The handful of staff stopped waving as the three coaches of gentian clad girls turned the corner and disappeared.
‘Well, that’s it.’
‘Don’t look so woebegone, you’ll see most of them next term.’
‘But not here! I’m really going to miss the Platz’
Nancy opened her mouth to reply but was interrupted,
‘What time do the rest of you leave?’
Nancy grinned, ‘After Mittagessen but Kathie and I are only going as far as Interlaken so if you’ll invite us we’ll come over for tea if you like. Around 14?’
‘Okey doke. I’ll see you then,’ and Jo wandered off leaving the other two to follow the rest of the remaining staff while bickering mildly.
Jo ambled from the path and headed to the Memorial Garden. Two rows of trees, which had only just grown to meet overhead, sheltered a small area that resembled a sort of outdoor chapel. Joey leaned back on the bench dedicated to the memory of Luigia di Ferrara and gazed at the stone, behind which was a trellis covered with climbing plants. The sun shone through this, lighting the multi-coloured blooms like a natural stained glass window while their scent diffused the air. Joey’s shoulders dropped as she kicked off her sandals – this was the place that she would miss the most. Since its inauguration she had sat here every day the weather permitted; she would read the names inscribed on the stone and remember. These people had been friends and she spent time recalling their kindness, generosity and the funnier moments of their lives.
‘Excuse me Miss.’
Joey jumped and quickly scrabbled for her shoes. She’d been far away with Herr Laubach throwing all her art stuff at her after she’d purposely made him lose his rag, literally if you included the mopping up rag he’d thrown, and hadn’t heard the men approach.
‘Sorry Miss. We’ve come to move the stone.’
‘Where is she?’ Len Entwhistle stood by the window, tapping her foot, ‘We should be leaving in five minutes.’
Reg sighed, he might have known, ‘then she’s still got five minutes to get here.’
‘But I like to be prepared. I hate late starts.’
‘Look, Len, you’ve given yourself more than enough time to catch the five o’clock ferry so calm down.’ He was beginning to regret taking time off to come and say good-bye; he had some very interesting cases at the hospital. ‘Look, why don’t you come and say good-bye properly. We’ve discussed what is happening to the kids, you’ve organised my living arrangements, just relax and come and kiss me.’ Len suddenly grinned and sashayed over to her husband but just as his arms reached for her a car was heard stopping outside.
Kathie and Nancy stepped through the French window as Joey entered carrying the tea-pot.
Nancy looked at the dainty meal set out on the low table and said, ‘Wow! Anna’s done us proud.’
Joey giggled, ‘Actually I did most of it. All of it really, apart from the biscuits- Anna still won’t share that recipe.’ Nancy stopped still but recovered quickly to flap at Kathie as she murmured something about not wanting to be poisoned.
Joey ignored them and asked calmly about their plans for the future.
‘As you well know, I’m retiring. It’s a bit early but I couldn’t face becoming a rank and file teacher again after being a head. And Glendower House, although in essence the same school, has built up its own traditions and practices which would make it very tricky to adapt as a co-head. I’m a creature of habit but I’ll enjoy having lots of free time. No more troublesome middles’ she added with a laugh.
‘I’m teaching though. We’ve bought a cottage about five miles from the school so I’ll be a day teacher. The Firs has a massive garden so Nance wants to try a bit of self sufficiency but I’m not so keen on mud!’
For a while they chatted on about Nancy’s ideas before moving on to the coming invasion of all the Maynard children the next day.
‘You’ve changed Joey. I wanted to say so before but never found the right time.’
‘I know. It started when the trips left. Len wasn’t around to boss me so much so I felt a bit free-er. I mean I missed them loads at first but then, in defiance, I got my hair cut. When the san closed, what, ten fifteen years ago, it broke Jack’s heart but it meant , while he was just the school’s doctor, he had more time, felt less guilty about being away so much, and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t the invalid he’d been trying to make me. Less restriction here meant I didn’t need to escape to school so much. My life became lots happier so I didn’t feel the need to butt into others lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jack, he’s always been my best friend, and he was doing his best. It can’t be comfortable when your wife collapses every month – unless she’s pregnant,’ an embarrassed flush spread across her cheeks, ‘but I am made of sterner stuff than that. Now who wants one of Anna’s biscuits, it’s your last chance.’
‘Come on, surely she won’t stop making them in England!’
The car was the last one on to the ferry and, almost before Stephen had applied the handbrake, Flix muttered ‘Loo!’ and dashed off.
Cecily laughed, ‘I’d better go after her.’ She gathered up hers and Felicity’s handbags and climbed out of the car. As he locked up, Stephen called after her, ‘I’ll look around and see if the other three made it. See you on deck.’ She waved in response and started up the steps.
As he walked towards the salon he was mobbed by two red-heads, ‘Steve, look at what I’ve got.’ Phil waved her left hand under his nose.
‘Sapphires! Very nice. Congratulations Phil, and when do we meet this paragon of virtue?’
Phil giggled, ‘Not for a couple of months. He’s visiting his grandparents in New Zealand. Geoff’s met him though.’
Geoff nodded ‘He’s okay,’ then he winced as Phil dug a finger in his middle.
‘He’s not okay. He’s perfect!’
Steve decided to put an end to this before it got out of hand and escalated into one of the twins lengthy squabbles. ‘Where’s Felix?’
‘Oh, we spotted you driving aboard so we were coming to meet you when this blonde dashed past us and into the Ladies. So he’s probably hanging around there looking like some sort of pervert.’
‘Shut up Phil. He said he would wait for the girls and we should find you and go back on deck. We’ve chosen the spot and I think this may be the time to join them.’
Con hugged her children, ‘I’m going to miss you!’
‘Come on girl. You’ll be late for Mike if you don’t get a wriggle on.’
Con made a face at Prof and carried on ‘Have a wonderful time with Dadcu and Mamgu. Claire make sure Joy and Amy don’t play too many tricks. Peter will help you make sure your Grandparents don’t muddle them up. And Jack..’ Jack’s lower lip had started to wobble, ‘be good.’
‘Byeee.’ She and Prof left the house for a final cwtsh.
‘Love you Doctor Evans.’
Con laughed, ‘Don’t call me that. Only one sort of doctor in the Maynard Clan. I’ll call you tomorrow. Have a splendacious time in Wales.’ Con dashed to the car before she could start blubbing and drove off, not daring to look back. It felt like it would be years before she would see them again.