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Chapter Twenty-Six: A New Dawn; a New Life

Elen often said to me “Go to bed and sleep it out. It’ll all look different in the morning.”

She was right, it always did.

There’s an old Highlander saying, a new dawn is a new day. When the sun rises it shines light on hidden places and causes new shadows on others. At the moment the sun peaks over the horizon the day is a new beginning with no mistakes yet made. In our case a new dawn was more than a new day, our new beginning was a new life. This is how I knew we’d done the right thing in running away, because with this new day and this new life we hadn’t made any mistakes yet. The slate was clear.

Chap26-01

We walked a long time, through the local village and on further. It was in the predawn light that a distant clip clop vanquished the silence before even the birds dared sing.

Chap26-02

We looked back and saw a shape on the road in the far distance, because sound travels very far when it it not quite yet day. Frankie spun around.

Chap26-03

“This way.” She said and started walking towards the source of the noise.

“But why? I asked her, jogging a little to catch up. “Why are we going back?”

Chap26-04

“We’re not. But what if they’re looking for us? Two little girls out at this time so far from the last village, what else could we be but runaways? Now when we get in hearing range I want you to argue that we should go back, that you’re tired and your feet are sore, but when he gets closer I’ll do most of the talkin’”

Chap26-05

So when the milk cart, for that was what approached, was closer I did just that. Frankie hushed me as the milk cart pulled up beside us.

Chap26-06

“What are you two young ones doin’ out so early on the road?” he asked.

“Nothin’!” Frankie answered a little too quickly. The man narrowed his eyes at us and after a moment’s hesitation she gave in.

Chap26-07

“We-ell.. Freddy Parkins next door has a cousin what runned away to the big city and he wrote a letter back sayin’ how wonderful it was so we thought we’d a-go and join him but someone—” Her she glared at me “Is gettin’ tired feet already!” I could tell Frankie was exaggerating her accent to make her seem more common and naive than she actually was. I looked down at my shoes remembering all the times she’d laughed at my “posh” accent below stairs. I couldn’t do a passable job on an accent in close quarters so I kept my mouth shut.

“So, runnin’ away was a great idea, was it” The man asked.

“Well…” Frankie screwed up her face.

“If yer caught missin’ at dawn your mistress will have the constable after ye! An’ the furst person they’ll ask is yours truly.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t tell?” Frankie asked. “Only even if we turn back now we’ll be too late, we’ve been walkin’ ages!”

“Git yerselves up on back an’ I’ll give ye a lift back and they’ll be none the wiser an’ we won’t have another word said.” The man said to us.

Chap26-08 Chap26-09

So Frankie and I did as we were told.

Chap26-10

It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, on an old cart amongst the milk but at least it was better than walking!

Chap26-11

“He delivers the milk.” Frankie whispered to me, letting the noise of the cart mask her voice from the man. “Then the local milkmen will collect it and take it round. The men who deliver the milk always see anyone on the roads just before dawn so they’re often asked about all sorts of runaways. This way he thinks he’s takin’ us home!”

Chap26-12

“I’d never have thought of that!” I whispered back.

Chap26-13

“Well, don’t congratulate me yet, we’ve only gotten away, we haven’t found a safe place to bide our time yet!”

We arrived at our location just as the sun was rising. Our driver left us at the main street after a promise from us to return to our mistress then he went to offload his milk.

Chap26-14

I looked around. The main street was waking up already. People were outside their shops setting out their wares and a few early customers were hurrying about their wares.

“Is this a good place to stay?” I asked. “Far enough away but close enough to go back?”

“I think so.” Frankie said.

“Then we need to find a place to stay.” I said. “And then some work… how does one go about finding work?”

Frankie sighed. “No, we can’t find lodgings until we have work. An’ don’t mention it being only temporary . A good lodger is a reliable one, one who makes little fuss, earns an honest and regular wage and will pay it week after week.”

“Well, lets find honest work then. How does one go about it? What do we need to do?”

“Find someone with work that needs doin’. They’ll also want someone who ain’t about to skip town—”

“So don’t go telling them it’s only temporary either?”

“No, we don’t. Even if their work is only for a few days they’d rather that be on their terms so best make them think we’re here to stay a while.”

“What’s the best way to do that?”

“Well, to have an address for a start.”

“But you said—”

“I know what I said! Now lets take a look around, eyes and ears open.”

Chap26-15

We walked down the main street, past a servant talking to the butcher past the grocer and the grocer’s boy. Past the two street urchins whose game had been put on pause while they helped a third boy catch a chicken. There was a lady outside the drapers who frowned at us and a man setting out books outside a small, dark store.

Chap26-16

“What do ye think yers doin’?” We spun at the cross voice but it wasn’t addressed to us but rather at a young man and woman who’d been enjoying each other’s company just outside the local on the corner.

“Oh, hello Mrs B.” The man said. “Top o’ the mornin’ an’ all tha’”

“Yer jist shut yer blitherin’” She said, pulling the man away from the girl.

“Mornin’ Mrs Beats.”  The young woman said.

Chap26-17

“An don’t yer mornin’ me either. Dallyin’ on the street wi’ some boy washed in on the last tide?”

“Oh Mrs B. I’m more than tha’!” The young man protested. “Sides, she’s my sweet girl, Molly ain’t she!”

“It’s not proper!” The old woman scolded. “I run a reputable establishment, I should ‘ave known ye was no a no good gel when I took you in, no better than ye should be if you ask me! I won’t ‘ae people says I tooks in harlots ff the streets. Ye can be findin’ another place to sleep me girly because there won’t be a room in my house fur ye tonight!”

“Who wants to stay in your old boardin’ ‘ouse anyway?” The young woman yelled back. “There’s rats, an’ those that run on four legs as well! There’s room in the pub for me, until Jim finds a place, that is! He’s my young man!”

“Well I won’t ‘ave that behaviour under my roof so yer better clear out your things before tonight! I won’t ‘ave it that I won’t!” The grumpy old woman stormed off leaving the young lovers giggling.

Chap26-18

“Well!” I said.

“They’re often like that.” Frankie said. “It’s cos they can be held responsible for the immorality of their lodgers, if they’re young. But youknow what this means?”

“What?” I asked.

Chap26-19

“Lodgings that want fillin’”

“Lodgings first then?”

“No, but we could have an address to give to an employer, come on!”

Chap26-20

We followed the woman across the street and watched to see what house she entered.

Chap26-21

It was a small, dark house with the entrance set back from the rest of the row making it seem all the more dismal.

Chap26-22

 

“Well, it’s as good as can be expected.” Frankie said. “Come on, lets see if we can find work.”

We turned and continued our way down the street.

Only temporary. I told myself. Only temporary. Soon Jo and Henri could help us and in the meantime I just had to keep on going.

 

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Posted by on 10th April, 2013 in Future's Present

 

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Chapter Fifteen: Abandoned

Authors Note: I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas! I, by some stoke of luck have managed to score boxing day off work this year so am enjoying a typical relaxing day at home playing with all my new toys (by which I mean the seasons expansion pack). Have a great boxing day and, as promised, here is the next chapter a day early! Enjoy!

Chap15-01

“I’m so glad we’re allowed to wear our evening gowns!” Jo said. We were running around our room in out petticoats getting ready for the end of term dinner to which we’d been given permission to wear our newly finished gowns. No, that didn’t get anyone out of wearing it to the soiree— Mariah asked!

Chap15-02

“No poofy white skirt!” I agreed as Jo stuck a few more pins into my hair. There was a knock on the door.

“Excuse me misses,” Dorcus poked her head in. “But there’s a letter arrived by the evening post for Miss Roberta.”

Chap15-03

“Finally!” I squealed. While the month since I sent my letter of had sped past in some ways, it had still seemed like an age waiting for a reply to my letter. Here it was at last!

“Only—” I danced over and snatched the letter out of her hand before Dorcus could finish.

Chap15-04

“Oh.” My face fell.

Chap15-05

“Nothing to worry about Miss, just a mix up I’m sure. But Gladys said to bring it right up.” Dorcus said before bobbing an awkward curtsy and leaving.

“What is it?” Jo asked, coming over.

Chap15-06

“Returned. Undeliverable.” I said.

“Well, lets have a look.” Jo took my letter to home, with my letters to Elen and Miss brown inside and looked at the front. I felt ready to cry.

Chap15-07

“It’s addressed right!” I said. “That’s my address right there!”

Chap15-08

“Are you sure you didn’t write it wrong?” Jo asked.

I looked at my address, as clear as day and burst into tears.

Chap15-09

“Oh, oh!” Jo said, fussing around. “I’m sorry, don’t cry!”

Chap15-10

“H-has everyone a-abandoned m-me.” I sobbed through my tears. I’d never felt so alone before in my life.

Chap15-11

“I’ll, I’ll—” Jo turned and ran to our wardrobe, threw the doors open and dove in.

“Henri!” She called in a panicked. “Henri! I need your help! She’s crying and I don’t know how to fix it.”

Chap15-12

Before I knew it Henri was beside me. Henri, during a time when we were meant to be in our rooms and if we were caught in the corridors it would mean an instant black mark.

“You s-shouldn’t have b-broken the rules just for m-me. If you’d been seen in the corridor…” But I threw my arms around her all the same.

Chap15-13

“What’s the matter, Jo?” She asked.

I couldn’t answer so Jo answered for me.

Chap15-14

“Oh Bobbie, don’t cry, can’t you see what happened? Look at the handwriting on this letter.”

“It’s my address.” I said

“In what was your best Fraitessian script. I’ll tell you what, I’ll bet you anything some young Highlander postman couldn’t read proper writing so sent it right back to sender rather than try figure it out.”

“You think?”

Chap15-15

“Yes. Now here’s a new envelope, you write your address but write it twice, once in Fraitessian script and once in your Highlander hand. We’ll give it straight to Gladys when we go down for dinner, it won’t make the last post today but she will ensure it makes the very first one in the morning.” Henri passed me a new envelope and put a pen in my hand.

“You’ll have a reply in four weeks, I guarantee.” Jo said, appearing to feel more comfortable now I’d stopped crying. “and if you don’t then it will be because you’ve had one sooner than that asking why you haven’t written yet. Just you wait.

Chap15-16

Chap15-17

“Thank you both, whatever would I do without you?” I gave them each a hug then sat down to rewrite my envelope.

Chap15-18

It was the work of minutes. Just as I was finishing off I heard Gladys’ voice.

Chap15-19

I leapt up and took a peek out the door and saw her heading for the servant’s stairway. Miss Jane was nowhere in sight and I knew the servant’s stairways and corridors were generally safe from Miss Jane and other mistresses. “There’s Gladys now!” I said. “I won’t be a moment, the coast is clear, I’ll see if she can get it in tonight’s post after all!”

Chap15-20

“Don’t be long!” Jo said. “We have a dinner to dress for.”

“With any luck it will be announced that the three of us will be attending the soiree together!” Henri said

“We’ve certainly deserved it!” Jo said. “And not a black mark between us. I’ve been a saint. We’ll have to have a Jolly time these holidays to make up for it.”

Chap15-21

“We’ll have the run of the school!” I said. “I’ve plans already!”  I called as I dashed out the door.

Chap15-22

I ran on tiptoes across the landing and down the stairs. I found Gladys just before she reached the bottom.

“Ohh, what are you doing out of your room Miss?” She scolded me with a twinkle in her eye.

Chap15-23

“I’m sorry, but is there any chance this could make the last post? It bounced back and I—” Gladys took one look at me, from the letter in my hand to my tear reddened eyes and smiled.

“Of course it can, Miss. I’ll make sure of it meself. Now you get yourself back up to that room before Miss Jane catches you or there’ll be a scoldin’ for you for sure!”

“Thank you!” I made my way back up the stairs with a light heart.

Chap15-24

I checked the landing carefully before making my way back to my room. I opened the door softly and made sure not to bang it closed. That was when I was greeted with the figure of Jo sitting on her bed rubbing at damp eyes. Had she been crying?

Chap15-25

“Jo! What ever is the matter?” I dashed to her side.

“Oh, I’m a horrible wicked girl Bobbie. I daren’t tell you what I’ve done, you’ll think so badly of me.”

Chap15-26

“Come, it can’t be too bad!” I said.

“I’ve gone and gotten Henri and I black marks just hours before the end of term.”

“You what?” I was astonished. “When?”

“Just then.” She said. “Oh, but I wish you could have seen it!” She was cheering up already and a wicked grin was spreading across her face. “It was like this. Henri didn’t come through the corridor when she came over before, she slipped through the gap in our wardrobe without a thought, the little minx. I didn’t know she had it in her to think up such a thing, I’m sure I never would. But when you left she returned the same way and I realised that you didn’t know how she came. I thought you needed a bit more cheering up so I had the bright idea of slipping through myself and giving you a fright when you returned!”

Chap15-27

“Oh Jo…” I said.Chap15-28

“That’s not the worst of it. Did I ever tell you I am a greedy child? Did I, dear Bobbie? Well I am. My head made it through and then my shoulders but when I came to squeezing my stomach through I stuck.”

Chap15-29

“Henri tried to pull me through but to no avail! Then she tried to push me back but I was stuck fast!”

“Jo!” I was laughing now. “Did Marjorie help?”

“Alas, that was my downfall. Marjorie had been seeing Lady D’Winter and Miss Jane decided to escort her back to her room to ensure she took no detours. You know how she doesn’t trust us girls, though I can’t see why. Well, Miss Jane, as you know, has ears sharper than a bat when it comes to hearing out trouble and she must have heard Henri and I in our struggles because she came right into Henri and Marjorie’s room and saw the state I was in!”

“Oh no!”

Chap15-30

“Oh no indeed. Miss Jane asked me to come out that instant, not realizing that I was betwixt the two rooms and not merely playing in Henri’s wardrobe so I was forced to explain to her my exact predicament.Chap15-31

Miss Jane tried to push me back but, alas, I had come too far. In the end it took the three of them to pull me through! I tried to argue Henri’s case but it was no good. Miss Jane had seen her attempting to come to my rescue and so both of us were cursed with the dreaded black mark.”

“And what of me?” I asked. “Did Miss Jane notice I was missing?”

“I couldn’t have all my friends earn a black mark.” Jo said. “But I was at a loss of what I could say to convince her you were an innocent party. Henri, as quick as anything said you’d disapproved with my behavior and had gone straight to report it and that she was ashamed she hadn’t done so herself.”

“Oh Jo, but I haven’t reported anything!”

“I know, I’ve thought of that. You arrived at Miss Jane’s office whilst she was up here with us and finding her not there you returned to your room by the servant’s stairs. You’re in the clear, it seems.”

“Oh but Jo, neither Henri nor you will be able to attend the soiree!”

Chap15-32

“And don’t I know it. I tell you, I’m a wicked child. All we can do is but hope you’ve attained a first in something. We can’t have Mariah attend alone, we just can’t!”

Authors Note (again): I mentioned in a pervious post that the wardrobe was partly based on a set of draws at one of my old schools (which used to be a boarding school). It was built between the wall dividing too rooms and the draws were joined. When you pulled a draw open it dissapeared from the other side. We played lots of pranks with them! We called them the “Katy did” draws because there were similar draws in a book called “What Katy Did at School” by Susan Coolidge (except the draws were built sepperate so it took them longer to discover the fact there was no wall between). I partly based the wardrobe on these draws. The scene with Jo getting stuck is stolen heavily inspired by a scene in the book where one of the characters gets stuck druing study hour trying to get between the rooms.

 
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Posted by on 26th December, 2012 in Future's Present

 

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A Letter From Hadley Cooper

Dear Eddie,

Bert sends his thanks for your letter and will write to you when he has time, he is working hard for his exams. In the meantime he said for you to mind Mr Timmons as it will do you well when you do come to school next year.

Interesting that Mother and Father’s disagreement passed. I thought that perhaps it was about money again. You will not remember but when you were born Father’s business was in some trouble. I was too young at the time to understand the details but obviously things picked up again. Now I’m not so sure. If the business was in trouble then they would they dismiss our cheapest servant then re-hire an older (and more expensive)one? I think not. I do not think that they would argue over such a thing as dismissing even a long standing servant such as Frankie. My thoughts are that there was some bad behaviour amongst he servants that resulted in their dismissal and the argument was over another matter.

Bert thought your letter was very grown-up though I didn’t read him the second part of your postscript! Bert is in study mode so he hasn’t gotten up to any mischief however I may have some to report to you. Our school gates have our school crest on them. It went missing. One of the fellows in my form received a letter from his friend at another school to say theirs had gone missing also and a few other school were reporting the same thing. He (and I by association) have been invited to a meeting over the incidents, so I’ll let you know what transpires.

Now I must be off. A few of the fellows are planning on making toffee this afternoon. If it comes off then I’ll send you’ll a piece!

Your brother,

Hadley

 
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Posted by on 12th December, 2012 in Future's Present Extras!

 

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Letter From Lady Luxum to Lady D’Winter

Lady D’Winter

I am more than happy, as always, to help the school that is educating my darling Mariah. I hope she is performing as well in all her classes as she states in her letters to me. Thank you for the invitation to the soiree, I agree with the need to teach the young ladies how to host such an evening as not all of them get the chance to learn at home as my Mariah has. I understand it is traditionally an evening for the older girls only, but may I enquire as to if any of the younger girls will be assisting?Provided of course, that they are respectable and well suited to society. I miss my darling daughter very much while she is at school and I would be certain to attend if I knew I was to see her and I’m sure the other guests would appreciate such a fine young lady as her being in attendance.

Many regards,

Lady Luxum.

 
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Posted by on 3rd December, 2012 in Future's Present Extras!

 

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Chapter Nine: Operation Beat Mariah

Author’s Note:

Sorry this is such a short chapter, but the next one is the longest yet and has lots of meaty content to it!

Anyway, enjoy!

Chapter Nine: Opperation Beat Mariah.

“We can’t beat her.” Jo said.

It was Thursday morning recess and it was the first chance I’d had to sit down with Henri and Jo together to discuss my plan. I’d gathered them into a quiet corner of the garden as soon as Geography had finished and I was now trying to explain it.

“None of us is good enough.” Henri agreed. “Don’t get me wrong, if one of us could become dux of the class then that would be wonderful—”

“Not to mention the best way of slapping Mariah I’ve ever heard.” Jo put in.

“Yes, but she’s first in every lesson of every class, how can you take that away from her? I’m all for pranks and larks but if you’re talking about anything immoral… well, I’m not sneaking tests out of teachers draws.”

“No, nothing like that! I’ve got more moral fiber than that!” We all giggled thinking of Lady D-Winter’s comments the day before. “But think about it, we don’t need to make one of us dux. All we need to do is ensure that in each class someone else comes first.”

“Well it won’t be me coming first!” Jo said. “I don’t mind so much, but it would be nice to put Mariah in her place a bit!”

“And why not? What are you best at, Jo?”

“Nature studies.”

“Jolly good from what I’ve seen. You can answer anything I want to know. If you were more confidant and volunteered answers on our nature walks I’m sure you’d get them right.”

“But we’re not marked on that, we’re marked on our book work.” Jo said. “Whereupon I spell every other word wrong and draw my silvercrest ferns to look like heartleaf and even though I try to make the caption clear I get told to take more care over my work.”

“Henri can help you with the drawings, and if you write everything out before hand I can correct your spelling for you.”

“Is that— would you— is that allowed?” Jo looked from me to Henri and back again.

“I don’t think it’s against any school rule.” Henri said slowly. “We can’t have another girl do our work for us but we’re encouraged to work together.”

“And it will still be your own work.” I said. “So that’s Jo for nature studies. Whose next?”

“I can do art— maybe.” Henri offered. “I can ask, anyway.”

“Marjorie, you mean?” Jo asked.

“She might help me after hours. She won’t go for first herself, but between you two and me I rather think she’d like to see her beaten.”

“Why not try to encourage her to just do her best?” I asked. “I’m sure she’d beat Mariah and WE’LL still be friends with her.”

“Bobbie, Marjorie can’t just choose not to be friends with Mariah.” Henri said.

“Why not?”

“To start with their mothers are very close. The met when Mariah’s mother did a year as a missionary in Freedonia and have kept in touch ever since.”

“My mother did that.” Jo said. “Back then after finishing school nice young girls did a year bringing good to the far reaches of the world. She was to spend a year in Ghana.”

“Your mother spent a year in Ghana?” Henri sounded surprised by the distraction.

“No. She met a nice young man over there doing the exact same thing. Turns out they had grown up a few streets away from one another but had never met. She’d been there two months and next thing you know they get married and come back home— yes, in that order. It caused quite a scandal with rumors and gossip until my eldest brother was born ten months after the wedding.”

“So their mothers are close…” I prompted Henri.

“Sorry. Yes. Marjorie lives with Mariah in the school holidays and Mariah’s parents oversee her affairs while she’s here. Then, if that wasn’t enough, Mariah’s father owns the company Marjorie’s father works for.”

“I had no idea.” Jo said.

“She told me everything last night.”

“Poor Marjorie.” I said. “That is much worse than having to be polite once a week to society ladies who pinch your cheeks.”

“Well I wouldn’t be fiends with anyone I didn’t want to… oh don’t look at me like that Henri! Yes, she’s in a fix, but will she help you with your art?”

“I think so. Bobbie, you’re next. I think you’re almost a match with Mariah at spelling.”

“I am when we spell out loud. Only the written tests I get marked down because you make some of your letters differently to the way we do in the Highlands and it looks like I’ve spelled words wrong when I haven’t.”

“I can help you with that.” Jo said with a big grin on her face. “I’ve still got all my old handwriting books, I’ve been meaning to go through them but I never find the time. They’ll teach you how to form your letters our way.”

“That would be very helpful! Than you Jo.”

“And if both of you help me manage my time I can beat Mariah at sewing, hands down!”

“Really?” Henri asked.

“Yes, I’ve very good you know.” I smiled to see Jo so confidant of her abilities. “I can make mends so neat you can’t see them and I can usually tell if a pattern will fit or not by looking at it. I do have five brothers, you know. Things need to be mended before mother finds out. Only all my other lessons take so much of my time my sewing always gets left to the end and rushed through.”

“And then you get a black mark for having your light on after lights out so you can sew.” Henri smiles at the memory.

We spent the rest of our recess discussing our strengths and weaknesses and assembled quite a list. All too soon we were interrupted by the bell to return to class and we all leapt to our feet.

“Here’s to operation beat Mariah!” I cheered.

“Lets make a pact.” Jo said.

“A pact?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone put your hands out like this.” Jo put her hand our and we all followed suit.

“Now, I swear to do everything in my power—”

“So long as it’s not immoral or against the school rules—” Henri put in.

“Yes, so long as it’s not immoral, to beat Mariah and put her down and thus saving our darling Bobbie from boxing her ears!” Henri and I giggled. “This is serious!” Bobbie scolded.

“I swear.” Henri said, stifling her laughter.

“Me too. Uh— I mean, I swear.”

And underneath the trees in the garden we made our pledge.

“Now we better fly off to class!” Henri said. “Getting a black mark for being late is not a good start!”

So off we ran

 
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Posted by on 15th November, 2012 in Future's Present

 

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Chapter Eight: How NOT to Slap a Young Lady

Author’s Note: I hope you’re enjoying things so far! There’s been a few sci-fi elements so if you’ve missed them look back through the past posts and if you’re still stuck have a look at the comments where you’ll see quite a few have been pointed out.

I have to say I’ve been working really hard on my pictures, I’m really proud of chapters 10 and 11 and I can’t wait for you to see them! Also I’ve had my first cry while writing for this story (I always cry when writing, mostly bcause I am so mean to my characters and am such a sook, lol!) and that was during a scene of what I think will be chapter 21 (There’s always a slim chance of me merging or spliting a few chapters here and there). So if you thought this story was all sunshine and rainbows, be warned! lol. Enjoy!

After classes finished, when the rest of the school was heading off to enjoy their free time before prep started, Jo, Henri and I headed toward the art room.

“I truly don’t mind.” Henri was saying. “I can afford a little bit of time to help you two, and at least I didn’t get any black marks!”

“And you still get to go on the nature walk.” Jo said.

“It won’t be as fun without you two.”

“Oh, but you must enjoy it for us!” Jo said.

“And bring us back lots of specimens!” I said. “I’ve got years of collecting to catch up on.”

“I wish you’d brought your botany book with you.” Jo said. “I’d loved to have seen some of your specimens from back home.”

“I had two trunks as it was!” I said laughing.”

We entered the art room and took a moment to look around.

“It’s huge.” I said.

“We just need a system.” Jo looked around.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin. Do we use cloths and soap or something?” I asked

“Haven’t you ever cleaned anything before?” Jo sounded astonished.

“Well… does my face count?”

“Oh Bobbie!” Henri started laughing and Jo soon joined in.

“Well, have either of you ever cleaned anything before!” I didn’t see what they were laughing at.

“I cleaned my mirror once.” Henri offered. “There was an incident with mustard. Don’t ask.”

“Oh that’s pathetic!” Jo said.

“Well what have you cleaned?” Henri challenged her.

“Heaps of stuff! I have five brothers. Not one or two or three but FIVE!”

“What about four?” I teased her.

“No, not four, FIVE. Seriously, you grow up with five brothers and you’re going to end up cleaning something to stay out of trouble. Believe me, after five brothers mustard meets mirror is nothing! They’ve left us a basket of cleaning stuff over here.”

We turned to look at the basket when we heard the door open behind us. We swung around in unison and…

“Marjorie?” we all said.

Um…. Hello.”

“Have you got a message for us?” Jo asked with a frown.

“Um… no I—”

“Then what is it?”

“I—”

“Are you alone? Is Mariah coming back to finish her work on my painting?”

“Oh give her a chance to speak Jo!” Henri said.

“Thanks.” Marjorie smiled at Henri. “I— well, I just came to, um, to see if you wanted any help.”

“With what?” Jo still had the frown on her face.

Marjorie swept her hand around the art room. “This.”

“Why?”

“Because I told you.” Henri hissed. “She’s actually pretty nice once you get to know her—”

“You want to help us with our punishment?” Jo ignored Henri.

“Look, only if you swear not to tell anyone else, all right? I just feel bad over what happened. And, technically, Roberta was the only one that slapped anybody.”

“Oh, thanks.” I said. “And, um, thanks for the offer…” I looked at Jo.

“Yes, thank you.” Jo said without the frown, if not quite with her usual warmth.

“And you promise not to tell?”

We all agreed.

We all gathered around the basket and Jo explained to us what all the different things were for. There were scrubbing brushes and sponges and jars of powder and cakes of hard, yellow soap.

Jo soon got us to work cleaning. I can’t say it was difficult, but it was time consuming.

We mopped.

We scrubbed.

We washed.

We worked mostly in silence and soon were almost finished.

“Jo, do say.” Marjorie said tentatively as we worked. “What did you think I was here for?”

“Well, to be honest… well, I thought Mariah might have sent you to check we didn’t hurt her painting while we were in here.”

“Oh Jo… I’m sure that hasn’t even crossed Mariah’s mind!”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Why, because what she did was a compete accident and she can’t see wrong in anybody?”

“No, I just mean that if she had thought you’d do that then she’d jolly well let you to get you into even more trouble. Goodness! Don’t tell her I said that! I just meant she wouldn’t want a confrontation, that’s all.”

“Sure that’s all.” Jo said sarcastically.

“You weren’t thinking of doing anything to her painting, were you?”

“Of course not!” Jo sounded shocked. “For a start that would be a horrible thing to do, and none of us are horrible I’ll have you know.”

“Except when our tempers get the better of us!” I joke.

“I must say, I’ve never seen anybody get slapped before.” Marjorie let out a small giggle. “I mean, if was very wrong and everything.”

“Would you really box her ears like Jo said?” Henri asked.

“You ask me now and I’ll say no.” I said. “But who knows what a temper could do.” I giggle.

“At least you wouldn’t spoil a perfectly good painting.” Jo said. We all looked at her painting. “I totally could have fixed that bowl.”

“I disagree.” Marjorie said.

“I know.” Jo said.

“She could have!” Henri offered.

“With about ten layers of paint. Sorry to say that in the time we have left tent layers of paint would just make a muddy mess. The better tactic would be to distract the eye from it all together.”

“What do you mean?” Henri asked.

“Doesn’t matter now.” Jo said. “It’s ruined.”

“I’m not so sure.” Marjorie took a few steps back and squinted her eyes and I took a glance around at the other paintings. Mariah’s, of course, was the best, with Henri’s coming in at a rather distant second. Marjorie’s painting was good, but while she had a better perspective and overall balance to her work than most of the others, she lacked in technique, her brush strokes were short and lacked confidence, and I noticed she already had the case of muddied colours here and there.

“I think it’s beyond saving.” I say.

“I agree.” Henri said.

“There’s a plant in Freedonia. Red fronds—”

“Tababen?” Jo asked, picking up. “Have you actually seen it? I’ve only seen drawings in books. The one with the white flower.”

“That’s the one. I’d hoped you’d know it. Can I try something? I mean, if it doesn’t work then the painting is ruined anyway, right?”

“I guess…”

“Only, if anyone asks, you saw the plant in your botany book and it sparked an idea. Please? I had nothing to do with this.”

“If you can get me out of having to start over then my lips are sealed.”

Marjorie began confidently mixing up colours then before I knew it the red streak on Jo’s painting began to transform. Behind Jo’s small, off center, bowl a vase with red fronds spilling out began to emerge. Because she was painting most of it on the background the paint was dry  and she could quickly build up strong colours. That wasn’t the only thing I noticed. Her brush strokes were longer and almost clumsily placed. I soon realised that if I didn’t know I couldn’t tell her work apart from Jo’s.

Henri and I soon got to work finishing the cleaning.

Jo stayed to watch her painting transform.

Henri and I finished cleaning just as Marjorie was putting down the paintbrush. There’d only been so much she could do with the initial red streak. It had become a frond spilling out in front of everything else. It was so close to the viewer it was slightly blurred around the edges which excused the distortion it had made when Mariah had pushed her brush through the layers of wet paint Jo had applied during the lesson.

“There.” Marjorie said. “Don’t touch it again until our next class and it should be fine for the next layer.”

“I— I— I don’t believe it.” Jo beamed at Marjorie then threw her arms around her and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Thank you so much! Oh, do say you’ll be friends with us! You are nice and lovely and everything that Henri said, you don’t need to be friends with Mariah and Valerie. Oh, say we’re friends!”

“Mariah and Valerie are my friends.” Marjorie said. “And please don’t fling your arms so, you’ll choke me!”

“But you’re nicer than they are.” Jo coaxed. “And you already share a room with Henri.”

“And we’ll outnumber them.” I said “How much trouble can two cause against four?”

“Henri, tell her she doesn’t need those two?”

“We’ve been friends for years.” Marjorie said. “I can’t let silly school girl spats get in the way of our friendship. I’m sure you all understand.”

“I don’t.” I said. “Mariah’s nasty. Why would you want to be friends with her?”

“She’s not that— my godness, is that the time? We shall have to simply fly to get to prep!”

Hurriedly we began packing up and were soon making our way out the door. Before we parted I had to ask Marjorie a question.

“If you can paint so well, then…” I tried to find a nice way to put it.

“I’ll never be top of class, I’m not that bright. Coming first in just art doesn’t mean much and… well…”

“Mariah?”

“Yes. She wouldn’t be happy.”

“That’s unfair!”

“No, I don’t mind. Being first is important to her. It’s not to me. What right do I have to upset her?” With this we turned our separate ways so no one would ever know Marjorie had spent her recess being a nice, pleasant normal schoolgirl. But it wasn’t her I was thinking of now, it was Mariah. And already a plan was forming in my mind. We don’t slap people here Marjorie had said. But there was more than one way to slap an errant schoolgirl. Maybe those years of reading school stories would come in use after all.

 
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Posted by on 8th November, 2012 in Future's Present

 

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Would you be interested in reading letters/diary entries?

I had a thought today. Would anyone be interested in reading diary entries/letters from characters other than Bobbie? These wouldn’t interrupt the regular schedule of posts, I’ll still post a proper entry every Thursday. They’d be like an optional addition that would give you some insight into what’s going on in other’s minds. You also might see some happenings beyond what Bobbie experiences, especially if I write an entry from someone who isn’t currently being observed by Bobbie (like her parents or something). If wanted you could also skip them as they would be an optional extra, not crucial to the story. I’d release them between entries (such as on a Sunday or something) and they probably wouldn’t have many/any pictures as that would take too much time. What do you think? Would you want to read these?

 

 
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Posted by on 6th November, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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