I've had this idea for a few months now but haven't quite been able to get it to take off. I really hope you enjoy this and thank you in advance for reading. :D Reviews would ensue my eternal gratitude to you!
Dedicated to NCD simply because she is 1. Awesome, 2. An inspiration not only in literature but in life and 3. The best friend one could ask for.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Worst Witch. The characters, settings and otherwise are the property of Jill Murphy and the creators of the TV adaptation of the Worst Witch.
p.s. This is set during Mildred and Co.'s fourth year.
Constance Hardbroom decided that she would try to get up that morning.
The only thing possible for her was the impossible. She could not write, she could scarcely think and if she lost her ability to read then it seemed that everything would be over.
Her last school friend was dead. 'One of the three Witches' she was known as, even though the three had not been united together in nearly twenty years. The Witch that had died was called Helen and she was Constance's youngest friend. She had been a dear, people used to say. She was the most popular of the three. By far the most outgoing, and, all in all, a rather 'fetching' young woman. A beauty! A lot nicer than her two friends! A pretty face but those teeth do nothing for her. She failed to live to an old age - dying at a mere thirty-four years - but, taking into account the life she lived and the friends she had, she lived a full and rich life. She died with the grace and experience of an old wretch.
It was too hot. The sun penetrated the thin panes of glass (for teachers' rooms had windows) and illuminated the room with painful clarity. Grains of dust, like floating memories, lingered around the bed, the walls, the books and everything that was within sight. The stone ceiling seemed to shine to welcome the dawning day, but, if Constance was to be truly honest with herself, this day was not welcome. She had a funeral to attend and Constance hated funerals. Not just because she was to mourn her last living friend but because she wasn't a people person. What bother! Shaking hands with people one has never met in one's life, pretending to feel sorry for them and praising the dead in the way one never would when the dead were alive. It never failed to amuse Constance how popular people became when they were dead. They suddenly became these wonderful people - their faults became harmless and their eccentricities became trendy - oh yes, the way he used to grab ladys' backsides! - adorable! What lark! Constance was the only one in the room to shake her head and try to find more appropriate conversation.
She arched her back and stretched her aching bones. She wanted to lie there forever. The funeral bak'd meats were to be her last supper as far as she was concerned. She had done some good in her recent years, having looked after two of her invalid friends over her summer holidays for many years, and now the world was laughing at her. That bright ceiling mocking her and that ray of light offering an easy passage to heaven. It was all too easy! A single second to oblivion or another possible thirty, forty, fifty years of endless torment. It all seemed ridiculous! She had a choice - lie in bed or face the day - but Constance didn't feel like either. In fact, she didn't feel like anything.
Her tummy rumbling announced that it was her usual time to get up. Oh, it seemed like such an effort! It should have been easy to lie there … lie … lie .. lie, but it was harder than breathing. She grew restless. Her legs jerked and her head felt like an inferno was brewing inside. Burning - her shoulders, her back, behind her eyes - so badly that she wanted to fall beneath the surface of an aquatic heaven and let the dense substance consumer her. She could not lie there but she could not get up. Like getting dealt with a hand of two jokers, she had a choice, albeit not ideal, but still a choice. The bed was suffocating her. The shadows of her dream catcher spread about her bed sheet like the strands of a spider's web. She was constrained but she could not stay there.
Wiping the sweat from her shiny temples, she caught the blanket and flung it halfway down her body. It was a start. Nothing more. Nothing less. The dusty specks of memories rushed in the masses like shooting stars on a clear night. They were like little maniacs, one memory killing off another. The mass continued to grow and grow as she lay beneath it, watching nonchalantly. Memories! Like wedding ants! Killing how life was then or what one remembers for something new. The world was sick and people were not much better. Like a war, up there, killing from left to right in a sweep of death. Killing for peace of mind. What a thing! A myth of the medical world - a psychological trap! Peace of mind is purposelessness.
Constance was tired and she was no longer able to lie in bed for the morning. She had so much to do. She closed her eyes but her head felt like it would burst with pent up energy. To haul herself up seemed less appealing than climbing the volcanoes of Mars, yet to linger meant to burn. She had to move; and move she did, as she flung her legs over the side of the bed, so that her back remained flat upon the bed and her long, slender legs sprawled all over the ground. She pulled herself up and was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out the window at the blindingly white sun. It was still low but the sky was now blue - morning had broken. What a morning! Glorious! The birds were twittering merrily and many butterflies perched from leaf to leaf. There was a light breeze - cool, not cold - and everything was bright and gay. Constance thought of heaven, and indeed, that's where her mind dwelled that morning.
A look at the clock told her it was almost seven. The funeral was at twelve so she would have to get ready. She sat before her dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. She had gotten old. Her eyes were still the deep brown they always were but the light had extinguished years ago. Her once-sleek face was beginning to fold and her mouth was down-turning - whether through age or experience, she knew not - and her eyes were narrowed under the constant strain of suspicion. Her mane of black hair was as long as always but split ends and neglect made it lose its chic. She never cared much what she looked like after Witch Training College; sure, she kept herself tidy but it was little effort for a woman of her standards. When she was young, she wanted to look good. Now she didn't care. Though she always liked Helen. She would make an effort for Helen.
She picked up her hairbrush and began to count one-hundred strokes. One…two…three…and she chuckled. She remembered how Colin Moore used to tease her over the amount of time she spent tending to her hair. He was a man, he could never understand, she thought, or maybe it was just his personality. She smiled at the memory of Colin. She thought of him often but rarely about him. She remembered how he looked and what they did together but rarely about what he was, or the way he would never fix his hair or how he used to wear his bow tie loosely. Colin Moore was most easily remembered by the things he would say he would do rather than the things he did. He was never a particularly remarkable fellow; he had no accomplishments in any particular skill - he laughed at the notion - but he had those eyes. Those gamey eyes. They always smiled, said she aloud, looking into her own orbs. All they had seen. So many things she would never see again. If eyes could talk, she wondered, what would they tell her? Eyes opened to new light and took in everything. They never missed a thing, so how could she not remember? So many things, little things, that seemed distant. My eyes are the only things that haven't changed, she remarked, wiping her hair to the side like a curtain. The only thing that connects us. My bones, my flesh, my face, my hair…all changed; but eyes, never. She looked into her own eyes as Colin once did.
She sighed. She got up. She replaced her hairbrush into a little drawer and turned around. So many memories floating around, like little bees buzzing and bustling. Buzz, buzz, they would say, each trying to drown out the other. Funny things, memories. Some are sweet as honey while some sting and some buzz the constant hum of disapproval relentlessly, remorselessly - never resting. She closed her eyes and opened them again. She looked upon the world with familiar eyes. These eyes did not see the world in a long time, not since the days of her youth with Colin Moore, Selina Rhodes and to the days when her two school friends were alive.
Verity Falls she smiled at the thought. The slightest notion of Verity Falls never failed to make her smile. A place of both natural and social splendour. Only the wealthy, and that is to say, the very wealthy could afford to live there. The countryside was breathtaking - lush green hills, the modest woods, and of course, the demure waterfalls - along with the 'good' company was what many an Englishman yearned for. Her family had lived there for three years before she arrived. Constance herself had spent the previous years between France and Yorkshire, being the only child of her parents with any academic potential. When they died she was sent to live and receive an education with her aunt while her siblings were to stay with their rich uncle. The year she arrived was the only year she was to spend there. Not through plan but through circumstance.
Her arrival was met with wonderful excitement. Nobody, only her two friends, had seen her within five years. Speculation arose about what that girl would be like. Many heard that she was beautiful, for she certainly was, but upon seeing her, it was generally agreed that she was overrated by the rumours. She had looks that could be knockout for even the most prudish male when she wore makeup, but she didn't have the mainstream beauty that her sister Edith had. Hers was a more natural magnificence that could only be truly appreciated through a certain type of eye.
Constance herself used to love the attention but now, well, not so much. Indeed, not at all. She looked at the clock that read nine o' clock and it was time she was going.
The staff of Cackle's Academy were sitting soberly at the table. Imogen was immersed a sports magazine while Davina was watering a few daffodils right before nibbling them. Amelia was sitting in her armchair watching Davina fixedly. It was clear that despite the gay morning, nobody was on top form. Even Davina seemed a little out-of-sorts.
"I'm worried about Constance," Amelia said, finally breaking the silence.
Imogen drew a slow breath as she put down her magazine. She was flicking the top corners of the pages with her index fingers and smiled awkwardly at Amelia. It was not just she who noticed the difference then. Davina too; she looked down awkwardly, spilling a considerable amount of water.
"Do watch what you're doing, Miss Bat," she scolded, shaking her head.
"Have you any idea what is wrong with Constance?" Imogen enquired, "she's not been right for quite some time."
"That's true, Imogen. It is a very old friend of hers, that much I know. But you know Constance, she gives precious little information to go on."
"It's been going on a little bit longer than that," Davina admitted, taking a seat.
"What do you mean by that, Miss Bat?"
"It's ever since Mistress Broomhead made a visit earlier this year. She being Headmistress shook her but her last visit left her very unsettled."
"Indeed," Amelia agreed.
"So what are we going to do about it?" asked Imogen, "surely we are not going to leave her the way she is? I'm not her biggest fan but I do hate to see her quite so miserable."
"Me too," said Davina, glancing fondly at her cupboard.
The said cupboard had been gathering dust. The handles were especially thickly-coated and the gap between the doors had become the home to numerous small spiders.
"I miss her scolding me, y'know," she smiled. "It's getting boring sitting out here with you lot all the time. But I've nothing to do in there now."
"I'm going to have a chat with her," Amelia nodded.
"Are you sure that's wise, Miss Cackle?" asked Imogen, "it's just … well we all know Miss Hardbroom isn't one for talking. Is it not best just to leave her alone?"
"Constance and I have known each other for many years. I think she'll talk to me if I approach her the right way."
"She's never been very happy, has she?" Davina mused, flicking one of the daffodil petals.
The room was silent. Imogen and Amelia looked at Davina with raised eyebrows. She interlocked her fingers and lay them against her chin. Davina may have been scatty and underestimated, but if anything, it gave her a greater chance to see what was going on around her. It was clear Constance was in a constant state of misery - she hid it well - but those that were around her long enough knew. The students thought she was stoic because she was a bitch but the teachers knew otherwise. She had lucid moments - the occasional laugh - the lapse in her steel wall - the very rare moment of excitement and human interaction (hugging Amelia over something as trivial as a basketball game) - but nonetheless, they were there. They could see, Amelia could especially see what was under her crust.
Depression is like a fine flower. The seeds of anguish and despair are planted and it grows and grows and grows until eventually it blossoms into something larger than life. The bees, they suck the life out of you and disperse your misery over different places at different times. Before you know it, the flower has consumed the field they were borne in. Nobody can recognise it for what it once was because what it once was is lost. It has been changed, it has been scarred beyond recognition. And like the grass that grows between the stems of gloom, nobody cares what lies beneath because the flowers consume you. They become you.
The truth about Constance was that her flower was once again in bloom, and it did not take a botanist to notice this. Amelia knew how to gauge Constance's moods. When she smiled, she was normally free from the catacombs of despair and when she was extremely moody and cranky, she was normally just getting ticked off with life - thinking it a tiresome business! But when she went silent - when she never raised her voice, made conversation or even give Davina ammunition to return to her cupboard, she had fallen. Mildred Hubble had even seen something array and she had kept out of trouble. Indeed, something was rotten within Cackle's Academy.
"Constance, dear?" Amelia rapped on the door gently.
Constance was ready. She looked her usual self, despite her eyes being more blunt than one was used to. She sighed, starting towards the door. Her long, slender digits wrapped lingered the handle before allowing the Headmistress through.
"Yes, Miss Cackle?" Constance enquired.
"Don't be silly dear," she smiled, "call me Amelia."
She sat on the edge of Constance's bed and tapped the seat next to her, urging her deputy to be seated.
"I've noticed a change in you, Constance," she began, "you've not been as well-turned out as usual, you've been surprisingly lenient with Davina and the girls and you've been even quieter than usual, which was something I thought impossible. I'm not going to ask you if anything is that matter, rather, what?"
There was a long silence while Constance wrestled with her thoughts. There's nothing like a little self-deliberation to add tension to the air.
"Do you ever have bad dreams, Amelia?" she finally asked.
"Naturally," Amelia replied.
"I mean something a little more serious than Mrs. Cosie closing down for the foreseeable future."
"And what have these dreams been about?"
"Things that have happened and things that will happen - terrible things."
"Like a prophet?"
"No," Constance sighed.
"Mildred Hubble," she spoke after a few more moments.
"Mildred Hubble," her elder repeated.
"Look after her, Amelia."
Mildred Hubble? Was Mildred Hubble the source of Constance's problems? Of course not! That could not be! What possible problem could Mildred Hubble pose for Constance? Annoyance can silence one for a day but not for weeks on end. Her friend Helen must be the source of her sadness. What else could there have been?
Amelia knew she would hear no more from Constance - to the average eye there seemed to be little difference between quietness and silence, but when one looked closely enough, they were nothing alike. Constance was a quiet woman - despite being a woman of little words, she would and could speak. Though now she was silent - she would not utter a word or a murmur or give a knowing look or any interaction at all. Constance was silent and Amelia knew she had nothing more to say. She could be of no use to her now.
"I'm sorry about your friend," she said softly before leaving.
Helen. The funeral. She had almost forgotten. She would go to the funeral. Though her friend was not what was making her feel so brutally downtrodden. Her stomach ached badly - she needed to talk to someone. Though how can one utter words so candid? She wanted to tell her, talk to her but she could not utter a syllable. How could she ever tell her what she wanted to tell her?
"I'm going to die, Amelia."
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this! The Constance/Amelia scene had originally been much nicer, but I ended up losing the last two pages of this right before uploading, so I had to rewrite them. The general format is the same though. I cannot promise a prompt update, for I start university on Monday and it will take me some time to settle down. Also, I want to read & review other fics so I will be dividing my time between reading and writing also. I 'hope' (heavy emphasis on the hope!) to update in about two weeks. If you are interested in reading on (the story *will* take off in the next chapter), then a one word (nay, letter) review would suffice, or even just to follow the story. I will update regardless, but to know that people are interested would really help me (I'm a little nervous about posting this tbh). Anyway, thank you for reading!