My fanfiction and other random ramblings

Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

DPDT – CH 04 – And we plan the same plans

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Chapter 4: And we plan the same plans

The Plan was a simple piece of paper stuck to the wardrobe door, with each main point spawning several smaller ones. Each was carefully bulleted or numbered in thick, colourful marker and main points were underscored.
“Mom makes plans like this for every family event. She is the organiser and keeps everyone to their deadlines. Only she makes it on the computer, so she can add points when she wants, and she sends e-mails with reminders to everyone.”


Rose nodded slowly.
“Dad uses stuff like this to prepare for our trips, or when I’m training before a contest – he plans my exercise and preparation for weeks before. I used to think it was stupid because I had to spend all that time on doing unnecessary stuff long before the competition was supposed to start, but then I started getting much better…”
“Competition?”
She looked at her sister in surprise for a moment.
“Horse riding.”
Mina sat on her bed with a groan.
“Lord. Horses.”
“What? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of them!”
Mina cringed silently.
“Can’t you, like, pretend?” Rose finally asked, irritated just a bit.
“For two months? With big, smelly, snorting and stomping animals?”
“They’re not that bad! And Star is the best little mare I’ve ever seen!”
Mina groaned.
“I just hope there is no contest for me to show in in the fall.”
“Yep, you’re lucky here. You’ll just have to ride her every day, to make sure she doesn’t start growing fat.”
“Argh.”
“You just have to deal with one horse” Rose shrugged. “I’ll have to deal with the London underground.”

#

The Plan had three main headers
FAMILY
SCHOOL
ORIENTATION

Under Family, girls listed
* names
* faces
* who likes who

And that was quite enough to keep them occupied for the first week.

“Grandma doesn’t like mom, or me” Mina explained, scratching her nose and pointing to the faces on the photo she found from Jane’s birthday picnic. “Grandpa actually loves Mom the best, because she plays chess with him and reads all the same books. He is a retired engineer and Mom says he was the one who made everyone stop nagging her when she wanted to get a degree in programming. Because grandma said it was not a proper feminine thing to do. So grandma always touts how aunt Jane studied child psychology and that it is the proper thing to do.”
Rose nodded, making small notes on the thick notepad.
“And what about the other aunts?”
“This one, here. Mary is the third, she’s two years younger than Mom. She is a historian, writes descriptions of old churches and little chapels and stuff like this. Show her a ceiling painted with angels and she can spend a day analysing the colours used, the type of gilding, the size of the brush and even if the painter was standing or maybe lay on his back. It doesn’t sound fascinating when I say it, but she can make it like a story of what the painter’s life used to be in various times. Really cool stuff, she helped me with some fab school projects.”
“Next?”
“Here, Kitty. Catherine, but Mom hates… ah!” Mina’s face brightened. “That’s why!”
Rose frowned.
“You mean we have two aunts named Catherine?”
“Yep, but only one is terrible. Aunt Kitty is fun. She works at some office, but loves building stuff – like, mechanical things. Her husband – uncle Ted – jokes that one day he will buy an auto repair shop just so that aunt Kitty can get greasy up to her elbows without feeling guilty and having to wash it off before work. She loves to ride this enormous bike – and that’s how she met uncle Ted – his bike broke down in the middle of nowhere and she helped him to get it started again.”
Rose blinked.
“A bike? Like, a motorbike?”
“Duh. Sure, a motorbike. She helped him fix the engine – clear the flues or whatever it was. He was supposed to go camping with some mates but ended up chasing her for some fifty kilometers, because she dropped her documents when she was done with his bike. And she thought he was a crazy biker murderer and that he was trying to catch her. And because she went over the speed limit, the police pulled her over and asked for documents. She didn’t have any…”
“Of course.”
“And there comes uncle Ted, ‘all in shiny leather armour’ as she says, and hands them her wallet, saying something like ‘You forgot your papers again, love’ and she couldn’t even hit him because it was in front of a traffic policeman. Once the police ticketed them – both of them – he apologised for frightening her and asked her out to a dinner.”
“That’s crazy.”
“That’s what grandma says. She still doesn’t trust uncle Ted, but Mom thinks he’s great for aunt Kitty. And he promised he would teach me to ride, but aunt Kitty hit him with a newspaper and said that if anyone is teaching her nieces to ride, it will be her.”
Rose’s eyes widened.
“Aunt Catherine would have a kitten if she saw me on a motorbike.”
Mina snorted.
“We’ll have to wait three more years anyway.”
Rose sighed dreamily but quickly shook herself out of it.
“Ok, so that’s aunt Kitty, number four. And five is… Lydia?”
“Aunt Lydia, yes. She’s four years younger than Mom and she has Adele. Adele is just a bit younger than us, and we used to play together a lot when aunt Lydia dropped her at Grandma’s, but something happened and aunt Lydia doesn’t like her playing with me anymore. I think it may be because of our Dad, because every time she looks at me she says something bad about the way I look, like my hair, or my eye colour. Which, looking at the photo you’ve shown me, is what we got from Dad.”
“Everyone hates him?” Rose said morosely.
“Except for aunt Jane and uncle Charlie, I’m afraid, yes.”
“I can’t promise I will be nice to whoever tries trash-talk him.”
“Well, I can’t promise I won’t get into aunt Catherine’s face if she says stuff about Mom.”
“Deal.”
“Deal.”
“So, what about aunt Lydia’s husband? Boyfriend?”
“None. I’ve never even seen Adele’s dad. I only know that his name starts with ‘G’, because I once saw a postcard with a lot of loves and kisses and it was sent before Adele was born, so I kind of guessed it must have been him.”
Rose chewed a cookie slowly.
“That all sounds very complicated” she said at last. “OK, hit me. Who next?”

#

“I hope I won’t get lost in the gardens” Mina sighed, looking at the photo of Pemberley house. “Because, really, it looks like it needs its own satellite system to navigate there.”
“Wouldn’t help” Rose shrugged. “Dad asked Google and they de-listed our internal alleys and garden paths. You’d basically see a lot of ‘green area’.”
“Very promising.”
“Well, at least the house is so big you’ll see it from anywhere on the grounds.”
Mina blinked and rubbed her eyes.
“OK, so. Floorplan test. Doors in the middle of the house. On the right, the great hall, then the staircase. To the back, the library, then the drawing room and the music room. On the left, the master’s study – and Dad doesn’t use it anymore, due to it being too stuffy, so he keeps most house records there, and then the mistress’ study, same. Then there are the servants’ stairs.”
“Very well. The library mostly contains first editions and other stuff that can barely stay together, so the rule is ‘look, don’t touch’. The normal, readable stuff is upstairs in my room and in Dad’s study. So, what’s in the basement?”
“The kitchens and the servants’ quarters” Mina answered promptly. “The rooms are not used anymore, as they were terribly inconvenient and way too cold and damp, so all the house and ground employees live in a new building on the grounds. The rooms are now storage space and the kitchen has been vastly updated since the old times, adding electricity and other stuff that the building commission allowed, but the museum guys didn’t, and they were very unhappy once it was redone.”
“Yep. Out great-grand-father wrote them that he expects to live in this house until he dies and he intends to do this with all possible comforts, including the comfort of his cook, who wishes to have all modern amenities, and not be stuck with a wood stove.”
“Good for him. Nice that he cared for the staff’s comfort.”
“He cared for his dinners and suppers, Dad says” Rose corrected. “He knew perfectly well that unhappy cook makes unhappy meals.”
“Still, the outcome counts. He got her a better working space, instead of just demanding stuff to be done properly without upgrading the hardware. I’m sure there were many people who wouldn’t even think about how the employees get things done.”
“That for sure. Aunt Catherine, for example. She used to complain of drafts in her rooms and berating the students who were hired to clean until Dad pointed out that she can either have her room aired and fresh, or stuffy and draft-free. Because what she called ‘drafts’ was actually fresh air moving when they were airing the unused rooms next to hers. She got very angry and told him proper servants would have known how to air a room and not make it drafty at the same time.”
Mina blinked, slowly.
“Is she for real?”
Rose rolled her eyes.
“Unfortunately, very much so.”
“And she called them ‘servants’, like, to their faces?”
“Yes, she did. They weren’t happy.”
“And what did Dad do?”
“He told her to stop bothering the poor girls and to make a choice – either they clean her room and she stays quiet or they will skip her and aunt Anne’s rooms, but the two of them will have to clean after themselves. She was quick to pick the first option.”
“Poor students. They would have been happier with the second one, I suppose.”
“Sure. There was enough to do in the whole house anyway. But Dad paid them enough to make sure they didn’t just quit when she became more annoying, Mrs Reynolds said.”
“Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper?”
“And cook, and aunt Georgiana’s babysitter, long time ago.”
“At least you won’t have to learn all the staff names. It’s just me and Mom at the flat and grandma has just one lady who helps with cleaning after parties, a kid next door who mows the grass and a part-time gardener who only works in spring and summer.”
“But I will have to learn all the little cousins.”
“True. And it may be harder to fool kids than grownups, too.”

#

“Schoolmates will be a challenge. I have my form picture here, so we can print it in the computer room and I’ll sign them all and mark who is who. However, the important one is Annie, here. She is an annoying pest and she will try to get on your nerves. Just avoid her, or she will make your life hell.”
“Annie, avoid. OK.”
“Also, don’t try it with any of the guys, please. One, they are all at the grabby stage. Two, I’d rather not be pressed to follow through later.”
“No problem, but same to you.”
“Sure. I’ll be spending all my time adoring the most important man in my life” Mina fluttered her eyelashes and smiled sweetly.
“Dear Lord, stop that” Rose choked on her cookie. “You look like some of my classmates when Dad picks me up from school. Half of my form salivates – and some of the teachers, too. Three tried to get me to set them up on dates with him.”
Mina sat for a moment, looking at her sister with round eyes.
“I’m not sure if it’s better or worse at my school” she uttered finally. “Mothers from my class basically either hate Mom or look down at her. You know. The only unmarried mother in the whole year.”
“Statistically impossible” Rose bit into another cookie. “How many kids?”
“No idea…”
“Because in an average class in normal society there should be at least two kids from partial families. If not orphaned, then parents divorced or otherwise split.”
“Well, there are some divorced parents, but at least everyone knows their both parents” Mina shrugged and started playing with the blanket edge. “And I…”
“Well, at least Dad doesn’t get shamed for having me alone” Rose licked her fingers to clean them of all crumbs. “But if I had a quid for every time I’ve heard kids snickering that my mother must have hated me, and that’s why she left me…”
The moment Rose’s eyes filled with tears, her sister was already hugging the breath out of her.
“I’m sure she loved you. She must have an explanation to all this.”
“I’m planning to ask her” Rose mumbled quietly. “Because…”
“We have to get to the bottom of this. She is perfectly lovely, and if you say Dad is a nice guy, too, then something very weird must have happened.”
“I wonder what he did to make her leave and take you away.”
“Actually, it might have been Dad that had left her” Mina pointed out suddenly. “We don’t know where they were living when…”
Rose nodded reluctantly.
“Maybe they were moving? Because it seems my side knows Mom, and your side knows Dad, which means they must have met ‘the other side’ at least once. If grandma criticises you for being too similar to him, she must have spent enough time to get to know him. And aunt Catherine…”
“Which means that we don’t know where they lived, but definitely we know they moved between London and Lambton.”
“At least visited the ‘other’ place for long enough to leave a lasting impression. I wonder when it was, actually. When they started, when – whichever it was that left, left.”
“We’ll have to make a proper investigation. Like, point one, check our birth certificates. There is always a place of birth written there. At least we’ll know where they were living at the time.”
Rose chewed on her thumb for a moment.
“I think it was Mom that left Dad, and not the other way round” she said finally. “Because Dad once said he would never imagine living anywhere but in Derbyshire. And we do have a house there and all that stuff. And in London, you two live in a flat, which is, you know. Temporary.”
Mina nodded slowly.
“And we can google for Mom’s master thesis” she said softly. “Because she didn’t to it in London, that much I know. So if she did it in Derbyshire…”
“And it was sometime when we were born…”
“Then we’ll know where they lived, for sure.”
“I wonder what Dad did to piss off the other half of the family if they lived that far away.”
“They had to spend some time in London, definitely. I can’t imagine my whole family travelling north to visit” Mina suddenly bit her lip in thought.
“What? You asleep?”
“I… Wait a minute” she shook herself awake. “Aunt Jane’s wedding! That’s why there are no photos!”
Rose frowned, but Mina explained immediately, raking her hair with all fingers, as enlightenment hit her suddenly.
“They were married like a year before we were born. There are no photos of their wedding, nowhere in the house. Even at grandma’s. Only two of just their faces. But usually people have a ton of photos, even special albums, and they make videos, and…”
“So our parents were together at that wedding.”
“I’d say so. Even better, if Dad is uncle Charles’ best friend, and Mom and aunt Jane are the closest sisters…”
“They were the bridesmaid and the best man” Mina concluded. “And that’s why all the shots from the church and from the reception would include them.”
“So the whole family is hiding the photos from you.”
“Maybe that was the time when he managed to annoy them that much? Because if they were organising the wedding and he was the best man, he would have been there all the time to help and to keep uncle Charles calm and so on.”
“And with everyone already nervous about the wedding…”
“I’d say it wouldn’t take long for grandma to get mad at anyone who opposed her, and from what you’re saying, Dad isn’t quite like uncle Charles when it comes to talking to people.”
“The only person he allows to boss him is Aunt Catherine, actually.”
“He must have done something that made grandma hate him – and us, now.”
They stretched on Mina’s bed, side by side, pulling a blanket over their legs.
“What a mess” Rose sighed.
“I wonder what they will do when they have to meet to exchange us.”
“I guess kissing and making up won’t be on agenda.”
Mina licked her lips and worried the lower one with her teeth for a moment.
“Maybe we could make them make up.”
“Dad is like the most stubborn guy I’ve met. I mean, whenever he argues with uncle Richard, he always wins. Always.”
“Maybe he’s always right?”
“That’s what I told uncle Richard and he looked at me funny and said he knows about one effing mistake my Dad made and it’s enough for uncle to think about Dad as an idiot. It wasn’t ‘effing’ of course, but Dad expects me not to use the ‘f’ word too often.”
“Not that I’m a betting girl, but I would bet that it has something to do with Mom.”

#

“I just hope we can get them to let us meet later on.”
“We’ll have our phones, you know.”
“That won’t be enough.”
“If they don’t let us meet, phones are better than nothing.”
“We have a class trip to London planned in November.”
Mina’s eyes widened.
“Let me know when – I’ll see if I could sneak out, at least for the afternoon!”
“We could freak out my classmates.”
“We could freak out anyone. Especially if you let me know what you’d be wearing. We could pick similar outfits and mess with everyone out there.”
“And since you’ll be already after spending two months with them, you will know everyone, so it will be even better!”

#

She pinned the pattern to the big corkboard, aligning the partial printouts with each other and stepped away to see the whole. She chose two coloursets – one in floral yellows and another in geometric greens. She had enough pieces for both items, but still missed a few darker accents in the green set. Ordering them online was much less fun than buying in an actual fabric store, but there wasn’t enough time. If she was to finish before Mina came home at the end of August, she had to hurry.
The oven beeped.
It was three o’clock in the morning and Elizabeth felt more alive than during the day. London was stifling and stinky that summer and she vastly preferred sleeping during the day and working during the night.
Sometimes the modern construction didn’t sound all that attractive and she felt a wave of nostalgia for the good, proper country mansion with two-foot-thick walls, dim rooms and cool stone floors. It would have been much more comfortable to spend summer in…
She stomped on the thought with vigour.

#

ORIENTATION
Mina underlined it a few times in thick marker.
“You will have to learn the basics of big city navigation. I suppose Dad never took you to London – and I kind of can guess why – but it means you’ll have to memorise the underground lines now, at least the ones that are most important to us – from our place to the school, from school to the museums, to aunt Jane’s and to grandma. At least to grandma it’s a bus, not underground. Let’s start with Oyster card…”
Rose nodded, her eyes growing with every explanation of the names, colours and variations of the underground lines that Mina pulled up on her tablet.
“I will need some help with this” she said morosely. “I had no idea this would be that complicated. I’ve heard jokes about that stuff, but… how can one line be still called one line when it goes to six different places?”
Mina huffed and closed her eyes.
“The main part of the line stays the same, it’s just that it forks at the ends. You have to take the Northern and pay attention…”

#

“There is a bus that goes from school, all across the town and out to the villages and bigger houses. You have to get off it by the church in Kympton and then walk ten minutes to the house. The morning will be easier, as Dad always takes me to school on his way to the office, but in the afternoon you have to manage yourself unless someone is in town and can pick you up. That would be either Dad on Fridays, when he tries to finish early, or Mrs Reynolds when she goes shopping – but then you’ll be expected to spend time with her picking groceries, or aunt Georgi if she picks up the post, and she will tell you in the morning.”
“Fine. And how will I know the right church?” Mina rubbed the bridge of her nose. “At least in London, all the stops are being read aloud, and you won’t have to guess.”
“It’s big, red and half of the bus will be leaving at that point. I will mark the place on my Google Maps so you can check it on the bus and you will know when to be ready to go. From the church, it’s just a straight road up to the house, through the grounds – not the front entrance, because that is a two-mile drive, but from the side. You can still enter by the main door, obviously, but the better way is to go by the kitchen entrance” she pointed to the side of the house schematic “and leave all the outside stuff in the cloakroom. If it gets rainy, everyone goes through there, except for aunt Catherine, who insists on always using the main door and being waited on by someone from the staff.”
“She definitely is annoying.”
“Tell me about it. You will just have to survive two months, I’ve had my whole life with her.”
Mina pressed her sister’s shoulder briefly.
“Wait till you meet grandma. Then we can talk.”

#

“The school has an old gym, a new gym, a stadium and a few additional courts – tennis, volleyball, whatever. Normally P.E. starts in the gym and then we are divided into groups to do various stuff, or we run laps around the whole area. For swimming, we have separate outings, once every two weeks, and we go by the bus to the municipal pool. There will be a schedule given at the beginning, so you just have to remember to pack the swimsuit, towel and flipflops.”
“Ok, and for gym?”
“Just shorts and a t-shirt, there should be a bunch in my wardrobe. School logo on the front and everything. Standard uniform issue. Lockers suck, because the door doesn’t close properly, but there is always one girl who guards them, so she will make sure everyone can change safely. Each week someone else, of course. Anyway, it’s not like the guys will run in, because Coach Warbert would have their heads for it, but they ‘can’t help if the door is open’, you know.”
“Sometimes an all-girl school sounds a little more attractive.”
They both laughed into their soup.
The quiet, out-of-the-way table that was appointed as theirs was actually a blessing. They could safely exchange even more points of their everyday life than they would normally be able to put in their rather busy schedule.
“Ah, food! We didn’t discuss that yet. Mrs Reynolds cooks, and the general idea is that what she cooks, we eat. Except for aunt Anne, who complains about everything that contains too much saturated fat or whatever the current fad is and then anyway eats cookies for the whole day and is always very surprised she can’t eat supper later. You can skip some disgusting stuff, like Brussel sprouts, if you eat enough of everything else – so pick another vegetable and say you just want a lot of that, and Dad won’t mind. There is always something to choose from. And there is always something to eat left in the kitchen, so if you’re late for whatever reason, like the bus going slower, or a school outing, you can take whatever is in the fridge and microwave it. And there is always something sweet unless Dad gets to it first.”
“Anything else? I mean, I saw you’ve like never touched anything in the kitchen, so I’m guessing you can’t do much…”
Rose rolled her eyes.
“I’m pretty much abysmal. Dad’s skills are up to frying an egg or making some toast, but not much more. Aunt Georgi can cook, actually, because she used to be a girl scout. But she always says it’s a skill she’d much rather not be forced to use on daily basis, and she doesn’t feel proficient enough to make others eat whatever she makes.”
“OOkk” Mina rubbed her face. “That has to change. Mom actually started teaching me stuff last year, but we’ve had home ed for two years now, so she expects me to be able to feed myself in a reasonable way. Can you make sandwiches without cutting yourself bloody?”
“I suppose so.”
“Heat up milk for cocoa?”
“No problem.”
“Remember to take it out before it escapes the cup?”
“I think I can manage.”
“Fry scrambled eggs?”
Rose grimaced.
“Not happy with having to crack them open. I don’t like the way raw eggs look inside.”
“Squeamish?”
“It’s just gross.”
“OK, moving on. Chopping onions? Peeling carrots? Cooking pasta?”
“Yes, yes if there is a proper peeler, no.”
“As long as it’s warm you can always say you didn’t want a cooked supper or something. And eat yoghurt or sandwiches. But you’ll have to catch up by mid-October, when it goes colder.”
“I’ll try, but I really don’t like using a gas stove. I’m always afraid there will be something stuck in the pipes and we’ll blow up at the smallest provocation. The ones we used during home ed looked like they had been there when our grandma went to that school.”
“Geez, living in the countryside must have affected your brain. It’s the twenty-first century and there are options. We don’t have an actual gas stove at the house, it’s fully electric. I’ve cooked my first soup on it. No matches, no open flame, no risks.”
“I’ll try to convince Dad to maybe switch one of the stoves in the kitchen to electric then” Rose sighed. “It would be good to have a chance to, maybe, do stuff for myself.”
“And it’s much more ecological” Mina added. “OK, next. Washing machine!”

#

“Mucking out the stall is normally done by one of the grooms, but if you manage to annoy Dad enough, you will get stable chores. First, you have to take out all the dirty stuff…”

#

“Water the herbs, once a day, in the early morning. They droop immediately if you forget.”

#

“My bike is in the shed, next to the stable. You can use it on the property, but not on the public road, Dad gets really antsy if I do that.”

#

“We don’t have an electric dryer, so all the clothes have to be put either on the balcony, on the lines, or inside, on the fold-out dryer.”
“And then taken down, folded…”
“Yep. My stuff to my room, Mom’s stuff on her bed, linens to the hall cupboard and kitchen stuff to the big drawer under the oven.”

#

“First weekend after school starts, Dad will take me – you – for a trip. No idea what that will be, it’s always a surprise. Might be hiking, might be an astronomical observatory, might be a road trip to some weird monument. Last year we went to Devon to see the traditional dairies and old workshops in the area. Just because there was a mention of them in my history textbook and Dad decided I should see some of that stuff with my own eyes.”

#

“Mom does most of the shopping, but if she forgets something, or if she has to work through the whole afternoon, she will give you money. The Sainsbury is just around the corner, on the left from the house. It has everything you’d need. We don’t have any specific preferred brand, except for bread, tea and Mom’s favourite crackers, but these she buys at M&S. Bread is this one” Mina tapped on her tablet “and tea is either M&S – and that one Mom will buy herself – or Twinings. Earl Grey or English Breakfast. Sometimes she drinks green, but that one she buys in a tea shop somewhere near Camden Town.”

#

“The bathroom is your own, and you should clean it. It’s theoretically shared with the room on the other side, but nobody uses it. So you have your own. I think long ago it used to be a dressing room, or something. There is a mop and there should be some wipes there, you just need to make sure all is dry when you’re done. Tiling is OK, but Dad says the walls can’t cope with that much moisture and if we don’t take care, the house will collapse on our heads one day.”

#

“And for my birthday, I always bake cookies for my whole class. With Mom, so don’t worry, she will help you. Tell her you want to try something completely new and she won’t expect you to do it perfectly at first attempt. Pick something that can be prepared in the food processor – chocolate chip cookies should do. I was picking them for the next time. You just put stuff in the bowl in the correct order and make sure it’s blended well. Ask Mom to help you chop the chocolate or buy the ready-made chocolate chips.”

#

“My bigger headphones are in the drawer of my desk, next to the computer. Earbuds I’ll give you when we pack so that we don’t lose them.”
“My charger and the whole set of cables are in the box below my table, next to the art supplies crate. There is a duplicate cable for everything, from my old phone to the mp3 player.”

#

“Password to my school account, to my e-mail and PINs for my phone and ATM card.”
“You have an ATM card?”
“You have a facebook account.”
An ATM card?!
“Shh. Dad said I should have one, just in case I get stuck somewhere and don’t have money to get back. I can withdraw fifty pounds a week, and if I hit the limit, it will be flagged as an emergency and Dad will get a notification where I was.”
“So if something weird happens, I could actually alert him by withdrawing the money?”
“Kind of, I suppose.”
“OK, so PIN for my phone, the unblock shape is like this. Password for the school account, my Gmail and my facebook. Don’t accept any new friends. I added everyone I cared for and really don’t want to get spammed with random crap. The PIN to the main door is here, and if you forget, the doorman will let you in, but you’ll have to wait for him a bit. Tablet has the same unblock shape as the phone. Also, don’t log any game in to Facebook. I don’t feel the need to share my results, and Mom would have my head – or yours – if I let some crappy company get my private data.”

#

“Locker combinations change every year, so you will get yours on the first day.”
“Same for you.”
“At least that will be new for everyone.”

#

“The ballet lessons” Mina asked uncertainly. “Do you still take them?”
Rose blinked.
“No, no. Thankfully, no. I asked Dad to stop it two years ago. It was too much, too late in the afternoon and the girls were so catty I frankly hated going there. The exercise itself was fine and if I could get individual lessons, or in some other group, I’d be OK. But there is no other club in Lambton, so…” she shrugged. “You?”
“No, we used to do dance classes, but the teacher got into trouble with some mothers when she allowed girls to dance in pairs to practice waltz. Mom said she just can’t understand people sometimes and had uncle Charles give me dancing lessons for a few months.”
“I can waltz, but only slowly” Rose admitted. “But I also learned rumba and samba last year, Dad signed me up for summer lessons.”
“I can do both slow and Viennese” Mina bit into a cookie. “And they taught us Polonaise and Laendler.”
“And what? I know what Polonaise is, but Laendler?”
“Austrian folk dance. Ever seen Sounds of Music?”
Rose sat back for a moment.
“Aaah! That’s what Maria is dancing with the Captain!”
“Yep. So we did this. No modern dances, though.”
“As long as there is no school dance, you’ll be fine.”
“Don’t even start.”

#

“Volleyball.”
“Basketball.”
“Crap.”
“‘A lot can change during the summer, Miss. I’d like to try volleyball this year.‘”
“I hope it works.”
“Well, and I hope we will manage to switch stuff back in November, once we are back in our own schools. I don’t relish the idea of being stuck in volleyball club for the rest of the year.”

#

“There are a lot of similarities between Italian and French, that saves us. Otherwise, we fail all tests and we excel at homework assignments. It shouldn’t be that hard to undo the damage in November.”
“The grammar references are all on the shelf above my desk, you will see them. Verb conjugation is in the thin red one, Bescherelle. If your Italian is on the same level as my French, you should be able to pick the idea up.”
“Mine are all on the bookshelf, green cover. Full grammar reference, with conjugation, articles and stuff. And the dictionaries.”

#

“Mom loves Terry Pratchett.”
“Dad says fantasy is an escape from real world. But he buys me Discworld, too.”
“Tolkien?”
“Hardy?”
“Gaiman?”
“Yes. Rowling?”
“Yes, but rolling her eyes.”
“Same.”
“Andrew Norton?”
“Meh. McCaffrey?”
“Cool. Montgomery?”
“Yep. Emily or Anne?”
“Pat.”
“Emily.”
“Dumas?”
“Too thick. But OK.”
“Verne?”
“Eighty Days.”
“Journey to the Centre of Earth.”
“Thackeray?”
“Definitely. Lindgren?”
“Who?”
“Astrid Lindgren. ‘Bullerby Children’, you know?”
“Never heard of them.”
“You have some catching up to do.”
“Edith Nesbit?”
“Yep.”
“‘Borrowers’?”
“Not so much. ‘Mary Poppins’?”
“Very much. Twain?”
“Not really. Burnett?”
“‘Little Princess’ or ‘Secret Garden’?”
“‘Little Princess’, Mary annoys me too much.”
“If we manage to make them let us meet, we can try to make a trip to Yorkshire. I went with Dad last year and it was just… perfect.”
Mina sighed.
“Let’s hope we can get this to work during this year. I really don’t want to…”
“I know.”

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