By the same author
|© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland|
Chapter 18 -Can't get much better
'Ah! There you are! At last I have found you,' called a voice from behind as the three girls sauntered toward the school gates after the rather shocking incident at lunch, which had been followed by a tour of Hopewell's dormitories and other facilities. Looking back, Priscilla and Monique were delighted to see the figure of Tsuang Tsu hurrying towards them through the crowd of first-year students on their way home. Catching up, she fell into step beside them and Priscilla introduced her to Narenda, before telling Tsu of earlier events, including the bullying episode, (literally at the hands of Roseanne Sole, who had not been seen since the confrontation in the cafe) and then asking which class Tsu had been assigned to.
'Oh, I am in Form One A and so, as we have been told, will be sharing some classes with One B. Our Form Master is Mister Garland.'
'You are, how do you say, a lucky...erm...canard...ah...duck!' said Monique, grinning. 'He is rather...'
'He is, isn't he?' Tsu nodded enthusiastically, then went on quickly, 'How are you all getting home?'
'Well, Monique and I are going to catch the tram and Narenda's Mum is picking her up,' Priscilla answered, as they passed through the tall iron gates and stood on the footpath outside.
'Yes,' said Narenda, 'Mother, Nisha and I are going to visit our Aunt and Uncle, otherwise we could have given you both a ride home.' She waved at a vehicle parked across the street and added, 'There they are. Perhaps we can get together over the weekend? After all, we will be moving in here Monday morning.'
'We've got your phone number, we'll ring tomorrow,' called Priscilla as Narenda hurried off to the waiting car.
'And now that we are alone together,' said Tsu, while the trio ambled toward the tram stop, 'perhaps we might talk of your...adventures and conclusions in the past couple of days?
'Won't be much time on the tram,' said Priscilla.
'Then we could all just step it out to your home from here, that will take about three-quarters of an hour,' Tsu replied. 'The house of Fon Jien, where I live, is in Canterbury.'
'But Priscilla, your Grandmother might worry if we are so long,' suggested Monique.
'No problem,' Tsu answered, 'I have the means for you to communicate with her.'
'Like, through cyberspace or mind-teleportation, or whatever else happens in Lhasa?' Priscilla asked, her eyes widening, as did Monique's.
'No,' Tsuang Tsu shook her head and her black, cropped hair fell across her amused face, 'through this. It's called a mobile phone.'
'I suppose it was Monique's Mother's wedding ring, that finally convinced us,' concluded Priscilla as the three girls walked along together, and Monique agreed, proudly displaying the gold band where she had threaded it onto the peridot chain. 'Oui, so now that we have been confused, concerned and convinced, we want to know more.'
Tsuang Tsu smiled. 'Of course you do. That is only natural. So, what if I were to tell you both that I am an agent for a people who come from another planet very far off, way out in the solar system.'
The two girls looked at each other, expressions of disbelief mingled with uncertainty and amazement on their faces. 'You, you are an alien?' Monique asked, stunned.
'No,' said Tsu, shaking her head, 'I have travelled here from Lhasa in Xizang Zizhiqu, that is Tibet, where Fon Jien also comes from. I am merely a representative, as is he.'
'But what's the connection between people in Tibet and alien's from outer space?' asked Priscilla, clearly at a loss. 'What do they want with us? Why are you an agent for them? What's it got to do with our house, and Monique and me?'
Tsuang Tsu's answer was a single word, 'Roswell.'
'Like the old name for the house, or the thing that happened in New Mexico way back in nineteen-forty-what-ever-it-was?' said Priscilla.
'All these events are inter-related,' Tsu answered, 'things have happened in the past on Earth without too much notice, and are continuing to happen. Sometimes, however, there is an incident that comes under scrutiny; Roswell, New Mexico, was one.'
'Do you mean that our Earth is being peopled by Creepy-Crawlies from a distant planet and humans are not even aware of it?' Priscilla asked, incredulously.
Tsuang Tsu halted and tilted her head. 'Here I must ask you some questions. What would you do if you could go to another planet far away where interesting life forms dwelt, a planet that was inviting; somewhere that you liked so much that you wanted to stay and live?'
Monique arched her eyebrows, her gaze shifting from Priscilla to Tsu, 'Mon Dieu! That is a difficult question. Some might say that invasion, that is conquering those already there, would be the easiest way of achieving such an aim. Of certain, it has happened in country after country throughout the history of this world, from all that I have learned.'
'And that would be what is expected of life-forms from beyond this planet: invasion, destruction and the rule of aliens too powerful for the Earth to defy, but,' and here Tsu took both their hands in hers, 'what if the peoples of far-away wanted only to arrive here and live in harmony with humanity? What if they were not interested in ruling this world? What if all they wanted was to be accepted and to make Earth a better place, a safer place for themselves and those who dwell here already?'
'I'd have to say that they had rocks in their heads, if they happened to have heads,' joked Priscilla, before hurrying on. 'Seriously, I still can't get my own head around this; you're telling us that you and Fon Jien have come all the way to Australia to promote some guys that are landing here from outer space and that they come in peace, so we don't have to worry because they have better technology than us and can help by having agents all over the world where bad people are causing bad things to hap...' she paused in mid-sentence, her own words sinking in. 'Tsu, do you mean that what Monique and I have seen about her Mum and Dad is a part of all this?'
'It is a part,' Tsu answered, 'and it is to be hoped that your experience in the last few days will help to convince you both of exactly that. Fon Jien and I trust that what you have already witnessed and what is to follow will be sufficient to open your minds and perhaps convince you both to lend us aid in our mission.'
'Which is?' asked Priscilla, with a hint of suspicion in her voice.
Tsuang Tsu released their hands and resumed walking, 'Which is to enlist people like yourselves on behalf of those who have come and are coming from far away to dwell amongst the population of this planet, that they may impart their wisdom and strength for the betterment of all on Earth.'
'Why would we be chosen to do such a thing? And what could we do?' Monique asked, striding along at Tsu's side. 'We are not the leaders of nations, we have no power, no means to alter the world. We are only schoolgirls.'
'You, and those like you, have more power than you think, more than you dream. It would be fruitless for us to attempt to change what is already in place on Earth. The great powers of the world have signalled their ambitions and their goals, the great religions have taken their stance over centuries. It is not toward the entrenched that is the thrust of our mission, it is to the young that we must appeal. If you were to attempt change in a people, a culture, a nation, who would you turn to? Not the old, who are set in their ways, not those who have grown to maturity, nurtured by their elders. No, it is to the young in their playpens and their playgrounds, those who have yet to be corrupted or bent this way and that, those who are still able to grasp new and unknown ideas and thoughts, that we turn to.'
'I have heard of such things before,' said Monique, who also spoke carefully now, 'cults and extreme religions that exploit the foolish and the gullible to their bitter sorrow...'
'You speak the truth,' said Tsuang Tsu, 'and are wise to be wary. In this, you both must judge for yourself, weighed upon past, present and future events, and here we are at our parting. Your way home is that path, and mine goes there,' Tsu indicated a street across the road. 'I do not ask a decision from either of you now, only that you consider. We will all meet again at Hopewell Hall next week. When, and if, you wish to hear further, I shall be ready.'
'Ready to what?' called Priscilla, as Tsu began to cross the main road and the golden, west-fading sun slanted her long shadow eastward over the tramlines.
'Ready to laugh with you and sing...sing...Sing!' Tsu called back, dancing a twirl on the tracks as two black, snarling motorbikes rumbled up the road, boring to left and right of her without braking and a flurry of cars and vans descended from the opposite direction. By the time the traffic had passed, Tsu had crossed and was hurrying away along the dark-green hedges that sloped into Canterbury.
'Hmm, why is she so happy? Why? So many questions left unasked and unanswered,' said Priscilla, her mouth set in the same characteristic mould as her father and brother. 'Confused, concerned and convinced, that's us; but also now, bewitched, bothered and bewildered...'
What is it that you say Cilla?' Monique asked, her dark skin glowing as if she, like Tsu, had been spinning like a top.
Priscilla turned and her hazel eyes blazed with the sun's afternoon light. 'Monique! You called me Cilla!'
Anyone, walking the slow rise of Riversdale road toward the twin bat-eared spires of the imposing church on the crest of the hill, could have been forgiven if they fancied that they saw the distant, dwindling figures of two young school-girls, one white skinned, the other black, skipping away together, arms entwined, their laughing, singing voices dwindling, as if part of some old time movie musical, down a quiet road of tall trees and gardens that would eventually become lost to the twilight.
'So all in all, it was a good day for you both,' remarked Granny Black as she busied herself putting together the ingredients for a summer salad that same evening.
'Everything went well Missus Black, except for our encounter with Roseanne Sole in one of the school's cafes,' answered Monique, leaving off her beetroot cutting to give the back of her neck a gentle rub.
'Yes,' nodded Amelia, addressing both the girls as well as Louis and Henry, who were all employed sorting out dinner, 'as Priscilla told me. Well, I expect you're going to come up against people like this Roseanne Sole throughout your lives. Surely each of you have bumped into her kind in primary school? They're only bullies who need the stuffing knocked out of them. Once you stand up to them they deflate like pricked balloons...'
'This one is a very large balloon, Missus Black. She is...how do you say...formidare...formidable!'
'Be that as it may seem Monique and stop calling me Missus Black, I'm sure I've told you before, Amelia or Granny will do, the bigger they are, the harder...'
'They can beat you up,' ended Louis. 'I've been on the end of the odd belting in schools all over the place. Sometimes you just can't fight back; the big kids knock you down and stand on you, and nobody's game to do anything about it, and they've always got mates, and even if a teacher gets involved, they wait until you're on your own some morning or night and then they gang up and you haven't got a chance...'
'And it does not have to be a physical punishment,' added Monique, 'just the taunting, just the words: nigger, black-kid, half-caste, half-white-trash; if you hear it over and over behind your back for long enough, it slowly begins to take away your confidence and your self-respect...'
Priscilla, cutting up tomatoes, interrupted, 'Sometimes self-respect's just a flimsy bubble. It doesn't take much...Well, I suppose I...' she looked down at the bread-board and the black face of Harry the dog, looking up hopefully, and continued to slice in silence.
'That's why someone like her can't handle it,' said Henry, rattling cutlery out of a kitchen drawer.
'Who?' Louis asked, looking at both Priscilla and Monique in turn.
'That girl Annie Sole of course, she's got a problem before she starts,' stated Henry, pursing his lips and sneaking Harry a piece of cheese under the table.
'Whatever do you mean?' said Granny Black, ladling olives and onions and tossing lettuce, eggs and celery into a large wooden bowl.
Henry tilted his head sideways, a big grin spreading over his face. 'It's all in her name. Who'd want Roseanne stuck on the front of Sole?'
'Don't get it,' muttered Priscilla, wiping a wisp of hair out of her eyes, and reaching for the salad dressing.
Henry looked up from where he was now placing knives and forks around the kitchen table. 'O.K. Cilla, would you like to be named Roseanne Sole, or Annie Sole?'
Priscilla screwed up her eyes. 'Still don't get it,'
'Do I have to spell it out? Try using the initials,' Henry smirked, 'anyway, must be time to go wash up, no wonder this Annie's got such a bee up her b...'
'Henry!' warned Amelia, holding aloft a salad fork, 'I think we see your point without further embellishment!'
Henry, who had reached the door by then, turned to see enlightenment dawning across the faces of the girls and Louis trying hard not to chuckle. 'I only mention this in my capacity as psychologist for the needy,' Henry added in a dignified manner. 'In Miss Sole's case she requires a cranial-humerus-rectal transplant, so that she will come to know her elbow from her ar...'
'Get out of here!' Louis yelled, tossing a radish at the empty doorway and laughing as Harry the dog charged through barking, reversed to retrieve the radish, and then scampered off after Henry.
Saturday morning the girls, busy getting all their books and uniforms packed, were visited by Narenda and her little sister Nisha, and in turn that afternoon went over to their house to help them prepare for the coming Monday's move into Hopewell Hall.
That evening, after returning home, they were settling in for the evening meal when Mathew arrived, racing through the front door in something of a breathless flurry. 'News! I've had some good news!' he shouted, hurrying down the hallway, twisting his head towards the upper floor and heading for the kitchen where Amelia and Rachael were chatting over a cup of tea.
'Whatever is all the commotion dear?' asked Rachael, half rising from her stool at the breakfast bar. 'Never mind Granny, I'll tell you all the rest of the goss about what Derryn said on the radio later, now Darling?' She looked earnestly at Mathew, giving him her full attention, as Amelia heaved a great sigh. 'Yes my son, my son, sock it to us.'
Mathew, pulling up as if he'd just had the wind knocked out of his sails in two directions at once panted, 'I've had a phone call from South Africa, from the authorities in the North, relayed down from somewhere up around Temba outside Pretoria! Jean Michele and Monica have been found alive!'
'What's happening Dad?' Louis shouted, storming in from the back garden with Henry and Harry the dog charging along in his wake. Almost at the same moment, Priscilla and Monique came tumbling down the stairs together and burst into the kitchen.
' Monique! Monique! Your Mother and Father have been found! They're safe! Alive and well and safe!' shouted Mathew, sweeping the girl up into his arms and swirling her around the kitchen, knocking over a stool, dodging the scampering dog and linking arms with Rachael who had, by then, gotten to her feet. 'And that just shows the power of prayer!' cried Rachael, almost piously, forgetting herself, while Granny Black beamed and curled her arms about her bosom, cuddling in all the excited scene.
'What's that Mum? Did you actually pray for Monique too?' Priscilla asked, dancing on the spot.
'Well, yes...Of course I did dear,' said Rachael, suddenly coming to a standstill, somewhat abashed, as if she felt she'd blown her own cover.
'In a church?' Priscilla pressed.
'Umm...Oh, not every one needs to pray in church,' Rachael replied evasively. 'And I... er...am sure that Granny and everybody else here did their bit... After all, you don't need to have a church around you to pray...' she ended lamely.
Priscilla and Monique exchanged knowing looks as Mathew set her down and went on excitedly, 'Sometime tomorrow I think you might be able to talk with your parents when they get into Pretoria, if we can get a line through. But for tonight that's the best I can do. Sleep tight Monique!
It was almost seven o'clock Sunday evening when the phone call came. Mathew answered on the new extension in the kitchen and Monique and Rachael picked up on the lines in other rooms. Amelia and the boys hung around eavesdropping and having information relayed from time to time from Monique, who was positively squealing with joy, tears rolling down her happy face as she spoke for the first time since her arrival in Australia with her missing parents.
Without anyone noticing, Priscilla, so very pleased for her friend yet feeling somehow lost amongst all the commotion, stole silently upstairs.
Oh my gosh Diary, I'm sorry that I haven't had much time lately to update you. It's just that so many things have happened since Christmas and Missey dying and all... Priscilla stopped writing to brush the corner of her eye. The tear that had begun to appear was part of the feeling that was slowly creeping over her; it was a strange feeling containing mingled emotions so that she felt over-washed by newfound joy and the echoes of sorrow. Drifting up from downstairs she could hear the excited babble of the phone conversation that rose and fell as Monique and Mathew took turns to ask questions and relay the answers to the others gathered around them. Occasionally the boys would cheer or clap. I don't know if I can say this like I'd...no...like I suppose it should be sort of told, Diary. I mean I'm not very good at getting out what I really feel, not even in my own thoughts and not even to you, but I really want to let it out, and you're the only one I can tell it to. Oh, no, I don't mean that really. I mean, I have Monique and she's cool. She's a wonderful new friend...and I'm so very glad for her tonight... Priscilla rested her pen. Her eyes strayed to the window. Beyond, the tree, towering over the house, was outlined by the street lights below and the faint, silvery gleam of the waning moon above. Somewhere within the depths of the clustered foliage, a pale glimmer blinked briefly, like a comforting beacon reminding her that what she and Monique had experienced was in fact a reality. Priscilla sighed and loneliness, in the midst of so much happy companionship below, stole in, enveloping her in its unbidden grasp. Oh Diary, she wrote on, I don't want to cry. It's just that sometimes, I can't help thinking about Missey. It's hard to explain how empty I sometimes feel without her hanging around my feet...and even now with school coming up and the crazy things that have been happening to Monique and me, there are the quiet times like now when I have to write it down...Yes...I have to write...That's what I have to do...that's what I've always wanted to do Diary...I want to write...maybe not about my own grey life, but about others...and gee, there's these two girls see, The BlackEagle Girls...
Something very softly, very gently, distracted Priscilla's attention. It was so subtle; hardly movement, hardly sound, almost just pure feeling. She stopped writing, her pen poised over the dairy, and slowly turned her head toward the door. The room, lit by the glow of her desk lamp, was empty. She shrugged and turned back to the diary, and as she did she felt a faint glow of warmth close to her leg. Peering down she looked into shadow and the darker outline of a furry black face gazing up at her. The brown eyes blinked as the dog, almost inaudibly, panted. Everything beyond Priscilla's little pool of light seemed to distance away. She blinked too, smiling and reaching her hand to touch the side of the dog's muzzle. A hot, wet tongue licked at her palm as she stroked through the fur. 'Harry, you little dear. How come you left the party downstairs? I figured that Henry's almost dognapped you already. You two guys seem to get on pretty well, and a'course you'll be seeing a lot more of him than me over this school year. Thanks for coming up to visit me, but you don't have to stay if you don't want to. I wont be much longer, got to get down there and give Monique a big hug. Her mum and dad are safe now and they'll be coming over here soon I bet. Then I guess this bedroom will be pretty much empty, what with her and me mostly at Hopewell. But never mind, Granny and Henry'll take care of you, and I'll be home sometimes during the holidays...'
A sharp cry and a chorus of voices and the thumping of jubilant, dancing feet from below, broke the spell. Priscilla lifted her hand. 'I guess everyone's celebrating and maybe wondering where I am. Off you go little chap, I'll be down soon.'
The dark form at her knee obediently rose and padded away.
'Now where was I ?' Priscilla muttered, turning back to the diary, 'oh yeah, well Diary, I'm not too sure that I can say much more to you. There are lots of questions that need answers, but I don't want to write them down in case someone else reads this. Like how the heck did a little black dog, or other dogs that look exactly like him, get into all those old photos? Speaking of, now that Dad's got the attic steps fixed I'll have to sneak all that stuff back up there to cover our tracks. And anyway who are these so-called beings from outer space? Are Monique and me being taken for a ride? What's with Tsuang Tsu? I can't work out why she was so happy. And I definitely don't know about what we're going to do with Monique's Mum's wedding ring. How do we give it back without explaining what happened? If it happened, but then it must have because we...'
'Of course it happened, as you are finally about to discover. That is reason enough for Tsuang Tsu to be happy,' said a soft voice at Priscilla's back. It wasn't just a soft voice, it was The Voice, the one that spoke to them on their journey to Africa... 'Aboard The BlackEagle, yes that seems to be a most suitable name for Are-Too-Dee-Too,' concluded the voice as if it could look straight into Priscilla's thoughts.
Slowly she began to turn around, her heart thumping and her eyes, squinting into the shadows.
'Take your time, this might be a little...'
Here ends The BlackEagle Girls.
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