|Rosalie Dene sank into her comfortable reclining chair, switched on her radio, took a refreshing sip of her drink and breathed a deep contented sigh. The cool shower had been just what she needed, the salad had been crisp and tasty and these new lounging pyjamas were soft and silky against her skin. “This quiet evening,” she thought, “I have most definitely earned!”|
It was the Monday evening at the culmination of the long, hot Coming of Age weekend. Rosalie had successfully fought off attempts to get her to any of the reminiscence parties still in full swing in the School proper and across the Platz. She had even managed to skip attendance at Abendessen pleading that she had to get the stencils cut for the back of the great Coming of Age photograph. That was a slight stretching of the truth. The excellent photographer she had booked had the most up-to-date equipment and all she had had to do was type the list and hand it to him before he left. She smiled as she thought of the unexpectedly large bonus which had come to the photographer, and to the Project funds, from all the extra copies ordered and paid for by former pupils carried away by the excitement of the Event.
Her mind went back to the morning last term when Hilda Annersley, brightly smiling, announced to her that the school would be having a major celebration to mark its Coming of Age.
Resisting the temptation to ask if this meant that staff members would, at long last, be getting a key for the front door, Rosalie queried, “But why do we want to celebrate the 21st? Don't most institutions like this wait for their Silver Jubilee?”
“Well, yes, I suppose they do, now you mention it” said Hilda with a slightly startled air, “but Joey was so full of enthusiasm about getting in touch with Old Girls, having special events, possibly school trips to the Tiernsee, perhaps even making a start on the chapels we've always wanted, that it seemed like a wonderful idea at the time. Of course, it will mean a lot of hard work and especially for you, as if you didn't have enough to do!”
Seeing the worried look on the Head's face, Rosalie hastened to reassure her. “That's my job – I'm The Secretary. And it should be a lot of fun, too!”
“I knew it was going to be worth all the effort, Hank” she said to the radio as “Your Cheatin Heart” played on AFN. “Celebration saturated in nostalgia, heavily laced with sentimentality and with the school leaders stoking up the excitement for all they were worth, how could it fail? There were angles, oh yes indeed, there were angles - and I think I measured them all!”
She looked at the handsome clock on the section of wall between the doors of her bathroom and her kitchen, both small but boasting the most up-to-date fittings and fixtures, smiling again as she remembered how Madge and Hilda had been touched to the point of tears by her request to have her living quarters made a little more homelike - at her own expense, of course.
Time to switch to the news from the USSR, not to find out what was actually going on but just to keep her ear tuned. The clandestine stations, the radio equivalent of the samizdat press, were better both for hard news and for current idioms but it was frustratingly hard to keep track of them as they changed wavelengths so frequently. She groaned as she realised the Radio Moscow newsreader was one of the group who also read on the station's English service and whose stilted delivery was a sore trial in either language. Still, she thought, it must hard to sound animated when the most exciting thing you ever have to report is an increase in monthly tractor production in Minsk....
A sharp ring on the doorbell startled Rosalie out of her musings. “Who on earth............!”. The back door of the Annexe was rarely used; in fact most people, including many members of staff, had no idea that it existed. Certainly this was the first time the bell had ever been rung at this hour! Hastily donning her silk dressing gown, she slipped quickly down the back stairs.
“Who is it?” she called.
“Rosalie, it's me, it's Frieda, let me in, please! We need to talk!”
Shocked out of her skin by the tremor in the voice of the usually placid Frieda, Rosalie unlocked the door and ushered her friend upstairs.
Motioning Frieda to the armchair, she swiftly poured a gin and tonic, clapped it in her visitor's hand and in some trepidation said “Frieda, what on earth is the matter?”
Frieda took a deep swallow of her drink, and gulped, “Please, Rosalie, tell me that Joey doesn't know about The Project?!?!”
Author's Chapter Notes:
Based on a chance remark in Coming of Age and it just growed..........