Sequel to 'I Lift My Eyes Up'. Abby's decided to go to the Chalet School, so what now...
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Charles Maynard, Hilda Annersley, Jack Maynard, Kathie Ferrars, Mary-Lou Trelawney, Minor character(s), Nancy Wilmot, Nell Wilson, OC, Sharlie Andrews, Verity-Ann Carey, Vi Lucy
Angst, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance, School Story
Mary-Lou and Abby
17 Jun 2011 Updated:
17 Jun 2011
1. Chapter 1 - Arrivals by pim
2. Chapter 2 - First Morning by pim
3. Chapter 3 - Ringing The Changes by pim
4. Chapter 4 - Things Are Never As They Seem by pim
5. Chapter 5 - Keeping A Watchful Eye by pim
6. Chapter 6 - Somewhere Only We Know by pim
7. Chapter 7 - Taking A Turn For The Worse by pim
8. Chapter 8 - Digging Deeper by pim
9. Chapter 9 - Half Term Arrives by pim
10. Chapter 10 - Starting Anew by pim
11. Chapter 11 - Resolutions by pim
12. Epilgoue by pim
Chapter 1 - Arrivals by pim
The first day of term at the Chalet School was always somewhat chaotic and this one proved to be no different. Seated at her desk in her study Nancy Wilmot watched an endless stream of faces come and report their arrival to her, but this term there was a new one of particular interest to her. She glanced up at the clock as one of the second form left her study having reported, it was still too early for the coaches to have arrived from Exeter station, those who had already arrived were those who had been brought by parents. Nancy had just enough time to catch her breath before there was another knock at the door.
In the back of her father’s car Abby Fenchurch listened to the eager chatter of her friend Livia Warrington with half an ear. In a way she was glad that she was starting a new school with someone she already knew to give her a hand but that wasn’t stopping the knot of nerves in her stomach. She and her father had stayed with the Warrington’s the previous evening so Abby and Livia could travel to school together, now Abby wasn’t so sure it had been a good idea and wondered if she’d have been better off on the train and getting the coach from Exeter, at least that way she would have had the chance to get to know a few more people before arriving.
Kathie Ferrars had found over the years that the first day of term never got any easier. She’d excused herself from dealing with the girls en masse and had hidden away in the staff room checking over supplies lists.
“Think you’ve got the right idea there Kathie,” said a voice over the top of Kathie’s list.
Kathie looked up and saw the young English mistress, Colleen Winters, known to all and sundry as Coll, whirling about the staff room clearly looking for something. Coll had arrived at the Chalet School the previous year straight from college and had instantly become a favourite with the girls and staff alike with her bubbly and happy personality
Kathie smiled. “Somebody has to do the boring jobs around here,” she said. “I take it that it’s chaos out there.”
Coll nodded, her short brown curls bobbing about her face. “And the coaches haven’t even arrived yet,” she added emphatically.
“I thought you were on escort.”
“Me? Goodness no, thankfully, not this time. Ju and Webb have gone, and… didn’t you write the list anyway Kath?”
Kathie flinched at that particular short form of her name; there had only been one person in her life who’d been allowed to call her that. “Yes I did,” she replied shortly. “Did you want something Coll?”
Coll grabbed a pile of papers from one of the shelves. “Yes, this, dormitory lists,” she said quickly before rushing out of the room.
Abby wasn’t too sure what to make of the Chalet School on her first glimpse of it, the old manor house with other buildings scattered about it, it was an awful lot different from her concrete eyesore state school. She was too lost in her own reminisces about her old school to hear Livia pointing out various parts of her new school to her. Abby shrank back in her seat realising only now just how real it all was as the niggling doubts bubbled up to the surface once more. Her farewell to her father was short and sweet before Livia grabbed her arm and dragged her up to the Head’s study to report their arrival.
On the Welsh border Jo Maynard’s thoughts turned, as they so often did, to the Chalet School as she wondered how the first day of term would be going. Her own granddaughters were now pupils at the school where she’d been the first all those years ago in the Austrian Tyrol. Her thoughts turned from them to another of the school’s ‘grandchildren’ as she wondered how Abby was getting along. At the same time another girl came into her thoughts, Megan Webb, the motherless girl who had made Abby’s own mother rethink the path her life had taken. Thinking through her granddaughters at the Chalet School, Jo remembered that Felicity’s eldest girl, Katy, would be in the same form as Abby. Had Felicity and her family not been spending the summer in Spain with her husband’s family she would have been able to introduce Katy to Abby, but it hadn’t happened in that way. Still, thought Jo to herself, at least Katy knew to look out for Abby and to help her out should she need it. Jo didn’t doubt that Abby’s time at the Chalet School would be as successful as her mother’s and that she would be able to challenge successfully anything that got in her way.
Nancy looked up at the clock once again, she’d lost track of the number of times she’d checked the time but it didn’t seem to be going any faster but at least the coaches were due soon and then things would get a bit easier.
“Come in,” she called as there was yet another knock on the door.
“Don’t forget to curtsey when we go in, don’t question, just do it, it’s tradition,” muttered Livia to Abby as she opened the door and dragged her friend in behind her. “Good afternoon Miss Wilmot,” said Livia as the two of them bobbed clumsy curtsies.
Nancy smiled instantly recognising Livia’s companion. “Good afternoon Livia, Abigail,” she said crossing their names off the arrivals list. “Did you have a pleasant holiday Livia?”
“Very nice, thank you Miss Wilmot, mum sends her best wishes as well. She would have come up to say a quick hello only she had to get back because she left Alexis with Ruth. Not that she doesn’t trust Ruth in charge of the house or anything…” Livia tailed off and smiled as she caught the twinkle in Nancy’s eye. “Anyway, I’m here and Tacy and Cathlin are on their way up, I think Tacy had been mobbed by some of her own form.”
Nancy smiled again. “Three A for you Livia, but you knew that already.”
Livia beamed. “Yes I did, thank you Miss Wilmot, mum was really impressed with that since she’s forever reminding me that it was Ruth and Tacy who came off best for brains in the family.”
Nancy chuckled. “I think that’s all for now Livia, if you can just wait outside a moment whilst I sort Abigail out and then the two of you can run up to Matron and get sorted out there.”
“Okay then Miss Wilmot,” and with those words Livia bobbed another awkward curtsey and left the room.
“Now then Abigail,” began Nancy.
Abby looked up from where she had been studying the carpet pattern with a start. She’d been completely lost in her own thoughts and concerns wondering how to deal with her new Headmistress. At her comprehensive school the Head had commanded a certain level of respect but Livia’s breezy manner here had thrown her and she wasn’t sure how to react now.
Nancy noticed the fleeting worried expression cross Abby’s face. “Abigail?”
“Abby,” muttered the name’s owner shyly, almost under her breath.
Abby looked up. “Abby,” she repeated. “I mean, I’m always known as Abby, with two b’s and a y. I don’t mean to be cheeky about it but dad always said that Abigail was too long for everyday use.”
Nancy smiled as she remembered that another father had once said that about his daughter. “He has a point, however Abigail is a nice enough name on its own.” Abby’s face fell and she went back to studying the carpet pattern. “But, since you already seem to have a bit of a reputation as Abby perhaps we’d best leave it at that.”
Abby smiled. “Thank you.”
“Now,” said Nancy as she shuffled through a pile of papers on the desk. “I’ve had a look through the work your old school sent me and I think we can quite happily put you in 3A along with Livia, and Katy Johnson,” Abby looked blankly at her. “Jo Maynard’s granddaughter,” Nancy qualified. “But about your languages, how much French and German do you have?”
“I’ve done two years of French, but it’s only very basic still, and I’ve done no German at all. I was meant to start that this year though.”
Nancy frowned. “I think we can timetable you down to 3B then for languages and we can fit in some extra coaching, but when you hear nothing but French and German around you, you’ll soon pick it up. And as for extras, clarinet and piano lessons will be arranged once we’re aware ourselves of teaching arrangements. Now I think that’s all we need to worry about for the moment, Livia should be waiting for you outside still and you can get sorted out with Matron.”
“Thank you Miss Wilmot.”
“And Abby,” Nancy said as Abby turned to leave. “It’s a pleasure to have finally met you, and I’m glad you felt that you could follow in your mother’s footsteps, it can’t have been an easy decision to make.”
Abby smiled. “No, it wasn’t, but I had some good pointers in the right direction.”
“If there’s ever anything you want to know about your mother, or if you ever want to talk about her, then my door is always open. And if I’m not around, then find Miss Ferrars and she will be just as happy to talk to you, or Miss Kennedy, my secretary, she was friends with your mother at school.”
“Thank you Miss Wilmot,” mumbled Abby gratefully.
“You’d best run along to Matron now.”
The next hour or so passed in a whirl for Abby as Livia whisked her through everything that she needed to know. They reported to Matron, discovered that they were in the same dormitory before heading there to discard their night cases and then heading to the cloakroom to get rid of their outdoor things. From there Livia dragged Abby through a maze of corridors that Abby was convinced she would never figure out for herself and then through a door which led into a large, light and airy room. The walls were painted white and lined with shelves which had name cards pinned to them. The wooden floor was covered by a few scattered rugs in various colours. Three big sofas were against each of the walls and sundry chairs, beanbags and cushions were scattered throughout the room. A record player sat in the corner with a box of records next to it and a box of magazines beside that.
“This is our common room,” announced Livia with a note of pride in her voice. “It’s for the third forms only and it’s so much nicer than the one we had in the second form last year. You’ve got a space on the bookshelves for your library books and what not. There’s a TV room down the corridor for us middles as well but no one really uses it.” Livia stopped suddenly aware that Abby was no longer by her side. Sure enough she found her crouched beside the box of records. “Not sure there’s anything you’d like in there,” commented Livia as she crossed the room.
Abby looked up her eyes shining. “Well it’s mostly pop rubbish,” she said ruefully. “But there is this,” she added lifting out a copy of London Calling by The Clash.
Livia stared at Abby momentarily. “You’re crackers…”
She got no further as the door was flung open and her select band of miscreants tumbled in all talking at once.
“Livvie” one of them called over the Babel. “Where have you been?”
Livia held up her hand to stop the torrent of voices. “I’ve been here, I didn’t come on the train this year, mum drove Tacy, Cathlin and I down. And this,” she said gesturing at Abby. “Is Abby Fenchurch, she’s new, but her mum was friend’s with mine when they were at school here.”
“Are you Mary-Lou’s daughter then?” asked a voice from the back of the group as it’s owner, a small dark haired girl pushed her way through. Abby nodded. “Hi, I’m Katy Johnson, you know my gran, she told me about you, don’t worry. We would have met before but I was in Spain all summer staying with my grandma, my father’s mother.”
“Nice to meet you,” replied Abby realising that she’d heard about Katy already from both Jo and Livia.
Livia quickly introduced the rest of the group, whom Abby was to find out were also in the same dormitory and form as her. Red haired Scottish Jinny MacDonald was easy to remember, as was Jilly Wheeler, who was Jinny’s best friend, since they were hardly ever apart. Anya Martin was their dormitory monitor, small with long black hair in a plait down her back, her mother was Russian and her father English. Cari Parker was half Turkish on her mother’s side but had always lived in England, and Rhianna Sharples came from Wales.
“So we’re all in A then?” asked Livia as she finished the introductions. “And in Pansy dorm?” The others nodded. “Excellent, do you know who else is in A then?”
Katy nodded. “I peeked at the list on the door of Carnation,” she grinned. “There’s Coralie Barbier, Lara Davis, Madeleine Dupont, Iona Maine, Tansy Marchington, Freya Petersen, Heidi Richter and Emilia Thackery. So for a form we’re not a bad bunch really, but I think our dormy’s the best.”
“Tansy Marchington’s a bit of a know all,” grumbled Jinny. “Always thinks she’s better than the rest of us. And Iona Maine’s quite dull, I thought she’d be staying down in B again this year but obviously she managed to pull something off to make it up to A.”
“The rest of them are okay though,” interjected Jilly. “Lara and Emilia should sort them out and keep them in check, and hopefully those two can do something to bring Freya and Heidi out of their shells. Those two have been at this school too long to still be so quiet, it’s not natural.”
“And if Coralie and Madeleine would stop talking French for five minutes then we’d all be perfect,” grinned Livia irrepressibly. “I wonder where the Carnation crew are then? And everyone from B, it’s odd that it’s just us lot in here.”
“You don’t think they forgot we were in the third now and went back to the seconds common room, do you?” asked Katy a little cautiously. “I mean, we nearly went piling into there instead of here.”
“You moose,” retorted Livia. “You don’t get any better for keeping Katy Johnson.”
Katy smirked. “I take after my gran apparently. How was my gran when you saw her anyway Abby?”
Abby looked a little startled at being addressed so directly. “She was well,” began Abby.
“Good oh then,” replied Katy. “I expect I’ll see her soon anyway, I’ve never known her to keep away from the school for an entire term.”
Abby looked puzzled but had no chance to question Katy further as the door to the common room opened and the other members of her form began to arrive in groups. The chatter revolved principally around the summer holidays and Abby gradually learned which names belonged to which faces.
The first day of term was always too long from the staff perspective and it was always a relief when it was over. As far as Nancy was concerned it hadn’t gone too badly, everybody had arrived and was sorted into forms and dormitories with no complications. The first assembly had gone well, the announcement of the prefects and the Head Girl had gone down well with the rest of the school. In fact, thought Nancy, as she switched off the light in her study to go to the staff room, it had gone a little too well, she was sure that it wasn’t meant to go quite so well but harboured the secret hope that she had done every term that maybe this time they would survive until the holidays with no disasters. Nancy knew that expecting a smooth and peaceful term was perhaps a little too much to ask. She had hoped that moving back to England from the Alps would have lessened the school’s incredible ability to attract disaster but it hadn’t been so.
Entering the staff room Nancy was greeted by a torrent of welcoming voices and a chair was pushed in her general direction. Aside from herself and Kathie there were very few who left from the early days in Switzerland, most of the current staff having joined the school when they moved back to England. She waved to Davida Armitage the science mistress who was engaged in an animated discussion with her fellow scientist Ju Rawling and Lucy Webber, known more commonly as Webb, who taught mathematics. She scanned the room to see who else was there and quickly spotted Sharlie Andrews, or Sharlie Fernley to give her married name, and crossed the room to join her and a group of younger mistresses.
“Seen Kathie?” she asked Sharlie under her breath, pretending to be engrossed in the tale Coll Winters was relating to the rest of the group.
“Not since Abendessen,” replied Sharlie. “I assumed she’d gone to see you.”
Nancy shook her head. “I’ve not seen her all day, except for meals and she was being unnaturally quiet.”
“She’s probably in her room,” said Sharlie.
“I’ll go and have a look for her in a bit then.”
Nancy tried to push her concerns to the back of her mind and concentrate on the conversation she had just walked into, but she couldn’t help worrying about her friend. The last few weeks had been the usual rush and stress in the build up to the start of term on top of Kathie’s seemingly unnecessary worries about Abby, not to mention the fact that the start of winter term was always hard for her. It had been four years Nancy realised, but she supposed that living with something like that never got any easier.
“Don’t you think Nancy?” Coll’s voice cut through Nancy’s thoughts.
“Think what, sorry?” she asked.
“That we should paint the staff room lime green with a pink border,” replied Coll her face deadly serious but there was a twinkle in her eye.
“I… um…” Nancy was temporarily at a loss for words until the others burst out laughing at her and she remembered that Coll could make the most outrageous and blatantly untrue statements with an air of serenity and honesty about her. Nancy grinned. “Sorry, I really wasn’t listening,” she said apologetically. “I had other things on my mind.”
“It has been a long day,” put in Sharlie sympathetically knowing what had been on Nancy’s mind.
The Pansy dormitory was chaos when bed time rolled around, despite the fact that its inmates had only unpacked their nightcases under the careful supervision of Matron a number of things had turned up in the wrong places.
“I can’t believe I’d have been so daft!” exclaimed Livia as she wriggled under her bed to pick up her hairbrush.
“It must have fallen off your drawers,” replied Katy. “Oh, Rhianna, your spongebag is in my cubicle for some reason.”
“Oh good,” replied Rhianna catching the offending article as Katy tossed it across the dormitory.
“Nobody would be stupid enough to be playing mad pranks this early on in term, would they,” mused Jinny as she combed her hair in front of her mirror.
“You’d have thought not,” came Anya’s voice as she poked her head through the curtains to her cubicle. “I’m telling you something though, I’m glad there’s no sign of Matron doing the rounds or we’d be in for it.”
Katy sighed heartily from her own cubicle. “I just don’t understand it. Livia and Abby unpacked their stuff before the rest of us arrived but Livia’s things seem to be just as messed up as ours.”
“Why not mine then?” asked Abby.
“You’re a new girl, no one in their right mind would do something like that to a new girl on her first day.”
“Anybody seen my pyjamas?” asked Jinny suddenly. “They’re the only thing I’ve got missing now.”
A general agreement came from the others that they now had all their things in their rightful places.
“Your pyjamas?” asked Jilly incredulously. “How could you lose something like that?”
“I don’t know!” exclaimed Jinny. “But I put them on my bed when I unpacked, and Matron saw me,” she added for emphasis. One by one the others agreed that they didn’t have Jinny’s pyjamas in their cubicle. “This is most unusual.”
There was a sharp tap on the door and Lara Davis crept in carrying a pair of pyjamas. “Jinny, you fool, your pyjamas were in my cubey, how on earth did you get them there?”
“Absolutely no idea,” groaned Jinny taking them from Lara. “But I wish I knew who’d done it ‘cause I’d like to wring their neck!”
Anya appeared from between her curtains in her pyjamas. “Really Jinny,” she said. “Do you not think that’s taking it to extremes…” she broke off on hearing sniggering from Katy’s cubicle. “Katy Johnson!” she exclaimed pulling Katy’s curtains open. “I do believe it was you!”
Katy sat up on her bed grinning broadly at her dormitory. “You have to admit, it was funny seeing you lot think you’d gone mad.” She got no further in her explanations before her friends leapt on her attacking with their pillows. Katy pushed them away laughing. “Don’t be idiots, I know Matron’s not been yet but do you want to risk her wrath on the first night?” Silence greeted her in reply. “I thought not. Look I’m sorry, it was a silly joke but we really should be going to bed, and Lara you should be back in your own dorm!”
From outside of the dormitory there was a familiar step approaching in the corridor and Lara fled from Pansy back to Carnation. As she snuggled down to her first night in Pansy dormitory, Abby decided that life at the Chalet School probably wouldn’t be that bad after all. She was too tired to stay awake and think any longer and sleep came easily to her for the first time in weeks.
There was no reply when Nancy knocked gently on Kathie’s door later that evening when she’d managed to slip away from the staff room; the lack of response didn’t deter her and she pushed the door open anyway. Noticing her friend’s form in the doorway Kathie pushed the photograph frame face down on her desk hoping Nancy hadn’t noticed, but she had. Nancy crossed over to sit beside her and lifted the frame from the desk, it was the picture she’d thought it was – Kathie, the dark haired tall man and the young girl who so resembled her mother just a few short days before the tragedy that had changed everything.
“What was it this time?” Nancy asked softly slipping a comforting arm around Kathie and handing her a handkerchief.
“How did you know?”
“That I was here.”
“Intuition,” replied Nancy with a grin. “You weren’t in the staff room so I took a lucky guess. Sharlie said you’d been quiet all day, I thought you might have been thinking about them. It’s been a while since you were like this.”
“It never gets any easier,” said Kathie taking the frame from Nancy. “It dulls and then you think it might, but it never goes away. Marcie would be thirteen now, she’d be in the third with Abby and Livia and Katy. It was silly, I was fine until Coll called me Kath. I know she didn’t mean any harm in it, she just never thinks before she speaks sometimes; but then again I can hardly expect her to know that only Ivan ever called me Kath. It’s always the little things that set me off like that. After they died I couldn’t bear to hear a car engine being turned on, or hearing the telephone ring in your study.”
Nancy shuddered as she remembered the phone call that Kathie had received four years ago, on the first day of winter term telling her that Marcie and Ivan had been involved in a road accident.
“There are times when it doesn’t feel like four years, it seems like weeks, other times, it feels like an eternity,” said Kathie staring at the picture before putting it back on the bedside table. “Some days they don’t cross my mind at all, as though it never happened, but then I remember that it did happen, they were real, they were my family.”
Don’t you ever think that I don’t love you, for one minute I forgot you, but sometimes things don’t work out right and you just have to say goodbye.
Kathie and Nancy stayed up talking long into the night about Ivan and Marcie. Ivan had been a visiting doctor to the Swiss San in 1969, thinking about taking up a job offer there when he’d met Kathie who had made up his mind for him. They had married after a whirlwind romance in March 1970 much to everyone’s delight. By this time both the San and the school were beginning to decline in need as the fight against TB was being won, Ivan’s post was a research one and Kathie had declared that being a married woman wouldn’t stop her from teaching. Their happiness had been completed in February 1971 with the arrival of their unexpected daughter, Marcelia. Too much for everyday use, Ivan had told Nancy when she’d first been to visit, she’ll be Marcie for that. Motherhood, like marriage, hadn’t put a stop to Kathie’s involvement with the school as she’d recognised the rapidly changing situation on the Gornetz Platz needed stability in its leadership. Kathie and Marcie had moved back to England with the school in 1974, Ivan following a year later having sorted out the necessary paperwork and taken up a consultancy position in an Exeter hospital. On the first day of the winter term in 1980 Ivan had been driving Marcie to her primary school in the nearest village before going to work when the accident had happened, Marcie had died instantly and Ivan of his injuries later that day in hospital. It had been four years, but it never got any easier.
Nancy awoke early with a sudden pain in her neck. She shifted uneasily, a little disorientated, before realising that she hadn’t fallen asleep in her own bed but in a sitting position on Kathie’s bed. She glanced down at her friend, her face still streaked with tears leaning against her shoulder and remembered what they’d been talking about the previous evening. Realising that her arm had gone numb Nancy shook Kathie awake before slipping back to her own room. It was 5am as she sank into her own bed wondering how she’d make it through the rest of the day without needing to sleep.
Chapter 2 - First Morning by pim
The rising bell clanged throughout the school at seven, Abby sat up wildly in bed with a shake of her head wondering where she was before remembering. She felt as though she’d been asleep for a week, unable to remember the last time she’d slept that well. She rubbed her eyes furiously and took in the surroundings of her cubicle as a voice she recognised as Anya’s called ‘show a leg’ only a moment before Anya’s head appeared between her curtains.
“Good you’re up,” she said. “I had a horrible feeling I was going to have to set this lot on you to wake up.”
“Huh… what?” murmured Abby sleepily climbing out of bed.
“When I call show a leg, just stick one or the other of them between your cubey curtains to let me know you’re up in future, like this rotten lot.” Anya gestured at the array of legs poking out from between curtains.
Katy’s head promptly joined her leg. “Anybody know what the bath list is?”
“Don’t be so lazy Katy!” came from Jinny’s cubicle. “It’s on the back of the door, go and have a look yourself,” with that Jinny appeared from her cubicle in her dressing gown with a towel and sponge bag. “I’m first in number seven and I think Livia’s first in eight.”
“I am!” called Livia as she appeared from her cubicle and left the dormitory with Jinny.
Anya pulled the list down. “Katy you’re after Jinny in seven, then Abby, then me. Jilly, Cari and Rhianna are for eight after Katy, Jilly you’d best be ready to make sure Livia’s not in the bathroom all morning!”
“No problem,” replied Jilly with a giggle at Abby’s puzzled expression. “You see Abby, it’s such a scram here in the morning we’re only allowed seven minutes each in the bathroom to have a quick shower and wash. You’d be best off making your bed whilst you’re waiting for the bathroom or on your head be it!” and with that parting shot Jilly dived back into her own cubicle.
Abby looked at her bed with an expression of despair since bed making had never been her forte but she set about it with a grim determination and it was resembling something like made when Katy whirled back into the dormitory and shouted to her that she had finished in the bathroom. Grabbing her towels and sponge bag Abby followed Cari down the corridor to the bathroom where she had a quick shower and wash and cleaned her teeth. At five to eight they were all lined up and ready to head down to breakfast. Abby felt a little uncomfortable in her new uniform which had a tendency to be a bit itchy but she liked it much more than the one she’d had at her old comprehensive.
Over breakfast, at which she found herself squashed at the long table between Rhianna and Katy, Abby had several items of interest pointed out to her about the life of the school. Between mouthfuls of cereal Livia, sitting opposite, was doing her best to give a run down of the entire teaching body of the school, with supplementary information added by Katy and the occasional shyly added comment from Rhianna.
“That one on the end, the left,” said Katy waving her hand in the general direction of Coll Winters. “That’s Miss Winters, she was form mistress for 3A last year so hopefully she’ll be ours this year. She teaches English and she’s really cool.”
Abby raised an eyebrow, the last adjective she would have ever used to describe her teachers at her comprehensive would have been ‘cool’.
“Miss Wilmot you know” put in Livia. “Next to her, on the right, that’s Miss Ferrars, Ferry. She’s been here for years and years, nearly as long as Miss Wilmot. She’s maths and geography, hopefully she’ll be teaching us as well. She’s lovely, but you have to watch her, she can switch just like that,” Livia clicked her fingers in demonstration and Abby’s eyes widened in response.
“She did have a tough deal though, Ferry,” muttered Rhianna.
Katy stared glumly into middle distance for a moment. “True, it can’t be easy losing your husband and daughter in one fell swoop.”
“Road accident, four years ago,” said Livia in response to Abby’s puzzled look. “It was such a shame. Marcie, her daughter, was the same age as us, she was pretty cool, Katy and I knew her quite well.”
“That’s Miss Andrews, on the other side of Ferry,” said Rhianna suddenly breaking the wistful silence between Livia and Katy. “She’s really Mrs Fernley out of school but apparently when she first got married no one could remember that and so she stuck with her maiden name. She teaches English to the younger ones, those in the junior school and some to the firsts and seconds. She taught us in the first form, she’s lovely, really sweet.”
“And that’s Miss Rawling and Miss Webber sitting next to Miss Winters,” said Katy suddenly. “Miss Rawling teaches science, and Miss Webber teaches maths, they’re both really good fun in and out of school.”
“Do you remember the time that Miss Rawling blew up that chemmy experiment in her face?” asked Jinny, who was sitting beside Livia, suddenly and the others snickered in response.
“As if we could forget,” grinned Katy. “She had no eyebrows for weeks as a result! They just wouldn’t grow back, of course they did eventually, but she did look a sight until they did.”
They spent the rest of breakfast chatting eagerly and had to be hurried to finish by the prefect in charge of their table, a girl with a rather haughty manner who Abby later discovered to be called Creseldine Price-Morris.
“What denomination?” hissed Livia as they lined up to leave the dining room.
“What?” replied Abby.
“Church,” she qualified.
“Oh I don’t” said Abby quietly.
“Well you’ll have to here, for prayers you know. We stopped having them on the first night the year that Ferry’s husband and daughter died, and have them first morning instead.”
“I don’t go to church.”
“Well were you baptised? I suppose you’ll go to that one.”
“Church of England,” replied Abby quickly as Creseldine threw them a filthy look.
“You’ll go to Protestant prayers with most of us then,” Livia frowned. “This sort of thing normally gets sorted out when you report, but never mind I guess Miss Wilmot was busy and forgot. Katy and Rhianna are Catholic, watch out here come the Prees.”
They both fell silent as their line moved out of the dining room and in the direction of prayers.
Abby couldn’t remember the last time that she’d been to church with the exception of Easter or Christmas and her mother’s funeral but she found prayers much less painful than she had expected. Assembly had followed prayers before they had all filed to their respective form rooms. She liked her form room instantly on sight, it was white like the common room but with maps and prints on the walls and the rows of desks all facing the blackboard. There was a notice board the length of the back wall with a piece of paper pinned to it bearing the words ‘3A’s work’ which Livia muttered was for their own work. Being the new girl in the form the other fifteen took their chosen places first and Abby found herself in the middle row between Rhianna and Lara Davis from Carnation dormitory. Emilia Thackery, Lara’s best friend, Jilly and Jinny made up the rest of the row. Livia, Katy , Anya and Cari all sat on the back row behind her with Iona Maine, whilst the front row was made up entirely of girls from Carnation – Coralie, Madeleine, Tansy, Freya and Heidi. Abby made a mental note of all the faces and the names that matched them for the Carnation crew, they weren’t too hard to differentiate.
The form were delighted to discover that their form mistress was indeed to be Miss Winters and Abby liked her instantly, largely because she was so different to any other teacher she’d ever had.
“I trust you all had good holidays girls,” she said smiling at the sixteen faces before her and taking the register from Tansy in the front row. “And that you’ve all come back refreshed and ready to work hard.” A groan of despair came from the back row and Coll chuckled. “Come on now Katy, Livia,” she said with a grin, “I’m expecting great things of you two this term.” Katy and Livia rolled their eyes at each other, Coll caught it but decided to ignore them just this first morning as she opened the register and glanced at the names; with the exception of Abby she had taught them all the previous year, which made her easy to spot amongst the faces as she ticked them off. “Tansy, just run the register back to Miss Kennedy and then we can get down to important things.”
Tansy took the register from Coll’s outstretched hand and left the room as the class descended into a discussion about what had happened over their respective summers. Katy, as Abby already knew, had been in Spain staying with some relatives on her father’s side of the family, Cari had been back to Turkey for some of the holidays to see her mother’s family, Heidi had gone home to Germany, Freya home to Sweden and Coralie and Madeleine back to France. In addition Anya had been to Switzerland with her parents for a holiday. Abby felt too shy for the moment to plunge into the discussion and secretly relieved that nobody asked her directly about her own holidays and was able to relax when Tansy re-entered the room.
Coll held up her hand to call for silence in the room and at once the chatter ceased. “I’m sure you’re all keen to find out,” she began with a grin, “who your form prefect is.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Jinny MacDonald,” she announced as Jinny flushed the same colour as her red hair. “With Lara Davis as her second.” It was Lara’s turn to flush a similar colour to Jinny.
Sneaking a glance behind her Abby noticed Livia give Jinny the thumbs up and grin irrepressibly.
As this scene was taking place Nancy Wilmot was ensconced in her study behind a pile of paper work when there was a soft tap at the door and Kathie entered quietly.
“Morning Nancy,” she said quietly peeking over her friend’s shoulder to see what the state of play was. “Invoices, lucky you.”
“Morning Kathie,” replied Nancy barely able to suppress the huge yawn that overtook her.
“Oh you poor thing!” exclaimed Kathie before her face fell. “Of course if you’d had a proper night’s sleep…” she tailed off and sat down.
“Kathie you goop, don’t worry about it. If I didn’t care I would have left you to your weeping alone.”
Kathie managed a half smile. “I know how to choose my moments don’t I?”
“You certainly do, but stop worrying about it. Besides, if you’re here then you may as well give me a hand with these invoices, they’ll get done so much quicker with two brains rather than one.”
“Lucky me,” murmured Kathie.
“Yes indeed, lucky you, it’s your lucky day,” replied Nancy with a grin handing the pile of invoices over to Kathie, the previous night forgotten for the moment.
Silence reigned over the Warrington household and Vi was intent on taking advantage of the luxury. Alexis was at school and Ruth had gone out for the day to do some shopping to get things she needed for going back to Oxford. She indulged in a leisurely breakfast over the morning’s papers knowing full well that she had nothing pressing to be getting on with in her capacity as a freelance illustrator. That meant that she would be able to devote most of the day to cracking on with Mary-Lou’s papers as several more pieces had arrived from various friends in the morning’s post which she hadn’t looked at as yet. Robert crossed her mind fleetingly as she wondered how he was coping on his own without Abby, he’d left to go back to York as soon as they’d dropped the girls off hardly saying anything. She knew it couldn’t have been easy for him leaving her after all these years and made a mental note that she’d phone him that evening to see how he was getting on.
In a small Devon town, in a non-descript concrete block passing as a school one girl sat in her English class with her mind elsewhere. Megan Webb idly stared out of the window and doodled absent-mindedly on the corner of her exercise book, something she knew she wasn’t meant to do but she did anyway. She couldn’t concentrate on the class that morning, even though it was poetry, and not just any old poetry, it was her particular favourite The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Part of Megan’s thoughts were preoccupied with her grandmother who had been a bit under the weather the last few days, something which always worried her. She was afraid of losing her grandmother, of being left alone in the world for she was sure that if anything should happen then her father wouldn’t be interested. The other part of her thoughts were preoccupied by the mysterious Abby that Jo Maynard had told her about as Megan realised just how much meeting Mary-Lou had changed her life. She stopped chewing the end of her pen and began to compose a letter in the back of her jotter.
Abby’s first morning in 3A passed in cheerful chaos with the arranging of timetables and collection of books and stationery from the big stationery cupboard supervised by Clare Kennedy, the school secretary, and the Prefects. Abby had been surprised when Miss Kennedy had recognised her instantly as being Mary-Lou’s daughter but then remembered that they had been friends at school. At lunch she found herself once more squashed between Rhianna and Katy who’d taken great glee in explaining the principle of being trilingual in the school.
“I wouldn’t worry about it though,” said Katy breezily. “It’s not too difficult to pick up.”
“Easy enough for you to say,” retorted Rhianna. “You were talking French and German before you were born, not to mention having Spanish thrown in, I bet you only learn English for fun in your family.”
Katy stuck her tongue out in reply to Rhianna. “Your French isn’t so dusty now.”
“No, but my German’s still dreadful since I just can’t get to grips with it. I’ll be taking German in 3B with you Abby so we can be dunces together.”
“Do you really speak no German?” asked Heidi shyly from the other side of Rhianna.
“Not a word,” replied Abby with a shake of her head realising that it was the first time Heidi had addressed her directly.
“Then I will help you,” announced Heidi in her own quiet manner as Abby smiled shyly in reply.
“What do you reckon they’ve got planned for us this afternoon?” mused Livia from the other side of the table.
Katy shrugged. “Not an earthly.”
“Don’t we have lessons?” asked Abby timidly.
“Goodness no!” exclaimed Katy. “Well, I mean, yes we do, but not proper lessons, we’ll just have some prep set for the classes we’d normally have this afternoon so we’re sorted for the next ones. That aside,” she broke off and turned her gaze to the window. “I wonder if we’ll have a walk, the weather seems nice enough.”
Lara, sitting beside Livia, shrugged. “It’d be nice if we did, but at the same time they may let us get some games practice in, you never know. It’s still fine enough for tennis.”
“Lara is the form tennis star,” explained Livia. “In fact she’s too good at all sports for her own good, puts the rest of us to shame, hockey, netball, tennis, swimming, athletics, and I bet you once we’re allowed to start lacrosse next year she’ll beat us all hollow at that.”
Lara blushed and aimed a friendly punch at Livia’s arm. “What about you Abby? How do you go in for sports?”
Abby shrugged. “I like them well enough, but I prefer football.”
“Really?” Lara’s eyes opened wide.
“I don’t play properly mind, just out in the street with the boys, that and cricket.”
“I’m sure they used to play cricket here,” put in Rhianna.
“They did,” replied Livia. “I think they stopped when the school moved back from Switzerland.”
“That would have been something, going to school in Switzerland,” said Lara. “We’d have got winter sporting in then as well.” The others grinned.
“Could you have imagined the journey to get there though?” added Rhianna. “It’d take days, it’s bad enough having to get down here.”
“True,” remarked Lara. “Would be something else though.”
Their chatter ceased as Nancy rang the bell on the table in front of her and announced, much to the joy of most the girls, that the afternoon would be occupied by walks once their preparation had been set.
The Chalet girls were still out on their respective walks when Megan returned to her grandmother’s that afternoon after school to the now sadly familiar sight of the local doctor’s car parked outside. Pushing open the door with a feeling of rising panic she was greeted by a frantic looking neighbour, Mrs Purves, who normally Megan only regarded as a local busybody always poking her nose into other people’s business where it wasn’t wanted. However, for the first time she was glad to see her, if only because it meant that her grandmother wasn’t, or hadn’t been, alone.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“Oh Megan,” exclaimed Mrs Purves. “Your grandmother’s had a fall, the doctor’s with her now.”
“Will she have to go to hospital again?” asked Megan quietly, knowing full well that if it came to that she’d be farmed out to whichever neighbour waved their hand first.
“Oh well I wouldn’t be knowing that,” said Mrs Purves. “I daresay Dr Morgan will let you know.”
As if on cue, Dr Morgan the affable doctor with the fuzzy grey hair and beard who had known Megan since she was a baby appeared. “Hello there Megan,” he said with a smile. “We were just wondering when you’d be getting back from school.”
“What’s happening Dr Morgan?”
“Well now, your grandmother just had a little fall on the stairs, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but I’d like to get her to the hospital just to check her out to be on the safe side.” Megan paled at the mention of the hospital, the same one where her mother had died. “I’ve called for an ambulance but if they want to keep her in do you have somewhere to stay?”
“Oh she can stay with me, not bother,” said Mrs Purves leaping into the breach and ignoring the fact that Megan’s face fell at his. “It’s not a problem, she’s good as gold young Megan.”
“Can I go to the hospital with her Dr Morgan?” asked Megan anxiously.
“Can you now, Megan? Well of course you can, but the question is may you…” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“Don’t tease so Dr Morgan!”
“Of course you can, Mrs Purves you’ll be able to bring Megan back from the hospital, won’t you?”
“No problem Dr Morgan.”
Megan squirmed in the uncomfortable plastic chairs of the hospital casualty department anxiously awaiting news of her grandmother who had been taken away for x-rays. Mrs Purves had gone to the hospital canteen to get a cup of tea and try and find a magazine of some description to pass the time so Megan was taking advantage of the peace whilst it lasted. She was grateful to Mrs Purves for having been there for her grandmother earlier that afternoon and for offering to take her in should she need it, but at the same time she had a natural aversion to the local gossipmongers.
Megan glanced up into the face of the young nurse who had taken her grandmother up to have the x-rays done a short while ago.
“Megan, this is Dr Willis, he needs to talk to you about your grandmother. What happened to the lady who came in with you?”
“She just…” began Megan, breaking off as Mrs Purves appeared with a plastic cup in one hand and a magazine in the other. “She’s here.”
Chapter 3 - Ringing The Changes by pim
The Chalet girls had since returned from their walks and the two third forms had descended upon their common room. Abby found herself piled on to one of the sofas with Rhianna, Katy, Jinny, Jilly and Lara; Livia had gone to have a shower and wash her hair explaining to Abby that time restrictions on the bathrooms in the morning meant that they could make up for it during their unchecked free time so long as nobody hogged the bathroom. Abby listened with half an ear to the others chatting about hockey and their summer holidays her mind elsewhere, wondering how things were going at her old school and what plans her friends would be laying for putting the world to rights, her thoughts drifted to the boys on her street as well and whether they’d be missing having her around. She’d only been at school for a day but her old life now seemed so far away.
“Abby,” Katy’s voice cut across her thoughts.
“Huh, what? Sorry.”
“Have you listened to a word we’ve been saying?” asked Katy.
“Not really, sorry, was thinking about something else.”
“I say,” began Jinny. “You’re not homesick are you?”
“Oh no,” replied Abby with a shake of her head. “I was just wondering what would have been going on back there that’s all.”
Katy reached across to give her a comforting pat on the arm and in doing so overbalanced on the arm of the sofa that she was precariously balanced on and ended up in an unceremonious heap on the floor much to the amusement and wild shrieks of laughter of the others.
“It’s not funny,” groaned Katy as Jinny and Lara pulled her up. “It hurt! I was only trying to be nice to Abby.”
Lara rolled her eyes. “It was obviously such a shock to you then,” she said with a grin to which Katy replied by pulling possibly the worst face Abby had ever seen. “Anyway Abby, why don’t you tell us about yourself.”
“Huh… what…?” faltered Abby.
“Where you come from, your mum and dad and all that,” replied Lara.
“Idiot,” retorted Katy perching back on the arm of the sofa, noticing the fleeting look of horror that crossed Abby’s face. “Her mum’s dead.”
“Oh, I didn’t know. I’m sorry Abby,” said Lara quickly.
Abby shrugged. “It’s no problem, I didn’t really know her anyway, she left my dad when I was a baby. She was an archaeologist you see and loved her work too much. But it’s partly because of her that I’m here, she used to be a pupil here,” she broke off and surveyed the expressions of the others, somewhere between confusion and sympathy. “I’m trying to get to know her now, it’s all a bit odd. The other reason that I’m here is that… Well I don’t really know, my dad just made the decision whilst I was staying with Katy’s gran in the summer. Dad’s a doctor,” she qualified. “A paediatrician at that, it’s always been the two of us. Anyway, surely there are more interesting things to talk about?”
A stunned silence fell on the group before Katy broke it. “The record’s finished, anyone fancy going to change it, or we could go and join that lot from B who wandered off to see what’s on TV?”
“Doubt there’s anything on,” muttered Jinny in reply. “There never is.”
“Pessimist,” grinned Jilly.
“Doom monger,” added Katy. “Abby, why don’t you choose the record?”
Abby shrugged and got up, crossing the room to the record player with a secret grin on her face. A few moments later the opening chords of London Calling were filling the common room.
“What’s that then?” asked Jilly as Abby rejoined them.
Abby rolled her eyes in reply. “The Clash,” she replied sinking back into her spot on the sofa. “Have you lot got no souls?” She glanced around the blank expressions of her classmates. “Clearly not,” she said with a grin.
“I think this was Jessie Hunter’s from the fifth,” said Katy. “She was into this sort of thing when she was in the third.”
“Nice to know somebody in this school has a soul then,” said Abby with a grin.
“We have got souls!” exclaimed Lara indignantly.
“Lara, you like Bros,” retorted Katy. “Nobody who likes Bros has a soul.”
“Cheek!” cried Lara aiming a cushion on Katy who once more slid from the arm of the sofa into a heap on the floor giggling as she did so.
Abby sank back into the sofa as the conversation moved on once again. For the moment she was quite happy to just sit and listen to the eager chatter of the others. She knew that she’d eventually overcome her shyness but for the moment she needed to adjust fully to her new surroundings.
Megan hid herself in the spare room at the Purves’ that evening under the pretence of doing her homework. In reality she had done next to nothing, her exercise books lay open and untouched in front of her as she tried to make sense of the events of the day. Gran had been moved from Casualty up to another ward, she hadn’t broken anything in the fall but as the doctor in Casualty had explained to her they were worried about the state of Gran’s health. The doctor on the ward had spoken to her at great length and in a manner she’d been able to understand about why they were so worried. She’d always been aware that Gran had kept enough tablets ‘to keep a chemist’s shop supplied’ as she’d put it in the bathroom cabinet but Megan hadn’t ever realised what they were for. She remembered that Gran had been quite ill when she’d been younger and in hospital a lot, but her mother had never explained it all properly to her. Now she knew that Gran had had a heart attack and surgery to put the problems with her heart right. She remembered that Gran had had a hip replacement a few years ago when her arthritis had got too bad. The doctor at the hospital had reassured her that she shouldn’t be too worried, they were just keeping Gran in to be on the safe side because her blood pressure had been too high. Staring blankly at the pages in front of her Megan hoped that the doctor was right, if anything happened to Gran she would be left alone, they’d have to find her father who she wasn’t even sure would want to take her on. If he did it would mean moving and that was the last thing she wanted to do.
Vi had phoned Robert that evening and they’d been free to have a good long chat. Ruth had gone out with some of her old primary school friends for the evening to take her mind off the reading she hadn’t done for going back to Oxford and Alexis had gleefully accepted a friend’s invitation to go over for tea. They’d talked at great length about how different it was without the presence of their respective daughters; she’d sensed that Robert was putting a brave face on things but couldn’t say so. At the end of the conversation he’d agreed to come down and spend the following weekend with Vi, Ruth would have gone back to Oxford and she knew that she could easily pack Alexis off to one or another of her many friends. Neither of them were completely sure where the weekend would take them yet.
Nancy was pleased to see Kathie in the midst of the chatter and chaos of the staff room when she arrived there later that evening. The dark shadows that had settled on her face the previous day had gone for the time being and it was as though the previous evening had never happened.
“Nice to see you back to your old self,” Nancy whispered as she passed Kathie on her way to take the seat that was being offered to her on the other side of the room by Davida Armitage and Lucy Webber.
There were times when they needed no words, only a simple gesture of support as a reminder of their friendship.
Abby had found her first full day in class at the Chalet School hadn’t been half as bad as she’d been expecting. They’d started out with English, taught by Miss Webber their form mistress, who had run through the things they’d be studying over the course of the year and left them with a short piece of prep to write about an event of their summer holidays. That had been followed by geography with Miss Ferrars and an introduction to farming patterns in the British Isles. It had been a topic Abby had covered at her old school and she’d had to sit on her hands during the class to avoid seeming over eager and answering all the questions. Maths with Miss Webber had led them up to lunch, during which Abby had made a complete muddle of her algebra, something which she had always been good at before. In the afternoon she and Rhianna had gone to join 3B for German which Abby decided was going to be much trickier than French. The day finished with science taught by Miss Rawling, it was by far Abby’s strong point and the things they would cover over the course of the year appealed to her, unlike Lara who complained that Abby had to be mad to enjoy science.
3A headed back to the common room once lessons were over 15:45 to amuse themselves until dinner at 18:30. The school had continued to use continental times when it had moved back to England, partly because it was easier, partly because it was tradition. Prep had been set but they were allowed to do it under their own steam between the end of classes and bedtime in their boarding houses study rooms or in the library. Looking around Abby realised that most of 3B weren’t in the common room and were probably somewhere else doing their prep; she wanted to make a good start on hers before dinner since she didn’t really want to be doing it in the run up to going to bed. She’d always had erratic homework habits at home, often working in the small hours of the morning but she knew she couldn’t get away with that here. Thinking over what prep they had been set Abby knew that she could manage the science, maths and geography with very little trouble but the English and German would be somewhat trickier. After chatting to Lara, Rhianna and Emilia for half an hour she decided that it was time to go and make a start on her prep and made her excuses. Rhianna opted to join her so they could help each other on with the German should they need to do so. Finding a quiet corner of the library the two of them settled down to work their way through the German exercises with the aid of a dictionary perched on the table between them. As she and Rhianna groaned their way through the exercises Abby realised that she had found a good friend in Rhianna.
Megan had had a bad day at school, she’d found it impossible to concentrate on her lessons for thinking about her Gran. She’d explained the situation to her form tutor but by the end of the day her teachers’ patience was beginning to wear a bit thin. She’d avoided her friends at breaks and lunch so that she didn’t have to talk about what was going on; she didn’t feel in the right frame of mind for their latest popstar crush. The end of school bell came as a welcome relief to her as she fled from the gates and into town to catch the bus out to the hospital without even stopping to bid her friends goodbye.
The bus journey to the hospital was one she had taken far too often either to visit her mother or her gran. She knew every twist and turn in the road, every stop. She stared blankly out of the window for the duration of the trip, seeing nothing as the world passed her by. She also knew the hospital too well and aimlessly followed the signs up to the ward where gran would be. She shuddered as she passed through the bleak, endless, mazelike hospital corridors, there were some memories that would never fade. She tried to calm her breathing as she walked to the nurse station on the ward, repeating to herself that gran was going to be fine. The young nurse smiled at her over the desk as she asked for gran but as soon as she heard the name, her face fell.
“What’s happened?” whispered Megan, she’d seen that expression before the day that her mother had died. “Gran’s not… is she?”
The nurse shook her head and indicated that Megan follow her to a side room where she explained that Gran had had another heart attack, much more serious than the previous one.
“Why did nobody let me know?” asked Megan.
“Mrs Purves tried to call school,” the nurse replied. “But they said you’d left already, it was only half an hour ago that it happened.”
Megan stared at the floor feeling as though her whole world had just crashed down around her. “I need to see her,” she said eventually.
“Of course you do,” said the nurse.
Megan had eventually found Mrs Purves and together they sat in silence in one of the bleak, endless hospital corridors. They sat for what seemed like an eternity until one of the doctors appeared. Megan didn’t recognise him, he was probably new.
“Mrs Purves, Miss Webb?” he asked and they both nodded and then followed him to a small side room.
“What’s happened?” asked Mrs Purves, casting an anxious eye over at Megan.
“Mrs Webb suffered from a massive heart attack, we tried everything to save her but she died.”
There was a stunned silence before Megan gave a half choked sob. Mrs Purves instinctively slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders, which Megan shook off. She would never remember the rest of that conversation, it was something she would block out of her mind. She was now well and truly alone in the world, the father who had been absent since she was a small child of six would not want to know her, gran and mother had been all her family. Through the crashing in her ears Megan vaguely heard Mrs Purves saying that she could stay with her as long as she needed, as well as mentioning something about finding her father.
“Is there anyone we can call for you Megan?” asked the doctor.
Megan shook her head, but then remembered. “Yes,” she said quickly. “There is.”
Life at the Chalet School carried on in the meantime, oblivious to the events in Devon surrounding Megan and her grandmother. Abby found herself settling in far quicker than she had imagined she would do, thanks largely in part to the friendship shown from Rhianna. As a form the dynamics between 3A were good, and the members of the Pansy dormitory all got along well but it had been finding a particular friend that had bothered Abby. She knew that Vi had asked Livia to keep an eye on her whilst she settled in, but at the same time she knew that Katy occupied the spot of particular friend in Livia’s life, the pair having been firm friends since their younger days. It hadn’t been easy being the only new girl to come into a well gelled form, especially knowing that she had to go down a set for her languages, but knowing that Rhianna would be joining her for German had helped and the pair of them spent their evenings working together at their prep. They preferred opposite ends of the academic spectrum, Abby being more scientifically minded and Rhianna going in more for the arts side of things meant that they were able to help each other out of any tricky holes they fell into.
The friendship did not go unnoticed by the staff who were secretly glad that the pair had fallen in together. Rhianna’s own particular friend had left the previous Christmas and since that had just floated along with her form mates; as a group they were friendly enough but more often than not Rhianna had found herself alone. She had never shown any signs of it bothering her, nor had she seemed to particularly miss Katelijn. All the same it Abby’s arrival had come as a relief to those concerned about Rhianna. As for Abby herself, she would never be able to fully explain what had drawn her to Rhianna, aside from the fact that they had both been moved down for German. But those who had known her mother as well saw it as Abby following in Mary-Lou’s footsteps, without knowing just how like her mother she was becoming.
The weekend had been greeted with relief by the members of 3A who all felt that the first week had gone on for far too long, even though it had only begun on Wednesday. Saturday was more or less a ‘go as you please day’ with some time scheduled in for games, which had been a source of great debate between both the third forms. The weather was still fine and so the nets had been left up on the tennis courts for if any of them felt so inclined and then there was the choice between hockey and netball. Abby had never been overly fond of tennis or netball and opted to play hockey along with Lara, Livia, Katy, Emilia and five members of 3B. Miss Browne, the PE mistress, had set them up playing a 5-a-side match before going off to see what was happening on the netball courts. Aside from that the girls were left to their own devices, trusted to do their prep under their own steam and to occupy themselves as they saw fit, without resorting to causing major destruction.
Chapter 4 - Things Are Never As They Seem by pim
Jo Maynard had come rushing down to Devon as soon as she’d had the frantic phone call from Megan that Thursday afternoon. Now two days later she and Jack were helping Megan put her life back into some semblance of order before the funeral on Tuesday. Tracking down her father hadn’t been too difficult since one of his friends in the village had come forward saying he was still in touch with Gary Theakston; they’d left him to deal with that side of things whilst they dealt with sorting out gran’s house. The paperwork that had been left seemed fairly straightforward, everything had been left to Megan it was just a case of sorting things out from that point. It was now Saturday afternoon, Jo and Megan were in the attic sorting through all the boxes up there and Jack had found himself relegated to the kitchen and tea making duty when there was a knock at the door.
“Who are you?” asked the man standing on the doorstep.
Jack stared at the man for a moment. “Jack Maynard.”
“Friends of my old mother-in-law?”
“No,” replied Jack. “Friends of Megan’s.”
“Right,” he paused for a moment. “I’m Gary Molloy, Dee’s ex, Megan’s mum.”
“You’d better come in then,” said Jack, puzzled that Gary hadn’t referred to himself as Megan’s father. “Cup of tea?” he asked politely.
“Lovely,” replied Gary following him into the kitchen.
“Want me to shout Megan for you? She’s just in the attic with my wife.”
Gary paled. “No… not just yet.”
Jack shrugged, sensing that something was wrong. “How do you take it?”
“Milk, two sugars.” He paused. “Look mate, this is all a bit awkward, you know what I’m saying? It was really weird when Dave phoned to tell me what had happened and that I’d better get back for Megan’s sake.”
“Well as you haven’t seen your daughter since she was six, not even when her mother died…”
“See that’s the thing. Megan’s not mine.”
Jack eventually broke the ensuing silence. “Sorry?”
“I always knew she wasn’t, and in the end it all got too much. I couldn’t live with it, knowing she wasn’t mine. That’s why I left.”
“And Megan never knew?”
Gary shook his head. “Dee didn’t want her to know. I don’t know all that much about Meg’s father, it was someone she knew from Cambridge. Some chap called something or another Maynard, Charles I think it was.”
It was Jack’s turn to pale this time.
Saturday afternoon also saw the first prefects’ meeting of the year being called at the Chalet School and so the grandees of the school, the twelve full prefects from the upper sixth and the three subs from the lower sixth, gathered around the big table in the prefects’ room. Seated at the head of the table, looking somewhat calmer than she felt inside, was the newly appointed Head Girl Polly McCormack with Tacy Warrington, her second, to one side and Caitlin Willoughby, the games prefect, to her other. Polly glanced around the room and felt the knot of nerves tighten in her stomach, not even eased by a friendly and supportive grin from her best friend Elixabete Berriex. Her eyes rested briefly on Creseldine Price-Morris seated uncomfortably between Katalin Greaves and Cassidy Hopwood who were chattering eagerly across her. Polly frowned, Creseldine was an unusual choice of prefect and she wasn’t sure how well her often haughty manner would go down with the younger members of the school. Still, she was sure that Miss Wilmot had her reasons behind her choices and probably thought that appointing Creseldine as a prefect would be the making of her. With a sigh Polly realised that they would all have to put aside their personal differences for the year in order to ensure the smooth running of the school. Clearing her throat Polly declared the meeting over followed by a dig at the expense of Katalin and Cassidy who were still discussing lacrosse. The pair flushed, then grinned, and settled back in their seats.
There wasn’t much for them to discuss, other than voting for the prefect jobs and a mention of their evening. Caitlin issued a plea for help in coaching the younger members of the school at games, a plea eagerly responded to by most of the prefects who played for one or the other of the school teams. The positions were settled with next to no discussion since they all seemed fairly straightforward. Polly and Tacy were pleased to see that they had all been settled so simply, which made the announcement much easier.
“Elixabete Berriex – library, Katalin Greaves – magazine, Creseldine Price-Morris – staff, Kalani Fairweather – juniors, Moirrey Evans – bank, Raakel Uitto – art, Anaïs Jacobs – music, Xoana Spalding – stationery, Casidy Hopwood – hobbies.” Polly laid down her list and glanced round the table, she’d notice a flicker of disgruntlement cross Creseldine’s face at her position but it seemed to have gone now. “Elixabete, you can have one of the subs to help you in the library.”
“Bank,” groaned Moirrey. “I should have known.”
“Serves you right for being a whiz at maths,” retorted Kalani from the other side of the table, her American accent still marked even after six years living in England and attending the school.
“Well I suppose I’d rather be bank than juniors,” grinned Moirrey, since everyone knew that Kalani’s career intention was to teach. “Best of luck to you there Kal.”
Polly held up her hand for silence. “I’ll pass the break and junior prep rota round so you can sign up for that. I’m just glad we don’t have to supervise the third’s prep now.” The others giggled remembering their own misdeeds in said form.
With the rotas completed Polly called an end to her first meeting as Head Girl and suggested that they clear up their tea cups and the cake crumbs, a task which Tacy and Caitlin set to. Polly drifted over to the window and gazed out over the grounds trying to get her head around the changes that had swept over her life since term had begun. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the others all talking to each other; even the normally shy Raakel was talking eagerly to Anaïs whilst Creseldine was engaged in a deep discussion with Elixabete and Anna Phillips, one of the sub prees.
“It’s all going to be fine,” said Tacy quietly with a comforting grin as she passed Polly, her arms full of pots to take to their kitchen.
Polly grinned in reply, knowing deep down that nothing at the Chalet School was ever ‘fine’.
“Are you sure?” asked Jack eventually, not noticing that the kettle had boiled.
“Yeah, she came back for Easter in her final year and said she’d been having a thing with this guy and had just found out she was having his kid. I didn’t see her during term time so Meg couldn’t have been mine. This Maynard chap was a bit older than her, just finishing his PhD I think he was. What’s the matter mate?”
Jack sank into the nearest chair to him and put his head in his hands. “Charles Maynard was my son.”
Gary frowned. “Was?”
“He’s dead, died ten years ago. Freak accident, nothing could have been done to prevent it. His brother Stephen said there’d been someone in his life a few years before he died, but… I never imagined anything like this.”
The two men sat in a stunned silence for some time contemplating what had just happened.
“Sorry, tea,” mumbled Jack eventually remembering his original purpose for being in the kitchen. “I’ll have them down complaining in a moment.”
In the attic Jo surveyed the pile of black bags that they had filled with things that could be thrown out with a sense of satisfaction before she began to tackle one of the remaining boxes. Megan was sitting cross legged in the corner with a box of her mother’s letters when suddenly she gave a strangled cry. Jo was beside her in an instant.
“Megan, what’s the matter?”
Megan handed over the letter with shaking hands and Jo skimmed through it. The content of the letter confirmed what Gary had just related to Jack downstairs.
Jo read through the contents of the letter twice in quick succession trying to let the pieces fall together in her mind whilst working out what to say to Megan, but there were no words. Megan remained cross legged on the floor, staring ahead and biting her lip; in a few short moments her world had fallen to pieces around her and she had no idea how to begin putting them back together.
“Megan…” began Jo as she sat down beside her and reached out to lay a comforting hand on Megan’s shoulder.
Megan shrugged it off. “My whole life has been a lie,” she said quietly, almost in a whisper. “There was no point Dave calling…” she broke off. “Gary,” she said eventually, unable to bring herself to call him her father. “Now there really is no one.”
“Megan, that’s not true.”
“Of course it is,” she snapped. “Obviously my real father didn’t want me.”
“Maybe your mother never told him, because he certainly never told his own family.”
“What do you mean?” asked Megan staring at Jo.
Jo held out the letter to her and ran her finger under one line. “Charles Maynard, he was my son. I say was because he died ten years ago.”
“How do you know it’s the same one? There must be dozens of Charles Maynards in this country.”
“Possibly, but there weren’t any others just finishing their PhD around Easter 1970.”
They both sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts unsure where to take things next.
“If he was… then that means that you’re…” Megan stopped as the tears began to form as Gran filled her thoughts.
“Yes,” said Jo. “Jack and I are your grandparents, which means that you’re not alone.”
It was all too much for Megan as she broke down in the tears she’d been fighting since Gran had died. Jo held the sobbing girl close to her and let the tears of her own fall for her son. Neither of them knew what their next steps would be, the complexity of the situation had increased so much in those last few minutes.
Neither of them knew how long they sat like that for, each lost in their own private grief before Jack’s voice drifted up the stairs calling them down to get their tea. If either had been paying full attention they would have noticed the slightly wavering note in Jack’s voice but as it happens, they didn’t.
“Come on,” said Jo pulling Megan to her feet and handing over her hanky.
“Thanks,” said Megan weakly taking the proffered item.
Jack returned to the kitchen where Gary was sitting nursing his mug of tea looking worried.
“I don’t know how I’m going to explain all of this to Meg,” he said looking up at Jack, seeking support.
Jack gave a non committal shrug. “It’s not exactly the most usual of situations is it,” he asked, not really expecting a response as he sat down.
Coming down the stairs both Jo and Megan had been surprised to hear Jack talking to someone else in the kitchen but neither of them mentioned it, both assuming it was just another well meaning neighbour or friend of Gran’s.
“How are we going to tell Uncle Jack about this?” asked Megan, it had taken her this long to feel comfortable calling them Uncle Jack and Auntie Jo that the thought of having to change and call them something else was a little disconcerting.
“I don’t know,” said Jo simply. “Did you bring that letter of your mum’s down?”
Megan nodded. “It’s in my pocket.”
“That’s them,” said Jack picking up on the approaching voices on the stairs.
Gary said nothing, only glanced down nervously at his mug as Jo and Megan walked into the room. Jo regarded him with a mild air of indifference not knowing who he was, but beside her Megan froze and shrank back a little.
“What’s he doing here?” she whispered, aimed at no one in particular.
Gary stood up. “Meg…” he began taking a step towards her.
“Don’t…” she said. “I know.”
With the prefects’ meeting now out of the way Polly had returned to her study in a vain attempt to make some progress with her English literature reading. After twenty minutes of staring blankly at the pages she realised that she wasn’t getting anywhere and pushed the book to one side with a hearty sigh and rested her head on her arms to try and relax for just a few moments and push everything out of her brain. But things were never that straightforward at the Chalet School and she couldn’t help but feel that this term, not to mention the rest of the year, was going to be far from plain sailing.
In the sixth form common room Tacy sat curled up in the corner to all extents and purposes lost in her book but in reality her thoughts were running along the same lines as Polly’s. She knew that it didn’t do to question the wisdom of the Head in her choice of prefects but this time she wasn’t so sure. She’d seen the signs of a building mutiny amongst the Thirds at their mealtimes under the watchful eye of Creseldine. Tacy has recognised the expression on her younger sister’s face, it was one she knew only too well. Tacy didn’t envy Polly in the slightest with the extra responsibility held by the Head Girl. All the same, she has realised during the meeting that something wasn’t sitting happily with Polly and so she headed off to talk to her friend.
The staff room was suspiciously quiet when Nancy Wilmot gave up on her correspondence and went in search of some company. Sharlie Andrews waved to from where she was curled up in a corner with a pile of exercise books.
“Smothered the juniors?” asked Nancy with a grin.
Sharlie returned the grin. “No, I’ve left them with Kalani and Katalin playing something noisy and riotous. I thought I’d take advantage and get these books marked to see how much they’ve managed to retain over the summer holidays.”
Sharlie chuckled. “Not much is the only answer I can give to that.”
“How come you’re here this weekend?”
“I changed free weekends with Ju,” she replied. “It’s better that way with Carlie going to York next weekend, it means that I’ll be able to go with John to take her.” Sharlie smiled weakly at the thought of her youngest child leaving the nest. “It’s going to be quiet with all of them gone now and only John and I rambling around home.”
“I can imagine, what are you going to do with yourselves?”
Sharlie shrugged. “We’ll find something to do. Mind you, since Alan went to university we’ve hardly seen anything of Carlie, she’s always at some friend or another’s.”
“There’s always Lucy’s wedding,” put in Nancy helpfully referring to Sharlie’s eldest daughter who was five years older than Carlie.
“That’s not for another year though; besides I think Lucy and Karl have got most of that under control now. I’m glad that one of the three of them inherited John’s organised streak. Anyway, how’s this week been for you Nance? I’ve hardly seen you.”
Nancy shrugged. “No busier than your average first week of term, every term I think that I’m prepared for how much work it will be; and of course I never am.”
“Things seem to have run fairly smoothly though.”
Nancy nodded. “I’m just wondering how the prefects meeting went.”
“Why choose her Nance?”
“It seemed like a good chance for her to prove herself. She’s always been such a snob and a madam that Kathie and I thought a bit of responsibility would do her good. If it all goes to pot then I’ll hold my hands up, say I made a mistake and remove her at the end of term.”
Sharlie gave her friend a supportive grin. “I see Abby Fenchurch seems to be settling in well; quite a chip off the old block, isn’t she?”
“So it would seem, although she’s been quite quiet so far but I’m willing to bet that this whole situation is a bit of a culture shock to her.”
“If she’s anything like her mother then she’ll soon find her feet properly.”
“Talking of finding feet, Jo phoned earlier.”
“Oh right, I was just thinking we hadn’t heard from her all week. What did she want?”
“It was all rather peculiar.”
Nobody spoke for a few moments as realisation dawned.
“You know…” began Gary eventually. “You do?”
Megan nodded. “You’re not my father, you never were. You and mum lied to me, my whole life has been one long lie.” Megan threw the letter from her mother on to the table before turning to find the comforting arms that Jo was holding out to her. “But it’s not going to be any more.”
It was one of those moments when no words were needed between Jack and Jo; the mere expression in their eyes said everything. They both realised that they knew about Charles although neither was completely sure what the other was thinking.
“If it had been any of the other boys, I’d be able to believe it…” sighed Jo. “But Charles!”
“What are we going to do?” asked Jack.
Jo shrugged. “I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that there’s a young girl who’s just gone next door who has no one else left in the whole world apart from us. I know what principle says but Megan’s ours and despite everything she deserves the chance to have a family.”
“I understand where you’re coming from Jo; it’s not as if she’s the first child we’ve ever adopted. But…”
“How are we going to explain it?”
“Something like that.”
“It’s not such a big thing these days, it happens all the time. It’s amazing isn’t it, how much your life can change in one moment?”
Jack nodded. “I’d thought that our days of bringing up children were long behind us. I was looking forward to occasional visits from the grandchildren and enjoying my retirement.”
Jo reached for his hand. ”We’ve done it before, we can do it again.
“Of course we can.”
“But one step at a time, this is a big thing for all of us. And we have to include Megan in everything, this is her life Jack and right now it’s all out of her control.”
Jack nodded and they both sat in silence contemplating the changes that had swept over their lives that afternoon.
Chapter 5 - Keeping A Watchful Eye by pim
It was the start of another week at the Chalet School and 3A tumbled blearily from their dormitories to breakfast. With the exception of a few members of staff the school remained blissfully unaware of the developments in Devon. From their places on the Sixth’s table both Polly and Tacy cast anxious eyes over to the Thirds, and more particularly to Creseldine at the head of the table. Tacy caught her younger sister’s eye but Livia’s expression gave nothing away; however, the almost innocent expressions of some of her comrades made Tacy stop and think.
“We need to keep an eye on the Thirds,” Tacy muttered under her breath.
Polly nodded in reply. “I don’t like those expressions of nigh on innocence. If I remember right, we always used to look like that before we pulled off some prank or another.”
“Those were the days,” said Tacy with a nostalgic sigh. “And did we not appreciate the prees breathing down our necks then!”
“How the tables have turned.”
Once breakfast and prayers were over the school headed to their respective classrooms.
“Something has to be done about Creseldine,” announced Katy from where she was perched on her desk as they waited for the arrival of Miss Winter.
“She’s getting right up my nose at meal times,” put in Lara. “I can’t help being clumsy, it wasn’t my fault the soup got spilled yesterday.”
“If you didn’t insist on waving your arms around when you talk it probably wouldn’t have happened,” retorted Emilia, to which Lara replied with a friendly punch.
“Either way,” said Livia thoughtfully. “She needs to see that she can’t keep on at us like that. And before you even think about it, I’m not appealing to Tacy – it’s bad enough having a sister as second pree without going running to her!”
“We can’t go in for open mutiny,” said Katy with a sigh. “We’d probably end up starving to death that way, and I don’t know about you, but I’m really not up for that. Has anyone got any ideas?”
“I’m just glad we don’t have supervised prep anymore,” remarked Lara. “Could you imagine having her supervise us?”
“Horrible thought!” remarked Anya.
“Miss Winter!” called Rhianna, who was on look out at the door.
3A instantly scrambled for their seats and were sitting looking like wingless angels on the arrival of their form mistress who eyed them suspiciously, she’d seen those expressions before and was only too aware of the fact that they spelled trouble.
Tuesday dawned, a fresh and crisp autumn day with a light breeze whispering through the trees in the churchyard. Entering the church a few steps behind Jo and Jack, Megan paused watching the wind catch the leaves that littered the path, stirring them up and whisking them away, realising that sometimes things were out of her control. Like the leaves, she had no idea what would become of her now. She knew that despite everything she still had a family, but to be part of this new family would involve leaving behind everything that she had held dear to her since her earliest days. Watching the blown leaves settle back amongst the graves she hoped that things would work out for the best.
The funeral service passed quickly, later Megan would profess to not remembering any of it. She found herself unable to shed the tears that she so longed to as she sat upright, staring ahead trying to overcome the numbness inside her. She glanced around the church, filled with the friends that Gran had made in the village, and those who had come from further away who formed her past. For the first time Megan began to appreciate that Gran had been so much more than just that, that she had been a real person as well with her own life. At the same time, her thoughts turned to her unknown father who she would never have the chance to know. She glanced to Jo and Jack, who sat either side of her, who would now provide the link to who she really was.
As she watched the coffin being lowered into the grave Megan swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, whispering her final farewell to Gran as she threw a handful of earth over the coffin. It was the closing of one door as she stepped back into the arms held out to her by Jo and the opening of another.
The following day Megan closed the door of Gran’s house behind her for the last time and walked down the steps, pausing to look back only briefly. It was hard leaving her home but she knew she couldn’t stay. Jo, with her insight, sensed it and slipped a comforting arm around Megan, kissing the top of her head as she did so. Megan looked up, her eyes shining with the tears she didn’t want to cry. Everything she owned was crammed into Jack’s car, it seemed almost impossible to believe.
“Ready to go?” asked Jo quietly. Megan nodded, blinking back the tears. “I know it’s hard…”
“It’s just all this… looking forward,” she blurted out, with another backward glance over her shoulder.
Jo drew the girl closer to her, there was nothing she could say to make things any better.
Jack’s voice cut through her thoughts. “Ready to go?” he asked, appearing from round the corner as he’d been to the shop to invest in supplies for the journey. Jo looked up from over Megan’s head and nodded. “Pile in then,” he said. “Although, goodness only knows where you’ll both fit.”
Megan pulled away from Jo and looked into Jack’s laughing face, smiling through the tears that had settled on her eyelashes and knowing that she now had somewhere new to call home.
Kathie and Sharlie had both accepted an invitation for tea with Nancy that afternoon and four o’clock saw the three of them ensconced in Nancy’s sitting room sharing cake a freshly brewed pot of tea.
“Everything seems to be going fairly well so far,” remarked Kathie.
Sharlie raised an eyebrow. “I’ve noticed a few disgruntled expressions in the faces of the thirds.
“Oh the thirds are always disgruntled about something,” chuckled Kathie.
Nancy smiled. “I’ve just had an interesting phone call from Jo.”
“Is she back at Plas Gwyn now?” asked Sharlie.
Nancy nodded. “Got back a couple of hours ago.”
“That poor kid,” said Kathie softly. “I can’t imagine what she must be going through losing her Gran so soon after her mother.”
“That was why Jo phoned.”
“Oh?” Sharlie queried, raising an eyebrow.
“Seemingly there’s a twist to the tale.”
“Really?” asked Kathie.
“It would appear that Megan is Charles Maynard’s daughter.”
A stunned silence followed, broken eventually by Kathie,
“Ch… Charles?” she stuttered, her eyes wide with surprise. “Are you sure she didn’t mean Mike?”
Nancy shook her head. “Jo definitely said Charles. I know, I didn’t believe it myself at first, but I guess that’s the way the world goes.”
“So what’s happening to Megan then?” asked Sharlie.
“I don’t know. Jo thought it would be better for her to get settled at Plas Gwyn before they start worrying too much about all that.”
“Can’t be easy,” said Sharlie thoughtfully, sipping her tea. “It’s got to be a big upheaval for the poor kid.”
Nancy suddenly noticed Kathie’s faraway expression. “Kathie,” she said gently.
“Sorry,” said Kathie shaking her head. “I was miles away,” she smiled weakly at both her friends. “Talking of upheavals, how are you looking forward to yours this weekend Sharlie?”
Sharlie smiled equally weakly. “It’s going to be very strange, but I think Carlie’s ready to go. She’s been packed for days! Although she keeps unpacking and repacking, John and I have no idea where it’s all going to go. I doubt it’ll fit in the car, let alone a university room!”
Nancy chuckled. “I’m sure she’ll manage, Carlie always struck me as being very resourceful.”
“I don’t doubt that she will, it’s just so… oh I don’t know! I just can’t believe she’s going,” Sharlie finished throwing her hands up. She stopped and smiled at her friends. “I’m sorry, everything’s changing so fast that’s all! Carlie leaving home, Lucy getting married at Christmas and Alan due to graduate next summer, where does the time go?”
“I wish I knew,” said Nancy ruefully.
“On a slightly cheerier note though,” said Sharlie. “Lucy said they invitations should be done by the weekend, so keep an eye on your post.”
“Lovely,” replied Kathie. “It’s been such an age since I was last at a wedding.”
Nancy and Sharlie exchanged glances, knowing that this was a positive move on Kathie’s behalf.
“I still can’t get over Charles Maynard though,” said Sharlie suddenly. “I didn’t think he had it in him.”
Nancy shook her head. “Me neither,” she admitted.
“Do you think Jo will want to send Megan here?” asked Kathie.
“Oh, I hadn’t though of that,” said Nancy. “I would have thought she might; but then again, you never know with Jo.”
“It might all depend on Megan,” put in Sharlie. “We don’t know what the poor kid’s going through.”
Another silence ensued, broken by Nancy asking a question about the sixth form and the conversation lapsed into the more familiar topic of the school.
“Well, what are we going to do then?” asked Lara suddenly.
It was later that evening and both third forms were congregated in their common room.
“Not a sausage,” commented Katy as she stretched out across the floor.
“Civil disobedience?” suggested Lyra Meadows of 3B.
Abby chuckled. “We had a campaign of civil disobedience at my old school, in my first year.”
“Really?” asked Livia, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Didn’t last very long,” shrugged Abby. “Can’t even remember what it was about now, but after a day and a half we were sentenced to a week’s detention.”
“What did you do?” asked Katy.
“Oh,” said Abby, thinking hard. “Not much, we refused school dinners for a start. And we refused to sit on chairs in class, we insisted on sitting on the floor.”
“We’d never get away with refusing meals,” mused Miranda Everett, Lyra’s partner in crime of 3B. “Matey would descend on us like a tonne of bricks if we did so.”
“And could you imagine Miss Winter’s face if we all sat on the floor?” put in Anya.
“I don’t think civil disobedience will work,” sighed Lara.
“What about downright disobedience then?” suggested Livia.
“Don’t be such an ass,” retorted Jinny. “Do you want a Head’s Report?”
“No,” replied Livia, thoroughly squashed.
“There’s got to be something we can do,” groaned Katy. “Short of resorting to physical violence against Creseldine, that is. I could have cheerfully flung my hymn book at her this morning.” The others giggled. “I’m just fed up of her sniping.” Katy thumped the floor in frustration. “We’ve got to do something that isn’t going to be noticed by the Head.”
“Yes but what?” queried Lyra. ”Everybody knows that Miss Wilmot has at least SEVEN pairs of eyes, there’s not much we’d be able to get away with – anything she’d miss, Matron would spot!”
“True,” sighed Jilly. “There’s got to be something we can do. Abby, you’re the newest, what did you used to do at your old school?”
Abby chuckled. “Nothing we got away with, let’s put it that way.”
“We can’t repeat anything that’s been done before either,” put in Katy. “But we can check out the Legends book from the library anyway for inspiration.”
Livia nodded in agreement. “There’s nothing worse than thinking that you’ve come up with something great and finding out it was done by your mother, or aunt or something.”
“What’s the Legends book?” asked Abby.
“You mean you don’t know?” exclaimed Livia. “Crumbs, Abby! How did we manage to not tell you about it for so long!? Legends is essentially a catalogue of pranks from the school’s history.” Abby’s eyes opened wide with curiosity and surprise. “Shame we can’t get in the library now, but we can go tomorrow.”
“Do you think…” began Abby quietly.
Livia nodded. “I’m SURE your mother’s in there somewhere!”
“I do believe I’ve got it!” so came the cry from Katy’s cubicle that night as the members of the Pansy dormitory were getting ready for bed.
“What do you mean Katy?” asked Livia, poking her head out from between her curtains, swiftly followed by the others.
“I do believe that I know how we can get back at Creseldine,” grinned Katy as she made a wild grab for the comb lying on her bed, overbalanced and crashed in a heap on the floor of her cubicle.
“You okay?” came from a concerned Livia as she and Anya poked their heads between the curtains dividing their cubicles and Katy’s.
“Yeah, fine,” replied Katy as she pulled herself up. “Not a word of that to anyone else mind, the last thing I need is Matey breathing down my neck!”
“No fear,” retorted Livia as she returned to her own cubicle. “I’ve had enough run ins with Matey of my own, I don’t want to land anyone else in that hot water!”
“So what’s the plan then Katy?” asked Jilly.
“Well you see, it’s this…” began Katy as she poked her head between her curtains once more. “What I propose is that we do what Creseldine tells us.”
“What?” exploded Livia, the incredulity of it all dripping from her voice. “That is a joke, right?”
Katy chuckled. “Well, it is, and it isn’t.”
“Katy stop being aggravating and tell us!” groaned Anya.
“Exactly what I say, we follow Creseldine’s instructions to the absolute letter, same as we would any other prefect… or rather…” she broke off with a mischievous grin.
“I think I see where you’re going,” put in Abby, slightly worried that her mind was working along the same lines as Katy’s.
“What do you think Abby?” asked Katy.
“That we only pay lip service to Creseldine’s instructions. Obviously we’ll carry out what the other prees want us to do, but Creseldine we just pretend. We’ll be all meek and mild and tell her of course we’ll do things, and then we won’t.”
“Exactly,” said Katy with a triumphant grin. “How’s that for absolute genius?”
“What about mealtimes and things though?” asked Anya. “Won’t we get in trouble when we haven’t cleared the table and what not.”
Katy paused for a moment, the wind somewhat knocked from her sails, fortunately Livia’s mind had been working on the plan. “But it isn’t Creseldine who doles out the orders at mealtimes,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s Polly, or Tacy, or whoever’s in charge. Really, Creseldine doesn’t tell us to do all that much.”
“But,” began Jilly. “We could pretend to be oh so helpful to Creseldine, and then we can use that opportunity to play a few tricks on her.”
“Good scheme Jilly!” exclaimed Katy. “The prees would never suspect us if we were being so helpful. It’s only little things we need to do, like rearranging a few of her things, and the like. I do believe we’re on to something.”
“What about when Creseldine catches us breaking the rules and gives out the punishments though?” asked Abby.
“Well, I suppose the only thing for that would be to be on our best behaviour whenever we see her approaching,” said Katy. “Mind you, it might mean that we have to be a little more on our guard in the common room, after all we don’t want the Prees descending on us like a bunch of Firsts do we?” A general agreement arose from this last. “I’m sure we can make it up as we go along, we’ve got a basic… oh what do you call it…”
“Infrastructure?” suggested Jinny.
“That’s the one,” agreed Katy with a wave of her hand. “We’ve got the ground rules down, we can play the rest by ear.”
“Matron!” called Anya from her vantage point of a cubicle by the door as her ears picked up on the approaching footsteps.
The eight members of the Pansy dormitory instantly dived back into their cubicles and were all tucked up under their covers when Matron looked in on them to turn out the lights, completely unaware of the mischief they had been planning.
Megan awoke early the next morning, it took a few moments for her to remember where she had gone to sleep the previous night but it all came flooding back to her soon enough. She had been so tired when she’d gone to bed that she hadn’t taken the time to take in the room. It was such a far cry from the room she’d had at Gran’s, she contented herself with Jo’s explanation the previous night that it wouldn’t be hers always, just until they had redecorated one of the other rooms for her. This was the room Jo and Jack tended to keep for visiting granddaughters with it’s pale pink walls and the dusky pink carpet. The walls were lined with bookshelves which were crammed full of a variety of books from dust jacketed hardbacks to several tatty paperbacks. Adjusting her eyes to the half light Megan noticed that a good half of the shelves were crammed with school stories – aside the Josephine M Bettanys, Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, Elsie Oxenham, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Joy Francis, Gwendoline Courtney and Constance White, amongst others, found a home. Megan had declared that she’d outgrown school stories when she’d moved up to the High School but suddenly she found her curiosity aroused. Glancing at her watch she realised it was only seven, nobody would be expecting her up for a while yet and so she reached out to the shelf for the nearest book, Cecily Holds the Fort, and buried back under the covers to read.
Jo Maynard might have not known her new neighbours at Carn Beg, but she knew enough people in Howells village to make sure that Megan could find some friends of her own age. As a result shortly before she was due to sit down for dinner with Megan, Coco, really Colette, Bowers and Libby Sheridan made their way up the path to Plas Gwyn. Jo had known Coco and Libby since she and Jack had moved back to Plas Gwyn having met their parents whilst shopping in Howells village one day; and now, just as she had once used her own children to trial run her books, she turned to Coco and Libby for their opinions. Coco and Libby were polar opposites and yet the best of friends – madcap, harum scarum Coco needed cool, calm, collected and sensible Libby to keep her in check. They had known each other all their lives, and had been friends since they could talk and walk.
“How do you like Howells so far?” asked Coco in a desperate bid to break the awkward silence between the three girls once Jo had left them.
“Idiot,” retorted Libby. “Could you pass judgement on Howells after a matter of hours?”
“Quite easily,” grinned Coco, sticking her tongue out at Libby.
“I haven’t really seen anything of the village yet,” admitted Megan. “I’ve been trying to unpack all day and find homes for everything.”
“Bet that can’t be much fun,” said Libby kindly.
“Will you be coming to Armiford High with us?” asked Coco.
“I don’t know,” confessed Megan. “We haven’t really talked about that yet.”
“You’ll be alright if you do though, we’ll show you around and stuff – tell you who to watch out for, you know what I mean,” said Coco.
Megan smiled. “Can I ask a question?”
“To who? Me or Lib?”
Coco shrugged. “Fire away.”
“Is your name really Coco?”
Coco laughed. “No, it’s really Colette but I’ve always been Coco, largely to do with Coco Chanel. See, the thing is, when I was a tiny I had a horrible penchant for exploring EVERYWHERE.”
“You still do,” interrupted Libby rolling her eyes. “All my detentions are down to you.”
Coco pulled a face back at her friend. “Anyway, ignore Lib. The long and short of the story is that I somehow managed to climb on mum’s dressing table and knocked her bottle of Number 5 all over myself, I must have stunk ‘cause that stuff isn’t pretty! My wisecracking Uncle Bill at that point decided to rename me Coco, and it just stuck. Not all that interesting really, was it?”
Megan chuckled. “I have to admit that thought did cross my mind.”
“Still,” smiled Coco. “I have to admit that I much prefer Coco to Colette; I’m not good enough to be a Colette.”
“I’ll second that,” put in Libby. “Don’t worry Megan, everyone always says that Coco and I are chalk and cheese. Most people we know have accepted that Coco will always be the one at the centre of everything going on and I’m always the one trying to talk her out of it.”
“She’s right,” confessed Coco ruefully. “I can’t help it, I have a short attention span, I get bored easily.”
“Especially in maths,” said Libby quietly. “Mrs Walton would contest to that one.”
“Maths is so boring though,” said Coco with a dismissive wave of her hand. “It has absolutely no use or purpose whatsoever.”
“I’ll agree with that,” put in Megan quietly.
“I say,” said Libby suddenly. “You don’t think Mrs Maynard will send you away to school, do you? To that one of her sister’s I mean, Mrs Maynard was a pupil there and all her daughters went and so do most of her granddaughters.”
“Oh,” said Megan. “I hadn’t thought of that. I’ve never been away to school, I always went to the High in the nearest town.”
Libby shrugged. “It was just a thought.”
“Beware of your thoughts, they may become words at any moment,” grinned Coco to which Libby responded with a friendly punch.
The subject was dropped there, but it had certainly given Megan food for thought.
“Something is up with the Thirds,” announced Tacy Warrington as she settled into the spare chair in Polly McCormack’s study that Friday afternoon.
“What do you mean there’s something up with the Thirds?” asked Polly. “There’s always something up with the Thirds.”
Tacy shook her head. “More than the usual something up with the Thirds.”
“Oh?” Polly raised an eyebrow. “I haven’t noticed anything untoward.”
“I wouldn’t say it was untoward,” said Tacy thoughtfully. “It’s just an expression I noticed about my kid sister Livia. Well, that and the Thirds seem to be going out of their way to make a show about following Creseldine’s orders, but it seems that they’re not actually seeing them through.”
Polly nodded. “Actually, I had picked up on that. I noticed that it was the Thirds who had put all their stuff back in the wrong place after Kaffee und Kuchen the other day yet when Cres told them to clear the table they were making the biggest song and dance ever about it.”
“It was probably those monkeys who rearranged all Cres’s things on her shelf in the common room as well. Although I don’t know when they’d have found the time to do it, they know full well our common room is strictly out of bounds.”
“Cres caught Katy Johnson and that Miranda from 3B sliding in the corridors yesterday. She must have doled out some punishment for them to do yesterday evening.”
“That still doesn’t explain how those imps got in our common room without one of us noticing, unless…”
“They did it in Prep. Their Prep isn’t supervised and none of us were in the common room before dinner yesterday – those of us not on Prep supervision were all in the library.”
Polly sighed. “I don’t really want to have to start supervising the Thirds prep but if they’re going to start trying to pull this kind of stunt we might have to.”
“I suppose we’ll just have to keep a close eye on the Thirds. I know that Cres can be a right royal pain at times but those monkeys can’t be allowed to get away with playing her up like that.”
“On the other hand, I don’t think the Thirds would appreciate a return to supervised Prep,” said Polly thoughtfully.
Tacy grinned. “It would be a terrible affront to their dignity, unsupervised Prep is the big privilege of being in the Third.”
“All the same,” said Polly, a wicked glint in her eye. “It would be a rather stunning punishment. They’d be the first Third form to lose that privilege.”
“It’s worth bearing in mind. Other than the Thirds it all seems to be going remarkably well so far, doesn’t it?”
Polly nodded. “I’m sure it’s not meant to be going this well.”
“Term’s only a fortnight old, mind.”
“I’ve been here too long to be anything else.”
“Can I ask a question?”
“Can you, or may you?” Hilda Annersley may have been long retired, but the correct use of can and may remained well drummed into the Chalet girls.
“Not cheek, merely correct use of the English language. Anyway, you’re the one doing English for A-level!”
“There then, anyway, your question.”
“It’s a bit silly really.”
“Silly or not, c’mon Pol, it can’t be all bad, can it?”
“Well… do you mind only being Second Pree?” Polly paused. “See, I told you it was silly.”
Tacy chuckled. “Course not, why should I? It’s a long standing joke that the family position is Second Pree, mum was, so was Ruth. Besides, I’ve got too much work on with Oxford before Christmas.”
“I always thought your mum was Head Girl.”
Tacy shook her head. “No. My Aunt Julie was, so was Auntie Betsy, and Auntie Kit but not mum. Mind, she couldn’t have been anything else as she was in the same form as Mary-Lou Trelawney, there was no competition there really.”
“No, I can see where you’re coming from on that front.”
“You know Abby Fenchurch in 3A?”
“The new kid? The one who seems to be quite chummy with your Livia?” Tacy nodded. “What about her?”
“Anyway,” said Tacy suddenly looking at her watch. “Much as I’d love to stay and chat all afternoon, I promised Caitlin I’d go and help her look at the team sheets for next weekend’s laxe fixtures. Fancy joining us?”
“I would, but I’ve got this beastly Latin to get through before I’m on supervision with the Firsts after dinner.”
“On which count?”
“Remind me at the end of summer term why I thought A-level Latin was such a good idea.”
“I can remind you now.”
“Don’t you dare!”
“I won’t then,” retorted Tacy with a shrug as she stood up. “I’ll see you at dinner then Pol.”
Chapter 6 - Somewhere Only We Know by pim
“What do you want to do this afternoon then?” So asked Vi Warrington of Robert Fenchurch over Saturday lunch.
Robert had accepted Vi’s invitation to spend the weekend at her home in Bath, if only to get away from the silence which prevailed over his own house. Vi had taken Alexis off to spend the night with a school friend shortly before lunchtime, something which her youngest daughter had gratefully entered into.
“In all honesty,” confessed Robert. “I don’t really want to do anything, it’s been such a long week I’d really just like to kick back and relax.”
Vi grinned. “It will be nice to take advantage of a quiet house. I always think that once the girls are gone and it’s only Alexis and I that things will quieten down, but I have to admit that quiet is the last adjective I would ever use to describe that daughter of mine!”
“That’s definitely what I’ve realised about Abby,” admitted Robert. “I knew she was noisy, but I’ve only noticed just how much in the last couple of weeks. It does feel funny rambling around the house on my own.”
“Of course, I’ve had Ruth to contend with as well until she headed back to Cambridge on Thursday.”
And so the two of them spent a leisurely afternoon over the day’s papers and their respective novels, culminating in them spending the evening in the kitchen getting under each other’s feet trying to make dinner.
“Robert!” groaned Vi as they collided with each other and the bag of flour she was carrying exploded and covered her from head to foot.
“Oh I don’t know,” said Robert suppressing his laughter. “I think that look rather suits you.”
“Oh you!” retorted Vi as she reached out a floury hand and wiped it down his face.
“Eew!” came from Robert as he spat a mouthful of flour out.
Vi chuckled. “Serves you right,” she retorted as she made a valiant effort to wipe flour from herself on to him.”
At that moment the next best thing to a free fight broke out as each of them tried their best to cover the other in flour. The ensuing result was a broken bowl that smashed as Vi vainly tried to get Robert’s hair, missing as he ducked.
“Now look what you’ve done!” she exclaimed.
“Me?” asked Robert as he grabbed hold of Vi’s hands to stop her wiping any more flour on him.
Vi wriggled for a second to try and free herself from his grasp and then suddenly stopped, finding herself staring him in the eyes as he held on to her wrists. Neither moved for a moment then in a split second Robert leant forward and gently kissed her.
“Gosh,” whispered Vi as he pulled away.
“I’m sorry… I…” he said, almost apologetically.
“No… I…” Vi faltered as she wrapped her arms around his waist and returned the kiss.
“You’ve got flour on your nose,” began Robert pointing to a floury streak running down the side of her nose. “Just here,” he said running his finger down it.
“Well you’ve got it here,” she retorted, ruffling his hair.
“I think you just put it there,” he grinned.
“You think that then.”
“I will do,” he replied, wrapping his arms round her.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked quietly leaning against him.
“I don’t know,” came the honest reply as Robert kissed the top of her head before choking. “You’ve got flour in your hair.”
“You put it there then!” she teased.
“So, where do we go from here then?”
Vi looked around the kitchen ruefully. “I think we clean up, then we finish making dinner, then we eat dinner and then we talk.”
“Sounds like a good plan.”
“We can make this work Robert.”
“That was wonderful,” declared Robert as he pushed his empty plate to one side.
“Wasn’t bad was it?”
“I think it could have had a little less flour in it.”
“Oh you tease, you,” groaned Vi. “You started it all anyway.”
“Did not, you were the one carrying the flour in the first instance.”
Vi took his hand. “This isn’t talking about us, is it?”
Robert shook his head. “No, it’s talking about how we started though.”
“It’ll be something to tell the girls I suppose.”
“How do you think yours will take it?”
“Never mind yours, what about Abby? Her mother only died a couple of months ago.”
“Abby’s been used to me having various girlfriends over the years.”
“Do you think I’ll end up as just another one of your girlfriends?”
“I’d like to think not, Vi. I think this time it will all be so different, even though it did just happen without any warning. Well…”
“I don’t know, I can’t explain. When we met at the funeral, there was something. I can’t describe it, I think I sort of knew then. Or maybe I didn’t. I don’t know but as we’ve got closer it’s been harder to fight my feelings.”
“So it wasn’t just me then? There’s been nobody since Hugh, there was nobody before Hugh either. I really believed that he would be the only one I’d ever feel that way about.”
“I used to think that about Mary.”
“Isn’t this a cliché though?”
“What do you mean?”
“I fall for my best friend’s widower; come on Robert, it’s the sort of thing you read about in magazines or stories.”
“This isn’t a story though Vi, this is real life. And I suppose that this sort of thing goes on all the time.”
“I never thought that if there were to be anybody after Hugh that it would be you.”
“I’d have said the same thing back, but about Mary and not Hugh, obviously.”
“I should hope it wasn’t Hugh.”
“I’m sure it’s not meant to happen this way.”
“It probably isn’t.”
“I’m just glad you feel the same way. I’ve gone over it in my head a thousand times during the last couple of weeks. What if you didn’t? What if you just wanted to be friends? God knows I’ve been sitting on my feelings since that weekend we went to clear out Mary-Lou’s things from the cottage. How could I have told you then? These things always happen at the wrong moments, don’t they?”
“I guess love is one of those things that just wanders along and ambushes you when you least expect it.”
“I certainly wasn’t expecting you.”
“I wasn’t expecting you either. I’d resigned myself to spending the rest of my days alone. Well, I might have got a cat for company.”
“I can’t imagine you with a cat.”
Robert laughed. “No, me neither.”
“What do we tell the girls?”
“What about it?”
“We could tell them then. Let’s face it Vi, we have to get used to things ourselves.”
“You’ve got a point.”
“How do you think your lot will take it?”
Vi shrugged. “I think Ruth and Tacy will be fine. Alexis should be as well, she barely remembers her father. Cathlin will probably go off the deep end to begin with, she’s rather fiery tempered but she does hold Ruth and Tacy in a lot of respect – I’d like to think that they would talk her round. Livia, she’s the one I don’t know about and her reaction is bound to have repercussions for Abby.”
They both sat at the table in a reflective silence for a time before Vi proposed that they move into the living room where they curled around each other on the sofa.
Vi sighed contentedly. “We can hold off worrying about the girls,” she said suddenly. “I spend my whole life worrying about them. For once it will be nice to worry about me, let’s not spoil the time we’ve got together this weekend.”
“If you insist,” said Robert with a grin as he stroked her hair.
“I do insist.” Vi wriggled round to kiss him.
This is the end of a beautiful friendship, and just the beginning of love.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” called Robert the following morning as he danced into Vi’s room, laying the tray laden with breakfast on the bedside table before flinging open the curtains.
Vi struggled into a sitting position and rubbed her eyes sleepily before they rested on the breakfast tray. A grin spread across her face. “You can come and stay again.”
“I’d hope so,” he said, leaning over to kiss her.
“What do you want to do today?” she asked nibbling on the edge of her toast.
“I don’t know,” he replied perching next to her. “Let’s just go somewhere and be us, pet.”
“Sounds like a plan,” she replied, kissing him back.
And so the rest of the day saw them taking advantage of the last days of autumn sunshine, curled together under a tree, lost in each other and watching the world go by.
Meanwhile, back at the Chalet School, Abby had found herself a quiet corner of the Third form common room once they were left to their own devices in the afternoon so that she could read Legends which she had checked out of the library the previous day. She was soon engrossed and every now and again the rest of the Thirds would cast a glance in her direction as she chuckled to herself. Eventually Abby cast aside the book with a satisfied sigh, replaced it on the shelf and went to rejoin her friends.
“Okay?” asked Livia quietly, laying a reassuring hand on Abby’s arm.
Abby turned to face her friend and grinned. “Yes.”
“Penny for them?” asked a voice from above Tacy Warrington’s head. Glancing up she saw Polly McCormack and gave a grin. “You look absolutely miles away.”
Tacy smiled. “Oh nowhere of any interest, just thinking about mum, that’s all. Ruth went back to Cambridge on Thursday so she’ll only have Alexis at home now.” Polly gave a reassuring smile as Tacy shook herself. “I’m just being silly. I just hope that one day mum will meet someone else – she doesn’t deserve to be spending the rest of her life on her own. Anyway, do you fancy heading down to the hockey pitch – Caitlin said something about a Fourths versus Fifths grudge match.”
“Okay then. Fancy forgetting our Prefect dignity and racing me there once we’re outside?”
“You’re on,” grinned Tacy, leaping up.
Chapter 7 - Taking A Turn For The Worse by pim
Creseldine was irritated. It was Tuesday afternoon at the Chalet School and she couldn’t find her indoor shoes anywhere in the Sixth Form’s splashery. She and Polly had gone down to the village on an errand to the Post Office for Miss Wilmot once afternoon school was over as neither of them were on Prep duty.
“How have you lost something like that?” demanded Polly as she changed her own shoes.
“I put them in my locker!” groaned Creseldine. “You saw me.”
Polly flushed. “Of course I did,” she said. “I’m sorry,” she paused before looking into Creseldine’s locker herself. “It’s rather bizarre, yes, they were definitely there.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” said Polly thoughtfully as she remembered the conversation she’d had the previous week with Tacy about the Thirds. “You’ll just have to run through school in your tights to the Dorm to get your spare shoes and hope that Matey doesn’t catch you, or worse…”
“Miss Wilmot,” said Creseldine mournfully. “I wonder where they could have gone.”
“I haven’t got a clue, but I’ll run through the school with you and explain if we get caught.”
Creseldine smiled weakly. “I just wish I knew who… who’d done it. It’s not as if it’s the first time it’s happened.”
Polly frowned. “But that was just your things getting rearranged, are you sure you didn’t shift them around yourself?” Creseldine shook her head. “Never mind, come on let’s try and get to the Dorm.”
They set off, Polly mulling it all over in her head. She was convinced that the Thirds had something to do with it but she had no evidence that it could have been them.
“Creseldine Price-Morris, Polly McCormack, what do you think you’re doing?” came suddenly from behind them.
The pair spun round to see Miss Ferrars standing behind them with a faint look of surprise on her face.
“Miss Ferrars, we…” began Polly.
“Creseldine, where are your shoes?”
“That’s the thing Miss Ferrars… We…” began Polly.
“Is your name Creseldine?” Miss Ferrars asked sharply. Polly shook her head, feeling like the naughtiest of the Thirds. “Well?”
Creseldine looked up, startled. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’?”
“Just that Miss Ferrars – I put them in my locker in the splashery when Polly and I went out to go to the Post Office for Miss Wilmot and when we came back they were gone.”
Miss Ferrars raised an eyebrow. “Really,” she said with a hint of disbelief in her voice. “And just what do you think has happened to them?”
“I really don’t know Miss Ferrars.”
“Hmm.” She broke off. “Go to your dormitory Creseldine and find your spare shoes and when you’re done come along to Miss Wilmot’s study. Polly, come with me please.”
“Yes Miss Ferrars,” muttered Polly allowing herself to follow the mistress without argument.
“Oh and Creseldine, if you run into Matron on your way tell her you have my permission to be walking through the school in your tights.”
“I think we’re rumbled!” And with those exclaimed words Ava Hunter of 3B whirled into the Third Form common room.
“What do you mean?” demanded Katy from her corner where she was wrestling with her Romeo and Juliet.
“I was just coming over from the library to find my pencil case and Ferry’s just caught Creseldine ambling through the school in her tights, and to make matters worse Polly McCormack was with her.”
“Blast,” groaned Livia from beside Katy. “I’m sure Polly and Tacy have been on to us for a couple of days now as well.”
“What happened?” asked Katy.
“I’m not completely sure,” replied Ava. “I hid behind that art project totem pole thing in entrance hall so Ferry didn’t spot me, I didn’t hear all that well. But Polly went off after Ferry and Creseldine carried on towards the dormies. Ferry looked raging as well! Creseldine and Polly didn’t look too chuffed either.”
“They don’t know it’s us though,” said Lara as she rolled over from where she was doing her maths sprawled on her stomach.
“How long do you bet it’ll take them to work it out though?” asked Livia.
“Well they’ve got no evidence,” said Katy thoughtfully.
“They’re bound to know it’s us all the same,” said Livia glumly, hugging her knees under her chest.
It was a somewhat subdued and thoughtful Creseldine who made her way through the school to the sixth form dormitories to find her spare indoor shoes desperately hoping that she wouldn’t run into the clutches of Matron. She had a sneaking suspicion that certain members of the Third form were responsible for this latest mishap but she couldn’t be sure, besides there was no evidence. On the other hand she remembered that the Thirds had been behaving more oddly than usual, especially in their eagerness to respond to things she’d asked them to which later seemed to never have been done. She gave a sigh of relief as she reached the Lily dorm without being noticed and slipped in.
“Do you have an explanation, Polly?” asked Miss Ferrars icily once they had reached Miss Wilmot’s office, that lady herself was otherwise occupied with an extra coaching session.
Polly shook her head, she had suspicions but nothing concrete. “I really don’t know Miss Ferrars,” she replied hoping she sounded honest. “I saw Cres putting her shoes into her locker before we went out, and when we came back they’d gone.”
“You must have some idea.”
Polly shook her head again. “I honestly don’t. I wish I did.”
Miss Ferrars raised an eyebrow, suspecting that Polly knew more than she was letting on. “Right,” she said at length.
Polly lowered her eyes and began studying the toes of her shoes, feeling as though she was back in the middle school and having been caught playing some mad prank, as had happened so often. She didn’t want to share her suspicions just yet and ideally once she knew for sure she wanted to deal with the miscreants herself. For the moment she just knew that she didn’t want the Head or even Miss Ferrars involved.
Megan sat in the middle of her bed not looking at the prospectuses Jo had given her. She’d known that sooner or later she’d have to start thinking about going back to school but she’d been hoping it would have been the latter option. She glanced at the cover for Armiford High and suddenly felt a slight pang of nostalgia for her old school back in Devon. She liked Libby and Coco and their tales of their school life had made her think about going back to school. Her eyes flicked over to the other prospectus which lay on her bed, resting on the name of the school on the front of it, The Chalet School. She’d heard a lot about the school since she’d arrived at Plas Gwyn from Jo and it did sound like a wonderful place to be. At the same time she didn’t feel so sure, she’d never been away to school before, in fact she’d never spent a prolonged period of time away from home before. She pushed them both to one side and reached down to pick her book up off the floor and buried herself into Dimsie Head Girl when there was a gentle tap at the door and Jo poked her head around it. Megan looked up and smiled.
“Libby’s mum just phoned to see if you wanted to go over for tea tomorrow,” she said. “I tried calling you.”
“I didn’t hear you,” replied Megan. “I’m sorry.”
“You looked lost in that book.”
“It’s good. I thought I’d outgrown this sort of thing.”
Jo chuckled. “I don’t think you ever do. Do you want to go to Libby’s tomorrow?” Megan nodded eagerly. “I’ll phone her mum back then and let her know.” Jo’s eyes caught the school prospectuses pushed to one side but decided to say nothing. “Don’t make any plans for the weekend though,” she said.
“It’s a surprise.”
“I’m going to see if I can finish this chapter, do you want anything?” Megan shook her head. “Can I count on your expert opinion when I get it finished? I shouldn’t be too long.”
Megan’s eyes were wide with surprise. “Oh, can… I mean, may I?”
“Oh course you may. It’s a family privilege. I’ll give you a shout later.”
And with that she left Megan, her book cast to one side, thinking. Family. One little word had made all the difference. She reached out and picked up the prospectuses again, the plights of Dimsie and Jean forgotten for the moment.
Retribution did not fall immediately on the Thirds. Both Polly and Creseldine had been evasive to Miss Ferrars’ questioning and although they remained on tenterhooks the collective relief could be felt in the Third Form common room. Miss Ferrars had shared her concerns with her long serving friends Miss Wilmot and Miss Andrews but had decided to respond to Polly’s plea to leave it to her for the interim. Somewhat disturbed by almost being caught the Thirds reached a general consensus that they should lay low for a few days on the attack front. Privately Polly shared her concern with Tacy but neither of them were too sure what to do faced with this situation. They had admitted Library Prefect Elixabete Berriex into their enclosure by dint of her younger sister Kistiñe being in 3B. In her younger days Elixabete, who hailed from the Basque country, had given some of the school’s legendary pranksters a run for their money causing some of the older members of staff to draw parallels with Emerence Hope and Jack Lambert, and even as far as Jo Maynard declaring that she evoked ‘shades of Evadne Lannis and Cornelia Flower’.
However, the Thirds were somewhat distracted by something completely different over the next few days shifting what they had begun to refer to as the ‘Creseldine Affair’ into the background. It had come about during a geography lesson with Miss Ferrars on Africa when Abby had unwittingly brought the plight of many nations to their attention. Her enthusiasm and passion for the fight for justice and improving living conditions had infected the rest of 3A and subsequently passed on to 3B. In between plotting their next move with regard to Creseldine they were throwing money raising ideas around the common room. As far as the staff were concerned this was a much more productive way of expending their excess energies and somehow by the end of the week the Creseldine situation had faded into the background.
Except in the minds of certain members of the Third Form.
“Where are we going?” Megan asked of Jo as they climbed into the car shortly before lunchtime on Saturday.
“It’s a surprise,” said Jo. “You’ll see when we get there.”
Megan smiled and said nothing. Since she’d met Jo Maynard she had never ceased to be amazed by how she could flick so easily between the responsible adult member of society and the irrepressible schoolgirl she had never grown out of being.
“I wonder what she’s like,” mused Hilda Annersley as she and Nell Wilson stood in the car park straining to see the arrival of their visitors.
“Who?” asked Nell, somewhat distractedly.
“Honestly Nell, there are times when you drive me to distraction and beyond.”
“But you wouldn’t have me any other way,” replied her companion with a smug grin.
“W-ell, now you mention it Nell…” Hilda was brought up short by a sharp jab in the ribs from Nell. She rolled her eyes in reply and grinned. “I was talking about Megan before your daft side took over.”
“Ahh yes, Megan, I was wondering what she was like too.”
“Do you remember the last time?”
“Last time what? Jo came to visit? It was just the other week, we went out for a pub lunch and…” She broke off and they both laughed.
“No,” said Hilda suddenly growing more serious. “The last time Jo brought a new adoptee to us.”
“Abby’s hardly an adoptee, but yes, the principle’s the same I suppose.”
The two friends stood in silence for a moment, each leaning on their walking sticks lost deep in thought. They were both almost as old as the century with more years teaching experience between them than they cared to count. They had seen some of the most fundamental changes on the planet together and their collective knowledge never ceased to amaze people. Friendships sometimes enter life for a reason, sometimes for a season, and there are some which will last a lifetime; Hilda Annersley and Nell Wilson knew that they fell into the latter category. They had dedicated their lives to a greater calling but at the end of the day would always be there for the other to turn to. Over the years they had lost track of the number of people who had passed through their lives, but anybody who had been touched by the formidable twosome remembered it.
“Hilda, Nell!” Jo’s cry cut through their thoughts and brought them back down to reality with a bump.
Initial introductions over the four soon found themselves in an Armiford café having lunch with Jo, Hilda and Nell reminiscing nostalgically about the early days of the school back in the Tyrol.
“And Jo wound up by calling me an idiot!” said Nell with mock indignation as her face split into a mischievous grin, as she related the tale of Jo falling into a pit on Guide camp. “There were times when I thought that Jo really did have it in for me.”
“Why ever so?” asked Megan, she had been sitting quietly listening in amazement to the stories.
“Well there was the time she fell off a ladder and landed on me, what I did to deserve I know not!”
Jo coloured furiously. “It was hardly deliberate! And anyway, you weren’t killed or even horribly injured!”
Nell laughed. “I know, but it’s worth bringing up from time to time just for you indignance over the whole affair!”
Megan sat back in her chair thinking over her time at her High School. She couldn’t imagine ever having that sort of relationship with the teachers there.
“It’s sometimes best to ignore those two,” whispered Hilda conspiratorially from beside her. “They’re both wonderful, but very forceful when together,” she added with a wink.
Megan shook her head. “I couldn’t ever imagine being like that with any of my teachers at the High. They were all so… remote.”
Hilda smiled. “The Chalet School is a bit of a law unto itself on occasion, mind you it had to be in order to survive.”
Megan stared thoughtfully into the bottom of her empty glass. “Do you think I should go?”
“I’d have to say yes, but maybe I’m biased,” Hilda said with a gently smile. “A thousand miles can lead so many ways.”
“Everything’s so upside down, it’s like… someone took my life and smashed it and when I put the pieces back together I didn’t fit them right.”
Hilda frowned. “I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear the lake water lapping and low sounds by the shore…” she broke off realising that Megan was quoting along with her.
Megan closed her eyes. “I love that poem,” she said opening them again. “It’s my favourite.”
Hilda Annersley suddenly looked every inch the English mistress. “What’s it about?”
“Finding a home… somewhere to be happy and the just be. It’s about escaping somewhere safe, about learning, about knowing… It’s the creation of an idyll – or a memory to cling to. I, oh…” she trailed off. Hilda smiled. “I already know the decision I have to make, don’t I?”
“You just have to listen to your Innesfree.” Hilda paused. “Do you like English then?”
Megan nodded. “It’s my favourite subject.”
“Excellent choice, I approve wholeheartedly.”
“What are you two talking about?” asked Nell suddenly.
“Poetry,” replied Hilda smugly.
Nell rolled her eyes. “Not a scientist then?”
Megan shook her head. “I’m a bit of a disaster there I’m afraid.”
“Oh well,” sighed Nell.
Kathie Ferrars awoke early the following morning, too early, she reflected as her watch showed it to only be 5am. Feeling unusually awake she got up and dressed before slipping from her room and out of the staff quarters to where she had parked her car. It was a cold morning and it took a few attempts to get the car to co-operate, eventually it did and she was soon on the road away from school. She knew exactly where she was going – to a place that would haunt the rest of her life. Pulling the car up along side the patch of road where Marcie and Ivan’s accident had happened she stepped from the car and stared blankly at the surrounding countryside. Shivering a little as the October wind whipped her ears, she sat on the grassy bank huddled against the elements, her eyes adjusting to the darkness surrounding her. Lifting her head, why, she asked in a voice barely audible, her question seized by the wind and tossed away carelessly. Burying her face in her knees she struggled to make sense of the myriad of images before the eyes she had closed tightly against the outside world.
Marcie at her first dancing class, eyes alight and shining, looking so alive as she struggled to follow the steps of the teacher. Ivan’s smile, the lopsided one that played around the left corner of his mouth when he was trying not to laugh. Story time with Marcie, curled up together, lost in a story book land, away from reality in a time suspended. Ivan’s face when she’d agreed to marry him, the sheer joy in his expression as he’d suddenly picked her up and spun her round, surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Alps as he’d gently kissed her. Marcie coming to her with a grazed knee, seeking a mother’s reassurance, a mother’s safety, with the complete confidence that a mother can fix anything. Ivan running his hands over her pregnant stomach, whispering to an unborn Marcie of his plans for the future. Two coffins at the front of the church.
“It’s not fair,” she shouted suddenly into the early morning emptiness, thumping the ground beside her in frustration. Shivering, she climbed back into the car, wrapping her arms around the steering wheel she rested her head against it and sobbed. “I wanted to be a mother, why take that from me?” she whispered as the sobs subsided. “Especially when some throw it away so easily,” she added bitterly.
Chapter 8 - Digging Deeper by pim
Creseldine was bothered, but she wasn’t completely sure why. It was Monday morning and she was making her way to collect some books from her locker before morning school started. She and Raakel Uitto, the art prefect, both had free periods so Raakel was accompanying her to collect her art materials. Creseldine was relieved that nothing had gone wrong since the incident of her shoes; however, she had been slightly perturbed by the fact that a few members of 3A seemed to be smirking at her over breakfast. Opening her locker and searching in it for her geography book she was greeted by a deluge of water, which only caught her slightly but covered the rest of the books in her locker. She gave an involuntary squawk on realising what had happened.
“What’s happened?” asked Raakel, as Creseldine pulled the soggy books from her locker. “Oh Creseldine… but who would?”
Creseldine shook her head. “Could have been anyone, the lockers don’t lock after all.”
Raakel muttered something under her breath in her native Finnish then looked at Creseldine. “Pretty sneaky if you ask me,” she remarked reaching into Creseldine’s locker and pulling out a plastic cup. “Definitely one of the younger forms. What are you going to do?”
Creseldine shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“They can’t be allowed to get away with this.” Raakel crumpled the cup in her hand with a force that shocked Creseldine as she was normally such a quiet soul “Just look at your books – did you have work in there too?”
Cresledine flicked through the pile in her arms. “Just a little, nothing important… except, of for goodness’ sake! My biology essay,” she groaned extracting the offending item.
“I suppose I’ll have to spend my free rewriting it instead of doing that beastly geog for Ferry.” And with that she slammed her locker door shut and stalked off.
By lunchtime Abby was in a black mood. She’d been snapped at, unnecessarily she thought, in both maths and geography by Miss Ferrars and had been too distracted to pay attention in English, earning short shrift from Miss Winter. Abby had taken advantage of the little free time they had between lunch and afternoon school to air her grievances to Rhianna who was in complete agreement that her friend had been unfairly treated.
“All I did was answer her stupid question in geog,” grumbled Abby. “I admit that I was being unaccountably thick in maths but there was no need for her to go off on one at me the way she did. And besides, what did she mean by ‘you’re your mother all over again’?”
Rhianna shrugged. “No idea.”
Abby frowned. “I’m sure Auntie Jo said they were good chums, I’ll have to write to her. Ferry’s never been like that with me before.”
“Maybe she was having a bad day.”
By the end of the day there were several girls airing their grievances against Miss Ferrars, having all been on the wrong end of her bad mood. Creseldine had been among them for the state of her geography book after its impromptu bath that morning and unable to give a satisfactory explanation had left her feeling worse than the naughtiest of middles. It wasn’t only the girls who had noticed the mistress’s black mood as several of the staff had fallen victim to her sharp tongue, including her good friend Miss Andrews. The Thirds, however, were more preoccupied by pressing concerns such as Creseldine and solving the problem of Third World poverty.
“I can’t help but feel,” said Katy to her select coterie of Livia and Miranda Everett, Lyra Meadows and Mai Keppel of 3B. “That we may have taken things a little too far this morning. I overheard Creseldine talking to Raakel thingy at lunch about how Ferry practically ate her alive for the state of her geog book.”
Livia frowned and removed the plait she had been chewing from her mouth. “Maybe we did. Creseldine seems to have been tolerable of late but she still needs knocking down that last peg.”
“I don’t know,” said Katy. “We should leave things a while, I know we’ve got away with things so far but I don’t want to risk anything. Especially since we might get caught by Ferry and I don’t fancy being on the receiving end of her mood at the moment, I can tell you! I was squirming in maths this morning when she went off at Abby.”
“I thought you had Miss Webber for maths,” put in Miranda.
“We do as a rule, but she was sickening for something so Ferry covered,” explained Katy.
Mai uncrossed her legs and tucked her knees under her chin. “Ferry was in a rotten mood in our geog class last thing.”
“She’s such a jolly thing as a rule,” grumbled Livia. “Here, Abby,” she called across the common room to her friend.
“What?” asked Abby as she sat down to join them.
“Are you okay?” asked Katy. “I mean after maths and geog this morning.”
Abby frowned. “Yeah, well a bit confused about why she chose to bring my mother into it but apart from that, yeah. Anyway, there are more important things in the world to be worrying about than the fact that my geog teacher decided to not like me this morning.”
Despite Raakel’s urging there was no sign of Creseldine explaining the real reason behind the incident of the geography book that morning. She was eschewing all questions from her friends in that class and Raakel had prised the whole sorry tale out of Moirrey Evans and Cassidy Hopwood who had been in the class with her. Normally the quietest member of the upper sixth, content to sit in the corner and let the others take charge, Raakel realised that something needed to be done and wandered along to Polly’s study after dinner that evening and related the morning’s incident to her.
“Oh the ninny!” exclaimed Polly as Raakel finished the story. “Why hasn’t she told anyone?”
Raakel shrugged. “She said she didn’t want anyone to know.”
Polly paused and looked thoughtful. “Thanks for telling me Raakel, it’s not the first time something like this has happened to Cres this term. I think I need to have another chat with her.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh just little things, nothing major, just Cres’s things being moved and whatnot, but nothing like this. I think whoever’s behind this campaign has just stepped over the line – I mean for one thing it’s damage to school property! And from what I’ve heard, Ferry almost ate Cres alive this morning.”
Raakel nodded. “Moirrey and Cass have said as much. Do you have any idea who might have done this Polly? I mean, I know Cres is hardly popular but still…” she tailed off.
“I have a suspicion,” replied Polly quietly. “But I’ve got no proof.”
“Goodness, just ‘cause she’s got a touch of the PMTs is no reason for her to take it out on us,” grumbled Lucy Webber, who had just become the latest victim of Kathie Ferrars’ bad mood, as she collapsed into a seat between Sharlie Andrews and Colleen Winter.
“What did you ask?” queried Sharlie.
“Oh nothing exciting, just something about maths books and the Fourths. I feel like I’ve been skinned alive!”
Sharlie frowned and then got up and crossed the room to where her friend was curled up in a seat by the window staring blackly out at the darkness.
“Kathie,” she said quietly, laying a hand on her shoulder. “Maybe you should go and have an early night.”
“I don’t need…” Kathie shrugged of Sharlie’s hand and swung round to face her, stopping short of the tirade she had contemplated beginning on seeing the compassion in her friend’s face. “Maybe you’re right.”
“No maybe about it. You’ve been stinking company all day.”
Kathie stared at the plain speaking. “You’re right,” she said quietly, hanging her head. “But it’s just not fair.”
“I know that,” replied Sharlie simply. “But you’ve been a nightmare on legs all day, so go and have a long sleep and you can do the apology round in the morning when you’re feeling more reasonable.”
Kathie nodded and stood up. “Night Sharlie.”
Megan let herself into Plas Gwyn, having spent the evening at Libby’s with her and Coco.
“Had a good evening?” Jo called on hearing the door shut.
“Lovely thanks,” came back from Megan as she came into wish her and Jack goodnight, kissing them both as they shuffled apart to make space on the sofa for her between them. “I’ve made a decision,” she said suddenly once she was comfortable. “About school.” Jo and Jack looked at each other anxiously. “I want to go to the Chalet School.”
“Are you sure?” asked Jo gently.
Megan nodded. “As much as I’d like to stay here and go to the High with Libby and Coco, I just think that since everything’s changed so much I may as well go the whole hog.”
“If that’s what you want,” said Jack.
“It is. I’ve been thinking about it for days and… it’s not that I don’t appreciate everything you’ve done for me but…I don’t know, it’s like I feel as though I belong at the Chalet School. Does that make sense?”
Jo nodded and slipped her arm around Megan. “Yes, it does.”
“I told Libby and Coco this evening. I think they’re a bit disappointed that I don’t want to go to the High with them but we’ve promised to write and we can see each other in the holidays. Miss… Auntie Hilda,” Megan corrected herself, still feeling a little awkward with the brevet aunt titles Hilda and Nell had insisted on at the weekend. “Said that I had to listen to my Innisfree, because I already knew what decision I was going to make. I wish she still taught at the school, I think she’d be a wonderful English teacher.”
“Oh she was,” said Jo. “Well, if that’s settled I’ll ring up Nancy Wilmot tomorrow and tell her. If she can take you after half term would you like to go then or would you rather wait until next term?”
“I’d like to go as soon as possible that way I don’t have time to dwell on things,” replied Megan firmly.
As it happened, Kathie Ferrars never got to make her round of apologies having woken up the morning in the full grasp of a streaming cold and, meekly as the smallest Junior, had been marched back to bed by Matron. It was with a sigh over her friend’s plight that Nancy Wilmot hung up the telephone that Wednesday morning much to the amazement of Clare Kennedy who had slipped into her office to bring the morning’s post.
“Everything okay Miss… Nancy?” asked Clare, correcting herself at the last minute. Even after several years working for Nancy the schoolgirl in her often took over and forgot to view the head mistress as her colleague.
Nancy glanced up. “Oh nothing much Clare, just Jo being Jo. Is that the post?” Clare nodded and handed over the pile of envelopes.
“What did Jo want?”
“Hmm?” Nancy looked up from flicking through the pile of letters. “Jo? Oh… Clare, there are spaces in the Third aren’t there?”
Clare nodded. “Three or four if I remember rightly, there’s only 32 of them this year. Why?”
“There’ll be another addition to the Third form after half term, that’s all. Jo’s latest, it’s a long story and one I’ll save you for later, I should make a start on this post.”
And with that Clare slipped from the room leaving Nancy to contemplate things alone, wishing that Kathie hadn’t chosen this point in term to be ill.
“So you agreed to have her here then?” queried Sharlie Andrews later that afternoon after she had been invited for Kaffee und Kuchen by Nancy.
“What else could I do? You know what Jo can be on occasion.” Sharlie chuckled and sipped cautiously at her coffee. “So Megan will be joining the Third form after half term; I’ll put her in 3B for the time being, it’ll be a bit easier on her if nothing else. Sharlie, you haven’t told anyone else that you know about Megan being Charles’ have you?”
Sharlie shook her head. “I’ve only discussed this with you and Kathie.”
“Good. Jo seems to have some modicum of sense somewhere and has said that she’ll talk to Katy, Melissa and Jodi over half term weekend and explain to them. She’s in the process of working her way around telling the family.”
“How are they taking it?”
“Well, from what she said. I think it’s been as much of a shock for them as it was for us, apparently only Stephen wasn’t completely bowled over by the news. But then Charles did always confide in Stephen about things.”
“How do you think the girls will take it?”
Nancy shrugged. “I think it’s a tough one to call. Melissa and Jodi won’t have much to do with her since they’re only in the First form, but Megan will be spending a lot of time out of class with Katy. However, Katy seems to have inherited a lot of Jo’s characteristics so hopefully she will understand and if she doesn’t I think the Thirds will sit on her quite happily.”
“I still can’t quite get my head around it all.”
Nancy laughed. “No, neither can I.”
“Half term seems so far away though, this term seems to be going on forever.”
“It’s only two and a half weeks now Sharlie, really! Talking of ongoing terms, have you spoken to my goddaughter of late?”
Sharlie nodded. “Carlie’s rung a couple of times and seems to be having fun and settling in so far. If there’s been any tears she hasn’t said so. I can’t believe my little girl is so grown up. Oh she did say she was going to write to you.”
“I expect she’s too busy having fun to remember to do such things.”
“She’d better not be, she’s going to university to study,” replied Sharlie with a chuckle. “Have you seen Kathie today?”
Nancy shook her head. “I was going to pop in on her after Abendessen to see how she’s holding up. I hear she was in a rather foul mood on Monday.”
Sharlie nodded. “I think there are a few egos suffering still.”
“Oh she can be an absolute ass at times,” began Nancy forcefully before breaking off. “Oh…”
“This was the week she found out she was pregnant.”
Sharlie’s hand flew to her mouth. “I’d completely forgotten.”
“So had I, it just came to me.”
“No wonder she was feeling so rotten, it never even crossed my mind but it certainly explains a few things.”
Polly McCormack was bothered. She had had a non conclusive conversation with Creseldine about the incident on Monday morning and was somewhat concerned that the prefect seemed to want to sweep the whole affair under the carpet and it was now Wednesday and she still wasn’t any further on in deciding what she should do about the whole affair. Realising that she had been somewhat distracted since her talk with Raakel on Monday afternoon Polly decided to share her dilemma with her closest friends, Tacy, Caitlin and Elixabete that afternoon when school was finished. Elixabete and Caitlin had promptly gone off to rearrange their prep supervision duties and they, accompanied by Tacy, knocked on the door of Polly’s study and quarter past four.
“That was a bit below the belt,” remarked Elixabete as Polly wound up explaining the reason why she had involved them. “Even I wouldn’t have gone so far as to doing something like that in my wilder days!”
Tacy chuckled. “That’s as may be, but…” she broke off.
“What?” asked Polly.
Tacy thought long and hard for a moment. “When this whole mess broke out I was convinced it was the Thirds,” she said thoughtfully. “It seemed like the kind of silly pranks that lot would go in for, but this is nothing short of malicious and I really don’t want to have to believe that of them. To start out with I’d have put my own sister Livia and her partner in crime Katy down as the ringleaders but I’d like to think that they have more decency that going in for something like that.”
“But maybe,” put in Elixabete. “Whoever it was probably thought that sticking a cup full of water in Cres’s locker was simply a prank and only Cres would suffer and get wet. Whichever mindless ninny did this probably didn’t think through how it might have turned out and they probably didn’t reckon on it having the effect it did.” Elixabete paused and blushed furiously. “I know I didn’t when I put that glass of water on top of the door frame when we were in the Second and instead of it getting that sour-faced Mrs Haberdour who used to be our geog teacher it got Miss Ferrars who was covering the lesson.”
The other three chuckled at the memory. “Are you so sure it was the Thirds though Tacy?” asked Caitlin. “It could have been anyone, goodness knows Cres has rubbed enough people up the wrong way.”
Tacy shrugged. “It was just the way they seemed to be behaving when the whole thing first broke out. But you’re right that it could be anyone and without proof we’re stumped. I suppose one of us could always be with Cres but that wouldn’t prevent anything from happening without us stalking each of the forms in turn.”
“Not that stalking would be particularly effective,” grinned Elixabete. “Whoever was responsible would soon catch on and would put a stop to whatever monkey business they’d got planned. Besides, if it is the Thirds they seem to be somewhat more preoccupied by solving Third World debt at the moment – they probably needed an outlet to let off their useless energies.”
“I’m not so sure,” mused Polly. “I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg but I really don’t know what to do, but I really don’t want to involve Miss Wilmot in this.”
The four of them sat in silence, not really sure how to deal with things.
Life at the Chalet School was quiet for the next week or so and Creseldine had eventually learned to stop expecting disaster to befall her around every corner. The elapsed time had allowed a strong friendship to develop between Creseldine and Raakel, the shy art prefect having never had much to do with the other girl before. It seemed to be working out for the best and the emerging friendship was looked upon with support from all angles. It was Monday morning once more as the school eased itself into the final week before half term weekend and fraying tempers would soon be soothed by the prospect of four glorious long days of freedom and the chance to see friends and family. As the bell pealed out to signal the end of morning break Cresledine and the other six members of the upper sixth geography class made their way through the corridors to the geography room where they were soon joined by Miss Ferrars, now fully recovered from her cold and back to her usual self on the outside at least. The class had soon been set to work, Creseldine leant back in her chair and flicked through her book to find the right page as Miss Ferrars was distracted by a question from Moirrey Evans and went over to explain the answer she needed. Creseldine glanced around the class, a little distracted by Cassidy Hopwood scraping her chair in the seat beside her, as the piece of paper fluttered out from her text book. Cassidy leant over the side of her seat to pick it up and handed it back to Creseldine who took it cautiously from her as she couldn’t remember leaving any loose paper in the book at all; in fact it had been in her locker for the last few days since she’d finished her prep for this class. All the same she unfolded it with some curiosity; the words were written on it in block capitals and black biro but the uncrumpledness of the paper suggested it had only recently been written.
I know all about what you did this summer.
Creseldine stared at the words and gave a funny sort of cry, which she hastily attempted to stop.
“Is there something the matter, Creseldine?” asked Miss Ferrars from beside Moirrey’s desk.
“N… no, nothing, thank you Miss Ferrars,” stammered Creseldine in reply.
Cassidy threw a concerned look in her direction as Miss Ferrars returned her attentions to Moirrey but Creseldine only shook her head and returned to her work, pushing the piece of paper into the back of her text book as she did so.
“Who would have done something like this, though?” asked Raakel as Creseldine showed her the note later that day.
Creseldine shrugged. “No idea.”
“What do they mean anyway?”
“Long story and I’m not even sure if whoever wrote this knows; they might just have been trying to scare me.”
Raakel frowned. “Even so, it’s hardly fair…”
Creseldine shook her head. “Just forget about it Raakel.”
However, forget about it Raakel could not and she slipped from the sixth form common room later that evening seeing Creseldine engaged in a deep debate with Cassidy and having noted the absence of both Polly and Tacy from the room.
“Come in!” called the voice from the other side of Polly’s study door and Raakel slipped in. Polly and Tacy were both sat at the desk their heads bent over a timetable, Polly glanced up. “Oh hey Raakel, what’s up?”
“It’s about Cres,” said Raakel.
Polly raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What’s happened?”
“Someone slipped a note into her geog book this morning.”
Raakel shrugged. “No idea, it was anonymous. Just said I know what you did this summer or words to that effect.”
Tacy frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“No idea,” replied Raakel. “I asked Cres but she wouldn’t tell me anything.”
“How did you find out about it?” asked Polly. “You don’t do geog.”
“I know,” was the simple reply. “Cres showed it me earlier, after the end of school. She seems pretty shook up by it.”
“Who else is in geog?” asked Tacy. “They might know something about it.”
Polly thought for a moment. “Moirrey and Cassidy, Louise and Vicki, and… there’s two more, aren’t there?”
Raakel shrugged. “Jen is definitely in geog.”
“Isn’t it Pippa who makes up numbers?” asked Tacy.
“Probably,” muttered Polly. “It wouldn’t be any of them but I wonder…”
“Cres said it was already in her text book when she got into class this morning,” Raakel informed them. “Which means that somebody went into her locker to put it there.”
There was a silence eventually broken by Polly. “I don’t like this at all,” she said seriously. “Whatever was going on before seems like harmless fun in comparison; sending anonymous notes is just plain mean and spiteful.”
“Cres won’t talk about what happened over the summer,” put in Raakel.
Tacy looked up from where she had been thoughtfully staring at the floor. “Who is it that comes from near Cres?” she asked rhetorically as the others shrugged. “I’m sure it’s one of Livia’s young cronies.” She thought for a moment more. “Mai Keppel in 3B, that’s who.”
“Mai? She’s a quiet young thing though,” exclaimed Polly.
“She’s chummed up with Kistiñe though,” was Tacy’s response. “And we all know that Kistiñe can beat Elixabete into a cocked hat for naughtiness.”
“But not malicious,” mused Polly. “Malicious would be the last word I used for Kistiñe. All I know is I don’t like the turn this has taken; it should really be reported to the Head but I don’t want to do that by going behind Cres’s back, it wouldn’t be fair on her. It’s such a horrible situation.”
Chapter 9 - Half Term Arrives by pim
By the time the Chalet School finished for half term at the end of lessons on Thursday, Creseldine had a further two notes to add to the one she had found in her geography book on Monday morning. The second one had read I still know what you did this summer, and the third had merely mentioned a name Jake Davies. Creseldine’s blood had run cold when the third one had fallen out of her music book and she’d read the name on it as she wondered how anyone knew about what had happened. She’d kept the new notes secret from the others, not even confiding in Raakel. She had withdrawn a little from the social scene in the Sixth Form common room to muse things over alone and at meal times she could have sworn that the Thirds were smirking at her but she couldn’t prove it.
It was now Thursday evening and half term had officially started. Livia Warrington was alone in the Third Form common room writing a letter to her elder sister Ruth and, although she would have hated to admit it, Livia was feeling uncomfortably jabbed by her conscience. ‘The Creseldine Affair’, as the Thirds had codenamed it, had just started out as a bit of harmless fun but Livia’s conscience was now telling her they had pushed it just a little bit too far. Most of the form had given up now having decided that they’d had enough and had thrown themselves into their half term project, which was where they all were now. Livia knew that she should be in the Hall with the rest of the Thirds helping to prepare the display boards that they were having to highlight the problems of poverty in the Third World.
“There you are.”
Livia looked up into the grinning face of Jinny MacDonald. “Yes, here I am.”
“We’ve been looking for you everywhere. What are you doing?”
Livia hastily shoved the letter inside her library book. “Writing to Ruth, I owe her a long overdue letter.”
“We’re all in the Hall finishing the display for tomorrow, are you going to come and help?”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Jin! Jin!” Jinny spun round as her best friend Jilly Wheeler burst into the room. “You’d better come along to the Hall.”
“Why? What are you lot doing?”
“It’s not us, well it is. It’s Abby.”
“What about Abby?”
“She’s got the most awful posters that one of her friends sent her in the post and she’s having all sorts of mad ideas about what we can do at the weekend. It’s all about social injustice and things and…” Jilly broke off. “I know it’s awful and something has to be done about it but Miss Wilmot will kill us if we have a sit down protest in the middle of half term or something in front of all the parents.”
Jinny turned to Livia. “Are you coming?”
“I’ll be there in a minute, I just want to finish this letter to Ruth.”
Megan glanced over the room that over the past weeks she had come to call her own. It seemed so strange to see it so empty yet still hers. Her trunk was downstairs waiting to be loaded into the car the following morning when she, Jack and Jo would leave Plas Gwyn for the Chalet School. Megan checked through her drawers one final time to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, heaving a small sigh as she did so. She missed Devon of course, but there was a funny sense of belonging that she felt at Plas Gwyn that she had never known before.
“Megan.” Jo’s voice drifted up the stairs.
Megan left the room. “Yes?” she called in reply, hanging over the banisters.
“Libby and Coco are here, you’d better come down.”
Megan gave a huge grin. “Coming!” she shouted, racing down the stairs with such speed and noise that Jo thought the house would come down around her ears. Impulsively she flung her arms around her grandmother, engulfing her in a bear hug.
“What was that for?”
“I just felt like it. I won’t be able to do it after the weekend.”
“True,” replied Jo. “But it’s not all that long until Christmas you know.”
“I know, but I’ll still miss you.”
Jo laughed and ruffled Megan’s hair. “I’ll miss you too. Now get in to your friends before they think you’ve abandoned them!”
Robert Fenchurch and Vi Warrington drove to the Chalet School on the Friday morning in an awkward silence as they each contemplated how they were going to break the news of their relationship to their respective daughters. Vi had already explained the situation to both Ruth and Alexis, the former had calmly accepted it saying she was pleased for her mother and left it there, the latter after a few awkward questions had accepted it with a shrug. Robert wasn’t overly concerned as to what Abby’s reaction would be, at that precise moment what he was more concerned about was the fact that he hadn’t had any communication from the school about her behaviour so far. It had generally taken a few weeks before the Head of Abby’s High School had been in touch to ask him to come in and explain Abby’s behaviour depending on what cause she had undertaken to crusade. He had never really minded the Head asking awkward questions as far as Abby’s principles were concerned; he was just glad that he had never been called in over more serious matters, unlike some other parents at the High.
Half term weekend for the Chalet School would follow the pattern it had always taken since the school had returned to England. Friday would be given over to parents giving them the chance to take their children out for the day and catch up on the news. Saturday would be what the school termed ‘exhibition day’ during which there would be matches and the big displays of work in the hall so that the parents could see what their daughters had been doing during the first half of the term. Sunday morning would be a special service and assembly for everyone to attend followed by a quiet afternoon during which parents could either stay in school or take their daughters out for the afternoon. Monday morning would see the final chance for the girls to see their parents and after lunch provided by the school half term would be over for another term. Vi was quite used to this after seven years of half term weekends but everything was new to Robert who, although he would never admit to it, was actually quite nervous about how things would go.
“What are you doing?” asked Robert suddenly as Vi anxiously drummed on the dash board with her fingertips.
“Stop doing that,” he said with a grin. “You’re putting me off my driving.”
Vi looked down and suddenly realised what she had been doing. “Sorry, nerves.”
“I know what you mean.”
Robert reached over and reassuringly patted her hand before returning his attentions to the road before them as they once more lost themselves in the thoughts as to what the rest of the weekend would bring.
“I hate you.”
And so Livia greeted Abby as she stormed into the Third Form common room on the Friday evening after her afternoon and dinner out with her mother. Abby, curled up in the corner of the sofa chatting to Rhianna and Jinny, looked up suddenly with a puzzled expression across her face.
“I hate you and I hate your dad even more, thinking he can steal mum away like that.”
“Oh.” Abby stared at the floor. Robert had explained his relationship with Vi to her that afternoon, a fact which Abby had quietly accepted. “I don’t think he’s trying to steal her away.”
“Well what else is he doing?” fumed Livia. “Worming his way into our lives like that and then doing… well, you know with mum!”
Abby laughed in spite of herself. “Oh come on Livia, be fair on them both – don’t you want them to be happy?”
“Not… not with him!”
Abby jumped to her feet, her eyes blazing as she crossed her arms. “Just what is so wrong with my dad?”
“He’s trying to steal my mum, that’s what! She was perfectly happy until he came along.”
“How do you know?”
“Because she was. She never even thought about going out with anyone else. He’ll never replace my dad, never!”
“He wouldn’t try and do that, he’s not like that Livia.”
“Just because you’ve never had a mum…”
Crack! Abby’s hand crossed Livia’s face with a sharp slap before she was able to stop herself. “How dare you bring my mother into this? She’s not even part of the equation,” she shouted as Rhianna tried to pull her back down on to the sofa.
“Of course she is,” retorted Livia. “Just because she didn’t want your dad doesn’t mean he can go off trying to get my mum. And… and I’ll tell her tomorrow that you’ve just slapped me.”
“Fine,” snapped Abby. “I’ll tell her that you jolly well deserved it then. I think you’re being thoroughly unreasonable – just what is so wrong with them both being happy? You can’t expect her to pine after your dad for the rest of her days, that’s not fair.”
“This isn’t fair either.”
“Oh stop being such a child Livia. You know I used to think you were alright, how wrong I was.”
Livia stared at Abby. “Well the feeling’s mutual,” she replied sulkily. “Nobody understands how I feel about this.”
And with that she stormed from the common room, slamming the door behind her. Abby simply stood staring for a few minutes.
“Abby?” asked Rhianna gently.
Abby spun round and sank back on to the sofa. “She is being so completely unreasonable about this.”
“So are your dad and her mum…” began Jinny.
Abby nodded. “I’m really pleased for them. It’s about time they both had some happiness and I know that Auntie Vi isn’t going to be just another one of dad’s girlfriends.”
Abby’s train of thought was broken by Katy as she danced into the common room followed by a somewhat shy looking Megan.
“Hi everybody,” she announced. “You’ll never guess what!”
Jinny raised an eyebrow from her corner of the sofa. “What?”
Katy waved an arm at Megan. “This is my cousin Megan who’s joining 3B. I didn’t even know she was my cousin ‘cause she’s my Uncle Charles’ daughter that nobody knew about until a few weeks ago. Anyway my Gran found her and she’s coming to school with us; Gran didn’t want her to come here until after half term but I managed to persuade her that she should. Anyway,” she turned to Megan. “On the sofa there’s Abby Fenchurch, Rhianna Sharples and Jinny MacDonald, they’re in 3A with me but Abby and Rhianna go down to 3B for German. Over in that corner is Anya Martin, Cari Parker, Lara Davis and Emilia Thackery who are in 3A as well. And there in the other corner is Lyra Meadows, Miranda Everett, Ava Hunter and Mai Keppel who are all in 3B with you.”
Jinny eased herself up from the sofa. “It’s nice to meet you Megan,” she said quietly. “I’m form pree for 3A and Lyra is pree for 3B so if you’ve got any questions we’ll do our best to help you out.”
“Where’s Livia?” asked Katy suddenly.
“She’s gone off in a mard,” mumbled Abby.
Katy raised an eyebrow. “Why so? I wanted to introduce Megan to her.”
“Because her mum’s started going out with my dad.”
Katy’s eyes grew round with surprise. “No way! That’s so cool, that makes you kind of like sisters then?”
Abby laughed bitterly. “Try telling that to Livia, she’s absolutely raging over it.”
Katy frowned. “I’ll go and try and find her then. Abby, do you mind keeping an eye on Megan for me whilst I do so?”
“Sure,” said Abby with a nod as Katy whirled out of the room.
Livia hadn’t been sure where she was going when she’d stormed out of the Third Form common room but nemesis had soon descended when she’d collided with her elder sister Tacy in the corridor.
“Where are you going Livia?”
“Shouldn’t you be in your common room?”
Tacy stared at her younger sister for a moment. “What’s with you?”
“It’s so unfair.”
“Mum and Abby’s dad.”
Tacy frowned. “Why do you say that?”
“It just is. Mum doesn’t need him, he’s just trying to steal her away from us.”
Tacy laughed. “Oh for goodness sake Livia, can’t you be happy for mum? She is allowed to be happy you know. It’s been five years since dad died and you can’t expect her to mope around for the rest of her life over him, can you? Be reasonable about this.”
Livia stamped her foot. “I don’t want to be reasonable about it. He’s worming his way into our lives and then he’ll try and replace dad and then one day mum will forget all about dad.”
“Don’t be so ridiculous.”
“Everyone’s being so unfair about it.”
“They are not being unfair Livia. Do you want mum to be unhappy?”
“No buts about it, she’s old enough to make her own decisions.”
“I hate it. I hate him. I hate Abby. I won’t like it.”
“Fine, you do that. But I’m afraid you’ll make yourself one very unhappy girl if you insist on hating everybody in that fashion. You’re the only one being unreasonable.”
“Cathlin doesn’t like it either,” retorted Livia with a pout.
“Rubbish. Cathlin’s quite alright with it now. She was just a little shocked to begin with.”
“Nobody’s on my side then.”
“It’s not about sides Liv.”
Livia stared. “He won’t be my dad, not ever ever. I don’t care, I hate you all.”
And with that Livia turned on her heel and ran down the corridor leaving Tacy standing open mouthed after her.
“Would you care to explain yourself Abigail?” Nancy Wilmot’s voice cracked like a whip.
Abby shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other before her Headmistress’ desk. “I… um… I… err, that is to say Miss Wilmot, I…”
“Abigail,” came the icy reply. “Perhaps we should consider sending you for extra coaching in English as well as French and German.” Abigail flushed a fetching shade of scarlet. “Now could you please explain why you saw it fit to lead your form in sit down protest this afternoon and then to refer to Dr and Mrs Burton as…” Nancy broke off. “Colonialist capitalist fascists I do believe was your exact phrasing.”
“Miss Wilmot… I…”
“Abigail.” The tone was warning.
“But they are!” protested Abby, suddenly finding her voice. “They don’t believe in helping out the Third World. That Dr Burton said that it was their own fault that the people live in abject poverty, but it isn’t. It’s our fault, colonialism messed everything up and then we just kept on giving them more and more money that they’ll never be able to pay back in a squillion years and… and then there are pigs like them that say we shouldn’t help them get out of the mess we’ve put them in. It’s just not fair Miss Wilmot!”
Nancy Wilmot regarded the third former before her for a few moments and sighed. Abby was an unusual case. “I agree with you Abigail.”
“Well that’s alright then isn’t it Miss Wilmot?” Abby interrupted without thinking. “You see where I’m coming from…” she trailed off as she caught Miss Wilmot’s stern glare. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “But we can’t let the capitalists get away with it.”
“I think, Abigail,” said Miss Wilmot carefully. “That you should put the spade away now before you dig yourself any deeper into that hole.” Abby blushed and stared at the floor, not sure she could possibly go any redder than she already was. “Whatever the state of the world may be there is absolutely no excuse for your, to put it frankly, appalling behaviour in the Hall this afternoon. What sort of message do you think that gives out to not only the rest of the school but to the parents?”
“But Miss Wilmot if we ignore it then that means that the capitalists and the fascists keep getting away with it…”
Miss Wilmot held her hand up and Abby’s flow stopped. “I think you should be quiet Abigail and think very carefully about your choice of vocabulary. I don’t consider fascist a fit term for you to be employing here. There is a time and a place for behaviour like that and half term weekend is not it. I know that it’s something that you obviously care very passionately about but there are more useful ways for you to expunge your energies on the subject and flaming is not one of them.” Nancy paused. “What were your plans for tomorrow afternoon?”
Abby looked up shyly. “Dad and Auntie Vi were taking us all out…” she began.
Nancy thought for a moment, realising that she couldn’t exclude Abby from that arrangement, having heard Robert and Vi’s news. “I think Abigail that you have shown today that you are not a fit influence on your form. After half term I shall put you in isolation for three weeks, you will attend class with the rest of your form but you will sit apart from them and you are not to speak with them. A mistress will collect you and take you to class to ensure that there is no communication between you and your form mates. Outside of school hours, meals and free time, you can go to Matron and she will deal with you. I suggest you go to your dormitory now and gather your things together and take them along to Matron and you can start sleeping in the San as of tonight.”
“But Miss Wilmot…”
“No buts about it Abigail and don’t argue with me. I don’t doubt that your sentiments were entirely honourable but you most certainly went about expressing them in the wrong manner. Perhaps a period in isolation will provide you with the time to reflect on what you did and allow you to think up more… useful ways to express your sentiments. Oh and I expect you to make a full apology to Dr and Mrs Burton.”
“Oh but Miss Wilmot,” protested Abby.
“I said no buts Abigail.”
Abby stared at the floor. “You’re just as bad as the rest of them,” she said suddenly before turning on her heel and running from the room leaving Nancy feeling completely knocked off her feet.
It soon spread around the school that Abigail Fenchurch had been put into isolation after the events of Saturday afternoon and opinion was divided between the girls. On the one hand there were those who privately agreed with Abby’s sentiments and supported the action she had taken, on the other there were those who thought she was just plain bonkers. Livia Warrington fell into neither category as she was still feeling sore over the revelations that half term had brought. Livia’s attitude had further complicated matters for the Third form who were finding themselves increasingly divided over whether they were on Livia’s side in the argument or Abby’s. Privately most of them thought Livia had overreacted to Robert and Vi’s revelation and there were those who were not so private in that particular feeling. Katy Johnson fell into the latter category and it was soon around school that Livia and Katy had had the most awful falling out. Katy seemed to be not particularly bothered by this and had thrown herself into looking after Megan and making sure that she settled into life at the Chalet School okay. Consequently over the first week after half term Livia found herself becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the form who thought she was behaving like an idiot.
Megan had settled into life at the Chalet School much easer than she had expected to. It had felt strange for the first few days but she had soon put her worries behind her under the friendship offered by Katy who was thrilled at the discovery of her new cousin. Megan had found the work none too difficult and a chat with Miss Rawling, her form mistress, at the end of the week revealed that if she kept at it she could probably count on a promotion to 3A the following term at which Katy had positively rejoiced. In 3B Megan had found friends in Kistiñe Berriex and Miranda Everett and under the influence of the shyer girl Kistiñe had suddenly begun to settle down a little which did not go unnoticed by the staff. Out of 3B Megan had proved herself to be a valuable addition on the hockey field, much to the delight of games prefect Caitlin Willoughby. Lying in bed at the end of her first week waiting for sleep to come Megan reflected that she had made the right decision after all. Jo Maynard had mentioned her talking to Abby about her mother but as Abby was in isolation Megan hadn’t had the chance to do so. Privately she wasn’t too sure what to make of fiery and passionate Abby. When Katy had first left her with Abby they had awkwardly struck up a shy friendship, bound by the loss of their respective mothers but after Saturday’s events Megan wasn’t too sure that Abby would want to be friends with someone as quiet and shy as her.
Creseldine Price-Morris was privately relieved. Half term events had provided a new talking point within the upper sixth and outwardly it seemed that they had forgotten about the turn that events had taken in the first half of term. Little things had happened that first week after half term like her geography book turning up in Anaïs Jacobs’ locker and her knitting moving from her spot on the shelf in the common room to under one of the chairs. Creseldine had, however, put these down to carelessness on her part. She hadn’t received any more anonymous notes, which was the biggest relief to her, meaning that she could try and push the events out of the summer holidays from her head once more.
It was just a shame that someone else seemed so keen on Creseldine not being allowed to forget them.
Chapter 10 - Starting Anew by pim
It was Monday evening of her second week in isolation and in the San Abby was struggling with her maths prep under the watchful eye of Matron. However, if Matron had been giving Abby her full attention she would have noticed that Abby’s own full attentions were not on her algebra they were, however, in a couple of different places. A letter had arrived from an old friend at her High School telling her about a peace rally in Exeter at the weekend and Abby was mulling over in her brain whether she would be able to slip away unnoticed to go and attend. As she was feeling rather sore with the world around her it was beginning to seem like an attractive prospect to her thirteen year old sensibilities, which had been sorely wounded by Miss Wilmot’s sentence for her behaviour at half term. Her father had made no secret of his disappointment in the way she had acted when they had all gone out on the Sunday and Abby was still feeling a little sore over his attitude as well. Leaning back in her seat and sucking the end of her biro over a particularly evil equation she recalled the time she had once pushed her father too far and he had put her in the car and driven her around for two hours listening to Status Quo’s greatest hits or, as one of her friends had put it, ‘Status Quo and their two chords of doom’. Abby wasn’t even sure that Status Quo had that many hits and she was sure that in reality her father had just made her listen to the same song for two hours until his temper had cooled. Thinking it over Abby wasn’t sure whether three weeks in isolation was as bad as two hours of Status Quo. She shook her head to try and rid it of a combination of ‘Down Down’ and What you’re proposing’ which had suddenly begun playing in her head as she found herself lightly tapping the table in time to the beat.
Livia was also annoyed that she had been virtually ostracised by the rest of the Third Form. Her thirteen year old sensibilities had been sorely wounded by her mother’s announcement over half term weekend and the ensuing acceptance of everybody around her. Even Cathlin had accepted it and was now refusing to listen to Livia’s protests and Tacy was firmly ignoring her. A letter had arrived from her eldest sister, Ruth, that morning telling her to stop being so selfish and try and be happy for their mother. Livia adored her eldest sister and consequently was feeling even worse than she had done before Ruth’s letter had arrived. She was unable to express her annoyance to her boon companion Katy as that young lady was more concerned with making sure her cousin settled in to Chalet School life happily. As a result Livia found herself unusually alone out of lessons and had turned to finding other ways to let off her frustration.
Nancy Wilmot sat in her study and sighed. It was only Wednesday but it had been one of those weeks where the Thirds had been at more than their most trying. She had just sent Miranda Everett, Mai Keppel and Ava Hunter to an early bed after they had been caught having nothing short of a full blown water fight in the Splashery. Tempers had been fraying amongst the Thirds where an excess of high spirits was in absence. Nancy rested her chin on her hands thoughtfully and wondered what she could possibly do. Her thoughts, however, were broken by the sudden entrance of Kathie Ferrars.
“Nance, I need your advice,” she announced dropping a pile of exercise books on Nancy’s desk and flopping into the nearest chair.
Nancy looked up with a puzzled expression. “Remember I know nothing about geog.”
Kathie stared. “You goop,” she grinned. “It’s nothing it do with those exercise books, well it sort of is. It’s about this.” She handed Nancy a small piece of white paper. “This fell out of Creseldine Price-Morris’ exercise book.”
Nancy ran her eyes over the paper. I didn’t think girls like you did things like that. “Gosh,” was all she said. “That’s…”
“Disgusting?” supplemented Kathie. “I can’t believe any of the girls here would stoop so low.”
Nancy frowned. “Who would though? I mean we’ve always had naughtiness in the school but it’s more mischief than anything and this is downright malicious. Although… Kathie we’ve assumed that Creseldine is the receiver of these, what if…”
“…she’s the sender?” Nancy nodded. “I hadn’t thought of that. Although Nance, it might not even be anyone in the school, they could have come from outside or she could be wanting to send them to someone outside the school. Oh this is horrible, what are we going to do?”
“Well I suppose the first port of call would be to talk to Creseldine and after that… well I’m not sure. I don’t…” Whatever Nancy was going to say was lost as there was a sudden knock on the door. “Come in!” The door opened and Megan Webb and Kistiñe Berriex nervously crept in. “What do you two want?”
“Please Miss Wilmot, we were sent to report to you,” muttered Kistiñe.
The two exchanged guilty glances. “We were… erm…” began Megan.
“Practicing badminton in the common room and broke the light bulb,” mumbled Kistiñe. “I misjudged my shot and hit the light with my racquet and the bulb broke…” she trailed off.
“But it was my idea,” interrupted Megan. “We’re having a tournament against the Fourths on Saturday and they think they’re going to wipe the floor with us so we’re going to prove them wrong.”
“And there was me thinking Megan Webb was such a nice and quiet young thing,” sighed Nancy after she had dispatched the young sinners to early bed and the loss of their places in the weekend’s grudge match.
Kathie chuckled. “I think she’s inherited her fair share of Jo’s mischievous side along with all those brains of Charles’.”
“Oh absolutely, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we can put her in 3A next term.”
“Kistiñe seems to be settling a little as well now she and Megan are making friends. Plus if Megan gets moved up Katy will be thrilled to bits – she’s adapted remarkably quickly to the news and the two of them are thick as thieves out of class. Although Nance, I think things between Livia and Katy are about to go pear shaped; Livia’s been in a foul mood since half term.”
Nancy nodded. “I heard her being abominably rude to Tacy the other day and set her some rep. She really has taken against her mother’s relationship with Abby’s father. In fact Kathie, I’m worried about the whole Third form, they seem to be sickening for something and I’m not sure what but we definitely need to keep a closer eye on them.”
Kathie sighed. “Never let it be said that we have uneventful terms. Anyway, what are you going to do about Creseldine?”
“I’ll have a chat with her tomorrow and see what she has to say for herself and after that… well, I suppose I’ll have to wait and see because right now I have no idea at all what I can do.”
Creseldine sat nervously in Miss Wilmot’s study the following afternoon wondering why she had been summoned.
“Perhaps, Creseldine, you’d care to explain this.” Miss Wilmot handed her the note she had received the previous day and the colour drained from Creseldine’s face. “Creseldine?” she asked gently.
“It’s… it’s a note.”
“Yes, I see that. It’s also an anonymous note Creseldine, a poison pen letter.”
“I didn’t write it if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I wasn’t. But if you didn’t that must mean that you…”
“…received it. Yes, I did.”
“It’s not the first one you’ve received, is it?” Creseldine shook her head. “How many?”
“I think that was the fourth.”
“Where are the others?”
“In my knitting bag. I don’t know who’s been sending them, Miss Wilmot, I really have no idea.”
Miss Wilmot frowned. “Do you know what they’re referring to?”
Creseldine blushed and nodded. “It’s about something that happened this summer, but I’d rather not say what it was.”
The rest of the interview was conducted along similar lines with Nancy getting nowhere in particular with her questioning. Eventually she sent Creseldine back to join the rest of the Sixth Form and settled back in her chair to mull things over just as Kathie decided it was time to pay a visit.
“You look like you have the worries of the world on your shoulders, my love,” she said, dropping into a chair. “Come along to the staff room and we’ll sooth it away with coffee and chocolate.”
Nancy smiled wryly. “I’ve just spoken to Creseldine.”
“I didn’t get very far.”
“She’s been receiving them and it’s been going on since before half term. According to Creseldine they refer to something that happened over the summer holidays but she wouldn’t expound on the matter.”
Kathie frowned. “Odd. Does anyone else know? Raakel for example, the two of them seem to be good chums these days.”
“Raakel knew about the first one, ditto Polly and Tacy, but she didn’t tell them about the others.”
“It’s nasty Nance.”
“They were all put into her books so they’ve come from within the school.”
Kathie shuddered. “Which means that we have one or more than one rather malicious girl in the school.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Short of directly challenging every single girl in the school? I don’t know, I just know that I don’t like it Kathie.”
A rumour flew around the school on Saturday evening that Creseldine Price-Morris had been dragged to the Head’s study because Miss Wilmot had caught her talking to a boy through the school fence. The rumour was partly true. Nancy Wilmot had indeed caught Creseldine talking to a boy through the school fence and the two of them were now sitting in Nancy’s study. Nancy had had her suspicions that things were about to blow when the post had come that morning and Creseldine had received a letter that had caused all the colour to drain from her face.
“Perhaps you two would care to explain.” Nancy’s voice remained neutral.
“Or rather perhaps we should begin with introductions Creseldine.”
“Oh… yes… Miss Wilmot, this is Jake Davis I know him from home.”
“It’s not Creseldine’s fault, Miss Wilmot,” protested Jake suddenly finding his voice.
“Everything that happened over the summer. It’s all mine, Cres was just trying to help.”
“I think that you had better start at the beginning. Creseldine?”
Creseldine blushed and stared at the floor before looking up at her headmistress. “I… Jake’s always been my friend, since primary school we’ve always hung around together even when I came here and Jake went to the Comp. People have always taken the mickey, said we were going out, but we’re not, we’re just friends.”
“I fell in with the wrong crowd at the Comp,” put in Jake. “When I got into the Sixth Form I fell in with the crowd who were into hanging around street corners and getting into trouble. Nothing really big, just a bit of graffiti or breaking bottles or things, we weren’t violent and we didn’t go in for nicking stuff and we didn’t do drugs, well maybe just a bit of dope but nothing massive, you know what I’m saying? But over the summer stuff got a bit out of hand and one of the boys, Nick, and me got into a fight and then we started daring each other to do stuff. Nick dared me to nick this car and drive it round the village a bit and then we’d put it back, and no one would ever know. But Cres got wind of what was going on and she sneaked out so she could try and stop me but the lads thought it’d be fun to push her in the car with me. Honest Miss Wilmot, Cres was telling me to stop, she kept telling me it was daft but I couldn’t lose face in front of the lads. I’d never driven a car before but the lads kept telling me it was dead easy and one of them, Kev, jumped into the back to tell me what to do but we crashed into a wall outside the village shop. We were all okay but the car was a bit dinted so we legged it only everybody knew I’d done it, it’s one of them villages where everybody knows everything about everybody.”
Nancy held her hand up. “Creseldine, there’s one of the younger girls lives near you, isn’t there?”
Creseldine nodded. “Mai Keppel in 3B.”
Nancy frowned. “Carry on with the story.”
Jake continued. “Well, that was the end of that but then we went back to Sixth Form in September and things carried on getting a bit out of hand. We started playing poker, just a bit like among ourselves, but I ran out of money really quickly and I ended up owing people all sorts and in the end I didn’t know what to do so I wrote to Cres and asked if I could come and see her to see if she’d lend me some money. And that’s when you came along.”
“Jake’s not bad Miss Wilmot,” said Creseldine suddenly. “He’s never been bad, he just got the wrong friends. I know what they’re like.”
Creseldine’s protests got no further as there was a knock on the door followed by the entrance of Matron.
“I’m sorry to bother you Miss Wilmot,” she said. “But Abigail Fenchurch is missing.”
Nancy paused whilst she caught her breath and then looked sharply at Jake and Creseldine. “You two stay there,” she said eventually before she left her study.
Nancy tore through the corridors at a speed she wasn’t even sure she had been able to achieve during her school years towards the room she had put Abby into for her isolation period. Kathie was already there and flinging things around unceremoniously.
“Nance, thank goodness, there you are. I think I’ve worked out where she’s gone.”
Kathie flung the letter Abby had received from her friend about the peace rally. “Exeter?” asked Nancy her eyes wide. “Why did no one notice she was gone before?”
“Oh God, Nance…” Kathie clapped a hand to her mouth. “The buses.”
“What about them?”
“The Exeter bus doesn’t come this far down the road after half four in the winter, and the winter timetable started last week.”
“What time is it now?”
Kathie glanced at her watch. “Seven,” she gulped. “The buses terminate six miles up the road after six. If that ninny missed the last bus to here then she’ll…” Kathie glanced out of the window at the wild and windy weather. “Nance…” she began before turning and tearing out of the room before Nancy could even say anything.
Kathie felt the most immense sense of relief as her car started the first time and she was able to get out of the school grounds and slam her foot on the accelerator down the road to Exeter. She couldn’t stand the silence of her thoughts and so pushed the cassette that was sticking out of the cassette player in, allowing the soothing melodies of Frank Sinatra to fill the car. The rain that had been lashing down for most of the afternoon was bouncing off her windscreen as she hunched forward over the steering wheel to try and get a clearer view as her eyes scanned the roadside bankings with increasing desperation. It was getting dark and limiting her visibility as she screwed her eyes up in a vain attempt to try and see any figures walking along the road side. Suddenly a tractor loomed into view in front of her as she slammed the brake to follow its sedate pace, anxiously drumming her fingers on the steering wheel as she did so. And then she saw something. A hump of something that could just be amongst the grass… Kathie slammed on the brake as the car skidded to a halt and she leapt out, running around the car on to the grass verge. She froze at the sight of Abby in the grass.
“Abby, Abby,” she called frantically as she gently shook the girl to no response. Rolling Abby over, Kathie noticed her eyes were shut. “Oh God, Abby… please no.” Kathie anxiously felt for Abby’s pulse, breathing a sigh of relief as she felt it’s faint rhythm against her fingertips. “Abby.” There was no response.
Kathie sat back on her heels for a split second staring helplessly at the thick black rain clouds that stretched to all four corners of the sky and in that moment knew what she had to do. Gathering the girl up into her arms she bundled her into the back of the car, wrapping the blanket she always carried in the boot around her. Kathie jumped back into the drivers seat, checked around her and set off, slamming her foot on the accelerator to drive the remaining sixteen miles into Exeter to the Infirmary, praying that the tractor had turned off down one of the farm tracks.
“Nancy, oh thank God it’s you.”
“Kathie! Where on earth are you?” thus asked Nancy Wilmot on answering her study telephone.
“Have you got Abby?”
“Yes, thank goodness. I found her four miles down the road collapsed on the road side. You’ll have to call her father and get him to come down though.”
“Why? Kathie, how is she?”
“I’m not sure yet. They’ve just whisked her away to examine her so I’ve come to let you know I’ve found her. Will you ring up her father?”
“Yes. Are you going to stay with her?”
“Are you okay there?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“I was just thinking about…” Nancy tailed off.
“Nancy, Robert Fenchurch is not going to lose Abby like I lost Marcie,” Kathie said with resolute determination.
At the other end of the line Nancy sighed and rubbed her right temple. “I can only pray that you’re right Kathie.”
“I’d better go and find out what’s going on Nancy. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you anything more but I thought I should let you know we were here.”
“Yes, I’m glad you did. I was worried when you went haring off like that.”
“I’m sorry about that. I just didn’t think.”
“I gathered as much.” Nancy’s tone was light.
“Look, Nance, I’d better go and try and find out what’s going on. I’ll give you a ring back in a bit when I’ve spoken to someone and I know more or less what’s going on.”
“Okay. And Kathie, take care of yourself.”
“I will do. Bye Nance.”
And with that they both hung up. Nancy leant back in her seat thinking that perhaps today couldn’t possibly get any worse than it already was. She had sent Creseldine and Jake away with the promise to not mention Abby having gone missing. Nancy sighed, she would deal with the two of them in the morning. She had sent Jake to Matron who would put him in one of the isolation rooms until then. Crossing her study to one of the filing cabinets against the wall she opened it and found Abby’s file, sitting back down at her desk and with trembling fingers dialling the Fenchurch’s York number.
“Nance, it’s me.”
“Kathie, what news?”
“Abby’s been admitted. Have you called her father?”
“Yes, he’s on his way, I told him to go straight to the Infirmary. Do you know anything more now?”
“It’s hypothermia and she’s damaged her ankle as well. She’s still unconscious so nobody knows the full story. The doctor I spoke to thinks she could have damaged her ankle this afternoon and it was too much for her to walk on when she got off the bus and that was what caused her to collapse. Of course then getting stuck out in that weather didn’t help matters at all and that’s brought on the hypothermia. On the other hand it’s looking more positive than the last time I phoned.”
“They think she’ll pull through?”
“She should do.” Kathie sounded nervous.
“You sound nervous.”
“Of course I am, I’m scared stiff about that poor kid. She’s not out of danger yet, she’s not even near the edge of the woods. I’m going to stay here tonight just in case there’s any change. I’d hate it if she came to and there was no one there.”
“I wouldn’t want you driving back in that weather anyway. I think we’re in for a storm tonight unless I’m much mistaken, there’s the beginnings of a howling gale going on outdoors.”
Kathie shuddered. “It wasn’t much fun on the drive over.”
“No, I’d imagine not.”
“Abby’s ankle – is it broken?”
“The doctor I spoke to didn’t seem to think so. He said it looked more like a nasty sprain than anything else. They’re more concerned by the fact that she hasn’t regained consciousness but she is stable. Nance, I’d better go because they’ll be taking Abby up to the ward any minute now and I want to go up with her.”
“Oh, are you going to tell the girls?”
“Yes, I’ll call them together shortly.”
“Okay. Bye Nancy.”
And with that they both clattered their respective phones back down. Nancy ran a hand through her hair and sighed as there was a knock on the door.
“I’m sorry to bother you Nancy but you’ve got a visitor.”
Clare Kennedy’s head vanished back round the door and it was followed by the entrance of a small brown haired girl that Nancy would know anywhere.
“Carlie!” she said in surprise at the sight of her goddaughter. “What on earth are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at university.”
For a moment neither godmother nor goddaughter spoke. “It’s your mother’s free weekend Carlie, she’s not here.”
“I know Auntie Nance. That’s why I’m here.”
Nancy raised an eyebrow. “Oh? I have to admit Carlie, you’ve certainly picked a good day to come. Look, take your coat off and have a seat and you can explain what you’re doing here,” she said standing up and going over to greet her goddaughter.
“I think it’s quite obvious why I’m here Auntie Nance,” said Carlie simply as she slipped off her coat to reveal a pregnant stomach.
Nancy’s jaw dropped and for a moment she was stunned into silence. “Carlie… but… When are you due?”
“January, beginning of. It’s Phil’s,” she said in reference to her ex-boyfriend from school.
“Does he know?” asked Nancy as they sat down beside each other.
Carlie nodded. “He doesn’t want to know though,” she said miserably.
“What about uni?”
“That’s why I’m here. I’ve been kicked out.”
“Well, not kicked out as such, they’ve suspended me off the course for the time being. I can go back next year and start again if I want.”
“Why didn’t you tell somebody before? And more to the point, how on earth did you get here? The buses don’t run this far down at this time of year.”
Carlie blushed. “I hitched a ride.”
“Charlotte Fernley! How could you? You know how dangerous that could have been.” Carlie suddenly burst into tears. “Carlie, I’m sorry,” muttered Nancy as she took Carlie in her arms, and held her to her. “I worry about you, that’s all. You’re very precious to me.”
“Auntie Nance, will you please not tell mum about the hitching. She’s going to kill me as it is.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone before Carlie?”
Carlie pulled away and rubbed her eyes on her sleeve. “I was too scared too. I kept hoping that if I ignored it then it would go away. I’d have got away with it at uni as well but someone found out and started spreading rumours about me – I’d rather not talk about that though Auntie Nance. But that was when the authorities got wind of what was happening and I got called in yesterday morning and told I was being suspended from the course. There was no point me sticking around in York but I didn’t want to go home so I came here. You don’t mind, do you? I couldn’t face mum and dad just yet.”
Nancy stared. “No, you can stay here as long as you need to. There’s a spare room in my annexe you can have, but your mum will be back tomorrow.”
“I know,” muttered Carlie miserably as she stifled a yawn.
Carlie nodded. “Wiped out. I have been all the time lately, I’m not used to carrying all this extra weight around.”
Nancy gave her a sympathetic glance. “Come on, I’ll take you up to the annexe but I’ll have to give your mum a ring in the morning. Your dad can bring her back and you can talk to them both.”
“They’re going to kill me, aren’t they?”
Nancy laughed. “I don’t think they’ll be that extreme.”
“I didn’t want to spoil Lucy’s wedding. Everyone’s been so excited about it for months that this is just going to ruin everything. I’ll have to not go.”
“I take it you haven’t told Lucy then?”
Carlie shook her head. “I told Alan. He came over to York for the day a few weeks ago and I accidentally let slip to him then but he’s been great and hasn’t told anyone. He said he’d stick up for me.”
Nancy smiled, knowing how close Carlie was to her elder brother and glanced at her watch. She needed to gather the girls together to let them know what was happening, and she should tell the Thirds first. “I’ve got some things to sort out Carlie; you’ve come at a bit of a crisis point I’m afraid but don’t worry about it. I’ll get Clare to take you through to the annexe and show you the spare room and you can sort your things out.”
“Where’s Auntie Kath?”
“That’s part of the crisis. She’s at Exeter Infirmary.”
“Is she okay?”
“She’s fine. She’s there with one of the girls, I’ll explain in the morning.”
Carlie nodded and allowed herself to be given over to Clare Kennedy’s capable hands.
Nancy hurried down the corridor to the Third Form common room, leaving a message with the Prefects on her way to gather the rest of the girls in the Hall in half an hour’s time. As she approached the Third Form common room Nancy’s sharp ears picked up in the sound of an argument about to boil over.
“What’s going on in here?” she asked icily as she walked into what appeared to be a battle re-enactment on the common room floor. The members of 3A and 3B instantly pulled apart and were silenced. “Well, I asked a question. Jinny MacDonald, Lyra Meadows, perhaps, as form prefects, you would care to explain?”
Jinny and Lyra looked at each other in panic. “Miss Wilmot… we.. .er…” began Jinny.
Nancy tapped her foot. “Proper English please Jinny.”
“We were having a row,” whispered Lyra.
“A row?” Nancy sounded incredulous. “I thought you were recreating Agincourt perhaps as I was walking down the corridor and to arrive on a scene like this. Will you all get up and stop looking like one o’clock half struck and sit down like civilians? Now.” Her command was obeyed instantly as the girls picked themselves up and dusted themselves off and eventually all settled down around the room in small groups. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Abby Fenchurch is in Exeter Infirmary and is quite ill.” Nancy decided that it would be best to not explain the surrounding events of Abby being taken to Exeter.
“Miss Wilmot… will she be okay?” asked Rhianna nervously from where she was squashed between Megan and Katy on the sofa.
“We hope so,” replied Nancy. “Miss Ferrars is with her and her father is on the way. We will have prayers this evening shortly – yes Katy I know we don’t normally have prayers on a Saturday evening – but Abby needs your prayers now.” Nancy glances around the room at the worried faces. “Abby is in God’s hands now and He will look after her.”
Miss Wilmot,” began Katy. “Will we be able to go and see her eventually, I mean when she’s getting better?”
“What’s wrong with her?” asked Jinny.
“She has hypothermia.”
“How?” came from Rhianna.
“That bit is not important,” said Nancy simply.
“Miss Wilmot,” Nancy glanced at Katy who had spoken again. “We can send her cards and things though can’t we?”
Nancy nodded. “Is there anything special that you think should be taken to Abby?”
“I can’t think of anything particularly special she has in her cubey,” said Anya Martin, Abbys’ dormitory prefect, at length. “But there’s a picture of her mother she’s quite attached to…” Anya trailed off.
Nancy looked at Anya. “Anya, you’re her dormitory prefect, aren’t you?” Anya nodded. “I know Matron has collected her things from the isolation room but if you could check over her cubicle.” Anya nodded. “Are there any more questions?” The girls all shook their heads. “Very well, I’ll see you in the Hall in fifteen minutes then. Oh, and Jinny and Lyra if you could come to me after church in the morning to explain the fracas I just witnessed in here I would be grateful.” And with that Nancy swept from the room.
An unusual silence descended on the Third Form common room for a few moments as they tried to take in the news that the Head Mistress had just imparted. Eventually Katy turned on Livia to break the silence.
“I hope you’re happy,” she said venomously. “Abby might die and the last thing you told her was that you hated her.”
Livia stared. “She won’t die.”
“How can you be so sure? Hypothermia’s serious.”
“Abby can’t die. She can’t.” Livia thumped the ground in frustration. “You can’t go saying things like that Katy Johnson.”
“You shouldn’t have told her you hated her.”
“I don’t hate her though,” protested Livia.
“You might never get the chance to tell her now.”
“Katy.” Megan reached out and laid a hand on her cousin’s arm. “Please don’t make things any worse.”
Katy turned round to face Megan. “I’m sorry Meg, I’m just upset about Abby.”
The conversation shifted again and nobody noticed Livia curled up in the corner, her book hiding the tears that had begun to slide down her cheeks.
It had been a long evening and it promised to be a longer night. Since Abby had been moved to the ward, Kathie Ferrars hadn’t moved from her bedside. She shifted a little in the squeaky chair beside Abby’s bed and took her hand once more.
“Abby,” she whispered. “Abby, please, you have to get better. I won’t let you die, not after Marcie. Please wake up. I’m sorry I was so awful to you before half term before I got ill. I had no right to say that you were your mother all over again, especially as I didn’t mean it in the best of contexts. I don’t expect you to understand, although you might. You’re like her, you understand people. You see Abby, Marcie’s just a little bit older than you. I wanted a child so badly; I loved her more than life itself. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’d given up on the hope of ever being a mother and then I met Ivan and Marcie was our little miracle. She was a bit of an accident but once I’d got over the shock I knew that it was meant to be. She was so perfect and everybody adored her. Then you were born, you were a beautiful baby you know and everyone adored you too. That is everyone except your mother. I knew the first time I went to see you – you were only a few weeks old, I took Marcie because I thought that you might grow up as friends. Your father knew Ivan vaguely – it’s a doctor thing, they all seem to know each other, you might understand when you’re older. I could see even then that your mother wasn’t happy with you; she was awkward around you as though she was always waiting for your real mother to come along so she could give you back. I couldn’t understand her at all – I just didn’t get how she could be feeling that way because I was so completely in love with Marcie. The next couple of times I went to see you your mother was getting worse and increasingly distant around you. Your father, on the other hand, was fantastic, he absolutely worshipped you, he was so happy to be a father and you could do no wrong in his eyes.” Kathie paused and scanned Abby’s face again for a sign of anything. “Oh Abby, please wake up.” Nothing. “Well, if you’re not going to then I’ll carry on with my story. I remember the day I heard that your mother had left. I heard from Jo Maynard, of course. I was horrified, I just didn’t understand how she could have done such a thing – I wrote and told her as much but I never heard back. I expect she had plenty of letters saying the same thing and that was what she didn’t want. I saw you a couple of times after that but then your father started cutting out the people that he knew from your mother’s life and I didn’t see you again until you started at school. You know that Marcie died four years ago when she was nine and I lost Ivan as well. It was the worst time of my life, I just didn’t see that there was any point in going on. I don’t know how I managed it as there were so many days when I just couldn’t bear to even get up. But somehow I managed to claw my way back to life and I learned to carry on and then your father rang up and entered you. Well you see I was scared, partly because when I first met your mother we had a few run ins and mostly because I was jealous. I didn’t see how it was fair that my daughter who I wanted more than anything in the whole world had died when you hadn’t. I know it’s awful of me to say so and now I’m sitting here praying like I haven’t prayed since Ivan and Marcie died that you’ll pull through because I couldn’t bear the thought of your father losing you the way that I lost Marcie.” Kathie broke off as she caught approaching footsteps. “That’s either the doctor or your father…”
“How is she?”
Kathie turned round and looked into the haggard face of Robert Fenchurch. “She’s stable. There’s been no change in her condition since I found her. Here, have my seat.” Kathie stood up as Robert dropped into the chair and took Abby’s hand. “I’m just going to go and try to find some coffee or something. Do you want anything?”
He shook his head. “I just want my little girl back.”
Robert looked up and shook his head as Kathie reappeared behind him, clutching a polystyrene cup of coffee. “Exactly the same as when you left.”
Kathie settled down in the chair opposite him and sniffed at the murky liquid in the cup. “They told me it was coffee,” she said with a rueful smile. Robert managed a weak laugh. “You must blame us for letting this happen to Abby.”
Robert shook his head. “No, I probably should but I don’t. I know Abby only too well and she’s an absolute law unto herself – especially where her principles are concerned.”
Kathie smiled. “We should have noticed she’d gone missing though. She was gone all day and nobody did.”
“Who was checking on her?”
“Just Matron since Abby was still in isolation.”
“Ahh, the half term incident.” Robert sighed. “It’s hardly a good reflection of my parenting when my daughter leads her form in protest and then insults the parents, is it?”
Kathie grinned. “It was a one of the more entertaining half terms we’ve had since the school’s been back in England. I have to admit that to a certain extent Nancy and I agree with Abby – well on principle, just her methods leave a little to be desired.”
Robert laughed. “You can say that again. After I had to go and rescue her when she got arrested on a protest march I’ve lived in fear of what she’ll do next. Hopefully though this will put a stopper on any of her wild ideas, if she pulls through that is…” his voice trailed off.
“Do you think she will? You’re a doctor.”
He shook his head. “In this case I’m a father and I can’t be objective as far as Abby’s concerned. I’m placing her life in the hands of the doctors here, they seem to know what they’re doing.”
“Have you told Vi?”
“Not yet, I thought I’d give her a ring in the morning. I didn’t think to phone before I left York and it’s a bit on the late side now. Have you not got to get back to school?”
Kathie shook her head. “Not tonight, I’ve had my orders to stay here.”
“We can have a good catch up then. It’s been too long since I last saw you. I was sorry to hear about Ivan and Marcie. I liked Ivan, he was a good sort even if he did have an unpronounceable surname. How on earth did you manage with it?”
Kathie smiled. “I never took his name. I’ve always kept my maiden name and Marcie took both our names. I’d finally got the hang of how to pronounce Ivan’s name when he died; I couldn’t do it now mind you. I got so used to spelling it out instead that I didn’t need to think about pronunciation.”
“Ivan was always as proud as punch of Marcie on the few occasions we saw each other at conferences. I think people tended to avoid us one we got together and on to the subject of Marcie and Abby. We may have been a bit obsessed.”
“You both had every right to be. Abby’s a wonderful girl.”
“Just like her mother,” Robert whispered. “I see so much of Mary in her. I couldn’t bear it if I lost her as well.”
“You won’t,” said Kathie firmly.
“I can only hope that you’re right.”
It was a long night at Exeter Infirmary. Neither Kathie nor Robert slept much, from time to time they dozed fitfully in the squeaky hospital chairs for a few minutes at a time awaking each time to discover no change in Abby’s condition. Doctors and nurses busied in and out at regular intervals to check on Abby but gave nothing away in their faces. In between fitful dozes Kathie and Robert talked, mostly about Abby but also about Ivan and Marcie and Mary-Lou.
It was a long night at the Chalet School as well for several of its members. Nancy only slept a little, spending most of the night lying on her back and staring at the ceiling reflecting on the enormity of the day’s events. She was worried about what the following day would bring. She had to deal with Creseldine and Jake as well as trying to get to the bottom of the anonymous notes affair. The notes all pertained to the events of the summer holiday, which Nancy was sure there wouldn’t be many in the school who knew what had happened. Mai Keppel of 3B lived in the same village as Creseldine but Mai was a quiet and somewhat colourless girl who wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a scheme. However, reflected Nancy when she put the notes together with earlier events that had happened to Creseldine she wasn’t so sure. Then there was Carlie, she had no idea how Sharlie and John would react to the news of their impending grandparent status. She hoped for Carlie’s sake that they would be understanding and accepting. And then there was Abby. In that case Nancy could only pray that tomorrow would bring better news.
In the Pansy dormitory Livia Warrington was also having trouble sleeping as her conscience pricked at her over the way she had last spoken to Abby at half term. Then there was the rumour that she’d heard that Creseldine had been caught by Miss Wilmot talking to a boy through the fence. Livia had heard the vague outline of the summer events from Mai Keppel who had heard about them from someone she knew in the village where she lived. Livia shuffled and rolled over unaware that she wasn’t the only member of the dormitory who was struggling to sleep in the circumstances.
Down the corridor in the Peony dormitory Megan Webb was staring into the darkness and thinking about Abby, wondering if she would ever get to share the time she had spent with Mary-Lou with her.
It was late morning when Vi Warrington arrived at Exeter Infirmary and hurried through the seemingly endless grey hospital corridors to find Robert and Abby. Kathie and Robert hadn’t moved from Abby’s bedside all night and they were both feeling the effects of trying to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs.
“Robert, goodness, I finally found you,” heralded the arrival of Vi on the ward. Robert and Kathie exchanged glances and smiled. “This hospital’s a regular rabbit warren, all corridors going nowhere.”
“It’s your average hospital,” said Robert with a soft smile as he stood up and kissed her.
“How is she?”
Robert looked anxiously at Kathie who replied. “Stable and comfortable, they haven’t really told us anything else.”
Vi looked questioningly at Robert. “That’s good, right?”
Robert shrugged. “I wish I knew.”
Kathie eased herself up, her knees cracking as she did so. “I should be getting back to school and give them the latest,” she said. “You will ring if there’s any change, won’t you?”
Robert nodded. “Of course we will. And Kathie, thank you for everything last night. I don’t know where I would have been without you. You’ll come back later won’t you?”
Kathie smiled and nodded. “I’ll come for visiting after dinner.” She turned and glanced out of the window. “I don’t think we’ll be having any more storms today. Bye Robert, bye Vi.”
Farewells said, Kathie left the ward and made her way back through the hospital corridors to the car park. Blearily rubbing her eyes she fumbled for her car keys in her handbag as a voice cut through her thoughts from somewhere behind her.
“Goodness, if it isn’t Kathie of the unpronounceable surname,” said a laughing voice. “It must be a good four years since I last saw you.”
Kathie spun round to see a former colleague of Ivan’s standing grinning at her. “Geoff,” she said, a gentle smile spreading across her face. “How nice to see you again, you’re right it has been an awfully long time. How’s Bella?”
Geoff Wallace’s face fell. “Bella died two years ago, bowel cancer, very sudden.” He shrugged. “There was nothing anyone could do.”
“Oh, I am sorry.”
“How are you holding together these days? Still teaching at that school down the road?”
“Yes I am. I see myself staying there until my retiring day as well,” she added with a laugh.
“What brings you here at this time of a Sunday morning?”
“One of the girls, of course,” she sighed. “We had a runaway last night, found her with hypothermia collapsed a few miles down the road.”
Geoff winced. “Nasty.”
“Oh, Kathie, we’ve got some photos up in the office of Ivan that we found on an undeveloped film after he died. They’re nothing exciting, just ones of him teaching – they were going to go in some leaflet or another. We wanted to give them to you but nobody wanted to upset you and then we forgot about them; I found them in a drawer the other day when we were clearing out. Perhaps you’d like them?”
“I… Yes, that would be lovely.”
“I’m guessing that if you’ve got a kid with hypothermia in there then you’ll be back over the next couple of days.” Kathie nodded. “Pop by the office then; the others would love to see you as well, apart from old Mac.”
“Mac passed on last year.”
“I didn’t know.”
“It happens. It was quite sudden but there you have it, the mystery of life.”
“Anyway, it’s been lovely seeing you again Kathie.”
“Yes, you too Geoff. Bye.”
Kathie waved to Geoff as he ambled off across the car park to his own car before climbing into her own and setting off back to the school with a funny feeling that this time everything was going to be okay.
Chapter 11 - Resolutions by pim
Kathie arrived back at school to find it empty. A cursory glance at her watch told her that everybody would still be out at church. She wandered through the empty corridors of the school to her room in the Head’s annexe and flopped on to her bed with a huge sigh just as her ears caught the sound of movement in the next room. Kathie sat up suddenly and shook her head wildly thinking that she must have been hearing things but still the noise continued. Curious, Kathie slipped from her own room and tapped gently on the door of the spare room.
“Carlie! What on earth are you doing here?” she asked as the door was opened.
“Oh Auntie K, thank goodness it’s only you.”
“Who else would I be? And how long have you been here? And why are you here?” Kathie shook her head trying to make some sense of things and hoping it wasn’t sleep deprived madness that was taking over. “Why aren’t you at uni? It can’t be the end of term already.”
“It’s not. You’d better come in.” Carlie opened the door and Kathie followed her in.
Kathie looked her up and down and raised an eyebrow. “I understand why you’re here,” she said simply as the two of them sat on the bed.
Carlie blushed and looked away. “Uni have suspended me off the course for the rest of the year. I can go back next year if I want.”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“And more importantly Carlie, why didn’t you tell anyone before?”
“I don’t know. I was scared I guess, I kept thinking that if I ignored it then it would go away. Stupid, I know. And then I realised I didn’t want to ruin Lucy’s wedding.”
“I came to Auntie Nance ‘cause I couldn’t face mum and dad just yet.”
Kathie bit her lip. “No, I suppose not.”
“I’m sorry if I gave you a fright. I wasn’t sure when you’d get back.”
“I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here.”
“They’ve all gone to church; I didn’t feel up to it.”
“Hmm.” Kathie stifled a yawn. “Carlie, I’m going to try and get an hour’s sleep or so. Will you ask Nancy to wake me when she gets back?”
Carlie nodded. “How were things at the hospital?”
Kathie shrugged. “Hard to say.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“That’s a question I can’t answer for you Carlie.”
Nancy had returned from church to be greeted by the news from Carlie that Kathie had returned from Exeter Infirmary and had gone to try and get some sleep. Having fought with her conscience over whether to wake her friend Nancy had gone and shook her awake and instantly regretted it as she was greeted by Kathie swearing vociferously at her until the sleepy haze cleared and she realised what was going on. She had then been and spoken to the Thirds to tell them that there was news only that Abby was stable. It was after lunch when Nancy finally got round to dealing with Creseldine and Jake. She had decided to interview the pair separately and having easily dealt with Jake who insisted that there was nothing further to tell apart from what he had said the previous evening she turned her attentions to Creseldine. Her defences now down, Creseldine had told her the full story of everything that had happened to her since the beginning of term. Nancy’s frown deepened as the story unfolded before her eyes.
“I suppose I’m a failure as a prefect,” Creseldine said miserably, leaning back in her chair as she did so. “I’d better resign and have someone else replace me next term.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary Creseldine.”
“I am not in the habit of repeating myself when I know perfectly well that my words have been clearly heard.” Creseldine flushed and stared past Nancy, biting her lip. “You’ve learned your lesson from coming across high handed. It seems that this whole sorry affair started out as harmless pranks which ended up taking a turn for the worst.” Nancy paused. “You may go now Creseldine and could you send Polly along to me, please.”
Creseldine stood up, bobbed a hurried curtsey and left the study. Left alone Nancy sighed a sigh from her shoes upwards and buried her head in her arms until a tap on the door signalled Polly’s arrival.
“Why did you not think to tell me of this before it got so out of control, Polly?” asked Nancy after Polly had poured out the whole story to her.
“I… I don’t know Miss Wilmot.” Polly looked around the room avoiding the Head Mistress’ gaze.
“You could have saved a lot of trouble.”
“I know. But, Miss Wilmot, we didn’t know who was behind it. Tacy and I… we had a hunch but we had no evidence. We thought we could handle it ourselves – Cres was being quite secretive about it as well, she only told us bits.”
Nancy frowned. “That’s as may be Polly…”
“I suppose you think I’m a terrible Head Girl now.”
“No Polly, I just wish you’d come to me sooner instead of feeling that you had to handle everything yourself. Do you have any idea who may have been behind this?”
“We thought it was the Thirds to begin with. Cres seemed to have rubbed them up the wrong way at mealtimes and then they always looked as though they were up to mischief to begin with but I don’t want to believe that any of them would stoop to sending anonymous notes, Miss Wilmot. I mean, that’s just not their scene really.”
Nancy rubbed her eyes sleepily and stared out of the window wishing that the afternoon would be over and done with. She had just made a phone call to Sharlie Andrews explaining that Carlie was at school with her and that she needed John to bring her back later as Carlie needed to speak to them both together. Sharlie had pressed Nancy for further details but not wanting to break Carlie’s confidence Nancy had refused to expand on the matter. She was now waiting for the arrival of Mai Keppel of 3B to see if she could shed any light on the matter since she was the one who lived near Creseldine. Nancy sighed again, there had been no news from Exeter Infirmary either and Kathie was still asleep so she had no one to talk things over with.
“Come in,” she called as there was a timid tap at the door and Mai Keppel slipped into the study with a clumsy curtsey. “Sit down Mai.” The girl instantly did as she was told and Nancy looked seriously at her. “Mai, what do you know about anonymous notes being sent to Creseldine Price-Morris?” Nancy noted that the startled look which crossed Mai’s face was not one of having been found out. “Mai?” she prompted gently.
“N… nothing, Miss Wilmot,” Mai stammered.
Nancy frowned. “What do you know about Creseldine and Jake Davis?” Mai gulped and avoided Nancy’s gaze. “Mai?”
“Only… only what I overheard my mum saying, Miss Wilmot.”
“That Creseldine went joyriding with Jake Davis.”
“Miss Wilmot?” Mai’s conscience was beginning to dig.
“I don’t know anything about the notes but…” Mai trailed off.
“But what?” Mai bit her lip and twisted her fingers awkwardly. “Mai, do you know something about the jokes that were being played on Creseldine earlier in term?”
Mai nodded. “It was us, I mean us in 3B and 3A. We thought Creseldine needed knocking down a peg or two and so…” she trailed off once more.
“I see,” replied Nancy slowly. “Did none of you think it would be better to talk to somebody about how you felt towards Creseldine rather than taking matters into your own hands?” Mai blushed. “Clearly not, perhaps you’d better begin at the beginning.”
“Miss Wilmot, I…” Mai paused. “It just started out as a bit of fun, just pranks but then most of us got bored and gave up.”
“And who carried on with this grand plan of yours?”
“I’m not sure Miss Wilmot,” replied Mai, not wanting to name names.
Nancy sighed, not wanting to have to question the other thirty members of the Third forms. “Very well Mai, you may go and will you please ask Livia Warrington to come to me?”
“Yes, Miss Wilmot” muttered Mai as she hastily bobbed a curtsey and left the study.
“Is there anything else you would like to tell me, Livia?” Livia Warrington looked up briefly as Miss Wilmot’s question came sharply above her head. “About anonymous notes perhaps?” Livia avoided the gaze of her Headmistress. “Livia?”
“It… it was only meant as a joke Miss Wilmot…”
“Did you write them Livia?”
“I… I wrote… I didn’t write the first one, the others yes. The others didn’t think I should carry on with them but…”
“Livia, I don’t think that you realise quite how serious the crime you’ve committed is.” Livia squirmed in the opposite chair. “Did you know that adults can be sent to prison for sending poison pen letters?” Livia shook her head. “I thought not. Now, whose idea was it?”
“It was mine,” Livia admitted in a barely audible voice. “Mai told us about what happened with Creseldine over the summer and it just seemed…”
“Who’s ‘us’, Livia?”
Livia blushed. “Me, Katy, Miranda and Lyra but Lyra never had anything to do with it. She said we couldn’t use it because it was blackmail.”
“And she was right. So who wrote the first note?”
“We… we drew straws on it because nobody really wanted to do it and Miranda got the short one and then she said she wouldn’t do it again. Mai was never involved either; she had an attack from her conscience and said she should never have told us in the first place because she’d only overheard it. Katy agreed with Miranda that we shouldn’t send anymore but I don’t know why I couldn’t let it go. I sent that one after half term because I was feeling cross with myself and everybody else.”
Nancy raised an eyebrow. “Because of your mother’s news?”
Livia nodded. “Everybody was saying it was so wonderful and it’s not. I hate it,” she added emphatically.
“Why do you hate it Livia?”
“Because he’s going to try and replace my dad.”
“Dr Fenchurch, Livia, not he, please remember that he does have a name. And why do you think that?”
“Because… Well that’s what happens isn’t it?”
Nancy was slightly taken aback for a moment. “How can you be so sure?”
“It’s what happens in books and…”
Nancy resisted the urge to laugh. “This isn’t a book though Livia.”
“It’s the sort of thing that happens in books.”
“It’s the sort of thing that happens in real life all the time without any problems at all. Dr Fenchurch isn’t going to try and replace your father, just as your mother won’t try and replace Dr Trelawney for Abby. It works both ways you know.” Livia sat in a contemplative silence for a moment. “If I guess right, Livia, you’ve been making yourself very unhappy these last couple of weeks?” Livia nodded miserably. “I’ll take you to Matron and you can spend the next couple of days in the San. I think the break from your classmates will do you the world of good whilst I decide the best manner in which to deal with the matter of the anonymous notes.”
“Abby… she’s not going to die is she?”
“It’s looking increasingly unlikely.”
“I don’t want her to. The last thing I told her was that I hated her and I don’t want her to die thinking that.”
And with that Livia burst into tears much to Nancy’s surprise. Without thinking Nancy crossed to her and held her close to her throughout the stormy fit of sobs, wondering if, perhaps, Livia had punished herself enough already.
Nancy glanced at the clock and sighed. It had been a long afternoon and the hour hand was creeping ever closer to five o’clock when Sharlie had said she would be back from her free weekend. The pile of correspondence she had intended to deal with that day lay untouched on her desk along with the pile of report cards she had intended to look over. In the corner of the study Carlie sat awkwardly in a chair, her book unread on her lap and her eyes gazing nervously out of the window. Nancy had spent the afternoon dealing with the Third forms and was now in possession of more or less the full facts pertaining to the whole ‘Creseldine affair’ and was still none the wiser as to what she would do. The entire form would spend the rest of the day in silence and go to bed straight from dinner. Nancy knew that it wasn’t quite fair to treat them all the same, but they had all been involved to begin with. A sharp tap on the door made her jump followed quickly by a sigh of relief as Kathie crept in, a pile of report cards under her arm, and settled herself in the seat beside Carlie.
“No sign of your parents then Carlie?” A shake of Carlie’s head was her only response as Kathie placed the report cards on the floor beside her and reached over to take Carlie’s book from her lap, she looked at the cover, What Katy Did, with a grin. “Marcie loved that book; she must have read it a hundred times. Her copy was falling to pieces…” Kathie broke off. “What time are you expecting Sharlie and John?”
“Five, or so,” replied Nancy with a swift glance at her watch.
Kathie looked at her own. “What time is it now? My watch seems to have stopped again – I must get a new battery for it.”
“Five to,” said Carlie.
“Did you ring the hospital?” asked Nancy suddenly.
Kathie nodded. “I managed to speak to Robert, no change was all he said. I suppose it’s better than nothing. I’ll head down around seven-ish I think.”
“Auntie K?” asked Carlie suddenly.
“Are you going to be here when mum and dad arrive?”
Kathie glanced at Nancy who nodded. “Yes, I am.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Even your Auntie Nance occasionally needs to have her hand held; but don’t tell her I just told you that.”
“You don’t need to tell me Carlie – I just heard,” grinned Nancy as Kathie chuckled.
There was a knock on the door and the three sat frozen to their seats momentarily before Nancy recovered use of her senses.
“Come in,” she called as Sharlie and John Fernley entered the room.
Sharlie’s eyes instantly rested on her youngest daughter. “Carlie!” she exclaimed as her daughter stood up to greet her and Sharlie froze. “What on earth have you done?”
A silence descended upon the study as its occupants looked between each other. Eventually Carlie was the one to break it.
“It’s quite obvious, isn’t it, mum?”
“Well… yes…” stammered Sharlie in reply. “But…” she got no further as John interrupted.
“Whose is it? And how on earth could you have been so stupid Charlotte?”
Carlie flinched at the use of her full name. “It… it’s Phil’s. He knows, I told him but he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me… or it. And you don’t need to tell me I’ve been stupid,” she added bitterly. “I already know.”
“I… I just don’t understand,” came from her mother.
Carlie shrugged. “Quite obvious, Phil and I got drunk, and, yes well…” Carlie tailed off, rubbing the back of her left leg awkwardly with her right foot. “I never meant for this to happen.”
Sharlie sighed. “What about Lucy’s wedding? Lucy would never have…” her thoughts were out before she’d had time to think them through fully and Kathie pounced.
“Don’t bring Lucy into this Sharlie,” she said, standing beside Carlie she slipped a supportive arm around her shoulders. “It’s not about Lucy. This is about Carlie and you can’t compare; for once see Carlie as Carlie. You’ve always compared her to Lucy; she’s always had to live up to whatever Lucy’s done first.” Kathie paused to glance round the others who stared at her in a dazed silence. “All I’m saying is that Carlie’s as much your daughter as Lucy is.”
“What would you have done if it had been Marcie?” asked Sharlie suddenly.
Kathie bit her lip. “Marcie would have known that she had two parents who loved her and supported her decision even if in our hearts Ivan and I hadn’t agreed.” There was another silence. “I think I’ll go to the Infirmary now. I’ve said enough.”
With that she swept from Nancy’s study and headed to her room to collect her coat and bag. She was half way along the corridor on her way out when the approaching footsteps caught up with her.
“Auntie K.” Kathie turned round to see Carlie standing behind her trying to catch her breath. “I just wanted to say thank you for what you said in there.”
Kathie shrugged. “It was nothing.”
“I… I didn’t think you’d ever noticed it.”
“Because… because you’re Lucy’s godmother.”
“That’s beside the point right now. Carlie, this is about you – it’s your life, your baby – only you can make the decisions and I will support whatever decision you make.”
“I’m keeping it.”
Kathie smiled. “I thought you might.”
“I know it won’t be easy but it’s what I want. I can do this, Auntie K.”
“I don’t doubt you can.”
“I… I’d better go back and tell them. I just wanted to thank you.”
Carlie returned to a frosty silence between her parents and Nancy in the study.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “I just had to talk to Auntie K.” She paused and looked around them. “I’ve made a decision and I’m keeping the baby. Phil doesn’t want to know but I can bring it up on my own. I’ll get a job or something…” she trailed off as her parents slipped their arms around each other.
“If that’s what you want…” began Sharlie.
Carlie nodded. “It is.”
Sharlie and John glanced at each other before Sharlie spoke. “Then we’ll do whatever we can to support you.”
Nancy cleared her throat. “If it would help,” she began. “Carlie can stay with me until the end of term whilst you all get your heads around things. There’s a spare room in the annexe and Clare could always use a hand in the office. That is if it’s what you want Carlie.”
Carlie glanced anxiously at her parents. “I’d like to stay with Auntie Nance, if you don’t mind.”
Carlie’s decision made and supported by her parents the four of them were able to sit down and discuss logistics. John would drive to York the following weekend to collect the rest of Carlie’s things from her room and would spend the run up to the end of term adapting Carlie’s room at home to accommodate a small baby. The matter of her degree was pushed to one side for the moment as the more pressing concern of the immediate future was dealt with.
Kathie shifted uneasily in the uncomfortable chair at Abby’s bedside and yawned, stretching her arms above her head as she did so. It had just passed eight and she had been sitting alone for the best part of an hour having persuaded Robert and Vi to go in search of some dinner. There had been no change in Abby’s condition and no sign of her regaining consciousness. Kathie hated the helpless feeling she had as she stared at Abby’s unconscious form, the same colour as the starched hospital sheets. Readjusting her cramped limbs she picked up the magazine Vi had left behind and idly flicked through it’s pages, reading nothing but casting her eyes over Abby every few moments. Laying the magazine down beside her Kathie sighed heartily.
“Abby,” she whispered, leaning forward and taking the girl’s hand in her own. “Abby.” She wasn’t sure how much talking to Abby was helping but it made her feel as though she could be doing something. “Abby, please.” She stared down at Abby almost willing her to open her eyes and then there was a flicker of her eyelids. Kathie stared unsure that she had really seen that. “Abby?” Then it was there again. “Abby, can you hear me? Abby?” Suddenly Abby’s eyes opened and Kathie felt an urge to laugh with relief.
“I… I’m not at school,” she stammered.
“No, you’re in Exeter Infirmary.”
“Miss Ferrars, I…”
Kathie leant forward and stroked Abby’s hair. “Shh, don’t try and talk. I’ll go and…” she got no further as one of the nurses suddenly bristled in before going in search of a doctor seeing that Abby had regained consciousness.
It was half an hour later when Robert and Vi returned from dinner to find Abby asleep once more.
“No change then?” he asked Kathie as she laid her book down.
Kathie grinned. “She’s sleeping now.”
“Sleeping?” repeated Robert in shock.
“She came round about half an hour ago.”
“She… she…” Robert felt his knees begin to shake as he sank down into the chair beside Abby.
Kathie laid a comforting hand on his arm. “She’s going to be okay. She’s only just gone back to sleep. She knows you were here though.”
“What did she say?”
Kathie shrugged. “Not much, she was a bit confused. She thought she’d managed to make it back to school. The doctor says he’ll know more when she wakes again but she’s going to be fine, Robert. It’s all going to be okay.”
It was Wednesday when Abby was well enough to have visitors and Kathie drove Rhianna and Katy through to Exeter once lessons were over to see their friend. The two returned relieved and eager to impart the details of their visit amongst the rest of the Thirds. Livia had rejoined her form mates that day, Nancy having decided that she had punished herself enough through her unhappiness. The rest of the form had been a little unsure about welcoming her back into their fold but Katy had been the first to realise that bridges needed to be built and had made up with Livia. And so Friday saw Kathie driving out to Exeter once more with Livia in tow after Abby had requested a visit from her.
“I’m not infectious,” laughed Abby as Livia stood awkwardly at the foot of her bed. “You can sit next to me, you know.”
“Sorry,” muttered Livia as she dropped into the chair beside Abby’s bed. “I just…” she broke off. “I’m sorry.”
Abby shrugged. “No worries, what for?”
“Saying I hated you over mum and your dad.”
Abby shrugged again. “I half expected it.”
“I half expected them to… well, you know. And I half expected that you’d react the way you did.”
Livia stared. “How… why…”
“I don’t know; it was just a feeling I had. Livvie, do you mind now?”
Livia shook her head. “No, I realise now that I was being stupid and hating it. It might take some getting used to though.”
Abby smiled. “Oh good, I feel like that too.”
Abby nodded. “All my life it’s been me and dad and nobody else. He’s had girlfriends but nothing like this. It’s different with your mum. But I’ll have to get used to having her around as well.”
“Aren’t you worried about her replacing your mum?”
“Not really, it wasn’t as if I knew my mum after all, only a little, at the end.”
“Do you miss her even though you didn’t know her?”
Abby nodded. “Of course I do. All I ever wanted was a family, now I have one. You do understand, don’t you Livvie?”
Livia nodded. “Yes.”
Megan had been surprised over the weekend that Abby had asked her to go and visit and on Monday after lessons she made her way to Exeter Infirmary to visit. She would be one of Abby’s last visitors as she was being discharged on Wednesday. Robert had decided to take her away for the rest of the week to the south coast before bringing her back to school on Sunday night for the last fortnight of term. The two girls had talked over school and the happenings that Abby had been missing out on before Abby decided to ask Megan about the real reason why she had asked her to visit.
“Megan,” Abby began purposefully.
“Katy said… Katy said you knew my mother.” Megan nodded. “Tell me about her.”
Megan stared awkwardly at the floor for a moment. “I owe her so much now; if it hadn’t been for her I would never have met the Maynards and I would never know that I have a real family who love me and accept me. To begin with I thought she was just a nosy interfering busy body when she started talking to me on the beach but I soon realised she wasn’t. She talked about you, you know, she never forgot you. She always wanted to go back and see you, to get to know you, but she was too scared. She thought you’d hate her for leaving her and she didn’t want to hurt you, or your father. I didn’t know she was ill then, she didn’t tell me until it was too late and then she knew that she had to see you to try and make her peace.”
“What did she say about me?”
“She missed you.”
“She’d always missed you, even at first when she was convinced that leaving you was the right thing.”
“Did she regret it?”
“I don’t know,” replied Megan with a shrug. “I just know that she missed you and that she didn’t want to meet you again just because she was dying. She kept hoping that it would be a mistake, that she would be okay and then she’d be able to really make it up to you.”
“But it wasn’t a mistake, she did die and I didn’t know her, not properly anyway, like you and your dad.”
“True, but at least you knew your mum was your mum and weren’t told otherwise when she died. It was a bit of a shock to begin with but I’m glad to have the Maynards.”
Abby smiled. “I’m glad to have Auntie Vi, somehow she makes mum more real.”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
The two girls carried on talking for the remainder of visiting time without realising how quickly time was going and consequently were both shocked when Kathie appeared to tell Megan it was time to leave. They had talked over unknown parents and families, the Chalet School and the schools they had left behind, the past and the future. There were ties binding the two girls together and the foundations for a lifelong friendship had been laid.
Abby was well enough to return to school for the final two weeks of term. Robert had taken her to the south coast for a few days to finish her recovery and impressed upon her the seriousness of her actions and the need for her to take responsibility for them herself. She returned to school a much more sober and quiet person prepared to think a little before she acted. It would take a little more than a bout of hypothermia to knock Abby’s principles but it had caused her to think things through more thoroughly before acting. On her return to school she had faced a long chat with Miss Wilmot who had reiterated the one she had had with her father. She had lost her part in the Christmas concert having missed two weeks worth of rehearsals and found herself relegated to hading out programmes to attending parents.
Abby had returned to school during the quietest week of term – that of examinations week for the end of term exams. She had been excused from them as a result of missing the previous fortnight and as such spent a rather long and boring week alone. Once the rest of the Thirds had got over their initial raptures over her return they had left her more or less alone and returned to their last minute cramming in a desperate bid to learn that last little bit of information that may or may not come in useful for the exams. For her part, Abby used the long week wisely to catch up on the work she had missed in the library under the watchful gaze of the librarian where she copied her form mates’ notes into her exercise books and worked her way steadily through all of her subjects.
The long week of exams eventually came to an end and girls all throughout the school emerged from the exam rooms with a variety of expressions reflecting how they thought that they had done. The members of both third forms declared that they intended to forget all about the exams and enjoy the rest of the term. There was a chance for a couple of them to move either up into the A division or down into the B and a few members of the forms were a little more nervy than others. After the ups and downs that the term had thus far provided there was now a lull, which the staff hoped might just hold out until its end.
It was left to Carlie to provide the final event of term. Her initial consultation with the medical professionals in Exeter had revealed things to be a little further on than she had been told in York meaning that the baby was due between Christmas and New Year rather than nearly the middle of January that she had been working on to begin with. It was a fact that Carlie had kept to herself. It was the final Monday of term and the vast majority of the school were in the hall rehearsing for the Christmas concert which would come off on the Friday afternoon. Kathie had slipped out of rehearsals and back to the annexe to change her clothes having managed to spill an entire tin of paint down herself whilst painting scenery. She was on her way back out the rehearsal when the sound of a cry of pain caught her ears. Without thinking Kathie turned on her heel and headed towards the room Carlie was using and knocked on the door.
“Carlie, are you okay in there?” Getting no response Kathie knocked again. “Carlie?” Getting no response a second time Kathie gently pushed the door open to see Carlie bent double and clutching the window sill. “Carlie?” Kathie crossed the room and laid a hand gently on her shoulder as Carlie turned her panic stricken face to her.
“Auntie K, it’s the baby… I think it’s coming.”
“It can’t be! You’re not due for another month; it’ll be Braxton Hicks – they’re an absolute sod.” Carlie shook her head. “Carlie?”
“I’m not sure. That was what they said in York but here they said Christmas – that’s only two weeks.”
“Oh God.” Kathie clapped her free hand over her mouth. “Are you sure that’s what they said here?” Carlie nodded. “Don’t move, no wait. Carlie, how long have you been having contractions?”
“I don’t know, since yesterday I think.”
Kathie frowned and thought a moment. “Can you not be any more specific?” Carlie shook her head as she was overtaken by the pain of another contraction. Her grip tightened on the windowsill as Kathie gently rubbed her back. “Come on, you’d better sit down,” she said helping Carlie across the room to sit on her bed. “Don’t move.”
“Where are you going?” asked Carlie, a note of rising panic in her voice.
“I’m going to make a couple of phone calls and then I’ll be right back. You can’t do this alone Carlie and I’m no medic. If anything goes wrong…” Kathie stopped herself, swallowing sharply as she did so. It had been kept no secret from Carlie that both she and her mother had almost died during Carlie’s birth. Kathie squatted in front of Carlie. “I’ll only be a minute and then I’ll be right back. I’ll be here as long as you need me. I promise.”
It was some hours later when Carlie’s baby daughter made her way into the world. Nancy Wilmot would later remark that she had never quite considered her annexe being used as a substitute for a maternity ward but secretly she was quite proud of the fact. Kathie had remained with Carlie throughout the birth and now sat beside Carlie’s bed with the tiny white bundle in her arms.
“You should be proud of yourself,” she said quietly to Carlie who was on the verge of dozing off.
“I know, but then again I suppose I’m biased.”
“Sod being biased,” grinned Kathie. “You’re allowed to be.”
“Being there, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Pfft, of course you could.”
Carlie shook her head. “Auntie K?”
“Will you be her godmother?”
“I… err… yes, I will. Do you know what you’re going to call her?”
“Nancy, after Auntie Nance, but she’ll be Nan for everyday.”
Kathie smiled. “I think it suits her.”
Carlie yawned. “Auntie K?”
“Would you mind… that is I’d like Nan to have Marcelia as her middle name, that is if you don’t mind…”
“I… Oh Carlie, I think…” Kathie paused. “Nancy Marcelia, it has a ring to it.”
“May I then?”
Kathie shifted Nan in her arms to make herself more comfortable. “You don’t need my permission to call your daughter what you want.”
“I just thought… because of Marcie…” Carlie yawned again.
“Tired?” Carlie nodded sleepily, fighting to keep her eyes open. “Go to sleep then, I’ll stay until you do but I warn you the minute Nan wants her mum then I’m waking you up.”
Carlie chuckled and sank back into the pillows letting sleep wash over her. Kathie settled back with Nan in her arms feeling a little sleepy herself. She snapped back to reality quickly when there was a tap on the door followed by Sharlie.
“Shh,” whispered Kathie as Sharlie tiptoed across to her.
“Is she sleeping?”
Kathie nodded. “Don’t wake her, but here take Nan,” she whispered handing Nan over to her grandmother. “Here, sit down. I think Carlie would like you to be here when she wakes up.”
Kathie almost collided with Nancy in the corridor as she was making her way to the staff room in search of a coffee to wake her up. Nancy stopped sharply to avoid spilling the contents of the box she was carrying across the corridor.
“What have you got there?”
“Oh things,” replied Nancy airily as Kathie peered over the top of it. “Essentials, the things nobody else will be buying Carlie – talcum powder, nappies, baby wipes and things.”
“How come you’re being so useful now?”
“Cheek,” grinned Nancy.
“You could have bought me a nice box like that.”
Nancy chuckled. “I was too excited to think practically when Marcie was born. How is Carlie?”
“Asleep. Nance, she asked me to be baby Nan’s godmother.”
“Did you agree?”
Kathie nodded. “How could I not?”
“Did she ask you about names?”
“Nancy Marcelia.” Kathie grinned. “You already knew?”
“Carlie discussed it with me a few days ago. Do you mind?” Kathie shook her head. “Good. Where were you off to anyway?”
“I need a coffee otherwise I’ll never get through my marking tonight,” was the rueful reply. “Carlie’s asleep and Sharlie’s with her.”
“I’ll join you in the staff room in a minute or so then.”
The final full day of term fell on the Friday much to everyone’s relief. The morning was spent in class with the announcement of the end of term exam results. 3A were pleased to be welcoming Megan to their midst for the following term although Kistiñe had ruefully remarked that she would need to pull her socks up to catch Megan up the following term. Although she had been excused from the exams, Abby’s place in 3A was safe; Nancy was in no doubt from the work she had produced over the course of term that she was more than capable of remaining in 3A. The third forms were a happier group than they had been in the immediate aftermath of half term, their problems with Creseldine resolved and the friendships amongst them as strong as they had been at the start of term. Abby’s early introduction of The Clash to her form mates had not gone unnoticed and from time to time the strains of London Calling could be heard drifting from their common room never failing to raise a smile on the faces of those who caught it.
In the sixth form Creseldine was a happier girl than she had been for the rest of the term. She had learned her lesson the hard way and now understood the best ways for dealing with the Thirds and a mutual respect was growing between her and that form. Likewise, Polly McCormack felt happier in the role of Head Girl than she had done at the start of term. Secretly she was hoping for an easier run for the rest of the school year although common sense told her that an easy run at the Chalet School was one of many mythical things. Her second prefect Tacy was also hoping for an easier run for the rest of the year, at least as far as the Thirds, an in particular her younger sister, were concerned. In reality both girls knew better than to expect an easy run as far as the middle school were concerned.
There were times during the final week of term when Nancy and Kathie wondered if they would ever make it to Friday in one piece. The addition of a newborn baby to the annexe’s inhabitants had proved to be a bit of a trial for them, not that they would ever admit it to anyone who asked. The two of them were so besotted with baby Nan that it was impossible for anyone to imagine that in the small hours of the morning the Head Mistress and her deputy’s language was on the rainbow side of colourful. Carlie had blossomed in her new role as a mother and, despite initial protestations that she surely wasn’t old enough to be a grandmother, Sharlie had slipped into her new role so easily that it was hard for her closest friends to imagine a time when she hadn’t been a grandmother.
The Christmas concert was a delight for all who attended it, from four day old Nan who had to be taken out half way through the performance to the doting grandparents who had come to see their pupil granddaughters. There were several performances by every age group from the firsts through to the upper sixth each giving the Christmas message in their own way. Abby had been allowed to sit with her father and Vi as she wasn’t able to take part in the performance. Sitting between her father and Vi she felt as though she were at the start of something that would endure. Abby knew, not that she would ever let on.
And so term came to an end once more at the Chalet School on a grey, overcast Friday afternoon. Chaos reigned supreme, much as it did any other time of the term, only today it was allowed to run a little more unchecked.
“Seen Katy?” asked Livia as the members of 3A who were awaiting collection from their parents congregated at the top of the school drive, each straining to see the arrival of their parents.
“Err…” Abby replied with a non-committal shrug her eyes frantically searching the arriving cars for her father.
“Grandma!” shrieked Megan suddenly as she noticed Jo, Robert and Vi walking together up the drive, lost in their own conversation.
Breaking into a run Megan, Abby and Livia launched themselves at Jo, Robert and Vi each finding themselves engulfed in enthusiastic hugs. Standing a little away from the crowd Nancy and Kathie surveyed the scene before them.
“Alright?” asked Nancy giving her friend’s arm a comforting squeeze.
Kathie smiled. “Yes, I think so,” she replied, her eyes settling on Megan, Abby and Livia. “I just wish sometimes…” She broke off there, knowing that there are times when there are words better left unsaid.
It was a warm summer’s day towards the end of summer term at the Chalet School; it was too hot for lessons and the girls had all leapt at the chance to spend the day out of doors. Crossing the lawn Vi Warrington’s eyes were fixed on one girl in particular; reclining under the shade of the enormous oak tree was Abigail Fenchurch.
Abby raised her eyes and met with the shining ones of her father’s partner. “Hello Auntie Vi,” she replied standing up and engulfing her in a bear hug.
“It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” asked Vi as they sat down.
“Glorious,” replied Abby dreamily.
For a few moments neither of them spoke, then Vi broke the silence. “Abby, I have something for you. I’m not sure what you’ll think of it but your mother left it without any instructions so your father and I have taken a few liberties…” she broke off and reached into the bag she had been carrying. “We found it at your mother’s cottage when we went to pack up last summer, it was the start of her writing her life story. Your father and I thought you might like to have it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Because it was in no order and there were too many gaps so we’ve spent the last year contacting people who knew your mother to help us fill in those blanks.”
“Oh.” Abby paused. “May I see it?”
Vi laughed. “Of course you may. I am silly sitting here telling you about it and not letting you see it.” She pulled out a cleanly bound pile of papers and handed them to the girl who had her mother’s eyes sitting beside her. It had taken all this time for Vi to notice just how like her mother Abby was becoming.
Abby reached out and took the precious papers from Vi. “Thank you,” she whispered, holding them in her hands like gold dust.
Mary-Lou Trelawney: A life to be dug.
For Abby, who one day will spread her wing and realise she knows how to fly.
With apologies to Barbra Streisand
They went back that summer, to the tiny grey seaside village, to the tiny grey stone cottage with the roses climbing up the front wall just a stone’s throw from the beach. One particular afternoon Abby settled into the rocking chair by the window to read the words her mother had written. Tell me where, where is it written what it is I’m meant to be. Had it really only been twelve months since the phone call that had changed everything? She remembered sitting on the stairs, not meaning to listen in, but hearing the doubt in her father’s voice but eventually agreeing with a resigned air. That I can dare, it all began the day I found that from my window I could only see a piece of sky. Her safe existence had changed there and then in that moment, but now she was glad. She knew that it was impossible to remain confined forever, she understood the importance of freedom. I stepped outside and looked around, I never dreamed it was so wide or even half as high. It hadn’t just been her who had changed over the last year, her father had as well. Looking out of the window she could see him walking with Vi along the beach hand in hand, the happiness written on their faces. Abby felt it as well, and she was pleased for them. After everything it was a fitting ending. The time had come, papa can you hear me, to try my wings, papa are you near me, and even though it seemed at any moment I could fall, I felt the most, papa can you see me, amazing things, can you understand me, the things you can’t imagine if you’ve never flown at all though it’s safer to stay on the ground sometimes where danger lies the sweetest of pleasures are found. Laying the sheaf of papers carefully down on the window sill as she turned the final one, Abby felt a sense of peace, of completion, of understanding. There was a whole world out there beyond her window, a world just waiting for her, a world to be explored. No matter where I fall there’ll be memories that tug at my sleeve, but there will also be more to question yet more to believe, oh tell me where, where is the someone who will turn to look at me and want to share my every sweet imagined possibility. It was a perfect day outside, endless blue skies and calm blue seas, too perfect to be cooped up inside simply watching it. Opening the door to the cottage she heard the laughter of the others, caught on the wind and drifting gently back to her, and she knew that now she had that which she had always craved, a family. The more I live, the more I learn, the more I learn, the more I realise the less I know. She had learned so much since the previous summer she barely recognised the girl she had once been. There was so much more to life than she had ever imagined; she would never stop fighting for right and justice but now she had learned to look deeper. Each step I take, papa I’ve a voice now, each page I turn, papa I’ve a choice now. She ran down to the water’s edge and simply stood there watching the eternal waves lapping into shore as her mother had so often done. She could hear the laughter of her family a little way along the beach, she’d join them in a moment. Each mile I travel only means the more I have to go. A family, a word she’d never dared to dream she could associate with herself. Other people had families, she had her father, but losing her mother had taught them both that there was another way. What’s wrong with wanting more if you can fly? Life was unpredictable, it couldn’t be planned because maybe there already was a plan. Then so with all there is why settle for just a piece of sky? Standing alone on the beach at the water’s edge, staring out at the vast empty sea, Abby understood. Papa I can hear you, papa I can see you, papa I can feel you, papa, watch me fly. With a smile she flung the pebble in her hand out as far as she could before going to join her family.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.