|Memoirs of a Madwoman
Author: Hilary Hale PM
Join the fabulous Chase Syndicate and partake in the ceremony of bully-dunking! Meet Etta, the (famous?) Viking warrior of Northumberland… Yes. Swim in Chase Valley Lake and hide out at Secret Park. And, above all, try to keep your sanity. Welcome to Mad Land! You'll love it, I promise. T for mild language and violence. (TW: Severe sexual harassment/assault at end of Chapter 7) R&RRated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Friendship - Chapters: 12 - Words: 29,187 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 05-19-13 - Published: 12-15-12 - id: 3083035
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Of Course I'll Be Good...
12 Chase Valley Road
Friday 19th May, 3:55pm
I get into my bedroom after my short walk home from school.
I am just putting my bag down when I hear Evie's voice, faint outside. "Etta!" At first I'm not even sure I hear it. Or am I just autonomously ignoring it because I am in Annoy-Evie-mode? Probably.
Something blue hits the window with a dull thump. I put down my diary and go to open the sash. As I do so, Evie throws another pair of rolled up socks – this time purple – at the house, and these hit me in the face.
"I hope those haven't..." I say with a touch of dirt in my voice. Like Evie (and my other friend, Charmaine), my mind is in the gutter.
Evie cuts me dead. "Hell no,"
I nod, relieved.
"They're my brother's,"
I recoil, with what I hope is a look of horror on my face. "Faugh!"
Evie laughs. "Kidding,"
I relax, only to hear, "Or is she?" from another window. Looking round, I see that it is Charmaine Moncrieff.
"Hello!" she shouts. "What are you doing later?"
"Mum's going to Paree!"
Charmaine throws her arms out flamboyantly and nearly falls out of her window. "Ooooooooh! Fancy!"
"Exactly – how wonderful for me!" I say.
"So what are you doing?" Evie says.
"Don't know," I shrug. "Do you want to come over?"
"Wild party?" Charmaine wiggles her eyebrows.
"I think so!" I hear Mum coming up the stairs, so I lean out a bit further, "Hold on, back in a minute," I close the window and try to look nonchalant as my bedroom door opens. "Hi, Mum,"
"What were you doing?"
I think about giving her a smart answer, maybe telling her I was having a baby or something, but she's a bit slow when it comes to jokes like that, to the point where she would probably think I was serious. In the end, I just say, "Nothing,"
I can see it in her face that she doesn't believe me. She sighs and folds her arms. "Really, though. I don't want you having lots of people over tonight, just because I'm out,"
I pretend to be offended. "Me? Party? I would never!"
"I need you to look after Angie this evening. Your Aunt Rennie is busy; otherwise I'd have asked her,"
Fair enough – Mum always has to go off on business with her bank, and usually I get the house to myself, with my sister Angela at my aunt's house. But, this evening in particular, I need to do a party! I get so lonely…
I wait for Mum to go, and then I go back to the window and almost rip it open. "I'm back!"
Charmaine throws a yoghurt pot on a string at me. "Tape this to your window sill!"
I reach into my pencil case and staple it down.
She throws another at me, throwing the other half to Evie, who does the same. The three of us are now all connected in a huge triangle which stretches over the street.
"Are they secure?" asks Charmaine.
I nod, and Evie says yes.
"Good. Now, I want you to take the string inside and pull it as tight as you can, and tie a knot,"
I just about manage it, although I nearly rip my nails up in the process. "I've got it!"
Evie has managed to fix hers with a little more grace and elegance, but I don't tell her – the little minx is too perfect, but we love her all the same. She's so lucky – if I try to get anything looking perfect, it usually ends up with me breaking something. Or someone, although that was only once.
Charmaine leans down and says something to the pots, and suddenly, her voice is ringing clearly out of the pot which runs between our windows.
"Hallo, Pilze! Hört Ihr mich? (Hello, Mushrooms! Can you hear me?)"
"Blimey," says Evie. "That's brilliant!"
Charmaine nods. "I know! I thought it would help keep things a little more private,"
"Thanks," I say. "Now I can tell you both le grand secret,"
Charmaine squeals, flailing slightly. "Is it about who you fancy?"
"'Tis indeed, kleine Pilz,"
"Tell, tell, tell, tell, tell," Evie goads me.
"All right!" I hiss. "But you can't tell anyone,"
Charmaine and Evie both look posh and insulted, and Evie says, "Go on, then, tell!"
"OK, keep your hair on!" I lean right into the phone and whisper, "Timothy Brownlow,"
Charmaine shrieks and Evie giggles. "Are you serious?" they say together.
I nod. I hear Mum opening the door, so I say, "See you in a minute," and slam the window shut again. "Hello!"
"Are you coming to the station?"
"Well, then," she says. "Come on," and she sweeps out of the room. That is the only way to describe it – a sweep.
I have to follow her. I wave quickly (and I hope discreetly) at the window before I leave the room and race down the stairs.
Chase Valley Train Station
"Be good; remember the rules,"
"No breathing, no moving, no doing anything interesting or fun,"
"Etta," Mum puts down her overnight bag and folds her arms. "Be sensible – don't do anything I wouldn't do,"
"Well, then, I shall take a trip to Paris, overnight, at no notice,"
"Don't be rude,"
The train pulls into the station, and the doors open with a hiss.
"Oh, I've got to go now," Mum flusters, giving me and Angela a hug, and leaping onto the train.
"Bye," I get Angela to wave as the train moves away. "You see?" I say to Angela. "That's what you get for eating coal. And trying to staple the cat to your cot by its tail," No, I am not joking.
Angie just stares at me and shrieks. She is quite sweet sometimes.
Ow ow OW.
I pry her jaws off my chin and tap her, hard on the nose. "No, bad Angela. No biting,"
I hitch her up so she's less likely to fall off my hip, and head back down the High Street.
When we get back to Chase Valley Road, Evie and Charmaine are waiting for us. Angie practically leaps out of my arms when she saw Charmaine. She ducks as Angie reaches for her eyebrows.
Angela just cackles. I check the top of her head to see if she's sprouted horns since I last check. No.
"So, party?" says Evie.
"I think so," I grin. "Lake! Grab your swimming things!" I cross the road to my house, unlock the door and kick it open.
Bumble (our fat cat) hisses at me as I reach the top of the stairs. "Get out of the way, fatty!" I push him with my foot, and he charges off into Mum and Dad's room.
I push my bedroom door open, step, past Angela's cot, to the chest of drawers. I dig through the top drawer and find my swimming costume. I put Angela in her cot while I change in the bathroom, and then I put her into her cossie.
Then I pick up our towels, put them in a bag and take Angela downstairs.
I meet Charmaine and Evie outside the house.
Chase Valley Court Woods
"Shall we sing a song?" Charmaine suggests.
"Go on, then. Any ideas?" I sit down with Angela on a rock.
"Liv' It Up?" she says. "Do you want to sing, Evie?"
"No," she replies. "I can't sing,"
"Yes, you can!" I nudge her – I've heard her singing: it's beautiful, but sometimes she just needs a little push to get rid of the nerves. "Go on, Evie, you start,"
Apparently, a nudge wasn't enough. She runs off along the path, pulling her dress off so she is just in her swimming costume and her shoes (which she kicks off and leaves in a heap with her clothes), shins up a tree, runs along a broad branch and jumps into the lake.
"Well, that's polite," Charmaine says.
We follow her up towards the tree, and I tuck Angela into the space between my bag and my bag. "Hold on tightly, Angela,"
I start climbing the tree and shuffle out along the branch, dropping my dress and my bag on the ground before I hold onto Angela and we jump in wearing our swimming costumes. Angela shrieks as we hit the water, but we have to clear the space under the tree quickly before Charmaine hits us.
With a shout of "Yahoo!" (very Charmaine), she bombs into the lake – in all her clothes, realising, slightly too late, her mistake.
"Oh, look," she says as she surfaces. "Silly Charmaine," she swims back to the edge of the lake and hauls herself back up the tree-branch, where she hangs her clothes on a branch to dry them. She balances, standing up, on the branch, and moves slowly along it like a tightrope walker. Then, as elegantly as she has navigated the branch, she dives into the lake again.
She is amazing at diving – she's at the lake nearly every day, running along that same tree, over and over until she can do a full flip when she is exactly halfway down, and right herself again just before she hits the water.
On a day like this, you can see right to the bottom of the lake, it's so clear. Evie and I swim over and the three of us watch her plunging through the water, until she turns at the bottom and pushes herself back up to the surface.
We spend a while floating on our backs, me holding Angela, until I decide that, living in a village which is practically built on a lake (certainly the High Street is), it is ridiculous that Angela cannot swim at three years old – I learned when I was two-and-a-half, Charmaine as soon as she could walk, hence the awesome diving-ness, and even Evie (who lived in Berkshire, in a town called Crowthorne, where there is no lake, until she was ten) learned when she was nearly four. "Come on," I say to my sister. "Let's teach you how to swim,"
I stand up in the water and hold Angela out in front of me. "Kick your legs under the water," I suppose that's the wrong thing to say, because she ends up kicking me in the chin, spraying half the lake into my mouth, which has opened slightly.
Well, that was a silly idea. I give up teaching her, and sit her on the bank, wrapped in a towel. "Stay there, Angie; stay in the shallows,"
I go back to the water, and swim around with Evie and Charmaine.
"How about we play 'Shark'?" Charmaine says.
I raise an eyebrow (perfectly shaped, may I add – it took many months of plucking just so before I managed it) and fold my arms. "How does one play that, may I ask?"
Without saying anything, Charmaine dives underwater, grabbing my legs as I shriek and Evie says, "Now you say 'Shark!'"
"Oh, you are in trouble!" I hiss, launching myself at her.
She squeals and thrashes away from me in a feeble attempt to escape.
I put on my best evil-villain voice (basically just a copy of Ffion's nasal tones) and say, "Puny Human, you shall not escape the clutches of Ffion McDade!", grabbing her head and pushing her right under – not for long, though, because she pokes me underwater and I am forced to let go of her.
She floats to the top, and glares at me. "Bad, Etta, bad,"
I hear my mobile ringing on the bank, so I swim over and sit on the side with Angela and open it. "Hello?"
"Etta, it's Gordon,"
"Oh, hello, Gordy," Gordy is my 'brother', that is, not a real relative (I only have one sister, and that's Angela), but as close to a brother as I'm likely to get. "What's up?"
"Get to the village hall, woman!"
"Just get to the hall!"
"Are you executing someone just for me?" I show flattery. Gordon said once that, if someone ever upsets me, he'll drag them down the High Street, tie them up, and throw them off the bridge into the lake.
When he came out last year (he's gay), some people in our year thought it would be the right thing to do if they put him down and basically acted like arseholes to him because of who he was, we all swore to stick by him and kill anyone who deliberately upset him.
"No, come and look!"
"All right, keep your shirt on, we're coming,"
"We?" he asked.
"Charmaine, Evie and Angie,"
"Oh, right," he pauses. "Come on, hurry up!"
"All right, bossy, we're on our way," I click the phone shut.
"What was that about?" Charmaine swims over and grabs my foot, which I am dangling in the water.
"It's Gordon; he wants us to go to the village hall, but he didn't say why. I've told him we're already on our way. Quickly, put your towels around you and get dressed!"
I run over to the tree and put my dress on over my swimming costume. Evie slips her shoes on, but I'm used to walking barefoot, and so is Charmaine – we walked to the lake like that.
"Evie, hurry!" Charmaine says. "Why are you bothering with shoes?"
Evie looks at her as if to say, "You are insane, I take it?"
Charmaine understands the look perfectly, and replies, "Of course I am,", before grabbing our arms and linking us all together. "Come on, skip,"
"No," Evie and I said.
"Come on!" she drags us through the woods to the train track, where we skip along by the embankment until we reach the High Street, at the top of which stands the village hall.