If I had ever been here before I would probably know just what to do.
And I feel like I've been here before
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Deja Vu
Simone’s face was troubled when she arrived at Freudesheim on Wednesday morning. Joey saw it straight away, although she waited until the two of them were alone in the Salon before she gently asked what was wrong. “You’re going to think I’m silly,” Simone said. “It’s Cousin Thérèse – there’s nothing wrong, is there, my Jo? Something seems different about her.”
Joey folded her hands into her lap, looking thoughtful. “Not silly,” she said. “You’re right – oh, not that there’s anything wrong with her, not as far as I know. But it’s almost like she’s just – waiting for something.”
“Not for – not for –”
“No! Not that, Simone. She hasn’t given up on life – I don’t think she could. She’s busy planning a Guide camp for her troop as soon as the last of the snow melts. Perhaps waiting wasn’t the right word. She’s – she’s looking forward to something. Whatever it is, she won’t talk about it.”
Simone relaxed. “She always did seem to see further than anyone else,” she said, after a moment.
“At any rate, I don’t think it’s anything we need to be concerned over! Now – you did say you had something to show me, my lamb! It’s not nice of you to keep me in suspense any longer.”
“I do – mon Dieu! What was that noise?”
Joey rose, and went to the window. “A storm! Not a nice one, by the looks of things, either.”
“As if there were such thing as a nice one! I suppose you think us being stuck on top of a mountain in a shack is ‘nice’-”
“Libel! I was as uncomfortable as you were, and I still have nightmares about that milk. Those clouds do look a little ominous, though.” There was a touch of worry in Joey’s voice, and Simone joined her looking out at the sky.
“Hilary won’t send the boys home if it hasn’t passed by lunchtime, Joey.”
“No, of course not. Gracious!” As lightning forked across the sky, leaving a trail of the strangest purple-green hue. “We are in for a doozie.”
Simone suddenly laughed. “A – doozie? Joey, how do you pick up such expressions?”
Joey took no notice of her, distracted by the appearance of Bruno, who padded into the room whining in a most distressing manner. “You worried by the storm too, boy?” She sighed. “And it looked like such a nice morning, too! Simone, I’d better whip around and make sure the windows are closed – ” she paused. “Bother! The girls said I wasn’t to go upstairs under pain of being robbed of my pudding for a week. You wouldn’t mind checking to see that they know to batten down their hatches, will you?” Simone agreed, and Jo banged the Salon window shut – it often stuck – and flicked on the electric light; it was already growing darker.
“Anna! Was there washing outside? Should I fetch it?”
Joey’s maid stuck her head out of the kitchen door, and suggested – firmly – that Joey ought to watch the potatoes to make sure they didn’t boil over while she fetched the washing. Joey meekly obeyed. Anna tended to think that she was incapable of much beyond cooking vegetables and turning heels, and as the years went on Joey wasn’t sure but that she might be right. At any rate, she’d certainly never managed to press Jack’s shirts with the finesse that Anna did.
A sudden insistent rapping on the front door interrupted her thoughts. Was anyone else about yet? No – she’d better answer it. Remembering for once to turn the hob down, she glanced out the kitchen window - the threatened rain still was holding off, but that strange, purple-green lightning still flashed across the black clouds. Joey shivered.
The knocking came again, and she hurried down the hallway. Who would it be – someone seeking shelter from the storm, perhaps? The school would be closed until Friday, so there’d be no one there to welcome lost souls. Freudesheim would be the nearest place if anyone had been out for a walk. Wondering, she opened the door and was greeted by a familiar face, her former school-friend and matron of the Chalet School, Ruhanna MacDonald.
"Hanna!" Joey cried. "I thought you were off on a trip? I - oh, Maryah, I didn't see you there. Not that it isn't a pleasure to see both of you, but - Con?" as she noticed her second daughter standing with the two Old Girls. "I thought you were upstairs with the others." Then, catching sight of her face, she caught her breath. "What’s wrong?"
A deep growl of thunder greeted her last word, and Maryah glanced nervously up at the sky. "There's no time to explain," Hanna said peremptorily, and brushed passed her into the house, Maryah followed, throwing an agonising look at Joey as she went; but Joey managed to catch Con's arm before she followed the other two. "Con, what on Earth-"
"I'm sorry, Mamma," Con said, and then yanked her arm free. "I'll explain later, honest!" She took off after the others, and Joey stood for a moment, stunned by the quietest triplet's behaviour. Then she turned on her heel and was after them, anxious to know what had brought both Hanna and Maryah back from their holiday, and what had taken Con out of the house without a by-your-leave - and to come back, looking so scared.
Con was at the top of the stairs as Joey reached the hallway. She followed her daughter up, taking the steps two at a time - which she would definitely not be telling Jack later or he'd have things to say - and arrived at the top to see her daughter, still running, enter her own room. Someone screamed – it sounded like Con – and a babble of voices, harsh and high-pitched reached her ears. Joey quickened her pace, her heart beating rapidly from both the exertion and the frightening thoughts that were filling her head. She reached Con’s bedroom door just in time to see – “But that’s impossible,” she gasped, “there can’t be – ”
The storm was right on top of them, and the thunder boomed at exactly the same time as the lightning struck, and –
Written for the first Chalet School Big Bang challenge.