The Earlys didn't live in double dormitories like we did. There were three large rooms lined with bunk beds, each room with a shared water-closet. Beadie and Viola were assigned as bunk bed mates on Day One. It was an odd match. Viola was silent and guarded, Beadie was wild and noisy. The first few days were crucial for all the young girls; make friends fast or find yourself on the outside looking in. Neither Beadie nor Viola cared much about social status, but they didn't find it easy to befriend one another, either.
It was Beadie's nightmares that brought them together.
"I wasn't the crying type, though there were plenty of those all around," Beadie explained to me, "I fell into troubling dreams instead. Dreams of my Aunt and Uncle's home being swallowed up by the Earth or my mother's face dissolving into ash..."
"Goodness," I said. Then gently I added,"But ...you never knew your mother?"
"No. I guess, it was her face as I imagined it. Anyway, my dreams were just a bunch of silly nerves, that's all. Homesickness or what have you. Even though my Aunt and Uncle's wasn't really my home. Never had one of those officially," Beadie said, forcing a smile.
While Beadie was unconscious and dreaming up horrors, her body was thrashing on the bottom bunk and thereby, rattling the top bunk. Disturbing Viola.
After the first night of sleep-quake Beadie, Viola broke her stony silence to ask, "Are you all right? You were moving the bunk a lot with all your tossing and turning last night."
Beadie replied unhelpfully with an abrupt, "Huh?"
That was enough for Viola to roll her eyes and retreat again. The bunk bed sleep-quakes continued, unabated. Viola grew irritated and Beadie remained oblivious.
"One day, I guess she just up and had enough," Beadie said. She had been brushing her long, unruly hair in the water-closet when Viola confronted her.
"I was saying somethin' like, 'ugh stupid hair'. Being friendly and conversational, you know? About how I hated brushing it. She gave me the strangest look. Like she was jealous or angry or... I dunno."
Viola patted her wispy mushroom hairdo with a self-conscious hand and sneered,
"Your ridiculous night habits are keeping me up. All that thrashing about. Why can't you ever lie still?" Viola puffed up, expecting a fight but Beadie just stared back, bewildered.
"Oh. Uh, suppose I have strange dreams sometimes."
"I'll try and stop, sorry."
"Well. Fine. But I might have to ask to switch bunk mates." Viola blustered, surprised by Beadie's sincerity and frustrated all the same. That night, Beadie tried her best to stay awake until she was sure Viola, above her, was not. But slumber won out.
In the middle of the night, Beadie - even mid-thrash and deep asleep - sensed a strong hand pressing her shoulder and heard a calm 'Shhh' whisper in her ear. The pressure steadied her body and bounced her out of her nightmare. She slipped into a still state for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Beadie found Viola in the water-closet again.
"That was you, wasn't it? Last night?"
Viola looked away and muttered, "It doesn't make much sense to move bunks just so you can torture some other poor, unsuspecting girl. If I have to climb down every night to get you to calm down, I suppose that's what I'll do."
"Thank you, Viola," Beadie said, a sing-song tone in her voice.
"Nightmares are terrible," Viola replied, gruffly. But Beadie swore she spotted a thawing in the serious girl's cool, dark eyes.
YOU ARE READING
When troubled Ophelia is found dead, four of her classmates are accused. With conviction and punishment a foregone conclusion, the girls - Portia, Beatrice, Viola and Desdemona - plot a daring escape in order to unravel the conspiracy behind the mur...