To Be in England – Part 1
Saturday 11th June
7.30 am BST
Terminal 3, Heathrow
As they waited by the baggage belt, Ama stretched her arms up and said “so, did anyone else manage to sleep on the plane?”
“Not all of us can be as relaxed as you, Ama Jameson,” Pepsi said as she pulled her grey leather jacket round her body. She was wearing a grey sweatshirt and leggings, while Ama had on a New York Bulls top and jeans. “But I did manage to get a couple of hours.”
“Which is more than we got,” Anna Carlton said as she stood with Nikki Colman. Both were wearing Angels hoodies and black jeans, while Becca Morse had on a blue jumper and jeans.
“Well, we’re here anyway,” Jeannie said as Barbara pushed her along. Grace Brand walked behind her with Caroline Jameson, while Harriet Craig and Sarah Nightingale followed with luggage trolleys. “Welcome to London – especially you Nikki and Doc.”
“So what’s the game plan, Mom,” Ama asked as the first of their bags appeared, and she put it on one of the trolleys.
“First, we get our luggage,” Caroline said, “second?”
“There’s a minibus waiting outside,” Grace said as she checked her cell phone. “Then we take a little drive to the hotel. By the time we get there, they should have some food ready for us.”
“Great – I could go for a nice bacon sarnie,” Jeannie said as she watched the girls retrieve their bags.
“And we’re free for today at least?”
“Oh yes,” Grace said, “tomorrow we’re going to go on a tour of London, but today you get to vegetate and do whatever you want to do – including you Ms Broadhurst?”
“Moi? What on earth may make you think I already have plans for today,” Pepsi said as she looked round. She smiled as the girls laughed, and they continued to put their luggage onto the trollies.
“Right – I think that’s everything,” Grace said as the last bag went on, “brace yourselves girls. This may be the quietest of the terminals, but who knows what might happen as we go out?”
“Oh come on Mrs Brand,” Becca said as they began to walk to the doors that led to the arrivals area, “how bad can it…”
“JEANNIE!!! CAROLINE!!! GRACE!!! Can we get a picture please!!!”
“You had to ask,” Doc said as the lines of paparazzi started to take photographs, Harriet and Sarah trying to run interference as they and Ama pushed the trolleys along and Barbara pushed Jeannie.
“Sorry guys – we have a bus to catch,” Grace said as she saw a man with “St Angela’s School” written on the sign. “Mrs Brand,” he said as they came closer, “we’ve got the minibus outside. If you would come this way?”
“I don’t suppose you have any drinks on there?”
“Got some bottled water – Downwood said you would appreciate that.”
“Oh yes,” Harriet said as they approached the large white minibus, Barbara lifting Jeannie into one of the seats as the others got on, and Caroline helped to stow their cases in the back along with Jeannie’s wheelchair.
“Okay then – seatbelts on everyone, it’s the law here now,” the driver said as he and Grace got into the front, while Sarah passed bottles of water back to the others.
“How long is it going to take,” Pepsi asked as she looked out.
“If we’re lucky, just over an hour – here we go,” the driver said as he moved off, and they made their way round the Heathrow inner ring road. Doc and Nikki looked out, as Doc said “okay – driving on the left, officially weird.”
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Jeannie said with a smile as she looked at the pale blue sky, “you are going on the Road to Hell.”
“I know you don’t exactly speak well of Harlow, Jeannie,” Doc said, “but calling it Hell?”
“That’s not what she’s talking about,” Harriet said, “she’s quoting Chris Rea.
“This ain’t no
Oh no – this is the Road, this is the Road to Hell…”
“What is she…” Ama stopped as they went through a tunnel, and then along a small motorway, before turning left and along a second motorway, before the minibus moved onto a slip road, and eventually joined a six lane motorway.
“Holy crap,” Nikki said as the minibus slowed to a crawl in order to join the slow moving traffic, “this is…”
“The London Orbital Motorway, aka the M25,” Sarah said with a sigh, “aka the Road to Hell.” Opening her bottle, she took a drink of water as the minibus joined the traffic, and started to move across some lanes.
“Is it like this all the time,” Nikki said as she looked at the cars.
“Actually, this is quite quiet,” Caroline said as the traffic inched forwards, passing a couple of junctions and eventually moving more freely as the traffic thinned out. “We’re going up round the North West of London, passing such fine towns as Beaconsfield and Watford.”
“A pity the main football season is over,” Ama said as she looked at Pepsi, “it would have been good to go to a game.”
“Sorry, O daughter of mine,” Caroline said, “that’s not possible. Not on this visit.”
The road started to climb, passing green banks on each side, and then as it turned to the right it went over a large viaduct.
“What on earth are they,” Doc said as she saw the large white windmills in the valley.
“It’s a wind farm,” Barbara said, “it gets quite blustery round here, so they use them to generate electricity for the local area.”
“Really? Does it get that windy here?”
“YES,” all the adults chorused as the minibus continued along the road.
“St Albans – is that a famous town?”
“Only if you like Roman ruins and the England football team,” Sarah said, then smiled as she turned and saw Ama looking at her. “There’s a hotel there they like to stay in.”
As the minibus moved along, Doc said “so where is Ordford from here?”
“A few miles north of Luton – we’re passing the motorway that would take us there now.”
“Sheesh – I mean, the freeway north from New York is bleak, but this is somewhere between that and a country road,” Nikki said.
“That’s the British – the worst of America mixed with the best of us – but don’t worry,” Grace said.
“It’s about to get better,” Jeannie said as the minibus continued to rattle along the concrete road, past business parks, and then turned off and stared to head North.
“Don’t worry, it’s only for a short while,” Harriet said
"If this is 'Old England' then 'New England' isn't a lot like it," Doc observed as they drove over a roundabout, then along a tree lined main road past a supermarket and houses.
"True," Grace observed.
is this hotel like that we are staying in?" asked Nikki.
House? It's a converted 18th century manor house set in its own
reminds Grace of her actual home," Sarah interrupted with a laugh.
it is similar..."
enjoy staying there," Barbara spoke.
"It's certainly a lot posher then my old house was," Jeannie laughed.
“Well, how much longer?”
“Not far now, honestly,” Sarah said as the minibus left the road, turning right at a roundabout and heading under the road, then along before it turned right at a larger roundabout.
“And – here we are,” Grace said as the minibus turned across the dual carriageway, and went along a single track road, the large red brick building appearing as it drew up at the entrance.
As Grace got out, the manager came out with some porters. “Welcome to Briggens House Hotel. We will have the luggage taken in – if your party would like to come with me, we’ll get you checked in and shown to your rooms.”
“Thank you,” Grace said as she looked at her watch, “when will we be able to eat?”
“We will have lunch ready in a private room at twelve,” the manager said.
“Good – gives us all time to unpack and get cleaned up.”
As Barbara lifted Jeannie into her chair, she looked round and said “nice – quiet, peaceful. Wagons roll!”
11.45 am BST
Briggens House Hotel
“Hey – all settled in,” Becca said as Pepsi and Ama came into the private dining room.
“We are – is that coffee in the flask?”
“Pour yourselves a cup,” Becca said as the girls poured some into the small white cups, and sat down as Doc picked up a paper.
anything in the newspaper Doc?" Becca asked as Anna scanned the
international edition of USA Today.
"That night club attack in the city back home...The Yankees need more pitching...the Mets don't...NBA and NHL playoffs, and loads on Donald Trump and his bullshit."
"Oh well I'm going to avoid the US news and read the British," Becca picked up The Guardian.
“So you’re going to read about this referendum here, and their political crap instead,” Becca said.
“Maybe – but they seem to take a much more balanced approach,” Doc said.
“Those papers do,” Barbara said as she and Jeannie came in.
“Avoid the redtops and tabloids then,” Grace said as she came in and poured herself a cup of coffee.
"So how is
the coffee?" Ama looked suspiciously at her friends’ cups.
"Brilliant actually," Becca smiled, "better then what my Mom and Dad drink anyway." Ama sniffed it and took a drink, then smiled as she said “I see what you mean.”
“Where’s Sarah Grace?”
“Taking a walk round the grounds with Caroline before lunch,” Grace said a sshe sipped her drink.
“Miss Brewster? These have been delivered for you,” the desk manager said as she handed the bouquet to Jeannie. She opened the card and looked at it, smiling as she read the message.
the flowers from Jeans?"
"Dame Margaret Harker,” she said as she looked up, “they are a 'Thank You’ for agreeing to open the school fete at the primary school she's Chair of the Governors at next Saturday."
"Nice of her," Pepsi smiled.
"Well I did go there,” Jeannie said, “so I really think that if my name will get extra people to come along then its worthwhile."
"Agreed – and we’ll be coming to offer moral support as well."
"So did you phone Jack?"
“I did – we’re going to meet up on Wednesday while you lot are working.”
us,” Becca groaned as she put the paper down.
"So where is Harlow from here Jeans?"
miles that way Becs," the girl in the wheelchair pointed, "but in so
many ways it’s a million miles."
what?" Doc asked.
like comparing a Long Island mansion to Levittville."
"Alright I think I get that," Becca laughed.
“Right,” Caroline said as she and Sarah came in, “time to eat – come on!”
“So what have we got,” Nikki asked as they looked at the buffet.
“Cold meats, salads and vegetables – help yourselves…”
2 pm BST
“So Mrs Harris,” Francesca said as she came into the kitchen and looked round, “do you think you will be at home here?”
“Very much so, Marchesa,” Betty Harris said as she closed the larder door. “I have the rest of the provisions coming tomorrow, ready for the official launch of your new home. Having said which, if there is anything I can get for you now?”
“Not for the moment, thank you Mrs Harris,” Francesca said with a smile. She was as always elegantly dressed, the long grey cardigan over the silk jumper and designer pants. “I have a dinner appointment, and…”
The sound of rapping on the front door caught them both by surprise, as Francesca looked at the small monitor screen. “Caro Dio, che ci fa qui?” she whispered under her breath.
“Shall I answer the door, Marchesa?”
“No – I will deal with this personally,” Francesca said as she made her way along the main corridor, and then opened the door to look at the tall, well dressed man in the porch.
Ventura...SIR!" Francesca automatically saluted the man standing in her
Francesca," he smiled benignly, "you are no longer in the military,
and thus I'm no longer your superior."
"I'm sorry General," Francesca for once in her life was flustered. “It is just a surprise…”
"Call me Tomaso now you are a civilian please..."
he interrupted her as he kissed her on the cheek.
she said quietly as he came in, closing the door with a worried look on her
face, "I'm not being recalled to duty am I?"
General said as they sat on two leather armchairs, “you are safely out of the
clutches of La Citadella Francesca, however I am here on official
Sir?...I mean Tomaso."
he paused, "I'm here in person to discuss the security for your daughter’s
"Ah," Francesca nodded. “I did wonder when someone would call.” She looked to the door as Betty stood there. “Mrs Harris, some coffee please?”
Marchesa,” she said as she walked off, Tomaso raisin an eyebrow. “My housekeeper – very discrete. So, the wedding?”
President, and the Prime Minister, are both attending, for we in the
Carabinieri that presents a big headache currently."
anti-corruption initiatives and prosecutions they have launched do sit well
with either the Mafia, nor the Camorra."
"So I had
on top of the international terrorist shit."
understand," Francesca nodded again.
here to tell you what we want to do for security, and to beg yours and Carlotta's
do whatever you recommend."
“Good," the General relaxed. “So, how is life for you?”
“Intriguing – the referendum here in twelve days has both Sigi and I advising on both possibilities. It’s refreshing to be the advocate again.”
“So no regrets,” Tomaso said.
“About retiring? No – I am and always be grateful I have been allowed to do so. So they are both coming?”
“Indeed – I’m not sure whether it is to pay tribute or make sure they are safe,” Tomaso said with a chuckle.
“Hopefully both – but there are other issues, aren’t there?”
“Well, let’s see – various royal heads of Europe, and His Eminence…”
Francesca said with a smile “Point taken…”
2.30 pm BST
Grace opened up the brown envelope she had been handed at reception, as she had watched the girls set out for a walk round the grounds with Jeannie. As she flipped through them, she smiled and nodded as she scanned the pictures of the well stocked shelves.
“There you are,” Sarah said as she and Harriet came in.
they Grace?" she said as she looked at the pictures her friend was
"Hmmm? Oh, the new Library at Downwood."
"The one they are naming after you?"
want me to do a little formal opening when we are there on Monday."
should," Harriet said as she sat down.
Grace said as she sat back, “but Jeannie deserves more credit than I
Sarah tilted her head and interrupted.
you think the anonymous donor was who contributed so much this past year?"
Harriet said, “I assumed some of it was you?"
it was Harriet, but most of it was Jeannie...she's given over £400,000 of her
own money to make this happen."
has?...Bloody Hell!" Sarah nearly choked on her coffee.
"And that is a secret Sarah, neither Jeannie nor Barbara want anybody to know. I'm the only person who does."
“Okay… And she’s happy for you to take the credit?”
“Apparently, yes – it’s going to be interesting enough for her this week anyway…”
“I have to admit, it feels different over here,” Nikki said as the girls walked alongside Jeannie, “cleaner almost.”
“And cooler,” Ama said with a smile, “I know it was not full summer yet, but it was getting a little difficult to bear the heat in the city already.”
“The really amazing thing,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself along the path, “is that something this beautiful is so close to the concrete hell of Harlow.”
“Not exactly bigging up your old home to us Jeans,” Doc said with a smile.
“I know – but you’ll see on Monday when we go to the school. So what do you girls fancy doing tonight?”
“How about just vegetating – I still need to recover fully from the flight over,” Pepsi said with a smile.
“Sounds good to me,” Ama said, “Mom told me we’ll be getting on the bus at nine tomorrow morning to head into London.”
“Well,” Nikki said as she stretched her arms up, “I’m enjoying the visit already, and all I’ve done is unpack, wash, change and eat. We could watch something together on television tonight – they seem to have a very different view on the channels over here.”
“Yeah – I see where BBC America gets its approach from,” Becca said. “Let’s have a look at the listings later.”
I forgot to ask,” she continued, “but while you are here Jeans, what is Winston
as she said "He's got an internship in his Grandfather's firm Becs."
some law eh?"
according to him," Jeannie grinned, "according to Winston he's
learning how to make coffee, while the PA's and paralegals delight in having
someone who is both the bosses grandson, and an All-American football player,
to order about."
Jeannie said as the group turned back to the hotel, “did you get your
phone-call from Billy?"
Becca said with a smile, “and he's chaffing at the bit as he puts it for term
he think he's done in his GCSE's?"
according to Billy very well, I think the added incentive I gave him
Becca said as they went into the lobby, “I told him if he did less than
outstanding I'd cut him off from sex."
"Oh that's a great incentive," Jeans chuckled as they went into a room at the front, and sat down, picking up some magazines and flipping through them.
see enough of Mrs. Brand, Jeannie, Caroline, Doc and Nikki while I'm in New
York?" Pepsi asked as she looked at 'Harpers & Queen'.
fashion magazines seem stuffed with pictures of them," Ama smiled as she looked
over, "I just think it's great that I know them all."
"And when it’s not them, it's Kylie," Pepsi started to read the feature on the young designer. “I wonder if she knows just how hot she is at the moment?”
"I'm just SO looking forward to wearing the dress she's designed for the bridesmaids at Charlotte's wedding."
I'd forgotten to say that there is also so much on the wedding." Pepsi
looked up and mock-groaned.
have that to look forward to when you marry Jack Peps."
"I guess I do - eventually."
As Eleanor sat at the table, drinking her coffee, the memories of two days before were still running through her mind. She had really gone through with it – and it had been one of the most intense, and different experiences of her life…
“Hey – how are you feeling?”
“How am I feeling,” she said as Katy sat next to her, “I’m still not quite sure. I take it Jan’s at the office?”
“Yeah – but I did say I’d meet you here, so – here I am.”
Eleanor looked at Katy, not quite sure what to say as the thirteen year old turned and looked at her.
“I spoke to Sands this morning,” Katy said quietly, “she told me Holly had called her last night, almost in tears. I want to help her as much as I can, but we have rules about this.”
“No,” Eleanor finally said, “the situation Holly and you lot found yourself in will not be solved by violence.”
“I agree – and it sounds strange talking about it like this.”
“Katy, I have to know…”
“I figured out what Mom was up to, said I wanted to be part of it,” Katy said quietly. “Like modelling, she resisted like heck – but in the end I did, and I discovered a talent for it.”
“Like modelling,” Eleanor said with a smile.
“Gran – what was it like, the first time? For you?”
“Me – I had been dispatched to deal with an insurgent cell that were a threat in the middle east. I was a soldier, I knew I had to do it – but it wasn’t easy. You?”
“Someone was threatening a friend – so I saved her life. Like you did on Thursday.”
Nodding, Eleanor said “Okay – but I do want to help Holly get out of this mess she is in, especially with Anna out of the country. How do we do that?”
“I’m open to suggestions…”
7.30 pm BST
Briggens House Hotel
“That was good,” Barbara said as she walked into the bar. “I think I’m ready for a good night’s sleep now.”
“Eventually,” Sarah said as they sat with Caroline, Barbara and Sarah round a table. “Keep going as long as you can – where did the girls go to?”
“The television room – I think they were going to find something completely mindless to watch.”
“Ant and Dec?”
“Who knows,” Barbara said, “but you know what strikes me as funny?”
“Nope,” Caroline said, “what?”
“Five English born women, sitting in the bar of an English hotel, chaperoning a group of girls from an American school?”
“Well, one of them was born here,” Caroline said, “and another African born – but I take the point. Can we have a bottle of wine and five glasses please?”
“Of course,” the waitress said as she walked off, and Grace said “you know, this really is a perfect place. Only one thing could really spoil it for me tonight.”
“And that is?”
Barbara looked at the entrance to the bar, and smiled as she said “walking in the door right now?”
In the television room, Doc and Jeannie suddenly looked at each other.
“Oh no,” Doc said quietly, “don’t tell me…”
“I’ve got a horrible feeling…”
“About what,” Nikki said as she looked at both of them.
“Model sense,” Ama said.
was I looking forward to a VERY peaceful Saturday night," Grace groaned as
she looked at the woman who came in, wearing a designer trouser suit over a
can't have one if I'm here?"
Grace and Caroline said in unison as they first looked at each other.... then at
their agent said as she smiled, “you are both getting very cynical in your old
aren't...We just know you Missy," Caroline closed her eyes, threw her head
back, and then asked, "so what extra work have you booked us to do?"
us?" Nikki and Doc asked as they came in and walked over.
this is about work?" Missy kissed both younger girls on the cheek.
"WE DO!" Missy smiled as all four spoke in unison.
"And so do I," Jeannie wheeled her way in, "somehow my sixth sense said you were close by Missy."
“Okay, okay – I have to admit, we do have a couple of extra opportunities for you. Starting with you three girls – LerraBella would like to have the three of you do a meet and greet in Selfridges on Friday morning.”
“Okay, I guess that’s not so bad – and we had tickets for a show on Friday in town anyway,” Jeannie said, “but we have to be back Friday night so that we can do the fete on Saturday Missy.”
“I know I know – now Caroline. You know JD and Cassandra are in town?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Tatler want to do a bit on the well dressed women – interested?”
“If I can fit it in…”
“And then we have Grace – and for you… Can you spare a day to be with Olivia and Mandy? Doing a shoot – casual wear for the mature woman?”
“With Mandy AND Olivia? Have you told them yet?”
“On my list for tomorrow – oh, and one other thing. The film you all shot in April – I have the final cut for you to see…”
“Have you now?” Grace stood up and said “let me fetch my laptop.”
“Don’t forget the adaptor,” Barbara called out.
“No need – it’s a UK one,” Grace said as she walked off, Missy looking at the others.
“She’d only just bought it when the trouble came last year,” Harriet said as Sarah nodded.
“We’ll leave you to it,” Doc said as she and Nikki left the room – only to see Pepsi and Ama watching a football game on the television, as Becca sat to the side.
“What on earth…”
“Apparently,” Becca said with a sigh, “it is the European Football Championships – and England are playing Russia. Want to see if they’ve got any board games in this place?”
8 pm BST
Knightsbridge – Charlotte and Piet’s flat
“So where is Piet,” Francesca said as she accepted the drink, “working?”
“His editor called him in – his article on third world trading is published tomorrow,” Charlotte said as she sat down, nursing her iced water. “So how is your new home?”
“I had an unexpected visitor – General Ventura. He wished to discuss security for th wedding.”
General came all that way to brief you himself Mama?" Charlotte shook her
saw him you could have knocked me down with a feather...I was so
might be asking you to do one last job?"
my darling," Francesca gave herself a shake, "anyway he was there to
brief me on security, as one professional to another."
did he say?"
that I unfortunately can’t tell even you Carlotta, but basically where La
Citadella sees threats coming from, and what they want us to do to help combat
“Well – and you
are not going to like this,” Francesca said with a sigh, "for starters, a
bullet proof limousine rather then you and Piet riding in the open
Francesca said as she saw the look on her daughter’s face, “I understand why,
Charlotte said quietly, “I can hardly think anyone will take a shot at
Charlotte continued, “I rely on Shirley and Dominique to make sure no one does. Also, most of the senior Sisters will be
there as well – so no, no way."
was just a suggestion," Francesca shook her head.
else does he have in mind?"
recommend extra security at the Palazzo."
as it doesn't interfere with our guests I agree," Charlotte nodded.
co-ordination with the foreign security services protecting the visiting
“Again, I would expect that. Honestly, Mother, I am happy with that – but nothing is going to stop me on the wedding itself.”
“Oh yes,” Francesca said with a smile, “on that…”
expecting someone from The Swiss Guard to call this week as well,"
blows my little South African mind," Charlotte grinned. "Royalty is
one thing, but..."
"I know," Francesca smiled with her daughter. “So, some more soda water…”
9 pm BST
Briggens House Hotel
“I might have known,” Sarah said as she and Caroline looked into the room, where the game was on the television.
said as she looked over, “I've booked a taxi for the morning so that Pepsi and
I can go to Mass...Is that okay?"
taxi? I'd have driven you."
wanted to do it on our own to prove we could."
I get that," Caroline looked up, "so where are you going?"
hotel recommended St Augustine's Church in a nearby town called
good....do you need cash for the taxi?"
"if you don't mind Mom?"
“So long as you are back for our trip, fine,” Caroline said with a smile, “we’re all turning in – don’t be too late up.”
“We won’t,” Pepsi said as they left again.
sure that you want your contributions to the Downwood Library fund to stay a secret
BS?" Grace asked Jeannie as they rode up in the lift.
you've given so much..."
"And I did
it just because I wanted to help,” Jeannie said with a smile, “not for any
your decision," Grace shook her head.
people who need really sweat on this are Missy and my accountant as they work
out if I can get a tax deduction for it."
like you did this to get a tax break," Grace shook her head, "I know
you better than that Jeannie."
everything though can you imagine what the other kids would say if they
you'd never hear the end of it BS."
9.45 pm BST
that on the phone darling?" Shirley asked as Maisha joined her and John in
the drawing room.
and the girls were settling down for the night at their hotel."
"I bet you
are looking forward to seeing her eh?" John asked.
much...and the others of course."
seeing Caroline at least professionally."
Shirley lifted an eyebrow.
Missy finally told her she's doing my Tatler shoot next week."
Shirley smiled. "Well I'm given to understand that we will see them all at
Royal Ascot before we fly to the Medoc."
"And at Queens Club this week," Maisha smiled, "I can't wait to impress the girls with my membership privileges."
“Yes – so long as there are not too many strawberries,” Shirley said.
11 pm BST
be heading for my bed Marchesa."
Mrs. Harris,” Francesca said as she sat back in her chair, “and thank you for
the cocoa, I'm sorry I surprised you when I decided to sleep here
job, to have everything ready for you," Betty smiled.
but we aren't fully moved in yet..."
had things ready though...,” the older woman said with a smile, “just in
mind-reading another of your many talents?"
the Maltese woman blushed.
appreciate the Ovaltine, it's been many years since I had it...reminds me of my
help you sleep...Anyway Nighty Night Marchesa,"
Mrs. Harris." Francesca snuggled into the large armchair and held the warm
mug in her hands. As she snuggled
Francesca remembered the very last time she had had Ovaltine. James had made it
and given her a cup the night before she was arrested.
stupid bitch i was," she whispered to herself, "we were so happy, why
did I have to go ruin it?"
you were a spy mistress and an officer and you were doing your duty," a
voice inside her replied.
when you think of the harm that doing 'my duty' caused...Was it worth it?"
can ever decide that Francesca," the inner voice answered.
further sip of her hot drink Francesca allowed herself the luxury of dreaming
of a world in which she and James had stayed the happy couple they once were.
She dreamed of other children, maybe even the boys that she knew both James and
her own Papa would have wanted, and the little girls she and Mama would have
spoiled so much.
over things you will never have Francesca," the inner voice warned,
"remember that way lies madness..."
know," the conscious thought broke in, "I remember the mental
hospitals and what happened."
don't dream impossible dreams."
have called the first son Richard after James father… Ricardo as I said I'd have called him."
the inner self warned.
"I know, I know," she gave herself a conscious shake, "do not think about what never was."
Frowning, Francesca reached into her bag and carefully pulled out a very dog-eared photograph she kept in a compartment. The picture was one of her most precious possessions, if not THE most precious, because of all it represented.
It showed a blonde
woman lying in bed holding a baby with a large sandy haired man sitting beside
her. It was the one and only picture of the entire Gordon family taken
She had cried
over it the entire flight from Johannesburg to Rome, and on countless occasions
since. It was her one link with what might have been, her one picture of what
she had always dreamed of…
They had tried to take it away from her in the hospital that first time, but she'd outwitted them and hid it. The doctors thought it harmful since it reminded her of her lost family in South Africa, but to Francesca it was the only thing that kept her even remotely in touch with sanity. The picture, her rings, a lock of Carlotta's little fuzzy hair she'd snipped off and kept, a lock of James's hair as well, these were the things that never left her...that went everywhere she did, carried concealed, but they had been for all those years her treasures of 'her' family.
“And now you have her back again,” the voice said inside her, “and you have your freedom. Embrace that Francesca – leave the thoughts of what might have been, and embrace that.”
Nodding, Francesca said “you’re right – but if that song comes on when I go to bed…”
11.15 pm BST
Charlotte and Piet’s flat
working Roo?" Piet kissed his wife to be as he sat next to her.
going through the stuff we packaged up Bev and I in Monaco," she said as
she looked at several piles of documents on the coffee table.
interesting?" he asked as he put two mugs of cocoa down.
Charlotte held up a bunch of photographs.
"What are they?"
infamous pictures of Mama in her uniform at the Naval Academy, some other old
photos, her degrees..."
things that your Uncle john founds and that tipped him off she might be a
thought Dad had probably destroyed them, but no, for whatever reason he kept
thinner then you?" Piet picked up a picture... “and those glasses?"
know," Charlotte laughed, "that must have been soon after she
arrived. It was how she looked at school."
filled out though," Piet picked up another photo. "Look at this
picture with your grandparents."
she said as she looked at the picture of Francesca in dress uniform, her father
beside her in his uniform, and her mother in a pale cream jacket and
dress. “I think that must have been the
day of her graduation, they look so proud of her."
didn't know that Intelligence had already tapped her."
"No." Charlotte let some tears come, "they look such a happy family."
“Come on,” Piet said as he nudged her, “drink up, then bed.”
“Okay,” Charlotte said as she gently kissed her fingers, and put it on the photo…
“There you go girls – enjoy,” the older Chinese woman said as she left the group of girls gathered round the table.
"So did you all see Ama's post?" asked Erica as the started eating.
"That she's going to early morning mass with Pepsi?" Poppy asked as she licked her fingers. "Hardly a surprise, she goes to mass every Sunday."
that, the bit where she says that the fashion magazines over there are full of
pictures of people she, and we, know."
you Poppy." Jess said as she sipped her coke.
knew that I'd done that spread,” Poppy said as she sat back, “I’m just
surprised that 'Style Jeune' is already using them, I didn't even receive
my copy yet."
why she's going to get her hotel to scan the layout and send it." Dawn
the subject Dawn, thank you to your parents for this treat." Jess smiled.
"Saturday night out at a great Chinese restaurant with all my best friends
"I'll second that," Lynn finished her plate.
“Well, we should make it a regular thing,” Dawn said, “although I guess a bunch of you are going to France in a couple of weeks.”
“Don’t feel so bad – I’m not going either,” Lynn said. “When do you go Erica?”
“We’re all flying out on the same plane – Abby’s dad has booked it. I think some friends from the west coast has – hey Melinda, you made it!”
“Yeah,” the tall girl said as she sat down, “thanks for inviting me.”
“Girls, meet Melinda Eckholm, the new Kirkman scholar. Melinda, this is Dawn, Jess, Poppy and Lynn – Melinda’s going to be rooming with us when she starts, so I thought she should meet some of you.”
“Good to see you again, Melinda,” Jess said, “dig in. Where are your folks?”
“Same place as your folks, I reckon…”
The Richmond Mansion
"So where is Erica tonight?" Elaine Colman asked as they stood in the drawing room.
"Eating at Dawn's parents’ restaurant with her friends." Denice answered.
night out," Mary Thomas smiled.
to the movies and then on to there, so I was able to accept this invite and
come to your little cocktail party."
think it's important that we keep the Friday afternoon coffee club
April laughed, "especially if it means seeing my husband in a jacket and
tie for once."
"He and my
husband would both rather be watching the game on TV," Elaine laughed.
"Well I'm enjoying myself if they aren't." Heather looked across the room at Sandy chatting with Roy and Tonia. “So how are things with the girls away?”
“Quiet – in a nice way,” April said. “Pepsi called to say they had arrived safely – and she and Ama were watching a game of soccer…”
“Now why didn’t
I see that coming,” Heather said as she walked across the room to join Juan and
Amelia Murchado. "Is Jess going to
be taking Italian next year?" Heather asked the Murchado's as she joined
her to," Amelia nodded, "As Mrs. Brand said, Spanish is a little
pointless for her."
is for sure,” Heather said, “and I hear Grace is aiming to make the Italian
course one the girls will really get a lot out of."
"So we are
led to believe," Juan nodded. Looking across the room he scanned a pair of
newcomers. "If I'm not being rude Heather do you know those people talking
Heather adjusted her glasses, "Okay I see, I believe that's Andy and Eva
Eckholm, their daughter is the winner of this year’s Kirkham scholarship."
"Aha," Juan smiled. “I must introduce myself to them later.”
to know Janice?" Eva remarked.
college friends I believe," Heather sipped her drink, "and because
they live at the far end of Staten Island the school has made arrangements
their daughter will board with Denice during the week."
the new goalkeeper Jessica has been talking about?"
"I think so Amelia," Heather laughed, "but soccer is one subject I'm proud to say I know nothing about."
“What the heck are we doing here, Jan,” Eve Eckholm said as she nervously looked round.
“Giving you a chance to meet some of the other parents and friends,” Jan said with a smile. “We’re as much a part of the Angels family as the girls, after all.”
“So do you get up here often,” Dawn asked as she looked across at Melinda.
"I don't get to Manhattan very often," Mel drank her 7Up as she looked round. "This is a big thing for me and my family," she paused, "to be honest I feel like a suburban hick compared to you all."
"Well you can forget thoughts like that," Poppy laughed, "we are all Angels."
"ALL ANGELS!" the other girls said as they lifted their glasses.
"Eh?" Mel looked perplexed.
Angela's girls stick together Mel," Erica smiled.
where we come from," Lynn pinched the last prawn dumpling.
are you staying tonight Mel?" Dawn asked.
"At Erica's apartment, my folks too."
“I’ll start the teaching,” Erica said with a smile…
The Richmond Mansion
Anders isn't it?" Juan Murchado extended a hand to shake, "my
daughter Jessica is looking forward to playing alongside your daughter."
daughter is looking forward to playing with her," the big policeman shook
the Spanish banker’s hand.
and that lady over there is my wife Amelia."
that lady trying not to look totally frightened for her life over there is my
worry,” Juan said with a smile, “you should tell her that these people do not
Tonia smiled as she walked by.
Razinski said," Juan laughed, "at least not hard."
"Sorry - I'm
still getting over the shock of Mel getting the scholarship."
understand that," Juan nodded, "but every recipient so far has been
outstanding, so I'm in no doubt Melinda is as well."
so, but then I'm biased." Andy grinned. "So according to my daughter,
your daughter has played for Atletico Madrid, and is on the verge of a Spanish
she's been invited to the training camp next month, how it goes from there who
remember my training camp..." Andy shook his head, "so many
"I had heard you played for the Swedish youth team from somewhere."
“Long time ago…”
“Pippa – you managed to make it!”
“Just,” Pippa said as she accepted the drink from April, “I thought I would never get out of that meeting.”
“Your last editorial one at New Mode,” Mary asked as she came over.
“Aye – my last issue is out this week, and now I start the real handover period. Have you heard from Ju?”
“They were having dinner with friends tonight,” Mary said. “I met your two assistants today, showed them round like you asked.”
“What did they say?”
“Rather quiet, if truth be told,” Mary said with a smile. “Allow me to introduce Eva Eckholm – her daughter is the next Kirkham scholar. Eva, meet Pippa Ashley – her daughter will be a sophomore next year.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Eva said as they shook hands, “so wha do you do for a living?”
“She’s my boss,” Mary said with a grin, “incoming editor of Complete Style.”
As Eva stared at Pippa, Jan came over and said “let me introduce you to some of the other mothers Eva…”
The Burton Apartment
can I offer you coffee?" Erica smiled as she turned on the lights in the apartment.
thanks for me," Lynn jumped into an armchair, "I'm stuffed."
should be," Dawn shook her head, "my folks reckon they never saw a
girl eat so much."
was great food."
a cup," Jess smiled.
"Me too," Poppy nodded, before Mom comes to collect me from her Coffee Club cocktail party."
you enjoy yourself Mom?" Melinda asked as she put her coat on.
once i relaxed, yes i did."
"your father spent most of the evening boasting about you to Juan Murchado
as they talked about you and Jessica, and soccer in general."
he wasn't overawed or bored then?"
all, you know your father get him talking soccer and he's completely
"What were some of the other parents like Mom?"
“Tell you later…”
Sunday 12th June
Briggens House Hotel
"Sorry we are late." Pepsi called out as she jumped out of the taxi and Ama paid the driver.
"Only 10 minutes," Grace looked at her watch, "for a school trip that's pretty much on time.”
“How was the service darling?" Caroline asked as she kissed her daughter.
"Inspiring as always, and interesting to hear a homily from a different viewpoint."
“Right – in the minibus, London Awaits!”
10.15 am BST
“Miss Gordon,” Betty said as she opened the door, “Please, come in.”
“Thank you Betty – I was told Mama stayed here last night?”
"I did - what
brings you to my door this early on a Sunday morning darling?" Francesca
smiled as she came out of the front room.
Mama,” Charlotte said as she held up a large brown envelope, handing it to
Francesca as she came into the front room, “I found them among Dad's
possessions I packed up in Monaco."
might they be?" Francesca asked as she looked at the large envelope.
nodded, and took out the photos and papers, whispering "Oh Mio Dio, ho
pensato che avrebbe distrutto automaticamente questi."
means what I think it does, then yes it shocked me to find them as well." Charlotte said as Francesca stared at the
photograph. “Piet and I looked at them
last night, we especially like the one of you stick-thin with the
day at the academy."
one of you with Grandpapa and Grandmama, we guessed that was your graduation
was," Francesca pulled out the large certificates, "he kept my
degrees as well...?"
James," she looked skyward, "thank you dear love of my life."
“Sorry – I just never expected to see these again,” Francesca whispered as the telephone rang.
“You’re in business already?”
“No – only a few people have that number,” Francesca said as Betty came in.
“that was the Baroness Buchenwald – she is in London for the weekend, and hopes she is not imposing if she calls?”
“Of course not – how long?”
“Fifteen minutes, Marchesa,” Betty said, “shall I bring you some coffee?”
“Please,” Francesca said as Betty left the room. "Well I guess there are some things I ought to show you at last."
opened her handbag and reached into the hidden compartment.
are they?..." Charlotte suddenly went numb as she looked at the faded
picture, "is this photo what I think it is?"
Francesca started to cry, "it's the only one of us as a family."
"A lock of
your hair, and of your papas."
you've kept them all these years Mama?" tears started to stream down
"I had to,
they were the only reminders I had of having once been happy."
Mama?" Charlotte hugged her, "can I please, PLEASE borrow this so I
can get Piet to digitize me a copy?"
as I get it back..."
Mrs Harris came in to discover the tearful scene. She placed the coffee tray on the low table, and then went to answer the knock on the door. “The Baroness Buchenwald,” she said as she returned, and Natalya followed her in.
“Francesca – and Charlotte? I hope I am not interrupting,” she said as Mrs Harris took her coat.
“Of course not,” Francesca said, “we were looking at these?”
“Oh yes,” Natalya said as she looked at the photo of Francesca, “you really changed in the academy, in so many ways.”
“And afterwards,” Francesca said with a sigh as she rubbed her arm, Natalya and Charlotte looking at her.
“Yes, Natty,” Francesca said as she looked over.
still say your prayer Francesca?"
Natty," the Italian shook her head.
might not mean it for this world anymore, but I bet I know you well enough that
you say it with hope for the afterlife, for when you reach heaven."
Francesca said quietly, “with all I've done I know I'm bound for hell."
darling, but whatever happens Carlotta deserves to hear it...Shall I
Natty, she doesn't need to know," Francesca's eyes pleaded.
in the mental hospital she composed a prayer, and I'm willing to bet she has
certainly said it every night since. I know I've heard it dozens of times...Now
how does it start Francesca?...Dear God the father, Jesus the son, and Mary the
Charlotte watched, Francesca stood tall, walked to the window, and began to
recite without emotion.
Dear Jesus the son,
And dear Mary the Holy Mother…
“Please listen to my prayer and plea.
Protect James my husband and Carlotta my daughter,
Protect my Mother and Father,
I pray also hear that you listen to this unworthy person, and listen to my prayer and hope…”
Charlotte watched as a tear started to fall down her mother’s cheek and she looked over.
“Please keep my body and soul together, for as long as it takes to atone for my sins.
I have sinned so greatly and I have hurt those I love above all,
Please grant James and Carlotta all the happiness they deserve,
And in return punish thy unworthy servant as you feel fit.
“One day in the future may I beg for reunion with my loved ones,
And beg you to grant this sinner a final small measure of happiness before I meet your final judgment.
“I beg again for
your mercy dear Lord, not just for myself but for those I love
May I beg and implore you Mother Mary to listen to my plea.
I ask for your kindness and just hope…. Hope that at some time you will at least for a few seconds grant me the happiness again I once had.
listen to my appeal for mercy.
In the sure and certain hope of your kindness dear God who judges us all.
As she finished, Francesca burst into tears, Charlotte standing and joining in as she did so.
prayed in English Mama?" Charlotte asked through the tears.
"Yes, the nurses didn't speak it."
“But your prayer was answered in part Mama – we found each other, and in one sense you are reconciled with Dad, with Grandpapa, with Grandmama…”
Francesca said with a smile, "but I have spent the last great part of my
life Carlotta hoping for nothing, and expecting less than that."
"But true my love," Francesca touched Charlotte's hand, "even now reunited as I am with you I half expect something to tear you away."
“It will not happen,” Natalya said quietly, “what did Father Alex say your penance was to be?”
“Live,” Francesca said as she hugged Charlotte.
“Good,” the German noblewoman said as she handed them both a tissue. “Dry your eyes, sit, and let us talk.”
“I… I need to go and see to this,” Charlotte said, “I’ll see you later.”
“Of course,” Francesca said as Charlotte carefully put the faded photograph in her bag, and left.
“When are you going to tell her the rest Francesca?”
“You mean,” Francesca said as she looked at Natalya, and rubbed her upper arm.
“Soon – when I am ready to…”
The Daily Telegraph
Buckingham Palace Road
"What are you doing here Roo?" Piet looked up as Charlotte approached his desk in the newsroom. “I thought you were going to see your mother?”
"I have something vitally important I want done Piet."
that might be?"
copies of this,” she said as she fished an old photograph from her bag, “and
restore it so the copies will look like it once would have."
is..." Piet looked at the tattered photo and gasped. "Oh dear Lord is this what it looks like?"
only photo of me, Dad and Mama together,” Charlotte said as she sat in his
spare seat, “she's treasured and cried over this thing for 25 years. Can
someone in the photo department do a restoration and create fresh prints...I
want a copy at least for us, probably also for Aunt Marianne, and Natalya
"I know, let me ring Eric Peters," Piet dialled an in house number. "Eric it's Piet van der Byl, can you come up to my desk? I have a very important personal favour to ask of you? Thanks.”
As he put the phone down, the man mountain smiled and said “he’ll be up in a few minutes.”
could I have ever doubted that she loved me?" Charlotte asked as they
awaited the Photographic Editor. "She's never let that photo leave her, nor
a little lock of my baby hair, and a lock of Dad’s hair as well."
Piet said with his head to one side, “she held almost totally to James's view
that she would never be part of yours or his life."
"But to keep those things always to hand, along with her rings…"
"I know. Your mother is a very complex woman, Roo…"
"By the way,” she said with a smile, “did you know that our little lunch for your family was the only time she has ever worn those rings since she realised dad wasn't coming after her? She swore she'd only ever wear them again if he put them back on her hand."
it's so sad, he lost her because of his pride, she lost him because she
was too consumed with guilt to fight for him."
should have just somehow got to see him,” Charlotte said as she shook her head,
“even he couldn't I think have resisted her apologies in person."
"Maybe..." Piet looked up, "Hi Eric."
“Piet, Charlotte,” the fair haired photographer said, “what can I do for you?”
“Have a look at this,” Charlotte said as she laid the photograph on the table.
“Hmmm – is that you?”
“It is,” Piet said. “Eric, would it be possible to get a restored and cleaned up copy made of that, and some prints done?”
“Hmmm – it’s been well travelled, hasn’t it? A bit bleached and folded – but I can do something with it. Can I take a scan, and let you have this back?”
“Sure – how long?”
“I’ll let you know once I have a look at the scan – give me an hour?”
“Come on,” Piet said as he stood up and grabbed his jacket, “let’s eat while he works his magic.”
As the tourists passed by, they didn’t give the group of girls in their Angels hoodies and jeans a second look, or the five women standing with them, as they looked round the open area.
is Trafalgar Square?" Doc asked as the girls looked round to get their
"It is," Grace replied, "And," she pointed as she looked round, "that is the National Gallery, that is the church of St Martin-in-the-fields, South Africa House, and on that opposite side Canada House. The ceremonial arch is called Admiralty Arch, and the road down is the Mall. Over there is the Strand, and finally that street there is Whitehall, and it leads down to the Houses of Parliament."
"Wow!" Doc smiled as she started taking pictures.
"That's Admiral Nelson up there on the column," Pepsi pointed, "Jack had an ancestor who was with him as he died at the Battle of Trafalgar."
"I never knew that," Sarah smiled, "I'll need ask him when we see him."
“And the giant thumbs up?”
Sarah looked over and said “the fourth plinth – it was deliberately left bare, and different sculptures take a season on there.”
there anything you girls particularly want to see first?" Barbara asked as
she stood behind Jeannie’s chair.
Palace," Becca grinned, "I've walked down the Mall to it from here
sounds like an idea to me." Nikki smiled.
it before Mom, but I know the others are dying to go there."
"Alright girls, we head through the arch," Harriet pointed.
“Good – wagons roll,” Jeannie said as they set off across the paved square, then crossed at the Pret a Manger and headed through the arches.
LIFA where Heather is giving her lectures down here?" Barbara asked as she
there on the right somewhere," Caroline pointed.
"She is so nervous already," Jeannie looked up, and repositioned her dark glasses on her nose.
“I wonder how she’ll feel when she is really here?”
be doing Dickens in English Lit next year Miss?" Ama asked as she walked
down the long processional street.
Ama, along with people like Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Wordsworth and the
other romantic poets."
I'm looking forward to the poetry Miss."
you might be Ama, I learned last year it’s very much your thing."
is a long way from the Dickensian slums though Miss." Doc joined in.
Anna, even in his day this was the 'smart' end of town."
any bits of 'his' London left Miss?" Becca asked.
few," Sarah paused, "we can probably fit in a couple of the locations
the day we go to the Tower of London...Would you all like that?"
much," Ama spoke for the group.
"And it’s that enthusiasm that got Sarah teacher of the year honours," Grace whispered in Barbara's ear. "She really is a first rate literature teacher."
1 pm BST
“There we go,” Betty said as she handed Rose a mug of tea, and went back to preparing some lunch for them.
“Ah – You
haven’t lost your touch,” Rose said as she took a sip from the mug. "Well how did your first night under the
same roof as the Marchesa go Betty?"
I think Rose," the housekeeper looked across the kitchen at her friend.
"I gave her Ovaltine to go to bed on last night and she seemed to have
me,” Betty said as she set a plate of sandwiches in front of Rose, and then sat
herself down, “but she had a couple of emotional scenes when Miss Carlotta, and
the Baroness Buchenwald came this morning."
talk I suspect, better you keep out of that." Rose sipped her tea.
my job is just to make sure her needs and comforts are catered to."
"Yes," Rose nodded. “So where is the Marchesa now?”
“She and the
Baroness went out for lunch,” Betty said as she took a drink. "Tomorrow the girls are coming in to try
get the office functioning..."
Hannah is a very clever young lady, I suspect she will be a famous lawyer
herself one day. Miss Peri is a fun girl, reminds me of my Lucy."
good at her job though?"
she's very good at it, or the Marchesa wouldn't be employing her."
"True," Rose smiled, “very true…”
1 pm BST
“So how have you been coping,” Natalya said as she and Francesca sat at the table.
“Surprisingly well, Natty… As you saw, the house is nearly ready, and we start to set up the office tomorrow. The wedding preparations are coming along – I understand we will see the bridal dress for the first time at this birthday party, and…”
“That’s not what I meant, Francesca – how have YOU been coping?”
Francesca looked across at her old friend, and said “I have good times, not so good times. The fact James seems to be reaching out from wherever he is watching helps – and more and more I’m becoming who I was.”
“So, you’ve not needed to add to your collection?”
“I’m retired Natty…”
“I meant,” Natalya said quietly, “you haven’t needed to add to your personal collection. I still remember walking in on you after we visited the Lodge, and catching you.”
Francesca looked at her knife for a moment, before putting it down and wiping her chin. “No,” she said quietly, “my tattoos have not been added to. In fact, they have faded quite nicely.”
“Good – and make up does make the cuts nearly invisible if you wear a sleeveless top,” Natalya said, “but remember – if you need to, call me. Any time.”
Francesca nodded as she said “I know – and thanks. So why are you here anyway?”
“Business – and I need to see a man about a deal tonight…”
2.30 pm CET
"Did I see
Ingy heading out the door with Judith darling?" Juliette said as she came
into Klaus’ office.
Juliette my love, she's taking her to a children's song concert at the Town
Hall," Klaus looked up from what he was reading.
Annie fed the twins and they are all having a nap. Carina and the girls have
gone training, and Janine said she was going to do some sight-seeing whilst she
got the chance."
have the place to ourselves..." Juliette sat on her husband’s lap.
other than the servants," he laughed in reply.
"They don't count," Juliette purred as she kissed his neck. “Want to go upstairs?”
“Good lord – and she really lives here,” Nikki said as the girls took photographs.
“Oh yes – and she is home now,” Rachel said, “see – the royal standard is flying.”
The girls looked up as they saw the flag flying in the breeze.
“So this is all royal parkland?”
“That’s right Pepsi,” Jeannie said, “on one side Green Park, and on the other St James. Anyway – I have a question.”
“And that is,” Grace said as she looked over.
“Where are we going to eat?”
“Come with me,” Caroline said, “there’s a good bar near here we can get some food at…”
4 pm BST
"I hear you will be leaving us soon Marchesa?" Jack Docherty said as he opened the main door to the hotel.
"I will Jack,” Francesca said with a smile, “my new flat and offices are just about ready."
hope you will still come visit us here at the Savoy occasionally?"
probably see me from time to time Jack," Francesca smiled. "In the
meantime though, can you tell the management please that I'll be throwing a
little party tomorrow night."
Jack looked suddenly very worried.
'that" sort of party Jack," Francesca smiled broadly.
we will ALL be relieved to hear that Marchesa."
you might be Jack. No this will be a perfectly civilised cocktail party for a
few friends and business contacts...Is it too late to book one of your function
sure something is available," Jack chuckled, "I'll inform the
manager, but I'm sure I will be able to ring your room in a few minutes with
Jack, thank you so much."
"My pleasure Marchesa."
“Now, I need to send some invitations…”
A short while later, Francesca sat at her chair by the bay window, smiling as she said “so I will see you here tomorrow night?”
really sure you want the likes of me there Marchesa?" Bev's voice sounded
astonished on the other end of the line.
"Yes I am
Bev,” Francesca said with a smile, “I owe you for all your help and kindness in
I didn't barely do nuffin."
actually did Bev, your little speech on how lucky I was to have my family made
a big impression on me."
you don't mind an H dropper like me bein' there."
don't," Francesca giggled lightly.
questions...First...Do I 'ave to buy meself sum fancy cocktail dress?"
second do I need find a date?"
you want to Bev."
fink I get the picture."
"Just remember Shirley and several other Xavier's people will be there as well."
“Oh luverly – okay, I’ll see you tomorrow Marchesa.”
5.30 pm CET
The Furstenheim Townhouse, Munich
Judith trotted across the drawing room holding her little arms out to be lifted
was your concert darling?" Carina smiled as she lifted Judith in her arms.
was..." Judith paused trying to remember a word she had heard..."it
as that eh?" Carina laughed gently.
Judith nodded firmly.
behave herself Ingy?"
she did dearest twin,” Ingrid said as she took her coat off, “and she even knew
the words of a couple of the songs and tried to sing a few of the others."
do." Judith grinned.
the twins down in the kitchen so the staff can ooh and ah over them."
they'll love that..."
twins or the kitchen people?"
5 pm BST
The Daily Telegraph
"Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said as she looked at the laptop screen, “I have something to show you before I return this to Mama…"
“Oh – and that is,” Marianne said as she sat in the study of their home.
said as she held the picture up to the computer screen.
God, I took that, I didn't know it still existed," Marianne shook her
head, "I took it with my old Polaroid, you were just three days old...She
kept it all these years?"
and I think this is the first time she's been parted with it. I took it into
Piet's papers to get the best copies made, with all the damage restored."
to her to go back in her bag.
can't believe this," Marianne shook her head."
send you one of the restored prints if you wish?"
“By the way,” she said as she lowered her voice, “how are the restorations at the stud going?”
“Extremly well,” Marianne said, “I hope the first horses will arrive soon. Listen – we saw Fergus last week. Did something happen in New York? He seemed to be a bit upset.”
“Nothing I know of,” Charlotte said, “but I’ll ask around…”
Vanessa Richmond’s Apartment
the Cardinal said as he wiped his chin, “you know, one of the reasons I
volunteer to undertake these tours of inspection is to have the pleasure of
eating at your table Vanessa."
"Aidan you are a flatterer,” Vanessa said with a smile. “Your thanks should really be to my cook." She was wearing a blue short sleeved dress, while Alex was in a dark jacket and grey trousers, as well as the back shirt and white collar.
"Well I looked in on Olivia while she was preparing all this and thanked her then."
I have to tell her later she surpassed herself today."
"That she did."
are you really in New York for Aidan?" Alex asked.
Alex me bhoy, it's not a nice job."
Cardinal said "His Holiness has charged me to deliver a message stressing
that the church does not take side in political debate, but that we do stand
firm on certain principles."
here to bang some heads together then?"
that's why we are having this secret meeting Monday and Tuesday to go over all
"Well rather you then me Aidan," Vanessa smiled, "If the Archbishops and Bishops are currently as quarrelsome as the rest of our population then you have your job cut out for you."
Holly and Sands’ Apartment
“Goodbye, Gentlemen, and thank you for everything,” Buffy McGeorge said as the two middle aged men got into the car. She and Holly Berryman were wearing short leather skirts and silk blouses, with dark stockings and high heels – but she didn’t see the look in Holly’s eyes…
"I have never felt so cheap and nasty in my life," Holly started to cry as the men’s limousine pulled away. "I'm going to have a shower then burn these clothes, I never even want to see them again."
"I don't know what you are crying about Holly?" Buffy smiled, “they tipped us each a thousand on top of our five grand each."
Holly stared at
her, as she said "That's all those were to you wasn't it Buff? Just two
piles of cash."
over and smiled as she said "What else?"
really don't feel anything inside do you?"
"Who says? But I do know what this hunk of cash will buy me."
"Well take my share as well," Holly started crying deeper as they re-entered the apartment, "I want NOTHING to do with this filthy stuff."
sure?" Buffy cocked her head.
"PERFECTLY!” Holly looked at her as she put her coat on, and cried out “I'm going to scrub myself clean AND try to forget this ever happened."
“Your choice – I’ll talk to you soon Holly.”
“No you won’t – if I see you again, I’ll walk the other way.”
“We’ll see,” the brunette grinned as she walked out, Holly sitting in the seat and sobbing into her hands.
As Buffy walked out of the apartment block, she didn’t pay much attention to anyone else in the street – they were just others to ignore as far as she was concerned, and as she tucked the envelope into her bag she walked down the road, head erect.
The black haired women who walked past her caught her interest for a moment – she had an expensive leather jacket, tight leggings and over the knee black leather boots, as well as dark glasses. “That jacket would suit me,” she thought to herself as the woman turned and walked into a bookshop, while Holly continued to walk down the sidewalk.
As she passed the alleyway, Buffy was taken completely by surprise as an arm wrapped itself round her throat and pulled her in. She reached up, clawing at the leather kicking out, but a second gloved hand was clamped over her mouth and nose, and whoever it was had a grip like iron.
And that grip was pressing on her throat, the gloved hand covering her breathing, as Buffy slowly, slowly slipped into unconsciousness…
The woman slowly lowered Buffy to the ground, checking her breathing as she looked at her, and then opened her handbag. Taking out the envelope, she looked at the notes inside, and then slipped it inside her jacket, replacing it with a matching envelope.
Smiling, she took out a cell phone and dialled a number.
“Jan? It’s Eleanor – how do I make a donation to the Mazengwean Repatriation Fund? Anonymously?”
“Oh, about 12 thousand dollars – cash. I’m on my way round – I just need to change first…”
As she came round, Buffy stood slowly up, feeling her throat and then looking in her bag. Everything seemed to be in there – including the brown envelope.
“I guess they got scared off,” she said to herself as she walked onto the street, and then started to make her way home again. She had had a lucky escape – although it might have been nice if someone had stopped to help her…
“Buffy? How was the weekend away?”
“Fun Mom – I’m going to change,” she said as Sukie looked out of the kitchen, a worried expression on her face as she saw her daughter walk up the stairs.
Buffy locked her bedroom doro behind herself, and then sat on the bed, smiling as she took out the envelope and opened it. Only it wasn’t the money she was expecting inside.
There was a bundle of neatly cut pieces of newspaper, with a white piece of paper wrapped round it. Buffy stared at the wad, and then read the note.
“I don’t like bullies and those who seek to hurt those who do not deserve it – so the money you ‘earned’ has gone to help those who had no choice in whether or not to sell themselves.
“If you ever force Miss Berryman, or anyone else, to sell themselves, you will regret it. You did not see me coming today – you will not see me next time.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed, before she found her cell phone and dialled a number.
“Buffy,” she heard Holly say, “what do you want?”
“Where’s the money Berryman?”
“You left with it – I have no idea what you did with it. Noe leave me alone!”
The call ended abruptly, as Buffy looked at the phone. “I left her at the apartment – no way she could have…”
Carlton or Broadhurst? Nope – they were both in the UK, and Katy was too small. Then who did it?
Monday 13th June
8.15 am BST
Downwood School, Harlow
“Well, here we are,” Grace said as the minibus pulled off the road, “Downwood School, of blessed memory.”
looks like a typical sixties built suburban high school," Pepsi observed
as the bus pulled up the drive.
"If you mean that it looks like a dump, then say so Peps, you won't offend me," Jeannie said as she straightened her uniform jacket. “Every one of the kids you see walking into it think so as well.”
"It's certainly not St Angela's," Harriet said as she looked at some of the familiar faces of kids arriving.
“Well, here we are,” Sarah said as the minibus came to a stop, “everyone out.”
As the students came up the driveway behind the bus, one or two noticed the girls in their scarlet jackets and tartan skirts getting out and looking round. The tall, dark skinned girl, then the three blonde haired girls and the brown haired girl.
“They must be the girls visiting today,” one boy said as he stopped with some of his friends and looked.
“A couple of them look familiar, but…” They all stopped talking as they saw the wheelchair, and then Barbara get out with a blonde Amazonian woman.
“That’s Caroline Jameson,” one year 9 girl said, “and that’s Mrs Brewster – so that must mean…”
They watched as Caroline lifted Jeannie into the seat, and then stood up, adjusting the grey jacket of her trouser suit as she looked round.
Barbara was wearing a short sleeved blue dress, as some of the younger kids gathered round.
“Jeannie Brewster – what’s she doing here,” one year 7 girl said.
“They’re visiting the school today and tomorrow,” a year 10 girl said, “which means…”
They watched as Harriet and Sarah got out, both wearing blouses and skirts, and then Grace, her long blonde hair flowing over the shoulders of her red jersey dress.
Law is expecting us in my...sorry I mean his office," Grace corrected
herself, "and we will discuss what classes you'll be looking in on."
"The idea is you get to see what is taught here, and that the students get a chance to ask you about how the same subjects are taught at St Angela's." Sarah smiled as she closed the doors of the minibus.
“So how do we get in,” Ama said as she looked over and smiled at some of the Downwood students.
seems very familiar," Barbara smiled as she stood behind Jeannie in her
takes me back too Mum." Jeannie smiled.
"Okay… Up the front ramp and stairs," Grace
called out to her little group. "then turn left please."
"Okay Miss," Nikki nodded as they started to make their way up, Barbara pushing Jeannie as Caroline walked with Ama, and the others followed.
As they walked into the lobby of the school, the receptionists looked over in the office, before one came out and said “Mrs Brand – Mister Law is expecting you. I think you know the way.”
“Oh I remember,” Grace said as they walked to a door with “Mister D Law, Headmaster” printed on it. As she knocked, they all looked over as the door opened, and Denis Law looked out.
“GRACE! Come on in - Welcome to you all," Dennis
Law said as he shook their hands and ushered his visitors to sit down.
"And it’s nice to be here Dennis,' Grace smiled. “I see you never redecorated.”
“No budget – yet,” Denis said as he closed the door, and leaned against the desk.
"Well,” Grace said with a smile, “I#d better make introductions, you know Barbara and Jeannie, and of course Harriet and Sarah."
I do. It’s good to see all four of you
is Caroline Jameson."
pleasure," Dennis shook hands with the tall blonde.
"This is her daughter Ama, these are the two Nicola's, Nikki Colman, and Pepsi Broadhurst."
"They call me Pepsi because two Nicola's is too complicated," Pepsi added.
Rebecca, or Becky Morse....and finally Anna, or as the other girls call her,
"Well, it's nice to put faces to names at last," Dennis sat down. “I met you at the wedding, didn’t I Anna?”
“That’s right Mister Law – it’s nice of you to remember,” Doc said with a smile.
“Well, I’m glad you could be here today,” Denis said as he picked up some sheets of paper. “I talked to Grace a week or two ago, and we’ve drawn up this schedule to give you all a chance to go where your strengths lie. But first, please, join us all for the morning assembly.”
9 am BST
"It seems strange being here in a red blazer and not a black one, and a tartan skirt, not a grey one." Jeannie mumbled to Becca as they watched the students making their way into the assembly room.
“True – but I much prefer this,” Jeannie said as they stood at the side of the stage, waiting as Denis Law walked out to the dais.
“All right, settle down,” he said as the murmur in the room died away. “As you will have seen, we are joined today and for a number of days over the next two weeks by some students and teachers from a school in New York – a school we have very close connections with. So please, welcome to Downwood School Mrs Grace Brand, and some of the teachers, parents and pupils from St. Angela’s Academy for Young Ladies!”
The room clapped and cheered as Jeannie led the girls out from one side, and Grace the adults from the other, before they took the seats which had been arranged in a row behind Denis.
“Now, as you can see, with the exception of three – well, four familiar faces to many here,” Denis said, “they are all strangers here, and they will be coming to some of your classes to talk to you, and to say what is different about their schools, but I thought it would be good if one of them was to do a general introduction first. Ama, will you come up and talk to the school, please?”
The student body watched the tall dark skinned girl as she came forward and stood behind the microphone. "Hello,” she said quietly into the microphone, “my name is Ama Jameson, you probably have heard of my mother, her name is Caroline Jameson, and she's a famous model." Ama paused as Caroline stood while the school assembly applauded her.
"My friends are all glad to have this opportunity to visit you here at Downwood over the next two weeks, and I am in particular. Two years ago standing here like this would have seemed completely unlikely to me because at that time I was a slave..."
A huge gasp
went up from the audience as those words sank in.
work for a family in New York City," Ama continued as she let her tears
flow. "I was taken from my real family in Mazengwe and smuggled to
America, and there I knew only hardship until I was liberated. When I was free, and My Mom adopted me, St
Angela's took me in as a student, and the friends I have made since have now
become my family."
She looked round at the other five girls as she smiled and then looked out across the room, which was in a hushed silence. Blinking back more tears Ama continued. "Mr Law asked that I speak to you here this morning to explain how my school day goes, but if I was to speak the truth, it’s not just a case of how my school day goes that I wish to share, but how my whole day goes.
“I was told by my friends that on their first day at our school, a good friend who was one of the head girls told them that they were making friends that day that would be friends for life. I started a few months later, but on my first day they made me feel welcome, and became my friends as well. With their help and the support of my mother, the teachers and my friends, every day I am becoming who I am meant to be.
“And if I can tell you one thing over these next few days, it is this – the same is true for many of you. I want to thank you, on behalf of all of us, for your welcome, and to tell you that every day at school, I look forward to learning new things, and spending the day with my friends. I look forward to meeting some of you – and even enjoying lunch with you, although Jeannie did say to avoid something called cottage pie?”
That caused a ripple of laughter as the room applauded, and Ama sat back down.
There followed the routine school announcements and the singing of a hymn.
“So, to your classes,” Denis said, “and enjoy your day…”
“All right, all right,” Mr Stennis said as he looked at the year 11 Maths class, “I know how much you love Maths first thing on a Monday morning…”
“Now you see where I get my love of the subject from, Doc.”
The teacher smiled as he saw Jeannie wheel herself into the classroom, Anna coming behind her.
"Welcome girls," Mr Stennis indicated where Jeannie could park her chair, and where Doc could sit.
"Thank you Sir," both girls replied.
"Now you all know Jeannie of course," the teacher smiled, "Anna is another of our visitors from St Angela's Academy in New York City.”
"Hi...Welcome...Wotcha Jeans..." a series of greetings came from the other kids.
you Jeannie and Anna are about to start their last two years of regular school.” Mr Stennis stood by the board as he continued
“In Britain they would be starting their 'A Levels' just as you are. There is
one huge difference though in the US system, and Anna perhaps best personifies
it. Anna holds a very prestigious academic scholarship, and because she is so
bright at the same time you have been taking your GCSE's she already is doing
university level mathematics."
A collective “Wow!" caused Anna to blush.
"I'm still on your level though," Jeannie grinned. “Seriously, though, we don’t sit as a rule separate exams, but work for a diploma, a bit like the Baccalaureate. It means we stay in similar classes, though.”
“So does that mean you have to do maths all the time,” one girl asked Doc.
“Well, the horrible truth is I like Math,” Doc said with a grin, “but that makes it more exciting for me. More seriously, because the college system is America is also based around completing courses to get credits, and I want to study Medicine, I have some more flexibility about what courses I do there…”
“Well, now this is a sight for sore eyes,” Sarah Nightingale said as she stood in front of the Year 12 English Literature class. “Ready for your exams?”
“Yes Miss Nightingale,” the class said as she smiled at them.
“And have they been stretched,” she said as she looked at her former colleague.
“Oh yes – but they are ready for the AS level.”
"Well just be glad that you aren't having to do your final year of 'A Levels' with me," Sarah smiled. "Now can I introduce both Ama and Pepsi, both have just finished my Introduction to English Literature course.”
The room applauded as the two girls sat down, and Sarah smiled.
“So what’s the main difference between here and America Miss,” one of the boys said.
"Well… The academic freedom that I have as a teacher in New York means that I'm not constrained as I would have been here to teach set books decided upon by the Examination Boards. Instead I can teach from the texts that I personally think are worthwhile."
"She had us doing Chaucer in Middle English," Pepsi's eyes rolled as the room laughed.
“But – I believe it made it easier to understand and appreciate Shakespeare. And next year, they like you have will be studying the Romantic Poets.”
"We are also
encouraged to do a lot of reading by the same author, or contemporaries,"
Nightingale also encourages us to watch television and movie adaptations as
well," Ama added.
"Ama and I study a lot together, and while those extras are good and relevant, Miss Nightingale still stresses above all that the text is the real source of authority." Pepsi added.
“Quite right too – so what did you study last?”
“Tennessee Williams – The Glass Menagerie,” one of the girls said.
“Right – so let’s have a chat about that…”
"Miss Jameson as I'm sure you all know is one of the world's most famous fashion models," Miss Hooper the art and design teacher smiled at the 14 year olds in her class, "and whilst you might not recognise Nikki, she is also a model and an actress, whilst Becca is I'm assured a fairly normal St. Angela's girl."
"Well what passes for normal at St Angela's," Becca laughed.
think you'd rather be talking to a friend of ours though," Nikki smiled,
"her name is Kylie Mitchell who is joining us at St Angela's next school
Mitchell, the fashion designer?" a girl in the front row asked.
"The one and only," Nikki replied. “She is moving to New York at the end of this month, and is looking forward to joining us.”
“So what will she be studying?”
“Much the same as us,” Becca said, “with some differences. I think, for example, she will be sitting the same sort of exams as you rather than the High School Diploma – in fact, Graphic Design is one of the courses she will be doing.”
“But here’s the thing,” Nikki said, “Kylie grew up in Tottenham, south of here, and has made herself – by taking an opportunity when it was given. I think she would say if she could do it, anyone can.”
“And call you Darling as she said it,” Becca said with a laugh.
10 am BST
“Okay – put that desk over there,” Peri said as she supervised the delivery men, setting up the desks in the outer office while Hannah was in the main office with Francesca.
“Okay – the reference books all seem to be here,” she said as she ran her hands over the bookcase, “and Charlotte said she would be over later today to check the IT setup.”
“Good – the new letterheads?”
“You hollered,” the young administrator said as she looked in.
Peri returned to the outer office and brought through a sheet of paper, with Francesca’s name and the new address at the top.
“Excellent – and the telephones are…”
As the new handset rang, Peri picked it up and said “di Cambrello Consultants?
“Yes, Baroness – I’ll pass you over to her now.” She handed the telephone to Francesca as she said “Sigi? Yes, we’re open for business now at the home address…”
“Okay Peri,” Harriet said, “I guess we should go through the mail now. Good morning Mrs Harris.”
“Good morning ladies,” Betty said as she looked in and Peri closed the inner office door. “Your lunch requests?”
“Taking Lunch orders, Betty,” Francesca said as she came back in.
she's on a diet Mrs. Harris,” Hannah said, “that she has to lose weight before
you were just like my daughter Lucy Miss Peri," Betty shook her head,
"Neither of you needs lose an ounce in my opinion."
Francesca looked up from placing books on the shelves.
"Well I'm going
to enjoy myself...any chance of that egg salad with the special mayonnaise you
were telling me about Betty?"
fresh baked bread?"
"Oh yes if
there is time."
have the salad, but hold the mayo," Peri picked up some files.
"I fancy to
identify this place with home Mrs Harris, can you do me Alici dorate
Marchesa, I bought some lovely anchovies at the market just this morning."
"Good," Francesca beamed.
11 am BST
In the canteen, Caroline and Barbara sat down and looked at the circle of mothers sitting with them.
“This must be a different world to you,” one of the women said.
Caroline and I are both English and we went to ordinary comprehensives in our
day." Barbara smiled at the mothers gathered for what had been billed as a
'Mothers Chat Session'.
that we have similar points of reference to what school are to you."
"But isn't St Angela's a very fancy public school?" one mother asked, "that's a world away from Downwood."
“Well, that’s certainly true,” Caroline said, “but that does not mean the girls and their families are any different. I mean, look at me and Barbara.”
“But you’re a business woman and a model,” another of the mums said.
“True – but I’m an administrative assistant at a hospital,” Barbara said, “and we’re both single mums.”
“What about the other girls,” another mother asked.
“Well,” Caroline said, “on the one hand, Nikki’s mother is a top rate real estate agent, and Becca’s father is a congressman.”
“But Pepsi’s mother is a florist, and her father works for the equivalent of Arriva in Harlow,” Barbara said, “and Doc’s mother is a receptionist.”
“Doc is a scholarship winner – we know the mother of another winner of the same scholarship, and she’s an engineer while completing her degree.”
“Many of us are single mums,” Caroline said, “and we support each other as well as the girls. That’s the thing – not the fact some of us are rich and some not, but we’re all friends, and all mothers.”
"Ama here,” Sarah said as she, Pepsi and Ama talked to a gym class, “is one of the stars of my soccer team in New York that won its league championship for the first time. Ama was named first-team All-City, and was an honourable mention on the All New York state team, which might not mean a lot to you, but is a very big deal for a sophomore player in the United States.”
"What Miss Nightingale fails to say is that I'm only made to look good by the fact that Jessica Murchado scores a lot of goals after I pass her the ball." Ama blushed.
"Which is a lot of trash," Pepsi grinned, "Jess will tell you she only scores so many goals because of Ama's passes."
"So will we get a chance to play with you both?" one of the Downwood girls asked.
“Tomorrow,” Sarah said, “they will join you for a game.”
position do you play Pepsi?"
was a fairly useless full back, but Coach Nightingale has converted me into
what she calls a 'monster'."
the same position for her," a dark haired girl nodded. "You aren't
supposed to be creative, just man mark their best midfielder and restrict her
space to play in..."
"And when possible tackle her and win the ball for our side." Pepsi smiled. "So the system we use is the one she used here?"
"I have to say that Pepsi doesn't attract a lot of attention on our team," Ama took over the conversation, “but when she's doing it right then you don't notice their best player either."
“And that is the key,” Sarah said, “do the job, and don’t be noticed.”
"So do you
do college level science yet Anna?" Word of what had been revealed in
Maths had obviously got round.
to have,” Doc said to the Year 10 Chemistry class, “but school policy means I
can only start doing that this coming year.
I be glad of that." Harriet laughed, "I swear I have nothing to teach
this young lady."
"It means Mrs Craig though still gets idiots like me to teach." Nikki chimed in. "I like chemistry but with Doc in your class you tend to find her a bit intimidating."
Becca and Jeans
sat down in the front row of seats as Grace looked at the class.
Studenti," Grace opened, "Sono felice di rivedervi tuttle."
"E noi de
vedere voi la Signora Brand."
"Buona," Grace nodded and smiled, "your Italian is improving Year 9."
“Thank you Mrs Brand,” one of the girls said, “so how different is New York?”
“With all due respect to Harlow,” Grace said with a smile, “it is far more cosmopolitan – so when Becca and Jeannie are on the street, they have far more opportunity to practice their Spanish.”
“It’s true,” Jeannie said, “in the adverts I make, I have to do the words in other languages – and while Italian is still fun, my Spanish is definitely getting better.”
12.30 pm BST
“Well, folks,” Jeannie said as she led the way into the dining room, “welcome to our version of Murder Row – the school canteen.”
“FINALLY! We were wondering when we would get a chance to meet properly with all of you.”
“There you are,” Jeannie said as she wheeled over to where Cathy, Liz and Ashley were sitting, “how have the exams gone?”
“No problems – hopefully. Welcome to the Lunch Zone,” Liz said as she stood up “let me take you through while Jeannie sits with these two. Sausage and mash today Jeannie?”
“Wonderful – make sure I get the gravy,” Jeannie said with a smile as they walked off, and she positioned her chair by the table.
“Red – I still think it looks better on you than grey,” Cathy said with a grin.
“They’ll be fine over there,” Denis said as he sat with the others at another table. “It’s getting to the end of term – the cabin fever hasn’t quite set in yet.”
“Have there been any major discipline problems,” Grace said as she cut into a sausage.
“Nope – in fact, we had some major… Well, just watch…”
As she looked up, she saw the thin brunette standing there, and looked round. “Sally-Anne… Look…”
“No,” Sally-Anne Wells hastily said, “I need to say something. Last year, when you visited, I was horrible to you, and… I want to apologise.”
“I’m sorry,” Jeannie said quietly, “you want to apologise?”
“For everything – I was wrong, and by the time I realised that, it was a little too late to tell you. But I turned over a leaf, got a job, found myself a bit. So when I heard you were here, I needed to let you know.”
“Well, thanks,” Jeannie said as Ama and Liz walked over. “Want to join us?”
“I can’t – I have an exam in half an hour, but thanks for letting me do that,” Sally-Anne said.
“Hey – what happened to the other two?”
“Crystal and Yvonne? I don’t know – I’ve avoided them since that day. Good luck later at the library opening.”
As she walked off, Ama said “are you all right Jeannie?”
“Yeah – what happened to them Liz?”
“The other two? They got to a college on day release – so they’re not here today.”
“That’s Sally-Anne Wells? What happened to her,” Barbara said as she looked over.
“Nobody’s quite sure – we met her when Grace had her hearing, working at the café at the civic centre,” Harriet said, “but what made her do that, we never asked…”
“We’re not quite sure either,” Denis said, “but she suddenly started to smarten up, as you said got a summer job, and now she’s predicted to get good results.”
“So what happened to the other two?”
“Crystal Morgan and Yvonne Sykes? They’re still our problem,” Denis said, “but Monday they have to attend a different college – vocational skills.”
“So they’ll be here later in the week,” Barbara said.
“Don’t worry – we’ll keep them out of Jeannie’s way as much as possible…”
“Who was that,” Ama said as she sat down.
“Someone who used to be a bit of a problem for me – but no more it seems,” Jeannie said with a smile. “So, I got the sausages, what did you get?”
“A salad – I think,” Ama said as she sat down, the others joining the group at the table. “So when do you finish for the summer vacation?”
“Five more weeks,” Ashley said with a sigh. “You’ve been off for a few weeks already, haven’t you?”
“Yeah – but we go back two weeks before you as well,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“So what else are you getting up to this week?”
“Well, I know we’re spending Wednesday in London,” Doc said. “We’re meeting a friend of ours at something called Queen’s Club?”
“The tennis? Sounds fun,” Liz said. “And seeing anything else?”
“I believe we have tickets for a show called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”
“Oh yeah – that might be fun as well…”
Sarah Sutton asked as she sat down, “do you regret quitting as Head
the blonde said as she looked round, “at the time I wasn't sure if I'd done the
right thing in not stopping and fighting, but with the benefit of hindsight I
can say i did exactly the right thing."
miss running your own school?"
because in essence I still do.” Taking a
drink, Grace continued “Wilhelmina, Kate, and I work very much as a three-man
management team, we take a lot of decisions collectively, and for me the
benefits of my formal position as Dean are that I run most of the areas I used
to enjoy here as head."
don't have to do fundraising Grace?"
Dennis, Wilhelmina acts as a sort of CEO, she manages relations with the
trustees, the banks that invest our endowment, she authorizes payments for equipment,
Dennis. In the meantime, Kate runs the curriculum, and the teaching, and the
welfare of the teaching staff.”
you Grace?" Manuela Biaggio asked.
with everything else more or less, from the quality of meals in the school
refectory, to issuing parking spaces for the girls’ cars, to dealing with
disciplinary issues, to liaising with all the school extra curricular
groups...AND I still get to go quite a bit of teaching."
"It really sounds of ideal for you," Sarah Sutton nodded.
“It is, it really is,” Hannah said, “and the freedoms extend to us as well.”
12.30 pm BST
APCO London, Regent Street
The staff looked round as the door to the main street was opened by the security guard, the sounds of shouting coming from outside as two people came in.
“I was meant to be having a quiet day Bev,” Charlotte said as she looked out of the windows.
I'm sorry for the bleedin' cameras, but yer Mum insisted I got a proper
cocktail dress for tonight, and we you know me I 'even't got a clue."
worry Bev,” Charlotte said as she looked round, “I'm sure APCO can help."
Gordon,” a tall brunette said as she walked over, “How lovely to see you."
"And it’s lovely to see you Christine," she kissed the manageress on the cheek.
“So how can we be of assistance to you today?”
Beverley here works for my company,” Charlotte said as Bev looked round, “she
has an invite to a cocktail party my mother is throwing and she claims she has absolutely
nothing to wear."
had a couple of ladies in already this morning getting outfits for tonight, so
I'm pretty sure we can help."
thing I'd add Christine, Bev is going on secondment to Hong Kong for the
summer, the dress needs be once she can wear at events out there as well."
"Ah I get the picture," Christine thought hard, "ladies do you want coffee or tea while I sort out a couple of things to try?"
“Sure – the Turkish if you have it…”
As Charlotte sat down, Bev looked at the display of Kylie Mitchell designs. “Who woulda fouht it a year ago,” she whispered, “that I’d be here and Kyles would be such a success.”
“True – so we’ll get you set up for tonight at least. Ah – thank you,” Charlotte said as she accepted the cup, Bev sitting down before she took hers. “While you’re here, what’s been discussed about a party for me?”
“No idea – why?”
1 pm BST
"You know, I think Betty is going to be the heart of this operation," Hannah looked round the table.
“Well, my friends in the RCM Racing team will tell you the real lynchpin of that team is Jan Carter’s mother, who cooked for all of them,” Francesca said quietly as she sipped her water.
"It has to be said, this beats any works canteen I ever ate in," Peri smiled broadly.
"Well just remember we have a full afternoon of work still to do," Francesca said as she looked round.
remind me," Hannah looked upwards, "I'm not only setting up my space
up as I want it, but also trying to start writing the opinion on the
Hammond/Isle of Man case."
does tax avoidance become tax evasion?" Francesca nodded. "it's such
a fine line."
"Yes. But, given this government’s desire to try
and close the loopholes…"
said,” when do you want us to close up so you can get ready for the party at
the Savoy Francesca?"
we turn the phones off at four Peri."
good to me."
housekeeper came in to take the plates, Francesca said "Are you sure you
don't want to come tonight Mrs. Harris, I owe as big a thank you to you as I do
to everyone else?"
you Marchesa, I promised my Annette that I'd babysit, and tell the truth that's
more fun then a cocktail party."
"Understood Mrs Harris," Francesca smiled at her housekeeper.
1.15 pm BST
“Jeannie? You all right in there?”
Barbara stood back as she heard the toilet flush, and saw the door open before Jeannie wheeled herself out. “Yeah,” she said quietly, “I needed to do that for a lot of reasons.”
“The others are waiting in the hall before the opening ceremony begins,” her mother said as she pushed her past the year 11 Boys Common Room – where an important discussion was taking place…
"Okay Lads what are our chances?" an older boy asked a group gathered round him in one corner of the common room.
"Fat and None," a fair-haired boy shook his head. "All but Nikki Colman have steady boyfriends, and according to the girls I talked to then one of us are in the same league."
what Steve?" the first boy asked.
have ZERO chance of any of them letting one of us take her out."
on - I offer a few things the girls seem to like," Nigel Preece smiled as
he preened himself.
"Well let me run down the list," Steve looked at his notes. "Anna dates a guy from Chicago called Chet van Roon.... I googled him, he's listed as one of the world’s wealthiest Under 18's... Even you can't compete with that Nige."
"Alright,” Nigel said with a shrug, “what about the others?"
Becca date brothers, Lords John, and William Fitzstuart, two of the sons of the
Marquess of Ordford."
Micky Dent spoke for the group.
"Ama dates a boy from her New York neighbourhood, Jeannie dates a football star – you remember the man mountain from last year - and as I said that leaves Nikki, but I'm pretty sure she'd also turn anyone of us down."
“So, a challenge – what do you guys say?”
“Challenge – Accepted!”
3 pm BST
As Jeannie and the girls lined up in the corridor, Barbara and Caroline stood behind them, while some of the year 11 pupils formed a group further along. Some photographers were also present, as was a dour faced man in a grey suit.
“I see Doctor Dalton hasn’t changed that much,” Sarah whispered to Mr Stennis.
“Not really,” he whispered back as Denis Law walked along the corridor, accompanied by Grace and a larger gentleman wearing a dark suit and a brass chain of office. There was also a grey haired woman with him, wearing a dark jacket over a pale blue dress, who smiled as she looked at the girls.
“Isn’t that Poppy’s aunt – Dame Margaret Harker,” Becca whispered.
“It is – makes sense she would be here as the local MP,” Jeannie whispered back.
“Dame Margaret, Mister Mayor, Doctor Dalton, our honoured guests,” Denis said as they came to a set of double doors, with a large pink ribbon across the front, “thank you for joining us today. Two years ago, a fund raising effort was started to provide some boosk and renovate the school library – but none of us could ever have dreamed how much money we would raise, or what we could do. We have managed to totally reinvent and redesign the library, and it is only right and fitting the person who started that effort is here today to perform the opening ceremony.”
Harriet saw Doctor Dalton frown as Denis continued, “so, it gives me great pleasure to ask the Dean of Students from St Angela’s Academy in New York, and my predecessor here, if she would cut the ribbon for all of us.”
He handed a pair of scissors to Grace, who smiled as she said “it gives me a great deal of pleasure to declare the Grace Brand Library officially – open!” She cut through the ribbon as Harriet and Sarah opened the doors, the girls walking in and looking round the shelves and desks.
"They put your money to good use Jeannie," Grace whispered as they moved round. "There are so many new books now."
"And the extra space to hold them." Barbara smiled proudly at her daughter.
"Well according to Abigail it's called 'giving back'." Jeannie blushed, "and it isn't as if I couldn't afford it."
“Ah – I wondered who the major, if anonymous donor was,” Maggie Harker said as she came over. “It’s a fine thing to have your name attached to Grace – and a wonderful thing you have done for here, Jeannie.”
“Thanks,” Jeannie said quietly, “so how goes the campaign?”
“It is a close run thing – and I am worried about a week Thrusday. We’re heading for dark waters I fear…”
"All those new books for the English students to use," Sarah shook her head, "when you think of the resources the library used to have."
know," Harriet nodded, "I looked at the sciences section...for an
English state school it’s pretty amazing."
who actually paid for all this...Grace?"
no, but I have a pretty shrewd idea," Harriet glanced and nodded towards
Grace and the Brewster ladies.
Sarah stood for about a minute, "oh Christ you aren't saying that Jeannie
paid for all this?"
"Keep that quiet Sarah, I may be wrong, but yes I think our young Miss Brewster has been extremely generous to her old school."
“So are you spending every day here for the next fortnight, Grace?”
“Well… Sarah, Harriet and I are, but Caroline and Barbara are taking the girls to Queens on Wednesday, and we’ll meet up with them for a show that night. We’ve also got passes for Ascot next Wednesday, before we go to Abby de Ros’ birthday party on the Thursday – the party is Friday.”
“And did Virginia Hooper talk to you?”
“She’s coming to dinner at the hotel tonight – we’ll talk then.”
“Dame Margaret – Mrs Brand.”
“Doctor Dalton,” Grace said with a smile, “I wanted to thank you for allowing me the honour of opening the library today.”
“I am glad you and your students could come as well,” he said quietly. “Mrs Brewster, Jeannie – how are you enjoying yourselves?”
“Passably,” Jeannie said with a smile. “Where is your sister today Dame Margaret?”
“Amelia? She had to attend a function in London, and she had to send her apologies. You’ll see her at Ascot no doubt, Grace.”
“I’ll look forward to that,” Grace said quietly.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday as well Jeannie – I’m so glad you and your friends will be at the fete, and you will open it.”
“My pleasure,” Jeannie said with a smile, “so long as I don’t have to do the tug of war.”
St Martha’s Rectory
“Yes Martha,” Alex said as he put his coat onto the rack.
“A telephone call for you – the Princess von Furstenheim.”
“Senior or Junior?”
housekeeper said as she handed Alex the phone, the priest smiling as he said “Juliette
dear, and to what do I owe the pleasure of talking to you about?"
"I wish I
could say it was purely pleasure Alex,” he heard Juliette say, “but it's
the priest sat down.
you know of Cardinal Enzo Morcelli?"
of the Grand Office of State during World War Two do you mean Juliette?"
I was taught. And why might you be
interested in him?"
knowing I'm writing a book on my Great Aunt..."
criminologist...yes I do."
"Well I keep
coming across references to Cardinal Morcelli in wartime papers that also
mention Aunt Jane at the same time."
Alex sipped his coffee as he smiled at Martha.
wasn't Morcelli thought to have Fascist sympathies?"
"So some say. But in those days, loyalties were –
pretty sure Aunt Jane was involved with some super hush hush British
Intelligence called the YY group."
question you have is how did they cross paths?"
Alex," Juliette paused a second, "I was wondering if you could beg a
favor of your friend Cardinal Kelly to maybe get someone in his office to help
me track down what happened."
lucky for you Juliette, Aidan is here in New York for some meetings, I'm taking
him to dinner at my club tonight, I can try asking him there."
"Oh if you
would I'd be eternally grateful Alex, Aunt Jane's wartime years are still
shrouded in so much mystery."
"I'll see what I can do Juliette. I’ll call you in the morning."
“Thank you again Alex,” Juliette said before the line went dead. Rubbing his chin, he finished his coffee and then stood up, walking to his study.
6 pm BST
As she looked up from her desk, she saw Bev standing there in a panic.
I beg your help...please?"
Bev?" Penny asked as she closed her laptop.
makeup,” Bev said as she came into the office, “wots rite for a do like
lovely a face as yours Bev, you can actually get away with very little." Penny
stood up and looked closely. "You know when I first met you, then you had
bad oily skin, nowadays it's almost like porcelain?"
Lily's influence," Bev grinned, "we both have naturally bad skin, but
she taught me all about clensin, and hydratin'"
paid off," Penny smiled, "look come back in about 20 minutes and we
can ready together."
"Fanks Penny," Bev smiled, "I think knowin' you approve might give me a bit of confidence."
7 pm BST
Briggens House Hotel
Virginia Hopper looked round the room as Grace, Caroline, Nikki, Doc and Jeannie glanced over the design sheets.
“We’ll use the gymnasium floor Jeannie,” Virginia said with a smile.
“Well, I guess we can spend Saturday night there as well,” she said as Nikki and Doc nodded.
thank you enough Grace for giving up one of your few free nights like
this," Virginia Hooper smiled "It will mean the world to my kids to
have some top professional models walking both in their clothes, and alongside
them in our School Fashion Show."
the designs look great," Nikki smiled.
"Well it will also mean we will attract more publicity, and more people to come....and we VERY MUCH need all the funds raised that we can get."
Hooper can I also make a suggestion?" Barbara asked.
ring a friend and see if she will come down for the rest of the week."
Barbara said with a smile, “Rose was a top notch seamstress in the West End Rag
Trade when that meant really something. She nowadays teaches sewing but I'm
sure she's free this week. She's great at pointing out flaws in sewing etc, and
I'm sure your kids would appreciate her advice."
"Oh I know
they would," the teacher beamed. "Does she live nearby?"
"Southgate, but I'll see if she will book into our hotel with us," Barbara said, “and come tomorrow.” She stood up and walked into the lobby as Grace sat back, smiling.
“Penny for them?”
“I was just wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the O2 arena last year,” Grace said, “would I still be here, unhappy?”
“Who knows – who cares,” Caroline said, “you’re not regretting it are you?”
“Of course not,” Grace said with a smile, “so, what do we get to wear…”
"So I'll book you in from tomorrow Rose?" Barbara said into her mobile phone.
"Yes Barbara,” she heard Rose say, “with term finished at the university I have time to myself, it might be fun helping out with kids like that."
"Well I thought that if nothing else you can teach them about fitting and finishing their outfits."
"Yes I can
probably do that."
"Great. I’ll see you tomorrow morning."
you be modeling yourself Barbara?" Rose asked quietly.
"NOT IN A
MILLION YEARS," Barbara burst into laughter, "I leave that strictly
you're really attractive yourself."
Barbara asked suspiciously, "are you back on the sauce?"
"No I'm bluddy well not," laughter came down the line, "I'm just tellin' yer the truth Barb, you aint a bad looking woman."
“Well, I’m the mother and responsible parent in all this, so now. See you tomorrow Rose.”
As she walked back in, Grace looked up and said “well?”
“She’ll be here tomorrow morning, and join us for lunch,” Barbara said as she sat down.
Virginia,” Grace said, “is your department still being squeezed
Grace,” her former colleague nodded, “that's why any extra we can raise at the
fashion show can be put to very good use."
"A year in the financial uplands of St Angela's, I'd forgotten just how much I used to have to scrimp and save at Downwood."
"Tell me about it...something as basic as charcoal for sketching I ended up buying from my own purse."
not right," Grace shook her head. "I know what the government is
trying to do, but you can't do it by cutting back education to the bare
agree on that."
think on the fact that the talent that is Kylie Mitchell was nearly lost for
all time because no mechanism existed to check out why she was underperforming
so badly in an English school, and to find out it was simply her eyesight was
one of the lucky ones."
Grace said quietly, “but how many more Kylie's are there out there who didn't
have the luck to know someone like Susan Walker and have her sponsor her?"
"Who knows?" Virginia shrugged her shoulders.