"Kath. Kathie love. You need to wake up," Nancy spoke softly, smiling fondly at the brown head which was resting on her shoulder.
"Am awake," Kathie said sleepily, her eyes closed and her arm cosily tucked through Nancy’s. The pair were sitting in the waiting area of the Gare de Genève.
"Kathie. The others are going to be here soon. You need to wake up a bit. Honestly," Nancy murmured, "Anyone would think you hadn’t just spent the last two days in bed."
Opening her eyes just a little, Kathie playfully reached for Nancy’s hand. "Bed sounds nice. Let’s go back."
"Kath..." Nancy said weakly, then, regaining her focus, "Seriously, the others will be here soon. You need to sit up, open your eyes, that kind of thing."
Kathie shook her head. "Told you. Am awake." She raised her head slightly to look at Nancy, who saw a face that was not sleepy at all.
"Are you just pretending to be sleepy?" Nancy asked suspiciously.
"Pretending? No. Acting? Yes."
"Are you pretending to be sleepy so you can sneak cuddles in public?"
"No, I’m acting sleepy because your shoulder looked cold and lonely and wanted me to keep it warm and loved."
"You can’t tell me you haven’t been enjoying it though."
"Well." They sat in contented silence.
After a moment, Nancy asked, "So you’re not really tired at all?"
Kathie shook her head with a grin.
Nancy frowned. "Shame...if you were tired, you’d’ve had to have had an early night..."
The grin fell from Kathie’s face. She suddenly yawned rather theatrically.
"That’s more like it," Nancy chuckled.
Kathie snuggled back into Nancy’s shoulder. "I’m just trying to get a few more minutes of it being just us, before everyone else appears, and it’ll be us and all our friends, and before we have to go back to school, and it’ll be us and all our friends and all our colleagues and all our students."
"I know. But it’s not like we’re not going to be seeing each other every day, is it? Think of Biddy and Eugen, miles apart and seeing each other only every month or so."
"Yes, but they’re getting married, and then they’re going to have forever together in the same house."
"Hmm." Nancy was quiet for a moment. "But my room is awfully close to yours, you know."
"That I have been consoling myself with, yes."
"And we’ll have weekends we can escape and be together."
"But I’ll miss having you all to myself all the time. This last two weeks has been...splendiferous."
"Splendiferous? Is that a word?"
Kathie nodded. "I have it on good authority from Inter V that it is indeed a word."
"You’d get bored of me if I was all you had to see all day, every day."
"No I wouldn’t. I’d find ways to entertain myself. And you." And Kathie moved her head and whispered in Nancy’s ear, and what she said made Nancy turn rather red.
"Kathleen Ferrars! Whatever am I going to do with you?" Nancy wore a shocked look.
And Kathie gave a very wicked grin and was about to offer some whispered suggestions but before she could make Nancy blush even more a loud shout interrupted her.
"Nancy! Kathie! How good to see you both!" Dragging suitcases, Ruth, Rosalind, and Peggy were suddenly in front of them. Tearing themselves apart, Nancy and Kathie stood up, and greeted their friends warmly.
A few moments later, Biddy and Sharlie appeared from a different direction and as Nancy led them all out of the station towards their hotel, Peggy uttered some words that would, for some among the party, turn out to be rather prophetic.
"Right girls, one last weekend of freedom before we have to be back in school. Let’s make it one to remember!"
Because Nancy and Kathie had been in Geneva for several days already, that evening Nancy was placed in charge of getting the group from their hotel to the restaurant. Unfortunately, not long after leaving the hotel she took a right instead of a left and very quickly became rather lost.
"Well, seeing as I’m not a Geography teacher I’m not altogether sure why I was put in charge of map-reading. I have not been trained in the specialist skills required," Nancy complained.
In response, the Geography teachers objected that, as it was the holidays, they were not on duty and therefore could not in any way be expected to do anything which resembled work. But, Ruth added, despite being a holidaying Geography teacher, Kathie had been in Geneva at least as long as Nancy, and so was a reasonable candidate for the job. And, as Biddy pointed out, Kathie was also the youngest in the group, and it was only right that she showed due respect to her elders and submitted to being bullied into taking over the map-reading.
It took a bit of grumbling, and turning the map first this way and then that, and then some more grumbling before Kathie declared that she probably knew where they were and should be able to get them to their dinner.
Once they’d finally made it to the restaurant, a dinner of warmth and good cheer and wine of a reasonable quality and significant quantity followed. The friends swapped holiday stories; Sharlie had been to Paris; Biddy to stay near Eugen; while Peggy, Ruth and Rosalind had been to North Italy. And Kathie and Nancy, trying not to look too shifty, explained that they had been "quite busy," "sightseeing," "relaxing," "you know, that kind of thing," firstly in Bavaria, and then, for the last few days, in Geneva.
After dinner, the drinking and merriment was relocated to the hotel bar.
An hour or so later, Kathie looked at Nancy with intent and yawned. It was all Nancy could do not to laugh at Kathie’s performance but she nodded her head slightly to show she’d understood. And Kathie’s theatrics did the job. Rosalind noticed Kathie’s apparent tiredness, and suggested she might need to go to bed. Kathie agreed, especially as, she noted with a grin, the others seemed pretty solidly lodged in the bar, and rather likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.
"Oh, if only Miss Annersley could see you all now," were her parting words, as five of her six colleagues set about demolishing another bottle of wine. The sixth colleague, meanwhile, though she took yet another glass of wine when it was offered, was largely preoccupied with making a silent vow to find the next possible opportunity to follow Kathie upstairs.
A short while later Nancy did manage to make her own excuses, having – to her own mild embarrassment – resorted to the same kind of yawning tactics that Kathie had earlier demonstrated.
"It’s not like the old days," Ruth said, sorrowfully. "Then, no-one would have gone to bed this early. Do you think we’re getting old?"
Rosalind hurried to reassure Ruth that age wasn’t the determining factor: simply, it just seemed that Nancy and Kathie were lacking in stamina. And after collectively decrying their colleagues for a few minutes, Biddy doled out some more wine, and merriment resumed as Ruth began to reminisce about previous weekends away and she and the others set about educating Sharlie in the legends of the drunken exploits of the Chalet School mistresses.
It wasn’t too long before it became apparent that Nancy had taken a prominent role in many of the more outrageous stories they were telling, and Peggy suggested that that lady ought to be present to put forward her own account of the events and declare any mitigating circumstances. Like most ideas conceived after multiple bottles of wine have been collectively consumed, this seemed a perfectly reasonable plan, and so it was democratically voted that Peggy be the one to go and rouse Nancy – and while she was there, Kathie too – from their beds.
Peggy lurched to her feet, bounded rather hap-hazardly up the stairs, and made her way down one interminable hotel corridor after another, bouncing off the walls only occasionally until she reached room 214, tried the door, found it unlocked, burst in, and threw on the light.
"We’ve decided now’s no time for sleeping, Nancy, and you need to come back downstairs," Peggy declared, and then gasped "Oh God, I’m sorry" as she realized that the single bed nearest her was empty, and that nearer the window had two people in it – and one of them was Nancy and... she blinked a few times, dazed and drunkenly, as she realized that the other person in the bed, somewhat reluctantly attempting to extricate themselves from the tangle of limbs and bedclothes, was...Kathie?
So absorbed were Kathie and Nancy in each other that by the time they realised what had just happened Peggy had flipped the light back off and flung the door closed with as much vigour as she’d burst it open a minute before. Thrust back into darkness, Nancy reached out for the bedside light, and when she found it, she and Kathie regarded each other with horrified faces.
"Didn’t you lock the door?" Kathie was the first to speak.
"Me? I thought you did."
Kathie shook her head. "You were the last one in..."
Nancy groaned. "I was, wasn’t I? Oh... I’ll have to go and talk to her," she said, but for a minute or two stayed exactly where she was, holding Kathie close to her. Eventually she sighed and reluctantly got up and out of bed. "Though what I’m going to say..."
"The truth...?" Kathie suggested.
They looked at each other for a moment or two.
Then Kathie cracked into a grin. "But, lovely, you might want to put some clothes on first. I think she’s probably seen enough of you naked for one day."
Confused and embarrassed Peggy stood outside of room 214 not entirely sure what to do with herself. Her own room, which she was sharing with Biddy, was just a few doors away down the corridor, and suddenly feeling rather sober, she remembered that somewhere in her suitcase was a bottle of something, and that right now what she needed most was a drink.
Thankful that she had the keys in her pocket and didn’t have to go back downstairs to find them, Peggy let herself into her room, opened her case and turned it upside down. With a muffled thud, the bottle ...of Campari? Whose idea had that been?... landed amongst the pile of clean- and not-so-clean clothes.
She poured a slug into a tea cup, and downed it.
And then another.
And then there was a knock on the door.
Peggy wasn’t very surprised to see that it was Nancy. She let her in.
The two women stood there, looking at each other awkwardly. Peggy spoke first.
"Nancy – what was that all about?"
"I could ask you the same," Nancy replied, rather defensively. "Barging into our room like that?"
"I – um. We thought...we wanted you to come back downstairs...it seemed a good idea....." Peggy went quiet. What had they been thinking? "I think...maybe..." She stopped again. "I have no excuse. I can only blame the drink. But what about you? What are you going to say – 'It’s not what it looks like?'"
Nancy bristled. "It’s pretty much exactly what it looks like. But I wasn’t aware that I needed an excuse for what I – we - get up to in private."
"Yes. Well. I’m sorry for crashing in on you. But if you’re going to start ... well, you know ... you should have at least locked the door."
"I thought Kathie had." Nancy became rather sheepish.
"And she thought you had?"
"Has this been going on long?"
"A few weeks."
"Do you think it’s wise, you two carrying on like this?"
Despite herself, Nancy chuckled. "I don’t think wisdom’s got an awful lot to do with it."
Peggy tried to look sternly at her, and then started laughing too.
"Well." She sat down on her bed, and invited Nancy to sit in the armchair. "Want some?" she proffered the bottle of Campari.
Nancy nodded, and Peggy found her a clean mug.
Nancy drank. "Ew, that is vile."
"Acquired taste, apparently. Holiday souvenir." Peggy said. And then, "Well, that explains one thing – no, two actually."
"Well, firstly, why the pair of you’ve been looking like the cats that’ve got the cream lately."
Nancy shrugged. "And second?" she asked.
"And second, why despite being here for several days, and being – and I quote - ‘quite busy’, the pair of you have absolutely no idea where anything is."
"Nancy, just be careful. The pair of you."
"What are you going to do?"
Before Peggy could answer, there was a knock, and Kathie stuck her head round the door. "Can I come in?"she asked. Peggy nodded.
"Figured it wasn’t fair for Nancy to take the rap all on her own," Kathie said. She sat on the arm of Nancy’s chair, and looking defiantly at Peggy, slipped her arm round Nancy’s shoulders.
Peggy looked at the pair of them for a moment, and then made a decision.
"Kathie, I was just saying I shouldn’t have barged in on you," she said. "...if I’d’ve known.... What you two get up to behind closed doors is absolutely none of my business. I’m not going to say anything...but you might try a bit harder to make sure those doors stay closed in future... "
Nancy and Kathie looked at each other, and smiled sheepishly. Nancy offered Kathie the glass she was holding. Kathie sniffed it, pulled a face and politely declined.
Peggy watched the interaction between the two of them with a slight flush of embarrassment– an embarrassment that was confirmed when she realised that Kathie was wearing clothes that had last been seen on Nancy. But before she could reflect on this, the door to her own room burst open, and in poured Ruth, Rosalind, Biddy and Sharlie. And as the others came in, Peggy noted that Kathie withdrew the arm that had been resting on Nancy’s shoulders, and stiffened slightly.
"Peggy, really, you were meant to be bringing them downstairs with you, not setting up a rival party here," Ruth declared.
"We were... um...just coming," Nancy said quickly, and made to stand up.
"Too late. Given it’s gone midnight, the bar’s closed," Biddy explained.
"But it’s ok, because look what we snaffled before it did," said Sharlie, producing a bottle of wine from behind her back.
To this, was added Peggy’s Campari, a bottle of gin from Biddy, and, accompanied by much general hilarity and inappropriate jokes about sailors, one of Navy rum from Ruth. Raids were made on various rooms to pull together enough glasses and tea cups to drink from.
And Kathie – who, alone amongst her colleagues seemed to be not intent on getting completely obliterated, and thinking that, given what had just happened, at least one of her and Nancy ought to keep some measure of relative sobriety – was enormously thankful that Sharlie hadn’t managed her holiday’s ambition of acquiring a bottle of absinthe from ‘a friend of a friend of a friend’ while she was in Paris.