s wrong?” 

Anxious to follow Thea up to her room, Edgar stopped and impatiently imparted the story of Franny and Mr. Harford to his wife. Evadne stared at him in disbelief, and then as her husband's words sink in, she let rip, telling him exactly what her views on the Harfords were. 

Tired, anxious and upset about his daughter, Edgar interrupted her in full flow. 

“Evvy, leave it, please,” he said wearily. 

“But…” 

“I said leave it!” he repeated, his patience wearing thin. “For once, just keep it to yourself. I don’t want to hear it. I’m really not in the mood.” 

“They can’t get away with this, Edgar!” she retorted, getting angry herself at the way he was speaking to her. “I’ll show them...” 

“No, you won’t!” he shouted, as he finally lost his rag. “You won’t do anything! You’ll stay right here and look after our children and leave the school to take care of the Harfords themselves.” Evadne gaped at him, shocked into silence at the tone of his voice. Edgar stared at her for a second, and then turned to walk up the stairs. “I’m going to see Thea,” he stated, and leaving his shocked wife standing in the hallway, he made his way up to his daughter’s room. 

 

Thea had locked herself in her bedroom and, despite Edgar’s best efforts, she flatly refused to let him in. She was still crying, and the sound of her sobs through the locked door was breaking his heart. He tried knocking and cajoling for almost half an hour, to no avail, and eventually gave up and sat down on the landing outside her room. She would have to come out eventually to go to the bathroom, and he would sit and wait until she did. 

Two hours later, Evadne made her way upstairs and found him still sitting on the landing, his head in his hands. He looked up as she approached and she gave him a tentative smile. 

“I need to go take Scrabble for a walk, and then collect Marcia from school,” she said slowly, taking in his pale, tired face. “Can you listen out for Henry, please? He’s down in the sitting room in his Moses basket. Hopefully he won’t wake ‘til I get back, but just in case?” Edgar nodded and stared down at the carpet again. Evadne crouched down beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder.  “Are you okay?” 

Edgar glanced back up at her, and then shook his head. “She won’t come out or let me in,” he replied, his voice catching slightly as he spoke. “I’m going to sit here until she has to come out, even if it takes all night.” 

He rested his head on the wall behind him, closing his eyes, and Evvy ran hand gently through his thick, greying hair. 

“Edgar, I’m sorry…” 

“Not now, Evvy, please,” he interrupted quietly, not opening his eyes. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?” 

Dropping her hand back to her side, Evadne stared at him in silence. Then getting to her feet, she turned and made her way back downstairs. 

A second later, he heard a key turning and Thea slowly opened the door. Walking out onto the landing, she stood over her father, staring down at him as he looked up in surprise. Recalling himself to his senses, Edgar reached his arms up towards her, saying nothing. Thea took hold of his hands, and the next moment she collapsed into his lap, her body wracking with sobs once more. 

 

The rest of the afternoon and evening passed by in a subdued and awkward atmosphere. Thea eventually tired herself out from crying, and once he had tucked her up in her bed and made sure that she was fast asleep, Edgar shut himself in his study for the remainder of the day. Upset by what had happened to her sister, Marcia was far from her usual ebullient self, and took herself off to her bedroom immediately after dinner, and Evadne’s time was taken up looking after Henry, who was teething again and making sure she knew all about it. 

It was gone ten before Evvy finally got him settled, and coming out of his room, she found the house in darkness. Making her way to their room, she found Edgar in bed, lying on his side, his eyes closed, the light on his nightstand turned off. As quietly as she could, she undressed and climbed into bed beside him, leaning over to kiss him on the side of the head. There was no reaction, but she was not entirely convinced that he was asleep - his breathing seemed a little too forced. She watched him for a moment, biting her lips as she felt a lump rising in her throat, and then turning onto her side, her back towards him, she closed her eyes and eventually drifted off to sleep. 

She woke a few hours later to find the other half of the bed empty, and Edgar’s dressing gown missing from the its peg on the back of the door. Climbing out of bed herself, she made her way downstairs, and eventually tracked him down to the kitchen where he was sitting at the large pine table, Henry asleep against his chest. He looked up as she came into the room and put a finger to his lips. 

She walked across to join him, gazing down over his shoulder at their son. “Couldn’t you sleep?” 

Edgar shook his head. “Henry started grizzling and I didn’t want him to wake you, so I thought I’d bring him down here, see if I could calm him down. We’ve been here for an hour or so, haven’t we, little man?” he whispered, gently stroking his sleeping son’s head. 

Evadne smiled and squeezed his shoulder. “Want me to take him back up, now he’s asleep?” 

“No, I’ll do it,” he replied, carefully getting to his feet. “Any chance of a cocoa though?” 

Evvy nodded and as he left the room to return his son to his cot, she took out the milk and proceeded to pour it into a pan. 

By the time he returned, the milk was boiling, and as he seated himself at the table again, she poured it into two mugs, mixing in the cocoa powder and sugar. Then she set them both on the table, before pulling up a chair for herself. 

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, before Evvy swallowed hard and gazed up at her husband, remorse written all over her face. “Edgar, I’m so sorry about before.” He stared down at the table as she tried to apologise, and she swallowed again before continuing. “I didn't mean to go on. I wasn’t thinking. You know me - I’m not always so tactful.” 

Edgar glanced up at her, and then heaving a sigh, he placed a hand over hers. “Sometimes it’s just too much, Evvy.” 

She stared down at the table and gave a slight nod. “I know. I’m sorry.” 

Gripping her fingers, Edgar entwined them with his own. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn't have shouted at you. I’m just so worried about her, I’ve never seen her like this.” 

Evadne squeezed his hand. “Did she say anything about it?” 

Edgar shook his head. “Not yet. She was too tired from crying. She just went to sleep. I’m so worried about what this could do to her,” and taking his fingers from his wife's, he leant forward and put his head in his hands. 

Shifting her chair around the table towards him, Evvy reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck. He raised his hands to clasp her forearm, leaning into her and resting his head on her shoulder and she kissed him gently on the forehead, before laying her cheek against his hair. The next moment they heard a distant whimpering from upstairs, and then Henry began to yell at the full pitch of his lungs. 

Heaving a sigh, Evadne kissed her husband’s head once more and got to her feet. “I'll go see to him. Why don’t you take the cocoa upstairs, I’ll bring him into our room.”

Chapter 27 by Josie

“Marcia, get down here now or you’re walking to school!” Edgar turned his attention away from the stairs, finished pulling on his coat and scarf and then smiled at his wife. ”I’ll pop back around midday to see how she’s getting on,” he said, referring to Thea, who was still fast asleep in bed. “Hopefully I’ll be able to get the entire afternoon at home as well. I’ll do my best.” 

At that moment, Marcia came barrelling down the stairs, running through the gap between her parents and out of the front door with a yelled, “See you after school!” to her stepmother. 

Edgar grimaced as he watched her go, and then turned back just in time to see Evadne stifle a yawn. “You need to get some rest, look at you,” he said, bending to kiss her cheek. 

She smiled back up at him, taking in his pale, weary face with concerned eyes. “Not as much as you do. Hopefully we’ll be able to make up for it tonight, if his highness deigns to allow us.” 

“Fingers crossed eh?” Edgar replied, as he pulled on his thick, leather gloves. “Right, I’d better get off, Andreas is waiting. I’ll see you later. Telephone the office if you need me.” 

“Will do.” 

Evadne watched as he climbed into the back seat beside his daughter and Andreas manoeuvred the car carefully up the snow-covered driveway, the snow-chains crunching in the white powder beneath as they went. Then as she heard Henry’s babyish cries from the drawing room, telling her that he was awake, she shut the door on the cold, February air and went to check on him. 

 

Edgar walked Marcia to the gates of the junior playground, and then kissing her goodbye, he left her to go and find her friends and returned to his car. He had just opened the door when he heard a young voice calling his name, and he turned to see Kate running towards him. 

“Hello!” he said with a smile, as she came to a halt in front of him, panting to get her breath back. “What can I do for you? Shouldn’t you be getting to class?” 

“Sir Edgar, Thea didn’t do it!” she burst out, still panting a little. “Me and Lucy and Celine told Miss Engel – Thea was trying to be nice to Franny and everything! It’s not fair, she didn’t do anything, I promise. 

Edgar smiled and laid his hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “We know she didn’t, Kate, don’t worry. Thank you for telling Miss Engel though. Thea’s lucky to have you, you’re a very good friend.” 

Tears filled Kate’s eyes. “No I’m not,” she replied quietly, shaking her head and staring at the pavement. “If I hadn’t helped Franny pick on Thea the first time, maybe she would have stopped. I should have stood up to her.” 

Waving his hand at Andreas to let him know he would not be long, Edgar crouched down in front of his daughter’s friend and put a hand on her shoulder. “Kate, look at me.” She raised her eyes to his face. “That was a long time ago now, none of us even think about it anymore and you shouldn’t either, alright? You’ve been a wonderful friend to Thea ever since then, and I know she thinks so too, so let’s not hear any more about it.” 

Kate nodded and scrubbed her eyes on her sleeve, and reaching into his pocket, Edgar pulled out his handkerchief and handed it to her. Kate accepted it with a grateful smile. 

“Please, how is she?” 

“She’s very upset, but she was still asleep when I left home so maybe she’ll be feeling a little better today.” 

“Is it okay if I come and see her after school? Mummy said I could if you said yes.” 

Edgar hesitated. On the one hand, he was not sure that Thea was ready to see anyone from outside the family just yet. On the other hand, a visit from her best friend might do her the world of good and go some way to showing her how much people cared about her. 

Kate watched him anxiously, a pleading look in her grey eyes, and Edgar gave her a smile. 

“I tell you what. I’m not sure whether she’s ready for visitors just yet, but I can ask her when I go home at lunchtime if you like? Then if she says yes, you can come back with either Lady Watson or myself when we come to collect Marcia after school. How does that sound?” 

Kate returned his smile with a tentative one of her own. “Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome. Now, you’d better run off to class – the bell went five minutes ago. We’ll see you later on, okay?” 

Kate nodded, then turned tail and ran off towards the middle school, and heaving a sigh, Edgar got to his feet and climbed back into his car. 

 

It was gone midday when he was finally able to get out of the office and head home again, and he arrived there to find that Thea was still in bed. Evadne had tried a few times to coax her out, to no avail, and had eventually decided that it would be best to leave her to surface in her own time. 

After a few quiet words with his wife, he made his way up to his daughter’s bedroom and found her sitting on her windowsill, still in her nightclothes, staring at the wintry scene outside the window. She turned her head to look at him, giving him a blank stare as he walked into the room, and then returned her eyes to the window again. 

Edgar sat down on the edge of the bed. “How are you feeling today, Thea?” His question was met with a stony silence, and taking a deep breath, he tried again. “Are you hungry? It’s nearly lunchtime, you know.” Still nothing. “Sweetheart, please talk to me. I want to help you.” 

“I don’t want your help,” Thea replied in a flat, dull voice, as she continued to stare out of the window. “I want to be on my own.” Her voice caught in her throat as she said the final word, and she scrubbed her hand impatiently across her eyes. “Please go away, Daddy.” 

Edgar shook his head. “No, Thea, I’m not leaving.” His comment was met with stony silence once more. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?” 

“You know what happened.” There was a long, heavy pause, and then suddenly her shoulders began to shake. “Why won’t she just leave me alone?” 

Getting hurriedly to his feet, Edgar rushed across to the windowsill and sat down next to his daughter, wrapping his arms around her. She turned her body towards him, leaning her head against his chest, and he gently stroked her hair as she tried hard to regain control of her emotions. 

Eventually Thea pulled back and sat up, sniffing as she wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. “Why would she do something like that, Daddy?” she asked, looking up at him, her big, brown eyes still shining with tears. “I’ve tried so hard to be nice to her and nobody else has and she still picked on me. I don’t understand.” 

Edgar hugged her tighter and kissed the top of her head. “Some people are just not made to be nice, Thea, no matter how hard we try.” 

Thea nodded and rested her head against his shoulder. “Like Donkey-face,” she said quietly, and despite himself, Edgar smiled. 

“Yes, like Donkey-face.” 

Thea thought about it for a second, and then pulled herself free and gazed up at him again. “But why does she always pick on me?” 

Edgar shook his head. “I don’t know, Thea, I really don’t. Maybe she’s jealous of you. Maybe you accidentally glanced at her in the wrong manner when you first met her. Maybe you were just wearing the wrong colour hairband.” Thea looked confused and he gave her a smile. “My point is, we’ll probably never know why she chose to pick on you. You hardly ever know with people like that.” 

“But if I don’t know, then how do I stop her?” Thea asked, her eyes welling up again. 

Wiping a falling tear away with his thumb, Edgar ran his hand up and down her arm and took a deep breath. “All you can do is be yourself and try not to let her change you,” he replied eventually, not really sure he was saying the right thing. Thea stared up at him, listening intently. “Unfortunately, she won’t be the only person you ever meet who’s like that, sweetheart. You just have to try and be the better person and not react, just as Miss Engel explained after you pushed Franny over. Do you remember?” 

Thea nodded slowly and Edgar ran his hand across her hair. 

“Now, I think Mummy’s heated us up some lunch, as it’s Guilia’s day off today. It’s only soup and bread, nothing too much. Do you think you may be able to eat some?” 

“Can I have it up here?” 

Edgar smiled and nodded his head. “Of course you can. Why don’t you pop back into bed and pull your dressing gown around you, and I’ll go and make up a tray and bring it up, okay?” 

“Okay.” 

“Good girl.” She went to stand up, but Edgar held onto her arm for a moment, keeping her back. “It’ll all be alright, sweetheart, I promise you. Mummy and I’ll make sure it’ll all be alright.” 

Thea stared back at him for a second, and then throwing her arms around his neck, she hugged him tightly. “I love you, Daddy.” 

“I love you too, Thea,” he replied, returning her embrace. “I love you very much. Don’t you forget that.” Pulling back, she smiled and shook her head, and he pushed her gently towards the bed. “Go on, you hop back in. I’ll be up again in a few minutes,” and as she went to do as she was told, Edgar got to his feet and made his way downstairs. 

 

Meanwhile back at the school, the children had finished eating lunch, and in the junior playground, Marcia, Ann and Ingrid were busy trying to build an igloo by the far fence. As Ann piled more snow on one side and it collapsed yet again, Ingrid stood back and surveyed it critically. 

“I think the Eskimos made them out of bricks, not like that,” she said with a frown. 

“They can’t have,” Marcia put in, incredulously, “they didn’t have any bricks!” The other two dissolved into peals of laughter and she looked from one to the other indignantly. “What's wrong?” 

“I meant snow bricks, you ninny, not real bricks!” Ingrid replied, still chuckling, as a giggling Ann set about trying to build the wall up again. 

“Well that’s not what you said!” Marcia replied huffily, sticking out her bottom lip. “Anyway how…” 

Her voice trailed off and Ann looked up, eyebrows raised. “How what?” 

She got no reply. Marcia was staring over the fence into the middle school playground, an icy expression on her face. Following her gaze, the other two turned just in time to see Franny and her father making their way across the playground and out of the gate that led to the road. The Harfords began to walk towards them, their car evidently parked near the junior part of the school, and they could see the black look on Mr. Harford’s face as they came closer. Suddenly Franny looked up, and catching sight of the three girls staring at her, her sulky expression quickly became a smirk. 

Ann turned back hurriedly towards her friend. “Marcia…” 

She was too late. Before either of her friends had time to move, Marcia set off at a run towards the gate and throwing it open, oblivious to Ann and Ingrid’s shouts as they ran after her, trying to stop her, she tore along the pavement, reaching the Harfords just as they were about to get into their car. 

“How dare you!” she shouted, coming to a halt about two inches from Franny. “How dare you do that to my sister, you horrid, lying pig! You’re nothing but a nasty, evil cow Franny Harford! I hate you! Let go of me…” she cried, as Ann and Ingrid finally caught up with her and grabbed her arms, trying to tow her away. 

Franny backed away from her, hiding partially behind her father who glared down at the furious girl in front of him. 

“Get away from us, you horrible child.” 

Marcia continued screaming, as she fought against the hold of her two friends. “You leave my sister alone, or I'll...I'll... Just stay away, we hate you! Everyone does! You’re a mean, p…” 

Suddenly Marcia felt a pair of arms around her waist, dragging her backwards, and she stopped shouting abruptly as she heard her teacher’s voice. “Stop that now, Marcia! I mean it!” Mr. Jones demanded, as she opened her mouth to shout again. Then turning to the Harfords, “I suggest you go now, Mr. Harford.” 

“Now you see what my Franny’s had to put up with at the hand of the Watsons,” that gentleman spat back, as he pushed his daughter into the back of the car. “I sincerely hope you’ll be taking this further.” 

“Just leave, Mr. Harford,” Mr. Jones replied firmly, struggling to hold onto Marcia as she tried to break free from his grasp. “Now!” 

“I’ll be taking this to the governors, you mark my words!” Mr. Harford threatened, as he climbed into the car, slammed the door and drove away. 

Mr. Jones heaved a sigh of relief and turned his attention back to Marcia, who was shouting after the car as it went. 

“Stop that caterwauling now, young lady, and come with me!” he ordered, taking her firmly by the shoulders. “The rest of you get back to what you were doing. The show’s over,” he added to the small crowd that had gathered around the fence, and then taking hold of Marcia’s arm, he marched her back towards the school.

Chapter 28 by Josie

Mr. Kraus smiled at the Comte le Baudrin, head of the Ecole Internationale board of governors, and leant forward, his hands together, his elbows resting on his desk. 

“Well if we could have the board meeting to ask for approval as soon as possible, that would be just grand. Ideally we’d like to get the lab ready for…” 

They were interrupted by a knock at the door, and with a quick apology to his guest, Gil Kraus went to answer it, finding an angry-looking Mr. Jones on the threshold, his hand still firmly grasping Marcia’s shoulder. 

“Mr. Kraus, I’m sorry to bother you, but I think you need to be aware of…oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you had company. We can come back.” 

He was about to steer Marcia away again when Comte le Baudrin got to his feet. “It is no trouble, I can wait outside. You will not be long, I assume?” Mr. Jones shook his head. “Fine, then I shall partake of a cup of Mlle. Pattieu’s excellent coffee. It’s a rare treat for me – I do not get to sample it nearly often enough,” and with a smile, he walked passed them all and out of the room. 

Mr. Kraus indicated to Mr. Jones and Marcia to come into his study, and then shutting the door behind them, he made his way back behind his desk. 

“So what seems to be the trouble?” he asked, addressing his question to Marcia’s teacher. 

Mr. Jones recounted what had taken place in the playground between Marcia and the Harfords, and then left the study at a word from the Headmaster. Once he was gone, Mr. Kraus looked at his disobedient pupil with a sigh. 

“Well then, what do you have to say for yourself?” 

Marcia stared down at the carpet, shuffling her feet and saying nothing. Mr. Kraus took a deep breath. 

“Marcia, I asked you a question and I would appreciate an answer, please. I want to know why you first ran out of the school grounds, and then turned on another student like that.” 

“She hurt Thea!” came the defiant reply, as Marcia looked up and stared at him. 

“So you thought that gave you the right to behave in that manner?” 

“She can’t tell lies about my sister like that, I won’t let her!” Marcia exclaimed, her eyes flashing. 

“I realise she told lies about your sister, Marcia, and we’re taking care of it,” Mr. Kraus replied sternly, with a look that reminded Marcia exactly who she was talking to. “It’s not up to you to take things into your own hands or to get involved, and you most certainly have no right to break school bounds at any time, no matter what your excuse.” He paused for a second, watching as a rebellious expression came over her pretty face. “How do you think your parents will feel when they hear about this? Don’t you think they’ve enough on their plate looking after your sister, without you adding to their worries?” 

This seemed to get through to Marcia, and she stared back down at her feet again with a guilty frown. “’Spose.” Then after a moment’s silence she added, “Sorry.” 

Mr. Kraus sat back in his chair, his eyes still fixed firmly on her. “It’s not me you have to apologise to though, is it?” Marcia glanced up, confused, and he continued, “I’d like you to write a letter of apology to the Harfords tonight and show it to Mr. Jones first thing tomorrow morning. He will then make sure it gets passed on to them.” 

Marcia’s eyes filled with horror. “That’s not fair, I w…” 

“It’s perfectly fair, and you will,” Mr. Kraus replied in a low, icy tone that quelled his unruly pupil instantly. “If you’re going to scream at someone like a banshee, then you will apologise to them afterwards. I don’t care what the reason is, no young lady should ever act in that manner.” She stared back at him, aghast, and he added, “You will also spend every break and lunchtime in detention between now and the end of term. If you can’t behave yourself in the playground, then you will not go out there at all. Now, I suggest you get back to class, and see if you can keep out of trouble for the rest of the afternoon.” 

For a split-second, Marcia was rooted to the spot as her punishment began to sink in, and then seeing nothing else for it, she turned and left the study, trying very hard to hold back her tears. Mr. Kraus stared up at the ceiling, and heaved a huge sigh. 

“I’m sorry, I could not help overhearing,” came a sympathetic voice, and Gil Kraus lowered his head in time to see Comte le Baudrin close the door and return to the seat in front of the Headmaster’s desk. “That situation is just one thing after another, is it not?” 

“Right now, I wish I’d never let that damn Harford child anywhere near this school,” Mr. Kraus replied with feeling. “How might this little outburst of Marcia’s affect things if he does choose to come to the Governors?” 

Comte le Baudrin smiled and shook his head. “I think I can safely say it will not affect things at all. After all, it was only a little youthful exuberance and lack of sensibility. There is no real harm done. As I told you the other day, Mr. Harford has no sway whatsoever with the governing body and he knows it well. He is merely issuing empty threats.” 

A look of relief crossed the headmaster’s face. “Thank goodness for that – and thank goodness he’s chosen to take that dreadful child out of the school. Otherwise it would have come down to her or the Watsons, and I know which pupils I’d rather have here.” 

“Indeed,” the Comte replied thoughtfully. “Indeed. Will you be telling Sir Edgar about this?” 

Mr. Kraus shook his head. “I don’t think so. Marcia had good intentions, even if they were a little misguided. To be honest, her stiff punishment is more for show, to try and deflect the Harfords from taking things further. After this week, I’ll set her to helping in the art room at break times – I think I can safely say that won’t be too much of a trial for her!” 

“She is a keen artist then?” 

“Something along those lines. And a jolly good one for her age, at that,” Gil Kraus replied with a smile. “Now, it’s already gone one o’clock, and we’re both busy men, so how about we get back to business?” and the matter of Marcia and the Harfords was swiftly put to one side as they proceeded to do just that.

==

Back at the Watsons' home, Evadne was lying on her stomach on the floor of the large family room, pulling faces to make her son laugh and simultaneously trying to stop Scrabble from licking her nose. 

“Mummy, what are you doing?” 

She looked up at the sound of Thea’s voice, and gave her stepdaughter a broad grin. “Hello stranger, I thought we’d lost you!” Thea smiled tentatively, and Evadne pulled one last face at Henry and then got to her feet. “I’m trying to occupy your brother so he doesn’t crawl off into some nook or cranny again where I can’t find him. He’s getting far too inquisitive for his own good! Here, why don’t you come sit down,” she added, flopping down onto one of the large sofas and patting the cushion next to her. “How are you feeling?” 

“Okay,” Thea replied quietly, sitting down beside her and kicking off her slippers so she could tuck her legs underneath her. “Where’s Daddy?” 

“In the study, doing some work. We have to eat somehow!” 

Thea smiled again. “Thank you for not making me go to school today.” 

Her voice caught a little as she spoke, and Evadne reached out and put an arm around her shoulders. “You’re welcome,” she replied gently, as she brushed a lock of hair from Thea’s face. “We know you didn’t do it, sweetheart, everyone does – even Miss Engel and Mr. Kraus. We all know Franny’s telling lies.” 

Thea stared at her for a second, and then leant towards her, curling up against her side. “I’m so glad you’re our Mummy.” 

A warm feeling spread through Evadne’s body at her stepdaughter’s words, and with one eye on her son, who was busy investigating the contents of her handbag, she wrapped her other arm around Thea and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. 

“Well I’m very glad I’m your Mummy too. You want to know why?” Thea nodded. “Well let’s see, you’re a kind, sweet, honest, funny, generous, loving, beautiful girl for one thing. Oh, and you put your dirty clothes in the washtub, unlike the rest of the family, you eat with your mouth closed, and most importantly you have impeccable taste in clothes!” 

Thea, who was dressed in her oldest pyjamas under her thick woollen dressing gown, a bright red jumper of her father’s pulled over the top of both, and a huge pair of his socks on her feet, started to laugh, and Evadne looked down at her with a smile. 

“You do know it’s not your fault, don’t you?” Thea nodded. “Jolly good,” and Evadne dropped another kiss on her daughter’s head. 

At that moment, there was a loud yelp from the floor, and they both turned to see Henry holding Scrabble’s ear and pulling it hard towards him. Evadne jumped up and rushed across the room, slapping Henry’s hands to force him to let go, and then cuddled the shaking labrador and checked he had not received any real damage. Thea followed and bent down to pick up her brother, only for Henry to promptly poke her straight in the eye. 

“Ow!” she exclaimed, rubbing her watering eye with one hand, as Henry chuckled and babbled unintelligibly to himself. “You’re a menace!” 

Having satisfied herself that Scrabble really was unharmed, Evadne laughed and got to her feet. “And the beauty of it is, he’s only going to get worse! Now, how do you fancy some tea and cake? Guilia made rather a beauty yesterday and it only seems fair that we should eat it!” 

“Yes please!” 

“Okay then, can you look after Henry whilst I go put the kettle on? Make sure he doesn’t cause any more havoc? I shan't be long,” and leaving Thea to look after her brother, Evvy made her way through to the kitchen. 

Five minutes later, Edgar was thoroughly bored of the report he was reading and decided he needed a cup of tea. He made his way through to the family room to find his daughter sitting on the sofa, Henry in her lap, babbling away in his baby language, and Scrabble lying on the cushion next to them, his head against his young mistress’s leg. Edgar watched them from the doorway for a few seconds, his heart warmed to see Thea looking so much happier. Suddenly Scrabble opened his eyes, spotted his master, and then closed them again quickly as if pretending he wasn’t really there. 

Edgar forced a frown onto his face and said, “There’s something wrong with this pretty picture – I’m sure there’s someone on the sofa who shouldn’t be.” 

At that moment, Evadne emerged from the kitchen and grinned as she caught sight of him. “I was just coming to ask if you wanted to join us for tea!” 

Edgar winked at her with the eye that Thea couldn’t see, and beckoned her towards the door. Then frowning again, he said, “Mummy, how many times have I told you not to let Thea on the sofa – you know she leaves hair everywhere!” 

Thea started laughing, and Henry joined in, waving his arms in the air and then babbling again. Suddenly in amongst his stream of baby noises, came the word ‘Da-da’. Edgar and Evvy both stared at him, open-mouthed, and with a wide grin on her face, Thea bent down to give him a hug. 

“Daddy, he said your name! Aren’t you so clever!” she cried, kissing her brother on the cheek as he giggled, pleased that people were praising him, but with no idea why. 

Evvy ran forward, taking him from Thea and hugging him, exclaiming, “Who’s my clever little boy? Did you say your Daddy’s name?” 

Henry gurgled and pulled her hair as he started babbling again, and as she extracted her curls form her son’s fingers, Edgar looked down at the pair of them with a grin. 

“See, I told you he’d say my name first!” 

Evadne freed her hair and glared up at him. “He’s just making sounds!” she pouted. 

“That’s not what you just said! Thea, did she or did she not just say that Henry said my name?” 

Thea grinned. “You did say that, Mummy.” 

“See, you’re just jealous!” Edgar put in. 

Evadne glared from one to the other, and then looked back at her son. “Right, young man, that’s it. You and I are going to go to the kitchen and have words about this! You need to get your priorities straight – it’s Ma-ma you should have said. Get me? Ma-ma,” and to much laughter from Thea and Edgar, she turned and stropped out of the room. 

Edgar watched his wife go, and then sat down next to his daughter and gave her a smile. “So how are you feeling, sweetheart? You’re certainly looking much better, I must say.” 

Thea returned his smile and nodded her head. “I had a nice talk with Mummy – she told me why she loved me.” 

“And why’s that?” 

Thea repeated her stepmother’s words, and Edgar sank back into the sofa and placed an arm around her shoulders. “Well she’s absolutely right – it’s true, every word. And I suppose I should start putting my things in the washtub too!” Thea laughed, and he ran his hand across her hair. “Listen, I have something to ask you. Would you mind if Kate came to see you after school? She asked me this morning if it would be okay and I said I’d ask you before I went to collect Marcia. So what do you think? She’s very worried about you, and I think it would mean a lot to her to see you.” 

Thea thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Yes please, I think I’d like to see her.” 

“I’m glad,” Edgar replied with a smile. “I think it’ll do you good too.” 

==

At four o’clock, when Edgar arrived home again with Marcia and Kate in tow, Thea was still sitting in the family room, minding her brother whilst Evvy did the washing up. She gave Kate a beaming smile as that young lady came into the room, and Kate returned it shyly, as she sat down next to her friend. 

“How are you?” 

“I’m okay.” 

Kate nodded and swallowed hard, staring down at her lap. “Thea, I’m so sorry.” 

Thea looked thoroughly confused. “What on earth for?” 

“It’s all my fault,” Kate continued, choking up a little as she continued to stare at her knees. “I should have stopped Franny the first time, at our old school. Then she wouldn’t have done it again.” 

“No you shouldn’t!” Thea exclaimed, a little shocked at her friend blaming herself like that. “Kate, you were my first friend when I had none at all.” 

“But it’s my fault you had none…” 

“That’s rubbish! Don’t be so silly,” Thea interrupted, putting an arm around Kate. “You’re my best friend in the world along with Marcia, and it’s different with her ‘cause she’s my sister. Us being friends will never change, and I don’t want to hear anything about that first time ever again, okay?” 

Kate gave her a grateful smile, and hugged her back. “Okay.” 

“Good,” Thea replied decisively. “Now, give me your hand.” Kate held out a hand and Thea took hold of it. “Best friends forever, okay? Shake?” 

Kate hesitated for a second, and then vigorously shook her friend’s hand. “Shake. So when will you come back to school?” 

Thea frowned and let her hand drop. “I don’t know. I don’t think I can ever see Franny again, but I haven’t told Daddy yet.” 

“But you don’t have to!” Kate exclaimed excitedly. “She’s left forever!” 

“Really?” 

“Yes really. So you have to come back soon. Me and Lucy and Celine all really miss you!” 

Thea reached forward and gave her best friend a hug. “I miss you all too.” 

==

Meanwhile, having chased Marcia upstairs to get on with her homework, Edgar poured himself and Evvy a drink and then called her through to the snug for a chat. 

“Okay, what’s the bother?” Evadne asked, curling herself up in an armchair and facing him with a grin. 

Edgar frowned at her from his perch on the window seat. “I’ve come to a decision,” he began slowly. “The girls are going to go to the Chalet School.” 

There was silence for a moment as Evadne stared at him, and then she slowly nodded her head. “I’m glad, Edgar, but I wish the circumstances were different, I really do.” 

“Yes, so do I.” He heaved a sigh. “We need to get Thea as far away from that Harford child as possible though, and this seems to be the best way. Plus we know it’s a good school, and I think they’ll be happy there. I’ll miss them horribly, though.” 

Evadne gave him sympathetic smile. “I know you will.” She paused for a moment, before adding, “I think it’s a good decision though, leaving Franny aside. They’ll thrive there, Edgar, I promise you, and they’ll be so happy. And Marcia’s now ten – we needed to think carefully about their schooling anyway.” 

He smiled back at her. “I know, you’re right. I’d have probably got there anyway, in the end.” 

Evadne had a sudden thought. “Say, Edgar, how are we going to let them know? We can’t tell Thea now – she’ll think she’s being sent away.” 

“I know, I thought of that too. What do you say to this idea? You get all your old photographs out and tell them stories about the place whenever you get the chance, and then we’ll take that trip we talked of too, at Easter, and if I’m right, I think they’ll ask to go all by themselves.” 

“You think it’ll work?” 

“Fingers crossed, eh?” 

They were interrupted at that moment by a tap at the door, and Marcia came into the snug, a sheepish look on her face, that they knew by now meant trouble of some sort. 

“Hello, madam, what can we do for you?” Edgar asked, eyebrows raised. 

Marcia stared at her shoes, shuffled her feet and said nothing. She had been sitting in her bedroom, thinking things over, and had come to the conclusion she would get in less trouble if she told her parents about her encounter with the Harfords herself. 

“I…er…” she began, and then her words dried up and she fell silent again. 

“You what?” Edgar queried, with a frown. 

Marcia gulped, took a deep breath, and then poured out the story all at once, rushing to get to the end as fast as she could. When she finished, her parents were both quiet for a moment, and then Edgar gave his wife a glance and she nodded her head. 

“Right, well you can do as Mr. Kraus asked and go and write that letter now,” Edgar replied coldly. 

“Daddy, can’t I…” 

“No, you can’t. You’ll write that letter now, and then as soon as dinner is over, you will go straight to bed.” 

“Daddy, that’s not fair! Why?” 

“Because you need to learn to think before you say and do the first thing that comes into your head!” Evadne put in, and her husband choked audibly behind her. “Now go on, go do as you’re told.” 

Marcia turned on her heel and stomped out of the room in a sulk, and as soon as the door swung shut, Edgar burst out laughing. 

“What's so funny?” Evadne demanded, grimacing as she turned to face him. 

“The irony of you telling her something like that!” 

“Oh shut up!” she replied, as he chuckled loudly again and shook his head. “Stop laughing, idiot, it’s not funny.” 

“Oh come on, it is a bit!” 

Evadne frowned. “It’s the advantage of being a parent, I can be an utter hypocrite in telling my children what to do!” she retorted. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” she added haughtily, “I have some talking left to do to our son,” and she got to her feet and began walking towards the door. 

“Da-da,” Edgar said teasingly, as he got up to follow her. 

“Stop it!” 

“Da-da.” 

“I said stop it, Edgar!” 

“Da-da.” 

Evadne turned to face him, glaring at him as he grinned back at her. Then making an indescribable sound of frustration, she walked out of the snug, letting the door go behind her. There was a muffled yell as it swung back and caught her husband on the nose. 

“Serves you right!” she called out, chuckling to herself, and made her way through to the lounge.

Chapter 29 by Josie

As it happened, it was over a week before Thea was ready to return to school. Despite the assurances from Kate that Franny had left the school for good, her confidence was as low as it ever been, and Edgar and Evadne made the decision to keep her home a little longer, until she was more like her normal self. 

It was now was Sunday night, a couple of weeks later, and she was due to return to school the following day. Kate, Lucy and Celine, her three chief friends, had come to visit that afternoon and had stayed to dinner, and the four of them were now gathered in the family room, looking at pictures of Kate’s new pony that her father had purchased the previous day. 

“He’s a hand bigger than Jackson, but Daddy thinks I can handle him now,” Kate explained, as she took the photographs back from Celine. 

“What’s his name?” Thea asked, leaning over her friend’s shoulder to get another glimpse. 

Kate grimaced. “Longfellow. I can’t really change it now, though ‘cause he knows it.” 

As she spoke, the door burst open and Evadne came into the room, Henry in her arms, babbling as usual and pulling at her collar. “Here we are, little man, an audience,” she announced, grinning down at him. Then turning to the four girls, “He’d like to perform his latest trick!” 

As the girls turned to watch, Evadne lowered him to the floor so that he was standing on his on his feet, his chubby legs a little bowed. She clasped his tiny arms firmly, and Henry leant back against his mother's calves for a moment, and then took two steps forward before falling on his backside with a chuckle. Evvy let go of him, as the other four applauded. 

“See how clever he is?” she said proudly, a wide grin on her face. “He’ll be walking before we know it!” 

As if to prove her point, Henry crawled his way across to the low coffee table and began trying to pull himself up, each time falling down with a squeal and a giggle before trying over again. They were all busy laughing at his efforts, clapping each time he managed to stand, when Scrabble came bounding into the room, covered in mud, his paws leaving prints all over the rugss and polished floor. 

Edgar!” 

Grabbing Scrabble by the collar, Evadne left Henry in Thea’s care and dragged the Labrador across the polished hall floor and into the kitchen. Her husband and youngest stepdaughter were standing in a corner by the stove, Marcia clutching her scarf which appeared to be wrapped around something. 

“Why can’t you people just do as I ask?” Evadne demanded in exasperated tones, as she led Scrabble out of the back door and into the porch, where all his towels and other paraphernalia were kept. “How hard is it to remember to wipe his feet first? Now all the rugs need scrubbing and Frau Siefert will have to polish the floor again, thanks to you two imbeciles!” 

Edgar muttered something, his back still turned to her as he hovered behind Marcia, fiddling with the bundle in her arms. 

Evadne stuck her head around the back door. “Are you listening to me? 

He turned round, clearly distracted. “Sorry, what was that, darling?” 

“You let Scrabble run into the hall covered in mud!” 

“Ah, yes, apologies for that,” he replied, not sounding in the least bit apologetic. “We were a bit tied up with this little fellow.” 

Before an outraged Evadne could reply, Marcia looked up and beckoned her over to the stove. “Mummy, come and see - we found a kitten! He was lying by the road and his leg’s all hurt and everything. Daddy says he needs a vet but they won’t be open til tomorrow so we brought him home instead.” 

Forgetting her grievances, Evadne carefully shut Scrabble out in the porch and then made her way to the stove. Peering over her stepdaughter’s shoulder, she saw a young cat, no more than a year old, curled up in Marcia’s bright red scarf. Its left rear leg was stiff and sore, and it looked thin, it’s fur matted, as if it had not been cared for in quite a while. 

“Oh the poor little mite! Where did you find him?” 

“On the verge near the top of Anton’s drive,” Edgar replied, lifting the kitten gently from the scarf, supporting its leg with his other hand. “Looks like she’s been hit by a vehicle of some sort.” 

“Is he a she, Daddy?” Marcia piped up. 

“Yes, I think so.” 

“How can you tell?” 

Evadne grinned and raised her eyebrows at her husband, and Edgar coughed, his cheeks turning faintly pink. “I just can, poppet, that’s all. You’ll learn in biology one day, I’m sure. Now,” he added, seeing that she had another question on the tip of her tongue, “please will you run upstairs and get a tongue depressor from the bathroom cabinet? I’m going to try and put a splint on her leg until we can get her to the vet. Evvy, can you grab a bandage and safety pin from the first aid kit?” 

“So what are we going to do with her?” Evadne asked, as she crouched down and pulled a box from under the sink. 

“I’m not sure. She doesn’t look very cared for, does she? We’ll see what the vet says in the morning.” 

“We should try and see if she has any owners, I guess. If we find them, I’ll soon say what I think of them for treating an animal that way, I promise you!” 

“Nothing like harmony with the neighbours!” he replied with a grin. “I’ve a sneaking suspicion she may be a stray though. She doesn’t even have a collar.” 

“Daddy, if she’s not got a collar, can we keep her?” 

They both looked up as Marcia came back into the room, the depressor clutched in her hands. 

“We don’t know, sweetie, we’ll have to see what the vet says,” Evadne replied, as she pulled out the things she needed, passed them to her husband, and then pushed the box under the sink again. 

“But if she doesn’t belong to anyone…” 

“We don’t know that, Marcia,” Edgar interrupted. “Here, come and hold this for me.” He waited for Marcia to hold the depressor in place and then wound the bandage carefully around the damaged leg. “She could belong to some other boy or girl, and they’d be upset if we kept her. How would you feel if Scrabble ran away and someone else kept him?” 

“Horrid.” 

“Precisely. There, all done!” he announced as he tucked the end of the bandage underneath the rest and then handed the safety pin back to his wife. “No need for that after all. Now, how about we set up a box for her here by the stove for tonight. Marcia, grab one of Scrabble’s blankets from the porch will you?” 

“We can use this old vegetable box,” Evadne suggested, picking up an empty crate that Guilia had left on one side. “Say, you don’t think it’s a bit close to Scrabble, do you?” 

“No idea – let’s see, shall we? Marcia, can you bring Scrabble through from the porch please?” 

Marcia did as she was told, and Edgar bent down, holding the young cat close to the Labrador. Scrabble sniffed her curiously a couple of times, nudged her leg with his nose and then lay down on his bed, no longer interested. 

“I think we’ll be okay!” Edgar replied with a grin. 

As she spoke, the sound of Henry’s babyish cries came echoing through from the sitting room, and leaving Edgar and Marcia to finish settling the cat in her temporary abode, Evadne ran through to see what was going on. She found Thea hugging her brother to her chest, the other three gathered around and fussing over him. 

“What’s the matter with you, little man?” she asked, as Thea handed him over. 

“He fell and banged his head on the table,” his sister explained. 

“Did you hurt yourself?” Evadne ran her fingers gently over the reddening bump on her son's forehead. “Here, Mommy’ll kiss it better,” and she cuddled him to her as he leant against her chest, his little face screwed up in misery. “Someone’s a little tired and grizzly, aren’t they, sugar-pie? Time for you to go to bed, I think.” 

Thea came forward to kiss him, but Henry buried his face in his mother’s shoulder and she backed off, disgruntled. 

“Don’t worry, sweetie, he’s just sleepy,” Evadne said with a smile, smoothing down his thin, fair curls. “Come on you, let’s go kiss Daddy goodnight and then we’ll get you all tucked up. Girls, keep the noise down 'til I have him settled, won’t you?” and leaving them to their own devices, she made her way through to the kitchen to find Ecgar once more. 

 

By the time she had settled him in his cot and returned downstairs, Edgar and Marcia had finished making the cat’s new bed, given her some milk, and brought her through to the salon to show Thea and her friends. The box had been placed near the fireplace, to keep the cat warm as she was still shivering a little, and Scrabble had lain down next to it, ignoring her but looking distinctly put out that she was receiving more attention than he was. He looked up hopefully as his mistress entered the room, and was rewarded as Evvy crouched down to scratch his ears. 

“Mummy, can you tell us more school stories?” Thea asked eagerly, sitting back on the sofa, flanked by Kate and Celine. 

Evadne looked up with a smile. “Are you not bored of them by now?” 

Marcia’s blonde curls bounced as she vigorously shook her head. “They're fun!” 

“And Kate and Celine and Lucy haven’t heard them yet,” Thea added. 

Edgar looked across at his wife with a grin. “Why don’t you dig some more photographs out?” 

Evadne frowned. “I think you’ve see them all. Oh no, wait – Edgar where did you put that box?” 

“Which box?” 

“The one I brought back from Pop’s with me last year. You know,” she prompted, as he looked confused, “the one I carried from the train instead of giving it to the porter.” 

Edgar shrugged. “No idea. It’s still under our bed, I think. Why?” 

“I think there aresome photographs in there,” and getting to her feet, she ran out of the room to go and find it. 

Returning five minutes later, a little dishevelled from crawling around under the bed, she dropped the box down near her husband’s chair and squatted next to it on the floor. Carefully lifting off the lid, she began to pull out leather-bound books from inside, until she had quite a pile next to her. 

“What are those?” Edgar asked, curiously. 

“My dairies from when I was a kid,” she replied, as she continued digging in the box. “Aha, thought so!” and pulling out a stack of photographs, she began sifting through them, separating the Chalet School ones from the others. “Marcia, start passing round this pile here.” 

For the next twenty minutes, shrieks of laughter could be heard as the girls pored over the photographs, pointing out Elsie, Cornelia and Joey, all people they knew and recognised, and Evadne told the stories to go along with them. Edgar, meanwhile, was leafing through others that his wife had set aside and making comments designed to tease her. 

“How very stylish!” he said, with a twinkle in his eye, as he held up a particular photograph on Evvy and Cassie, bedecked in long velvet robes. 

“It was a costume party!” Evadne retorted, snatching it out of his hands with a grimace, “and if you can’t be polite, you’re not looking at these anymore!” As he chuckled, she picked up the remaining pictures that had nothing to do with the school and began to pack them away. 

“Spoilsport!” Edgar replied with a grin. “Are you going to read us the inner musings of your diaries, instead?” 

“Not on your life!” She sounded horrified. “They’re going away right now!” 

She began piling them hurriedly back into the box, before he could get his hands on them. Just as she was finishing, she dropped the final one, and a letter and photograph fell out. As she reached under Edgar’s chair to retrieve the letter, Marcia picked up the image that had floated to her feet. 

“Mummy, who’s this?” she asked curiously, holding up a slightly faded photo of a young man standing on a beach, laughing as the wind blew up his hair and the sand around him. 

Evadne stared at it for a moment, her eyes wistful, and then smiled. “Just an old friend, sweetie, that’s all,” she replied, glancing at her husband who was watching her intently. 

“Is this you?” Kate interrupted, holding up a picture of what looked like an enormous apparition. 

“That’s the girls’ Aunt Corney,” Evadne laughed. “She was dressed as a ghost for a Halloween party.” 

Thea peered over Kate’s shoulder, her eyebrows drawn into a puzzled frown. “But she’s not that tall!” 

“She walked on stilts and has tennis rackets for arms,” Evvy replied with a grin. "That was a real fun party too. We bobbed for apples, and the prefects played a trick with corks and we jumped candles for luck…” 

“Everything about the Chalet School sounds fun,” Marcia interjected, and Evadne smiled. 

“Well it sure was when I was there. I’m sure it still is. You’ll have to ask Mrs. Maynard’s triplets when you meet them – they're pupils there now.” 

“Are we going to meet them then?” 

“Hopefully,” Edgar replied, looking up from the magazine he was now scanning. “We’re taking a trip to the Gornetz Platz for ten days or so at Easter – that’s where they live – so you may meet them then.” 

“We’ll see Mrs. Maynard again?” Marcia asked excitedly and Edgar nodded. “Oh goody! She was fun!” 

“So was Dr. Maynard,” Thea added. 

“Indeed,” Edgar replied. “Now, Kate’s mother’s going to be here shortly to collect the girls, so why don’t you go and make sure you have all your things together?” 

Thea and her three friends ran off to do as he asked, and as they left the room, Marcia turned to her father with pleading eyes. 

“Daddy, can we maybe keep kitty?” 

“We’ll see, poppet,” her father replied, with a smile. “We’ll have to put some notices up to say we’ve found her, but if no-one replies then we’ll think about it, okay? Now why don’t you take her back to the kitchen, and then go and put your nightdress on.” 

“But I’m not tired yet!” 

“I know, but if you and Thea get changed now, then we can play a game before it’s time for bed.” 

Marcia screwed up her face. “Not Scrabble again!” 

Evadne glanced up from the box that she was repacking and laughed. “I’m with you there, sweetie.” 

“Well maybe we can play Milestones instead, then,” Edgar suggested. 

Marcia cheered, thankful that they didn't have to play Scrabble yet again, then carefully picked up the cat and made her way through to the kitchen. 

Evadne turned to her husband with a smile. “They seem to be getting interested in the school, anyhow.” 

Edgar nodded, a resigned look in his eyes. “They do, don’t they?” 

Evvy studied his face carefully for a second, before asking, “Edgar, are you sure you’re still okay with it, now that Franny’s gone from the Ecole?” 

He shrugged. “Yes, I think so. Thea needs a change of scene - it may help her get her confidence back. And I know it means a great deal to you too.” 

“But you’ll miss them so much.” 

“I’ll get used to it,” he responded, grinning. Then, watching as his wife placed the last of the photos back in the box and began closing it, he said, “You don’t have to hide that picture away in there, you know. I don’t mind if you want to put it out.” 

“Which picture?” she asked, confused. 

“The one of Ralph.” 

Evadne shook her head, as she replaced the lid of the box. “Thanks, but it’s fine where it is,” she replied with a smile. “It’s away where it belongs.” 

“Are you sure?” Edgar sounded unconvinced. “We’ve a picture of Madeleine out, after all.” 

“I know, but that’s for the kids really. It’s right they should have photograph of their momma around the place.” Getting to her feet, she moved to stand behind his chair and bent down, putting her arms around his neck. He tilted his head back to look up at her. “I’ve all I need right here,” she said softly, and leaning down further, she pecked him on the lips. “ I do think I’ll put these out though,” she added, indicating the two photos that were clutched in her hands. 

Edgar glanced down at them. One was of his wife and Diana, her friend from her time as a wartime WAAF. The second was of the Quintette, standing in front of the Tiernsee, changed and ready to go in for a swim. He studied the latter one for a moment, and then looked up at her with a wicked grin. 

“Skinny little thing, weren’t you?” 

Evadne laughed. “I was, wasn't I? Sadly, Henry rather put paid to that!” and she poked at the very slight curve of her belly. The clanging of the doorbell rang through the house, and she dropped another kiss on her husband’s head. "Right mister - I’ll see the girls out, you dig out Milestones. I’ll be back in a minute to wipe the floor with you all!” and ignoring his indignant protests, she marched out of the room to greet Mrs Cranston at the door.

Chapter 30 by Josie
Author's Notes:

I've had to add the next update as two different chapters, as it was too long for one post! So a two chapter update today.

Three weeks later, the kitten had still not been claimed, and was managing to integrate herself into the Watson household more and more. The only person who didn’t seem keen was Henry, who kept poking and prodding her at every given opportunity, but as he paid Scrabble much the same respect, none of them were too concerned. 

It was now six-thirty in the morning on the sixteenth of March, and Edgar was in the ensuite bathroom, cleaning his teeth after having his bath. 

“I suppose she really must be a stray or a farm cat then,” he said to his wife, his mouth full of toothpaste. “Either that or someone owns her but doesn’t want her back. Are you still taking her to the vets today?” 

“Yes, I’ll head down there before lunch,” she called back from the bedroom, where she was still lounging in bed. “We need to get that leg checked over again – make sure it really has healed. Do you want me to ask the vet if he’s had any news on an owner?” 

“Yes please, though I think we’d have heard by now if he had.” Edgar rinsed his mouth out with a cup of water before asking, “What do you think we should do if he hasn’t? Should we let Marcia keep her?” 

There was silence for a moment, then Evadne replied, “Sure, why not. We’ve enough animals already – one more won’t hurt! And let’s face it, a cat’s a far more commonplace pet than an iguana or a penguin!” 

Edgar laughed, wiped his mouth on a towel, and made his way back into the bedroom. “Well in that case, I…what in God’s name are you doing?” he exclaimed, staring at his wife as if she had gone mad. 

Evadne was lying on her back, her head towards the foot of the bed, her bottom propped up on a couple of pillows. Her legs were up in the air, at a right angle to her body, and her feet were resting on the wall above the headboard. 

As he stared at her in astonishment, she looked back up at him with a grin. “It’s my right time of the month.” 

“For what?” he asked, incredulously. 

“For getting pregnant,” she replied, as if he should know. 

“And you’re doing that because…?” 

“Apparently it may help.” 

Edgar frowned at her through the dressing room door, as he pulled on his pants and vest, and then took his shirt out of the wardrobe and put his arm in the sleeve. Evadne watched him nervously as he buttoned it up without speaking, and then took his trousers from the hanger and began to pull them on. 

“I thought it was time we began trying properly. What do you think?” she asked tentatively. 

“I thought we were going to let nature take its course?” he replied, fastening his trousers and lacing his belt through the loops. 

“Yes, but there’s no harm in trying. Is there?” 

Edgar finished buckling his belt, and then made his way back through to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her with a smile. “No, I don’t suppose there is. So is this why you woke me up this morning?” She nodded and he rolled his eyes. “And there was me thinking it was because you loved me.” 

Evadne shook her head. “Ah, you deluded man. Don’t you know I only want you for your babies?” she replied with a grin. 

“I might have known!” 

“Well I didn’t hear you complaining!” 

“I have to get something in return for all the jewellery,” he answered nonchalantly, one eyebrow raised. Evadne uttered an indignant exclamation and he laughed as she hit him on the chest. “Hoist by your own petard there, my dear,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. Then as she pulled a face at him, he ran his hand across her stomach and gave her a concerned smile. “Just do me one favour?” 

“What’s that?” 

“If we're going to try, you must promise me not to get your hopes up too much, okay?” As her face fell, he hurried to clarify his point. “It’s not that I think it won’t work, sweetheart, I just don’t want to see you get too hurt if it doesn’t, that’s all. I know you, Evvy – it’ll break your heart if you pin too much on it.” 

Evadne gazed up at him and shook her head, a wry smile touching her lips. “You don’t think I get my hopes up every month?” 

Edgar stared back at her, shocked into silence. He had never really given it much thought. It had been a while since they had talked about it and had assumed that, like him, she was resigned to the situation, even if she did not entirely accept it. 

Evadne saw the look on his face and took pity on him. “I just want to give it a proper go, Edgar, that’s all. I promise I won’t expect too much, okay?” He nodded dumbly, and she pulled his head towards her and kissed him on the lips. “Now go on, you finish getting ready or you’re gonna be late. Didn’t you say you wanted to be in by seven-thirty?” 

“Something like that.” 

“Well then, you’d best hurry up.” As he stood up to do as she said, she rolled over onto her side and sat up, her back towards him. “I guess I’d better dress too in case the kiddos wake up.” 

Edgar watched her as she got to her feet and pulled on her robe. “Evvy, I…” 

“Edgar it’s fine, honestly. I’m not upset with you, okay?” and rounding the end of the bed, she stood in front of him and reached up to give him another kiss. “I’ll see you later. Have a good day at work.” 

Releasing him, she walked passed him into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. Edgar stared after her for a moment, deep in thought, and then heaving sigh, he picked up his shoes and socks and sat back down on the bed to put them on. 

 

=== 

 

Over in England, it was the day before Ned’s birthday and he spent it in a state of high anticipation. Not, as could be expected, due to any presents he may receive but rather because that evening, he and twenty-seven other boys from the various school rugby teams would be making their way to Kings Cross Station. From there, they would catch the sleeper train to Edinburgh, and then tomorrow they were due to go and watch England play Scotland at Murrayfield, in the final Five-Nations match of the season. Although not in honour of his birthday, it was the most exciting excursion he could have wished for and he had spent the day fidgeting his way through his classes, barely listening to a word that was said. 

As the bell rang for end of lessons, he jumped to his feet, cramming his books into his bag, and raced out of the room. 

“Here, Ned! Wait up!” 

Stopping in his tracks, he turned to see his friend Anthony Laskar running towards him. “Get a shove on," he called, beckoning Anthony towards him, "if we’re quick we’ll get first dibs on the bunks on the train.” 

“How come?” 

“According to Cameron, Britches said he’d allocate on first come first served. Graydon’s going to dash too so he can come in with us,” and he set off again towards his boarding house at a run, leaving Anthony to follow in his wake. 

 

===

 

“So are you going to keep her then?” 

Evadne turned her attention away from the kitten, who was making her way gingerly across the carpet towards them on her damaged leg, and smiled at her friend. “Yes, I think so. The girls are very keen for her to stay, and she certainly feels like part of the family now. Even Henry’s not harassing her quite so much!” 

Janice Bown grinned as she bent down and lifted the kitten into her lap, snatching him out of the youngest Watson’s grasp. “I suppose that means Ann’s going to want one now too,” she replied ruefully, “otherwise she and Marcia won’t match anymore!” 

Evvy laughed and reached out to stroke the kitten’s head. In recent weeks, Marcia and Ann had got it into their heads that as they were best friends, they had to have all of the same things, and both sets of parents had been plagued with endless requests for something or other that the other one had. As the requests had been chiefly for clothes, and both girls had grown so much over the winter that they needed new spring wardrobes anyway, Evadne and Janice had so far given in. The two girls themselves had got around the issue of toys by deciding to co-own everything, and both families already had dogs. The only sticking point so far had been Marcia’s penguin, but after much debate it was decided that as the Bowns’ canary was also a bird, then that would have to do. 

“Has she been begging for one already?” Evadne asked, stooping down to attend to her son, who was pointing at Janice’s lap and crying ‘ka’ repeatedly at the top of his voice. “No, sugar-pie, you leave kitty alone. Here, play with these instead,” and she handed him a couple of his building blocks, which he promptly banged together loudly and then tried to cram one in his mouth. 

“She’s asked once or twice, though Jonty and I have generally managed to deflect her attention onto something else. Not sure that’ll be so easy now though.” 

“I think we’re about to find out,” Evadne grinned, as she heard the tell-tale sound of the backdoor opening followed by Guilia’s voice. “I think Alice has just got here with the kids.” 

As if on cue, the door to the family room flew open and Marcia came running into the room. In her eagerness, she almost threw herself on her stepmother, knocking over her little brother who had just pulled himself to his feet. 

“Mummy, did you ask? Can we keep her? Pleeeeeaasee?” 

“Marcia, watch where you’re going!” Evadne cried, reaching down to pick up her son, who had turned up his top lip and begun to howl. “You could have hurt him!” 

“Sorry, Henry!” Looking suitably contrite, Marcia bent down and tried to rain kisses on her brother’s head, but Henry threw his arm out in protest and hit her square on the nose. “Ow!"

“You’ve only yourself to blame,” her stepmother replied unsympathetically. “And in answer to your question, yes, we can keep her.” 

Forgetting the havoc she had caused, Marcia whooped with delight and turned to Ann, who had followed her into the room. “Ann, Mummy says we can keep kitty!” 

Ann cheered and then, as predicted, immediately turned to her mother with requests for a kitten of her own. 

“You’ll have to ask your father,” Janice replied, deflecting the question expertly. “What have you done with Mrs. Cranston and the other two?” 

“They’re just coming,” Marcia interrupted, before Ann had a chance to speak. “Mummy, can Ann and Kate stay to tea?” 

Evadne smiled. “I’m sure they can. Guilia’s baked lots of cookies, so we’ll need some help eating them anyhow. Now why don’t you and Ann take kitty and Scrabble outside and leave us grown-ups to talk in peace.” 

Fifteen minutes or so later, when all four children and both pets had been dispatched outside with a plate of cookies and a jug of juice, Evadne made her way back into the family room bearing a tray of tea and biscuits for herself and her two friends. As she opened the door, Alice Cranston, Kate’s mother, jumped up to help her, and soon the three of them were sitting chatting, each with a cup in hand. 

“Evvy, how’s Thea getting along?” Alice asked, as she took a sip of her tea and sat back in her chair. “She hardly spoke in the car this evening, and Kate’s said a couple of times that she’s not her usual self at all.” 

Evadne frowned as she watched Henry furniture-walk his way alongside the coffee table, intense concentration on his little face. “Did she seem upset?” 

Alice shook her head. “Not really. Just quiet, as I said.” 

“Yes, she’s quiet at home, too.” Evadne replied as she heaved a sigh. “We’re a little worried about her closing herself off, to tell the truth. I know Miss Engel’s been trying everything she can think of, but it’s not made much difference. We’re just hoping she’ll hold out ‘til the summer. Edgar’s sure that the change of school and scenery’ll be the best thing for her, and I think he’s right.” 

“Do they know they're going yet?” Janice asked, curiously. 

Evadne shook her head. “We’re rather hoping they’ll ask off their own bat soon enough, otherwise we’ll have to just tell them, and who knows where that could lead with things as they are.” 

She paused for a moment to take a bite of her cookie, and Alice gave her a sympathetic smile. “If it’s any help, we told Kate last night that she’s off to England to my old school in September and she took it pretty well, all things considered. Maybe your two will react the same?” 

"Oh, we’re not worried about Marcia,” Evadne replied with a grin. “She’s happy-go-lucky as they come – it’s all a big adventure to her. We’re just worried about Thea - she mightn’t react too well to being taken away from her friends. Though if Kate’s already going, that’ll sure ease the way.” She took a sip of tea and then put down her cup. “Anyhow, hopefully it’ll all work out for the best. Now, let’s talk of cheerier things, shall we? Jan tells me Jonty’s roped Bob and Edgar into some regatta this summer? He is aware that my husband can’t sail for toffee, isn’t he?” 

 

===

 

As it happened, Ned and Anthony were thwarted in their mission to get the best bunk on the train as, contrary to rumour, Mr. Bristow had decided to allocate them all places himself. Ned had grumbled loudly all the way to King’s Cross, to no avail as the Games Master had opted to develop selective deafness, and consequently they had to wait until they reached the train to discover who they would be rooming with for the night. 

“Gather round,” Mr. Bristow bellowed, in order to make himself heard over the chatter of twenty-eight boys. "Now I’m going to allocate you each to your bunks, and then I want you getting straight on the train without further ado. Watson, Graydon, are you listening to me?” Ned and his friend went bright red and stopped talking, and their teacher continued. “Right then, bunk 31 - Cameron, Miles, Henderson and Redmond,” and he handed the four senior boys their tickets and turned back to his list as they trooped off towards the train. 

“Bunk 33 - Booth-Phillips, Sherman…” 

He continued in this manner until there were just four boys left standing on the platform. Ned looked around him and then turned to his friends in horror. “He’s got to be joking!” he hissed under his breath. 

He had failed to reckon with Mr. Bristow’s bat-like hearing, however. “No, I’m not joking, Watson. You should know by now that I never joke,” the Games Master replied, trying hard to suppress a grin. “Bunk 41 - Watson, Laskar, Graydon and Lloyd-Kitchen. Now get a move on, all four of you. I’ll be along in a few minutes to see how you’re settling in.”

 


Ned opened the door of the compartment, threw his bag on one of the bottom bunks, and jumped on it quickly before his two friends could react. “I’m taking this one,” he stated, stretching himself out full-length, his feet on his pillow. “It’s my birthday so I get first shout.” 

“Then bags me this one,” George Graydon, said quickly, flopping on the other lower bunk. “I’ve a bad head for heights – I’ll be sick if I have to go up there!” 

“Thanks a bunch!” Anthony glared at the pair of them. “Now I have to look at Lloyd-Po-face all night!” 

“Close your eyes, then you won’t see him!” Ned replied with a grin. 

“Easy for you to say, you’re down there. He’ll haunt my dreams!” Anthony retorted dramatically, throwing his bag onto the bunk above Ned, and then flopping down on that young man’s bed. 

“Maybe he’ll sleepwalk and walk right off the train?” George put in hopefully, and all three laughed, as the door opened and their nemesis entered the compartment. 

“I need a bottom bunk,” he stated coolly, staring from Ned to George as if waiting for one of them to move. 

“Tough!” George retorted. “You shouldn’t have been so slow, then you’d’ve had an earlier pick.” 

“Just because I don’t rush around like a bull in a china shop, does not mean I should be deprived of my needs,” Piers replied haughtily. 

“What needs?” Ned scoffed disbelievingly. 

“I have a fragile back. I can’t be leaping up on to bunks in the dark – I’ll strain it.” 

“If your back’s so fragile, how can you play rugby?” Anthony asked sweetly, as the other two snorted with laughter. 

Piers went bright red. He had no answer to that. Instead, realising he was defeated, he threw his bag up and leapt agily onto the top bunk, instantly disproving his claims, and turned his back on the other three, giving them a few moments of peace. 

However it didn’t last for long. As Ned kicked off a discussion about the players in the England team, and who would have been a better choice, Piers just couldn’t help himself joining in. 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Laskar. Cooper is a duff choice at wing,” he said loudly, interrupting Anthony’s rhetoric on the player. “Hillary is a far superior handler of the ball if you ask me.” 

“Well we didn’t ask you,” Anthony snapped, disgruntled at having his favourite player mocked in this fashion. 

“I met him once,” Piers continued, ignoring him. “Father knows him - and Eric Evans," he added, referring to the England captain. 

Ned rolled his eyes. “Of course he does.” 

“My father knows him too, so you’re not the only one who’s met him,” George put in. 

Piers was suddenly interested. He didn’t know George all that well, as he was in a different house to the others. “Who’s your father?” 

“He’s in the Army,” George replied, carefully omitting the fact his father was in fact one of the service’s top men. “Why? What does your father do?” 

“My grandfather was an equerry to King George,” Piers replied importantly. 

“I didn't ask about him, I asked about your father.” 

Ned grinned. “He flits about Europe gambling away the family’s fortune,” he put in before Piers could reply. 

“How dare you!” 

“It’s true isn’t it?” Ned replied nonchalantly, knowing full well that it was. 

Piers jumped down from his bunk and glared at Ned. “At least he’s not some half-baked, do-gooding government monkey like yours,” he raged, his eyes flashing. “At least my Father understands his position in life!” and turning on his heel, he stormed out of the door. 

“What, as a high-rolling toff?” Ned shouted after him. “At least my Dad helps people instead of washing his money down the drain!” 

They could hear Piers calling a response back at him, though they couldn’t make out what he actually said, and as Ned opened his mouth to retort, Anthony hastily got in first. “Leave it, Ned.” 

“Urgh!” Ned exclaimed, throwing himself back on his bed in a fit of temper. “He drives me mad!” 

“I know, but we have to be shut in with him all night, so stop trying to rile him for pete’s sake! He’s going to be vile enough as it is.” 

“Worst luck!” 

George grinned. “Maybe if we wait ‘til he’s asleep, we can tip his bunk at the right angle so he rolls out of the window and down the bank!” he put in, attempting to lighten the atmosphere.” 

Anthony snorted with laughter and after a moment, Ned reluctantly joined in. “Maybe if we time it right, we can get him down a deep ravine!” and as his temper passed, the three of them occupied themselves discussing exactly what the correct trajectory would have to be. 

Chapter 31 by Josie

It was gone eight o’clock before Edgar finally arrived home from work, and he found his wife reading in the family room with Marcia and Thea, the kitten curled up on Marcia’s lap and Scrabble asleep at Thea’s feet. They all looked up as he entered the room and Evadne grinned at the huge bunch of flowers he held in his hand. 

“Are they for me?” 

Edgar nodded. “They are indeed.” 

“Marvellous!” she replied, laying her book on the table next to her. “What’s the occasion?” 

“Just because!” he replied with a smile, and handing them to her, he sat down next to her on the sofa and leaned across to give her a kiss. 

“Daddy, we’re keeping kitty!” Marcia announced from her seat on the opposite side of the room. 

“Yes I know, Mummy telephoned me to let me know. She’s all yours. I gather you’re happy?” 

“Very!” 

“How about you Thea?” Thea nodded and Edgar looked at her, concerned. “Did you have a good day at school?” 

“Yes thanks,” came the mumbled reply, and then she turned straight back to her book. 

Marcia watched her sister for a second, then got up, cradling the kitten carefully in her arms. “Here,” she said, passing the cat over to her sister. Thea looked up, puzzled, and Marcia nodded to her. “She’s your cat now.” 

“No she’s not, she’s yours. You found her and you really wanted her.” 

“I know that, but I want you to have her now. She’s really cuddly, so when you’re feeling upset, you can cuddle her and she’ll make you feel better. And I can still play with her when I want to, ‘cause we all live together.” 

Thea stared up at her sister in disbelief, and then reached out and took hold of the young cat. "Thank you,” she said quietly, her voice breaking slightly, and Marcia leant down and pecked her on the cheek. 

“That’s okay.” 

Edgar raised his eyebrows at his wife and then held out his hand to his youngest daughter. “Come here, you.” Marcia walked over to him, and taking hold of her hand, he pulled her into his lap and kissed her blonde curls. “That was a really nice thing to do.” 

Marcia shrugged, as if it was no big deal to her, and then turned back to face her sister. “So what are you going to call her?” 

Thea looked up from the kitten and gave her a smile. “You should name her,” she said firmly, suddenly sounding perkier than she had done in weeks. 

“Okay.” Marcia screwed up her face in thought. “I’ll call her Marcia after me, like Ned’s named after Daddy?” 

Evadne snorted, hiding her face behind her flowers as she tried not to laugh, and Edgar shook his head. “Don’t you think that’ll be a bit confusing, poppet?” 

“’Spose so.” She thought hard again and then said, “What about Pauline then?” 

“Why Pauline?” 

“Just ‘cause.” 

Thea lifted the kitten up and examined her critically. “She doesn’t look much like a Pauline.” 

There was silence for a moment as Marcia considered this. “You’re right. Pauline would be better for an elephant.” 

“You’re not getting an elephant!” Evadne put in hurriedly, seeing where this conversation could be leading. “You already have a penguin and that’s enough zoo inhabitants for one child.” 

“I know that!” Marcia retorted indignantly, as if the thought had never crossed her mind. “It’s just more of an elephant name, that’s all. I know,” she added, turning back to Thea before anyone could question her last statement, “she should be called Pickle, ‘cause she was in a pickle when we first found her, and cheese and pickle sandwiches are my favourite kind.” 

"Pickle it is then!” Edgar announced with a grin. “Now, if you two head into the hallway, you’ll find a bed and some toys that I picked up this afternoon. Why don’t you take them into the kitchen and we can finally get rid of that tatty old box!” 

As they left the room to do as he asked, Marcia running and Thea following more sedately with Pickle, Edgar turned to his wife. 

“I can’t believe Marcia just did that! She’s been talking of nothing but having her own kitten for weeks now.” 

Evadne smiled. “I can. It’s her all over, Edgar. Now,” she added, changing the subject abruptly, “what are my flowers really for?” 

Edgar opened his mouth to protest, and then gave in as she raised an eyebrow at him. “To say sorry for this morning,” he muttered sheepishly. 

“I thought so. Have you been dwelling on that all day?” 

“Maybe.” 

She watched him closely for a second, and then laying the flowers on the table, she turned and took hold of his hand. “Okay, let’s sort this out now, once and for all. Yes, I desperately want another baby, and yes, every month I’ve been hoping that maybe this will be the one, but I don’t expect you to have read my mind and know that. I’ve not brought it up because I don’t want to dwell on it. But if it’s okay with you, I would really like to start trying properly now. I know it may come to nothing, but if we don’t try our hardest then I’ll always think ‘what if?' Do you understand?” Edgar nodded. “So we can try?” 

“Yes, we can try.” 

“And you won’t fret about my state of mind?” 

He smiled and put his arm around her shoulders. “I will fret about your state of mind, I can’t help it, but I promise not to keep talking about it. Can we compromise at that?” 

“We can indeed.” She grinned up at him, and then reached up to peck him on the cheek. “Thank you for my flowers, they’re beautiful. Now, we’ve eaten and Guilia’s gone home, but can I heat you up some dinner? It’s mushroom risotto and it’s delicious!” 

“Well I can hardly say no to that, can I?” he grinned.

 

===

 

In the end, the night in the boys’ compartment passed by in relative peace. Still angered by the earlier exchange with Ned, Piers went to bed immediately after dinner without speaking to anyone, and by the time the other three returned, he was fast asleep. 

They arrived in Edinburgh the next morning, bleary-eyed and excited, and immediately proceeded to embarrass Ned by singing Happy Birthday to him in the middle of the platform at Waverley Station. The morning was spent exploring the city itself, as few of the boys had ever been there before, and then after a sumptuous and warming lunch of stew and dumplings, they made their way out to Murrayfield to watch the match. 

The atmosphere in the stadium was as electrically charged as that at any match between England and Scotland, and Ned was delighted to discover that they had ended up sitting close to the front of the stand, right opposite the centre line. Along with his schoolfriends, he cheered himself hoarse as the contest unfolded and by half-time he was loudly declaring it to be the best match that he had ever seen. The only downside was Piers. He insisted on shouting out from the sidelines, berating players in his booming voice if they did something he considered they shouldn’t have, and at one point even tried to get the attention of the player that he claimed to know, much to the mortification of the rest of his party. 

As Mr. Bristow called him to order for the umpteenth time, Ned turned to his friends with a grimace. 

“I wish he’d shut his big mouth.” 

Cameron, the school Games Monitor, was standing directly behind them, and laughed as he overheard. “Maybe we should shove the ball in it – that would do the trick.” 

It was as if someone had planned it all along. Just as Cameron said his final word, a kick from the Scottish scrum-half sailed over the fence, and before anyone could do anything to stop it, the ball hit Piers directly in the mouth. As the other boys rushed to return the ball to the field, and Mr. Bristow came forward to lead away a yelling Piers to first-aid, Ned, his two friends and Cameron all doubled up with laughter, unable to believe what had just happened. 

In the end, England won 11-6. As the boys made their way back to Waverley Station to catch the overnight train back to London, Ned turned to his friends, still chuckling at the events of the day. 

“That was the best birthday I’ve ever had!” he declared, a wide grin lighting up his face. “I’m not sure what I’m happier about,” he added with a grin, glancing at Piers, who was walking sullenly beside Cameron, trying hard to hide his swollen lip, “England winning or Lloyd-Kitchen getting a fat mouth!” 

George laughed. “I think that was what you call the suppression of Piers!” 

Anthony glanced at his two friends with a wry smile. “Let’s enjoy it while we can. I get the feeling it may not last for long!”

Chapter 32 by Josie
Author's Notes:

The next few posts run parallel to Reunion.

“Edgar, hurry! The train’s about to leave!” 

Holding Henry under one arm, Evadne set off across the platform at a run, followed closely by Monique, who was clinging tightly to Thea’s hand. As she jumped onto the train, setting Henry down on the floor and turning to help up her daughter and the au pair, there was still no sign of her husband and she was getting a little concerned. Swiss trains waited for nobody, as she well knew. 

“Thea, can you see them? Oh no you don’t, sugar-pie, you stay here,” and she flung her arm out to stop Henry making for the door again. “Monique, take him through to the compartment, will you? It’s number ten. We’ll be along in a minute.” 

“They’re coming, Mummy, look!” Thea cried, as Monique swept Henry up in her arms and made her way along the corridor towards the first-class compartment they had booked for the journey to Berne. “Ned, run!” 

“I am running, idiot!” her brother shouted back, reaching the door just as the guard blew his whistle. “What does it look like I’m doing?” 

“Causing trouble, that’s what!” his stepmother retorted angrily, grabbing his shirt sleeve and hauling him onto the train. “Just why you two had to choose now to start a row is beyond me! Go on through and join Monique and Henry – you too Thea.” She gently steered Thea in the direction of the compartment and then turned back to the door. “Quick Edgar!” 

Sprinting as fast as he could across the platform, Marcia in his arms, Edgar shoved his daughter in his wife’s direction as he reached the door, waited until she was out of the way and then heaved himself onto the train just as it began to move. 

“Ouff – that was close!” he exclaimed, taking out his handkerchief and mopping his brow. 

“What would have happened if we’d missed it, Daddy?” Marcia asked, peering out of the open window as the train pulled away from the platform. 

“I think you should be glad you didn’t find out!” Evadne replied sternly, pulling her back and directing her down the passageway. “Now you’re here, I suggest you go join the others. We’ll be along in a minute to sort you two out.” Marcia did as she was told, quelled by her stepmother’s angry tone, and Evvy turned back to her husband. “Are you okay, baby?” she asked, stroking his back as he tried to regain his breath. 

“Yes, no thanks to those two!” Edgar replied, giving her a slight grin. “One of these days I swear I’m going to wring their necks!” He coughed as he spoke, and Evadne patted him on the back. “Thanks.” Taking a deep breath, he straightened up. “Come along then, let’s go and sort those two reprobates out and then we can settle in for the ride,” and with a hand on his wife’s shoulder, he steered her down the corridor towards the compartment. 

As they neared the door, the sound of raised voices floated out to them. 

“It’s your fault!” 

“Isn’t! You stood on my toe!” 

“It was an accident, you twerp!” 

“Wasn’t! You did it on purpose!” 

“Why would I do that?” 

“’Cause you hate me, that’s why!” 

“Oh grow up you s…” 

That’s enough!” Edgar stormed into the compartment, followed by his wife, and slammed the door shut. “Stop that now, both of you!” 

“But Dad…” 

“I said now, Ned! Do you want the entire train to hear you acting like a couple of street urchins?” Ned and Marcia both fell silent and stared at the ground, a little shocked at just how angry their father was. He glared from one to the other. “I’ve had just about enough of this behaviour from the pair of you. No, Marcia,” he added hurriedly, as she opened her mouth to speak, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care who said what or did what to whom, I want this pathetic squabbling to stop here and now. Every time we go anywhere you two have to start niggling at each other and I’ve had my fill of it - we almost missed the train because you can’t behave like civilised human beings. This holiday is supposed to be relaxing for all of us and I’m not having you two spoiling it. Now sit down and be quiet, or when we change trains at Berne, I’ll be taking the lot of you back to Geneva and leaving Mummy to go on to the Platz on her own.” 

There was stunned silence when he finished speaking. Shooting a filthy look at his youngest sister, Ned sat down opposite Thea, muttering to her and glaring out at the passing suburbs as they rumbled by. Marcia watched him, her eyes welling up with tears, and then threw herself down on the seat in the corner of the compartment, her back turned purposefully on the rest of the family. Edgar rolled his eyes in his wife’s direction and then seated himself next to Marcia, took out his newspaper and began to read. 

 

The remainder of the journey to Berne passed by in peace. Feeling tired and grumpy, Marcia kept to herself in her corner and finally fell asleep against her father’s arm. Henry followed her example, the gentle swaying motion of the train causing him to drop off in his mother’s arms, whilst she carried on a conversation with Monique in a low voice. Edgar continued reading his paper and then had a snooze himelf, and Thea and Ned settled down to play a game of cards. 

They changed trains at Berne with the minimum of fuss, and by midday had reached Interlaken, where they decided to stop for lunch. Once their meal was over, they made for the small train that would take them up the mountain to the Gornetz Platz. Ned had calmed down considerably by now and was his usual jovial self. Marcia was careful to keep her distance from her brother, staying close to her father and chattering away to him, though she seemed a little less effusive and bubbly than was normal. 

The train was half-empty, as the initial rush of Spring visitors was over now that Easter had passed, so the Watsons were able to find themselves seats in the rear carriage, affording them the best views down into the valley. As soon as they walked into the carriage, Ned grabbed hold of Thea’s hand. 

“Let’s bags the seats right at the back, then we’ll get the best view of all!” he cried, towing her with him, past the other passengers who were also making in that direction. 

“Ned, don’t push people!” Evadne called out, taking a seat next to Monique near the front of the carriage, Henry on her lap. “And make sure you behave yourselves back there.” 

“We will!” he called back, then whispered something in Thea’s ear, causing her to giggle and push him into his seat. 

“Don’t you want to join them, poppet?” Edgar asked Marcia, as she pushed past him and sat down, just as the doors closed and the train began to pull slowly out of the station. 

Marcia glanced over her shoulder, glaring down the carriage at her siblings, who were pointing and laughing at something on the platform, and then shook her head, a frown furrowing her brow. 

“No thanks.” She gave her older brother one last look and then turned to her stepmother. “Mummy, can I hold Henry?” 

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Evadne returned with a smile, lifting the little boy from her lap. “Tell you what. How about Daddy and I switch seats and you shuffle along so you’re next to the window. That way you can both see out and I can tell you what’s what.” 

Marcia did as she was told, and once everyone was settled, she stood her brother up on her knees, pointing out of the window at the passing scenery. 

“Look Henry, some cows with bells!” she exclaimed, as the train finally left the suburbs of Interlaken and began climbing the steep mountainside through the open pasture and pine forest. “Can you say cow?” 

Henry looked up at her and smiled as he tugged one of her curly pigtails. “Hi!” 

Evadne chuckled and ruffled her son’s hair. “That’s your new favourite word, isn’t it, sugar-pie?” 

“He does say it a lot!” Marcia replied, gazing down at her brother with a grin. “You’re clever saying ‘hi’ aren’t you?” 

“He never says anything else!” 

At the sound of Ned’s voice, a black look came over Marcia’s face. “Yes he does, don’t you, Henry?” she said coldly, and turned her attention back to the window again, as Ned shrugged and bent to talk to his father. “Ooo look! A goat! Can you say goat?” 

“Ma-ma!” Henry replied, gurgling, and Marcia giggled as Evadne span around to face them, affronted. 

“Well excuse me, you little tyke! I feed you, bathe you, change you and that’s all the thanks I get!” 

Ned burst out laughing. “Did he just call you a goat? He’s almost as dumb as you, Marcia!” he joked, a twinkle in his eye. 

Marcia rounded on him, her eyes flashing. “He’s not dumb and nor am I, you pig!” 

Evadne quickly intervened. “Marcia, ignore him. Ned, go back to your seat please and stop trying to cause trouble.” 

Ned rolled his eyes and returned to the back of the train, pulling a face behind his sister’s back, and Marcia turned her attention back to Henry, who was now leaning against the window pane, babbling to himself and pointing at the glass, wide-eyed with fascination as the scenery passed past. 

 

Twenty minutes later, they arrived at the small station at the Gornetz Platz, where they were met by a car and porter from the Villa Caramie and ferried to the pension with all their luggage. Edgar had booked five separate rooms, so the three eldest children and Monique all had their own space, and once the keys had been handed out, they all went their seperate ways to unpack. 

Marcia finished bundling her clothes into the chest of drawers in a haphazard fashion, and then walked across to the window and stared out at the view. It was a beautiful spring day and the sun was beating down on the Platz, melting the final few patches of slush-like snow that still lay on the ground. Over in the distance she could see a large group of buildings, all nestled together, and beyond them what looked like another pension. As she stared at them, it suddenly occurred to her what the buildings must be, and turning on her heel, she ran out of the room and across the corridor, throwing open the door opposite. 

“Thea, come here quick! You can see the Chalet School from my room!” 

Her words were greeted with silence, and she stopped and looked around her. There was no sign of her sister anywhere. Suddenly, a door along the far wall was flung open and Thea’s head appeared. 

“There you are!” Marcia exclaimed. “Come and see the school, it’s…” 

“It’s Marcia!” Thea called, ignoring her sister and clearly answering someone the other side of the door. Then turning back to her sister, she added excitedly, “Look - Ned and I have a door to each other’s rooms…” 

“But…” 

“…we can visit without anyone knowing!” Thea finished with a grin, as Ned appeared beside his sister. 

“Hello Squirt! Isn’t this cool?” 

Marcia glared from one to the other. “So what? I’ve got a door to Monique’s room too!” she replied, scowling. 

“That’s not the same!” Ned scoffed. “It’s not as if you’ll want to visit Monique!” 

“I might do!” Marcia flashed back, her scowl deepening. 

Ned laughed, a retort on the tip of his tongue, and seeing the makings of yet another row between her siblings, Thea said hurriedly, “Ned and I are going exploring - Daddy says it’s okay as long as we stick together and don’t go far. Want to come?” 

“Yes please!” Marcia replied, a grin appearing on her face at last. “We could go and see the…” 

“You’d better check with Dad first,” Ned put in. “It might be different for you ‘cause you’re younger.” 

“No it won’t!” 

“It might be. Go and ask and we’ll wait for you in…” 

“Forget it, I’m not coming!” Marcia spat out, and left the room, slamming the door behind her. 

“What’s got into her?” Ned asked, staring after her incredulously. “She’s mad!” 

Thea hit him on the arm. “No she’s not. You always tease her, Ned, it’s not fair.” 

“I wasn’t teasing her! I just said she should ask Dad, that’s all!” Thea stared at him uncertainly, and he gave her a grin and took hold of her elbow. “Come on, let’s go. Marcia can come later if she wants,” and giving her no choice, he towed her out of the room. 

They were just passing their parents’ door when it opened and Evadne came out into the corridor. “You two off out?” she asked, smiling as she saw them. 

Ned nodded. “Dad said we could as long as we didn’t go far.” 

“Okay, well make sure you don’t. Your father’s down at the station getting some information on trains, if you want to go find him. Where’s Marcia? Are you not taking her with you?” 

“She’s in her room,” Ned called back, as he set off down the corridor again. “She didn’t want to come.” 

“Oh, okay. Kaffee’s at four – make sure you’re back by then!” she shouted after him. 

“I think Marcia’s a bit upset, Mummy,” Thea added, before charging after her brother, who was calling for her to hurry up. 

Evadne watched them go, a frown on her face. It was rare for Marcia to get upset at all, let alone shut herself away. Making her way down the passageway to her stepdaughter’s room, she knocked on the door. There was no reply. She tried a couple more times, getting no response, and then turning the handle, she opened it slowly and peered into the room. Marcia was stretched out on the bed, her face buried in her pillow, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed. 

“Marcia, sweetie, what’s wrong?” Evadne exclaimed, hurrying around the bed to her stepdaughter’s side. 

As she sat down on the edge of the bed, Marcia turned her back to her. “Nothing!” 

Evadne put a hand on her shoulder and pulled the young girl towards her. “Don’t be silly, of course there is! Come on, darling, please tell me what it is,” she pleaded, as Marcia buried her head in her stepmother’s lap. 

There was silence for a moment, save for Marcia’s muffled sobs. Then suddenly she burst out, “Ned’s horrid! I...I hate him!” 

“Why, what’s he done?” 

“He’s always…mean to me,” came the gulped reply, as Marcia tried hard to stop her tears. “And now he’s…he’s taking Thea away from me too!” 

“Of course he’s not!” Evadne replied incredulously. 

“Yes he is! Since he came home from school he’s always playing with her and do…doing things with her and when I want to join in he says I c...can’t ‘cause I’m too young.” Marcia sat up and scrubbed her eyes on her sleeve, gradually getting herself under control. “You don’t know, Mummy, you and Daddy never see. He always makes fun of me and calls me stupid and a baby, and I’m not!” 

She gulped down another sob, and Evadne put her arms around her and pulled her close. “Come here.” She ran her hand over Marcia’s blonde curls and then dropped a kiss on her head. “How long have you felt this way?” 

Marcia sniffed and nestled against Evvy’s side. “Since always,” she replied, her voice catching in her throat. “’Cept it’s worse now he’s being all nice to Thea. Me and her always do things together, but now she just wants to do things with him.” 

She pulled her head back, scrubbing her eyes again, and Evadne put her hand under her daughter’s chin, raising the young face to hers. “Sweetheart, listen to me, okay? I know you and Ned don’t always get along, but he’s not trying to take Thea away from you, I promise. Daddy just asked him to make an extra special fuss of her after everything that happened with Franny, that’s all. You know why we have to do that, don’t you?” Marcia nodded. “She still loves you just as much as before, I’m sure of it.” 

“I ‘spose,” Marcia sniffed again, slightly mollified by this information. 

“And as for Ned, if he’s teasing you, why don’t you try and be the bigger one from now on and ignore him? Then he’ll be the one who looks like a baby, okay?” Marcia gave a slight smile, and Evadne dropped another kiss on her blonde hair. “Now, how about you come and join me in the garden? Monique’s gonna have a lie-down as soon as I rescue her from the Henry, so I need someone to keep me company and help look after the little rascal.” 

“Okay.” Giving her eyes one more scrub, Marcia jumped down from the bed. “We can tell him the difference between you and a goat,” she said, a hint of her usual impish smile on her lips. 

“My thoughts exactly!” Evvy replied fervently, getting to her feet. “Since you last saw him, he’s also used ‘Ma-ma’ to describe a telephone and a tree! Reckon he’s trying to tell me something?” 

“Maybe!” Marcia giggled. 

Evadne grinned. “Could be worse though. Just as I was leaving the bedroom, he pointed to a hippopotamus in the book Monique’s reading him and called it ‘Da-da’! I don’t think we’ll tell your father, though.” Marcia burst out laughing, and Evadne ruffled her hair. “That's more like it. Now, go bathe your eyes - they’re all red and puffy - and I’ll see you in the garden as soon as you’re done.” 

 

And so, when the others returned just before teatime, they found Evadne and Marcia playing with Henry in the shade of the rose arbour on the far side of the garden. 

Edgar approached them across the lawn, a wide grin on his handsome face. “Hello there! What have you done with Monique?” 

Evadne glanced up at the sound of her husband’s voice. “She’s reading in her room. Did you find out the times?” 

“I did indeed.” Lowering himself to the ground, he smiled and graciously accepted a building block that Henry held out to him. “Thank you, little man. Just what I wanted!” He planted a kiss on the boy’s tiny cheek, and satisfied, Henry giggled and toddled back to his sister’s open arms. Edgar turned his attention back to his wife. “They’re once an hour, starting early, so we can head down anytime we like. And apparently we can take a boat trip on the lake, which may be a good way to pass some time. What do you think?” 

“Is it safe to allow you on the water?” she asked with a wicked grin. 

“Ha ha, very funny!” 

Evadne chuckled at his indignation. “I think it sounds grand. A perfect way to celebrate Henry’s birthday, and I get to spend a proper day out with you all and see something of Interlaken before Joey’s party begins.” 

“Precisely.” Edgar leant back, his arms outstretched behind him, and gave her a smile. “Speaking of which, did you get around to reading Corney’s letter?” 

“I did!” She pulled a fat envelope out of the basket next to her and waved it in his direction. “They’re coming over after all, and Mike and the girls are staying in Berne while she’s up here – they’ve rented an apartment in the city. She says she’ll give me the details when she sees me and then you can all go visit them for the day if you like.” 

“Sounds like an idea.” 

“And they’re definitely gonna come visit us in Geneva when it’s all over too,” she added, scanning the pages again. “It’ll overlap a day with Hugh and Dorothy, but that won’t matter. We’ve heaps of room and Corney knows Dorothy from school too, so it’ll be like another reunion.” She folded the letter up again, putting it into the envelope and slipping it back in her basket. “This party was such a brainwave of Joey’s,” she said excitedly, a delighted grin on her face. “I can’t wait to see them all – it’s been so long!” 

“Think you’ll recognise everyone?” 

“I hope so! I hadn’t thought of that – I wonder if anyone’s changed too much?” and she continued ruminating the point aloud, as Edgar listened with half an ear and nodded when he thought he ought. 

A few minutes later, Ned and Thea appeared, red-faced and glowing from their walk in the fresh mountain air, and plonked themselves down on the grass next to their sister and brother. 

“You stopped sulking, Squirt?” Ned asked with a grin, as he pulled a protesting Henry into his lap. 

Marcia flushed and opened her mouth to retort. Then, just in time, she caught Evadne’s eye and thought better of it. Instead, she gave her brother a withering glance, looking him up and down, and then turned to address Thea. 

“How was your walk?” 

“Fun!” Thea replied enthusiastically, as a shocked Ned stared at Marcia. “We’re going out again after tea – you’ll have to come.” 

Marcia smiled and shook her head. “I promised Mummy I’d help look after Henry," she said, as that young man suceeded in freeing himself from his Ned's grasp and toddled across to his father. "I’ll come another day though,” she added, seeing Thea’s disappointed face, “then we can go and look at the school too.” 

“Deal!” 

At that moment, a gong sounded from inside the pension, indicating that kaffee was ready, and Marcia scrambled to her feet. “Come on, let’s go and wash our hands for tea,” she said, holding out a hand to help her sister up. 

“You worried the best cakes’ll go if you don’t run?” Ned quipped, as he stood up. 

Marcia swung around to face him. “No, it’s just rude to be late, so there,” she retorted haughtily, giving him a look that made him feel about two foot tall. Then slipping her hand through Thea’s arm, the pair of them set off towards the house, leaving Ned trailing behind them, confused. 

Getting to his feet and lifting Henry into his arms, Edgar watched them go with raised eyebrows. “What was that all about?” 

Evadne laughed and brushed down her skirt. “Tell you later,” she said, bending to collect Henry’s toys and putting them in her basket. “Right now, I want my tea. There’s a collection of scrummy cream cakes awaiting us in there, or I miss my guess!” and with that emphatic statement, she turned on her heel and set off across the grass to find out.

Chapter 33 by Josie

Using the bars of his cot to pull himself to his feet, Henry stared out through the rails at his parents slumbering peacefully in their bed. Rocking back and forth, he babbled to himself, pulling at the bars and calling ‘Ma-ma’ to get attention. For once, it didn’t work. Evadne muttered in her sleep and then fell silent again. Edgar gave no reaction at all. So Henry did the one thing he knew was guaranteed to work. He opened his mouth and began to scream. 

Edgar grunted and rolled onto his side. “It’s your turn,” he muttered in a drowsy voice. 

Evadne sat up, rubbed her bleary eyes and peered groggily over at her son. “It’s always my turn,” she returned, with some indignation. 

“That’s not true,” came the mumbled reply. “I changed a nappy last week – what more do you want from me?” 

His wife glared at him. “Jeez, I could kill you sometimes, Edgar Watson.” 

Edgar smiled, his eyes still closed. “Just be gentle about it if you must. I’d like to go peacefully.” 

“I’ll not give you any choice!” Evadne retorted. Then turning back to Henry again, “It’s not that anyhow, that’s not his nappy cry. Perhaps he just knows it’s his birthday and wants us to get up.” 

Crawling down the bed, she climbed over her husband’s legs, sitting heavily on them in the process and eliciting a strangled ‘Ow!’, and made her way to her son’s cot in the corner of the room. Seeing that he had finally got her attention, Henry stopped yelling and began gurgling instead, calling ‘Ma-ma’ again and holding his arm through the bars towards her. 

Evadne grimaced as she leant over the side of the cot to pick him up. “I suppose you think it’s funny, waking us up like that at six in the morning?” she asked, feeling his nappy and finding it quite dry. “Come on then you, let’s go get comfortable,” and walking back round to her side of the bed, she tucked her legs under the covers and put Henry on her lap. “Who’s a big boy, Mr. Henry Watson?” she exclaimed, kissing him on the tip of his tiny, button nose. “Happy first birthday, sugar-pie.” 

Edgar muttered something into his pillow, not even bothering to turn his head. His wife stared down at him briefly, and then turned to Henry with a wicked grin. “Let’s prod Daddy awake, shall we?” she suggested, poking Edgar’s shoulder blade repeatedly with her index finger. 

Seeing the makings of a good game, Henry joined in, tapping his father on the shoulder with both hands and giggling to himself, rocking back and forth. Then, all of a sudden, he threw himself forward, landing in the middle of Edgar’s back with a squeal. 

“Can’t you two let a chap sleep in on his holiday?” Edgar complained, rolling over gently and tipping Henry back into his wife’s lap. 

Evadne caught her son in her arms and began tickling him. Henry squealed louder, kicking his legs and waving his fists in protest at the treatment his mother was meting out. Edgar took advantage of his son’s diverted attention to roll over properly and sit up, leaning back against his pillows. 

“Are you trying to wake the entire pension?” he asked Henry, as he lifted the little boy into his lap. Then planting a huge kiss on his son’s forehead, “Happy Birthday, my little man!” 

Evadne laughed as Edgar blew a raspberry on Henry’s cheek. “There are only seven other guests in the entire place, and none of them are on this floor!” 

As she spoke, the door to the room flew open and Marcia appeared, her dressing gown wrapped tightly around her, her blonde curls messy and on end. 

“I heard Henry wake up!” she said excitedly. “Can we give him his presents?” 

“Let’s wait for Thea and Ned, shall we?” Edgar asked, shifting over to make room for her as she jumped on the end of the bed and wriggled up between her parents. 

“I already woke them up!” 

“I’m sure they appreciated being woken as much as I did!” her father muttered with a disgruntled air, pulling a face at his wife as she mimed playing a violin. 

Marcia turned herself around and sat down. “Ned was rude but I don’t care,” she responded, laughing. 

Catching sight of his sister, Henry began to squeal again, babbling to himself and reaching out his arms. Edgar released him from his grasp, and Henry instantly crawled his way onto his sister’s knees, draping a chubby little arm over her shoulder as she kissed him ‘Happy Birthday’. 

Edgar watched them with smile. “I see, young man - wake me up and then not talk to me!” 

Marcia giggled. “He loves me, don’t you?” she stated, kissing one of his tiny hands. 

The door opened again and Thea came into the bedroom, followed by Ned who was still complaining loudly at being woken up. 

“It’s your brother’s birthday, stop being such a moaning minny!” his stepmother ordered, as Thea perched herself on the end of the bed. “And now we’re all here, how about you quit complaining and fetch Henry’s presents from the closet.” 

Pulling a face at her, Ned nevertheless did as he was told and for the next hour the family sat together, exclaiming loudly and laughing as they helped Henry unwrap all his gifts. And wonderful gifts they were too. He had already received his parents’ present a couple of days previously, as the rocking horse they had bought him was too large to be transported to the Platz, but there were plenty more treats in store for him. Ned had bought his brother a set of wooden cars that could be pulled along behind him on a string, and Thea and Marcia had clubbed together to purchase him his first bowl, plate and cup set, with miniature animals painted around the edges. He received sets of clothes from Paul and Elsie, Cassie and Andrew and the Cranstons, Monique had bought him a pair of shoes, the Bowns had gifted him a set of stacking blocks and Corney and Mike had sent a huge knitted rabbit, with button eyes and felt teeth, that had, as Edgar described, ‘the biggest feet ever seen on a toy’. Even Aunt Harriet had remembered, though her package of nappies was greeted with slightly less enthusiasm than the rest of the gifts. 

By the time the present opening was over and they were all washed and dressed, breakfast was being served and the entire family traipsed down to the dining room for their morning meal. As the pension had very few guests, permission had been granted for Henry to join his family at mealtimes, and Mme. Renault, the kindly owner, had even dug a highchair out of her storage room for him to sit in. As the Watsons appeared and took their seats at a large round table near the window, two of the pension’s other guests, a couple of elderly women from Scotland, were just finishing their coffee and pastries. They were seated on the table next to the family, and when they got up to take their leave five minutes later, they paused at Henry’s highchair, coo’ing over him and telling his parents what a wonderful little boy they had. 

Evadne smiled graciously as her son lapped up the attention, fluttering his long eyelashes at his admirers, and one of the women laughed and patted him on the back, almost causing him to choke. 

“That’s one darling wee heartbreaker you have there,” she exclaimed, patting Henry’s ringlets again. 

“Thank you,” Edgar replied, smiling, and the women fussed over him one last timeand then moved on, wishing the family a good day as they went. 

Evadne pulled a face at her husband as they left, and Edgar laughed at her protests that the women had manhandled her son. 

“Oh, stop it! They were just being nice. Now,” he said, changing the subject purposefully as his wife opened her mouth to protest some more, “let’s get back to what we’re going to do today. A show of hands for the steamer trip, please!” and they turned their attention back to the day ahead. 

 

The outing to Interlaken proved to be a resounding success. Henry seemed to have a new burst of energy now that he was one, toddling around for much of the day attached to his reins, and Marcia and Ned managed an entire day without an argument, thanks in the main to Marcia’s newly adopted policy for dealing with her brother’s teasing. They visited the Kursaal and Schlosskirche, window shopped and lunched on the Hoehweg, and took the promised steamer trip around Lake Thun. 

They finally arrived back at the Villa Caramie not long after kaffee. It was a balmy April evening, and as the elder children ran off to busy themselves with their own pursuits, Evadne parked herself and her son on a bench in the pension’s large garden, whilst Edgar transported all their other paraphernalia upstairs. Tired out by the excitement of the day, Henry was fast asleep in his chair, his woollen rabbit clutched in his chubby little arms. 

“Why is it we seem to have to move house whenever we go out anywhere?” Edgar asked as he reappeared, flopping down beside her on the bench and taking out his handkerchief to mop his brow. 

Evadne laughed. “If you think it’s bad now, wait ‘til we have another one!” 

Edgar grimaced. “Evvy-” 

“I know,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “I’m only saying, that’s all.” Edgar frowned and she hastened to change the subject. “I think I’ll ask Miss Wilson and Miss Annersley tomorrow about places for the girls, if it’s okay with you?” 

“Fine by me.” 

Glancing over to where their daughters were playing tag with two young girls belonging to the other family staying at the pension, Evvy added, “Try your best to get them to go see the school tomorrow, will you? Even if it’s just staring through the fence at the outside. Maybe you could all take a walk down there?” 

Edgar smiled. “I’ll try, I promise.” He paused for a moment and glanced down at his sleeping son. “So, do you think he enjoyed his birthday?” 

“I reckon so. The wrapping paper went down well and he loves that rabbit, doesn’t he? He’s not let go of it all day!” She gazed down Henry, curled up with the woollen rabbit that was almost as big as he was, and reached out to take hold of his foot. “I can’t believe he’s a year old already!” 

“I know - it’s flown by, hasn’t it?” Leaning back against the bench, Edgar placed an arm around her shoulders. “We’ve been married almost two years now!” 

“Feels like a lifetime!” she returned, mischief in her blue eyes. 

“Hey!” 

An injured look came over Edgar’s face and she grinned up at him. “In the best way, of course,” she added, lifting her face to give him a kiss. 

“That’s what I like to see, wedded bliss!” 

They turned their heads at the unexpected voice, and Edgar jumped to his feet, his arm outstretched in greeting. “Jack! We weren’t expecting you! Good to see you, old chap!” 

Jack Maynard chuckled as he shook his friend’s hand. “I thought I’d pop in and say hello on the way to the San. This is Steve, our eldest lad,” he added, indicating a tall, blonde teenage boy beside him. “He wanted to come along and meet Ned. Seems to think he might have played school cricket against him last summer - the name rang some bell or other.” 

Steve smiled and said hello, and Edgar glanced across to where his son was trying to fly his new model plane. “Ned!” he called, loudly, waving his hand as Ned looked up. “You’ve got a visitor!” then turning back to Stephen, “Go on over and see him, if you like.” 

Stephen ran off across the lawn, and Evadne turned back to their guest. “How’s Joey?” 

“Rushing around like a mad woman trying to make sure everything’s in shape for tomorrow,” Jack replied with a grin. “She’s in her element, and more excited than I’ve seen her in a long time. Thankfully she has Grizel to keep her in check or who knows what disaster might befall my house whilst I’m not at home!” Evadne laughed, and Jack passed over a small wrapped package that was clutched in his hand. “She asked me to drop this off, as it happens. It’s just a little something for Henry.” 

“Thanks, Jack, you shouldn’t have!” 

“Nonsense, it’s our pleasure. Is this the little chap himself?” he asked, peering down at the sleeping youngster. 

As his wife unwrapped the gift, Edgar nodded and turned the chair so that Jack could get a better view. “Sorry he’s sleeping. We’ve had a bit of a long day in Interlaken – he’s been running about all over the place and tired himself out.” 

“Never mind - I'll meet him next time, I’m sure. How long are you-” 

“Oh! It’s beautiful,” Evvy interrupted, holding up a soft, blue woollen blanket, and letting the wrapping paper fall to the floor. “Thank you so much.” 

Out of the corner of his eye, Edgar had seen something else drop with the paper and he bent to pick it up. “What’s this?” 

“Jo had some wool left over after making the blanket, so she decided to make a matching hat” Jack replied, grinning widely. “Now he can keep his head warm and coordinate with his bedding at the same time!” 

The other two laughed, and Evvy said, “Well make sure you thank Jo from us too.” 

“You can do that in person tomorrow, if you like! Right, I’d better be off. I'll see you both at some point during the week, no doubt. Evvy, Joey says if you get to Freudesheim at around eleven tomorrow, that’ll be fine. Steve!” he bellowed across the lawn to his son. “Make sure you’re home for dinner at seven or your mother will skin me alive!” and with that dire prediction, he turned and took his leave. 

 

The following morning found Evadne rushing around her bedroom, fussing over her son and issuing her husband with instructions, whilst simultaneously trying to find her handbag. Edgar was lying back on the bed, Henry next to him, still clutching his new rabbit and playing with one of his cars. 

Edgar watched on, grinning, as his wife got down on all fours and began fishing under the bed. “I think we’ll be okay, Evvy. We’re not even leaving the Platz.” Then glancing at his watch, he added, “Hadn’t you better get going? You were supposed to be there twenty minutes ago.” 

Evadne stood up, having finally located her handbag, and brushed some dust from her skirt. “I know that, I just want to make sure-” 

“For pete’s sake, woman, will you just go! We’ll cope without you - we’ve brought Monique to help with the kids, after all! Now get out, before I carry you to Joey’s myself!” and getting to his feet, he shoo’ed her out of the door.

 

She arrived at Freudesheim some twenty minutes later to be greeted at the door by Margot. Walking into the Maynard’s hall, she came face to face with Cornelia, as that lady emerged from the bathroom. 

“Evvy, you’re here! How are you? It’s so good to see you!” Corney ran forward, throwing her arms around her friend in greeting, and Evadne returned her hug with a laugh. 

“It’s good to see you too, Corney.” She gave her friend another brief squeeze, and then pulled back and peered round her into the salon. “Is everyone here? Am I the last?” 

“Almost – we’re still waiting on Hilary too. What took you so long? Everyone’s been asking where you were!” 

Evadne grinned. “I got caught up.” 

“You mean you were flapping about leaving Edgar and the kids?” Evvy laughed and nodded, and Corney shook her head. “I might’ve known. Come on then, let’s go let everyone know you’re here. We can catch up properly later on.” 

She turned to head back into the salon, and chuckling, Evadne caught her arm to stop her and reached out to pull her friend's skirt out of her underpants. 

“Glad to see some things never change!” 

Cornelia grimaced as she realised what had happened. “Thank heavens you saw that! That would have been a great start to the week – can you imagine?” she said with a laugh. 

“We wouldn’t expect any less from you!” Evadne retorted, teasing, and slipping her hand through her friend’s arm, she dragged an indignant Cornelia towards the salon. 

 

Once Hilary arrived at midday, they made their way over to the school, where they ate lunch, rested and had a tour around, before returning to Freudesheim for afternoon tea. They had talked and laughed all day, in some cases swapping decades worth of news, and by the time Evadne left to return to the pension at five o’clock, they had only caught up on a fraction of it all. 

With a cheery 'see you tomorrow' to Nell Wilson and Rosalie Dene, who had left the party with her, Evvy made her way around the path and off down the road towards the Villa Caramie. Meanwhile, the two members of staff crossed the gardens that provided a shortcut back to the school. They had just made their way through the small gate that Jack had cut in the hedge several years before, when they heard voices and looked up to see two young girls standing with their faces pressed against a gap in the fence, peering through at the school. 

Rosalie frowned. “Who are they, do you think?” 

“I’ve no more idea than you do, my dear,” Nell returned, dryly. “I’ll go and deal with them, shall I? I’ll see you back in the staffroom shortly,” and leaving the younger woman to head into the main building, she turned and strolled across the lawn towards the fence. “Hello there, can I help you?” she asked, smiling as she approached the spot where they stood. 

The small, slight, dark-haired girl went red and looked up nervously at the stranger who clearly had something to do with the school. “Sorry, we were just looking.” 

“Our Mummy used to go here so we wanted to see what it was like,” added the slightly taller girl, her blonde curls shining in the evening sun. 

“Did she now?” Miss Wilson replied curiously. “What’s your Mummy’s name?” 

“Lady Watson.” 

“But her real name’s Evvy,” the blonde one put in. “She’s our stepmother really, but we call her Mummy.” 

Nell smiled as she realised who the two girls were. “In that case, you two must be Thea and Marcia then?” 

The pair of them gaped at her in awe. 

“How do you know that?” Thea asked, incredulously. 

“Because I know your stepmother – I used to teach her in fact, back in her days as a mischievous middle.” 

Marcia’s eyes open wide at this nugget of information. “Cor - you must be really old then!” 

Marcia!” Thea looked aghast as she hit her sister on the arm. 

Dying as she was to laugh, Miss Wilson managed to keep a straight face, though she had a twinkle in her eyeas she replied. “I’ve seen a good many things in my time, yes.” 

“What’s your name?” Marcia asked, totally unperturbed. 

“Miss Wilson. So you're Marcia then?” 

“Yes,” that young lady replied, her curls bouncing as she nodded her head. “And she’s Thea.” 

“Yes, I gathered that.” 

“Are you a teacher still?” Thea put in, and Nell turned and gave her a smile. 

“Sort of, though I don’t teach too much anymore. I’m one of the Heads here now. I look after the much older girls up at another building, so you two won’t see much of me when you start here.” There was a gasp as she spoke, and seeing the pair of them staring at her, open-mouthed, she suddenly remembered Evadne mentioning that they had not yet told the girls they were starting in September. “If your parents decide to send you here, that is,” she added hurriedly, then glanced at her watch. “It’s getting on a bit, you know, you’d better run on home. Your mother set off a few minutes ago. I’ll hopefully be up to meet your brothers sometime this week, so perhaps I'll see you again then. Goodbye,” and leaving them staring after her, she hurried back towards the school, intent on calling the pension and explaining to Evadne and her husband what had happened. 

Thea and Marcia watched her go, and then turned to stare at each other in shock. 

“Do you think it’s true?” 

Thea shrugged. “Don’t know.” 

They stared at each other a moment more and then, as if a silent signal had passed between them, they both turned tail and ran in the direction of their hotel, intent on finding out what was going on.

Chapter 34 by Josie

Evadne sauntered up the road towards the pension, smiling to herself as she recalled conversations from the day just passed. It had been fun to see her old schoolfriends after such a long time, and she was very much looking forward to the rest of the week. 

She heard shouting as she neared the grass bank in front of the hotel, and looked up to see her stepson and the two eldest Maynard boys, who Joey had released to go and play after showing them off to her guests. The three of them were engaged in a boisterous game of french cricket. 

"You boys having fun?" she called out. 

Hearing her voice, Ned turned to face her, grinning. "More than Dad is!" 

"Why’s that?" 

"Henry’s been screaming and crying all day. Dad reckons he must be sickening for something." 

A concerned look came over Evadne’s face. "Is he feverish?" 

Ned shrugged. "No idea. I’ve kept well out of the way – Dad was in a foul temper earlier on." 

His stepmother winced. "Okay, well you boys make sure you keep the noise down out here please. Steve and Charles, your mother says you’re to be home by six as you’ve an early start tomorrow to get to your Aunt Winifred’s," and with her orders issued, she marched up the steps and into the lobby. 

Edgar was standing by the front desk, his back to her, talking to the owner Mme. Renault. As their conversation finished and the Swiss woman bustled off into the back room, Evadne sneaked up behind her husband and grabbed him around the waist. 

"Guess who?" she said, as he started in surprise and turned to face her, clutching his chest. 

"You nearly gave me a heart attack! Thank goodness you’re home!" he added, with some feeling. 

"Yes, I heard you’ve had a day of it," she replied, smiling sympathetically. 

Edgar grimaced. "Something like that. Your son’s been either crying for Britain or whimpering pitifully all day. Monique tried taking him for a walk, so did I, and we’ve changed him, bathed him, played with him, tried everything we can think of and he’s still yelling!" 

"I like the way he’s my son all of a sudden!" his wife retorted indignantly. "He may be sick for all you know, and that’s not my fault!" 

"I’m rather afraid he is," Edgar returned, ignoring his wife’s protests. "I can’t put it down to anything else. Come and see what you think." 

He crossed the lobby with long, loping strides and Evadne hurried to keep up with him as they made their way up the stairs. When they reached the first floor landing, Henry’s screams could be heard coming from his parents’ room, and pushing past her husband, Evvy ran down the corridor and threw open the door. She found Monique standing by the window, rocking him up and down gently, trying to calm him and having very little success. Henry’s little face was scarlet and screwed up in misery, his chubby cheeks tear-stained, his eyes puffy from crying. He was clutching his new rabbit, his face partly hiding behind the bunny’s floppy woollen ears. 

"Oh precious, what’s the matter?" Evadne exclaimed, darting forward to take him from his au pair. 

The little boy turned his head at the sound of her voice and held his arms out towards her, kicking his legs and calling ‘Ma-ma’ through his sobs. Evadne took him in her arms and held him tightly to her chest, stroking his back and his fair curls, murmuring words of comfort. Henry buried his face in her shoulder, his sobs gradually growing quieter as she soothed him, and after a couple of minutes he finally stopped crying and cuddled closer to his mother’s body, his head resting drowsily on her collar bone as he sniffled. 

Evadne raised a hand to feel his forehead. "Poor little mite, he’s burning hot! Monique, be a gem and grab a cold flannel from the bathroom, will you?" 

Monique went to do as she asked, and Edgar looked down at his son with some concern. "Do you think he’s ill then?" 

"No I don’t think so," his wife replied, with a shake of her head. "I reckon he’s just hot because he’s been crying himself into a fit, haven’t you sugar-pie?" She kissed him gently on the forehead and wiped away some of his tears with her thumb. Then as Monique returned with the flannel, she gave that young lady a smile. "Thanks. This should help no end. Has he eaten?" Monique indicated that no, he hadn’t. "In that case, would you mind running down and asking Mme. Renault to heat his food through for me? Thank you so much." 

As the au pair left the room, Edgar turned back to his wife. "Well if he’s not ill, what is it then?" 

"I think he’s been missing me," she replied nonchalantly. 

"He's what?" 

"I’m serious! You forget he’s not been parted from me for more than a couple of hours before today." 

"Yes he has. We left him with people on quite a few occasions when he was tiny." 

"Yes, but that’s not the same thing. Now he’s a little older, he understands that I was gone. He’s used to you being away for hours on end during the day because of work, but I’m nearly always around. The poor little lad probably thought I’d left him." She gazed down at Henry and smoothed back his fine curls. "Did you think I’d left you, sweetie?" she asked, dropping a kiss on his nose. "Mommy wouldn’t leave you, don’t worry." 

"You really think that’s what the problem is?" Edgar sounded incredulous. His wife nodded, as she rocked Henry gently, and helped him hold onto his rabbit. Edgar frowned. "Well then, that’s it! You’re not going anywhere ever again!" 

Evadne laughed. "He’ll get used to it, won’t you, sugar-pie? He’ll probably be much better tomorrow, now he knows that I’ll come back." She kissed Henry again. "Are you gonna manage okay if he does this again?" 

Edgar rolled his eyes and then grinned. "We’ll cope!" Then perching himself on the corner of the bed, "So tell me, how was today?" 

"terrific!" Evvy enthused, a beaming smile on her face. "It’s such fun to see everyone again." 

"And how was Corney?" 

"I didn’t have a chance to gossip with her too much today, but she seemed okay. She gave me this from Mike," Evadne added, and fishing in her pocket, she pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to her husband. "You can telephone them anytime, apparently. The concierge will take a message if they’re not in. And Hilary said to tell you that Phil’s off for the day in a few days and will take you and kids out and show you around a bit, if you like. 

"Sounds like a good plan." Edgar briefly studied the piece of paper, and then folded it again and put it on the bedside table. "I’ll call Mike tomorrow. Did you ask about the school?" 

Evadne nodded. "Miss Annersley said she’ll keep places for the girls to start in September, so that’s good. Now they just need to ask to go! Where are they, anyhow? I saw Ned outside, but not the other two." 

"They went for a walk. Ned didn’t want to join them and then Steve and Charles appeared to keep him occupied, thank goodness! It’s just a pity they won’t be here longer, but I gather Jack’s taking them to Montreux tomorrow?" Evvy nodded. "It’s a shame – if we’d known, we could have offered to have those two here." 

"Oh well, it’s probably for the best," Evadne responded, shrugging. "You and Monique have enough kids to cope with, especially with Henry playing up as he is." 

"That’s true enough, I suppose." 

Just then, Monique returned to the room, complete with the small bowl of food. Evadne thanked her, settled herself on a chair in front of her husband and began feeding Henry. Just as she gave him his first mouthful, the phone beside the bed started to ring and Edgar reached out to answer it. 

"Edgar Watson speaking … Oh hello, Rosalie! What can we do for you? ... Sorry, she’s a little tied up at the moment. Will I do? ... No, they’re not back yet. Is something … She did what? How? … Yes, I see. … Well thanks for letting us know … No … No, we won’t … Okay, goodbye." 

He replaced the receiver on the cradle, paused for a second to gather himself and then turned to his wife, a somewhat cross expression on his face. "That was Rosalie." 

"So I gathered!" She gave him a curious look. "Well come on then, what are you looking all cat-that-lost-the-cream about?" 

"When you asked about places at the school, did you tell them the girls don’t know yet?" 

"Of course I did! Why?" 

"Because your Miss Wilson has let the cat out of the bag royally, by all accounts. Apparently she met the girls down by the school and mentioned that they’d be starting there in September. Rosalie was phoning to warn us." 

"Oh, for…" Evadne bit back the less-than-ladylike exclamation that was on the tip of her tongue, and took a deep breath. "I’m sure it must have been an accident. It’s not like Bill to let a secret out." 

"Yes, well be that as it may, they now know! And personally I’d much rather we’d had the chance to tell them ourselves!" 

"So would I, Edgar!" Evadne flashed back angrily. "It’s not my fault! Instead of getting cross with me, why don’t we…" 

She was interrupted mid-sentence, as the door flew open and Marcia tumbled into the room. In her eagerness to get to her parents, she tripped over a rug and fell flat on her face. 

"Mummy, is it true?" she cried, scrambling back to her feet as Thea followed her into the room. 

Evadne grimaced at her husband, unsure what to say. Edgar glanced at her and then turned back to Marcia. 

"Is what true?" 

"That we’re going to the Chalet School," Thea put in, staring from her father to her stepmother, and back again. 

"’Cause we met a lady called Miss Wilson who used to teach Mummy and she said it was, but then she said it wasn’t!" Marcia added, still sounding out-of-breath. 

Vowing to tell Nell Wilson exactly what she thought next time she saw her, Evadne passed Henry and his bowl of food over to Monique and indicated for her to take him out of the room. Edgar, meanwhile, patted the bed next to him. 

‘Come and sit down, both of you." 

Thea did as she was told, but Marcia remained standing next to the dresser, her arms crossed firmly across her chest. Seeing that she wasn’t going to move, Edgar continued. 

"Miss Wilson was right," he said simply, seeing no point in beating around the bush now that they knew. "Mummy and I have talked about it, and we think the Chalet School will be the best place for you to finish your education. And Mummy would love you to follow in her footsteps and go to her old school. She was very happy there when she was a girl and we think you will be too. You’ll be starting together in September." The pair of them stared at him intently as he paused. "So what do you think?" he asked anxiously. 

There was silence for a few moments as the two girls stared at each other. Then Thea turned back to face him, a wide grin on her pretty face. 

"I think it’s cool!" she said, borrowing her brother’s favourite expression of delight. 

Edgar looked at her in disbelief. "Are you sure, sweetheart? You don’t mind leaving your friends?" 

Thea shook her head vigorously. "No, ‘cause Kate’s going to boarding school in England and Celine’s moving to Zurich, so it would only be me and Lucy left and she’s friends with everyone else anyway," she explained, still beaming. 

Edgar’s relief was immense. He had been so worried about what her reaction would be to being sent away to boarding school, that he felt the weight of the world lift from his shoulders at her obvious delight. 

"Are you absolutely sure, Thea? You really want to go?" 

"Yes please! It’s so pretty here and all Mummy’s stories make it sound so marvellous. I think it’ll be lots of fun. Don’t you Marcia?" she asked enthusiastically, turning to face her sister. 

Marcia stared back at her in silence, and then shrugged, a deep frown sullying her pretty features. Thea looked thoroughly confused. 

"I thought you said the school sounds fun?" 

"It does," came the sullen reply. 

"Then don’t you want to go?" 

"Don’t know." 

Evadne and Edgar exchanged shocked glances. This was the last thing they were expecting. 

"Why don’t you know, poppet?" Edgar asked slowly, looking concerned. 

Marcia thought hard for a second before she replied. "’Cause I’d have to leave Ann and Ingrid and Anton and Scrabble and Pickle and Millicent Mary and Henry and Mummy and you," she reeled off before pausing for breath. "I wouldn’t see anyone." 

Thea stared at her incredulously. "Yes you would, in the holidays! Don’t be such a ninny!" 

"I’m not being a ninny!" Marcia flashed back, beginning to get angry. "Just ‘cause you don’t care, I do!" 

Before things erupted into an argument, Evadne hastily got to her feet. "Thea, why don’t we go and rescue Monique from Henry so that she can have a rest, and then go and find Ned," she said quickly, holding out her hand. 

Pulling Thea up from the bed, she dragged her out of the room before she could say anything else, leaving Marcia and Edgar staring at each other. 

"Why didn’t you tell us before?" Marcia asked eventually, breaking the silence 

"I…well…" Edgar’s voice faltered, and he held out his hand to his daughter. "Come here." 

She shook her head and perched herself on the end of the bed instead, pulling her legs up underneath her and crossing her arms across her chest again. 

"Why, Daddy?" 

"We were going to, Marcia, I promise. I’m so sorry you had to find out like that, we didn’t mean for that to happen." Marcia stared down at the bedclothes, her lips pulled together in a straight line, and Edgar felt a wave of guilt sweep over him. "Thea’s right, you know," he added after a moment. "You’ll see us in the holidays, and some weekends too." 

"S'not the same as every night, though," she replied, her voice sounding a little choked. "I don’t think I want to go away. I’ll miss you and Mummy and Henry too much." 

"Oh poppet, we’ll miss you too but we’ll all get used to it, just as we did with Ned. It’s not as if you’ll be there alone - you’ll have Thea with you. And you remember Val, who lives with Aunt Corney and Uncle Mike? You're penpals with her, aren't you?" Marcia nodded. "Well she’s starting back in September too and you two got on so well. She’s even the same age as you so you’ll have a ready made friend." 

"But I like my old friends," she replied quietly, twisting her fingers together and refusing to look him in the eye. "And you won’t be there, Daddy. I’ll miss you ‘specially." 

Edgar gave her a slight smile and said nothing. He didn’t really know how to answer her. Marcia thought for a moment and then continued. 

"Remember years ago before I was grown up," she began, and Edgar had to stop himself grinning, "you said it would always be us – you and me and Thea and Ned?" 

Edgar smiled, surprised she could recall that far back. "Yes, I remember." 

"Well now we’ve got Mummy and Henry too and that’s really good, but if Thea and me go to school then it won’t be us anymore." 

"Of course it will, sweetheart," Edgar replied, searching his mind for something that would reassure her. "Do you remember before Mummy and I got married and we still lived in England, I used to go away all the time for work? It was still ‘us’ then wasn’t it?" She nodded. "And when Ned went to school that didn’t change things, did it? He still annoys you just as much, doesn’t he?" 

Despite herself, Marcia giggled as she nodded again, and Edgar gave her a warm smile. 

"Well then, this won’t change things either. It’ll be like when we were in England, except this time it’ll be you who goes away instead of me. But I promise Mummy, Henry and I will make sure we still see you as much as we can." Marcia stared at him, still looking unsure. "Do you really not want to go?" 

"I don’t know," she mumbled, though this time she was looking him in the eye. 

"I tell you what, let's make a deal. You have a think over the next week or so and if you still don’t want to go at end of holidays, we’ll have another talk about it, okay?" 

Marcia considered this for a minute. "Okay," she replied eventually, sounding a little happier. 

Edgar grinned. "Good girl. Now come here and give me a hug." 

Marcia hesitated a monent, and then returning his grin, she scrambled up the bed and threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you, Daddy." 

"You’re very welcome," he replied, kissing her fair curls. Then pulling back, he released her and got to his feet, holding out his hand. "Now, shall we go and find the others?" 

"Okay!" Taking his hand, sounding much more like her normal effusive self, she stood up and they walked towards the door. "Miss Wilson’s nice." 

"Is she?" 

Marcia nodded her head. "I think she might be quite scary sometimes though. Do you think she told Mummy off when she was at school?" 

Edgar laughed, his hand resting on the door handle. "I don’t know, poppet. Let’s go and ask her, shall we?" 

 

Later that evening, Edgar was brushing his teeth in the bathroom and Evadne, having changed for bed, was standing over her son’s cot. Tired out by his day of screaming and crying, Henry had fallen asleep not long after his mother arrived home, and had remained that way all evening despite Evvy's best attempts to keep him up. Then, just as his parents were getting ready for bed, he woke up and no matter what Evadne tried, he was refusing to settle down again. 

Giving up an attempt at coaxing him to lie down, Evadne put her hands on her hips and glared down at his smiling face. 

"Just because you’re one now, it doesn’t give you right to stay up all night, young man!" she said sternly, raising her eyebrows as he looked up at her. "Now will you please be a good boy and go to sleep?" 

Henry giggled and held up his rabbit. "Babi" 

"Yes, clever boy, that’s your rabbit. And look, rabbit’s tired and wants to go to sleep, so you should too. Look, tired, see?" Reaching down, she went to take it from himbut he pulled back, trying to yank it out of her grasp, and began to yell. "Okay okay, you keep him," she relented, letting go. "Just don’t wake the neighbourhood, please." 

Edgar came out of bathroom as she spoke. "I gather he’s still refusing to go back to sleep then?" he asked with a grin. 

"You gather right," she retorted, grimacing. "Apparently tonight is playing night and we will not be allowed any rest." Rolling her eyes, she lifted him out of the cot and put him down on the bed. 

Excited to finally be getting the attention that he wanted, Henry waved his rabbit around, babbling and crying ‘Babi’ again. Edgar sat down next to him and Henry held the toy out towards him. 

"Da-da." 

His father accepted it with a smile. Henry tried to stand up a couple of times, finding it impossible on the springy bed and giggling every time he fell over. Then giving it up as a bad job, he crawled towards Edgar, who lifted him into his lap. 

"Are you making a nuisance of yourself, Sonny Jim?" Edgar asked. Henry babbled back at him. "Really? You think so?" 

Evadne laughed as she climbed into bed beside them. "You can understand him, can you?" 

"Of course!" Edgar chuckled. "He makes perfect sense, can’t you tell?" He glanced down at the little boy in his lap. "Actually, he reminds me of Marcia at his age. She never went to sleep either." 

"Nothing much has changed there then!" 

"No, I suppose not." He heaved a sigh and frowned. "I still can’t believe she doesn’t want to go to the school." 

"She hasn’t said that yet, Edgar, she said she’s not sure." 

"Oh I know. It’s just that I thought she’d jump at it. You know it’s not like her to turn down a new adventure." 

Evadne shrugged. "I suppose so. But when you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. She’s Daddy’s baby really. It’s just she’s generally so happy-go-lucky, we forget how dependent she is on you." 

"And you too, but yes I suppose you’re right." Edgar heaved a sigh. "We’ll see w…ouff!" and he grabbed his nose as Henry hit him squarely and solidly in the face with his rabbit. 

Henry giggled at the funny noises his father was making, and Evadne reached out and pulled her son from his father’s lap and onto the bed. 

"Baby, your nose is bleeding." 

Reaching up to his face, Edgar gingerly felt his nose, and then removed his fingers to find them smeared with blood. "I don’t know what you’re laughing at!" he said severely to his son. "That’s assault and battery, I believe." 

Getting up, he made his way through to the bathroom, and Evadne reached out and grabbed Henry around the waist again, as he set off crawling towards the edge of the bed. "Right that’s enough, come here." She pulled him into her lap and he squealed and waved his arms in protest as she removed the rabbit from his grasp. "I’ll sing you a song, and then you can go back in your cot and go to sleep, and we’ll have no more of this nonsense!" 

Henry's yells got louder as he tried to grab the rabbit back from her. A moment later, Edgar reemerged from the bathroom, his nostril plugged with tissue to stem the bleeding, and Henry stopped screaming and began to babble again as his father sat down. 

Evadne heaved a sigh. "This is going to be a very long night!"

Chapter 35 by Josie

“Bye, Evvy. See you tomorrow!” 

“Have a nice evening!” 

"Say hello to Edgar from us!" 

As her friends disappeared down the path towards Freudesheim and their Kaffee and Kuchen, Evadne waved them off and then turned to walk into the Villa Caramie. It had been a long day. Fun, of course, but long all the same. They had begun with a visit to Biddy Courvoisier and her new baby, and then followed that up with a stroll up to the Auberge. Evadne had seized the opportunity during the walk up there to give Miss Wilson her unvarnished opinion of that lady’s indiscretion of the previous day. The sheepish look on Miss Wilson’s face, as her former pupil turned the air blue, left the rest of the party clutching their sides with laughter and Marie summed it up nicely when she stated that ‘that was one role reversal she had never expected to see’. Eventually, through her laughter, Miss Annersley had made a bid to smooth things over by saying that maybe she could make up for her friend’s ‘shocking lapse’ by showing the two girls around the school later in the week, an offer that Evadne had gratefully accepted. 

Now, as she walked through the front door of the pension and into the lobby, she reflected on the day that had just passed. It was funny really. She was enjoying this reunion so much, but every evening she enjoyed reuniting with her family even more. So much so, in fact, that despite her friends’ protests she had decided to forego kaffee at the Maynards to return to the pension early. And anyway, she reasoned with herself, if Henry had been screaming all day again, then Edgar would be tearing his hair out by now and would more than welcome her presence. 

She heard her son before she caught sight of him. Rather than the expected screams, however, the sounds that reached her ears were childish squeals and giggles, and a second later Henry appeared from a corridor, toddling as fast as his little legs would carry him. He was followed by Edgar and Ned, both shuffling behind him, bent double and pretending to chase him. The pair of them were so busy concentrating on the little boy that neither could see where they were going and as a result, Edgar cannoned headfirst into a high table standing to one side of the lobby. It wobbled under the impact, and he stood up just in time to grab a large porcelain vase before it crashed to the floor. 

Ned grinned as he watched his father steady the table and place the vase back where it belonged. “Phew! That was lucky!” 

“You can say that again!” Edgar replied, grimacing. “Just don’t tell your stepmother, whatever you do. You know she’ll give me an earful about being more careful!” 

“Oh I will, will I?” 

At the sound of his mother’s voice, Henry let out a loud squeal and toddled towards her, holding his chubby arms outstretched. Edgar froze, his cheeks scarlet. Then forcing a smile onto his lips, he turned to face her. 

“Hello, darling, you’re home early! Did you have a nice day?” 

“Hi Evvy!” Ned looked from his stepmother to his father and back again, grinning widely, and then turned on his heel and ran off to find his sisters, with a mischievous ‘good luck’ to Edgar as he went. 

“Hey there, sugar-pie. Have you been a good boy today?” Evadne asked Henry, stooping to lift her son into her arms and kissing him on the cheek. Then turning her attention to her husband, she replied “Yes thanks, I had a wonderful day. You?” 

“I…er…” Edgar had been expecting a cutting remark, at the very least, regarding his rude comments and was rather taken aback by her cheery reply. “Yes, it was good. Henry’s happier.” 

“So I can see.” 

There was an awkward pause for a moment, as Evadne watched her husband, amused at his discomfort, and Edgar wracked his brain trying to think of something to say. “So, did you take Miss Wilson to task about telling the girls?” he asked eventually. 

“Yes, I did,” she replied, chuckling lightly to herself. “Let’s head upstairs so I can get washed up for kaffee, and I’ll let you know how it went.” Henry was wriggling and trying to get down, so Evvy set him on the ground again, taking hold of his hand, and they made their way towards the staircase. “Do you really think you can make the step, little man?” she asked, as Henry studied the bottom stair intently. Then yanking his hand from his mother’s grasp, he put both palms on the stair above and hauled himself up on his hands and knees. “I guess that answers that question, then!” his mother laughed, watching proudly as he negotiated the second stair and moved onto number three. 

“It certainly does! I’ll just go and tell the others that we’ll meet them in the ‘Saal for kaffee when the gong goes, and then I’ll join you up there,” and turning on his heel, Edgar went to make his way back across the lobby. 

“Mind the table there as you go!” 

“Aha!” Edgar spun round to face her. “I knew you’d have to mention it at some point!” he cried, triumphantly. 

“I don’t know what you’re sounding so victorious about,” his wife retorted, raising her eyebrows in a supercilious manner, “but I can treat you to a tongue-lashing if you’d rather?” 

Edgar hesitated for a moment, considering this offer. Then deciding she was probably serious, he turned tail and hurried off to find the children, and laughing, Evadne returned her concentration to her son. 

 

Half an hour later, the entire family were gathered together in the dining room for kaffee, discussing the day’s events. Evadne had just told Thea about Miss Annersley’s offer to show her around the school in a few days’ time, and Thea was excitedly listing everything she was eager to see. 

“Will they show me the classroom I’ll be in next year?” she asked enthusiastically. 

Evadne nodded, as she cut Henry’s cake into tiny pieces. “I’m sure they’ll show you the classrooms, though you won’t know which form you’ll be in until you sit the tests.” 

“Mummy, can I go and look too?” 

Turning her attention to Marcia, Evadne gave the young girl a smile. “You really want to, sweetie?” 

“Yes, please!” Marcia’s blonde curls bounced as she nodded her head. “It might help me think.” 

“Well I’m sure Miss Annersley won’t mind one extra body to show round.” 

"Can I go too?” 

Edgar raised his eyebrows at his eldest son. “Why would you want to look around the Chalet School?” 

“It’s a girls’ school, ninny!” Marcia added, pulling a ‘you’re-so-stupid’ expression at her brother. 

Maturely, Ned stuck his tongue out in return. “I know that, twerp! I just wanted to see where Evvy went to school,” he explained with a mischievous glint in his eye, “to see if she left her mark on it!” 

“Watch it, you!” his stepmother returned menacingly. 

“Mummy went to school in Austria not Switzerland anyway, so you wouldn’t see anything of her here” Thea put in, sticking up for Evadne. 

Ned looked thoroughly confused and Evadne grinned. “I’ll tell you about it another time.” 

At that moment, Henry kicked his father’s arm, causing that gentleman to spill hot tea in his lap and jump to his feet with a yell. By the time order was restored once more, Ned had moved the conversation onto his own school and how much he was looking forward to playing cricket next term. 

“As long as Lloyd-Kitchen doesn’t play cricket too. I’ll have several fits if he does!” 

“Who’s Lloyd-Kitchen?” Thea wanted to know. 

“A complete idiot, that’s who! Harry’s had to share a dormer with him all year – he’s ready to smother him!” Then turning to Edgar, “Dad, you’ll never guess what he said?” 

“What’s that?” Edgar responded, only half-listening as he tried to get Henry to take a drink of his milk without throwing it down his front. 

“We were talking about the Riviera and he said to tell you we shouldn’t be going to Cap Ferrat this summer ‘cause it’s so ‘passé! Can you believe it?” 

Edgar chuckled. “Well he sounds charming, I must say.” 

“Sounds like all kinds of moron if you ask me!” Evadne interjected. 

Ned burst out laughing. “Evvy’s closest!” 

“Daddy, what does passé mean?” 

“It means old-fashioned,” Thea explained, answering her sister’s question. Then turning to her father, “Is that right?” 

Edgar smiled. “It is indeed.” 

“Why’s Cap Ferrat old-fashioned?” Marcia persisted. 

“It’s not, poppet. I think the boy was just being rude.” 

“But why was he being rude?” 

“’Cause he’s an ass, that’s why!” Ned put in, drawing loud tuts from the two elderly ladies at the next table. 

Ned!” his stepmother admonished. “Henry can hear you!”

Marcia considered Ned’s explanation. “Well I don’t think I’ll like him if he’s an ass!” she decided, and the two ladies tutted again and threw the Watson party some filthy looks. 

Marcia! That’s enough, thank you!” Evadne ordered. Then turning to Ned, she added, “Now look what you’ve done!” 

“Don’t you say that word, though?” Ned asked with a mischievous grin. 

“Yes, she does,” Edgar interrupted before Evadne could answer her stepson, “but you know well enough by now that most of what your stepmother says should not be repeated in civilised company!” 

“Well excuse me!” Evadne retorted huffily, as the children fell about laughing. “Of all the ignorant, two-bit, m…” 

Suddenly realising she had fallen for the bait, she clamped her mouth shut, scowled at her husband and turned her attention to Henry, refusing to speak to the rest of them for the remainder of the meal. 

 

The following morning, Henry stood on the front steps of the pension, Monique crouching down behind him, helping him wave goodbye to his mother as she made her way down the street. Evadne kept turning back and waving until she could no longer see them, and then set off at a brisk pace towards Freudesheim. Half an hour previously, she had seen the rest of her family off on an overnight visit to the Van Aldens in Bern, and had then started playing with her son. She had lost track of the time and was now running late for the first proper day of excursions. So much so, in fact, that Joey had called to find out where she was, and she knew she would be in for some merciless ribbing about her timekeeping for the rest of the day. 

She was delighted to find, when she arrived, that her group for the day included Cornelia. She had not had a chance to catch up properly with her best friend as yet, and as their itinerary for the day included a steamer trip on Lake Brienz, she was hoping they would finally be afforded their opportunity. 

An hour later, as the large steamer pulled away from the Interlaken dock, Evadne walked a little apart from the rest of the party and seated herself on one of the long wooden benches, staring up the lush green slopes of the mountains surrounding the lake, thinking how beautiful it was. 

“Is this a party for one, or can anyone join you?” 

She turned around with a grin as she heard a familiar voice behind her, and shuffled a little way up the bench to make room for her friend. Cornelia sat down beside her and looked around at the scenery. 

“I sure have missed the old Alps, you know,” she stated, a wistful look in her eyes. “I know it’s not the Tiernsee, but it’s beautiful all the same. This is my first time back since we left in ’38.” Evadne watched her friend carefully, and Cornelia smiled. “It’s one reason I was so insistent we came, despite all that’s been going on at home. I’m glad Mike said yes.” 

“What’s been going on at home?” Evvy asked, curious and a little concerned. 

Cornelia smiled. “Oh nothing to fret about,” she said, noting the worried look on her friend’s face. “I’ll fill you in some other time.” She stared at Evadne for a second, and then slipped a hand through her friend’s arm, a wide grin on her face. “It’s so good to see you, Evvy, I’ve missed you a whole heap. Can you believe it’s been almost two years since we saw each other? We can’t count your poppa’s funeral, that wasn’t the same.” 

“No, it wasn’t,” Evadne replied with a grin. “I’m glad Joey put us together today – I was thinking I’d have to wait ‘til you came to Geneva before we could catch up properly!” 

“Do you know what she said to me?” Cornelia asked, frowning, and Evvy shook her head. “She said she was putting us together ‘cause we had years of history to catch up on. How long does she think it’s been since we saw each other? It’s as if she thinks she’s the only one who’s ever kept in touch!” 

Evadne laughed at her friend’s indignation. “I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.” Cornelia looked sceptical. “Oh come on, surely you haven’t forgotten what she’s like?” 

Corney shook her head. ‘No, I guess not. Hey, are you okay?” she added hurriedly, as Evadne had suddenly gone rather pale and looked a bit queasy. 

“I’m just feeling a little sick, that’s all,” Evvy replied, grimacing. “It’s why I came and sat down. Must be motion sickness or something. I’m sure it’ll pass.” Cornelia didn’t look convinced and Evadne hastened to change the subject. “Anyhow, I’m glad Joey put us together, as I said. It gives us time to natter. We’ve hardly had a chance to say a word to each other so far.” 

“I know, it’s been crazy, hasn’t it?” 

“You could say that!” 

“It’s fun to see everyone again though. Joey’s not changed a bit, has she? Not in looks or character!” 

Evadne laughed. “No, she hasn’t. She’s a mite plumper, what with having all the kiddies, but that’s about it. Not that I can talk about being plumper,” she added, pinching a couple of millimetres of spare flesh at her waist. 

“Oh please!” Cornelia scoffed, pulling a face at her friend. “Starving kids would turn you down for having no meat on your bones! This is what you call extra packaging!” and she poked her rounded belly. “Mike calls it my winter filling!” 

“How charming of him!” Evadne giggled, and Cornelia rolled her eyes. 

“Yes, well you know my husband!” 

Evadne laughed. “Well you’re hardly Maynie. What a shock that was!” 

Corney turned bright red. “Tell me about it! You all heard what I had to say!” Evvy went off into another fit of giggles and Cornelia nudged her hard in the ribs. “Shhh, idiot, they’ll hear you!” she said, glancing at the rest of the party, who were talking animatedly amongst themselves. “Bernie’s filled out a bit too, hasn’t she? Say, you know who I think’s changed the most?” 

Evadne sat up and pulled herself together. “Who?” she asked, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. 

“Simone.” Cornelia replied firmly. “When you think what a wet rag she was at school, and now she’s the most level-headed, practical woman on earth! She even has me beat!” 

Evvy raised her eyebrows. “I’m not so sure practical is your strong suit!” she said with a wicked grin. “Level-headed, yes. Practical, not so much!” 

Cornelia stared at her for a moment and then shrugged. “I should be injured by that, but I can’t be fussed. What’s up with Frieda, by the way? She looks so thin.” 

“That stems back to what happened with Bruno at the beginning of the war,” Evadne answered wisely, and Corney grimaced. 

“Of course, I’d forgotten all about that.” 

Evadne nodded. “They’ve had problems with Gretchen too, so Joey says. I agree though, she does look so frail.” 

“Well maybe this week will perk her up a little?” 

“Hopefully.” Evadne smiled. “You know, I think Gretchen may be in the same form as Thea at the School.” 

“Really? That’ll be good for them both then. Has Marcia made her mind up yet?” 

During her reprimand of Miss Wilson, Evadne had told them about her stepdaughter’s reaction to being sent to the school and consequently the whole party were anxious to know how Marcia was feeling. 

Evvy shook her head. “We’re working on her gently, but we don’t want to push it. At the end of the day, if she doesn’t want to go, she won’t. We won’t send her under duress.” 

“I hope she does go,” Corney stated with feeling. “It’ll please Val no end. She’s a little sad that she has to leave Yseult and all of us after the summer, so it’ll do her good to have something to be excited about.” 

“Didn’t they want to come with you this time?” 

“They’d have loved to, but they’re at school,” Corney replied, grinning. “You forget that our semesters are out of sync with Europe. It’s not a problem with Terry - she’s too young to notice if she misses a few classes - but it’s not an option for the Pertwees. And anyway, I reckon Mike has enough to deal with just with our two! We’ve not got an au pair with us as you have. I think he was rather hoping Edgar would bring her along to Bern, actually. Give him some peace for five minutes!” 

Evadne chuckled. “We thought it best if she stayed here with Henry. I think a one-year-old baby on top of the other kids is more than they can handle, even with Monique!” 

Cornelia grinned. “How d’you reckon they’ll cope?” 

Evvy grimaced. “I dread to think...”

Chapter 36 by Josie
Author's Notes:

Ignore my previous note - not a double update, as it all went on one perfectly well! Apologies to whoever left the review - I accidentally deleted it when I deleted the extra chapter.

“Here you are – a tot of France’s finest!” 

Mike handed a glass of cognac to his friend and then flopped down in an armchair, stretching his legs out in front of him and heaving a satisfied sigh. 

“Bottoms up, as you fellas say in England!” 

Edgar chuckled and raised his glass in return. “Same to you!” he retorted, taking a sip of the amber liquid and nodding his head. “Jolly good stuff! Hennessey?” 

Mike nodded. “Private Reserve. Felt the need for the good stuff after one of Meg’s tantrums and the concierge came up trumps for the price of a nod and a wink! Worked a treat on my nerves, I can tell you. It’s come in pretty handy most nights since as well!” 

Edgar could well imagine his friend charming the concierge out of his finest liquor with a few well-chosen words and the odd franc or two, and he grinned as Mike clipped the end from his cigar and then lit it with a match. 

“Is she really that bad?” he asked, referring to the Van Alden’s youngest daughter. 

Mike took a puff of his cigar, blowing out the smoke with a satisfied air, and then nodded. “You’d better believe it! Somehow we’ve managed to breed one child who won’t say boo to a goose and constantly has to be coaxed out of her shell, and another who’s second cousin to Lucifer himself! We love them both with all our hearts, but why we couldn’t just have two somewhere in the middle, I’ll never know!” 

Edgar laughed. “She may well grow out of it, you know. Believe it or not, Thea threw tantrums with the best of them when she was Meg’s age, and now she’s the most mild-mannered of our four by a long way!” He took a sip of his drink as Mike considered this. “And Terry’s far better than she was when we last saw her.” 

“You’re right there. She seems to be getting better as she gets older, thank heavens! She adores that daughter of yours too,” he added, referring to Thea. “Isn’t it funny how kids seem to latch on to certain people?” 

“Certainly is. Henry’s that way with Marcia – Evvy’s the only other person who gets a look-in when his sister’s around. He’s a bonny little lad really, and I think he’s drawn to her sunny nature.” 

“Yes, you probably have a point there.” Sitting up straight in his seat, Mike placed his cigar on the ashtray next to him, stretched his arms up above his head and yawned. Then picking up his drink again, he raised it in Edgar’s direction. “Anyways, enough of all that! I think we should toast ourselves on a thoroughly successful day!’ 

“Here, here!” Edgar tipped his glass to his friend and then took a big sip. “So much for our wives’ prediction of doom and gloom!” he said pompously. “I don’t understand why they had so little faith in us. Personally I think we managed perfectly well without them!” 

“Absolutely! Though to be fair, it’s a good thing Thea knew what to do with those pork knuckles or we’d have gone a little hungry tonight!” 

Edgar chuckled. “That’s true. Thankfully she’s paid a great deal of attention to Guilia! I don’t think our lack of knowledge reflects too badly on us there, though. I don’t know about Corney, but I can guarantee my wife would not have known where to start!” He drained his glass and placed it firmly on the table next to him. “So, Basle tomorrow then?” 

Mike nodded, following his guest’s example and then choking as he drank too quickly. “Sorry about that,” he spluttered, his face scarlet as he wiped some brandy from his chin with his handkerchief. “Yes, Basle tomorrow. What time’s your train back to Interlaken again?” 

“We need to be out of here by three, really. I promised Evvy I’d be back at the Platz before Henry went to bed, so better to be safe than sorry. I think there’s a train at ten to, so we’ll aim for that.” 

“Right, well in that case,” Mike yawned, putting out his cigar and getting to his feet, “I think we should turn in. We’re getting the seven-thirty train, remember, and we have five little beauties to jemmy out of bed before then!” and with that delightful reminder, he picked up his glass and marched out of the room, leaving Edgar to follow in his wake.

 

==

 

“I don’t see that it matters whether we got the last train or this train,” Ned grumbled, as he mooched down the platform towards the eight-thirty train to Basle, under the stern gaze of his father. 

“It matters ‘cause now I’ve got less time to spend with Stan,” Marcia snapped back at him, scowling. 

“Oh grow up!” Ned scoffed. “He’s a penguin. He doesn’t care whether you visit him or not!” 

Marcia flared up instantly, her new method of dealing with her brother’s teasing forgotten for now. “Yes he does!” 

“No, he doesn’t!” 

“Does!” 

“Doesn’t!” 

“Stop that now!” Edgar commanded angrily, clutching his son’s shoulder to warn him to let the matter drop. “Marcia, run along and catch Meg and Uncle Mike up, please.” Then as Marcia hurried off, he stopped Ned and turned him around. “And it matters that we missed the train, young man, because everyone else did as they were asked and got themselves up and dressed while you lazed around complaining. Even Meg was ready in time and she is three years old! I don’t want to hear it,” he added, as Ned opened his mouth to retort. “I’ve had just about enough of your attitude already this morning. Now, you are to get on that train and keep quiet until we get to Basle, or you will be stuck doing nothing but housework for the remainder of your Easter holidays. Do you understand?” Ned scowled and muttered something incoherent. “I’ll take that to be a ‘yes’! Now get a move on and get on the train before we miss this one as well,” and keeping his hand firmly on Ned’s shoulder, he marched him down the platform towards the first class carriages. 

The majority of the journey from Bern to Basle passed by in peace. Ned, Marcia and Meg all fell asleep shortly after leaving Bern station, and with Thea and Terry being quiet souls on the whole, their fathers were given a little time to calm down and relax. However, the peace and quiet turned out to be a false dawn. About twenty minutes outside Basle station, Marcia woke up and began wittering excitedly about seeing Stan again, and after five minutes of her incessant chatter, Thea finally snapped. 

“Will you be quiet!” she barked, dropping the Chalet School prospectus she was reading into her lap and glaring at her sister. 

“Be quiet yourself! I can talk if I want to!” Marcia shot back. 

Edgar heaved a sigh. “Let’s see if you can both be quiet!” he said wearily, passing a copy of ‘Holidays in Switzerland’ to his youngest daughter. “Here, why don’t you read up on Basle in there, Marcia? Then you’ll know what you’re looking at later on.” 

But Marcia wasn’t interested. “Can we go and see Stan first?” 

“No,” her father replied, without looking up from his newspaper, “we’re having breakfast before we do anything else.” 

At the mention of breakfast, Meg began to whine. “Daddy, I’m hungry.” 

“I know you are, sweetie-pie,” Mike replied, ruffling his daughter’s shock of yellow hair. “We’ll be having breakfast soon.” 

“Want it now.” 

“Well you can’t have it just yet. We’ve not long to go now.” 

Meg stuck out her bottom lip. “Want Mommy.” 

“Mommy’s with Aunt Evvy, Meg. You know that, we’ve been through it every day since we arrived.” 

“Up a mountain?” she asked, turning her enormous grey eyes on her father’s face. 

“Yes that’s right, up a mountain.” 

“Mommy’ll bring us toys when she comes back, Meg,” Terry put in, trying to cheer her up and it seemed to have the desired effect as Meg’s sulky look brightened considerably at the thought of presents. 

Mike was not so sure that this was true, but decided to let it go for the sake of peace. Instead, he encouraged his daughter to start looking for cows in the fields through which the train was rumbling, and as there were quite a few, this kept her happily occupied until the train reached Basle. 

 

In the end it was almost ten-thirty by the time the party finally reached the zoo, and Marcia made sure that their first stop was the penguin enclosure, where she set about trying to locate Stan. 

“They all look the same,” she grumbled, as she examined each Emperor Penguin in turn. “I don’t know which one’s him.” 

“Try calling him?” Thea suggested cheekily, earning herself a warning glance from her father. 

Terry nodded earnestly. “That’s how we get kitty to come back to us at home, isn’t it Daddy?” 

“It is indeed,” Mike replied with a grin. 

“Okay.” Marcia turned back to the enclosure and lifted her hands to her mouth. “Stan!” The bird nearest to her squawked, startled at the sudden noise, and a couple of others looked around, as if wandering what was going on. “Stan! Hmph!” She frowned and looked up at her father. “I thought he’d recognise me – I sent him a picture and everything.” 

At his sister’s words, Ned snorted audibly and in order to stop him saying anything to cause yet another argument, Edgar gripped his arm tightly. 

“Ow! What d’you do that for!” 

“Daddy, this is stupid!” Thea interjected, voicing the opinion of everyone over the age of Marcia, who thankfully wasn’t listening. “Can’t we go and look at something else?” 

Unable to disagree with her, Edgar acquiesced. “Okay, what do you want to see next?” 

“Snakes!” 

“Lions please, Uncle Edgar!” 

“Giraffes!” 

“But Daddy, I haven't seen Stan! Where can I leave him his present?” 

“Birdies!” 

The requests came thick and fast, and both men shook their heads to regain focus before Mike replied. “One at a time, please! Now, how about we start at the youngest and work up – that way everyone gets to see that they want.” 

“But that’s not fair! I’m…” 

“It’s perfectly fair!” Edgar interrupted, glaring at his petulant son. “You’re the eldest, you should be mature enough to wait the longest. Meg, did you say birds, sweetheart?” The little girl nodded, beaming at getting her own way first, and Edgar gave her a smile. “Okay, first stop the aviary.” 

“Daddy, where can I leave Stan’s present?” Marcia put in.

“We’ll leave it with a keeper before we go,” Edgar promised, turning to follow the others down the path towards the birdcages. 

“Birds are stupid,” Ned grouched, dragging his heels beside his father. 

“What did I tell you about your attitude?” Edgar retorted, and Ned shut his mouth firmly, a black look on his face. 

It was easy to see why Meg had picked the birds. They fascinated her, and walking as far as she could on the reins that Mike had sensibly attached to her, she gazed around her in wonder at the multicoloured occupants of the cages as Marcia pointed out the different kinds. 

“Daddy, when can we see the lions?” 

Seeing that his youngest daughter was gainfully occupied, Mike turned to Terry with a smile. “We’ll go to the lions next, sweetie-pie.” 

“When next?” 

“In a couple of minutes.” 

“But why…” 

A piercing scream broke through the conversation, and Mike spun around just as Meg began to wail. Her little face was screwed up in pain, and Marcia was crouching beside her, trying to examine her left hand. 

“What happened?” Mike cried, running forward, as all the other visitors stopped to stare. 

“That parrot bit her finger,” Marcia replied, pointing to a nearby bird with spectacular plumage, and sounding a little scared. “Is she okay?” 

Mike pulled the little girl’s hand back, and saw, with some relief, that the parrot had only nipped the very edge of the skin. “She will be. It’s okay, honey,” he said, hugging his daughter tightly and wiping her tears away with his handkerchief, “it’s only a little scratch. Ned, can you fetch the first aid kit from that bag there, please?” 

As Ned did as he was asked, Edgar took hold of Marcia’s arm and pulled her away from the cage. “How did it happen?” he asked, watching her face closely. 

He was right to be suspicious. Marcia stared down at the floor, shuffling her feet, and then replied sheepishly, “We put our hands through the cage to try and touch them.” 

“Oh for g…goodness sake!” Edgar exclaimed, exasperated. “Uncle Mike told you specifically not to do that! Why can’t you ever listen?” 

“Sorry, Daddy,” she mumbled, still looking at the ground. 

“One day you’ll be more than sorry, if you don’t start listening to what people tell you.” Then getting to his feet again, he called over to his friend, “Everything okay?” 

“Just about.” Mike finished tying the bandages around his daughter’s fingers, and then lifted them his lips. “There, all kissed better,” he stated, “and one for luck,” and he dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. 

Meg sniffed and scrubbed her eyes with her uninjured hand. “Terry kiss them too?” 

“Of course she can. Terry, come and kiss your sister’s fingers better.” There was no reply. “Terry? Where is she?” he asked, staring around him. 

The others all turned to look, but she was nowhere to be seen. Mike began to panic and started calling for his eldest daughter. 

“Thea, you were with her a minute ago. Did you see where she went?” 

Thea shook her head. “She was here when I last looked.” 

“Right, then we need to all spread out and search for her.” Edgar replied, taking charge. “Marcia, you and Thea go and look back towards the penguins, Ned, go and head towards the exit, and I’ll look over towards the big cats. Mike, you and Meg stay here in case she reappears.” 

“Check out the lions!” Mike called after them as they headed off on their searches. “She kept asking to go and see them!” 

And that’s exactly where Edgar found her, standing amongst the crowd at the edge of the enclosure, just beginning to realise that she had lost everyone. Taking hold of her hand, he led her back towards the aviary, and when she caught sight of her father, she ran tearfully into his arms. Mike hugged her tight, too relieved to tell her off just yet. Thea and Marcia arrived back a minute after their father, but fifteen minutes later, they were still waiting for Ned. 

“I swear to goodness I’ll have his head on a platter for this,” Edgar fumed, as he rounded everyone up and led them all towards the visitors hut. 

Obligingly, the man in the hut put a call out over the tannoy for Ned, and it wasn’t long before young Master Watson returned to the fold, his tail between his legs. 

“Where in the heavens have you been?” Edgar asked icily, keeping his voice low, so as not to draw any more attention to them. “You were supposed to be looking for Terry.” 

“I saw you’d found her so I popped in to see the snakes,” Ned replied defiantly. 

Edgar was livid. “Right, that’s it. If you lot can’t behave yourselves, then we’re going back to Bern.” 

“Daddy….!” 

“That’s not fair!” 

“Uncle Mike?” Ned turned hopefully to his brevet uncle, but Mike simply shook his head. 

“I agree with your father. We’re not risking losing any more of you, and if you can’t behave yourselves then home it is.” 

“We’ll behave ourselves!” 

“Promise!” 

“Too late!” and turning on his heel, clasping Marcia’s hand firmly in his own, Edgar began marching towards the exit. 

“Daddy!” 

“What?” He turned back again to face Thea, who was staring forlornly down at her shoe. 

“I’ve trodden in dog mess.” 

Edgar took a deep breath. “Well there’s a toilet over there, go and wash it off and be quick,” he snapped, his patience thoroughly tried and Thea ran off hurriedly before he could say anymore. 

Mention of the toilet set Meg off again. “Daddy, need to go wee-wee,” she pleaded, tugging at her father’s sleeve. 

“You have a diaper on, sweetheart.” 

“Want to go like a grown up.” 

Her father heaved a sigh. “Fine. Terry, you stay here with Uncle Edgar please,” and clasping Meg’s hand, he led her towards the men’s lavatories. 

“You can’t go in there, Uncle Mike,” Marcia piped up. “Meg’s a girl!” 

“Yes, well I’m a boy and I can’t go into the ladies, so we’ll have to go in here.” 

But Meg had latched onto Marcia’s words. “Want to go in girls!” 

“You can’t, Meg, I’m not allowed in there.” 

Not going in boys!” She stamped her foot and stood surprisingly firm for so small a child, though like her parents, she was stocky in build. 

“Well then somebody else will have to go with you, I’m afraid.” 

Edgar placed a hand on Marcia’s back and pushed her forward. “You started all this silliness, so you can go and help her.” 

Marcia looked horrified. “What do I have to do?” 

“Help her onto the seat, wait until she’s finished and then wipe her behind,” Mike answered, trying his hardest to suppress a grin. ‘Oh, and refasten her diaper.” 

Before Marcia could reply, Meg darted forward and caught her hand, dragging her in the direction of the ladies’ and Marcia was left with no choice but to do as she was told. 

They re-emerged ten minutes later, along with a giggling Thea. Marcia had a disgusted look on her face, and Edgar raised his eyebrows as he caught sight of her. 

Now what’s wrong with you?” 

“That’s horrid!” 

Thea giggled again, and Meg looked up at her father with a grin. “Daddy, Marcia was all funny ‘bout wiping my botty.” 

Even Edgar, angry as he was, had to suppress a grin at this, whilst Mike threw his head back and guffawed heartily. Ned screwed up his nose and looked his sister up and down. 

“You smell!” 

“No I don’t!” Marcia retorted haughtily. “I washed my hands!” 

But Ned wasn’t put off that easily. “Smelly hands, smelly hands,” he taunted childishly. 

Marcia retaliated by wiping her hands on her brother’s sleeve. “Now you’re smelly too!” 

“Get off me, you brat!” 

“That’s enough!” Edgar finally lost his temper completely, and grabbing Marcia and Ned by an arm each, he pulled them towards him. “We’re leaving now!” and grasping them firmly, he steered them towards the gate, leaving Mike to bring the other three on behind. 

“I’m not a baby, Dad!” Ned complained, trying to wrench his arm free, but Edgar held firm. 

“If you’re going to act like a baby, then I will treat you like one,” is all he said. 

After that, they made their way through the city in stony silence, only Meg making a noise as she began to grizzle that she was hungry again. They had almost made it to the station when the icing on the cake arrived. As they made their way down Margarethenstrasse, the heavens opened and rain began to pour down. Issuing an order to run, Mike scooped Meg up in his arms, and they all tore down the road as fast as their feet could carry them. By the time they arrived at the station, Meg was in the throws of a full-on tantrum, and everybody was soaked through to the skin. Thankfully, Cornelia had had the foresight to warn her husband to take a change of clothes everywhere they went, and as soon as they piled onto the train back to Bern, the children were able to change into dry outfits before they had their lunch. 

As the train pulled out of the city everyone started to relax, and after a quick confab, the two men turned to their children with a request. 

‘We’d like to make a deal with you all,” Mike began slowly, looking at each child in turn. “We won’t tell your mothers about your behaviour today, if you keep quiet as well.” 

Thoroughly disinterested, Meg carried on munching on her sandwich, and the other four gave their fathers curious looks. 

“Why?” Marcia asked, a frown furrowing her brow. 

“Because then you won’t get in trouble,” Edgar replied, with what he hoped was a convincing smile. 

Thea glanced at him suspiciously. “That’s not it,” she stated astutely, shaking her head. “Normally you’d just tell Mummy what we’d done.” 

“No I would not!” her father retorted, sounding injured. 

“Yes you would,” Ned put in, thinking hard. “There’s something else.” 

“I know!” Thea cried suddenly, a light dawning in her mind. “You don’t want us to tell Mummy ‘cause then she won’t know that today all went so wrong!” 

“That’s it!” Ned added his agreement. 

Mike glanced at Edgar and then decided to give up pretending. “Fine, that’s it. But if we all agree to say nothing, then nobody gets in trouble. So do we have a deal?” 

The four children stared at him, Terry not having a clue what was going on, but enjoying seeing her father being teased. Ned and Thea looked at each other and then shook their heads. 

“That’s not right,” Thea replied pompously, with mischief in her eyes. “You want us to lie to Mummy and Aunt Corney.” 

“No we don’t, we’re just asking you not to tell them.” 

“But there’s nothing in it for us,” Ned replied, and his sisters nodded their agreement. 

“Yes there is, you won’t get told off!” 

“We wouldn’t anyway,” Marcia retorted. “Mummy would just think that you told us off.” 

“No she wouldn’t.” 

“Yes she would!” 

“She would!” Terry repeated, and Mike scowled at her. 

“You don’t even know what we’re talking about!” 

“Do! You don’t want me to tell Mommy ‘bout today.” 

Mike looked shocked and Edgar took over. “Well then do it for us!” 

Thea shook her head. “You need to give us something in return.” 

“That’s extortion!” 

“What’s extortion?” 

“Blackmail,” Ned answered, grinning. “And it’s not extortion, we need an incentive!” 

Edgar spluttered at his son’s cheek, and seeing that his friend was rendered temporarily speechless, Mike asked, “Well what do you want?” 

“Cake!” Marcia replied quickly. 

“Ooooo, yes, lots and lots of cake!” Thea added. 

“Haven’t you already had enough to eat?” 

Ned shook his head. “We’re still hungry.” 

“If we get you cake, do we have a deal?” 

The four of them looked at each other and then chorused, “Yes!” in return. 

“Fine, cake it is!” and the two men got to their feet to go to the dining car and fetch some. 

They walked the length of the first class carriage in silence, and then as they passed through the door into the dining car, Mike turned back to his friend. 

“Can you credit it? We just got blackmailed by our children!” 

Edgar laughed. “I know! And I hope to God they keep their word, because if Evvy and Corney ever find out about that, we will not hear the end of it ‘til the day we die!”

Chapter 37 by Josie

The following day, the residents of the Platz awoke to find everything surrounded by a thick, soupy mist. Deciding that going out in it such weather was pointless, even before Joey’s phone call to say that the day’s expeditions were off, Evadne found herself finally getting to spend a day of her holiday with her family. They were now the sole guests at the pension, the two elderly ladies having left the previous day, and so they were able to take over the entire salon without needing to consider anybody else. 

It was now mid-afternoon, and following an enormous lunch, which Mme. Renault had practically force-fed them as she had nobody else to cook for, Edgar was stretched out on a chaise longue looking distinctly like somebody who had overeaten. He was lying awkwardly on his side, reaching over to a small table to join in a game of ‘cheat’ with Marcia and Ned. 

"Ouf! I feel sick!" he complained, shifting position to make himself more comfortable. 

Evadne accepted a book from Henry, who was toddling around the room picking things up and bringing them back to his mother, and then glanced up at her husband, her eyebrows raised. 

"That’s entirely your own fault for being such a gannet!" 

"I ate no more than Ned did!" he retorted, sounding injured. "Or you, for that matter! And it’s Mme. Renault’s fault – it’s impossible to say no to her!" 

"Well I won’t disagree with that," his wife chuckled, "but I still maintain that you ate heaps more than anyone else. No, Henry, not that one, sugar-pie!" she cried, jumping to her feet and running across the room to stop Henry pulling a heavy encyclopaedia from the low bookshelf. Prising his hands from the book, she grabbed him around the waist and pulled him into her arms, ignoring his wails of protest. "It’s too heavy and you’ll drop it on your feet and hurt yourself. Here, why don’t you come sit with me and play with your cars," and lowering herself back down on the rug, she placed him on the floor in front of her and handed over one of his toys. He instantly forgot his woes and began playing with it instead. "See, isn’t that much more fun?" 

Meanwhile, deciding she was bored of ‘cheat’, Marcia got to her feet and wondered over to Thea, who was curled up on the window seat, her writing case on her lap. 

"What are you doing?" 

"Writing a letter to Kate," Thea replied, without looking up. 

Marcia screwed up her face. "Why? You’ll see her before it gets there!" 

"So? I have to get in practice for when I go to school," and Thea shifted round in her seat, indicating that the conversation was over. 

With a shrug of her shoulders, the imperturbable Marcia made her way across to her stepmother and plonked herself down heavily on the rug. Henry looked up with a squeal as she did so, waving his car in his sister’s direction, and laughing, Marcia pulled him into her lap. 

"Hi Henry!" 

The little boy gazed up at her, enraptured by her face and said, "Hi!" 

"That’s right! Hi!" 

"Hi!’ 

Marcia laughed. "D’you think he knows what it means?" 

Evadne shook her head, as she affectionately ruffled her son’s curls. "Not a clue! Sometimes I think he’s just copying us all at the moment, but he seems to know what da-da, ma-ma and babi mean, so maybe he does." 

"’Spose." Marcia blew a raspberry on her brother’s cheek, causing him to giggle. Then releasing him as he wriggled to get down, she turned back to her stepmother. "Mummy, can I ask you a question?" 

"Yes, of course. Can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer it, mind you, but ask away!" 

Marcia shuffled round so that she was facing Evadne properly and stared at her with eager eyes. "Did you ever get homesick when you were at school?" 

Evvy turned her attention away from Henry again and gave her stepdaughter a smile. "No, not really. I guess a little for the first few days, just while I got used to being away from Mom and Pops, but even that wasn’t so bad. I was having too much fun!" 

"But didn’t you miss Grandad?" 

"Yes, sometimes. But they were never too far away. He was around the Sonnalpe a whole heap to begin with and then they moved to Salzburg, so I saw them a fair old bit." 

Marcia went quiet as she digested this, and Evadne turned her attention to helping Henry build a tower with his blocks. Every time he got it to three, he knocked them over and had to start again. 

"Was the Tiernsee as pretty as here?" Marcia asked eventually, as she watched Evadne pick up the blocks yet again. 

"It certainly was. In a different way though – we had the lake on our doorstep there. Remember I showed you the photographs?" 

Marcia nodded. "It did look pretty." 

"It is. I’ll take you all there someday." 

Marcia smiled and then sat back, picking up one of the magazines that were sitting beside her and apparently immersing herself in it, though in reality she was deep in thought. 

Fed up with his blocks, Henry pushed himself up to his feet and began tugging at his mother’s sleeve crying "Babi!" over and over again and pointing to his stuffed toy, which was sitting propped up on one of the armchairs. Evadne reached behind her and passed it down to him, and snatching it out of her hands, he toddled happily off across the room, dragging it behind him. He was halfway towards Thea when the rabbit’s legs got tangled under his feet and he fell flat on his face. The resultant screams were loud enough to reach the other side of the Platz. 

"Oh sugar-pie, are you okay?" his mother called worriedly, as Edgar got quickly to his feet and strode over to pick up his son, examining him carefully for any injuries before cuddling him tight. 

"No real harm done, eh little man?" he said, kissing Henry’s cheek and sitting back down on the chaise longue. 

“I swear he’s made of rubber!” Ned put in, grinning as he watched his father bouncing Henry up and down on his knee to try and cheer him up. “He never really hurts himself!” 

“You were exactly the same. I remember you walking straight off the top of the stairs when you were his age. You bounced all the way to the bottom and had nothing but a couple of small bruises to show for it!” 

“Did he land on his head?” Thea asked, looking up from her letter with mischief in her eyes. “’Cause that would explain a lot!” 

As her parents both burst out laughing, and Marcia cheered at someone finally getting one over on her brother, Ned got to his feet looking thoroughly cross. “I’m going to my room!” he announced, very much on his dignity, and to a shout of “Mind you don’t fall down the stairs” from Marcia, he turned on his heel and stropped out of the salon. 

 

The next morning, the last of their holiday, they waved Evadne off on yet another day of expeditions and then leaving Henry in the care of Monique and Ned, Edgar and his two daughters set off towards the Chalet School for their promised tour. As Marcia ran on ahead, Thea dropped back to walk with her father, slipping her hand into his. 

“Daddy, will you miss us when we go to school?” 

Edgar smiled down at her. “Who are ‘us’? I thought it was only you going as things stand just now?” he teased. 

Thea shook her head and said astutely, “Marcia’ll decide to go, I’m sure of it. She doesn’t like being left out of things and that’s what she’d be if I went and she didn’t. But will you miss us?” 

“Hmmm, let me think. Will I miss the noise, the arguments, the clothes strewn across the hallway, the dirty hands on walls, the …” 

“Daddy!” 

Thea hit him indignantly on the arm, and he grinned and tightened his grip on her other hand. 

“Of course I’ll miss you. I’ll miss you very much, and so will Mummy.” 

Thea gave him a satisfied smile and nodded her head. “I’ll miss you too. I promise I’ll write every week.” 

“Well you better had or we’ll be sending a search party to the Platz to see what’s happened to you!” 

At that moment, as the school gates loomed up ahead, Marcia came running back and came to a halt in front of them, her hands on her hips and a frown on her brow. “Hurry up! You’re such slowcoaches!” 

“Are we indeed?” Edgar replied, with a grin. “We’ll see about that. Race you!” and without warning, he suddenly took off down the road at some speed, leaving his daughters to follow in his wake. 

Nell Wilson was watching out for them from one of the rooms at the front of the building, and as she saw them haring down the driveway, laughing and yelling as they went, she grinned to herself and made her way through to the entrance hall to greet them. She could well see why Evadne had fallen in love with this family – they seemed perfectly suited to her. 

She opened the door just as they arrived in front of it, all three panting and holding their sides. As he caught sight of her, Edgar did his best to straighten himself up and regain the dignified demeanour that went along with his title, whilst his daughters smiled up at her familiar face. 

“Hello Miss Wilson!” Marcia said, beaming up at her. “We’ve come to look around the school!” 

“Have you now?” Nell replied, her face straight and her eyes twinkling. “Well in that case, I suppose you’d better come in,” and stepping back, she ushered them through into the entrance hall and showed them where to hang their coats. “You must be Sir Edgar?” she said, holding out her hand to shake his. “I’m Miss Wilson, head of St Mildred’s, the finishing branch. Miss Annersley sends her apologies. She’s had to go to England on some urgent business, so she’s asked me to show you around on her behalf.” 

“Pleasure to meet you,” Edgar replied, shaking her hand and noting the firm, no-nonsense grip. “Thank you for organising this. I’ll be glad to see the school before September, I must say.” 

“No problem at all. It’s the least we could do after my little faux-pas. So, shall we get going? Any preference where you’d like to start?” 

“Please can we see where we’ll sleep?” Thea asked eagerly. 

“Yes, of course. Anything you’d especially like to see, Marcia?” 

That young lady shook her head, her blonde curls bouncing as she did so. “Just all over, please. I don’t know if I want to come yet.” 

“Don’t you now?” Nell raised her eyebrows and glanced curiously down at the small girl in front of her. “Well in that case I’d better see if I can convince you then, hadn’t I? Follow me!” and with that, she turned and led them down the hall. 

Miss Wilson turned out to be an informative, jolly tour-guide, showing the girls everything she could think of and patiently answering all the questions they had to ask. Their last stop on the indoor part of the tour turned out to be the Great Hall. They wandered around the room, Marcia asking questions at a machine gun rate, and Thea examining everything with wonder in her eyes. As they reached the Honours Boards, she stared up at them, skimming the list of names. 

“Is Mummy’s name up there?” 

Miss Wilson shook her head. “No, that’s a list of everyone who was Head Girl.” 

“Wasn’t Mummy Head Girl then?” Marcia wanted to know. 

Nell glanced at Edgar, who grinned knowingly at her, and then turned back to Marcia. “No, she wasn’t. She was a prefect, but another girl was Head Girl during that time. Mrs. Van Alden’s name’s up there though.” 

“Auntie Corney?” Thea asked, wide-eyed. 

“That’s right. She was Cornelia Flower back in those days. Look, there she is.” 

Marcia stared up at the board in awe. “Was she Head Girl ‘cause she wasn’t as naughty as Mummy?” 

Edgar spluttered, quickly turning his laugh into a cough and burying his face in his bright yellow handkerchief, and even Miss Wilson was pressed to keep a straight face. “Well, er no, not exactly. She just stayed on a little longer at school than your stepmother, that’s all. Now, what say we go and explore the grounds?”

 

It was mid-afternoon before the three of them returned to the pension, as Miss Wilson insisted that they stay and join her for lunch. She had found herself very much enjoying the company of these two young girls, one so thoughtful and intelligent, the other quite the livewire, and she did her best to encourage their enthusiasm about the school that she loved so dearly. In turn, the girls had taken to their new aquaintance wholeheartedly and had great fun listening to the tales that Miss Wilson had to tell of their stepmother’s days at school. 

On the walk back to the Villa Caramie, Marcia was unusually quiet, dawdling along behind her father and sister so that Edgar had to ask her several times to keep up, and when they arrived back at the pension, she took herself straight off to her room, declaring that she wanted to be on her own. When Kaffee had been and gone and she still hadn’t emerged, Edgar went to seek her out to find out what was wrong. He found her sitting cross legged on her bed, a writing pad in her hand which she hastily closed when he came into the room. 

“I brought you a cake, in case you were hungry.” 

Putting the pad on her nightstand, she nodded her head eagerly and Edgar made his way across to the bed, handing the confection over and perching next to her. 

“Are you alright, poppet? It’s not like you to miss tea.” 

“Yesh fanks,” she mumbled, her mouth full of the delicious sponge. Then swallowing, she added, “I needed to think and be all on my own so I came up here, that’s all.” 

Her father smiled and picked a crumb of cake from her plate, getting his hand slapped for his troubles. “What did you need to think about?” 

“About if I want to go to the Chalet School.” She paused to take another mouthful and then frowned. “It’s hard.” 

“I know it is.” Edgar squeezed her knee sympathetically. “So have you made up your mind?” 

“Almost. Miss Wilson said to me to write down all the good things about going and all the bad things about going,” she said, picking up her notepad again. “I’ve done that but I don’t know what to do now.” 

“I think you’re supposed to see if the good outweighs the bad, or vice versa.” Marcia looked thoroughly confused. “That means look at both lists and see if the good beats the bad or the bad beats the good. Which one do you think wins?” She shrugged her shoulders, and her father grinned and made himself more comfortable. “Okay, what have you got for the good?” 

“Being with Thea still.” 

“Well that’s a good start. What else?” 

She reeled off a long list of things written on the paper before her, and as she finished with, “Being in class with Val” and “Being even further away from Ned”, Edgar tried not to laugh. 

“Right, well that’s a very long list. What have you got for the bad?” 

“Being away from you and Mummy and Henry,” she replied, her face falling as she looked down at her lap, “and that’s a really big bad. I don’t know what to do, Daddy.” 

Edgar thought hard for a moment, and then decided to tell her something that he and Evadne had been discussing for the past few days. “Alright, would it make a difference if I told you that Mummy and I are thinking about buying either a chalet here or an apartment in Interlaken?” 

“Really?” 

“Yes really. That way we’ll have somewhere close by to stay when we want to come and visit during term time, and it’s much nearer to the school than Geneva is. So might that make a difference?” 

“Def’nitely,” his daughter replied, scribbling it down at the bottom of the ‘good’ list. 

“Jolly good. Now, shall I leave you to think about it some more?” 

“Yes please.” 

“Okay then, we’ll see you downstairs for dinner at half past seven. Don’t miss that, will you, or you’ll be very hungry come bed time.” 

“I won’t. Is Mummy back yet?” 

“No, but she shouldn’t be too long.” Checking his watch, he realised it was coming on for six o’clock, and he frowned down at his wrist. “In fact, she’s a bit late.” 

“Maybe she came back while you were here?” 

“Maybe.” Edgar smiled and got to his feet. “See you at dinner,” and he left his daughter’s room to go in search of his wife. 

 

Evadne, it turned out, had not arrived back after all, and when she had still not put in an appearance an hour later, Edgar was beginning to get a bit worried. Calling through to Freudesheim and finding the line busy yet again, he replaced the receiver, thanked Mme. Renault, and turned to face his son. 

“Ned, I think I’m going to pop across to the Maynards, find out what’s going on. Can I trust you to keep an eye on things here for me? Marcia’s fine up in her room, but if you and Thea could help Monique if she needs a hand getting Henry ready for bed, that would be a great help.” 

“Course we can. Dad, you don’t think anything’s happened, do you?” 

“I’m sure they’ve just got gossiping and forgotten the time,” Edgar replied, sounding less than convinced. “Right, I’ll be off then. I won’t be long.” 

At that moment, the front door was thrown open and Evadne appeared, looking somewhat dishevelled, a brown paper parcel clutched in her hands. 

“I was about to send a search party out for you!” 

In his relief at seeing her, his voice sounded far sterner than he meant it to and his wife glared at him in return. 

“Don’t start, Edgar, I’m really not in the mood.” Then turning to the front desk, she asked Mme. Renault, “If a call comes through from the Maynards, please will you put it through at once?” 

As the Swiss woman indicated that it would be no problem to do so, Edgar regained his voice. “Evvy, what’s happ-” 

Ignoring him, Evadne pushed past him and headed up the stairs. Ned gaped after her, a little shocked. 

“What was that all about?” 

“No idea, but I’d better go and find out. You go and find Thea, and make sure you keep to the salon until dinner, the pair of you,” and turning on his heel, he followed his wife up to the first floor. 

Monique came out of the bedroom as he approached it, and slowly pushing back the door, he found Evadne sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Henry tightly in her arms and rocking him back and forth. The parcel she had been carrying was thrown to one side against the wall, and Edgar could see lace and wooden carvings spilling out of it. He made his way quietly round the end of the bed, anxious not to disturb Henry, and as he sat down beside her, Evadne turned her head to look at him, her face pale and her eyes bright. 

“Sorry I snapped at you,” she murmured quietly, dropping a kiss on Henry’s forehead as she spoke. 

Edgar smiled and shook his head. “Is he nearly asleep?” 

“Pretty much. Monique was just settling him when I came in, but I needed to give him a cuddle before he went down.” She hugged Henry tightly to her chest again, and then stood up and walked him across to his cot. Edgar watched as she settled him down to sleep, pulling the blankets around him to keep him warm. Then walking across to the far wall, she picked up the parcel she had thrown down and emptied the contents onto the bed. 

“I went shopping,” she stated, picking up a wooden, carved cigar box and handing it to her husband. “Here, this is for you. Corney got one for Mike too.” 

Edgar smiled and placed it on the bed next to him. “Thanks, it’ll come in handy. Evvy, what’s…” 

“I got carved animals for the girls and Henry, and an aeroplane for Ned,” she interrupted, picking the items up one by one to show him, and refusing to look him in the eye. “And these yards of lace may come in useful sometime, and-” 

“Evvy, stop it.” Edgar placed his hand on her wrist to prevent her picking up a carved figurine. “What’s going on? What’s happened?” 

Closing her eyes for a second, Evadne took a deep breath. “Len fell down a cliff.” 

“She what?” Edgar stared at her, flabbergasted. “Wh…what…I mean, how? What happened? Is she ok?” 

Evvy nodded. “She’s a mite shaken up and scratched but she’ll be fine. It’s Grizel we’re worried about.” 

She proceeded to fill her husband in on how the ground had given way beneath Len, and how Grizel had gone down to save her, hurting her back in the process. 

“The worst of it is, she may have damaged her spine. They’re checking her over at the San now, and operating I think. Joey’s gonna call as soon as she has any news.” 

She began shaking as she finished speaking and the day’s events really began to sink in, and Edgar jumped to his feet and hurried around the bed to take her in his arms. “They’re brilliant surgeons up there, Evvy, you know that. They’ll do everything they can for her.” 

“I know.” They stood in silence for a short while, Evadne clinging to him, her face buried in his broad chest as he gently stroked her fair curls. Then, pulling back, she swallowed hard and shook her head. “Len could have been killed, and on the way home all I kept thinking was that it could have been me on that ledge, me who went over the side, and what would become of you all if it had been and the worst had happened. How selfish is that?” 

Edgar shuddered at the mere mention of it, and wrapped his arms tightly around her again. “It’s not selfish, sweetheart, it’s natural.” 

“I guess. You know, Corney hated crossing this raging brook we came to at one point, kept saying she had Mike and the kids to think of. We all laughed at her at the time but she was right, wasn’t she? Pity it took Len falling off a mountain to make me realise the same thing.” 

“Yes, well Corney’s a very wise woman. And I can’t believe I just said that!” 

Inspite of herself, Evadne laughed and looked up at him. “I’ll tell her that. It’ll make her day.” 

Chuckling, Edgar ran a finger down the side of her cheek before lowering his head to kiss her. “Personally, I’m just glad we’re going home tomorrow. Then we can have you safe and sound in Geneva, instead of gallivanting around the mountains with your friends.” 

“Sounds good to me! I’ve had just about enough of it all after today.” 

A sudden thought dawned in Edgar’s mind. “This walk – is it somewhere the school would be likely to take the children?” 

“No, definitely not,” his wife replied, thinking that maybe she would keep Joey’s stories of various alarms and excursions to herself. 

“Glad to hear it. Now,” he added, attempting to take her mind off things a little, “are you hungry? Because unless I’m much mistaken, the gong will be sounding for dinner any minute now.” 

“I’m ravenous!” 

“To the dining room then, I think,” he decided, ushering her out of the door. “And hopefully, by the time we’re done, Joey will have phoned through with some news.” 

 

The following morning, the family said their goodbyes to Mme. Renault and the Gornetz Platz, and made their way down the mountain to Interlaken, from where they would board the train home. Joey had indeed phoned the previous evening, just as the Watsons were finishing dinner. It was good news – though it may be slow going, Grizel would make a complete recovery – and Evadne was able to head back to Geneva with a lighter heart. 

As the train rumbled through the countryside to the west of Bern, Evvy cuddled up to her husband’s side and stared out of the window as the fields, towns and chalets flashed by. Thea, Ned and Marcia were in the lounge car, playing a game of cards, and Monique had taken Henry for a walk along the corridor outside the compartment. 

“Peace and quiet at last, eh?” Edgar remarked, gazing down at his wife and dropping a kiss on the top of her head. 

She was about to reply when the compartment door was flung open and Marcia came marching in. 

“Might have known I’d be speaking too soon,” her father muttered, as the young girl flopped down on the seat opposite her parents and fixed them both with an eager stare. Then turning to address his daughter, Edgar asked in a louder voice, “What are you looking all excited about, madam? I thought you were playing cards with the other two?” 

“No, that’s boring,” came the firm reply. “Anyway I have something to tell you and Mummy. I’ve decided.” 

“You’ve decided what, sweetie?” Evadne asked, sitting up straight and trying to stifle a yawn. 

“About the Chalet School, of course! I’ve decided I want to go.” 

Edgar opened his eyes wide. “Are you sure? You really want to?” 

“Yes. I’ve thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and I really want to go.” 

“Well you’ve certainly done a lot of thinking,” her stepmother put in, trying hard to keep a straight face. 

Marcia nodded earnestly and tossed one of her curly pigtails back over her shoulder. “I have – lots and lots. And I’m going to tell Ann to tell Mr. and Mrs. Bown that she has to go too.” 

Edgar glanced briefly at his wife and pulled a face. “You do realise they may well say no, poppet?” 

“No they won’t ‘cause Ann’ll tell them. And anyway, I still want to go even if Ann doesn’t.” She got to her feet and, without waiting for a reply, she asked, “Can I go and see the ticket man, please? I asked him earlier and he said I could help him check people’s tickets!” 

“Yes, as long as you behave. Hang on one moment, though, I-” but he was talking to thin air. Instead, he turned to his wife, looking a little bemused. “Well that’s that then!” 

Evadne chuckled. “I guess we’ve been told! Sounds like Jan and Jonty will be too.” 

“Yes, I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that particular conversation! Things are working out rather well, aren’t they?” 

“They sure are. And best of all, we’re on our way home. Look, there’s the lake already! We must be almost in Montreux.” 

She leant heavily on her husband’s lap as she tried to get a better look out of the window, and Edgar let out a strangled yelp and pushed her up again. “Careful!” 

Evadne winced, “Ouch! Sorry, baby!” and she reached up to peck him on the cheek. “Guess there’ll be a rush to sort things when we do get in, though. Hugh and Dorothy arrive the day after tomorrow. I hope Frau Siefert found my note and made up the extra beds.” 

As she spoke, the door opened again, this time admitting Henry and a harassed looking Monique into the room. The little boy toddled straight across to his father and put his hands on one of Edgar's leg, leaving grubby handprints on his trousers. 

As Edgar exclaimed loudly and grabbed his handkerchief to try and remove the offending marks, Evadne reached for her son and pulled him away before he could do more damage. 

“What have you been at, young man? Look at you, you’re filthy! Oh no you don’t!” and she grabbed one of his hands out of the way before he could put it on her skirt. 

Monique began apologising profusely, explaining that she had only turned her back for a moment and he had somehow managed to cover himself in oil. Evadne waved her apologies away with a grin. 

“No matter. I well know what he can be like! Edgar, pass me that bag down from up there, will you? It has a change of clothes for trouble here. I’ll take him along to get washed up.” 

“I’ll do that if you like. I have to scrub my trousers anyway, though I think they’re pretty much ruined.” Pulling down the bag from the shelf overhead, he placed it onto the seat next to his wife and then took his son from her arms, careful to keep Henry’s oily hands away from his shirt. “Come on you, let’s go and clean you up, shall we? No peace for the wicked eh?” and the pair of them disappeared through the door.

Chapter 38 by Josie
Author's Notes:

A second and final appearance by Patmac's Hugh & Dorothy - see my earlier chapter notes. She had previously borrowed my character, Mike van Alden, for her drabble A Village Boy, where he had been a friend of Hugh's during their war days. See that drabble in the CBB archives for more on that.

A week later, the van Aldens finally made it to Geneva for their visit with the Watsons, and Edgar was summarily despatched to the railway station to pick them up.

"So, finally we get to see your humble Geneva abode then?" Mike grinned, as Edgar turned off the main road and began driving along the narrow lanes of Cologny, the suburb nearest to the Watson family’s home.

"Apparently so. Have either of you ever been to Geneva before?"

"I have," a little voice piped up from the back seat.

Cornelia turned to her eldest daughter in surprise. "I don’t think you have, Terry."

Not to be put off, Terry nodded her head vigorously. "Yes I have. You and Daddy and Meg and me went to see Uncle Geoff and Aunt Carol."

Her mother smiled.

"That’s a different Geneva, sweetie-pie. Aunt Carol and Uncle Geoff live in Geneva in Pennsylvania, Uncle Edgar means Geneva in Switzerland."

"Oh."

"Where’s Geneva in Swiz'land, Mommy?" Meg put in.

"It’s where we are now, Meg. Aunt Evvy and Uncle Edgar live here."

"Why?"

"Because this is where Uncle Edgar’s work is."

"Why?"

"Because the people who he works for have their offices here." Then seeing another ‘why’ on her daughter’s lips, Cornelia pointed out of the window. "Look, Meg, horsies." The tactic seemed to distract the little girl, and her mother turned back to Edgar to answer his earlier question. "No, we’ve never been here, either of us."

"Excellent. Then Evvy will be your tour guide. She’s just itching to show you around. I have to work, I’m afraid, but I’ll see you at evenings and the weekend." He negotiated a tricky bend in the road and then added, "You know we’ve other guests staying at the moment, don’t you? They leave tomorrow morning – to go to the Gornetz Platz, as it happens."

"Yes, Evvy told me all about it. I’m looking forward to seeing old Dorothy again."

"They’re rather looking forward to seeing you too," Edgar returned, a wicked grin lighting up his face.

Mike caught the expression from the corner of his eye. "What's that look for?"

Edgar refused to reply, instead turning his attention on negotiating the road out of Cologny, the maddening grin still plastered on his face. As he turned the car onto the lane that ran above the lakeside villas, a stunning view of Lac Leman opened up before them. Mesmerised, Cornelia leant forward and grasped her husband’s shoulder.

"Oh, Mike! Look at the lake, it’s so beautiful from here!"

"It sure is!" Mike gave her an affectionate grin before turning back to his friend. "Your house backs onto it, doesn’t it?"

Edgar grinned. "It certainly does. Here we are now, in fact," and he swung the car off the top road and down into the long driveway.

As the Watsons’ home loomed into view at the bottom of the gravel track, Mike and Cornelia’s mouths fell open in awe. "That’s not a house, that’s a mansion!" Mike exclaimed, gaping at the three-storey villa with its vast, secluded grounds.

"It’s not that big!" Edgar laughed, catching the expression on his friend’s face. "It’s smaller than the Hall, for example."

"Yes, but the Hall’s a museum!"

"Mommy, is this our hotel?"

Cornelia burst out laughing. "No, Terry, believe it or not, it’s Uncle Edgar and Aunt Evvy’s home!"

"Out of the mouths of babes, eh?" Mike pointed out, and Edgar laughed.

"Okay, okay, you’ve proved your point." Then drawing to a halt in the forecourt, he switched off the engine and turned around in his seat, the wide grin still plastered on his face. "Here we are, then! Everyone out!"

At that moment, the front door flew open and a highly-excited Evadne came running out to greet her friends. "You’re here!" she cried, throwing her arms around Cornelia and giving her an enormous hug.

"Don’t squash me, idiot!" Corney gasped, as she freed herself from her friend’s clutches. "What’s the matter with you, anyhow? I only saw you a week ago!"

But Evadne wasn’t listening. Instead, she ran around the far side of the car, from where Mike had just emerged, and grabbed hold of that gentleman’s arm. "Quick, you have to go through to the lounge!"

"Pleasure to see you too!"

"Never mind all that, just go!"

Mike glanced down at her suspiciously. "Why?"

"There’s someone in there who wants to see you."

"You're being as odd as your husband! I thought it was Corney who knew one of your guests, not me?"

"Ugh! Just go, will you!" and taking hold of his arm, Evadne dragged him towards the house and in through the front door, ignoring his protests as they went.

"Well which one’s the lounge, then?" Mike asked, as she finally let go of his arm.

She pointed to a door on the far side of the entrance hall. "That one there."

"Evvy, what’s going on?"

Spinning around, Evadne slipped her hand through Cornelia’s arm and grinned. "You’ll see."

"This had better not be some rotten old joke of yours, Evvy Watson, I’m warning you!" Mike grumbled, glaring over his shoulder at her as he made his way across the hall.

As he spoke, the family room door suddenly opened, and a deep baritone remarked, "Well, well, well. I’d know those dulcet tones anywhere!"

At the sound of the new voice, Mike stopped dead and spun round quickly to find himself staring at a tall, upright man with scars on his face and an eyepatch over one eye. He was grinning broadly, his visible eye shining with delight, and as Mike stared at him, speechless, he limped forward and held out his hand.

"It’s been a long time. How are you, Dutch?"

His words seemed to bring Mike back to his senses, and grabbing the man’s hand, he pumped it vigorously. "Well I’ll be damned!" he exclaimed, with little regard for those listening in. "What are you doing here? Oh never mind that!" and before his old friend had a chance to reply, Mike let go of his hand and threw his arms around him in an enormous bear hug.

"Daddy, who’s that man?"

Releasing his friend, keeping one arm around his shoulders, Mike turned to face Terry, who was standing in the front doorway clinging to Evadne’s hand. "This," he announced, with much gusto, "is Hugh Douglas, an old pal of mine from during the war. Hugh, this is our eldest little girl, Terry, and that there’s my wonderful Corney, with our youngest, Meg, in her arms." He winked at Cornelia, who was staring at her husband in amazement, and then turned back to Hugh. "As you can see, I found my sweetheart after all! So out with it, what are you even doing here?"

Seeing that they would be stuck in the hallway for hours if she let Hugh reply, Evadne let go of Terry’s hand and hastily stepped forward. "Tell you what, let’s head through to the lounge room, shall we? That way you two can get reacquainted in comfort. Thea, be a darling and go tell Guilia we need tea and cakes for everyone, will you?" she added to her daughter, who was hanging over the upstairs banister with her siblings and the Douglas’ two children, intent on being part of the fun. "Ned, go help your father bring the cases in, and then we can all relax. Come on, everyone, hurry on!" and with a clap of her hands, she swiftly ushered them all out of the hall.

 

==

 

"Here we are, Martinis all round, in honour of your stay!" Edgar plonked the tray of drinks down on the table and began passing them out. "One for you, one for you, one for you and one for me! Olives, onions and sticks on the tray - help yourselves!" and with drink in hand, he sat down heavily in his seat and raised his glass. "Cheers!"

As a chorus of ‘cheers’ came back at him, a plaintive voice sounded from the end of the table, "What about me, Dad?"

Edgar grinned at his son. "You can have a glass of wine, but you’ll have to pour it yourself."

Scraping back his chair, Ned ran happily into the house, determined to make the most of his father’s relaxation of the rules.

Smiling, Cornelia watched him go. Then taking a sip of her drink, she sat back in her chair, gazing across the gardens at the lake and mountains, and heaved a contented sigh. "What a balmy evening!"

Evadne turned to grin at her friend. "Isn’t it?" Reaching across the gap between them, she slipped her hand through her Cornelia’s arm and gave her elbow a squeeze. "I’m so glad you’re here! Now I get to have you all to myself for two weeks, instead of having to share you with the hordes!"

"Ahem!"

"And I’m glad you’re here too, Mike!"

"Said with utmost sincerity, I see!" he teased. Evadne stuck her tongue out at him, looking more like a ten-year-old schoolgirl than a proud mother of four, and Mike gave a deep chuckle. "Very mature of you. Oh, splendid martini!" he said, taking a mouthful of the clear liquid and licking his lips. "Almost as good as I make myself!" Cornelia rolled her eyes at her husband’s modesty, and he gave her a quick wink, before adding, "You know, I still can’t believe how rummy that was – old Hugh turning up married to your friend!"

"I know!" Evadne laughed. "You should have seen his face when he realised he knew you. Edgar was saying something about collecting you people from the station, and when the name Van Alden was mentioned, Hugh went into shock!"

"Nearly fell off his chair, poor chap!" Edgar put in with a grin.

Mike shook his head. "Still can’t believe it."

"I still can’t believe I’ve never heard about him before," his wife put in, frowning. "Or half of those yarns you were spinning last night!"

"I’d pretty much lost touch with him by the time you and I got together properly. We wrote each other for a few months after I returned to the States, but then the letters kinda fizzled out. I’m not the world’s best correspondent," he added, by way of explanation to his hosts.

"Don’t I know it!"

Mike gave a wry grin and raised his eyebrows. "Let’s not rehash old history, shall we sweetheart?" Then taking hold of his wife's hand, he leaned over to peck her on the cheek. "And you know how I feel about the war stories. It was a lot of fun remembering yesterday though, I must say. You know" he ruminated, after a split-second pause, "I don’t believe I’ve even thought of Hugh for years, except when I’ve noticed Swallows and Amazons on the bookshelf."

Cornelia looked puzzled. "Why that book?"

"Because he gave it to me, that's why. Have you ever read it, young Ned?"

Walking out of the french doors from the large family room that ran along the back of the house, Ned started guiltily as he heard his name. Knowing that his father would not allow him more than one glass of wine, he had taken advantage of being alone with the bottle, and gulped two extra glasses before returning to the terrace, leaving the adults none the wiser.

Edgar caught the look on his face. "What have you been up to, young man?"

"Nothing!" came the none-too-convincing reply. "What did you ask me, Uncle Mike?"

"If you’d ever read Swallows and Amazons?"

Ned screwed his face up as he returned to his seat. "That’s a girls’ book!"

"You think so?"

"I know so!"

"Ned, you sip that wine not gulp it like that, or you’ll get no more ever again!" Evadne scolded, as Ned drank a third of the glass in one mouthful.

Knowing that his stepmother meant what she said, Ned did as he was told, and then placed his glass back on the table. "Please can you tell some more pilot stories?" he asked his brevet-uncle eagerly.

Mike glanced at Cornelia, who squeezed his fingers in return, and then shook his head. "I think you’ve had enough for one vacation, don’t you?"

"Oh, but…"

"No means no, Ned!" his father said firmly, and pouting, Ned went quiet and stared into the bottom of his glass.

"Well I think it’s great you got to meet the godson you never knew you had!" Cornelia stated, in an effort to change the subject.

"Well, he’s not officially my godson."

"I know, but Hugh said he would have been if he’d known where to reach you!"

Mike grinned back at her. "That’s true. It’s about time we had a godchild between us, isn’t it? Even if he is only honorary."

"Well excuse me!"

Mike turned to Evadne in surprise. "What’s eating you?"

"What you just said!"

"About having no godchildren? Well it’s true! Ow!" he exclaimed, as his wife hit him across the chest.

"You idiot!" Cornelia put in.

"What?" Mike was thoroughly confused. He glanced at Edgar, who was trying his hardest to contain his laughter, and then stared at Evadne as if she had gone mad. "Sorry, but you’ve lost me!"

"Well, if you don’t want your wife to be godmother to our son, then we can always rescind the privilege!"

"Hey!" Cornelia interjected in injured tones. "Don’t punish me just because my husband’s a prize dolt!"

Ned giggled, and Edgar got to his feet, grinning at his friend’s discomfort. "You look like you could do with another stiff drink! Top up?"

"Heavens yes!" A flustered looking Mike passed his glass over, and then turned back to Evadne. "Sorry, I forgot!"

"Clearly!"

"But…"

"I’m not interested!"

Edgar chuckled as he disappeared through the door to the sound of his wife’s voice berating Mike. Making his way through to the dining room, he pulled opened the drinks cabinet and was about to pour some vodka into the shaker, when he noticed the near-empty bottle of wine standing to one side. Picking it up, he stared at it for a second, and then…"NED!" Storming back through the family room, he burst through the french doors onto the patio. "You’ve gone too far this time, young man! I’ll tell you now that..." Suddenly he noticed he was berating an empty chair. "Where is he?"

Three innocent faces smiled back at him.

"Who?" Evadne asked, at her most beguiling.

"You know who! Oh don’t look at me like that!" as they continued to stare blankly up at him, though Cornelia was hard-put not to laugh. "Where have you hidden him?"

"No idea who you’re talking about, old man!" Mike replied with an aggravating grin.

"This is not funny!"

"Oh come on, Edgar, can’t you let it go, just this once?" Evadne pleaded, as she reached up to grab his arm and tried to pull him into his seat. "It’s not like he’s done it before, and he’ll soon learn his lesson when he wakes up in the morning with the mother of all headaches!"

"How do you even know what he did?"

"He told us when he realised you’d see the bottle. Go on, won’t you let him off this time? Please?"

Edgar stared at her, and then heaved a reluctant sigh. "Fine, he’s let off!" he acceded, as she knew he eventually would if she kept on at him. "Anything for a quiet life. But I tell you, if he does it again, he’ll be for the stocks, and that’s a promise!"

"And one I’m sure you’ll keep. Now, weren’t you making Mike a drink? And can you fetch me a glass of water too? I don’t really feel like this martini."

Reminded of his reason for being inside in the first place, Edgar made his way back into the house, muttering under his breath. As soon as Evadne was sure that her husband was out of earshot, she turned to the large rhododendron bush to one side of the patio.

"You can come out now."

A sheepish and rather dishevelled-looking Ned emerged into the open and brushed himself down. "Thanks, Evvy."

"Yes, well you didn’t deserve it! You’ll have a rotten head in the morning, and serve you right! And if you pull that stunt ever again I’ll wring your neck myself, never mind your father. Now I suggest you head off to bed, and use the side door."

Not wanting to hang around a moment longer, partly in case his father returned and saw him, and partly because he was beginning to feel sick, Ned slunk off to do as he was told. Cornelia laughed as he disappeared around the side of the house.

"Say, remember when we drank your Pop's scotch that summer in Salzburg? I thought Arthur would blow a gasket he was so mad!"

Evadne laughed. "Do I ever! Why d’you think I hid Ned from Edgar just now? I could do without a steaming mad husband, and from memory, the messy head the next day taught us far more than anything Pops said that night."

"Too true!"

Mike chuckled. "This is a tale I’ve never heard!"

"We’ll tell you when Edgar gets back."

"Talk of the devil!" Mike pointed out, as Edgar reappeared at the patio doors. "Edgar, come hear some tales of our wives' drunken exploits."

A little calmer than he had been five minutes ago, Edgar sat down next to Evadne and passed over her glass of water, before running his hand across her hair. "Is it safe to hear?"

"I’m sure you’ve a few of your own to match!" she replied, laughing. "Over to you then, Corney!" and with Ned forgotten, the four of them settled in for the night.

Chapter 39 by Josie

"Evvy, are you alright?"

"Fine and dandy, thanks."

"Are you sure, sweetheart? You’ve been in there an absolute age!"

"Can’t a girl go to the bathroom in peace in this house?"

Edgar chuckled at his wife's indignant reply. She certainly sounded like her normal self. "Okay, okay, sorry. You’ll find us on the patio when you’re done," and leaving her to it, he withdrew from the bathroom door and made his way downstairs.

Evadne waited a few seconds until she was sure her husband had gone, and then turned on the cold tap, splashing water on her face in an attempt to brighten herself up. All of a sudden, she grabbed onto the sink as another wave of nausea swept over her, and once it had passed, she raised her head and stared at herself in the mirror, heaving a sigh at the sight of her tired, pale complexion and the soft bruises underneath her eyes. Worried that she was sickening for something, Edgar had been trying to persuade her to visit the doctor for almost a week now, but so far she had refused, saying it would pass soon enough. Looking at her weary features, as she gently towel-dried her face and began to apply her make-up, she sincerely hoped that it would.

By the time she arrived downstairs, she looked as good as new, and glancing up as his wife emerged from the path that led along the side of the house, Edgar was relieved to note that she seemed perfectly healthy.

"Sorry, everyone, I’ve been dragging my heels a little this morning, haven’t I? What’ve I missed?"

At the sound of her voice, Marcia looked round and yelled, "Mummy, can I stay and help?"

"Don’t shout, I’m here not next-door! And stay where?"

"Here, with Daddy and Uncle Mike." Marcia replied, utterly unperturbed. "Daddy said I could if you said so too. They’re going to build Henry a table and chairs for his nursery."

"Are you?" Evadne raised her eyebrows and shot her husband an amused look, fully aware that his carpentry skills extended little beyond the basics. "In one day?"

Knowing exactly what she was thinking, Edgar grinned back at her. "Ah, but you forget - I have my secret weapon," he announced mysteriously, nodding in the direction of Mike, who beamed back proudly.

Evvy shot Mike a broad smile. "Of course! I always forget how handy you are with a set of tools!"

Mike laughed. "It is how I make my living, more or less! And a little table and a couple of chairs should be a piece of cake. I built a set for the girls a few years back, and it only took half a day."

"So can I stay?" Marcia interjected impatiently, and Evadne grinned.

"I don’t see why not, so long as you do as Daddy tells you. Thea, are you coming with Aunt Corney and me, or would you like to stay as well?"

Glancing up from her book, Thea shook her head. "No thanks, I’ll come with you."

"Right ‘o. Let’s start gathering everyone up, shall we? Where are the little ones?"

"In there with Corney," Edgar replied, waving a lazy hand in the direction of the family room, from where the strains of Bill Hailey and His Comets could be heard coming from the record player.

As he spoke, Terry appeared at the door, her little face pink from her giggles. "Aunt Evvy, come and see! Henry’s dancing!"

"Is he now?"

Laughing, Evadne made her way to the french doors, and Marcia jumped up from her chair, declaring "I love it when he dances!" and followed her inside. There they found Henry, standing in the middle of the room wearing only his nappy. His little face was lit up with joy as he bobbed up and down, vaguely in time with the music. In front of him was Cornelia, who had abandoned her dignity and was dancing along with him.

Meg stood to one side, watching on and giggling. "Mommy, he looks so funny!"

Cornelia glanced down at her daughter and grinned. "You used to do that too!"

"Didn’t!"

"Oh yes you did!" Meg pulled a disbelieving face, and Corney held out her hand. "Come join in, it’s fun. Come on you two, join in as well," she added, spying Marcia and Terry near the doors.

Taking her cue, Marcia grabbed Terry by the arm, dragging her forward to dance, and seeing that Henry had company, Cornelia stopped jigging around and came to join her friend.

"You want us all ready to go?"

"I reckon so – the sooner we set off, the longer we’ll have down there."

Making her way towards the record player, Evadne lifted the needle, bringing the merriment to an end. Loud shouts of protest came from all the children except Henry, who continued bobbing around, oblivious to the fact that the music had stopped. Chuckling, Evvy watched him for a couple of seconds, and then briskly clapped her hands.

"Okay, shoes and bathing suits on, for everyone who’s coming, please! Marcia, you go change out of that dress if you’re helping Daddy and Uncle Mike. Put your old blue skirt and blouse on – it doesn’t matter what happens to them." Then, as they all ran off to do as they were told, she bent and scooped Henry up in her arms. "Come on you, let’s find you some pants and your bathing suit. It won’t do to be showing your underwear to the whole city," and ignoring his squeals of protest, she hitched him up on her hip and marched him out of the room.

 

==

 

A few hours later, Edgar knocked the last leg firmly into place, turned the table the right way up and placed it down on the workbench, surveying his handiwork proudly. "There. What do you think?"

Looking up from the chair she was busy painting, Marcia gave it the critical once-over. "You’ve put the leg on upside down!"

"No I haven’t!"

"You have! Uncle Mike, come and tell him."

Mike finished slotting together the seat and back of the second chair, and then laying it on its side, he walked across to Edgar, picking the table up and examining it with a grin. "She’s right, you know. It really is upside down." Then standing it back on the bench, he chuckled as he saw what Edgar had done. "It’s all fine though – the other three are on upside down too, so now it’s just a novel design!"

As Edgar stared forlornly at the table in front of him, Marcia painted the last corner and laid down her brush. "Finished, Uncle Mike!"

"Well done, you! Edgar, don’t worry about it, honestly. It won’t make any difference to how the thing stands, and Henry’s hardly gonna notice, is he? Now, there’s not much we can do until that first coat of paint dries, so what say we go grab some lunch?"

"Sounds like a good plan! And Marcia, you can paint the table for me after we’ve eaten. I promised Mummy I’d check over Millicent Mary’s kennel – apparently it’s smelling a bit rotten. In fact," Edgar added, turning to his daughter, "would you run up now and pull Millicent Mary onto the lawn for me? She could probably do with an airing."

Marcia ran off to do as she was asked, and the two men packed away the tools before following her upstairs. They had just reached the entrance hall when they heard a loud yell, and a shout of "Daddy!", and dropping his toolbox, Edgar ran through the lounge room to find out what was wrong.

 

==

 

Evadne, Cornelia and the children had spent the morning in the Jardin Botanique, playing on the swings and collecting a few flowers for Terry to put in Thea’s flower press. It was a warm, stuffy day, and by half past eleven everyone was beginning to get hot and bothered, so Evadne had suggested that they make their way to the Baby-Plage, where they could set up their blankets and have a paddle before they ate lunch.

Thea and Terry were now knee deep in the water, Meg between them holding their hands. The three of them were jumping the waves created by passing boats, laughing and shouting, and lifting Meg right out of the water if one looked likely to swamp the young girl. A little way away, Evadne and Cornelia were standing in the shallows, chatting. Henry was with them, clinging to his mother’s hands as he paddled and splashed about, squealing with delight every time a wave came in and caused the water to rise above his knees.

"I’m gonna miss these old mountains when we head home," Cornelia mused, heaving a sigh of satisfaction as she gazed around her at the mountains in the distance. "It’s so beautiful here. If I didn’t love Boston so much, I’d be almost jealous. Maybe I am a little!"

Evadne looked up at her with a grin. "I know what you mean. I never in a million years thought I’d end up living back in the Alps, but as soon as we got here, it felt like home. In fact, as soon as we saw the house, it felt like home. I fell in love with it right away, even though I didn’t know then that I'd be living in it. I thought it was a holiday home for Edgar and the kids. Gee, that was over two years ago now!" She glanced down at Henry, who looked back up at her and giggled. "You, young man, were not even a twinkle in Daddy’s eye!"

Just as she spoke, a large wave from one of steamers came rolling in, breaking closer to them than they expected and splashing the little boy’s torso and face. Startled, Henry began to wail, and as he backed into his mother’s legs and cried ‘ma-ma’ between his sobs, Evadne bent down and lifted him into her arms.

"Come on, sugar-pie, it’s okay. Mommy’s got you. I think that’s enough paddling for now, don’t you?" and she turned and carried him towards the picnic blanket.

Cornelia glanced across at her daughters, who were still playing with Thea in the waves. "Thea, keep a close eye on those two, will you? Shout if you need me."

"Will do, Auntie Corney!"

"Thanks, sweetie." Walking up the beach, Cornelia watched as her friend sat down and began to dry Henry off with a towel. The little boy had suddenly become clingy, and was trying his hardest to bury his face in her chest as she attempted to remove his swimming suit. "Evvy, would you mind if asked you something?"

Finally managing to free Henry’s right leg from his clothing, Evadne glanced across at her friend, before turning her attention to the left leg. "Sure, go ahead."

"Well, I was wondering" Cornelia began, as she plonked herself down on the blanket in front of them, "are you okay?"

Evadne looked up in surprise. "Yes, I’m fine! Why?" she asked, as she freed Henry’s left leg and then wrapped him in a huge beach towel and pulled him into her lap.

"I heard you wretching this morning in the bathroom. It’s not the first time I’ve heard you since we’ve been here either, and I’ve noticed you’ve been waiting for Edgar to be out of the way." Evadne said nothing, picking at her fingernails as she let Henry grab her hand. Cornelia frowned. "Are you sick?"

An awkward silence followed, as Evadne stared down at the blanket. Then slowly, she shook her head. "No, I’m not sick." She raised her eyes to her friend’s, a slight smile touching her lips. "I think I may be pregnant, though!"

A wide grin lit up Cornelia’s face. "You think you are, or you are?"

"I’m not sure." Evadne shrugged her shoulders. "I’ve been sick every morning for over a month now, and I’m almost four weeks late."

"Then you have to be! Have you been to the doctor?" Evadne shook her head. "Whyever not?" Her friend shrugged and Cornelia’s voice became stern. "Evvy?"

Evadne heaved a sigh. "I’m scared to, okay?"

"Why?"

"You’ll think I’m a complete idiot."

Cornelia grinned. "I think that anyhow, so you may as well tell me!"

Evadne laughed and adjusted Henry in her arms, wrapping the towel tighter around him as he curled up against her. "Because right now, I’m fairly certain I’m pregnant, and it’s the best feeling in world, even with all the sickness."

"And?"

"Well, if I go to docs, he may tell me I’m not, and then it’ll be all taken away. I want to cling to thinking I'm pregnant for a little while longer, just in case."

Corney stared at her and shook her head despairingly. "You’re crazy, you know that? The longer you cling to it, the more upset you’ll be if you’re not!"

"You don’t know that!"

"Yes, I do! It’s common sense - which you generally have in bucketloads. What've you done with it? Have you told Edgar?"

"Not yet," Evadne mumbled. "He thinks I’m sickening for something, and I keep putting him off."

Cornelia sighed. "Evvy, will you just go see the doctor, before your poor husband goes crazy with worry!"

Evadne shook her head, her mouth in a tight line. "You don’t understand, Corney."

"I understand more than you think."

"How? You’ve got your two!"

"Yes, but it should have been three."

"What?" In her surprise, Evadne jerked Henry, who was just falling off to sleep and set up a noisy protest as a result. "Oh, sorry my little man! Here, have Babi." She handed her son his rabbit, which he hugged tightly as he snuggled down again, and then she turned back to Cornelia with wide eyes. "What d’you mean it should have been three?"

Corney took a deep breath, a sad expression on her face. "Remember I told you we'd had a lot on at home and nearly didn’t make the reunion?" Evadne nodded. "Well I was pregnant again. We lost the baby back in January, when I was almost four months gone. They’ve no idea why."

Evadne stared at her in shock, deep sympathy showing in eyes. "Oh Corney, I’m so sorry."

Smiling nervously, Cornelia nodded slightly to acknowledge her friend’s words. "It was pretty tough, I guess, but we’re getting through. After it was over, Mike had the operation. Said he couldn’t put me through that ever again. So no more kiddies for us now."

"Oh no, Corney." A wave of guilt swept over Evadne. "And here’s me whinging on."

"It’s okay, Evvy, really. I want you to be able to talk about it with me. I know what you’ve been through, and I’m happy for you, I really am."

"But why didn’t you tell me before? I would have been there for you."

"’Cause it was all too much, that’s why. At first I could scarcely get up in the morning, let alone do anything else. And I didn’t want to tell you by letter either, not if I didn't have to." Cornelia paused and took a deep breath. "Mike’s been such a rock, Evvy. He was so upset, but he’s spent all of his time looking after me, making sure I’m okay. There’s no chance I would have coped without him. The girls didn’t know either, and having them carry on as normal’s helped make it easier to move on." She reached out and took hold of her friend’s hand. "And this trip's been so wonderful too – it’s made me realise there’s still so much good in my life, and I so desperately wanted to see you and meet Henry."

Evadne stared at her friend in silence, clasping Corney’s hand tightly as tears welled up in her eyes. Cornelia gave her a warm smile.

"Please don’t be sad, I’m really okay. I have the most amazing family in the world. I don’t want for anything. And it’s brought the four of us so much closer." Then her voice became brisker, as she added, "But look, part of the reason I’m telling you now is because I want you to make sure you treasure this." She nodded towards Evadne’s belly, which was hidden underneath her son. "Go to the docs, find out if you're pregnant or not, and if you are, then treasure every second. And if you’re not, then you have a very wonderful family. Don’t forget that."

Evadne smiled. "I won’t. I promise."

"And tell Edgar! Put the poor guy out of his misery!"

"I will, as soon as I’m sure. I just don’t want him to know I have my hopes up – he’ll fret even more, otherwise." Corney raised her eyebrows cynically, and Evadne grinned. "But I promise I'll find out soon."

"Good." Hearing a loud shout, they turned to see the three girls running up the beach, and Corney braced herself as Meg barelled towards her. "Woah! Here comes trouble!" She caught her youngest daughter in her arms and tipped her up, tickling her as she did so. "You’re a little bulldozer, young lady!" Meg giggled, and as Terry plonked herself down next to them, Cornelia put an arm around her shoulders and dropped a kiss on her bright yellow locks. Evadne watched them with a smile, and looking up, Corney caught her staring and winked. "Right then, I don’t know about you horrid lot, but I’m famished! Who wants lunch?"

 

==

 

Back at the house, Marcia, Mike and Edgar were standing in front of Millicent Mary’s kennel, Scrabble jumping around their feet and barking. Solemn-faced, the two men tried desperately not to laugh as Marcia stared forlornly down at her ‘pet’. In front of them lay a heap of rotten wood and smelly, hairy material – all that remained of Millicent Mary.

"But Daddy, what happened?"

"I think she must have got wet over the winter and then rotted."

"Can we mend her?"

"No, poppet, I’m sorry."

A sad expression clouded Marcia’s pretty features, and Edgar glanced at Mike. That gentleman coughed to clear his throat. "Well in that case, I think we should give her a funeral."

Greatly cheered by this idea, Marcia gazed eagerly up at her father. "Can we, Daddy? And make her a cross?"

"Yes, if you like. I don’t see why not"

"Can I keep the hair too? Then I can hang it on my bedroom wall to remember her."

Edgar bent to lift the corner of the fetid material, and frowned. "Let’s ask Mummy about that one, shall we?"

"Okay."

"Jolly good. Now, you run inside and ask Guilia to rustle us up some lunch."

Marcia ran off to find their cook, and Mike turned to face his friend, eyebrows raised. "Evvy’ll never let her keep that in a million years!"

Edgar grinned back. "Exactly!" He let the stinking hair drop back the ground. "I think I need to wash my hands!"

"Fumigate yourself, more like! That reeks!"

Edgar laughed. "Well at least we know what the smell was!"

 

==

 

Being Marcia, she insisted that the funeral was held that very afternoon.

As soon as Evadne’s party returned to the house, they found themselves directed to change into black and gather in the garden, where they were presented with a hand-scribbled order of service, and led to the large flowerbed down by the lake. The entire set-up made Evadne very thankful that Ned had gone back to school – she could just imagine his reaction to this little diversion.

Marcia, Terry and Meg, the latter of whom had no idea what was happening but was determined to join in anyway, all stood soberly in front of a shallow hole, which now held the remains of the crates. Behind them, their mothers and Thea formed a second row, all staring grimly at their feet in an effort not to laugh. Every so often, one of them would let out a sudden titter, which was rewarded by a glare from Marcia that could have turned them to stone. Edgar and Mike solemnly performed the service, giving thanks for the way Millicent Mary had touched all their lives and conducting a rendition of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, which Marcia explained was Millicent Mary’s favourite hymn. Even Henry got in on the act. Picking a fat, juicy worm out of the flowerbed, he toddled across to the hole and dropped it in, earning a round of applause from his audience. Very pleased with himself, he toddled proudly back to the flowerbed and picked up a second worm. This time, he put it in his mouth.

"Eeuuuw!" Marcia recoiled in horror, and laughing, Edgar stepped forward and removed it.

"Perhaps not, eh little man? You’ll choke yourself if you’re not careful."

"That’s so horrid!"

Edgar grinned up at his youngest daughter. "What’s so horrid about it? It’s a good source of protein. In fact, I’ve half a mind to put a few on the grill for our dinner!"

"You do, and you’ll be eating them all yourself!" his wife retorted, laughing at Marcia, as that young lady pretended to be sick. The next second she screamed, echoed a split-second later by Cornelia, as Mike sneaked up behind the pair of them and dropped a worm down each of their necks. "That’s the last time we invite you to stay, Michael van Alden!" she cried, as she untucked her blouse from the back of her skirt and shook the worm out onto the floor.

Cornelia glared at her husband as she followed her friend’s example. "I’ll get you for that!"

"I’d like to see you tr…argh!" and Mike began fishing down his trousers in a very undignified manner, for Terry had decided to get revenge on her mother’s behalf and dropped a worm down her father’s trousers, making sure it went inside his underpants as well.

Cornelia grinned at her husband, enjoying his discomfort. "You really shouldn’t do that in public, you know!"

Laughing at her friend’s plight, Evadne glanced down at her watch. "Well if you ask me, it’s time for dinner! Grilled meat and salad okay for everyone?" They all indicated that it was. "Excellent. Edgar, you fire up the grill, and Thea and I’ll go make the salad, seeing as we’ve given Guilia the evening off!" and she turned to head back towards the house.

"Mummy, can I keep the hair?"

Spinning round, Evvy saw Marcia holding up the disgusting, matted material. "No, you cannot! It pongs to high heaven – go put it in the trash. Why didn’t you just do that when Daddy told you to?"

"’Cause he said to ask you if I could keep it, that’s why."

Evadne rolled her eyes. ‘I might’ve known! Well you can’t, so go get rid of it now." Then, as Marcia stropped sulkily up the garden to do as she was told, Evvy turned to her husband. "One of these days I’ll call your bluff on that one and you’ll be sorry!"

 

==

 

Much later that evening, Evadne sat in bed, propped up against her pillows, watching her husband as he changed into his pyjamas. Her mind was on Cornelia, and what that lady had told her, and as she thought about everything her friends had been through in the last five months, she gently rubbed her stomach.

Feeling her eyes upon him, Edgar turned round, as he tied the drawstring on his pants, and gave her a smile. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thanks," she returned, grinning as he climbed into the bed beside her.

He made himself comfortable, and Evadne wriggled across so she was lying next to him, wrapping her arm firmly around his chest. "You alright there?"

Nodding, she reached up and pecked him on the lips. "Yes thanks, I just fancied a cuddle. Any objections?"

"None whatsoever," he grinned, and turning out his bedside light, he wrapped his arms back around her and held her tight.

 

==

 

In a bedroom down the corridor, Cornelia stared out of the window at the blackened lake, her arms folded across her chest and a faraway expression on her face. Coming out of the bathroom, Mike took one look at her and hurried up behind her, slipping his arms around her waist.

"What are you looking at?"

"Just thinking, that’s all." She leant back into him as she spoke. "I was talking babies with Evvy today. I told her what happened."

Her voice choked as she said the words, and releasing her, Mike took hold of her shoulders and turned her round to face him. "Oh sweetheart, are you okay?"

Cornelia nodded slowly, and then as her eyes welled up and a tear ran down her cheek, she changed her mind and shook her head. Wrapping his arms around her, Mike held her as tightly as he could, stroking her back to soothe her, as she tried hard to regain her composure. Eventually, she pulled her head back and stared up at him earnestly, as he smoothed some hair back from her face.

"We will get past this, won’t we?"

Before Mike could reply, the bedroom door flew open and their daughters came in, Terry leading Meg by the hand.

"Hey, what are you two doing up?" their father asked, frowning. "We put you to bed hours ago."

"Meg had a bad dream about monsters," Terry replied. "I heard her cry so I went to see her and then she asked for you and Mommy so we came here."

Meg’s face was still flushed and wet with her tears, and crouching down, Cornelia held out her arms. "Oh, sweetie-pie, come here for a Mommy hug!" Meg ran forward into her arms, and Cornelia swung her up, kissing her cheek and cuddling her, before walking across to the bed and popping her under the covers. "You stay here for a while with Daddy and me, and we’ll chase those nasty monsters away."

Seeing that her little sister was okay, Terry turned to go back to bed. Mike called out to stop her. "Do you want to stay too, Terry?"

A wide grin lit up the young girl’s face. "Yes please!"

Corney grinned and patted the bed next to Meg. "Come on then, all aboard!" and Terry ran across the room and scrambled up next to them. Wriggling under the covers, she put her arms around her sister and Meg turned over and hugged her back.

Smiling, Mike placed a hand on his wife’s head. "We’ll definitely get past it," he whispered in her ear, glancing affectionately at their daughters.

Cornelia grinned, reaching up to peck him on the lips before climbing into bed herself. "Right then you two monkeys, make room for us!" and pushing them across to Mike’s side, she lay down beside them and squirmed to get comfortable.

Mike walked around the bed, and stared down at them, his hands on his hips. "Now where am I going to sleep? I have to fit in too, you know!"

The two girls giggled, and Terry spread her arms and legs out in a star shape. "You can’t, I need all this space!"

"You think so, do you?" Mike squeezed under the covers next to them, and then winked at his wife. "In that case, Mommy, I think there’s only one thing to do!"

"Squash them!" Cornelia cried, and the pair of them wrapped their arms around their daughters and hugged them tight, pretending to squeeze them. The two girls squealed and giggled and releasing them, their mother asked, "Do you give in?"

"No!"

"Never!"

"Well in that case…" and amid the squeals of laughter as they hugged them again, Cornelia forgot her pain for a while, and revelled in the close, happy family she had.

Chapter 40 by Josie

Edgar heaved his wife’s suitcase onto the luggage rack above her head, and then bent to kiss her on the cheek. ‘Have a safe journey, darling. I hope Grizel’s a little better."

"Sounds like she should be, from all Joey’s had to say." Evadne half-heartedly returned his embrace, and then turned her wrist to check her watch. "You’d best get going – the train’ll be leaving at any moment." Placing her hand on his back, she pushed him towards the door.

"Send my regards to Joey and Jack, won’t you?"

"Will do. Bye, Edgar, see you tomorrow," and as he made his way down the corridor, she shut the door and went to take her seat.

Edgar stepped out onto the platform and shut the door, just as the train began to move. Looking along the length of the carriage, he caught sight of her sitting by the window of her first-class compartment, gazing out at the station. As their eyes met, he gave her a little wave, but she quickly looked away. The train rumbled slowly along the platform, and Edgar stood and watched it go, until he could no longer see her. Then heaving a sigh, he made his way back to his car.

For the life of him, he could not work out what he had done wrong. For the past couple of days his wife had been acting a little strangely towards him. There had been no animosity or confrontation between them, yet she was off-hand and distracted, and didn’t seem to want to spend any time alone with him. He had tried asking a couple of times what was wrong but was told that it was nothing, she was just tired, and truth be told, he was a little afraid to press the issue any further. This was chiefly because the way she was acting reminded him of the days when she used to think of Ralph.

Climbing into the car, Edgar shut his door and then leant back against the seat, his eyes closed. It was his one and only paranoia in life; that one day she would realise that he couldn’t quite give her everything she needed. That one day she would wake up to the fact that he would never truly be ‘the one’. He had never told her that he felt this way, but at the back of his mind was the memory of her once saying that she would never love anyone as she had loved Ralph, and that she would always live with the pain of losing him. Edgar would give everything he had to make her happy. He was so very much in love with her – even more so than he had been with Madeleine. Although he would never admit it to her, he was deeply hurt by the idea that someone else might still have the number one place in her heart.

Opening his eyes again, he shook himself out of his reverie. It wouldn’t do any good to sit there dwelling on it. He would just have to figure out a way to get through to her. Starting the engine, he heaved another huge sigh, and then drove off in the direction of his work.

 

==

 

As the train rumbled slowly through the suburb of Bellevue, traversing the edge of the lake, Evadne stopped reading and stared out of the window. Her stomach was churning with a mixture of nerves and guilt. She had seen Edgar wave, and knew that he would be hurt that she had not responded, but she couldn’t help it. If she had paid him any real attention, she would have lost her nerve and run straight off the train and back into his arms.

It was now the end of May, and almost three weeks since the Van Aldens had returned to Boston. Before she left, Cornelia had extracted a promise from her friend that she would go to the doctors as soon as possible to find out whether or not she was pregnant. But as soon as she had gone, Evadne’s nerve failed her again, and she had been putting the test off ever since,. That was, until all of a sudden, two days ago, she had woken up with a desperate desire to know one way or the other. The problem was, she knew that the wait for the results would leave her thoroughly overwrought, and she did not want Edgar to see her that way. Then an idea had come to her, and consequently, she was now on her way to the Gornetz Platz. Ostensibly, she was off to visit Grizel, but in reality, her main purpose was to ask a favour of Jack Maynard.

Glancing out of the window, she could just make out their home suburb of Cologny on the far side of the lake, and her thoughts returned to her husband. She did feel guilty that she had still not told Edgar, and she yearned for him to be with her right now, but the result was something she needed to find out for herself first. In her mind, she had convinced herself that if she told him before she was certain either way, that she would somehow jinx the results. So, despite Cornelia trying to convince her otherwise, she had steadfastly kept her suspicions to herself.

As she ran all this over in her mind, she began to feel a little sick. Putting her book down next to her, she kicked off her shoes, tucked her feet up on the seat and tried to go to sleep.

 

It was just gone midday when she finally arrived at Interlaken station. There she was met by Jack, who had come down to pick up some provisions for the San, and offered to collect her whilst he was there. They made pleasant smalltalk as they wound their way back up the mountain, filling each other in on the happenings in their respective families, and Jack imparting the news of Grizel’s condition. It was not until they reached the Platz itself that Evadne found an opportunity to ask him her favour.

"I’ll just drop these things off seeing as we’re passing," Jack said cheerfully, as they approached the entrance to the San, "save having to remember to bring them back with me later. You don’t mind do you?"

Evadne smiled and shook her head, feeling her stomach start to churn again. This was the exactly the opportunity she had been waiting for. "No, of course not. Are you not working today then?"

"No, this is one of my precious days off. Don’t worry, I promise not to get under yours and Joey’s feet while you catch up – Joey’s already given me strict instructions on that front!" Evadne gave a weak laugh as he pulled the car up in the staff car park, and he turned to look at her with a frown. "You alright there?"

"Yes thanks."

It was obvious that she was not telling the truth. Jack, stared at her for a second, and then shrugged his shoulders and opened the car door. "Alright then, please yourself. I won’t be a minute, okay?"

"Jack?" He stopped with one foot out of the car, and turned back round to face her, his eyebrows raised. Evadne gulped. "Would you mind if I came in with you?"

Jack stared back at her in surprise. "No, not at all. Did you want to pop in and see Grizel then?"

Evadne shook her head. Then realising it was now or never, she swallowed hard. "I was hoping you might run a test for me," she blurted out, before she could change her mind again.

"What sort of…oh!" Jack’s face broke into a broad smile as comprehension dawned, and Evadne flushed bright red. "How long?"

"I reckon a little over two months," she mumbled, embarrassed at talking about such an intimate subject with her friend’s husband, even if he was a doctor. "So will you do it?"

"Why not go to your doctor in Geneva?"

"Because I can’t tell Edgar until I’m sure, and he’d guess something was up while I was waiting for the results. We didn’t think we could have another baby, you see, and now maybe we can and I’m so scared to find out, I feel sick!" She looked up at his friendly, concerned face with pleading eyes. "Please, Jack, will you just do the test? Or if not, can I ask one of the others? I have to know."

"You are aware you won’t get the results unt-"

"I know! Why d’you think I organised with Joey to stay overnight?"

Jack hesitated for a moment, and then wilted at the look of desperation in her eyes. "Okay, fine, come on," he said, glancing at his watch. "We’ve made good time up the mountain anyway, so Jo’s not expecting us just yet."

 

And so, it was a somewhat quiet, nervous Evadne who arrived at Freudesheim an hour later, to be greeted by a very impatient Jo Maynard.

"What took you so long?" she asked reproachfully, as she pulled her friend into the entrance hall and gave her a hug. "Jack, have you been dragging her from pillar to post running your errands?"

"Nothing of the sort, my love" Jack grinned, pecking his wife on the cheek. "We had an unscheduled stop to make, that’s all."

Joey frowned and shot her husband a quizzical glance before turning back to her guest. "Evvy, your bedroom’s on the first floor, third door on the right. Will you find it yourself, or do you need me to show you?"

"I’ll be fine. I’ll just freshen up, if that’s okay, then I’ll be right on down."

"Take your time. Mittagessen is cold meats and salad anyhow." Joey watched as her friend made her way up the stairs, and then turned to her husband again. "What’s going on, Jack? Is Evvy alright?"

Jack raised an eyebrow. "You’ll have to ask her that yourself, won’t you?"

"But-"

"Sorry, Jo, it’s not for me to say. You’ll have to contain that impatient nature of yours for once!" and chuckling as she made an exasperated sound, he headed through to the washroom to get himself ready for lunch.

 

Evadne’s quiet, uncharacteristic demeanour remained unchanged all through lunch, and by the time Jack took Bruno out for a walk, leaving his wife and guest in the salon to catch up, Joey was almost bursting with curiosity.

Evadne was standing by the window, staring out at the magnificent Jungfrau that stood proudly on the horizon. "It’s odd how the same mountain can look so different from another angle, isn’t it?" she mused. "We get a completely different view from the lake."

"You can see her from Geneva?" Joey asked, surprised.

"Not from the city, no. But Edgar, the girls and I took the boat all the way to Montreux last weekend, and you can see her from there."

Mention of Evadne’s family gave Joey the opening she was looking for, and she changed the subject abruptly. "Evvy, are things alright at home? With Edgar, I mean?"

Evadne turned to face her, her brow furrowed. "Yes, of course they are! What on earth made you ask that?"

"You did!" "I did nothing of the sort! Are you feeling quite alright?"

"I didn’t mean that you actually asked me to, dummkopf! But look at you, you’ve hardly said boo to a goose since you’ve been here – that’s not like you at all. Something’s up and don’t deny it - I’ve known you too long. So come on, if it’s not Edgar, then what is it?"

Grimacing at her friend, Evadne shook her head. "I suppose you’re not going to let me rest ‘til you’ve got it out of me?"

"You don’t have to say if you’d rather not." Joey replied, suddenly realising how pushy she had sounded. "It’s just we always tell each other things and-"

"Joey, it’s okay," Evadne laughed, walking across to her friend and pulling her down next to her on one of the long seats. "I was going to tell you anyhow, else I’d probably go crazy overnight!"

"Why? What’s going on?"

"The reason we were so late is we stopped by the San," she began cryptically, and Joey stared at her, thoroughly confused.

"Why on earth? Oh, did you pop in to see Grizel?"

Evadne grinned and shook her head. "Jack did a test on me. Joey, I think I may be pregnant again."

It took a moment for Evvy's words to sink in, and then Jo shrieked and threw her arms around her friend. "Oh Evvy, how marvellous! But I thought you couldn’t?"

"I know, so did we!" Evadne exclaimed, Jo’s enthusiasm getting her truly excited for the first time since she’d begun to suspect. "But I really think I might be! I’ve all the symptoms and I…well I just feel it. Does that make sense?" Joey nodded, and Evadne felt tears pricking the back of her eyes. "It would make everything so perfect. Edgar wants another baby so much, and so do I. I’d have all I’ve ever wanted, Joey."

Giving her friend another hug, Joey pulled back and looked her straight in the eye. "You know what, I have a very good feeling about it all."

"How? Don’t tell me, you feel it in your water!"

Joey threw her head back and gave a golden laugh. "Of course, what else would you expect. I’m a baby diviner! I’ve had eleven, I should know by now!"

Evadne giggled. "Yes, I suppose you should."

 

The following afternoon, Evadne and Jo were sitting in one of the large private wards at the San, chatting away to Grizel, when the door opened and Jack entered the room.

"You two do know that you have to be in Interlaken in just over an hour, don’t you?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye, knowing full well that neither of them had a clue what the time was. He chuckled as they both glanced at their watches, gave exclamations, and suddenly jumped to their feet, almost in unision. "Joey, why don’t you go and bring the car round and wait out the front. I just need a quick word with Evvy before she goes," and leaving his wife to do as he suggested, he bore Evadne off to his office as soon as she had said her goodbyes to Grizel.

When she reappeared fifteen minutes later, she found Joey sitting in the car outside the main entrance, drumming her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. As soon as Evadne opened the door, she burst out, "So? What did he say?"

Evvy climbed in slowly, being as aggravating as she possibly could by taking her time to make herself comfortable. Then just as Joey felt she was about to explode with curiosity, her friend’s face broke into the widest smile she had ever seen. "He said yes! I’m pregnant, Joey! Can you believe it?"

"I knew it!" Joey cried, throwing her arms around her friend, accidentally sounding the horn as she did so. "I knew it! Oh Evvy, I’m so glad."

"If you’re glad, I’m gladder!" Evadne beamed, pulling back and wiping tears of joy from her eyes. "Oh Joey, I have to go home - I have to tell Edgar!"

"In that case let’s go - we need to get you on that train," and stepping hard on the accelerator, she shot the car out of the carpark, startling Phil Graves, who had come to see who was honking their horn.

 

It was early evening by the time Evadne arrived back in Geneva, and as the train passed through the edge of the city, she caught a glimpse of the Palais des Nations through the trees.

She had spent the entire journey home reflecting on how she came to meet Edgar, on their friendship, on how she had eventually realised after two years just how much he meant to her. She remembered their wedding as clear as day, how happy she had been, how lucky she felt to have found him. She had never imagined when Ralph died that she’d meet someone else she would love as much, let alone more. But words could not describe how she felt about her husband - he was the very core of her world. Now, she hugged herself and smiled as she caught sight of his place of work, where she knew he would be right this moment.

"I love you," she murmured, as the building flashed by.

"Je t’aime aussi!"

Startled, she turned around to see the elderly man she was sharing a compartment with beaming at her with a toothless grin and a twinkle in his eye.

"I…er…I mean, je…" she stammered an apology, trying to explain why she had suddenly blurted that out.

The old man chuckled to himself, dismissing her explanation with a wave of his hand and taking himself off for a walk, and Evadne stared out of the window again, her face burning, thanking god that she only had five minutes more of her journey to go.

 

==

 

As his wife was disembarking at Geneva station, Edgar was just leaving work. It was a balmy evening, typical of late-May in the Alps, and eschewing the usual staff car, he decided to make his way home using a combination of walking and ferry instead. He didn’t care that it would take him far longer than if he went by road. He needed to clear his mind.

Taking off his tie and putting it in his pocket, he made his way through the Jardin Botanique, turning right when he reached the lake and heading towards the jetty. He knew that Evadne should be arriving home about now, and he was anxious to see her. Ever since their stilted goodbye at the station the previous morning, he had been thinking long and hard about things, and had eventually come to a simple conclusion. He would talk to her as soon as he got the chance, and not let up until he had got to the bottom of whatever it was that was worrying her. Then if it turned out his fears had foundation, he would do his best to learn to live with it and they would work around it.

They had only been apart for one night, and yet he’d missed her an absurd amount for such a short separation, making him all the more determined. Marriage took work, after all, so they would jolly well work at it together. Feeling much better now he had this straight in his head, he set off briskly for home.

 

==

 

Across the lake in Cologny, Evadne greeted her stepdaughters and then took her young son off to get ready for bed. He was becoming a real little handful these days, as he gained strength and tried to learn more and more skills. Between him insisting he could put his own pyjamas on, protesting at her every move, and toddling off the second she let go of him, it took a while to get him into his cot. Once there, however, he quickly snuggled down with his rabbit and suddenly became very tired.

Evadne watched him closely, as she softly sang ‘Hush Little Baby' and he gradually dropped off to sleep. Gazing lovingly at the long lashes that brushed his chubby, rosy cheeks, she gently rubbed her stomach. In seven months time, he and his siblings would have another little brother or sister. She couldn’t wait. She would have everything she had ever wanted, and for once she wasn’t worrying about what might happen to mess it up or take it all away. Somehow, this time, she just knew that everything would be alright.

A loud crash sounded from the hallway downstairs, as if something had been knocked over, and then she heard the sound of feet running across the polished marble floor. They were followed by Thea’s voice yelling "Keep quiet, you moke! Henry’s trying to sleep!" at the top of her voice. Chuckling, Evadne wondered if she should point out to young Thea that she was making far more noise than her sister was. Then, all of a sudden, Marcia shouted "Daddy! Guess what?" and Scrabble began to bark. Edgar was home.

She felt a rush of excitement; any moment now she would be able to tell him her news. Hearing his footsteps on the stairs, she bent over the cot again, checking that Henry really was asleep. The next moment, the door to the room opened, and looking up with a smile, she put a finger to her lips.

Returning her grin, Edgar crossed the room to stand next to her, placing an arm around her shoulders and stooping to kiss her hair. "Hello you."

Evadne gazed back up at him. "Hey there." Then, with one last look at Henry, she took hold of her husband’s hand. "Come with me, I’ve something to tell you," she said in an undertone, barely able to conceal the excitement in her voice.

Gripping her fingers tightly, Edgar felt some of his doubts slipping away now that he had her home with him, and wondering idly what news she had for him, he allowed her to lead him out of their son’s room.

Chapter 41 by Josie
Author's Notes:

If anyone wants to read about Evvy actually breaking the news to Edgar, it's the last post of the prequel, A Second Chance, which you can find my stories.

And this is the last post for Chapter 2. Huge thanks again to everyone who has read the story and to all those who have left reviews. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and for leaving your thoughts, and I really hope you've all enjoyed it.

I'll start posting Chapter 3 sometime next week. :)

Edgar could not stop smiling. It was as if some invisible power was pulling back the sides of his mouth, curving them upwards as far as they would go. Not only were they having another baby, something he had convinced himself would never happen, but Evadne had allayed his fears. The relief he had felt when she told him that Ralph was in her past, and that he, Edgar, was her present and future was immense. Just the thought of it made his grin grow even wider than it already was. 

"You look like you have a clothes hanger stuck in your mouth!" Evadne laughed, her grin almost as wide as his own, as she shovelled a spoonful of zuppa inglese into her mouth. 

Thea glanced up at her father and frowned. "Why are you smiling like that?" 

"Because I’m happy, that’s why. Nothing for you to worry yourself about." 

"You look like you’re mad!" Marcia put in, tipping her head to one side and observing her father with wide eyes. 

"Well excuse me, young lady…" 

"You do look like you’re mad, Daddy," Thea agreed. 

"Well I like this!" Edgar looked thoroughly indignant. "Can’t a chap be happy without his children picking him to pieces?" 

Evadne observed her husband with a grin. "Well I have to be honest, you do look a little touched!" 

The two girls giggled as their father pushed aside his dignity and stuck his tongue out at his wife. Rising out of her seat, Marcia leant across the table, her hands either side of her mouth, and mouthed something at her sister. 

Thea nodded, and Marcia turned to her father. "Daddy, please can we get down now?" 

"Why do you want to?" 

"Just ‘cause…" 

"We’re playing a game we want to finish before bed," Thea added, by way of a better explanation. 

Their parents looked at each other, slightly suspicious, and then Edgar peered into Marcia’s bowl. 

"Well I suppose so then, seeing as you’ve both finished. But you’re to get into bed at nine. I don’t mind you reading for a while, but you’ve both got class excursions tomorrow and you need to be up and awake early. Understand?" 

"We understand!" 

"Thanks Daddy!" and with that, the pair of them jumped down from their chairs and ran out of the room. 

"What d’you suppose they're up to?" Evadne asked, grimacing as Marcia slammed the door behind her. 

Edgar shrugged his shoulders. "Not sure I’m worried, as long as they don’t blow up themselves or the house!" 

His wife laughed and got to her feet. "Come on, let’s clear the table. I let Guilia go early, so we can do the dishes and then put our feet up." 

"I might need to pay a visit to the little boys’ room, actually. I won’t be long," Edgar replied with an air of innocence, and getting to his feet, he hurried out of the room. 

"Why am I not surprised?" Evadne called at his retreating back. 

Muttering about ‘men’ and ‘lazy’, she piled the bowls one inside the other, and made her way through to the kitchen.

 

The washing up was more or less done by the time Edgar reappeared from his ‘bathroom break’, still grinning from ear to ear. 

"Oh dear, have you finished it all?" 

Evadne tuned round to berate him, and then burst out laughing as she saw his beaming face. "You are aware how goofy you look?" 

"I don’t care!" he said, crossing the room to stand behind her, as she rinsed down the sink. "I don’t care about anything tonight, other than you and the scaramouches, and this little one in here whom I am henceforth going to refer to as ‘Pebble’," and rubbing her stomach with one hand, he kissed her on the cheek. 

Evadne chuckled. "Why ‘Pebble’?" 

"Because we used ‘Baby’ for Henry, so we need something different, and he or she is the size of a pebble just now, if the experts are to be believed." 

Releasing her, he perched himself on the edge of the long pine table in the centre of the room, picked an apple out of the fruit bowl, and took a large bite. Evadne finished rinsing down the sink and turned around to face him, drying her hands on the teatowel. 

"So which do you want, boy or girl?" 

"Honestly?" Evadne nodded, and Edgar shrugged. "I don’t mind. How about you?" 

"I don’t mind either. So long as it’s a baby, I’ll be happy!" 

"As opposed to what?" he asked incredulously. 

"Well I don’t know!" she giggled. "How do I know you’re not really one of those alien creatures that people keep talking about?" 

"Maybe I am!" Edgar pulled a supposedly scary face, which merely served to make her laugh more. "My parents were a little bit strange and emotionless, after all, it might explain things!" 

"Maybe it would!" Still chuckling, she put the teatowl down on the sideboard, and gazed across at him. 

"Why are you looking at me like that?" 

Evadne stared at him a moment longer. Then shaking her head, she gave him a warm smile and crossed the small distance between them, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his shoulder. Placing what was left of the apple on the table next to him, Edgar hugged her back and dropped a kiss on her fair, curly locks. 

"You alright there?" 

"Just dandy, thanks." 

Nestling closer to him, she lifted her head to kiss the underneath of his chin, and he tightened his arms around shoulders. They stood in silence for a while, just enjoying being alone together, running the past twenty-four hours over in their minds. Eventually, Evadne spoke. 

"Edgar?" 

"Hmmm?" 

"About what you said earlier…" 

"What did I say earlier?" 

"About Ralph." 

"Ignore me, I was being silly," he murmured, dropping another kiss on her hair. 

She pulled her head back and looked up at his face. "What made you think that?" 

"Evvy-" 

"Honestly, please tell me." 

Edgar sighed and loosened his hold on her. "Okay, well, I don’t suppose you remember this, but not long after I’d met you, before we were together, we had a conversation about whether we’d ever fall in love again. You said you’d never love anyone in the way that you’d loved Ralph, and would always feel pain of losing him." He smiled, looking slightly sheepish, as she stared blankly up at him. "I suppose that’s always stuck in my mind." 

Evadne shook her head in amazement and then began to laugh. "Oh you soppy old fool!" she exclaimed, relieved that it wasn’t anything more. "Yes, I said that, but I was a complete mess back then, Edgar. And I was young and stupid-" 

"You were thirty-one!" 

"Okay, well stupid then!" She considered carefully before continuing. "Do you want to hear a vow I made to myself many years ago?" 

"Um…" he hesitated, not entirely sure that he did. "Yes, I suppose so." 

"I vowed I would never get married unless I met someone I loved as much as I loved Ralph. And no, I didn’t think it possible at the time, but you know what? I’m married now, so I guess I was wrong!" 

Edgar’s face broke into a warm smile, as he gazed down at her, and she placed her right hand on his chest. 

"I’m gonna say this once, and then never make me say it again, ‘cause it’s disgustingly mushy and sentimental, and the fact that I’m even saying it now shows how much I care about you." 

Edgar grinned. "Okay. This should be good." 

She grimaced, and then ordered, "Look at me." Obeying her, Edgar stared down into her bright, forget-me-not eyes. Evadne took a deep breath, and then slowly said, "You are the love of my life." 

Taken completely by surprise, Edgar’s eyes widened and shone as he gazed at her. Lifting his hands to cup her face, he lowered his face towards hers. 

"And you’re mine," he whispered, before he covered her lips with his own. 

When they finally pulled apart, he wrapped his arms around her again, holding her as closely as he could. After a few seconds, Evadne began to giggle. 

"You taste of apple!" 

Edgar laughed and pulled back, picking the apple up from next to him. "Want some?" 

"Yes please!" She took a huge bite, and then pulling out of his arms, she turned jumped up to sit on the sideboard behind her. "We’ll have to think of a name, you know." 

"Any ideas?" 

"A few. If it’s a girl, I’d quite like Momma’s name in there somewhere, if that’s okay with you?" 

"I’m sure we can do that," he replied with a grin. "We should ask the children too, see what they come up with." 

Evadne raised a cynical eyebrow. "Are you sure that’s wise?" 

"Why not?" 

"Well, Thea may be okay, but Ned’ll want it named after some obscure rugby player or cricketer, and Henry’s pretty much gonna say ‘Babi’ or "Viva’, and I still have no clue what that last one’s supposed to mean!" 

Edgar chuckled. "Yes, I see your point. And I don’t think I’d want to burden the poor child with any name Marcia might come up with!" 

"No, definitely not! Hey, when should we tell them?" 

"Early summer holidays I think," he decided, after some consideration. "It’s only just over a month away anyhow, and then Ned will be here as well." 

"Sounds good to me." Evadne started slightly, as Pickle suddenly jumped up onto the sideboard next to her, and reaching out, she pulled the kitten into her arms. "What are you doing up here, cheeky?" she asked, caressing her the cat's head as she purred with contentment. Then turning back to Edgar, "I know, we’ll have to have another painting party! Which room shall we make into the nursery?" 

"No idea!" her husband replied, chortling. "We’ve seven months to sort that out." 

"Okay point taken." she retorted, pulling a rather unbecoming face. She watched as Edgar passed his apple core down to Scrabble, and then placing Pickle back on the sideboard, she jumped down herself. " Fancy a mug of cocoa?" 

"That sounds like an idea." 

Bending down, she went to retrieve the pan from the cupboard, but it was nowhere to be seen. "Where’s Guilia put it?" 

Edgar shrugged, as he stood up and brushed himself down. "No idea." 

"Hmph." Evadne stood up, looking rather disgruntled. "I’ll have to use this one instead, I guess. Remind me to ask Guilia about it tomorrow." 

"Will do," came the disinterested reply. "I’m just going to let Scrabble out to spend a penny and tell girls to go to bed, okay? I’ll see you out there. Come on, boy!" and calling Scrabble after him, he turned to leave the room.

 

An hour or so later, Thea peered down the stairs, looking as far as she could around the banisters without being seen. 

"Can you hear them?" her sister hissed from behind her. 

Turning round to face her, Thea shook her head. "They’re outside, I think, so they won’t hear us." 

"Yippee!" Marcia jumped up, and held out her hand to pull her sister to her feet. "Come on then, let’s start!" 

"Where shall we do it?" 

Marcia screwed her face up in thought and considered this for a moment. "Come to my room, there’s more space." 

"Okay, we have to get my drawer then," and the two of them crept down the corridor towards Thea’s room. 

Making her way to her dressing table, Thea pulled out the large bottom drawer, struggling slightly as she heaved it up in her arms. Then walking across to the door, she tried to get out of the room, only to discover that she couldn’t. 

"It’s too wide!" 

"Go sideways then!" Marcia hissed back. 

Shuffling around so that she was sideways on to the landing, Thea tried to do as her sister suggested. She made it halfway, before both she and the drawer became wedged in the doorframe. 

"Good idea! I’m stuck now!" she exclaimed, as Marcia dissolved into a fit of giggles. "Stop laughing, you ninny and help me!" 

Grabbing her sister’s arm, Marcia pulled as hard as she could, and suddenly both Thea and the drawer came loose, landing on the hallway floor with a crash. 

"Shhh!" Marcia hissed, crouching down next to them and holding her breath.

A loud barking sounded from downstairs, as Scrabble came into the hall, and they both lay flat on the carpet, trying to be as quiet as possible. The next moment, they heard their father’s voice. 

"Come on, boy, there’s nothing there. Come back outside with your mistress and I." 

Scrabble's paws pattered back across the floorboards, and the two girls lay as still as they could for another couple of minutes, until they were certain all was clear. Then kneeling down, they slowly edged their way along the landing, pushing the drawer in front of them. When they finally made it to Marcia’s room, they dragged it into the middle of the floor, and then both plumped down cross-legged in front of it. 

"I’ve never had a midnight feast before. What do we do now?" Marcia asked. 

"Eat, of course!" 

"I know that, stupid!" she retorted, sticking out her tongue. 

Thea grinned and then furrowed her brow. "Why don’t you start taking the food out and I’ll have a look in the books," and as Marcia did as she was told, her sister picked up a copy of ‘Summer Term at St Clare’s’ and began to flick through. 

"Do you think it matters that we’re not having it at midnight?" Marcia queried, as she piled the food in front of her on the floor. 

Thea shook her head. "I don’t think so. It’s only a practice." She quickly scanned a couple of pages and then closed her book. "I don’t think we do anything special. Just eat it all." Observing the food for a minute, she bent and picked up the cocoa saucepan that she had sneaked up from downstairs. "I’ll make the cocoa, shall I? Did you get some milk?" 

"Here!" Marcia passed over a jug, some sugar and the cocoa powder, and then grimaced as she watched her sister tip the contents into the pan and begin to stir. "Isn’t it going to be all yucky if it’s cold?" 

"Well we can’t heat it up, can we?" Thea finished stirring, and poured the murky, brown liquid into two mugs, trying to ignore the huge lumps of powder that were floating on top. Then passing one down to Marcia, she squatted on the floor again. "What have we got then?" 

Marcia surveyed the eclectic array of food in front of her. "We’ve got chocolate biscuits, some vermicelles, Spam, oranges, Emmenthal, another cheese-" 

"Which other cheese?" 

"Don’t know. It’s smelly and all blue though! Then we’ve got dried figs, chocolate-" 

"Where did you get them?" Thea asked, eyeing the box of chocolates suspiciously. 

"Mummy’s draw. She has lots, she won’t miss them." Marcia pushed them aside and carried on looking around her. "Oh, and whatever’s in the packet there." 

Thea picked it up and pulled back the paper, then hastily shut it again. "Marcia, we can’t eat raw fish! And it’s so smelly! Why did you get it?" 

"Well I didn’t know what was in there, did I?" Marcia muttered, sounding injured. "What did you get, anyway?" 

"Tomatoes, apples, pilchards, glace cherries, lemon curd, forest berry jam, left over…something that Guilia made, a tin of rice pudding and some bread!" her sister replied proudly. 

"Well that’s lots!" Marcia beamed. "Let’s start eating!" 

Taking her sister at her word, Thea grabbed the bread, cutting herself an uneven slice with her penknife and then layering it with cheese and a few of the pilchards. Then cutting a second slice, she made it into a sandwich and took a huge bite. 

"This is fun!" 

"I know!" 

Thea took another bite and looked up at her sister with a smile. "We should…what are you doing?" she exclaimed, her grin turning to a look of disgust. "That’s horrid!" 

Marcia put the finishing touch to her food and then grinned. "It’s chocolate biscuit with jam, Spam, tomato and a glace cherry!" she announced proudly. 

"How can you eat that?" 

"I’ve never tried it! I thought it might be fun," and opening her mouth wide, she put the whole lot in in one go. 

"What’s it like?" Thea asked, pulling a face. 

"Yummy!" Marcia muttered, spraying her sister with crumbs. 

"I bet it’s not!" 

"Is too!" 

"Is not!" 

"Is too!" Marcia shouted back. 

"Shhhh! The window's open!" 

 

Down on the patio, Evadne heard their daughters’ voices floating through the open window, and glanced at her husband with a frown. 

"Did you hear that?" 

Edgar nodded and looked at his watch. "It’s ten o’clock. I suppose I’d better find out what they’re up to. Won’t be a moment," and he disappeared in through the french doors. 

A minute later he was back, almost doubled-up with mirth. "Evvy, quick," he gasped, "come and have a look at this!" 

The pair of them crept up the stairs and along the landing to Thea’s room. They arrived just in time to hear Thea hiss "You ninny!" 

"Well I didn’t know!" 

"You don’t eat pilchards with lemon curd anyway!" Thea giggled. "Sit still!" 

"S'not funny! Just get it out." 

"I can’t!" 

Peering through the door, Edgar and Evvy were almost undone by the sight of their daughters, who were lit up in the moonlight that streamed through the window. 

"Should we tell them off?" Evadne mouthed, trying desperately not to giggle out loud. 

Edgar choked down a laugh. "Of course! We have to get a photograph first though. Go and get camera, quick." 

Evadne ran off and returned thirty seconds later, camera in hand. 

"Ready?" 

Edgar nodded. Then throwing open the door, he switched on the light and shouted "Surprise!" and his wife took the picture.

 

==

 

Looking down at the photograph, Evadne wiped away her tears of mirth. Both girls were staring at the camera. Marcia had a pilchard hanging from her curly locks and Thea was trying valiantly to remove it, half a sandwich crammed into her mouth. 

Still chuckling, Evvy shut the book and took a sip of her coffee. That was one of their favourite pictures. Edgar always made a point of getting it out to show the girls’ friends, much Thea and Marcia's chagrin. 

A gentle padding sounded from behind her, and she turned around to see Scrabble, now fourteen years old, making his way across the patio. As she held out her hand towards him, he walked around her chair and nestled his head in her lap. 

"That was a long time ago, wasn’t it old boy?" she asked, scratching behind his ears as he gazed up at her. "What do you reckon? Should I make a start on Year three?"

This story archived at http://www.sallydennylibrary.co.uk/viewstory.php?sid=1045