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BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 9 - School. It's a knockout!

Monique began to clear out her things and shift them down to Marge's dorm that same evening after dinner. At that end, Marge Turnbull, frowning, watched without speaking as Monique made the first of several trips. She didn't offer to help. New bedding had been provided by the school staff after shifting Roseanne's gear earlier in the day, and at the other end Monique's bed in turn was freshened up for the new inmate. Priscilla sat on her own bed, too sick at heart to be of any use, dabbing at the persistent tears that kept ebbing down her cheeks.
'Cheer up Cilla, it's not as if I was the one being moved to another class. At least we shall still be sitting together,' said Monique on returning for the last of her toiletries.
'I know, but it won't be the same. And we will have to be really careful about how we contact Harry in the future.'
'We will find a way,' said Monique, trying hard to be positive. 'Belinda and Narenda are in different rooms but we can all still get together. We will find a way,' she ended lamely. 'I have to go and shower now, I will see you tomorrow at breakfast. Goodnight.'
Priscilla got off her bed and gave her friend a big hug. 'Goodnight Moni. I hope it won't be too difficult with Marge. She's probably going to be pretty mad at us, the way things have turned out.'
'I know, but it is not our fault. We did nothing wrong.' Monique held Priscilla out at arm's length. 'Roseanne caused all this to happen. Try to get on with Surban when she arrives. It is not her fault either.' She gave Priscilla one of her big, toothy smiles, wiped a tear from the corner of her own eye and stepped outside, closing the door behind her.
Down the corridor she met Surban amongst a steady stream of students hurrying to and from The Palace. 'Hello Surban, my room... that is, your room is just there.' Monique indicated three doors along. 'Please be kind to my Roomy Priscilla. She is really a very nice person, but a little upset right now.'
Surban regarded Monique silently, then the hooded head bowed.
Monique, who was almost thirteen years old, continued on her way to the showers, feeling every bit of those few years; especially the last day of them.
When Surban entered the dorm room Priscilla was again seated on her bed, a hanky up to her eyes.
'Is this to be my bed.'
'Wha... Oh, it's you, I mean hi, I'm Priscilla Black your new Roomy and I'm not glad to meet you, that is I mean it's not you, it's just that I've lost Moni and I'm really upset and yes that's your bed and where's the rest of your stuff?'
'I am to blame for all this?' asked Surban, and before Priscilla could answer, added, 'These two bags are all that I have. Is this my fault also?'
'No, of course not,' said Priscilla earnestly. 'Look, let's not get off on the wrong foot first up.'
'What is wrong foot?'
'Oh gee, you don't get it do you? Let's start again. I'm Priscilla Black, your new Roomy in One B. Don't take any notice of me. No one is blaming you for anything. You have a bedside table and that little writing desk. That space in the wardrobe is yours and you can put your things in there and... have you had dinner yet?'
'I eat, and come from shower. Now is time for sleep. I need to be awake early for first class. Undress with light off.'
Priscilla looked at her bedlamp, the only light turned on in the room. 'We're girls, you shy?'
'I undress with light off.'
'Have it your way,' said Priscilla, swinging her own legs up under the covers, 'I'm pretty beat anyhow, sure don't want to read, so fine if you can navigate in the dark.' She clicked off the light.
'What is navi-gate?'
Priscilla waited a moment as she heard the soft rustle of Surban's gown slipping off and the sound of skin sliding between the sheets. 'It means finding your way. Maybe you'll get over your shyness in a few days, I mean we're room mates together. I gotta be able to see more of you than just your eyes.'
'Eyes enough. Time for rest before break fast.'
'Surban, who are you?'
'Surban. No one.'
After a restless night of serial dreams that persisted even when Priscilla repeatedly woke up and drifted off again, she finally surfaced to find Surban, already dressed in the same dun-coloured robe, regarding her through the slit of the headcovering. 'You have restless sleep, cry out. Always have bad dreams?'
'What? Oh yeah, well no not always. It's just that...' Priscilla rubbed her eye with her fist and attempted a smile. 'Like it's not because of you or anything, I'm just miserable and missing Monique. She's my special friend and we were really happy rooming together and, look don't pay any attention to me, I'll get over it and I guess we'll be fine after a little while.'
The dark eyes stared back unblinking. 'You must hurry and get up. I go to showers now. First class is for English with Mister Gannon.'
'Right, can't wait,' said Priscilla, throwing off the bed covers.
'How did it go with Marge?' asked Priscilla, taking a seat at a corner table in the Students Little Cafe opposite Monique.
'She blames you and I for getting Roseanne thrown out of One B, that is for sure, and I do not think I am her favourite colour anyway,' said Monique, sipping at her juice. 'It is like there is an invisible line drawn down the room. She is on her side and I have what is left. How did things go with Surban?'
'She's a clam. Won't give out anything. Won't even get undressed in the light. She's just a no-one inside a tent. I mean I don't have a problem with people's religion or where they come from, but you can't live your whole life under the covers. This is Australia. Look at Saif, she's trying to fit in even if she has to wear that boring stuff. Big religious deal!'
'The tent, as you name it, is called a Burqa,' said Monique, her tone altering. 'Do you know anything about it or about people who wear this kind of dress?'
'Um, well no, not really... ' Instantly Priscilla realised that she had pressed a wrong button. She and Monique had never spoken about religion at all, and now it seemed that it had suddenly become important.
'Then perhaps you should go to the library and learn before you start making comments about religion and people's beliefs.' Monique's knife sawed through the shell of her boiled egg and landed with a clatter on the plate. After this, breakfast became a frosty and brittle experience with Monique keeping her attention turned toward her plate. As soon as she had finished her toast she stood up saying, 'See you in class,' and before Priscilla could reply Monique turned away and strode off.
For the rest of the week there was a definite coolness between the two girls. They sat together as usual through their classes but barely communicated. It was as if a barrier had risen, perhaps because of the stress of their separation and their new room mates or simply that something had altered between them. Priscilla didn't know what to do and spent the days moping and the nights in further restless turmoil. Surban remained silent and distant.
Late on Friday afternoon Priscilla, coming from the toilets in The Palace, was hurrying head down through a stream of students along the corridor toward her last class of the day when suddenly she was bumped roughly aside and crashed into the lockers.
'Watch where yer goin' ya... Aw, it's you Smart-Arse,' said Roseanne's mocking voice at her back. 'How ya doin' with that new letter-box roomy of yours? Havin' lots a laughs? Annie's doing alright in One E, no thanks ta your dumb African mate. Turns out it's the best thing ta happen ta Annie all this year, an' it means that she can really stick it up you shmucks in tha swim finals.'
Catching her breath, Priscilla swung around to confront the big girl now leering directly into her face. 'It was you that got yourself thrown out of One B with that bag of fake blood in the pool!'
'Yeah, and so what? No recorders around here this time Dip-Stick, an' a'course Annie got you two spilt up as well. Howdja like that? You get stuck with some dessert chick who don't even know how ta talk right an' yer black pal cops Margie. An she's gonna cop Annie in the water next time, or maybe even on the basketball court. Annie's already flattened you, it's Moni Baby's turn next! Rumour has it that you an' your darky pal aren't speakin' much these days anyway. Too stressed out? Can't handle the nights without Sambo holdin' yer hand?'
Priscilla's face began to turn bright crimson and before she could think of controlling herself she launched out at Roseanne like a striking cobra!
Just at that moment an arm encircled her waist and a hand reached out to grasp at her airborne wrist before it found its target on the smug face grinning down at her. 'Don't let her suck you in Priscilla!' hissed a voice in her ear as she was dragged backward away from Roseanne.
'See ya round, Smart-Arse!' the big girl mocked, pushing off through the group that had gathered about them.
Priscilla struggled for a moment then broke free to find Ray Sharp still holding her arm. 'Ray, let me go!'
Ray kept holding her and Priscilla was suddenly aware of his deep hazel eyes. 'Only if you calm down. Don't you get it? She wants you to whack her and then she'll probably go down like a sack of spuds and you'll be up in Miss Poe's office getting bawled out before you can say Bullying Bitch.' He released his hold on her wrist but continued to keep her hand in his for a moment longer. 'Now, just cool it. Take a big breath. You can't let her get to you.'
Priscilla pulled her hand away and steadying herself said, 'Um, yes, thanks Sharpy. I suppose you're right, but someday that... '
'A Sole will need a good snotting, but not today,' he answered, smiling.
'No,' said Priscilla heaving a sigh. 'Thanks for stopping me.'
'I'm Form Captain of One B. That's part of what I have to do,' Ray replied, then as if he had something else on his mind he said, 'Look Priscilla... Cilla, would you like to... '
'Hey Sharpy! You gonna be alright for footy practice tonight? Yer ankle still feeling o.k.?' It was Jeff Sinclair breezing past with Jesus Mendoza and Sandro Anastasi hand-balling a football between them as they walked.
'Me? Aw yere,  I reckon so, ankle hasn't changed since the last time you guys asked me.'
'Your playing centre half-forward this Sunday, gotta keep our eyes on you. It's a big game against One D. Anyway hurry up, last period with Cranky Rankin then... freedom!' shouted Sandro, tossing the ball into the air and leaping against the other two to catch it.
Ray turned to Priscilla as if he was going to continue then shrugged, 'Look, let's not be late for Maths. You know what Rankin's like. Can we talk next week after I get through the game?'
Priscilla looked up into his face and again stared into those searching hazel eyes. 'Um, sure Ray. If you want.'
He grinned at her and his head weaved from side to side in a languid movement that made Priscilla blink. For a second the thought crossed her mind, He's so cool, then she found herself saying, 'Better catch up with the guys, I'll be right along, just need a moment to calm down.'
What she said was true, and she found herself slightly breathless as she slowly followed and the last period bell sounded through the school. Of course Priscilla was reluctant anyway. She found Mathematics boring and difficult and their teacher Mister Rankin to be aloof and distant. And they were only the nice words for him. It was rumoured that he had been in a war when he was young, Viet Nam or somewhere, and even in old age he seemed to carry the scars of his past into his work. He demanded total silence in the class room and patrolled up and down allowing his pupils no chance to express themselves, barking at any question and expecting complete understanding. Priscilla shivered as she arrived at the class room door to find Leon Rankin standing just inside.
'I do not tolerate latecomers Miss Black. You've earned yourself an hour of detention after school. Get to your place and be quick about it.' The black leather strap that he often carried smacked against his thigh as Priscilla hurried to her seat. The class of One B were absolutely silent. Leon Rankin's strap, though outlawed, remained as a reminder of what once was when teachers of the past were permitted to use such things.
Priscilla risked a sideways glance at Monique and for a fraction their eyes met, then Cranky Rankin began the lesson.
'Are you Priscilla Black?' said a breathless girl Priscilla didn't know who raced up beside her as she wandered alone across the Quad after being kept late in class.
Priscilla, worried and plagued by dreams and fears and uncertainties turned to look at the unknown first-former. 'That's me. What's up?'
'A Second Form boy's trying to find you. He said to tell you that Monique Battly... Baterly... Bat... '
'Bateleur, yes Monique's her name, what about her?'
'He said that she wants you to meet her over at the Chapel, it's really important. She's in trouble!'
'And who are you?'
'Angela, One C. Want me to come with you?'
'No, umm, no. Thanks for the message Angela, almost dinner time, you better head off.'
Priscilla looked around. The Quad was almost empty and in the winter's evening the gloom of night was already descending. Somehow Priscilla felt that something wasn't quite right. For a moment she sniffed at the chill air about her, shook her shoulders and hunched her satchel of books across her back. How could Monique get into any trouble during the last hour? And why would she get some kid to send a message to meet her? Priscilla's every instinct told her to be wary. But why and who would want to lure her into some kind of mysterious meeting? No, Monique really could be in strife of some kind. It was possible. What that might be, Priscilla couldn't imagine, but she determined to go and see what it was about, and as she hastened across the Quad, she told herself to be very careful.
Hurrying out of the corridor of the East wing onto the pathway that led toward the darkened outline of the Chapel and its attendant buildings, Priscilla halted for perhaps half a minute. The sun had vanished in the west and night was definitely looming. No one was to be seen anywhere. Behind her a distant sound of rock music erupted from some student lounge and that made her feel somewhat more at ease. Watchfully, she took a few steps further along the hedge-bordered path and when nothing occurred her confidence rose.
'Moni,' she called softly. 'Moni!'
Something appeared out of the dark hedge so swiftly that she had no time to move. It hit her squarely in the face with a soft 'plomphing' sound. Priscilla began to cry out but her screams were muffled. She tried to claw the thing away from her mouth but wiry arms were pinning her own arms to her side. The cloying puff-ball of a bag seemed to be suffocating the life out of her. She was struggling, fighting as hard as she could against the moist, cloying thing clamped against her face. Everything was blackness. Her vision was gone, limbs losing their feel, breathing... breathing... breath... breath... brea...
Her last fading impression was a dull and distant screech; the ehi, ehi, ehiji, eihji, eihji sound of a monkey.


Chapter 10 [next]

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