Chapter Five

It's halfway August and I've been a cadet for over a month now and I was dragged up before Squadron Leader Malone. The last time I'd had a proper conversation with her was the night I joined and those were on good terms, I had a feeling that this might not be so pleasant. I gulped and stared at the door, going through the (extensive) list of things that I'd knowingly done wrong, panicking slightly. Was she going to kick me out? If there is a god I can't be kicked out. I'll admit, I've been obnoxious in school but my education is important to me, I do the homework (when I think it's important) and revise (for all the useful subjects) and I try not to muck around in lessons (apart from Music. I can muck around in that as much as I want-it's useless), and I'm a bright kid, even if I do say so myself. I've got a future ahead of me, and if she kicks me out that'll all be gone, because the condition that I get to stay in school is that I stay here for at least this entire summer...

I stare at the door some more, before deciding that waiting will only prolong the agony and take a deep breath and rap on the door three times and stand. "Come in." I hear her call out, and enter, saluting as I do so. Yes, I know. I saluted. I don't want to be here, but the little things are just what you pick up as you go along, just like polishing your shoes or rolling your sleeves up properly. The squadron leader looks at me over the rims of her glasses for a moment, a spreadsheet or something in her hands. "At ease, Princeton." I stand with my hands behind my back, hands shaking a little as I did so. "Please, take a seat." I sit, and take the opportunity to check her out, she didn't appear to look very nasty today, and she wasn't glaring or anything so perhaps I may get lucky.

She turns from fetching a document from her pigeon hole and looks at me and smiles reassuringly.

"Now, Maddy" first name, and shortened version, okay this is a good sign... "I hear you've not been getting on too well here so far" please God... "But don't worry, you're not here for me to punish you" oh dear sweet baby Jesus and Holy Mary and God in Heaven thank you, thank you, thank you. "We do, however, need to discuss your future here." I nod, saying nothing as I'm still thanking every spiritual deity that may or may not exist that I can still return to secondary education in September.

"Maddy, you don't want to be here do you." I hesitated, before shaking my head and she chuckled "Well, at least you're being honest, because I already knew you didn't want to be here before you said that. Thing is, it's not in my nature to force people to do things, but I'm acutely aware if I just let you go you'll get expelled, and neither of us want that for you, am I right?" I nodded enthusiastically. "No, I didn't think so. So what we need to do is figure out how to make this more enjoyable for you, and for you to get something out of it. Because as much as I'd love you to stay on after the summer holidays, I'd only want you to do so if you wanted, and I'd much rather you leave in the summer with good memories than bad ones, because we're not all that terrible a bunch of people."

I looked at her hopefully. She is a really nice person, and I really want to enjoy it here but it's so hard with it being so.. well.. BORING. "Now, on these documents are a list of upcoming events that I'd like you to consider. Because I'm well aware that you're the sort of person who doesn't like to be cooped up in one place for too long, I think it would be beneficial for you to go out and go to events to meet other people from other squadrons as well as experience new things. Now how does that sound?" I looked at the activity sheets she'd given me, there was loads! Flying, shooting, wing activities day and all the competitions that come under that... This actually looks quite interesting... I look up at her and smile gratefully, happy knowing that somebody understands the way I work.

"Now, there is one activity here that is compulsory. On the wing activities day there is a drill competition which every squadron offers up a drill squad for. We, of course, will be getting a team together and I would like you to be on it." I froze instantly, eyes widening. I hate drill with a passion. "Now I know you don't like drill" understatment of the freaking universe... "But I think this will really help you. For a beginner, you are actually very good at drill!"

"What if I don't want to?" I frown. I don't like Drill because I'm scared that the other cadets will laugh at me because I sometimes make mistakes (tell anyone that and you're history)

"I'm afraid I can't let you out of this one, Maddy. We want you to enjoy your time here, but we also need you to learn some discipline while you're at it. And being on the drill team will really help your confidence." she paused "You know, I sometimes get the impression that underneath your hard as boots attitude you're actually very loving and gentle, and actually very self concious." I look down at my lap, saying nothing "And that's okay! I was like that too when I was your age. My two older brothers were in the Navy and the Army, and were both these bold as brass men and in comparison I was this little delicate flower, determined not to be noticed." I looked up her.. I couldn't imagine her ever being shy or not confident "But then I turned thirteen, and mum decided that I needed to harden up to get myself ready for real life when I was older, and dad just wanted me to join the RAF so he could boast to his mates down the pub how his kids were each in the three services! So, they dragged me along, me kicking and screaming along the way, complaining about how horrible it would be, how they'd beat me up and pick on me like everybody else did in an attempt to get them to change their minds and take me home, but they weren't to be deterred. They dropped me off in the office, and sped off home again, leaving me stranded. But you know what? I actaully loved it. I loved the uniform, the sense if importance it gave me and all the new friends I made. And you know something? Not once was I ever teased about anything. I loved it, and so here I am today!" she looked reminiscent as she stared past me, a small smile playing on her lips before looking at me again and being back to reality. "So. What do you say?"

"I say... yes. I mean, if you think it'll help me I'll definitely give it a go."

"Your best go?"

"Yes. I'll put all my effort into it."

"Do you promise me now?"

"I promise."