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"FREEEEEEEEEEEDOM!!"

The staff looked up in surprise as Sharlie Andrews nearly leapt into the staff room, throwing her end of term duty list onto her desk and collapsing dramatically into a soft chair.

"Happy for the start of the holidays?" Peggy Burnett said with an amused smile. Sharlie looked up at her from the exaggeratedly laid back pose and waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the pile of papers on her desk.

"Unbelievably so!" She said with a gusty sigh of satisfaction, closing her eyes and smiling widely. "I'm officially up to date with marking, have everything as ready for next term as I can make it, and my little darlings have just been waved off on the way back to England. There is nothing I have to do for weeks and weeks and weeeeeeeks!"

The others smiled at her performance, understanding the emotion only too well. They worked very hard as a rule throughout the term, and had a lot of out of hours responsibilities. It wasn't until the long summer holiday that they really had any significant amount of time off, and as a relatively young group, they could on occasion chafe against having to present such a dignified and sensible image all of the time. As the mistresses all reached the end of their pre holiday task lists, Sharlie was joined by several of the others on the soft chairs and chattering began in earnest about holiday plans. Sharlie was the one with the most energy, and fairly bounced around the staff room with the joy of being free of care for a while.

Finally a group of the noisier members of staff were shooed off by the elder mistresses, and those who still had jobs to finish. They rambled through the corridors, chattering and teasing between them in a way that would have shocked their charges to the core. As they had a staff meeting the following day they were none of them leaving until the next evening, so a real party atmosphere began to settle on the group. They hadn't planned it, but ended up in the hall, spreading out into little groups to chatter, and cheer on Peggy, Sharlie and Kathy, who were showing off their ability to do cartwheels and walk on their hands. Nancy sat to one side with Ruth Derwent and laughed until she nearly cried at the three would be acrobats, who were near enough matched to each other to keep the competition going for some time. Soon enough nearly all of the staff arrived at the impromptu party, enjoying chattering and laughing together as adults, without the students anywhere around to observe them.

The energy of the group didn't wane, if anything it began to build, nearly all of them needing an escape, after all these long months with very little exercise for most of them bar dignified rambles. Soon enough they took turns at the piano and were dancing. A few jigs and reels were the start, and they were looking likely to follow with more until Peggy, with a hoot of laughter dove from the room, returning with a record waved triumphantly above her head. She wouldn't be drawn into what it was, and went to drag out the record player and set her prize upon it.

A little scratching, a click or two, and the music began to fill the room, raising laughter all around as the first words were heard.

"The warden threw a party in the county jail
The prison band was there and they began to wail
The band was jumpin' and the joint began to swing
You should've heard them knocked-out jailbirds sing"

Kathy whooped and grabbed a surprised Nancy by both hands, pulling her up and beginning to dance in a way that the older woman took a moment to copy, then grinned as several of the others crowded into the centre of the hall and began to each perform their own version of dancing or swaying and tapping feet to the music.

"Let's rock; everybody, let's rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone
Little Joe was blowin' on the slide trombone
The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang
The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang"

Peggy sang along, miming each of the instruments as she half hopped around the floor, pointing to various members of staff as each inmate was mentioned. Mlle, Sarah Denny and Nell, sitting off at the edge laughed to be given the name of the infamous gangsters, and were persuaded to join in, giving very passable imitations of the gyrations of their younger colleagues.

"Let's rock; everybody, let's rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock

Number forty-seven said to number three
"You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see
I sure would be delighted with your company
Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me"

Kathy wasn't quite so obvious as Peggy but her little serenade to Nancy made that 'jailbird' blush and look around, then realise that only the pair of them could hear, so grinned back at her, dancing as close as she dared without being too obvious. Peggy, with an eye to her friends, did her best to distract everyone, getting cheeky enough to go up to another group of older mistresses, though careful to not name any one of them as 'sad sack', raising another laugh as she grabbed a chair and danced around it.

"Let's rock; everybody, let's rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock

Sad sack was sittin' on a block of stone
Way over in the corner weepin' all alone
The warden said, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no square
If you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair"

Sharlie still had plenty of energy left, and took over the performance as the verses went on, looking side to side as if contemplating escape, then as if talking out of the side of her mouth to Peggy, who responded gleefully as Bugsy, giving the staff a final laugh at their double act, before encouraging most of them up for the final bars of the song.

"Let's rock; everybody, let's rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock

Shifty Henry said to Bugs, "For Heaven's sake
No one's lookin'; now's our chance to make a break"
Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, "Nix, nix
I want to stick around a while and get my kicks"

Let's rock; everybody, let's rock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock

Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock"

The group was starting to tire just a little now, but the dancing and laughter had done them all good, blown the cobwebs away nicely. The new music was a little fast and loud for some of the mistresses' usual taste, but the energy and humour was obvious, and no one objected when Peggy turned the record over for another song, although all but the youngest cried off any more gyrating, happy enough to watch their colleagues demonstrated their skills in twisting, stepping and rocking along. There was little dignity or decorum in the way they were moving, but no one thought to suggest that they behave a more like the young adults they were, rather than the teenagers they were resembling.

It was holiday time after all.



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