21 February 2009

Regarding chick lit

Sunday afternoon 15 February 2009

This morning we got dressed more conventionally for 2009 and drove down to Beach Haven to attend Communion. Afterwards we had a pleasant drive back up the Island to Barnegat Light, went up the lighthouse and had tea at the cafe near there. Jessy apologised for her self-indulgence last night. 'I don't know what came over me,' she said sheepishly.

I made a laugh. 'Oh, I think I know what came... over you.'

She blushed. 'Well....'

'Be sure to change the sheets before we leave tomorrow,' I said.

She nodded at once. 'Of course.' Then she giggled. 'But... I still have tonight....'

I batted her arm in the car.

We drove off the Island and went to Target, picking up some stuff for our dinner, and then drove down Route 9 to the end of Dock Road which is one of the places Daddy often takes us. There is a boat-launch ramp there and a bit of a playground as well as a very odd, large house made of plain construction plywood finished in fiberglass resin. Daddy has pointed out that this is typical of house-builders round this area who do not understand the properties of fiberglass products. The resin will not stick long to plain plywood, and the sunlight breaks it down. Now it is clear that the plywood is falling apart. I do not know how much this person paid for a house that surely would be 2 million dollars on the Island beachfront, but the house which once made an interesting artistic statement now looks like an expensive and stupid mistake. Anyway we took some pictures of ourselves in front of it.

Back at the house I wanted to get into my Colonial clothes again. Jessy went up stairs first and by the time I came up to the room she was stark naked and enjoying herself on her bed. I do not think she saw me and I just backed out and left her to her reverie. I suppose I should not say this, but I do envy her sometimes. Although she is undeniably brilliant, well-educated, intellectual, and absolutely virtuous, she also has a completely pure, open, innocent view of just about everything, as though she has nothing to hide. Of course she would never do this in front of our parents, nor even J.J., being her sisters little Lisa and I have got an eyeful (and an earful) of her more than we'd care to. In respect to Jessy we just tolerate it. Jessy is only discovering herself in about the healthiest way she ever could. Who are any of us to tell her it's inappropriate?

I know I should not envy her because I can just as easily indulge myself in the same sort of way. But I confess it does not come easily for me. (Maybe that's a bad choice of words!) I too often find something to think about that takes me out of the mood. I have been asked (mostly online, but elsewhere too) what I think about when I'm doing it. Well, I really don't fantasise like that. I mostly think about what it feels like to be doing it, and I'm doing it, so it feels great... and so on.

Maybe it's just me... but I really do not understand why it is such an issue with some people. Maybe it's just an issue with me... I don't know.

Thinking this way put me in the mood for something else. Jessy (when she revived) and I discovered Mother's DVD of 'Bridget Jones' Diary' and we put that in and curled up in a blanket to watch. I was still in my Colonial gear-- somewhat apropos as the film is a deliberate throwback to things like 'Pride and Prejudice' (witness the romantic lead's name, 'Darcy', also the place where she works is called Pemberley, which is Darcy's estate in 'P & P', also consider the whole conflict of the plot that Darcy is the best 'catch' for the heroine but out of her own pride, or prejudice, she spends too much energy hating him first, etc., etc.). We all know 'P & P' is the best chick lit and best chick film in all history. Sadly it was not here at the beach house and 'Diary' would suffice. Jessy had on just her shift and socks and was probably more comfortable than I was in my bodice and stays, etc., but when she started toying with herself again I had to ask her to refrain. I just did not want to be snuggled under the same blanket and have her doing that. Fortunately she understood.

Actually 'Diary' is not very sexy at all and little about it put me into the same sort of mood... so leaving her to prepare a supper for us I went up stairs, got out of most of my gear, and took care of myself... and I didn't let her know.


No bloomers

Sunday 15 February 2009

Jessy and I continue our 'retro' weekend here at the beach house on Long Beach Island. It has been so uneventful that I shall spare the details except to say that Jessy's time is passed. Mine was done about two days ago. I mention hers only because last night she took advantage of being free and clear. Now we have been wearing our Colonial outfits exclusively since we got here Friday evening, including the shift which is like a long cotton nightshirt. People have asked if we wear bloomers or anything else under it. Now bloomers are too new for the 18th century; they were invented by a Mrs Bloomer who in about about 1875 wanted to ride a bicycle, so she hitched up her shift and sewed it on the middle to keep it from tangling in the sprockets. Therefore... before the bicycle, no 'bloomers'. When Jessy and I were very young we used to wear panties under our shifts when we dressed up for reenactments, till we found out that Mommy wasn't wearing panties under hers and so we both promptly stopped, I suppose mainly to not offend her by not keeping 'to period'. Mother (our stepmother) used to work the ice-cream parlour the summer before and the summer after Mommy died and really did keep to period, at least at first, till she found out the other girls insisted on wearing panties. It's just a little strange to be serving food and not having on... you know. S she discovered a woman online who makes old-fashioned underpants, really like short bloomers, with authentic drawstrings, not elastic, and cute gathered legs, some of which look more like Can-Can-girl knickers. So Mother as acting manager began prescribing that all the girls wear those instead of modern panties, and as far as she knows they all did. I have heard that some of the younger girls thought they were incredibly sexy (and no, I haven't heard much more than that, but I can imagine!). I know most of the adult women who worked there liked them too.

Jessy and I usually stay completely in period when we're reenacting, or even when we're doing like we're doing now, just like we did when Mother used to home-school us. In short, there's nothing under the shifts that God didn't give us. Of course there are considerations you have to keep in mind, but most of it is not a problem because the skirts are so long that there's no chance of it blowing up or giving away too much as you ascend stairs or even bend over, you know. And it honestly does feel comfortable once you get used to it. That's the funniest thing about all this gear-- bedjacket, stays, bodice, skirt, underskirt, shift, stockings, and shoes-- it's actually very comfortable. But of course it is-- these clothes would have been made by women who had to work in them every day, and there's no way a woman would be so stupid as to make something she had to wear every day that was uncomfortable. The stays and bodice actually help keep your back straight when you bend over. The drawstring waists can all be layered over each other so as not to bunch up. The garters actually do stay up, without elastic, because they go round your leg only just above the calf and not the thigh like they would if your skirt was shorter. My booties are straight-lasted, meaning the left and right are identical, not mirror patterns of each other, and of course the heels are not too high so my foot is well supported heel and toe. I really mean it when I say I could wear this stuff, to work, all day-- and I really mean it when I say I have, and often.

Oh, as to Jessy-- We have been going to bed early, as we would have 250 years ago, so it was only about 11.00 last night when I woke up from an almost-sleep because I heard her in the other bed. 'What's wrong?' I asked in the dark.

'Mm,' she sighed, 'nothing....'

I blushed. I should not have. In the dim light from the window behind me I saw her lift her bottom off the bed. Under the comforter, under the sheet, under the shift, she was busy with her hand. 'Oh, dear,' I sighed, and rolled over.

'Mmmm,' she sighed, more deeply, and the bed creaked as she began bouncing.

This is how my sister observes the end of her period.


Olden days at the beach

Saturday 14 February 2009

This is St Valentine's Day but neither Jessy nor I has a date so we are doing our own thing here at the beach house on Long Beach Island. Last night we slept in our Colonial-costume shifts in our old bedroom here on the third floor. Jessy and I shared a room when we were in England and sharing again with her here reminds me of that. When our classmates, especially the boarding girls, would come over to the house we rented in Norwich, our room was little different than the typical HOH room, with too much of our stuff crowded in and the walls full of posters and photos. This room here is a little more genteel, though it is on the third floor and has a terrific view down the Island and across towards the Bay. That means it's on the cold side, but we weren't chilly last night.

This morning dawned lovely. Down in the kitchen I made a fire and heated water for tea. We made oatmeal and did a bit of homework (meaning Jessy went on the computer) and then we got dressed, in our other Colonial outfits, as we would wear for working at Mommy's 18th-century-themed ice-cream parlour. When the fire was out we went down to the street, and over the dunes to the beach.

Of course this is the off-season and the place was deserted. But it is a Saturday and you'd be surprised how many people eventually turn up. Today was bright and breezy, not quite comfortable enough for no coats, and we wore our long woollen ones with scarves. In our old-fashioned booties and long skirts we were not uncomfortable at all. Luckily we both have experience walking this beach in heels!

It is some blocks up the beach to the street where the ice-cream parlour is. I typed in the pass-codes for the alarm and we went through the whole place, checking up on whatever Daddy said to check up on. The computer here is tied to the same network as the ones at home and the one at the beach house and the ones in Lewes. We sent Daddy a memo on the condition of the store, the ice-cream parlour, and the three apartments, and he responded almost immediately. 'Be careful,' he sent to us.

We typed back, 'We will. We love you!'

It was only eleven then, Jessy had an idea and so we helped ourselves to two books from the store and two chairs from where the outside ones are stored, and we carried it all back up to the beach and situated ourselves there to read. The outside chairs at the ice-cream parlour are authentic wooden ladderbacks with rush seats, precisely what would have been found in a small but tasteful tavern in about 1750. In the beach they sank in pretty far, but again this was no different than we would have done 250 years ago. If we were sitting in chairs on the beach back then, these would have been the chairs we would have had to sit in. So we made do.

In a book we have at the beach house there is a lovely photograph, taken from the top of a water tower, of Beach Haven in about 1880. Whenever we are at this house I can stare at that picture for eons. It's in black-and-white of course, but the houses still look grey and well weathered, surrounded by sandy yards inside paintless picket fences and always with the small barn, like a garage, standing out back for the chickens and pigs. There in the photo is a tavern with a front verandah, the police or lifesavers' station, and the schoolhouse-- how I wish I could have taught there then! It would have been Miss Janine as the school-madam and twelve or fifteen boys and girls, up to about age 13, after which they would have gone to work. I would have taught them spelling and maths and reading and history. Science would have been tending a garden and studying the ocean. People would queue up to use the outhouse. We would have had lunch from a pot on the wood-stove and the elder ones would have helped the little ones. I would have made sure they all washed hands first. The little ones would have naps at 2.00. As it got dark round 4.00 or 4.30, the older boys would sweep the floor and the girls would stack all the books. Then I would let them all go with a kiss on the head and they would run home to tell their parents both of them) all about what they had learnt today.

That's what I dream of when I think about a teaching career. The closest it's ever come to reality for me was when Mother (our young stepmother) home-schooled us when we were still at Lewes. We used to wear these Colonial clothes (even her) and have lunch off the fire, just like that. It was education coming from love... the way it always should be.

Jessy and I sat in our well-settled chairs in the sand and read. I had chosen 'The Lovely Bones'. I have seen it many times but had not got a chance to read it till today. Jessy read a book called 'Everlost'. I have not looked into that one yet, but she keeps telling me about it, so I suppose I shall.

We saw a few people stroll by who waved to us. There was one dog. There really is no ordinance against dogs on the beach in the off-season, but their masters are responsible for cleaning up after them. The one time I have seen a dog leave a mess on the beach, the people were content to leave it there. I was younger then, of course, but I called out to remind them of their responsibility, and the man just said, 'It won't matter much.' I put my hands on my hips and scowled at him till he took a few steps back and kicked sand over the mess. I am sure it really did not matter much after all, but I hate to see people assuming they have some right to be an exception to the rules.

We carried the chairs back to the beach house and sat on the porch there and went on reading. I heated some water, this time on the cooker (stove, sorry) and we sat out there sipping our tea till we were cold enough to go in. Jessy had wanted to go for a ride up the Island, but now she decided on a bath and went up stairs. I put down 'The Lovely Bones' and lay on the sofa in the parlour, with all my Colonial gear on and all the draperies wide open to the ocean sky. I really do think I would like to live here in future. Jessy and I know that Daddy (and Mother too) will eventually agree to endow us each with a house. Between us she and I have decided that she will have Lewes, where Mommy's ashes are interred, and I will have this place. Lisa and J.J. are too young for us to be concerned with them yet, but Jessy and I are agreed that Lisa can have Terncote and J.J. can have... the boat or whatever else. It does not matter what. We'll always have enough room to visit each other and, in the case of this little house, my visitors can stay at the apartments over the ice-cream parlour and the book store. I am sure my husband would not mind living at the beach so much. And if I do not marry, which seems likely anyway, I will grow old here and write my novels like a good little eccentric spinster... like Jane Austen... or Emily Dickinson.


14 February 2009

Looking back

Friday 13 February 2009

Jessy and I packed last night and we drove in to school in the Regal. Both of us were in skirts-- this is only typical. We also brought nice stuff to wear for church on Sunday though we have both admitted we are not sure we will go. Holy Innocents' has services at odd times during the off season.

After school we hurried out to the car and got on our way. The light fades fast here and so we went directly to the Ferry, not even checking on the house at Lewes, where Mommy is buried, that's even just a few blocks farther on. It was my first time driving onto the boat but I did well and Jessy was totally composed as though we had done this a hundred times before.

The boat ride is 70 minutes. It was one of the new boats and we got tea, but it was too cold to stay outside and we took a table by the windows. The wind seemed very strong in the middle of the Bay-- the water was mostly whitecaps and the boat tended to roll a lot. We were both happy to get ashore.

Of course I had never driven this way either by myself but it was not hard, and Route 9 turns into the Parkway and then it's just 65 MPH till you get there. I also had never driven this fast before, but I was very careful and not long before our exit Jessy rang Daddy and told him we were fine.

Our house in Surf City was the house we had when I was born. In fact this was to be our only home, I was to start school on the Island and to high school at Southern, and Mommy started her ice-cream parlour and the book store and we might have been very happy here. But my parents thought we should have the experience of growing up with a yard and a swimming pool and a slightly bigger house, so they built the place at Lewes and just after Jessy was born we moved there. So the house at Surf City has always been mainly a summer place for us. It is modest and old-fashioned (like everything about my parents and my family anyway) and has a lovely view of the ocean as well as up and down the beach.

The room that was always meant for Jessy and me to share is on the third floor, facing across the Island at the Bay actually. We each have an old-fashioned four-posted bed and there is a desk and wide dresser. It is an attic room with low walls and a sloping ceiling,. Round the top of the low walls, and across the end walls at the same level, is a cute wallpaper border of sailboats and seashells and dune grass that Mommy put up for us, sort of by surprise, about ten years ago. Neither of us has ever had any inclination to ever take it down. Also we have no inclination to take separate rooms-- there is a very nice guest room below our room that one of us could take, but neither of us could ever decide to be the one to not stay in this room where Mommy's wallpaper border is and so we continue to share. For now Lisa and little J.J. share the other room up here, a smaller, narrower, lower room over Mother and Daddy's room that sticks out in front towards the ocean. Some day one of them (probably Lisa) will adopt the guest room anyway, so it's just as well Jessy and I keep this one together.

Jessy and I have slowly been coming to the idea that we would like to stay here and work in Mommy's ice-cream parlour all summer. It is only what Mother (our stepmother) did when she was our nanny, the summer before and the summer after Mommy died. And she was only a year older then than I am now. I think Mommy would like us to do that, and, like Mother did, help manage the ice-cream parlour and carry on her tradition.

I have begun to believe that I would much rather do something like that than even to go to university somewhere. I could stay at this house all year and commute to Ocean County and try to figure out what I really do want to do. I only know I would miss Jessy, at least for that first year when I have done with school and she is still finishing. I suppose I could work with Daddy for that period. I know he would like that, especially because I would be home near him, which is what he really wants.

I apologise for rambling like this. I confess it is how I write when I am here-- I am less single-minded.

As soon as we got to this house we got changed into our Colonial dresses, just for fun. I have about eight different outfits, mostly handmade, of which I brought three for this weekend. In about 1750 I would have worn one not till I was sick of it but till I could not wear it any more. This weekend we're going to try to live at least in some ways like that. This afternoon I put on my light-blue skirt and bed-jacket with a plain muslin shift (undershirt like a nightgown) and stays (not exactly like a corset) under it and high socks with garters (round my calf of course) and slippers that are like ballet flats. This would have been typical for someone who was not a princess 250 years ago (and yes, I have said ALL that I have on... also typical). Jessy has on her dark-green bodice and plain muslin skirt over her shift and stays.

There are no boys to see us right now but in my experience they tend to love this gear on us girls. The bodice flatters her (I'll leave it for you to imagine why). We both feel very comfortable-- I often wish I could dress like this forever, but for now it is like a little game we are playing, like we did when Mother used to tutor us in the tea room at home in Lewes.

We made a fire in the kitchen, heated water for tea and, though we did (shamefully) cook two of the instant dinners we brought along in the microwave, we did eat by candlelight. I hooked up the laptop to the house network and by about 18.00 I was able to report to Daddy that everything was all right. Afterwards we put on our long winter coats and boots and went over the dunes to the beach. I remember happy times with Mommy, and later with our stepmother, dressing like this and skipping round the beach like we were living here 250 years ago. In the off-season there is hardly anyone here and when we were littler we didn't think that we may have looked odd to modern people. If Mommy could stroll the beach in her gorgeous handmade gowns and black stockings certainly we young girls could. I remember, the summer after she died, my nanny (as she was then) and I hiking the beach to work at the ice-cream parlour, in our long gowns and carrying our shoes, in front of everyone who was on the beach on a summer's evening in the high season. People stared, you know. But they all knew where we were going and smiled and waved as though we were celebrities. That's usually people's reaction, and it always makes me feel, even then, that something was good and right about being a girl who dressed in traditional clothes.

We saw only one person, some blocks down, with a dog. The night was going bitter. We returned to the house, set ourselves up at the kitchen table, and did our homework by candlelight till the fire faded, and then we watched DVDs ('Emma' AND 'Persuasion') till we went to bed. However I woke up at like midnight and typed in this, and I am going online to post it.

I will post more later as our 'retro' weekend proceeds.


12 February 2009

We see into the life of things

Wednesday 11 February 2009

As predicted today was like 65 degrees. This is really frustrating when you have school on a day like this. By the end of fourth period I was devising all these diabolical plans to skip the rest of the school day and go to the beach. Who knows? --there might have been no one at Chincoteague and I might have got to indulge there. Well-- that was not going to happen for three reasons. The first reason is that I had school, and that's still important. The second reason is that nudity is illegal on Virginia public grounds, including beaches. The third reason is that it's this week.

At lunch I talked Jessy into riding up to Chincoteague anyway. Roger met us at the kerb and we got a lot of our homework done on the 30-minute trip. The beach was almost empty-- we saw maybe half a dozen people there, not including in the parking area. We actually took off our shoes and tights and ran down to the water's edge. Of course the water was icy, but that's not why we had to do it. This is February, and we were barefoot on the beach. How much could that EVER be bad?

We had a walk together, up towards the other parking area and then back down to the car. Both of us reached the conclusion that there must be something in heredity, for Daddy has always preferred a walk on the beach too, to clear his head and to gain some new outlook on life. It was from him that I learned the Wordsworth poem commonly known as 'Tintern Abbey' that says the intimate experience of being in a certain place that is special to you will give you a kind of insight on greater things in the greater world:

'While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.'

Wordsworth says he gets this 'power' from the sights and sensations of the beautiful countryside above the Wye river as he accompanies his sister on her first visit there. I have been to where the poet sat when he wrote this and have some idea of how strong the impression must have been on him. My daddy gets the same kind of refreshment from a walk on the beach. I have known him, when we lived at the house at Lewes, and even before, at Long Beach Island, to go out to the beach and merely stand there, or maybe walk a bit, with no destination, as though, like Wordsworth, he is being rejuvenated just by being there. 'Rejuvenated' is a good word-- meaning to have again the spirit of youth. I think that's what Daddy gets-- a kind of spiritual return to his happy younger years, before Christine died, before the band broke up, before he had to worry about family and money and real estate. To him the beach is like a childhood playground he gets to visit all over again.

I have seen my daddy sit on the beach and stare out at the water, completely ignoring any of the people around him (yes even cute girls in bikinis). He does not go to the beach to see the people, but to see the water. And I think I know what that is like. Having grown up no farther than 50 metres from the ocean shore all my life, I know that there is something deeply spiritual, deeply powerful, about the sky and sea and sand together. I can sit there and stare out at the horizon, imagining myself out there, but we know that's impossible-- there really is no horizon. If you were to go there, there would still be another horizon, drawing you farther and farther. Chasing it is in vain. And yet something in me makes me wish I could sail off out there and chase it forever. And that something is what compels me to come to the beach to clear my mind and to look to the future.

Jessy listened to me talking like this and finally said, 'I wish we could go to Surf City this weekend.'

I stopped walking and just looked at her. 'Do you really want to?'

She did not look at me, only down at her feet, and resumed walking. 'If we could.'

I nodded at once. 'I'll ask Daddy when we get home.'

We looked at each other with wide eyes and smiled. After that we walked more quickly back to the car.

Daddy was actually out on some errands, so when we got home I asked our stepmother. 'I think he will worry about you,' she said. 'I will worry about you. Though after this weather today I can't blame you for wanting to be there.' We both looked out the window and commented on it, and then Mother said, 'Ask him when he comes home and see. As long as you phone when you get there.....'

'Yes,' I assured her. So when Daddy got home I asked him. 'Just to see it,' I said. 'Just to walk on the beach. And we can check on anything you want us to....'

He thought for a long moment and then said, 'Well I suppose Roger can make it up there this weekend.'

'No, Daddy,' I said. 'I want to drive myself. Jessy and I want it to just be her and me.'

He looked at me for a long moment. 'Are you sure?'

I nodded, definitely. 'If you think it's all right.'

My daddy thought for a long moment. His next comment was about the ride, the route, taking the Ferry, me driving on my own up the Parkway and having to recognise the right exit.... Then he had a list of things for us to check on, the house, the dinghy under the house, the ice-cream parlour, our uncle's boat laid up at the yacht club.... Then he suggested that we would have to bring warmer winter clothes, that it was by no means certain it would be this warm this weekend. By this time I already knew we were permitted to go.

Tonight after dinner Jessy came in to my room, dressed in socks, a plain pale-blue man's shirt like the one I use for a cover-up, and, I'm pretty sure, nothing else. I had a fire going with almost the last of the hickory logs and was quite cosy myself. 'Do you still have your warm gown?'

I looked up at her. 'My green one?'

She nodded. She had meant my Colonial-era costume which I've had since before we went to England. Mommy used to love 1700s reenactments and got the whole family interested in that time period. In fact after our new stepmother took us out of school, following the Jesus essay fiasco, she and the two of us used to dress like that all the time, holding our lessons and everything else in our very traditional, all-natural-fibre gowns.

'Yes,' I told her. 'Is that what you're thinking for this weekend?'

She smiled at me. 'Apparently it's what you're thinking too,' she said.

I smiled back. 'So... apparently it's what we're doing.'

A whole weekend by ourselves in our Colonial clothes-- unless of course the weather favours sunbathing on the deck. I cannot wait.


02 February 2009

A reprieve (sort of)

Monday 2 February 2009

I was supposed to have had play practice tonight, following the schedule made up since the New Year began, but our director, Rick, called out sick and we are off tonight. This is odd because this is the most vital time, known as 'tech week', in which we run the play each night, with no interruptions, and everyone must be completely off book. I made an error once last week but other than that have been off book for the last five or six practises. Shakespeare is more than drama-- it is poetry, and the words all make sense if you have got them right, both semantically and rhythmically. I enjoy playing a comedic character because she rarely speaks in iambic pentameter like Olivia and Orsino do, but there is still a metre to all the lines though having done 'Tempest' and 'Shrew' at HOH I may just have a knack for Shakespeare.

Tonight is also a reprieve as it is the end of a very pleasant, clear, warm day... and you probably know what that means. Jessy was naked before I was. I wandered down stairs, actually hoping to not run into Daddy as I did not want to have to explain myself being naked in the house in February, and spied her skipping across the dormant garden out back. Well I could let her explain that then! --Daddy was probably up stairs in his computer room at the moment! I cautiously opened the glass door at the back of the small parlour, but I already knew it was actually over 60 degrees outside. What could be the harm?

'Hey, you,' I called carefully, assuming Daddy would hear.

She turned, surprised to hear someone calling her, and then waved gaily at me. 'Hey! Come on out!'

'You are nuts,' I said.

'I'm freeeeee!' She threw both arms in the air and cast herself off across the paving blocks, flitting through the air like a pixie. I laughed out loud. 'Janine's scared!' she teased. 'Janine's a biiiiig baby!'

'As if,' I said, and then turning round to see that I was not seen I stepped out of my shoes and slipped outside.

The air was crisp and clean, bathed in the salt spray and the bright sunlight. I tiptoed quickly to the side steps and ducked out the garden gate the way Jessy had just gone. Out on the lawn where we like most to sun ourselves, the garden wall blocked the light yet stiff breeze and left us alone in the afternoon sunlight. Jessy skipped on ahead of me, flinging herself by one arm round a tree and then scurrying off towards the front of the house where there was more clear sun.

We have a 7-foot block wall round the property and it goes across in front of the house about 75 yards away. Between that and the house is what we call the front lawn, but it is divided in two by the entrance drive with a row of fruit trees to either side, just like the one at our old house in Delaware. Where the wall meets the drive there is a pretty panelled wooden gate. It's usually left open, like the one at Lewes, and of course we two teenaged girls with not a stitch on really shouldn't go traipsing past it in broad daylight. However Jessy, in her nearly-mindless abandon, galloped out past the fruit trees and performed a carefree pirouette right in the middle of the driveway.

At once we both heard the sound of a car entering the lane from the road. 'Eek!' squealed Jessy, and she ran off the driveway, straight for me.

'It's probably Mother,' I said sensibly. I wasn't that worried about it.

'Eek! Hide!'

I laughed and turned to follow her, but, sure enough, it was Mother coming in the open gate. We both dashed off and hid behind a tree as she passed, but from where she stopped the car and began to unload Lisa and J.J., they would have a clear view of this corner of the yard,and so we were trapped till they went in. In the shade it was none too warm and we were both shivering by the time the front doors had closed.

'You twit,' I said, slapping her bare shoulder and shoving her ahead of me into the sunlight. 'Serves you right.'

She giggled like an imbecile. 'And you? You're stuck here with me!'

'Only till I go back in,' I said wryly at her.

Suddenly she bolted off again, running full-tilt for the side yard again, her lithe, lean body extended elegantly in the long beautiful strides of a first-class sprinter. She really is a pixie after all.

Our only way back into the house was through the French windows at the back of the little parlour and fortunately Mother had not noticed them unlocked or she could have locked us out. In the house we made our way through the big parlour and ascended to the bedroom gallery. Little Lisa, hearing us, came out and caught us. 'Were you guys outside?' she asked in a mocking scolding tone, even setting her hands on her hips at us.

Jessy only giggled and went into the sanctuary of her room. I made a face and then bent down to kiss Lisa's head. 'We were,' I told her, 'but it's gone cold and we had best stay inside now.'

'Do you want to see my family board from school?' she asked, and then towed me into her room to show me her project which depicted her whole immediate family and on which she had got full marks... and of course she made no issue of the fact that I had nothing on but my high-heeled slippers.

I'm still naked-- only wrapt-up in my favourite blanket now-- and have promised myself to sleep like this. Surely it can't get THAT cold too fast.