Read Staverton Online

Authors: Caidan Trubel

Tags: #Romance, #Gothic, #Fiction

Staverton (6 page)

BOOK: Staverton
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“Don’t be daft, Lucy. I know what you mean.”

“I just miss my friends...” Lucy said.

“Of course you do,” Freddie said, pulling her into a hug. “It’s only natural. It’ll be good for you to get on with your studies and get a bit of normality back, and I’ll still be here for holidays and things.”

Freddie hugged her and decided he’d made the right decision.

***

The dance was every bit as awful as I anticipated. Cheesy music, plastic cups full of orange squash and supermarket-brand cola, just about summed it up. The kids weren’t exactly friendly either. Some were openly hostile. A group of catty girls stood close by and made remarks about my purple dress, but I ignored them, picked up a glass of squash and went to sit on the other side of the room.

The main lights were off, and the flashing red and green lights from the disco, didn’t do much to illuminate the hall, so I was pretty safe tucked away in the corner, where no one could see me.

It was easy to ignore the girls bitchy behaviour because I knew I wouldn’t be here for much longer. I didn’t have to try and make friends. I’d be back at St. Catherine’s soon.

I sipped my squash and glanced at my watch. Freddie was picking me up at ten. He said he didn’t mind picking me up a little later, but that was the last thing I wanted. If I had my way, I’d be back at Freddie’s place already. But that would hurt his feelings. He tried so hard to make me feel at home and be happy in Eversleigh.

When ten o’clock finally arrived, I ran outside to Freddie’s waiting truck. It wasn’t such an effort to smile now.

“Did you have a good time?” Freddie asked, putting the truck in gear.

I buckled up. “It was okay.”

“You make any friends?”

He made it sound as if I were still at primary school. “I chatted to a few people.”

“Did you make any plans to meet up with anyone again?”

“No, but I’ll be going back to St. Catherine’s soon, so it’s probably just as well.”

“I hope you’ll come back up here, though,” Freddie said, concentrating on the road. “Holidays and things.” He turned and smiled.

“Oh, of course.” I smoothed down the dress, trying to flatten the purple frills. “Thanks, Freddie.”

“You’re welcome. I think the dress looks great.”

“Not just the dress, though. I mean thanks for all of it.”

I could tell from the way he hunched his shoulders he was embarrassed. “Oh don’t get all serious on me. Tell me about the dance instead. Was Bess there? She said she was going to be a chaperone.”

I smiled and looked out at the pitch-black night as we rolled up the hill to Freddie’s cottage. I told him about the dance, trying to make it sound as though I’d made an effort to be sociable.

Chapter 7

Slipping back into life at St. Catherine’s turned out to be harder than I expected. Most of the other girls stared and whispered behind my back, and I wasn’t sure whether they were talking about the death of my parents, or gossiping about the fact I was now a scholarship kid, a charity case.

Caroline was brilliant though, she talked to me as if nothing had changed and furiously confronted anyone she suspected of gossiping about me.

I was determined to make the best of this opportunity and worked much harder than I had at my previous years at the school. I’d come close to missing out once, and I wouldn’t let that happen again. I completed my application to St. Andrews University and received a provisional acceptance, now I just needed to meet the required grades.

Sometimes, I had to get away when the other girls were talking about their families, or when parent’s evening rolled around. I made a habit of strolling in the school’s gardens whenever things got too much. It was the only place I could get the peace and quiet to remember my parents, without someone demanding to know why I looked so sad. Occasionally, I would see Jason, the gardener, but he never spoke to me, only smiled.

I phoned Freddie once a week and went back to Scotland for the Christmas and Easter holidays. I missed him and Bert when I came back down to St. Catherine’s, but I didn’t miss the lack of TV and lack of shops.

The year passed quickly, and on the anniversary of the day I’d been told of my parents accident, I sat in the same classroom, with the same teacher. My last exam was tomorrow, and Mrs. Smith offered to give one last revision class to anyone who was interested.

Caroline looked disgusted when I told her I was going to attend a math revision class when it wasn’t compulsory.

“Why on earth would you put yourself through a class with Mrs. Smith voluntarily?” Caroline said.

“It might help. There might be something in the class that is in the exam tomorrow.”

Caroline groaned, but she went with me to the lesson.

Now, I glanced at my friend and knew she regretted coming. Caroline sat by the window, with her head resting in her hands. Her eyes were half-closed, and she kept jolting awake, then looking around the room to see if anyone noticed.

Jason, the school gardener, was outside, fixing the small fence between the walkway and the playing fields.

I tried to focus on the equations on my revision sheet, chewing on the end of my pen. Mrs. Smith wrote a new equation on the board, and I struggled to work out the solution. Numbers floated through my mind. Maths wasn’t my best subject. I racked my brain for the answer. I had been revising this topic last night, so why couldn’t I remember?

“Lucy?” Caroline said, keeping her voice low.

I turned, irritated, and Caroline passed me a note and nodded in the direction of the window. Outside Jason had his back to us, striding away.

“It’s from Jason,” Caroline said, looking wide awake now.

I bit my lip and hesitated, before slipping the unread note into my pencil case, and turning my attention back to Mrs. Smith’s workings on the blackboard. I could feel Caroline’s frustrated gaze on me, but I ignored her.

At the end of the revision session, Caroline made her way over to my desk and stood leaning over it, hands on her hips. “Well, what did it say?”

I waited until Mrs. Smith bustled out of the classroom before I pulled the note from out of my pencil case. The note was written on cheap, thin paper, with a ragged edge where it had been torn from a pad.

Caroline tapped her foot as I read.

“He wants to meet me tonight,” I said and looked over Caroline’s shoulder to the window, but Jason was nowhere to be seen.

“Tonight? Where? What will you wear? What about that little black top, and jeans. You don’t want to look like you are trying too hard.”

I smiled, and tried to act as if getting notes from admirers was an everyday occurrence, when truthfully, my heart was hammering. “I’m not going to meet him,” I said, standing up and shoving books into my rucksack.

“What? But why? He’s gorgeous...”

“I don’t want to mess up. We’re in the middle of our exams.”

“What’s that got to do with anything? It’s only a bit of fun.”

“And what if I get caught? It’s different for you. I won’t have another chance. I was so lucky to get this scholarship. I can’t mess everything up when I’m so close to finishing,” I said.

Caroline opened her mouth to say something, thought better of it and linked her arm with mine. “All right. I still think you’re crazy though.”

“Maybe.”

“So have you thought about what you are doing this summer? A whole six-weeks away from studying before we go off to uni,” Caroline said.

I sighed. “I need to get a job. I thought I’d stay at Freddie’s and work at The Anchor for the summer.”

“At the pub? All summer? But you said you’d come to Staverton this summer.”

“I want to, but...” I shrugged.

“At least come for a little while. I’m supposed to be doing that stupid piano tour at the end of August that my mother’s organised. Say you’ll come before the tour, just for a little while?”

I closed my eyes and imagined spending a week in Devon, with Caroline and her family. A proper family. “I’ll speak to Uncle Freddie, perhaps I could come down for the first week of the holidays.”

Caroline grinned. “Fantastic. We’ll have such a brilliant time I promise, and you’ll see Staverton, finally.”

A week in Devon would be perfect, and I would still have five-weeks left of the holiday to work at The Anchor and spend time with Freddie. I wanted to see Staverton, the house Caroline spoke about in reverential tones, but most of all, I wanted to be part of a proper family, even if it were only for one week.

Chapter 8

Freddie replaced the telephone handset. He’d just finished his weekly chat with Lucy. She telephoned, regular as clockwork, every Wednesday night, and every time he hung up smiling, knowing he had done the right thing by encouraging her to return to St. Catherine’s. But tonight he didn’t smile when he hung up.

He pulled out a bottle of ale from the cupboard and rattled around in a drawer, until he found the bottle opener. The view from the kitchen window was stunning tonight. He leaned against the worktop and gazed out. The sky, the colour of purple heather, melted into the navy sea, and the scattered clouds reflected various shades of lavender.

Freddie felt Bert nuzzle against his leg, and he reached down to pet him. Bert had an uncanny way of picking up emotions, of knowing when you needed a bit of company. The dog followed Freddie through to the living room, where Freddie settled in an armchair, his legs stretched out in front of him, and Bert curled at his feet.

He took a sip of ale. Lucy hadn’t done anything wrong. She planned to visit friends for a week, and after a year of working so hard, she deserved to relax and enjoy herself. But the truth was, he would miss her.

Lucy said she would still spend most of the summer here, but he wasn’t convinced. If her friend’s family invited her to stay on, then she’d be mad to refuse. They could probably arrange a job that paid better and was more appealing, than working for Bess in The Anchor.

Freddie glanced over at the pretty, green cushion on the sofa. Lucy embroidered it during the Easter holidays and had given it to Freddie for his birthday. Freddie didn’t know much about that type of thing, but he reckoned she had a talent for it.

He sighed. He expected too much. There wasn’t much for a girl of her age to do up here. Lucy had her own life, and that was the way it was meant to be. The last thing he wanted to be was a clingy relative. He had chosen not to settle down, not to have a family of his own, so there was no point getting maudlin about it now.

Freddie reached down and patted Bert. “Come on, Bert. Let’s go and see Bess.”

Chapter 9

I was walking back to my room from the library, with a pile of maths books under my arm, when I sensed someone was following me. I quickened my step, my shoes clipped against the hard wooden floor, which gleamed under the harsh artificial lights.

It was eight pm, and most of the other girls would be in their rooms, chatting, or watching television in the common room.

I paused at the door, leading to the courtyard and turned, looking down the corridor. There was no one there. Could I have imagined the sound of footsteps approaching?

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have been so jumpy, but recently, I’d come to the attention of a vicious clique of girls, who called themselves the glitterati. Stupid name for a bunch of stupid girls. It hadn’t been serious, a bit of name-calling, someone shoving me, or pulling my hair when I had my back to them. Spiteful, petty things.

There was no one there now. I sighed with relief, pushed open the door and walked out into the courtyard. The students’ accommodation, an old and attractive red-brick structure, was on the other side of the yard. It was a new addition, only forty years old, but it had been designed to fit in with the main school building.

The courtyard was threaded with footpaths, which were lined with flower beds, planted with a variety of brightly coloured flowers. I took a deep breath, savouring the scent of them.

Half-way across the courtyard, I heard a noise behind me. I turned and bit my lip. Mary Clark and Cindy Whitaker, two of glitterati’s ring leaders, stood a few feet away.

Mary smiled. Her thin lips drawing back over her pointed teeth. “What’s the hurry, Lucy? Too good to mix with the likes of us?”

Cindy cackled.

I was close to the entrance of the dorm. If I turned and ran, I could make it inside and lock myself in my room before they reached me. But I wasn’t going to run. Not from them.

“What do you want?” I said, gripping my books to my chest.

“An apology,” Mary said, and Cindy just laughed again. Obviously Mary was the leader.

I waited for them to walk up to me. “What for? I haven’t done anything to you.”

“You stole her boyfriend, Jason,” Cindy said, and then was silenced by a glare from Mary.

“Your boyfriend? Jason?” I shook my head. “I’m not interested in Jason.” I turned away.

“Don’t turn your back on me, you stuck-up bitch,” Mary shouted, reaching for my arm. Her fingers dug in, and the books I had been holding fell to the ground.

I shook off Mary’s grip. Shaking with adrenaline and anger. Even in the red mist of rage, I could see the absurdity of Mary calling me a stuck-up bitch. Over the past few weeks, Mary had been quick to point out how my scholarship, put me far beneath the other girls at St. Catherine’s.

I took a deep breath and bent down to retrieve my books. “You’re being ridiculous. I –”

Before I could finish, Mary kicked me in the ribs, not very hard, but enough to send me off balance and graze my knee.

Anger flashed through me, and I picked up my Algebra text book, the heaviest of my hardback books, and lifted it above my head, intending to hit Mary with it as hard as I could.

A light dazzled us. Mrs. Smith stood at the opposite end of the courtyard, waving her torch at us. “What’s going on out there?”

“Nothing, Mrs. Smith,” all three of us replied in chorus.

“Well, get inside and stop making such a noise.”

Under the watchful eyes of Mrs. Smith, I gathered my books and followed Mary and Cindy inside.

BOOK: Staverton
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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