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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 15 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 04:08 
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Elle wrote:
Loved it!


Me too! A delight!


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 15 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 07:18 
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Set immediately after Mary-Lou

26 December 195-

Dear Gran

It feels a bit funny to be writing to a dead person – but then it still feels very funny that you’re not here. Well, not funny exactly, but you know what I mean. In fact it’s sometimes unbearably sad.

I thought when I went back to school last term that it’d be strange to be at home for Christmas without you here, and it is. Oh, everyone has tried to make it a happy time, and I know you wouldn’t have wanted anyone to mope, but oh Gran, I am missing you.

Thinking about it, I suppose you were really like another parent for me. I hardly remember Father – your son, of course – and he died when I hadn’t got to know him, really, even through all those smashing stories that you and Mother told me about him. And then I was very young when he did die (I know you probably think I am still very young but actually, I feel that I’ve grown up quite a lot, especially this term – I’m even wearing my hair in one tail instead of two!).

It’s been a difficult term in a lot of ways. We had a new girl, Jessica, who was a bit of a problem. Auntie Joey turned me on to her, rather, and asked me to butt in and try to help. It turned out that she (Jessica) was really jealous and miserable because her mother had married again, and she had a sister-by-marriage. It was odd, Gran, because when she found out about young Verity, she asked if I didn’t mind sharing my mother with her. Of course I said I didn’t – and even called on some of your words of wisdom about how if your love is worth anything, it’s big enough to share with others.

But I have to admit I did have a few niggling thoughts about it afterwards. It was just Mother, and you, and me, for so many years; then it was Commander Carey and Verity too. Now, of course, it’s just the four of us, not that I’m sure it’s really properly an “us” yet. I know Mother loves me, of course, and I do love Verity, but it’s not really the same – although I’m thrilled that Mother is happy.

Throughout it all, during the “transition”, if you like, it was such a help to me to have you there, to know that you and I belonged, really belonged. It sounds selfish, but I knew I’d always come first with you, and somehow it really matters to feel you come first with someone (no matter what I said to Jessica!)

Auntie Joey is going to have another baby, by the way; that’s really how she persuaded me to have a go with Jessica, because she was going to be “busy”. I wonder if it will be these quads she’s always threatening (and I think I know what you’d have thought about that, although you would never actually say it out loud!)

Oh Gran, there were so many times that I thought about you last term. There were the serious times (I was glad you weren’t there to be worried when I had an accident in the snow – no, no lasting damage, and yes, I suppose it was because I was butting in again!) but also the less serious. For example, we had a “great famine” last term (not really, we just had to do without meat and other fresh things for a few days because of the weather) and I thinking of how you’d have dealt with any complaining!

And then there were the odd times when something reminded of you and I couldn’t help but feel the tears choking in my throat (don’t worry, I never allowed them to reach my eyes, at least, never in front of anyone else). It sounds silly but I once had to go to the splasheries for a glass of water because I was offered an apple and remembered your rules about never eating more than three at once. And I had to move away quite quickly one day when someone was talking about umbrellas, and I remembered how you’d threatened to make me replace mine out of my own pocket money if I lost yet another one.

I wish I could ask you, Gran, if this feeling will ever get any better? Will I stop missing you so much: it’s there every day, even Christmas Day. Maybe especially Christmas Day.

In a way I’m glad you can’t read this letter as I know you’d soon tell me to buck myself up and stop being a silly moke (although maybe you wouldn’t have said “moke”). But I get the feeling that deep down you’d understand; maybe that’s partly why I’m so sad that you’re gone.

Your loving granddaughter, Mary-Lou

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 09:04 
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*Sniffle* - that's so sweet. The first Christmas without a loved one is so hard.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 10:54 
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Oh poor Mary Lou. For once I am sad for her, so very well done indeed Robin! Thank you.....

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 11:34 
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That was lovely, so nice to see Mary-Lou's inner thoughts.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 13:04 
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That was lovely and so true to life - it's often the little things that catch us unawares and think of those we've lost - as with Mary-Lou and the apples. Thank you.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 14:06 
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Just caught up wit the last three and loved them all. Rosalie feeling wanted, the wonderful mice and Mary Lou able to express her deepest feelings to the spirit of the grandmother who loved her.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 16:46 
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Really nice to see Mary Lou in this reflective mood, such a contrast to her usual attitude to things. Her feelings of loss are so heartfeltly expressed, but at the same time, so natural. Thanks, Robin.

Edited because the automatic word replacement on here made a nonsense out of my 'heartfeltly'.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 16 Dec 2015, 23:35 
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Oh *poor* Mary-Lou....

Loving all the drabbles, by the way; not commenting on them individually or I'd be here all night, but thank you to all the Robins for their efforts.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 08:02 
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Thank you Robin, a very poignant letter.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 16 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 08:31 
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Christmas with the Rutherfords

(set after New Mistress, and after Alex's recovery)


For a schoolgirl used to the tranquillity of the Oberland, the bustle of King’s Cross rail station on a Friday afternoon came as something of a shock. But, destined to be one of the great concert pianists, travel was something Nina Rutherford would no doubt become accustomed to.

Nina stood in a small group of girls of various ages, all trim and trig in gentian blue uniforms, set off by berets embroidered with the maroon and silver badge of the Chalet School. The school was based in Switzerland but run along English lines, with pupils attending from all over Europe. Autumn term had recently ended and the girls were on their way home for Christmas. Nina had travelled as far as Paris with her great friends Vi Lucy, Hilary Bennet, Leslie Malcolm and Barbara Chester, but she was with now with her cousins Alison, Alex and Anthea, part of a relatively small group of pupils from the North of England.

The girls were accompanied by an escort Mistress, who at this moment announced their train was boarding and to hurry along without delay. The locomotive was resplendent in its new black British Railways livery, and the girls clambered aboard while the mistress ensured a porter loaded their baggage.

Without delay, but with a great deal of smoke, the train pulled away from the platform and before long the sprawling London suburbs were behind them as they steamed towards Stevenage. After so long in the Alps, the landscape seemed rather flat, but Nina found it interesting none the less. She was reading a poetry book by Robert Herrick but between poems, she would look at the passing scenery and consider the words she’d read. Whilst music was her life, Nina could see the beauty in well-crafted words too. In this fashion, the afternoon passed pleasantly and fairly quickly.

As the train approached Durham City, large flakes of snow began to fall gently and, before long, the track-side was covered with a blanket of white. They crossed the viaduct into Durham station and Nina gasped at the picturesque scene of the magnificent Norman cathedral. The cathedral stands atop a hill beside Durham Castle, home to University College. At that moment they were both under snow with more adding to it by the minute.

The train was soon under way again and only a few minutes later they crossed the King Edward VII Bridge and into Newcastle Central Station. Although only late afternoon, it was already dark, and a cold freezing fog filled the air, creating halos around the station lights. A large man, well-wrapped against the cold in scarf and overcoat was waiting on the platform and was easily recognised as the familiar shape of Sir Guy - cousin and guardian to Nina and father of the other girls.

Sir Guy’s Rover 16, which he drove himself, was parked underneath the station’s entrance canopy. Blankets and hot water bottles were waiting inside for them and before long, they were on the A1 passing through Gosforth where Alison pointed out St.Cecilia’s school, which she and her sisters had attended before moving to the Chalet School. After another quarter-hour of motoring they reached the gates to the Brettingham Park estate. The car crunched over the gravel drive and they pulled to a halt outside the Rutherford’s neo-Gothic home. Sir Guy helped them from the car then threw open the door to the house proclaiming loudly “Yvonne dearest, the girls are home!”

Cousin Yvonne appeared, took one look at the rather drawn faces on the girls and declared that, after such a long day of travelling, they must be put to bed immediately. Yvonne took up Nina up to her room, promising that Carson would bring up a supper tray and hot water bottle.

The following morning dawned bright and crisp. Nina woke, briefly wondering where she was in this strange room, and then remembered she was home with the Rutherfords again. She drew back the curtains to see the familiar view of the estate blanketed in snow. The cottages cousin Guy had been working on last year were now complete, a row of neat little homes for his workers. No-one was around although there were sundry tracks in the snow. Although the house was still quiet, Nina dressed quickly, made her ablutions then headed downstairs to the drawing room which housed her beloved Bechstein piano.

After working through some basic scales and arpeggios, Nina was playing Adolphe Adam’s beautiful carol Cantique de Noël, when the door to the room opened quietly.

“It’s been kept tuned for you,” Cousin Yvonne said, making Nina jump. “Come into the morning room dear, breakfast is ready and you’ll catch a cold in here. I’m afraid breakfast has to be an informal affair today. Carson has a day off to visit her brother.”

Nina entered the room and her cousin Roger, home from the Air Force, flashed a welcoming smile at her. He was already breakfasting on a generous pile of toast and marmalade. Her cousin Francis was absent though. As a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he was away with his ship and wouldn’t be home for Christmas.

Alex, Anthea and Alison were busy selecting breakfast items at the dresser and looked around as she entered. Nina suddenly felt rather nervous, remembering her last visit here and that she hadn’t perhaps been as pleasant to her cousins as she might have been. But, so much had happened since that difficult introduction and her cousins had long since forgotten it.

Sir Guy was sat at the breakfast table, finished eating, but reading his morning newspaper. He put it down as Nina entered the room and enquired “Did you sleep well and are you quite recovered from your journey?” Nina admitted she had slept very well and was quite refreshed, to which Sir Guy beamed and announced “I have a special Christmas surprise for you all, as soon as breakfast is over and tidied away wrap up warmly as I’ve planned a trip to Newcastle for you.”

Sir Guy elaborated that they would first go Christmas shopping, then take afternoon tea and afterwards they were to go to the Assembly Rooms where he had tickets for Claudio Arrau, the famous Chilean pianist, who would be playing a selection of Bach’s work. Nina’s eyes positively sparkled and she clasped her hands together in joy. She had read much of Arrau, but to hear him play would be the most marvellous experience!

“I didn’t realise an international musician could be playing locally”, she exclaimed to Sir Guy, before blushing slightly as she realised that must have sounded quite rude.

“Well, we might not be Italy, but there is quite a centre of musical culture here”, Sir Guy explained with a sparkle in this eye, “In the mid 1930s Sergei Rachmaninoff played at the City Hall.

“I didn’t attend of course, but it caused quite an excitement at the time. The Conservatoire has closed now, but the Halle Orchestra visit several times each year. They are playing a selection of Strauss Polkas next I believe, we might be able to fit it in before you return to school.”

Two hours later the party were walking up bustling Northumberland Street, the main shopping area of the city. Nina’s cousins had insisted that she “simply must” see the Christmas windows of Caller’s department store. She wasn’t disappointed, this year the windows held a series of tableaux with puppets depicting various scenes from Dickens’ novels.

The girls all had purchases to make, small items for themselves and the last few Christmas gifts they needed. Nina was delighted to find an excellent sheet music shop in Central Arcade where she found a piece by Orlando Gibbons which she knew Mr. Denny wanted. Sir Guy went to the haberdashers in Fenwick’s department store for a few items his wife had requested.

Before long the sky was starting to darken and snow was falling gently. Sir Guy announced that he didn't want the girls getting cold and in any case it was time for tea. Aware that they had been walking for some time, they boarded an electric tram and rode down to the Royal Station Hotel where Sir Guy had reserved a table for tea before the performance.

The concert was sublime. With the house lights dimmed and the audience hushed with anticipation, Claudio Arrau entered the stage and the "Aria" began J. S. Bach’s Goldberg variations.

A little over an hour later the "Aria da Capo" returned the audience to the famous motif at the start of the work, emphasising the journey through the variations. Yet of course no one could be returned to quite how they were at the beginning such was the quality of the performance. As the house lights came up, Nina’s expression was one of simple joy. Of course she gave an immediate thanks, but later she would reflect much more deeply on the kindness and thoughtfulness of her cousin.

“Was he good?” asked Sir Guy, deferring to Nina’s musical knowledge.

“He was spellbinding,” answered Nina, “completely natural and so faithful to the composer. Did you see the way he played the keys, such unusual style, he pawed them like a bear!”

Sir Guy wasn't quite sure what to make of this, but Nina had clearly enjoyed it very much. She was certainly a thoroughly different creature to the pale creature in mourning attire that he remembered from not so long ago. The Nina in front of him was a proper school-girl in behaviour and the alpine air had given healthy colour to her complexion.

Before long they were back in the Rover and heading home. Nina was quiet on the back seat, thinking over recent months. What a time they’d had of late, the tragic loss of her father, Alex’s illness and most recently Cousin Winnie coming down with acute appendicitis. But they were through the worst now and next year would be very different. Nina reflected how very lucky that, while she had lost her father, she had two loving families in the Rutherfords and Emberys, smiled and said “Merry Christmas everyone!”

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Last edited by Round Robin on 17 Dec 2015, 10:25, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 09:34 
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Thank you, Robin - that was lovely. I really like the Rutherfords: they try so hard to understand Nina's needs and to do what's best for her.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 10:08 
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Thank you Robins, Poor Mary Lou, and I agree, I like the Rutherfords, they really do try.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 10:32 
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Ah, lovely Newcastle. Thank you Robin.


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 12:12 
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It's lovely that Nina has somewhere she can feel at home now and that Sir Guy is providing her with amazing musical experiences.

Thank you Robin...

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 16:39 
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Very atmospheric - am liking Sir Guy and the Rutherfords very much. A big contrast to how Veronica was treated by the Scotts!


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 18:56 
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Robin's notes on today's drabble:

Rachmaninoff visited Newcastle in 1935 as described. He played with the Newcastle Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Edgar Bainton, tutor to our very own Elinor Brent-Dyer. Despite Sir Guy’s pride of his area in fact by the late 1940s the Conservatoire had closed, as had the Newcastle Philharmonic and Symphony orchestras, leaving Newcastle with very little in the way of classical music, certainly compared to the other great industrial cities.

Claudio Arrau did indeed play at Newcastle, though it was actually in 1947. I received the description “pawed like a bear” from dear friend who attended one of Arrau’s later performances and was enthralled.

The tram Nina and her family took would have been in its final weeks of service, though the ‘trolley bus’ service continued until the 1960s. LNER had only been nationalised the year before, so the British Railways train livery would have been quite new, and the Royal Station Hotel had just passed over to British Transport Hotels. This, together with rationing means I’m not sure how sumptuous the tea would have really been.

The Christmas window display at Caller’s used to be a regular part of Christmas for families in Newcastle, but in 1969 the Christmas display caught fire causing the largest fire in Newcastle’s history. Caller’s stopped future displays, but competitors Fenwick’s started their own displays in 1971 and they are now one of the city’s biggest Christmas attractions.

The Assembly Rooms closed in the late 1960s and were almost demolished, but they’ve now been restored and are a successful wedding venue. City Hall is still a going concern and continues to host occasional classical music events. J G Windows of Central Arcade where Nina bought her music is still Newcastle’s premier music shop.

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2015, 19:24 
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Thank you Robin. I wonder if we now have a clue to your identity? :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 17 Dec
PostPosted: 18 Dec 2015, 01:10 
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That was just lovely, Robin, and . of course, as a folk singer I hold Newcastle, and Northumberland. in general to be a centre of world culture!

For more than forty years Leontyne Price's version of "O Holy Night" has been the key Christmas music chez shesings but I recently found this by the wonderful Elīna Garanča!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PE-fWJZhCU


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 Post subject: Re: Advent Drabbles 2015 - updated 18 Dec
PostPosted: 18 Dec 2015, 02:15 
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This Robin has enjoyed reading all of the Advent drabbles so far too! It is time for this Robin to chirp away, to the song of a drabble set just after Richenda.

The train had been going and going, but now it was settling to a stop. There were a number of girls who bounded off at this point, including a small slender young thing who looked rather younger than she was. The dark-haired girl looked into the crowd.

“Maman! Maman!” she cried.

An older lady heard her. “Odette!” she said.

Odette moved up to her and was embraced by warm, loving arms. “You’ve hardly changed a bit,” Maman said.

“Oh, Maman,” Odette said. “School was so awful, and I was so lonely and miserable without you,”

“Never mind, la petite,” Maman said. She suddenly thought of Simone de Bersac’s words, that Odette needed to find friends of her own age so she had good support when the worst would happen – and Aimee Mercier knew that this could come at any time, more than most. Her heart condition ensured that. “We shall be home very soon, and then we shall prepare for Noel,”

Mme Mercier ensured that Odette’s things were taken to the car, where their chauffeur was waiting.

Home looked just as impressive as it ever did. Mme Mercier could tell that Odette was very excited to be back, as the girl spoke rapidly, and not all in French either. Odette seemingly couldn’t wait to get inside, almost bolting out of the car and up to the house. Mme Mercier swiftly followed, after quickly speaking with the chauffeur.

Dejeuner was prepared by the time they were inside. Mme Mercier had ensured that, for the arrival of Odette, that the table be lain by many of Odette’s favourite foods. This made Odette even more happy, and what made Odette happy pleased Mme Mercier to no end. It felt almost like old times. They would have their Joyeux Noel, from the nativity scene they would decorate to Midnight Mass and le Reveillon straight afterwards.

Mme Mercier did not know that it would not be such a Joyeux Noel.

***

Odette sprung into action that morning. It was Midnight Mass tonight, and she’d be with Maman, away from that horrible school and with Maman. For the first time in three months, everything was truly right with the world. And they were going to have a feast tonight.

She got up with an enthusiasm quite often unseen in fourteen year old girls (except perhaps at Noel), and was quite ready for petite dejeuner by the time it was ready. However, Maman wasn’t. She waited for Maman for ages before Camille, one of the maids, bade her to start eating her food. Odette did so with a slight sense of dread in her heart. What had happened to Maman? Was she ill? Why wasn’t she here?

Odette went up to Maman’s room and knocked on the door. But only Michelle, who held the highest rank of the servants, answered.

“Your Maman’s not very well at the moment,” Michelle said. “The doctor has been called,”

“May I see her?” Odette asked.

“You may not,” Michelle replied. “Not unless the doctor says otherwise,”

Oh, Maman! Maman! Of all of the days of the year to fall ill, why did it have to be this one? When everything should be happy and joyful, for the little Christ child had been born. This was not fair – they had been so happy... Everything had been right...

Odette fell to her knees and started praying desperately for Maman to get better, to be well, to be able to enjoy a Joyeux Noel, for everything to turn out well in the end...

There was a visitor at the door. It was probably the doctor. Odette swiftly went to the top of the staircase, hiding herself with ease. She had seen the doctor at her house only once before – it wasn't that long before she had learned that she was being sent away. Odette wasn't stupid, she could put two and two together. Maman wasn't well, perhaps hadn't been well for a long time...

Only it wasn’t the doctor at all. It was that hateful Mme de Bersac who was the reason Odette had to go to that hateful school so far from Maman. She was led by Camille into the house.

Odette went into the nearest room, picked up a book off of the shelf, and sat down and opened it. But her thoughts lay only with one thing and one thing only. The door was answered a second time – that must be the doctor. What if Maman were – dying?

Just the thought was enough to send Odette into tears. She’d be all alone in the world then, No-one to hug, no-one to make her believe that everything would be all right, no-one who she could turn to when things weren’t so good or to laugh with or to enjoy Noel with...

The book was forgotten on a side table before Mme Mercier came, Camille behind her. “There you are, Odette,” she said. “Do not worry, the doctor is with your Maman right now. In the meantime, you’re invited to spend Noel with my family,”

“No,” Odette said, trying to hide her tears. “I do not want to spend Noel with you,”

“Your Maman has already said that you should come,”

Odette looked to Camille, as if to ask, “Is this true?” Camille gave her a short nod.

***

Simone’s family had a lovely Noel by all accounts. The mood in the de Bersac house was only brought down by Odette having to be constantly badgered into partaking in the festivities. Odette was worse than Simone ever thought. She looked to be on the verge of tears whenever she shot a glance at her, although Odette glowered whenever she spotted Simone looking at her.

Simone was somewhat perturbed by this – surely the child couldn’t hate her that much. But she had to do something about Odette’s apparent unhappiness, and without reference to Odette’s mother’s heart condition – Mme Mercier had made it painfully clear to Simone that Odette was not to know about this.

Simone finally managed to corner Odette by herself. “What is the matter, Odette?”

“Nothing is the matter,” Odette replied. “Leave me alone!”

“Come on, Odette. I can tell that you are seriously upset,”

“Leave me alone,” Odette repeated. “I want Maman and I do not want you!”

“I know,” Simone said, keeping her voice soft and steady. “But sometimes what we want isn't always the best for us – or the people around us. And your Maman needs to rest so that she can recover,”

It felt wrong, saying that last sentence. It felt rather misleading.

“But what if Maman were to...”

“It wouldn't be the end of the world, Odette. I have lost people, friends, family. I have grieved for those I loved. I still miss them at times, but that doesn't stop me from living. I have found new loves, new passions. I have made the best of what I've got, even when it was the hardest thing to do. I put on a brave face, as it were,” she thought back to when Mlle Lepattre died, back to when Andre was fighting in the war... “There will come a time when you will have to be brave, Odette, in spite of all the odds. The one thing that helped me the most was having friends who supported me. You should be able to make some, I am sure,”

***

When Odette returned home there was post waiting for her – two pieces of post, even. Odette had never received so much as a letter before, but she was distracted – she could go and see Maman now.

Maman looked ill, all right – but from the moment Odette stepped in the room she was beaming. They shared a hug before Maman spotted the letters, and asked who had written to her.

It was from Ricki Fry. Ricki had been nice to her, she remembered. Ricki wrote about adapting to her new glasses (“I feel odd needing to have them on my face all of the time. I’ve already lost them once, that was fun.”) and about her improved relationship with her father (“He’s been really good recently, he’s even allowed me into the ceramics room – fully supervised, of course.”) Odette couldn’t even imagine being on poor terms with a parent in the first place, but it was good that Ricki was having a nice time of it, anyway.

The other one was from a much more curious source – Con Maynard. Odette had barely interacted with Con, instead her sister Len had been doing most of the interaction. Con’s letter was shorter and sweeter than Ricki’s, saying vaguely that everything was going well at the Maynard’s. Most of her letter was enquiring about Odette, and how her Christmas is going. On the reverse of the letter was a draft of some story – evidentially Con had just grabbed the nearest piece of paper to hand. She didn’t know why, but this made Odette smile.

“It's two of the girls from my school, Maman,” Odette said. “Both of them are nice,”

“I should hope so too!”

She would write back to Ricki and to Con. She didn't know what she would say, but she could at least write back 'Joyeax Noel.'

_________________
Trained to instant obedience


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