It was a fine summer’s day in the Bernese Oberland. The finishing branch and the School proper had played a cricket match earlier, and many people were now enjoying the reunion with old friends, Tom and Rosalie among them. The pair had strolled to a secluded corner in the garden, and, once Tom’s enthusiastic analysis of the match had wound down, had begun talking about the end of their schooldays that was swiftly approaching.
“This time next year, you’ll be at Oxford,” Rosalie said pensively. “I wish I were going, too.”
Tom looked at her friend in surprise. Rosalie had never expressed such an ambition before, seeming perfectly content to fall in with her mother’s wish that she should enter Society with a capital S, as Tom always thought of it. This was something new.
“Well, it’s too late for this year’s entrance exams, but couldn’t you apply next year?” she asked doubtfully.
Rosalie shrugged. “My parents wouldn’t send me, and anyway I’m nowhere near clever enough to pass.” Unsaid, but loud at the back of her mind, was the fact that even if she did get in next year, Tom was starting this year.
“You’re not stupid, and you could have a year at Welsen to prepare, and the staff would help you…” Tom trailed off as Rosalie shook her head.
“My parents wouldn’t agree - and before you say anything about the school scholarships, I might scrape a pass in the entrance exams, but I’d never win a scholarship! They’d have to be mental to give me one, and you know it. No, it’s home for me.”
“Have you talked to your parents about it? Mine weren’t too sure about my being a missionary, especially Mater, but they agreed I should do it if that’s what I really want. I’m sure your folk would listen to you.”
Privately, Rosalie was fairly sure that her parents wouldn’t listen; neither thought much of higher education for girls, and they had quite other ambitions for their pretty daughter. Besides, if she was honest, she didn’t particularly want more schooling, though what she did want was more of a mystery even to herself.
“How did you know mission work was what you really wanted?” she asked instead of replying. “You kept changing your mind when we were younger, you know, and then suddenly you fixed on that and you never seem to have even doubted since.”
Tom frowned slightly, trying to put it in words. “I don’t know that I can explain, exactly. I know I did change my mind a lot, but in a way I think I was always heading towards it. I wanted to do something I could help people with, and all the things I thought of doing would help people. They weren’t quite right, though, so I kept changing, until I realised what it was I was meant for. Once I got the idea of mission work, I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of it before! It’s like a - a calling, and now I can hear it properly and I’ve made up my mind to follow it, I know I couldn’t do anything else. Do you see?” Boyish Tom was rather red as she wound up, all her dislike of talking about herself and her feelings coming to the front.
Rosalie nodded thoughtfully. “I think I do. It’s a big thing, and I don’t know if I can properly understand it since I’ve never felt that kind of call, but I can get an idea of what you’re driving at.” She wrinkled her nose. “I only wish I were so sure of what I want!”
“I thought you were looking forward to going into society,and having a grand time at parties and all that - stuff,” Tom said, hurriedly changing the last word from the ‘rot’ that would have been her first choice.
“I suppose… it would be more fun if you were there,” Rosalie replied, and Tom frankly gaped at her.
“Rosalie Way! Have you gone completely mad? Me in society?” she exclaimed, finally finding her voice, and Rosalie giggled.
“It would be fun,” she said, laughing, and after glaring at her for a few seconds, Tom suddenly laughed too.
“Fun for everyone watching me, I dare say. I’d hate it! But I expect you’ll enjoy it. And what about your writing? You used to be quite keen on that…”
“Oh, I mean to keep it up. Or perhaps I should say take it up again - I haven’t had much time this year, what with being a pree and everything. I’m quite out of practice!”
“I’ve got an idea to get you back in the habit,” Tom replied with a grin. “You can write to me at Oxford and tell me all about the fun you’ll be having.”
“Of course I’ll write,” Rosalie answered quickly. “Although I’ll expect answers!” she added severely, knowing what a poor correspondent her friend could be.
“I’ll write too, I promise. Just don’t expect epics! My talents don’t lie in that direction, but I’ll do my best.”
Rosalie smiled at her, knowing that Tom always kept her promises. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you… I’m going to miss you, you know.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Tom said gruffly, startling herself almost as much as Rosalie by this admission. Hurriedly casting around for a change of subject, she noted with relief that it was nearly time for Abendessen. “We’d better start heading back or we’ll be late,” she said, scrambling to her feet and holding out a hand to pull Rosalie up.
Her friend rose with far more grace, and slipped her hand through the gentlemanly arm offered. “Perhaps I could visit you sometimes?” she asked somewhat diffidently as they hurried back to the school.
Tom smiled down at her, surprised at the thrill of joy the idea gave her. “I’d love that.”
The gong rang at that moment, and they had to run. But though neither knew it at the time, the plans made in that conversation were only the start of a relationship that was to bring them great happiness in the future.
Written for the lost_spook in the Obscure and British Commentfest 2014 - to be found on livejournal.
Prompt was: Chalet School, Tom Gay/& Rosalie Way, vocations