Abendessen was full of excited chatter as friends and acquaintances caught up with each other.
“I’ll let the little dears blow off steam so long as they’re not too noisy” murmured Miss Edwards to Miss Norman, “otherwise there could be trouble later.”
Miss Norman smiled at her friend. She gave Dollie a searching look. “Is everything all right?” she asked concerned.
Miss Edwards shook her head. “I’ll let you know later,” she said quietly.
Miss Norman nodded and turned to answer something her neighbour Miss Carey was saying to her.
Miss Edwards was lost in thought for a moment remembering the interview she had before Abendessen….
Alison Grant knocked on the Head’s study door.
“Come in,” said a pleasant voice.
“Miss Edwards may I see you for a moment?” she asked nervously.
“Certainly Alison,” said Miss Edwards smiling at the girl. “Is everything alright?”
Alison shook her head. “Miss Edwards,” she began desperately, “I don’t think I can be a Prefect. I know it’s a tremendous honour and all and I’m flattered you chose me to be one, but I’ve really struggled with my schoolwork since arriving here and I don’t think I can managed being a Prefect and be able to keep up with the rest of my form. I know I’m only a Sub Prefect but I’ll still need to take prep and I need every minute I have to get my own work done. I’m really sorry, but I don’t think I can manage both.”
“Alison,” broke in Miss Edwards quietly, while Alison fell silent and raised her troubled eyes to her Headmistress.
Miss Edwards gazed at the girl. ‘I wish I knew the older girls better, than I do she thought. ‘What on earth am I to do?’ But gazing at Alison’s face Miss Edwards knew Alison was genuinely concerned about her studies and Miss Edwards could remember clearly what Hilda Annersley had said about the girl. “Alison is a lovely girl who tries hard but her groundwork has always let her down. She does have a quiet steady influence on many of the old Tanswick girls.”
“Alison,” said Miss Edwards at last, “are you really sure you want to do this. Miss Annersley spoke highly of you.”
“I would hate to do a bad job or not be able to do so well at school. I really struggle to keep up with the others,” said Alison bravely.
“Alison, I will be explaining this to the rest of your form but we are planning a few changes,” and Miss Edwards went onto explain about the sets within Va and VIb the mistresses were planning on having. “The forms will be smaller so you have more attention from the mistresses and you will be placed according to ability. Would you reconsider seeing how you go this term and if you still feel the same way then you may step down as Sub Prefect and we will ask another girl to take your place.”
Alison looked down at her hands. All right,” she said with an inward sigh.
“Thank you, Alison,” said Miss Edwards with her own sigh of relief.
Miss Edwards rang the bell at the end of the meal and everyone stopped talking. “Girls, after Abendessen is over you may relax in your common rooms. Kindergarten and Juniors have half an hour before bedtime, while middles have until eight o’clock and Seniors until nine o’clock. The first assembly will take place tomorrow morning when all the day girls arrive. That is all, you may finish up girls.”
Gisel hurried after her sister Jacquetta, when her table had been cleared and the girls had left the Dinning Room. Jac, wait up please she called. Jacquetta stopped with a disconsolate look on her face.
“What is it?” she asked, raising a miserable face to her sister.
“Come with me for a sec, please Jac?” asked Gisel slowing down. Jac followed her sister to a small study.
“What room is this?” she asked looking around it with interest.
“The Head Girl’s study,” said Gisel, her lips twitching as she tried not to laugh at the stunned look on Jacquetta’s face.
“Are you Head Girl?” she asked eagerly.
“Afraid so,” said Gisel.
“That wonderful,” said Jacquetta hugging her older sister. “Thanks,” said Gisel gazing at her younger sister affectionately.
She and Natalie had always been close and as they grew older had developed an affinity with their younger sisters. Natalie was close with Gretchen a shy, quiet girl who was always inclined to worry about everyone and everything whereas Gisel understood stubborn and strong willed Jacquetta, who had a strong sense of fairness and justice, and was extraordinarily patient with her.
“You can’t tell anyone,” warned Gisel. “Miss Edwards will tell everyone at assembly tomorrow. I’ll tell Gretchen and Hilda myself later.”
“All right,” said Jacquetta, making herself comfortable in the small armchair in her sister’s room
Gisel sat on the chair opposite her sister. “How are you settling in?” she asked delicately. “Who’s in your dorm?”
“I’m next to Margot Maynard,” scowled Jacquetta. “At least Emilia is on the other side of me.”
“Jac,” said Gisel gently, “why don’t you like Margot?”
“She thinks she should be allowed to go to Switzerland,” burst out Jacquetta, “and it’s not fair. No one else was allowed to go unless they were twelve and lots of girls like Emilia should have been, cos Switzerland is closer than England, but Margot, Len and Con all get special treatment and it’s not fair.”
Gisel looked at her sister sympathetically. She knew how much Jacquetta had wanted to move to Switzerland and to live closer to family and friends the Mensch’s had in Austria. Despite the school having originally been in Austria, the majority of girls had found learning German hard and most complained bitterly about having to learn the language. Gisel could remember hearing Natalie complain about a number of girls in her form at school namely Dickie Christy and how lonely it could be being the only native-German speaker whereas there were usually a few French speaking girls that stayed close together. Even where they lived there were still a few people in their local village who looked at them askance due the War, something Jacquetta found difficult to deal with at times especially as she had been born in England and knew what her family had suffered during the War; their grandfather Florian Marani had died in a Concentration Camp.
“I know,” she said with a sigh. She straightened up in her chair. “Jac, Margot was separated from her family for a year before the Maynard’s went to Canada and then when she finally comes home again, she separated again. She’s just finding that hard.”
“Then why was Dr Maynard asked to set up the San in Switzerland? Papa could have cos we’re originally from Europe and then the Maynard’s wouldn’t be separated from their children and we’d be closer to our family,” asked Jacquetta.
“I don’t know,” said Gisel with a sigh. “It would make sense, but who could ever understand grown ups.”
“It’s not fair,” said Jacquetta crossly, while Gisel shook herself.
“I know Jac,” she said gently, “but it has happened and Margot will be at this school for the next year and she’s hurting pretty badly about being away from her family again. I know you will be angry and think it’s not fair that she had that chance but, will you please try and not get into any arguments with her about it. Miss Norman said she will leave what happened in Swansea but she can’t do that if you do keep having fights with Margot about it. You don’t want a prefect or mistress sitting with you all the time, do you?”
Jac looked up at sister. A part of her felt sorry for Margot, just as a part of her was also angry with her.
“I’ll try,” she said with a half smile at her sister.
“Thanks, it’ll make my life as Head Girl a lot easier,” teased Gisel with a grin.