The Last Day of Summer


How I Spent My Summer

By Suzanne Holderness

When the summer holiday started, I thought it was going to the most boring time possible - stuck with my cousin Alicia all day in the same house. I love my Grandma and Grandpa, but the thought of having to play games with a girl two years older than me made me feel icky. And as for big cousin Alicia, I think the fact her dad’s not going to be the next Baronet made her a little bit standoffish, even with me.

As I discovered, however, it was actually the most fantastic time I have ever had - and it was all thanks to some new friends that I made. The first was a girl called Heidi that Alicia had been writing to for a few years. Grandma Holderness had offered to pay for her to come and spend the summer with us, so when this bright eyed girl with short blonde hair and a funny accent turned up with Alicia on the first day, I liked her immediately.

Alicia had been in a funny mood the last few times I saw her, ever since her house was robbed, but Heidi seemed right at home when we met at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, She told me all about her friends in the USA, and how she lived there, but she kept the best secrets for later - and it was two new friends that helped her to reveal them.

I met them on the second week of the holidays, when their grandma, Granny Craig as Grandma said to call her, brought them to Holderness Manor where Grandma and Grandpa live. When they came into the playroom, I looked at the first girl. She was the same age as me, with long blonde hair, but she smiled as she told me her name was Cassie and we started talking.

The other girl, her sister, was called Jenny, and it turned out she knew Alicia. I got the feeling they were not real friends, especially when I told them what Grandma had said about something that happened to them just before the holidays started.

That was the beginning of the greatest summer ever.

Cassie told me what had happened to them, and I asked if they could show me what it was like - to be tied up. Cassie tied my hands behind my back, and then to my waist, and followed up by tying my ankles together. I actually liked it - a lot, but when I asked Alicia if she wanted to play she said no. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was stills cared after what had happened to her.

So Cassie tied Jenny up, and then Heidi tied up Cassie. It turned out she was something of an expert - we heard all the tales later. That day, however, took a really special turn when we got free, and Jenny and Cassie showed Heidi how they had been tied.

Alicia had slipped out while they were doing this, to see when lunch was, but she came back with a man dressed in black, with a mask covering his head. He had kind eyes, and a nice smile, but he was actually a robber, who had come to steal some of Grandma and Grandpa’s things. He was a nice man, though, who joked as he examined Heidi, and the proceeded to tie all four of us up the same way.

The really funny thing was that Cassie was encouraging him, so that by the time her left all five of us were on our tummies, with ropes so securely tied around us that we had no chance of moving. We could not talk either - our mouths were stuffed with cloth, a strip if very strong sticking plaster over our lips and a scarf tied so tightly over that it pressed into my cheeks. We could not move our heads either =- the scarf was tied so that we could not do that.

I should have been scared, but I wasn’t. Cassie wasn’t, Jenny wasn’t, Heidi wasn’t. Ali - Alicia was a little scared, but there was nothing she could do about it. We were like that for a while, before Mrs Bridges, who looks after the house for Grandma, found us and freed us.

After that, nothing about the holiday was the same. As we talked downstairs, I saw Alicia talking to Heidi, and almost every day after that I spent at least in part tied up and gagged.

It turned out Alicia asked Heidi top teach her how to tie up someone - at the time I thought it was because he wanted to beat her own fears. She needed someone to practice on - and that someone was me. The only time that did not happen was the once or twice a week we spent with Jenny and Cassie at their house. Otherwise, Alicia would practise tying my arms and legs together as Heidi watched and gave her hints.

At first she wasn’t very good, but I played along. She got better however, so that before long I would be like a salami on the bed, unable to move or talk as she gagged me with scarves, with tape, with plaster - with just about everything.

I asked if I could tie her up as well, but she kept saying no. Heidi saw that as well, so when Alicia would be busy with Grandma in the afternoon she started to teach me a few tricks as well - and I found a willing practice partner in Cassie when we spent time at her house.

She was great, willing to let me tie her as she tied me in all sorts of ways. And she even allowed me to practise on her, so that I got pretty good at it, even if I say so myself.

I was even there when Mister Craig found out about the games. I would be petrified to tell my parents, but he just told us it was all right if we asked permission first. He even tied us together, to show he was good at it as well. Then Jenny turned up, and he tied her 0- and then Mrs Craig. Granny Craig joined in as well. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to go. It was only the next week that I heard all about the amazing day they had spent with their parents and granny.

Mind you, the weekend they stayed with us was just as amazing, if only to see big brave Alicia have the most amazing hissy fit. She had tricked Heidi into challenging Jenny to an escape contest, after she had tied Cassie up and Jenny me. What made it even more exciting was that we were all dressed in our best dresses - Grandma and Grandpa had invited the Craigs to come to dinner, and I asked if it could be a more formal one. I really wanted to see Cassie’s wedding dress.

Anyway, once we were all bound and gagged, with lovely white tape over our mouths and heads, Alicia just let rip. She called Jenny and Cassie all sorts of names, and accused them of making me one of them, of not honouring the Holderness name, and more sins than I had heard of at High Chapel. I mean, I am proud of being a Holderness, but this was too much.

Fortunately, Grandma showed up and made Alicia stop, after which she cried and cried and cried. I think she had been keeping a lot of things to herself, and they all came out that day. Once she had stopped, Grandma and Granny Craig told Heidi, Cassie and me to hop to our bedroom for the night. That was a new experience - I had only learnt to do that that night - but I got very good at it very quickly. When Jenny and Alicia eventually tried to join us, we hopped right past them and headed downstairs for supper.

That night Grandma told us the legend of the Holderness Shadow - a real family ghost story. I didn’t believe it - not then, but we all had a good night’s sleep and then went for a picnic the next day, where we were gagged and played all sorts of games, until it was time for them to go.

After that Alicia was a lot nicer, and we all played the games with each other, taking turns to tie each other up rather than me been the dummy every time. We also played more openly at Grandma’s house - it turned out she and Granny Craig used to play the same sort of games as well.

Last week we went to dinner at the Craig house - well, that was the plan, but instead we walked in on a gang of men who had tied up and gagged not only Jenny, Cassie and Granny Craig, but also Mrs Craig and their aunts, Miss Craig and Mrs Brown. We were marched upstairs, but the gang thought it would be enough to tie our wrists and ankles, and gag us with one strip of tape. After the training Alicia and I had this summer, and all the experience of Heidi, Jenny and Cassie?

Twice w escaped, twice they tried to bind us tighter, until eventually they gave in and tied us a securely as the grownups. I was tied to Alicia, but as we sat there I could have sworn I saw a shadow move in the room. I thought of Grandma’s story, but it just could not be true - could it?

Anyway, Grandma eventually came to the rescue, and we learnt a whole new set of secrets about the Craigs. I can’t write them down here, but let’s just say they have as much history as we in the Holderness family do. I also saw how brave and fearless Grandma is, and how much fun it can be with Cassie - even if the others were a little upset. Miss Craig gave me a big hug anyway.

So that’s how I spent my summer - mainly tied up and gagged, but also making great new friends, learning new things and discovering my cousin isn’t that bad a person. It’s coming to an end, though - I start school again next week, and Heidi leaves this weekend to go back to the USA. I hope I get to see Cassie and Jenny regularly after this, but I still have to ask Grandma and Grandpa, not to mention Mother and Father, about that.

Still, it has been a great time.

“Suzanne? It’s time for supper - come down please.”

“Coming Grandma,” I called from the room as I looked at what I had written in my diary. I really did wonder what would happen if I handed this in as my holiday homework, but I had that essay already written.

I was spending the night at the Manor - tomorrow was Friday, and then I had to go home for school. As I locked my diary and hid it in my bag, I wished Heidi and Alicia were there that night as well. They weren’t - Uncle Simon and Aunt Anne had taken them out for a farewell dinner for Heidi. So I was here, on my own, with Grandma, Grandpa and Mister and Mrs Bridges for company.

At least tomorrow I would get to see Cassie - we had an invitation to spend the day with them.

I put on a green dressing gown and a pair of slippers and walked down the stairs. Granma and Grandpa were in the front room drinking from a cup as I sat down and Mrs Bridges handed me a mug of cocoa.

“You need a good night’s sleep, Suzanne,” Grandma said as she looked at me, “We have an early start in the morning.”

“Very well, Grandma,” I said as I sipped my drink, the warm liquid helping me to feel very very tired. I wanted to be bright and awake for the visit tomorrow - Cassie had promised big surprises.

I gave Grandma and Grandpa a good night hug, and made my way up to my bedroom, taking off my dressing gown and slippers and lying on the bed in my white nightie. As I drifted off to sleep, I wondered what the next day would bring...


I felt the light rather than saw it, and opened my eyes to see what was going on. It was still dark, but there was indeed a bright torch shining in my eyes. Before I could say anything, however, I felt a gloved hand been placed over my mouth, and heard a voice that sounded like Grandpa saying “Sit up and keep quiet.”

I did as I was asked, and felt my hands been taken behind my back, something sticky and stretchy been wrapped round my wrists as I felt them been ted tightly together. The hand was taken from my mouth, but before I could say anything a strip of something was pushed down over my mouth. IT took me a few minutes to realise it was the brown fabric plaster, as it held my lips tightly together.

Whoever was shin the light in my eyes stood back as I was made to stand up, and my dressing gown put over my shoulders. They made me walk out of the room, down the corridor and the stairs, and out into the night air. I could see a thin strip of red on the horizon where the sun was starting to come up, but before I could look at it the side of a van opened up and I was helped inside.

Grandma and Mrs Bridges ere sat by the side of the van, looking at me as I was made to sit next to them and my ankles taped together with the brown tape. They also had their hands behind their backs, and their ankles taped, with a die strip of plaster over their mouths.

Whtsgnngnnn,” I mumbled to Grandma, but she just shook her head. As I looked where her eyes were looking, I saw a woman sitting there, dressed in a black jumper and trousers with a balaclava over her head. She put her fingers to her lips as I heard an engine starting and we were driven off - somewhere.


As the van moved down whatever road we were travelling on, Grandma put her head on mine and moved it from side to side, to show she was all right. She was wearing a long lime green nightdress with a woollen cardigan over her arms and shoulders, and smiled as I looked past her at Mrs Bridges. I had no idea why she was here, but she was, her toes wriggling as she looked down her dark blue cotton pyjamas. She looked at me and winked as well as the van turned a corner, and we continued on our way.

I wanted to say something, and more than anything I wanted to know who this strange woman was. She said nothing, however, just sat there and watched us as the van slowly came to a halt, and we looked at the side as the door opened.

The two men who had brought me down the stairs were standing there, dressed like the woman in black with masks over their heads. “We need to move them quickly,” the man who had spoken to me said, “We’ve had word that others are on their way.”

Others? I said something like “whtfrss” as I was picked up and carried out of the van. I caught a glimpse in the dawn of a large set of doors before I was carried in and down some stairs, into a large cellar. There were a set of mattresses set in place there, and as I was laid down on one I noticed that three other girls were already there, dressed in their nightclothes. Their wrists were also crossed and taped together behind their backs, as I could see from the way they lay, and their ankles were taped together. As I looked closer, and saw the long black hair that fell down the neck of the one nearest to me, I realised just who they were.

Lsha?” I said, and sure enough Alicia turned over and opened her eyes to look at me. She was wearing a pair of blue silk pyjamas, and as she saw me lying there she crinkled her face up and mumbled “hlosqrt” under the plaster strip over her mouth.

At that sound, both Jenny and Heidi rolled over and looked at me. They too were wearing blue silk pyjamas, so I wondered just how long they had been here and who had given them these clothes.

I heard the footsteps on the stairs again, and looked to see the two men carrying grandma down. Looking at Alicia, I saw that she had rolled back over and was waving her hands at me. That was when I saw the fabric plaster holding her fingers together, and realised the others were the same.

Mtoooo,” I mumbled, and as if to answer the masked woman came over and unfastened the dressing gown over me, rolling me out of it before she started to wrap the plaster around my hands, forcing my fingers together. I liked the feeling, but I still wanted to know how long the other three had been here.

As Mrs Bridges was carried down, the woman walked over to Grandma and taped her fingers together, and then Mrs Bridges. They then smiled as they looked at the six of us and walked off, leaving us alone.

Hlgrls,” Grandma said to the other three, “gdnggt?”

Ysfnks,” Heidi said as she sat herself up. Slptwl.”

Gddd,” Mrs Bridges said as she slid herself up and looked round. Ndsdstng.”

I was amazed they were taking it so well - until I realised that Grandma and Mrs Bridges may know something we don’t. “Grdnmmwtsgngnn,” I mumbled, but before I could answer that there were more heavy footsteps on the stairs and I saw a masked man carrying Cassie down in his arms.

She was wearing a long white nightdress, and when she turned her head and looked at me I could see she was also gagged with a wide strip of brown plaster over her mouth. Now, we could all of us have pushed this off eventually, but for now we were content to see what happened as Cassie was laid out on another mattress. She turned and looked at me, saying “mrngszzze” as I looked at her taped ankles.

There were two sets of footsteps on the stairs, and this time I saw Mrs Craig been escorted down the stairs. She was wearing a blue dressing gown, and I could see the hem of a nightgown underneath. Her hands were behind her back, and I could see a strip of plaster over her mouth as well. Looking at Cassie, she rolled over to show me the socks which covered her hands, and the tape that held her wrists tightly together.

Hveagdnntttgrls,” Mrs Craig said to the other three as she saw them sitting up. They all nodded as they watched her ankles been taped tightly together, and then the two masked men walking out of the cellar. Mrs Craig looked round and then sat back. I could see she had been to the hairdresser, and her hair was cut into a short bob now.

Grandma looked round the room, but before she could say anything the door opened again, and this time all five of our captors came down, escorting between them Granny Craig, Miss Craig and Mrs Brown. They were all wearing night clothes as well - Granny Craig had on a black sleeveless nightgown, Miss Craig a strappy top and shorts made from cream silk, and Mrs Brown a pair of red cotton pyjamas. I could see as they walked past that they too had socks on their hands, and their wrists taped together with the brown plaster. Each of them also had a headscarf tied tightly over their hair, covering their heads as they were each made to sit down on a mattress and their ankles taped together.

Wlwltgngslhrrr,” Granny Craig said as she looked at all of us. Whndthegtu?”

Tsmrnng,” Grandma replied as she nodded over. Ndu?”

Brkfst,” Granny Craig said, and I suddenly realised that I was hungry. As I looked round, I saw Cassie slide off her mattress and wriggle over on her bottom towards me, forcing herself to sit by me as she looked round the room.

Whstfr,” she said as she nodded in the direction of the mattress she had moved on. I wondered what she was talking about, but when I looked over I got the point - there were two spare mattresses there. I looked round the room, then said to Alicia “Lshe - s njelplng?”

Nnnnn,” Alicia said as she shook her head. I could see she was unsure as to what was happening as well, until we heard new footsteps on the stairs.

This time two women came down, carrying a blonde haired girl between them. The heels of their boots clicked on the metal stairs as they came down carefully, one holding her arms and the other her legs. They were dressed as the others were - black jumpers and pants, with balaclavas over their heads. I thought it was quite exciting - especially as I had figured out who the others mainly were, but I had no idea who these two were or the mystery girl.

The girl herself was about the same age as Alicia, Heidi and Jenny, and was wearing a dusky vest top and knee length shorts. She was barefoot, but I could see rope bracelets around her left ankle and right wrist. She also had a blindfold over her eyes, as well as the brown plaster strip over her mouth, but she seemed happy enough as she was placed on the mattress. Her ankles were obviously taped together, and from the way her arms went behind her back I presumed her wrists were as well taped as the rest of us.

I looked round the room again - we had six adults, in the form of Grandma, Mrs Bridges, Grandma Craig, Mrs Craig, Miss Craig and Mrs Brown, and six kids - me, Cassie, Jenny, Alicia, Heidi and the mystery girl. As I sat wondering what was going to happen next, and sorta glad there were no shadows around, a voice came from out of nowhere.

“Welcome, ladies and girls, to Capture Court. You have all been brought here to show your skills and prowess, and to enjoy yourselves as well as amuse us. Breakfast will be served - as soon as you have managed to free yourselves. When you are freed, make your way up the staircase to the dining area.”

I recognised the voice - it was Grandpa, and that meant that this was all part of the game. I looked at Cassie, Cassie looked at me, and we turned our backs to each other, looking over our shoulders as I tried to grab the sock over her hand with my taped fingers.

Grandma and Mrs Bridges had a similar idea, but in their case, Mrs Bridges was trying to peel the tape away from Grandma’s fingers. I looked over to see Granny Craig trying to free Mrs Craig, Miss Craig rubbing her cheek on the shoulder of Mrs Brown, and Alicia and Jenny rubbing their faces on the mattresses.

What was really intriguing me was Heidi. She had not taken her eyes off the blindfolded girl since she had been carried down, her head cocked to her side as if she recognised her, but was not sure. Eventually she slid off her mattress and scooted across the floor on her bottom, making her way over as the mystery girl rolled from side to side.

Mgggggphwoar - that’s better,” I heard Alicia say, and as I turned to look at her I saw that she had managed to peel the tape away from her mouth and was looking at me. “Hey Suzie,” she said with a smile, “Glad you could make it. The three of us spent the night here.”


Dad - we got home from the restaurant, and suddenly he told us to change into these clothes and taped us up. Seems someone had a word with him,” she said as she looked at Grandma. She just shrugged and went back to watching Mrs Bridges peeling away the tape from her fingers.

Udbtrrhlps,” I mumbled as I was struggling to grip anything. “Let me get Jenny free first,” Alicia said as she turned and got on her knees, while Jenny rolled onto her side and held her wrists out for Alicia to try and peel the tape away with her teeth.

While we were talking, Heidi had reached the new arrival, and was nudging her in the back with her chin. The mystery girl turned over at the nudge, and moved her head up and down to dislodge the sleep mask from her eyes.

“IDNTBLFFT,” Heidi screamed through her gaga s the girl finally forced the mask off. “NTLLYY - WHTRUDNGHR!”

Lkngfrufcrs,” the new girl said as she turned and offered her free fingers. Heidi sat herself down and turned round, looking over her shoulders as the girl started to peel the tape away from her wrists.

Miss Craig looked over at us, the tape hanging from her cheek and said “Hi Suzie - I have some news to tell you, but it can keep until later. Right now, I’m starving.” She turned and said “Turn round Connie - I’m going to do the old tape pull on your wrists.”

Llllrrt,” Mrs Brown said as she turned and offered her wrists, just as Jenny was freed. She sat up, pulled the tape from her mouth and then from Alicia’s wrists, before they both untied their feet.

“Grannies first, I think,” Jenny said as she walked over and started to untie Granny Craig, while Alicia took care of Grandma. “Hwhtbtsss,” Cassie hissed as Granny Craig brought her hands round and rubbed her wrists.

“Untie the girls next, Jenny,” Granny Craig said as she turned and started to help Mrs Craig. Mrs Brown had already had her wrists freed, and as she helped Miss Craig I felt my own wrists been separated.

Taking the tape off my mouth, I said “So you spent the whole night here,” as Grandma released Mrs Bridges, and Jenny Cassie.

“We sure did,” Jenny said as she hugged her sister, “We had a nice meal last night, and...” Her voice trailed off as she looked at Heidi, who was hugging the other girl before releasing her from the tape as well. “I don’t believe it,” she said after she had removed the tape from her mouth, “What are you doing here?”

“I came over to make sure you got home safely,” the blonde haired girl said in a similar accent to Heidi’s. “I wasn’t sure I could trust you to get back, given what you told us. Robbed by polite men and thugs in masks? I thought that only happened to us at home!”

Errr,” Alicia said as we all stood up and rubbed our mouths, “Heidi, who is this?”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Heidi said as she helped the blonde to stand up and hugged her again. “Girls, folks, this is Natalie Jenkins, my - well, my cousin if truth be told. Natalie, this is my pen friend Alicia and her cousin Suzie, and this is Jenny and Cassie Craig.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Natalie said as she waved to us. “I’ve heard an awful lot about you. And this must be Lady Holderness," she said as she looked at Granny Craig.

“Right age, wrong woman,” she said with a smile, turning Natalie towards Grandma, “This is Lucinda Holderness, I’m Miranda Craig, Jenny and Cassie’s grandmother. This is her mother, her Aunt Cassie and her Aunt Connie.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Natalie,” Lady Holderness said as she watched Natalie try to curtsey, “but I am not royalty.”

“Hold on a second,” Heidi suddenly said. “If you’re here, then....” She let the sentence trail off as she sprinted for the staircase and ran upstairs.

“Now why did she run off - does she need the toilet?”

I laughed at Cassie’s comments - she always knows the right thing to say. Still, as we climbed the stairs, Natalie at the front talking to Grandma, I did wonder - why did Heidi run off like that?


As we approached the staircase, I asked Cassie “So what happened to you this morning? Was it your dad who brought you?”

“Me and Mum,” Cassie said, “I was woken up in by Dad putting his hand over my mouth as I lay in my bed. He told me to be quiet, and then handed me the socks which I put over my hands. He then told me to roll over, and taped both the cuffs to my arms and them my wrists to each other, before I rolled back and he smoothed the plaster over my mouth. I already knew this was a game, even with the black mask over his face, so I didn’t try to take it off.

“Not that it’s as easy as duct tape anyway - that fabric really sticks to your face. Anyway, I got up and he took me downstairs, where Mum was already sitting with her wrists covered and tied, and a strip of brown fabric over her mouth. He sat me next to her before taping my ankles, then went to open the car doors.

“He came back, walked Mum out as she winked at me, then came back and carried me out, strapping me into the back seat before he drove us here. What about you?”

“Similar thing,” I said as we started to walk up the staircase, “Except I’m fairly sure it was Grandpa and Mister Bridges - oh, and there was this strange woman in the van that brought us.”

“You did not recognise her?”

“No - for a minute I wondered if it was Aunt Anne or my other cousin, Angela, but she was too tall to be either of them.” When we got to the top of the staircase, we saw an open doorway along the corridor, and we could hear laughter from the other side. We walked down and into the large room, to see Heidi been embraced by a taller, older version of her, the blonde hair falling over the shoulders of her black jumper.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming,” Heidi said as she looked up into the older woman’s eyes.

“What, and spoil the surprise,” she said as she rubbed Heidi’s hair, then let her go and walked over with her hand extended as Grandma came into the room. “Lady Holderness, I cannot thank you enough - not just for looking after Heidi, but for keeping our trip a secret from her.”

“It was my pleasure Mrs Strong,” Grandma said as she shook the ladies hand, and I realised that this must be Heidi’s mother. “When we heard you were planning to come over, it made perfect sense to incorporate you and your sister into our plans for today.”

I looked across the room to see Natalie standing next to a tall, thin woman with dark hair, who was also dressed in a dark jumper and trousers. It took me a few moments to realise that this was the woman who had sat in the back of the van, as she and Natalie walked over.

“Miss Cabot,” Grandma said as she shook the other woman’s hand, “It is a pleasure to finally greet you properly.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Lady Holderness,” she said, “and please, call me Veronica. You must be Suzie,” she said as she looked at me, “I’ve heard a lot about you - and I take it this blonde haired tearaway is Cassie?”

“That’s me,” Cassie said, “so you are Heidi’s aunt?”

“That’s right,” she said as she out her hand on Cassie’s shoulder, “so why don’t you come and get some breakfast, and you can tell me all about yourself.”

I hadn’t noticed the smell of fresh baked bread before then, but as I looked round I realised that there were three trestle tables set up, laden with bread, cakes and fruit, as well as pitchers of fruit juice and flasks of hot drinks.

“Come on,” Grandpa said as he waved to the assembled group that had come in, “Dig in. We have a very busy day ahead of us.” Next to him was Mister Bridges, Mister Craig and Mister Brown, all smiling as they hugged and kissed their wives. Jenny, Miss Craig and Granny Craig were standing in a small group, so I walked over to join them.

“Hello Suzie,” Granny Craig said as I came closer, “I was just explaining to Jenny here how the three of us were brought here today.”

“Yup,” Miss Craig said with a smile, “We need to thank my darling sister for the unexpected start to the day. Mum and I stayed at her place last night, only for Dave - Mister Brown to wake us at some god forsaken hour, with three pairs of Connie’s gym socks in his hand and a wicked expression on his face. He gave us a pair each, told them to put them on our hands and - well, I guess you can figure out the rest.”

“So does that mean we’re going to have a day of fun and games, like the Saturday Cassie told me about?”

The Saturday? Is there something you haven’t told me yet, Mum?”

Granny Craig had a smile on her face as she looked at Miss Craig. “Later, dear - but do you think we can take these headscarves off now? My head is itching.” She reached up and pulled the scarf off, to reveal her grey hair had been cut into a page boy style.

“Wow, when did you get that done,” I said as I watched Miss Craig take her scarf off to reveal a similar cut, while Mrs Brown did the same thing to revile a slightly longer cut, layered at the back of her neck.

“Well, duct tape is not kind to hair,” Miss Craig said, “and besides, I needed to get a new style for my new job.”

I was about to ask what that was when Granny Craig said “I’m starving - let’s go and eat.”

For the next half hour or so, we all sat round in little groups, talking and eating, before the clock in the room chimed nine o’clock. I watched as Mister Craig stood up and said “Good morning, and welcome to a very special day. I’d like to thank you all for accepting the invitation, and I’d especially like to welcome our guests from the other side of the pond, Amy, Veronica and Natalie.”

The five of us clapped and whopped as they stood up and made a small bow. “I’d also really like to thank Sir Despond and Lady Holderness, for finding this house for us to use for the day.”

“It was our pleasure,” Grandpa said. “For those of you who have never been here before, this is actually an old retreat that my company uses for business meetings, team building exercise and the like. I have arranged for it to be entirely at our disposal, for the duration of the day. We will have a buffet lunch later, and a barbecue for dinner. Mister and Mrs Bridges will take care of that for us, with a little help from some friends.”

We all clapped at that news as well, as Mister and Mrs Bridges blushed.

“Now then, let me explain what is going to happen today. This is a special day, to both mark the fact this is the end of the summer holidays, and the girls are all going back to school next week.” That made the four of us boo quietly, before Mister Craig continued “It is also a chance to say goodbye to Heidi, who has been with us these last few weeks, and also to celebrate the way all the girls have bonded together as a group.”

“Very funny, Dad,” Jenny called out, which made us all laugh.

“Now given the games they all like to play, we have decided to make that the theme of the day. Girls, like it or not you’re going to spend most of today very tightly bound and gagged - any objections?”

He looked at the six of us, but before we could reply Cassie said “With our favourite gags to keep us quiet?”

“With a variety of ways to make sure you won’t be heard,” Mister Craig said, which made us all laugh again. “Now, some of the adults will play the games at different times, but not all of them. You’ll learn what I mean by that was the day goes on.

“Before we play the first game, we all need to get washed and dressed. Girls, if you go out of the room and up the stairs, then you will find your outfits for the first game and warm water behind the first door on the left. Mum, can you go with them and make sure that’s the only door they go in?”

“Of course, John,” Granny Craig said with a smile.

“For the rest of you , Lady Holderness will lead the way. She’ll also explain what is going to happen, and who gets a break from the first game. Girls - I and Mister Brown will be up in about fifteen minutes to prepare you and explain the rules.”

We followed Granny Craig out of the room and up the staircase, where we saw a row of doors leading off from the balcony. She opened the first one and ushered us in, where we saw on one side six sets of clothes neatly folded and stacked on a bench. On the other side were six bowls, steam rising from them, as well as a set of soft towels and bars of soap.

She closed the door on us as we grabbed the soap and started to wash our faces and hands, before drying them. Alicia walked over to the piles and saw that each pile had a piece of paper on them. Picking up the one that had her name written on, she looked at the clothes and then said “I think you and I are going to look the same, Jenny.”

Jenny walked over and picked up the short sleeved pale green top. “This is our PE kit,” she said as she looked at the top, “and that looks like yours Cassie.”

As Cassie walked over, I looked at my pile, and it was indeed my PE stuff - a white t-shirt and shorts, with knee length white ankle socks. “So are we doing something sporty,” I said as I pulled off my nightgown and then put the t-shirt on.

“Something like that, I think,” Alicia said as she removed her pyjamas and put on the shorts and polo shirt, watching Jenny as she did the same. They had black knee length socks, while Cassie was putting on a yellow round necked t-shirt and shorts with matching socks.

“Looks like we get our soccer clothes,” I heard Heidi say, and as I turned round I saw she was putting on a red short sleeved top and shorts, with matching socks. Natalie had a similar outfit, so that once we were all dressed it looked like we were ready for a game of football.

There as a knock on the door, and Mister Craig came in with Mister Brown. “All ready I see,” he said with a smile a she handed each of us a pair of white sports socks. “You need to put these on, and then turn round and put your hands behind you back.”

I pulled the socks over my arms and turned round, watching Cassie as she did the same. Mister Brown stepped forward with a roll of what looked like thin white plastic tape, which he used to tape the cuffs of the socks against me arms, before moving down the line.

“Now listen carefully girls,” Mister Craig said as he put my hands together behind my back, palm to palm, and started to tie them together with soft white rope, “Mister Brown and I are going to secure all six of you, and leave you sitting on the bench with the door open. When we leave, you are free to go and explore the other rooms, and in each room is one of the ladies. You need to see if you can recognise them, and say hello to them, in turn.”

He tugged the rope between my wrists, making it feel wonderfully safe, and then fixed them behind my back by passing a length of rope around them and my waist, cinching it between my hands and back. I then felt a length of rope around my arm, over the sock and below my elbow.

“He’s doing his special tummy tie on you,” Cassie said as she looked at me, and I felt the rope going round my arms and tummy, fixing them in place before he tied it off and turned me round.

“Sit down,” he said as Mister Brown came and knelt in front of me, a length of rope in his hand. “Cassie’s dad has taught me a few tricks,” he said as he put my ankles together and passed the rope round them, pulling them tightly together. It looked like had learned a few things, as he passed the rope round and between my ankles before tying it off, and then passing another length around my legs below my knees.

One by one Mister Craig bound the arms of all six of us, moving down the line and making us sit down as Mister Brown lashed our ankles and legs together, the legs below and above our knees. As I watched, I tried twisting round but I was delighted to find I could not move very much at all.

“Feels nice, doesn’t it,” Cassie said as she twisted round next to me. “This is a bit like how those men made us the night before the end of last term - I wonder if we’re going to get the same sort of gag.”

“Not quite, poppet,” Mister Craig said as he came back to me, “but something similar.” He held a handkerchief, a large one, in front of my mouth and popped it in as I opened as wide as I could, before he pulled the knot he had tied a length of white towelling into my mouth as well, wrapping the ends round my hair and tying it off at the back.

As he moved to Cassie, Mister Brown brought over a large brown shawl, which he had folded into a thick band with the triangle pointing down at the front. He pulled that over my mouth, the cotton pulling against my cheeks and against my lips as he passed the ends round each over at the back of my neck and knotted them together. He then did something surprising - bring the ends back round my neck and tying them against the top of my chest. He then took a length of string and tied one end round the knot, before pulling it down and tying the other end round my rope belt.

He repeated this on each of us, Cassie raising an eyebrow and mumbling “sssddndndndsnddffrrtnnt” as her uncle did the same thing to her with a red shawl. Jenny got a black one, Alicia a grey one, Heidi a white one and Natalie a green one.

“There are five rooms,” Mister Craig said as he and Mister Brown left us sitting on the bench, “Have fun exploring. We’ll find you at about eleven for a break.” They left us to look at each other, wondering who was going to make the first move.

I thought it would be Cassie, and I think Cassie thought it was going to be me- we tend to be the ones who move about most. So when Alicia pushed herself up and onto her feet, and started hopping to the door, it took the rest of us a moment to realise what was happening. We quickly followed her, going into the corridor and hopping to the first door along. Alicia was already there, staring wide eyed inside as we caught up.

Cmmmnnnnnn,” I said as I nudged her and she hopped in, followed by the rest of us. Sitting on the floor in the lotus position was a dark haired girl, I would say about sixteen, looking at us over a white tape gag. It took me a few minutes to realise who it was, and even then it took Alicia saying “Njla?” with her eyebrows raised to confirm it.


Even then, it was only when she said “mbbttmmm” that I realised it was Angela. She was wearing a long sleeved green leotard over black tights, with green slouch socks, and as I hopped towards her I saw that her ankles had been securely tied together with rope, a length of which ran from her ankles to the band that was tied around her arms and chest.

Wngthrrrnewqhdessmmddd,” Alicia said as she hopped over towards her with me. As I reached her side, I saw that her wrist were crossed and tied together behind her back, and her hands were wrapped in white tape. From the bulge I could see under the tape, I guessed she had something in her mouth as well.

Mmmfdmmdsms,” she said as she looked at her sister, and then at me as I said “hwwlbbhrrrr.” We both looked at her as she looked between us, saying “mmdmsdmfmmmfmfdmdsmsdmsm” as she did so.

Now, I love the feeling of been gagged, and the way it means we cannot really talk then, but right this second I could tell both Alicia and I wanted to ask her questions, and by the same token Angela could not understand a word we were saying! Looking back, I could see the other four leaning against the wall, Cassie giggling as they looked on.

Cnntupssssttt,” I said to Angela, but she just stared blankly back at me and shook her head again. Alicia looked at her then and said “Rbbbgnsssssslgs,” looking at her bare legs and then at Angela’s mouth. I figured out she wanted Angela to rub her mouth against her leg, to try and get the tape off, but Angela again shook her head and said “Mmdccnnctsttlkkk.”

It was the most frustrating and funny thing I have ever seen - Alicia was desperate to know who else was here, and at the same time Angela was saying nothing! It never even occurred to me to ask how she ended up like this - I mean, we hadn’t seen her all summer, as she had a summer job at home, but to just appear and not be able to talk to her? That was - well, we settled for pressing into her sides with our legs as Jenny said “wwmmmcmxmxccm” and nodded her head towards the door.

Sllltrrrr,” Angela said as she watched us hop out of the door and down the corridor. Stopping at the next door, Jenny pushed it open to see who was inside.

Lying on the bed was Mrs Bridges, looking at us over the white tape that was wrapped round her head. She was wearing the sort of clothes she would normally wear for work - a grey cardigan over a short sleeved blue floral print dress, the skirt of which came down to just below her knees, dark tights and a pair of white deck shoes. As we hopped in, I could see her wrists had been crossed and tied together in front of her, and then down to her waist. Her arms were pinned to her side with rope that went around her tummy and shoulders, and her ankles were crossed and tied as well. Finally, there was rope around her legs below the hem of her skirt, and around her skirt.

She said “Lkkkttsss,” and nodded towards a piece of card that was next to some feather dusters that were leaning on the bed. I hopped over and looked at the card.

Mrs Bridges needs some help tidying up - each of you take a duster and try to help her.

I turned and indicated with my head for the others to come over, before turning and trying to pick up a handle in my sock covered hands. As Cassie came over I finally managed to grip one and started to sweep it from side to side behind my back. Cassie and the others soon got the idea, and eventually all six of us were standing in a row, trying to sweep the area where Mrs Bridges was lying.

Now, given we all had our hands covered and tightly tied together, we were doing a good job - until Cassie had the great idea to try and tickle Jenny with her duster. Then Jenny tried to tickle Alicia, Alicia Heidi, and all sorts of heck broke loose. Mrs Bridges was helpless as we tickled each other, the feathers making us laugh as she did as well.

Plslsstmfmfmdsmsmfdmdfmdfmdmmm” Alicia screamed as Heidi and I ganged up on her, but Cassie was laughing more - Natalie and Jenny had the bright idea of tickling the back of her knees, and she was desperately trying to hop away from them.

We could have gone on like that for ages, but Natalie said “Mrrrmsmmsss” and we let the dusters drop to the floor. I turned and winked at Mrs Bridges as we left and went to the third door.

This room had a very old, very heavy wooden chair in the middle of the floor, and in the chair was sitting a young woman with shoulder length bleach blonde hair. She was wearing a black t-shirt, denim shorts and black footless tights, as she looked at us over the thick red scarf that was pulled between her lips. Her cheeks were puffed out, and that meant what I was realising by now - something was behind that scarf and in her cheeks.

“PRRLLLLL” Cassie shouted as she jumped in and sat on the girl’s lap. Her arms were tied down to the wooden armrests with cords, as were her elbows, and her ankles and legs were tied securely to the front legs of the chair. The girl looked down at her and said “Hlllcsssaaeee” as Jenny hopped over to her as well.

Rullthvngfnnn,” she said as she looked at us. We all nodded, as she then said “Gdddd - dnsfrmm.”

Msssrrrrrrrr,” I said as I suddenly remembered where I had seen her before - she was April, the girl who baby sat sometimes for Cassie and Jenny. I had seen her a week or two ago at their house.

Cassie hopped off her lap and started to jump around on the spot, moving her body as much as she could from side to side. “Ccmccmnnjjjjnnn” she called out, and we all started to bop around on the spot, dancing as well as we could given the fact we could hardly move our arms and legs.

This was great fun - I jumped over and danced alongside Cassie as much as I could, but I could also see Alicia and Heidi dancing along too. Natalie made her way to the wall and leaned against it, so Jenny went and kept her company. I guess the flight here was still affecting her - I know how bad I felt when Mummy and Daddy took me to Walt Disney World. Not the trip itself - the overnight flight back.

Eventually, April said “Tmmtmvcn” and nodded towards the door. We nodded in return and made our way out of the room. There were two more doors to go to, and the first of them was already open.

Looking inside, I saw Mrs Cabot sitting on the floor, an American flag on a pole next to her. “Hmmmmmm,” Natalie said as she and Heidi hopped in first, the rest of us following. Mrs Cabot was wearing a pair of blue jeans with the legs tucked into some short black felt boots, and a white t-shirt. Her arms were securely taped to her side with grey tape, and her hands seemed to be pinned behind her back as well. More bands of tape encircled her ankles, knees and thighs, but she did not seem to be in any real distress. Several strips of grey tape covered her mouth.

Gddmmrrngngrls,” she mumbled as she saw us come in. “Hddee, ntleee, tsmtpjllejance.”

I had no idea what she was on about, but as she moved her head to the flag I saw both Heidi and Natalie stand ramrod straight, their eyes fixed on the red, white and blue emblem of their country.


Vrrgddgrrrls,” Mrs Cabot said as they finished. Nmrrmmtg - mvlngnw.”

We all looked at them as they hopped back and out of the room, vaguely aware they had done something important but with no idea what it was. Anyway, there was one more room to go, so we reached the last door and pushed it open.

It was empty, or at least it appeared to be. We all hopped in, allowing our eyes to adjust to the gloom cast by the heavy curtains drawn over the windows. On the far side of the room was a bed, with a white sheet covering something on it? We hopped further in, wondering what it was, particularly when it started moving as well and making some low moaning noises.

Tssnntsshhddddddd,” Cassie said as she looked at me. I still had a memory of that evening, so I was a little bit worried as well, especially as we got closer and the something started to wriggle more.

We moved closer, but when the shape suddenly sat up and turned to look at us, the linen staying fixed over it, we all lost it and started hopping back to the door as fast as we could. Cassie and I are the best hoppers, so we were first out of the door, down the corridor and bumping down the staircase before you could say “Jack Robinson”! As we reached the bottom, we looked up and saw the others following us,

Whhhssssdddddd,” Alicia said as she reached the foot of the stairs, the others landing soon after. I shook my head - I had no idea what it was, but I knew I had to get out of there as fast as I could!

“Well, that’s good timing,” I heard Mister Craig say, and looking up I could see him and Granny Craig looking down on us. She was wearing a cream jumper and cardigan, as well as tan coloured slacks.

“I guess you’re all ready for a drink,” she said with a smile, and we all nodded. “All right then,” she said as she walked towards another door, “all of you, hop in here, and we’ll take those gags off.”

I wondered what she meant by we, but as we hopped into the room I saw Miss Craig and Mrs Brown sitting there as well. They were both wearing black t-shirts and jeans, with trainers on their feet. “Sir down on the bench,” Miss Craig said as she pointed to a gym bench set against the wall, “and we’ll take the gags off.”

We all sat down, and waited patiently as they removed the shawls, soaking wet towelling strips and handkerchiefs from our mouths. They then took two glasses of orange squash each, with straws in them, and held them so that we could all have a good long drink.

“So what did you find in the rooms,” Granny Craig asked as Cassie and I sipped from the glasses she was holding.

“We found Mrs Bridges, and tickled each other with dusters,” I said, and then Cassie added “We also found April - will she be here for the rest of the day as well?”

“I believe she will be,” Granny Craig said with a smile. “What about you Alicia - meet anyone unexpected?”

Yeah,” Alicia said as she let go of the straw in the glass Miss Craig was holding, “How on earth did you persuade Angela to be here today?”

“You can ask her yourself - later,” Miss Craig replied. “How about you two,” she said looking at Heidi and Natalie, “Did you do what you were asked to do?”

“We did,” Heidi said, “It has been a while since we had to say the pledge.”

“I’m glad we still remember it,” Natalie added, “After all, we have to say it every day from the week after next.”

We had another drink before Granny Craig said “All right girls, you need to get ready now for the next part of the day. We are going to escort you outside, for some games, but first you need to change and then be re-tied.”

“Before we do that, however,” Mrs Brown said as she picked up a bag, “You need to be re-gagged, and I need your promise that you will not take off the gags while you are changing, all right?”

We looked at each other before Jenny said “We promise, Aunt Connie - what are you going to do this time?”

“Here’s a hint,” she said as she took six blue silk squares out of the bag and handed two to Granny Craig and two to Miss Craig, “We need to tie these over your heads first.”

“OH GOODIE,” Cassie called out as Granny Craig folded one square into a triangle and tied it over her hair, “round the mouth tape gags!”

She was right - once Granny Craig had tied a scarf over my hair, she held a small sponge ball in front of each of our mouths, waiting as we opened wide and allowed her to push it in. She then took what I recognised as one of Mr Craig’s old ties and pulled that between our lips, tying it tightly at the base of our necks.

As I looked over to see the others getting the same treatment, I heard a ripping sound, and turned to see Cassie having her mouth and lower head covered in grey duct tape, which Granny Craig wound round and over the headscarf as it covered Cassie’s hair. She winked at me as this was done, to show it was going to be all right, so I waited patiently as she wound my head in the tape as well. It felt funny as it pressed to my skin, but when I said “Sfggnnggngng” I realised again how effective it was.

Granny Craig handed the roll of tape to Miss Craig, before she quickly untied Cassie and me. We went to take the socks off our hands, but she said “Leave them on for now - I’ll help you to get changed.” So we stood up and walked over to where six new piles of clothing were neatly laid out.

With Granny Craig’s help, Cassie changed put of her PE kit into a white short sleeved blouse, blue floral print skirt with a white lace trim, and flat white trainers. I had been given a light blue smock top, which came down like a skirt, and black leggings with matching flat shoes.

“Now,” Granny Craig said as she took a very, very long length of rope and doubled it over, “I’m going to do a very special tie on you that my late husband showed me. He learned it in China, and it will help with what you will be doing outside.” She stood behind Cassie, making sure her arms were by her side, and draped the rope around her neck, before starting to wind the rope around her arms, pulling them back and together behind her back in a box as she did so.

I watched, amazed as within five minutes Cassie’s upper body was covered in bands of rope, holding her arms firmly together and against her back. “Your turn, Suzie,” she said as she did the same to me. The rope was very soft, but as I felt my arms been pulled back I quickly realised that I would be as immobile as any other bonds that I had been taught.

Shnnsnrptttt,” Heidi said as she and Natalie came over. By the time I was bound, Miss Craig had helped Alicia and Jenny to change. Alicia was wearing a pleated tartan skirt and a cap sleeved white t-shirt, while Jenny had on a denim skirt and a dark blue sleeveless blouse. Mrs Brown helped Heidi to change into a pair of blue Capri pants and a grey t-shirt, then Natalie into a long brown skirt that almost came to the floor and a matching vest top. Unlike the rest of us, Natalie did not put any shoes on, which didn’t seem to bother Heidi at all.

By now Granny Craig had moved on to Jenny, as Miss Craig knelt in front of me and said “Stand up straight please Suzie.” She took a length of rope and tied it around my legs above my knees, but unlike before she did not force them together. Instead, she tied them together with a length of the rope wrapped between my knees. This left a gap of - oh, about three or four centimetres.

She then tied the end of a length of rope around my ankles, but she did not pull them together. Instead, she tied the rope in place, then played it out and tied it around my other ankle, leaving enough room between my legs that I could walk in a way if I wanted to. I started to realise what was about to happen when I looked over and saw Cassie shuffling round with her feet.

I watched as the others were prepared in the same way. When it came to Natalie, Mrs Brown held her skirt up so that Miss Craig could tie her legs the same way as the rest of us. Once Miss Craig had finished, Granny Craig looked at her watch.

“Time for the first race,” she said as she walked to the far side of the room and opened the bay windows. “After me, girls.”


We shuffled out in a line, Granny Craig at the front with Mrs Brown following us, through the windows and onto a large flat lawn that was outside. Looking to the side, I saw Grandpa, Mr Craig and Uncle Simon standing with Mr Bridges by another set of trestle tables. He waved at me and smiled as I led the six of us out to where a chalk line had been drawn in the short cut grass.

There were a variety of blankets and seats set out at the side, where Granny Craig and Mrs Brown sat down on two of the camp chairs next to Grandma. Mister Craig walked over and said “Well, Girls, we thought you might like to take part in a few races before lunch. You are, all of you,” he continued as he looked down the line at all of us, “very good at moving round when your feet are tied tightly together - but how good are you when your feet are secured like this?”

Wccssscccc,” Cassie mumbled as she looked at her dad, the hem of her skirt hitting below her knees in the slight breeze.

“Well, we’ll soon see,” Mister Craig continued, “because the first race is going to be blindfolded. Sir Desmond?”

I watched as Grandpa picked up some things from the table where he was standing. As he came over I saw that he had six black sleep masks in his hands.

“One for each of you,” he said as he started with Natalie, fixing the black pads over her eyes with straps that he tied tightly together at the back of her head. He made his way down the line, until he came to me and whispered in my ear “Enjoying the day so far, Suzanne?”

Ysssmmfmdfmgd,” I said as he fixed the sleep mask over my eyes, leaving me in total darkness. He then spun me round twice, as I heard the others squealing. Presumably the same thing was been done to them, as I heard Mister Craig say “On your marks... Get Set... GO!”

I started to try to run forward, thinking it would be easy with my legs a bit further apart, but then I realised that with my knees tied the way they were, it was actually more difficult for me to move quickly, never mind the fact I was blindfolded and could not see a thing! I made a note to thank the others for that, before I felt someone bumping into my side and I heard what I thought was Cassie saying “Srrrmrmfnnff.”

Well, I decided to do the best I could, as I could hear Uncle Simon and Grandpa laughing. Hoping I was heading in the right direction, I started to shuffle forward, the sound of my plimsolls on the grass like a little mouse squeaking, and make my way forward. I could hear the others with their muffled giggling, but as it grew fainter I began to hope that I was heading towards the finishing line.

“Whoa there, Suzie - you’re heading the wrong way.”

Hffnnsksknnnjjjjjj,” I mumbled as I hit someone in the stomach. It sounded like Angela, but I could not see who it was as they picked me up and carried me a short distance before setting me back on my feet. “Keep going now,” she said, and this time I knew it was my cousin, as I began to shuffle quickly forward.

“Come on Cassie, come on Jenny,” I heard Granny Craig call out as I began to try to run, picking my feet up as I heard a soft thump and a call of “MMGFMmdMGDDMfgm” from someone. As kept going, however, I heard Mr Craig call out “We have a winner!” and I stopped. The mask was pulled off my eyes, and I saw Alicia shuffling round and looking at me, a gleam of triumph in her eyes as I stood a foot away from her.

Turning round, I could see Jenny and Cassie lying on the ground, while Heidi and Natalie were just a little further behind me. I could also now see April sitting on a deck chair, as well as Angela, who had changed into a blue sundress with a halter neck.

Wldddnnnlsshshh,” Heidi said as the blindfold was taken off her eyes and she shuffled forward, Natalie behind her as the hem of her skirt brushed against the grass. Granny Craig helped Jenny and Cassie to stand up, and they also started to shuffle forward as I saw Mrs Bridges coming out of the house and walking towards her husband.

“George,” she said as she waved at us, “Can you give me a hand with the sandwiches and other things.”

“All right, Kate,” Mr Bridges called back, “I’ll be there once I’ve taken care of this.” He picked up a set of hula hoops and walked over towards us, as Mr Craig helped us all to get back into a line. As I looked at Alicia, I could see the grass stain on her knee where she had probably fallen, the hem of her skirt coming to just above the top of the stain.

She saw me looking at her, and nodded as Mr Craig watched Mr Bridges set the hoops out in a pattern on the lawn in front of us. “All right, girls,” he said eventually, “the next race is an obstacle race - you need to jump your way back to the start, but you need to jump in and out of each of the hoops in front of you as you do so. Miss one, and you’ll be carried back to the start.”

We all nodded to show that we understood this, as Grandpa came and stood at the other side of us. “Go!” Mr Craig shouted, and this time we all came independently to the same decision - we were going to hop.

So we did, the skirts of Cassie and Jenny rising above their knees as they made their way down, while for Natalie her skirt rose enough to reveal the rope around her feet hitting the ground with each forward hop.

The winner this time, however, by a country mile was Heidi, who crossed the line as Granny Craig, Angela and April all cheered. Ssssssss!” Heidi called out as she jumped round and looked at us following her.

“Well done, Heidi,” Grandpa said as we finally crossed the line. “Well, I think we have time for one more race, before you get a little free time before lunch. Simon, do you have any ideas as to what this last race should be?”

Uncle Simon looked at us, a wicked smile on his face as he said “Oh I don’t know - do you think we should have a relay race?”

“That sounds like fun - how will we divide the girls up?”

“No, I meant a different sort of relay race,” Uncle Simon said as he looked towards the open bat windows. “Alexander, bring out the partners for the relay!”

We all turned and looked at the door, my eyes widening as I saw Daddy walking out. Behind him was Mrs Strong, wearing a pair of grey jogging pants and a light green top with sleeves that came down to her elbows. I could see the rope that was spiralling down her arms as she shuffled forward, as well as the way her knees and ankles were bound - just like ours. She also had a black silk square over her head, and a band of silver tape wrapped round her mouth.

Next came Mrs Cabot, still dressed in her jeans, boots and t-shirt, and bound in the same way with a tape gag round her hair, the black square over her mouth. Behind her was Mrs Craig, who we had not seen since breakfast. She was wearing a red sundress with little yellow flowers printed on the cotton, the puffed sleeves ending just below her shoulders, and white flat shoes. She too had been tied with the rope running from her neck down her arms, as had Miss Craig who followed her out.

As they had come, Heidi, Natalie, Jenny and Cassie had all started jumping up and down. So when the next woman came out, and I saw who it was, her short curly red hair not covered by a scarf, I screamed out “cmmgmdmdmsmammsadmfmmmmmm!”

It was Mummy, looking at me with her eyes wide open over the dark grey band that covered her mouth and cheeks. She was wearing a green round necked t-shirt and matching shorts that came to just above her knees, so that I could see the rope around her knees and ankles quite clearly. Like all the others, she had a length of rope wrapped round her arms and body holding them firmly in place. As she came closer and took up her place behind Miss Craig, she looked over at me and nodded, saying “Hllllllszzzz” as she did so.

If I was shocked to see Mummy there, it was nothing compared to Alicia, who screamed “MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM” as the last person was accompanied out by Uncle Simon. It was Aunt Anne, the black square covering her own dark hair to protect it from the grey tape band over her mouth. She was wearing a long sleeved white top under a blue blouse, and a long faded denim skirt that came to just above her feet. We could all see the rope around her ankles, and her upper body as well, as she walked past my wide eyed cousin and took her place up at the end of the lien of mothers and one aunt.

“I think a mother vs daughter really is the right thing to do,” Grandpa said, “with the one proviso that your aunt, Cassie, needs to be a surrogate mum for this. I hope you don’t mind.”

I’m sure she didn’t, but Alicia and I were still reeling as we looked at each other. Both our mothers, willing participants in this game? It was surprising enough when Angela was there earlier, but now our day was almost complete. We didn’t even really notice as we were re-organised into a line, with Heidi at the front, then Natalie, Jenny, Cassie, me and Alicia at the back.

“Very simple - to the end and back, touch to pass on, whichever team wins gets a special prize! Ready... Steady... Go!”

Uncle Simon had got out a video camera for this, and was filming as Heidi started to race against her own mother, the two of them shuffling down as we jumped up and down and encouraged them with muted cheers. I thought Heidi would beat her mother easily, but as they turned and raced back I realised Mrs Strong was just as good as her daughter - and Mrs Cabot was just as good as Natalie, despite the handicap of Natalie having to make sure she did not trip over her skirt.

In fact, by the time Mummy and I were waiting our turn, it was neck and neck, even with Cassie and Miss Craig bumping into each other to try and put their opponent off on their return trip. Cassie hit my shoulder first, so I set off, but I could hear Mummy breathing through her nose as she hopped after me, “Uccncnbmmmmmm,” she mumbled as we reached the other end and turned round, her eyes twinkling as she caught up with me by the time I reached Alicia.

As she set off, I let myself sit down with the others, the mums jumping up and down and offering mumbled cheers as Aunt Anne slowly got ahead of Alicia. As she turned to come back, however, she somehow managed to trip over her own feet and fell down, Alicia racing past her as she jumped towards the finishing line. Aunt Anne managed to get back on her feet somehow, but it was too late, As Alicia threw herself over the finishing line and collapsed with her head against mine.

“YSSSSSSSSS,” we called out in unison as Aunt Anne finally crossed the line, to the accompanied muffled calls of the others. As we lay back, Granny Craig and Mrs Brown came over, and started to untie the rope around our legs and ankles.

“We have a little time before lunch,” Granny Craig said as we watched Mr Craig, Grandpa, Uncle Simon and Daddy take care of our mums, “so why don’t the six of you just have a game of Tag until we are ready.”

Cassie and I nodded, our eyes on our mothers as we waited for all of the others to be freed. As we all got to our feet and stood in a circle, Mrs Brown walked round the outside until she stopped behind Miss Craig.

“Congratulations,” she said to her sister as Miss Craig rolled her eyes, “You’re it!”

Well what else could we do? As one we ran from her, covering the lawn as she looked round and started to chase after Mrs Craig, an evil look in her eye as she did so.

We must have spent about twenty or thirty minutes chasing each other, the role of chaser passing from person to person as we bumped into each other on the sun drenched lawn. IT was great fun - especially when Mummy was IT, and she chased after me as fast as she could. I tried to run away, but she caught me as she always does and bumped into me, which made me bump into Alicia, which made her IT instead!

Eventually, however, Grandpa called out “All right, everyone, lunch is nearly ready. Girls, can you come over here please?” The six of use walked over to where a row of camp chairs had been put up in a semi-circle on one side of a row of blankets.

Granny Craig and Grandma helped us each to sit down in a chair, before using lengths of soft rope to tie our ankles to the front legs of the chairs, and then another length to tie our waists to the back supports. Each of us was then told to lean forward, as Granny Craig quickly untied the ropes around our arms and bodies, then Grandma cut away the tape and removed the ties from our mouths. We each caught the very wet sponge ball in our hands, as Mrs Bridges brought over a tray with tall glasses of orange squash on them.

“You must all be parched after all that running around,” she said as we all took one. “You’ll be brought over a plate of food in a few minutes, so just be patient.”

“I’m starving,” Jenny said as our grandmothers walked away with Mrs Bridges, “Alicia, is that really your mother?”

“It is,” Alicia said as she looked at Aunt Anne talking to Mummy, “and I am totally gobsmacked. I had no idea she was here, never mind Angela. I’m even more surprised to see Uncle Alex and Aunt Susan here.”

“You’re surprised,” I said as I took a drink, “How do you think I feel?”

“Yeah, right,” Alicia said as she looked Cassie and I, sitting next to each other. “You know, I haven’t had the chance to talk to you two together about the events of last week.”

What, when we hopped round the house?”

Yeah, that - you do know if you had stayed in the room each time and helped us all to get free, we wouldn’t have been in so much trouble?”

“But it was fun,” Cassie said as she looked at Alicia. “After they tied us so badly, we had to tell them how to do it right.”

“Oh boy,” Alicia said as she ran her fingers through her hair. “Cassie, I know you love these times when you can’t move or talk, but that was a very serious gang that broke into your house. They had sticks and guns, and they weren’t exactly nice to your mum and family. We really needed to call the police, but every time we managed to get ourselves free, you brought the men back to us.”

“But it was fun - and you enjoyed it, didn’t you Jenny?”

Jenny nodded before she said “Even so, Cassie, we needed to remember that Mum, Granny and our aunts were downstairs. If that happens again, you have to promise me you won’t go hopping off, and we stick together, all right?”

“All right,” Cassie said as Alicia looked at me. “Same for you, squirt, all right?”

“I promise,” I said as I looked at Heidi and Natalie.

“Hey, don’t look at us,” Natalie said as she held her hands up. “Every time we end up in that situation, we’re with friends or family. We were made to stick together - sometimes physically as well.”

I sorta understood what they were getting at, but our thoughts were interrupted by Mummy and Aunt Anne, who came over and gave Alicia and me a plate of sandwiches, sausages and other picnic food, then sat on the blankets in front of us. We looked at each other - there were a ton of questions we wanted to ask them.


They looked at us, we looked at them, wondering who it was who was going to make the first move. As it turned out, it was neither of us, but Cassie who said “Hello Mrs Holderness - it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“And you, Cassie - I’ve heard a lot about you, all of you,” Mummy said as she looked along the line. “It seems as if you’ve had a very exciting holiday, Suzanne.”

“It’s been great, Mummy,” I said as I swallowed the sausage roll I had been eating, “but when did you get here? More to the point, how did Daddy persuade you to take part in the game?”

“Same thing goes for you, Mum,” Alicia said as she looked at Aunt Anne. “I thought...”

“You thought after we were robbed, I never wanted to be like that again?” Aunt Anne looked over at Alicia. “I didn’t, but I’ve heard all about what has happened from Grandma.”

“Everything,” Alicia said as her face went pale.

“Everything,” Aunt Anne said as Angela came over and joined us. “That was when I realised that I needed to confront my fears in the same way you tried to.”

“And is that why Angela agreed to sit in the room this morning?”

“Partly,” my older cousin said as she put her plate to the side. “I’m not denying the fact that I was terrified that night, but after Mum told me about what happened when you had the sleepover a few weeks ago, I figured it might help me to cope a bit as well.”

“But when did you two get here? After all, you were with us at the restaurant last night, and in bed when Dad gathered the three of us up.”

“How come I wasn’t invited,” Cassie said as she looked at Jenny, “I feel as if I missed something.”

“Not really,” Heidi said as her mother and aunt walked over as well, “It really was a chance for Mr and Mrs Bowden to say thank you to me for coming and keeping Alicia company. I didn’t know that they knew what had happened - although it does explain some of the looks you gave each other when we described the sleepover. We had a nice meal, came home, and then your father brought us here for the night.”

“We came this morning,” Aunt Anne said. “Alexander picked us up in his car, and we arrived her just in time to see you and Grandma Holderness arriving. While you were downstairs, trying to free each other, Your Grandpa was telling the rest of us what the plan was for today.”

“So have you played tie-up games before,” I said to Mummy and Aunt Anne. They looked at each other before Mummy said “Once or twice, but not to the extent it appears you two have. I just hope Bobby doesn’t start to get any ideas after the camps he’s been at.”

“Bobby,” Cassie said as she looked at me, “Who’s Bobby?”

My big brother - Robert Desmond Holderness. He’s a year older than Ali, and has spent the entire summer helping out at a Scout campsite. Where is he anyway?”

“At your Grandma Jacobs,” Mummy said as she picked up her glass. “He’s looking forward to seeing you again.”

“What about you, kiddo,” Angela said as she looked at Alicia. “Feeling better now that you’ve got all that anger out of you?”

“A lot better, thanks,” Alicia said as she looked at us, “These guys have really taught me a lot this summer. I hope we can stay in touch and meet up from time to time.”

“Well you’ll still be able to torment me at school if you want,” Jenny said, which made Alicia laugh. A good, happy laugh this time. “No tormenting - I hope we can be friends, if you can ignore some of the others hanger-ons.”

“Oh you soon lose them,” Angela said as she swallowed a mouthful of a Coronation Chicken sandwich, “Good friends are the ones who stick around no matter what. You’ll learn that eventually.”

As this was going on, Grandma and Granny Craig had brought over a deck chair each and sat next to Cassie and Jenny’s aunts. “we need to thank you as well,” Mummy said as she looked at Granny Craig. “It seems your granddaughters have been a positive influence on our children as well.”

“Well, they can be a handful,” Granny Craig said before she smiled at Cassie and Jenny, “but they never really mean to hurt anyone. They just need to learn to curb their enthusiasm a little bit from time to time.”

“Well, kids will be kids,” Miss Craig said. “After all, some of the things John did when we were their age - do you remember the time he decided it would be a good idea to kidnap all three of us and hold us ransom to Dad?”

“Really,” Cassie said as she looked up, “What happened?”

“A story for another time,” Mrs Craig said as she came over. “Girls, you need to eat up - it will soon be time for you to prepare for the next game.”

“Are you going to play as well, Mummy,” I asked expectantly as she looked back at me.

“Not this time, sweetheart,” she replied, “but maybe later. I agreed to help Mrs Bridges with clearing up after lunch, as did your Aunt Anne and Cousin Angela.”

“So what are we going to play?”

“You’ll see,” Mummy said as she stood up, “Now eat up - I think you’re going to get a toilet break before you get changed for the next game.”

Again?” That question hung in the air as we finished our lunches, waiting in our chairs as Mister Craig and Daddy came over. “All right, girls,” Mister Craig said as he started to untie us, “The next game is going to be more of an individual effort, so we ‘re going to take you into a room and give you a chance to get changed again.”

“Can’t you tell us what’s involved,” I asked as I looked at Daddy.

“What, and spoil the surprise?” He shook his head as all six of us stood up, and we followed them back into the house through the bay windows, and then into the room where we had changed earlier. Once again there were six neatly folded piles of clothing, but I could see the look on both Alicia and Jenny when they saw theirs.

“Blazers? Don’t tell me...”

“OK, we won’t,” Cassie said as she held up the short sleeved yellow dress, “but it is. We need to wear our school uniforms.”

or in our case,” Heidi said as she held up a pair of blue dungarees, “the sort of clothes we would wear to school. This is going to be - interesting.”

I pulled my smock top of and picked up the white polo shirt that I wear to school, pulling it over my head and then putting on the knee length pleated grey skirt before pulling my leggings down. Then there was the blue v-necked sweater, with my school badge printed on it, the grey sock and flat black shoes. Cassie put her dress on, then the white socks and black shoes.

As both Jenny and Alicia were in the same class at the same school, they were dressed identically - a light blue long sleeved blouse, knee length black skirt and matching blazer, black knee length socks and shoes. As Alicia passed the blue and black tie round her neck and knotted it, she looked at Heidi and said “You don’t know how lucky you are not to have to wear something like this to your school.”

As Heidi pulled the straps of her dungarees over her shoulders and fastened them with the metal clasps, she looked at the four of us and nodded. “Yeah - imagine having to spend the day with that round your neck,” she smiled as Natalie fastened her jeans around her waist. They both had on a white t-shirt and sneakers.

All six of us sat down as Daddy and Mister Craig entered the room. “Time for you to be silent again,” Mister Craig said as he looked at us. “I must ask you not to try to remove what is going in and over your mouth until all of you have taken part.”

We all nodded as he stood in front of me and held up a rolled up trainer sock. I opened my mouth and allowed him to push in the cotton sock, which tickled my tongue as it went in, and then he tore off a length of the white tape that Cassie likes so much. He pressed it down over my mouth, and I felt it sticking to me like a second skin as he moved on and did the same to Cassie. “Whhwnttggrnd,” she mumbled as her dad stuck the tape down.

“Not this time, poppet,” he said as he ruffled her hair, “maybe later. This is not the whole gag, but that will be explained to you later.”

Once he had moved down the line, he said to us “Now all of you, turn round and put your hands behind your back, with your wrists crossed.” Daddy put several lengths of rope on the table, and watched as Mister Craig tightly tied my wrist together behind my back, and then ran a second length of rope round my waist, fixing my hands tightly against my back.

As he moved on to Cassie, Daddy picked up the roll of white tape and stood behind me. I heard the funny squelching sound as he said “Make a fist with your hands for me,” and then wrapped the tape round my balled up hands so that they were covered in white. He then moved on to Cassie, whose eyes opened wide as she looked at me.

Within a few minutes, we were all sitting on the bench, our hands tied in place and taped up and our mouths covered. “Very well then,” Daddy said as he rattled a canvas bag in his hand, “Mister Craig will draw out a ball for each of you.” We each had a ball placed in our laps as we sat there - five of us had a black ball, but Jenny had a red one.

“Very well, Jennifer, you come with me first,” Mister Craig said a she took Jenny by the arm and led her out of the room, while Daddy put all except one of the black balls back into the bag. After ten minutes, Mister Craig came back and the balls were drawn again, this time with Natalie getting the red ball. She was taken out, another ten minutes, and then the same happened - only this time I got the red ball.

“Come with me, Suzie,” Mister Craig said as Daddy smiled. I looked back at the other three as I was led out of the room, the door closing behind me as I was walked down the corridor. We stopped outside a door, and waited as Mister Craig went into the room. He soon returned with two other things - a long length of white rope, and Grandma.

“Ready, Suzie,” she said as she ran her hand over my hair, then watched as Mister Craig passed the rope around my tummy and pulled my arms even more tightly into my back, taking it round a couple of times and then round my shoulders so that they were held firmly in place. He then tied the rope off against my back, as the door opened and I was led in.

The first thing I saw was both Jenny and Natalie lying on a large gym mat on the far side of the room on their stomachs. They could see me as well, because their heads were been held up and a very large white scarf had been pulled tightly over their mouths. I recognised the look - it had happened before, and I had a growing feeling of excitement that it was going to happen again.

Mister Craig and Mummy led me to a rug on the floor, in front of four chairs. In the chairs were Granny Craig, Mrs Strong and Miss Craig, while Grandma sat in the fourth chair and picked up a notepad and pen. Mister Craig helped me to lie down, and then crossed my ankles and started to tie them together with rope, the cords staying over my socks.

“This is a test,” Grandma said as Mister Craig passed some more rope under my legs and pulled them together below my knees, “and you are each in turn going to take part in it.” Mister Craig then pulled my legs up and used a length of rope to secure my ankles to the bottom rope around my chest, just like the masked man had done the first day we met Cassie and Jenny. I knew what was coming next, so I held my head up as Mister Craig tied the scarf tightly over my head, the cotton pressing into my cheeks, and then used a length of rope to secure the knot to the rope around my shoulders.

He then placed some earphones in my ears, Placed the iPod next to my head and pressed play. I heard Miss Craig in my ears.

“You will hear in a moment a list of twenty words, and I want you to say them as loudly and as clearly as you can. The people in front of you are going to write down what you say, and then when you have all had a turn whoever has the most words correctly understood will win the test and get a special treat. The test will start when you hear the first word.”

I looked at my markers and waited for the first word to be given to me.

glddddd. Pnddddd. Prrrrr. Ncccssst. Brsshhtt. Srsshsh. Shtrd. Wpppdddd. Mssss. Lffrrrrr. Bnffff. Sprr. Prdccxddd. Nossdddd. Freee. Akdd. Clrrrr. Prdeeee. Shrgggg. Ldddd.”

I felt the ear buds been taken out as Mister Craig rolled me onto my side, picked me up and took me to join the others on the mat, our eyes fixed on the door to see who was coming next.


It was Cassie who came in next, obviously excited as she saw the three of us lying there. She literally skipped over to the mat and got on her knees, lying herself down as Grandma explained what was going to happen. Once the scarf was tied over her mouth, she went through the same procedure we all had, grunting out the words as best she could while the four judges marked off their sheets. Once she was done, Mister Craig carried her over and laid her next to me, before leaving the room and coming back with Heidi.

Natalie called out some encouraging calls of “Gdddsnandsffhfhdfeee” as she went through the test, and then came back to us. That left the one person, and I wondered what Jenny was thinking as the door opened and Alicia came in.

She looked at all of us, paling slightly as she saw the five of us looking up at her. I was worried for her, given this was the event that caused her to - well, go ever so slightly crazy with me and Heidi for the summer. She recovered, however, and allowed herself to be laid on the floor and hog tied in the same way as us. As the scarf was tied over her mouth, she looked at Grandma and Granny Craig, both of whom were smiling at her to give some encouragement.

She did the test, and then was carried over to be with us. “Wldddnncssss” I mumbled, and I saw her nod very slightly, as we were all rolled over onto our sides. I wasn’t sure why this had been done, but soon found out as Daddy took a length of cord and used it to tie my legs together above my knees, pulling my skirt tightly round my legs as he did so. All of wearing skirts had the same thing done, before we were rolled back onto our stomachs.

Heidi and Natalie had their legs tied as well, but in their cases the rope was cinched between their legs as well - something that could not be done with us.

We watched as the four judges stood up and carried their chairs to the side of the room. “While our judges pick their winners,” Mister Craig said, “You can have another race of your own. Very simple - just get to the opposite corner of the room. First one there gets to be first to take part in the next game.”

I lay there, thinking this through. I’m lying here, hardly able to move or call out, and I need to get across the room? There was only one thing for it - wriggly worm time.

I could see Daddy filming us again as we all started to move ourselves, trying to make our way forward by moving like snakes. I actually felt sorry for Alicia and Jenny on this - they had their blazers on a swell, which made it more difficult for them to wriggle their way along the floor. Cassie and I were neck and neck, using our bodies to slide along the floor, but the person who was winning by a country mile was Natalie. It was almost as if this was second nature for her, as she wriggled across the floor and reached the corner first.

Cassie was second, and me third, as Heidi came behind me. We all tried to turn and watch as Alicia and Jenny finally brought up the rear, laughing in their gags as they looked at each other. I really felt that Alicia was part of it now, as they finally caught up.

“Well done girls,” Uncle Simon said as he clapped his hands. “We’re going to untie you now, and take the scarves off, before we go to the next activity of the day.”

I stretched my legs out as Daddy released them and removed the scarf, then sat up and watched as he untied my legs. Looking over at Cassie, I saw her shake her head when her dad went to remove the gag, so I did the same. The others took their own gags off, however, as Jenny asked Natalie “Where did you learn to do that?”

“My brother taught me - he’s a soldier, so he’s used to moving like that.”

“There are drinks there if you want them, girls, before we get you changed for the next game.”

Another change of clothing? What are we going to wear next?” I looked at Alicia as Daddy said “You’ll see - and believe me it will be worth it. Are you two sure you don’t want the gags off?”

I was thirsty, so I looked at Cassie and nodded. She did as well, so the tape was taken off our mouths and the socks taken out. We grabbed a glass and rained it as Heidi said “So who won the word competition?”

“Oh yes,” Grandpa said, “We will find out in due course. For now, you need to go to the room and put on your clothes. If nothing else, we need to make sure these clothes get cleaned for Tuesday.”

“Don’t remind me,” Alicia said as we trooped out of the room and back to where we had changed before. This time there was six clothes bags hanging up and foot wear on the bench. The tape had obviously gone from our hands, so we each took time to wash our hands before starting.

“I think we’re getting smarter again,” Alicia said as she opened the bag to reveal a knee length blue shift dress, with a roil neck long sleeved top underneath. On the bench on front of her was a pair of lace up ankle boots, made from blue leather.

Heidi was putting on a pair of powder blue tailored pants. She already had on a cream coloured camisole top, and a jacket matching her trousers was hanging up. A pair of black ankle boots was waiting for her as well. Natalie had a pleated brown skirt that came to just below her knees, and a short sleeved white blouse with a ruffled front that buttoned up. She already had on a pair of sandals on her feet, her rope bracelet visible over her ankle,

As I sat down, Cassie was fastening the front of a blue sun dress that buttoned up her front. The dress had cap sleeves and a skirt that came to her knees, and she had pulled on a pair of white tights. On the bench was a pair of black heeled shoes.

And me? My bag had a black jumper and a matching velvet skirt, which went to just above my knees at the front and just below at the back. There was also a pair of black tights, and heeled shoes. Once we had all dressed, it really looked as if we were all going to a party.

The door opened and Uncle Simon came in, carrying a pile of clean handkerchiefs and six silk squares. “Time to be quiet again girls,” he said a she placed them on the bench, “but this time you get to silence yourselves.”

“You mean we get to gag ourselves, Dad,” Alicia said, and as Uncle Simon nodded she stepped forward and picked up two handkerchiefs, stuffing them into her mouth before taking one of the blue squares and folding it into a thick band. As she pulled it into her mouth, Uncle Simon said “There will be more layers, but they will be given outside.”

One by one we stuffed as many clothes as we could into our moths, and then pulled a scarf between our lips. “Come with me girls,” he said as he walked across the room and held the bay windows open.

As we went outside, we saw waiting by the picnic blankets Grandma, Granny Craig, Mummy, Aunt Anne, Mrs Craig, Miss Craig, Angela, April, Mrs Strong and Mrs Cabot. They were standing in a line, smiling as we came out and stood in front of them.

“Girls,” Uncle Simon said as he looked at us, “In the words quiz, Heidi came first. Her prize is she can pick one of the older ladies in front of you, and bind her in any way she so desires. She can also gag that person - but be warned, that you will then be bound in the same way. Heidi, who will you pick?”

Well, I guessed who she would take, as she went over and took her mother’s hand. Mrs Strong was wearing the same style of trouser suit as Heidi, although hers was grey, and she had a white silk blouse on underneath. “As if I did not see this coming,” she said as Heidi led her to one of the blankets and helped her to lie down on her stomach, before crossing her mother’s hands behind her back.

We watched as if we were studying a master, as Heidi wrapped some rope around Mrs Strong’s wrists, pulling them tightly together and then tightening it between them, before she used a second length of rope to bind her ankles tightly together. She then helped her mother to roll over and sit up, before binding her arms tightly to her side with coils around her tummy and shoulders. Her legs were bound together with rope below and above her knees, so that she was well secured as Heidi looked up.

Taking a large sponge, she held it in front of Mrs Strong’s mouth. “Talk to you later girls,” she called out before the sponge was pushed in, and she used the white tape to seal the sponge in place, wrapping it round her mother’s head.

“Sit down, Heidi,” Mrs Cabot said to Heidi as she tore the tape loose and smoothed it down. As Heidi sat down, Uncle Simon said to Cassie “Your turn now, who would you like to tie up, Cassie?”

I thought she would go for her granny, but instead she went over and took Miss Craig’s hand. “It would be an honour,” she said as Cassie led her to the mat and helped her to sit down, making Miss Craig sit with her legs crossed in the yoga position. I soon guessed she wanted her to be like Angela, as she took some rope and pulled her aunt’s wrists behind her back. The waistcoat she was wearing over her blouse moved to the side as her arms were tied back, while her long skirt covered her legs.

“Suzie,” Uncle Simon said to me, “It’s your turn.” I watched as Mrs Cabot wrapped the tape round Heidi’s head as she sat next to her mother, and knew what I wanted to do. I first took one of the garden chairs and put it on the mat, and then took Grandma by the hand.

“Oh, I thought you would pick your mother,” she said, but she came with me and sat down, smoothing down her knee length tweed skirt before sitting with her hands on her lap. I guided them behind the chair, making her cardigan open over her jumper, and tied them side by side, palms together, with some rope.

As I cinched the binding and secured the ends down to the back of the chair, I saw Cassie stuff a rolled up scarf between her aunt’s lips, a big knot tied in the middle, and then wind the white tape around her head. Once that was done, she sat in the same position beside Miss Craig, waiting patiently as her mother came and started to secure her arms.

As for Grandma, I used some rope to secure her waist tot eh chair, and then tie her arms to her sides around her tummy, passing it between her chest and her arms to keep it firmly in place. “Very nice, Suzanne,” she said as I knelt in front of her, and pushed her ankles against the side of the chair, taking the rope over her stockings to secure them in place. I looked up and said “fnksgndm” as I tied her ankles to the foot, and then her legs together and to the top of the leg.

I looked over to see that Natalie was taking Mrs Cabot by the hand. Her mother - and I really needed to ask her some time why her name was Jenkins if her mother’s name was Cabot - was wearing a white roll necked sweater and a blue linen skirt that went over the knee, dark stockings and high heeled shoes. She sat herself on the blanket and allowed Natalie to move her arms behind her back so that they were like a box, and then started to tie them together.

“So how am I to be quiet, dear,” Grandma said. To answer her, I took one of the clean pair of socks that were sitting there and folded it into a pad, as had been done to us earlier. She opened her mouth wide and allowed me to push it in, and then pull the other one between her lips to keep it in place. After that, I used the white tape - I think we all wanted to - and then wrapped her head.

Mummy came over and said “Do you want to sit in a seat as well,” but I shook my head and jumped onto Grandma’s lap. If Cassie could do it, so could I, so I sat there and put my hands behind my back, waiting for Mummy to tie my wrists together.

Well, over the next twenty minutes Jenny took April by the hand, helped her to lie face down and proceeded to do the hog tie to her we had earlier. April was wearing a smart blue dress with tights and shoes, the sleeves of which came down to her elbows and the front of which buttoned up.

Alicia (who had come last) surprised all of us by asking Angela to be her partner. Angela was also wearing a shift dress, this one white with a black jumper underneath. Alicia sat her down on the carpet, and tied her wrists together under her knees, making sure she used the rope to secure them to her legs as well as gathering her skirt at the same time, and then her arms to her side and her ankles together. Once she had gagged her the same way she was - handkerchief, scarf, and of course white tape - she sat behind her back and nodded to Aunt Anne, who came over and started work.

So by the time we were all finished, Heidi and her mother were sat side by side, bound and gagged as if they had been kidnapped. Cassie and Miss Craig had their skirts over their legs, which had been crossed and tied together at the ankles, looking at each other. Natalie and Mrs Cabot were facing each other, kneeling as they were secured together around the waist and upper legs, trying to tell each other jokes. Alicia and Angela were trussed up back to back, both securely gagged. Jenny and April were lying side by side on the floor hogtied.

And me? I was sitting on Grandma’s lap, bound to her at the waist and with my lower legs tied to hers. My hands were tied together behind my back, and then to my waist, as I sat with my head against Granny’s chest. Cassie was right - the rhythm was very soothing.

Daddy walked round, filming each of us in turn, before Uncle Simon said “Well, some of us need to go and start getting ready for Dinner. Mrs Bridges, what time are we serving?”

“At about eight, Mister Bowden,” Mrs Bridges said as Grandpa came and gave me and Grandma a hug from behind.

Looking at his watch, Uncle Simon said “Well, it’s four o’clock now, and the girls will need to get ready.” I had not realised it was so late - where had the day gone?

“So we’re setting a time limit of six o’clock - you have two hours to try and free each other, or else just to sit and enjoy the afternoon sun. Enjoy yourselves - Alexander and John will watch to make sure you are all right.” With that the others walked off, waving as Daddy and Mister Craig sat down to see what we would do.


Sitting in the afternoon sun, with my ear next to Granny’s chest, I could hear the rhythmic, steady beating of her heart. On the blanket, Jenny was rolling over and trying to talk to April. She was well secured in her floral print sundress, the white contrasting with the blue and black print that had flashes of red petals. The skirt was bound around her upper legs, so that the hem came to just above her knees.

I snuggled in as I had seen Cassie do before, listening to the beat as the sun beat down. After a while I felt my eyes closing - it had been a long day, and perhaps a little nap would be nice. As they closed to, I felt Grandma rubbing my head with her chin, as her heart went Bum-bum, Bum-bum, Bum-bum...


I opened my eyes and lifted my head up to see Grandma smiling down at me. I wanted to stretch my arms and legs out, but remembered that they were rather well secured to her, so instead I lifted my head up and looked round.

Grandpa was untying Natalie, while Mrs Cabot was lying on her side on the blanket, fast asleep. As soon as the last ropes had been removed from her hands, Natalie slipped the shoes off her mother’s feet and started to tickle them. Mrs Cabot started to squirm round and laugh as she opened her eyes, looking at Natalie with a mixture of surprise and that look Mum gives me when she’s very proud of me.

Cassie and Jenny were already untied, and were starting to unwind the ropes round April and Miss Craig, while Uncle Simon was releasing Alicia and Angela from each other. Heidi and Mrs Strong were already free, and removing their gags as they walked towards a table which had cold drinks laid out.

“Enjoy your nap, Suzanne,” Grandpa said as he walked over and started to untie the rope that held me on Grandma’s lap. He had changed into a pair of black trousers and a white shirt, very similar to what he wears when we have a posh dinner at the Manor.

Yssfnnkkkkggrnddd,” I mumbled as I felt myself able to sit up, and he started to untie my arms. “When you are free,” he said, “please untie Grandma, then the two of you can remove your gags and have a drink. It’s quarter to six, and you need to get ready soon for dinner.”

Ready for dinner? I wondered what he meant by that as my hands were freed, but first things first - Grandpa had asked me to do something, so I untied Grandma’s wrists and allowed her to move her arms once I had released them. After a few minutes, we both stretched and walked over to where the others were gathered, unwinding the tape from around our mouths as we did so.

“That’s probably the most relaxing couple of hours I’ve had in weeks,” I heard Mrs Strong say as we came closer. “We need to try that more often.”

“Well, if Cindy and her mother are free one day,” Heidi said as she drained her glass. “Well, good evening sleepy head. You slept well.”

“Come on Heidi,” Alicia said as she smiled at me, “the little squirt has had a long day, she must have been tired.”

I smile din return, vowing to get my own back at her at some point, but right then my mouth was like the hockey field in a hot July, so I took a drink and started to quench my thirst.

“Have you all enjoyed yourself so far,” Grandpa said as he looked at us, and we all nodded - every single one of us.

“Good - well, the day is coming to an end soon, but I want us all to join together for dinner tonight. With that in mind, girls, I want the six of you to come with me back up to the room where you first changed this morning, and shower. You have done a lot of moving round today, and it is important that you clean yourselves up. Once you have done that, you may dress for dinner.”

That was a phrase that made Alicia and I look at each other - the last time we had heard that was when Cassie and Jenny had stayed the night. “Ladies,” Grandpa then said to the adults, “If you would care to head for the downstairs dressing room, you will find your outfits waiting for you there.”

As we walked back into the house, Heidi whispered in my ear “Did you grandfather just say dress for dinner?” I nodded and heard Heidi whisper “What on earth has Natalie brought then?” as we climbed the stairs.

As I stepped out from the hot shower, and towelled my hair off, I put on a white bath robe that had been left out and walked into the changing area. Cassie and Jenny were already there, as was Mrs Craig and Mrs Brown, looking incredibly beautiful.

Mrs Craig was wearing a red sleeveless evening dress, which had gold clasps on the shoulders, which came down to just above the red leather high heeled shoes she had on. Mrs Brown was wearing - well, it looked like a wedding dress without the veil and train. It was made of cream silk, with a gathered bodice and pearl details at the cuffs of her long sleeves and the waist. She also had a pair of cream satin shoes on.

“Look what we’ve got,” Cassie said as she held out her bridesmaid dress. It was just as I remembered it, white silk with wide straps on her shoulders and a skirt that flowed out from her gathered waist to just above her own feet. Jenny was dressed in a similar outfit, as she sat on the bench and slipped her matching shoes on over her white tights.

“Your outfit is hanging up,” Mrs Craig said as she nodded to a dress bag on the wall. I opened it and saw the dress I had worn for the sleep over - the light blue silk, the short puffed sleeves, the skirt that went from my waist to just above my knees. On the bench were my white shoes and a pair of clean white gloves.

I heard a door opening, and turned to see Alicia walk in with Aunt Anne and Mummy. She was already wearing her red velvet dress and satin slippers, and was pulling the elbow length red gloves over her arms. “Put your dress on, dear,” Mummy said as Alicia sat next to Jenny, the two of them talking quietly, “and I’ll help you to get dressed.”

They were stunning. Mummy was wearing a red silk dress with a high collar, her long sleeves buttoned at her wrists with pearl buttons, and her skirt coming to just below her knees. A matching pair of red leather shoes were on her feet, making her look taller and slender. Aunt Anne was wearing a sleeveless black cocktail dress, with dark stockings and high heeled shiny shoes. She had her dark hair up in a bun, so that she looked like that actress in the old movie we watched a week or so ago - Breakfast at Tiffany’s or something like that.

Mrs Craig was helping Cassie to get into her dress, while Mrs Brown had started to tease Jenny’s hair up into a bun, using brushes and pins to get the desired effect. “What are you wearing your wedding dress,” Cassie said to her as she stood watching.

“Oh, because this is a special occasion,” Mrs Brown said as she turned and smiled at Cassie, “and also because your Aunt Cassie never got to see it. Now, be a good girl and stand still while your mother sorts your hair out.”

The door opened again and Heidi and Natalie came in. Heidi was wearing her prom dress - peach satin with the square neckline and the long sleeves that hooked over her middle finger. Her dress also came down to the floor.

Natalie was the real surprise - for someone who had been wearing looser clothing and long flowing skirts, to see her in a brown velvet dress with a round neck and knee length skirt was a revelation. It was sleeveless, but she had in her hands a pair of brown silk Victorian style elbow gloves, with little buttons on the back of the wrists.

Both girls were accompanied by Granny Craig, who was carrying two make up cases and a holdall. She was wearing a grey shift dress with dark swirling patterns of shiny dark grey on it, and matching shoes, with a jacket over her arms.

She sat down and watched as we all had our hair made up, with little tiaras for Cassie, Jenny, Heidi and Natalie, and Alice bands that matched our dresses for me and Alicia.

“Sit down please girls,” Granny Craig said, “but not you, Natalie.”

“Not me - why,” Natalie said as the rest of us sat down.

“You need to receive your prize for winning the race across the room floor,” Granny Craig said as she opened holdall. “For that, you get to ensure that all of you are fully silenced before we apply your make up.”

Opening the holdall, she took out six clean handkerchiefs. “So I get to gaga everyone - including myself?” There was a wicked look in her eyes as she said this.

“Mostly yes, but you will need some help at one stage with yourself. Are you all ready?”

“But Granny,” Jenny said as she looked at Granny Craig, “How are we going to be able to eat and drink at Dinner?”

“You will have the gags taken off for that, but first we want to have some photos taken. Now, all of you, open wide.”

Well, I was looking forward to this, and I could see Cassie was, so one by one we allowed Natalie to push the handkerchief into our mouths, closing our lips over it as she did so.

“Now,” Granny Craig said as Natalie pushed the last cloth into her mouth, “for the next layer.” She took out from the holdall six blue bandanas, which had already been folded into bands with knots tied in the middle. “One for each of you,” she said, “so please stand up and turn round.”

One by one we had a scarf pulled into our mouths. As it went between my teeth, I bit down on the knot and managed somehow to close my mouth over it, as Natalie pulled the ends around my face and tie it under my hair at the back of my neck.

As she tied the last scarf into her own mouth, I heard Granny Craig stand up, and heard a by now familiar sound, the half ripping, half peeling sound of the special white tape.

Looking over, I watched as she wound the tape around Cassie’s mouth and head, sealing the blue bandana under several layers until she was looking at me over a tight white band, her eyes sparkling as she nodded to show she was enjoying this. Granny Craig made her way down the line, sealing the mouths of each of us. When it was my turn, I had to stop myself from shivering with delight at the way it stuck to my cheeks, making me unable to talk above a low mumble.

Once we were all gagged, we were turned round and sat down, as Granny Craig opened the makeup boxes. We sat very still as we all had make up put on, so that we looked our very best for the dinner that night.

Eventually there was a knock on the door and Grandpa put his head round the corner. “Are you ready for us,” he said as Mummy wiped one last cotton pad over my face.

“I think so, yes,” she said as she stood up. “We will see you downstairs,” Mummy said as all the older women left the room, and were replaced by Grandpa, Mister Craig, Mister Brown, Daddy, Uncle Simon and Mister Bridges. All of them were wearing dinner jackets and smart trousers, their bow ties carefully tied around their necks.

They were each carrying several length of rope in their hands, which they put down before turning and facing us. Daddy was in front of me, and Uncle Simon in front of Alicia. Mister Craig stood in front of Jenny, and Mister Brown in front of Cassie. Finally, Mister Bridges and Grandpa were in front of Natalie and Heidi.

“All right, young ladies,” Grandpa said quietly, “If you are wearing gloves, put them on.” I picked up my white gloves and put them on, while Jenny, Cassie, Alicia and Natalie pulled on their arm covers.

“Very good - now turn round and put your hands behind your backs, palm to palm.” We all knew what was coming, so we turned round and stood facing forward, feeling the white rope as it encircled our wrists and held them tightly together, passing between our arms to further hold them in place. We then felt a length of cord been used to tie our thumbs and fingers together, so that we could hardly move them apart.

Jenny, Cassie and I had sashes round our waist, so Daddy, Mister Craig and Mister Brown untied those and then used them to fix our hands against our backs. As for Heidi, Alicia and Natalie, they had a rope belt tied round their waists to hold their wrists in place, the rope going between their arms and waist as well.

It was amazing how good Daddy was at this, as he used more rope to fix my arms to my body around my tummy, making sure it went round my arms as well without hurting me. I was sure there was something he wasn’t telling me as he tied the ropes off, and then tied another length around my shoulders, passing it under my arms to hold it in place as well.

“All of you, turn round and sit down for a minute,” Grandpa said, and we acted as one, turning and sitting with all the grace we six princesses could muster. Our captors knelt in front of us and folded our skirts up, before tying our legs together below our knees, and then folded them back before they secured our ankles.

One final length of rope for each of us, as our skirts were secured around our upper legs - all except Jenny and Cassie, as their father and uncle folded their skirt back up and secured their legs above their knees - and then we were helped to stand up. “We have one last treat for each of you,” Daddy said as he reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a silk square, the same colour as my dress, and folded it into a thick band with the point pointing downwards. He wrapped this around my already covered mouth and cheeks, covering the tape completely a she knotted it tightly at the back of my neck.

Looking down the line, I could see Cassie and Jenny had cream scarves over their mouths, while next to me Alicia had a red one. On the toher side, Heidi’s was peach and Natalie’s brown - they all matched our outfits perfectly.

“Now, if you are ready,” Grandpa said as he looked at our fathers and uncles, “we can begin the parade. John, if you would open the door?”


I watched as Mister Craig opened the room door, and we were escorted out, Jenny by Mister Craig, Cassie by Mister Brown, me by Daddy, Alicia by Uncle Simon, Heidi by Grandpa and Natalie by Mister Bridges. We hopped along, our skirts rising with each movement, until we got to the top of the stairs. One by one, we were lifted up and carried down, then set back on our feet at the bottom of the stairs.

Uncle Simon, once he had put Alicia down, walked to a table and retrieved his camera, as well as the video camera which he handed to Daddy. “All right girls,” he said with a smile, “Line up at the foot of the stairs and say Gorgonzola”

Gtrnndsnandnasdnsdaf” we mumbled as one as he and Daddy took some pictures of us. “Now,” Uncle Simon said as he put the camera down for a moment, “Hop round and look at me over your shoulders, and smile for me”

Well, this was fun, as we hopped round and showed Uncle Simon and Daddy our bound hands and arms, looking over our shoulders and trying to smile as they took the pictures. I’m not sure if they could tell, but we did our best.

“Very good girls,” Grandpa said as he put the camera down. “We want to take some group shots next, so if Jenny, Cassie, Heidi and Natalie could just come to the side here?”

Alicia and I watched as they hopped to the side, and then heard the door to the main room opening. Our eyes must have widened in unison at the sight that came out.

First was Grandma, who was wearing an Edwardian style short sleeved dress, made from cream silk with a silver brocade design, and elbow length gloves. Then same Mummy and Aunt Anne, but the most surprising thing was Angela. She was wearing a black dress that seemed to fit her like a second skin, as the skirt came down to just above her knees and would have held her legs together anyway. She had on a pair of vintage black elbow gloves. All of them had added a string of pearls to their necks, but there were other additions as well.

They were bound the same way we were, with their arms behind their back and bands of rope around their waists, tummy and shoulders. Their ankles were also tightly bound side by side, and except for Grandma I could see rope around their legs below their knees. I guessed Granny had the same under her skirt, because as they hopped over with varying levels of skill - Grandma had to be helped by Uncle Simon - their eyes smiled over the white tape that was around their mouths and jaws.

“All right, girls,” Grandpa said as they joined Alicia and me, “Let’s have a group photo - ladies at the back, girls at the front. All of you look at the camera now...”

IT was amazing - to have the photo of all of us together, bound and gagged, was a real treat. Once Uncle Simon had taken a picture of all of us, he handed the camera to Mister Brown, who took a photo of Daddy, Mummy and me, then one with Alicia, Angela, Uncle Simon and Aunt Anne, and finally one with both of us, Grandma and Grandpa.

But that wasn’t the end of the photographs. We all hopped to the side and the door opened again. This time it was Granny Craig, Mrs Craig, Miss Craig and Mrs Brown who came out. “Mgmgddddd,” Cassie said as she saw the four of them hop over, bound and gagged in the same way, and stand with them as Uncle Simon took the camera back.

“Now, some photos of the Craig ladies, I think,” he said as they posed as a group, first with Mrs Craig alone, then Granny Craig, then with their aunts, then with Mister and Mrs Craig, and finally all eight of them as Mister Brown joined them. As the last photo was about to be taken, the door opened again and April hopped out. We had not seen her most of the afternoon - we later learned she had been helping Mrs Bridges - but she was wearing a sliver silk dress that hung over one shoulder, white lace gloves and silver sandals that could be seen under the hem of her dress. She hopped over and had her photo taken with Cassie and Jenny, then with the whole family.

As they moved over to join us, the door opened one last time and we watched Mrs Strong and Mrs Cabot hop in.

Mrs Strong had her blonde hair held up under a tiara, which I recognised as one of Grandma’s. She was wearing a gold halter neck dress, with a gathered waist, that came to about a foot above her feet, and matching opera gloves.

As for Mrs Cabot, she had on a dark, dark blue sleepless dress, with a high collar, that came down to her knees and a pair of matching shoes. Instead of opera gloves, she was wearing a pair of short blue velvet ones, but they were still both as securely bound and gagged as the rest of us.

So we watched as Heidi and Natalie had their photos taken, first individually with their mothers, and then all four together. When they had finished, Uncle Simon said “I want to get one last group shot - all the ladies together, and the girls in the front.”

It was just like getting together for the school class photo, as we stood in front of all our female relatives, our eyes smiling as Uncle Simon and Grandpa took photos and filmed all of us. Eventually the end came as a gong sounded.

“Dinner,” Grandpa said as he put the camera down. Mister Brown opened the double doors at the end of the hallway and motioned as we all started to hop in.

A long table was laid out with fine plates and cutlery, and I could see Mrs Bridges standing smiling, dressed in her black dress and white apron. Although she was not bound, she too was wearing a white tape gag around her mouth.

One by one our chairs were pulled out for us, one by one we sat down and had the ropes removed from our arms and body, one by one we had a length of rope tied round our waists to hold them to the chair back and another used to pull our ankles back, secured to the waist rope. As we were pushed in, the gags were removed from our mouths and carefully laid to the side, except for the tape which was neatly disposed of, and then a white linen napkin based on our laps. After the men had all sat down, Mister and Mrs Bridges started to serve dinner.

It was a magnificent meal, and we all sat and talked as we ate, both about the things we had done today and other, less important matters. As we had our bowls of Gaspacho set in front of us, Jenny said “So Heidi, when do you fly back to the US?”

“Tomorrow,” she replied as she put her spoon in the bowl, “The flight leaves from Heathrow at 3 pm for Boston, then we have another short flight after that. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but I miss my friends and I can’t wait to see them again. I guess I’ll meet you at the airport, Nats?”

“Nope - we’re coming over to Alicia’s house tomorrow first thing to travel to the airport with you,” Natalie said as she looked at her friend. “You can thank Lord Holderness for that - apparently we’re getting the VIP treatment.”

“Well, we wanted to see you off in style,” Grandpa said as he looked down from the head of the table. “As for you, Alicia, when do you start school again - next Tuesday?”

“Yeah,” Alicia said as she looked over at Jenny. “I guess it’s going to be a very different year this year, and I’m going to need some help to get through things. What do you say, Jenny - do you mind if I hang around with you for a while?”

Jenny looked at Alicia, her spoon hanging in mid air. “Err - aren’t your friends going to have something to say about you associating with me?”

“Let them,” Alicia said as she smiled, “I’ve been a pig towards you and others for far too long. If they don’t like it - that’s their problem.”

I looked down at Angela, who was smiling and nodding as she heard this. Jenny also smiled and said “Sure - why not, but don’t expect me to do your homework for you!”

That made them both laugh, as I looked over to Cassie on the other side of the table. “So when do you start back at your school?”

“Wednesday,” Cassie said as Mrs Bridges took her plate away. “You?”

Tuesday - I wish we were going to the same school. We would have a lot to talk about!”

“I know - but we’re not, at least at the moment.” She stopped talking as the main course was put in front of her and me. “Do you think we can get together at the weekends?”

“Well, I think we could always ask our grandmothers,” I said with a smile as we tucked into the roast chicken. “Look, I have an idea for what we can do to say thank you,” Jenny said to the five of us as we sat there. “Listen carefully...”

The meal passed pleasantly enough, but it was as the pudding plates were been cleared away that Grandpa stood up.

“I know you all want to just sit back and enjoy the meal, but this would normally be the point when the ladies leave and the men sit round and drink port. I think, however, that might be a little difficult to night, so let us ignore those petty formalities.”

We all laughed at this and banged the table as Grandpa motioned us to stop.

“There are, however, a few things that we do need to say before we have something special to end the day with. Firstly, it has been brought to my attention that we have never announced the actual results of the word test. Cassandra Senior, if you would?”

I saw Miss Craig twist round, and look at us as she said “For those who did not hear, the twenty words on the player were as follows. Gold. Pound. Pair. Next. Brushed. Shirt. Stored. Wiped. Miss. Lover. Burnt. Spar. Proceed. Noise. Three. Skid. Clear. Produce. Shrug. Loaded

“We scored it by ticking off, on our lists, if we thought you could get the word on our lists from what you said, and then worked out a percentage.
As you know, Heidi came first, but you do not know the percentage.”

We all looked at Heidi as Miss Strong said “Heidi won with a grand total of - 10%. Next was Alicia with 4%, then Jenny and Natalie with 2%. Cassie, Suzie - sorry, but you got zero.”

“Only because we were so well gagged,” Cassie called out, which made us all laugh. The adults did as well, before Grandpa held his hand up.

“It’s good to see you have developed some of your teaching skills, Miss Craig - for that is what Suzanne is going to have to call you when you meet her next week. Suzanne, meet your new teacher.”

It was Cassie who cheered when she heard that, while Miss Craig smiled at me. “Of course, this means we will get very full and honest reports on your behaviour, young lady, so I only want to hear good things.”

That made Mummy and Daddy laugh, before Uncle Simon stood up.

“I would like to say something,” he said as he looked at Alicia and Angela. “Earlier this year, we had some unwanted visitors in our house, and it affected my wife and girls in different ways. For Alicia especially, it was a traumatic experience, but how traumatic we did not know until recently. I wanted to say thank you to you, Jenny, for not been the person you would have been expected to be when that happened, and for been a good friend to Alicia since then. In a way, I’m glad your grandmother and my mother are friends - it meant you were together and there for each other when the men broke in, and afterwards.”

I watched as he raised a glass and said “A toast - to the Craigs, who were good friends when it really mattered.”

“The Craigs,” everyone said as I raised my glass of lemonade and nodded to Cassie, who blushed and smiled in return. As Uncle Simon sat down, Daddy stood up.

“I also wanted to say thank you, to the girls - all of them. You would not have known this, but when we were younger Anne and I used to play the same sort of games, both by ourselves and with Mother. When we heard about what had happened over the summer, it brought back a lot of good memories for us and for Susan - after all, she and Anne were good friends at school.

“So do you, Jennifer, Cassandra, Alicia, Suzanne and Heidi, I say thank you, and I ask you to drink a toast to childhood friends.”

“Childhood friends,” we all said as we took a drink and looked round at each other. As Daddy sat down, Mummy looked at us and said “Mind you, the look on your faces when I sat up this morning in the end room - that was absolutely priceless.”

We all stared at her for a few minutes, before Alicia said “You... I thought it was the Holderness Shadow!”

That story? Well, never mind, it was fun anyway.” April then held her hand up.

“I wanted to say thank you,” she said as she looked at Cassie and Jenny. “When we were held hostage that night, I was more scared than I had ever been. Your attitude helped me to cope that night, and to get through the weeks afterwards as I dealt with what had happened. I just want to... to...” she started crying as Mister Craig stood up and held her shoulders as she started to cry.

“Just let it all out,” he said quietly as Cassie and Jenny looked at them, then at us.

“Finally,” Grandma said as she looked down the table,” we must not forget to say good bye to Heidi. It has been a privilege and an honour to have you stay with us these last few weeks, and I want to thank you for everything you have done. And I do mean everything. Ladies and Gentlemen, a toast - to Heidi Strong.”

Heidi Strong,” we all said as we turned and looked at her and Natalie. She blushed and whispered “thank you” as Mrs Strong said “I want to thank you as well, Your Ladyship, for allowing her to come over. Perhaps someday we can repay the favour.”

“We have one last announcement to make tonight,” Grandpa said as he stood up. “We did promise there would be one more prize - for the group that won the relay race earlier today. Mister Bridges?”

We looked at each other as Mister Bridges placed a small velvet bag in front of each of the six of us. “Go on - pick them up,” Grandpa said, so I picked up the bag. It felt heavier than it looked, and rattled as I shook it. As I opened the top and looked inside, my heart literally leapt into my mouth.

“Your parents will be given the keys,” Grandpa said, “and they are not to be used without their permission. Please respect that.

“And now the evening, and indeed the day, is drawing to a close, but before you go.”

“We would like to do something,” Alicia said, “to say thank you - thank you to all of you, but we need to be ready for it. Could you please re-tie and re-gag the six of us?”


I looked at Alicia, amazed that she was the one to say that, but then as I looked up I could see Uncle Simon and Aunt Anne nodding. As he stood up, so did Daddy, Mister Craig, Mister Brown and Grandpa, while Mister Bridges came over from where he had been helping his wife.

“As you wish,” Grandpa said as they each took the napkin from our laps and shook all the crumbs off of it. I watched from my side of the table as Mister Craig, Mister Brown and Grandpa rolled the stiff napkins into thick rolls, and then held them in front of the mouths of Cassie, Jenny and Natalie. As they opened them wide, the cloths were pulled into their mouths and the ends fastened tightly round their necks - a sight that so intrigued me I barely noticed that Daddy was doing the same thing to me.

I watched, spellbound, as Grandpa wrapped the white tape around Natalie’s face, covering the paler lower half of her face as he did so, and then re-tied the brown scarf over her gag. He handed the roll to Mister Brown, and as he gagged Jenny moved down the table to untie Grandma.

Again, one by one we were regagged, and then our chairs pulled back and our waists released. We all stood up, waiting as our arms were re-bound as before and then ropes were tied round out upper bodies. While this was going on, one by one the rest of the dinner party were released from their chairs and the ropes around their legs, before moving out of the doorway onto the lawn with their chairs. The last two to leave apart from us and our binders was Mrs Bridges, who allowed her husband to remove the tape gag from her mouth, and said “Thank you George,” before she kissed him and walked onto the lawn as well.

“After you, girls,” Grandpa said when they were finished, and we all hopped along the floor towards the patio doors. Outside it was getting dark, as everyone sat on a chair while we formed a small group in front of them.

Tssstssstnnkuuuu,” Alicia mumbled as we looked at each other. Cassie and I started to hum the tune we had all discussed, while the other four began to sing.

fnkufrhds, Tsndlsdas, tscrdsugfm.
Mfnkgftds, eewntfrtsngdblfm
Blccssstlt, Blccsstltthtlhtsnublfm
Ndthrgn, Urwfmfresngldblfm.

Dsllrmbrlmf, Dswnucntcrngfrmrt.
Utkmlf, Bthneneeeewthtvresnudlfm
Btslrt, Nmntfrtndftswrldblfm

As we sang, I could see Uncle Simon with his arms round Aunt Anne and Angela, a smile on his face as he listened to us, while Grandpa was standing behind Grandma, his arms around her neck as she had her hand on his.

Wshtdecldbtmrw, Tnhtsdrk,

fnkufrhds, Tsndlsdas, tscrdsugfm.
Mfnkgftds, eewntfrtsngdblfm

Dsllrmbrlmf, Dswnucntcrngfrmrt.

Utkmlf, Bthneneeeewthtvresnudlfm
Btslrt, Nmntfrtndftswrldblfm

fnkufrhds, Tsndlsdas, tscrdsugfm.

Mfnkgftds, eewntfrtsngdblfm
Blccssstlt, Blccsstltthtlhtsnublfm
Ndthrgn, Urwfmfresngldblfm.


As we stopped singing, I could actually see a tear in Grandma and Mummy’s eyes. They looked at us, and then started clapping, applauding as we all took a little bow - taking care not to topple ourselves over, of course.

“Thank you girls,” Grandma finally said as she wiped her face, “thank you all so much. Why don’t you come over and join us, we have something for you as well.”

The six of us hopped over, Cassie and me heading for Granny Craig and Grandma. When we reached them, we hopped onto their laps as Jenny joined Mister and Mrs Craig, and the others their families.

Looking out over the dark blue sky that hung over the lawn, we wondered what was going to happen, before there was an explosion of light and colour that filled the sky. We watched as a group, transfixed for at least fifteen minutes as the firework display continued, filling the sky with bands of bright colours and sounds as we oohed and ahhed and grunted in response.

Eventually, however, it came to an end and Grandpa stood up.

“I really, really wish this could continue, bad sadly we need to prepare and say our goodbyes. Girls, we need to remove the ropes and gags - I think there may be things you wish to say to each other and to others.”

I nodded as I stood up and let Grandma untie me, while Granny Craig took care of Cassie. Mrs Strong and Mrs Cabot released Heidi and Natalie, while Mister Craig released Jenny and Uncle Simon Alicia.

As soon as I was able to do so, I turned and hugged Granny, saying “Thank you” into her ear as I did so. Once I let go of her, I walked over and joined the others outside the bay windows, as the rest of the party filed in.

“I can’t believe that the day is over,” Alicia said as she held her arm in her hand.

“Or the summer,” Jenny said with a sad smile as she looked at us. She hugged Cassie before turning to Heidi. “Thank you for everything,” she said as she hugged our new American friend, who was actually crying as she held Jenny in return.

“I really think I’m going to miss you guys,” she sobbed as she hugged me and Cassie, and then looked at Alicia. “Are you going to be all right,” she said as she looked at my cousin.

“I hope so,” Alicia said before the two of them embraced.

“I’ve only met you guys today,” Natalie said, “and already I feel as if I have known you all my life. Thanks for been friends for Alicia - and Jenny.”


“Thank your gran for tying me up after I had taken care of Mother - she did a great job.”

“I will,” Jenny said as she hugged Natalie, and then we all did, holding her tightly as Mrs Cabot came to the doorway.

“Natalie? We need to get back to the hotel, if we’re going to be up in time in the morning.”

“All right, mum,” Natalie said as she walked towards the door, passing Mrs Strong as she came out.

“I’m going as well, Heidi,” she said as she put her hands on Heidi’s shoulders, “I’ll see you tomorrow at the airport.”

“Sure, mum,” Heidi said as she turned round and buried her face into her mother’s front, tears falling down her face. She finally let go, and waved goodbye as her mother went back into the building.

“Alicia,” Aunt Anne called out, “We need to get going as well, if Heidi is to be packed for the car in the morning.”

“All right, Mum,” Alicia replied before she looked at Jenny and Cassie. “I guess this is it then,” she said as she tried to smile, “back to school next week.”

“Back to school,” Jenny said quietly, “but I’ll look forward to seeing you there.”

“You too,” Alicia said as she hugged Jenny, then Cassie. “Thanks, Cassie, for helping me to be a braver person,” she said quietly before she walked in. Heidi waved at us before she turned and followed her in, Uncle Simon waving goodbye to us as he put his arm round her.

“I guess it’ll be our turn next,” Jenny said as she looked at me. “Your mum seems great - and she’s almost as good as Mum at tying us up.”

“Looks like it - I could not believe that she managed the smiling man tie on you after you did it to April. Do you think she’s going to be all right?”

“April? She’ll be great,” Cassie said as she looked at us. “She loves playing those games, after all.”

“So do I,” I said as I hugged Cassie. “Hey, do you think you can get me some sneak peeks at your aunt’s lesson plans?”

“That depends,” Cassie giggled, “on whether Granny would let me - aunt Cassie is staying with her until she gets a flat sorted out. They live really close to your school anyway.”

“Worth a try,” I said as Granny Craig came out. “Cassandra, Jennifer,” she called out, “It’s time to go.”

“Coming, Granny,” Jenny said before she hugged me, and then I hugged Cassie. “Mum says she’s invited you to come round one weekend - maybe the brother of yours will come?”

“Bobby? Nah - he’s not interested in girl things,” I said as I looked at them “I could always ask, though.”

“Do that,” Cassie said as she took Jenny’s hand, “and we’ll see what we can do. See you, Suzie.” I watched them as they walked into the room, while Mummy walked out.

“Long day, little one?”

Yeah,” I said as I yawned, “but I loved every second of it. Why did you never tell me you had played our games before?”

“Never came up in conversation. Surprised?”

Very - maybe we can play them some time at home.”

“Maybe - we will have to see. Set out some rules and so on - especially now you have that present.”


“Yes, Suzie?”

Can I wear them to go home?”

Mummy laughed as she ruffled my hair. “Let’s go and ask Daddy,” she said as she took my hand and we walked into the room.

“Come on, Suzie - you don’t want to be late for your first day!”

I ran down the stairs and grabbed my satchel from Mummy, before running out to the car. Bobby was already in the back of the car, checking the contents of his bag.

“Mum, where are my football boots?”

“In the back of the car with the rest of your PE kit -it needs to be kept separate, remember.”

“Oh yeah - so you got a new teacher today?” He poked me in the side as he said that, which made me poke him back.

“Cut it out,” Mummy said as she got behind the wheel. “Suzie, behave yourself for Miss Craig, and Bobby remember to ask when the weekend away is.”

“Why, Mum?”

“We need to make some plans is why - lets go,” she said as she started the car. I smiled a little - a new year, a new teacher, new adventures. Who knows what might happen next?







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