|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: 7 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 05-19-13 - Published: 12-15-12 - id: 3083035
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Force for Badassness
College Valley Camp Site
Putting the tents up was a bloody nightmare – literally. At one point, Charmaine was holding onto a pegged rope, and a gust of wind brought it flying into her face, cutting her lip. Still, she's all right now.
So we're all sitting in the main tent, drinking tea and eating biscuits.
"Do you do this often?" Mikey asks.
"This is the second time this year," Gordon explains. "We don't come here before Easter – it's too cold – but we came here in the holidays,"
"Is there anywhere we can swim?" Simone says, "I mean, like, in walking distance?"
Lizzie sniggers, "There's the lake,"
"Awesome! Where's that?"
"Damn it!" she exclaims, "Anywhere nearer?"
"Aw," I say, opening the tent and pointing down the hill to the clear, silver water below us, "College Valley's stream,"
"Brilliant!" she grins, shaking off her feeling of disgust, and pulling her dress over her head. She's wearing a swimsuit underneath it – having adopted the generally accepted summer dress of Chase Valley overnight. She runs down the hill with a shout of, "Hamays!"
College Valley Stream
Lounging in the shallows after an hour of frolicking… not like that – I am a civilised modern Viking lady; I do not… anyway. Where was I?
Oh, yes; lounging in the shallows after an hour of frolicking. The Mikeys have all started to dress like us – simple swimming things under loose-fitting shirts or dresses which can quickly be removed, should one want to swim in the lake.
During the summer, we even take to wearing our swimming costumes under our school uniforms. Nothing I know beats swimming after a long day at school. Of course, it's not strictly allowed at school, but we all do it anyway – even some of the younger teachers.
"We need to do something about Leon and his lot, though; they can't keep getting away with everything," Maria says.
I nod, "They've been untouchable for too long,"
"It's time they stopped having all the power. Nobody without all the designer stuff or the right haircut gets a say. All the while, that lot can do what they want without anyone being able to do anything. And don't get me started on F-f-f-f-f-ion McDade; I'll have a stroke," Lily declares.
This tirade causes everyone to groan, except the Mikeys, who probably only have a limited understanding of just how awful Ffion really is. Why would they, when they've only been here a day and haven't met her yet?
"It's not just Leon, it's all of them," I proclaim. I stand up and continue, "It's time we put a stop to it. We need to band together, now of all times,"
"We need a group for it," Gordon agrees, "Some sort of… force. A force for badassness,"
"We need a name, though,"
"I've got it!" Ellie exclaims, "The Chase Syndicate!"
"¡Oooh, si!" I approve loudly, in Spanish, "¡Me gusta! ¡Viva el sindicato!And we will be badasses on behalf of the downtrodden!"
"Yeah!" we all shout, standing up and cheering, "An end to oppression!"
We swim for another hour, and head back up to our tent to put dry clothes on.
We set up screens so we could get changed and sleep in privacy. It was Evie's idea – we hung spare guy ropes from the loops in the ceiling of the tent, and pegged sheets to them. I think it looks rather exotic, especially since the sheets are all in various shades of pink, purple or yellow – it's like some Moroccan market.
I bet the boys' tent isn't this cool.
We took the inner tents down as well, so we can pull up the screens and sit and chat as one group if we want to.
Oh my God, I've just realised – Timothy is arriving tomorrow! Panic! What to wear? Oh, no, I'm doing it again. You need to calm down, Etta. Try and breathe.
Just something simple – I have lots of loose-fitting shalwar-kameez-type things that Mum brought back for me when she went to Marrakech on business last year. I think I'll wear my blue one when he arrives, and wear my hair loose.
Although, if I wore a shalwar-kameez, it might look a bit odd – considering that the rest of the tent looks like an Arabian market. Oh, well. I may as well go the whole hog and do some henna. I know a place where I can buy tubes for it.
I reach into my rucksack and pull out a white tunic and red leggings. I dress and pull my screen back.
"Does anyone want to go shopping?" I ask, on seeing that everyone else is sitting in a circle in the middle of the tent, "There's a shop down the road,"
"I'll go," Simone and Emilie say at the same time. It strikes me, for the first time, just how similar they are. I know they are two of triplets – this is not one of my brain's brighter moments, believe me – but I hadn't noticed, probably because I have never heard them speak simultaneously before.
Simone leans round a screen and picks her wallet up off her sleeping bag, which is nearby.
"Let me just get my pur- … get it right, Emilie – handbag, and I'll be ready," she drags her handbag over from a camping chair and checks her wallet, "OK,"
The three of us stand up and leave the tent, calling for the boys as we pass their tent, "Gordon! Mikey! We're going to the shop; do you want to come with us?"
"One minute," Gordon pokes his head round the side of the tent, "I need to put my boots on,"
When he and Mikey finally finish zipping their tent up, we walk down the road to the site shop.
College Valley Campsite Shop
"So, Etta, why did you have the sudden need to shop?" Gordon asks.
I turn my head away from him in annoyance, "You know why,"
"Well, I'm sorry; I thought you'd be happy for Tim to come camping with us. Why aren't you happy?"
"I am. It's just that, with the happiness comes ten tonnes of stress about what I'm going to wear, how I'm doing my hair, and all that stuff. It was bad enough seeing him on the platform,"
"Don't worry about it. We're the Chase Syndicate, aren't we? Strong people. We can handle whatever's thrown at us,"
"Can we?" Gordon says wryly, and I know he's talking about what happened on the train.
"Together, yes, we can. Come one, let's shop," I show him the selection of henna tubes on the shelf, "We need these ones," I point to a basket filled with blue, pink and yellow tubes, "I know I'm not allergic to these," I take three to the counter and hand over four pounds. I thank the cashier as he hands me my one-penny change, and then I go outside the shop to wait for Gordon and the triplets.
"Did you get anything interesting?" I ask.
Emilie shows me a packet of jelly sweets and a two-litre bottle of cola.
"Sweet," I say, and then laugh as I realise the ridiculous pun I just made. "Sorry; that was a rubbish pun. If I promise I didn't intend it, would you not murder me in my bed?"
"Perhaps if I'm in a very good mood," she jokes, with a mischievous grin.
I try to look relieved, but, to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure whether she's serious or not.
Mikey and Simone have bought snacks and drinks for the evening.
Gordon has bought sausages for breakfast tomorrow, when Tim arrives.
I will have to get up extra-early so I can get ready in time for us to meet his train, but I don't know when it's going to come in.
"Gordon? When's Timothy getting here?" I ask.
"Hold on; I'll just find out," he takes his phone out of his pocket, calls Tim, and puts him on speaker phone. "Tim, hi! What time's your train getting in tomorrow?"
"Nine o'clock," he says, "Are you guys coming to meet me?"
"Do you want us to?"
"OK. See you there. Nine o'clock,"
Gordon shuts the phone and I nearly fall over.
"Nine o'clock?! Gordon, are you insane?"
"Hey, I didn't book the tickets,"
"Yes, but…" I don't have words for this. "See you back at the tent," I run up the hill and realise, too late, that, for all my swimming, I am useless at running, especially uphill.
I arrive back at our tent almost in a state of collapse.
I pull my screen across and lie, face-down, on my sleeping-bag.
Evie looks up as she hears the thump, "Etta. Etta, what are you doing?"
"Ngrrrh…" I mumble, pressing my face into the pillow and stretching my arms out onto the floor, "…tired… need to be ready for tomorrow…"
"You weren't tired an hour ago – what happened?"
"I ran up the hill,"
She pats my head, "Aw. Silly Pilz. What's happening tomorrow, then?"
I sit up and start fiddling with my hair anxiously, "Timothy is arriving. We've got to go and meet the nine o'clock train,"
"Nine o'clock?!" she cries disbelievingly.
"Don't start. Anyway, I need to do some henna to match my outfit for tomorrow. Do you want to have some too?"
"Go on, then,"
Henna for all the girls! Evie and I have it all up our arms, and I have mine extending, like a sleeve, from the tips of my fingers, over my shoulder and across my collarbone to my neck. It took some doing, and now I am very tired and also very nervous.
I think I will have an early night, once I've got tomorrow's outfit hung up. I've decided on my blue shalwar-kameez, and Charmaine has offered to braid my hair.
Now, what kind of braid should I ask her for? She's brilliant at hair – I think I should really go all out and ask for the tie-in French braid, but in the morning, so it's still neat when we meet Timothy.
I brush my hair out and plait it simply for sleeping, then I go to our washstand outside.
Lily, Lizzie and Ellie are all brushing their teeth.
Ellie looks up, "Come to brush your fangs?"
"I'm just finishing, hold on," she brushes a few more times, and then spits into the bowl and tips some of the water in the jug over it to clean it away. "OK,"
I brush my teeth and then go to bed. I'm just about to draw my screen closed when Simone stops me.
"That guy, the one coming tomorrow – do you love him?"
I nod, "Is it obvious?"
"No. I just guessed. I didn't think I'd be right,"
"Oh. Why did you ask?"
"Because, if you do, I was wondering if I could ask him out for you,"
"No, sorry, Simone – I don't like getting other people to ask guys out for me. If I ask him out, I'll do it. Sorry,"
"That's fine. It's a secret, right?"
"Yes, but you can tell Emilie and Stefan. Nobody else, though,"
"'Night," I close my screen and lie in my sleeping bag, examining my henna until I fall asleep.
College Valley Train Station
Sunday 21st May, 8:55am
Waiting at the platform with everyone. Timothy's train is due in five minutes, and the nervousness is torture.
I'm dressed in my blue shalwar-kameez, with my hair braided up by Charmaine – at first, I wanted a braid that came over my shoulder, but Charmaine suggested it might look better as a flower-bun, so she twisted it up and pinned it in place for me. I've draped my scarf around my bun, and let it hang over my shoulders – now it's fluttering rather prettily in the wind.
We all stand back in silence as the train arrives, watching Timothy making his way to the doors, all waving as he steps onto the platform with his bags.
"Go and say hello to him!" Simone urges, so I step forward from the line and suggest we play a wide game in the woods.
"OK. I just need to put my stuff away," he says, so we all go down to the tents, and then to the woods.
"What shall we play first?" I ask everyone.
"How about Wide Sardines?" Gordon proposes.
"I'll hide," I offer.
"OK! We'll count to fifty,"
Everyone closes their eyes and covers them, starting to count as I run toward the woods.
I find a tree and climb it, wary of my scarf, which I remove from my hair and tie around my waist to keep it and my top out of the way. Then, I wait with bated breath as the counters reach fifty, and pounding footsteps begin to come closer.
I watch as, one by one, each of them run under the tree, not even thinking to look up. It's all I can do not to laugh out loud. Then I realise Timothy hasn't appeared yet.
There is a rustling noise behind me, and I look up to see Timothy climbing into the branches with his finger on his lips.
Those lips… if I look at them much longer, I won't be able to can anymore. I am just dragging my eyes away from them when I realise that's a brilliant way of flirting with him.
I let my eyes drift back to his lips, and realise he's looking at me strangely, almost hungrily.
We lean together, kissing, as spontaneously as the group had gone camping. We carry on, uninterrupted, for several minutes as Timothy adjusts his position in the tree so he won't fall out.
Finally, we break apart and giggle softly, instantly regretting it as the footsteps below us stop sharply and Charmaine and Mikey climb up the tree to join us.
Charmaine signs at me, "Were you kissing?"
I sign back, "Were you?"
She looks sheepish, "Maybe,"
"So, are you guys going out now?" I whisper.
"Are you?" she raises her eyebrows.
"Yes," Timothy says, "…I mean, if you want to, Etta,"
"Yes!" I say, then turn to Charmaine, "So, are you?"
"Well, we're not going out…" she answers.
"We're engaged," Mikey explains, grinning.
"Engaged?" I stare at them, trying to make sense of it, "But… I don't… er?"
Charmaine laughs. "You'll see,"