Marie’s Flower Power Predicament
It was the early autumn of 1964, and
Carrington was basking in the glow of a glorious Indian summer. The days were
warm and the skies devoid of cloud. It made the inevitable return to school for
us young people all the more dreadful. It also made my current plight all the
"Cccccnnnn yyyynnn ggggttt llssss sssrrrrlllyyy?" I asked through the cloth stuffed in my mouth, held in place by the brown parcel tape covering my lips and indeed most of my lower face. I rocked the heavy oak chair, straining against the ropes tying me against it.
Behind me my best friend Shirley mumbled through her identical gag, "Nnnnmmm, tthhhrrr ttttnnn tttthhhttt!" I felt her bound wrists brush my own, as she jiggled against the ropes binding her to a similar chair, lengths of cord fixing us in back to back chairties.
We were stashed in the storeroom of the Carrington Post Office, the evening sun filtering through a glazed window through which no-one would witness our plight. The temperature was roasting, and beads of sweat trickled down my brow. Surrounding us were shelves and sacks filled with letters and parcels. An unsavoury worker called Bernie Cracknell had been hording bank giros, cheques and pension provisions for himself. Shirley and I had decided after school to investigate his suspicious behaviour. We hadn't been there long when he got the jump on us armed with a knife, and proceeded to bind us as criminals are want to bind snooping girl detectives.
I glanced at the ropes crisscrossing my school uniform. I'd turned eighteen only two weeks ago, and Shirley a week before that. Yet in those days it was uniforms to the end of Sixth Form, unlike those colleges where kids can wear whatever they want these days. At least the school had allowed us to wear our summer uniform for warm weather's duration, a blue and white chequered dress with short sleeves and the hem over our knees, with white ankle socks and black flat maryjanes on our feet. Our blazers lay discarded on the floor, resting against our book filled satchels.
The ropes proved uncomfortable accessories, our ankles bound just above our socks and our legs below our knees similarly tied. Extra rope was wrapped over our laps and back under the seat, pinning our dresses into our legs, and long lengths encircled both our waists and chests keeping us back to back. Our hands were bound over the chair, and we'd spent the passing minutes trying to grip each other's wrists and pick at the corresponding knots.
I shook my head as my hair clip fell away, my shoulder length brown hair tumbling onto my shoulders. It intermingled with the bright red locks of Shirley as she rested her head against mine. She wasn't struggling as vehemently as I, only flexing lightly and moaning gently. Sometimes I wondered if she actually enjoyed it when we landed in these situations. I gave an angry stamp of my feet, and twisting about in my seat I looked over my shoulder and mumbled, "Ccccmmmm mmmm, wwwww hhhhvvvv tttttt ssscccpppp!"
"Hhhhhh mmmm tttrrrrnnngggg, kkkkk," Shirley protested with a defiant bounce.
Then we heard footsteps jogging through the Post Office. Shirley and I froze, certain that there was only one person it could be. We whimpered through our sealed mouths as the door was thrown open, expecting to see the face of Bernie Cracknell as he returned to ensure our silence.
But instead we saw a man just shy of fifty dressed in a constables uniform. He had thick dark hair with traces of grey above the sideburns, and a strong, closely shaved face and brown eyes. His resemblance to my classmate/friend/crush Philip Merton was uncanny, because he happened to be his father. PC Clive Merton was a respected local constable and he was often the one who found me when I got myself into these sorts of scrapes.
Shirley and I relaxed as he stepped towards us, though we blushed a little in embarrassment at once again having to be rescued by the long suffering bobby. Yet PC Merton smiled kindly at me as he knelt to remove my tapegag. "Marie Emily Parkinson, one of these days I'm going to lock a bell around your ankle so I always know where you are," he told me.
"I'm not sure my dad was joking," Philip Merton told me as we walked arm in arm down the high street a couple of days later. "I mean the amount of trouble you stir up for a small town is mad."
"Aww you worried about me Phil?" I replied. I giggled when I saw him visibly bristle. I knew he hated being called Phil, and I loved to tease him about it.
"As long as you keep giving me reason to worry about you," Philip said to me, providing a quick squeeze through our conjoined arms.
Since the night Philip had freed Shirley and I from a tight predicament in the school medical room the constable's son and I had spent a lot of time together. We'd gone to the cinema, on bike rides and for dances in the youth club. Not quite the texting and facebooking and clubbing that you seem to enjoy; the world was a much simpler place back then for young love. But our relationship really began to blossom on a glorious June day when we went for a walk by the river, where we finally plucked up enough courage to share our first kiss.
So far Shirley was the only one who knew. But I was surprised my best friend had kept our secret for so long; I could sense she was bursting to tell the world. As she swung from a lamppost dressed in brown Capri pants, white pumps with kitten heels and a white sleevless turtleneck with a green band in her red hair, she moaned, "I don't see why you don't just admit it to everyone. It'll be so much easier for everyone."
"Easier for you, you mean?" I laughed with a shake of my brown hair as it spilt onto the shoulders of my purple summer dress with green suede loafers.
Philip, a tall boy with a dark Paul McCartney haircut, smirked at Shirley as he replied, "We're thinking of ways to break it to our parents. Particularly my dad."
Shirley gave an indignant exhalation of breath flicking up a loose strand of hair. "If you two lovebirds don't get a move on we'll never get to the Youth Club. Come on!"
And so we walked along Carrington High Street as it was bathed in the yellow glow of the setting autumnal sun. The weekend beckoned, and tomorrow would be the night of another school disco. I'd already chosen my outfit to wow Philip with as we danced to Hard Day's Night till darkness fell.
Little did I know that plan was over from the moment we saw the protestors outside the council offices.
There were a decent number, about twenty five in total, all of them chanting loudly and holding placards. Some of these signs showed the peace symbol, others anti-war slogans, others the words CND in black ink. A green Volkswagen van was parked on the road beside them. They were members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a political movement that had gained a lot of momentum in recent months. In 1962 I was gripped to the television news as the Soviet Union and the USA came close to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and anti-nuclear sentiment as a result was high.
But one of the protestors caught my eye. She was dressed in a grey poncho with brown trousers tucked into flat leather boots. Her long blonde hair seemed to shake and twist about her as she bounced on the spot banging a tambourine, the peace sign painted on both cheeks with purple face paint. She was Hermione Starling, a local girl in her mid-twenties. I knew her very well, she used to babysit me when I was younger. She was also a trailblazer in that she was one of the first women from Carrington to go to university. But her time there had radicalized her, if you want to call it that, and she became an ardent pacifist and feminist. Cllr Maddox called her a troublemaking hippie.
And she was certainly causing trouble, harassing members of the Carrington town council as they entered the building for their monthly meeting. Shirley, Philip and I watched as a reporter from the local paper, Taj Chandarak, eagerly scribbled events in his notebook as Hermione and her friends started chanting, "Make love, not war!" We lingered too long, so Hermione saw us watching and swiftly broke ranks to speak with us.
"Hey Marie, great to see you!" she said brightly. "Will you sign our petition to stop our town from being overrun by the agents of the Cold War?"
"Come again?" Shirley blinked.
"The Americans are landing spy planes on the Herringford air strip, using it for a refuelling point to send covert missions into Soviet airspace. We're pressurising the council and local MP to intervene," she told us.
Shirley, Philip and I looked at each other doubtfully. The Herringford air strip was a tiny field in the middle of nowhere. Hardly the place you'd ever expect top secret military missions to be taking place. I voice my concerns saying, "You sure about that?"
"Yeah, Jessica got some good information on what was happening from Terrence and Lloyd. Hey guys over here!"
Three more broke ranks and crossed the road to us. One was Jessica, Hermione's university friend from London, who's dark hair was even longer than Hermione's, dressed in flowing floral print blue dress which reached the sandals on her feet, a grey cardigan around her shoulders, a multi-coloured band wrapped all the way around her head and hair. She was joined by two young men, both thin with short brown hair, one a good deal taller than the other. I was introduced to tall Terrence on the left, and short Lloyd on the right. I didn't like the look of them, there was something overtly smug about their expressions
"You getting us some new recruits?" Jessica asked in her spritely Londoner accent. "We could do with some for the protest at the airfield tomorrow."
"What do you hope to achieve going up there?" Shirley pondered.
"Just to get our point across, though Marie here will be busy chasing up some would be criminals I expect," Hermione replied in an affectionate manner, not a mocking one.
Then Terrence confirmed my suspicions of him being a moron when he said in a guttural voice, "Oh you aren't part of the pigs are you?"
"Oink oink oink," Lloyd added with an annoying grunt.
I felt Philip bristling again beside me, though this time it was more out of anger than out of annoyance. But Hermione knew his dad, and didn't share her fellow protestor's disdain for the authorities. She waved her hands back towards the council building and said, "Hey we'd best get back, Mayor Burton will be here soon. Great to see you Marie!" And with that she, Jessica, Terrence and Lloyd walked back to resume their pacifist chants. We lingered for only a moment, then moved off in the direction of the Youth Club.
Shirley gave a sniff and remarked, "I can't believe someone as nice as Hermione is hanging about with such a weird bunch." Philip said nothing, and had a frown on his face as Lloyd and Terrence's comments put him out.
I was a bit more sympathetic to Hermione. I knew that she was only doing it because she honestly felt she could make a difference to the world, which was admirable. But thinking of Lloyd and Terrence, I found myself worrying. I could only hope her trust in those men wasn't misplaced.
I didn't think that much about Hermione for the rest of the evening or throughout Saturday. I spent much of the day reading my latest mystery novel, before it was time to get ready for the disco. I'd arranged to meet Philip just outside his house, and I was going to rock his socks off.
I changed into my outfit, a peach roll neck jumper with long sleeves, underneath a brown dress with dungaree straps with the hem above my knees. I then put on the expensive brown tights that I'd saved up for, and then buckled my brown ankle strap pumps with a two inch block heel. I decided not to go for the beehive this evening. Instead I put a black headband to keep my fringe off my face, while the rest of my hair fell loosely behind my ears, where I brushed it vigorously until it was straight and smooth.
Philip's house was a ten minute ride away, so after promising my parents I would be back by eleven I unchained my bike from my front garden and set off. Glamorous as my attire was it wasn't well suited for biking, my progress hampered as my peddling legs hiked up my dress. But soon I was on Philip's road, and I dismounted my bike and waited a safe distance from his house, knowing he would be out soon.
But I'd picked a poor spot to wait, as I was on PC Merton's route home from his shift, and he introduced himself with a loud cough as he walked up the road, pushing his own bike with him. "I can assure you I'm not up to anything mysterious Marie," he told me.
Panicking, I blurted, "Oh er I'm not here to spy on you…I mean…I'm waiting for someone."
PC Merton nodded at me. "You going to the disco then? Philip's going as well…you're waiting for him aren't you?"
"Yeah. I mean, I was cycling past anyway, so I thought why not give him some company?"
PC Merton raised his eyebrow at me, analysing my attire and my location. "You've really gone out of your way to just be cycling past my house."
"Well it's such a beautiful evening!" I laughed nervously. Strange, how I could lie pretty convincingly when confronted with dangerous criminals, but not when confronted by my boyfriend's father.
PC Merton gave another nod, before saying, "Well he'll probably just be finishing his homework. You can come in and wait for him if you like."
"Sounds great," I replied without thinking. I trundled my bike behind PC Merton as we approached his terraced house with a tiny front garden. He unlocked his front door and I stepped into a white wallpapered hallway with patterned carpets on the floor and staircase. I was invited into the living room where their black and white television set was proudly standing in the corner. On it William Hartnell was busy dealing with a bunch of pesky Daleks, their cries of, "Exterminate," filling the air.
"I'll let Philip know you're here. Can I get you a cup of tea?" PC Merton asked me politely as I sank into the sofa.
"That would be great thanks," I replied, as much to get him out the room more than anything. As he retreated to the kitchen I groaned at myself. He had to be putting the pieces together now. I was terrified he would disapprove of me going out with his son, given all the trouble I'd caused him.
I looked around the room to take my mind off my anxiety. It wasn't the most lavish of living rooms, but it was the best PC Merton could afford on a policeman's salary. I watched a sequence of Daleks seeming to glide down the corridors, and shuddered at how alien they looked. Then I cast my eyes to a coffee table, on which were a number of papers showing pictures of known criminals, obviously PC Merton intended to spend the evening doing work at home.
But as I gazed at the faces on the paper I gave a double take, and I grabbed the top piece and held it up to my face. It was a list of known criminals suspected to be in the Carrington area. I recognised the faces of Terrence and Lloyd instantly. The breath in my body freezing I read the charges underneath their mugshots. Armed robbery, burglary and jewellery theft, among others.
I realised with a rising sense of dread that they weren't flower children at all. They were in fact a pair of calculating crooks. And it meant Hermione was in real danger.
Minutes later PC Merton returned with a steaming mug of tea. "Listen Marie, I hope you don't mind me asking…" he began.
But I'd already gone, leaving the wanted poster lying in the spot where I'd been sitting.
I pedalled as hard as I could, flying down the country lanes flanked by tall hedgerows. Mercifully the temperature was cooling as the sun dipped towards the horizon, and the trees offering some shade. It gave me the extra energy I needed to cycle as fast as possible in the direction of the Herringford airfield. It no longer exists, disused as it was a good few years ago, but back then it was a fifteen minute cycle away from Carrington.
I'd already cycled to the town centre, hoping to find Hermione still protesting outside the council offices. Only a placard lying in the gutter gave any indication as to their earlier protest. But then I'd remembered about their planned protest at the airfield. I also remembered the supposed intelligence about the American spy planes had come from two convicted criminals. Whatever their motives were for infiltrating that airfield, it wasn't peace on Earth.
I said several undignified words as my dress continued to hinder my cycling abilities. I'd have looked a sight to any passing motorist had there been any, dressed to nines in the middle of nowhere. But I had to help Hermione.
The hedgerows parted and I came across the wire fencing that flanked the air strip. I could see a couple of tiny concrete buildings next to a decent sized hanger, positioned beside a small tarmac runway. But on it was the largest plane I'd ever known to land here, enough to carry about twenty passengers. Its propellers were still rotating at a fast speed, indicating it had only just landed.
I looked down the road and gave a double take when I saw the green Volkswagen van parked on the grassy verge.
I leant my bike against the hedgerow and concealed it as best I could, before I began jogging towards the van, my heels clopping against the tarmac. I moved as fast as I could without drawing attention to myself. The first thing I saw was the fence at this point had been cut open, enough for a pair of men to easily duck underneath. I stared at the van, making a note of the licence plate so I could relay it to PC Merton later.
As I looked I heard a thump from inside, at which the vehicle rocked on the spot. My heart leapt into my mouth as I realised there was someone inside.
I hesitated, unsure what to do. Surely whoever was inside would have seen me, so why hadn't they come out? Perhaps they couldn't? These thoughts swirling through my head like a vortex I approached the back door, hesitated to catch my breath, then turned the handle and flung it up. I couldn't stifle my gasp at what I saw inside.
"MMMMRRRRRR. HHHHLLLPPP SSSS!" Hermione pleaded through the white rag pulled over her lips and tied behind her head over her long blonde hair. She was dressed in the same clothes as last night, though her poncho lay scrunched up behind her, revealing the green jumper she'd worn underneath. But now she was bound hand and foot, rope around her ankles, above her knees, about her waist and chest and securing her wrists behind her back. She was sitting against the wall of the van, and sat beside her was Jessica, again dressed like last night and again bound just like Hermione. The two young women jiggled where they sat, mewling at me through their gags. It was obvious the two men had used them to get close to the airfield, and had now stashed them out the way while they enacted their devious plot.
But before I could leap into the van and to their rescue, I was grabbed from behind. A strong arm pulled itself around my arms and waist while another clamped over my mouth. Even as I began crying out from behind the rough hand fixing my lips together I heard a voice yell, "Get the van started!"
I kicked and wriggled and thrashed, but the man was far too strong, and I was thrown in with Hermione and Jessica. The back door was lowered behind me, at which the ignition was turned. Seconds later the vehicle pulled away from the airfield, so that the only indication of our presence was the smell of petrol in the air, and my bike resting in a nearby hedgerow.
Fifteen minutes later the van trundled down a dirt track leading to a grey stone cottage, residing at the bottom of a valley between two hills covered in oak trees. It was a holiday cottage usually reserved for vacationers, but Lloyd and Terrence knew it was currently unoccupied. They parked up the van right by the front door, got out without saying a word and moved around to the back door.
They hauled Jessica out first. They'd untied her feet, but only to be frogmarched over to the cottage. She couldn't see where she was being taken due to the white rag pulled over her eyes, blindfolding her. She barely wriggled her bound arms as both men escorted her into the cottage. It took them about ten minutes to return, at which point they grabbed Hermione and pulled her into the open. Her arms bound, mouth gagged and blindfold applied she screamed furiously against the men to have tricked her, twisting her shoulder against their grip. But even she couldn't stop them from bundling her into the holiday home.
Then they returned a third time, and it was my turn. I grunted indignantly though the white over the mouth gag keeping my mouth thoroughly stuffed with wadding. I couldn't see a thing through the cloth they'd blindfolded me with. I could only hear the sound of birdsong, the smell of fresh grass, and the feel of a stone pathway as I scrabbled my feet trying to resist their pull. I twisted my shoulders against the ropes wound about them, flexing my wrists trying to free them from the ropes binding them palm to palm behind my back. But despite my efforts soon the outside air changed to that of a stale interior, as the amount of light filtering in the blindfold lessened. I knew I'd been taken inside.
I heard muffled moans as I was bundled from room to room. Then I was spun on the spot and made to sit down in a wooden chair, my hands positioned over the back. Before I could rise to my feet more rope being pulled about my waist and then over the tops of my legs, pinning me further into the chair. Once these knots were tied I felt my feet be pinned together, rope coiled about them fixing them together tightly. I remember inanely hoping my expensive nylons would not be ruined as the ends of these cords were tied around the crosspiece, which would prevent me from kicking out.
Chairtied twice in under a week. Even by my standards this was a new record.
My blindfold was lifted away, and I took in the sight of the white cottage walls with old books and maps filling bookcases. A dark wooden dining table was ahead of me, with three of its four chairs absent. I correctly surmised I was bound to one of them, and a glance to my right confirmed where the other two were. Being used to keep Hermione and Jessica tied in position, bound in their seats like me and blindfolds removed. Lengths of stringently cinched cord linked our chairs together at the back and legs, preventing us from scraping our chairs around to look for escape or help each other wriggle loose.
We hostages created a cacophony of angry moans and snarls as Terrence and Lloyd stood triumphantly over us. They didn't look to upset at having to adapt their plans to include three kidnapped women. "Guess we'd better let these girlies know what this is all about," Lloyd said in triumph.
Terrence then disappeared for a few moments, and when he came back he was holding three sacks slung over his shoulder. He eagerly dumped them on the floor at my feet, and peering at its contents I felt my insides jolt at the sight of more pound notes then I'd ever seen in my life.
"Ronnie Biggs might have become known through the Great Train Robbery, but we'll go down in history as the Great Plane Robbers!" Terrence announced to us.
"Yyyyynnnn wwwwnnntttt sssccccppp!" Hermione snarled, her bright blonde hair flicking all about her body as she tugged and pulled with everything she had.
Lloyd laughed at her defiant display. "What you gonna do, threaten me with flower power? God your stupid hippie talk nearly drove me round then bend. Knowing you would lead us to that plane transporting bank notes from Edinburgh to London is what kept me sane."
Terrence struck a match. At first I thought he was going to light a cigarette, but instead he lit a lone candle on the dining room table. It wasn't to improve the lighting; he had a much more sinister motive in mind. "But we can't let a pair of flower girls and a meddling snoop spoil our work, so 'fraid you'll have to be dealt with. You notice that nice big gas tank beside the cottage Lloyd?"
"Sure did mate," Lloyd confirmed. "I wonder what damage a gas explosion would do to this house?"
The room was filled with a moment of dreadful realisation on the part of me, Jessica and Hermione. Then we began screaming through our gags, bouncing in our chairs as we understood what these devious youths were going to do. Lloyd walked into the kitchen, where he turned on all the gas hobs. I stared at the candle on the table with wide eyes. I knew from chemistry what happened when gas came into contact with a naked flame.
"Pppplllsss dddnnnnttt dddd tthhhssss," Jessica cried, tears trickling down her pale cheeks, while beside her Hermione thrashed about in her chair with desperate vigour. I was struggling too, yet I couldn't take my eyes off the robbers as they collected their stash.
But they couldn't resist leaving us with one final taunt. "Bet this isn't the sort of explosion you were hoping to prevent, eh girls?" Terrence guffawed. And then with a casual wave, they abandoned us to our fate.
It was a pretty desperate situation for us alright. Tied up and abandoned in the middle of nowhere, facing two possible perils. We could hear the ominous hiss of the gas escaping from the kitchen, the candle flickering brightly. Even if the gas didn't ignite, we'd still suffocate in the tiny, sealed cottage. I realised the former option was the most likely; if only the candle flame was snuffed out then we might be able to wriggle loose before the gas overwhelmed us. But bound as I was to the other chairs and with my feet fixed to the crosspiece, I realised this wasn't going to be a realistic option.
Instead I wriggled and I wriggled hard. My numbing fingers picked at any knot they could find. They were tied tight but I felt like with a lot of effort I could slip my hands free eventually. The question was whether I would have enough time. All the while I gazed at the candle only feet away, frustrated at how I could do nothing to put it out. I jiggled my legs and bucked against the ropes tying me to the chair, but could do nothing to pull myself away.
I glanced at the side at Hermione and Jessica. The London girl looked terrified, whimpering as she desperately fought for freedom. Hermione meanwhile was struggling with everything she had, rocking her chair from side to side and thus tugging on my own seat. But she made little progress. Nothing we could do could break us free from this conjoined line of distress.
Then I smelt the unmistakable pungent tang of gas as it flew up my nostrils. It grew stronger and stronger, and seemed to steal the breath from my body. Every flicker of the flame had my stomach doing cartwheels, wondering if this was the moment it would ignite. I closed my eyes, still twisting my hands, hoping I would have time to wriggle free. It seemed our only hope; surely no-one would come to our rescue in the middle of nowhere.
And yet, as we heard the front door being flung open, that's exactly what happened.
"Marie, Marie!" I heard a wonderfully familiar voice cry.
"PPHHLLLLPPP. MMMMM HHHRRRR!" I cried as much as I could through the rag and gas.
They heard me, and in stormed Philip with the lapels of his jacket over his nose to shield him from the gas. Behind him PC Merton appeared, father and son teaming up to come to our rescue. PC Merton dashed into the kitchen to turn off the gas, while Philip ran to the dining table and blew out the candle.
I didn't even have time to sigh in relief, because suddenly Philip's arms were around my neck. "Ok Marie, you had me worried that time," he whispered into my ear. He then pulled away, grinning from ear to ear at me in a way which filled my stomach with butterflies. "Come on, let's get you out of here," he announced.
"You'll be pleased to hear we caught Lloyd and Terrence," PC Merton announced as the ambulance staff checked me over. "Good job remembering that licence plate."
"Thank you for rescuing me…again," I told him gratefully.
PC Merton merely nodded in the direction of Philip, who was at my side with his arm around my shoulder. "Thank him. He was the one who recognised the photos of Lloyd and Terrence, who remembered they were travelling to airfield, the one who found your bike and the one who saw the green Volkswagen van parked here from the top of Bluebell Hill. And I must say he was very anxious to find you. Now why on Earth would that be the case?"
Philip and I glanced at each other anxiously, before he looked at his dad and began by saying, "Listen, we've got something…"
But he was interrupted by PC Merton as he burst into fits of reassuring laughter. "For goodness sake you two I'm not an idiot. You don't have to hide anything from me. Besides, it'll be easier to keep an eye on Marie if she's spending more time with my son."
I was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief, happy that now mine and Philips relationship had his blessing. "Least you won't have to put a bell on me that way," I joked.
PC Merton gave another laugh, before saying, "I've got to go. Get home safely you two." And with that he returned to his police car.
But we weren't left alone for long. Suddenly Hermione appeared at my side, huddled under a towel given to her by the medics. "I owe you an apology Marie," she said suddenly.
I blinked at her in surprise. "What for?"
"For putting you in danger thanks to my own blind ignorance," she replied. "I was so caught up in this CND hysteria that I was blind to who Lloyd and Terrence really were. I should have been more cautious. I feel like a fool."
"You shouldn't feel that way," I told her earnestly. "I admire your beliefs and convictions, and you should never apologise for that."
Hermione smiled gratefully at me, "You are a sweet girl Marie, but I'm a bit jaded on the whole counter culture thing. Maybe I'll get into local politics, try and make a difference there!"
"And fifteen years later she was elected as chairwoman of Carrington Town Council, and oversaw one of the largest periods of development in this town's history."
Abigail's mouth was wide open as Marie finished her story. "As if my gran was such a hippie!" she gaped from the shock.
I too found it hard to believe that the strong, independent woman I'd always known as Abigail's grandmother had such a wild streak when younger. "She seemed like the last person to ever get involved that sort of thing," I mused.
My own grandma smiled at us, running a hand through her grey hair about the same length as my own, the wrinkles in her face kind due to how she always smiled. "Oh people get up to all sorts of surprising things when they're young, when they have the energy and fervour for such pursuits," she replied.
Abigail's amazement was tinged with sadness, and looking at the tabletop she sighed, "I really miss her you know."
"As do I," my grandma replied. "She was quite the remarkable woman who did a lot for Carrington. But it's good to see her spirit lives in you and your big sister."
Abigail gave a shake of bright blonde hair, the same shade as Hermione Starlings had been almost fifty years ago. "I'm nowhere near as brave as gran," she sighed.
"Nonsense!" my grandma told her kindly. "Sara told me all about your daring escape from Leavington Manor. That was quite remarkable. Not to mention everything else you have achieved. She would have been proud of you Abigail."
The tender moment was interrupted by Rachel slamming her laptop shut. "Another amazing story Marie," she exclaimed. "I can't wait to type it up for our blog. Your last story got an amazing reception."
"I'm amazed people on the internet would ever be interested in my stories," my grandma chortled. "Now any of you young ladies want another cup of coffee?"
I shook my head as I got to my feet. "We've got to go. Harriet's football team are playing and we promised to watch. If they win this they go into the quarter finals of the local championship!"
"Well don't let me keep you tiger," my grandma announced as she walked round the table to hug me. We all said our goodbyes and made for the front door. As I pulled my red hoodie off the coat hanger and pulled it on my grandma suddenly said, "I should get one of those myself, looks very comfy."
I gave a laugh. "I wouldn't recommend it. This hoodie hasn't brought me much luck."
"Oh by the way, your friend Harriet, she wouldn't happen to be Kenneth Palmer's granddaughter would she?"
I raised my eyebrow at her. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh Sara, that's a story for another day," Grandma Marie told me with a cheeky wink.