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The house was still and quiet and to be truthful, a little dusty.

Their maid, Marie, was never very thorough without someone showing her what to do. Amélie waited. Perhaps today would bring something different. Fond as she was of her parents and elder brother, and their small domestic staff, she was lonely.

They were isolated here with often just each other for company. Visitors were rare and enough to excite them all for weeks afterwards as they discussed every detail, who had said what, what they had been wearing. Even Guillaume, who held himself aloof as elder brothers who wanted to be doctors were wont to do would join in and spend time talking with her afterwards. They had been closer years ago, but those were different days.

Amélie sighed.

Papa was very silent these days. He kept his own company and sometimes days would go by without the rest of the family seeing him. He would spend all his time in his study. The study was not quite out-of-bounds but Amélie would rarely find herself in there. She worried for Papa. He was naturally gregarious and she knew he missed the visitors they had entertained in the old days. Often Amélie would start to ask why nobody came anymore but she was told to be quiet, by Papa, by Maman, by Guillaume, by Cook, by Marie, by everyone. It wasn’t fair.

The Maynard girls would often talk of their school to her but when she had asked her family if she might be allowed to go, Guillaume had just laughed and told her not to be stupid.

They hadn’t seen the Maynards for ages. Amélie knew Phil Maynard best, they were closest in age, but her father and mother remembered the whole family. Guillaume still talked of the time Dr and Mrs Maynard had come to see them together. Guillaume had thought that the great doctor seemed uncomfortable – slightly shifty almost – but his father had spoken sharply to him and told him not to be silly. Why wouldn't the doctor want to see them?

He had never come again. Amélie sometimes thought that Papa blamed Guillaume for being right.

Maman was delicate and spent a lot of time in bed. Amélie had always envied the Maynard girls their jolly, schoolgirlish mother.

She was lonely. She wanted friends – proper friends.

She wanted to go out. They never went out. She might as well suggest they flew to the moon.

She wanted to go to the Chalet School.

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