Christmas Belle Week 2
Friday 26th December
“Hey – time to wake up.”
I opened my eyes to see Patty sitting up, the tape hanging from the side of her mouth, as her mother came in, wearing a blue dressing gown.
“Ah – I see you got started already,” she said as she untied us, and I peeled the tape away from my mouth. “Well, go to the toilet and come down, we can have breakfast before you get dressed.”
“Thanks mum,” Patty said as we did what you have to do, and then went down. Aunt Jessie had cooked sausage and eggs for us, so I sat down and started eating.
“So what do you want to do today Patty,” I said as I swallowed some sausage.
“Oh we’ll see once we’re dressed,” she said with a smile, “we might go to the cinema, or bowling, or just end up tied and gagged all day again.”
“So Rachel’s not coming round today?”
“No – she’s going to her grandparents today. But we can have fun anyway,” Aunt Jessie said as she sipped on her hot drink. “So eat up, and then you can both go and shower before you get dressed.”
“I’ll go first,” Patty said as she jumped up and went upstairs, leaving me with Aunt Patty. She told me about what Patty had been up to, and how much she had enjoyed the carol singing on Christmas Eve, before she called down and said “Shower’s free.”
I went up and got washed, but as I came out I saw a piece of paper pinned to the top of the stairs, that had “Middle door” written on it. That was the spare room, so I went in and looked at the clothes that were laid out on the bed.
It was a long purple gown, with half sleeves and a pair of matching long gloves, but the style was one I had seen in films from Mum’s childhood, with padded shoulders. It was my size, though, so I put it on as well as the underwear, tights and purple heels, before I walked back down to the living room.
“Wow, that really suits you,” Patty said as I came in. She was wearing a black and white party dress, with black gloves and heels.
“Why than you,” I said as I saw the neatly arranged ropes and other items. “I guess it’s tie up time again?”
“That’s right,” she said as she handed me the sponge balls, “I’ll take care of you, then mum will take care of me.”
“Fair enough,” I said as I held my hands out for her to cover, and then crossed my wrists behind my back as she tied them together with rope.
As she wrapped the rope around my waist, I said “so we’re staying in at least for this morning.”
“Yeah – mum’s suggestion,” she said as she cinched the rope between my arms and back, and then started to tie my arms to my side around my stomach.
“Do you want the double bands? Mum’s allowing me to do them.”
“Yeah, why not,” I said, giggling as Patty tied the bands above and below my chest, and then squirming a bit as they pressed on me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that feeling, but I really liked it.
“So come on – what’s really happening,” I asked as she used two short lengths of rope to cinch the bands under my arms.
“Told you – we’re staying in this morning,” she said as she tied the last of those ropes off. “Sit down please.”
Okay – she knew something, but she wasn’t going to say, so I sat down and watched as she tied my ankles together, then lifted my skirt back and tied my legs together below my knees.
“Not even a hint?”
“Honestly, Cassie, I don’t know,” she said, and before I could ask again she pushed the cloth into my mouth, cleave gagged me with towel, and then tied a purple scarf over my hair before she wrapped the duct tape round my head.
Aunt Jessie then came in, and before long she was beside me on the couch, looking at me over the silver band as the television was turned on.
“I’m going to have a shower,” Aunt Jessie said as she went off, and Patty said “Wsshhthss.” The remote for the television was in front of us on the coffee table, so she leaned over and pressed the channel button with her nose, putting on CBBC.
Patty nodded as I tried to lean over, but – well, I’d never done it before, so it wasn’t exactly my fault I ended up on a news channel.
OR that the remote then fell on the floor under the coffee table.
“Hgrrtt,” Patty said as she shuffled forward, and then on her feet. She started to jump to the door to the hallway, so I had no choice but to follow her as she started to make her way up the stairs.
Once we were up, we jumped to her room, where we saw a couple of books on her floor. Looking at each other, we got to our knees, and then fell on our stomachs, using our noses to turn the pages.
Half an hour later, we heard Aunt Jessie say “THIS is where you got to.” We turned our head to see her wearing a pale blue jumper, jeans and short boots, as she said “I need you both to come downstairs.”
She helped us both to stand up and hop downstairs, picking up the remote and placing it back on the coffee table and looking at us.
“I’m going shopping,” she said, “but don’t worry, your babysitters will be here soon to keep an eye on you both until I get back.”
“Wait and see,” Aunt Jessie said as she walked behind us, “or rather, don’t see.”
I was surprised as she then tied a scarf over my eyes, blacking everything out. “Hwthshsgngngnn” I heard Patty say, presumably as she was blindfolded as well, and then a DVD started playing – loudly.
I heard doors open and close, and then voices, before the door opened again and I heard two sets of footsteps.
That’s all – footsteps, as the DVD continued and finished, without a single word been said. As the closing music played, I felt someone untie my ankles, and then help me to my feet, holding my arm as I was walked to a different room. I heard something being moved, and then I was helped to sit down in a chair, before I felt more ropes securing me to the seat and chair back.
“Hsssts,” I asked, but there was no answer as my ankles were re-secured and pulled back, then I heard the footsteps going again. They returned a few minutes later, and I heard Patty say “fnkkefnk” as she was presumably sat in a seat as well.
“Cmmnnwhsthr,” I said, but there was still no reply, Patty and Cassie tried to talk, but there was only silence.
I could hear other sounds, however, and soon I could smell food being cooked – good smelling food too. Maybe it was Mum and Jenny, or Aunt Jo and Aunt Cassie? But they all wear perfume, and I hadn’t smelt any.
Eventually, we heard the sound of things being brought through, the smell of the food stronger and making me feel ravenous. I could hear plates, cutlery, and then the sound of the food being put on plates, but still no words.
My chair was then pushed forward, and I felt the tape being unwound from my head, then the towel strip being untied. Opening my mouth, I felt the cloth being eased out, and I worked my mouth for a moment.
What I was going to say was “thanks – that smells good,” but before I got a chance, whoever did it pressed his lips against mine in a long, wonderful, passionate kiss, that seemed to last an eternity.
I’d know that kiss anywhere- it was Bobby!
When he stopped, I opened my mouth to say something, but instead I felt a fork going in, and I bit the food off before Bobby withdrew the fork. It was chicken fricassee with rice – one of my favourite foods, and I chewed it before swallowing. Opening my mouth, I felt another forkful go in, and started to eat I could hear Patty eating as well, so I presumed whoever the other babysitter was had started to feed her.
Eventually, I heard Bobby say “Don’t speak, just nod if you have had enough of the main course.” I nodded, and then felt a straw against my lower lip, so I closed my lips and drank some water, as I heard another voice say “have you had enough Patty?”
Tommy – it
was Tommy, and suddenly I realised what was going on.
As the straw disappeared, I felt a spoon pressing down on my tongue, and I realised I was been fed some Chunky Monkey ice cream. I could hear Patty appreciating it as well, before we were given some more water to drink.
“So, full up now?”
What I wanted to say was “yes thank you, but can I see you now?” Instead, he kissed me again for a few minutes, the sounds coming from Patty telling me she was being kissed as well – and then I felt a large cloth being pushed into my mouth, and the strip of towelling between my lips, before the tape was wrapped round my head.
“Whncnwtlkk,” I mumbled, but nothing was said as I felt the ropes around me loosen and removed, and then Booby untie my legs. He helped me to stand up, and walk up the stairs, before my arms were released and my hands uncovered.
remove the gag,” I heard Bobby say as a door was opened, “but once the door is
closed, you may remove the blindfold and do what you need to do.”
I nodded as I walked slowly forward, and then stopped as I heard the door close behind me. Reaching behind my eyes, I removed the scarf over my eyes and saw I was in the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I saw the silver band around my head, and the purple scarf over my hair.
Looking at the laundry basket, I saw two presents, both with a label saying “To Cassie from Bobbie.” I picked up the one wrapped in Christmas paper, and saw it also had “Happy Christmas” written on it. Opening it, I smiled as I saw the silver locket that was inside, and then looked at the other parcel.
The envelope attached to it said “Happy Birthday Cassie,” and there was a note to say I was not to open it just yet. Well, I could wait two more days, so I put the other box next to it, and did what I needed to do.
As I washed my hands and dried them, I stepped out, but before I could even mumble anything a scarf was tied over my eyes again, blocking my sight before my hands were pulled behind me, and I felt the two sponges pressed into my hands.
As I felt my fists been covered, and then my wrists tied together, I wondered what else Bobby – if it was still him – was going to do. Well, I soon found out as he tied my arms to my sides, the bands at my waist, stomach, and below as well as above my chest.
I felt my ankles been pulled together as I stood there, and then my skirt lifted up as my legs were tied together. As I wriggled round, I felt the rope rubbing my body – and then gasped out as I was lifted up, and I felt Bobby’s lips pressing against my taped mouth.
“”Are you enjoying your date so far,” Bobby whispered into my ear, and I nodded happily as I nuzzled in against his chest.
“You say, this is, in case you had not worked it out, a double date with Tommy and Patty – he’s probably explaining the same thing to Patty now. So why don’t we go and join them.”
“Ysplss,” I mumbled as he carried me downstairs, and then placed me on a seat, sitting beside me as he put his arms round me. As I rested my head on his shoulder, I felt two more people sit down, and then the blindfold was taken off, as I looked over at Patty, resting her head against Tommy’s.
“Right then,” Bobby said as he picked up the remote, and switched on the television, and then the DVD player, “Time for you both to watch a show properly I think.”
Patty and I looked at each other, and then squealed into our gags as Tinkerbell and the Pirate Queen started. We both love the Tinkerbell movies, but I knew for a fact that Bobby hated them. I’d make a good guess that Tommy felt the same way, but the two of them just held us and smiled as we watched the whole film.
Once it had finished, it was getting dark outside, so Bobby and Tommy untied our legs and walked us through to the dining room, sitting us in the chair before they tied our waists to the seats, and then untied our arms.
“There,” Bobby said as he unbound the tape from my head, and then removed the rest of the gag, “I think it is time for you to...”
“Oh shut up and come here,” I said as I grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him towards me, pressing my lips against his as I gave him the biggest kiss I possibly good. Patty had done the same to Tommy, the two of us not letting go as we showed them how much we had enjoyed the day.
“Ahem – perhaps we can eat now?”
Patty blushed as she let Tommy go and saw her mother standing in the doorway. “Sit down boys,” she said, “and we’ll have dinner.”
“See you soon, girls,” Bobby said as he and Tommy left with Mister Boyle, while Patty and I stood and waved to them from the door.
“Enjoyed yourself today,” Aunt Jessie said, and we both nodded as she said “now, go and get ready for bed – tonight is a rest night for both of you.”
“No ropes and gags?”
“Not tonight – just a long sleep,” she said as we both went upstairs...
Saturday 27th December
When I woke up, I could see the sun coming up out of the spare room window, so I got up and went downstairs, finding Patty and Aunt Jessie at the breakfast table.
“Good morning sleepy head,” Aunt Jessie said, “sit down and have some breakfast, and then you can get dressed.”
I nodded before I said “what about Patty?”
“Not today – I’m going to see Rachel,” Patty said as she finished her breakfast, “see you later cuz.”
She got up and walked off as Aunt Jessie put the cereal down in front of me. “Eat up,” she said as she handed me the milk, “and then upstairs to get changed.”
A little while later, I went into the bedroom to see a long white dress, with a square collar, and sleeves that hooked over the middle finger. I put in on, as well as the underwear, hose and shoes, and walked back down to the front room – to see Bobby standing next to the couch.
“Very nice,” Bobby said as I smiled, “but I need you to be prepared.” He held out the sponges, me smiling as he started to secure me as I had been secured so many times over the last week.
Once I had my arms secured to my sides, I sat down and watched as he tied my legs together, before helping me to stand up and gagging me, using the special white tape this time to match the dress.
“Close your eyes,” he said, as he tied a scarf over my eyes, and then I felt him fastening a coat over me, before I was lifted up and carried. I felt myself seated down, and then a belt fastened over me, before I felt the car I was in moving off.
Eventually the car stopped, and I was lifted out again, and carried somewhere before I was sat down. As I wriggled round, there was a little squeak, so I figured I was on some sort of leather.
I then heard someone say “Heecssee,” and had the blindfold removed to see Suzie sitting next to me in the library at Holderness Manor, wearing a red floor length gown, and just as tightly bound and gagged as me.
I hadn’t seen her in days, so I said “Hwudng”
I turned my head to see Lord and Lady Holderness sitting on the long leather couch, smiling as he leaned on his walking stick. “I hear you’ve had an exciting holiday so far,” Lady Holderness said, “I just hope we can continue the excitement and fun.”
Bobby came over and took off my coat, taking it to the hallway before her came back.
“Well, we have some arrangements to take care of,” Lord Holderness said as he stood up, Lady Holderness helping him, “so Bobby will loos after you until lunchtime.”
As they left the room, Bobby said “let’s go through to the TV room,” helping us to stand up as we jumped across the hallway and into the room where they had their television. Sitting us down, he took two lengths of rope and tied our ankles to the front legs of the couch we were sitting on, and turned on the television, changing the channel to Boomerang.
“Now, don’t go away,” he said as the Looney Tunes started, both of us shaking our heads as we tried to talk to each other. As much as we could make sense of each other anyway...
Eventually, Bobby came back and untied Suzie from the chair, carrying her out before he returned for me. He sat me on a chair in the dining room, untied my wrists and arms and then tied me to the chair, before he removed our gags.
“That’s better – did you have a good Christmas Cassie?”
“Yeah I did,” I said with a smile as Lord and Lady Holderness came in and sat down. “Thank you for letting me come here today.”
“It’s our pleasure,” Lady Holderness said, “I hope you enjoy your time here as much as you enjoyed the others.”
“Bobby,” Lord Holderness said, “after lunch why don’t you take the girls to the playground?”
“The playground?” I looked at him as Mrs Bridges put our lunch down in front of us.
“Oh yes,” Lady Holderness said, “Desmond’s grandfather built a playground for the children, but it fell into disrepair. Well, with the new generations visiting, and Desmond retiring, we decided to restore the playground to the former glory.”
“I think you’ll like it,” Lord Holderness said, “so please, try it out.”
“All right Granddad,” Bobby said with a smile, “I’ll take the girls out there...”
“There, nice and snug and cosy, yes?”
Suzie and I both nodded as we wriggled round. We had been allowed to go to the toilet after dinner, before Bobby bound our hands and arms, and then gagged us. He had then helped us to step out of our heels, and put on a pair of wellingtons, before he put my coat back on, wrapped a scarf round my head, and put a woolly bonnet on my hair.
Once Suzie was similarly wrapped up, eh led us out of the back door, but instead of walking down to the trees we turned left and headed for a group of trees that were slightly separate from the rest of the forest.
As we walked round the side, Suzie was giggling away, so she at least knew where she was going. As we reached the other side, however, we came across the most beautiful playground I had ever seen. It was really old fashioned, with the various slides, swings and other things made of metal, but painted in gold and blue, with wooden benches and seats.
“Granddad said this was first built in the 1920s,” Bobby said as we looked round, “but they’ve done a wonderful job with it. Why don’t you have a go on the see saw?”
I looked at the old metal see saw, and then at Suzie and me, with our long coats covering our gowns. “Ndhhwww,” I mumbled as I looked at Bobby.
“Like this,” Bobby said as he sat me on one end of the lever, with my legs both on one side, and then tied my ankles and knees, before securing my legs to the seat. He sat Suzie on the other end, binding her legs as well as we looked at each toher, before he said “Go on then – use your feet to push yourselves up.”
Bobby gently pushed down on my end, and then I pushed back up with my legs, Suzie doing the same as Bobby kept an eye on both of us to make sure we did not overbalance. We both soon got the hang of what to do, as we giggled under our gags.
Eventually, however, he untied our legs and helped us up, before we walked over to the slide. IT was a large, and ling metal one, with widen sides on the wide stairs up and each side of the slide, so I felt perfectly safe climbing up and sitting at the top.
“HMMMMLLPPPPP” I then screamed out as Bobby pushed me down the slide, my boots hitting the snow at the bottom. I just hoped my dress hadn’t got wet or dirty under the coat, because it was a bit wet at the bottom now.
Suzie then screamed as she was pushed down, and we then took more turns. IT had been a long time since I had been in a playground like this, but I loved every second of it.
“Now then,” Bobby said as he looked at both of us, “what about a go on the roundabout?”
We looked at each other and nodded, wondering how we were going to hold on. We soon found out...
As we walked over to the roundabout, I saw it was an old fashioned one, a wide circle with about six bars coming out from the centre, and curving down to the edge. Suzie and I looked at each other as we walked through the snow, and I stepped on.
Bobby then took the ropes and tied my waist to the metal bar in front of me, taking Suzie over to the other side and tying her so that she was facing in the other direction. He made sure he took the ropes around our waists and the bar, so that it was like a seat belt.
“Now, hold on,” he said as he started to spin the roundabout. I screamed out as I moved, because I was convinced I was going to fall down – but the way he’d tied me I stayed against the support, and gradually I started laughing, as did Suzie as he spun us faster, then slowed it down, then span us faster again.
He then changed direction, to make us go backwards, and then forwards, until eventually he stopped and gave us a moment to stop feeling as dizzy as I did feel. Not that I felt sick – just I needed a moment to collect myself, as if I’d just played a massive game of Blind Man’s Bluff.
He then untied Suzie, and took her over to a set of swings, sitting her down and tying her to the side chains, before doing the same thing to me. I watched as he pulled his sister back, and then pushed her forward, Suzie giggling and raising her legs up and down as he did so, so that she went higher and higher.
He then started pushing me, and as I went back and forth, I felt so secure it was as if I was holding the chains myself. As we went up, I could see the manor house above the trees – but then I could also see the ground as I swung backwards!
As we swung however, Bobby looked up to the sky, the grey clouds thickening. “I think we need to head back in,” he said quietly as he stopped the swings, untied us one by one and helped us to get off, before we went back to the house.
As we went in, he took our coats, scarves and hats off us, allowing me to look down and see how dirty the edge of the dress was – only it wasn’t. It was still clean, despite the mud and snow on the coats and boots, which Bobby had helped us step out of before we put our shoes on again.
“You have a little while until dinner, Master Robert,” Mrs Bridges said, “your grandfather suggests you show them the thing you have been working on.”
“Good idea,” Bobby said as Suzie nodded in agreement, “come with me, girls.”
We followed Bobby as we went upstairs, and then into a room a few doors down from the playroom. I had always assumed it was another bedroom, but when we went in I saw it was fairly bare, with white walls, and a number of chairs like those you would find in the dining room scattered round.
Bobby set two of those up facing a wall, with a gap between them, before he said “have a seat.” We looked at each other and sat down, watching as Bobby tied our legs and knees, and then used some rope to secure us to the chair.
He then turned the lights off, which with the curtains drawn across the windows meant the room was totally dark – but not for very long. I heard a whirring sound behind me, and then a film started to be projected on the wall in front of me and Suzie. IT was in black and white, and it looked like a very old film, as a tall man in a long hat and coat walked with a smiling lady, dressed in a gown very like that I had worn on Christmas Eve. They seemed to be at a race meeting, as there were other well dressed people watching horses go past.
“This is the earliest known film footage of a Lord Holderness – in this case, Alexander, the third Baron, with Lady Alicia at Ascot in 1908.”
It was Bobby saying it, and yet Bobby was silent next to me, as I realised this was his ancestors – and that must be Heidi’s ancestor as well, Lady Alicia Strong Holderness.
They then showed a family portrait, Alexander and Alicia standing with four other men. Two were older, and dressed in smart clothes as they stood with another woman, while the two younger men were in what looked like school uniforms.
“In this shot we have three generations - Alexander and Alicia, with George and Alexander Holderness. George, the older brother, was not married at this time, while Alexander is seen here with his wife and his two sons, Desmond and Jonathon, home from Eton. This was in 1909, just before Desmond went to read law at Cambridge.”
It was strange seeing them like that, given the history. I knew Jonathon died in the First War, and he looked so young and innocent in that shot, smiling nervously, while Desmond had his arm round his younger brother’s shoulder. George looked a handsome man, and I felt would have made a fine Baron – which he did, but...
“Nobody knew at this point the tragedies that awaited over the next few years – Lady Alicia would die when the Titanic sank, Jonathon would be killed in the war, and when Alexander died in 1918, George was only the Baron for a short time before he died in the Spanish Flu epidemic. Alexander and Desmond both served with distinction in the war, but Desmond was so affected by his experiences he turned to the Quaker faith on his return.”
The next sequence was of a family in the grounds of Holderness Manor – the outside had not changed much, but the clothing was from the late 1920’s with the women in dresses from that time, and the men in open necked shirts and blazers.
“Here we have the Alexander, the fifth baron, with his family. You can see Desmond, and his family with young Alexander running down the lawn, pursued by his sisters. By this time Desmond was a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, using the farming experience of the Holderness holdings to push through reforms.
“There were clouds gathering on the horizon, however, and when Desmond inherited the title in 1930 his family brought light and laughter in the years of the depression to the area. The coming of the war, however, saw a major change and a major argument between Desmond and Alexander. His son wanted to serve his country in the Royal Air Force, having passed his pilot training in the OTC at Cambridge, but his father was strongly opposed to this.”
The film changed to colour, showing Desmond and Alexander in the library. Alexander was wearing the uniform of an RAF pilot, while Despond was dressed like an army officer.
“With the onset of the war, Desmond retired and formed the Home Guard in Holderness, finally, and with great reluctance, allowing Alexander to enlist. He eventually rose to the rank of Group Captain, and served with honour and distinction.”
“Your aunt Cassie will like that bit,” Bobby said as he stopped the film for a moment. I looked at him as he said “Grandfather asked if I’d put together something from the family film archives to help your Aunt Connie out. She’s been asked to write a history of the Holderness family and the manor house, and this is research for her. In fact, I think she’s hoping to use it as a thesis for a degree.”
That was news to me, but I wasn’t in a position to say too much as he restarted the film, and we moved forward to what was obviously some years after the war. Alexander Holderness was sitting in a chair, a very pretty young woman next to him, and sitting on her knee, in a pair of bib shorts and a little shirt...”
“This is 1955,” Bobby’s narration continued, “and the little cherub you see here is Desmond, the current Lord Holderness, at two years old. His father had inherited the title two years before, and retired from the forces, to work full time as the head of Red Ribbon.”
“Unbeknown to the family, of course, in the West Country two girls were the best of friends...”
My eyes almost popped open as I saw two girls, not much older than me and Suzie, running round an open field, laughing and dancing as they did so.
“Miranda Smethurst and Lucinda Anderson had grown up in the farming town, and were in the same class at school. Their fathers managed neighbouring farms, and they were the best of friends.”
Granny looked so much like Aunt Connie it was frightening, and you could definitely see Alicia in the young Lucinda Anderson, but I suddenly realised I recognised their dresses – they were the dresses that we had used in games over the last two years.
“Eventually, Alexander and Lucinda met, and they were married in 1975 in a lavish ceremony on the grounds of Holderness Manor.”
We both watched as Lucinda was walked down the aisle, as Sarah had been at the start of the year, a smiling man with no hair on his head walking with her. She was in a long white gown, the veil over her head as Granny walked behind her.
The guests were dressed in very different clothes – a combination of short and long dresses, very short in some cases, and they all seemed so brown and orange and gloomy.
“It was like that at the time,” Bobby whispered as we watched the ceremony, and then some scenes from the reception – and I saw the man dancing with Granny, laughing and smiling.
He looked so much like Dad, that I knew who it was, but to see him like that...
The scene then went forward a few years, as we were back on the lawn outside the manor house. Desmond and Lucinda, and Granny and Granddad, were sitting round a table, but on a picnic blanket on the front lawn were five children – two boys and three girls.
“By the start of the eighties, the manor house was alive with the sound of children again – a new generation.”
Dad and my aunts looked so funny as they tried to walk around, Bobby’s father looking on and laughing at them as his aunt sucked on a teething ring.
“That’s it,” Bobby said as the film ended and he turned the lights on, “I’m going to burn that to a DVD and send it to your aunt, but I wanted you to see it first. Like it?”
“Vrrmshsss” I mumbled as I nodded my head, and the gong sounded for dinner. “Right – time to take you two downstairs,” he then said as he untied our legs and us from the chairs, and walked back downstairs with us, helping us to sit down and securing us to the chairs before he removed our gags.
“Well now – have you enjoyed the afternoon,” Lord Holderness said as he sat down, Lady Holderness sitting next to him.
“Very much so, your Lordship,” I said as the starter was served, “it’s a remarkable playground, and then those films... Is Aunt Connie really writing a history of the family?”
“She is – she’s registered to do a Doctorate in Journalism Studies, and she’s picked Holderness Manor as her thesis subject. Well, given the spare time I seem to have on my hands now, it means I can help her out to the best of my abilities, such as they are.”
I nodded and then said “you were quite a handsome young man in the wedding film – I can see where Bobby and his father get their looks from.”
“Oh, I see Miranda has taught you the fine art of flattery,” Lady Holderness said, smiling as she saw the blush in the cheeks of her husband. “That was quite a day, I assure you. Just please, tell me you did not give young Robert the group dance scene.”
“Now would I do that, dearest?”
“He did,” Bobby whispered, “I’ll show you it another time.”
I hid my giggle as his grandmother looked at me, before saying “we have some delayed Christmas presents fro you Cassandra – we will give them to you after dinner, if that is all right?”
“That would be wonderful, your Ladyship,” I said quietly.
After dinner, we were both untied and went into the library, where I was given some wonderful Christmas presents – new clothes, a collected set of the Series of Unfortunate Circumstances books from Alicia’s family (and yes, I got the joke) and a locket from Lord and Lady Holderness.
We then sat and watched a film together, me sitting next to Bobby, before we went up to the bedroom. As I came out of the bathroom, I could see Suzie been bound in her room, so I went to my room and out on my nightgown.
I waited until Mrs Bridges looked in, but she just smiled and said “good night, Cassie,” waiting as I went under the covers before she turned the light off. I wasn’t complaining too much – it was just I was so very tired...
Sunday December 28th
As I opened my eyes, I could see the curtains had already been drawn back, and the sun was shining. I got out of bed, walked over and looked out over the lawn, and down to the trees, day dreaming of what it would be like to be the Lady of the house.
More to the point, this was it. My thirteenth birthday, the day I officially became a teenager – and here we were, at Holderness Manor, the same place Jenny had celebrated her thirteenth birthday. She had a magnificent party, and I had been dressed like a princess all week – what was going to happen today.
“Good morning, Miss Cassandra.”
I turned round to see Mrs Bridges standing there, smiling as she stood with her hands behind her.
“Breakfast is ready, if you would like to put on your slippers and dressing gown and follow me.”
“What time is it,” I asked.
“Nine in the morning,” she said quietly, “come – Miss Suzanne is waiting.”
Obviously, this was going to be a different day, so I put my gown and slippers on, and followed her to the dining room, where Suzie was sitting tied to the chair
“Happy birthday Cass,” she said, “have some cereal.”
“Thanks,” I said as I sat down, expecting to be tied, but not today – I was left free, as Mrs Bridges gave me some cereal. “So why?”
“Hmmm – oh this is your day, no restrictions on you today,” Suzie said with a smile.
“Good morning Cassie,” Bobby said as he came in and hugged me, “Happy Birthday, and I’ll see you later. I have to run some errands with Dad this morning.”
“All right,” Suzie said as she looked at him, “but who’s going to untie me when I’m done?”
“Cassie can,” bobby said as he put his coat on, “see you all later.”
As Bobby walked out, we just ate our breakfast, before I untied Suzie and let her go to get washed while I finished my toast and drink.
“Right,” Mrs Bridges said as she looked at me, “time to go upstairs and get washed. You’ll find your clothes laid out in your room, so put them on and wait.”
“All right,” I said, unsure of what was going on, but given the last few days, I could take an educated guess. So up I went, showered, put on a dressing gown – and there, lying on the bed, was my Christmas resent from Mum and Dad, the blue velvet gown, complete with gloves, dark tights and blue satin shoes.
I looked at it for what seemed an eternity, before I slowly put on my clothes, stopping to look at myself in the mirror. The dress was a perfect fit, the hem of the skirt just above the floor as I stood in the matching shoes, and for a moment I wondered what it would be like to be the hostess of a party in this place, Bobby the host.
“Well, that is a very beautiful dress.”
I turned suddenly to see Mrs Boyle and Mrs Bridges standing in the doorway. “Take a seat in front of the mirror, Miss Cassandra,” Mrs Bridges said, “and we’ll see what we can do with you.
I sat myself down in front of the mirror, watching as Mrs Boyle started to work on my hair, and Mrs Bridges started to paint my nails. As they were drying, she started to apply some make up to me, and I had to admit as I watched, I was looking more and more pretty.
Finally, Mrs Bridges placed a tiara on my head, and looked at Mrs Boyle. “There – have a look at yourself in the mirror,” she said, so I stood up and looked at myself, my hair put up, the tiara sitting on it, and I smiled – I looked fantastic, even if I said so myself.
“You look fantastic.”
I smiled as I saw Bobby in the mirror, standing in the doorway. He was wearing a white shirt, black tie and tuxedo with trousers, and as good as I looked, he looked better.
“So, Cassandra Paulette Craig, would you care to accompany me?”
He held his hand out, taking mine as she led me out of the room, and down the stairs.
“Not today,” Bobby said with a smile, as he opened the doors to the dining room and ushered me in.
“HAPPY BRITHDAY CASSIE!!!”
I looked round the room to see all my friends and my family there, dressed up in their finest clothes, clapping and laughing as I came in. Mum and Dad were in their dining out clothes, Jenny was wearing a party dress as Colin stood with her, and even David and June were wearing smart clothes, June in a little dress, David in a shirt, waistcoat, trousers and bow tie.
In fact, everyone looked fantastic – and everyone was there. I could see Danny and Janey with Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave, Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo talking to Granny, and all my friends were there as well. The Cottrells had also come along, as had Charlie and Lisa with their parents.
Patty and Rachel were standing with Aunt Jessie and Rachel’s parents, as I was taken by Bobby into the centre of the room.
“Today’s your day,” Bobby said, “so how do you want to start?”
“I don’t know – presents?”
“Now that’s the Cassie I know,” Pippa said from the side of the room, making us all laugh as Dad said “All right then – Mister Bridges?”
The doors opened as Mister Bridges wheeled in a trolley piled high with presents – some of which I had seen before over the last few days, some of which I had not. Bobby stood by me as I picked up the first one, and found it was a brand new jersey dress from Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo.
“Thanks – it’s lovely,” I said as I came over and hugged them, and then walked back.
“Here’s mine,” Bobby said as he handed over the parcel I had seen a few days ago – and when I opened it out, it contained a new winter scarf and a pair of mittens, in my favourite colour.
“They’re wonderful,” I said as I gave him a little kiss, making Patty sing out “Bobby and Cassie, sitting in a...”
“Sorry, Granny,” she said as she looked red faced.
And so it went on, present after present, as I uncovered CDs, books, gift tokens – and a wonderful selection of clothes as well.
“I know you’re wearing our main present,” Mum said as I put down the vouchers from Granny and Grandma Carter, “but we wanted to give you something else as well – something we gave Jenny at about the same time.”
She handed me a slim black box, and when I opened it I saw a pearl necklace. I started crying then as I said “thank you...”
“It’s all right,” Mum said as she held me, “it’s all right...”
“We have some food ready before we play some games,” Lady Holderness said, “please, feel free to help yourself.”
I sat still for a few minutes as some of the others went over to the table, before Bobby said “Come on – let’s go and get some food.”
I nodded as I walked over, taking my gloves off and Bobby holding them as I helped myself to some food. As I turned round, I saw Suzie motioning with her head, so I walked over to join her at a small table.
“How’s your holiday been so far,” she said as we sat down.
“Astounding – but what happened to you after the time at Lisa’s place?”
“Funny story that,” Suzie said with a smile, “while you were being driven round town, I was taken by Mister Williamson to Louise’s place. When I got there, she was dressed up, bound and gagged as well, and we spent a day there, then on Christmas Eve we were asked to wear these Victorian gowns, and...”
“Oh my – don’t tell me you went carolling while tied up and gagged as well!”
Suzie smiled and nodded before she ate a sausage roll. “Oh yes we did. Once Louise’s dad had us sorted out, and Freddie was ready, the Cottrells came over with Fiona, and then Mary and Cathy arrived with Hazel, Clare and Pippa. The last to arrive were Brian and Sam. We hummed along while they sang from the sheets, and Sam played the trumpet.”
I almost choked on that, as I said “Hang on – Sam Stewart plays the trumpet?”
“Oh yes – and he’s good as well. Cathy was astounded by this – turns out he hadn’t told her of this talent yet either.”
“I can imagine –so you had a great time?”
“Yeah we did – raised quite a bit of money as well. Anyway, I went back home with Sam after that, and we spent Christmas and Boxing Day there. Then I spent some time at Alicia’s place – both of us dressed up, bound and gagged, until we got here yesterday.”
“Mind if I join you,” Lisa said as she sat down.
“Sure – what did you get for Christmas?”
“I’m wearing part of it,” she said as we looked at her black dress, “like it?”
“Suits you – but does Eric like it?”
“Yes he does,” she said with a smile. “So how does it feel to be 13, Cassie?”
“Same as it did when I was 12,” I said with a smile. “But you’ll find out soon enough – three days time in your case Suzie.”
“Don’t remind me – I hear dark mutterings, but nothing definite,” she said as Lady Holderness said “Well, if everyone has had enough for now, we’ll clear the room and start some games.”
“Let’s go into the library for a few minutes,” Suzie said as we stood up, Lisa following as well as Pippa, Hazel and Clare.
“Happy Birthday Cass,” they all said as they hugged me in the library, “where on earth have you been?”
“All over the place and nowhere in particular,” I said with a smile, “how have you all been?”
“Lots of presents, lots of fun,” Hazel and Clare said in unison. “We’ve got tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next month.”
“You’ll love it,” I said as I sat back. “Do you know what the worst thing about this is? It’ll all be over in a few weeks, and we’ll be back at school.”
“I know – but it’s worth the time between then and now,” Suzie said as the door opened and Jenny looked in.
“There you are – come on, we’re all waiting for you to start the game.”
“What is it?”
“Blind Man’s Bluff – blindfolds only.”
We’d played a variety of games for a couple of hours before Suzie tapped me on the shoulder and said “Got a few minutes to talk to a special friend?”
“Sure,” I said as we slipped out, and we went into the room Lord and Lady Holderness kept their television in. Only today, it had a laptop hooked up to it, and on the big screen I could see Cindy sitting in her room in Maine.
“Hey there Birthday Girl,” she said as I sat down, “long time no see. Nice dress.”
“Thanks – you look good as well,” I said as I looked at her, in a pale blue pinafore dress and white jumper.
“This old thing? Ah it’s cold here so it will do. So, tell me what you’ve been up to.”
“How long have you got?”
“Oh – like that is it,” Cindy said with a smile, “all right, the condensed version.”
“How long have you got?”
Cindy burst out laughing as she said “all right, all right – I get the message. Just tell me you and Bobby are still together.”
“Yeah we are – how are you and Heidi?”
“No complaints here – she’s out with our moms at the moment, but I’ll tell her you said hi. The other girls say Hi as well – if they’re able to speak.”
“What’s this I hear about Natalie and Alice?”
Cindy looked a bit shifty for a moment, before she said “They’re just good friends – why, what have you heard?”
“Only they were getting a bit more adventurous in the ropework department.”
“Well, that is certainly true.” Cindy seemed relieved as she said “so what did you get for your birthday?”
“Apart from this dress?”
“Yes, apart from your current sartorial excellence – spill, Cassandra Craig.”
“Lots of CDs, DVDs, tokens – I’m going to be hitting the January sales big time by the looks of it.”
“Well, you deserve every bit of it,” Cindy said with a smile. “Now, how’s Freddie settling in?”
“He’s fine – he’s teasing Patty’s friend at the moment,” Suzie said as the door opened and Alicia came in.
“So this is where you’re hiding out – listen I need to drag these two off for dinner. Tell Heidi and everyone I said Hi, will you?”
“Sure thing – talk to you soon Cassie.”
I nodded as the line went dead, and we went with Alicia into the dining room, which was now set up for a sit down meal. All of us took our seats – several of them in high chairs – and we had a wonderful meal.
We then danced – freely, totally, Bobby leading me across the floor as others joined in, and I felt as if I was the belle of the ball. It was a wonderful feeling, and I wanted it to last forever – but I guess all things have to end eventually, as everyone started to leave – but there was one more surprise waiting for me.
“Cassie,” Mum and Dad said as we stood in the library, “Have you had a good day?”
“Better than anything so far,” I said with a big smile, “why?”
“Well,” Dad said, “we have a few more surprises for you, so if you want you can stay over here tonight. Lord and Lady Holderness have already agreed to that, if it’s what you want.”
I tried not to show how excited I was at the idea, and said “if that’s what you want...”
“It’s what you want, isn’t it Poppet?”
I grinned and nodded as they hugged and kissed me, and then left, Bobby behind me.
“Time for bed I think – I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Thanks – for everything,” I said as I kissed Bobby on the cheek, and went upstairs. Carefully leaving my new dress out, I got into my nightdress and lay down, thinking over my best birthday ever...
Monday 29th December
When I woke up and looked at my alarm clock, I saw it was about half past seven, so I got up, put on my slippers, and went to the toilet. As I came out, I saw Bobby, who smiled and said “Morning Cassie – we’re all having breakfast if you want to come down.”
“Thanks,” I said as I walked down and saw Suzie was already there – rope around her waist holding her to the chair.
“Have a seat Cassie,” Mrs Bridges said, and as I sat down she tied my waist to the chair as well, and then pushed me in so that I could start eating.
“Did you sleep well Cassie,” Lady Holderness said as she drank her coffee.
“Very well thank you,” I said before I ate a mouthful of cereal. “And thank you for allowing me to have such an amazing party here yesterday.”
“Well, it’s good to have the house full of laughter,” Lord Holderness said. “At any rate, I’m glad you were so happy about yesterday.”
I nodded as I swallowed some more food, and said “Oh yes – I was incredibly happy.”
“Good – well, eat up and then go and get changed. I’m sure there is another full day ahead of you.”
Nodding, I finished my breakfast, waited to be untied, and then headed up the stairs, showering and drying myself off before I went into the bedroom. I was wondering what gown I was going to wear today – but when I came into the room, I was surprised to see the black gown Suzie had worn the previous Sunday lying on the bed – black, with short puffed sleeves, long gloves and black heels.
There was a little note left on it, and I picked it up to read “put this on today – Mum and Dad.”
“All right,” I said to myself, “we’re roughly the same size, so this shouldn’t be a problem.” It wasn’t either, as I put on my underwear and tights, then the dress, the gloves and the shoes.
“Well, I see you’re dressed now,” Mrs Bridges said as she came in, “now to get you ready. Sit down at the dressing table.”
I saw her put a bag on the bed, and then looked in the mirror as she started to plat my hair into two pigtails, one on either side, in the same way as Suzie normally wears her red hair. Once she had done this, she told me to turn round in the chair, and I smiled as she took two half sponges out of the bag.
This was becoming a very welcome routine, as I held the sponges and she covered my fists in black tape, then pulled a pair of black socks over that and taped them to my gloves. I then turned round, watching in the mirror as she took my arms behind my back, and I felt the rope holding them tightly together.
She then tied the rope around my waist, and then the bands around my stomach, as well as above and below my chest, me giggling as they pressed down on me once more.
“There now,” she said as she cinched the bands under my arms, and then put her hands on my shoulders, “turn round, and let me take care of your legs.”
I swung myself round, watching as she folded back the skirt of my gown and tied my ankles tightly together, and then my legs below my knees, before she let the skirt come back down again.
“Are we ready,” Mr Bridges said as he knocked on the door.
“Perfect timing, George, would you take Cassie down to the library please?”
“OF course,” he said as he lifted me off the seat and carried me down the stairs, Bobby smiling and opening the door as I was taken into the library, my eyes wide as I saw Suzie in one of the leather armchairs – and wearing my long gold dress from last week, as well as the gloves and shoes!
She was as tightly tied as I was, but her hair was straight and combed out, as I normally wear it – well, that and she had red hair and I don’t.
“Oh my,” she said as she looked at me, “can I just check it is Monday and not Friday?”
“As far as I know – that dress suits you, by the way.”
“So does that one – we need to compare wardrobes, see if we can swap anything, but really? You in pigtails?”
“They seem to suit you,” I laughed as Bobby came in, and said “enough – time to be quiet, both of you. Open wide now.”
I nodded, saying “talk to you later,” before Bobby pushed a folded cloth into my mouth, and used a strip of towelling as a cleave gag.
“Maybe,” Suzie said with a sink before he did the same to her, and then he wrapped the white tape round our heads, sealing our lips before he folded a black scarf and tied it over my mouth, and then a gold scarf over Suzie’s.
“Now then,” he said quietly as he folded a second black scarf, “see you later, Cassandra Paulette Craig.” He gave me a little kiss, and then tied the scarf over my eyes, blindfolding me.
I could hear Suzie mumbling, and then I had something put over my body, before I was lifted out of the seat and carried to another one – the air colder, and I heard the car door slamming.
“Another trip,” I thought to myself as the car engine started, and we headed off...
When the car stopped, I was unbuckled and lifted out, before I was carried into what I had guessed was another house. But where – Home? Patty’s? Somewhere else?
I got my answer when I heard Mr Bowden say “well, looks like we have another guest,” and my blindfold was removed. I blinked for a few minutes, then looked to the side and saw Alicia sitting there, wearing a ling black sleeveless dress with opera gloves, and bound and gagged in the same way I was.
“Well, seems I have two to look after today Dad.”
I turned my head to see Angela standing in front of me, wearing a red v-necked tank top over a long sleeved white top, jeans and trainers.
“One little sister – that’s you Alicia...”
“Hvrreeffnneee,” Alicia said.
“And one little cousin – isn’t that right Suzie?”
I raised an eyebrow, and was about to mumble something that I would be glad was unhearable when she slapped her head and said “sorry, sorry – hello Cassie. You just look so like Suzie sitting there...”
“Lfamnntnt,” I said as I looked at Alicia.
“Anyway, I’m going to be looking after both of you today, so there will be no arguing right?”
We both looked at each other and shook our heads as Alicia’s parents came in, putting their coats on.
“We’ll be back for dinner,” Mrs Bowden said as she looked at us, “Think you can cope until then.”
“I’ll try,” Angela said as her parents left the house, and then she looked at us as we all heard the car drive off.
“Now then,” Angela said as she looked at us, flexing her fingers, “what shall we...”
A ring on the doorbell made her turn her head, as she said “now who can that be...” We watched as she walked to the door, and then came back in with two visitors – Mary and Eddie Holmes.
“Hey,” Mary said as she looked at us, “are we interrupting something?”
“Nah – I’ll explain all this later. I thought you two were out of town today.”
“Change of plan,” Eddie said, “Mum and Dad needed to go somewhere, and we need to be back tonight.”
“Well then,” Angela said as she turned the television on, “do you mind keeping these two company for a little while Mary, while I have a quiet word with your older brother?”
“Now why didn’t I see that coming,” Mary said as she sat between me and Alicia. There was an old French film on, starring a man in a long coat who reminded me a lot of Mister Bean, so we sat and watched what was actually a very very funny comedy, both of us giggling under our gags as we did so.
And no, Mary was not wearing a gown – she was wearing a long grey denim skirt, and a checked blouse over a brown jumper, and she had baggy boots on her legs.
After the film finished, Angela appeared in the doorway and said “Lunch is ready. Can you untie both of them, Mary, and leave the ropes and things in here?”
“Sure thing,” Mary said as she untied Alicia, and then me, leaving the gags until last.
“Well, I enjoyed the film,” Alicia said as she worked her mouth, “but I really need a drink, and I think you will as well Cassie.”
“I do – and thanks for allowing me to come over,” I said as I walked with them into the dining room, taking my place at the table.
“So when are you going to tell me why you two are dressed up to the nines and playing Hostage Princess or whatever it is,” Mary said as Eddie and Angela brought the food through.
“You tell her, Cassie,” Alicia said, so I explained about everything that had happened over the Christmas holiday so far, up to and including the party yesterday.
“Wow,” Mary said when I was finished, “and I thought Christmas Eve was funny enough, with your cousin and Louise the way they were – you’ve really been living the life.”
“Yeah – and enjoying every second by all accounts,” Alicia said as she sat down. “Come on, dig in – there’s plenty for everyone.”
We had chicken broth and homemade bread for lunch, as well as some hot drinks, but when we had finished Angela said “Right – toilet, and then you get re-tied.”
“Any objections if I join them,” Mary said, “it’s kind of weird being the odd one out.”
“All the way?”
“All the way.”
“All right then – into the front room, all three of you – after a toilet break.”
Thirty minutes later, we were all standing in the front room, the ropes holding our arms snugly to our bodies, silenced, as Angela and Eddie put some coats on us, and helped me and Alicia to put on some short boots.
“Let’s get some fresh air out back,” Eddie said, “after you...”
We all walked out through the kitchen into the back garden, looking at each other as we wondered what they were going to do, while Angela closed the door behind her. There was a good covering of snow on the grass, Angela smiling as she said “I think we’ve got enough to build a snowman Eddie.”
“I do believe we do,” Eddie said – and we had to spend the next half hour watching mutely as they made a snowman, unable to even help verbally. Not how I had expected to spend the day, but...
When we went back in, and our boots were replaced with shoes, Angela said “right – hide and seek time.”
“Hsettlrd,” Alicia and Mary said as they looked at each other, “rntwwttld?”
“Nonsense – Cassie, you’re it first, count to twenty. Oh – and we’re keeping score. The winners get a special dessert for dinner, the losers...”
“The losers get tickled,” Eddie said, “and the overall winner gets to bind the others later.”
So we spent the afternoon doing just that – I found both of them easily enough, and then they took turns being it. We then went somewhere I had never been before – Angela opened a door under the staircase, and we went down into a large basement. It was carpeted, with some comfy chairs and a television by the side.
“Dad just got it refurbished,” Angela said as we went in, “so we can play some games down here as well.”
Now, I know Alicia and Mary are mean to be the big, grown up, responsible girls, but they laughed and giggled just as much as I did when we played musical statues and musical chairs, Eddie operating the CD player to allow us to play that. As it turned out, I was best at both – which was bad news for Alicia and Mary, as they seemed to spend most of their time wriggling on the floor as Angela and Eddie took their time giving them a tickle torture.
After that, they played games. First of all was a hide and seek game, and each of the three girls took turns playing ‘it’. Then they went to the basement where they played musical statutes, and musical chairs. To encourage them, Angela decreed special dessert later for the winners, tickling for the losers, and the one who won the most games would have the privilege of tying the other girl(s) until the next game.
The best bit, though, was when Alicia and Eddie got out some long skipping ropes, and we got the chance to do some jumping, mine and Alicia’s skirts flying up and down as we did so. They made sure we didn’t get tangled up, but it was still great fun – and I was the best again! Youth will win out every time, as I heard someone say once.
Eventually, however, Angela said “I need to go and answer that,” as we heard the telephone ring. She went back up the stairs, and then returned a few minutes later.
“That was Dad – they’re going to be late, so I need to get some dinner sorted out. Can you all come back up to the front room for the moment?”
We took our turn in pushing ourselves up the stairs and then jumping into the living room, watching some television until Eddie came in, and carried Alicia out. He came back a few minutes later and untied Mary’s legs, before escorting her out.
“Your turn now,” he said as he came back in, and untied me completely, before removing my gag. “As you’re the overall winner, you get to remain untied for dinner tonight.”
“What about Mary and Alicia?”
“Come and see,” Eddie said as he escorted me to the dining room. There, I found Mary and Alicia sitting on their chairs, Mary tied to the chair back and her legs secured to the chair legs, but her arms free, while poor Alicia was lashed to the chair, her hands behind her back. Both of them, however, were free to talk, as Mary said “I knew it – we need to do better next time.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Alicia said with a smile, “not like it’s the first time this has happened to me.”
“Dinner is served,” Angela said as she set the plates of food in front of us, and then sat next to Alicia, serving her as well as eating herself. She had made a fish pie with carrots and peas, and it was delicious.
She also gave us all pudding, which was very nice of her, and then we all went through to the main room to watch a film. Eddie untied both Mary and Alicia, so that we could all relax, before he and Mary went off.
When the clock got to ten o’clock, Angela looked over and said “you two need to head up to bed. Go and get ready – I’ll be up in a minute. Alicia will show you where you’re sleeping.”
She looked at Andrew, who had spent the day watching us and wondering what on earth was going on, but had now fallen asleep in his seat, as we both went up and got changed.
“We’ll keep it simple tonight,” Angela said as she tied my wrists together in front of me, and then to my ankles, “so that you sleep well.”
Alicia nodded, the single strip of white medical tape covering her lips, as Alicia smoothed another strip over my mouth, with me on the camp bed in Alicia’s room. We both nodded as she turned the light off, my eyes starting to close already...
Tuesday 30th December
“Good morning,” Alicia said as I woke up to find her untying me, “come on down – we’re all having breakfast.”
I stretched out and nodded, pulling the tape away from my mouth before I said “What time is it?”
“Just after seven – come on, mum’s making her famous scrambled eggs today.”
“I just need to go to the toilet,” I said as I hurried out, and then came downstairs. Andrew was in his high chair, using a spoon to eat some porridge and eat some toast he had in his other hand, while Angela and her parents were at the table.
“Good morning Cassie,” her mother said as I came down, “help yourself to some cereal.”
“Thank you,” I said as I had some Rice Crispies. “Did you have a good time yesterday?”
“We did – and we have to go out all day today with Andrew, so I’m afraid you’re going to be left with Angela all day.”
“Don’t worry,” Angela said with a grin, “you’re going to be in very good hands today.”
“That’s what worries me,” Alicia said as she finished her cereal. “So are we having your scrambled eggs this morning, mum?”
“As soon as I can cook them,” Mrs Bowden said as she went to the stove, and I watched her cracking half a dozen eggs into a pan, adding some butter, milk and seasoning while her father made some toast.
I have to admit, it tasted delicious, and soon I was heading upstairs, with a warm and full stomach, wondering what I was going to wear today.
I got my answer when I went back into Alicia’s room, and there was a lovely lime green robe there, with long sleeves and a white front. I had seen it in some old photos of the family Bobby had shown me, so I knew Alicia had worn it at a previous summer ball – complete with long gloves and heels.
Once I had the dress on, I went downstairs, where Mrs Bowden was putting a jacket on Andy.
“You look pretty,” he said as he looked at me, “and so does leesha.”
“She’s in the front room,” his mother said, so I went in to see Alicia sitting with Angela. Alicia was wearing a grey silk dress, with short sleeves and long gloves, which like the one I was wearing reached down to the floor. Angela, on the other hand, was wearing a blue jumper and jeans, a pair of white socks pulled up over her ankles and the bottom of the jean legs.
“Well, two princesses again today,” Angela said as her father put his head round the door.
“We’re off – see you later tonight,” he said, as the front door opened and closed, and once again the car went off.
“So what is the plan for today,” I asked as I sat down.
“Well, we start,” Angela said as she stood up, “with the winner of yesterday securing the loser.”
“Are you all right with me doing this,” I asked as Angela produced a supplies box.
“I lost, them’s the rules,” Alicia said as she took two sponges from Angela, “so make it good, because Angela is going to take care of you.”
“One thing – wearing a grey dress means silver matches,” I said as she made two fists, and I started to cover them with duct tape.
“Funny,” Alicia said, but she smiled as I eased the socks over her hands, and then taped them to her arms, before she turned and crossed her wrists behind her back.
I worked methodically, binding her wrists first, then fixing her wrists to her waist, followed by ropes around her stomach, and then the two bands around her chest – once Alicia gave the all right signal to do that.
“Snug – thank you,” Alicia said as I cinched the bands under her arms, and she then sat down, allowing me to bind her ankles and then her legs below her knees. As I replaced her skirt, and stood up, she nodded and said “All right – Angie, before I forget, we need to make sure something gets delivered tomorrow.”
“I’m going to take care of it,” Alicia said, as I picked up a cloth. “Open wide,” I said, and pushed the cloth into Alicia’s open mouth, before cleave gagging her with a towelling strip. I then tied a grey silk scarf over Alicia’s hair, and wrapped her head in duct tape, so that she could only mumble.
“Well, your turn now I...”
We all looked round as there was a knock on the front door. “Ah good – right on time,” Angela said as she went to the door, and we both heard her say “all right – coats off, shoes off, and then you can come in.”
“Thanks,” I heard Pippa say, and then watched as she came in. She was wearing a denim petticoat dress over a long sleeved brown top, and white socks. Behind her came Hazel and Clare, wearing long sleeved blouses, long corduroy skirts and socks.
“Oh my – are you still in party mode,” Pippa said as she looked at me.
“I’ve been wearing gowns all holiday – and having a lot of fun with it,” I said as I hugged all three of them.”
“So we’re playing the games today are we,” Hazel said as she looked at Alicia.
“Actually, we are,” Angela said with a smile. “Pippa, have a seat please. As for you, Hazel and Clare – hold your hands out. Cassie is going to take care of you.”
“With pleasure,” I said, and within a short while both Hazel and Clare were sitting on the couch, either side of Alicia, patterned scarves covering their hair as the band of grey tape encircled their heads.
“Your turn, Cassie,” Angela said as she gave me two sponges to hold, and I was soon in the same state of the other three, sitting in an armchair as Angela finished trying the last rope off.
“Now then,” Angela said as she wrapped the tape round my head, with a green scarf covering my hair, “I need to blindfold all of you.”
I was the last, the other three blindfolded first, and as I sat there I heard Angela say “Right Pippa – I need to gag you first.”
“You’ll see – open wide.”
“All right but I dontnndrstndddyyy.” I heard Pippa get progressively quieter, and then the tape rip, before the only other sound was Angela pulling ropes.
When the blindfold was removed, I saw that Pippa had been tied in the same way as the rest of us, Angela walking to the door as she said “All right then – downstairs, all of you. Alicia will show you the way.”
Alicia hopped first, the rest of us following as we went along the hallway, then slid down the stairs one by one into the basement, before we all took one of the seats.
“Well, I have some things to do today,” Angela said, “so I’m trusting you not to do something stupid down here. This is an escape challenge this morning.”
“After I and Cassie tied you,” Angela said, and then she whispered into my ear “the key is Pippa – she can do something you cannot.”
I nodded as she said “Good luck,” and went up the stairs, leaving us as we started to wriggle round and try to get free.
Now, as we wriggled round, I knew full well under normal circumstances there was no way we were going to get free – and I knew Alicia and the twins had no chance, so the question was, why was Pippa the key to all this?
I looked at her and said “pppeeewhtddalsshdd?”
“Hmm,” Pippa said as she looked at me, not understanding what I was trying to say.
“Whtddlsheedtu,” I mumbled again as I leaned forward, but she just shook her head and got to her feet, trying to keep her balance as she wriggled round.
Looking round in desperation, I saw a low table, in which were scattered some alphabet blocks like David and June had been given for Christmas. Pushing myself up, I hopped over and somehow dropped to my knees, Pippa watching as I used my nose to separate the blocks out, and then made the word “ESCAPE”.
Looking at Pippa, I watched as she dropped to her knees as well, looked at me and then used her nose to spell out “HOW”.
The others had now got to their feet and hopped over, looking at both of us as if we had lost our heads. I managed to get back to my feet as Pippa stood as well, and then started to jump round her, wondering where this supposed key was.
As I went round, the others followed, as if we were playing ring-a-round the roses, as I closely looked at her. Everything looked identical – same ropes around her arms and legs, same old socks covering her hands and taped to her arms, same gag covering her mouth...
As we went round however, I noticed that in Pippa’s case, the socks were very old, and wearing through on one of them, as her fingers moved under the cloth.
As her fingers...
I then remembered when we had the escape challenge in Mother’s Day the year before last, and I suddenly screamed out “YSSSSS!!!!” jumping up and down as I did so. I knew the weakness now – the question was, would Pippa know what to do?
The others were also jumping round and screaming as well, as if this was all part of the game, so I dropped to my knees and worked on the alphabet blocks again, the others stopping and watching.
“PIPPA... RIP... SOCK.”
“Hmgddd,” Alicia said as she hopped round and looked at Pippa, the twins doing the same as they saw her hand moving in the old sock. Pippa herself was staring at the blocks, and then nodded as she started to try and tear through the weak sole of the sock.
“Cmhrr,” she said to Hazel, who hopped over and stood with her back to Pippa as she began to pick at the knots around her wrists. It took a bit longer but eventually Hazel was able to shake her wrists free, and wave her sock covered hands around.
“Stlntffrr,” she said as she looked at Pippa, and then moved herself so that Pippa could reach the tape at the top of the sock, looking over her shoulder as Pippa peeled the tape away, and then grabbed the bottom of the sock, hopping away as it slid down Hazel’s arm.
That left her tape covered fist, which Pippa then started to pick at the edge of, removing the layers until she was able to drop the sponge to the floor.
“Fgttfrmhr,” Hazel said as she wriggled her arms round in front of herself, and removed the covering from her other arm, before she started to untie herself. Leaving the gag in place, she began to untie Pippa, as Alicia, Clare and I sat in the chairs, waiting for our turn. The two of them looked at each other, before they walked over and started to untie Clare, Alicia and I looking at each other.
As Clare shook her legs free, the door to the basement opened and we saw Angela come down. “Well, it looks like you figured it out in the end,” she said with a smile, “so free their arms, and then get yourselves ready for lunch.”
“Gshha,” Pippa said as the three of them walked over and untied our arms, and the covering on our hands, leaving us to free our own legs while they finally removed their gags.
As we walked up to the kitchen, we could see that Angela had ordered some pizzas, and put them out on the dining table for us to start eating. “No ropes – your reward for the challenge,” she said as she poured some Coca Cola into glasses and handed them round.
“That was some challenge,” Pippa said, “although it took a hell of a while for you to figure out what was going on.”
“We got there in the end, though,” Alicia said as she bit into a slice of the Veggie Supreme. “And it was fun – even if Cassie decided to lead us a merry dance at the start.”
“Not my fault if you could not understand what was said,” I grinned as I ate some Hawaiian. “So what are you going to do this afternoon?”
“Wait and see,” Angela said with a smile, “wait and see...”
“Why don’t you three go into the front room and wait for me there,” Angela said to Pippa, Hazel and Clare as she cleared away the pizza boxes, “I’ll be with you in a little while.”
As they nodded and went through, Angela looked at us, grinning as she said “go to the toilet, and then come down to the basement.”
A few minutes later, we followed Angela back down to the basement, where she handed Alicia the sponges. “Do your best again Cassie,” Angela said as she looked at me, and I selected a fresh pair of socks before I started to bind Alicia up.
I was getting to be very good and fast at this, as eventually Alicia sat in the chair, the ropes tight around her chest and legs, her covered hands behind her back, the silver duct tape around her head and the scarf over her hair, and the scarf tied over that. She sat and watched as Angela bound me in the same way, gagged me, and then made me sit next to Alicia.
“Blindfold next,” she said as she tied the folded scarf over my eyes, and then I felt her press something on the front of the gag, and tie another cloth over that. I could hear Alicia’s mumbles getting more muted, and figured a similar thing had been done to her, as we heard Angela go upstairs.
A few minutes later, we heard someone sliding down the stairs, and then the grunt as they were sat in a seat.
“Hmm,” she replied as the footsteps went up and down two more times, the return always with someone sliding down the stairs. I figured from the sounds Hazel had come down next, and then Clare.
The blindfold was suddenly taken off my eyes, and – well, you guessed it. There we were, all five of us as Angela removed the remaining blindfolds, but I could see from looking at the others an extra scarf had been tied over our mouths as well.
“Right then – enjoy yourselves,” Angela said before she whispered into my ear “Another challenge – but where is the weakness this time? You need to figure it out...”
I nodded as she walked back up the stairs, closing the basement door behind her, and I shuffled myself forward. “Shddntgn,” I said out loud, the others looking at me as I jumped back over and knelt in front of the table, moving the bricks with my nose.
“Tsnfthmsnt,” Alicia mumbled, and I nodded in reply as I spelt out ESCAPE and then WEAKNESS with the blocks.
The other three looked at me, showing no sign of understanding, so I pushed myself back up onto my feet, waiting until they stood up and hopped into a line before I began to jump round them, Alicia watching as I did so.
I took great care in looking at their wrists and hands, but this time I could only see the bulge of their taped hands under the socks – and they were new socks as well, with no sign of wear. I didn’t expect Angela to use the same trick again – which meant she had done something different this time.
Looking at Alicia, and then at the others, I checked the binding again, and then the gags, all of them with the obvious signs of the tight tape gag under the scarves...
And then I looked at Clare, and realised that her gag looked looser than the others – it didn’t seem to be sitting as smoothly as the others. She followed me with her eyes as I hopped behind her, and looked more closely at the back of her neck, the knot from the scarves sitting one on top of the other, on top of the scarf covering her hair.
But there was nothing under the knots – which meant she didn’t have the tape wrapped round her head, which meant...
“GTTTTT!” I shouted as I jumped up and down again, and then jumped back to the table, the others watching as I spelt out “CLARE... GAG... LOOSE.”
“Wllddhh,” Clare said as she rolled her eyes, and then started to work on her gag, twisting her face round as we watched, and eventually managing to push the over gag down as she pushed the stuffing out of her mouth.
As it fell onto her front, I saw the top scarf was held to the one underneath by a doubled over piece of tape at the front, stopping it from slipping down. I also saw that Angela had merely covered Clare’s mouth with strips of duct tape, the assembled covering hanging from her cheek as the wet cloth fell to the floor.
“Right,” she said as she caught her breath, “come here sis.”
“Whthrrggn,” I said, but Clare ignored me as she knelt down, and Hazel jumped over, presenting her wrists to Clare to pick at the knots with her teeth.
“Cmmmnnn,” I said to the other two as we started to play follow the leader again, leaving Clare to work on her sister’s ropes, and then the arm coverings when she finally managed to work them free.
“That’s better,” I heard Hazel say after an hour, and I saw her untying Clare’s arms before they started to untie their own legs, the gagging material lying on the floor. We stopped moving around at that point and went back to the seats, sitting and watching as they went to untie Pippa this time.
“That was fun,” Pippa said as she shook her hands, and then untied her legs as the twins finally came to me and Alicia.
“Sorry, Cas,” Clare said as she started to untie my arms, “I had strict instructions from Angela to say nothing, and also to make sure if we did get free, the two of you were untied last.”
“Fgrdssmsh,” I mumbled until my hands were free, and I reached up to remove the gag from my head, and then untied my legs.
“I’m going to have words of import with my sister,” Alicia said as she rubbed her wrists and stood up, all five of us heading up the stairs and into the front room. Angela looked up as we came in, and then at the clock.
“Not bad,” she said as she stood up, “not bad at all, but it’s going to be a little while before dinner, so you’re going to have to be tied – perhaps a little more loosely this time...”
“We’re back,” I heard Mister Bowden say as the front door opened, “any calls?”
“None Dad – the girls are in the front room watching a film.”
He came in and looked at us, sitting down on the seats, our wrists crossed and tied together in front of us and ropes around our arms and chests. Our ankles had been tied together, and then secured to each other – mine to Alicia’s and the three girls to each other. We all had strips of white micropore tape covering our mouths, with cloths under that.
“Good – well, Mum’s going to start cooking dinner,” he said, “so why don’t we sit with them and watch the film with Andrew?”
“Gotcha,” Angela said, coming in with Andrew in her arms. As she sat down, she put Andrew down, who walked over to each of us and started to pat our knees – in sympathy I thought, although Alicia giggled and said “Tsrrtmtddpgn” when he went over to her.
“Oh dear – enjoy the rest of the film,” her mother said as she looked in, and Mister Bowden took a seat, while we watched the Narnia film.
Eventually, we heard the call of “dinner’s ready” and Angela untied all of us, letting us go and eat a wonderful dinner as we talked about everything that had happened that day.
Eventually, however, Mister Bowden looked at us and said “Time to get you three girls home – say your goodbyes and I’ll drive you back.”
“Thank you for having us today,” Pippa said, Clare and Hazel nodding before she said “See you tomorrow Cassie.”
“You’ll see,” Hazel said with a smile as Mister Bowden handed them their coats, and they went out, Angela standing up and saying “You two go through, I’m going to help Mum with the washing up while you keep an eye on Andrew.”
“Some day,” Alicia said as we sat down.
“Yeah, I’m exhausted,” I said as I yawned. “Would your parents be offended if I went to bed early?”
“You and me both,” Alicia said with a yawn, but we sat and played with Andrew until her father got home, and then asked if we could be excused.
We were allowed to wash and change into our nightclothes, before Mrs Bowden took us into the basement, where two sleeping bags had been placed on camp beds, and a heater was plugged in.
“Good night,” she said as climbed in, turning the light off as we both fell asleep...
Wednesday 31st December
I was walking along the side of the lake at Holderness Manor, my arm in Bobby’s, watching as David and June ran along in front of us, laughing and giggling. Looking to the side, I saw Jenny with Colin, smiling as she placed her hand on her stomach, the bulge just starting to show.
I heard someone – Alicia possibly – calling for me, but I didn’t want to turn round. For one very good reason – Bobby had stopped and turned to face me, going down on one knee as he took a small box from his pocket, and opened it...
There was a hand on my shoulder, shaking me, as I mouthed the words “Yes, yes I will...”
“Good – you need to wake up now.”
Opening my eyes, I saw I was still in the cellar of the Bowden house, with Alicia’s mother standing over me.
“Time to get up,” she said with a smile, “breakfast is nearly ready.”
I looked over to the other cot bed, to see Alicia had already got up, so I followed suit, wondering what was going to happen today.
Well, I had a fairly good idea of what was going to happen – it was New Year’s Eve, and Suzie was thirteen today. She would be having a party – a big one, as I remembered Bobby’s thirteenth birthday and what happened there.
But that was going to be later, and I was excited just thinking about what was likely to happen. Right now, I was hungry, so I went and joined the others at the breakfast table.
It was still before nine as I went into the bedroom, drying my hair, and saw on the bed my grey party gown – it was sleeveless, with a pair of long gloves and matching shoes, and came down to the floor as I put it on. I took my time with it, making sure my hair was nice, before I walked slowly down to join Alicia in her front room.
She was wearing a green high necked dress, the skirt of which also came to the floor, and white gloves that matched her heels. Angela was also waiting, with the usual supplies, as we were slowly and carefully immobilised, this time with the special white tape instead of duct tape around our hands and our heads.
As I felt Angela tie the ropes around my chest, I looked at Alicia and said “do you have any idea what the arrangements are for Suzie’s party?”
“Nope,” Alicia said as Angela pulled the ropes tighter, making me gasp, “I have been told nothing – deliberately I suspect.”
“Now would we be that devious,” Angela said as she tied my ropes off, and picked up another long length. Alicia just raised an eyebrow and shook her head, as her sister started to complete her upper body ropes.
“You’d better both sit down,” Angela said as she tied off the rope behind Alicia’s back, and as we both sat she knelt and used more rope to bind our ankles, and our legs below our knees.
“Now, any last words?”
“Nope – let’s get going,” I said with a smile, eager to see Suzie again.
As we had the gags applied, I closed my eyes, wondering what was going to be used as the blindfold after the tape was wound round my head, and a silver scarf tied over that.
But there was nothing tied over my eyes, no additional layers – instead, Angela turned on the television and found the Sky Disney Channel, Frozen having just started.
“You two need to wait here,” she said as she left the room, and Alicia and I looked at each other. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with sitting here, unable to move and talk, and watching a Disney – or indeed, any other film. But I am in the very small minority who CAN’T STAND FROZEN!!!
I could see from the way Alicia was shaking her head she felt the same way, but there was nothing we could do about it, except sit back, and hope it passed soon enough.
The reason why we hadn’t been moved was fairly apparent, as we heard Angela and her parents getting themselves ready. Mrs Bowden brought Andrew in and placed him on the floor with his toys, while she went to shower, and Angela re-appeared from time to time in her dressing gown to check on us.
When her mother came in wearing a long yellow dress, and her father in his dress suit, I knew the time was coming – even if Lady and The Tramp had not finished yet. I closed my eyes as the grey scarf was tied over my eyes, and then hard Alicia mumbling as she must have been blindfolded.
A little while later, I was lifted out of the chair and carried, the cold air hitting my face as I was taken outside and placed in a car, the seat belt pulled over me and holding me in place.
As the car started, I sat back, wondering how things were going to go when we got to Wissenden Hall for the party...
I could feel the cold air again on my cheeks as I was lifted out of the car, and carried along, not a word been said as I was floating in the air. A few minutes later, I was lowered onto a very comfortable seat, and left alone as a door closed.
Well, I thought I was alone, but then the blindfold was removed, and as I blinked I realised I wasn’t at Wissenden Hall at all. I was back at Holderness Manor, in the drawing room, and standing in front of me was Dad, wearing his best suit.
“Hello Poppet,” he said as he leaned over and kissed my forehead, “I told you we had more surprises for you.”
“Yssudd,” I said as I smiled under the cloth and tape.
“Wait here,” he said as he went out and closed the door, leaving me alone – no sign of Alicia, but she must have come with me as well.
Or possibly with her parents in their car...
Anyway, I realised that if I had had my party at the Manor, then of course Suzie was going to have her party here as well. Lord and Lady Holderness tried not to play favourites between Bobby, Suzie and the girls, so why would it be any different with me?
“Hey – aren’t you going to say Happy Birthday?”
“Fcressemmmm,” I said as I suddenly realised Suzie had come in, wearing a royal blue party dress with a sash round her waist, and black heels. Bobby was with her, smiling as he came round and started to slowly untie my arms.
“I just got through freeing Alicia, which is why we were late coming in,” he said as he released my arms, “that cousin of mine is getting far too good at this sort of thing.”
“Nah – makes it more interesting,” he said as he removed the covering from my hands, allowing me to start to remove the gag while he untied my legs.
“Oh you are so dead for that,” I eventually said as I shook the rope from my legs – and then jumped up, putting my arms round Bobby as I kissed him.
“Err – shall I go away for a few minutes,” Suzie said as she went to leave the room.
“Not a chance – come here you,” I said as I ran over and hugged her, “Happy birthday Suzie.”
“Thanks – come on, we’re having a family lunch before the rest of the guests arrive.”
As I followed them out, I said “so where have you been for the last couple of days?”
“Here – not doing very much except relaxing. I hear the girls were at Alicia’s house yesterday?”
“Yup – and a fun time was had by...”
As we went into the dining room, I saw Mum and Dad with Granny, Jenny and the twins, all smartly dressed, but it was the two older women sitting either side of Lord and Lady Holderness that made me stop and catch my breath. I should have realised they would be there as well, but it still took me by surprise.
“Lady Claire, Lady Olivia,” I said as I found myself making a small curtsey, “it is good to see both of you again.”
“Oh let’s not stand on formality,” Bobby’s Great Aunt Olivia said, “come, sit down and tell us all about your holiday.”
“Yes, I’d like to hear about it as well,” Suzie’s Grandma Jacobs said as she came in and sat down, “by all accounts, you have had a rather amazing time.”
So as we ate lunch, I told them about what had happened since school had finished, Bobby smiling to himself as he filled in a few of the details. They all smiled and nodded, asking how much I had enjoyed it, until after we had had dessert Lady Holderness said “Well, we’ll have some tea in the drawing room – it will give Suzanne a chance to open her presents before the party guests arrive.”
“Oh yes please,” Suzie said as we stood up and walked to the drawing room, where a small pile of presents had been set up on a low table.
“Before I forget,” Mrs Jacobs said to Suzie’s mother, “I asked Gerry to join us here later. I hope that’s all right.”
“Who’s Jerry,” I whispered to Bobby.
“Granny Jacob’s new boyfriend,” he whispered back, “none of us have met him yet, so this could be interesting.”
Suzie certainly had a lot more presents than I did, but that was fine because – well, she is a Holderness, and they can afford more, but also I get mine split over Christmas and my birthday, while she gets all her presents at once. We all sat and watched as she opened them, thanking everyone in turn.
I was especially glad she liked mine – Mum had helped me to pick out a pair of gold earrings that had little red gems in them, matching her hair as she held them up for her mother to see.
“they’re fantastic – thanks Cassie,” Suzie said with a smile as she put them to the side and kept opening her presents, the rest of us having a drink or a cup of tea as she did so.
Eventually, however, Mister Bridges came into the room and said “Excuse me, Sir, but the guests are starting to arrive.”
“Of course – Suzie, will you go and greet them please, and ask them to come in here?”
I went out with Suzie to see Lisa and Charlie arrive with their parents. Lisa was wearing a black party dress with dark stockings and shoes, while Charlie looked a bit uncomfortable, running a finger under his collar as he stood there in a suit, a tie tied round his neck.
“Happy birthday Suzie,” Lisa said as she handed Suzie a silver wrapped box, and they came into the room.
Over the next half hour or so, more and more guests arrived – Pippa, Hazel and Clare, Rachel and Patty – all the usual suspects, as well as some more of our classmates.
Eventually, we had to go into the dining room, which had been cleared away with chairs arranged around the side. I could also see that a DJ had come in, and was setting up his stand at one side of the room as Lady Holderness said “Are we expecting anyone else?”
“Hey – sorry we’re late.”
Suzie and I had our backs to the door when we heard the American accent, and we both turned at the same time, looking at the three girls standing there in prom dresses.
“Surprise,” Cindy said as she came in, hugging both of us as Alicia hugged Heidi and Jenny hugged Natalie, “happy birthday Cindy.”
“But... But how...”
“Blame us,” Sarah Holderness-Carter said as she came in, Brian following with the twins, all of us smiling as they did so.
“Oh what the heck,” I said as I hugged all three of them, “you’re here, and that’s the important thing. How are you?”
“I can’t complain – so where are these mysterious boys Alicia told us all about?”
“Give them time – people are still coming,” I said as I saw Angela go over and greet Eddie and his family, smiling as she did so. Martin had also arrived, as Bobby came over and kissed the three Americans.
“Come on in,” he said as he took Natalie’s hand, “let’s get something to eat.”
“The twins are getting so big,” I heard Suzie’s mum say as she talked to Sarah.
“Tell me about it – they’ll be trying to walk soon. How are you?”
“Wishing it was over, if truth be told. After the scare...”
“I heard – just rest, all right?”
“Well, Becky is taking a lot of the day to day stuff off my hands.”
I looked over to see Sam, Mrs Boyle’s brother, sitting in a corner with Cathy, Mary and Mark. The Cottrells had also arrived, giving Suzie a small envelope. When she opened it, and looked at the card inside, she’d jumped up and down and hugged the boys – much to their embarrassment.
That, however, was nothing compared to the squeals she made when Brian Hampton arrived with Colin and their parents, and gave her a silver locket.
“Look familiar,” Bobby whispered as she came over to show me the silver knot on the chain.
“He really does like you, doesn’t he,” I whispered, Suzie turning a lovely shade of red as she nodded in agreement.
She then ran over to where her great aunts were sitting to show them. Great Aunt Claire was wearing a long black ball gown, sitting with her hands on her cane, her grey hair held up on her head, while Great Aunt Olivia had on a high collared white blouse, with the shawl I always remember her wearing tied over her shoulders, and a long red velvet skirt. She kept her white hair cut short, as they both looked at the locket and talked to Suzie.
“So that’s Lord Holderness’ sisters?”
“They are indeed,” I said to Cindy as she stood with me.
“I can see the resemblance in one of them – the other, though, I guess takes after their mother?”
“I imagine so,” I said as Suzie’s mother said “all right – we can’t have a party without some games, even if you are a teenager now. Let’s get started...”
Well, the next few hours went like a whirl, with some party games, and then a disco/dance/jump around, Bobby taking great pleasure in showing me some new dance moves – and almost hurting himself in the process.
We also spent a long time talking to Heidi, Cindy and Natalie. They told me about the huge Christmas party they’d had at Heidi and Cindy’s house – including all the stuff that Cindy could not tell me before, and the news about Cindy’s cousin. That made us all jump up and down as well, as we realised what they would mean.
We then had this enormous birthday buffet, with a cake bigger than my one, which poor Suzie had to blow out the candles on. The thing I was wondering, when all this was going on, was what was going to happen next.
I started to find out when it got to about half six, and Alicia came over, whispering into my ear “you’re needed upstairs – a surprise for Suzie, apparently.”
I nodded as I left the ballroom, saying a quick goodbye to Pippa as she and her mother were putting their coats on, and walked up the stairs to the playroom.
“All right,” I said as I walked in, “What’s so imprmmmmgggBBEEE!!!”
“Hey beautiful,” Bobby said as he pushed the folded cloth into my mouth, and kept his hand clamped tightly over it before giving me a kiss on the cheek, “can you guess what’s going to happen next?”
“Got it in one,” he said as used a strip of towel, the usual knot tied in the middle, as a cleave gag, keeping the cloth in my mouth as I stood there. He then used the special white tape, wrapping it round my head to keep me quiet, before he folded and tied a grey scarf over that.
“Now then,” he said as he handed me two small sponges, “shall we?”
I nodded as he covered my hands, and then crossed my wrists behind my back before tying them tightly together, as well as to my waist with more rope. He also tied my arms to my side with the figure of eight rope over my tummy, and a rope around my shoulders.
Taking my arm, he walked me to the gallery on the upper floor, which you can look out onto the lawn over.
“Uswwwll,” Suzie said as she saw me come in. She had already been bound, gagged and secured to the chair, a matching blue scarf around her head as Bobby sat me down and secured my waist and lap to the chair, before kneeling and starting to tie my ankles together.
Once he had my legs secured, he tied my ankles to the front leg of the chair, so that I was sitting like Suzie in a very lady like manner, and said “enjoy the view,” leaving us as we watched the party guests leaving from the upstairs window.
There was music playing, so that we could hum along to it, as we watched people leaving – but it looked as if our respective families were still there, as it got darker and darker...
The sound of the truck pulling up made us both look at each other, as we craned our necks to see some workmen carrying boxes out onto the lawn, and someone else setting up a small desk with a laptop on top of it.
“Whtsggnn,” I said as I looked at Suzie.
“Frwrkskss,” she mumbled as we watched them working on the lawn. A little while later, I looked over to see Suzie had fallen asleep, her head to one side. Well, I wasn’t going to fall asleep – there was too much going on, and I wanted to see all of it, as the music played, and I hummed slowly to myself...
“Wake up, Poppet.”
I slowly opened my eyes, suddenly aware I was cold, but as I raised my head, I realised I was actually outside on the lawn, and Dad was looking at me from behind the chair. I was still bound, still gagged – but someone had lifted me in the chair and brought me out onto the terrace outside the large room.
Looking around, I could see my family standing behind and around me, looking out onto the lawn. Glancing over to the side, I saw Suzie sitting with her family, while Sarah, Brian and the other Americans were between us.
“Whttmst,” I mumbled as I looked at Dad’s watch, and saw it was a minute to midnight.
“Ready everyone,” Lady Holderness said as she looked at her watch, waiting a few seconds before she said “Ten... Nine...”
We counted down, Suzie and I looking at each other.
“Two... One... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”
That was the cue for the fireworks to go off – and amazing, spectacular show that lit up the night sky over the manor house, and I think could be seen for miles around. It seemed to go on and on, and even if we couldn’t move or speak it was an amazing thing to see.
“Happy new year, Cass,” Bobby said as he came over and kissed me, Mum and my aunts as well as Granny all watching while he did that.
Once the final firework had gone off, we were carried back in and released from the ropes and gags, while Mrs Boyle and Mrs Bridges carried round trays with glasses of champagne.
“We’ll allow you one tonight,” Mum said, “even you Patty.”
“Thanks,” my cousin said as she took one, before Lord Holderness said “To one, and to all, may this be a very prosperous and happy new year!”
“Happy New Year,” we all said as we raised our glasses, and I took a sip, letting it run down my throat as I looked round. I couldn’t stop myself from yawning, however – and Granny saw that one.
“Finish your drink dear,” she whispered, “and then I think you need to go to your bed.”
“Am I staying here?”
“You can if you want – unless you’ve had enough and want to come home now.”
“Is the adventure over?”
“Not unless you want it to be,” Dad said as he joined us. “If you want it to go on a little longer, then sleep here tonight. If not, come home with us.”
“Can I stay here tonight?”
“Of course you can – say good night to Suzie, and Mrs Bridges will take you up.”
I nodded as I hugged Suzie, and then slipped out of the room, Mrs Bridges taking me to the room I always seemed to sleep in at the Manor. My nightdress was already laid out, with my bag next to the bed, so I changed and went to brush my teeth.
When I came back in, Mum was sitting on the bed. “In you get,” she said as she pulled back the covers, “and sleep well. I’ll see you when you come back home.”
“Good night, mum,” I mumbled as I lay down, and I felt her kiss my forehead, my eyes slowly closing...
Thursday 1st January – New Year’s Day
I had no idea what time it was when I woke up, but the sun was shining through the windows, as I stood up and rubbed my head.
“Well, good afternoon, sleepy head.”
I looked to the door and saw Mrs Bridges standing there, before saying “afternoon?”
“Near enough – it’s ten to twelve. Put on your dressing gown and come down – Miss Suzie is in the kitchen, and I’ll cook you both up some brunch.”
I nodded as I stood up, and a few minutes later went into the kitchen, sitting at the old wooden table next to Suzie.
“Hey,” I said as Mrs Bridges started to cook some sausages, “how are you feeling this morning?”
“As if I’m still at the party,” Suzie said with a smile, “it was amazing. So, ready for another day?”
“I am,” I said as I smelt the food cooking, “where’s Bobby?”
“He’s been up for ages apparently – did he go outside, Mrs Bridges?”
“He did, my dear,” she said as she laid two full English breakfasts in front of us, “now eat up, and then go and get dressed.”
“Thanks,” I said as I got started, and she put two glasses of orange juice out for us.
The clock in the room showed one thirty as I stood, looking at myself in the mirror. I’d showered, and was wearing a long red gown, the sleeves hooked over my middle finger with a little loop, as well as heels.
“There you are,” Bobby said as he stood in the doorway, and I could see the supplies in his hands, “I wondered if you were going to sleep all day.”
“So did Mrs Bridges,” I said as I looked at him, “but all right – let’s get started.”
He did what he had done so often over the holiday – covered my hands in tape and the socks, secured them and my arms tightly to my body, but snugly as well, before he systematically gagged me, using a red shade of the special tape to wind round my head.
Once he had tied the folded scarf over that, he took my arm and escorted me down to the library.
“Oh yes,” he said as he went in, and I saw Suzie in a dark blue gown, looking at me over the matching scarf tied round her head.
“Now then,” he said as he folded two black scarves, and used them to blindfold us, “can you guess what’s going to happen next?”
“Oh no,” Bobby said quietly, “no car trips, not today. Let me take you both for a little walk.”
He walked us around the manor house, telling us when we were going up and down stairs, until after a while he said “here will do,” and then he spun me round several times. Now, I couldn’t see anything, so I had to stay still as he stopped, and I felt rope pulling my ankles together, and then my legs below my knees.
“Beeehwtrudng,” I heard Suzie say, assuming the same thing had happened to her, and then – nothing, except the sound of him walking away.
I stood still, concentrating on keeping my balance more than anything, wondering what was going on now – until the blindfold was taken off. I blinked as I saw Mister Bridges standing there, smiling as he removed the blindfold from Suzie.
He then bowed and walked out, leaving the two of us looking at each other.
“Whrsshh,” Suzie finally said as she started hopping to the door. “Bbbbe?”
I jumped after her, as we made our way down the corridor, going into the rooms we were allowed to go into, with Mister Bridges or Mrs Bridges helping if a door was closed, but there was no sign of him.
So we pushed ourselves up the stairs, and checked all the rooms in there, but of young Robert Desmond Holderness there was no sign -not in the playroom, or any of the other bedrooms.
Then I saw the door that had the stairs to the attic was open, so I motioned to Suzie and we both hopped over, before pushing ourselves up – but the attic was empty as well.
“Whrhhsshgn,” Suzie mumbled as she looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders, and we headed back down, checking all the rooms again and then taking great care in coming down the stairs.
As Suzie jumped over to the library, her skirt rising and falling, I thought for a moment I heard a creak on the stairs, but when I turned round and looked I couldn’t see anyone. So I turned round and hopped into the library with Suzie, checking behind all the chairs.
“Cmnnn,” she said as we jumped out, but as we left I saw a coat move on the stand – and suddenly, I realised what was going on. I let Suzie get ahead of me, and as we passed an old wooden cabinet in the hallway I stopped, hiding myself beside it and staying as quiet as possible.
Sure enough, a few seconds later Bobby came past, looking straight ahead as he did so. He must have been following us around the manor house, although I had no idea for how long, but I knew there was only one thing I could do at this point.
“GSSHEEE” I screamed as I jumped out in front of him.
“What the... Cass, you scared the life out of me,” Bobby said as he looked at me.
“Watching both of you? I wondered what you would get up to if you were left alone – guess I got my answer.”
“Whtsgnnn – hTHRurrr!”
Suzie had jumped back to see what was happening, and stood there, her eyes blazing as she stared at her older brother.
“Tell you what – let me make it up to you,” he said as he disappeared for a moment, and then came back with our coats. Fastening them over us, as well as scarves and hats, he picked Suzie up and carried her to the back of the house, returning for me and literally sweeping me off my feet, before he carried me out through the kitchen door.
Suzie as sitting in an old sled, which Bobby put me into next to her, before he tucked a blanket over us and went back to put his coat on. “Right,” he then said as he picked up the ropes at the front, “let’s go.”
And with that, he started to pull us on the snow, around the manor house, and then gently down the slope to the tress, and along the path to the lake. The sky was grey, and as we came out onto the grass area we could see the thin sheet of ice covering the surface of the water – save for a few places where the ice had been broken through.
“We need to do that,” Bobby said as he pulled us along, “there are fish in the water, and they need to breathe, but also some of the birds still like to go in.”
The white marble of the mausoleum actually glittered in the winter sun, as I said “tlkskssbettflll...”
“Well,” Bobby panted as he pulled us along, “with any luck, and a few more cold nights, the lake may be safe enough to actually skate on. We’ll see.”
I was actually amazed at how much I was enjoying this – and how much Bobby seemed to be enjoying it as well, as he kept pulling us along. I hadn’t realized how much taller he had got over the last year – or how much stronger.
That became especially clear when he pulled us back – it’s a gentle uphill path normally, and then the hill as we go back to the manor house, but he pulled us all the way through the trees, and then pushed the sled back up the hill and all the way to the back door.
As he opened it, Mrs Bridges looked up and said “Well, you were out there for a while. How are you all feeling?”
“Hot,” Bobby said, and as he took his coat off – I’m not joking – I could see the steam rising from his body. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go and have a shower.”
As he walked off, Mrs Bridges removed our coats, scarves and hats, and then escorted us to the main room, leaving the television on until dinner was ready.
“All the way round the lake? I’m impressed Robert – obviously we need to find some more things for you to do around the house.”
Lady Holderness smiled as she sat at the dinner table, while Bobby rubbed his head and said “Well, it was fun – wasn’t it you two?”
We weren’t going to deny it, as we sat tied to the chairs while eating our dinner, our legs still tied. We’d talked about the party, and how Suzie had gone to bed just after me the previous night.
“Actually,” Bobby said, “would it be all right if we watched the Jools Holland show after dinner?”
“I don’t see why not – I presume you two wish to hum along,” Lord Holderness said as he looked at us. We both nodded in agreement – which is why, a little while later, we were sitting in front of the television, our arms folded behind us and our wrists tied to our elbows, while we had a knotted scarf tied into our mouths.
Bobby started the recording, and we sung along as we watched all the music acts – all two hours of it. Eventually, however, it was bedtime – and as I lay in the bed, Mrs Bridges pressing a strip of white tape over my mouth, my wrists and ankles tied, I wondered what could possibly happen the next day.
Friday January 2
“Whttmmsstt,” I mumbled as I opened my eyes, and saw Mrs Bridges standing over me.
“Time to get up, my dear,” she said as she removed the tape, untied my hands and feet, and then let me stand up. “Go and wash the sleep from your eyes, and come down to have some breakfast.”
I nodded and went to the bathroom, before coming down and finding Suzie already eating.
“I see you got the early call as well,” Suzie said as I poured some cereal into a bowl. “So what do you think is going to happen today?”
“Honestly – I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out,” I said before putting a mouthful of corn flakes into my mouth. “Do you think we’re going to be taken somewhere else?”
“You’re asking the wrong person,” Suzie said, “I’ve been in the dark about everything as much as you. I know you may not believe it, Cassie, but I’ve been as surprised as you were when you’ve been in the same place as me.”
I nodded before saying “Well, it’s been fantastic whatever happens.”
“Eat up girls,” Mrs Bridges said, “I’ve got some bacon and eggs for you, and then you have to get ready.”
Half an hour later, I got out of the shower, wondering what was waiting for me in my room.
On the bed was laid out a long gown, with a high lace trimmed collar. It was made of some sort of cream coloured cotton, with long sleeves, and had a gathered waist with a ruffed bodice. A pair of cream stockings and high heels was also placed by there, as was a pair of white lace gloves.
Putting on the outfit, I went down to the library to find Suzie wearing a similar dress, this one in blue. Mrs Bridges was also there, as she looked at each of us, and said “Time to get ready, girls.”
We looked at each other, and waited as our wrists were tied, and the ropes tied around our waists, stomachs and shoulders, before we sat down and Mrs Bridges secured our ankles and legs. This had been happening to me for nearly two weeks now, and I wondered to myself as a cloth was tied into my mouth what it would be like to spend a day not tied and gagged like this.
She used the special white tape wrapped round our mouths, and then tied a folded white scarf around both our heads, before we watched her fold two more white scarves.
“Seeltrrcsss,” Suzie said as the scarf was tied over her eyes, and then one over mine. We sat for a few minutes, before I felt myself been lifted and carried, and then a car seat under me as I was strapped into place. As the car engine started, and we moved off, I relaxed, wondering where we were going to end up.
When the car stopped, I was unstrapped and lifted out, and then carried somewhere, before I was sat on a leather couch. I heard the door close, and then as the blindfold was removed I blinked and looked around.
I didn’t recognise the room I was in – it was a little old fashioned, with an old fireplace that was sealed up, with a floral arrangement in front of it. I was on a leather three seater couch, and there was a television in one corner, a large window looking out onto the street, as well as bookcases.
I turned my head to see Louise sitting in one of the matching armchairs, wearing a similar long dress to mine – but hers was red with white piping. She had been tied in the same way as me, and had a white scarf tied around her head, covering her mouth.
“Welcome, Cassie – welcome to our house.”
“Htssurpls,” I mumbled as I saw Freddie standing in front of me, wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans. He smiled as he said “I hope you enjoy your stay – I’m going to do all I can to make you – comfortable.”
He smiled as he said this, but the way he said it, the way he smiled – I looked over to Louise, who just rolled her eyes and shook her head. Looking back at Freddie, I knew the smile was genuine, but he seemed – well, nervous. No idea why, of course, but still...
“Let me put something on for you to watch,” he said as he turned the television on, almost dropping the remote before he turned it to Nickelodeon. I knew from Patty that Louise really liked the shows on this channel – and I wasn’t in a position to argue, as Freddie sat in the other chair and watched both of us.
After a while, I saw Freddie’s mother look in the door. “Why don’t you take our guests to the dining table and make sure they’re in the right place Freddie,” she said with a smile, “lunch will be ready soon.”
“Okay mom,” he said as he helped us both to jump up, and then escorted us to where they had their dining table. He pulled two chairs out, and untied our arms so that we could sit down. Tying some rope round our waists to keep us there, he then removed the gags, as Mister Hobson came in.
“Welcome, Cassie,” he said as he sat down, “enjoying yourself so far?”
“Very much so,” I said, “but I didn’t know Louise played these games so openly here.”
“Well,” Mrs Hobson said, “given what happened to her recently, and after Freddie and I joined in as well, we felt it was better to let her do it here under supervision. Would you like some potatoes?”
Once we had finished lunch, Freddie untied Louise, and then me, letting us go to the bathroom before we joined him in the front room. I could see ropes, cloths, and rolls of duct tape, as Freddie looked at us nervously.
“Hey – what’s up bro,” Louise said as she nudged him.
“Listen,” Freddie said quietly, “will you both do something for me?”
“Oh – what?”
“Show me how to tie you up as well as when Cassie arrived today?”
“Are you serious,” Louise said as she looked at her step-brother.
“I think he is,” I said as I also looked at him, “so where do you want to start?”
“Well,” he said, and I realised he was stammering a little, “you can start by showing me how you tie your legs.”
So we sat down, Freddie watching as we bound our own ankles together, making sure we took the rope between our legs, and then folded our skirts up while we tied our legs together below our knees, cinching it before we folded out skirts back down.
“All right,” he then said as he looked at us, “so how do you do such a good gag?”
I looked at the tape, gleaming silver, and said to Louise “Cover your hair first.”
“Gotcha,” she said before we each pushed a folded cloth into our mouths, then used a knotted strip of towel as the cleave gag. Picking up an old head scarf, I tied it over my hair, and then helped Louise to cover her hair before we used the duct tape around our heads.
A folded scarf over our silver bands, and we looked at Freddie, watching him nod as he said “now tie my sister up.”
Louise raised an eye brow, but crossed her wrists behind her back, sitting still as I secured them, then to her waist, followed by the ropes around her tummy and shoulders.
“Thrrr,” I said as he looked at Louise – and then did the same to me. He wasn’t too bad – I think he was actually scared of me, of all people – but Heidi and the others had told me all about him...
“You know, this is more than I used to do back in the home country,” Freddie said as he sat down and looked at us, “I mean, Britney and Margo were fun, but you girls take it to a whole new level.”
“Oh yeah – you haven’t met them Lou.”
I looked at Louise, who was shaking her head, obviously not very happy at being called that. But we were stuck as long as he was watching us, as he told us about the Dales, and then about “That troublemaker Heidi Strong and her friends.”
I’d heard about what happened when Alicia went over for the christening – she had told Jenny when she visited, and I had listened in – so I knew full well what had happened, but I had to stop myself laughing as he told his side of the story.
He then told us about how he first met Louise, when she had gone with her dad on holiday, and looked round.
“I gotta say, I like England a lot more than I thought I was going to – even the weather’s not as cold... But I’ve talked enough, your girls must be getting bored.”
“Hnnn,” I said, but he stood up and said “Listen – is it true you can still jump around when like this?”
Like we needed a reason? Louise and I looked at each other as we pushed ourselves onto our feet, and I started to jump around, Louise taking a moment to get her balance before she started to follow me.
Freddie could only watch, open mouthed as we jumped around the room, and then I jumped into the hallway, Louise watching as I started to push myself up the stairs and then following my example. He stood at the bottom of the stairs, and then ran up after us, watching as we pushed ourselves up the wall and then jumped up and down the hallway, our skirts going up and down as we did so.
We then jumped past him, nodding and waiting as he went back down the stairs before Louise started to slide herself down, me following suit as he helped us to our feet. We jumped into the kitchen, scaring the life out of his mother as we turned and jumped back out again, and then returned to the front room, standing and looking as he came in.
“My god, that was amazing,” he finally said, “and can you escape as easily.”
We just looked at him, sympathy in my eyes as we hopped round, stood back to back – and fifteen minutes later, we were removing the gags, Louise saying “that was fun! Cassie invented that trick!!”
“Wish I could say it was, but it was Jenny who taught me,” I said with a smile.
“Wow – look, I gotta tie you up again, but how can I do it when you escape so easily?”
“Because you want to?”
I nudged Louise as I said “I’ll show you – have you got a couple of sponges?”
Freddie nodded and left the room for a moment, returning with four new sponges. He then watched as I got Louise to hold the sponges, taped her fists, covered them with socks and taped the top of the sock to her arms.
“OH wow,” he gasped as I pushed the cloth into Louise’s mouth, and started to gag her, “I had no idea. Whenever I’ve seen the socks, I always thought you had your hands free – but they were taped up as well?”
“Oh yes,” I said as I wound the tape round Louise’s mouth, ”and what’s more, once I’m done, you actually don’t have to tie the wrists.”
I tied the scarf around Louise’s head, and said “Try to remove the gag, Louise?” She lifted her hands up, looked at them, and then looked at me and Freddie.
“See? She can’t use her teeth to pull the sock off because she’s gagged, and she can’t use her hands to take the gag off because her fingers are useless under the tape and everything.”
“Oh, now I get it,” he said as I bound Louise up.
“Good – because you need to do the same to me now. I’m meant to be tied up most of the time – so please, make it possible.”
When Louise’s dad looked in, and said “Dinner time kids,” he didn’t bat an eyelid at me and Louise, tightly bound and unable to speak as we watched television. Instead, he helped me to jump into the dining room, while Freddie helped Louise, and we were soon tied to the chairs before we were ungagged and our hands released.
It was after half past eight by the time we started eating, and nearly ten by the time we finished, so Louise and I went straight upstairs afterwards and got ready for bed. We were both wearing pyjamas, and talking on my bed when Freddie came in.
“Hey – want to be tied in bed tonight?”
“Yeah,” Louise said, “you going to do Cassie first?”
“I sure am – lie down and let me tie your legs first, as our guest.”
“All right,” I said as I watched him bind my ankles tightly together, and then my legs below my knees, before I put my hands together in front of me.
“Nope,” Freddie said, as he tied one end of a ,length of rope to my left wrist, and then tied it to the bed rest, before taking my other wrists and tying it to the other side, so that my arms were spread wide above me.
“Hey – this is new,” I said as I looked up, and then felt the tape as he smoothed it down over my mouth.
“Yeah – come on sis,” he said as they both left, the light going off...
Saturday January 3rd
The sound of a ringing bell woke me up, and as I opened my eyes I saw Louise next to me, turning off the alarm before she rubbed her eyes.
“Hey,” she said as she untied my arms, “Freddie just woke me up, untied me and asked me to untie you. We’re having breakfast before Dad has to head to the station.”
“Sshhh – sorry, is he working today,” I said after I removed the tape over my lips.
“Yup – just you, me, him and mum. Hurry up.”
Well, how could I refuse? I went to the toilet, and walked into the kitchen to see Freddie waiting with a length of rope. He tied my waist to the chair after I sat down, and we started to eat as Mr Hobson drank his coffee.
“Right – I need to get going,” he said as he stood up. “What are you going to do with the girls today?”
“Not saying,” Freddie said with a grin, so we looked at each other, and kept eating...
The clock said nine thirty as we both came into the front room, Me wearing a blue floor length dress with elbow length sleeves, and Louise a gold one. We both had a pair of long white gloves, and white heels – the gloves son covered by white socks as Freddie bound our upper bodies, and then gagged us, this time using the special white tape which doesn’t hurt our hair.
“Sit down for a minute,” Freddie then said as we sat on the leather couch, looking at each other as he went out into the hallway.
“Hey, it’s me. Are you ready over there yet?
“Great – see you in a little while.”
Freddie then came in with our long coats, two long scarves and woollen hats, as well as two pairs of boots.
“Wrggnnfrwlk,” Louise said, me nodding in reply as he took our shoes off, and put them in a bag, before he put the boots on, and then made us stand up, wrapping the scarves around our heads and necks, putting the bonnets on and then fastening the coats over us.
“Mom,” he called out, “is it all right if we go to the neighbours for a while?”
“Are the girls covered?”
“All right,” came the reply, as Freddie put his own coat and gloves on, and we left the house. I could see the excitement in Louise’s eyes as we turned round the corner, and headed for the Cottrell farm.
As we walked down the lane, I could see Frank standing by the gate, looking up the path. He saw us – and then ran into the house, as we looked at each other.
“Oy vey,” Freddie said as we came up to the gate, and walked in, closing it behind us. “Frank, will you come out here please – it’s just Cassie and Louise.”
We watched as Frank slowly came out, and then walked over, looking at both of us. “Sorry,” he said quietly, “I didn’t recognise you under all the layers. I thought you were just two girls, and... Well...”
Frank’s shyness was legendary, as Freddie said “no harm done – can we come in?”
“Oh – oh of course you can,” Frank said as he opened the farmhouse door, and we walked in. Mr Cottrell was sitting in the front room, and looked up as we came in.
“Hello Freddie – brought the girls for a visit did you?”
“Yes, Mr Cottrell,” Freddie said as Frank’s dad kept looking at the clock. “May I ask where Mrs Cottrell, Mark and Eric are?”
“Chores outside – I’m sure they’ll be in eventually,” he said as the two boys took our coats, hats and scarves off, and helped us to sit down. I don’t think Mr Cottrell even noticed our current state of confinement, as a car pulled up outside, and then there was a knock on the door.
“Excuse me a minute,” he said as he went to answer the door, Freddie and Frank taking our boots off and putting our shoes on our feet instead.
“Is your dad expecting someone,” Freddie said to Frank.
“Oh no, I completely...”
We all looked at the door as it opened, and a voice said “Oh – am I interrupting something?”
“Well good morning Cassie,” the older man said as she looked in, “this is a nice surprise.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Smethurst,” Mr Cottrell said, “my son was expecting some friends, and...”
“It’s quite all right, son,” Great Uncle Jethro said, “young Cassie here is my great niece, and I know all about her idea of fun.”
“My sister is her grandmother,” he said with a smile. “And it gives me the chance to apologise for missing your birthday, young lady, but your grandmother sent me a lot of photographs and little videos, so I know you had a good time. But what are you doing here?”
“As I understand things, you’re staying with Louise and Freddie at the moment, is that right Cassie?”
I nodded as Great Uncle Jethro laughed. “Oh yes – the last stop on the tour. Miranda told me about that as well. Anyway, perhaps we can get down to business, Mr Cottrell? I have some further items you might find of interest.”
“Of course – boys, would you mind taking the girls outside for a while.”
“Of course, sir,” Freddie said as he and Frank swapped our shoes for our boots again, and helped us to put out coats, scarves and hats on, before they took us out.
“So he’s your great uncle?”
I nodded as we stepped into the farmyard, and the boys walked us to the edge of the field, looking out towards the woods.
“Dad met him at a fair,” Frank said quietly, “apparently he’s decided to semi-retire, and we agreed to buy some of the livestock and equipment from him.”
“Hey there,” Mark said as he came out of a barn, dressed in overalls, “Cassie, Louise, I’ve got something to show you.”
We looked at each other as he went back into the barn – and then emerged, leading a horse out by the harness, Eric walking beside him.
“This is Trojan,” Mark said as he stroked the horse’s neck, “Dad bought him from Mr Smethurst, along with some other animals and equipment. Dad’s thinking of buying up these fields and expanding the farm, so we thought he might be of use then.”
“Besides,” Frank added, “Mum and Dad love horses – they grew up with them.
I was a little bit frightened, and I could tell Freddie was as well, but the three Cottrell boys seemed to be relaxed around it, and I even let Trojan sniff at me.
“Wait there,” Eric said, and he ran off, only to return pulling a big sleigh behind him. It looked as if it could seat three people, as he and Mark attached the sleigh to Trojan with some leather straps. Freddie and Frank then sat Louise and me in the sleigh, Mark in the middle as he held the reins.
As he flicked them, Trojan started walking, and we went out onto the snow covered field, giggling as we went over the ground and turned the corners. I’d never been in a sleigh before, and it was fantastic!
“Hmm – looks like we’ve got visitors coming,” Mark said, and as I looked over I could see three girls in heavy coats walking across the field. He directed Trojan towards them, and pulled up alongside as one of them looked through her glasses, and said “Hey Cassie, Hey Lou.”
“Patty, Rachel, Fiona,” Mark said as he nodded, “coming to see us or heading to Fiona’s place?”
“Both actually,” Fiona said as the boys ran over the field. “Nice sleigh – can we have a ride as well?”
“I need to get these two back,” Mark said as he looked at us, Rachel looking as well before she said “oh you’re kidding – you’re tied up today as well?”
“Most of the holidays actually,” Patty said as I nodded.
“Come on then – back to the yard,” Mark said as he set off again, the others following as we went through the gate and back into the yard.
“Do either of you want to go again,” Mark said, and I nodded but Louise shook her head. “All right then – Frank, can you keep Louise company,” he said as he helped her out, Frank nodding as he stood with her.
“Now, which of you wants to be first?”
“I do,” Patty said immediately, “but I want to be like Cassie – exactly like Cassie.”
“Ntppssbl,” I mumbled, but Eric took Patty into the house – and when she emerged a few minutes later, I saw the empty coat sleeves, and the scarf wrapped round her lower head – that was all I needed to know.
“Thssffnnnnn!” she called out as we set off – and that just confirmed it.
“Can I tell you both a secret?”
We nodded as Mark said “We’ve been charging people a couple of quid each for sleigh rides – I’d appreciate it if you kept the fact you got freebies under your hats as it were.”
“Wwwntssnfng,” I mumbled, realising the truth in that as well.
By the time we got back, I could see that Rachel and Fiona had also stepped inside, as I got out and sat next to Louise while Rachel got on. As they set off, we sat and gag talked while they went round the field, before they returned, and Patty and Rachel were helped off, Fiona and Freddie getting on.
As they set off, I saw how happy Freddie looked, and when they came back Fiona was blushing as well.
Louise then got on with Frank, and as they set off I saw him talking quite happily to her, without a care in the world. Obviously, he felt relaxed with Louise, and I was beginning to wonder if there was a little more than friendship developing there.
I turned my head as Patty said “Hlllncclljfr.”
“Oh, you’re all getting into the act are you,” Great Uncle Jethro said with a smile. “Anyway, just came to say goodbye Cassie – I promised your grandmother and your family I would join them for lunch today.”
He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, the lovely smell of a farm on him, before he said “I’ll tell them I saw you and you’re having a great time.”
“Fnnkuu,” I mumbled before he waved and walked off as Mark brought the sleigh back.
“Lunch in thirty minutes,” their mother called out, “make sure you rub Trojan down before you come in.”
“Yes Mum,” Eric and Mark said, rolling their eyes as they undid the sleigh and took it and Trojan back into the barn.
“Come inside,” Frank said quietly as we all went into the farmhouse, him and Freddie removing our coats and boots and putting the shoes back on me and Louise.
“The horse was amazing Mr Cottrell – and Mark is a very good driver,” I said as we all sat round the old wooden table for lunch.
“Well, we’ve been teaching Mark and Eric to care for and ride the horse,” Mrs Cottrell said, “and Frank is starting to learn as well. Trojan is a handsome beast though – your great uncle reared him well.”
“Trojan – he’s from the farm?” I remembered a couple of years ago when we visited Great Uncle Jethro’s farm, and a young horse that was running round the fields there. That must have been Trojan.
“Can we be excused chores this afternoon,” Mark asked, “we’ll make up for it tonight.”
“You’re all right boys – not a lot to do today anyway, so long as you rubbed down and fed Trojan.”
“We did,” Frank said, “so may we?”
“Of course,” his mother said, “what are you going to do?”
“Oh, nothing much,” Mark said with a grin, “nothing much...”
After we had finished lunch, and gone to the toilet, we went into the front room. Patty, Rachel and Fiona were wearing jeans and jumpers, as they all looked at me and Louise.
“Cassie,” Mark said, “as you are the Belle, you get to tie the other four up.”
“So what is it with the gowns,” Fiona said as I got to work.
“All holiday, I’ve been spending two or three days in different houses. I’ve worn a gown every day, and I guess the deal’s been wherever I’m staying, the girl who lives there has had to wear a gown as well.
“Well, not just then,” Mark said, “Suzie stayed at Louise’s place for a day or two, and they both wore gowns and were bound and gagged then as well. It was really funny when we did the carolling with them humming along.”
“I heard about that,” I said with a smile as I finished tying Patty’s wrists behind her back. The boys were also helping a little – Eric with Fiona, Frank with Louise, and Mark with Patty, just binding their wrists – I got to do the rest of the ropes.
Once they were nice and snug, and quiet as well, Mark took care of me, before we all sat down and they helped us to put our boots on. The coats and scarves came next, as well as our bonnets, before Mark led us out again into the courtyard, and across to the field.
As we started to walk across it, I was getting very nervous – it was obvious we were going to use the shortcut, but I’d not used it that much – and certainly not like this!
I’d been down the path last year when we first met the Cottrell family, thanks to Lisa and Charlie, but it looked so different, the trees stripped of their leaves except for a few evergreens, the snow crunching under our boots as we walked along. Sometimes we stepped on stones, which Frank said they’d put down in case it got too wet.
Freddie and Frank were at the front, and as I listened to them talking it became clear this had become a real playground for them and the younger girls – they talked about games of tag, hide and seek and running races, and I almost became a little jealous of them. I seemed to have too much homework now to do all that – but then I thought of Bobby, and I realised how lucky I was in other ways.
I was also surprised to hear Mum and Dad had used it, as had Lisa’s Mum and Dad, but I realised it meant they got some exercise, and it saved on an hour’s drive, so that made sense as well.
As we emerged onto the road, Mark and Eric caught up with us, and we walked as a group along the road, before going up to Lisa’s front door. Mark rang the doorbell, and smiled as Lisa opened it, wearing a black jumper and jeans.
“Hey you lot,” she said as she opened the door, “come on in. What brings you over here today?”
“Who is it,” Charlie said as he looked out from the front room, and then laughed as the scarves were removed from all five of us.
“Oh lord, is the holiday not over yet,” Lisa said with a laugh as Freddie opened my cat up and showed her the gown and ropes.
“One more day to go,” we heard Mr Williamson call through, Charlie shaking his head as he said “so where are you going after this?”
“Oh, here and there,” Mark said, “want to tag along?”
“Sorry,” Lisa said, “got to finish something for Monday. I’ll see you at school Cass.”
I nodded as Charlie said “oh, I’m coming – let me get my coat and shoes.”
As our coats were fastened up, and the scarves put back around our heads, Lisa held the door open for us and we went back outside, marched across the road and waited as Mark rang my doorbell.
Jenny opened the door, wearing a green top over a white long sleeved jumper and a matching skirt – and burst out laughing.
“Wthssfnneee,” Patty mumbled as she looked at my sister.
“Sorry, sorry,” she said, “come on in.”
We all walked in, and I was struck with how quiet the place is.
“Mum and Dad have gone with Granny and Great Uncle Jethro into town – the twins are having a nap. I take it they all are...”
“Ysmsmmm,” I said as we all nodded.
“Well, much as I’d love to have you all hang around, I’m...”
The doorbell went again, and as Jenny opened it Colin came in.
“Hey there – ah, we got company?”
“No – they stopped by to say hi, but they’re going now.”
“I know that tone of command,” Charlie said, “come on – we’ll leave them together.”
As we walked out, I saw Colin give Jenny a little kiss, and smiled under the scarf as we walked across the park, and over to Patty’s house.
“There you are,” Aunt Jessie said as she opened the door, “I was about to send out the search party for you. I take it they’ve been to your place, Mark?”
“They were indeed Mrs Pickering – sorry we didn’t call to let you know, but we had quite a few visitors.”
“So I see – and the scarves are just to keep the chill out of their mouths?”
“Well – they may be keeping something in there as well.”
Aunt Jessie nodded, and then looked at her watch. “Well, it’s going to be getting dark soon, so Patty and Rachel, you both need to come in now. You had better start heading back, before it gets too dark.”
“Ceeeunmnde,” Patty mumbled to Louise and Fiona, both of them nodding as we turned and walked back towards our house. Charlie waved goodbye to us as he went into his place, and then we headed back to the path.
It really was starting to get gloomy, and the woods looked different, greyer, a little more frightening as the three of us huddled together. The boys kept us safe, however, so that we walked across the field with a red stripe along the horizon.
“Inside boys – its dinner time,” Mrs Cottrell called out as we walked past, so Freddie took us to Fiona’s house, where her mother nodded as she went in, and then back to his home. As we went in, Mr Hobson looked out of the kitchen and said “dinner’s going to be another hour or so. You kids can go and watch television until then.”
“All right, dad,” Freddie said as he removed our hats, coats and scarves, and helped us out of our boots, before we walked into the front room and sat down. He put our shoes back on our feet, and then lashed our ankles and legs together before turning the television on.
“It was amazing Dad – I didn’t know they had a horse and sleigh now!”
We were sitting round the dinner table, totally free as we ate, and Louise was telling her parents about Trojan.
“Well, I knew he had plans to expand the farm, and they really are into the organic thing, so getting a plough horse makes perfect sense to me.”
“A plough horse?”
“That’s right Cassie – if Trojan is strong enough to pull three of you in a sleigh, then he is a working horse – and knowing the Cottrell family, he will be used to pull the plough across the field before planting crops.”
I nodded, although that honestly had never occurred to me. It should have – Great Uncle Jethro’s farm had one of those old fashioned ploughs – but even so...
“Listen,” Mrs Hobson said, “this is the last night of your visit, Cassie, and tomorrow is the last day of the holidays. Is there anything we can do to make this a really special last night?”
Looking at Louise, and knowing anything that happened to me was going to happen to her, I nodded and said “there is something, but you would need to do it, Mrs Hobson – and Mr Hobson would have to agree as well.”
“Oh?” Mrs Hobson looked at us for a moment, and then said “Oh – right, I get it. We can talk about it before you get ready for bed.”
“What are they talking about, mom?”
Mrs Hobson just smiled at us, as she stood up and started to collect the plates.
I was sitting on the bed, brushing my hair when Mrs Hobson came in.
“All right, Cassie, we have agreed to do this for you tonight – but Freddie is staying out of both your rooms, all right?”
I nodded as she held out two sponges, and said “all right – Louise is already in bed, so let’s get you ready.”
I’d put on a pair of blue pyjamas, hoping this would happen, as my hands became silver fists, before they were covered with a pair of white sports socks and the tops taped to my arms. Mrs Hobson then tied my wrists together behind my back, before passing the rope around my waist, and another band around my tummy.
“Ready,” she said as she tied off the double figure of eight rope around my forearms, and I nodded, holding my breath as the ropes were pulled around me above and below my chest, pressing down in that way I was really learning to like.
As she pulled the ropes tight behind me, I let out a little gasp.
“No – no that’s fine,” I said as she walked in front of me, and held a folded handkerchief up.
I nodded as she began to gag me – the cloth in my mouth... a chiffon scarf pulled between my lips... the white tape snugly wrapped around my head... The folded blue scarf tied over the band, and knotted at the base of my neck.
I sat down and watched as she tied my ankles and legs together, and then helped me to lie on my side, with my head on a pillow, before she went to turn the light off.
“Sleep well, Lady Cassandra,” she said as she closed the door, the room in darkness as my eyes slowly closed...
I had a really vivid dream that night – I dreamt that all of the girls – Jenny, Alicia, Mary and Cathy, Suzie, Pippa, Hazel and Claire, even the Terror Twins and their friends – were grown up, sitting in a circle, almost having a coffee morning – but with all of us secured by our waists and legs to chairs, while the boys served us. Each boy took especial care of one of us, while I could have sworn I heard younger children playing in the background...
Sunday 4th January
“Hey – good morning.”
I opened my eyes to see Louise standing there, as I sat up and she started to untie me. As she did so, I was actually feeling a little sad – this was it, the last day of the holidays.
“Cheer up,” she said as she removed the gag, “we still have today to go. Breakfast is ready whenever you are.”
Rubbing my wrists, I nodded and said “all right – let’s eat,” following Louise down to the breakfast table. Freddie was up as well, as we all sat down and had a cooked breakfast.
When I got to my room, there was a white bridesmaid’s gown laid out, complete with gloves and shoes, but I knew it wasn’t one of mine. I looked carefully at it, wondering where I had seen it before, especially as the white cloth roses at the collar were so striking...
And then it hit me. It was exactly like the dress worn by the bridesmaids in the film of the wedding of Bobby’s grandparents – Lord and Lady Holderness.
“They delivered it yesterday while you and the others were at the farm,” Mrs Hobson said in her lovely accent, as she stood in the doorway, “I think it will fit you, but try it on anyway.”
I was actually shaking as I put it on – and apart from the fact I needed the skirt pinning up a little, it really did fit me. As I put the gloves on, Mrs Hobson said “sit in the chair, Cassie, and let me fix your hair and things.”
So I put the shoes on, and then waited as my hair was put up onto my head, and Mrs Hobson put some make-up on me – and then gagged me, before I held my hands out and she started to work on my hands.
When I eventually walked downstairs with her, I found Louise in the front room, Freddie binding her legs before he folded back the hem of her dress. I recognised it as well – it was the dress she had worn as a bridesmaid at the wedding in November, and her eyes were smiling over the scarf tied round her head – the same colour as mine.
“Well now,” Mrs Hobson said, “tomorrow is a school day, and today is the last day of the holidays, so let’s make it a really special one. Frederick?”
“Frddrckk,” we both giggled as he blushed, and then turned the television on, while Mr Hobson joined us and we all sat down. I guessed what was coming, as we found a channel showing a Sunday service, and we all watched together.
Mrs Hobson told us how different these were from the church services in her home country – Freddie wincing when she mentioned the way some of the preachers talked. Ours were more sedate – but that didn’t stop us singing along with the hymns.
Well, humming and mumbling along was more the case, but you know what I mean. Eventually, however, the service finished, and Freddie switched the channel to the Disney one as his mum and dad went off, and he went to his room. Louise and I looked at each other as the programs started, and we settled back to watch.
It was about two o’clock when Freddie came in and said “Lunch is ready – come with me please.” We jumped onto our feet and hopped behind him, as he indicated two seats, with a third one between them, and helped us to sit in them before he removed our gags.
“Hey O brother of mine,” Louise said, “how about freeing our arms?”
“Oh no,” her dad said as he helped to carry in the food, a large piece of roast beef already out, “Freddie here is going to be helping both of you to eat today.”
“Really? Oh he’s never going to live this down,” Louise said with a giggle as Freddie sat between us, and his parents sat at the other side of the table. We waited until Mr Hobson had carved the meat for our plates, and Mrs Hobson had put some vegetables on, before Freddie tied two napkins around our necks and said “Gravy?”
This was even more surreal than when Bobby had fed me with the blindfold on – it somehow made it worse when I could see others, and others could see me.
Freddie was very careful – some food for me, some for Louise, and then some for himself, as Louise and I talked about what we would be doing at school next week, and their parents talked about other family things.
After the main course, we had apple crumble and custard, Freddie letting us drink through straws whenever we need to do as well, but when we had finished he used the napkins to wipe our mouths – and then proceeded to gag both of us again, before we jumped back through to the front room.
I thought Freddie was going to put the television on again, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw him with an iPod, which he tucked into the band of rope around my waist, before putting the earbuds into my ears and then switching it on.
I couldn’t complain about the band – so sue me, I like One Direction – as he turned the volume up until all I could hear was the music, and then tied a second white scarf over my eyes, blindfolding me and making it impossible for me to see anything.
So I sat there, listening to the music, with absolutely no idea what was going on – until I was suddenly lifted up and carried away by someone...
Whoever it was sat me down, strapped me in, and then I felt movement as we set off. That was all I knew of course – we were moving, he music blocking any other sound out, and the blindfold stopping me from seeing.
If it was who I thought it was, however, then I knew it would take a little while to get to our destination, so I just sat back and relaxed.
Eventually, I felt the car stop, and someone releasing the strap across my chest before they lifted me up. I was taken somewhere – and it took a little while to take me there – before I was sat down, and I felt more rope pulling me back against what I hoped was a chair back.
I then felt someone fiddling at the back of my head, as the blindfold was taken off. I blinked for a few minutes as the iPod was switched off, and the earbuds removed, before I looked round.
It was my bedroom – and Dad was sitting down on my bed in front of me, smiling as he said “welcome home, poppet.”
“Hllddd,” I mumbled as I looked round.
“Now, you sit there for a few minutes,” he said as he stood up, “I need to fetch a few things in for you.”
I watched as he walked out of the room, and then started to carry in some things. He started with all the gowns I had worn, all in plastic bags which he put in my wardrobe – and then he started to bring all my presents in. My Christmas ones and my birthday ones, placing them one or two at a time on my bed and then returning with more.
Eventually, he stopped and looked at me, before he started to remove the gag as I sat perfectly still.
“There,” he finally said as he eased the cloth out of my mouth, “welcome home, finally.”
“Dad,” I said quietly, “this has been the most amazing fortnight. Thank you, thank you so much...”
“Well, we wanted to make it special for you,” he said as he stood in front of me, “so what was your favourite part?”
“Apart from my birthday party, or Christmas day, or Suzie’s party?”
“Yes, apart from those parts,” he said as he looked at me.
“Well,” I thought for a moment, and then said “the carol singing. That dress was amazing, and to be able to go out with all the others like that. Then I heard Louise and Suzie did the same thing...”
“Yeah – I really need to thank Martin and Sam for sorting all that out,” he said with a smile. “Look at you, poppet – you’re not really my little girl any more you know.”
“Nope – you’re my beautiful middle daughter, and it really has shown over the last few days.”
“But how did you...”
“Took some planning, getting everyone to agree on dates and so on – but we all agreed this year, so long as it involved ropes, we knew you would be happy.
“Even if it meant you spent most of the holiday away from us.”
“Yeah – that was the worst part, when I had time to think about it,” I said as I wriggled round.
“Okay then – time to release you for the last time this holiday,” Dad said as he started to untie me, releasing my legs first and then my upper body, before I held my hands out for him to release them from the covers.
“First things first,” Dad said as I dropped the sponges, “take the gloves off, and go and wash your hands.”
I nodded as I jumped up and went to the bathroom – I need to go anyway – and did what I had to do. When I got back into the room, however, there was something I had to do first.
“Thanks Dad,” I said as I buried my face in his chest and hugged him, “for everything.”
“Hey,” he said as he patted my head, “you know I’d do anything for my girls.”
“Yeah,” I said as I reached up and gave him a kiss on my cheeks, “I know you would.”
“Well, go on – you haven’t really had a chance to look properly at any of your presents yet, so go right ahead.”
I nodded as I went over to my bed, and started to look more closely at all the clothes, books, DVDs and things. I picked up the gift from Bobby and was looking closely at it when I heard Jenny say “Yeah - she’s back.”
“Hey,” I said as I hugged both of them, “thanks – both of you.”
“Well, we figured you’d like it – and Suzie did as well. Her mum and dad did much the same thing to her – although we made sure you two were only in the same place when you had to be.”
“She told me about Christmas Eve, and Frank told me about it as well yesterday,” I said as I looked at a new jumper, and then at Jenny.
“Where was Cathy when all this was going on,” I asked, “I didn’t see her at all.”
“Ah – yeah, well, Cathy had other things on her mind,” Jenny said, “apart from spending time with Sam, that is.”
“Is she all right? The way you’re talking, it sounds as if something was wrong.”
“Oh no – nothing like that really, but you didn’t see her mums either did you?”
It suddenly hit me that was true – I hadn’t seen either of them for the fortnight.”
“Well,” Mum said, “that was because they’ve just adopted a little boy. He’s about six months old, and his name is Timothy – and they wanted to spend Christmas together as a family, so that he really felt part of it.”
“Oh wow – so Cathy has a baby brother now as well?”
“Something she’s still getting used to – but Ally and I are helping her out with that,” Jenny said with a smile. “Anyway, Granny is downstairs with the twins – so when you’re ready, get changed and come down.”
“This is going to be so weird,” I said quietly, “sleeping free in my own bed after the last few days.”
“I know – but you need to,” Mum said. “So, sort your presents out, get changed, and come down – I’ll sort some supper out for all of us.”
I nodded as I was left alone, looking at a makeup kit and smiling.
“Hello Cassy,” David and June said as I came into the front room, and they toddled over to hug me.
“Come here both of you,” I said as I sat down and lifted them up, one on each side of me on the couch, “did you both miss me?”
June nodded and said “where you go?”
“Oh I was visiting friends – but I’m home now,” I said as I kissed both of them. “But I’m home now – just in time to go to school tomorrow.”
“On which note – early night, both of you,” Mum said as she put some food down on the coffee table, “we’ll all eat in here – just let me go and get the plates.”
“Jethro said he saw you yesterday,” Granny said as she looked at me.
“Is he really selling the farm, Granny?”
“No – but he is scaling it back a bit. Remember he’s my big brother – he just thinks it’s time to take things a little easier.”
“The Cottrell’s are expanding their place – I met Trojan as well.”
Granny smiled as she said “I remember Trojan’s grandmare. Beautiful horse – and he’s a fine young horse as well. I think he’ll do just fine there.”
I nodded in agreement as Mum gave me a plate and a drink. “All right – dig in all of you.”
David wriggled off the couch and grabbed a slice of pizza as June sat with me, her head against me as she said “you’re back.”
“Yeah I’m back – and I’m not going anywhere for a while,” I said as I gave her another hug. “Come on – let’s get stuck in.”
Monday 5th January
“Definitely back to normal,” Mum said as we sat round the breakfast table. Jenny and I were in our school uniforms, while David and June were making short work of toast on their plates.
“Come on you two,” Dad said as he stood up, “we need to get going.”
“See you later Mum,” we both called out as we put our coats on, and followed Dad out, sitting in the back of the car as we set off.
“So what do you have today,” Jenny said as she checked her timetable.
“Double English and Geography, then Maths and Science. You?”
“Class project – I think. Depends how awake Cathy and the others are.”
“Out,” Dad stopped the car and we jumped out, waving him off as Jenny walked over to Alicia, and I joined Lisa and the others.
“So, ready to come back to reality, Your Ladyship,” Lisa said as she made a little bow.
“Oh yeah,” I said with a smile, “ready for anything...”