By the same author
|© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland|
Chapter 17 - Dis-Orientation Day
That sound echoed in Priscilla's ears, fading away...fading as she slowly became conscious. She kept her eyes shut and reacted to the feel of where she was, reluctant to do more than to hear, and touch and smell. She heard bird song and felt snug under blankets and the clothes that she realized she was still wearing. She could feel her feet inside her sneakers. And she could smell the lazy warmth of bedding and breakfast drifting up from somewhere below.
Cautiously, she opened an eye. Light, the light of a new day, flooded her vision. She was in her bed, her own bed. She turned her head and saw Monique, lying on her back, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and yawning.
'Some dream huh!'
'Did you have the same dream?' said Monique anxiously, rolling onto her side to stare, wide-eyed at Priscilla.
'If it was about tree-houses and voices and going to Africa to find your Mum and Dad...'
'Oui, yes! that was what it was about! Oh Priscilla! Did we really go there?' Did we find Mother and Father?'
'Yeah, in our dream,' Priscilla replied, propping herself up on an elbow. 'Seems we have the same dreams, and they all have happy endings. But...'
'What do you mean, "But !" We were there! My Mother and Father will be safe soon...'
Priscilla pursed her lips, exactly like her brother Henry and her father Mathew might have done. 'Bloody hell, Monique, even if it happened, how do we know if it was reality? It might be just some variation, some version that we both want to happen, or that the voice wants us to think happened. I mean he really clammed up when we got back inside, just ignored my questions about who he is and what he meant by "one of ours" and who are those dummy-looking things that take our places here in bed. All he was concerned about was exit procedure and bringing us back. And then we just float out of the tree-house, climb through the window again and goodnight nurse! It's pure fantasy, it seems real, but it can't be. Fancy believing we could be transported to another country...'
'If you girls aren't down here in the next ten minutes you can start thinking about lunch, because that will be your next chance to eat!' came an earth-shattering bellow from downstairs. Granny Black was on the warpath.
'Quick!' said Monique, 'Let's get out of these clothes, have a quick wash and throw on some other old stuff.'
They both scrambled out from under the bedcovers and hurriedly began to slip off their joggers and jeans.
'Did your dream have the sanitation process in it? You know, the voice said it was to make sure we brought no contaminations of any kind back into Australia?' asked Priscilla, pulling her tee-shirt over her head.
'Where we seemed to be dry-cleaned while still wearing everything during the journey home,' Monique nodded, undoing buttons and tossing her shirt onto the floor. 'That was a very strange sensa...'
There was the sound of metal bouncing off the floorboards, then something rolling under Priscilla's bed. Both girls stared at each other for a second, then leapt onto the floor to fossick out the object. Monique got to it first and as they both surfaced she held it up.
'It's a gold ring!' said Priscilla. 'It was in your shirt pocket!'
'Mon Dieu! It is Mother's wedding ring! See, there is an inscription!' Monique exclaimed, her hands shaking so much Priscilla had to grab hold of them to take a look.
' "All you need is love. J.M.B.", ' she read aloud, screwing up an eye to read the fine letters inside the band. 'Ooley Dooley! Four must have dropped it into your pocket when he put in the Activator!'
Monique was beaming, yet her eyes were brimming with tears. 'Some dream, ma cherie,' she managed through her sobs.
The front doorbell rang while the girls were stacking the dishwasher.
'I'll get it!' shouted Henry, bursting up the hallway with Gizzard clutched firmly in his hand. (He liked to take Gizzard outside for a little exercise now and then.)
'Cilla! Someone wants to see you!' he shouted after ripping open the front door. 'Looks important!' he added, hoping to see his sister break into a run, as any brother would.
'What now?' called Priscilla, wiping her hands on a tea-towel.
'Ohh! Come and see. It's for youuu!'
Monique smiled, 'Whatever it is, your Brother seems excited!'
When they arrived at the front door, they found two girls waiting on the doorstep. The foremost was about their age, and peeping out from behind her was a smaller girl of eight or nine years.
'Hi,' said Priscilla, opening the security door, 'you wanted to see me?'
Henry marched through with Gizzard held before him, 'Excuse us, just taking the lizard for a walk,' he said, and then remained not beyond ear-shot, pretending to sort out Gizzard's daily routine of fly catching and such in a nearby garden bed.
The older girl smiled and said, 'Hello, my name is Narenda Upaday and I, like you, shall be attending Hopewell Hall this year. It was my young sister here that both of you saved when she was knocked unconscious after being pushed into the water at Hedgeley Dene. We have come today, now that she...that is Nisha...is well enough, to say thankyou so much for all that you did. You saved her life, and Mother and I, and Nisha, are forever grateful and in your debt and...' here Narenda beckoned Nisha to come out from behind her, 'we should like to bring you a gift.'
Monique's eyes widened, she had seen the old photographs, but Priscilla was stunned because she had actually observed the black dog in the back garden during their first flight of fantasy, or whatever else it was.
'H! That's who you are! H!' she thought, her heart leaping, her hands opening to take him and hold him to her.
The dog looked at her with dark, hazel eyes. He was completely black, with a sharp, pointed face and skinny stick legs. His fur was long and unkempt, he certainly needed a good brush and a trim up.
'Raf! Raf-raf!' He seemed happy enough in Priscilla's arms, his white teeth gleaming as he yapped away.
'Where did you get him? Who's been looking after him? Does he have a name?' she asked in a rush.
Narenda laughed, and so did her little sister. 'You ask so many questions all at once. We did not get him, he got us. He seems to have been roaming around the neighbourhood for weeks now. I am told by several of the people who live nearby that he was owned by the old lady and her husband. The couple who were here before your parents bought this house. After the old man died there was no one who came to take care of him, and he just wandered around on the loose. However, he stayed in the vicinity and from time to time would drop in on us for a handout. We could not keep him in, he always found a way to escape and return here, even before you came. Nisha thinks that he is a beautiful creature and has found especial pleasure in his company, but she also knows that he belongs to this house. And now, if you will take him as her gift to you, she would be very happy.'
'I would be very happy,' repeated Nisha shyly, 'and I am sure that you will allow me to visit him...and thankyou both very much for saving me.'
'And no,' said Narenda, 'he doesn't have a name, except for Here Boy. Will you take him?'
Priscilla and Monique exchanged eyebrow-raised glances. 'I...Well I'll have to ask Dad and Mum and Granny,' said Priscilla, fondling the dog as it squirmed in her arms.
'This is another choice that is being offered,' Monique said. 'I think it is meant to be. Missey will not mind too much. She will rest easier if you are happy. As for your parents, I will plead with them on your behalf. You need a dog. This is the right one. He belongs to this house.'
'Ah, Priscilla, what a cute little doggie,' said Rachael, breezing past towards a taxi that almost magically appeared in the driveway, as if on cue.
'Mum, the girls here want me to have him to keep. Nisha is the one we pulled out of the water...' Priscilla called out as Rachael hurried toward the cab on her way to rehearsals, which were now in full swing.
'That's nice dear, ask your Father and Granny, fine by me. Must dash, brave thing you both did, see you all tonight or tomorrow...or whenever...' She bundled herself into the back seat of the taxi and as it slid away, waved regally, her face glowing.
'Yeah...Sure Mum...' said Priscilla, despondently.
'Raf-raf!' barked the dog.
'Don't worry, little feller,' said Henry brightly, coming over to give the dog a pat, 'We'll take care of you from now on...'
'And just who would be taking care of the pooch when you're all at school?' asked Granny Black, arriving at the door with Rachael's mobile phone in her hand.
'Oh Granny Black, too late she has already gone,' said Monique, realizing what had happened.
'That Lady would forget her head if it wasn't tacked on,' muttered Amelia. 'Come to think of it, I sometimes wonder if it is actually attached...anyway, about the dog,' she continued, looking up.
'Well, gee whiz,' said Henry, doing his best lip-pouting routine, 'I'm not going to Hopewell Hall this year. I'll be here every day. Me and Gizzard can take care of the little tacker, yeah and Cilla and Monique can come home sometimes at weekends too...'
'And the rest of the time it will be up to me, I suppose?' said Amelia, sternly. 'Just like it's been in the past with all kinds of your crickets and bugs and spiders and the like.'
'Sort of, Granny,' said Louis, arriving at the crucial moment, 'but I'll do my best to help out too. Take a look at Cilla, she's been moping on and off ever since Missey died. Give her a break, please. Looks like a bit of a bitser but if she wants him, she deserves a new pal.'
Granny Black's expression softened. 'Hmm, all ganging up on me then. I wish I had Irish Mollie as a backstop right now, although she'd probably give in easier than me. Alright, let's see what your Father has to say about it.'
'Can the little guy have his own bed up in Cilla's room?' said Henry, as if it was a done deal already, and before Amelia could answer, he turned to Priscilla and asked, 'What are ya gunna call him, Cilla?'
Priscilla scratched the dog behind the ear and then, in turn, her own ear. 'Gosh I don't know, I mean Dad hasn't actually said it's alright...'
'Never you mind about that,' said Amelia kindly, 'that can come later.' She reached out and stroked the dog's muzzle, 'I suppose I can put in a word there.'
'Well,' said Priscilla, heaving a sigh, 'I think a good name would be Harry.'
'Whoo!' said Henry, 'like in "He-who-can't-be-named," that'ud be cool!' (Henry was an avid fan of the Potter books and J.K.Rowlings.)
'No Henry, I wasn't thinking of Harry Potter. I was thinking of Dirty Harry. This boy needs a bath!' Priscilla laughed, and all the others joined in.
The afternoon was taken up with bathing and grooming Harry. Narenda and Nisha, having reported home, which was only a block away, came back to lend a hand. As they said, their family was not used to dogs and they were uncertain as to the maintenance of any small animal. Yet it turned out that they were very willing helpers and when they were ready to go home again, Harry had been laundered, clipped and coiffured into something of a canine statement. Even he seemed pleased to have gotten rid of the knots and bits of garden tangled in his coat. (Not to mention the fleas.)
'I'll look for you both tomorrow at Orientation Day. I do hope that we will share the same class,' said Narenda as she and Nisha set off.
By the time Mathew Black, who arrived home after nine that evening, came upstairs to say goodnight to Priscilla and Monique, Harry was already snuggled into a cane basket that had, until a few hours before, housed Granny Black's knitting.
'Amelia...I mean your Grandmother, has instructed me...' here Mathew laughed, 'I'm only joking...and I think the joke is probably on me...that you've got yourself a new dog Priscilla, and I think that if you love him as much as you loved Missey, you're going to have a great friend for a long time to come.' He knelt down and gave Harry a general rough-up, and the dog seemed to enjoy the fuss, rolling onto his back and grinning so that his red tongue lolled out over white teeth.
'Then it's O.K. with you Dad?' said Priscilla, already knowing the answer, but wanting to hear the confirmation.
'Of course, Sweetheart. I'm told this little tyke has been roaming around the neighbourhood like a tramp, waiting for someone to come and live here where he lived when his folks were alive. I guess he just comes with the house, as long as you want him.'
Priscilla sighed, and it was a sigh of relief. 'Thanks Dad, I'm glad you don't mind, and,' she hastened to add, 'Harry's already house trained.'
Mathew nodded. 'Sure he is, but just in case I think we can manage a doggie door downstairs and I'll see about shoring up our fences so that he can't go wandering off. Now it's time both of you get some sleep. You've got a big day tomorrow at Hopewell, and an interview with your new Headmistress at eight-thirty in the morning, remember?'
'Why does she want to speak to us?' said Monique, settling under the covers.
'Not sure, but you two certainly made an impression. So, up at six-thirty and ready to go by eight-fifteen, dressed to kill in your school uniforms, and I'll get you, and Louis, there on time; oh and Monique, I've been talking again with the people over in South Africa and some others in Botswana and Zimbabwe. I'm sorry to say that they have no news about your Parents.'
Monique smiled up at him, 'That is alright Mister Black, Priscilla and I have gone...' she slipped a sideways glance at Priscilla, who made a face, 'to er, a, a church, and, um, prayed for them.' Beneath the covers her fingers were hotly clutching her mother's wedding ring.
'Prayer is always a good thing, for everybody,' said Mathew gently. ' Now sleep time...' He bent and kissed Priscilla on her forehead, then turned to Monique, hesitating for a moment and she, taking the initiative, said, 'It is fine with me, Mister Black.'
And he said, 'Call me Mathew,' and bent to kiss her too.
'I am pleased to see that you are both here on time,' said Sonia Poe, Head Mistress of Camberwell's exclusive, though somewhat enigmatic, special secondary school Hopewell Hall. 'Don't stand on ceremony, be seated,' she indicated dark-stained timber chairs that fronted her own solid mahogany desk. 'Now,' she went on briskly, 'I feel that I owe the pair of you an apology. I, and others of my staff, were too quick to judge you both, and also to label you with names, Miss Black and Miss Bateleur,' and here she looked directly at the girls in turn. 'Having said that, I want to make it plain to you both that Hopewell Hall is a school with standards. This school, established many decades ago, is what it is claimed to be; a special school that takes in only students of a very particular kind. We have a reputation for turning out excellent results at the conclusion of every pupil's stay over the six years duration required. University is normally their next step on the higher path to success and a way of life that will take them to levels that cannot be attained in other spheres of education, however...' and here she indicated, with an incline of her head, 'we also accept students who are, or have been, difficulty impaired. That is to say, those who have come from underprivileged circumstances, disrupted families, children of refugees, children without parents...' At this point she looked squarely at Monique. 'I wish to make it clear that no matter what the situation of new students, they are welcomed openly and warmly and without prejudice. You are both here now because of your selfless act in helping to save a small child's life. You enter this school with a reputation that precedes you. I sincerely trust that you will maintain such reputation throughout your stay here.' She smiled and stood up. 'There will be a general assembly in the quadrangle at nine-thirty, when I shall address all newcomers, before you are divided into classes. Any questions will be answered by the form master assigned. Thankyou both for listening to what I have had to say. May you settle in comfortably next week and enjoy your time at Hopewell Hall.'
'That wasn't too much of a drag,' said Priscilla, as she and Monique made their way down a corridor toward the central grass and bitumen quad that was situated in the heart of Hopewell.
Monique, who was busy re-positioning her hat on her head, said, 'I think that our new Head-Mistress believes already that I am an orphan...'
'Attention!' came a voice from the school's loudspeaker system, 'All new students are to assemble in the central quadrangle by nine-thirty for a welcoming address by the Headmistress and staff, and dispersion to assigned forms for first years. Both final year Prefects and those probationary to the Prefecture, who are kindly donating their own time today, will be directing you. Thankyou.'
'...and so, finally, I give you all the motto of Hopewell Hall: Qualitas, Fraternitas, Æqualitas. Quality, Fraternity, Equality. We, the staff of Hopewell Hall have a duty of care for all our students. You, the incoming body of scholars, have a duty of care for yourselves, your tutors and Hopewell Hall. Give the very best you are able to give, and allow Hopewell Hall to do the same. On behalf of all our staff and the Prefecture, I bid you happy times, learning, knowledge and success.' The Head Mistress nodded toward the other teachers assembled, 'I leave it to our Assistant Headmaster, Mister Stanley Mitikovski, to oversee the assignment proceedings.' She indicated a stocky little man with a wide smile on his earnest face.
'Phew!' said Priscilla, lifting her hat to allow a little cool air under the brim,' She's full of it when she gets going, it's nearly ten-thirty.'
Monique grinned. 'So far, so good. I just hope that we are both going to be in the same class together.'
'Neow!' said Mister Mitikovski, stepping up to the microphone at the edge of the dais and speaking loudly into it, so that it popped, 'Here is the situation. The Prefects will take you in groups over to the Administration buildings where lists of classes are posted. Find your names on the lists and report to the allocated rooms where you will meet your Form Mistress or Master and a role-call will take place. After that it will be lunch time in the various cafeterias in the Students Wing, some of which you will find are open. There are also several Student Lounges on various levels there. The Probationary Prefects will show you to them. At two o'clock you will be taken on a guided tour of the school and its grounds before going home. Please wait for the Prefects to escort you in orderly groups. Remember, I'm telling you, orderly. No pushing and shoving. Thenkyou.'
Much to Priscilla and Monique's relief they found their names together on the list for Form One B. and also that of Narenda Upaday, who suddenly appeared from a group just coming in. 'Hi Narenda, good news, look we're all together in One B,' said Priscilla as Narenda joined them.
'More good news,' said Narenda, glancing down the list, 'there are nearly as many boys in our Form as girls!'
Form One B, attended by several junior prefects, assembled in a class room at ground level in the south wing, overlooking the sports fields. Once settled inside, the group looked about the room in some expectancy and a little apprehension. After all, these were girls and boys who had come from various other primary schools where they had been at the highest level of seniority and had now, suddenly, become the lowest grade of a six tier system.
Amidst the hub-bub and murmur of general chatter, a door opened behind the seated students and a figure strode up the central aisle. Passing the desks where Priscilla and Monique were seated, they had a view of someone in black cape and trousers, dark hair cropped short and blonde tipped. Upon reaching the step of the dais the figure turned about with a flourish. 'Hello, my new class, I'm new here too and I, as your Form Master...that is Mistress, do trust and hope that we will all find our way together. My name is Juliet Van Weenan and I am also the assistant Sports Mas...er...Mistress.' She seemed to be bouncing on the spot on the balls of her feet in a somewhat nervous manner. 'Now all we are going to do today is a role call so that I can get to know your faces and then it will be time for lunch. I expect you to call me Miss Van Weenan,' she turned and went to her desk and standing before it consulted a list on a clipboard that she carried. 'Now just say present when I call your name, Sandro Anastasi?'
'Present,' said a fair haired boy sitting in front of the girls.
'Present.' Somewhere in the background there was an abrupt snort, that might have been a bottled-up sneeze or a derisive comment. Juliet Van Weenan looked up in the silence that followed, her gaze sweeping the class, then turned her attention to her list once more. 'Priscilla Black?'
'I'll bet she does,' said some wag at the back. Miss Van Weenan looked up again, still bouncing.
A few of the other names got varied reactions. A blonde-haired girl, Sylvia Knight, got a wolf whistle, and at that Miss Van Weenan frowned. Jesus Mendosa, was commented on by Juliet herself, 'That's a name I shouldn't forget in a hurry...'
'What? Mendosa?' said the same wag at the back, so that Jesus seemed to glow red beneath his tanned skin and Juliet almost smiled. 'Karen Presley?'
'I wanna be your teddy bear!' called another boy, Gary Ingles, sitting directly behind her.
'Present,' she said, turning to stare at him, so that he looked away in embarrassment, having not realised how close she was to him.
'Saif al Saiph?'
'Pres...' There came a further loud cough that ended in another snort.
Juliet van Weenan bounced on the balls of her feet, lifting her head with a somewhat exasperated expression on her face. 'Saif al Saiph?'
'Present,' repeated a girl, wearing a head scarf, seated in the row in front of Priscilla, Monique and Narenda.
'Present,' said a voice from behind them.
'Present, but of course,' came the self-confident reply from the rear.
'Oh yes,' said Juliet, without raising her eyes. 'You're going to be the class clown, correct.'
'Er...Well, you know, make 'em laugh,' he answered.
'Fine,' said Juliet Van Weenan, still not looking up. 'Try this; if the early bird gets the worm, which mouse gets the cheese?'
'Pardon? No... erm...I...Oh, the second one!'
'Take a bow Mister Sinclair,' said Van Weenan. 'Just make sure you're not the first, we all know what he got. Make us laugh, sure, but keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole. Now, Roseanne Sole?'
'Sole? Was that the name of the man at the Real Estate Office you and Henry went to about the house?' Monique whispered to Priscilla, but before she could answer, a voice from somewhere in the assembly called out, 'Annie doesn't answer to that name, she answers to Annie.'
This time Juliet Van Weenan did look up. 'I am not asking anyone else in this room. I am asking Roseanne Sole. Are you present?' There was a stony silence.
'Very well,' said Juliet Van Weenan, let's do it your way, Annie Sole?'
'That's me, Annie Sole,' said the same voice, and suddenly both Priscilla and Monique recognised it as the voice that had accused them of trying to drown Nisha at Hedgeley Dene. Together, they twisted in their seats to get a glimpse of the girl. They weren't sure which one she was until Juliet Van Weenan spoke again, 'In future, when I call your name out for any reason, I expect to be answered. Do I make myself quite clear...Roseanne?'
'Why doncha get on with serving for the match?' came the reply, an obvious reference to Juliet's on the spot bouncing, that sent a ripple of light laughter through the class. Miss Van Weenan began to flush, but then with a good deal of control she walked down the aisle until she stood looking face to face with Roseanne Sole, who by now had gotten to her feet. She was a dumpy girl, but almost as tall as Van Weenan, and she appeared to be compressed into her uniform, considering the bulges here and there. One or two of the junior prefects stirred uneasily, seeming unsure as to whether to intervene.
'Sit down, Miss Sole,' said Miss Van Weenan, steadily.
Roseanne insolently remained standing for just a moment longer, before again resuming her seat.
'Now, Roseanne, your point is taken, and sometime in the future we might meet on the tennis court...'
'Annie doesn't play tennis,' came the sharp parry.
'And what kind of sport do you like?' said Juliet, almost conversationally.
'Annie likes swimming, she's strong in the water, She likes to see others go swimming too,' and here her face broke into something of a malicious grin.
Narenda suppressed a cry, and then whispered to Priscilla, 'Nisha said the girl who pushed her into the lake kept talking to someone who wasn't there!'
'How community minded of you,' said Van Weenan, still fixing Roseanne with an unwavering stare. 'Swimming is a speciality of mine, so we will be in the pool a lot this coming year. That is as long as you and I understand each other.' She turned sharply and bounced away toward her desk.
'Can't stand each other,' muttered Roseanne, just loudly enough for it to be heard at the front.
Van Weenan halted and still facing forward said, 'What did you say, Miss Sole?'
'Annie said, she's an outstanding swimmer,' came the mocking reply.
Priscilla, Monique and Narenda all turned in their seats to stare at the big girl where she sat, smugly grinning, until she caught sight of them, and her grin faded.
'Very well, Miss Sole,' said Juliet Van Weenan, her back still turned to the class, 'I shall look forward to both your performance in the pool and,' she added ominously, 'in class. Marge Turnbull?'
At lunch in the crowded Students Cafe on the ground floor of the east wing, the three girls sat together at a table near the door, scoffing into salad sandwiches between sips of fresh apple and orange juice. 'I don't much fancy being in the same class as her,' said Priscilla, wiping her chin with a napkin, 'she's going to be trouble for sure.'
'And Miss Van Weenan seems like a nice person,' said Monique, 'it will be such a pity for her to have to deal with the likes of Annie.'
'Never trust someone who talks about themself in the third person,' noted Priscilla, before taking another bite.
'What troubles me,' added Narenda, 'is that I am almost certain it was she who pushed...'
'Ay, you lot!' A rather solid thigh pushed the table so that it momentarily rocked, spilling apple juice onto the plastic tablecloth. 'Aw, look what you've gone and done. What a mess...Just like the mess Annie'll make of each one of you, ya know, in the pool.'
The girls looked up into the leering face of Roseanne Sole. Monique made to rise, but had her chair shoved hard, back against her calves whilst plump fingers grasped her hair so that she was forced to remain sitting. She opened her mouth, as did Priscilla and Narenda, but before they could utter a sound, Roseanne hissed, 'Annie doesn't want to hear a squeal from any of you, or you'll be wearing this all over your nice new uniforms, get it?' The tray she balanced above Monique's head was masking the big girl's hair-holding hand, and poised to be upended across the table if anyone moved.
'You can't threaten us like this!' said Narenda, her eyes searching for someone to come to their aid.
'Listen to Annie,' said Roseanne, her voice lowered to a menacing whisper, 'and hear her good,' she stared directly at Priscilla. 'You're Priscilla Black and I don't like Blacks. I don't like your face Blackie!' she tugged at Monique's hair, jerking her head back so that the high curve of the plastic chair dug into her neck. 'And If I don't like Priscilla Black, I don't like Black's friends, get it?' she twisted her fingers, tightening the tension on Monique's scalp, so that she gave an involuntary gasp, 'Like you Battler, or whatever your name is, and you, Upyourself! You've got a little sister, haven't you? I hear she's still a bit wet behind the ears.' Roseanne's face twisted into a vicious grimace that might have been her idea of a grin. 'You got any little sisters or brothers, Blackie?'
'No!' lied Priscilla.
'A'course you have, Annie saw him when he an' your Old Man came to get you both. Nice little kid, be a shame if anything happened to him...'
'You bitch!' hissed Priscilla, 'if you don't let Monique go and shove off, I'm going to call your bluff and scream the house down, you've got five seconds!'
For a moment the tray wobbled precariously over Monique's head, then Roseanne, her face red as beetroot, said, 'Yeah, O.K. Annie has to go and have a chat with a couple of other people anyway. See you and your friends around, Blackie!' She practically spat the last words as she released her grip and stormed outside to the tables on the pavement, bumping some boy so that his can of soft drink shot from his hand and landed, foaming like a miniature fountain, in a flower bed.
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