Elise sighed as she trudged back up the road towards her little apartment. She detested it, really – it was cramped, and ugly. But it was all that she could afford, and she knew that the money she saved by living here was always gratefully received by her cousin’s family. And now that Frederick was definitely out of the picture… She sighed. He had not been a rich man, either; that had not mattered, of course, but marriage would not have brought any change in circumstances, either.
She would continue to work hard, of course. That much was a given. It would be easier if the girls she taught wanted to learn! The English never did want to learn new languages, except to ‘swank’. Perhaps she should look for a private posting again. There was more money in it, and by the sounds of things the little Renée was really very gifted. She’d be wanting to go to the Conservertoire one day-
The voice was unfamiliar. Elise turned to see a stranger; a young man – not much more than a boy, really – in a suit that could only be described as eccentric. But then, the English so often were.
“Can I help you?” she asked politely.
“Yes! Well, no. I just wanted to… to give you this. It was down the road, the postman must have dropped it…” He must have been English, because why else would he be here? And yet he spoke Elise’s own language without a trace of an accent.
“Thank you.” She took the envelope from his hand and glanced at the address at the front. It was for her, alright. But the return address was Devon. Who did she know there? She didn’t recognise the name. And then she remembered – a girl who she had taught, not so many years ago. She’d married not long after coming out, and moved out of the city with her husband. Had there been children? She could not remember.
She turned the envelope over to open it, and then Elise paused, aware that the young man was looking at her very intently. Did he want something more from her? She turned to look at him with a teacher’s glare, but found that he was smiling, a smile so happy that she found herself returning it almost automatically.
“I better get going,” he told her apologetically. “I’ve got to get back to my… friends.” He turned away, his smile not faltering for a moment; then he turned back. “Don’t worry, Elise. Better things are heading your way.”
Then her was gone, leaving Elise staring after him like a fool. What an odd boy! And yet… she turned the envelope over in her hands, thoughtfully. When he’d smiled at her – when she smiled back – she had felt like she was standing on the edge of something, something joyeux.
She continued her walk back to the house, but this time there was a lightness in her step that had not been there a moment before.
The story, as it began, was completely different than how it finished. I started off planning an alternate universe where the Chalet School taught magic, and the triplets were sent back in time to avoid Word War III, but the world-building was far more fun than the actual story. Then I hit upon the idea that each triplet should be sent to a different era; and then it turned out that the story wasn't really about the triplets at all, but about Grizel and Deira, Beth, and Simone.
The Doctor made an appearance very late in the show. I was trying to work out exactly how the storm had sent the girls back in time, and exactly how they were going to work out how to get back, which, I know one would generally figure out fairly early in the piece, but I consider such things too much like homework and leave it until the very last moment possible.
It was always going to be a storm that sent them off. The octarine light is an explanation, if you like, but I tend to think of it more as an homage. Night Watch, in which Commander Vimes is sent back in time and ends up taking the place of his own mentor - OK, so I borrowed more than just the lightning - is very much my favourite Discworld novel. But while Vimes' mentor's life was tragically cut short, Elise was saved. You can blame that on the Doctor. He insisted on saving everyone.
Ultimately, if I’d had more time (and procrastinated less) I’d have liked to have told more of the stories I’ve only just touched on – Margot dealing with her mother and becoming a Matron instead of a nun, Simone stepping in to help Betty and Thekla before it was too late. Len dealing with her feelings for Reg, in another time and place. The mysterious disappearance of André. Maybe some day I will.
Maybe, in another reality, I already have…