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An inexplicable burst of energy flowed from the sudden shift in tempo: as if the change in pace unlocked something, lifted Peggy from the weary doldrums of those last days at the Big House and found her now perched lightly on Mrs Morgan's kitchen table, legs swinging, eyes sparkling in the morning sunlight as it streamed warmly through the open window.

Rhyll glanced at her from where she stood slicing bread, a small grin playing at the corner of her mouth. "She'd have fifty fits if she saw you on there, and you know it!"

Peggy shrugged, a row of even white teeth flashing in unconcerned amusement. "Nothing's going to happen, is it? Good, sturdy piece. Nice-looking, too - must've cost a fair bit."

"That's why she wouldn't want you sitting on it!" Rhyll retorted, crossing the kitchen swiftly to lay butter and jam on the table in question, pausing to brush her lips against Peggy's forehead as she did so.

The preceding weeks had been long ones: packing had, where possible, begun in earnest as soon as the move had been announced at the start of the summer term; but much - and the worst - of it had been left until the last girl had departed for the long holidays, and then the staff had turned to with a vigour. Decent help, hard enough to come by on the mainland, was a near impossibility on the island; and Michael Christy had proven himself as elusive as he always did on such occasions, Rhyll observed inwardly with more accuracy than tact. But ten days later the work was done, and with a collective sigh of relief the staff had all melted away from the shell of a school. Hilda Annersley had issued a firm instruction that all staff should have at least a full fortnight of rest from work and for once, no mistress had needed to be told twice.

"Do you think the Head is really resting?" Peggy asked now, almost as if she had read Rhyll's mind. "After all she said about the importance of it, I mean..."

"I don't imagine she's having much choice in the matter." Rhyll muttered, then snorted at Peggy's quizzical expression. "Nell!"

Peggy giggled as she slid gracefully from table to chair. "I suppose so! What are we doing today, Evvy? It's gorgeous out."

"It is." Rhyll agreed, carrying the plate of toast to the table and sitting opposite her to butter a slice. "We could go to the beach just past the far end of the village - do you know it?"

Peggy shook her head, almost embarrassed. "Do you know, in the best part of a year here I've never once ventured in that direction? It seems so silly - it's scarcely a big island, is it? You could probably walk across it in half a day without much bother."

Rhyll laughed. "Well, that's a definite plan, in that case. I'll make us up a picnic when we're done with breakfast. The tide'll be furthest out in the morning - and the beach at its emptiest, although I warn you now that it's never fully empty. Too pretty for that!"

Peggy sighed contentedly, then looked suddenly pensive. "I do wish we had longer than this week together. I can't even imagine -"

Rhyll had anticipated this, knowing the sentiment could not be far away, and she was quick to head it off. Such dismal thoughts had no part in the summer holiday she had planned for them. "Ssh. No practicalities," she admonished, a smile crinkling her eyes, "the subject is strictly verboten! If you must plan, you might attend to what we shall have for supper tonight, or otherwise to that weekend in Innsbruck in the autumn, but nothing in between, if you please."

Peggy narrowed her eyes, ready to challenge this ukase; but then a grin of comprehension and gratitude spread slowly across her face: "I don't really do cooking..."

Rhyll snorted. "I'd noticed. Some Guide you are!"

Peggy rolled her eyes and flicked a crumb of toast across the table at her. "I didn't say I can't. I just think there are better ways to spend my time."

"And there's always someone else willing to cook for you," Rhyll agreed dangerously. Peggy nodded happily, oblivious, and Rhyll raised an eyebrow. "And to clear up the crumbs you scatter so carelessly across the room..."

Peggy laughed, too comfortable for contrition. "Oh dear, ought I to be helping you? You just looked so... capable." - with which remark she permitted herself a prolonged moment of such undisguised appreciation that her girlfriend went rather red about the ears.

Rhyll glanced across at her with a quiet grin of acknowledgment, but Peggy wasn't finished.

"You can tell you work with your hands," she went on, waving her own descriptively as she spoke. "It's your dexterity, the way you move - strong and skilful and so fast, without ever seeming to rush."

"Even when I'm only making toast?" Rhyll was sceptical.

"Even when you're only making toast," Peggy confirmed. "I just really love watching you." She reached across the table to lay her hand on top of Rhyll's, and Rhyll guessed that she, too, had found that last admission rather more exposing than expected. 

Touching - quite literally, she thought with a smile, and kept the moment's silence in acknowledgement of this shared intimacy. Once she could speak without fear of accidentally brushing the sudden vulnerability away - indeed, once she knew she had to speak lest the prolonged silence seem awkward - she raised her eyes to Peggy's: "Well, good. You just watch, then. That's exactly the sort of holiday I'd had planned for you."

 




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