In the centre of Holderness, next to the baker’s place, is a shop with the owner’s name in big looping letters on the sign over the window. It’s a very special place to me and some of the other girls, because it’s where our mums take us to get special dresses made up for parties and the like. It’s called Casey’s, and this morning I was there with my mum, as well as Louise Hobson and Fiona Kerr.
We were there because – well, let me put it this way. When my cousin Angela went over to the US to be at the christening of the twins, they came back and were followed a little while later by a big surprise for Louise – a new mum and brother.
Her dad had gone over just after them, I thought on business, but it turned out it was also to bring back to the UK a friend who he had fallen in love with. A woman called Gail Cork – who, by one of those coincidences that keep happening in our family, was actually the sister of Mister Boyle, our man about the hall.
Lord above, that sounds pretentious – let me put it another way. Mrs Boyle is our housekeeper, and helps mum with cooking and things, while Mister Boyle takes care of the building and the grounds.
Which, come to think of it, sounds even worse, doesn’t it? There are times when I wish I wasn’t the daughter of the next Lord Holderness – it might be much easier!
Not that I’m complaining, don’t get me wrong. I love Wissenden, and Bobby, pain in the bottom that he is at times. I even go to the same school as Cassie and some of the other girls. There, I’m one of the girls, and I love that side of it.
But today, I was here because Mrs Boyle had asked Mum if I wanted to be one of the bridesmaids, along with Louise of course, and Fiona as Louise’s best friend. Mrs Cork – well, soon to be Mrs Hobson, was in the back with Casey and her assistants, getting the final adjustments made to her dress.
“This is boring,” Fiona said as she kicked her legs to and fro.
“Trust me, dear,” her mother said, “it will be worth the wait.”
“Right then,” Casey said as she and her assistant Ruth came out, “I think we’re all ready for Saturday now. Girls, will you come in please?”
The three of us stood up and walked into the fitting room, where Ruth had set up on the dummies our dresses.
“Oh my,” Louise said as Ruth unzipped the bag, “that looks beautiful.”
“Slightly different one for you, Suzie,” Casey said as she looked at me, “but the same basic design. Want to see it?”
I nodded as Ruth opened the bag and showed me the dress, the other two nodding as they looked at it.
“Yeah – that will suit you,” Fiona said with a little sigh.
“Right then – let’s try these on, and then we need to get back to the hall,” Mum said. “It’s Guy Fawkes’ Night, and we have some fireworks arranged.”
Mister Boyle had arranged a bonfire at the bottom of the back garden, which meant we were staying indoors as he and Dad were making the final preparations outside. Fiona and Louise had come over for the evening, along with Louise’s dad and Fiona’s mum.
He was sitting with Mum and Mrs Boyle, while Freddie was in the library with Bobby, looking at some of the schoolwork he had to catch up on. He had started at our school this week, and was struggling a little with the way we worked in this country.
“Why on earth do you have to wear the same clothes as everyone else,” I heard him say, shaking my head as I looked at Louise.
“Give him time – he still calls crisps chips,” she said as we watched them looking at the course books.
“You have to remember he grew up in America, Suzie,” Mrs Cork said, “it’s going to take him a little while to adjust.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll soon knock him into shape,” Louise said as the front doorbell rang. I watched Mrs Boyle stand up and walk to the door, and then return to say “Lord and Lady Holderness with Mister and Mrs Holderness-Carter.”
“Hey Sarah,” Mrs Cork said as she stood up and hugged our American friend. “I am so glad you could make it over for this.”
“I would not have missed this for the world,” Sarah said as she returned the hug, and then looked at me. “My goodness – you’ve grown since I last saw you Suzie.”
“Thanks,” I said quietly, “these are my friends Louise and Fiona. Girls, this is my cousin, Sarah Holderness-Carter, and her husband Brian.”
“Pleasure,” Sarah said as she looked at them and then at Mrs Cork. “So this is your daughter to be Gail?”
“That’s right – Freddie, look who’s here.”
Freddie and Bobby came through from the library and smiled. “Hey there,” Freddie said, “where are the twins?”
“Mrs Bridges is watching them tonight,” Grandma said as she handed her coat to Mrs Boyle, “They are still tired after flying over during the night. Suzanne, you look radiant.”
“Well, baby is getting bigger,” Mum said as she held her stomach, “but February seems so far away at the moment.”
“You know it passes quickly,” Grandma said as Grandpa sat down with Brian.
“Well, everything is set up,” Dad said as he came in with Mister Bridges, and kissed Grandma and Sarah before he shook Brian’s hand. “How about we have those baked potatoes and lamb stew now?”
“Sounds good to me,” Bobby said as he looked back into the library. “What about the bonfire?”
“We can start it once you have eaten it,” Mum said, “come on – we’ll all go through.”
As we went through to the dining room, Brian said “so is everything ready for the wedding?”
“I think so – the hotel is being decorated on Friday night by friends of our family,” Mister Hobson said – he had been helping outside as well. “And nobody has refused the invite, so it should be quite a gathering.”
“Patty and Rachel are coming with their parents,” Louise said, “and the Craigs and the Williamsons are all coming as well.”
“Mark and Yvonne? It will be good to see them again,” Sarah said with a smile. “It should be a very special time for everyone.”
“Especially us,” Mrs Cork said as she held Mister Hobson’s hand.
“Oh you Jack,” she said with a smile before they kissed, the three of us making icky faces.
“Come on – eat up,” Mum said as Mrs Boyle brought the food in, “and then we can go outside.”
“Hey,” Bobby said as the three of us were putting on our coats, “Freddie and I were wondering if we could help you all to keep warm outside.”
“You know,” Freddie said with a smile, “keep toasty warm and not catch a chill.”
“Why have I got a bad feeling about this,” Louise said as we all buttoned up our coats, and then pulled on woollen gloves on our hands.
“Oh come on – nothing too heavy, just a little rope and fun,” Bobby said. “All we want to do is tie your wrists together in front of you, and make sure your mouths stay nice and warm.”
“Come on,” Fiona said quietly, “what harm could it do?”
“You don’t know my brother that well yet,” I said quietly, but I nodded as we held your wrists out, and the two boys tied our wrists in front of us.
“Do we still get to hold sparklers,” Louise said as she twisted her wrists round.
“Yes, you still get to hold sparklers,” Freddie said, “whatever they are?”
“Little hand held fireworks,” Bobby said. “We don’t go as big as you guys do on the fourth of July or Thanksgiving, but we do still get to have fun.”
“Fair enough,” Freddie said, “don’t want to spoil my new sister’s fun.”
“Har de ha… What are you guys doing with those hankies?”
“Keeping you quiet,” Bobby said as he pushed a folded one into my mouth, and then covered my lips with the special white tape that doesn’t hurt. Once the other two were gagged in the same way, they took a long woollen scarf for each of us and tied it tightly round our heads, bringing the ends round and tucking them into the front of our coats. With the ropes sitting under the cuffs of our sleeves, we looked as if we were going out on a cold night.
Which is exactly what we were doing, as we stood with our backs to the windows, the light casting our shadows across the lawn as the bonfire started to burn at the far side of the garden.
“All right then,” I heard Grandpa say, “let’s get this party started.” Grandma handed us each a sparkler, and then lit them as the fireworks stated to go off into the sky, all of us watching as the sky lit in bursts of colours, showing up against the high grey cloud.
We could only wave them round and give muted gasps of admiration as Mum and Sarah both looked at us, and then at Freddie and Bobby.
“Remind me to have words with my son later,” I heard her whisper, but I wasn’t complaining.
This was going to be a very special weekend…
When I got home from school on the Friday, I was surprised to see Mrs Boyle sitting in the front room with mum and an elderly couple. The woman was about the same size as Mrs Boyle, and actually looked a lot like her, but with greying hair, while the man was completely bald.
“Ah there you are Suzie,” Mum said as I stood in the doorway. “This is Mister and Mrs Stewart, Mrs Boyle’s parents. Joshua, Martha, this is my daughter Suzanne, Suzie for short.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Mr Stewart said as he looked at me. “Sam’s somewhere around I think.”
“Right here,” I heard Sam Stewart say as he stood behind me. Turning round, I said “Hi – can I get a drink mum?”
“Sure – help yourself,” mum said, so Sam and I went into the kitchen, where Bobby was looking at a book.
“Hey there,” he said as he looked up, “I guess you’re all staying here as well this weekend.”
“Busy place,” I said quietly. “Are your uncle’s parents coming as well?”
“No – I think they both died some years ago, so Uncle Abe is going to give his sister away at the ceremony.”
“It’s nice that it’s going to be a church wedding,” I said as I took a glass of milk from Bobby.
“Well, given neither of them are divorced, but widowed, I guess they’re allowed to,” Sam said. “So where’s this new cousin of mine?”
“Freddie? He went upstairs to try and get some homework done I think.”
“What are you lot talking about?”
“Hello Mrs Cork,” I said as Freddie’s mother came in, “I was asking if your parents are coming. I’m sorry – I didn’t know they had died.”
“Oh that’s all right,” she said with a smile, “It’s been a couple of years now since dad passed on, and mum – well that was some time before. I know they would have loved to be here though.”
“So when do Louise and Fiona get here,” Sam said as he looked at me.
“How did you…”
“I cannot keep a secret,” Bobby said as he held his hands up. “I had to tell them the three of you were having a sleepover tonight so that you were here for tomorrow morning.”
“All right, all right – they’re coming over later tonight,” I said as I put my cup down. “So, if you will excuse me, I have to go and get changed before dinner, and get my homework done.”
I went up to my bedroom and took off my school uniform, putting the dirty laundry in the wash basket before I put on a pair of blue leggings and a long sleeved top. I decided that for once, doing my work in my room would be a good idea, so I got out my Maths books and settled down to get through the questions.
I looked round to see Bobby in my door.
“Dinner’s ready – want to come down and eat?”
“Sure thing,” I said as I closed my books and put them back into my bag, and then came down to the dining room. Dad had got back from work, and was sitting with Mrs Boyle’s parents, while Mrs Cork and Freddie were sitting with Mister Boyle.
“So when do the other bridesmaids get here,” Freddie said as he ate his meal.
“You new father is dropping them off before he goes out with Abe,” Mrs Cork said, “and they will sleep over here tonight.”
“That’s nice – so we can all go to the church together in the morning?”
“That’s right – so once they’re here, we’re going to have a girl’s night in, while the younger boys get the playhouse to themselves. Isn’t that right boys?”
“Yeah, Mom,” Freddie said as he rolled his eyes and looked at us.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep them under control,” Bobby said with a smile. “Several rounds of Super Smash Brothers should do the trick.”
“Come on in,” I said as Fiona and Louise arrived with Louise’s father, each of them carrying an overnight bag. The two girls hugged me as we went into the front room, where Mum was sitting with the other ladies.
“Come on in girls,” Mrs Cork said as Dad and Mr Boyle left the house. “Are you all ready to look beautiful tomorrow?”
“We’ll try our best,” Louise said as she put her bag down. “So what are we going to do tonight?”
“Relax, watch a movie, eat some popcorn – I’m getting too old for hen nights,” Mrs Cork said with a smile.
“Oh lord I remember mine,” Mum said. “Your Aunt Anne had arranged to meet up with some mutual friends in London, and like an idiot I presumed it would be a few quiet drinks and a meal out.”
“What happened,” Mrs Cork asked.
“I can’t tell you – not in front of them,” Mum said with a smile. “Let’s just say I spend an interesting night in a hotel, before they helped me to get ready the next morning.”
Mrs Cork laughed and then said something funny.
“What is it about big life decisions leading to strange things happening?”
“How do you mean?”
She put her glass down and said “don’t tell Freddie this. Before we came over, I found myself a hostage for a few days.”
“I was kidnapped – twice in two days. The second person made me rob my bank, and then let me go. He didn’t hurt me – in fact, he was very kind – but I still had to do what he said. Does that sound funny?”
“Sounds like Jay Edwards.”
I looked at Louise, and then said “Oh yeah – I forgot you met him as well.”
“Jay Edwards? Who is he?”
“A rather notorious bank robber,” Mrs Boyle said. “From what I read in the press, he takes the families of his victims hostage, and then forces them to do electronic transfer of money from their firms. He’s apparently very gentle, but he still really holds them hostage.”
“No kidding,” I said, and then saw Mrs Cork looking at me.
“Perhaps I should tell you about how we first found this place,” Mum said as I looked at her. “You might want to top up your drink first.”
“Oh my… Oh my,” she said when mum had finished. “That must have been terrifying.”
“Not the way it went – honestly, it felt like a great big game,” I said quietly. “Mind you, now we know what else happened, I’m actually glad we treated it in that way.”
“I think I can understand that – it seems less scary that way right?”
Louise and I both nodded as Fiona said “I guess it helps we play games as well, right?”
“Yes – but this weekend, during the wedding, we can’t do that. Too many people who don’t do that.”
“Do what,” Mrs Boyle’s mother said as she came into the room.
“Like One Direction,” I said with a smile, “so what are we going to watch?”
“Mamma Mia – what else?”
“Well, it wasn’t that bad a film,” Fiona said as she dried her hands, “but honestly, singing along?”
“You was as much into it as the rest of us,” I said, Louise nodding as she finished brushing her teeth. We had all changed and got ready for bed, me in my white pyjamas, Fiona in a pink onesie, and Louise in a pale blue nightdress.
As we went back into the room, I saw Mum and Mrs Boyle waiting for us. “Milk and cookies,” Mum said, “and then we’ll get you into bed. Given the time for any games tomorrow is rather limited, we’ll let you sleep tied up tonight.”
“Thanks Mum,” I said as I picked a chocolate biscuit up. “I presume not the complete set?”
“No, I think we need to keep this nice and simple, but you’ll still be well secured,” Mum said as we had our supper, and then were each handed a pair of fingerless mittens. Putting them on, we crossed our wrists in front of us, watching as mum and Mrs Boyle tied them tightly together, and then took the rope around our waists to fix them in place.
“Would you like your arms tied to your sides as well,” Mum said. I looked at her and I said “mum – can we have both bands?”
She looked at us, and said “all right – just this once.”
She took a long length of rope, and tied it round my arms and tummy, and then took it round my shoulders as well. I tried not to giggle as they rubbed on me, and then I lay down on my bed, the other two taking their places on the camp beds while our ankles and legs were secured.
“Right girls – lips together,” Mrs Boyle said as she tore a strip of the special white tape free, “and then we’ll turn the lights off.”
I nodded as one by one our lips were covered, and we settled down for a good night’s sleep. I smiled at Mum, who leaned over and kissed my forehead, her bump rubbing against my cheek, and then left the room, turning the light off as we quickly fell asleep…
“Good morning sleepy heads.”
I opened my eyes to see Mum standing over us with Mrs Boyle.
“Time to get up, and come down to have breakfast – we have an incredibly busy day ahead of us,” she said as we were untied, and peeled the tape away from our mouths. “The hairdresser will be here at nine, so get yourselves together and come down.”
“How are you feeling, Louise,” I said as I looked at her.
“Like my tummy is all knotted up,” she said as she looked at me. “Can you understand that?”
I nodded as I rubbed my arms. “Come on then – let’s get washed and go down.”
The three of us were soon going into the dining room, where Mrs Cork was picking at some slices of toast.
“You too, Louise,” she said as she looked up, Louise nodding in reply as we all sat down.
“Hey there,” Bobby said as he came in with Freddie and Sam. Freddie looked almost as nervous as his mum and his sister to be, as they sat and quietly ate their breakfasts.
“How are you feeling this morning Gail,” Mister Boyle said as he came in and kissed his sister.
“How do you think – this is worse than when Freddie and I got married,” she said with a smile.
“Ah you’ll be fine,” he said with a smile, “so when does the beautification begin?”
“In about twenty minutes – what are you going to do?”
“Well, there is the small matter of the caterers needing to set up in here,” he said, “but once Rebecca and I have that started, Freddie and I need to go and join your husband to be.”
The ring on the door bell meant Mrs Boyle had to go up and answer it, before we heard her say “In the front room ladies.”
“Sounds like the hairdressers are here,” Mrs Cork said, “I need to…”
She then ran from the room as Freddie looked at Mister Boyle.
“Nerves – don’t worry,” he said as Mum went to see if she was all right, and we finished our breakfast.
“Right – you three come with me,” Mrs Boyle said, “into the front room.”
As we went in, four chairs had been set up, and we saw the hairdresser standing and waiting.
“Hop onto a chair girls,” she said as she looked at us, “we can make a start on all three of you before the star of the day comes and joins us…”
“This is getting exciting,” Fiona said as she looked at me, but I was looking at Louise, who was looking decidedly nervous.
“Hey,” I said, “it could be worse?”
“Frank could be watching you right now.”
“Oh god – I never thought of that,” Louise said before she burst out laughing.
“Right – sit still young lady,” the hairdresser said as she fastened a poncho around her body, “we need to work magic...”
We were sat there for an hour and a half, our hair been teased into curls and fixed into place, as Mrs Cork came in and took her seat beside her, one of the juniors starting to prepare her hair.
Eventually we were allowed to get up and go for a drink, before Mum said “all right you three – let’s go and make you look more beautiful than you already are.” She led us back up to my bedroom, and sat us on the bed as she started to use blusher on our cheeks, and then apply the eye shadow and lip gloss.
“There,” she eventually said as she stood back, “I think you’re ready now. Time to get into your dresses.”
As Fiona and Louise headed next door, Mum took the dress I was going to wear out of the wardrobe. It was made from pale blue silk, and had a square neckline and elbow length sleeves, a long skirt that was gathered at the waist and had a lace underskirt, and a sash tied round my waist with the bow at the side. I also had a matching pair of short gloves, and satin heels.
“Oh my,” Mum said as she looked at me, “you really are growing up aren’t you?”
“Well, I am thirteen in a few weeks, mum,” I said quietly, but as I looked at myself in the mirror I had to admit I did look a bit more grown up. I just hoped Brian liked what he saw later – he and Colin were coming to the wedding with their parents.
“Right – you go downstairs and wait for the rest of us,” Mum said as she held her back, “I need to go and get myself ready.”
As she went to mum and dad’s room, I went downstairs and sat in the front room. The hairdressers were heading off, and Mrs Boyle came in as well, wearing a new red jacket over a grey dress and heels.
“Nervous, Suzie,” she said as she put a pair of earrings in.
“A little – not as nervous as I was when Sarah and Brian got married, but a little.”
“Well, that’s good,” she said as Louise and Fiona came in. They were wearing ivory dresses with a round neck, and a cream sash tied round their waists with bows at the back, the skirt flowing out and just covering their matching kitten heels.
They both had floral headbands – but I wasn’t having one this time. Instead, there was a small bouquet of flowers waiting for me on the table, with posies for the other two.
“Well, I can see there are four very beautiful women in here,” Mr Boyle said as he came in. He was wearing a dark suit, and a white shirt with a grey tie.
“Flatterer.” Mrs Boyle went over and kissed him as Mum came in. She was wearing a light green coat dress with a pair of heels, and a matching jacket.
“Right, we need to be on our way,” Dad said as he came in with Bobby, both of them wearing suits and ties with their shirts. “We’ll see you all at the church, good luck Gail.”
“Thanks,” Mrs Cork said as she came in, Louise gasping as she stood there. She was wearing a royal blue silk dress, with a v-shaped neckline, and a floor length skirt. The sleeves were slightly puffed at the shoulder, and looped over her middle finger. She didn’t have a veil – Mum had explained that as this was her second wedding, the veil was usually left off.
“Wow,” Louise finally said, “you look wonderful.”
“So do you Louise,” she said, “you all too. Did Freddie get away on time?”
“He did, Gail,” Mr Boyle said, “I made sure he got there to be with Jack and they will be waiting for us.”
He looked out of the window and smiled as he said “the cars are here, but before we go, I want to do something.”
He opened a bottle of champagne and poured it into glasses, while Mrs Boyle poured some lemonade into glasses for the three of us.
“Mum and Dad would have been very proud to see you today Gail – annoyed it wasn’t in the synagogue, but very proud all the same.”
“Yeah – I hope they’re watching, and they approve of what I’m doing.”
“Of course they would,” Mr Boyle said as he raised a glass. “A toast – to Gail Hobson. May she be truly happy.”
“I know I will be,” she said as we drank, and then Mr Boyle went to open the door. There were two limousines waiting – a large grey one, and Mister Bridges was standing beside Granddad’s Rolls Royce.
Opening the door, he took Mrs Cork’s hand and helped her to sit in, before allowing Mr Boyle to sit with her and closing the door. We went with Mrs Boyle in the other car, the caterers going in and out as we headed down the driveway.
As we pulled up outside the church, I could see the grey stone through the branches of the trees, the leaves having fallen off, but I could also see the Craigs heading up the driveway. The twins were being carried by Mr and Mrs Craig, while Jenny and Cassie were talking to each other. As they went in, the driver let us out, and Mrs Boyle made sure the headdresses were still in place for Louise and Fiona before we walked up to the door of the church.
“Well, the bridesmaids are here,” Brian said as he saw us from just inside the door. “Have fun – I need to be with Sarah and the kids.”
He slipped inside as Mister Bridges parked and opened the door to the car, Mister Boyle taking the hand of his sister as they walked up the church door.
“I didn’t think I’d be this nervous,” she said as she looked at Louise, who was pale. “But you are as well, aren’t you?”
She nodded slowly as Mrs Boyle said “time for me to go in, good luck.” She kissed her husband on his cheek, and then walked into the church.
“All right girls – Fiona, you’re first, then Louise, then Suzie, and we bring up the rear. Listen for the organ playing, and then we head off.
That was the moment the music started so Fiona took a deep breath and walked off, Louise and me following her.
The church was full of our friends and families, smiling at us as we went down. I could see Fiona’s mum, standing with Cassie’s aunts and her uncle, and then Mum and Dad standing with Aunt Anne and Uncle Simon.
At the front of the chair stood Louise’s dad, wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and a tie in the same colour as the dress Mrs Cork was wearing, and next to him stood Freddie, dressed in the same way. Both of them were grinning as we walked down, but their eyes were not on us – they were on Freddie’s mother and Mr Boyle.
“Dearly beloved,” the minister said as Mister Hobson stood next to Mrs Cork, “we are gathered here today to see this man and this woman joined together in holy matrimony...”
“By the authority granted to me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
“Gladly,” Mister Hobson said as he kissed the new Mrs Hobson, to the sound of applause from the guests. I glanced to my side and saw that Louise was crying. Glancing at mum, she nodded and handed me a paper hankie, which I then handed to her.
“It’s too late now you know,” Fiona whispered, “Freddie is your brother.”
“I don’t see you complaining too much,” Louise whispered back as her parents took a seat, and the reading was done by Dad. After the minister had said something, they disappeared into the back, Brian slipping out of his seat and going in with them.
“They need two adult witnesses – Freddie’s too young,” I heard Mum whisper as they went into the back room, and then came out, Freddie taking my arm as we walked back up the aisle behind them.
“Well, can I say something now.” Louise said as we stood in the entrance to the chair.
“And what’s that love,” her father said.
“Hi mum,” Louise said as she hugged the new Mrs Hobson, and was hugged in return.
“Right – into the cars and off for photos,” Mr Boyle said as he opened the door.
We were driven back to the hall, where the photographer had set up his cameras on the back lawn as the guests arrived at the front. As I stood watching him arranging a family photo with Louise, Freddie and their parents, when I heard Cassie next to me saying “So how’s life as the senior bridesmaid?”
“Unusual,” I said as I turned to look at her. She was wearing a dark blue dress with puffed sleeves and a skirt that came down over her knees, and black shoes. “How did it look from the other side?”
“That you were proud to be there,” she said with a smile. “So how have they behaved themselves?”
“Louise and Fiona? What on earth makes you think they would misbehave –especially Louise? Trust me, she’s come close to blubbing so many times today already her mind is focused on that.”
“Can you blame her?”
“Of course not – look how happy she is now.” She was as well, beaming from ear to ear as they stood there.
“Who’s the guy with them now?”
“Freddie’s uncle from the US – he and a few other family members came over to support them, as well as Brian and Sarah.”
“Someone mention our names?”
We both turned to see Brian and Sarah standing behind us. “They do make a wonderful couple, don’t they?”
“Where are the twins?”
“There’s a mini-crèche going on in the library,” Brian said. “Bart and Sarah, David and June, and all the other babies are in there, under the tender care of Angela and Eddie.”
“Yeah – she agreed to come and help out.” Brian looked over and said “Mark, Yvonne – you made it.”
“We did – a wonderful service,” Mister and Mrs Williamson said as they hugged Brian and Sarah, Cassie waving to me as she went off to find Bobby.
“Suzie, Fiona, come and join us please,” Mister Brooks said, so we went over to have our photos taken again.
The room really was full with people standing or sitting, eating from the buffet and chatting amongst themselves. Alicia and Jenny were in the corner with Colin Hampton and Martin, while Mary was with Mark Cottrell and Cathy with Sam.
The tornados were in a corner with their mothers, when I heard someone very special say “hi – you look wonderful today.”
“Why thank you,” I said as I turned to see Brian Hampton standing there, smartly dressed and smiling. “I try my best.”
“Well, I’m biased – but you do look wonderful,” he said as he gave me a little kiss.
“Hey – you’re embarrassing me,” I said as I blushed, but it was nice of him anyway.
“I see Eric and Frank Cottrell are here as well?”
“Well, that will please Fiona and Lisa,” I said with a smile as I saw them sitting across the room.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Ladies and Gentlemen, could we have your attention please?”
Brian and I looked at Mister Boyle as he stood at the front of the room.
“Now, if we were sitting down at a dinner, this is the point where the toastmaster would introduce the father of the bride,” he said as he looked round, “but there are two small problems with that. The first, sadly of course, is our parents are no longer with us. The second is this hall, magnificent as it is, is a little small for a sit down dinner, so we’re standing round. I mean, I did suggest building an extension to the boss, but he said no, so...”
The room laughed as he continued “but I do want to say a few things. Today has been one of the proudest days of my life, because I see my sister happily married with her new husband and family. I’m sure somewhere up there, our parents and both Gail and Jack’s first partners are looking down and smiling.
“Gail, Jack, Louise and Freddie – this is the start of your new life together, and I am sure you will make a wonderful success of it. I have rarely seen a couple so suited for each other, and I and everyone here wish you every success and blessing in the years to come.
“So please, take your glasses, and join me in toasting the bride and groom. To Gail and Jack.”
“GAIL AND JACK!” The room cheered as they blushed and held each other’s hands.
“Do I get to say something now,” Jack said as the room clapped. “I’ll keep this short, not because I don’t have a lot to say – I do – but because brevity is the best thing for this time.
“Firstly, Gail – you have made me a very happy man by marrying me today, and I promise to be there for you no matter what. I also want to welcome Freddie to the family, and to let everyone know I’ve started the legal proceedings to adopt him as my own son as well.
“Secondly,” he said as the room applauded again, “I want to thank Freddie in particular for being my best man today, and the girls for being the best bridesmaids a couple could ask for. We’ve got a little thank you but we will give you them later. Right now, though, I want you all to say thank you to the three girls, by toasting the bridesmaids.”
“THE BRIDESMAIDS!” the call went out again and I certainly blushed – I’m sure the other two did as well.
“Hi, I’m Freddie, and at this point I’m meant to say funny things about the man who is the bridegroom today.”
I looked at him, standing there nervously, and wondering what he was going to say, as he blushed slightly. “Thing is, he has a few years on me – and, rather more to the point, I don’t exactly want to start life with him as my dad upsetting him.”
“Wise move,” Bobby shouted out, making everyone else laugh.
“But I do want to say this,” Freddie said quietly, “he has made Mom happy again after Dad died, and I am happy she’s happy, so I was proud to stand here today. I’m proud also to call him Dad now, and I hope they both have a wonderful life together.
“That’s it – apart from to say no way am I sharing a room with my new sister. Thank you.”
Everyone applauded as he blushed as well, before Dad said “Folks, there is plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and plenty of time. Please, mingle and enjoy yourselves.”
I smiled as I looked round for Cassie, but she seemed to have disappeared into the crowd. So I walked back into the dining room and got myself another drink, before walking round and looking for the others. It was a crowded room, however, so I made my way into the library instead, where Angela and Eddie were holding court. Eddie was in a suit, shirt and tie, while Angela was wearing a pale blue jacket and skirt with a camisole underneath.
“Hey there cuz – you did a good job today,” she said as she looked up, Andrew sitting on her knee.
“Thanks – how’s the course going?”
“Slowly, but it’s fun. How’s big school?”
“I’m getting used to that as well,” I said as Charlie looked in.
“There you are,” he said with a smile, “Brian’s looking for you – he said he was going to check the kitchen, for some strange reason.”
“Well, then, I’d better rescue him before Mrs Boyle gives him a job. See you later Angela.”
“Have fun,” she said as I made my way past the crowds and through the dining room into the kitchen.
Only I didn’t get as far as the kitchen – well, I did, but as soon as I went inside I was grabbed from behind, my mouth filled with a hankie as I opened it to complain and a hand clamped over it.
“Hgrrt,” I mumbled as my hands were taken behind my back and I felt a plastic tie pulling them together over my gloves, before a scarf was tied tightly over my eyes. I was then walked forward as I was held from behind, the hand still over my mouth as I was made to climb some stairs, and walked along a corridor. I could hear doors opening and closing in front of and behind me, so I presumed I was still in the house somewhere, but where I wasn’t quite sure.
As one more door opened, I heard a muffled chorus of “uswwll,” which made me realise I wasn’t alone. As the blindfold was taken off, I realised that was most certainly true.
We were in the one of the bedrooms, and I could see Cassie, Louise and Fiona sitting on a long couch, their arms behind their backs and bands of rope around their upper bodies and legs, the skirts of their dresses gathered around their legs below their knees.
“Welcome,” my wonderful and very sneaky big brother said as I felt him press two sponges into my hands, “hold these for a minute, will you, while I just make sure that cloth stays in there?”
“Lkehfachs,” I mumbled as I allowed him to pull the knotted strip of towelling between my teeth, and then I heard the rip of duct tape as he started to wrap my balled up hands in the tape. He then tied my arms to my side, below my chest and around my arms below my elbows, before he cut away the plastic strip and tied my wrists tightly together with rope instead. One further length around my waist, and they were as secure as they were going to be.
Once he had done this, he helped me to sit down on the floor, and I watched as he crossed and tied my ankles tightly together, before folding the skirt of my dress back and starting to tie my legs together. That gave me a chance to look at the other three, with white scarves covering their hair and wrapped around their heads, which told me all I needed to know about what was coming next.
“Ready,” Bobby whispered, and I nodded as he folded a large white scarf in half, and tied it over my hair. I then heard the tape rip, and sat with my head up as he wrapped it round my head, covering the towelling strip and not trapping my hair. A second scarf was then folded and tied over the silver band, before he helped me to lie on my stomach on the floor and pulled my ankles back, the skirt falling over my legs as he tied my ankles to the stomach rope.
“You two all right watching them as we take care of the others?”
I swear, I had not realised who else was in there until he said that, and I raised my head to see Frank Cottrell and Freddie standing against the wall.
“Oh yeah, we’ll be fine,” Frank said, “you girls are not going to give me any trouble, are you?”
We all shook our heads, Fiona especially, as Bobby went out and closed the door. A few minutes later, he returned with Lisa, who was wearing a cream coloured blouse and grey skirt. As the blindfold was taken off her, she actually blushed at seeing Frank there – and ten minutes later, with Frank taking care of her, she was lying on the floor next to me.
“Ssss, smhrftn,” she mumbled to me, and I just shook my head as Bobby left again.
Another fifteen minutes later, and Bobby and Charlie returned with Patty and Rachel, both in long sleeved Laura Ashley style dresses. Not that that stopped them ending up on the bed, hogtied as well, Rachel especially pleased to allow Charlie to take care of her.
“We’ll be back later,” they said as they left, and we wondered how long we were going to be up here. I could hear cars starting to leave, and I was starting to wonder how long they were going to leave us up here...
Those worries got more intense as the door opened, and Colin and Martin escorted Alicia and Jenny in, followed by Charlie with his sister.
I shook my head as they were all tied the same way as us, leaving us in the room again.
A few minutes later, the door opened, but it wasn’t any of the boys – it was Louise and Freddie’s parents, with Mum and Dad.
“Oh my – you weren’t joking, Alexander,” their mum said as she looked at us.
“All right girls,” Dad said, “your parents have agreed that you can all stay over tonight, and they’ll bring some changes of clothes for all of you later – except you Louise.”
“Whntmmm – hhhh...”
“That’s right,” her dad said, “you’re staying here with Freddie this week while we have a honeymoon, and... Darling are you all right?”
I could see Louise was crying, as Freddie stepped forward and removed her gag.
“I’m sorry Dad,” she said as she looked at them, “it’s just I’m so happy. It’s been a wonderful day, and I love you and I love my new mum, and...”
“Hey,” her mum said as she sat with her and hugged her, “I know what you mean. I’ve felt like crying a lit today as well, so don’t worry if you want to cry.”
Louise just kept crying, tears of joy as I now realised, as her mum and dad held her, and Freddie looked on with mild bemusement.
“I’m all right now,” she eventually said, “so you’ll call?”
“Of course we will,” her dad said. “As I was saying, you’re all going to be staying over tonight, and then going to the manor house tomorrow morning for something they are doing there. Bobby will keep an eye on all of you.”
“So enjoy the week, and don’t give your uncle and aunt any trouble Freddie.”
“Yes you,” her dad said as they both kissed her – and him, much to my amusement – and then went out of the room.
“Do you want the gag back in, Louise?”
She nodded and waited as Bobby replaced the gag, and then he and Freddie sat with us as we heard the cars starting to leave.
An hour or so later, Freddie heard Mrs Boyle call him down, so he left us alone with Bobby. “I think everyone has gone now,” he said quietly, “so we can let you move about now.”
He released us all from our hogties and helped us to sit up, but that was all he did as he looked at us.
“Well, dinner is at seven thirty, so we have a few hours to kill. You’ve got the roam of the place until then – and you can even try to untie yourselves.
“Thing is, you won’t succeed, but by all means try. We’ll make sure you’re all free for dinner though.”
“Yup – if you can get there, I’m not going to stop you – just take care, all right?”
We all nodded as Bobby walked out, leaving the door open, and we all looked at each other. Now, I knew Bobby was telling the truth – tied this way, there was no way we were getting free. My thought really was, what are the others going to do?
Alicia looked at Jenny and nodded, as the two older girls stood up, their skirts falling to cover the rope around their legs, and started to jump to the door, making their way along the corridor. I could hear them slide down the stairs, and mum say “Want to watch a film,” as Cassie and Lisa looked at each other.
Cassie nodded as the two of them got to their feet and jumped away, turning in a different direction at the door.
“Plhsss – ftsslrrttszzeee?”
I nodded to show Patty it was all right, as she and Rachel got to their feet and jumped off.
I just shrugged my shoulders – to be honest, I was quite happy to be like this – and besides, the ropes rubbing on my chest both made me feel good and scared me with what would happen if I did move.
“Effnkkwcngtfr – wnntr?”
I looked at Louise and Fiona, and just shuffled back – I wanted to see what they were going to do. I watched as they both started twisting round, trying to loosen the ropes as much as they could. Well, I knew they weren’t going to loosen – from what I saw as the other left, wriggling round would just tighten them!
“Ltssstbkktbkkk,” Fiona said as she looked at Louise, who nodded in response. They started to shuffle round, trying not to catch the edge of their skirts in their heels, and ended up with their backs against each other as they tried to find the knot in each other’s arm bindings.
Now, the thing is, finding the knot wasn’t that great a problem, but as they tried to pick at the knots, they realised there was a few things in their way – tape, socks, tape, sponge balls, you know – no fingers to use?
I had to stop myself from laughing as I heard their groans at this, and instead tried to offer some muffled encouragement as they panted through the gag, sweat on their brows as they wondered what to do next.
“Whtusngg,” Louise said as she looked at Fiona.
“SSssrs,” Fiona said as she looked at the chest of drawers, and there was a pair of safety scissors lying on top of it. She managed to get to her feet and jump over, Louise watching as she managed to reach the drawers and look at the pair of scissors.
That was when she realised two small details. First, they were safety scissors, so for them to work you had to be able to use both parts and bring them together. The second – how on earth could she hold them with her hands like silver boxing gloves.
It was getting more and more difficult for me not to burst out laughing at the exasperation in Fiona’s eyes now, as Louise frantically looked round to see if there was anything else in the room they could possibly use. Well, no chance on that one, I was afraid to say.
Well, I couldn’t say anything, as Fiona came back and say next to Louise, and then said “Whtbbtthggg?”
Louise nodded as they both slipped onto the floor, kneeling as they shuffled round and started to rub their cheeks on the bed, trying to get the gag off. Well, they at least partially succeeded in that – they managed to get the scarf off the band of the tape, while at the same time the headscarves slipped down the back of their heads, making it look as if a shawl was taped to the back of their heads.
They looked at each other, the silver band around their heads, and then tried to rub that on the bed, but it was no use – the edge was at the back of their heads, now covered by the scarf, and there were too many bands.
Eventually they looked at each other, their dresses rather less elegant as the collars slipped to one side, their hair wild, the sweat stains on their sides and backs, and then looked at me as I looked back at them.
“Bbbessdduwldntgfr,” I said with a shrug – and a smile under the gag – as the door opened and mum came in.
“Oh dear,” she said as she looked at them, “don’t tell me you tried to get free?”
They both nodded as Mum looked at them. “Well, I’m going to untie both of you, and give you a chance to go and wash and change – Fiona, you’ll share with Louise tonight if that’s all right. Then I’ll come and get you free Suzie – dinner is in thirty minutes.”
I nodded and watched as Louise and Fiona were slowly released, and then Mum cut the tape away and removed the scarves and gag, before removing the covering from their hands.
“Thanks Mrs Holderness,” Fiona said as the two of them looked at me, and then ran – yes ran – to the bathrooms.
“And as for you,” Mum said as she walked over to me, “I take it you were watching and laughing?”
I nodded in agreement as she started to untie my arms. “Well, once I have your hands free, you can untie yourself – and then come and set the table for dinner.”
As Louise and Fiona came into the dining room, the rest of us were already sitting down. We had changed out of our bridesmaids’ dresses into blouses and skirts, but the others were still dressed in the same clothes.
“How come you three changed,” Cassie said as she looked at us.
“We had to – our dresses need cleaning,” Fiona said as she sat down.
“Need cleaning, why?”
“Because Louise and Fiona decided to try and get free,” I said as Mister and Mrs Boyle brought in the dinner.
“They tried to escape? From that? Louise, even after what happened with Jay Edwards, you thought you could get free?”
“Well, I wanted to try,” Louise said with a smile, “what did you lot get up to?”
“Read a book, watched a video, you know – normal things,” Alicia said as she looked at me and winked.
“This is delicious,” Fiona said as she cut into her meat.
“ANYway,” I said as I cut my own slice, “the thing is, both of you, the best way to enjoy yourself when you’re like that is just to relax, not try and escape. Do something else, like the others did, and keep calm.”
“Yeah it’s much more fun that way,” Patty said as she nudged Rachel.
“Well, it was still fun to try – even if we did get a bit hot,” Louise said with a shrug as she looked at Freddie.
“So what are we doing tomorrow, Mrs Holderness,” Cassie said as she looked over.
“Well, Cassie, as you know tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday,” Mum said, “when we remember those who fought and died in wars. As a family, we get together at the manor house and mark the occasion on the island in the lake – and with Sarah and Brian here, it has an extra layer of resonance this year.
“So we’ll all drive over to the manor house tomorrow morning, and observe the two minute silence, then we’ll all have lunch there. Apart from Louise and Freddie, the rest of you will be collected from the manor house by your parents instead of here.”
“That sounds – different,” Rachel said. “We normally go to the service at the war memorial in town.”
“Well, this will be quieter, and a bit more reflective,” Dad said. “Angela and Eddie are coming down to attend as well.”
“So what can we do after dinner,” Fiona asked as she looked at me.
“Fiona, it might be an idea to eat dinner first,” I said quietly, “and then we can discuss what we can do after dinner...”
“All right, all right,” Jenny said quietly, “I know it’s been a long day, and you three have been very busy, but let’s try and keep it quiet and friendly, hmm?”
I looked at her and Alicia, and then burst out laughing. “My god you sound just like Aunt Anne when you speak like that,” I eventually said.
“Well, that’s an improvement on sounding like our grandmother,” Alicia said quietly, which made Mum and Dad laugh as well.
“Listen – once dinner is done, why don’t you all get ready for bed, and then you can watch something on the television before you go to bed. We’ll make sure you’re nice and comfy in there.”
“Really nice and comfy?”
“In bed yes – I think you all need a break until then.”
It was nearly eleven by the time the film finished, and Mum looked at us.
“All right you lot,” she said, “up to your beds. Mrs Boyle and I will come and see you in your rooms – but you’ll all be the same way.”
We headed up the stairs and I went into my room, sitting on my bed and yawning as I started to take my shoes and socks off, putting them in the wash basket and my shoes in the wardrobe before I picked up my nightdress and went into the bathroom to wash and change.
When I got to my room, mum was waiting for me, handing me a pair of socks as she said “put them over your hands please, and then cross your wrists in front of you.”
“Right,” she said as she tied my wrists together, and then took the rope around my waist, tying it round and then picking up more rope.
“I asked all the girls the same thing,” Mum said, “so I’m asking you – the ropes, one band or two?”
I thought for a moment, before I said “two please, I want to be really secure.”
She nodded as she tied it round my body, pulling my arms to my sides at my stomach and just below my shoulders, before tying it off as well. She then used two small lengths under my arms, which made me feel really special.
“All right Suzie, lie down,” Mum said, so I lay on the bed, watching as she tied my ankles tightly together, and then my legs below my knees.
“Just the tape tonight,” Mum said as she picked up the roll, “but we’ll wake you up in the morning. Anything you need to say?”
“Thanks mum,” I said before she pressed the tape down over my lips, and then I watched as Dad and Mister Bridges brought Louise and Fiona in, placing them on the camp beds that had been set up before they all left, Mum turning off the lights as we all settled down.
“Urwlcmmm” I mumbled as my eyes slowly closed, safe, secure, happy...
When I opened them, Louise and Fiona were sitting up, looking at the door as it opened and Mrs Boyle came in.
“Good morning girls,” she said as she untied our arms and wrists, and then took the socks off our hands, “if you can untie yourselves, we have breakfast set up in the dining room, and then you can get ready to go to the manor house.”
“How are you feeling this morning,” I asked the other two as soon as I could.
“Much better thanks,” Louise said, “yesterday just got a little too much for me.”
“Hey, not every day you get to see your dad marry a new mum,” Fiona said as she hugged her. “Let’s go and get something to eat, and enjoy today.”
“I need to go to the toilet first,” Louise said as she finished untying her legs, and ran out of the door, Fiona and me following her out of the room but heading downstairs first.
“Good morning sleepy heads,” Cassie said as she and Lisa looked up from the table, while we went and helped ourselves to a bowl of cereal and poured some milk on the flakes. “Ready for today?”
“I think so,” Fiona said as she sat down, “Louise will be down in a minute. Where are the others?”
“Patty and Rachel are being freed now,” Cassie said, “Alicia and Jenny have already eaten, and they’ve gone to have a shower before they get ready.”
“Fair enough,” I said as Louise came in, with Freddie and Sam.
“Morning girls,” Sam said, “I understand we’re all going up to Holderness Manor today.”
“That’s right,” Suzie said, “you’ve never been, have you?”
“No – first time for Freddie as well,” Bobby said as he came in. “Don’t worry – I’m sure they’ll fit right in.”
“It’s a bit cold out,” Dad said as he looked over, “so warm tights, and trousers or skirts today girls.”
“We’re all going to wear skirts,” Cassie said as a certainty – and I guessed why as she looked at me and nodded.
“Well, when you’ve finished you can all go and get ready,” Mum said as she sat slowly down. “We need to be there by ten thirty, so I want everyone at the front door by nine forty-five.”
“We’d better get going then,” Cassie said as she and Lisa got up, and Patty and Rachel came in. “See you later girls.”
“All right, what am I missing,” Louise whispered as she looked at me.
“I’ll explain in the room once we’ve got washed and dressed,” I said quietly.
I whispered into Patty’s ear, and saw her nod as she said “right – I understand now.”
Once we had finished out breakfast, the three of us made our excuses as we went upstairs and had a shower, then went to get dressed. Once I had my underwear on, I put on a white blouse, a pair of white tights, and a brown pleated skirt that covered my knees, followed by a cream Fair Isle sweater.
I waited until Louise had put on a blue dress with a cream cardigan, and Fiona a denim bib dress over a brown jumper, and they had put on some tights, before I said “can you stand up and let me see where the skirts go to please?”
Both of them looked up at me as they stood up, the skirts of both dresses covering their knees.
“Good,” I said as I took a pair of short black boots out of my wardrobe and put them on. Louise put on a pair of black shoes, while Fiona had a pair of brown ankle boots.
“What we’re going to do,” I said as I sat down and folded the skirt I had on back, “is tie our legs above our knees, and then let our skirts cover them. Ready?”
They both nodded eagerly as they took a length of rope from me, and wrapped it round their legs above their knees, tying them together and taking the rope between their legs to make sure it was nice and snugly secured, before we all stood up and let the skirts fall, walking slowly out of the room and very carefully down the stairs.
Cassie and Lisa were waiting with Alicia and Penny. The two older girls were wearing thick jumpers and jeans, but they were smiling as they looked at us. Cassie had on a long green dress, the skirt coming halfway down her legs, a black coat and black fabric boots, while Lisa was wearing a brown suede skirt and a blue denim blouse over it, with brown boots.
Patty and Rachel were the last of the girls to come down, each wearing peasant skirts with brown wool jumpers and short boots.
“All right,” Dad said as he came with Mum and the others, “everyone out to the cars, we need to get going...”
“So how big is this place,” Freddie said as he sat with me, Sam and Louise in the back of Mister Boyle’s car.
“Holderness Manor? Not really that big – just a place my grandparents live in really.”
He seemed to be satisfied with that, but then we turned off the main road to drive into the gates, his eyes widened as we drove up the driveway.
“Not that big? It’s like a mansion house,” Freddie gasped as we got closer to the front door.
“Not really,” Louise said, “but it does have a nice big garden to play in.”
“A nice big...” Freddie was genuinely lost for words when Mister Boyle stopped the car and we all got out.
“Good morning Abe,” Mister Bridges said as we walked up to the door, “the family are gathering in the library, and we have been asked to join them.”
“Need a hand,” I whispered to Louise as she tried to go up the first step, and almost fell over. She nodded as we linked arms and took the steps one at a time, while Mister Bridges held the door open for us.
As we went in, I saw Dad and Eddie Holmes drive up with everyone else – Bobby, Alicia, Lisa and Jenny were with Mum and Dad, while Eddie had brought Patty, Rachel and Fiona along with Angela.
As we went in, Grandma and Granddad were sitting with Sarah and Brian. Both Brian and Granddad were wearing dark suits, and I was surprised to see medals on both their chests, while Grandma was wearing a dark blue dress. Sarah had on a grey jacket and skirt, with a pink top under the jacket.
“Good morning,” Grandma said as we came in, “did you have a good sleepover?”
“Yes we did, thank you Lady Holderness,” Louise said.
“You have a very fine house, Lady Holderness,” Sam said as he looked round.
“Why thank you Samuel,” Grandma replied as she smiled, “what do you think of it, Freddie?”
“Wow,” Freddie said quietly, “is this like, the ancestral home?”
“In oh so many ways,” Granddad said as he leaned forward, his hands on his walking stick while the others came in.
“Welcome everyone,” he said as Mrs Bridges pushed in a trolley with a coffee pot and cups on it. “We’ll set off in a few minutes, but if anyone wants a drink, feel free to grab one now.”
“So where’s this lake you talked about,” Freddie whispered as we each accepted a glass of squash.
“A little walk from here – don’t worry, it’s not that bad,” I said as I sipped my drink. “It’s a nice morning for it too – you’ll like it. It’ll remind you of Maine.”
A few minutes later, Granddad stood up and said “I believe it is time. Will everyone follow me please?”
He walked out of the library, Grandma holding his arm, and we went through the dining room, collecting a poppy each and pinning it to our coats or tops. We then left through the large double doors and onto the lawn, Aunt Anne holding Andrew in her arms as we made our way down to the familiar opening in the trees. It was a clear, sunny day, but we could feel the chill in the air as we went under the cover of the woods and walked down the path.
“What’s that,” Freddie asked as we stopped for a moment to look at the simple white cross, sitting off the path in a patch of grass.
“I’ll tell you later – let’s just say it’s a family spot,” I said as Grandma, Aunt Anne, Mum and Angela stood with their heads bowed for a moment, and then we went onwards. As we walked along, going downhill, Suzie and I had to stop Fiona and Louise from stumbling several times.
“How on earth did you learn to do this,” Louise asked Patty as she walked with her.
“Practice, and learning not to try to take big steps,” Patty whispered back as we emerged onto the grass, Freddie gasping as he saw the lake.
“You said it was a lake, but I thought you meant a large pond, like in the park we went to,” he said as we walked towards Mister Bridges, who was waiting by the barge, “this is completely different.”
He then looked over the water to the island, and saw the white building there. “Is that where we’re going,” he whispered into my ear.
“It sure is,” I said as Dad helped Granddad and Grandma onto the barge, and we set off across the water, all of us quiet as we approached the little jetty at the other side. Mister Bridges and Mister Boyle tied the barge to the posts as we all got out, waiting as Granddad, Brian and Dad each also collected a wreath of red poppies, and Sarah collected a bunch of red roses.
“Come,” Granddad said as we walked to the tall white marble building, Angela holding Eddie’s arm and Dad helping Mum along. At the entrance, we all stood in a line and watched, while Grandma looked at us.
“One hundred years ago, a war started in Europe, a war that was called the war to end all wars. As we know only too well, that proved to be a false hope, but every year, on the Sunday closest to the date on which that war ended, we come together, and we honour those from our family, and those we know, who have fought to ensure we have the freedoms and life we enjoy. Some gave the supreme sacrifice, others suffer still, but now, at the 11th hour, we stand in grateful thanks, and in remembrance.”
At that point, we all closed our eyes and bowed our heads, as everything seemed to fall silent around us. Even the birds seemed to stop singing as we stood in silence. I thought of what we had learned in history, and of the men I had seen in town sometimes with the t-shirts and jumpers. I also thought of people like my great grandfather, Sarah’s grandfather, who had fought in World War 2.
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard Angela recite a poem.
grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
“We will remember them,” we all said in reply as we opened our eyes and looked up. Granddad handed Grandma his walking stick, and then slowly walked up the steps, placing the wreath at the entrance and standing for a moment with his head bowed, before he turned and slowly walked back down.
Dad went next, carrying the red wreath in his hands as he walked up the stairs, and laid it next to the first one, bowing his head for a moment before walking back down. Brian then looked at Sarah and nodded as he walked up, and placed the third wreath in place. I was surprised to see him stand to attention, and bow his head for a moment, but then I remembered Dad saying that Brian had spent some time in the Australian Army before he went to the US and met Sarah.
Sarah then walked forward, and took one red rose from the bunch she was holding, placing it in front of the wreaths as Brian held her with his arm around her shoulders.
“Her father died in the Vietnam war – she wanted to add this in memory of him,” Mum said quietly to me, as she walked back with him, and stood for a moment.
“That was – different,” Fiona said to Louise, “and I actually think I meant more than what we do at church.”
“Hmm-mm,” Louise said as she nodded, “where are we going now?”
“To pay respects to Sarah’s ancestors,” I whispered as we walked round to the side of the mausoleum, where the white plaque and cross were in the grass. Standing, we watched as Sarah knelt next to the cross, and laid the roses on the ground, talking quietly before she stood up and walked back over.
“Time to head back,” Grandma said, “lunch will be at one, but I’m sure you girls can amuse yourselves until that time.”
I looked at Cassie as we both nodded – we did have an idea, and as we walked back we discussed it with Lisa...
“All right,” Mum said as we came into the dining room, “where are you girls going?”
“Eddie and I are going to have a chat,” Angela said as they went off, while Alicia and Jenny also made some excuses and went to another room.
“Why don’t we go up to the playroom,” I said, the others agreeing as we walked slowly up the stairs, me holding the door to the playroom open as we went in.
“Wow,” Fiona said as she and Louise literally fell onto two of the bean bags, “have you any idea how difficult it is to walk like this?”
“Yeah, we do,” Suzie said with a smile, “but it does get easier with practice.”
“How come Alicia and Jenny didn’t do it?”
“Well, they were wearing pants, for one thing,” Lisa said.
“Oh yeah – bit difficult to hide,” Louise said as she nodded her head. “So what are we going to do now?”
“You four up for an escape challenge?”
Patty and Rachel looked at the other two, and then they nodded in agreement.
“Good – nothing too drastic, just a simple way of doing things,” Cassie said as we picked up some lengths of cord, and started to bind the ankles of the other four girls together, side by side, making sure we took the rope between their legs as well.
“right – what chance of you four been able to sit back to back in a circle?”
Louise and Fiona looked at each other, then slid off the beanbags and shuffled over as the other two sat as we had suggested.
“Great – link arms with your partners, and put your hands together in prayer.”
“like this?” Rachel put one arm through Patty’s, and the other round Louise’s and put her hands together in front of her, palm to palm.
“Perfect,” Lisa said as she started to bind Rachel’s wrists together, the others following suit, and then we tied their wrists to their ankles with another length of rope.
“Now, the idea is simple,” Cassie said as she rolled up an old headscarf, and tied a knot in it, “you have to get free. To make it harder, you all get one of these as a gag as well.”
She used that gag on Patty, making sure it was tied tightly round her head, and the others followed suit, so that all four had a silk knot in their mouths and a band round their heads.
“Right – on you go, let’s see if any of you can manage to get free first,” I said, the three of us sitting back and watching to see if they would eventually figure out what they had to do.
Patty immediately tried to reach up to grab her gag from her mouth - only to have to stop as both Rachel and Fiona shouted into their gags as she pulled them into her sides, and Louise hit her back. She looked round, as Lisa whispered “I see it now, if they want to use their hands, I can only think of two ways to do it.”
“Lttmtrfrsst,” Rachel said as she pulled her arms, only for Louise to shake her head and pull in the opposite direction. We almost fell off our own seats laughing as they tried to move and talk, but with little obvious success.
After about fifteen minutes, they stopped trying to move and sat still, panting as the dark patches in their mouths spread over the knotted scarves. That was when I noticed Patty starting to shake her head a little, and push the knot out of her mouth.
It took her a little while to manage it, but eventually she pushed the knot out, the wet gag falling onto her chest. “Right,” she said as she eventually caught her breath, “listen up. The only way we’re going to get out of this is if we work together, agreed.”
The other three mumbled and nodded as she said “Right – first things first, we need to talk. Bend your legs, and plant your feet firmly on the floor.”
We watched as they all did this, before Patty said “right – on three, all of us lean forward and raise our hands at the same time, so that you can use your fingers to pull the gags out. One, two... Three!”
The quartet bent their legs and leaned forward, using the extra slack in the rope now to allow them to hook their fingers under the bands of cloth and ease them out of their mouths. As Rachel shook her head, she looked at us and said “Nice – very nice...”
“Enough chatter girls,” Patty said. “Keep the position, and see if you can use your teeth to untie the rope from your wrists. First one to do it, unhook your arms and help the others.”
“And the race is on,” I said as I stood up, “will you two be all right with them while I go and see if lunch is nearly ready?”
Both Cassie and Lisa nodded as I went out of the room, walking down the stairs and into the library.
Bobby was sitting with Freddie and Sam, but as I turned round I saw Colin standing there.
“Hey guys,” he said as he came in, “Dad wanted to have a word with Brian and Sarah, so I tagged along. What are you talking about?”
Bobby gave me the look that said I should Am-scray, so I went into the dining room, and helped to lay the table before the other girls came down.
“Took Patty and Rachel about fifteen minutes to free their hands,” Cassie said, “and after that it took no time at all. I’m sure she’s already plotting dark revenge, but not today.”
“You’ll find out after lunch,” Mum said as the others started to come in, Granddad holding Grandma’s arm as he leaned on his stick, and we all sat down. Colin and his dad also joined us as we started with a cold salad.
“So how long will you be staying this time, Brian,” Colin said as he looked over the table.
“We’ll be around for another week,” Brian said as he looked at Sarah, “some family business to take care of while we’re over here.”
“Did my mum talk to you yesterday Jenny,” Fiona said as she looked at her and Alicia.
“She did – I just need to talk to mum and dad, but it should be all right.”
“Fiona’s mother has to go away on business next weekend, so Alicia and I are going to look after her at her house,” Jenny said. “The others are sleeping over on the Saturday, which should be interesting.”
“Rather you than me,” Angela said, “but I have end of term exams to get through next week.”
As the plates were cleared away, Freddie said “you have a wonderful home here, Lady Holderness, how old is it?”
“Well,” Grandma said, “the current Manor house dates back to the late Eighteenth century, although it has been extended over time.”
“Wow – I don’t think I’d ever been in a really old building before I came over here.”
“We don’t think of it as old,” Granddad said, “rather, lived in.”
We all laughed at that, before Sam said “I know this will sound rude, Mister Holderness, but will you live here one day?”
“It’s not rude, Sam, but one day, yes we will live here. We hope that day is a ways off, but we will do so.”
“We all do,” Uncle Simon said as he looked at Alicia and the others.
“Look, enough morbid talk,” Bobby said, “let’s talk about the football instead.”
“Are we going to play any more games this afternoon,” Louise said as we walked into the library after dinner.
“No, I’m afraid not,” I said, “Cassie and Jenny’s parents are coming soon for them, and Lisa’s mum is coming to take her, Patty and Rachel back to their place.”
“My mum’s coming too,” Fiona said, “and we need to finish that homework assignment, don’t we?”
“Oh yeah – I’d forgotten about that,” Louise said. “Well, it won’t take that long to do.”
I nodded – it had been a wonderful weekend, but somehow I wanted an early night.
After all, I had plans to lay for a certain Cassandra Craig...