05. Driving Me Wild(ly)

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I awoke and thought: Oh God, please don't let it be Monday.

Beside me, in the other bed, Ella yawned and stretched, looking first out of the open window, through which bright, golden sunlight streamed into the room, then turning to beam at me. 'What a beautiful Monday morning!'

Thank you very much, God.

Faced by the inescapable fact that Judgement Day was upon me, I simply lay there for a while, contemplating my doom. Ella, however, didn't seem to be aware of the fact that her sister was about to face a masculine monster from the pit. She was already up and dressing herself, humming a merry tune.

'Come on, Lill,' she said, calling me by my nickname she only used when nobody else was around. 'Get out of bed. It's already eight thirty.'

So what, I wanted to answer, but the words stuck in my throat. Eight thirty? In my mind I heard Mr Ambrose's cool voice echoing: Be at my office, nine sharp Monday morning.

'Eight thirty?' I choked.

'Yes, why?'

Not daring to waste time with an answer, I jumped out of bed, struggled out of my nightdress, and hurriedly started throwing on the dozens of petticoats that we poor females had to stuff under our dresses.

'What's the matter?' cried Ella, alarmed.

'I have to be somewhere at nine!' My own voice was slightly muffled because I was trying to force my way through three petticoats at once.

'Where?'

'Can't tell you. But it's frightfully important. Please, Ella, help me with these infernal things? I think I'm stuck!'

'Here, let me.' Ella, ever the helpful spirit, didn't even think of questioning me. Instead she untangled the knotted mess of petticoats I had been trying to ram my head through, and then handed me my dress.

'Not that one,' I said, shaking my head at my favourite, simple, gown. 'The other one.'

Now even Ella's curiosity was roused. She handed me the fancier of my two dresses, the one with lace trimmings she knew I hated wearing. When I had slipped into it, I rushed to the mirror and started untangling my hair. 'How do I look? Well? What do you think? Am I presentable?'

Ella stood behind me, watching something that was rarer than a volcano eruption in Chiswick: me, trying to make myself look stylish. In the mirror I could see her mouth open in a silent 'Oh' and a blush suffuse her cheeks.

'Oh, Lill!' She clapped her hands together, a sudden smile spreading over her face. 'You have a rendezvous, haven't you? A rendezvous with a young man!'

My jaw dropped, and I whirled around.

'No! Of course not!'

Ella didn't seem to have heard me. Quickly, she stepped to my side, that silly, secretive, girly smile still plastered on her face. Her hands came up, starting to style my hair and smooth my dress at a pace I would never have been capable of. It was as if she had ten arms. 'It's all right,' she giggled. 'I won't tell. Is he nice? Is he handsome?'

Yes he is. Very.

I pushed the thought out of my mind as soon as it appeared. It wasn't like that! I wasn't going to meet a man. Well, in a sense I was, but not 'meeting' as in meeting to do... well, to do whatever romantic couples get up to when they're alone. Why did every female's brain on earth, including that of my little sister, turn to mushy-gushy mushrooms the moment a man was mentioned? There were many legitimate reasons for a girl to meet a man, reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with mating behaviour, such as... such as...

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