Softly Softly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Louise Hobson, have you finished clearing your room up yet?”

 

“Yes Dad,” I said with a sigh as I put the last of my books away, and then walked back downstairs.  Dad had been very protective of me for the last few days, ever since the incident at the Cottrell farm – and I can’t say I blame him really.  Any dad would be upset if their daughter was held hostage overnight.

 

If he knew everything that had happened since a couple of weeks before the ends of term, however, I think he might have either fainted or gone ballistic.  After all, I am the ten year old apple of his eye – if he only knew what Patty, Fiona and I got up to when we visited Charlie and Lisa Williamson that day, or when we all stayed up at the manor house…

 

I mean, I can’t quite believe it either – a girl like me, staying with Lord and Lady Holderness?  Becoming friends with their family and Patty’s friends and family?  It was a completely unique experience – as was learning how to move when tied up in old and big clothes, or spending the night bound and tape gagged?

 

Despite that, they weren’t the really exciting things that happened to me this summer.  Last September, the old man who owned Cottrell Farm died, and his son moved in with his family – three sons, one of whom looked to be the same age as me.  Dad and I dropped in to say hi one day, and we met them – Mark, Eric and Frank.  Frank was cute, but looked as if this was the last place we wanted to be.

 

We called round a few times after that, but every time Frank disappeared as we came in, or had gone before we arrived.  His mum said he was very very shy, and al his friends were at his school, so he tended to either stay in the house or play in the woods behind the farm.

 

 

Which was frustrating to me – because I thought he was really really cute.  I kept finding reasons to walk past the farmhouse, but he never seemed to be there – and then last week, I was going with Patty to see if Cassie wanted to play some games, when we bumped into her and Lisa, and they said they were going to the farm!

 

So when Patty said they would tag along, I agreed – and I discovered there was a shortcut from Cassie and Lisa’s house to the farm, through the woods.  We got to the farm, and Lisa knocked on the door I thought I’d get to finally talk to him.

 

No chance – turned out he was visiting his uncle with his brother, and only Eric was home.  So we sat and talked for a while, and then just as we were about to leave – wham bam, masked robbery man!

 

We ended up spending the night there, tied and gagged, and for the whole time Patty told me it was a game, and I believed her.  After all, Lisa and Cassie didn’t say anything different, so I just went along with it, thinking it was just like when we stayed at the Manor House.

 

The arrival of the police the next day, and the look on Dad’s face when he found me, did kind of give the truth away however – and when dad told me it was a real robbery, I should have been really scared.

 

But I wasn’t, and I realised that pretending it was a game had made it just that.  I really did like playing these games, but I knew Dad might object.

 

Mind you, Dad seemed to have other things on his mind the last few weeks.  Mum died about six years ago, when I was four – Dad told me at the time she had got very sick, and in the end the doctors could do nothing.  I have memories of her in the hospital bed, a scarf over her head because the hair had all fallen out, and telling me to be brave.

 

Anyway, about three years ago we went on holiday to the US, and we met this woman there who had a son my age.  We got on great, going to the same places for the two weeks we were there, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  Recently Dad’s been spending a lot of time on Skype talking to her, and yesterday he told me he was going to go over for a couple of weeks, and would I mind staying with Fiona while he did that?

 

I did wonder why he didn’t want me to come, but he said he’d explain everything when he came back, and I had to accept that.

 

So here I was, walking down the street, and wondering what I wanted to do today.  I’d already called Fiona, but she had gone off with her mum to do something, so I was thinking on going round to Patty’s house.  I’d told Dad where I was going, and he asked if I wanted a lift, but I told him I would take the shortcut to their street.

 

There was, of course, only one teeny little problem with that – I’d have to go past the Cottrell farm, and I didn’t really want to do that without permission, so as I stopped in front of the farmhouse I was in two minds – do I knock and ask if it is all right for me to sue the short cut, or do I just take it anyway?

 

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

 

I’m not sure how long I stood there for, looking to see if Frank was around, before I heard a voice call out and say “hey Louise – what are you doing standing there?”

 

I turned round as soon as I heard it, and recognised Charlie Williamson as he came up.  He was wearing a blue polo shirt - the same colour as my short sleeved summer dress – and black shorts.  I had a scarf tied over my hair, to keep it out of the way more than anything else.

 

“What brings you this way,” Charlie said as he caught up with me.

 

“Me?  I was thinking of going to Patty’s for the afternoon,” I said with a smile.  “What are you doing here?”

 

“Oh I’m playing with Frank,” he said as if it was the most common thing in the world for him to do.  “You haven’t met him yet, have you?”

 

“Frank?  Yeah I’ve met him once, but not really want to talk to.  Where is he?”

 

“He’s around here somewhere,” Charlie said as he looked round, “Why don’t you come with me and see if we can find him.”

 

He took me by the hand and walked me across the yard, chickens running past both of us as he looked round.

 

“Hey Frank,” he called out, “come on out, it’s only Louise.”

 

He was looking over at one of the barns as he said this, but I couldn’t see anyone.

 

“It’s all right Frank – she’s not Patty,” he then said with a laugh, and I finally saw him come out, wearing a pair of blue dungarees over a red t-shirt.  He blushed a deep red as he walked slowly over, his head down as he came to join us.

 

“Right then,” Charlie said with a smile, “Louise, this is Frank, Frank this is Louise.”

 

“Hi,” I said as I looked at him, and he lifted his head, looked at me and said in a soft, quiet voice “hi.”  Somehow, it sounded right for him, as we shook hands.

 

“Why are you blushing,” he said as he looked up, and I realised my cheeks were a little warm.

 

“Well,” I said eventually, “I was wondering if I could use the short cut to get to Patty’s place.”  I saw Charlie and Frank exchange a look, as if something had been planned, before Charlie said “I don’t think they’ll mind, but do you have to go right now?  Frank and I were wondering if you’d like to play with us first?”

 

“Oh,” I said quietly, “play what?”

 

“A tie-up game – I’ve been telling Frank about the games we play, and I know you like playing them…”

 

“Says who?” I said indignantly.

 

“Says me, Lisa, Patty, Rachel, Cassie – want me to go on?”

 

I blushed and shook my head, before I said “All right – what’s the game?”

 

“Well, if we tie you up,” Charlie said with a smile, “we dare you to walk to the street at the other end of the path like that.”

 

“WHAT!!!”

 

Frank giggled a little at my outburst, as I said “no way – what if somebody sees me?”

 

“They won’t – nobody knows the path runs through here except us and our friends, so nobody else uses it.  Trust me, Louise – you’re perfectly safe with us.”

 

I looked at Frank, who nodded before I said “all right – I’ll accept the dare.  What are we going to use?”

 

“We have some rope in the house,” Frank said, “which we can use.  Mum and Dad use it for boxes and things at the market, but they won’t mind if we use it.”


“Sounds good – we can get some tape and things in there as well?”

 

Frank nodded as we started to walk towards his house.  As we got close to the front door, however, I turned and started running, shouting “You’re not going to take me prisoner” as I ran across the yard.

 

“CATCH HER!” Charlie shouted out as they both ran after me into the field. I laughed and giggled as they both ran after me, twisting to and fro until Frank finally caught me and said “Hold it right there” without a hint of embarrassment, but with a lot of panting.

 

“Well done,” Charlie said, “now don’t let go of her or she might run away again!”

 

“If you promise not to run away again, I will let go of you,” Frank whispered as he looked at me.

 

“I can’t promise that,” I said with a smile.

 

“Then I guess I’ll just have to keep hold of you,” Frank said, and he took hold of my hand as we walked back with Charlie.  And you want to know something?

 

It felt great to hold Frank’s hand!  “You’re not going to escape now,” he said as he gave my hand a little squeeze, and I nodded in agreement as we went back to the farmyard.

 

“Guard the prisoner while I find some things,” Charlie said as he went into the house, and Frank and I looked at each other.  He blushed again and said nothing as he let go of my hand.

 

“So did you read the book,” I eventually said.

 

“Hmm?  What book,” Frank replied.

 

“The one Lisa brought from Charlie that day – the Harry Potter one.”

 

“Oh yeah – I finished it,” Frank said as he scuffed the ground with his trainer.  “I liked it, but it dragged a little bit in the middle.”

 

Smiling I said “So who’s your favourite character then?”

 

“I like Luna Lovegood, if truth be told,” he said with a smile, “she’s slightly wacky, but her heart is in the right place.”

 

I laughed at that. 

 

“What’s funny?”

 

“Sorry – you don’t often get a boy saying Luna Lovegood.”

 

“No,” he said with a smile, “I don’t suppose you do.”

 

We fell silent again for a minute, before I said “so do you have many friends?”

 

“Not really – apart from Charlie, they’re all in my class and live a fair way away.  Only Charlie can come regularly – and he’s going to the States tomorrow for a couple of weeks.”

 

I nodded at that – Lisa had told me the same thing.

 

“It’s going to be a bit quiet round here without Charlie to play with,” he said as he looked round.

 

“Well, I could be your friend, if you wanted.”

 

He looked at me and smiled – a really warm smile – as he said “Would you?  Would you really?”

 

“Sure I would,” I said as I punched him in the arm.  “Oh, and by the way – tag, you’re it.”

 

I ran off, Frank following as we played tag for a while.  I had realised that when he was playing a game, the shyness just seemed to melt away from him,  and we ran round the farmyard, laughing and joking as we caught and chased round.

 

“Hey – where are you two?”

 

We stopped when we heard Charlie, and Frank grabbed my hand again, watching as he came round the corner with the supplies – and Frank’s brother Eric behind him.

 

“Hey,” he said as we came over, “I hope you don’t mind, but Charlie said you were going to head towards his place, so I thought I might come along and keep an eye out for you.

 

“And Lisa Williamson as well, I bet,” Frank said with a giggle.

 

“Well, if she was there, then well and good,” Eric said with a smile.

 

“Frank, would you like to be the one to tie up Louise?”

 

I smiled as Frank looked at me and said “do you mind?”

 

“Of course not – do your worst.”

 

“All right, we’re going to do this properly,” Charlie said as he handed me two sponges. “Take the roll of duct tape and cover Louise’s fists first.”

I watched as Frank very carefully wrapped my fists in the silver tape, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he did so, until I had two silver gloves. He then pulled a pair of white socks up over them and my arms, before taping the top of the sock to my forearm.

I then put my hands behind my back as Frank started to wrap the rope around them.

“No,” Charlie said, “double the rope over, and then pull the ends through the centre loop to do the first pass.”

I looked over my shoulder and watched as Frank took the rope off and followed Charlie’s instructions, Eric watching as well as he tied my wrists really tightly together, and then wrapped the rope around my waist.

“That’s good,” I said with a smile as I looked at him, “I’m not going to move my wrists any time soon.”

“All right Frank,” Charlie said, “You need to tie her arms to her body around her stomach. Take the long piece of rope, double it over and use that first around her body.”

I stood there, as calm and still as possible as Frank pulled my arms to my side, but inside my heart was beating like crazy. Charlie walked him through how to tie the rope, separate the ends and wrap them between my body and arms, and then tie it off so my arms were locked in place.

“Wow,” Frank said quietly as I wriggled my arms around, “how does it feel?”

“Nice, safe,” I said as I looked at him. “Thanks – you’re really good at this.”

“Now we need to keep her quiet,” Charlie said as he folded a cloth. “Open wide Louise.”

“Talk to you later, Frank,” I said with a smile before I opened my mouth, and Frank put the cloth between my teeth.

“Frank, you can push it al the way in, so long as you’re careful not to push it too far,” Charlie said, so Frank gently pushed the cloth in, smiling before he took a knotted strip of cloth and tied that round my head, the knot sitting between my teeth.

“Give me a minute,” Charlie said as she adjusted the scarf on my hair, so that it covered the back of my neck and kept my hair at the sides under cover. “We need to do this Frank, or when you use the tape round her head it might hurt.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Frank said quietly as he looked t me, so I nodded and said “Eknnwwudnt.”

Charlie had Frank peel the end of the roll of tape free and stuck it to my cheek, before her wound it round my head three times, covering my mouth and making sure I could only make little quiet mumbles.

“There now,” Charlie said as he looked at me, “our prisoner’s ready to go for her little walk.”

I nodded and smiled under the tape as Frank took my arm, and we set off, crossing the yard as Eric went in advance, making sure nobody else was coming.

“Shwddutwmtt?” I mumbled as we set off across the field.

“By accident,” Charlie said, somehow understanding what I was saying. “We literally bumped into each other in the woods a few weeks ago.”

“He’s right,” Frank said quietly, “I was exploring the woods after we moved here, and I loved walking round in them. Then I met Charlie.”

“I’d seen the path from our house a few times, and often wondered where it went,” Charlie said as I looked at him, “so one day I walked down it, and met Frank. We hit it off – once I persuaded him to talk…”

Frank laughed at that, a really nice laugh.

“Yeah – well once we got talking, we found we got on well, and I took him to the farm a few days later. We’ve played most days since then – oh look.”

We stopped and watched as three or four rabbits hopped across the path, heading into the trees.

“There’s a large rabbit warren just beyond those trees,” Frank whispered into my ear. “I’ll take you to see them one day if you want.”

I nodded to show I liked that idea, as we made our way through the trees, only to stop when Eric held his hand up. Before we could get out of the way, Brian Hampton appeared, looking at us and saying “Hey – what are you lot up to?”

“Hey Brian,” Eric said as he looked at us,” just walking. Where were you going?”

“To see you actually,” Brian said as he looked at me, “but I see you were occupied. What’s going on?”

“We’re taking Louise round to Charlie’s house,” Frank said, “want to come with us?”

“Why not,” he said as he walked in front with Eric, me enjoying the attention as Charlie and Frank kept talking to me.

Eventually, we got to where the path went onto the street, and we stopped.

“I guess we need to untie you now,” Frank said as he looked at me, and he almost looked sorry that he had to do it.

“Not necessarily,” Charlie said, “can you guys keep out of sight for a few minutes?”

“Yeah – but what are you thinking of,” Brian asked.

“You’ll see – wait here,” Charlie said as he suddenly ran off.

“Any idea what he’s doing,” Eric said as he looked at Brian. He just shook his head as I sat on a tree trunk with Frank.

They started talking to each other as Frank looked at me and said “Enjoying it so far?”

“Hmmm” I said as I nodded. I was really enjoying it, but I didn’t want to embarrass him.

“I like Holderness,” Frank said, “it’s a lot quieter than the city where we used to live. There was always traffic there, and people shouting at each other. It’s a lot friendlier here – honestly.”

He had heard my giggle at him saying how friendly it was.

“Seriously – I was much worse then. Everything seemed to scare me – and I didn’t make many friends. It’s been easier since I moved here – but it still takes me a long time to make friends.

“I’m glad you’re my friend though,” he said as he looked at me and smiled.

I nodded and smiled in return as he said “Hey. What’s yellow and dangerous?”

“Edntknwhtsyllwnddnjrs?”

“Shark infected custard.”

I giggled at that, Frank smiling as he said “What’s green and red and moves fast?”

“Edntknw,” I said as I looked at him.

“Kermit in a liquidiser.”

This went on for fifteen minutes, Frank telling really silly jokes and me laughing at them, until Charlie reappeared, panting and holding up a plastic bag.

“Here,” he panted, “I think this will help.” He opened the bag and took out a grey poncho, which he put over my body, covering my arms and the ropes as the points hung down in front of and behind me.

“Wow – it does really cover them,” Frank said, “but won’t we need to ungag her now as well?”

“Nope – thought of that,” Charlie said as he pulled out a beret that had some sort of netting hanging down from it.

“What is that,” Frank said as he looked at it.

“It’s Lisa’s – she got it for some reason, so I’ve borrowed it. Watch,” Charlie said as he put the beret on my head, and then gently pulled the netting down over my head. It was like a black mist over my eyes, but then he took out a mirror and said “Have a look.”

When I looked in the mirror, it was as if my face was totally black – I couldn’t see anything, especially the tape.

“Wow,” Frank said as I looked at him, “that’s amazing.”

I shook my head – I really wasn’t too happy about it – but Frank put his hand on my arm and said “Honestly – it’ll be fine. Nobody will know it’s you, and we’re with you every step of the way. Do it for me – please? It really will be fun.”

“Hllrrt,” I said as I nodded, and we walked down the street. It was a really weird feeling, as we passed some people.

“Hey Charlie,” one boy called out, “what are you doing with Rachel now?”

“A game of blind man’s bluff,” Charlie shouted back, “nearly over.”

“Enjoy your holiday,” the boy said as we walked on – and saw Connie Brown coming out of Cassie’s house.

“Hi boys – Patty causing trouble again?”

“No, we’re good,” Charlie called back as we walked up to his front door, and into his house, all the boys bursting out laughing as he closed the door. “Oh boy,” he eventually said, “they thought you were Rachel or Patty – that’s so precious…”

“What are you laughing at,” Lisa said as she came down the stairs, wearing jeans and a jumper, “and who have you put my good hat on. If that is Patty I’m going to… Louise? Did Eric or Charlie do this to you?”

I shook my head and looked at Frank, who blushed and nodded.

“Well, at least you covered her hair,” Lisa said as Charlie took off the poncho, and handed both of them back to Lisa. “Sorry – we needed to cover her up for the last part of the walk,” he said as I nodded in agreement.

“Well now – hello Louise,” Mrs Williamson said as she came out, “I see the boys have you well secured.”

“Ystthd,” I said as I nudged Frank, who smiled and nodded.

“I thought you were going over to Cassie’s” she then said as she looked at Lisa.

“Well, I was, but if the boys are here with Louise…”

“Told you,” Frank whispered into my ear, and I giggled.

“Do you want to be released Louise?”

I shook my head as she said “All right – all of you in the front room. I need to get clothes into cases upstairs.”

We all went in, Lisa and I sitting down as the boys looked at us.

“All right Frank,” Charlie said as he handed him two lengths of rope, “now we’re here, you can finish the job and secure Louise’s legs.”

“In front of…”

“Don’t worry Frank, I won’t say a word,” Lisa said, so Frank knelt down and put my ankles together, and tied them as he had my wrists. As his fingers stroked my legs, I felt a little thrill, and smiled under the tape as he snugly tied my ankles, and then my legs below the knees.

“First time you’ve done that Frank,” Lisa said as he passed the rope between my legs. As he stood up, he blushed and nodded, then smiled as Lisa said “Not bad – almost as good as my trouble making brother over here.”


“Oh really,” Charlie said as he produced a water pistol from his pocket and pointed it at Lisa, “maybe you should join her.”

“Oh really,” Lisa said as she stood, her arms raised, “you and whose army?”

“That would be me,” Eric said with a smile, and Lisa smiled as she said “all right – seeing it’s you.”

“I think she likes my brother,” Frank whispered as he sat next to me, watching as Charlie fetched a box of supplies and Eric started to over his sister’s hands.

“Udntsss,” I giggled as we watched Eric secure Lisa, her wrists first, then her arms to her side, and then sitting her down next to me as he secured her legs.

“You won’t get away with this you know,” Lisa said with a smile as Eric tied her legs together.

“Oh – and why not,” Charlie said.

“Because Suzie is across the road with Cassie, and they’ll wonder where I got to.”

“Really,” Charlie said with an evil grin, “well then, you’d better get Cassie over here – or else!”

 

“Ufdnndddd” I mumbled through the tape as Lisa wriggled, before saying “You’ll never get me to invite my friend to walk into a trap!”

 

“Oh I think you will,” Charlie said, “or your friend here gets – The Torture!”

 

I looked at Lisa and shook my head, before she said “no – all right, I’ll call her.”

 

Charlie went and fetched the phone, dialling the number and putting it to Lisa’s head.

 

“Cassie?  It’s Lisa – can you come over for a few minutes?  There’s something I need to tell you before I go on holiday?

 

“No it will only be for a minute – tell Suzie you’ll be right back.

 

“Thanks – bye.”  Lisa then looked at Eric, and said “Now what?”

 

The answer was silence – or near silence, as he gagged her with a cloth, a knotted strip of towel, and white tape wrapped around her head.  As he did this, Charlie was standing at the window, watching across the road, and then going to the front door as someone knocked on it.

 

“Hey Charlie,” we heard Cassie say, “where’s Lisa?”

 

“In the living room – come on through,” Charlie said, and sure enough Cassie appeared at the door, wearing a pair of blue floral bib shorts over a green t-shirt, white socks and trainers.

 

“Oh boy,” she said as she looked at me and Lisa, “it’s a trap, isn’t it?”

 

“However did you guess,” Charlie said from behind her as Brian pointed a water pistol towards her.

 

“Oh no, whatever shall I do,” Cassie said as she put her hands up – and then we watched as Charlie and Brian tied her up in the same way as us.

 

She looked at Frank and Eric and said “Hey – good to see you both,” as she sat next to Lisa and her legs were secured. 

 

“Nice to see you as well, Cassie,” Eric said, Frank blushing as Charlie picked up the phone again.

 

“You’d better ask Suzie over here now,” he said to Cassie, “just in case she decides to come snooping.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Cassie nodded as Charlie dialled the number again.

 

“Hey sis – can you get Suzie to come over to Lisa’s house for a minute please?  She needs to say this as well.

 

“Yeah – I know, but get her to come over anyway.  Thanks.”

 

“No, thank you,” Brian said as he pressed a single strip of tape over Cassie’s mouth.  She looked at us and shrugged as we waited for the inevitable.

 

Which took five minutes, as Suzie was let in by Charlie, then stopped at the door as she looked at all three of us.  She was wearing a white short sleeved dress, the skirt coming to just below her knees while mine came to just above.

 

“Oh great – why didn’t I see this one coming,” she said as she looked round – and then saw Brian standing there, sponges in his hand and a smile on his face.

 

“Well, if you insist…”

 

“Oh I do I do,” Brian said as we watched him binding Cassie, and then gagging her in the same way as me and Lisa as she sat on the floor.

 

“Bnhrrlng,” she mumbled as she looked at us, and then at Frank and Eric.

 

“Ntlnggnn” I said as Charlie peeled the tape away from Cassie’s mouth.

 

“Now then, who shall we invite next,” Charlie said as Brian whispered something into Cassie’s ear.

 

“Yeah we’ll do that,” she said as she whispered to Charlie.  He then dialled a number, and put the phone to Cassie’s head.

 

“Hey – can you come round to Lisa’s place please.  Her mum has something that you need to take to mum and dad, and it’s too big for me.

 

“Okay Thanks,” she said as Charlie took the phone away and Brian smoothed a fresh strip of tape over her mouth.

 

I could see Frank was enjoying this as he talked to Eric, and we waited to see who was coming next.

 

As we waited, I wondered who she had called – probably Patty, maybe Rachel?  No, it had to be Patty – who else could she have…  Another name came to mind, and I shook my head – surely she would not…

 

There was a knock on the door, and Charlie disappeared from a moment, only to come back in with Jenny, Cassie’s older sister.  She had on a grey t-shirt and chinos, and one look at the four of us told her all she needed to know.

 

“Great – who was first,” she said as she looked at Charlie, holding her hands out as Brian gave her two sponges to hold.  Ten minutes later, she too was tightly bound and gagged, looking at Cassie with one eyebrow raised as the strip was taken from her mouth.

 

“One more call,” Charlie said, and Cassie nodded as she invited Patty to come over.  Once that was done, she too had the full gag added, as the five of us tried to talk to each other.

 

After a quarter of an hour had passed, during which Eric and Frank had sat and watched, there was a knock on the door and Charlie went out, returning with Patty.  She was wearing a blue denim smock, blue leggings with white polka dots, and baseball boots, but one look at us and – she burst out laughing.

 

“Oh my,” she finally said, “they got all of you good didn’t they?  Hey Frank – is this…”

 

“Less talk, more rope,” Charlie said as he handed Patty the sponges, and we all watched her being secured in the same way as us.  As she sat down, and her legs were tied, Charlie picked up the phone again.

 

“We need to invite one more person,” he said, “and you get the honours.”

 

“Iwndrhhthtsss” Cassie said as she looked at us, and we all started laughing again.

 

“Hey Rach,” Patty said as she winked at us, “You busy at the moment?

 

“OH no, no, no – it’s just I’m at Lisa and Charlie’s place, and we were…

 

“Fifteen minutes?  See you then,” she said as Charlie ended the call, and she stuck her tongue out at him.

 

“She’s onhhwwww,” she said as Charlie started to gag her.

 

“Yeah, but you had to mention my name, didn’t you,” Charlie said as he wrapped the tape tightly round her mouth, and then he started to tickle her – which was the cue for the other boys to start to tickle us!

 

What was worse, Frank started on me almost immediately, laughing and joking with the others as his fingers tickled the back of my knees!!!

 

This seemed to go on forever, before there was a knock on the door.  We heard Mrs Williamson answer it, and then Rachel came in, her hair in pigtails and wearing a pink sweatshirt and knee length leggings.

 

“OH boy,” Mrs Williamson said as she looked at us.  “I’ll call your mothers and tell them you will be having lunch here – Louise, were you at the farm?”

 

I nodded as she said “All right – I‘ll call your dad as well.”

 

“Now then,” Charlie said as he put his hand on Rachel’s shoulder, “time for you to join them…”

 

 

 

An hour later, all of us were watching a film on the television when Mrs Williamson looked in.

 

“All right boys – you need to release them now so that we can have lunch.”

 

 

“All right mum,” Charlie said as they started to untie us, Frank very carefully removing all the ropes that held me in place.  Once he had done that, he borrowed a pair of scissors from Charlie and cut the silver tape from my head, allowing me to peel it off and remove the rest of the gag.

 

“Thanks,” I eventually said.

 

“You’re very welcome,” Frank replied very quietly, holding the tape and cloth in his hand.

 

“Louise, is there something you want to tell us?”

 

I was dimly aware of Patty and Rachel behind me, but I just smiled as we made our way through to the dining room.

 

“Dig in,” Mrs Williamson said as we saw the massive plates of sandwiches – and we descended on them like a horde of dogs.

 

“Before I forget,” Charlie said, “girls, meet Frank and Eric Cottrell.  Eric, you know most of them, but this is Cassie’s sister Jenny, and Patty’s friend Rachel.”

 

“Pleased to meet you both,” Eric said, “and this is my little brother Frank.”

 

Frank waved and smiled a little as Jenny looked at them.

 

“Cottrell?  You don’t have a big brother called Mark, do you?”

 

“Yeah – oh don’t tell me, you know Mary Holmes, right?”

 

“Small world,” Charlie said with a smile.

 

“So when do you head off, Mrs Williamson,” Patty said as she sat and ate.

 

“Tomorrow, Patty – we’re getting a taxi to the airport, and we fly to Boston at about four o’clock.   We’ll be staying there for a few days, and then heading up to Martha’s Harbour to stay with some friends up there.  We’ll be back in two weeks time.”

 

“Is it true Alicia and Dad are on the same flight,” Suzie said.

 

“they are indeed – they’re going over to take part in the christening of Sarah and Brian’s babies, and they’re staying in Boston with us before going up there.  Should be quite an event.”

 

“You’ll like it there,” Cassie said, “Jenny, Suzie and I went there a couple of years ago.”

 

“We’re looking forward to it,” Lisa said.  “Only drawback is we get back just in time to start to get ready for school again.”

 

“All right, all right,” Jenny said, “you have to do this, you know.  Anyway Charlie – thanks for giving us the chance to say bye to you before you go.”

 

“Hey – thank you all for coming,” Charlie said with a smile, as we continued to eat and talk.

 

Eventually, however, Eric looked at his watch and said “Thanks for the food Mrs Williamson, but Eric and I need to get back to the farmhouse.  Louise, want to walk back with us?”

 

“I had better go,” I said, “so yeah, I’ll walk back with you.”

 

So we said out goodbyes, and set off, Frank carrying a bag that Charlie had stuck the ropes and tape they had used on me inside.

 

We turned off the road and went into the trees, but we hadn’t one more than a couple of steps before Frank stopped and looked at me.

 

“Louise, can I tie you up again, and then you can walk back to the house the way you came?”

 

He blushed and looked down as she said this, but when I said “You can tie me up any time you want to Frank,” he looked up and gave me the biggest smile.  Eric shook his head as he held the bag open, and Frank used the ropes to bind my wrists and then my arms.  He didn’t cover my hands this time, but by the time he had finished no matter how hard I tired, I could not find the knots.

 

“open wide,” he said, and I smiled over the knotted cloth that he tied between my lips to keep the hankie inside, and then the silver tape as he wrapped it round my head, making sure my hair was covered.

 

So we walked back from there, me enjoying the afternoon sun through the trees as we approached the farmhouse.

 

“Do you want to play some more,” Frank said as we walked across the yard.  I looked at Eric who nodded and said “Why no…  Ah, but we have the chores to do Frank.”

 

“Oh yeah – Louise, if we leave you in the front room, and put the telly on, do you mind watching that until we are ready?”

 

I shook my head as we walked in, and I sat on the couch, giggling slightly at the touch of Frank’s fingers as he tied my ankles and legs.  It felt so nice – so nice I decided I would wear skirts or dresses every time I came to see him.

 

“There now,” Frank said as he put Nickelodeon on, “We’ll be as quick as we can.”  I nodded as he smiled, and then left me to watch the programs.  I actually felt so much at home I lay on the couch, my head on the armrest, and watched as I wriggled to get comfy.

 

So comfy I was taken completely by surprise as someone said “Oh my – Louise?”

 

I looked up to see Mrs Cottrell standing over me, in her smock top and leggings.

 

“Oh hi Mum,” Frank said as he came in, “I expect you’re wondering what’s going on here?”

 

“To say the least,” she said as she looked at me.

 

“Well,” he said as he looked at me, “it started when Louise came past the front door earlier today…”

 

He explained everything that had happened, from Charlie inviting me, to visiting Lisa, and finally coming home and how he’d invited me to wait in here while he and Frank did their chores.

 

Mrs Cottrell listened to all this, looking at me, and then she looked at the ropes around me.

 

“And you did this, Frank,” she said finally as she looked at him.

 

“Yes mum – all my own work.”

 

“And you allowed him to do this Louise?  You didn’t object?”

 

“thtsrtt” I said as I nodded, then shook my head.”

 

“All right then,” she said with a smile, “but take care both of you.  Finished your chores?”

 

“Yes mum.”

 

“All right – then look after your guest,” Mrs Cottrell said with a smile as she went out of the room.  Frank sat next to me and smiled as he said “So, do you like Horrible Histories?”

 

I nodded as he went into a cupboard, took a DVD out and put it in, sitting next to me on the couch as he started the show.

 

 

 

 

Sometime later, Mrs Cottrell came in again.  “It’s half an hour until dinner Frank – I think you need to let Louise go for the night.”

 

He nodded and then started to untie me, leaving the gag for last.

 

“Listen, feel free to come round any time – I promise I won’t hide,” he said with a smile as he walked me to the door.

 

“I’ll hold you to that,” I said as I gripped his hand, and then ran off down the road and to my house.

 

 

 

 

“There you are,” Dad said as I ran in through the open back door, “I was about to send out a search party.”

 

“Sorry Dad – I lost track of time.  What’s for dinner?”

 

“I’ve done some chicken Kiev and waffles,” he said with a smile.  “So how are the boys?”

 

“I didn’t see Mark, but I did see Eric and Frank,” I said as I sat down.

 

“And you never got to Patty’s house?”

 

“Ah,” I said as I remembered where I said I was going.  “Sorry Dad – I should have called, shouldn’t I?”

 

“Yes, you should have,” Dad said as she put a plate in front of me, “but I know the Cottrell’s so it was all right.  Next time, though, call, all right?”

 

I nodded as I ate my dinner, and then went into the front room.  As I sat down, however, I heard the phone ringing and Dad answering it.

 

“Louise?  It’s Fiona – can you come and talk to her please?”

 

“Sure Dad,” I said as I came out and took the handset from him.

 

“Hey Louise,” I heard Fiona say, “Sorry I haven’t been around today.  Mum’s been keeping me busy.”

 

“I know – what with?”

 

“She’s had a lot of presentations for her new book, and with Dad away I have to go with her,” she said quietly.  “I’ve got another tomorrow, but if you are free tonight, want to come and sleep over?”

 

“Let me ask Dad,” I said, but as I turned round I saw him standing there, smiling with his arms folded.

 

“Her mum called earlier,” he said as he looked at me.  “The bags are packed – it means we can take some of your stuff over there tonight.”

 

“Thanks Dad,” I said as I hugged him, and then said “I’ll be over later Fiona.”

 

“Seeing you will stay there when I go to the States, it makes sense,” Dad said.  “Come on, I’ll drive you over.”

 

 

 

 

Fiona stood with me in the door of her house as I waved Dad away, and then we headed up to her room.

 

“So where have you been all day,” she said as she closed the door.

 

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said with a smile.

 

“Try me.”

 

So I sat on the bed, legs crossed, and told her all about meeting Frank, walking with Frank, being tied up by Frank, gagged by Frank, sitting with Frank, playing with Frank…

 

“And you are sure Charlie and the others were actually there,” she finally said when I shut up.

 

“Why – didn’t I mention them?”

 

“Maybe in passing,” Fiona giggled, “but every second or third name was Frank.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say you had a sweet spot for him.

 

She must have seen me blush, because she burst out laughing and said “You have got a sweet spot for him.  How much not to tell Patty?”

 

“Don’t even think about it,” I said as I tackled and tickled her.

 

“All right, all right,” she finally said.  “I wish I had been there though – I’ve missed so much since that weekend.  I’d even have enjoyed what happened when you were held hostage.”

 

“No you would not have – although it was fun when it happened,” I admitted.  “So what are we going to do while Dad’s away?”

 

“Well, Mum’s tour finishes the day after tomorrow, so I’ll be around.  Now you know the short cut to the others, we can go and visit them if Mum agrees without having to drive there.”

 

“Well, Lisa and Charlie will be away, but the others should be around,” I said with a smile.  “So that sounds good.”

 

“I’ve got cookies and milk down here for you two,” her mum shouted up.

 

“We’ll get changed first Mum,” she shouted down, so she changed into a blue night shirt that went down to her knees, while I put on a pink vest top and bottoms.

 

A little while later, we came back up and sat on the beds.

 

“Can you keep a secret,” Fiona said as she looked at me.

 

“Sure – if you can keep mine,” I said to her.

 

“Deal,” she said as she pulled a bag out from under her bed, and opened it up.  Inside were lengths of rope, tape and cloths.

 

“I’ve been collecting these for the last few weeks,” she said, “so that we could play when you stayed over.  Want to play?”

 

“What about your parents,” I said as I looked at the door.

 

“They don’t know but Mum won’t disturb us now,” Fiona said with a grin.

 

“All right – then I challenge you to an escape game,” I said, “tape and cloth gags, and each person gets twenty minutes to try and get free.”

 

“Agreed,” she said, so we tossed a coin and she called it – deciding to bind me first!  So she crossed my wrists behind my back, and I felt her tie the rope around them the way Angela had taught us.  She then tied rope round my waist, and then round my stomach, ankles and legs.

 

“The twenty minutes begin when I press the tape over your mouth,” Fiona said as she pushed the folded cloth in my mouth.  “Ready?

 

I nodded and felt the tape on my lips, before she said “Go!”

 

Well, I started to twist round, but she had done a good job of fixing my arms to my sides.  As I did so, however, I realised she had done something else – she had left the knots at my wrists where my fingers could get to them.

 

So I concentrated instead on picking away at the knot, wriggling round as I did so to distract Fiona.  Eventually, with ten seconds to go, I pulled the tape away from my mouth, spat the cloth out and said “DONE!”

 

I sat there for a moment, panting and very, very tired, as Fiona looked at me.

 

“Yeah, yeah, you win,” she said, “but it’s my turn now.”

 

So I started to tie Fiona up – this time making sure I kept the knot at her wrists well out of the way of her fingers – and using the way Charlie had shown Frank.

 

So as Fiona sat on her bed, and I tied her ankles and well as her legs, I knew she was not going to get free as easily as me.

 

“Ahem.”

 

I turned round to see Fiona’s mum looking at us from the door, looking at both of us.

 

“Ah,” Fiona said quietly.  “Hi Mum.”

 

“Care to explain,” she said as she looked at us.

 

“Well, erm…”

 

“You see Mrs Kerr…”

 

“It’s all right girls,” she said with a grin, “I used to play these games as well.”  She looked at the ropes and then said “Who taught you?”

 

“It was Angela Bowden,” I said quietly.

 

“Anne’s daughter?  I might have guessed,” Mrs Kerr said as she stood up.  “Well, so long as you take care, I don’t mind, all right?”

 

“Thanks Mum,” Fiona said – and it was the last thing she said as her mother closed the door, and I gagged her.

 

As I watched, she certainly tried to get free, but without any luck – so that as the timer reached twenty minutes she had got nowhere.

 

“Want me to untie you.”  I said, but she shook her head and kept trying, eventually reaching under her pillow and taking out some scissors which she used to cut herself free.

 

“Cheat,” I said as she finally removed her gag.

 

“Yeah, yeah, you won fair and square,” Fiona said as she smiled and untied her legs.  “When did you get so good?”

 

“Practice,” I said with a smile.

 

“So are you going to tell your dad as well?”

 

“I don’t know – after the thing at the farm, I’m not sure how he would take it.  Maybe once he gets back from his trip…”

 

After that, we cleared up and went to bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

 

Next morning, I woke up and put on a grey sweatshirt, white t-shirt and a knee length denim skirt, while Fiona put on a smart blue sun dress and a cardigan.  We went downstairs and had breakfast, before Dad came over and took me back to our house.

 

As we got in, I heard the telephone ringing, and Dad went off to answer it while I went into the front room.  I heard him say “you have got to be kidding…  No, all right, I’ll be there as quickly as I can.”

 

Coming in, I watched as he rubbed his head and said “I’m sorry Louise, but I need to go into town again.  Fiona’s going somewhere with his mum, isn’t she?”

 

“Yeah – she won’t be back until late,” I said, and then I had a fantastic idea.

 

“Do you think I could go and visit the Cottrell’s again today Dad?”

 

Dad looked at me, and then said “Yeah – if they don’t mind you coming over.  I’ll call and ask her.”  I sat in the room, praying like mad as Dad called, and I heard him talking.

 

Eventually, her came back in and said “All right, you can stay there until I get back.   Come on – I’ll drop you off before I head in.”

 

He didn’t have to ask me twice, as I ran to the car and waited for him to get his bag, and then drive me up to the farmhouse.  When we got there, Mrs Cottrell was coming back to the house, Frank walking behind her.  I saw he was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans as well, and I could see Eric and Mark walking to one of the barns.

 

“Thanks for letting Louise stay,” Dad said as Frank smiled at me.

 

“No problem – she can help me in the kitchen later,” Mrs Cottrell said as she stood talking to Dad for a moment, while Frank said “Want to come into the front room?”

 

“All right,” I whispered, and then said “See you later Dad.”

 

“Have fun,” he said as we went in, and I heard him drive off – at which point Frank pulled my hands behind my back, and whispered “You’re my captive now, little girl…”

 

“OH NO,” I said with a giggle, “who are you, you nasty man?”

 

“I think you know,” Frank said as he tickled my sides.  “My brothers and I have some things to do, and I need to keep you out of the way and stop you interfering!”

 

I felt a little shiver when he said that, and even more when he said “Now, how shall I tie you up and keep you quiet?”

 

“Fully,” I said, “but don’t tie my legs, all right?”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I might want to do something,” I said with a smile, “but cover my hands, all right?”

 

Frank nodded as he left me for a few minutes, coming back with two sponges, a pair of socks, duct tape and other things, so I let him cover my fist up, then tie my wrists behind my back and my arms to my waist and tummy.  I was rapidly getting used to this, and the fact I had no way of undoing the knots now just made it better.

 

“All right, anything else you would like to say,” Frank said as he looked at me.  I just shook my head and opened my mouth as he pushed a cloth in, and then tied a strip of cloth between my lips.

 

He had an old red headscarf of his mother’s, which he tied over my hair and then taped round my head, me giggling as the silver band covered my mouth. 

 

“All right then,” Frank said as he turned the television on, “you sit and watch this, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  He gave me a hug and helped me to sit down, and then went out of the room.

 

Only to turn round in the corridor and see me following him.  He looked at me, and said “Oh – you want to come and see what I’m doing?”

 

I nodded as he said “All right – come on, I’ll show you what Mark’s up to first.  It’s the dirtiest of the chores today, and he drew the short straw.”

 

We walked out of the house and over to one of the smaller barns, then round the side and over to a pen.  As I looked over, I could see two pigs there, one of them suckling a number of piglets.

 

“Hey Mark,” Frank called out, “how’s it going?”

 

I had to laugh when Mark came out, dressed in a pair of blue overalls and streaked with mud – well, I thought it was med at first, but then he said “Hi Louise – if I was you I wouldn’t come any closer.  I’m cleaning the pig stalls out and – well…”

 

That was when I realised it wasn’t mud on his clothes.  “We take turns doing it – but if we don’t the pigs get sick,” Frank said as I watched the little piglets feeding on their mother.

 

“Talking of which, Frank, you need to sort the chickens out,” he said as he looked at us.

 

“Just going now,” Frank said as we walked over to the chicken coops, Frank grabbing a basket as he did so.

 

“First things first,” he said as we walked in, “I need to look for any eggs.”

 

I nodded as I watched him take the basket and walk into the small shed, the chickens running out from the other end as he did so. 

 

“Hllshkns” I mumbled as they walked round, and then Frank emerged with eggs sitting in the basket.  “Right,” he said as he put the basket to one side, and then picked up a bag of seed, “Time to give them something to eat.”

 

I watched as he threw handfuls of the feed around the ground, as well as putting some in a small trough.

 

“Whbfplss,” I mumbled through the gag.

 

“Why both places?  Chickens like to eat off the ground, but also sometimes from there as well,” Frank said as he put the feed back, “come on, I’ll show you where these go.”

 

He took me with him to another barn, where Mrs Cottrell was looking at more eggs in a tray.

 

“Ah good – are those the latest,” she said as she took the basket, and then looked at me.  “Following Frank around?”

 

I nodded as she said “Right then – can you go out to the vegetables, pull some carrots for me and have a look at the cabbages?”

 

“Got it mum,” he said as he took me by the arm and walked me out, and I noticed Eric carrying a pail of water with him.

 

“He’s going to fill the water trough for the sheep,” Frank said as we walked round the back of the house, and out to one of the fields.  I could see neat rows of green leaves, and wondered what they were underneath.

 

Frank looked at the first of a row of high green leaves, then grabbed a handful and pulled it up – and I saw a bunch of carrots as the came up out of the ground.

 

“Nice and fresh,” he said as he looked at them, and then sat them on the ground, while he pulled some more up.  He then looked at a lovely big cabbage row, and picked up the carrots as we walked back over.

 

“Here you go Mum,” he said as he gave Mrs Cottrell the carrots, “look good for the market tomorrow.”

 

“They do at that,” she said as we then heard Eric say “Frank, come out here will you?”

 

“Go on,” his mum said, and as we walked out we could see two girls wearing glasses standing at the gate that led to the shortcut.  As I got closer, I saw it was Patty, wearing a blue hoodie zipped up the front, jeans and black ugg boots.

 

Rachel was with her, wearing a blue pinafore dress that came to just above her knees, a white jumper and black short boots.  “Hey Louise,” she said, having fun?”

 

I nodded as Eric said “so what brings you this way Patty?”

 

“Well,” she said as she looked at me, “we were going round to see Louise, and I wanted to check if it was all right for us to use the shortcut, but seeing she is here…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Any chance we can play as well?” Patty said with a smile as Mark came over.

 

“What’s up boys?”

 

“Patty wondered if she and her friend could play with Louise,” Frank said as he turned round, “would that be all right?”

 

Mark had taken off the overalls, and was wiping his hands as he looked at them.  “It’s Rachel isn’t it,” he eventually said.

 

“That’s right,” she replied with a giggle.

 

“Well this is Eric and Frank, my brothers,” he said, “and yeah you can play, but we still have some chores to do.  We’ll go inside for a minute, get you set up, and then Frank can give you a quick walk round before he gets back to work, all right?”

 

The others grinned and nodded as we went into the farmhouse, me watching as Mark and Eric made sure that Patty and Rachel were just as secure and just as silent as I was.  They pulled Patty’s hood up over her head to protect her hair, while Eric found another of his mother’s old scarves to cover Rachel’s hair.

 

We then went out with Frank while Eric and Mark went back to work, and he quickly walked us round the yard, showing us the things in the barns and some of the animals before taking us back into the front room, and this time tying out ankles and legs, me giggling as his hands touched the backs of my knees, then realizing how intently Patty and Rachel were watching me.

 

“Right – back in a little while,” he said as he turned the television on, and left us watching Cartoon Network.

 

I soon became aware of Patty giggling and signing softly.

 

“luseendfrnpetre…”

 

So I looked at her and I started singing

 

“Pttendtmmemesttngneatree.”

 

She looked at me with an eyebrow raised, and then we both heard Rachel giggling and shaking her head.  I think I realised then how silly both Patty and I were being, so we settled down and watched the television instead.

 

I eventually felt something rumbling, and realised I was getting hungry, as Frank and Eric came in and untied us.  “Lunch time,” Frank said as he removed my gag, and the three of us joined them and their mother in the dining room for some chicken casserole and rice.

 

“Enjoying the day so far Louise,” Frank’s mum said, and I nodded – the mouthful of chicken and vegetables I was eating made it a little difficult to talk at that moment in time.

 

“I think that was a yes, mum,” Frank said as he smiled at me – it was nice to see him smile and feel comfortable with us around, especially as he was smiling at me.

 

“So how different is living here from where you were before,” Rachel said as she looked at Eric.

 

“Very different,” he said, “we lived in a flat – a big flat, but still a flat, and it got very cramped at nights if we were all in at the same time.”

 

“It was noisy as well,” Frank said quietly, “all that traffic outside our bedroom window.”

 

“Our bedroom window?”

 

“Yeah,” Frank said as he looked at me, “Eric and I had to share a room, and Mark had his own.  At least here we have our own room.”

 

“The school here is better too,” Mark said with a smile, and I guessed what he meant by that.

 

“The boys were not exactly happy there,” Mrs Cottrell said as she collected the plates, and then brought out some fruit salad and bowls, “in a way, their grandfather dying and leaving the farm to us was a godsend.”

 

“So you like being here now?”

 

“Yeah,” Mark said to Patty.  “I mean, it was hard at first – we’d never really been on a farm, except to visit granddad, so we had to learn how to do the jobs we do round here.”

 

“I met him once or twice,” I said, “a nice old man who smoked a pipe.”

 

“He was a good man,” Mrs Cottrell said, “and we miss him, but we’re making a go of the farm as best we can.”

 

“You seem to like it here anyway,” I said to Frank, who just smiled and nodded.

 

Once lunch was finished, Mrs Cottrell said “Once I’ve cleaned up in here, I could use some help from the girls with some baking, so no securing, all right?”

 

“Would it be all right if we went for a walk round the farm, Mrs Cottrell,” I asked as we stood up.

 

“Yes, that’s fine – but don’t distract the boys from their jobs.  All right you three, I need you to take some feed out to the sheep and then make sure the lambs are all right.”

 

“Got it mum,” Mark said as the three boys left, and I took Patty and Rachel out into the courtyard.

 

“Yipes,” Patty said as she jumped out of the way of the chickens running around.

 

“I don’t believe it – Patricia Pickering scared of some chickens?”

 

“Not scared – just cautious,” she said as she looked at them.

 

“They’re not going to hurt you,” I said as I showed them everything that Frank had shown me earlier that day, Rachel particularly looking at the piglets as they ran around the sty.

 

“They look so cute running round like that,” she said as she watched them, “what do you think they’ll grow up to be?”

 

“Bacon,” Patty said as Rachel looked at her, and then burst out laughing.

 

“All right, I get the point – I suppose they do get sold for meat?”

 

“Afraid so,” Mark said as he walked past with a wheelbarrow piled with feed, the other two boys walking past them.  “Mum said to come in and help her, if you want?”

 

We nodded and went back in, washing our hands before we went into the kitchen.

 

“All right girls,” Mrs Cottrell said, “if you could put those aprons on, you can help me to make some scones and bread.”

 

We started with the bread, watching as she mixed the flour and some salt with some warm cloudy water, and then she showed us how to fold and pummel the dough, leaving Rachel and me to do that while Patty helped her to sieve some flour into a bowl.

 

We then put the round dough into a bowl, while Mrs Cottrell put some cling film over it, and helped her to put some dried fruit in a bowl and pour water over them.  She then looked at us and said “who wants to get really messy?”

 

Rachel raised her hand, so she put some cold chopped butter into the flour, and got Rachel to rub it with her fingers, so that the flour turned into something like little breadcrumbs.  She then broke some eggs into a bowl, and got Patty to beat them with a whisk, while she showed me the bowl we had put the dough in earlier.

 

I was astounded to see it had swollen and doubled in size, as she put some flour on the table and put the dough on the table.  “I want you to beat and fold it again,” she said, “and then we’ll put it into a bread tin and bake it.”

 

So I started to beat it again, and fold it, until it collapsed a bit, and then Mrs Cottrell cut it in half, and placed it in two bread tins, pressing it down again before she covered them with cling film and left them while she mixed the eggs and fruit with the flour and butter.

 

She then showed us how to make little balls and press them down on a baking tray, before they went into the oven.

 

“Right – shortbread,” she then said, as she measured out sugar, flour and butter, and put them all in a bowl.

 

“Patty, Rachel – you get to mix this with your hands until it makes a smooth ball,” she said as she took me back to the bread tins, and I saw they had swollen again.

 

“It’s yeast that does it,” she said as she removed the cling film, “it makes the bread swell up with air, so that it is light when it is baked.”  She opened the second oven of the range and put the bread in, then went over to see how the girls were doing.

 

Lovely, she said as she turned out the bowl, floured a rolling pin and rolled it out, and then allowed us to cut rounds out and place them on a sheet of greased baking paper.  She gathered up the bits and re-formed the bowl, rolled it out and we cut some more, before she discarded the scraps.

 

“Thank you girls,” she said as she smiled at us, “now we wash up, and then you can see if the boys had finished.”

 

We helped her to wash the bowls, and then went towards the front door to see if they had finished – only to be confronted by Eric, water pistol in hand.

 

“In there,” he said as he motioned to the front room, and we went in to see Frank and Mark waiting, ropes in their hands.

 

“I caught these three snoops trying to get away,” Eric said as he closed the door, “we need to find out what they know.”

 

“We don’t know nothing mister,” Rachel said, playing along as Mark took her hands behind her back and tied her wrists together, ”we were just walking by.”

 

“Yeah right,” Mark said as he tied the rope between her wrists, Eric and Frank tying Patty and me, “we don’t believe you.  Sit down, all three of you.”

 

Now even I knew this was a simple tie-up, but we played along as they tied our ankles together, and then rolled up three scarves and tied them between our lips – a red one for me, a gold and black one for Patty, and a white one for Rachel.”

 

“Now, tell us what you know,” Mark said, and we all shook our heads – only for the three boys to kneel down and start tickling the back of our knees!

 

We wriggled round and giggled like crazy – especially me.  After all I was the one with bare legs – and Frank was a very persistent and skilled tickler.

 

Patty and Rachel were giving it some go as well – but eventually, they had to stop, as I saw a car pull up outside, and Ms Cottrell get out.

 

The boys quickly untied us and removed the scarves, as their father came in.

 

“Oh hello Patty and Louise,” he said as he looked in, “and this is…”

 

“Our friend Rachel,” Patty said, “we’ve spent the day here, and we were wondering if you were all right with us using the short cut.”

 

“Yeah I’m fine – we know you,” he said as Dad pulled up outside in the car.

 

“Louise,” he said as he came in, “time to go home.”

 

“Come on,” Eric said, “I’ll walk the two of you home.”

 

“I’ll be at Fiona’s place for the next couple of weeks,” I said as Patty and Rachel went off with Eric, and I gave Frank a hug.

 

“Louise?”

 

I turned to look at Mrs Cottrell, who had one of the loaves we had made in her hands.

 

“Don’t forget the bread you helped make,” she said as she gave me that and a bag of the biscuits.

 

“Thank you,” I said as Dad took me to the car, and we went home.

 

 

 

 

 

“Enjoy yourself today,” he said later as we sat in our front room, slabs of my homemade bread and butter on plates.

 

“Yeah I did,” I said as I cuddled into him.  “Thanks Dad.”

 

“Listen – day after tomorrow I fly to the states, and when I come back, I’ll have a big surprise for you.”

 

“Oh I like surprises – what is it?”

 

“You’ll see,” he said as he put his arm round me and hugged me.

 

I smiled – I had two weeks with Fiona to look forward to, and a new friend in Frank to go and play with.  What could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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