“Well, I’m glad that’s over.” I said as we returned to our rooms. The last dinner of the term had meant to be something to look forward to instead…
“You mustn’t let Mariah upset you so.” Henri said.
The first thing that had happened upon entering the dining room was Mariah had asked me loudly if I’d received a letter from my mother yet. I was forced to admit I hadn’t and had to blink back tears while Mariah pretended to be sympathetic.
“Oh, you poor thing! I’m sure she’ll send something as soon as she can. After all, she’s your mother, she has to love you!”
“I wouldn’t if she didn’t.” I said to Henri
“Well, you know Mariah.” Jo said. “If she knows something she’ll use it against you!”
“Yes, and how does she know?” I shot a glance at Henri.
“Marjorie’s really sorry Bobbie, she’s told you that.”
“I know.” I sighed. Mariah had seen Marjorie and I talking the day we went on the nature walk together and had asked
Marjorie what on earth we found to talk about. Marjorie had told her it was nothing much, just about how long letters from home took as I hadn’t had one yet. Nothing had come of it until an awkward silence at the table one day that had been broken by Mariah asking if I’d had a letter from my mother yet. I’d looked down at my plate and stammered out that I hadn’t. This had not only earned me a lecture from Miss Jane about looking at people when they spoke to me and enunciating my words correctly but it clued Mariah up on the fact that I still hadn’t had a letter and it was a sore spot for me. “It was an accident, I understand that, I really do.” If Marjorie had wanted to use Mariah to hurt me, she could have divulged a lot more about our conversation. Even so, I’d had difficulty trusting Marjorie since.
To say the dinner had started out on a bad footing for me was an understatement and Mariah had followed up what she said to my by declaring Jo’s dress was “simply divine” and it even made her look “a little slimmer, wasn’t that wonderful?” She was right, Jo’s dress was by far the best. The sewing was flawless and she inserted her sleeves right the first time. And it was a flattering fit though it didn’t deserve Mariah’s backhanded compliment. Henri’s was a close second, loosing out only because of the puckering in the corners of the yoke and the botched job she’d done of the sleeves.Majorie had done a lovely job of her sewing but had chosen to replicate a traditional garment from Freedonia. We’d all been fascinated by the pantaloons that tied round the ankles “to stop snakes crawling up” she’d explained but it didn’t quite fit the brief of an evening dress suitable for the school soiree. Valerie had worked hard on her dress— too hard. She’d spend so long getting her ruffles perfect that she ran our of time to do her sleeves and had to make do with a bolero over the dress. We were all of the opinion that she an out of time on purpose to give Mariah a better chance.
Mariah. She’d chosen the most expensive fabric she could and thee was nothing too wrong with the pattern, but I could see her pucked seams and wonky sewing from across the table. No, Mariah was defiantly NOT good at plain sewing.
When the class places were announced no one was surprised when Jo came first in sewing. She also was awarded first in nature studies. Henri came first in art and just managed to snatch a first in geography from Mariah. Miss Jane said they had been almost equal but Henri’s maps were neater that Mariah’s. Thanks to all my hard work on my Fraitessian script I managed firsts in spelling, composition and comprehension. Mariah’s face went from bad to worse each time her name wasn’t called and while she came first in the remaining classes the Dux would be undecided this term .
It wasn’t quite the victory we’d hoped for as it was ruined by Miss Jane announcing that due to bad behaviour neither Henri nor Jo would be attending the soiree. Cue Mariah gloating.
“I better get back to my room before Miss Jane catches me in the hall.” Henri said.
“So should we.” Jo replied. “Especially Bobbie! I wouldn’t put it past Miss Jane to take back her permission to attend the soiree.”
“Right.” We hugged Henri then returned to our room.
I crossed our floor and sat down on the windowsill and gazed out. Somewhere out there Mother and Father were having a jolly time on Father’s ship. Did they miss me as much as I missed them?
“We’ve still got half an hour before bedtime.” Jo said. “Would you like to play a game?”
“Not really.” I said.
“Oh don’t sit and dwell.” She crossed over and put her hand on my shoulder. “That will only make you homesick again. Why don’t you read some of your book? What’s this one about?”
I sighed. “It’s about two girls who meet at school and become best friends and play that they are sisters. They both have lockets and they swap them. They call them friendship lockets and as long as each has the other’s it means they’re best friends.”
“Ohh, what happens then?” Jo asked..
“Well, I don’t want to spoil it…” I said
“Oh come on! You know I’ll never get around to reading it anyway!”
“Well, all right.” I told Jo the story of how the girls were separated and live their own lives. I begin to cheer up with the telling of the story. “Each gets engaged and their fiance’s turn out to be brothers but they are all grown up and don’t recognise their future sister-in-law as their childhood friend. So they have a double wedding and when they’re getting ready they see each other’s lockets for the first time because they’ve worn them under their dresses, close to their hearts all this time, and they’re re-united at last and become sisters for real.”
“Oh, that’s so romantic.” Jo said. “I’d love to have a friendship locket!”
“Why don’t we?” I ask.
“I don’t have a locket… but I know!” Jo leapt to her feet and rattled through her draw.
“Look, we can swap ribbons! Here’s one of mine. Now lets find one of yours.”
“That’s a fantastic idea.” I said to Jo, running over to my top draw. “You do think such clever things. We can keep them even after I’ve left school and gone back home and we’ll always remember each other. Here, this is mine.”
“No, don’t swap yet.” Jo said. There has to be a ceremony.”
“Yes. Something special. Here, lets hold the ends of both ribbons in our hands so we’re connected.”
“Yes. Now repeat after me. I swear to be friends to the end of time.”
“I swear to be friends to the end of time.”
“And to be united against the common foe. That’s Mariah and Miss Jane.”
“And to be united against the common foe. That’s Ma—”
“No! You don’t need to copy the last bit. I was just explaining. Um, what else? Oh, to always share sweets.”
“To always share sweets, remember you’re the only one who ever gets them!” I said.
“Well, I should share them! I’m too greedy for my own good. Can you think of anything else?”
“To always keep promises?” I suggested. Together Jo and I came up with a good list of things until finally our imaginations were exhausted.
“To this I do swear” Jo said seriously.
“To this I do swear.”
I took Jo’s ribbon and she took mine.
“Now, how should we wear them?” Jo asked.
“Well,” I glanced at the clock. “Goodness, it’s almost time for lights out! Lets get into bed and in the morning we’ll play hairdressers and come up with some new hairstyles.”
We scrambled into our nightgowns and were just tucking ourselves in when the bell for lights out sounded.
“Goodnight Bobbie.” Jo whispered
I drifted off to sleep quickly and rather than dreaming about absent letters and parents far across the see I dreamed about having a friend for the rest of time.
We awoke in the morning and the school was full of a hustle and a bustle as girls readied themselves to be picked up by their parents. With no last minute cases to pack, Jo and I spent some time to ourselves infront of the mirror.
“I’m not very good at hair.” I said, brushing Jo’s out.
“Oh mine is too short to do most things with.” She said “Mostly I just like it out of the way.”
“Well, out of the way it is.” I said, brushing her hair back and tying it there with the ribbon. But Jo loved it so much she insisted on doing mine the same way.
We dressed quickly and Jo insisted we checked our reflection in our mirror before we made our way out into the hall.
“Oh where is my other boot?” A younger girl exclaimed as she ran past.
“Try on your own floor!” Jo called after her. A door opened and Henri came out of her room.
“Hello!” She said “I was hoping you two would be up before I left. Oh! You’ve both got your hair out!”
“Hello Henri, yes we have, new style for the hols even if we won’t be leaving school for them! Of course we’d be up to say goodbye to you! Is your mother coming?”
No, just Father, but do come out and meet him after breakfast!”
“Ah, the first breakfast. Another reason I’d be up!”
“First breakfast?” I asked.
“On the last day of term we all have breakfast according to when we’re leaving.” Henri explained. “Rather than with just our class. “First breakfast is for those leaving first thing in the morning, like me—”
“And has the best food.” Jo cut in with a grin.
“And second is for those whose parents can’t get here until midmorning.”
“And is never as good as it always has the leftovers from first breakfast.”
“I see.” I said laughing. “Trust you to have worked that out, Jo!” We all went in for breakfast, which was better than usual as it was designed to build up girls for their journey home.
After breakfast we waited in the crush of the front hall amongst girls and parents and luggage.
All around us girls were hugging their mothers or telling their fathers all about their exciting adventures. Tomas was busy moving their cases into their awaiting carriages. I tried to push down the twinge of envy I felt.
It wasn’t long before Henri greeted her father and introduced me to him. He already knew Jo.
“And this is my roommate” Henri pulled Marjorie across.
“Hello Mr Joans.” She greeted him politely.
It wasn’t long before Henri and the other girls and their mothers and fathers were gone, leaving Jo and I standing alone in the hall.
“What should we do now?” Jo said.
“Well, we swore to keep promises.” I said, my mind ticking away.
“Well, I’d like to pay a visit to Frankie.”