The Garden Party
Friday 2nd May
We were sitting in the dining room at Holderness Manor, laying the final plans for tomorrow. Looking round the table, I saw Mary, Cathy, Bobby and Suzie, Alicia, Patty and Cassie, Colin and Martin.
“So that’s the plan,” I said as I looked at them. “Are all the other helpers ready?”
Cassie nodded as she said “Uncle Dave and Dad are ready.”
“So is Uncle Alexander and my father,” Alicia said as she looked round. “Mary?”
“Eddie is eager to help – once he is done with you, he’ll come and give me and Cathy a hand.”
“What about Rachel, Patty?”
“She’s stopping over with me for the weekend – and Lisa and her mother are coming round tomorrow morning. Rachel tells me Charlie already has his father aligned as well.”
“She really is sweet on him, isn’t she,” Cassie said as she nudged Patty.
“All right then – the key here is timing. We need to work fast on this one, to make sure everything goes according to schedule. Any questions?”
“So let me be clear,” Bobby said, “We’re starting at your place, and once they are on their way you’re going to move round all the other houses in turn?”
“That’s right – we have until four o’clock to get everyone to the manor house, and my family can probably cope best with what is required. Any more questions?”
I looked round the table, and then said “right – good luck everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The door opened and Mrs Bridges came in with a tray of drinks. “Planning is thirsty work,” she said as she put the tray down, “and your parents will be here soon to take you home.”
“How are the plans for tomorrow coming along, Mrs Bridges,” Alicia asked quietly.
“All is ready, my dear – and Sarah is looking forward to seeing them as well.”
“Pity she can’t take part,” Bobby said as he took a drink.
“She’s due in a few weeks – it would be unfair,” I said with a smile.
“Somebody is hungry this morning,” Mum said as Cassie and I sat at the table. We both were, as we buttered another round of toast and started to eat it. Mum was wearing a blue short sleeved blouse and a floral print skirt, with a pair of heeled sandals on her feet, while Cassie and I were wearing jeans and t-shirts.
Dad was feeding David and June – their first birthday was coming up soon, and there was talk of a small party for them.
In fact, we were expecting Granny and our three aunts to come round that morning to plan that party, and they had asked me and Cassie to help them out.
As the front door bell rang, Mum went to answer it, and Granny looked into the kitchen. She was wearing a white roll neck sweater with a gold and cream patterned scarf tied around her neck and shoulders, brown slacks and brown leather shoes.
“And how are my favourite grandchildren,” she said as she gave us both a hug, and then looked at the twins.
“We’re fine Granny,” Cassie said with a smile, “looking forward to planning a party.”
“Well, the others should be here soon,” Mum said, “so you two – upstairs, do your teeth, tidy your rooms. I’ll call you down when it’s time.”
We both looked at Dad, who nodded as we left them alone.
“All right you two, you can come down now.”
We ran down the stairs and into the front room. Aunt Connie was sitting in an armchair, wearing her green smock top and pants, while Aunt Cassie was wearing a black blouse, jeans and over the knee black boots. Aunt Jo had on a grey jersey dress, dark hose and grey suede ankle boots.
“Right then,” Mum said quietly, “what ideas do you have for the first birthday party?”
“Are our other grandparents coming over?”
“I’m afraid not,” Mum said, “but they said they are going to come over in the summer.”
“So we are going to have the party here?”
“That’s right – they’re eating solids now, so they can munch on finger sandwiches and the like without any problem.”
“What about Danny and Andy – will they be coming as well?”
“Oh yes – the four of them together is a given,” Aunt Connie said as she rubbed her back. Her smock top was starting to show a little bump.
“Listen – you know when we have family parties there are certain games we like to play.”
Mum looked at me and said “Yeah – that’s true, but they are only a year old.”
“I know – but it would be nice to have a family challenge as part of the party, wouldn’t it? Dad, Uncle Dave and the others could make us all secure and quiet, and we could see who gets out first.”
“Afraid I’m going to beat your sister again,” Aunt Cassie said as she looked at me.
“Well, I think we’d have to make it fair on all of you, I mean all of us,” I said with a smile.
“OH – and how do you intend to do that,” Mum said as she looked at me.
“Oh I don’t think we can discuss it now – not with Aunt Connie not able to…”
“Who says I can’t still take part? So long as it’s not too strict, I can still do it.”
Cassie and I glanced at each other, before she posed the killer question.
“Want to try it now?”
I watched as Mum, Granny, Aunt Connie and Aunt Cassie looked at each other, “What do you say, Jo,” Aunt Cassie then said, “want to see what it’s like when these two get to work?”
“All right then,” Jo said as she looked at us, “do your worst.”
“I need to go to the toilet first,” Aunt Connie said as we went to get our supplies from the storage cupboard. As we took the box out, I saw Dad standing in the kitchen with Uncle Dave, and nodded, him nodding in return.
“Right then,” I said as I looked at them, “all tied identically, all gagged identically. We won’t cover your hands, but we will do the full works.”
Cassie and I worked our way around the room, starting by securing the crossed wrists of each of them behind their backs and tying some rope around their waists to keep them in place. We then double teamed as we knelt in front of each of them and bound their ankles, making sure we took the rope between their legs as always to tighten the band, and then their legs below their knees were secured in the same way.
As we worked our way round, they talked about party food, presents, and other things we didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to. Our next priority was to secure their arms, using the longest lengths of rope we could find around their upper bodies.
Once we had all five secured, Aunt Jo tried to twist her arms round. “You two really are good,” she said as she looked at us, “I’m not going anywhere for a while.
“Well that’s the idea,” I said as I looked in the box.
“There are some clean cloths in the laundry basket from your last game,” Mum said as she looked at me.
“Can you go and fetch them Cassie,” I said as I ripped an old hand towel into five strips, and tied a knot in the middle of each of them. She nodded and went upstairs, returning with five freshly laundered cotton cloths.
“Well then,” Granny said as she looked at the others, “may the best woman win.”
“And I will,” Aunt Cassie said out loud, the others laughing as we folded the cloths.
“Open wide,” I said to granny, while Cassie started with Aunt Jo. We pushed the folded cloths into their mouths, and then tied the knotted towelling strip between their lips, to keep that cloth in place. Once all five had been gagged, Aunt Connie said “nddrbssldths?”
Mum nodded as we then went round with the roll of special white tape, winding it round their heads and over their mouths, before they watched us fold five red silk squares into wide bands.
“Rtthgngfrmfs,” Mum said as she looked at us.
“Not today,” I said quietly, “today they are going to be blindfolds, so that you cannot see to help each other.”
The five of them looked at each other, but they didn’t complain. Not that they actually could say much, of course, but they nodded and closed their eyes as we tied the bands tightly over their eyes and heads.
“There now – can you see anything,” I said as I tied the last scarf over Aunt Jo’s head. They turned their heads and then indicated they were indeed blindfolded, before Cassie very quietly opened the door.
“All right then,” I said as I stepped slowly back, “Why don’t you all take a few moments to get used to how you are, and then I’ll tell you to start.”
I moved to the door and slipped through as Dad and Uncle Dave slipped in, and went through the kitchen and into the garage, opening the doors of our SUV and standing back. A few moments later, they came in, carrying Granny between them as they sat her in the idle of the rear seats of the SUV.
“Whtsggnngg,” she mumbled as I strapped her into the seat.
“Don’t panic, Granny,” I said quietly, “just a slight change of plan for today.”
“Whtddummn,” Granny said, but I had to get out of the way as they carried Aunt Connie through and placed her next to Granny.
“Whtrrudng,” she mumbled as I secured her seat belt, but this time I stayed silent until Aunt Cassie had been strapped in on the other side of Granny.
“Stop complaining,” I said quietly, “you’re been invited out – and I suggest you accept it.”
I waited until Mum and Aunt Jo were in the car, and Dad closed the doors.
“Right,” Uncle Dave said, “Cassie and I will bring the babies with us in my car. We’ll see you there.”
“Good luck,” Cassie said as I climbed in the front with Dad.
“All right,” he said over the muffled calls from behind us, “where do I drop you off?”
“Aunt Jessie’s please,” I said as I looked over my shoulder, “and then I’ll see you there.”
It was about eleven when Dad dropped me off at Aunt Jessie’s house, the pink VW parked outside as always. I waved him off and walked up to the front door, knocking and waiting for a few minutes.
“Oh hey,” Patty said as she opened the door, “I was just upstairs with Lisa and Rachel. What brings you over here?”
“Got a message for your mum from my mum. Where is she?”
“In the front room with Mrs Williamson. I’ll be down in a few minutes,” she said as she ran up the stairs.
“Is that you Jenny?”
“Yeah,” I said as I came in. Aunt Jessie was sitting in an armchair, wearing a blue, red and white patterned smock over black leggings and flat slippers. Mrs Williamson was wearing a red pinafore style dress with a grey jacket over it, and grey suede shoes.
“Mum asked me to drop by and tell you that she likes your idea for a present for the twins. Hello, Mrs Williamson – Patty said that Lisa was here.”
“Yes – Charlie’s gone somewhere with his dad, so I brought her over for – well, a play date is probably the wrong word. I read your piece in the paper, Jenny – very good work.”
“Thanks,” I said with a blush. “I tried my best.”
“Well, it read very well to me,” Mrs Williamson said with a smile. “Anyway, I need to be going so…”
We all turned to see Patty standing in the door, an old woollen scarf wrapped round her face and a water pistol in her hand as she pointed it at us.
“Oh my,” Aunt Jessie said as she slowly raised her hands, “What do you want?”
“Your valuables,” Patty said, almost giggling as she did so.
“Where’s my daughter,” Mrs Williamson said as she raised her hands as well, my following their example.
“Safe upstairs, but I need to make sure you three stay out of the way as well. You,” she said as she looked at me and held out two lengths of rope, “tie their hands behind their backs.”
“You’d better do as she says, Jenny, she looks like a dangerous criminal,” Aunt Jessie said as she looked at me, so I walked behind each of them in turn and tied their wrists together behind their backs.
As they wriggled them round, she then handed me two other scarves. “You ladies sit down,” she said as she looked at her mother and Mrs Williamson, “and this young girl will blindfold you before I secure all three of you properly.”
“I’m sorry,” I said as I tied the scarves over their eyes, and then stood back, pretending to complain about being tied up as Rachel and Lisa sneaked in, armed with coils of rope that they used to very effectively bind both of them around their legs and bodies.
“Hey – how many are there in here,” Aunt Jessie said as Patty tied her legs together below her knees.
“Shhh,” Patty said as she tore a strip of brown fabric plaster off a roll, and stuck it firmly over her mother’s lips, doing the same to Mrs Williamson before she could say anything.
Lisa then put her finger to her lips as she went to the front door, returning a few minutes later with her father.
“Hello Cassie,” he whispered before he picked Lisa’s mother up in his arms, her surprised whimper making Aunt Jessie turn her head and mumble “ffnnne?”
That was nothing compared to her own whimper when Mister Williamson returned and picked her up, carrying her out as Patty high fived Lisa and Rachel.
“I can’t believe they fell for it,” Rachel said as we watched her being carried to Lisa’s dad’s car, and then settled in the back seat.
“All right,” he said as he came back, “the ride for you girls should be here – now.”
He waved to Mister Boyle as he drove up, and got out of the car, walking up the path as he said “Quickly girls – coats on and come with me. Do you have house keys Patty?”
“I’ll see you later – good luck,” Mister Williamson said as he got into his car and drove off, while the three younger girls grabbed their coats and Patty handed me the keys. I went back in and made sure the back door was locked, before I came out and locked the front door behind me.
“Where are you going to, Miss Craig,” Mister Boyle said as he let the three youngsters sit in the back seat.
“Alicia’s house – you’re going back to the hall after this?”
“That’s right – I will see you there,” he said as we got into the front of the car, and drove off.
“Hi Jenny,” Alicia’s father said as I stood in the front porch, “Alicia said you were coming over to help with her English project. She’s up in her room.”
“Thanks,” I said as I came in, and put my jacket on the coat rack.
“Hey Jenny,” Angela called out from the front room, “the joys of Shakespeare, eh?”
“Yup – Merchant of Venice.”
“Good play – well, have fun.”
I went up the stairs to hear Alicia read out loud “"The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils."
“Not talking about Martin then,” I said with a smile as I stood in the doorway.
“Nope,” Alicia said as she looked at me.
“I see football practice went well.”
She looked down at her mud streaked legs, as she sat there in her red and black striped top and black shorts. “Actually, very well,” she said quietly. “I’m just waiting for Mum to come up and badger me about having a shower – that’s the cue to…”
“Alicia, have you cleaned yourself up yet?”
“Showtime,” she said as she called out “Not yet Mum – have you seen my grey chinos anywhere?”
“In your wardrobe, of course,” Mrs Bowden said as she came in, wearing a grey jogging suit with a white t-shirt underneath and tennis shoes. “Honestly, some people…”
“Mrs Bowden, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Jenny, what about?”
“The man called the Green Mask.”
“Oh – Him,” she said as she looked at me. “Mother said you had talked to her about it.”
“Just how terrifying was it that night?”
“Not as scary as some more recent events,” she said as she sat at the edge of the bed, “but really frightening at the time. As you know, waking at the time in the morning to see a masked man in front of you – not funny.”
“Well, it turned out all right in the end for me – but is it true he taped your body before you walked in?”
“Yes, he did – I can show you how if you want. Alicia, can you go and get a roll of duct tape from the store room.”
“Are you sure you want to do this, Mum?”
“It won’t be for long,” she said as she looked at me. “Go on.”
“Well, all right,” Alicia said as she left the room, coming back later with a roll of silver tape.
“Well, he started by taping my wrists and hands together behind my back, so if you could do that Ali?”
I watched as Alicia taped her mother’s wrists behind her back, taking the silver material down and over her hands as well so it looked like a single glove. “Yeah, that was it,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, “and then he taped my arms to my body over my waist and my stomach.”
“Hang on a minute,” Alicia said as she fastened her mother’s jacket up, zipping it to just below her neck, and then wound the tape around her waist and her stomach to trap her arms against her back.
“That looks tight Mum,” she said as she tore the tape off and smoothed it at her back.
“It is – and I’m wearing a few more layers than that night,” her mother said with a smile.
“Yeah – it’s worse when you only have pyjamas on,” I said with a smile as Mr Bowden stood in the doorway of Alicia’s room.
“Anyway, if you can find a pair of scissors, then you can cut it off and – what the?”
Her change of message had happened because Alicia’s father had come up silently behind her, and tied a folded black scarf over her eyes to blindfold her. “Simon, what are you doing,” she said as she turned her head from side to side.
“Surprise Mum,” Alicia said as she tore a strip of silver tape off, and stuck it firmly over her mother’s mouth, three more going over it, “I suggest you just relax and enjoy the rest of today – it’s really full of surprises.”
“Hkddnngg,” she mumbled as Alicia’s father led her down the stairs and through to the kitchen.
“Funny – you would have thought Angela would have said something,” I said as we both walked down the stairs.
“She may have had a little trouble in that department as well,” Alicia said with a smile as we went into the front room. I smiled as I saw Angela sitting next to Eddie, watching an old black and white film in which the plucky lady reporter was bound to a chair, and gagged over the mouth with a white cloth.
Angela also had a white cloth tied over her mouth, and her wrists and arms secured with rope as she sat with her head on Eddie’s shoulder.
“Everything taken care of,” Eddie said as he looked at both of us.
“Sure is,” Alicia said as she smiled at her sister. “Now we need the second passenger.”
“Sdcnddnpsnjr?” Angela looked at Eddie, then at us, but her view of us was obscured by the black sleep mask that Eddie secured over her eyes.
“You’ve been invited out,” Eddie said as Mister Bowden came in and escorted Angela out. I picked Andrew out of his playpen and tickled his stomach, while Alicia fetched his jacket and put it on him, then strapped him into his car seat.
“Got the changing bag,” her father said as he came in and collected her brother.
“Yup,” Alicia said as she went behind the couch and picked up the blue bag, while Eddie turned the television off.
“Good – come on. I’ll see you two later.”
“Have fun,” Alicia said as she went with her father, while Eddie and I headed out of the front door, closing it behind us.
“Right,” he said as he tossed some car keys in his hand, “I believe we have a trip to the florist’s next…”
The trip into town took a few minutes, especially as Eddie had to negotiate the way into the back yard behind the florist’s shop, but eventually we managed to get into position and park by the back door.
Getting out, we walked over and knocked three times on the back. It was just after one, and as a rule Cathy’s mother shut the shop on a Saturday at one. The one possible flaw in the plan was that she decided to open a bit later today – but when Mary opened the door and beckoned us both in, I breathed a sigh of relief. We looked through from the back to see her put the “closed“ sign in place, her other mother with her. Belinda was wearing a long layered skirt, white blouse and brown suede waistcoat, with brown felt boots, while Penelope was in a pair of tight black leggings and an electric blue blouse with a wide belt around her waist, finished off with a pair of back ankle boots.
“Right, Cathy,” Penelope said as they looked towards the door, “What is this challenge you wanted to set us?”
“Well,” I heard Cathy say from beside the door, “I was reading this story where a robber used only silk scarves to keep his victims quiet and out of the way. I think it can be done – but I want to see if you can get out of it before I suggest it to the others.”
“Scarves,” Belinda said, “Well, so long as you don’t out them anywhere inappropriate?”
“Now would I do that, Mummy?”
“You’re growing up Cathy – who knows? But all right – where do you want us?”
I then saw Cathy walk forward and put a pile of scarves on the counter. “Did you raid our wardrobe,” Penelope said with a raised eyebrow.
“Yup – you can ground me later. Lean over the counter, and cross your wrists behind your back.”
“I keep telling you that you have too many scarves,” Penelope said to Belinda, as they did what Cathy asked them to do, and she used two long blue silk rectangles to secure their wrists together, taking it between their arms as well.
“You’ve been practising,” Belinda said as Cathy then took two similar scarves and used them to tie their arms together below their elbows.
“She has as well,” Mary whispered, “on me. It felt different from rope, but just as strong.”
We watched as she tied the scarves off, and then made them kneel facing each other on the floor. She then used two shawls each, folded into bands, to secure their arms to their bodies, and used four smaller scarves each to cinch the bands under their arms.
“Hmmmm – this feels nice,” Penelope said as she leaned forward and gave her partner a little kiss.
“And difficult to get out of,” Belinda said with a smile. “So are you going to do out legs next?”
“No – I think I need to keep you two quiet now,” Cathy said with a smile as she folded two blue silk squares into pads. “Open wide now.”
“Talk to you later, Penny,” Belinda said as she opened her mouth and allowed Cathy to push a folded silk cloth in.
“Hopefully, Bindy,” Penelope said before she too had a folded scarf pushed into her mouth. They watched as Cathy folded two large head squares, both red with a yellow cross pattern, tied a knot in the middle of the band, and then gently pulled the knot into their mouths before tying the bands around their heads.
“There,” Cathy said as she looked at both of them, “I’ll take care of the legs in a moment, but I’m going to blindfold you both as well, make it more realistic for you.”
She removed the glasses from Penelope, and then used two white scarves to cover their eyes.
“My cue,” Mary said as she slipped out of the back door, and then rang the rear bell.
“WShhtththt,” Penelope said as she looked to the rear door.
“It’s all right – I’ll get it,” Cathy said as she came through, and hugged me before opening the door again while I slipped in.
“Hello Mrs Harmer, Mrs Harmer,” I said as I looked at them.
“No I’m afraid not,” I said as Eddie and Cathy came in, “but I am here to invite you for a little trip. Let my friends take you to the car.”
“We’ll make sure they get banked on the way,” Eddie said as he helped Belinda up and walked her to the rear exit, placing her in the back of his car.
“And I will lock up,” Cathy said as Eddie then took Penelope through to the car, while Cathy locked the front door and indicated I should come through the back. As I did so, she pulled on her long grey coat and grabbed her mothers’ handbags, as well as a leather money bag, and handed all of them to Eddie.
Punching some numbers onto a keypad, I heard the beep of an alarm as we went out of the back door, and closed the door, Cathy locking it as Mary and Eddie watched.
“I really hope they see the funny side of this,” Cathy said as she got into the front passenger seat.
“I’m sure they will – Mary and I are going out to Wissenden, so we’ll see you at the manor house by four.”
“And just how are we going to get out there,” Mary said as we waved Eddie off.
Smiling, I took out my mobile phone and dialled a number. “Mister Hampton? It’s Jenny – Colin said you may be able to give me a lift?”
“Oh you sneaky little lady,” Mary said with a smile, “I thought the boys weren’t allowed to help out with this?”
“They’re not – Lady Holderness said nothing about the fathers,” I said as I covered the microphone. “We’re at Harmer Florists – ten minutes?”
It was close to two by the time we got to Wissenden Hall, Colin coming out to greet us as we arrived.
“All going to plan so far,” he said as he looked at me.
“Yup – we just need the last two from here.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“Might be easiest if you come in,” Colin said as I followed him, his dad behind me. We went into the front room, and as I went in I saw what he meant.
Mrs Holderness and Mrs Boyle were sitting on the long couch, their arms tightly bound to their sides with ropes and their hands behind their back. Mrs Boyle was wearing her usual work outfit of a short sleeved white blouse and a knee length grey skirt with flat shoes. By contrast, Mrs Holderness was wearing a crimson red jumper, blue jeans and red ankle boots. Their ankles and legs were tightly secured as well, while a band of white tape covered their mouths, a second over their eyes.
Bobby and Suzie looked over and waved at me, Bobby kneeling on the floor in front of their grandmother while Suzie was beside her. Mrs Jacobs was wearing a grey jumper and cardigan with a knee length tweed skirt, and flat brown shoes, but her grandchildren were in the process of finishing the ropes around her arms and legs. She too had been gagged and blindfolded with the white tape, and turned her head as she heard us coming in.
“We’re running a little late,” Mister Holderness whispered behind me, almost making me jump out of my skin. “But we’ll be ready to move in a minute – ah.”
“All right,” Bobby said as he stood up, “the evil robbers have gone to look for your valuables – can you get away before they come to hide you in the cellar.”
The three older women started to wriggle round, as Mister Boyle and Mister Holderness walked in and picked Mrs Boyle off the chair. She stopped moving as she was carried out, just moving her head from side to side as she tried to figure out what was going on.
“Whssthhhrr,” Mrs Holderness said as she was carried out next, Mrs Jacobs saying “whsthppng” through her gag.
“Relax, Gran,” Suzie said as she planted a little kiss on her cheek, “you’re going for a surprise trip.”
“Mhhtthfknn,” Mrs Jacobs said, allowing herself to be carried out to the waiting minibus.
“You two are coming with me,” Mister Holderness said, “Bobby and Suzie will go in the minibus.”
“Thanks for the lift,” I said to Mister Hampton as they stood to one side, “I’ll see you tomorrow Colin.”
“Looking forward to it,” he said as he gave me a little kiss, and we got into the Daimler of Mister Holderness.
“Right,” he said as he followed the minibus down the driveway, “next stop Holderness Manor.”
As we drove up to the front of the manor house, we saw Mister Boyle and Mister Bowden helping to take the last three invited guests into the house.
“Well done, Jenny,” Lord Holderness said as we came in, “Not as dramatic as the boys, but very nicely done none the less.”
“Thank you, your lordship,” I said with a smile. “May I ask where Lady Holderness is?”
I turned to see Sarah standing there, in a light pink smock top and leggings. Lady Holderness was indeed with her, her eyes smiling over the length of white tape that covered her mouth. Her arms were tightly bound to her sides, the front of her cardigan opened by the bands.
“We felt the best way to start the party was to thoroughly bamboozle them,” Sarah said with a smile, “Let’s go into the library.”
I followed her through to where all the women were sat, their heads turning from side to side as they heard the door opening and closing. Sarah helped Lady Holderness to sit down in an armchair, and as she nodded she looked to me.
“Hey everyone,” I said as all their heads turned towards me. “I’m going to take your blindfolds off in a minute, but I need you all to close your eyes while I do so. Don’t open them until I tell you.”
“Whtsggnnnnjneee,” Aunt Jo said as she tried to free her hands.
“You’ll soon find out,” I said as I picked up a pair of scissors and went round the room, removing folded scarves, peeling away tape gently, and in some cases cutting it at the back of their necks. All of them kept their eyes closed until I stood next to Sarah and said “All right – you can open them now.”
As they opened their eyes and looked round, Lady Holderness said “Wlcmmm.”
Mum looked at me and then at the others, before saying “Whhffudnjneee?”
“She did what she was asked to do.”
Granny looked over and said “Srre? Whnddurf?”
“Hello Miranda – everyone. You’ll need to forgive both Lady Holderness and Connie Brown – they knew I was here, but were asked to keep it secret until now.”
Aunt Connie had the grace to nod and say “sree” as the others looked at her.
“Anyway,” she said as I laid the scissors on the coffee table, “I need to take Jenny here away for a few minutes. Why don’t you try and get free – and when you do, come through to the dining room.”
We both left the room and went to the dining room, where everyone else was waiting.
“You did it girl,” Alicia said as she high fived me, “now you can look forward to what they say when they get free.”
“Well, we all did it,” I said as I looked at the others, “as did our dads – where have they gone anyway?”
“Out for the evening, Miss Jennifer,” Mrs Bridges said as she came in with a tray of drinks. “Now, take some refreshment before you have to prepare for the evening.”
“So this is a girl’s night in,” I said as I looked at Sarah.
“Oh yes,” Alicia said, “except we signed all of us up to do a different job, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, I did – although I suspect our mothers may wish to gain a little revenge on us as well.”
“Oh,” Cassie said as she came over, “so you think they will want to get their own back on us?”
“I think you can take that as an absolute certainty, dearest niece.”
We all looked to the door to see Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo standing in the doorway.
“We offered to free the others,” Aunt Jo said as they helped themselves to a drink, “but they politely declined. I believe your mothers in particular are enjoying the challenge, Cathy.”
“Oh lord, I am going to be in so much trouble,” Cathy said as she sat with Mary.
“You and me both – Eddie is never going to let me live this down.”
“Jennifer Craig,” Aunt Cassie said as she put her hands on my shoulders, “You sure you don’t want to follow in my footsteps? That was an incredibly sneaky thing you did today – to a lot of people by the looks of things.”
Patty, Rachel and Lisa had been sitting in the corner talking to each other, but all three turned their heads as they saw Aunt Jessie and Mrs Williamson standing in the doorway.
“Come here a minute, will you?”
Patty walked slowly across the room, all of us watching as she came up to her mother, who had an angry look in her eyes.
“I have only one thing to say to you young lady,” Aunt Jessie said, and then she scooped Patty up in her arms and hugged her. “Very well done, you had us both completely fooled. Whose idea was that anyway?”
“Yes,” Mrs Williamson said, “whose idea was it?”
All three of them turned and looked at me, as I waved and said “hi?”
As I was doing this, Aunt Jessie and Aunt Jo were talking to Sarah, their hands feeling the bump on her stomach, as Aunt Connie came in with Granny.
“Well, that was one way to spend the day,” Granny said as she hugged me and Cassie, “So why are we here anyway?”
“A little garden party for the ladies – well, those who were invited. I’m sorry your mum could not make it Mary.”
“It’s all right, Mrs Holderness-Carter…”
“Please – Sarah is less of a mouthful.”
“It’s all right, Sarah,” Mary said with a smile, “she had this trip booked for a long time anyway.”
“Well, perhaps another time,” she said as Granny came over and hugged her. “This is a nice surprise – Lucinda didn’t tell me you were coming over?”
“We’re here for the duration – it felt right that when they decide to come, it was here, where it all began.”
“That, and I suspect they told you that you can’t go back until the babies are here,” Aunt Cassie said. “How long now?”
“Only 3 or 4 more weeks – my doctor is going to fly out in a fortnight’s time to be here.”
“Hold it right there, little sister.”
“Here we go,” Alicia said as she turned to look at Angela and her mother. “Now Angie, you know full well I had nothing to do with your capture.”
“No, but you did know what was going to happen after – and I will be having words with Eddie on the subject. Still, at least it was done in a good cause – and I need a drink.”
“Jenny Craig,” Mrs Bowden said as she hugged me, “I’m not sure if I should chastise you or thank you.”
“A little bit of both, I suspect,” Mum said as she came in with Bobby’s mum. Finally, Cathy’s mothers came in with Lady Holderness and Mrs Boyle.
“By the way,” Mrs Bowden said, “where are the babies?”
“Oh young Miss April is looking after them in the playroom,” Mrs Bridges said as she tapped Mrs Boyle on the shoulder, and they walked out of the room.
“Well then,” Lady Holderness said, “thank you to all of you for accepting the invitation to Sarah’s little garden party.”
“Indeed – and it’s a real pleasure to meet all of you again. Especially you, Belinda and Penelope – I never really got the chance to thank you both for all your hard work at the wedding.”
Both of them blushed and said “Thank you” as they hugged Cathy.
“At any rate, like quite a few of you, it won’t be too long before the chance to have a real old fashioned ladies night is something that will require military planning – so while I’m here, I wanted the chance to have an old fashioned garden party with those of you who could make it. As for the method of bringing you here – well, I confess I was intrigued about what happened to the girls last winter – and to three of my bridesmaids as well.”
“Well,” Suzie’s mum said, “at least we’re not spending the night in the cellar – are we?”
“We’ll come to that in due course,” Sarah said with a smile as she put her hand behind her back. “Right now, let’s all have a drink. Girls – you need to go and get ready for your role in tonight’s events.”
We all took time out to hug the adults before we left the room.
“How come Grandmother let Sarah take the credit,” Alicia whispered to me as we headed upstairs.
“She probably has her reasons,” I said as we peeked into the playroom and waved at April. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, Danny on her lap as the other three crawled around in the playpen.
“Come on you two – let’s get this over with,” we heard Mary say, so we closed the door and went up to the attic.
“Right then,” I said as I closed the door, “we need to get ready first. Our clothes are on the side here – let’s change, and then go to the rooms we assigned each other.
I was waiting in the Blue room as Mum, Granny and Aunt Connie came into the room. “Good evening,” I said as I gave a small curtsey, all three of them looking at me. I was wearing a long sleeved white blouse with a knee length black skirt, and black shoes with a little kitten heel. “My name is Jennifer, and I will be your maid for this evening.”
“Our maid,” Mum said with a raised eyebrow.
“That is right, madam – Cassandra will serve Ms Craig and Ms Frost; Alicia will serve Mrs and Miss Bowden, while Suzanne and Mary will look after Mrs Holderness and Mrs Jacobs. Patricia is with Mrs Pickering, Rachel and Lisa with Mrs Williamson, and Catherine with Mrs and Mrs Harmer.”
“And who is attending Lady Holderness and Mrs Holderness-Carter?”
I looked at Aunt Connie and said “I believe Mrs Boyle and Mrs Bridges have that honour. Now, I have laid your outfits for the party on the bed – is there anything else I can get you before you start to prepare?”
Mum walked over and picked up the yellow sun dress, smiling as she said “I wondered where this was this morning. Perhaps you can fetch us each a cold drink while we wash and prepare?”
“Of course, Mrs Craig – what is your desire?”
I took their orders and went down to the kitchen, where Alicia was also preparing some drinks, dressed identically to me.
“They thirsty as well?”
“Well, I suppose we did make them spend most of the day so far bound and gagged. You?”
“Angela is not going to make this easy for me,” Alicia said with a smile as she dropped a slice of lime into a glass of coke, “but it’s fun anyway.”
“Yeah – wonder how they’re really going to make us pay.”
“Grandmother hasn’t told you yet has she?”
“Told me what?”
“When they have changed, check what else is in the bag,” Alicia said as she carried a drinks tray out. Intrigued, I took the tray up to my own charges.
“Well, if it is a garden party, at least I look the part,” Mum said as she stood in front of the mirror. The yellow dress had thin straps over the shoulders, and a flared skirt that came to just below her knees, while a pair of matching yellow high heels were on her feet.
Aunt Connie was wearing a white jacket with blue piping over a matching knee length pinafore dress, with dark blue shoes. As for Granny, she had on a green dress with elbow length sleeves, and a thin leather belt around her waist, as well as matching shoes.
“Well, do you think we are presentable,” Mum said as she looked at me.
“Oh yes Mrs Craig, most suitable, but you all require these.” I handed out a pair of white short gloves to each of them, before watching them put them on, and then saying “If you would care to follow me?”
I opened the door to allow them to walk out, and then escorted them down the corridor, descending the staircase and taking them through the dining room into a marquee that was outside. Lady Holderness was already there, in a grey silk jacket and skirt, while Sarah was sitting at a table, wearing a dusky pink maternity dress with a pink and grey scarf over her shoulders.
“Welcome,” Lady Holderness said as she embraced each of them. “Please, be seated – Jennifer, some tea for your charges.”
“Of course Your Ladyship,” I said as I went to a side table and poured three cups of tea, bringing them over as Cathy accompanied her mothers in. Belinda wore a blue chiffon cap sleeved dress with a red carnation print on the material, the skirt floating just above her knees, while Penelope was wearing a black silk jacket over a long skirted pinafore dress, her black shoes peeking out from under the hem of the skirt.
Cathy made sure they were seated before serving them tea, and we retired to the side of the room.
“What did they say when they got you alone?”
Cathy replied from the corner of her mouth “Something about making sure I felt exactly what they felt.”
“Did you look in the bags?”
Cathy nodded “There’s sleepwear for all three of us in there – I was asked to make sure of that. You?”
“No – Dad packed their bags with Uncle Dave. I get the feeling we’re all staying here tonight.”
Cathy nodded as we watched Cassie bring Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo in. I had just begun to notice over the last couple of weeks how much Cassie was starting to grown again – and as she made sure both of them were seated, before serving them tea, I realised she was starting to become a young adult as well.
“Thank you Cassandra,” Aunt Jo said with a smile. For someone who preferred trousers or leggings, she looked fantastic in a black cocktail dress with high heels and a black shrug. Aunt Cassie was wearing a red coat dress with a wide red leather belt, and matching shoes.
“So far so good,” she whispered to me as she joined us at the side of the room. “I wonder who’s next?”
That question was answered as Alicia came in with her mother and Angela. Mrs Bowden was wearing a purple knee length dress with a square neckline, while Angela had put on a very fashionable brown trouser suit with a matching camisole.
“Please be seated ladies,” Alicia said as she pulled the chairs out for both of them, and then rolled her eyes as she passed us and went to fetch the tea. By this time, Mrs Bridges and Mrs Boyle had come back in, in their grey front buttoned dresses, and were taking fresh cups of tea to Lady Holderness and Sarah.
“I see we have our nightwear with us,” I whispered to Alicia as she came over, “why?”
Alicia just smiled and said nothing, as Patty, Rachel and Lisa all came in with Aunt Jessie and Mrs Williamson. They looked rather out of place in their white blouses and skirts, and yet curiously cute at the same time.
Aunt Jessie was wearing a fifties style floral print dress with short sleeves, a belt of the same material, and white high heeled shoes, her pleated skirt moving as she walked in and sat down, while Mrs Williamson had on a blue dress with a white collar and hems.
As they came over, I whispered “Use a tray,” Patty nodding as they very carefully put the cups on one, and Lisa carried it over as they served their charges. Seeing them concentrate with their glasses on, I almost giggled.
Finally, Suzie and Mary escorted Mrs Holderness and Mrs Jacobs in. Suzie’s mother was dressed in a black open necked dress with a lace trim, while her grandmother wore a tan coloured dress with half-length sleeves and a flared skirt that came to just above her feet.
“Well, now that we are all here,” Lady Holderness said as we served more tea, “I wanted to make a small announcement. As you now know – all of you – Sarah has come to stay for a while, with Brian, and their children will be born here. That way, the connection with the name of Holderness will be maintained.”
The ladies all clapped as they heard this, and Sarah blushed and nodded in acknowledgement.
“Thanks,” Sarah said as she held her back again. “I’d love to know if that’s Bart or Sarah doing that?”
Alicia and I looked at each other, as Mum said “Bart or Sarah? You’ve decided on the names?”
Sarah blushed again as she said “We decided as soon as we knew they were a boy and a girl.” She looked at Lady Holderness, before saying “it will be Bartholomew Horatio and Sarah Lucinda Holderness-Carter – Bart and Sarah.”
“Oh my god,” Alicia whispered as she looked at me. We knew a lot more of the history than the others, but we were there to serve, and smiled as all our mothers got up and hugged both her and Lady Holderness.
“Desmond and I knew – and we could not think of better choices,” Lucinda finally said. “At any rate – ladies, enjoy the teas and sandwiches. Girls – attend to your guests.”
“Follow our lead,” Mrs Bridges said as they placed plates of sandwiches and cakes on the trays, and then walked over to the tables.
“Suzie, you organize the younger girls with trays of food,” Alicia said quietly, “we’ll take care of the tea.” Cathy and Mary nodded in agreement with us as we filled the china teapots, and made our way around, refreshing the teacups.
“You’re not expecting twins as well, are you Connie,” I heard Angela say as I went over to join them and Granny.
“Oh lord no – I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl. I was asked at the scan, but we both decided not to – we didn’t know if Danny was a boy or a girl until he arrived.”
“Well, I’m sure they’ll both be beautiful and gifted children,” Granny said as she looked at me. “As will my next grandchild, Connie.”
“Of course he or she will be – she’s from the Craig blood, after all,” Aunt Connie said with a smile.
“Mind if I join you – pregnant ladies unite and all that,” Sarah said as she sat down.
“Not at all,” Granny said, “so one of them at least is really kicking now?”
“Oh yes,” Sarah said with a smile, “every hour or so. It’s almost as if they have decided to take turns in reminding me they are there.”
“So will you give birth here?”
I looked at Angela, who said “Family tradition – if possible, the first born of the Holderness families are born in the manor house. I was, and Bobby was as well.”
“What of something goes wrong?”
“That’s why Kayla’s coming over – my personal doctor. She’ll be here, and the maternity unit is nearby in case we need them.”
“Don’t worry,” Granny said as I moved on, and Patty brought over some cakes, “everything will be all right…”
After a while, I went over to see Mum, who was talking to Mrs Holderness.
“More tea, ladies,” I said as I offered the pot.
“Thank you,” Mum said as I filled her cup, and then that of Bobby’s mother.
“Angela told me Robert was born in the manor house, Mrs Holderness.”
“Oh yes – so it doesn’t surprise me that Sarah has come where to do the same. Lucinda and Desmond are very keen on some traditions.”
“So all the Lords of Holderness are born here?”
“Right back to the time of the first Lord, yes.”
“Forgive me ladies,” Mrs Boyle said as she came over, “but I need to borrow Jennifer for a few moments.”
“Of course,” Mum said as I walked over to where the others were standing with Mrs Bridges.
“Her Ladyship in a few moments will invite the ladies to head into the library,” Mrs Bridges said. “When she does, we all need to clear things away and into the kitchen, and then I will need the help of all of you to lay out the table for dinner.”
We all nodded as Lady Holderness invited the adults to come with her, Angela winking at us as they went through. “Right then – let’s get to work. Patricia, Rachel, Lisa and Suzanne – you go with Mrs Boyle and start to sort out the table. The rest of you, stack the cups and plates first on trays and carry them through.”
It took us a little while to take everything through to the kitchen, while the younger ones helped to lay the tablecloth out and started to put cutlery into the places. Once we had finished with that, we brought glasses through and plates, and made sure everything was in place.
“Good – Alicia and Jennifer, would you inform her ladyship that we will be ready for dinner in one hour?”
We both nodded and made our way back towards the library. As we passed the portraits, we looked at the ones of Horatio and Bartholomew Holderness.
“Nice names,” Alicia said with a smile.
“Do you think they’ll take after Sarah or Brian – or both?”
“Heaven help them if they do,” Alicia said with a smile as we approached, only to hear muffled singing.
“They’re not,” I said as we opened the door.
“They are,” Alicia said as we saw Mum and Mrs Bowden with tape over their mouths, singing along to a karaoke machine…
“Oh hello girls,” Lady Holderness said as she looked at us, “I hope you don’t mind, we borrowed an idea from the events you have had. Angela seemed to think it would be a good idea.”
Angela waved from the window as she watched our mothers finishing their song, to a round of applause as they removed the tape. “My goodness,” Mum said, “that was an interesting experience. Trying to keep the tape on while singing…”
“Yeah – it can be a struggle,” I said as Alicia raised an eyebrow. “At any rate, Mrs Bridges has asked us to tell you that dinner will be ready in one hour.”
“Excellent – we will be ready,” Lady Holderness said as Granny stood up.
“Our turn, Lucinda,” she said with a smile, “let’s show these youngsters how it should be done.”
“Mad,” Alicia said as we closed the door, “the world had gone quite, quite mad.”
“Couldn’t agree more – but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them laugh that much,” I said as we walked back into the dining room.
“All right, girls,” Mrs Bridges said as we came over, “I need to explain how dinner will operate tonight. You will each be responsible for ensuring your charges are seated comfortably and securely in the dining chairs.”
“What does that mean,” Rachel said as she raised her hand.
“It means,” Mary said with a smile, “you get to tie their legs and waist to the chairs. Not their arms – they will need them for eating.”
“Precisely,” Mrs Boyle said with a nod. “Make sure they are seated properly, and then bind their ankles together, and to a leg of the chair at one side. Legs below the knees – always ask if you need to fold the skirt back and replace it after – and then a rope around their stomachs and the chair back. Jenny, you need to take special care of your aunt.”
I nodded as Mrs Boyle said “watch what I do with Sarah, and copy that.”
“Now, when it comes to bringing the food,” Mrs Bridges said, “Patricia, Rachel and Lisa – you will help with the cold starter and the pudding. Suzanne and Cassie, the soup and the pudding. Alicia, Mary, Jennifer and Cathy, the main course. You will stand by your charges, and ensure their glasses are refilled if they so desire.”
“What about our tea?”
Mrs Bridges looked at Patty, and said “Well let’s see – how does charcuterie et salade, soupe au poulet avec des nouilles, coq au vin avec legumes, est tarte aux fraises à la crème sound to you?”
Patty looked at Alicia and me, before Mrs Bridges said “I’m ordering some pizzas for you to have while Mrs Boyle and I serve coffee afterwards in the library - is that all right?”
She nodded at that, as did we all – it sounded like a lovely meal, but I preferred the idea of pizza.
“Very well then – let’s get the plates and everything else in place, before you go and bring them in.”
The next hour was spent watching the two housekeepers working as one, organizing plates, explaining how to carry them through carefully, and how to clear them away. Eventually, Mrs Bridges said “Right – fetch the party in please.”
I led the girls through to the library, opening the door and saying “If you would care to follow us, dinner is served.”
“Ladies, shall we?”
They all stood and followed Lady Holderness as they walked through to the dining room, the girls standing by their chairs as they sat and pulled them in. We then knelt carefully by them and one by one secured their ankles together, easing them gently to the left side and securing them to the chair leg as we took the rope around both the leg and the crossbeam, and then tied their legs together below their knees. We then tied their waists to the chair back, in my case making sure Aunt Connie was comfortable.
Mrs Bridges and Mrs Boyle did the honours for Lady Holderness and Sarah, before we took their napkins, unfolded them and placed them on the laps of each of the ladies.
“Thank you,” Lady Holderness said as she looked round the table, “you may serve the meal.”
Mrs. Bridges nodded to the three youngest, who carefully carried two plates each in and placed them in front of the party. We then stood by the table and made sure everyone had their glasses filled, as we had been asked, while they ate and talked, before clearing the empty plates from our charges and taking them into the kitchen.
From there we worked together, Suzie and Cassie bringing in the soup, and then we brought in the main courses.
The main topic of conversation was a second party that Mum and Mrs Bowden wanted to hold for Sarah. “Oh no,” she said as she ate some of the chicken, “I had a baby shower in the US.”
“Even so,” mum said, “you need to have one here as well. I’m willing to bet you only have a few things here for the babes when they arrive, right?”
“Well,” Sarah said as she wiped her chin, “you may have a point there.”
“And,” Aunt Cassie said, “this is not just about the babies – this is about you as well. So my advice is to keep quiet, sit back and let us take care of everything.”
“I’d listen to her,” Aunt Jo said, “she’s a professional.”
“I thought the line was he’s doing Pre Med,” Sarah said with a smile, before they continued with their meal.
“I don’t get it,” Cathy whispered as she saw her mothers and Aunt Cassie laughing.
“Neither do I, so don’t worry,” I whispered back before we cleared the plates away, and filled their glasses again as the pudding was brought out.
By this point, I was getting really hungry, and I could see Patty and Rachel especially were looking at the puddings with a really evil eye. I looked at Mrs Bridges, who nodded and said “Your Ladyship, when the ladies are ready, we will serve coffee in the library.”
She nodded as the conversation continued, before saying a few minutes later as she wiped her mouth “Well, shall we take coffee elsewhere?”
As the other mothers and ladies nodded, we came forward and untied each of them, before they stood and left the room. Mrs Bridges had left for a few moments, but came back in and said “We’ll take care of the remaining plates and things later – you girls go through to the kitchen, and have your tea.”
We went through to find various boxes on the table, containing pizzas, side dishes and other snacks, as well as several bottles of soft drink and glasses by the side.
“I am starving,” Suzie said as she opened one box and took out a chicken strip, eating it with relish.
“We all are – so dig in,” Mary said as she and Cathy sorted out some drinks, and joined us round the table as we had our food.
“Well, this was different,” Lisa said as she sat with the other two, “I hope Dad and the others are having as good a time as we are.”
“Probably better,” Mary said with a smile as she picked up a slice of pepperoni. “I have to admit, this has been fun, but I am knackered.”
“It’s been a long day for all of us,” Alicia said as she saw Suzie and Cassie yawning, “some longer than others. Still, I get the feeling we’re all staying here tonight, somewhere.”
“Yeah – I saw my PJs in the bag,” Lisa said quietly. “So how do you think we’ll spend the night?”
“You know what I mean,” Lisa said as she nudged Suzie in the ribs.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Cathy said with a smile. “Right now, let’s just enjoy the food.”
The conversation continued like that for some time, before Mrs Bridges came back in.
“Had as much food as you want,” she said as she surveyed the empty boxes.
We all nodded as she said “good – you are need in the library.”
As we went through, we saw the mothers sitting around the room.
“Ah good, here they are,” Lady Holderness said. “Girls, you have one more duty to perform tonight before you may join us.
“You will accompany your charges to their rooms, and wait while they change into the nightwear. Once that is done, you will bind their arms, and lead them back here before you go and change yourselves. Do you understand?”
We nodded as they stood and followed us out, me leading Mum, Aunt Connie and Granny back to the bedroom. Once inside, they all hugged me and gave me a kiss, before saying “You do know what’s going to happen later?”
“I can guess – but I have my instructions first. I will leave you to change while I find the items I need.”
I left them in the bedroom and headed to the playroom, guessing that was where I would find what I needed. Mary and Cathy had had the same thought as I came in.
“Hey Jen,” April said as she looked at me, “long time no see.”
“Yeah – how’s university,” I said as she hugged me.
“Fun – coming up to my second year exams soon,” she said with a smile. I looked at the babies sleeping in their cots, before saying “Are you going to join us as well?”
“No,” April said as she shook her head, “I’m going to be the responsible adult in all of this. Someone has to be able to move about, apart from Mrs Bridges, but you have fun anyway. The ropes you need are all over there.”
I picked up some ropes and took them back to the bedroom, where Mum was sitting in a short sleeved pale blue nightdress, and Aunt Connie was wearing a pair of knee length pants and a t-shirt. Granny came in, dressed in a pair of yellow pyjamas, as I said “Well, given what’s going to happen, anyone else need a toilet break?”
“No, I think we’re good,” Mum said as she stood up and turned with her back to me, crossing her wrists behind her back. “I’ll go first.”
I took some rope and tied Mum’s wrists tightly together, making sure the rope went between her arms as well, and then secured them to her waist with some rope around that. I did the same for Granny and Aunt Connie, before I said “How do you want your arms secured to your sides?”
“Not the double ropes,” Aunt Connie said, “just do what you do with the younger girls – that double figure of eight you use around our stomachs.”
So I did as they asked, and then led them out as Alicia left her room with her mother, who was wearing blue cotton pyjamas and Angela in a vest top and shorts. They also had their wrists and arms tied tightly, but were smiling as we took them back down to the front room.
“Excellent,” Lady Holderness said as they came in, “You may both go and prepare for bed now, and join us here when you are ready.”
“OF course,” we both said as we gave a little curtsey and left. As we did so, Suzie and Mary were walking Suzie’s mother and grandmother down the stairs, both of them wearing red silk pyjamas with bands of white rope around their waists and arms. At the top, we saw Cassie with Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo, both of them in long cap sleeved nightdresses and bound, so we let them come down as well before we headed up.
“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” I said as I went into the room, and took out the blue t-shirt and cycling shorts Dad had packed for me. I could hear the other mothers walking quietly past as I went to the bathroom, washed and changed, and then took a deep breath before coming out.
“Hey,” Alicia said as she saw me, in her white cotton nightdress. “I think the other mums are downstairs – let’s go and join them.”
As we came into the front room, Penelope and Belinda Harmer were sitting talking to Mum and Aunt Connie. Both of them were wearing short sleeved tops and knee length silk pyjamas in a Chinese style, Penelope in red and Belinda in blue.
Aunt Jess and Mrs Williamson were sitting on a different seat, as with all the others their arms bound tightly to their sides and their hands behind their backs. Aunt Jess was wearing – and I kid you not – a blue onesie with white sheep on it, while Mrs Williamson wore a long sleeved old fashioned nightgown made of white cotton.
She looked at me, and said “yes, I will kill my husband for this in the morning.”
“Hey mum – like the outfit.”
I turned to see Patty come in with Rachel and Lisa. Seeing her in her tiger onesie made me realise who was really behind Aunt Jess’ choice of nightwear, but then Rachel was in a leopard print onesie, and Lisa in a cow one.
“There truly is no accounting for taste at times, is there?”
Suzie had come in, dressed in her favourite pink nightdress, while Mary was wearing a pair of blue shorts with a white t-shirt. Finally, Cathy came in, to the surprise of nobody wearing her favourite blue nightdress.
“Right,” Lady Holderness said, “We ladies wish to watch a musical, and naturally we look to you to serve us. We are concerned, however, that you may have some views on the film we want to watch. Sarah?”
“All right girls,” Sarah said as she came forward, holding in her hands a selection of scarves, “one each, and then we tape them in place.”
“Just how bad can this film be,” Mary whispered, but we each took a scarf, folded it and put it in our mouths, before Sarah wrapped the white medical tape around each one of our heads, covering our mouths.
“Well then, shall we begin,” Lady Holderness said as she picked up the remote control. “If you want anything, just indicate and the girls will bring it to you.”
We stood and watched, before Alicia groaned and said “emmthfgsd” as the opening strains of Summer Holiday came over the speakers.
“Hmgdd,” Patty groaned, but we had no choice, as our mothers, aunts and grandmothers started to sing along to Cliff and the boys.
Now, the first film I coped with, but when they put on a film called Absolute Beginners, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So we all just concentrated on giving our charges drinks or snacks when they asked for them.
It must have been after eleven when the second film finished, and Lady Holderness said “I think it is time for bed, ladies. Girls, you may now take a measure of revenge by gagging your charges, and then escorting them to bed before you make sure they will stay there. You may then head for the attic.”
I had a real gleam of revenge in my eye as I selected three sponges, and stood in front of Mum, Granny and Aunt Connie. They all obliged by opening their mouths and allowing me to put the sponges in, before I wrapped the white tape around their heads as well.
They stood up and followed me out, as I led them up the stairs to the room they were using. A cot bed had been set up, as Mum and Aunt Connie took the double bed and Granny lay on the folding bed.
I took some more ropes, and used them to tie their ankles and legs, securing the ankles of Mum and Aunt Connie to the bottom of the bed, and those of Granny loosely to her chest ropes.
“Nffngls,” I mumbled through my own gag. The three of them shook their heads as I turned the light off, and left the room, closing the door behind me.
I turned to see April smiling at me.
“All three of them safely tucked into bed?”
I nodded as she said “Good – head up to the attic now.”
I turned and made my way along the corridor, and climbed up the stairs. Patty, Rachel and Lisa were already up there, Patty lying down on one of the mattresses that were laid in a circle upstairs, while Mrs Boyle was finishing tying the ropes to hold Lisa’s arms to her side, Rachel standing beside her.
“Hands behind your back, Jennifer,” I heard Mrs Bridges say, and /I allowed her to cross and tie my wrists together, before she tied the rope round my waist to hold them in place. I knew what was coming, as she tied my arms to my sides with roe around my stomach, while Lisa and Rachel lay on their own mattresses and watched Mrs Boyle tie their ankles and legs.
I walked over and lay next to her as Mary and Cassie came up, and Mrs Bridges started to take care of them. One by one the others arrived, and soon we were all lying on the mattresses, as Mrs Boyle and Mrs Bridges placed some duvets over each of us.
“You’ve all done very well today girls – sleep well. We will wake you in the morning.”
They left, turning the light off and closing the door. I was going to try and talk to Alicia, who was a couple of mattresses down, but my eyes just grew too heavy…
I opened my eyes to see April kneeling beside me, untying my legs as the others were standing up and stretching.
“Breakfast is ready downstairs,” she said as she removed the last of the ropes. “Go to the toilet, and then come down – nobody is standing on ceremony today.”
I nodded as Alicia passed me the safety scissors, and I cut the tape away, spitting out the soaking wet scarf. “I could do with a drink,” I said as I looked at the others.
“We all could,” Alicia said as Patty and Rachel put their glasses on, and we headed to the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Sarah said as we came in. She was sitting at the breakfast table, in a light pink t-shirt and blue slacks. “Sleep well?”
“Like a log,” I said as I accepted a glass of orange juice. “Is anyone else awake yet?”
“Your mother and sister are up and about,” Sarah said as she looked at Alicia, “and your mother just came in as well, Suzie. I think they’re going to get cleaned up and changed.”
I tickled David under his chin, smiling as he gurgled back at me, as April gave him a bottle to drink from.
“Listen,” Sarah said, “after breakfast, I’d like you and Alicia to come with me, if you will. There’s something I want to do, and I want you to be part of the group that comes.”
We looked at each other and nodded as Mrs Bridges brought us over some cooked breakfast.
“What will we be doing,” Cassie said as she looked at Sarah.
“Oh, I think we can find something to do, don’t you?”
“Hey Bobby,” Cassie said as she bit into a piece of toast, “where did you lot disappear to last night?”
“Bowling night – did you know Brian was a demon of ten pin, Sarah?”
“I had my suspicions – Brian can be very competitive,” Sarah said with a smile. “Never mind though – how badly did he beat you?”
“Badly enough – anyway, we took in a late showing of Spider-Man and got back just after you lot went to bed.”
“Eat up,” Mrs Bridges said, “and then you can go and get washed and dressed.”
It was about half ten when Alicia and I came out onto the lawn. Lady Holderness was already there, as were Alicia and Suzie’s mums.
“The others went ahead,” Lady Holderness said as we looked at her, “shall we?”
We headed down the lawn, all of us dressed in trousers or jeans, jumpers and wearing trainers or boots, and through the gap in the trees that covered the path down to the lake. As we approached the small white cross, we saw Brian standing there, his head bowed as if he was praying.
“Brian,” Mrs Holderness said quietly, “are you all right?”
“Hmmm,” Brian said as he looked up. “Oh yes – sorry. I was paying my respects.”
“I understand,” Lady Holderness said as she put her hand on his shoulder, “come – they will be waiting.”
Brian nodded and joined us for the rest of the walk to the side of the lake, where Lord Holderness and Angela were waiting with my mother, aunts and Granny. Mr Bridges and Mr Boyle were in the barge, which we all climbed into as we went across the lake to the island, and the mausoleum.
As we got out, Lady Holderness handed Sarah a bunch of flowers, and we all made our way to the side of the large marble building. There, a new addition had been made next to the simple white cross – a marble stone had been laid in the ground next to it.
Sarah walked over and looked at the writing engraved in it.
This stone commemorates the descendants of Sara, who risked and sometimes gave their lives to save those who are dear to all of us.
The greatest gift we have is to love others as we would wish to be loved.
“Hey,” Sarah said as she knelt by the grave, “I came to say hello again, and to say thank you. You helped to bring me back that terrible night, and now – well, soon a new generation will be born.
“I have no idea what lies ahead for them – but somehow, I think it will be good times for them. They will be born here, where you spent your last days, to help re-establish the link.
“Rest now – doubtless I will be called on again, but know I carry you in my heart whatever happens, with gratitude.”
She laid the flowers down on the grave, and stood back, Brian holding her as one by one the others came forward and laid a single red rose on the memorial stone, saying a few words. When it came to Alicia and me, we went forward together, Alicia saying “thank you for Heidi,” as she laid her rose down.
“Thank you for Sarah,” I whispered as I laid the rose down, and then we all stood, our heads bowed in silence for a moment.
“Shall we,” Lord Holderness said as we turned and walked back to the barge.
“Oh my,” Sarah said as she sat down, “they really started wriggling round there.”
Lady Holderness smiled as Mum put her arm round my shoulders.
“When’s Dad coming to pick us up,” I said as I put my head against her.
“Later today – that’s all I know,” Mum said with a smile. “Any idea what the others were doing while we were out here?”
“I’m not sure – maybe they went for a walk as well,” I said as we stepped off the barge.
Actually, we found out very soon after that, as we walked back up and onto the lawn, to see Patty and Aunt Jessie walking along the edge of the trees. Aunt Jessie had her wrists tied together behind her back, and a folded scarf tied tightly over her mouth.
“Hey,” Patty said as she smiled at us, “we’re just waiting for the others to join us, and then we’re going for a walk down to the lake, if that’s all right.”
“OF course it is, Patricia,” Lady Holderness said as Rachel, Lisa and Cathy came down the lawn, bringing Mrs Williamson and Cathy’s mums with them. They also had their hands secured behind their back, and folded scarves tied tightly over their mouths.
“Lunch will be at one, so please make sure they are back for that,” she called after them as they disappeared into the woods. The rest of us slowly made our way back up to the house, but I noticed that Lady Holderness was walking slowly with Lord Holderness, holding his arm.
“Is your grandfather all right,” I asked Alicia. She looked back, and said “I think so, probably just didn’t sleep that well.”
As we went in, Mrs Bridges said “Drinks are in the library,” and we made our way through – well, I would have made my way through, except I saw Bobby and Colin talking in the hallway, so I made my way over there instead.
“And what are you two conspiring about,” I said as I looked at them.
“Yes, you Colin Hampton – well?”
“Nothing actually – Dad came to see Brian and Sarah, and I tagged along to see Bobby.”
“Likely story – you joining us for lunch?”
“I think so – some sort of cold buffet I’m told. Anyway, you’re going to have to excuse us.”
They both headed upstairs while I went in to join the others. As I did, I saw Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo talking to Belinda and Penelope.
“Well that’s great,” I heard Aunt Jo said as I walked over after getting a drink, “so we’ll confirm dates with you next week?”
“OF course,” Belinda said as Aunt Cassie turned and saw me. “Just sorting out cars and flowers for a few weeks time,” she said as she looked at me. “Now that we have the venue booked, we can get everything else sorted out.”
Ever since Aunt Cassie had proposed at the last wedding, there had been a lot of talk as to where their wedding would take place. Finally, the venue had been set at a hotel on the other side of Holderness, and now the invitations had gone out. It was going to a far less formal affair than Brian and Sarah’s wedding, with Suzie, Patty and me acting more as stewards for the day.
But it was only three weeks to go now, and Patty in particular was starting to get excited, even if she did not show it much. I got the feeling she wanted to be a proper bridesmaid, but this was as close as she was going to get for the moment.
I turned to see April coming in, wearing a blue knee length skirt and matching blouse.
“Ah – you managed to get some sleep, my dear,” Granny said as she looked at her.
“Yes, thank you – did I miss much?”
“Not really, no,” Mum said with a smile. “I imagine the others will be back soon, and then we will have lunch.”
“And then we need to think about getting back,” Penelope Harmer said. “It may be a bank holiday tomorrow, but you still have work to catch up on, Cathy.”
“I know, I know – but at least we’re not heading off yet,” Cathy said as she gave them both a hug.
Lunch was indeed a cold buffet, as we stood or sat in small groups with plates of food and talked about everything and nothing in particular. Cassie and I sat with Colin and Bobby, and were agreeing that we should all meet up the next day when Patty and Rachel left the dining room.
I noticed Mrs Williamson and Aunt Patty look at each other, before they stood up and left a few minutes later, but I presumed they were just heading somewhere else.
I kept talking to Bobby, and then noticed that Lisa had disappeared as well. “Boys, would you excuse me and Cassie for a moment,” I said quietly as I took my sister by the arm and guide her out into the hallway.
“Any idea where the Terrible Trio have got to?”
Cassie looked in the room, and then down the hallway. “No – and there’s no sigh of Aunt Jessie or Mrs Williamson either. You don’t think they’ve tied them up again, do you?”
“I don’t know – some on, let’s have a look round.”
We walked down to the front hallway, but there was no sight or sound of them anywhere round there. “You check upstairs,” Cassie said, “I’ll look in the library.”
I nodded and started to walk up the stairs, while Cassie walked into the library. There was no sign of them in any of the bedrooms, or in the play room, so I went back down the stairs and walked into the library.
Well, I found them there – all four of them sitting in a row as they looked back at me over the bands of white tape wrapped round their heads. I barely had a chance to take in what had happened before a hand was placed over my mouth, and an all too familiar voice said “Payback time, young Jennifer.”
“That’s right,” Aunt Cassie said as she removed her hand from my mouth, and guided my hands behind my back, folding my arms so that my elbows rested in my palms. “We decided that you girls all deserved to have a taste of the kidnap feeling this weekend as well.”
“Let me guess – your mother’s got you,” I said as I looked at Patty and Lisa, who both nodded as they twisted in the ropes holding their arms to their sides.
“Rachel was taken care of by Suzie’s grandmother, and – well, Cassie was taken care of by your grandmother. We’re going to get you one by one, and keep you here until the ride home comes.”
“Well, I guess we deserve this,” I said as I looked at Cassie, who was nodding her head, her eyes smiling.
“Now,” Aunt Cassie said as she tied the rope around my shoulders, “Open nice and wide please.”
“Can I just ask one thing?”
“Have you enjoyed the party?”
“It has been – fun, now open wide.”
I did as I was commanded, opening my mouth to allow her to put the folded cloth in and then the knotted towel strip to hold that in place, before she wrapped the tape around my head. Sitting me on the second couch, she soon had my ankles and legs secured, before the door opened and Angela came in, walking Alicia with her hand over her mouth.
“All yours,” Aunt Cassie said as she left the room, Alicia saying “hgrt” as she looked at all of us.
As Angela was having her arms bound, the door opened and Eddie came in, putting his finger to his lips as he stood to one side. Alicia was then surprised as Angela quickly gagged her – but the reason became clear as the door opened and Mary came in.
“So this is where you lot are – oh crap,” she said, but as she turned to leave the room Eddie stepped forward and said “Hello, sis – your turn now.”
“Why does this always end up like this,” Mary said with a resigned tone, but ten minutes later she was sitting with the rest of us, bound and gagged.
It was only a matter of time before Suzie joined us, courtesy of her mother, and then Cathy, who had the unique pleasure of both of herm others taking care of her – and them using the same silk scarves that had been used on them the previous day.
So there we all were, the triumphant tricksters and captors of the previous day, not quite hoist by our own petard, but fairly close to that. As Cathy was sat down, Sarah came in and said “Well, we need to thank you for the party this weekend – and what better way than by giving you all a little treat to say thank you.
“Plssntthflm,” Patty said as she looked at her.
“No, not the film – although honestly, they weren’t that bad,” Sarah said with a smile. “We have something far more entertaining in mind – boys, you can come in now.”
“Hbee,” Alicia said as Bobby and Colin came in – along with Eddie and Martin. “Well now,” Bobby said as he looked at us, “what can we do to keep this capture of young ladies amused?”
“I have an idea,” Colin said, and my eyes widened as he brought from behind his back a selection of toothbrushes – electric toothbrushes.
“Nnnnn – nnpplsdnt,” Cassie said as Bobby took one and knelt between her and Suzie.
“Oh yes,” Bobby said as he switched his toothbrush on, and Cassie screamed into her gag…
“Thank you for everything,” Lady Holderness said as Dad made sure Cassie and I were strapped into the SUV, and the twins sat between us, giggling away as they looked at us.
“Fnks,” I mumbled through the gag as I saw Alicia head off with her parents and Angela, while Eddie was putting Mary into his car.
“Right then, off we go,” Dad said as he got behind the driver’s wheel, and we were waved off. It had been a good weekend – but I really wanted to get home now.
For one thing, I had this itch that I could not scratch. For another, something had started that day that I would need to deal with as soon as I got in.
And for a third thing, I wanted to talk to Cassie – we need to plan how we were going to get our own back.