When I woke up, there was only one thought on my mind.  Well, two, if you count the fact that I had the day off school.


No, the big thought on my mind was it was my tenth birthday!!  Yes, I, Patricia Pickering, was going to be ten – and I wanted it to be a perfect day.  I had it all planned out in my head, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to celebrate.


My main party was going to be tomorrow, at a local swimming pool, with a big tea afterwards, but today was about family, so I got up, put on my dressing gown and my glasses, and went into the kitchen,


“Good morning sleepy head,” Mum said as she looked at me from the table, “You do know it’s after nine o’clock?”


“Is it?”  I cleaned my glasses and looked at the clock on the wall - it was half past nine already?


“I never used to sleep in on my birthday – Dad…”  I stopped myself and looked at Mum.  “It’s all right,” she said quietly, “I know you wish he was here as well, but I’m sure he’d want to say Happy Birthday anyway.  Come here.”


I walked over and we gave each other a great big hug, even cried a little, before Mum said “Right then – I think there’s a few things in the front room you might want to have a look at.”


“Really?  Anything nice?”


“You go and tell me,” Mum said as I ran into the room, and saw the pile of presents and cards on the coffee table. 


Well, you can guess what I did next, I very politely turned round and said “Thank you mother,” before walking over, sitting down and carefully opening each present and card in turn.


Nah – that’s what Lady Cassandra would do.  I ran over and opened the cards as quickly as I could – but not so quickly that I didn’t spot any money that was inside them.  A lot of them were from old friends in Scotland, but there was one from Granny and Granddad in Australia, which had an Amazon voucher in it.  There was also one from Granddad Pickering, as well as from Aunt Jennifer, Uncle John and my cousins, Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave, and Aunt Cassie and Aunt Jo.


Funny to think of having two aunts together – at the big wedding Mum and I went to as guests, Aunt Cassie surprised everyone by asking her partner Jo to marry her.  I didn’t even know two women could marry each other, but Mum told me that can happen now.  I was so happy for them – and I don’t think they’ve stopped smiling when I’ve seen them since!


Anyway, enough of that – there were presents to open!  Mum had bought me a new PSP, while there was also a box set of Scooby Doo films.  Granny Craig had bought me a new dress, while Cassie and Jenny gave me some books.  There were games for the console, and all sorts of clothes and things to wear as well.


Mum stood up as I heard something come through the front door, and then came back.  “Looks like the postman brought more cards,” she said with a smile, then stopped as she looked at a red envelope.


“What’s up Mum,” I said as I looked at her.


“Funny – this one doesn’t have a stamp, and it’s addressed to you,” she said as she handed me the cards.  I looked at that one first – it was addressed to Patty Pickering all right, but that was it – no address, no stamp.


I love a mystery, so I opened it as quickly as I could – but it wasn’t a birthday card.  It was a card, but it had a big red heart on it and the words “Be My Valentine” written across the bottom.  Opening it up, I saw someone had written “See you later,” and then put a question mark under it.


“My my – your first Valentine’s Day card at the tender age of ten,” Mum said with a smile, “I was at least eleven before I got my first one.”


“It doesn’t say who it's from though,” I said as I looked at the envelope.


“That’s part of the excitement,” Mum said as she ruffled my hair, “You need to try and work out who it’s from.  Given it’s delivered by hand, maybe it’s someone from school.  Anyway – open the rest of your cards, and then come and have your breakfast before you get dressed.  We’re going round to your Aunt Jennifer’s for lunch.”





I jumped into the back seat of the car, Mum then putting the front seat down before she got behind the wheel.  I had on a dark blue cardie over a white t-shirt and leggings, and a pair of short blue Ugg boots that Mum had bought me a week before.  A padded sleeveless jerkin kept the chill out as we drove round to Aunt Jennifer’s place.


It only takes us a few minutes to drive round there, but when we arrived I saw Rachel getting out of her parent’s car.


“Hey Patty – Happy Birthday,” she said as she came over and hugged me.  “I’m looking forward to the party tomorrow.  Get lots of presents?”


“Yeah – but I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well,” I said with a smile.  “Going to see Lisa?”


“Yeah – our mums fixed it up as a play date at the beginning of the week.  We’re going to watch some films, eat pop corn, you know?”


“I know what might happen if Charlie’s there,” I said with a smile.  “I’ll see you tomorrow anyway.”


Lisa Williamson and her brother Charlie live across the road from Cassie and Jenny.  Their dad knows Uncle John very well, and they often play in each other’s houses.  We’ve also had a couple of adventures together, but those are stories for days when I’m not celebrating my birthday!



I skipped up the path to see Granny Craig waiting in the doorway.  I know she’s Uncle John’s mum, but since moving to Holderness she’s become a real granny to me – given the only one I have left is in Australia, that means a lot.


“Here’s the birthday girl,” she said as I gave her a great big hug, “How does it feel to be a year older?”


“Not that different,” I said with a smile.   “Where is everyone?”


“Well,” she said as we walked in, Mum taking her coat off and hanging it on the coatstand, “Uncle John is at work, and Cassie has gone out with her Aunt Connie.  Jenny’s at school, but your Aunt Jennifer and I are here.”


“So who’s walking about upstairs,” Mum said as we heard footsteps above us, and Aunt Jennifer came out of the kitchen.


“Ah – that, yes, that would be…”


The question got answered a minute later when Bobby Holderness came down the stairs.  “Thanks, Mrs Craig,” he said, and then he looked at me.  “Oh, Hi Patty – I hear it’s your birthday today,” he said with a smile.


Bobby is Cassie’s boyfriend – I know she’ll never say it, and he’s a couple of years older, but they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, count on it.  The fact he was bright red gave that one away.


“All finished, Bobby,” Aunt Jennifer said as she dried her hands on a tea towel.


“All done – and thanks again.  I’ll be back round later,” he said as he almost ran out of the door, closing it behind him.


“What’s he been up to,” Mum said to Granny Craig with a raised eyebrow.


“Leaving something for Cassie – come on in, you two, and we’ll have some lunch.”


Aunt Jennifer had made some lovely chicken soup, as well as ham sandwiches, so we sat down and ate it as she fed David and June.


“So have the girls got any cards today,” Mum said to Aunt Jennifer.


“Well, they went out before the postman, but there are a couple waiting for them when they come in,” was the reply.


“I got one today – all it said was See You Later.”


“Well,” Granny Craig said, “I just hope whoever sent it means it, unlike the one who sent one to your Aunt Cassie when she was your age.”


“Oh – what happened?”


“She got so excited about it – got dressed up, and waited for the phone call they said they would make?”


“Don’t tell me,” Mum said, “they never called.”


“Oh they did – it was John who sent it, and Cassie nearly killed him when she found out.  He made up for it by taking her to the cinema, but it was a bit of a nasty trick.”


“What are they doing this year?”


“I think Jo’s planning something, but no idea what.”


“And you?”


Aunt Jennifer smiled and said “John has a table booked tonight, and Miranda’s babysitting the twins.”


“Just them?”


Granny Craig nodded as she said “Jenny is going out with Colin, and – well, I know something of what Bobby has planned for Cassie, but not everything.”


“Can I be excused for a minute,” I said as I put my spoon down, “I need to go to the toilet.”


“Of course you can,” Aunt Jennifer said, as I got off the chair and walked up the stairs.  I soon did what I had to do, and washed my hands, but as I walked out I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peek at what Bobby had done in Cassie’s room.


Opening the door slowly, I looked in and let out a little gasp of “wow.”


Swiftly followed by a louder gasp of “Whthttthhh” as I was grabbed from behind, and a hand put over my mouth.  Well, I responded in a calm and dignified manner – I stamped the heel of my boot down hard on the foot of the person behind me.


“Hey – that hurt!”


My eyes widened as I heard that voice, and said “tmmmee?”


“Are you all right up there Tommy?”


“Yes, thank you Mrs Craig,” Tommy Jacobs called back down, “I’m just giving Patty a surprise hug.”


Tommy Jacobs is Bobby’s cousin, and he actually lives up in the north east somewhere.  I met him last summer at a big party at the house where Bobby’s grandparents live – emphasis on the grand, as they are Lord and Lady Holderness, and Bobby is second in line to the title.  See why I keep calling Cassie Lady Cassandra now?


When he finally let me go, I turned round and said “Tommy Jacobs, you gave me the fright of my life!  What are you doing here anyway?”


“I came down to spend half term with Bobby,” he said with a smile, “and to go to Stamford Bridge with him – after he paid off his debt, I felt I had to do something in return.”


Tommy was wearing a black sweatshirt and trousers, and he had a lovely smile on his face as he looked at me.  I actually do think he’s kinda cute, but he’s still a boy.


“Anyway, Bobby dared me to surprise you today – when we came round, your aunt told us you would be coming as well.  So, surprise!”


“Yeah, quite a surprise,” I said as I looked at him.  “So what are you planning to do now?”


“Get a drink of milk – and then ask you if you wanted to come and see the Lego Movie with me?”



“What, with other people?”


“No – just the two of us.”


“Tommy Jacobs, are you asking me to go on a date with you?”


“No – no of course not – but I would like to go and see the film, and I thought you would too.”


“Well – all right, but as friends, right?”


“Sure,” he said as we walked down the stairs, and then he said “By the way – did you like my card?”


“I didn’t get a birthday card from you, did I?” I said as I got to the bottom of the stairs, and then I turned and looked at him.


“You sent the heart card?”


“Yeah.  I wanted to be a bit different, you know?”


“Awww – thanks, I loved it.”


We walked into the kitchen and got ourselves a cup of milk, and then went in the front room where Granny Craig, Mum and Aunt Jennifer were sitting.


“Is it all right if I go to the cinema with Tommy, Mum,” I said as we both sat down.  “He wants to go and see the Lego Movie.”


“All right then,” Mum said as she looked at the others, “I think we can allow that.  I’ll run you there and pick you up afterwards, if that’s all right.”


“Actually,” Tommy said quietly, “Can Patty come back to Wissenden with me?  I’ll get Uncle Alexander to pick us up, and he can drop her off later.”


“All right then – you can do that.  What time does the film start?”


“2.30 – and thanks again, Mrs Pickering.”  Tommy drank his milk, as I shook my head, wondering what he was playing at.


When the clock showed 1.30, Tommy said “Can you come with me a minute, Patty, before we go?”  I got off the seat and followed him into the kitchen, where we put our cups in the sink, and he said “Are you up for a dare?”


“What sort of dare?”


“Bobby told me about the time he took Cassie to the cinema, only he dared her to have her hands tied and her mouth covered in tape for the whole film.  Meant she could not eat or drink anything, but he said she did it.”


“I don’t know, Tommy – I like to eat popcorn while watching a film…”


“Oh well,” Tommy said, “if you’re not willing to show you can do anything Cassie can do…”


Now there was no way I was going to turn down the challenge after that.  “All right,” I said, “what did he do?”


“Hang on a minute – I need to borrow something from her mum first,” Tommy said as he left the kitchen for a minute, returning with Cassie’s brown poncho.  “Right – put your hands behind your back, and let me tie your wrists together.”


“Make sure you do a good job of it,” I said as I crossed my wrists behind my back, and allowed Tommy to tie them tightly together.  I think he must have been practising, as he did a really good job of it, even remembering to take the rope between my arms.


“There,” he said as he looked at me, “That all right?”


“Not bad – but I can still move my arms.”


“Soon take care of that,” Tommy said as he found a second length of rope, and then tied it round my waist, fixing them to my back.  He then draped the poncho over my head, smiling as it covered my arms and waist.  In fact, the point almost went down to my knees!


“Okay – I can see how that worked, but what about the gagged bit?”


“Open your mouth first,” he said as he showed me a sponge ball he had pressed in his hand.  I allowed him to put it in my mouth, feeling it expand and pressing my tongue down, before he took a wide roll of clear tape and cut a long piece off.  He then smoothed that down on my mouth, making sure it stuck to my face so well that when I looked in the oven door, I could not tell my mouth was indeed silenced.


“Ntbd,” I mumbled as Mum came in.


“All right you two – let’s go,” she said as we walked out, Tommy helping me to sit in the back of the car and strapping me in before he sat down.  Mum got behind the wheel, looked in the rear view mirror and then turned to look at me closely.


“Just keep an eye on her,” she said as she drove off, and we made our way to the cinema…




Mum let Tommy out first, but before he did so he unbuckled me so that I could slide over and step out, the wind blowing the poncho a little.


“Call me when you are on your way back,” she said before we went in, and I had to stand with Tommy while he paid for two tickets.  At least he didn’t but any snacks or drinks for himself, as we went in and sat down, waiting for the film to start.


As the lights went down, I suddenly felt a peck on my cheek, and turned my head to see Tommy looking at me, blushing as the lights went down.  He…  Did he just kiss me?


“Thanks for coming,” he said before he gave me another peck on the cheek, and then sat back – and I was blushing this time as the adverts began…







“Hurry up Rachel – we need to get round to Lisa’s place!”


“Be down in a minute, mum,” I called down the stairs as I put Bobbi into my bag, and closed it up.  Looking under the bed, I found my black trainers and put them on, tying the laces before I grabbed my padded jerkin and put it on.


I already had a green hooded top on with my jeans and socks, with a t-shirt under the top, so I knew I was going to be warm enough as I ran down the stairs.  With the school closed today, Lisa Williamson had invited me round to her house for the day – and she hadn’t said if her brother Charlie would be there or not.


Charlie and Lisa live across the road from the cousins of my best friend Patty Pickering, and it was her birthday today, but I was going to her party tomorrow, so I hadn’t sent her a card yet – that was sitting with her present on the side in my front room. 


“Come on,” Mum said as she stood at the bottom of the stairs, tapping her foot.  “You don’t want to be late, do you?”


“Nope,” I said as I was about to run out of the door, when she said “Rachel?”


“Yes, Mum?”




I checked my face and realised I had left them in my room, so I ran back in, grabbed them and put them on as I ran out of the house and jumped into the car.




As I got out, I saw Patty getting out of her mother’s car outside the Craigs, and she came over, her cardigan blowing as she walked over.


 “Hey Patty – Happy Birthday,” I said as I went to meet her and gave her a great big birthday hug.  “I’m looking forward to the party tomorrow.  Get lots of presents?”


“Yeah – but I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well,” she said as she smiled at me.  “Going to see Lisa?”


“Yeah – our mums fixed it up as a play date at the beginning of the week.  We’re going to watch some films, eat pop corn, you know?”


“I know what might happen if Charlie’s there,” she said with a smile.  Charlie might be Lisa’s younger brother, but he had a habit of surprising any of the girls who called, up to and including making sure they couldn’t do anything against him.


“I’ll see you tomorrow anyway.”  She waved and went to join her mother, while I went to the front door of Lisa’s house with Mum.


“Hello, Rachel,” Mrs Williamson said as she opened the door, “Come on in – got time for a coffee?”


“Why not,” Mum said as she came in as well, and Mrs Williamson said “Lisa’s in the front room.”


I walked in and saw her sitting there, reading a book and humming to herself.  She was wearing a pair of grey leggings and  a long t-shirt.  “Hey,” she said as she looked up, “thanks for coming.  Any idea what you want to watch?”


“Your choice,” I said as I got Bobbi out of my bag, “so long as Charlie’s out of the way.”


“No idea where he is – hopefully keeping out of trouble,” she said as she put her book down.  “Let’s go up to my room, and then we can leave your stuff there while we get some snacks.”


We ran up the stairs, and I put Bobbi on Lisa’s bed with my bag, before we came back down and went into the kitchen.  Lisa opened the fridge and got out two bottles of soft drink, handing them to me to hold before she grabbed a bowl and put some popcorn out of a bag into it.


“Don’t make too much of a mess up there,” her mum called after us as we walked back up, and went into Lisa’s room.  Everything was as we left it – except for the small white envelope that was in Bobbi’s arms.


“What’s this,” I said as I looked at the envelope, which had a red heart shape drawn on it and my name on the front.


My name?


“Who left that,” Lisa asked as I picked it up.  Opening it, I took a sheet of paper out, and opened it up to see a picture of a knotted piece of rope, and a big question mark drawn under it.


“Charlie,” Lisa called out as she looked at it, “Where are you?”  She checked under her bed and in her wardrobe, but there was no sign of her younger brother.


“What makes you think it’s him?”


“Who else could it be,” she said as she sat down, “but I thought he had gone out with Dad.  Anyway, let’s start the film.”  She switched on her small television, as I kicked off my trainers and took off my jerkin.  We then settled back on the bed, the bowl of popcorn between us as we started to watch Tangled.


About halfway through, Lisa said “I really need to go to the toilet.”


“Want me to stop it?”


“Nah – I won’t be long,” she said as she jumped off the bed and left the room.  I picked up another handful of popcorn, and watched for a few minutes as I heard the toilet flush, and expected Lisa to come back in the door.


When she didn’t come back after five minutes, I got curious – and not a little worried, so I paused the film, and went out into the corridor.


Lisa was there all right, looking at me over the strip of white tape covering her mouth with her wrists behind her back, and a look of “I told you so” in her eyes.


What she told me was clear by the hand over my mouth, and Charlie saying “Hello Rachel – thanks for stepping into my trap.  Did you like my letter?”


Once he removed his hand, I said “Your letter?  Where on earth were you hiding, Charlie?”


“Trade secret,” he said as he pulled my hands behind my back, and started to tie them tightly together with some rope.  I could feel it going around my wrists and between my arms, before he said “Now, let’s go and make Lisa comfortable in her room.”


“Hrwwggng,” Lisa mumbled as we walked back into her room, and Charlie helped us both to sit on the bed as the film continued.


“I actually quite like this one,” he said as Rapunzel’s ‘mother’ held her hostage, “Nice story line.”  As he was saying this, he had pulled some more rope out from under Lisa’s bed, and was tying her arms to her body, with rope around her forearms and stomach, and then around her shoulders.


“so what are your dastardly plans, you villain you,” I said as Charlie took even more rope, and tied my wrists to my waist, my arms to my tummy, and my upper arms in tight, making sure the rope was cinched so that I could not move except to wriggle round.


“Oh I have plans for you, my dear,” Charlie said with a smile, and yeah – I melted a little as he said that, even though he was crossing and tying Lisa’s ankles together as he said it.


“Shuffle down, sis,” he then said, and as Lisa moved down the bed he propped her head up with her pillows, so that she could see the television.  He then tied her ankles to the foot of the bed, before he tied her legs together below her knees.


The film had finished by this point, so Charlie ejected the disc, putting it back into the box before he selected another one.  “I’m going to take Rachel next door,” he said as Lisa looked at him, “but I don’t want you to feel left out of things.”


She looked at him as I stood up, and saw from her bedroom window Patty and Tommy Jacobs walking down the path to Patty’s car.  She had a large brown poncho on, covering her as she climbed into the car and Tommy fastened her seat belt.


The opening strains of High School Musical and the sound of Lisa saying “Nnnnn” through her taped mouth made me turn round.  “Bobbi can come too,” Charlie said as he picked her up, and then taking my arm he escorted me to his bedroom.


“Seems I’ve kidnapped mother and daughter,” he said as I sat on his bed, and watched him tying Bobbi up with twine, her arms bent behind her back, and then her legs and arms held in place.  Taking a roll of white tape, he snipped a small piece off and then placed it over her lips, laying her on the bed before he said “Do anything and it’s Bobbi who gets hurt, understand?”


“I understand – please don’t hurt us,” I said as I got into character, smiling anyway as he knelt down and started to tie my ankles together.  “What do you want anyway?”


“Oh I want all your jewellery and money,” Charlie said as he wound the rope around and between my legs, “and you’re going to tell me where it is.”


“Why should I, you evil man,” I said as he then tied my legs together below my knees – but I couldn’t stop myself giggling as he put the rope between my legs, and got my ticklish spot at the back of my knees.


“OH really,” he said as he tied the rope off, ”so you won’t tell me?  Then I guess I’ll have to force you to – where do you keep your jewellery?”


“I won’t tell youaahahhhhhhaaaaaa,” I laughed out as he held my legs in one arm and started to tickle the back of my knees with the other.  In fact, I laughed and squirmed so much my glasses fell off, so he had to stop and pick them up, putting them safely out of the way.


And then he started again.  This time I fell onto my side on his bed, laughing out loud and unable to stop him as he moved on to the only place I’m more ticklish than the backs of my knees.


The soles of my feet.




That didn’t stop Charlie however, as he kept tickling me and I started to roll around on the bed.  It was pure, sweet, wonderful torture as I laughed out loud.


“Ready to tell me now,” he said as he stopped and looked at me, waiting until I caught my breath, “or shall I do the same to Bobbi?”


“No….  No, I’ll tell you where my jewellery is,” I panted out, my cheeks red and flushed.  “In the wardrobe, bottom shelf, behind my tops.”


“Thank you,” he said as he stroked my hair back, “Very kind of you to tell me.  Now, Calm yourself down, and get your breath back while I have a look.”


I lay back, looking up at the ceiling as he looked in his own wardrobe, slowly getting my breath back before I looked at Bobbi lying beside me.  “Are you all right,” I whispered, imagining my daughter turning her head and nodding to me.


“Well, that seems to be everything,” Charlie said as he walked back to me, “but I need to make sure you can’t raise the alarm until I get away.”  I saw he had a folded hankie in his hand, so I said “Please, don’t gag me.  I promise I won’t scream.”


“I can’t take that risk – you could ungag your daughter.  So please, open wide.”


I allowed him to push the clean cloth into my mouth, secretly thrilled as I closed my lips over it, and then he pressed a length of that lovely white tape over my mouth, which meant there was no way I could say more than “Whttnw?”


“Now I make my getaway – but it would be churlish of me to leave without a small gift.”




He reached under the bed, and placed a small red envelope on the bedside table, with a small bag of chocolates in front of it.  “Something for Valentine’s Day,” he said before he kissed me on the forehead, and left me alone.


Nobody – nobody apart from Mum and Dad – had ever kissed me on the forehead like that.  I could feel myself getting redder and redder as I thought about it – I had just been kissed by a boy?


What on earth would Patty say if I told her?


Was I even going to tell her?


He kissed me!  He must really like me!


I wriggled round on the bed, trying to find any way of untying myself, but he was too damned good at it, and I realised I was actually enjoying it as much as usual – maybe even a little more.


He kissed me!!!


After a little while, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and Charlie’s mum came in, carrying some clean washing.


“Your mum will come and pick you up later,” she said as she put the clothes away, “and I’ll send Charlie up in a few minutes to untie both of you, so that you can have a drink.”  Turning round, she looked at the card and the little bag of chocolates, before saying “So that’s why he wanted to go into town on his own last week.”


She then left the room, and as promised Charlie appeared a few minutes later, and started to untie my arms as I sat up.  As soon as I could, however, I wrapped my arms round him and gave him a great big hug, pressing my tape covered mouth to his cheek.


“Yu….  Why did you do that?”


I looked at the card, and then at him, laughing as he blushed and said “Yeah – I can see why.  Can you untie your legs while I go and see to Lisa?”


I nodded, but first opened the card, blushing again as I looked at it…








“Bobby!  Where are you?”


One of the joys of having a day off school, at the start of the half term week, was that I could have a little lie in, so it was about half nine when I finally appeared in the kitchen.  Mum was sitting with Mrs Boyle, looking over the shopping list for the week.


“Good morning sleepyhead,” Mum said as she stood up.  “Want some cereal?”


I nodded as I sat down.  I wasn’t planning on going anywhere today, so I had put on a pair of denim short dungarees over a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and leggings, a pair of slippers covering my bare feet.


“Somebody shout for me,” Bobby said as he came in.  He had a black zipped jacket on over a t-shirt and jeans, with his trainers on his feet.


“Colin just called – he said he’d be here in half an hour,” Mum said as she handed me a bowl of Sugar Puffs.


“Great – we’re going into town to sort some things out for later.”


“Oh yeah,” I said after I had swallowed a mouthful of cereal, “Going to get something special for Cassie, are we?”


“None of your beeswax, little sis,” Bobby said with a smile.  “When does Dad get back tonight anyway?”


“About seven,” Mum said as she sat back down.  “It’s a pity Alicia and Jenny had to go to school today – I think theirs is about the only school open today.”


“Well, they get the day off after half term, don’t they,” Bobby said as he bit into a slice of toast.  “So it’s all fair in the end.”


“Where’s Tommy?”


“He’s upstairs getting changed,” Bobby said as he looked at me.  Our cousin Tommy had come down for the half term break.  “Don’t worry – he’s coming with me and Colin, so any plans you have for today will not be interrupted by boy talk.”


“Oh, before I forget,” Mrs Boyle said as she got up and walked to the work surface at the kitchen window, “There’s a letter for you, Bobby.”  She handed big brother a large white envelope, which Bobby looked at before opening it.


“Something wrong,” I said as I watched Bobby turn bright red as he looked in the envelope.


“No, no, nothing wrong, nothing at all,” he said hurriedly as he closed the envelope, and then went out of the room, taking it with him.  Mum and Mrs Boyle looked at the door, and then at me.


“Don’t look at me,” I said innocently, “how would I know if someone was planning to send someone else a card today, and even if I did know, how would I be expected to warn him?”


“You’ve been spending time with Alicia again,” Mum said as she stood up.  “Right – I have to go and meet Anne in town later.  Can you ask Mr Boyle to run me to the station please?”


“I think he’s doing something in the garden – let me go and find him,” Mrs Boyle said as she stood up and went to the back door, Mum giving me a kiss as she went in the opposite direction.


I finished my cereal, put the bowl in the dishwasher, and poured myself a glass of milk, before going into the front room and putting the television on.  My plan for the morning was simple – veg out watching cartoons, and then try and tackle my homework in the afternoon.


I heard the front doorbell ring, and then Mrs Boyle saying “Hello boys – come away in,” before I looked to the door to see Colin come in, with his cousin Brian.


“Hey,” I said as they came in, “I didn’t know you were around as well Brian?”


“Just for the weekend – my folks are going away,” he said as he stood in the doorway, looking at me.  He’d managed to grow a bit since I had seen him last, and he actually looked quite nice in the v-necked jumper over a shirt, and a pair of blue chinos.


“There you are,” Bobby said as he came into the room, Tommy walking behind him.  “We need to get going – Tommy and I need to pop into Cassie’s first, what are you going to do?”


“I already have things sorted out for Jenny, but I need to go straight into town and pick something up.  Want to meet outside McDonald’s at about 2?”


“Sounds good to me,” Bobby said as he pulled his coat on.  “Enjoy the morning, Suz.”


“Go, I’ll be fine,” I said as I looked back at the television, and heard the front door close.




I turned suddenly to see that Brian was still standing there, looking at me.


“You’re not going with them,” I said as Mrs Boyle came in.


“I need to do the cleaning,” she said as she looked at us, “so you two need to be somewhere else.  Why don’t you go outside for a while?”


I looked at Brian, before saying “Want to go to the playhouse?”


“Actually,” he said as he looked out of the window, “I was wondering if you wanted to go for a walk in the woods?”


Looking out of the window, I was glad it was dry, but I knew the ground was still a bit wet – and I could see he only had trainers on.


“Do you mind borrowing a pair of Bobby’s wellies if we’re going to do that,” I said to him.  To my surprise, given Bobby is at least four inches taller, he said “Not at all – come on then.”


We went through the kitchen to the back door, me grabbing a coat as we did so, and stopped to pull some wellies on, before we stepped out and walked across the back garden into the woods.  I breathed in the smell of the damp grass as we went under the canopy of the trees, one or two branches dripping water down as we walked along.


“It’s very quiet out here, isn’t it,” Brian said as we walked down the path.  “You really do get the feeling you’re alone out here, don’t you?”


“Not really,” I said as I watched a couple of squirrels up one of the trees, “how come you didn’t go with the others?”


“Didn’t want to really,” Brian said as he picked up a branch and poked it into the ground.  “Bobby and Colin have big plans for later today, and I got the feeling Tommy wanted to surprise someone.”


“Oh – who?”




I stopped and turned to look at him.  “Patty?  Patty, Cassie’s cousin?  Patty, who…”  I had to stop myself for a moment – Patty had been through quite a lot with us over the last year, but I didn’t know how much Brian knew.


“Patty, who thinks every time she’s tied up it’s a game?”


Okay, that made me laugh – if you had to sum up Patty Pickering in one phrase, that would be it.


“Who said that – Colin?”


Brian nodded and smiled at me.  “Yeah – well, him and Uncle Barry together.  They talk a lot about you, and the Craigs.”


“Local celebrities, that’s us.”


“Is it true you were all actually held hostage, that weekend when you were brought here?”


I stopped walking, turned and looked at Brian.  “I heard Uncle Barry and Colin talking about it once, when I was visiting.  They don’t know I heard them, and…”




“Well, was it true?”


We had got to the side of the small pond, so I sat down on one of the logs and flipped a stone across the water.  “Yeah, it’s true,” I finally said, “but it’s meant to be a secret, so don’t tell anyone else.”


“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Brian said as he sat next to me.  “I know how to keep a secret – believe me.”


I looked at him, and then said “I believe you – here, try skimming the stone.”


He held the pebble in his hand, and threw it across the surface of the pond, the stone bouncing a couple of times before it sank.  “Not bad,” I said quietly, “not bad at all.”


“How scary was it?”


“At first, it was very, very scary, but as the weekend went on, we got used to the idea of treating it as a game – the men holding us hostage even encouraged it.  I guess we all realised it would be easier that way.”


“Well, I think you were very brave to do that.”


I looked at Brian, and I felt as if I was getting hot for some reason.  “Want to walk on a bit,” I said as I stood up.


“Sure,” he said as we walked round the pond.  “Can I say something, Suzie?”




“Was I a complete jerk last summer, when I danced with you?”


“What on earth brought that up,” I said, laughing as I looked at him.




I could see he was getting embarrassed as well, so I said quietly “No – not a complete jerk.  I know you got dumped on me a bit.”


“Dumped isn’t exactly the right word.  Surprised is closer to the mark – and glad as well.”




“Yeah – you’re a good dancer, Suzie Holderness.”


I smiled and said “Nice of you to say so – you’re not so bad yourself.”


As we walked on a bit further, we stayed silent, but it took me a few minutes to realise that at some point, Brian had taken hold of my hand.  I had no idea when, his hold was so tentative, but he had done it.






“How do you feel about Bobby and Cassie – you know, being very good friends?”


“I’m happy for them,” I said as I looked forwards, “you know the day they first met, Bobby had no idea what he was getting into?”


“Yeah – from the way Uncle Barry talks about the Craigs, you’d think they were one of the bravest families out there.”


“I think they are – do yourself a favour, though, and don’t get Cassie upset.  You wouldn’t like it when she gets upset.”


“I’ll bear that in mind,” Brian said as we approached the back garden again.  I smiled before I did something I hadn’t planned to do.


“Want to go into the playhouse instead of inside?”


“Yeah – sure,” Brian said as we walked across the grass.  I caught a glimpse of Mum through the big windows, as we walked up the wooden staircase and into the bigger of the two rooms.


“So what do you want to do,” Brian said as he closed the door.


“We could play a game of rescue if you wanted – you can pretend to hold me hostage, and then play the rescuer.”



“Do you want to do that?”


“Yeah,” I said as I took my coat off, and then sat in a beanbag to remove my wellies.  “Go on – I won’t bite.  Look in that box over there.”


He opened the box we keep the ropes in, and then knelt behind me, very gently putting my hands behind my back and crossing my wrists. 


“Suzie,” he said as I felt him pulling my arms together with the rope, “do you think you’ll ever like a boy the way Cassie likes Bobby?”


“Maybe,” I said as he passed the rope between my arms, and tied it off, before passing another length round my waist.  “I do feel a bit funny sometimes, being the only girl in my family who doesn’t have a boyfriend.  Alicia has Martin, and as for Angela…”


“Yeah – but they’re older,” Brian said as he fixed my wrists to the small of my back.  “Are there any boys in your class that you might want to get to know better?”


“You’re joking, right?  Most of them are even more obsessed with football than my brother!”  I watched Brian’s arms as he passed the rope around my arms and stomach, tying them tightly against my side.  “Have you been practising?”


“Not really – would it sound funny if I said I feel the most comfortable doing this to you, compared to any of the others?”


Now that was a strange comment to make, as I felt him tie the rope off.  “What do you mean,” I said as he knelt in front of me, and crossed my ankles before wrapping some rope around them.


That was when I saw he was blushing, as he passed the rope around and between my legs to hold my ankles together.  As he took another length of rope around my legs below my knees, he said “I mean…  I mean if I had the choice of any of your friends to do this with, I would pick you every time.”


I felt my legs being pulled together, as I thought about what he has just said.  “Brian Hampton,” I said as I watched him tie the last knot, “what are you trying to say?”


He looked at me, and I could now see how red he was.  “Well...”


I raised an eyebrow as he stammered a little, before saying “Ireallylikeyousuzanneholdernessandiwonderifyouwouldliketogotothepictureswithmesometimethisweek.”


“Oh,” I said quietly, as it suddenly hit me what it was he was trying to say.  “OH.”


“I’m sorry,” Brian said, “If you don’t want…”


“No – no it’s not…”


We both looked at each other for a moment, and I realised just how much I was blushing as well, before I said “I’d love to.  You buy the tickets, I’ll buy the popcorn.  Sound fair?”


“Sounds fair,” Brian said as he looked at me.  “Now, my clever little captive, I need to go and lay a trap for your handsome rescuer, so you need to be quiet.”


“No, I’ll scream as soon as you go,” I said, getting back into the game as Brian went back to the box, and picked up an old half scarf as well as a roll of white tape.  He walked back over, folding the scarf as he said “Yes, you will be quiet.  Open your mouth, please.”


“No,” I said and I clamped my mouth shut, expecting him to tickle me or do something else to make me open my mouth.  Well, he did something else all right.


Cassie had told me about when Bobby and Colin had taken her and Jenny to a movie, and he had kissed her without warning to get her to open her mouth.  I’d always wondered what made Bobby so brave as to try that, and why Cassie talked so much about it.


I found out right then, as Brian gave me a little kiss on my lips. 


It was…  I still can’t really describe how it felt, except to say it took me completely by surprise, and as he took his lips away I gasped, opening my mouth and allowing him to push the cloth gently in behind my teeth.  I closed my mouth and looked at him, as he tore a length of tape off the roll and held it between his hands.


“I’m sorry, didn’t you like the kiss?”


He was kneeling in front of me, and I didn’t know what to do to answer the question – saying yes or no was a tad difficult after all.  Eventually, however, I gave him my answer, as I leaned forward and kissed him back.  He smiled and said “thank you” before he pressed the tape firmly over my mouth, and added another strip just below it.


“Right,” he said quietly, still blushing, “I need to go and lay my trap.  Don’t move my pretty one.”  He stood up and went out of the room, closing the door before I heard him walking down the staircase.


So what did I do, after what had just happened?  I slid down the beanbag, sitting on the floor as I looked up at the ceiling, my head resting on the seat, and I thought about it.


Cassie had said at the moment Bobby kissed her, she knew she was the luckiest girl alive – and swore me to secrecy, never to tall Bobby she said that.  And right now, right at this moment?  I knew exactly what she had meant.


I didn’t really care why Brian had picked today, or even if someone had given him a push – I just knew that the way he had talked about me, I had felt about him, but never said anything about.


I just hoped Mum would be able to tell me what to do next.  And that it wouldn’t be too long before he came back.






“Why, oh why, does it have to be our school that is the only one open?”


I was sitting at the breakfast table, eating my toast as I looked at Cassie.  I was in my uniform, while she was still in her pyjamas.  Sometimes, life can be little unfair, and sometimes it’s downright bonkers – and this was one of those latter days.


“No sign of the postman yet?”


“Nope,” mum said as she put a spoonful of baby food into June’s mouth, “so you’re just going to have to wait, aren’t you?”


“Why, expecting something from Colin?”


“As much as you are from Bobby,” I said as I finished my milk.  “Five minutes, and then you’re going to miss your lift,” Dad said as he came in and picked up his suit jacket – which gave me just enough time to run upstairs, brush my teeth and grab my blazer and bag before meeting Dad at the bottom of the stairs.


“Have fun learning,” Cassie called out, to which I heard Mum’s reply of “and you can have fun feeding David.”


“Awww, mum….”


“I think you’re better off out of that one,” Dad said as I got in the front of the car, “your Aunt Connie is coming round later to take Cassie off Mum’s hands for a while anyway.”


“Lucky Aunt Connie,” I said with a smile.  “So what are you and Mum doing tonight?”


“Secret,” Dad said as we drove down the road, “You?”


“Colin’s coming to pick me up at six thirty, and that’s all I know.  Why on earth does it have to be secretive?”


“Tradition, Jenny, tradition.  Look, best just to go with the flow and let what happens happen.”


“I hate surprises.”


“Now that’s not true – and you know that.”


I had to laugh at the one – some of the best experiences of mine and Cassie’s over the last couple of years have been complete surprises.  At any rate, I still had the day at school to get through – including a Chemistry test from Dr Frost.


Dad dropped me off outside the school gates, and I walked in, nodding to some of the other girls as I made my way to my registration room.  Mary and Cathy were already there, Cathy smiling as she looked at me.


“Well good morning to you as well,” Cathy said as I sat down, “how’s your day been so far?”


“Same as any other day – why?”


Cathy looked at Mary and started giggling, before Mary said “Ignore her – her mum’s been at the shop since six this morning, and she’s already put in a two hour stint.”


“Oh yeah – silly, I should have realised,” I said as Alicia came in, and sat herself down.


“And a good morning to you too,” Mary said as she looked at Alicia, “Eddie was in a funny mood this morning – did Angela say anything to you today?”


“Angela’s been in a funny mood since the wedding,” Alicia said as she looked in her bag, “Every time we mention the bouquet and Eddie, she just blushes and clams up.”


“Love is in the air, every time I look around,” Mary started singing, earning herself a very well deserved clout on the head from Alicia as our form tutor came in.


“Right,” she said as she looked round the room, “Register.  Bowden?”


“Here,” Alicia said as she sat back and winked at me.




“All right, class,” Miss Frost said as she looked at us, “Pens down and hand your papers to the front of the room.”


I handed my paper and Alicia’s forward to Mary, before feeling a tap on my shoulder.  Turning round, I saw Martin smiling at me as he passed the papers forward – and a note underneath.  Nodding, I took the note off and passed the papers on, before handing the small sheet of paper to Alicia.  She opened it, read it, and then laughed as she put it in her inside pocket.




“Inside joke,” Alicia said as Miss Frost stood at the front of the class, looking at the clock.


“Well, that’s almost it for the day,” she said, “Enjoy the break, and we’ll discuss the results when you…”


The bell ringing ended any chance of her finishing the sentence, as we gathered our things up, threw them rather than placed them in our bags, and made our way out of the school building.


“And we are free!!!”  Mary danced out of the gates, doing a twirl and nearly tripping over her own feet, before saying “I am going to go home, change, and vegetate for the rest of the day.  What about you lot?”


“Got plans,” Alicia said as she waved and got into her mother’s car.


“Me too,” I said as I looked down the street, “Which way are you going Cathy?”


“Back to the coalface,” she said as we both waved to Mary, “Come on, we’ll walk part of the way together.”  As we walked down the street, Cathy said “So, what has young Master Hampton planned for you today?”


“I have no idea,” I said quietly, smiling as I did so.  “All I know is that I have to be ready by a certain time, and that’s it.”


“And you trust him?  This is Colin Hampton we are talking about here.”


“I’d trust him with anything,” I said quietly, making Cathy stop and look at me.


“Oh boy, this is turning into the real thing, isn’t it?”


“What on earth are you talking about Cathy Harmer?”


“Come on Jenny – answer me this question.  What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear Colin’s name?”


“I don’t see what…”


“What is it?”


“Kind, thoughtful, thinking of me rather than himself.”  My mind flashed back to the weekend when Colin and Bobby had tracked us down, and the first thing he did when he came into the room was to come over and hug me.


“Yeah – wonder what he would say if I asked him what the first thing in his head when your name is mentioned was.”


“You, Catherine Harmer, are a hopeless romantic.”


“And you, Jennifer Alison Craig, are one of the luckiest girls alive.” 


I realised we had got to the parade of shops where the florists was, and waved goodbye to Cathy as I went to catch the bus home.




“Mum!  I’m back!!”


“In here,” I heard Mum say, and I went in to see her with Aunt Connie, Aunt Jessie and Granny.


“Hey, kiddo,” Connie said as she held a sleeping Danny on her knee, “How was school?”


“Boring – where’s Cassie?”


The four of them looked at each other and started laughing, as I said “What’s so funny?”


“She went about ten minutes ago,” Granny said, “Just go upstairs and have a look in her room.”


I looked at them, and went up the stairs, removing my tie as I did so.  Opening the door to Cassie’s room, I walked in and had a good, long look round.





“When on earth did he do that,” I said as I came back down.


“He was round this morning – you should have heard the scream when Cassie walked in.  Anyway, he picked her up, and I’m sure we’ll see her later.  Go and fix yourself a snack – there’s a couple of letters there for you anyway.”


I nodded and went through to the kitchen – and there were indeed two letters sitting on the kitchen table.  One of them was a card from Colin, with two bears hugging each other on the front, and a note inside that said “See you tonight.”


The other one was in a thin white envelope, and was addressed to Miss Jennifer Alison Craig.  I opened it and took out the letter that was inside, then poured myself a glass of milk and sat down to read it.


Ten minutes later, Mum came in and said “Is that what I think it is?”


I nodded and handed her the letter.  “I’ve been accepted on the Easter course to see what it’s like to work at a newspaper.”


“Connie,” Mum called through, “Jenny got the place!”


“Good – I’ll be back at work by then, so maybe she’ll end up helping me out!”


“OH great – filing for my aunt,” I said as I stood up.  “I’m going to get some homework done, and then get ready.”




One set of history questions, a shower and a change of clothes later, I was sitting brushing my hair when Dad knocked on my door.


“Can I come in,” he said, and looked at me sitting there.


“Congratulations – I hear it was a tough thing to get onto.”


“Thanks – but it means we don’t go away this Easter.”


“Don’t worry – we might be in a better position to have a summer holiday this year anyway.  So, ready for the date?”


“Almost,” I said as I stood up and looked for my brown shoes.  I eventually found them under my bed, and then slipped them on before standing up.  I was wearing a v-necked pale blue sweater over a white t-shirt, and a boho blue skirt, the pleated material coming to just below my knees.


“Quite the little lady tonight,” Dad said as he stood with his arms folded, before Mum called up “John!  We need to run their bath.”


“All right, I’m on it,” he said before he came over and kissed me on the forehead.  “Have fun tonight,” he said as he left me, putting my purse and a couple of other things into a small clutch bag before I came down the stairs.


Just as I got to the bottom, the front door bell rang, and Granny went to open it.  Colin was standing there, in a shirt and trousers with a grey jacket over his shirt.


“Well, hello Colin,” Granny said quietly, “and what can I do for you tonight?”


“Hello Mrs Craig – is Jenny ready?”


“Well, that depends,” Granny said as she looked at me, “Are you ready Jenny?”


“Ignore her – she’s just getting ready to look after the twins,” I said as I gave her a little kiss, and then walked down the garden path with Colin.  “Thanks for the card.”


“You’re welcome – and thank you for yours.”  I said as we walked to his dad’s car.  “Hi jenny,” he said as we got in the back, “any idea what he’s up to?”


“None at all – you’re driving, hasn’t he told you?”


“Not yet,” Colin said as he produced a ribbon and a black scarf from his pocket.  “This is a total surprise, so I need to make sure you can’t see.  Hands behind your back, please.”


“Oh great – here we go again,” I said jokingly as I let him use the ribbon to tie my wrists together behind my back, and then the folded scarf over my eyes.  I sat back as best I could, and waited as he strapped me in, before I heard him say “Here’s where we are going.”


“Oh – oh right,” I heard his father say, and then we sped off, his hand on my lap as we headed into the unknown.



After a little while, we stopped and I heard Colin get out of the car, and then open the door on my side, helping me to get out before he untied my wrists.  “Thanks Dad,” I heard him say as he held my arm in his hand, “Pick me up later?”


The car drove off as Colin said, “Trust me,” and taking me by the arm he led me along.  I could not see a thing, but could hear people talking as we walked, before Colin helped me to sit down.


“All right, you can remove the blindfold now,” he said, and as I did so I blinked, totally surprised at where we were.


“Drink, sir,” the waiter said as he stood by the table, Colin smiling as he said “Coke for both of us please.”


“Of course, sir,” the waiter said with a smile as he left, Colin smiling as he said “Surprise – I asked dad where we could go for a meal out, and he recommended this place.”


“Where are we,” I said as I looked round at the other tables.




I had walked past this restaurant a few times – a little family owned place in the centre of town, I knew Mum and Dad had been here before, but they had never taken us.


“Your drinks, sir,” the waiter said as he placed the glasses in front of us, “I will return in a moment for your order.”


“How on earth are you paying for this,” I asked as I looked at him.


“Saving – and it’s worth every penny for the look on your face,” he giggled as he picked up the menu.  “Come on – what do you fancy?”


I picked up the menu and had a look myself, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.


“I might have the chicken risotto – you?”


“I’ll have the mushroom dish – fancy splitting an antipasto?”


“That sounds nice,” I said as I smiled back at him, “Very nice indeed.”





“Just out of interest,” I asked as our plates were cleared away, “Did you know what Bobby was going to do for Cassie?”


“Well, if I said yes, then I would be betraying a confidence, and if I said no I’d be lying to you – so pass.”


“Spoken like the son of a policeman,” I laughed in reply.  “Seriously, she must have loved it.”


“I’m sure she did – want dessert?”


“Would it be awful if I said I fancied a walk instead?”


“Of course not,” Colin said as he signalled to the waiter.  He walked over, and placed a single red rose in front of me before he said “I will bring the bill, sir.”


“Thank you,” Colin said as I picked up the rose.  “For me?”


“For you,” he said as the waiter came over, and Colin had a look, before leaving some notes and standing up.  Taking my arm, he waited until I picked up the rose and smelt it, and then we walked out of the restaurant, and into the cool night air.


“That was a wonderful dinner, thanks,” I said as we walked down the street.


“You’re welcome – I thought you might enjoy it, after having to spend the day at school.”


“Yeah – lucky me,” I said as I put my arm round his back, and he did the same for me.  “Still, I have the holiday week now, and we can spend some time together as well.”


“If I can ditch my cousin, that is – although that might not be that difficult now.”


“Brian’s around?  Does Suzie Holderness know?”


“She does – we left him at Wissenden Hall this morning.  Bobby and I both felt it was about time he owned up to something that was obvious to both of us.”


“Oh – what was that?”


“He’s very, very fond of Suzie – I guess Bobby felt he needed a little push.”


“Be careful – the last time he did that was with Alicia and Martin.  Wonder what they’re up to?”


“Who knows,” he said as we approached his dad’s car.  “Listen – want to go for a drive?”


“Anywhere special?”


“You’ll find out – I need to keep you nice and quiet for the trip.”


“Colin Hampton, are you going to tie me up again?”


“Yeah, I am,” he said as he turned and looked at me, “but first I want to do something else.”


I was going to ask what, but instead he gave me a gentle kiss on my lips – one I returned, before he took my wrists and tied them together in front of me, hands palm to palm.


“Why don’t you get in and get comfy,” Colin said as he opened the door, and I got in, putting my feet in as he closed the door and got in the other side.  His dad smiled at me in the rear view mirror as I wondered what was going to happen next.


There was more rope on the seat, which he used to tie my ankles together, and then my legs below my knees, before he strapped the seat belt around me and then tied my wrists to my knees.


“Open wide,” he said as he looked at me, so I allowed him to push the cloth in, and then cover my lips with microfoam tape.


I watched as he gently kissed my gagged mouth, before he covered my eyes with more tape, and then I felt his hand holding mine as we drove off.





“Lucky you – getting to spend the day at school.”


“So do you,” I said to Angela as we sat round the breakfast table.  Andrew was in his high chair, gurgling away happily as Mum fed him his porridge, while Dad was putting his suit jacket on.


The telephone started ringing, and Angela jumped up, saying “I’ll get it,” as she went into the hallway.  She had on a white t-shirt with a black waistcoat, blue jeans and knee length tan leather boots.


“Eddie,” I said as I looked at Mum.


“Probably – and don’t mock her,” Mum said as she looked at me.  “For all you know, one day that might be you.”


“Never – no boy would…”  My phone went off to indicate a text, and as I looked at it I smiled.




I turned to see Angela looking at me, her arms folded, so I just nodded and smiled.


“Right – college waits for no girl,” she said then as she went and grabbed her coat.  “See you all later.”


“That girl has had a serious case of love for weeks now,” Dad said as he looked at Mum.  “Should I start liquidating the wedding fund?”


“Not yet,” Mum said as I heard the post arrive.  Going to the door, I picked up the letters and looked through them as I walked back in.


“One for Angela, one for me, the rest for you,” I said as I placed them on the table.  Opening it, I laughed at the penguin playing the piano, and opened it to read the message.


“If music be the food of love, play on…”


“Nice quote,” Dad said, “and if you’re not in the car in thirty seconds, you’re walking.”


“Gotcha,” I said as I left the card on the table, kissed Mum and made my way out to the car.






When I walked into the classroom, I saw Cathy giggling at Mary as Jenny looked on.


 “Oh yeah – silly, I should have realised,” Jenny said as I came in and sat down.


“And a good morning to you too,” Mary said as she looked at me, “Eddie was in a funny mood this morning – did Angela say anything to you today?”


I thought back to Angela jumping to answer the phone, and started looking in my bag for my books.


“Angela’s been in a funny mood since the wedding.  Every time we mention the bouquet and Eddie, she just blushes and clams up.”


“Love is in the air, every time I look around,” Mary started singing, as I gave her a slap on the head with my exercise book.  I then saw out form tutor come in, and smiled as I turned round.


“Right,” she said as she looked round the room, “Register.  Bowden?”


“Here,” I said as she sat back and winked at Jenny.







“All right, class,” Miss Frost said as she looked at us, “Pens down and hand your papers to the front of the room.”


Giving my paper to Jenny, I started to pack my things away into my bag while she handed them forward.  I noticed her turning round and taking some papers from behind her, and then she handed me a sheet of paper.  Opening it up, I read the message inside.


How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.




“Inside joke,” I said with a laugh as I folded the note and put it into my inside pocket.  Looking to the front, I say Miss Frost look to the clock.


 “Well, that’s almost it for the day,” she said, “Enjoy the break, and we’ll discuss the results when you…”


The bell ringing ended any chance of her finishing the sentence, as we gathered our things up, threw them rather than placed them in our bags, and made our way out of the school building.


“And we are free!!!”  Mary danced out of the gates, doing a twirl and nearly tripping over her own feet, before saying “I am going to go home, change, and vegetate for the rest of the day.  What about you lot?”


“Got plans,” I said as I waved to them and got into my mother’s car.


“How was your day,” she said as I looked at Andrew, facing backwards in the front seat of the car.


“Very good day,” I said with a smile, “where are we going first?”


“We need to go up to the manor house briefly,” Mum said as she drove off, “You need to collect your costume from your grandmother.”


“Fair point – I wonder what Martin has found to wear tonight?”




“Wow – it’s beautiful Grandma,” I said as I looked at the dress, Mum looking on.


“I wore that for a Venetian ball at college – I think it will suit you just fine for tonight,” she said as she came over.  “Your shoes from the wedding should compliment it nicely.”


“Thanks – really thanks.”


I gave her a little kiss as we left the Manor House, and drove back home, the dress sitting carefully next to me.  When we got in, I took the dress up to my room, in time to see Angela heading out of the bathroom.


“Right – Renaissance night,” she said as she headed for her room.  “Bathroom’s all yours – knock yourself out.”


An hour later, I was pinning the cap to my head when Mum came in.


“Your grandmother was right – that dress does look good on you,” she said as I stood up.  The dress was made of something like gold silk, with a square yoke collar and sleeves which were puffed out at the shoulder, and then fitted from my elbows to the cuffs, which had a small hook over my middle finger.


The bodice of the dress was purple, with a criss-crossed lace pattern up to my chest, while the skirt flowed out as it fell to the floor.  The cap I had pinned to my hair was purple with a gold trim, and I had my wedding shoes on underneath.


“Listen,” Mum said, “I want you to borrow a cloak of mine to keep the chill out on the way there.”  She showed me a purple cloak with a hood and a fake fur trim, and placed it over my shoulders.


“Wow – thanks mum,” I said as we walked down the stairs – in time to see Angela heading out.  She was wearing a blue short sleeved dress, dark tights and black shoes, and had a black linen jacket on.


“Okay,” she said as she looked at me, “Have fun, milady.”


“You too,” I said as she almost ran out of the door, and Dad came out.  “Right – to the town hall with you, young lady,” he said as he opened the door, Mum waving as I walked to the car.


The Holderness Musical Society had held a Medieval Night every year for the last five years as a fund raising event, but this was the first year I had been specifically invited – well, given it was the first year I had been going out with Martin, it’s hardly surprising.  Still, as Dad dropped me off and I walked up the torch lit path to the front door of the town hall, I felt like a million dollars.


“Greetings, my lady Holderness – how fares it with you this fine evening?”


I admit, it took me a few minutes to recognise Martin.  He was dressed as a minstrel, in a long blue tunic over a white shirt, brown leggings and black pointed shoes.  A blue cap was on his head, and a thin brown belt around his waist.


“It fares passably well, sirrah,” I said as he helped me by taking my cloak, and handing it to a woman dressed as a serving girl.


“May I have the honour of escorting you to the main hall?”


“You may,” I said as I took his hand, and we walked in, both of us smiling as we saw the room lined with people in costumes as well.  A small musical group were on the stage – I recognised Martin’s dad playing a violin, and his mother was playing a lute.


“My Lords and Ladies,” the band leader said, “Pray take your partners for the first dance.”


“Will you honour me again, my lady,” Martin said with a low bow, and I nodded as I curtseyed in reply, him taking my hand as we walked onto the floor with some others.


Medieval dances are very formal affairs, but the trick is to mirror what your partner does, and Martin had a lot more experience in these things than I do.  Even so, in the dress I had to be very careful not to stand on the hem – but I had plenty of experience in doing that, feet apart as well as together.


Eventually, the music stopped, and we applauded the band before Martin led me to a side table, and helped me to sit down.  “Ready for a drink,” he said, and as I nodded he went and fetched two glasses of punch.


“Strictly non-alcoholic,” he said with a smile as he sat down and handed me one.


“I expected that,” I replied as I sipped on the drink.  “I never knew these things were so popular?”


“There are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, my dear Alicia,” Martin replied.


“Are you going to quote Shakespeare all night?”


“Only where you’re concerned,” he replied with a smile.  “And by the way, you look fantastic in that dress.”


“Thanks – and you can thank my grandmother for allowing me to borrow it.”


“I shall when next I see her,” Martin said with a smile.  “Listen, I have to take care of something – will you stay here for me?”


“Of course – but can I get something to eat first?”


“Oh we sit down to eat in a little while, once I’ve done this,” Martin said as he walked off.  I wondered what he was going to do, until I heard the band begin to play and people turned to the stage – as I turned myself to see Martin standing there.


You may be familiar with the sonnet “My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose?”  What you may not be aware of is that it can be sung to a traditional Scottish tune – but it is actually a couple of centuries too late for a Renaissance evening.


I didn’t care however, as Martin sang it for the audience – but looking at me the whole time, as his voice rang out over the hall.


And yes, my heart was melting within me as he sang it.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him, if truth be told.


What was it I was feeling, for goodness sake?  Whatever it was, however, it was the same as when he sang at Brian and Sarah’s wedding, and I loved every single part of it.


We all clapped and cheered as he finished, and took a deep bow, then walked back over to me as the announced said “Ladies and Gentlemen, the feast is ready in the grand hall.”


“Will you accompany me, my lady,” Martin said as he offered his hand, and I took it, standing and walking arm in arm with him as we went into the dining area.  It was set out in long benches, as we sat next to each other.


“Enjoying yourself so far,” Martin whispered as plates of meat and large loaves of bread were placed in front of us.


“It’s amazing,” I admitted as he took a knife, cut some slices from the leg of lamb and placed them on the wooden plate in front of me, and then tore some bread from the loaf and placed it next to the meat.


“Knifes and fingers only,” he said with a smile as one of the women in costumes came and poured drink into the flagons in front of us.  “So I hope you can manage.”


“Oh I think I’ll manage somehow – I’ll just pretend it’s from KFC or something,” I said as I picked up two chicken drumsticks, put one on his plate and bit into the other.  “Thanks for the card, by the way.”


“I’m glad you liked it,” Martin said with a smile.  “And thank you for yours.”


I blushed slightly at that – I’d sent a card with two bears on the front to him as well.


“So what are the others doing tonight?”


“No idea – and that is a hundred percent honest.  Did the boys say anything to you?”


“Nope – well, apart from the fact Bobby came into the store last week, and bought a CD from us.”


“He bought a CD from you?  What do you stock that HMV don’t?”


“Ah – that is the question, isn’t it,” Martin said with the smile I knew meant he would not answer – sometimes, I tell you, boys and their secrets…


Once we had eaten our fill of the meat and bread, the remnants were taken away and bowls of apples, pears and other fruits were laid out.  Martin picked up a strawberry and held it in his hand for me to bite, smiling as he watched me eating it.


“Thanks,” I said as I returned the favour to him.


“My lords and ladies,” the announcer said as we stared into each other’s eyes, “We have entertainment for you now – bring on the court entertainers!”


We turned and watched as a troop of acrobats came out and started to perform, as well as some fire eaters.


“Would you excuse me for a moment, kind sir,” I said as I stood up, “I need to take a short walk.”


“Of course, my lady,” Martin said as I walked off, and made my way to the ladies restroom.


When I emerged a few minutes later, the corridor was empty, as I walked past a few doors.  What I did not hear was one of them opening as I passed – not until I felt a hand over my mouth, and Martin whispered into my ear “Not a word my lady – step into the anteroom with me.”


He walked me slowly back, my hand on his arm as he turned me and closed the door behind us.  “I regret to say, my lady,” he whispered into me ear, “that I must take you hostage for a short while, until your grandfather the baron has paid the debt he owes me.”


“Whhttdbt,” I mumbled into his hand, playing along.


“He knows what debt, and I will send word to him in due course.  Now, I must prepare you for the journey – do not scream when I remove my hand.”


“What are your intentions now, sirrah,” I said as he gently took my arms behind me, and I felt him using some sort of soft rope to tie my wrists together.


“To treat you with all due respect, while ensuring you do exactly what I say, my lady,” he said as I felt the rope going around and between my wrists, before he tied it around my waist.


“And how do you intend to get me out of the hall with so many people here?”


“Why, I intend to walk you out in front of the entire assembly,” Martin whispered into my ear as he tied my arms to my stomach, winding it around them in a double figure of eight.


“You fiend – you know you will not get away with this,” I whispered, but I was loving every second of this, being taken captive by him in such a gentle way.


“Enough chatter,” he said as he turned me round, then he looked into my eyes before he kissed me, and I returned the kiss.


“Sir, you have stolen my heart,” I said as he looked at me again.


“No more or less than you have stolen mine,” he said as he stroked my hair away from my face, and then kissed me again.  “Now, I must silence you – do not be afraid.”


“I am not,” I breathed as he took a large handkerchief, rolled it into a band and then tied it into my mouth, my lips closing over it as he tied the band around my head.  Not the most effective gag in the world, but I knew it was for effect more than anything.


“I must also blindfold you,” he said as he folded a black scarf carefully, “and then I will put your cloak over you.”


“Fnkusrrr” I said as he tied the blindfold on, and then I felt the cloak over my shoulders, the hood sitting over my head as it was fastened around my neck.


“Walk with me, and say nothing,” Martin whispered as he took my by the arm and I heard the door opening, walking by his side as he guided me Lord alone knows where.  All I knew was the click of my heels on the floor, and then on the stone outside as the cool air hit my face.


“A little further,” Martin said as we walked along, going down what I presumed where the stairs at the front of the town hall, and then he said “Sit down.”


I could feel his hand on the back of my head as I sat on a seat, and then he lifted my legs over.  I presumed I was in some sort of car or van, as he strapped something over my body  - that was confirmed as I felt him tying my ankles together, side by side, and then heard a door closing.  Another one opened and closed on the other side, and I felt his hand on my arm as he said “Be at peace, my lady – it will be a short journey.”


Right then, it could have taken the whole night, for all I cared, as I leaned over and put my head on his shoulder, and the vehicle moved off…



Eventually, the vehicle came to a stop, and I was helped out after my legs were untied, my feet crunching on some gravel as I was walked again, and then on hard floor.


“Whrhrww,” I said as I was walked a short distance, and felt my cloak being removed before I was helped to sit down on a soft seat.  I could hear other moans and soft talking, and something told me I was not alone anymore.


“All will be revealed soon enough,” I heard Martin say as he cuddled me from the side, “Be patient.”


I felt his lips on mine, and had to be content with that – for the moment.





“Why, oh why, does it have to be our school that is the only one open?”


Jenny was sitting at the table in her school uniform, upset that she had to go in while I had the day off.  Lucky me was my reaction to that – I was still in my pink pyjamas, enjoying the fact I hadn’t had to get dressed yet!


Dad had to work, so I was made to get up.  Mind you, Aunt Connie was coming round to take me out later, so I knew I would have to dress eventually – just not yet.


Jenny bit into her toast as she looked at me – I knew she wasn’t that upset, but it did mean I got an extra day at the start of the half term break.


 “No sign of the postman yet?”  She looked at Mum, who was busy giving June a spoonful of baby porridge.


“Nope, so you’re just going to have to wait, aren’t you?”


“Why, expecting something from Colin?”  I asked as I drank my orange juice.


“As much as you are from Bobby,” she said as she finished her milk, and then went to collect her things as Dad put his suit jacket on.  “Five minutes, and then you’re going to miss your lift,” he called after her, before saying “Mum will be round later – she’s good for tonight.”


“Great,” she said as she wiped June’s chin, and Dad went to the front door.


 “Have fun learning,” I shouted out with a wicked grin – and then the grin was wiped out as Mum said “and you can have fun feeding David.”


“Awww, mum….”


“Come on,” she said as the front door closed.  I moved over and stirred his breakfast, looking at him as he gurgled.


“Here we go, David,” I said as I held the spoon in front of him, watching as he opened his mouth and sucked the food off the spoon – only for some of it to dribble from the side of his mouth.


“Don’t worry,” Mum said as she looked over, “just wipe his mouth with his bib, and keep going.”


So that’s what I did – he probably had twice as much food as he dribbled out, but he seemed happy, laughing with me when I smiled at him.


“You love your big sister, don’t you David,” Mum said, and he gurgled again at that.  “Right – get upstairs and get washed Cassie.  Your aunt will be here soon.”


“Gotcha,” I said as I kissed David and June on their heads, and went up to have a shower and get changed.




The clock was showing ten thirty when I heard Aunt Connie come in, saying “Hey – where is everyone?”


“Go on through,” I heard Mum say, “I’ll be there in a minute.  Cassie is with the twins.”


Well, actually, Cassie was sitting on the couch reading a book, while June and David were sitting on the soft base of their play pen.   June was playing with her toy arch, hitting the stars and balls and gurgling, while David was chewing on a soft cube.


“Hey,” I said as she came in, and put Danny in with the other two, “I like your skirt.”


“Thanks,” Aunt Connie said as she sat down.  She had on a long striped skirt, ruffled with layers, and a white jumper with a jacket over it.  A pair of short black boots was also on her feet.  “Planning on going somewhere?”


“Depends if someone can take me,” I said as I looked at her.  I had on a grey hoodie and sweat pants, with sneakers and a pink sleeveless padded jerkin.


“Well, I might be able to,” Aunt Connie said as Mum came in and handed her a mug, “if I may be allowed to finish my drink first, and if Danny can stay here.”


“I think that can be arranged,” Mum said as she sat down, “after coffee.  Cassie, will you go and get the biscuit plate, please?”


I jumped up and went into the kitchen, coming back with a carton for me to see Aunt Connie showing Mum a pendant with a little blue gem on it.  “He got me matching earrings as well – but I’ll save them for later,” Aunt Connie said as I had a look.


“What’s that for?”


“A Valentine’s Day present – has Bobby got you something?”


“Nope,” I said as I sat down and finished my drink, while Mum and Aunt Connie talked, and Danny crawled over to sit with David and June.


“Right,” Aunt Connie said as she put her mug down.  “Come on – we’ll do some shopping and I’ll but you lunch out.  Sound good?”


“Sounds good to me,” I said as I followed her out – passing Granny as she came down the path and waved at us.




As we walked into the café, Aunt Connie said “Happy with what you’ve bought?”


I still had a little of my birthday and Christmas money left, so she had taken me to a shoe shop to buy a new pair of short boots, and then we had bought some new t-shirts with money Mum had given her. 


“Very happy,” I said as I sat down, “Do you think Mum will like the boots?”


“I’m sure she will,” she said as the waitress came and took our order, “The question is, will Bobby?”


“He likes whatever I wear,” I said with a smile.


“Ah, you have so much to learn, young Cassandra Paulette,” Aunt Connie said with a smile.  “So much to learn…”


“Well, Jenny knows as much as I do, and she seems happy when Colin sees her in some old pants and a torn t-shirt.”


“Cassie, when a boy likes a girl, he will always compliment her – but she still should want to look nice for him.  Do you want to look nice for Bobby when you see him?”


I blushed and didn’t answer, but Aunt Connie just smiled and said “there you go – you just answered your own question.”


“Aunt Connie – how did you fall in love with Uncle Dave?”


“Oh, now that’s a long story,” Aunt Connie said with a smile.  “Why?”


“It’s just – sometimes, when Patty is kidding around and calling me Lady Holderness, I start wondering…  What if that really happened?”


“What, if you became Lady Holderness?  Cassie, love, that’s way way down the line for you, and it presumes you and Bobby are indeed…”  She stopped for a moment and looked at me.


As our food was brought over, she picked up her knife and fork and said “Cassie, a lot of things are going to happen to you over the next few years.  If Bobby sticks with you through that, then you have to ask yourself a simple question.”


She took a mouthful of salad and ate it, before saying “Who would be the first person you turned to for help if something happened?  When you feel down, who would you most want to see – and when things are great, who would you most want to be with?”


“I don’t understand,” I said before I took a bite of my toasted sandwich.


“I know – but when you do, you will answer your question.  For now, remember Bobby is a very good friend and he is incredibly fond of you – all right?”


I nodded, my mouth too full of food to talk right at that moment.


“Now then,” Aunt Connie said as she sat back, “Let’s talk about school…”






It was about two thirty when Aunt Connie drew up outside the house, and we got out, taking the bags from the boot of the car before we walked in.


“There you are,” Mum said as we went into the front room, “We were about to send out a search party!”


“Sorry – traffic,” Aunt Connie said as we put the bags down.  “Hey Jessie – how’s things?”


“Can’t complain,” Aunt Jessie said.  She was sitting with Granny on the couch as Aunt Connie reached in and picked Danny up.


“Is Patty here,” I said as I looked round.


“No – she’s gone to the pictures with a friend.”


“Oh – Rachel?”


“No,” Granny said with a smile, “Tommy.”


“Tommy?  Tommy….  TOMMY JACOBS?”


“Hey hey – don’t shout,” Mum said, “but yes – she’s gone to the cinema with Tommy Jacobs.”


You could have knocked me down with a feather on that one.  Mum then said “You have a letter – it’s on the kitchen table.”


I walked into the kitchen, shaking my head and still saying “Tommy?” as I picked up the envelope and started to open it.


It was a card, with a picture of a bear holding some flowers, and “Be My Valentine” written over the top.  Looking inside, there was a message that read “Yours Always” – and no signature.


I looked at both sides, and then took it back through to the room.


“A card from Bobby,” Mum said, and then I let her see it.


“Must be from him – you know Valentine’s cards by tradition are never signed,”


“Yeah – still funny though.  What are the two for Jenny?”


“Private for her,” Mum said, “but one of them looks official.”


Aunt Connie looked at Mum, which meant she must have known something, before Mum said “Right then young lady – up to your room and hang that jacket up.”


“All right, Mum,” I said as I put the card on the table, and walked slowly up the stairs, stopping in the bathroom for a few minutes before I stepped back out again.  I put my hand on the door handle, opened it and walked in.


“OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!”


I must have screamed loud enough to wake Grandma June, as I stepped out of my room, and then walked back in again.  I literally could not believe what I was seeing.


Four large heart shaped balloons were hanging in the air, tethered to each leg of my bed, and on the wall behind the bed was a banner that read “BE MY VALNTINE” in large gold letters on a red background.


Sitting on the bed was a huge teddy bear – the exact one that was on my card – and he had in his arms a large heart shaped box, that had a little card on it.  Slowly, I walked in and picked up the card, which had “Cassie” written on it, then opened it.


“Be ready by four.  Bobby.”




I turned round to see Mum, Aunt Jessie and Granny standing there.


“How…  When…  Why…”


“I notice you didn’t say who, thank goodness,” Mum said with a smile.  “Bobby came round this morning while you were out with Aunt Connie and arranged this.  Now, come back downstairs for a few minutes – and bring the box.”




“So we can all have one,” Granny said, “before you get changed.”






I was still very much in a state of shock as I sat on my bed, pulling on a pair of clean socks under the legs of my good jeans.  I had also put on a pale green smock top, as I slipped my shoes on and stood up.


“I am so going to kill him for this,” I said in a mocking tone as I stroked the head of Des – I had decided he was a Des earlier.  Smiling, I took my blue jacket out of the cupboard and headed downstairs – just in time to hear the doorbell ring.


Putting my jacket on, I opened the door to see Bobby standing there, in his brown pants and bomber jacket.


“Hey,” he said as he came in, and I closed the door.  “Did you like your present… Wooomph.”


That last sound was him gasping as I hugged him and said “thank you” with my head against his chest. He put his arms round me and said “I take it that’s a yes,” before he said “Hello Mrs Craig.”


“I think so,” Mum said as she looked at us.  “Go on – have fun, we’ll see you later.  And Bobby?”


“Yes Mrs Craig?”


“Behave,” He said as we walked out of the door, and I saw Mr Boyle waiting with the car.  I could also see Mr Williamson getting into his car, and as he drove off I saw Charlie and Rachel in the back.


“Good evening, Cassie,” Mister Boyle said as he held the door open, and I got in the back, Bobby climbing in on the other side.  “I need you to wear this for me,” Bobby said as he picked up a black sleep mask, and I allowed him to put it other my eyes.


“No ropes, no gags?”


“Not just at the moment,” he said as the car drove off, and I sat back, wondering what was going to happen.


The drive was about – oh, an hour I’d guess, and when we stopped Bobby said “Let me help you out,” taking my arm after he opened the door and then walking me down what felt like a pavement.  It was certainly cool, and then warm again before I was sat on a soft seat.


“You can remove the blindfold now.”


As I took it off, I saw Bobby sitting in a chair opposite me.  Between us was a low table, and on it was set out some plates.  Next to us was a trolley with some covered plates.


“Where are we,” I said as I looked round the small, curtained off room.


“You’ll see soon enough,” Bobby said with a smile, as he opened a bottle of lemonade and poured some into two glasses.  “This will have to do instead of champagne – happy Valentine’s Day, Cassie.”


“Thanks,” I said as I tapped my glass against his, and then he put two plates on the table.  Taking the lids off, I smiled as I saw a ham and mushroom pizza, and a pepperoni and bacon one.


“My favourites.”


“I know,” he said as he sat back.  “Enjoy.”


Well, of course I enjoyed it, but what I didn’t understand was why there was an increasing amount of murmuring coming from behind the curtains.


“What’s going on out there,” I asked as we finished the last slices of the pizza, and Bobby produced two banana splits.


“All in good time,” he said with a smile.  “Enjoy your dessert first.”


When we had finished, a man n a waistcoat, wearing a bow tie with his shirt, came in and removed the trolley, as a bowl of popcorn and more drinks were left on the table.


“All full up, he said as I looked at my watch, and saw it was six thirty.


“Yes, thank you, but where are we?”


“Let’s find out,” he said as he stood up and drew back the curtains.  I realised suddenly why we had heard more and more murmuring – we were in a theatre.


In a private box, looking onto the stage.


And I realised what the show was when Bobby reached under his seat and handed me a program.


“How much did…”


“Shhh,” he said as the lights dimmed, and the overture to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory started…







“That was fantastic,” I said as we both stood and clapped at the end, before Bobby drew the curtains back over.


“Now comes the fun part,” he said as he produced a small bag, and took out several lengths of rope, a cloth and a roll of sticking plaster.  “Put your hands behind your back please, Cassie.”


“I should have seen this coming,” I said with a smile as he crossed and tied my wrists tightly together, and then secured them to my back by wrapping the rope around my waist.  He then tied my arms tightly to my side, around my tummy and my shoulders, making sure he cinched the coils at either side.


“Cozy,” I said as I wriggled round, “but how am I meant to get out without being noticed?”


“With this,” he said as he took out a blue poncho, and pulled it over me.  I t had a hood as well, but before I got a chance to ask what it was for he said “Open wide please.”


“Can I be cheeky and ask for a kiss first?”


“OF course you can,” he said as he gently kissed me, and I kissed him back, before he pushed the cloth in my mouth, and then pressed a strip of the brown plaster over my mouth. 


“There – ready,” he asked, and as I nodded he pulled the hood up and over my head, and then walked me to a rear door, where Mister Boyle was waiting.


“In you go,” Bobby said as he helped me to sit down, before binding my ankles and my legs below my knees.  Strapping me in, he put the sleep mask back on, and then I heard him get into the car beside me.


“Whrrwgng,” I asked as we set off.


“You’ll see soon enough,” Bobby said as we headed away from the theatre…




The drive went fairly quickly, with the radio on, but as we stopped I felt myself being lifted up and carried somewhere.


“Hey – how did it go?”


“Colin?”  That was what I thought to myself as I heard Bobby say “It was fantastic, wasn’t it Cassie?”


I nodded my head, wondering why Colin was there – and where Jenny was.  I was carried somewhere and then sat on a seat, as I heard other muffled voices.  I decided to listen in on Bobby as he stood behind me.


“What about the others?”


“See for yourself.”


“Oh yeah – hi Martin.”


Martin?  If Martin was here then so was Alicia – who else was around?


“You two – did you do it?”


“Why yes, yes we did.”


“Good – you’d moped around for far too long, I figured you could both do with the extra push.”


“Lkkkllufrths,” I heard a familiar voice say.






“I think we should remove their blindfolds now.”


I felt Bobby taking off my blindfold and looked round the room.  There indeed was Suzie, wearing denim short dungarees, leggings and a t-shirt, bound and gagged as Colin’s cousin Brian Hampton gave her a hug.


Next to her was Alicia, dressed in some sort of middle ages dress with Martin hugging her, in a very odd costume as well.  She had a cloth pulled between her lips, and had a “Why me?” look on her as she realised she was the only one dressed like that.


Patty and Rachel were next to each other on another couch, Tommy next to Patty and Charlie next to Rachel.


“Hlldldehldrns,” Patty said through the tape covering her mouth, Rachel laughing along.


As for my big sister, she was sat with me, Colin on the other side, tightly bound and gagged as she laughed along.


“Well, now that we’re all here,” Bobby said as he looked at us, “Can I just say that we all think you look incredibly cute sat there like that – and thank you for agreeing to meet up here at the end of the night.”


“Ntalltfchss,” Alicia mumbled as Martin gave her a hug.


“I know – but you enjoyed the surprises, didn’t you?”


I looked at the others, and we all nodded in agreement.


“Good – well, I guess we need to get you all free now – before you all head home.”


“How the heck did you get them all here,” I asked after Bobby had removed the tape and gag.


“Easy in my case – I never left the house,” Suzie said before she hugged Brian and gave him a kiss on the cheek.


“Mister Boyle collected me and Tommy,” Patty said, “and I think your dad brought you two, right Charlie?”


“That’s right – the three of us had tea before we played another game, and then Mister Hampton helped Colin to bring Jenny in.”


“So who brought us,” Alicia said as she looked at Martin.


“Mister Bridges – he was waiting outside.”


“Well, that just about explains everything,” Jenny said as she rubbed her wrists.


“We’ve got some drinks and snacks for all of you,” Bobby said as Mrs Boyle brought in a tray, followed by Suzie’s mum, “and then…”


The telephone started ringing, and as Suzie’s mum went to answer it we all took a glass.


“Happy Valentine’s day,” Bobby said before Alicia was called out.  “What’s going on,” Bobby asked as his mother came back in, grinning from ear to ear.






“Lucky you – getting to spend the day at school.”


Alicia looked at me in her school uniform, and said “So do you” in reply as we ate our breakfast.  Andrew was laughing and gurgling as Mum tried to feed him, and Dad was getting ready for work.


I was wearing my new knee length boots over my jeans and t-shirt, with a waistcoat on top – the perfect outfit for a morning of Sociology classes.  As the phone went off, I jumped up and went to answer it.


 “Eddie,” I heard Angie say as I picked up the receiver.  “Hello?”


“Hey – how are you this morning?”


“Hi Eddie,” I said as I sat on the bottom stair, “Happy Valentine’s Day.  Did you get my card?”


“Just arrived – you may get something as well.”


I giggled as he said that, before he said “look – can you meet me at six thirty tonight, at the college?  I have a table booked somewhere very special.”


“Sounds like fun,” I said as I looked at my watch.  “Damn I’ve gotta run.  See you tonight!”


I put the phone down and went into the kitchen, where Angie was looking at her phone.  I folded my arms and said simply “Martin?”



She nodded and smiled, as I said “Right – college waits for no girl.”   I grabbed my overcoat and put it on, saying “see you all later” as I grabbed my rucksack and headed out.


The postman came to our gate as I ran out, but I had to move – I had about five minutes to get to the bus stop, and it was six minutes away…


If I was being a hundred percent honest with myself, Eddie and I had grown very close, but since the wedding he has had a very funny look on his face.  Oh he was still the same Eddie, laughing and joking when we saw each other, but when I caught that bouquet, and we walked in the grounds after, I felt we grew much, much closer.


Anyway, I had to put that to one side – I had my A-levels coming up, and I needed to finish my assignment by the end of the day.  So I hit the computers at college, and by about three I had done everything I needed to do.


By the time I had got home, I had thought Alicia would be back, but there was only Dad in.


“Your mum took Alicia to collect something after school,” he said as I made a coffee in the kitchen, “I’m sure she’ll be back soon enough.  So, got plans for tonight?”


“And if I said yes?”


“You’re eighteen, Angie – it’s got past the stage where I can forbid you to leave the house, even if I wanted you to stay in.  Besides, I can guess who you’re seeing, and I have no problem with that.”


“Dad,” I said as I turned round, holding the mug in my hands, “When did you know Mum was the one for you?”


“Oh now,” Dad said as he looked at me, “that would have been the night I took her to a dinner dance at college.  I was in my final year, and she was in second year.  I was at Trinity, she was in Oriel.  The dance was under the moonlight in the quad, we held each other, looked into each other’s eyes…”


“Okay, Okay, I get the picture,” I said with a smile.  “I need to go and get ready.”


“Remember he’s probably as nervous as you,” Dad called after me as I went up the stairs.  I had no idea why he said that – my target was my room, and then the shower.


When I came out, a towelling robe around me, I saw Alicia coming up the stairs, carrying very carefully a dress bag.  I knew she had an invitation to a music society do with Martin that night, but I had clean forgotten the theme of the evening.


“Right – Renaissance night,” I said as I saw her blush, and headed to my room, “Bathroom’s all yours – knock yourself out.”


I retired to dry myself off properly, blow drying my hair and arranging it just the way I wanted it, before starting to apply my makeup.  I had a shade of blue eye shadow that matched the dress I had picked out for today, and carefully applied it before using a new shade of red lipstick I had bought that lunchtime.


Only when I was completely satisfied did I slip on a pair of new black tights, and then put on the short sleeved blue dress that was lying on my bed.  It had an asymmetric neckline, and came down to just above my knees.  A pair of black heels and a black jacket completed the outfit, as I put what I thought I would need into a handbag and walked down the stairs.  I passed Mum at the bottom, who nodded approvingly before she headed up with some sort of cloak over her arm.


“Angela, I forget sometimes how much you are becoming an adult,” Dad said as I walked into the room.  “And to think I used to bounce you on my knee, and make you giggle and laugh doing that,”


“Well, you get another chance with Andy, don’t you,” I said as I looked at my baby brother, who was busy looking at the toys over his seat and playing with them.  “I need to get going – will you and Mum be staying up late?”


“I think we have to – Alicia cannot exactly take a set of keys with her in her outfit.”


“Great – see you then,” I said as I walked out – just in time to see Alicia coming down in the gown Grandma had loaned her, smiling with the cape over her shoulders and saying “Wow – thanks mum.”


 “Okay,” I said as I looked at her, “Have fun, milady.”


“You too,” she said as I ran out, allowing myself a few more minutes to make the bus this time – running in these heels?   No chance…




Eddie was waiting at the steps in front of the main college entrance, looking nervously at his watch as I walked up.  He had decided to wear a dark suit, blue shirt and dark blue tie for some reason known only to himself.


“Hey,” I said as I walked up, “I’m not late am I?”


He jumped in surprise, and said “No – of course you’re not.”  Giving me a little kiss, he offered me his arm, and said “Are you hungry?”


“Yeah – but please tell me we’re not going to Gio’s.”  I knew what that place was like on the 14th.


“Not tonight, no – how do you feel about Chinese food?”


“Sounds good to me,” I said as we walked down towards the centre of town.  “Anywhere particular in mind?”


“Oh, a little place I know,” he said as we walked past a number of restaurants, and then stopped outside the Blue Dahlia, one of the more expensive restaurants in town.


“You’re kidding,” I said quietly, but Eddie just smiled and opened the door for me, as I walked in to see a young woman wearing a red and gold cheongsam smiling at us.


“Good evening,” Eddie said as he closed the door, “you have a reservation for Edward Holmes?”


“Ah yes,” she said as she picked up two menus, “we have your booth ready for you.  If you will come with me?”


We followed her to a booth at the side of the restaurant floor, and as we sat down she set the menus in front of us.


“Can I get either of you a drink?”


“Do you have a chardonnay?”


She nodded as Eddie ordered a beer, and then left us to peruse the menu.


“How on earth can you afford a place like this,” I whispered as I looked at him.


“I have a job at uni, remember?  I managed to save for this,” he whispered back as our drinks were brought over.


“We’ll have the Banquet set menu for two, please,” Eddie said – taking charge for once, and I kinda liked it.


So we had some spring rolls and won tons with a dipping sauce, chicken and mushroom soup, and crispy duck pancakes, followed by a selection of other dishes with rice and noodles.


As we ate, we talked about our courses – Eddie had just passed the first part of his second year exams, and I told him about the offer I had received in the post today.


“Oxford Brookes?  Not following totally in your parent’s footsteps then?”


“Nah – I’m not as clever as Dad, and Mum said the only good thing about Oxford University was Dad.  I know what I’m good at – I’ll leave the academic side of things that way to Alicia.”


“Or Andrew?”


“Or, indeed, Andrew,” I said with a smile.


“Well, congratulations – at least you won’t be too far from home, or from me.”


I blushed when he said that – I wasn’t about to tell him the good thing about that was that Warwick was only a few miles away.


Eventually, however, the dishes were cleared away, and the waitress brought two fortune cookies out, placing one in front of each of us. 


“Want to see what they say about our future?”


“You first,” I said as Eddie broke his open, and looked at the slip of paper inside.  “Fortune favours the brave,” he read out.  “Well, as good as they can be I suppose.  Now open yours.”


I picked up the cracker and broke it in half, but there wasn’t a slip of paper inside.  In fact, there was nothing inside, but something tinkled as it fell on the plate underneath.  I put the empty shell down and picked up the thin gold band, looking at the diamond that was attached to it.


“Angela Bowden, I know I have a degree to finish, and you have one to start.  But I have a question to ask – would you agree to be my partner through all that, and once it is done – will you be my wife?”


I was, quite literally, struck dumb.  I didn’t know what to say in reply, as my jaw hung open and I turned to look at him.


“I’m perfectly serious, Angela – it may be four or five years away, but will you marry me?”


The noise that somehow managed to escape from my lips was barely a whisper, as I slipped the ring onto my finger, and looked at it.


“I take it that’s a yes,” Eddie said as he took my other hand, “because if not, this is about to become a very embarrassing evening.”


“Oh God, of course it’s a yes, Eddie,” I said as I hugged and kissed him, to a round of applause from those who could see.


“With the compliments of the management,” the waitress said as she placed two glasses of champagne in front of us, “and with our own congratulations.”


We took a glass each, staring into each other’s eyes as we toasted each other and sipped the champagne.  “When are you going to tell our parents?”


“I think I need to follow the tradition, and talk to your father first – want to play a little game with them?”


“What do you have in mind,” I said with a smile.


“I need to call for a ride to your place – someone I can trust,” Eddie said with a smile, “but only when you’re ready.”






“Here we are,” Eddie’s father said as he pulled up outside our house.  “Want me to wait for you?”


“It’s all right, Dad,” Eddie said as he got out, “I’ll get a taxi home later.”  He walked round and opened the door, allowing me to get out as he shut it again.


“Ready,” he said as his dad drove off, and I nodded.  I could not say a lot, as Eddie had tied a knotted red bandana into my mouth, and he had tied my wrists behind my back.


Not in the restaurant, mind you – he had waited until his dad had picked us up before he did it.  But now we were walking up to my front door, and as he rang the doorbell he gave me a little kiss on the cheek.


“Eddie,” Dad said as he opened the door.  “Back so soon – or has Angela managed to talk you into doing this to her?”


“Not quite,” Eddie said as we walked in.  “Is Mrs Bowden still up?”


“In here,” I heard Mum call out as we walked into the front room.  “Oh dear – she didn’t suggest a moonlit elopement, did she?”


“Mmmmm,” I said as I looked at her, and then sat down on the seat.


“Mister Bowden, Mrs Bowden,” Eddie said as he stood in front of my parents, both of them looking at him from the couch, “I wonder if I could ask a slightly huge favour of you.”


They looked at each other, and then at me, before Mum said “And that would be?”


“Ermm – I don’t think there is an easy way of putting this, but – I asked Angela if she would marry me tonight.”


I saw Mum looking at me as Dad said “Would you mind repeating that, so that I can be sure that I heard that correctly.”


Eddie took another deep breath, before saying “Over dinner tonight, I asked Angie if she would consent to wait until after we had both completed our degrees, and then if she would become Mrs Edward Holmes.  Before we did anything, however, I wanted to ask your permission, Mister Bowden.”




“I’m sorry, Mister Bowden?”


“Eddie,” Dad said as he stood up, “if you’re going to become part of this family at some point down the line, I’m Simon and this is Anne.  Angela, what did you say in reply?”


I turned and showed them my hands, with the ring on my finger.  Mum gasped and then stood up as well, walking over and looking at it.


“A lot can happen in five years, Eddie.”


“I know, Mr Bow…  Simon, but I am willing to take that risk if Angela is.”


I nodded in reply, as Mum looked at the ring and then hugged me.


“The boss doesn’t have a problem with it, and neither do I,” Dad said as he shook Eddie’s hand.  “Mind you, it’s not us you need to convince.”


“No – who?”


“My father,” Mum said as she stood up, “but don’t worry – he’s not that bad.  Congratulations, both of you.  I need to call Susan.”


“The girls are over at the hall,” Dad said as Eddie untied me, “You can break the news to them later.  Right now, let me get you a drink.”


“I think they approve,” I said as he removed my gag, and we kissed each other…




Well, all in all as I watched the girls sitting in the chairs, all bound, gagged and except for the younger ones blindfolded, I felt it had been a good day, and the plans had all worked out.


It really started a week or so before, when Martin, Colin and I had met up to make sure we weren’t all planning the same thing for Alicia, Jenny and Cassie.  As we were sitting and talking, two things were becoming clear.


Firstly, we all had very different plans – Alicia and Jenny had to go to school on the Friday, so anything with them was an evening event, while I could surprise Cassie earlier.


The other was when Colin mentioned that his cousin Brian was coming, and he had asked if he could come and visit Suzie.  Well, I wanted to know why, which is when Colin dropped the little bombshell that Brian thought she was ‘cute’.


Cute?  Suzie is many things, and I suppose cute is one of them, but – then I realised what he meant.  I’d seen the way she looked at Brian as well when he had visited, and when they had played some of the games together.  All it really needed was a little push…


Now, at the same time I had heard that morning that my cousin Tommy was coming down and an idea was starting to form in my mind.  Cassie’s cousin Patty had spent most of the wedding looking Tommy’s way, and I caught him sneaking a couple of looks his way as well, so a plan started forming – one I shared with the others.  Once they got over laughing, they agreed to play along.


Tommy was first – he arrived on the Thursday, and I told him some of the things me and Cassie had done, especially about the cinema trip when Colin and I took Jenny and her.  He was intrigued by that, and then said he wondered how Patty would react to that.


Like hooking fish at the canal – I offered to take him with me the next morning when I went to set things up for Cassie, because I already knew Patty and her mum were going round that morning.  The power of a phone call – I even offered to get him a card to drop in at Patty’s on the way there. 


So – this morning, and Colin rolled up with Brian.  He had already primed him as well, with a promise that he would leave him behind while we went off and took care of business elsewhere.  Suzie was so caught up in the idea that she would be on her own today that she didn’t even notice Brian staying behind.


I can see him sitting cuddling Suzie now, so I guess that worked out well.


Anyway – where was I?  Oh yeah – we left Brian at the hall, and then went into town.  We dropped Colin off in the town centre, got to Patty’s just in time to meet the postman, and ask him to slip a red envelope in with the others, and then hightailed it round to Cassie’s house.


Cassie had gone shopping with her Aunt Connie, while her mum and grandmother were watching the babies – so I asked Tommy to come up with me and set things up in Cassie’s room.  It was while we were tying the balloons in place that I saw Patty arrive out of Cassie’s window.  She didn’t see me, but I saw her as Rachel drove up across the road.


I’d clean forgotten about her – but I had an idea as well, so I watched Patty and her mother as they came in, and then finished my surprise for Cassie.


“Right,” I said to Tommy, “Wait here – Patty will come upstairs eventually, ad that’s when you surprise her.  She’ll do whatever you ask if you say Cassie had already done it – will you be all right?”


Tommy was nervous as hell, but nodded in agreement as I went downstairs, and thanked Mrs Craig for letting me do that.


Patty was standing at the bottom of the stairs, talking to Cassie’s grandmother.   “Oh, Hi Patty – I hear it’s your birthday today,” I said as I smiled at her.  She nodded and smiled back as Mrs Craig was drying her hands.


 “All finished, Bobby,” Mrs Craig said as I felt my cheeks burning for no good reason.


 “All done – and thanks again.  I’ll be back round later,” I said as I left the house, closing the door behind me.  As I walked down the path, I saw Mister Williamson coming out to the car, so I went over and asked if Rachel was staying for the whole day.  He said she wasn’t, so I asked him if he could call her parents, tell them I had invited her and Charlie to come round later, and then could he bring them?


He quite rightly pointed out the small matter of Lisa, so I promised I’d do something special for her later.  With that promise, he agreed to do so, and I headed into town.






Colin and I met up for lunch, and then Mister Boyle dropped him off at home before taking me back to get changed.  I had managed to get Grandfather to book a box at the Palladium for me and Cassie – and you really don’t want to know what I had to agree to for that.  Last time I asked a favour, I was clearing out the attic for four weeks.  This time, it was helping Mister Bridges with the garden for six weeks.



The surprise I had left for Cassie I paid for myself, from my allowance, but Dad and Grandfather agreed to pay for the box and the food there.  It was worth every single penny, for the look on her face then and now.


The now was the other part of the surprise –w e wanted to bring all the girls together at the end.  Brain and Suzie was easy – they were here already, and we knew Patty and Tommy were coming back to the hall.  I had also managed to get Rachel and Charlie here, with a promise of a lift back later.


Which left the older girls.  Mister Boyle was collecting me and Cassie, so no problem there.  As for Colin and Jenny, he had already told me his father was acting as chauffer/chaperone, so he was easily persuaded to bring them back.


The tricky bit was we told them they had to bring the girls back bound and gagged.  Again, Tommy was easy – he had got Patty to do the poncho and clear tape trick, although I never expected in a million years he’s actually kiss her as well!


Charlie apparently had Rachel tied and gagged anyway, so Mister Williamson just carried her to his car.  Cassie said she had seen her, but not realised how she was.


As for the others – Colin had taken Jenny out for a meal, then tied her hands in front of her, blindfolded her and gagged her as he brought her out.


Alicia, however – I had clean forgotten she had this costume thing on tonight, and she looked so out of place with her long robe while the others had more modern clothes on.  Martin was also an – interesting portrait, but from what I could gather from the conversation he played the part to the hilt, kidnapping her medieval style and bringing her here.




“Oh hi Dad,” I said as I looked over my shoulder, “I’m just watching the others talking.”


Cassie looked over at me and smiled as she sat with Suzie.  Jenny and Alicia were talking to Colin and Martin, while Brian, Tommy and Charlie were talking to Patty and Rachel.


“What’s this I hear you’ve been playing matchmaker again?”


“Who, me?  Whatever gave you that idea?”


“Six weeks doing the gardening at the Manor House?”


Okay, I was busted, but I had to admit, it had gone incredibly well.  SO I walked in, had a word with the others as Cassie realized she was not the only one there, and then said “I think we should remove their blindfolds now.”


The look on their faces as they saw each other was truly priceless – especially Alicia, who groaned like mad. 


“Well, now that we’re all here,” I said, “Can I just say that we all think you look incredibly cute sat there like that – and thank you for agreeing to meet up here at the end of the night.”


“Ntalltfchss,” Alicia mumbled as Martin gave her a hug.


“I know – but you enjoyed the surprises, didn’t you?”


As I looked round, the girls all nodded to each other.


“Good – well, I guess we need to get you all free now – before you all head home.”


We each untied our partner for the day and removed their gags, sitting or standing back as they shared their stories with each other.  Everything seemed to have gone according to plan.


I turned and saw Mum and Mrs Boyle bringing in two trays, one laden with food, the other drinks.


“We’ve got some drinks and snacks for all of you,” I said as the trays were put down on the table, and we took two each – one for ourselves and one for our partners.  I started to say “and then…”


At which point the telephone started ringing.  Mum went off to answer it as I raised my glass and said “Happy Valentine’s day!”


We toasted each other, before I heard Mum say “Alicia, can you come and talk to your mother for a moment please?”


“I wonder what’s happened,” she said as she got up and walked out, her skirt brushing over the floor as Martin watched her.  A few moments later Mum came back in, grinning from ear to ear as I said “What’s going on?”


“I was going to ask the same thing,” Dad said as he looked at Mum.  “Susan, what’s…”




All the girls looked to the open door when they heard Alicia scream like that.  “Ali, are you all right,” Jenny called out as she stood up.


“Give her a minute, dear,” Mum said, “she’s just had a big surprise dropped on her.”


“This is Alicia we’re talking about here,” Suzie said, “what sort of surprise could…”


We then saw her walk back in, her face whiter than usual, before he looked at us and said simply “I’m going to kill Mary Holmes when I see her.”


“Mary?  Why would you want to…”  I saw Jenny stand up, her mouth slightly open as she seemed to be thinking of something, and then she did something totally unexpected.


She ran over and hugged Alicia, saying “Wow – that’s fantastic news.”


Colin looked at me, and I looked at them, before they both looked at Mum – and Dad was looking at her as well.


“Eddie Holmes asked Angela to marry him tonight.”


Such a simple statement – but it made Suzie jump up and down and embrace Brian, then everyone else.


“Whoa, whoa – we’re talking a long engagement here.  They both want to get their degrees out of the way first, so no way are we shopping for dresses for some time, but – well, she said yes.”


I could see Dad had been taken by surprise by this as well.  “How long?”


“You’ll need to talk to Anne and Simon, but Eddie’s in his second year now, and Angela may not start until next year.”


“Mum and Dad are going to be floored by this one…”


“Don’t be surprised if they say they saw it coming.  You know they see much more than they let on.”



When I looked back in the room, the girls were all hugging each other, especially Alicia, as Martin walked over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.


Colin came over as Mum and Dad went off for a moment.


“Do you think they’ll react the same way if we ever get engaged?”


“To them or to someone else?”


“To them of course, doofus – do you think they will?”


“Colin,” I said honestly, “I have no freaking idea…”







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