Girls Night in – Part 2
Sunday 27th December
“Thanks for inviting me to come with you today, Patty,” I said as I sat in the back of her mother’s car, heading from the church to where we were having lunch.
“You’ve never been to Alicia’s house, have you?”
“No – it’s not as big as Wissenden is it?”
“No – but it’s a nice house,” her mum said as we rode along. I’d been celebrating Christmas for the last two days – Christmas Day became a slightly different day, because we didn’t open our presents.
That was because we had a very, very special Christmas present that we brought home on Friday – my little brother, Christian Joseph Rigg, or Chris as we’ve all agreed to call him. I went with Daddy to collect him and Mummy from the hospital, and if I am being honest, we spent most of the rest of the day watching him in the little chair with Mummy while Daddy cooked a meal.
Then yesterday, we had the main part of Christmas – presents! I looked down at the blue jewel in the necklace, which Mummy and Daddy had given me, and smiled as I played with it. It was a lovely present.
Daddy had also said he and Mummy needed some time today – which is why I was in the car with Patty. We were going to have lunch with the Bowdens, and a friend of theirs from the USA was also coming with their family. I’d met Alice before, but not her parents, or her cousin who was apparently living with them now.
“All right, here we are,” Mrs Pickering said as we pulled up outside a large detached house, and turned the car engine off. Daddy had made sure I was wearing a nice new blue dress, while Patty had on a red one.
We got out of the car and walked quickly up the pathway, as the door opened and Angela smiled at us.
“Come away in – the others have already arrived,” she said as we took our coats off and hung them up, and then went into the front room.
“Hey – welcome,” Mister Bowden said as she stood up. “You know Alice of course, but this is her mother and father, and her cousin Tammy.”
Patty and I looked at the brunette teenager, who was wearing a white blouse and a knee length grey skirt, as she smiled and said “hi.” We both noticed the light brown tights she was wearing as well as her brown shoes.
“Tammy,” Alice said, “this is Patty Pickering and Rachel Rigg.”
“I hear you became a big sister the other day – that must have been exciting.”
“Yeah – are you...?”
“Nah – Alice is the closest I have to a sister,” Tammy said with a smile.
“Jack and Margaret,” we heard Alice’s parents say as they shook hands with Patty’s mum.
“So how are you enjoying the stay?”
“Very much so – some of our friends are coming over today, and we’ll all meet up tomorrow.”
“Ah yes,” Alicia said as she came in, “Cassie’s fourteenth birthday. It’s going to be a fun day. Mum says lunch will be ready in thirty minutes.”
“Well, that gives us time to have a drink – what would you like?”
“Not milk – I heard Mummy talking about giving Chris milk and...”
“TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!”
It was a lovely roast beef lunch, and we all talked about what we got for Christmas, and other things. We then sat around for an hour, letting things digest, before Alice motioned to me and Rachel.
We went outside to the hallway with her and Alicia.
“Listen,” Alicia said in a quiet voice, “Tammy has been slowly inducted into the games played here in the UK and the US, but she said the other day that she wanted to experience the full job – all the ropes.”
“All the ropes?”
“All the ropes, and the full gag,” Alice said. “She also heard that you two were coming, and that you were just as skilled as us, which amused her slightly.”
“Oh,” Patty said, with a dangerous edge to her voice, “it did, did it?”
“That’s right,” Alicia said, “so we’re going to ask her to go with you two, and you are going to do everything to her.”
“I just want to be clear,” I said as I looked at Patty, “all the ropes, and the full gag?”
“That’s right,” Alice said, “think you can do it?”
“Oh I think we can do it,” Patty said with a smile. “Where?”
“My room – top of the stairs, second door on the right. Everything you need will be in there.”
“Okay,” I said, “we’ll go and wait up there.”
As we walked up the stairs, Patty whispered “she did say ALL the ropes, right?”
“Yes she did – oh no Patty, are you thinking...”
Patty just nodded as we went into the bedroom, and then started to sort out what we needed.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and Alice showed Tammy in. “Have fun,” she said as she closed the door, and Tammy said “so – how does this start?”
“Can you hold these for us please,” Patty said as she gave Tammy two sponge balls, the American making fists and watching as I used the silver duct tape to make her fists into silver boxing gloves.
I then pulled a pair of white socks over her hands and up her arms, Tammy watching as Patty used the silver tape to secure the tops to the sleeves of her blouse. “Okay,” she said as she looked at them, “so I’m not going to be using my hands.”
“Why would you want to?”
“Point,” Tammy said with a smile as I crossed her wrists behind her back, and then held them while Patty used the first length of rope to secure her covered wrists tightly together.
“Okay,” Tammy said, “I concede you can tie a knot as tightly as the others.
“Oh we’re just getting started,” I said as I took another length of rope, and tied it round her waist, fixing her wrists to her back as I did so.
“I guess we move on to the ropes around my arms next, correct?”
“That’s right,” I said as I took one length of rope, and Patty a second one, and we used them to bind her arms tightly to her sides, mine going below her chest and Patty’s going above. She wriggled a little as we tied them, but as we both tied off the last knot she said “okay then – legs?”
“Legs – sit on the bed for a minute please, and we’ll take care of that.”
“I’m going to be here for some time, aren’t I,” Tammy said with a smile as she sat down, watching as I bound her ankles tightly together and Patty secured her legs. We took the rope around and between her legs, so that it was nice and snug, as she lifted her legs up and down.
“Okay – so is that all the ropes?”
“Nope,” Patty said with a smile, “but before we do anything else, we need to make sure you are really, really quiet. When you’re ready, open your mouth.”
We watched as Tammy took a breath, and then opened her mouth, staying still as I made sure the folded cloth sat safely in her mouth, and then Patty tied the knotted strip of towelling between her lips, Tammy closing her lips over it as she tied the ends at the base of her neck.
“Kkeethsssdfrtn,” she mumbled as I peeled the end of the roll of white tape free, and wrapped it round her head, before Tammy covered the white band with the duct tape. I then folded a white silk scarf, and tied that over the dual tape band, smiling as I knotted the ends together at the base of her neck.
“All right so far Tammy?”
“Lllcppp,” she mumbled as she looked at us,
“Now,” Patty said as she folded a second white scarf, “for the rest of the ropes, we have a tradition that we wear a blindfold. Ready?”
Tammy nodded as Patty tied the scarf over her eyes, and then motioned to me.
“They did say all the ropes, right?”
I nodded and then we walked back over, and helped Tammy to stand up.
“The first of the next batch of ropes,” I said as I loosened her skirt and watched as Patty tied a second rope round her waist, and then lowered it as she made sure it was tied in the same way we did once before to Alicia and Jenny. I heard her surprised grunt as Patty tied the ends to her first waist rope, and we made sure her skirt was back in place before we helped her to sit back down.
“Grlslswhtdddudd,” she said, and then she squealed as Patty tied a rope under her left shoulder, between her arm and her body as it pulled the two bands of rope together.
She then passed it to me, as I took the rope up and round the back of her neck, passing it back to Patty as she tied it round the ropes on the other side. Tammy started to wriggle round, and tried to say something – but when I tied the rope around her wrists again, fed it under the bands at her back and then tied it to the rope at her neck, I could have sworn she whispered “hggddnn...”
“One last thing to do,” Patty said, Tammy struggling a little as we helped her to lie on her side, and pulled her ankles back, making her grunt again as we tied her ankles to her chest ropes.
“And that,” Patty said as we looked at her, “is the full ropes.”
“Nnnpttetnnn,” we heard her say as she struggled, and then grunted again.
“We’ll send Alice up to free you in a little while,” Patty said as we left her in the room. As we closed the door, we heard her say “hmmgdgdddwhsspnnn,” and then walked down the stairs.
“There you are,” Alice said as we went into the front room, “Tammy all right?”
“I think so – we did the works, just like you asked.”
“All the ropes?”
“All the ropes,” I said with a smile as we sat down.
“That’s funny,” Mrs Pickering said as she sipped her tea, “was that a power surge?”
“I’m not sure,” Alicia said as she looked at the flickering lights, “but something’s going on?”
We could also hear the floor bump, as Alicia looked at us.
“Girls – just which ropes did you tie on her?”
“Every rope that we’ve used in the past.”
“Yeah – why?”
Which was the moment the lights blew out, and Alice and Alicia ran out of the room.
“What just happened,” Mrs Bowden said as she came in.
“I’m not exactly sure,” Alicia’s father said as she came back in, and said “Angela, can you come up a minute please?”
“Yeah,” Alicia said as she looked at me and Patty. “Patty, Rachel, could I have a word with you in the dining room please?”
“Is there something wrong,” Alice’s mum said.
“No, no – I want to check something with them about tomorrow...”
Alicia walked us quietly into the dining room, and then closed the door.
“What’s wrong,” Patty said with a look of perfect innocence.
“Okay – I just saw Tammy, and I saw how you had tied her. I thought Angela told you never to use one particular rope again?”
“She did,” I said, “but you said to use all the ropes.”
Alicia looked at us for a moment, and said “oh. Right. I did, didn’t I?”
“So we did – did Tammy like it?”
Alicia looked at us both, as the lights came back on. “I think she needs a little rest – but when she comes down, you will apologise to her in private. She felt the same way I did when you did that to me and Jenny.”
“You liked it too,” Patty said with a smile.
Alicia looked at both of us, and then said “Well – my bad, but don’t do that to anyone again, all right?”
We both nodded as we saw Angela come down. “Alice is helping her change – I said she could borrow some of her clothes,” she said as she looked at us. “Did you talk to them?”
“Yeah – I may be partially at fault. Alice and I told them to use all the ropes on her.”
“Ah – right,” Angela said as she nodded her head. “All right – they are going to apologise?”
We both nodded as we looked at them, wondering what we had done to apologise for.
A short while later, we saw Alice come down with Tammy, her cousin now wearing one of Alicia’s t-shirts and a pair of jeans. We left the room and said “we’re sorry if we upset you Tammy...”
“It’s all right – you just took me by surprise,” she said with a smile as I noticed her watch dial was a dull pink. “But next time, perhaps ask if someone is happy before they can’t speak?”
We both nodded as they walked back in. “I spilt some water,” Tammy said as Alice’s parents looked at her, “Alicia said she’ll get the clothes dried and returned tomorrow.”
“Well, okay then,” Alice’s mother said, “thank you Alicia.”
“What did you two do up there,” Mrs Pickering whispered to Patty.
“We just played a game,” she said as she smiled at me.
As we were preparing to leave, I heard Alice whisper to Tammy “Thank god you still had your watch on – we may have to explain a massive electrical problem round... Going home, girls?”
I nodded as I said “it was really nice to meet you, and I’m sorry if we upset you again.”
“Not a problem,” Tammy said with a smile, “it was fun if I am being honest.”
“We’ll see you girls tomorrow, probably,” Alice said, as we got our coats on and left with Mrs Pickering...
Monday 28th December
“And here comes the birthday girl,” Mum said as I came into the kitchen.
“Thanks,” I said with a smile as I sat down, and she passed me a bowl of porridge. It was a cold day, and I was wearing a pair of comfortable joggers and a matching sweat shirt, with long white socks pulled up over the cuffs of my legs.
“Hey there,” Jenny said from across the table, “happy birthday.”
“Thanks big sis – how did it go at Cathy’s last night?”
“Interesting,” Jenny said with a smile, “you haven’t met Tammy yet, have you?”
“I haven’t been to the Manor House, but I know she and Alice are coming for the party later.”
“Yeah, well she and Alice came at Alicia’s place for lunch with Alice’s parents – and the Tornado Twins were also there. Well, Tammy asked if they could do a full job on her, full gag, so she could feel what it was like.”
“Oh,” I said as Mum sat down with a mug of coffee, “so what happened?”
“Well, from what I understand it, Alice and Alicia told Patty and Rachel to use all the ropes.”
“All the ropes?”
I looked at Mum as Jenny nodded and said “yeah – ALL the ropes. Well, one thing led to another, and they tied her up, made sure she was fully gagged, and then – added some additional ropes they knew about.”
“Oh?” Mum looked at Jenny for a few minutes, and then said “OH. OH!!!”
“Don’t panic,” Jenny said, “Alicia and Angela spoke to both of them, and they apologised. The only reason they were found out was that somehow the fuse box blew out, and both Alice and Alicia went to see what had happened.”
“What am I missing in this conversation,” I said to both of them.
“Nothing,” Mum said as she shook her head, and then looked to Dad as he brought David and June in, and helped them to sit in their chairs.
“So, looking forward to a nice quiet morning,” Dad said as he sat down.
“I thought I’d open some cards, some presents, maybe head into town if I can...”
“Oh she is definitely growing up,” Granny said as she came in and took her coat off. “First thing she thinks of is if she has any money, can she spend it.”
“Not true,” I said with a smile, “although there is a dress...”
“Okay,” Dad said, “eat up, then let’s go into the front room and see what we may find in there.”
“Sounds good to me,” Mum said as she stood up, but I could see she was trying hard not to laugh.
“You are most definitely not telling me something,” I said as I looked at Jenny.
“Yeah, you’re right, I am,” Jenny said with a smile, “but one day you’ll find out. For example, One Direction are not the greatest boy band of all time.”
A little while later, I was sitting in the front room, making my way through the pile of cards that had been delivered – and a few more that came through the door while I was opening them.
I also opened the presents that were waiting there for me. Great Uncle Jethro, and my grandparents in Australia, had both sent me a cheque, which Dad took and said he would sort out later.
David and June gave me a new scarf – not a long woollen one, but a big shawl like Mum sometimes wears, in a soft blue tartan. They also gave me some vouchers to buy DVDs with.
I gave them both a kiss before Jenny said “hey – I hope you like this.”
I took the parcel she gave me, and opened it to see a new wool jumper. “Sure sign I’m growing up – I get clothes for presents.”
“Yeah, but nice ones – right?”
“It is actually,” I said with a smile, “thanks Big Sis.”
“Why don’t you open your presents from your aunts next,” Dad said as he handed me two big boxes. In one of them was a new outfit from Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo, as well as another cheque, with a note saying to sue it for something nice for myself.
Uncle Dave and Aunt Connie gave me a set of books on the subject of sixties music – I’d really got into it after seeing some programs – and also a set of CD’s, while my cousins gave me some makeup. How they chose the makeup, I suspect was a question Aunt Cassie could answer, but hey.
“You go next,” Granny said as Mum and Dad handed me one parcel – a big, thin one wrapped in gold paper. I opened it, to find a brand new laptop.
“It’s about time you had your own,” Mum said, “but the same rules apply as to Jenny. It’s meant to be for school work and maybe some music only – understood?”
“Yeah I got it – and thanks,” I said as I hugged both of them.
“As for my present,” Granny said, “you’ll have to wait until later. Trust me – it will be worth it.”
“Oh I trust you,” I said as the doorbell rang. Mum went to see who it was, and came back with Lisa and Charlie.
“Hey,” she said, “I hope you don’t mind, but Mum and Dad suggested we bring your present round now, instead of later.”
“Of course I don’t mind,” I said as Lisa handed me a parcel. Opening it up, I was surprised to see it was two things – one was a copy of the DVD of The Awakening, and the other was a book of costumes from the period of the film.
“Oh this is amazing – thank you,” I said as I hugged Lisa and Charlie, laughing as I saw how embarrassed he was at that.
“Listen – is it all right if I drag Cassie out for a little while? I thought we could go into town and let her spend some of her generously given birthday money.”
“All right – but remember she needs to be back here to change for her party.”
“Come on Mum – what could happen to stop me from...”
I watched as the entire room turned and looked at me.
“Okay, okay – I will be back in time, all right?”
“Hey – have you seen this?”
I went over to where Lisa was standing in front of a row of CDs, and looked at the one she had lifted out.
“Now that’s new,” I said as I looked at it, and then took one from the rack. “Have you found anything?”
“Got the Florence CD,” Lisa said as we walked to the counter and paid for our new music, before we went out into the street. I also had a new top which I had bought with some of Great Uncle Jethro’s money.
“Want to grab a bite to eat before we head back,” Lisa said as we looked at a cafe.
“Yeah, why not – I could do with a cold drink.”
“I don’t particularly like coffee – but a milk shake, that I can take,” I said as we went in, and ordered our drinks.
“So,” Lisa said as we sat down at a table, “what have you got Suzie for her birthday?”
“Oh – wondering what to get her?”
“We’re doing a family present for her,” Lisa said, “but you two are bestest friends, to slightly misquote our American friends. So what are you getting her?”
“Well, assuming it turns up,” I said with a smile, “a complete set of the Narnia books in leather. She requested that.”
“Fair does,” Lisa said with a smile. “Listen – Eric got me this wonderful scarf for Christmas, it’s pink and grey tartan. Do you think it will go with my dress?”
“The new one you got for your birthday? Sight unseen, it should do,” I said with a smile.
“That’s good – I want to show Eric how much I liked it. I overheard Charlie on the phone to Rachel last night – has Jenny said anything to you about an incident at Alicia’s place yesterday?”
I shook my head as I sucked the cold drink up through the straw. “Should I have?”
“No – no reason at all,” Lisa said with a smile. “Anyway, Having a good day so far?”
“Yeah – but there is a party this afternoon, and given past years...”
Lisa just smiled, and said “you worry too much – finish your drink.”
When I came in, Mum said “you’re cutting it a bit fine, Cassie – go and get changed please.”
“Okay mum,” I said as I went upstairs, and put my bags on my bed while I stripped off. Mum had laid out on the bed a light blue blouse and a knee length dark blue skirt, so I started by putting the skirt on, and then the blouse. I then went over to my wardrobe and took a pair of black knee length boots out, before I went to the jewellery box and took out a little silver pendant with a blue gem in it. I sat at my table and looked in the mirror as I fastened it round my neck, and made sure it sat so that Bobby could see it.
“Well now, who looks like a beautiful young woman today.”
I smiled as I saw Dad standing in the doorway. “Really?”
“Really – so, looking forward to your party?”
“Yeah I am,” I said with a smile, “so how are we going to get there?”
“Well, I’m glad you asked that question,” he said with a smile.
“Oh no,” I said with a whisper, “how bad is it going to be?”
“Relax,” Dad said with a smile as he rolled out a wide mat on the bed. “Why don’t you lie down for a few minutes?”
I looked at the carpet, looked at him, and then shook my head as I walked over and lay down on the bed. Dad smiled as he crossed my wrists on my lap, and then used a length of white silk ribbon to secure my wrists together.
“And this is?”
“The princess being taken to a new home,” Dad said as he took a second length of ribbon, and tied my ankles together, before he picked up my roll of the white tape and tore a strip off.
“This is it?”
“Oh no,” he said with a smile, “but this is the first part. Ready?”
I nodded and pursed my lips as he pressed the tape down over them, and then my vision was cut off as he rolled the mat over me, tucking it under my body before I felt him pulling the rug against my body. He kept the rug fairly loose around ym head, but I could feel the rug hugging my body.
I was then lifted up, and carried down the stairs – I could see the wall if I lifted my eyes up and looked out of the top – and then into the carriage, before I was put into the back of our SUV. I could hear Jenny and Mum putting the twins into the car, and then both of them.
“You okay back there, kiddo?”
I tried to mumble something, about the addition of two layers of rug over my already taped lips?
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Dad called out as he started the car, and we moved off.
After a while, I felt the car stop, and then heard the others get out, before I was lifted out and carried. After a few minutes, I was lowered down, and then I heard scissors as the rug loosened around me. I wondered what was going to happen next, when...
Ever see an old comedy film called Carry On Cleo? There’s a bit in there where Cleopatra is rolled out of a carpet onto the floor of a big palace. Well, substitute Holderness Manor for the palace, me for Cleopatra – and Bobby for the old guy, as I was rolled out of the rug to find myself at the feet of Bobby Holderness.
“Hey – nice of you to drop by.”
“Vrreefneeee,” I said as he picked me up and carried me to a couch in the library, sitting me down before he peeled the tape away, and then kissed me.
“Well, that was different,” I said with a smile.
“Happy birthday – although I hadn’t expected you to be the present.”
“Last year I was in gowns all the time – you don’t mind me like this.”
“To quote something I read recently,” Bobby said with a smile, “you could be dressed in sackcloth and I’d still think you looked beautiful.”
I looked at him for a moment, and said “say that again.”
“You could be dressed in sackcloth, and I’d still think you looked beautiful.”
Smiling I said “well, that goes a way, I guess. So anyone else here yet?”
“Yeah – but right now, I am under instructions to untie you and show you something. Come with me.”
I held my wrists out and watched as Bobby untied them, and then my ankles, before he took my hand and walked me out of the library, and down the corridor.
“What are we going to see,” I asked as Bobby opened the door. He was wearing a grey jacket and pants with a pale blue shirt, and I noticed his shoes were very highly polished, but all he said was “in here.”
“Ah there you are,” Granny said as I saw her theer with Lady Holderness, as well as a man I didn’t recognise. I could also see that a blue screen had been set up, with a couple of chairs in front.
“What’s going on Granny?”
“My present to you,” she said with a smile. “I’ve paid this photographer to do a studio portrait of you and Bobby, as a memento for both of you and also for us. So, if you will take a seat?”
I nodded as I sat down, and for a few minutes we followed his instructions, with him putting me and Bobby into a few poses and then taking photographs. Eventually, he said “and I think that will do it – thanks Mrs Craig.”
“Let’s go outside and discuss payment,” Granny said as Lady Holderness looked at us. “Happy birthday Cassie,” she said with a smile, “why don’t you two come with me?”
Bobby took my hand as we walked through another door – and found ourselves in the large hall, with all my friends and family standing there, shouting out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY CASSIE!”
I grinned as I came in, and went over to where Pippa, Hazel and Clare were standing in their party clothes. “Thanks for coming,” I said as I hugged them all, “have you been waiting long?”
“Nah – we only just arrived,” Pippa said. “How did you get here anyway?”
“By Royal Appointment – hey Alice!”
“And here’s the birthday girl,” Alice said as she came over with a brunette I had not seen before. “Cassie, I want to introduce you to my cousin Tammy. Tammy, meet Cassie Craig, the original fireball of this group over here.”
“Pleasure,” Tammy said, “you’re related to Patricia, right?”
“She’s my younger cousin,” I said, “I hear she had lunch with you at Alicia’s place yesterday.”
“Yeah – yeah she did,” Alice said as I saw Patty come in with Aunt Jessie. She smiled at me, then saw Alice and Tammy look at her, and quickly walked off in the other direction.
“Okay – what happened yesterday?”
“Hey Alice – so this is Tammy?”
It was fairly obvious I wasn’t going to get any more out of her, as Jenny took her to one side to meet Mary and Cathy.
“Okay – that sounded a little awkward,” Hazel said, “what did Patty get up to this time?”
“I honestly have little or no idea. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here.”
“So what is the plan for the party?”
“Nothing heavy, if that’s what you’re wondering. I think we may have a little fun later, but nothing heavy.”
“Yeah – I actually think that’s a good thing at the moment,” Hazel said. “Not that I don’t enjoy playing those games, but a nice normal teenage party would be nice as well.”
I smiled in response to that, as Claire giggled as well.
“All right everyone,” Dad said, “why don’t you get yourself something to drink, before I say a few words?”
I stood and watched him as he smiled and said “You know, I am incredibly proud of all my children, especially when I see my two oldest girls standing here, and the twins running a merry chase with Andy across the room.”
David and June stopped when they realised everyone was looking at them, Andy looking round as well as June said “sowwy...”
“Anyway,” Dad said as he shook his head, “today we’re here to help Cassie celebrate Cassie’s 14th birthday – and I want to say I couldn’t be prouder of her and the wonderful young lady she has become.”
I could feel my cheeks getting hotter as I blushed, and he said “so join me in a toast – Cassie.”
As we took a drink, Mum said “come and have a look at the presents that have come.”
As I walked over, I could see they had been incredibly generous – there were a lot of presents for me, from friends as well as Bobby’s family, a lot of them DVDs, CDs, make up – but when Bobby took me aside after a few minutes, and said “I have something for you, but I want to give you it in private,” I did wonder what he had got me.
“Okay Robert Desmond Holderness,” I said with a smile as he took me into the library, “why the secrecy?”
“Well, I... Okay, I didn’t want anyone else to see,” he said as he took a small box from his jacket pocket and handed it to me. When I opened it, there was a ring in there, with a little blue gem in the setting.
“Bobby, this is beautiful,” I said as I tried it on, “thank you.”
“You’re welcome – let me know when it needs resizing,” he said with a smile.
“I will, or start putting it on a chain,” I said with a smile, “let’s go and get something to eat.”
The party itself was certainly different – in past years, we may have played games, but instead Dad had organised a DJ, and we had a disco. And I have to admit, it was great fun just dancing, and chatting to my friends and family.
“All right then,” Dad said eventually, “I think we need a little harmless fun here. Mister Bridges – bring it in please?”
I watched as Mister Bridges opened the door to the room, and then came back with Mister Boyle, between them wheeling in a piñata hanging from a trellis. The whole room broke out laughing as Mum tied a scarf over my eyes, and I felt Dad put something in my hands.
“Wait a few minutes,” Dad whispered in my ear, as I heard some of the others giggling as well. I wondered who else was going to be taking part, but when Dad said “GO!” I just started to hit out with the stick I knew I had in my hand.
I heard it hit the donkey with a thud – and a lot of other thuds, as the cheering started from round the room. For my part? I was laughing as I kept hitting the donkey, before there was an even larger cheer as I heard whatever was inside fall onto the ground.
Reaching up, I took the blindfold off to see Patty, Jenny, Mum and my aunts all smiling, and a pile of sweets and other things on the floor.
“You’ve worked up a sweat there,” Bobby said as he handed me a drink. “Listen – Lisa and Eric wondered if we would like to go with them to the cinema on Wednesday, and get a pizza afterwards. Sound good to you?”
I nodded and smiled – it had been a good day after all.
“There you are,” Mum said as I came down to breakfast, “did you enjoy the party last night?”
“Yeah – thanks for dropping me off and picking me up,” I said as I poured myself some orange juice, “where’s Freddie?”
“He’s already gone out – you had a bit of a lie-in.”
I looked over at the clock, and realised it was after ten. “Fiona called – she wondered if you can meet up and go up to the farm with her?”
“Oh – why?”
“For Thursday – you’ve got another birthday party to go to, remember?”
“Oh yeah – fair enough then,” I said as I looked at Mum. She was holding her back, and gasped for a moment.
“Everything all right,” Dad said as he came in.
“Yeah – a kick,” Mum said with a smile, and then she groaned again.
“Sit down, I’ll make some coffee,” Dad said as Mum sat down, but I saw she was smiling.
“Anyway – Fiona?”
“Yeah – I’ll call her and tell her I’m coming once I’ve had my breakfast,” I said as I poured some cereal into a bowl.
“You’re going to meet up with Fiona?”
“She wants to go up to the farm, and then we’re going to talk presents for Cassie.”
“Good idea – listen, would you mind asking Frank’s parents if you could have tea there tonight?”
“I can ask,” I said, “what’s going on Dad?”
“Nothing for you to worry your cute little head about,” Dad said with a smile, “eat up, get going, and I’ll give you some money to get the present with.”
“Thanks Dad,” I said, looking at both of them. Something was definitely happening, but I wasn’t sure what.
“He actually gave you the money and asked you to ask them?”
“Yeah,” I said as Fiona and I walked up the road to the farm. I had put on a blue padded coat and my black boots, with a pair of jeans and a jumper, while Hazel had a pair of white trainers on with jeans, her black duffle coat over a fawn sweater.
“How’s your mum this morning?”
“She said the baby was kicking – why?” I looked at Fiona, wondering what she was thinking about.
“Oh nothing – nothing,” Fiona said as we went and knocked on the front door of the Cottrell farmhouse.
“Oh hi girls,” Mrs Cottrell said as she opened the door, “come on in. Freddie is in the front room with the boys.”
“Thanks,” I said as we went in, my smile broadening as I saw Frank sitting with Eric and Freddie.
“Hey sis,” Freddie said with a smile as the telephone rang, and I heard Mrs Cottrell talking. “I hear you want to go shopping later. Mind if we tag along?”
“I’d like that very much,” I said as I looked at Frank, who smiled and nodded. “What will you do while Fiona and I do girly things?”
“Oh I’m sure we will find something,” Freddie said as Mrs Cottrell looked in.
“Louise, can you and Fiona stay for dinner tonight?”
“Sure – we can get some lunch in town later. What about Freddie?”
“You as well,” she said with a smile, “Frank, your dad will run you all into town later.”
“Okay,” Freddie said as she closed the door, “what happened?”
“I have no idea – although...”
Any further discussion on that was stopped as Mr Cottrell looked in.
“Sorry, lads and lassies, but if we’re going into town we need to go in now. Get your shoes and coats on – I’ll give you some money for lunch, Eric.”
“Thanks Dad,” Eric said as Frank nodded as well.
“Where would you like to eat,” he asked as he put his shoes on.
“I don’t mind – if you don’t mind holding my hand.”
He smiled at that before we all went out to the car, and headed in...
“Do you think she’ll like the films,” Fiona said as we came back into the farmhouse.
“I’m sure she will,” I said as we took our coats off, and walked into the front room – only to stop as Freddie and Frank hand gagged both of us.
“You’re our prisoners now,” Eric said with a grin, as we looked at each other, “and we’re going to make sure you stay right here. Nod if you understand.”
Fiona and I looked at each other and nodded as we saw a folded cloth held in front of our mouths. “We’re going to keep you quiet first,” Eric said as the hands were taken away, and then the cloths pushed into our open mouths, followed by one of the boy’s ties as they were used as cleave gags.
“Hgrrrttdbltp,” I mumbled next as Frank tied a headscarf over my hair, covering it before he tore the end of a roll of duct tape free and started to wrap it round my head. As I looked over, Freddie had covered Fiona’s hair with a red scarf and tying it in place, before he took the silver tape and started to wrap it round her head.
Frank then showed me a roll of what looked like a black bandage, before he tore the end free. As he wrapped that round my head next, it seemed to stick itself in place like the medical tape.
“It’s called Veterinary Wrap,” Eric said as I watched Freddie start to sue a second roll on Fiona, “we used some to bandage Trojan’s leg when he injured it, and then we bought a few rolls for games as well.”
Whatever it was, it stuck and worked very well, as both Fiona and I looked as if we had a black scarf wrapped round our heads. We were then helped to sit down, and given sponge balls to hold as Freddie and Frank started to cover our hands.
Once the socks were pulled over her taped hands, our wrists were taken behind our backs, and we felt the rope as they were held tightly together. We then smiled under the gag – well, I did, bit difficult to tell what Fiona was doing – as our arms were secured to our sides, bands around our waists, tummies and shoulders.
I did wonder if any other ropes were going to be added, but when both the boys knelt in front of us, binding our ankles and then our legs below our knees.
“Right,” Eric said with a smile, “watch them both while I go and do something.”
“Frffnmmsswfflnnt,” Fiona giggled as she looked at me, and then at Frank.
As I turned my head, I saw him typing something on his phone – which meant he had something to ask me. I watched as he smiled and put the screen in front of me.
WILL YOU BE MY PARTNER FOR SUZIE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY?
I nodded as he smiled – and then put his phone down, before the two of them started to tickle me and Fiona!
Why oh why do they wish to take advantage of a poor defenceless hostage? Anyway, this time we were having none of it, as we got to our feet and jumped towards the open door.
As we went out into the hallway, we saw the front door was open, and we still had our boots and shoes on, so we jumped down the hallway and out of the open door, almost knocking Mark over as he was standing there taking off his wellington boots.
“Hey – are you following them,” Mark called out as we jumped across the yard, Frank and Freddie following as quickly as they could.
“Hopefully – they got away from us,” I heard Frank say as we jumped over to the stables. Trojan was sticking his head out of the door, and we stopped for a moment to rub our heads against him.
“There they are!”
I heard Frank call out, and both Fiona and I started to jump towards one of the barns. As we went in, I swear we were looking for somewhere to hide from the boys.
What we didn’t expect to see was Eric sitting with Lisa Williamson, who was wearing a grey fleece and jeans with white trainers. Her arms were pulled behind her back, and given the twine we could see holding her ankles and legs together, I guessed her wrists were secured in the same way.
It was the fact that she and Eric were kissing each other when we came in, and as he suddenly turned his head we could see the edge of a piece of cloth between Lisa’s lips.
“Hmmm,” she said as Eric quickly took a roll of plaster from his pocket, tore off a strip and placed it over her mouth. “Oh... Hi... Lisa and I were just...”
They both blushed and nodded as Frank and Freddie came in. “There you two are,” Freddie said, “what was... Oh, hey you two.”
“Frank, Freddie” Eric said, “What are you doing?”
“Well, we were holding the girls hostage, and then...”
“They got away?”
“Something like that,” Frank said quietly.
“Well, why don’t you take them back into the house, and make sure they can’t do that again? Lisa and I will be along later.”
“Come on,” Frank whispered as he held my arms, and we started jumping back towards the farmhouse. We passed Mark, who said “have you seen Eric anywhere?”
“The large barn,” Freddie said, grinning from ear to ear as Mark went one way, and we went the other.
“Why did you tell him that,” Frank whispered, “he’ll never forgive us?”
“His lookout,” Freddie said as we were helped back into the house, and then made to lie down on the floor of the front room, before our ankles were pulled back and secured to our chest ropes.
“Now then,” Freddie said, “what were we doing?”
Well, this time there was no escape, as they proceeded to tickle the life out of us. I have no idea how long it went on for, but I do know it was torture – until Mister Cottrell looked in and said “untie the girls, boys – dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you for the lovely dinner Mrs Cottrell,” I said as I pushed my pudding plate away.
“You’re welcome,” she said with a smile as she gathered the plates up, and there was a knock on the front door.
“I’ll get it,” Mark said as he stood up, and then came back with Dad.
“Hey,” he said as he came in, “I hope they haven’t been any bother today.”
“Not at all,” Mrs Cottrell said.
“Good – Louise, Freddie, could you get your coats please? I need to take you for a drive.”
Frank’s parents looked at him, before Mister Cottrell said “I’ll make sure Fiona gets safely home.”
There was that feeling again I was missing something, and it was clear from the look on Freddie’s face he didn’t know what was going on either, but as we went to get out coats I heard Frank’s mum saying “how is she...”
“Why have we come here Dad,” Freddie said as Dad parked in the large car park outside the hospital.
“Well, I want you to come and meet someone,” was all he said as we walked into the front entrance, and down the corridors which smelt of pine and flowers. We walked through a set of double doors, and then into a room which had four beds in it.
“There you guys are,” Mum said from one of the beds, “have you had a good day?” She was wearing her dressing gown over a nightdress, and smiled as we both came over to hug her.
“Are you all right Mom,” Freddie said as she looked at him.
“Of course I am – and so is Betsy.”
I then looked at the other side of the bed, where Dad was standing over a clear plastic box. No, not a box – a bed with clear plastic sides, and in the bed was a baby girl, with a pink hat on her head.
“Oh my,” I said quietly as I walked over, “is this...”
“Your baby sister,” Dad said quietly, “come and say hello Freddie.”
We both looked at her as she waved her arms around, her eyes tight shut.
“Now, I need to stay in hospital for a couple of days, while something heals up,” Mum said, “so you need to do what your father says, and say sorry to Suzie’s mum and dad that I won’t be able to make the party on Thursday. Can you do that for me?”
I just nodded – I was too busy looking at Betsy, and falling in love with her already...
Terminal 5 at Heathrow is never the quietest of places, but during the holiday season it is always packed and busy – so as I stood there with Mister Bridges, yawning, I wondered again why I had volunteered to do this.
And then I remembered – it was meant to have been Grandma, but she had to take care of something at the Manor House. It couldn’t be Mum and Dad, because they were playing host to the girls until later that night.
So it was going to fall to Uncle Alex and Aunt Susan, but they had rung the house at five this morning to say something had happened, and they wouldn’t be able to make it. Which left me – but at least someone else had been able to come.
“There you go,” Eddie said as he handed me a coffee, “how much longer do you think they’re going to be?”
“Who knows – we’re talking the joy of UK Passport Control and Customs here, after all...”
“I do believe that is them now, Miss Angela.”
I looked in the same direction as Mr Bridges and nodded as the four travellers appeared. Amy Strong was wearing a black coat over her body, her black boots visible underneath, while Dorothy Elsworth had on a camel greatcoat and brown fur boots. As they pushed the trolley along, Heidi and Cindy waved at me. Heidi had her blonde hair at shoulder length again, and wore a brown leather bomber jacket, jeans and knee length boots, while Cindy had a black leather jacket over a grey jersey dress and black cloth boots.
“Welcome back to the UK,” I said as Eddie and I hugged them both, “how was the flight?”
“Don’t remember much of it, if truth be told,” Amy said, “we all slept from takeoff to landing.”
“Right then – let’s get you out to the car, and then get you to the manor house,” I said with a smile, “Alice and Tammy are looking forward to seeing both of you.”
“How’s Tammy enjoying her holiday?”
“Well, she’s certainly had a few experiences,” I said with a smile, “especially at the hands of Patty and Rachel.”
“Oh, what happened?”
“I’ll tell you back at the Manor House.”
“No kidnappings this time, right?”
“Not this time,” Eddie said, “I promise you. Just climb in, sit back, and enjoy the drive...”
As we arrived at Holderness Manor, I saw that Alice and Tammy were waiting outside.
“You made it,” Alice said as they embraced Heidi and Cindy, “how are the others?”
“Doing well – we have something from Nats for you,” Heidi said as Mister Bridges took their bags in, and Grandma came out to meet Amy and Dorothy.
“Welcome back,” she said, “Sarah and the others are in the library. Why don’t we all join them and have some coffee?”
“Sounds good to me,” Dorothy said as we went into the library. As we came in, Sarah and Margaret stood up and hugged the new arrivals.
“So where are Jack and Brian,” Amy asked.
“They went into town with the twins,” Sarah said, “to give the rest of us a chance to catch up. Ah – thank you Mrs Bridges.”
“Never has a cup of coffee been more welcome,” Cindy said as she took a cup. “So, what do we need to catch up on?”
Tammy and I looked at each other, before I said “we’ll tell them about that later. Did Mum and Dad call yet?”
“They did,” Grandma replied, “the girls have almost competed the thing they needed to do for tomorrow, and then they are going with Andrew to buy his present.” We heard the telephone ring, before Mrs Bridges came in and said “Mrs Holderness for you, Ma’am.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Grandma said as Dorothy sat next to Sarah. “You look rested as well – no bad dreams?”
“Absolutely none,” Sarah said with a smile.
“I’m glad to see you and Tammy are getting on,” Heidi said quietly.
“We all do,” Amy said, “and we’re supporting her all the way.”
“Look, why don’t we head up the stairs after this coffee – the five of us can talk before lunch is served.”
I looked to the door as Grandma came back in, smiling broadly.
“In a way, but not for Mrs Bridges. She will need to go to Wissenden tomorrow to help with the party arrangements.”
“Why,” Margaret said, “what’s happened?”
“Rebecca Boyle gave birth to a baby girl this morning – they’re calling her Sandy.”
“Sandy Boyle – that’s a nice name,” Heidi said as we sat in the playroom. “So what happened that you could not talk about downstairs?”
“Well,” Alice said, “we had dinner just after Christmas at Angela’s house, and they had some other guests – Patty Pickering and Rachel Rigg.”
“The tornadoes? Well, that’s what Cassie calls them,” Cindy said with a smile.
“Well,” Alice said, “Tammy had said she wanted to experience the full deal in terms of the binding, so we asked them to use all the ropes on Tammy, and see if she could get free.”
“Okay,” Cindy said quietly, “so I presume they used all the ropes.”
“Oh yes,” I said, “ALL the ropes.”
I watched as Heidi and Cindy looked at each other, before Heidi said “Oh lord no – how would they even know?”
“A while back, Jenny and Alicia were babysitting them, and I turned out Patty had managed to see me and Eddie – playing, and...”
They looked at Tammy, who nodded and said “it was an – intense experience. Turns out there are some things my watch can’t control – apparently, I managed to fuse the entire block when my struggles... Well...”
“Okay, I got the message,” Heidi said as she tried not to laugh. “I have some experience of it – I suppose we should be glad you were dressed...”
“Oh believe me, I was glad as well,” Tammy said with a smile. “I mean, looking back, I can see why it could be enjoyable, but where I’m concerned, probably something to avoid at the moment.”
“Well, given what happens to Sarah...”
Tammy looked at me before I said “oh believe me, I know as well. And Chloe and Brian.”
“How do you...”
“That is definitely a story for another time,” I said as I stood up – and then fell onto a beanbag as the four of them tackled me.
“Hey, what’s going on,” I said as Alice and Tammy folded my arms behind my back, while Heidi and Cindy tied my wrists to my elbows, and then my forearms together, before I was allowed to sit up.
“A favour for a friend,” Heidi said as Alice crossed and tied my ankles tightly together, while Tammy secured my legs together below my knees. “You may be skilled, but we have youth and numbers.”
“All right, all right,” I said as Cindy and Heidi lashed ropes around my upper arms and chest, “so what is the game plan?”
“For you to be quiet – open wide now.”
Well, I had figured I was going to get the full treatment, so Alice out the cloth in my mouth, Tammy the knotted towel strip, Heidi the band of white tape round my head, and Cindy the folded black scarf.
“Oh who said anything about it being any of us tickling you,” Alice said, “come on girls – we’re going down to the lake.”
“Ucnttlfmhrrlkthsss,” I called out as they left the playroom – and then, a few minutes later, I saw the door open.
“Well now,” Eddie said as he came in, “why would the girls have left you like this, hmm?” He then held up my mobile phone, and I suddenly realised I had put something else in today.
So when the first message came, I giggled, knowing what was going to come...
“Chloe asked me to say hello as well,” Heidi said later that afternoon, once Eddie had finally let me go and I had had a chance to change. “She said something about the wedding will be next year?”
“That’s her warning me – she asked me a while back to be her Maid of Honour. I’ll let mum know.”
We were walking around the lawn while the others were talking to Grandma and Grandpa. Heidi looked down to the trees, and said “I know I said it earlier, but I’m glad you accepted Tammy. She’s a good kid really – just had a rough time of it until...”
“Until she tied me and Alicia up, and ended up becoming part of Alice’s family?”
“Well, when you put it like that – yes,” Heidi said with a smile. “It’s funny isn’t it?”
“Our families – yours, mine, Jenny and Cassie’s – all of us seem to have become stronger because we’ve all been through the same experiences.”
“Are you growing up Heidi Strong?”
Heidi looked at me and smiled as she said “do you know, I am very much afraid I may be.”
As I opened my eyes, I could see it was still dark – but looking at the clock by my bed, I saw it was nearly eight, so I got up, put on my dressing gown, and went down to the dining room.
As I went in, I saw the breakfast things out, as Mum brought through a mug of coffee and said “good morning Birthday Girl – and how are we feeling this morning?”
“A year older,” I said as I sat down and poured myself a glass of orange juice, “nobody else up yet?”
“No – apart from Mister Boyle. I saw him briefly, he’s gone into town to collect a few things for Sandy.”
Sandy – Sandra Hannah Boyle. I had come down to breakfast yesterday to see Mister and Mrs Boyle leaving, and Dad told me the time had come for their baby to arrive. When Mister Boyle had come back later, Dad and Mum had congratulated them, and then he had called their parents.
Mrs Boyle was going to come home with her later, so Mrs Bridges was coming over to help with things this afternoon, before we went to the Manor House for the New Year’s Party.
There was another reason I was glad – because of what happened at the end of February. Mrs Boyle had been expecting then when – well, we don’t like to talk about it too much. So when she told us again in April, we hoped everything would go well – and it had!
It does seem to be the time of year for birthdays – I know in my maths class the teacher once told me that you only needed 23 people in the room to have a better than fifty-fifty chance two of them had the same birthday, but still – look at the facts. Cassie and I have our birthdays within a few days of each other, and now we have Chris Rigg, Betsy Hobson and Sandy Boyle with their birthdays at the same time!
Anyway, as I sat and drank my juice, I heard giggling, and looked round to see Dad carrying Luci in, placing her in her high chair as he said “good morning Suzie – and how are you feeling today?”
“I’m good Dad – can I get some cereal Mum?”
“Help yourself – any sign of our older son getting out of bed?”
“Someone call,” Robert said as he came in, rubbing the back of his head. He sat down and poured some cereal into a bowl, and then milk on that, before he started eating.
“Well, seeing we are all up, I’ll do some scrambled eggs on toast,” Mum said as she went back to the kitchen. I know we have Mister and Mrs Boyle to help with the place, but something told me Mum was happy to be back in charge of the kitchen.
If only for a little while.
As we heard the sound of eggs cracking, Dad said “we may have a few things for you in the front room, young Suzanne – but we all eat breakfast first, all right?”
“Sure dad,” I said with a smile as I poured milk onto my corn flakes, “I can wait...”
I was having a party at the hall in the afternoon, and then we were going on from there to the Manor House for the New Year’s Party. It wasn’t going to be a huge affair – really just family and friends. But it would be a long day and night, so I was glad Mum cooked us all a really big breakfast, which we all enjoyed.
“Right then,” Dad said as we stood up, “let us see what may be waiting for the birthday girl, shall we?”
We all headed into the main room, where I could see some presents and cards on the coffee table. Mum put Luci into her chair, as I sat down and said “so where do I start?”
“Wherever you want to,” Mum said, so I started with some envelopes. I had quite a few cards, especially from my great aunts, but what really took my attention was one from the US.
“Who’s that from,” Bobby said, as I opened it and looked at the card.
“It’s from Jannifer and her family,” I said with a smile. “Funny – I was expecting one from Heidi and Cindy?”
“Probably going to arrive in the post later,” Dad said with a smile. “Why don’t you open your presents.”
I nodded as I started to open my presents from the family. Mum and Dad had bought me a new outfit – a lovely dark blue dress, which I was looking forward to wearing that night. They had also bought me a new pair of shoes, while Bobby gave me a new necklace.
Luci gave me a present as well – some Amazon vouchers, which I knew I could make use of.
“Is it all right if I give your our present now Miss Suzanne?”
I looked up to see Mister Boyle standing in the doorway, along with Samuel who was holding a silver parcel.
“Hello Sam,” I said with a smile, “have you seen Sandy yet?”
“Uncle Abe took me to see him last night,” Sam said, “but she wanted to make sure you got this.”
He handed me the parcel, and I opened it to see a new makeup box.
“It’s wonderful – thank you.”
“Right – I have to go and collect Rebecca and Sandy,” Mister Boyle said with a smile.
“And you need to go and get washed and changed,” Mum said to me. “Remember some of the girls are coming over early for lunch.”
“I hadn’t forgotten,” I said as I headed up the stairs.
Once I had showered, I put on a red jersey dress and a pair of red shoes, before I went back downstairs. Going into the front room, I saw it was empty, so I sat down and turned the television on.
“I was going to watch the Edinburgh Tattoo,” I said as I looked at Bobby. “Want to sit with me?”
“Nah, you’re welcome to it,” Bobby said with a smile. “So what do you think of your birthday so far?”
“I’m enjoying it,” I said with a smile. “You’re not planning anything, are you?”
“Moi? Nah – I have to behave myself today after all.”
He sat down and hugged me before he said “I can’t say the same thing about anyone else, mind you.”
“What do ummnhmmgdddBRRNNNNN!”
“Surprise,” Brian Hampton said as he pushed a folded cloth into my mouth, and then pressed a length of brown sticking plaster over my lips. “Why don’t we make you nice and comfy before the others arrive?”
Well, at least he meant what he said – he took my wrists behind my back and tied them together with some cord, and then tied my ankles, but that was it, as he sat next to me and cuddled me.
“Hadn’t you better get ready for the others,” he said as he looked at Bobby.
“Oh there’s no hurry,” he said as he stood up, “plenty of time for that. Have fun, you two.”
As Bobby went out, Brian smiled and said “I got you a little something.” He reached down the side of the couch and picked up a small gold box, opening it to show me a silver necklace with a little cross.
“Fnkkuu,” I mumbled as he cuddled me again – and I heard the front doorbell. Mum walked past and opened it, before she said “good morning Mrs Bridges – thanks for coming this morning.”
“Well, it’s a special day all round isn’t it,” I heard her say as she looked in. “Morning Master Brian, Miss Suzanne. Take good care of her now, all right?”
“Oh I intend to,” Brian said with a smile as I saw Bobby go to the door – and then Cassie say “good morning, Bobby, where is...”
That was it for a few minutes, and then I saw her walk in with Bobby, her mouth covered with a piece of fabric plaster, and her hands behind her back. Cassie was wearing a knee length blue pleated skirt and a blue blouse, with her hair pulled back, and I could see she had some new shoes on as well.
“Tllmmwrntlkthsslldd,” she mumbled as she sat next to me, and Bobby tied her ankles together.
“Ehhpnt,” I mumbled as Bobby sat on the other side of her, and we watched the late morning film together.
“Oh god – already?”
“Oh hi Lisa,” Bobby said as Lisa looked in, “don’t worry, it’s nearly lunchtime, and we’re going to free them.”
“Btttmm,” I said as Brian freed me, and Bobby freed Cassie.
“Thanks,” she said with a smile as we looked at Lisa. She was wearing a black roll neck sweater and grey trousers, as well as black ankle boots.
“So, had a good day so far?”
“Can’t complain – who else is coming for lunch anyway?”
“Apart from us three? I’m not quite sure. Alicia and the others aren’t coming until this afternoon, so it won’t be them.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to make do instead.”
Now, I knew Alice and Tammy were over – I’d met them on Christmas Day – but they hadn’t told us about who else was going to be there. I turned round and ran over, hugging the dark haired girl in the blue jersey dress as I said “why didn’t you tell me?”
“Surprise,” Cindy said as Heidi took her coat off and handed it to Mum. “It’s becoming an annual get-together, isn’t it?”
“No Nats or Jannifer?”
“Not this time,” Heidi said as she hugged me, “Just the four of us – so happy birthday, Suzanne. Now, where’s the youngest member to the family?”
“Here she is,” Dad said as he came in, Luci looking round and smiling as she saw the new arrivals. Heidi was wearing a white blouse and black leather trousers, Alice a blue pinafore dress with a grey jumper, and Tammy a grey v-necked sweater over a white top and smart jeans.
“Lunch is ready,” Mrs Bridges said as she looked out from the dining room, “if you girls would like to come in?”
“So come on,” I said as we walked in, “tell me all the gossip...”
We were sitting in the main room, having a drink after dinner when we heard Mister Boyle come in.
“We’re in the main room,” Mum said as she stood up, “why don’t you both come in here?”
“Well, it’s three of us,” he said as we heard the door close, had then he carried in the car seat, putting it down so we could all look at her. She was wrapped in a blanket, with a pink hat on her head, and smiled as she looked at us.
“How are you feeling,” Mum said as she hugged Mrs Boyle.
“Tired, but so happy she arrived safely,” she said with a smile as Mrs Bridges went to answer the door again.
“Oh my god – you’re back!”
“Hey,” Mister Bridges said as he hugged Mrs Hobson, “and is this Betsy?”
“This is indeed Betsy,” she said as Mister Hobson put a second car seat on the floor, the second baby looking up at us.
“You must both be very proud,” I said as I looked at Louise and Freddie.
“Stunned, if you want the honest truth,” Freddie said quietly.
“Oh my – Freddie Hobson kept quiet by a girl? Whatever next.”
“What the...” Freddie looked up as Heidi, Cindy and Alice came over, hugging and kissing both of them. “What are you three doing here?”
“Visiting friends of course – Tammy, meet Freddie Hobson. He was in the same class as Jannifer’s sisters before he moved over here. Freddie, Tammy is Alice’s cousin – she lives with them now.”
“Pleased to meet you,” he said as he nodded at Tammy, before Brian and Bobby took him by the arm.
“Come on,” Bobby said, “you can help us with anything that comes for the birthday girl.”
“Come on,” Mum said as she stood up, “mothers with me. We’ll leave the kids to sit and talk while the others arrive.”
“Thanks Mum,” I said as Louise sat with us. “Our present’s here,” she said as she handed me an envelope, “sorry, but we kind of got sideline before we got anything else.”
“That’s fine – thanks,” I said as Heidi whispered “sorry about our card not turning up – we left it in the hallway.”
Well, I had to see why it was left in the hallway – so I went out, and then stopped as I saw it attached to a clear clothes bag, inside which was an off the shoulder party dress.
“It’s from all of us,” Cindy said as she put her arm round my shoulders, “I hope it fits.”
“It’s beautiful,” I said with a sigh as I looked at it, and then the doorbell rang again.
“Well, there’s the birthday girl,” Alicia said as she came in with Andrew, Uncle Simon and Aunt Anne.
“Angela will be along later – she wanted to do something with Eddie first,” my cousin said as Andrew held up a bag.
“This is for you Suzie,” he said very quietly.
“Why thank you,” I said as I knelt down and kissed him on the forehead, giggling as he went red, “would you like to come and meet Betsy and Sandy?”
“Yes please,” he said as I took him by the hand, Bobby taking the bag from me, and we went in to see the two small babies.
“Hello,” he said as he waved at them. “Are they sleepy?”
“Yeah, they’re still sleeping,” Mrs Boyle said, “I think she’s had a long day already.”
I looked up to see Rachel and Patty standing there with their mothers. They both had on blue party dresses, while Mrs Rigg also had a car seat in her hand.
“Well, I see this is a real gathering,” she said with a smile as she came over, and sat the seat next to the other two. “So who do we have here?”
“This is Betsy,” Louise’s mum said, “and this is Sandy. And you must be Chris.”
The baby boy opened his eyes and looked up, waving his mitten covered hands round.
“Three babies in the place? I’d better get the bottles warmed up.”
“Or we can all retire to the library,” Mum said as the doorbell went again, “and leave the younger ones to their fun.”
I went to the door to greet Fiona and the Cottrells – they had driven over together, and I had to stop myself from giggling when Frank walked quietly over and took Louise’s hand, both of them looking at Betsy.
“Happy birthday Suzie,” Fiona said, “so what’s the plan for this afternoon?”
“A nice quiet party with no games – of that type,” I said with a smile as some more of our friends from school stated to arrive – and I saw Jenny and Colin slip in with her parents.
When Mum and Dad had asked me what I wanted for my party, I said I just wanted a chance to have fun with my friends – all my friends, so Dad had booked a mobile disco to come and play for the party, while Mum and Mrs Boyle arranged a buffet tea for us. So the mums made their way into the library, the dads disappeared somewhere, and the rest of us got down to the serious business of having some fun.
Even Bobby and the boys were behaving themselves – although I think that might have had something to do with the girls. Which left the question of Patty – fortunately, I had a solution to that,
And I smiled as said solution walked in with Granny Jacobs.
“Hi there little one,” she said as she hugged me, “happy birthday.”
“Thanks, Gran,” I said as Patty felt someone tap her on the shoulder, and then turn round.
“Surprise,” my cousin said as he hugged her, “so, I hear there might be a chance to dance – want to?”
“Well, she’s a happy girl now,” Granny Jacobs said, my smiling and nodding in agreement before Brian dragged me onto the dance floor as well.
“I demand at least three dances with the birthday girl,” he said with a grin, “starting now.”
This is how the next hour and a bit passed – like greased lightning, with me either dancing or talking with friends. Eventually, however, Mum said “if everyone can stand to the side, we have something for the birthday girl.”
I wondered what was going on as someone – I guessed Cassie – tied a scarf over my eyes, and then I heard someone wheeling something in. Mum then said “on three everyone – one, two, THREE.”
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear Suzanne,
Happy Birthday to YOU!
“What is it,” I said as the blindfold was removed, and I saw both Angela and Eddie, standing either side of a large birthday cake. On the top was written “Happy 14th birthday Suzie” in big letters.
I smiled as Andrew came over, along with David Brown and the Craig twins, while Eddie handed me a large knife.
“Go on,” Angela said, “you cut the first slice, and then we’ll divide it up amongst everyone.”
I smiled as the others got their phones and cameras out, and started to take photos of me as I cut the cake, before Mrs Bridges took the cake away, and Mum said “everyone, feel free to help yourself to the buffet.”
We all stood to the side as the younger generation went first, Rachel and Louise following as they said they would get something for their mums.
“Having fun so far?”
“I am actually,” I said as I turned to see Cindy beside me. “I know it’s the first year we haven’t all been dressed up, but...”
“We’re all getting older,” Cindy said, “although we need to consider the fact that someone has a very important birthday coming up next year.”
“Who... OH,” I said as I looked at Heidi talking to Alicia. “When?”
“A couple of month’s time – our mums are talking to your mums, and beyond that, I know nothing,” Cindy said with a smile.
“Come on – let’s go and get some cake.”
After about five, people started to drift away from the Hall, me thanking each and every one of them. Heidi and her friends were among the last to go, waiting for Mrs Bridges to come out as Cindy said “we need to go and change – see you in a little while.”
“Got it – I need to get cleaned up as well,” I said with a smile as Bobby and I waved them off, and then we looked at Mum and Dad.
“Right – have you two had enough to eat?”
We both nodded as Dad brought Luci through.
“In that case, both of you upstairs and get cleaned up first. Your clothes for tonight are hanging up in your wardrobes.”
Mister Boyle went to talk to the DJ as we went up the stairs, and I took off my clothes, sitting on the bed and smiling for a moment before I grabbed my dressing gown and went to have a shower.
A few minutes later, I came out, a towel wrapped round my wet hair, and then went back to my room, putting on my clean underwear before I dried my hair off, first with the towel and then a dryer, making sure I kept it as waved as possible.
Once I had finished, I went to the wardrobe and looked at the dress I was going to wear. I had, despite what a lot of people may think when they usually see me, given a lot of thought to what I was going to wear this year. I did have second thoughts when I saw the beautiful dress the girls had given me today, but I had made my mind up.
It was a dark blue silk dress, in the style worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – sleeveless, and coming down to my knees. I had also put on some dark pantyhose, and I had sitting on the floor a pair of black shoes with a heel on them. It had taken a lot to persuade Mum to let me get them, but in the end she had relented.
Before I put them on, however, I sat at the dressing table and very carefully put on some red lipstick. I then took the locket Brian had given me and put it round my neck, before putting in the earrings.
Finally satisfied, I sat on my bed, put on my shoes, and then put on a pair of elbow length dark blue gloves that Mum had loaned me. Standing up, I took a deep breath and went out of my room, walking down the stairs and going into the main room.
“Oh my,” Mrs Boyle said as she saw me come in, “that does look good, Suzie.”
“Thanks – and I’m glad everything went well Mrs Boyle.”
“Well, Luci seemed to be very taken with Sandy,” she said as Bobby came in, saying “whoa!”
I turned to see him standing there, in his tuxedo, the black bow tie round the neck and under the collar of the white shirt, and smiled as I saw him standing there.
“Do you know how much you look like Dad in that,” I said as he checked the cuffs of his shirt.
“Me? Suzanne Holderness, have you had a look at yourself in the mirror lately?”
“In my room – why?”
“Come with me.”
We both went out to the hallway and looked in a large mirror which was hanging on the wall, Bobby standing behind me as he put his hands on my shoulders. I looked in the mirror – and suddenly realised we weren’t the kids in jeans or shorts and t-shirts who ran around the place any more.
“Any particular reason you two are looking in the mirror?”
We turned round to see Mum coming down the stairs, wearing a short sleeved grey dress, and carrying Luci who was wearing a pink dress and tights.
“Oh my,” she said quietly as she looked at me, “do we have to start calling you Suzanne all the time now?”
“I hope not,” I said as I smiled, “but I guess we are growing up, aren’t we?”
“Not too fast, I hope,” Mum said with a smile. “Your father will be down in a few minutes, so why don’t you come and give me a hand with Luci. Bobby, would you make sure the coats are all out please?”
“I’ll take care of it Mum,” he said as he went to the closet.
It was dark as we drove up the road to Holderness Manor, but we could see all the way – someone had lined the road with braziers, the fire burning bright in each of them as we drove to the front and parked the car.
“Welcome Master Alexander, Miss Susan,” Mister Boyle said as we walked up the stairs, “if you would put your coats in the library, the crèche is upstairs in the playroom, and the others are gathering in the main room.
“Thanks,” Dad said as we took our coats off, “Suzie, why don’t you go up with your mother and make sure Luci is settled, and then join us?”
“All right Dad,” I said as Mum and I walked up the stairs, and I knocked on the door of the playroom.
“Hey there,” April said as she opened the door, “bring her in.”
As we came in, I saw that Andrew was already here, as was Danny Brown and June and Daniel Craig, the four of them playing on the mats. Janey, Danny’s sister, was sitting in a chair, playing with a set of rattles over the top.
“You’re in charge in here then April?”
“Me and Mike,” April said as she indicated a young man who was playing with the others. “Luci will be safe up here – why don’t you head down and join the others?”
“Come on, Miss Holderness,” Mum said as she took my arm, “tonight, you dance with the grownups.”
We headed down the stairs and into the main hall, as I looked round and said “wow...”
“Hey,” Cassie said as she came over. She was wearing a yellow silk dress, with capped sleeves and a knee length skirt, dark hose and white heels, and I was surprised at how mature she looked as well.
In fact, all my friends did, and I have to say from the way we looked at each other, we were all thinking the same thing. Lisa was standing with Eric Cottrell, wearing a black sleeveless dress and high heels, while Pippa, Hazel and Claire were all wearing brightly coloured silk part dresses.
“You look fantastic,” Brian said as he walked over – and I have to admit, he looked amazing as well. Like Bobby and Colin, he was wearing a tuxedo, with a white shirt and black bow tie.
“Thanks, so do you,” I replied as he kissed me on the cheek. Looking round, everyone was in their finest clothes – Alicia was with Jenny and the other older girls in a corner, all of them wearing evening dresses as well – with a slightly shorter skirt, but still...
Even Patty and Rachel were wearing dresses – and as they stood with Tommy and Charlie, it was amazing how much older they looked, with their make-up and hair done up.
“Want to dance?”
I looked at Brian as the small band started to play, and nodded as he took my hand and led me out onto the dance floor. He looked so handsome as we started to waltz, the others joining in, and my mind started to drift away...
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the dance floor the Bride and Groom.”
They stood round the edge of the large hall, clapping and cheering as Brian held my hand, and led me onto the dance floor. He looked wonderful, in his grey morning suit, shirt and tie, his shoes so highly polished I could also see my face in them.
Not that I was looking at his shoes – I was looking at him, smiling as my veil fell down the back of my neck, covering my hair. I could see Mum and Dad smiling broadly at the side of the room as Brian whispered “Shall we dance, Mrs Hampton?”
“I thought you would never ask Mr Hampton,” I said with a smile as the music started, and we began to dance, Cassie and Bobby coming on after us, then Mum and Brian’s father, Dad with his mother...
I looked up at Brian as he said “something you want to share?”
“No – not yet,” I said as the music stopped, and we all clapped. At the side, I saw Louise had arrived, smiling as she chatted with Frank while Fiona talked to Freddie.
The evening seemed to pass in a blur, as we danced and talked. The boys were especially attentive to Heidi and the others – all four were wearing cap sleeved dresses, with matching gloves and shoes, while their mothers wore cocktail dresses, as did Sarah. Brian and Jack, Alice’s father, looked about as comfortable as Frank did in suits and ties, but the one thing that made me really happy?
Grandma and Granddad – he was standing proud, albeit with his stick, and smiling as they talked to each other and to the other guests. Right now, they were talking to Cassie’s Aunts – both Jo and Cassie Senior were wearing long gowns, with evening gloves, both smiling as they looked round.
I turned round to see Bobby and Cassie standing there with Brian.
“It’s getting close to midnight,” Bobby said, “and we need you to come with us?”
“The special dance?”
Brian nodded as we made our way to the library – finding Patty and Rachel in there with Tommy and Charlie. They had already crossed their gloved wrists behind their back and tied them together, and were securing the ropes around their waists.
“All of us?”
“Sure – we just got to you first,” Bobby said, “but this year, your partners will be taking care of you, so Brian?”
“If you will cross your wrists behind your back,” Brian said with a smile – a smile I returned as I pulled my gloves up, and then felt the rope as he started to bind my wrists together.
As I looked to the door, Frank, Eric and Mark Cottrell came in, bringing Lisa, Louise and Mary with them. “So you get to join us this year,” I said to Mary as the rope was passed round my waist.
“I’m not the only one – I saw Samuel talking to Cathy as well,” Mary said.
“Guys, remember,” Bobby said as he wrapped rope around Cassie’s stomach and arms, “this and shoulders only – NOTHING else. Understand?”
“Got it,” Frank whispered as he tied Louise’s wrists together, and then whispered something into her ear, Louise giggling as I felt the rope around my own upper arms and shoulders.
“Well, here we are again.”
I nodded as Alicia, Jenny and Angela came in with Martin, Colin and Eddie.
As I nodded, Brian held a folded cloth up in front of my mouth, and I allowed him to push it in, smiling as he tied a knotted strip of towel between my lips, and then wrapped the white tape over my mouth and round my head. The other were soon the same way as me – folded silk scarves covering the white band of tape around our heads, chosen to match our dresses, arms and wrists secured, a band of rope securing our legs together above our knees, and another holding our ankles together, with a length between them so we could shuffle along.
“If we are ready,” Dad said as he looked in, all of us nodding as he held the door open, and Eddie led Angela out first. We followed them in order of age, the others clapping and cheering as we walked in and took our place on the floor.
For once, I didn’t mind the fact that not everyone was like us. I was enjoying the moment, as Brian held me, and we started to dance, everyone applauding as we made our way round the dance floor, Brian holding me close as I smiled under the gag...
As the music stopped, Grandma said “Will you all come out to the patio please?”
“Allow me,” Brian said as he put his arm round my shoulders, and we walked outside, joining the others as we looked up at the sky.
“And in 5... 4...”
We all listened to the countdown, before Grandma said “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”
We all cheered – well, a muffled shout from some of us – before the sky was lit by a fireworks display, all of us watching as Brian hugged me.
“Happy new year, Suzie.”
I looked at the other girls and nodded – this was going to be a good year...