Liberation

by Liss Webster

There were certain things about the Chalet School that Elinor Brent-Dyer held sacrosanct. Hilda Annersley would never need glasses, and could quell even the most troublesome Middle with a glance. Doctors were always desirable marriage material. And any conceivable problem could best be solved by Jo Maynard.

oOo

The Maynards' bed was wide, well-sprung, and extremely comfortable. Jack Maynard had come home early from the San. The children were all either at school, out for a walk, or playing in the back garden. Jo had taken advantage of these facts and lured her husband upstairs, and they were engaged in one of their favourite pastimes when suddenly Jo froze.

"Damn!" she said violently. "Damn, damn, DAMN!"

"I say, Jo," said Jack mildly, struggling onto his elbows and looking up at his wife. "What the devil?" he added as she climbed off him.

"I am struck," she said drily, heading for the bathroom that was attached to their bedroom, "by a sudden urge to visit the Prefects and see how they're managing."

Jack groaned, and flopped back onto the bed. "They'll be managing perfectly well," he called out, listening to the sounds of Jo washing and dressing at a remarkable pace. "They always do!"

"Don't I know it," said Jo, emerging, a black scowl on her face. "I don't see why I have to be leaping over there every day of the week to solve all their problems. Ten to one it's some wretched new girl, and they're all having kittens, when if they'd just leave these kids alone in the first place, they'd soon get used to it all."

She was putting on a green cardigan – "And I really bar this colour, sometimes; I can't see why I can't wear something else from time to time!" – as Jack scrambled off the bed, sheet clutched round his waist.

"Look, don't go," he said, catching hold of her around the waist and drawing her close. "I'd – much – rather – you – stayed." This last was punctuated by a series of kisses, which Jo returned enthusiastically, before breaking away and picking up her coat off a chair and then hunting around for her gloves.

"I absolutely must," she said crossly. "You know how this works, Jack. When She says jump, we…"

"…Ask how high. Yes, I know. Aren't I always sending you to bed and dosing you up?" Jack perched on the end of the bed and crossed his arms, looking sulky. From where she was scrabbling around under the dressing table, Jo flashed him a wicked grin.

"Don't tell me you really object to sending me to bed, Jack!"

He laughed, a little reluctantly. "You witch! No, of course not, except for those times when it's all day and She just makes you sit there forlornly wearing a jade green bedjacket."

Jo found the other glove, blew on it futilely in an effort to get some of the dust off – Anna might be a wonder everywhere else, but She had never gone to the bother of having her clean the marital bedroom and Jo wasn't one for dusting – and headed for the door. "It can't be us forever," she offered, with a softer smile, but Jack's expression became sterner.

"No," he agreed. "She'll be moving on to Len, next, mark my words."

Jo's face fell. "I know," she said, then winced. "Look, I've really got to go."

"Me too," said Jack, jumping off the bed and heading for his dressing room. "Emergency at the San. We'll talk later."

"Other things too!" called out Jo with a chuckle, as she departed Freudesheim and headed for the gate in the hedge.

oOo

The French windows that led from the Chalet School Staff Room onto the terrace stood ajar as Jo made her way across the lawn, and she slipped in without ceremony.

"Hello, my dears!" she said cheerfully. "Jack's been called to the San and I thought I'd come over and hear all the hanes!"

Her arrival elicited little reaction. Only Peggy Burnett made any response, lifting her head from the Mills & Boon novel she was reading. "Middles are awful; new girls are either homesick or firestarters; prees are having a meltdown over the Sale; Hil's currently reaming Jocelyn Marvell in her study. Oh, and Kath and Nance almost got caught shagging in the Juniors' splash."

Jo collapsed into an armchair and raised her eyebrows suggestively. "I say, not really?! Gosh! D'you think She noticed?"

"Not hardly!" said Kathie Ferrars, joining them, cup of coffee in hand. "Nance'd've been packed off to head some dreary place in deepest darkest Scotland, and I'd've been lost in an avalanche somewhere and been rescued by one of the docs!"

"Whose turn is it, now, anyway?" asked Jo curiously. "I keep losing track of them."

"I think it's that Hamilton chap," said Peggy. "Assuming the Reg and Len thing is going ahead as planned."

"Good Lord, I do hope not!" exclaimed Jo, extracting cigarette and lighter from her bag. "She's far too young to be even thinking about it! It's all very well Her planning these things, but Len – well, all the trips, really, are such kids. Reg is a nice chap, and I wouldn't object if they felt the same way in a few years, but it's far too soon."

As she spoke, the door to the Staff Room swung open, and Hilda Annersley, the Headmistress of the Chalet School, entered.

"Well, I can always rely on our Middles to think of some new badness to astonish us all!" she said mildly.

"Hallo, Hilda, it's me!" said Jo, jumping to her feet, and one would have to look closely to see the flicker of irritation that crossed her expression.

"Joey! How lovely!"

"What are the little wretches doing now?!"

"Oh, young Jocelyn Marvell thought it would be highly amusing to make one of the girls in her dorm an apple pie bed!"

"What will those beasts think of next?!" There issued forth gales of laughter from the staff present at these witticisms, until they were relinquished from the invisible force that governed them, and returned to their previous activities.

"Apple pie bed?" said Jo, pulling a face. "Is that the best She could come up with? Bit weak, isn't it?"

Hilda slumped down beside her, and stole her cigarette. "I had to keep her in my study for a quarter of an hour! A quarter of an hour, Jo! With the best will in the world, I can't scold someone for an apple pie bed for that long. We ended up talking about the Hardy Boys books."

Jo giggled. "Well, that sounds…" She broke off, and heaved a sigh of discontent. "Damn! I have to go and see the Prees, though I can't imagine they have any desire to have me interfering yet again! Thanks heavens it's nearly the end of term, that's all I can say."

Hilda nodded blissfully. "Six weeks, uninterrupted. I can't wait!"

"I'm just hoping we don't have our hols laid out for us," said Jo, as she left the room. "I would like to spend at least a little time with our boys!"

Five minutes later saw her outside the Prefects' room, and she tapped lightly on the door, hoping (vainly) that they might not hear and she would be allowed to slip away back to Freudesheim, where Jack might be waiting to…

The door opened, and the dark head of her second daughter peered round.

"Oh," said Con Maynard, blankly. "Mother."

Jo rolled her eyes. "Fraid so. What ghastly challenge is facing you all today, and can it be solved speedily, because I've got half a dozen things to do at home, besides getting ready for a dinner party your father and I are having tonight? I do have better things to do than hang around with you lot!"

"Well, we'd be quite happy to sort things out ourselves!" retorted Con. "Anyway, you'd better come in. Lay off the crumpets, though, Mother, there's only enough for us."

Joey swept into the room, beaming affectionately at the assorted prefects of the Chalet School. "Hello, everyone!" she said in her usual clarion tones.

"Mamma!" said Len, jumping to her feet. "How simply luscious to see you!"

"And awfully timely," said Ted Grantley. "We're having dreadful condundrums!"

"Well, I'm glad I came when I did," said Jo, plumping herself down in the chair that Carmela Walther had hastily swept clear of text books, sheet music and other detritus.

"Have a crumpet, Mrs Maynard," offered Eve Hurrell, holding out a plate.

"Oh, the staff have just fed me well, Eve, thank you!" said Jo, with barely a flicker of a glance at Con. "Now, what's this problem you're having?"

"It's the Sale," said Len. And then she paused, and after a moment or two, a frown appeared on her forehead.

"The Sale?" prompted Jo, then she too paused. "Damn the Sale!" she said experimentally.

"I don't see why we can't recycle for once," said Con, and her eyebrows shot up as this statement went unchallenged.

"Sound plan, if you ask me," said Margot briskly.

"Well," said Jo.

"That was all, wasn't it?" said Len, addressing the others. "OK. Push off, then, Mother, there's a lamb!"

"Suits me," replied Jo briefly, and pushed off home, where Jack Maynard had returned, having found himself suddenly unnecessary at the San.

oOo

The rest of term passed without any further interference from Her. The Sale went off as well as ever, even if they had happily recycled a theme from several years ago. Reg Entwhistle had somewhat sheepishly explained to Jack Maynard that his growing passion for Len appeared, in retrospect, to be rather ill-advised. Jo summoned her sons back from their previously proposed plans to spend the summer in England, and spent the rest of the term assiduously avoiding the school and getting on with the rest of her life, which interested her a good deal more, as well as branching out her writing to some of the more literary avenues she had been eager to pursue.

One evening, a couple of weeks into the summer holidays, she sat out in the rose garden with Elisaveta Helston, who was staying in Switzerland for a few weeks, and Rosalie Dene, who had finally announced her deep affection for one Herr Pfitzer, a middle-aged lawyer from Berne who occasionally dealt with some of the School's Swiss affairs.

"Do you think She's left us alone now?" asked Jo idly, puffing out smoke into the inky twilit sky.

"I think she must have done," said Ros, leaning back in her deckchair. "I don't feel like I'm wed to the school any more."

"And I don't have to keep coming by every ten seconds," said Jo, "which is certainly a relief!"

"And I'm thinking of taking the girls out of the school," added Veta. "Not that they don't enjoy it, of course, but there's no reason for them to be here. Dad's still in Australia; I think we'll emigrate."

"Rudi's asked me to marry him," admitted Ros, her blush hidden by the growing darkness. "I've given Hilda my notice."

"What about you, Jo?" asked Veta. "What will you do."

Jo smiled, and stretched out luxuriously.

"Write a decent book. Travel. Get some damned contraception!" Her voice softened and she stared up at the stars. "Get to know my family properly. Grow up." She glanced at her two companions. "We can do anything now."

THE END