The days continued in much the same way, each morning session rather boring but very informative, and the afternoon sessions being very practical and hands-on. Each breakfast was different, as were the dinners, but lunch was always Shepherd’s pie with peas. It was a nice week, and it did go by very quickly. Victoria was constantly giving me evil glares, and Matilda and Charity would often join her, simply because she was doing it. I did not think Victoria would have confided in the two her suspicions, so I suspected they simply did not like me because Victoria did not.
Friday was rather a surprise, and I made it to the end of the day feeling quite tired. I almost forgot, in fact, the meeting Sam had arranged with me, and got into bed with my book. However, glancing out of the window and the seeing the waving shadow of the apple tree, I remembered, and read until I heard complete silence. I got out of bed, and went over to the window. Sam was standing below it, and I slipped my cardigan around my shoulders once again, and crept down the stairs as I had three nights before.
I reached the bottom of the stairs, and again listened for any signs of movement, but I could hear none. As quietly as I could, I slid the bolts from their sockets once again, and stepped out into the courtyard. The cobbles were cold beneath my feet, and though the cardigan was a thick one the wind passed through it as if it was nonexistent. I shivered, and pulled the thing around my shoulder even more, hunching against the cold. I walked over to Sam, who was again standing beneath the tree.
“Why is it so very cold?” I hissed, the wind blowing my hair across my face. He shrugged, and I rolled my eyes.
“Tell me what you were so very confused about on Monday,” he said, “And we can be back inside quickly.” I nodded.
“If it is true you really do not like Victoria, and she does like you, then may I ask you something?” He nodded, following. “Could you possibly manage to act as if you were ... in to her?” He smirked, raising an eyebrow.
“What have I been doing for the last week?” I smiled at the ground, trying to hide it.
“I would like to know what Victoria is up to, and I thought that you may be able to get some answers out of her - if she trusted you.” Sam nodded, considering this, and I noticed how much more mature he was now. In Karori, he was the one who always thought that he was immensely funny, always trying to get laughs out of people and playing practical jokes. As he got older, however, he began to talk to other people, and found out all the little secrets about other people, and made a habit of exposing them - never doing too much harm, just humiliating the person a bit, but it never got too bad. Sometimes, though, I did feel like he was actually a two-year-old, always laughing and grinning ridiculously. It was often very infuriating, and a lot of people could not stand him - for instance, the infamous Miss Alders once threw a nearby boot at his head. His mother, as far as I knew, had been either left in England or had died, but either way she had never been on the scene. He was just Sam Jones, the barman’s son, and everyone knew him, and everyone, at some point or another, had been extremely annoyed at him.
But now, he was thoughtful, and while the little - or perhaps rather large - spark of mischief remained, he was now considerate and thought about other people, and actually cared about them. It may have been all acting, but even so, it was good acting. And maybe it was genuine - how was I to know?
“I’ll do it.” Sam said finally. “It should be easy enough. The girl tries to spend all her time with me anyway.” I giggled, and he smiled, and we stood there for a moment looking at each other in the dark. But then I shook my head quickly, clearing my thoughts. I breathed out a warm waft of cloud from my nose, and looked away.
“Well, then, I guess you will gain her trust right away? I will act as disgusted as I can, and we do not know each other. Excellent!” I knew I had interrupted Sam, but I did not particularly care to hear what he had to say. I smiled at him, a quick, final smile, and turned, hugging my cardigan around me and going back inside. I slid the bolts to again, and crept back up the stairs and into the hallway. Nothing moved, and tonight I found moving about much easier than I had the first night. I felt so much more confident, and I knew everyone was asleep. I went back to my room, and fell asleep as soon as I climbed into the bed.
The next day was a repeat of the last, but each lesson was half an hour shorter, allowing us to go back to the house at half past two rather than half past three, which is when we would have had it been a normal day. We did not do much that afternoon, Olivia, Katie and I, we simply sat in Katie’s room and talked and complained and discussed various things. We allowed ourselves to be slightly excited for the next day - a Sunday, and so a break from the normal timetable. We would attend church in the morning, as Matron constantly reminded us, and while both Katie and Olivia went to church on a weekly basis, I had not been since we had left England. I was not sure if I would remember much, but hopefully I would know enough to get by, and I asked, rather awkwardly, if Katie and Olivia would help. I felt quite embarrassed to look so pathetic, but I knew I was going to look no better if I refused to ask for any help. Katie and Olivia assured me it would be perfectly alright, and of course they would remind me. I assumed most of the others went to church regularly, but in my family, religion had not been a very important thing - even for my grandmother and grandfather. Eden had certainly never been, but I thought in my next letter I would ask Grandma to take her to a few services, just so she would know what it was like.
We went to sleep at a reasonable hour, and as I lay in bed, waiting and trying to relax, I thought of how well Sam had acted that day. He was subtle, so he would not seem suspiciously eager, but he was not too relaxed. I thought he would make an excellent actor, if life gave him the chance. I had tried to be as disgusted and mortified as I had for the past week, and hopefully it had worked, as no one had given me any questioning glances, or suspicious glares. I had to keep ours a secret, even to my friends. Suddenly I remembered Laura. She knew I had a connection with Sam, but I hoped she would have no motivation to talk to Victoria. I decided to talk to her at some point, and I thought I would tell her my secret. I was sure she would sympathise, and if she knew my real age, she would surely keep my secret. I had to count on it, for if I could not, then my future at this school would disappear before two weeks had been through. I thought I could tell what she was like, though. I was confident.
Again, the next morning, the bell rang and already I was slightly awake. I was ready, and remembered we were to wear our Sunday uniforms - but we had not received them yet. I got out of the bed, and there, on the desk, was a Sunday uniform. I shrugged, and put it on, walking downstairs and into the social room once again. Matron was already there, as I had predicted, and a few of the downstairs girls were as well. I smiled at them, and went back upstairs to see if Katie and Olivia were awake. They were not, and I knocked at each door. This was loud enough to wake them, and I heard sleepy, thankful murmurs as they got up. Smiling, I retraced my steps, and settled in the social room with the other girls. We were not friends, I would rather say acquaintances, but we got on well enough, and made polite conversation as other girls slowly made their way into the room.
Once everyone had congregated in the social room, we went first to the dining hall for a quick breakfast, and then were led outside of the hospital. It was a ten minute walk to the nearest Anglican church, and we made it there by eight o’clock. It was a two hour service, shortened for the hospital staff so we could go back to our duties - or rather - so the personnel who had duties could, but we went with them. It turned out that I had not needed a terrible lot of help from Katie and Olivia, and that a couple of the girls were Christian, and so were unfamiliar with the ways of the Anglican church, but they managed perfectly well as well, and we all made it through the service without humiliating ourselves too much.
We returned to the dining hall to add to our breakfast, and were allowed back at our own leisure. I was just leaving the hall with Olivia and Katie, when I caught a glimpse of Laura on the other side of the room. I turned to the other two.
“Please, you go. I simply have to see someone before I come back.” The girls shrugged and continued on, and I turned back to the hall, hurrying over to Laura, who had come in alone. I caught her just as she drew near the table.
“Laura! Could I speak to you for a moment, perhaps?” She turned, and I smiled. “Over here, maybe?”
“Of course.” She followed me over to the doorway in the corner of the room.
“Laura, I would like to talk to you.” She nodded, curious. “What about?” I cleared my throat, apprehensive of what the outcome might be.
“When I first met you, in the reception,” She nodded, “I assume you knew all applicants had to have been over the age of 25 to have applied?” She nodded again, and I was glad to see she did not look particularly angry or annoyed. I could hardly tell if she knew what I was implying, though. “I may have lied on the application.” I said, quickly. She raised an eyebrow.
“About your age?” I nodded, avoiding her gaze. She started smiling, and I stared at her in disbelief. “I see. And how did you manage to get past Mrs Dale? She is famous for her eye for age.” I sighed.
“I did not, actually. She let me in anyway.” She was still smiling. “So how old are you? Twenty? Twenty one?” I blushed. “Eighteen.” She gaped at me.
“Eighteen? My, you do look much older. When is your birthday?”
“January - the fourteenth.” She nodded.
“Only a month older than me - you do look so mature for eighteen, I must say. I would not be able to pass for twenty five anywhere!” I smiled.
“I have been told I look much older. I thought I might use it to my advantage. But - I did tell you this for a reason. You remember Sam Jones?” She rolled her eyes.
“And Victoria Fitch?” She nodded again, her lip curling in disgust. “Well, I suspect that Victoria knows I am underage, and if she were to gain conclusive evidence, I am sure she would use it. I may only be paranoid, however, and so I have asked Sam to get to know her better, so as to gain her trust. Then, he may be able to see what she knows.” Laura nodded, intrigued.
“It is vital, though, that no one knows the connection between Sam and I. If someone did, and the news got to Victoria, I am sure she would see right through us. I have only told one person of our connection - you - and I wanted to check you would know not to tell a soul.” She nodded fondly.
“Of course I won’t - I am glad you told me. Who else have you chosen?”
“You and Sam only.” She smiled.
“I promise I will not tell anyone. Should you not be getting back to the house? Katie and Olivia will be waiting on you.” I nodded, relieved that Laura was so reliable.
“Thank you for this, Laura. I really appreciate your help.”
“Of course,” she said. “You can rely on me.” I nodded, smiling gratefully, and hurried back to the house. I was just crossing the courtyard when I felt a presence beside me. I sighed, able to predict who it would be.
“Victoria Fitch.” I said, turning.
“Lydia Clark.” She replied, all traces of her sugary act gone, now that we had encountered each other more than a few times. I sneered at her, and she raised her eyebrows.
“Annoyed are we?” Matilda giggled behind her. I looked at Matilda, and she narrowed her eyes at me.
“I saw you talking to Laura.” Victoria drew my attention back to her sly face, and saw triumph residing there. I was unworried, however, for she could hardly accuse me of applying underage after she saw me talking to a friend.
“Yes?” Victoria looked as if she had expected me to reply with some defensive excuse, that she obviously thought would condemn me. I was not going to play to her script, however. She waited, and when I raised an eyebrow expectantly, she cleared her throat uncomfortably. Victoria Fitch uncomfortable - imagine.
“What were you talking about?” This comment was so ridiculously below Victoria’s usual standard for snide remarks that I almost laughed. A sarcastic smile curled the edge of my lip.
“What were we talking about? My, Victoria, your questions have become so much more intimidating.” She sneered at me, but I still answered. “I was asking her if she would post a letter for me - the hospital post is so very slow to be picked up.”
“You looked so grateful though? I should not think you would be grateful for that...”
“No, I suppose not. You would not recognise when to be grateful at all, would you?” Victoria pursed her lips in utter annoyance. She ran her tongue along her teeth as if about to say something, but seemed not able to think of anything. I smiled triumphantly, and turned. I heard the three muttering as I walked away, and had second thoughts about my assumption that Victoria had not told Charity or Matilda. Surely she would not have brought them along to question me about my interactions on suspicion of my illegal acts if she had not told them. I bit my lip. If she told them, I could not count on them not telling other people. Matilda seemed the kind of girl to blurt out a supposedly secret fact in order to impress someone. Charity, while seemingly smart, would probably confide in another girl, trusting her completely until she told someone else, and so the chain would continue. I sighed impatiently. I could not let either of those scenarios play out, for in that case, surely someone of importance would find out. I refused for my downfall to be caused by a group of annoyed girls. I hoped Sam would begin to find out information soon, for otherwise we may find out at the same time as the rest of the school.
As each long minute passed, Marie-Alice’s face grew whiter and whiter. It was a mere half hour since the child had been born, but it was the first hours of the next day. At almost a quarter past 12 o’clock, in the morning of the 30th of September, Marie-Alice’s breath grew slow, and then, eventually, her breaths drew to a halt. Lydia looked into her mother’s blank, closed face as what little was left of her blood grew cold. She was not upset, anymore, she was just numb. Numb, to the tearing emotions that surely would take her, in her delicate body, and rip her up slowly. They would start with her heart and pick off pieces until they could not resist themselves, and tore large chunks out of her small, innocent soul. Perhaps she was just ignoring them, trying her best to block them out for as long as she could, for surely, surely they would come back in a few hours, or days, and then they would not stop for anything. Her father, whose years had given him a bigger heart, would be more susceptible to the wrenching feelings of grief that took him and destroyed him. They would come for the little girl - of course they would, and if the circumstances had taken a different path, then perhaps she would be spared for a little longer. But they would come - every old and withering being had experienced them - they were quite simply a given of living. But for such a small, innocent child, it was cruel to put her in the path of the raging grief so early. Perhaps it was just the unfortunate fate that time had placed this girl on the path at this time. This time, this place on the path was sparsely populated, time usually giving each person longer before the path led such grief to them, but time seemed to have decided to place Lydia on the path before her time. But as it is said, time waits for no man.