and The Pirates of the Mystic Caravan.
Chapter 5 - A new year at Hopewell Hall
'So as it works out 2B, I am once again to be Form Mistress for your year eight. I hope we will have another successful time together,' said Juliet Van Weenan, surveying the familiar faces of her class and noting, with private astonishment, the olive skinned features of the dark-eyed girl sitting at a desk alongside Sandro Anastasi at the front of the group.
'Now, even though we all know each other, role-call is a formality required and I think it needful to note that we have a student amongst us who is new and also not new. She was with us for the latter part of last year and is known to you all only by her first name, which placed her alphabetically at the back of the room. Now she takes foremost position. Surban Anahita?'
'Surban Anahita is here,' she answered demurely, while Sandro, clearly mystified, stole a sidelong glance at her. At the desk across the centre aisle, Priscilla and Monique were both beaming.
'Yes Surban, you are here, and more prominently than last year in several ways,' Miss Van Weenan commented before moving on. 'Sandro Anastasi.'
'Here,' Sandro replied automatically, puzzled but rather pleased it seemed.
'Right on... er sorry, right here.'
'Present or Here is the correct reply Miss Black,' said Miss Van Weenan, trying hard to suppress a smile.
A few minutes after lunchtime Lyn Reynard looked up from her computer screen as Priscilla and Monique entered the outer office of the school's Head Mistress.
'Miss Reynard, whatever we did, we didn't do it,' said Priscilla, smiling at her little joke and feeling completely guilt free.
'Well apparently you did,' Lyn Reynard replied. 'Miss Poe is expecting you. Go straight in,' she said, indicating the door to the Head's office.
'Oh-oh! Are we really in trouble?' said Priscilla, glancing at Monique's widening eyes.
'Just get in there and say it like it is,' Miss Reynard advised, rising and ushering them through.
Miss Poe was in her usual stance, her back to the door, looking out the windows at the school grounds. But this time the Assistant Head, Stanley Mitikovsky was at her side, and hearing the girl's enter, both turned to face them.
'Well you two, after all the nasty business concerning drugs in Hopewell last year and your vague association on the boarders of that incident, I have to ask you both this question. What have you done now?' said Miss Poe, her face an impassive mask.
For some moments, the two girls remained silent, trying to work through what exactly the Head Mistress meant. Then Priscilla blurted out, 'Gee Miss Poe, we don't think we've done anything wrong. We've only been back at school for this morning. We haven't had time... '
'Head Mistress Poe is asking a rhetorical question, I'm telling you. She already knows the answer, but wonders how you managed it,' answered Stanley Mitikovsky, with a faint smile.
'I am asking you both, specifically about Surban Anahita. Your Form Mistress tells us that she has, for want of a better phrase, Come Out. Months here in this school, nothing, Christmas holidays with the Black family, and she arrives today a new and emerged young lady. I ask again, what have you done? How have you achieved this transformation?'
'Oh, right. Well um, nothing much real... ' Priscilla began, but was interrupted by Monique.
'It was mostly Priscilla's doing, She spent a lot of time here with Surban and over the holidays, talking and encouraging her... '
'Yeah, that's right Moni, but you helped too and so did Narenda and Belinda,' Priscilla added, picking up Monique's drift.
'Yes, and also I think Surban enjoyed the company and warmth of a home,' went on Monique. 'It seems that she has not had such a thing for quite... some time... ' she probed, not certain how much the two adults knew, yet guessing that not only had they spoken with Miss Van Weenan but also possibly with Surban during lunch-time.
Sonia Poe's features softened into something faintly akin to a smile, 'And our feelings regarding releasing a reclusive girl into your care were proved correct. Mister Mitikovsky and I believed that your influence upon this young lady would be for the good and you have done well. Congratulations to you both and do convey such to Belinda and Narenda and your family, Priscilla. Between you all a good thing has happened. You four girls of Two A. and Two B. begin the year with brownie points, and I note, Miss Black, that you have a sibling in the ranks.'
'Er, oh yes Miss Poe, Henry my little brother. He's a bit of a dag, but me and Louis will keep an eye on him.'
'A dag, you say,' noted Stanley Mitikovsky with an impish smile. 'That is to do with an Aussie expression meaning a piece of manure on the back end of a sheep, I'm telling you.'
'Well yep, that's pretty much Henry. He is my little brother after all.' Priscilla grinned, feeling that the interview was over and turning for the door.
'There is just one last thing,' said Sonia Poe, arresting both girls as they made to leave. 'Having spoken with Miss Anahita at lunchtime, she mentioned something else.'
Priscilla and Monique halted, turning about, the same thoughts in their minds; Did she tell them about the pot of coals? And say how she got it? Did she say what she wants to do with it? Why didn't we see this coming?
'She told us about her religious convictions and about her desire to travel to Canberra to visit her people there,' said Mitikovsky, rubbing his hands together in a small, triumphant gesture. 'Of course we already knew something of her background, I'm telling you, but we kept that quiet until she was prepared to volunteer her own feelings.'
'On that basis,' continued Sonia Poe, 'and because of the relationship that you have established with Surban, and on her request, we're wondering whether one or both of you might be prepared to accompany her and a School Guardian on her journey of renewal and enlightenment, at a suitable time in the future.'
'Like up to Canberra, do you mean?' Priscilla asked, astonished.
'Yes,' replied Mitikovsky. 'Like up to the Capital, I'm... '
'We're asking you,' completed Miss Poe, seating herself at her desk.
'Can ya beat that?' Priscilla asked as she and Monique closed the outer office door behind Lyn Reynard's knowing nod of approval.
'No. I cannot beat anything Cilla. It seems Surban did not tell of her miracle rescue of the sacred coals, but only of her quest... ohh!'
Shoved from the side, Monique cannoned into Priscilla, sending them both thumping into the wall.
'Get outta Annie's way ya droobs,' their assailant grunted. Then, registering who she had just pushed, Roseanne Sole halted and faced about, grinning. 'Youse two! Got a sortin' out from Poe-Face and Ass-Head didja? How'd ya like that? Back in school two minutes an' gettin' yer bums kicked already! Silly bitches! Great! Starts off my year! Aw, an' by the way, 2D hears that your Walking Tent has decided to show her face. About time all the Hoods woke up, but that don't change nothing. They don't belong here even if they try to be like us!' She turned and stomped off down the corridor, swinging her swimming bag viciously at one or two other lingering first year students and leaving Priscilla turning major red and Monique restraining her.
'Come on Cilla, she is only guessing why we were in the Head's office. She is just an ox.'
'One day! One day, she's gonna get hers!' Priscilla spat, pulling free, her shoulders heaving.
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