Her name was Hannah Bradbury, and she'd come to Malory Towers from a school

called Grey Towers, in Kent. Hannah was tall and pretty, with chestnut-brown

hair that reached to the bottom of her shoulder blades, intense blue eyes and a

perpetual sunny smile. She was the apple of Gwendoline's eye at first sight, and

it was little wonder that Gwen took her in tow immediately. The other girls

disapproved, of course, for none of them wanted a new girl to have her head

filled with silly ideas and poisonous tales. So they sat at their table for the

first supper of term, watched Gwen move in on the newcomer and looked at each

other with their usual expressions of horror and disgust.

Their disapproval turned to apathy when Gwen gave Hannah the chance to talk

about her old school. "It was such a nice school," she said in a voice whose

melodic beauty was spoiled by a very Gwen-like superficiality. "A pretty bedroom

for every girl, lovely food – and the teachers treat us like royalty! You can

imagine how shocked I was when they showed Mother and me around here just before

term! Ten girls to a dormitory! Ten! Golly, you never heard of such a thing!"

Everyone from hard Alicia to gentle Mary-Lou looked at the girl next to her and

mutually agreed that if they were to be cursed with a carbon copy of Gwendoline,

then it was Gwendoline who deserved her.

The thought that there might be some imperfections in the copy began to occur to

some of the girls the next morning. The lesson was maths, and the task was – as

usual – finding out what the new girls knew. Hannah, who'd sailed through the

hardest Grey Towers had to offer, was sure she'd do brilliantly – and sat up the

front. Gwendoline, to whom Grey Towers was her perfect idea of a school, wanted

to hear Hannah talk about it and sat with her. It didn't take Hannah more than

ten minutes to find that she was grossly out of her depth. She began to worry

and fret, and her worrying and fretting didn't stop at the end of the lesson.

Gwendoline, who was bright enough to do well if only she would try, happily

commiserated with her that setting an exam like this was no way to treat a new

girl.

"But what shall I DO?" Hannah wailed as the North and West Tower girls made

their way to the next lesson. "I can't just go on doing terribly like this!"

Gwen pulled Hannah to a stop until all the others had gone past. "You see that

short girl, there?"

"The one who looked like a feather would blow her over? Yes."

"Her name's Mary-Lou, and she'd just love to help you. I must admit, I find the

maths they teach here dull and boring. It's beneath me, and I really can't be

bothered. Mary-Lou'll help you, though, and she doesn't demand much in return.

Just a bit of flattery!"

Hannah didn't for one minute suspect that Gwen was suggesting she cheat. She was

simple and forthright, and took everyone at their face value, at least

initially. She was mildly disturbed at Gwen's statement that she couldn't be

bothered – Grey Towers had at least been an honest school, even if it had

mollycoddled its students and given them a somewhat inflated self-opinion – but

then she told herself that genius was often intolerant, and worried no more

about it.

Her impression of Gwen as a misunderstood genius wasn't diminished by Gwen's

dishonest self-flattery over the next few days. She didn't mix much with the

other girls, but saw nothing objectionable about any of them (apart from

Alicia's sharp wit, of course). The other girls, for their part, disliked Hannah

on several counts. They detested hearing about Grey Towers, and how wonderfully

it treated its girls. Spoiled little brats, said Alicia. They detested hearing

Hannah's negative comments about Malory Towers in comparison, and seeing how

quick Gwendoline was to agree with her. They grew tired of hearing about

Hannah's previous place at the top of her old form, particularly given how close

she was to the bottom in this one.

Sally, at least, pointed out that no matter how Hannah might whine and complain

and cast aspersions, she at least did the tasks to which she had been assigned,

did them reasonably well and did not try to get out of them without offering

something in exchange. Nor did she take opportunities to pick on smaller, weaker

girls like Mary-Lou, the way Gwendoline did. Darrell, for her part, was offended

by the way Hannah simply stood by with her gaze fixed admiringly on Gwendoline

while Gwendoline made Mary-Lou's life a misery. One day, Mary-Lou looked at

Hannah beseechingly, as if to say I help you with your maths; can't you help me

with Gwendoline? The next time Gwen made to open her spiteful mouth, Hannah said

"Cut it out, Gwen," and the others approved.

It didn't change much overall. Hannah continued to shadow Gwendoline everywhere

she went, and the other girls watched the relationship continue to evolve in the

one-sided manner to which Gwendoline Mary was accustomed. The one place Hannah

began not to copy Gwen was in the classroom, and now the other girls did pay

attention. The first time the results were read out near quarter term, Hannah's

work had climbed from abysmal to passable, and as half-term crept ever closer,

the gap between them grew greater. As for Gwen, she didn't so much copy

everything Hannah was as copy everything she did – particularly her prep work.

Hannah, always keen for approval, handed her work over freely in return for

Gwen's praise of it. She might have been less impressed if she'd realised that

Gwen had, if not a photographic memory, at least an eye for the more important

details.

The shine came off Gwendoline three weeks before half-term. The weekly maths

test was particularly difficult; it seemed that the teachers were taking no

prisoners. (Even Irene walked out fretting.) Hannah, however, was pleased. She

knew she was going to do abysmally, at least compared with how she'd always

imagined she'd do, but she knew that her abysmal best was infinitely better now

than some weeks ago. She had also begun to feel more than a little bit guilty at

basically cheating off Mary-Lou (among others), and had started to ask how to do

things, rather than how to do this thing.

So it was only natural that, being extremely pleased with herself and being

brought up to show it, she should turn and give Gwendoline a dose of her broad,

sunny smile. It was always lovely to see Gwen grinning back at her, and she

hadn't understood why others found that grin so objectionable. When she saw

where Gwen's eyes were directed, though (and there was no doubting where those

eyes were directed), she forgot all about smiling. "Cut it out," she whispered,

then went back to her work, making an effort to write somewhat illegibly.

She said nothing more about it that day, but Gwen noticed a change in her

friend. The others noticed the change in Hannah too; her sunny expression was

definitely looking cloudy. They remembered Ellen, and the continual pressure

she'd been under to perform. But this was all of a sudden; Hannah had been here

for weeks, she knew she wasn't about to do brilliantly, and she certainly didn't

have the pressure of justifying a scholarship the way Ellen had.

Darrell stopped her in the hall on the way to the evening meal. "Hannah!"

Hannah, who stood almost a head taller than Darrell, stopped and turned on the

spot. "What?"

"You look upset; what's the matter?"

"If you really must know, I've found out something I didn't want to. And no, I

won't tell you what that is."

"Sorry," Darrell said, and Hannah could see that she meant it. Darrell, short

with dark curls and brown eyes, was not Hannah's idea of a very pretty girl –

Gwen held that honour, with Daphne a close second – but Hannah could appreciate

forthright honesty. Hannah said nothing in return, but blushed to indicate that

she was just a little bit embarrassed for snapping at her. Then she bolted down

to the table.

Sally came up behind Darrell. "What's her problem?"

"She didn't say much, just that she'd found out something she wished she

hadn't."

Sally said, "She's probably seen through to Gwendoline Mary's true nature."

"We can but hope. It would be nice to find out what she's really like, but

Gwen's stifling her and Hannah seems happy to be stifled."

Hannah didn't say much during dinner. In between loads of her plate, Gwen

started off on one of her many whispered tales of her classmates' various sins.

Mary-Lou in particular had begun to perceive the difference from Daphne and

Gwen's use of her (particularly Hannah's specific enquiries about how-to rather

than what-to), had taken somewhat of an interest. She had one eye on Hannah. The

new girl was blushing furiously, and continued to blush (and have her ear bent)

all the way to the common room.

They were last in; Gwen spied Daphne and immediately began on the tale of

Daphne's thieving and lying. This was so recent that all Daphne could do was

blush and cry. The other girls were just about to turn disapproving words and

gazes on Gwen when, to their unutterable shock, Hannah saved them the trouble.

She whirled, turned on Gwen and cut her off in mid sentence. "I think you've

told enough stories," she said, not shouting but making sure that those nearby

would hear her. "I'm going to tell you one, now. It's about a girl who came from

a school where everything was sweetness and light, to a school where the

expectations were so high that she was scared she'd never live up to them. And

she met a girl who was wonderfully supportive, and made her believe she was

liked and valued and respected. And that other girl convinced this new girl that

she was terribly bright, and terribly good at sports, and all sorts of other

things. So good, in fact, that she didn't bother showing how good she was. And

then the new girl looked at her friend, and realised that her friend wasn't

looking back at her. Do you know what she was looking at? Why, the new girl's

maths paper, of course."

Gwen blushed furiously and gave the most horrible scowl Hannah had ever seen. Up

until now, she'd never paid much attention to Gwen's scowls – they'd always been

in response to what Hannah had believed were unfounded criticisms. From the

corner of her eye, Hannah saw one of the girls – Belinda, was it? – scribbling

on paper with a pencil.

"Oh don't worry," Hannah finished. "I'm not going to stop being your friend. I

just want you to cut it out."

Gwen was floored. This wasn't what the other girls normally did. The other girls

usually made some totally heartless comment that part of her knew was richly

deserved, but the other half of her found easy to ignore because of its

heartlessness. Nobody, nobody ever criticised her while still offering to be her

friend. Not Daphne, not even Mary-Lou.

What did this mean?

Gwen stalked out of the room, too upset at being called a cheat in front of the

entire form to take in the positive aspects of Hannah's comment.

"Hannah," Alicia piped up.

"Yes?" Hannah was quietly seething; confusion and distress would come later.

"Drop her. She's a liar and a cheat. You're not the first girl she's used up,

and I'm sad to say that you won't be the last."

"I'll decide what I do with my friends, thank you very much."

Alicia didn't push the issue. She saw in Hannah what she'd never seen in a

friend of Gwen's before. There was an inner core of self-confidence underneath

the superficiality, and there was something backing it up that reminded her of

Darrell. To top it off, Hannah was taller – and Alicia realised now that she was

trim and fit, not puffed and fat. Alicia had never had any doubts about who

would win if she and Darrell came to blows: Darrell would be the one who wound

up in the San, and that was that. Hannah looked like a very different prospect.

Hannah stalked out.

Nobody dared speak. Finally, Belinda said what was on everyone's mind.

"Golly, gosh and worse; what have we got here?"

Mary-Lou looked at the door Hannah had just walked out of. "She's no Gwendoline,

really, is she?"

"Who wants to be her friend?" Irene asked.

"I certainly don't want to be her enemy," Darrell replied, casting an eye

towards Alicia. "What's the matter, Alicia? Beginning to understand what it's

like to lose your temper, aren't you?"

Alicia nodded. "I've never wanted to hit somebody so badly, but I've never been

so convinced I'd lose."

Sally had a satisfied look on her face; Alicia was hard to suppress when she got

going, and for someone everybody thought was a walkover to do this to her was a

pleasant change indeed. "She needs talking to."

"I'll go," Darrell said. "I think I know what's bothering her now."

Darrell found Hannah out in the courtyard, sitting by the fishpond, crying. "Are

you all right?"

"No," Hannah replied. "Can't you see I'm not?"

"Hannah," Darrell said, "What is it?"

"I'm a little bit mixed up, if you really must know." Hannah didn't complain

when Darrell sat down next to her. "I'm terribly fond of Gwen, as you've

probably all guessed; she's just gorgeous – very pretty, quite confident, and a

lot like the girls I used to go to school with at Gr… you know, there. And I

like to stick by her like a true friend should. It's just that some of the

things I've been thinking about her have been very uncharitable, and they make

me wonder whether it's worth the bother."

"Hannah, I have to be honest with you. Gwen's not a very nice person."

"I think I've just found that out tonight," Hannah whispered. "But what can I

do? Everyone else has paired off; I've got nobody to go around with if I drop

her. I know you think that she's just an uninteresting bore, Darrell, but I

don't mind listening to her. Father's a soldier, so home gets shifted from

pillar to post every time he's reassigned, and even Gwen's boring stability

becomes interesting." She took a deep breath, wiped the tears from her eyes. "I

adore her to bits, Darrell; I just can't stand the fact that she cheated off me.

And if she did that, has she done it before, and how much of what she says and

does can I trust?"

"Not much," Darrell replied, before she could stop herself.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Hannah whimpered. "Do me a favour, will you? Try

not to tell me what I'm doing wrong. I'd rather find it all out for myself."

Darrell sighed. Some people just wouldn't be told. She suspected it wouldn't do

much good anyway.

The next day, Gwen chattered and prattled to Hannah and dragged her around as if

nothing had happened. Hannah submitted meekly, thus surprising everyone who had

seen her give Gwen her just desserts the night before. Alicia gave Hannah as

much cheek as she dared over her weakness, and Hannah was thoroughly miserable.

Mary-Lou, who'd been in Hannah's shoes, gave her a modicum of comfort whenever

Gwen had to be somewhere else (which she had often been over the past five

days). Sally thought of saying something, but Darrell stopped her, took her

aside, and told her what she'd learned. Sally almost wanted to cry – how could

anyone let themselves be in thrall to such a horrible person as Gwendoline?

"I can sort of understand," Darrell said. "Remember when I was the natural

suspect for smashing Mary-Lou's fountain pen, and you and Mary-Lou stuck by me?"

"Yes, but we knew you were innocent!" Sally protested.

"Poor Hannah," Darrell said. "She's thought the world of Gwen since she got

here. What would you have done if it really had been me who'd broken that pen?

How long would you have taken to drop me?"

Sally got Darrell's point. "Darrell, if she comes around, we should let her come

around with us for a while. She'll need a lot of support."

Just how much was evident as half-term grew closer and closer. Hannah grew more

and more sad, and everyone but Gwen knew that she spent a lot of time crying on

her own. Gwen dominated her all the rest of the time, and Hannah shut up and

took it for the sake of making Gwen happy.

Sally and Darrell agonised quietly over it, but what could they do? After a

while, even Alicia backed off. Surely it all had to come to a head soon? But

half-term came, and with it Gwen's mother and governess, and all the other girls

watched with horror as the one-time-feisty Hannah meekly confirmed everything

Gwen said about herself.

As they made their way to the common room that night, Hannah stopped Darrell in

the hallway. "A word in your ear," she said.

"Yes?" Darrell replied.

"I'm sick of this," Hannah said. "I tried, Darrell. I tried so hard. You haven't

seen, but I've been trying so hard to improve Gwendoline! And I've been so

patient with her! You've been doing it wrong, you know; you have to stick by

her, try to be her friend even while you're telling her she needs to clean her

act up. This afternoon, though… this was just too much. Oh Darrell, it's no

good. I saw it. I'll do my utmost, and then she'll go home and her mother will

undo it all. I feel like crying, Darrell, oh God, I…" She burst into tears and

Darrell reached up to comfort her. "Darrell, it's awful! I know I could help

her, but how can I undo the damage that's done when she leaves me? Oh it must be

sickening for you to watch, but… I'm so fond of her, Darrell, so desperately

fond of her, and I feel so angry with myself for wanting to just give up. Who

will be friends with me when I've lost her?"

"You can be a threesome with Sally and me," Darrell replied. "You won't be the

first in that situation either. Are you going to have it out with Gwen?"

Hannah hung her head. "I suppose I'd better, hadn't I? She might listen to me;

from what I hear, I'm the only girl who's ever unhesitatingly backed her up to

her mother. Maybe that will count for something."

"That's the girl," Darrell replied, trying to instil some confidence in Hannah.

As she watched Hannah go, Darrell decided that she really liked her and would

gladly swap Gwen for her, but what if Hannah could pull off the miracle and turn

Gwen into somebody likeable? It would certainly make for a much happier form!

What Darrell hadn't seen, though it was written as plain as day on Hannah's

face, was the despair in the other girl's heart. As she walked to the dormy,

Hannah felt as would a soldier who goes into battle knowing he must lose. She

might come out of the experience alive, but she knew it wasn't about to do her

heart any more good than a bullet would.

Neither Hannah nor Gwendoline were to be seen in the common room for the next

half hour. Darrell initially thought this was a good sign, but as time passed, a

vague disquiet began to gnaw at her. She couldn't even explain to herself, much

less Sally, why she kept on staring at the door. And then something appalling

happened.

The common room door slammed open. In walked Hannah, dragging a mortified Gwen

by the scruff of her neck. No sooner were they in the room than Hannah put her

hand in the centre of Gwen's chest and slammed her backwards against the nearest

convenient wall.

Everyone dropped what they were doing and stopped to look.

"Gwendoline Mary Lacy, I've had a gutful of you!" Hannah shouted. "I am sick and

tired of trying to help you. How on earth could I have been your friend? All

this time, I've admired you, and what do I find? You lie. You cheat. You don't

try for one reason, Gwen; you simply can't be bothered! Well, I've got something

to say to you, and I'm going to say it where everyone else can hear me.

"I can't be bothered with you any more. I don't want to talk to you. I don't

want to see your duplicitous little face. I don't want to hear your lies, your

exaggerations, your nasty tales about all the other girls. I don't want your

company. I don't want your admiration. I don't want you drooling after that

school I used to go to, Gwendoline, because I know exactly what you want out of

it!

"You want to have it easy, Gwendoline, and that's all you want! I might have

come here full of false pride and overblown expectations, but everyone can see

that I've worked my guts out! What have you done? Nothing! You've taken my prep

and praised it… and I'm very sure you've been copying it on the side. Sure, Grey

Towers was a slack, but even the worst of us would never have dreamed of doing

anything like that! And we wouldn't have lied to our parents the way you do. You

make me sick, Gwen. All this afternoon I was with you, I was so distressed I

wanted to vomit!"

Hannah went on shouting, but everyone else could see that she seemed to be

crying too. "You were my friend, Gwen! I adored you, and in some sick, strange

way I still do! I really hope you grow out of this, because one day the easy

ride is going to come to a stop, and you'll be in at the deep end with nobody to

support you. And I hope you've picked up enough of what it means to be a Malory

Towers girl to survive. I really, truly do. I'm going to go to Miss Grayling now

and ask her to call my father to take me home, because I really can't bear to be

around you any more. You make me so SICK, I'd rather lose all of what I've found

here than have to deal with you! Go to Hell, Gwen Lacy, and I hope you burn

well."

Hannah let go of Gwen, stalked out and slammed the door so hard the windows

rattled. Nobody at Malory Towers ever saw her again.