Original Work: Malory Towers
Pairing: background Mary-Lou/Daphne and June/Felicity, a bit of June/Mary-Lou
It felt strange to be back at Malory Towers. The years since leaving must have changed Mary-Lou, since all the familiar scenes seemed somehow different. The passing of years had left Malory Towers untouched, even though there were rumours of Miss Grayling planning to retire.
However, the school itself was not Mary-Lou's destination on this trip. Instead, she took a path around the castle, leading towards Bill and Clarissa's riding school. When the girls scattered in all directions after leaving Malory Towers, opportunities to meet each other became scarce, so Mary-Lou decided to make a small detour, while she was in Cornwall visiting one of her aunts.
"I say, is that Mary-Lou?" she heard a voice say and soon, Alicia's cousin June was standing in front of her, "It's you, isn't it?"
June was as impudent as ever, but Mary-Lou could hardly bring herself to reproach her when she was a cheeky junior. It was even harder now, when June was almost grown up and Mary-Lou was no longer a student at Malory Towers. "Hello, June," said Mary-Lou, "I didn't expect to see you."
"I'd have guessed you weren't here to visit me," said June, "It's Bill and Clarissa, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," said Mary-Lou, "But I'm glad to see you."
"That's hard to believe," said June, "It's still a nice surprise that you're here." She was silent for a short moment, but spoke again almost immediately, "Do you have to go to Bill and Clarissa's right away, or do you have some time?"
"I'm not in a hurry," said Mary-Lou, wondering why was June interested.
"Then would you keep me company for a bit?" said June, "Felicity is always with Susan these days and the others are such dreadful bores, talking only about university exams all day long."
"You're not applying for an university?" asked Mary-Lou.
"I am," said June and leaned against a wall, "But I take after my auntie. I am like Alicia, I don't need to study."
"I suppose you haven't learned your lesson like Alicia did," said Mary-Lou.
June grinned. "No, I did not," she said and took Mary-Lou's arm, "Come on, Bill and Clarissa can wait."
There didn't seem to be any harm to be done by keeping June company, but Mary-Lou had to be sure. "Isn't there a school rule against going away with strangers?"
"Oh, don't be silly," laughed June, "You're not a stranger and even Miss Grayling would say so."
June had a point. Old girls were usually not considered to be strangers. And, Mary-Lou had to admit, she was curious about the newest gossip from Malory Towers, even though she hardly knew any of the current students. "Lead on, then," she said to June.
"Would the pool be fine?" asked June, but she was already heading in that direction and Mary-Lou followed.
However, June didn't stop at the pool, but instead continued farther along the rocky coast, until she reached a spot that was hidden from view from the school's windows. Apparently satisfied, June stopped and sat down on one of the rocks, motioning for Mary-Lou to join her.
Suddenly, a thought came to Mary-Lou. "June! Are you skipping class?" she asked.
"So what if I am?" said June, "Mam'zelle's so old now that she won't even notice and the other girls are too scared of telling tales."
"You know you shouldn't," said Mary-Lou.
"Je t'aime d'être faible et câline en mes bras
Et de chercher le sûr refuge de mes bras
Ainsi qu'un berceau tiède où tu reposeras,"
declamed June, "See, I'm already as good at French as I'll ever be.
Mary-Lou felt herself blush upon hearing those words. "June, where did you learn that?"
"Oh, in some book I found lying somewhere," said June nonchalantly, "It's rather nice, don't you think?"
"I don't think so," said Mary-Lou, trying to act calm, "And I still don't like helping you skip class."
"Don't worry about that," said June, "I would've sneaked out even if you didn't come by. Now, will you sit down or not?"
In a way, June had a point and after coming so far, Mary-Lou could just as well continue. She dusted off the stone and sat down, keeping some distance between herself and June. Seeing her hesitation, June laughed. "Don't be so shy," she said, "I won't hurt the only company I'm likely to have."
When Mary-Lou didn't move, June shuffled a bit closer. She took a strand of Mary-Lou's hair into her hand, running her fingers along it. "I just can't wait to get out of Malory Towers," said June, "I'd love to let my hair grow longer, but I couldn't bear having to pleat it."
"You still don't like it here?" asked Mary-Lou, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
"I always liked being here," said June, "It's just a little stifling sometimes."
"I know what you mean," said Mary-Lou, although she knew that it was bad to encourage June.
"You?" said June, "You were always the good, obedient girl. The nicest girl in the school, if I may."
Mary-Lou reflected back on her school years, but maybe from the outside perspective, she really seemed to be always good and nice. She herself knew that it took work to become a proper Malory Towers girl. Or maybe, everyone in her year carried with her a bundle of memories and truths about themselves they would rather forget. Only Daphne knew all about Mary-Lou and that was only because Mary-Lou never imagined keeping a secret from Daphne.
Mary-Lou fell silent. She missed Daphne and their small London flat. It was only a few days, but Mary-Lou longed to be with her again. It was utterly foolish. It was utterly silly. It made no sense, since she would see Daphne tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow at most. Her thoughts turned to Daphne and when she imagined Daphne welcoming her home, Mary-Lou had to smile.
"What are you thinking about?" asked June, "It's not about your school-days, is it?"
"No, no, it isn't," admitted Mary-Lou.
"Then I suppose it was my dashing good looks," said June.
"What? No," said Mary-Lou, but when she looked at June, she saw that there was some truth in that. June had certainly become a rather handsome young woman, if a bit vain about her looks.
"How sad," said June, "I suppose one can't have everything."
"What is it, June?" said Mary-Lou, "Did something happen?"
June sighed. "Nothing's happening and that's exactly it," she said, "The others are just so boring and Felicity is with Susan all the time. There's nothing to do."
Mary-Lou stayed silent. There was nothing she could say to June, except for telling her to wait and enjoy her last few months at Malory Towers, and Mary-Lou was certain that June didn't want to hear that. Judging by the peevish expression on June's face, there was still more discontent in her, so Mary-Lou waited for her. There was also an air of loneliness around her and Mary-Lou couldn't help but pity June a little, even though she knew that June was probably to blame for her own loneliness and that any pity would be rebuffed and scorned.
"You know, Mary-Lou," said June, sounding no longer cocky, but uncharacteristically thoughtful, "I always wondered about you. You were never good at games or sporty, so how did you fit in?"
"I don't know," admitted Mary-Lou, "I just did what was expected of me and tried to not cause trouble."
"I see," said June and kicked a pebble towards the ocean, "So that's it." She grinned at Mary-Lou. "I guess it's a bit too late for me to learn that."
"I guess it is," assented Mary-Lou, "You can still try."
"I don't think so," said June, "There's no reason to try this late."
"Don't give up so soon," said Mary-Lou.
"Oh, I'm not giving up," said June, "I just... don't care. There's no one at Malory Towers worth caring about."
Mary-Lou stood up. "I'd rather not help you skip class, if you're going to act like this," she said, "Actually, I'd rather not help you skip class at all." She started to walk away.
"Wait!" said June before Mary-Lou could take three steps, and Mary-Lou thought that she had never heard her sound so desperate. Mary-Lou turned around.
June also stood up from the rock and took Mary-Lou by both hands. "Don't go," she said, leaning in and kissing Mary-Lou before she could react.
The kiss was very short-lived though, as Mary-Lou immediately pushed June away. "What are you doing?" she said, but June's attempt to stop her from leaving was successful.
"Kissing you," said June matter-of-factly, her usual attitude returning, "You're quite pretty and I wanted to."
"Well, I didn't want to!" said Mary-Lou. June wasn't Daphne.
"I see," said June, sounding disappointed, "I guess you're like Felicity then. So you'll never speak to me again?"
"What?" said Mary-Lou, "No, why would I do that?"
"Felicity did," said June, "I don't know why you should be any different."
"Oh, June," said Mary-Lou, sitting back down on the rock, "Come on, sit down."
Looking sullen, June obliged, but she kept her distance from Mary-Lou, eyeing her warily. Mary-Lou smiled in an attempt to put the young woman at ease, but judging from June's face, she failed. The smiling, if a bit strange June of just moments ago now seemed very distant.
"What happened, June? Will you tell me?" asked Mary-Lou.
"Do you promise to keep it a secret from Bill and Clarissa?" asked June in return, "And Alicia, of course."
"I haven't seen Alicia since we left school," said Mary-Lou, "I promise."
Even though Mary-Lou promised, June remained silent, but Mary-Lou was willing to wait. Bill and Clarissa weren't going anywhere and they probably weren't expecting her to arrive for at least an hour. June, previously so self-assured and cheeky, now looked somehow forlorn, as if she didn't belong to the cheerful world of Malory Towers that Mary-Lou had remembered.
Finally, June spoke. "I kissed Felicity and she got incredibly upset. She hardly spoke to me since then."
"Is that all?" asked Mary-Lou, even though she knew that it was more than enough.
June nodded. "Yes." She paused, then, "I'm sorry for kissing you, but I was... confused. I wanted to try someone and with you, I though there was little to lose."
"No harm done, June," said Mary-Lou, "Just be a little more careful in the future."
"You're not cross?" asked June.
"Why would I?" asked Mary-Lou in turn.
"Because I did something strange," said June, "That's what Felicity said. And that we're too old to act like kids."
Mary-Lou bit her lip. It was true. "I'm sorry," she said.
"I don't need pity," said June, "It's been some time. I'm fine."
"I'm sorry you're lonely," said Mary-Lou.
"So what if I am!" said June and Mary-Lou thought that she saw tears glistening in her eyes, "It's not as if you can change it."
Mary-Lou took hold of June's hand, holding on to it, even when June tried to draw away. "Do you want to go visit Bill and Clarissa with me?"
June shook her head. "No, they would have to report that I've been skipping class and breaking bounds," she said and an unsure smile appeared on her face, "Thanks for putting up with me."
"I had some free time," said Mary-Lou, trying to sound nonchalant. She didn't know for sure, but suspected that even now, June would probably scorn any pity.
June looked at her wristwatch. "The lesson's almost ending," she said, "I'd better get back." She stood up and started to walk back towards the pool.
"Wait," said Mary-Lou and June stopped. Mary-Lou quickly rummaged through her travel bag, before she found a pencil and her notebook. She tore out a sheet of paper and hastily scrawled her and Daphne's address on the paper. When finished, she handed it to June. "Can you read it?" she asked and June nodded. "Write. I'll be glad to hear from you."
"Thanks," said June quietly. Then she took the paper, folded it into her pocket and walked away without a further word. Mary-Lou watched her until she disappeared from her sight and then she stood up, heading towards Bill and Clarissa's place.
Note: The poem June quotes is the first part of Je t'aime d'être faible, originally written by Renée Vivien.