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Author's Chapter Notes:


Their arrival at the Platz was certainly something to be remembered for a long time to come. Even though the residents had been expecting them – and Nancy had promised to make sure that someone from the school sauntered over towards evening and made sure they had everything they needed and weren't wanting for company – what they were not expecting was the hurricane vaulted among them unexpectedly at around lunchtime.

It would have been thought that after such a long journey the children, at least, would have been worn out and fractious, but in fact it was the adults who looked more worn down. While they got out and stretched various aching limbs, yawning and asking Hilda what she thought of the house, Ashley and Poppy treated a bemused Hilary Graves, who was walking back from the shops and saw the entire thing, to a victory dance around the camper-van, while Stacia stood to one corner shrieking their arrival to the sky and the distant mountains.

Unperturbed, Charles wandered over to the gate and greeted her politely enough, asking after her family and the rest of the residents. She murmured the quickest response that she could, added something about how his children had clearly inherited Joey's mantle and she couldn't wait to meet them at a more convenient time, and scuttled off, thoroughly alarmed. Grinning to himself at having successfully ensured they didn't have various old friends and acquaintances of Joey's knocking day and night to catch up and thoroughly ruining the holiday, he turned around and clapped his hands loudly enough to be heard over the cacophony his family always created. Instant silence fell, though Ashley and Poppy continued to jig, grinning.

“Right, now,” he started, with a glance at Freudesheim, into which Charlie and Hilda had already vanished. “You can all just calm down and start helping. John, Will, you carry smaller luggage to the hallway, just dump it out of the way for now until everyone knows which room they're taking. Millie, you helped mum pack, find all the food bags for the kitchen and take them down, would you – you remember the way? Girls, first of all stop prancing around like that, you're making me quite dizzy. You can be the first to choose your bedrooms. Yes, you do get one each, just remember that we aren't allowed into the side quarters because if Uncle Rix is here I'm sure that he won't want to be disturbed! After that, find mum, tell her which ones you've chosen and do as she tells you!

The last was shouted, as the three excited girls charged into the house to have a huge argument over who could lay claim to the first bedroom they found, before deciding that none of them wanted it and there would be a much better one down the corridor. Grinning at Millie, who had already retrieved the first bag to be taken in and was following them at a more sedate pace, he turned to help Will with the biggest suitcase.

After that, organised chaos reigned for quite a while. Nothing more was heard of the three youngest girls, though John ran upstairs to let Poppy know which would be his room so that she could claim the one next to it that she would want most, and returned to report that all seemed to be well, and all three had pitched in on unpacking Ashley's things before they started on their own. Satisfied that mischief could be averted for the time being, the older among them set to on getting things in order with time still for a walk before dinner.

Hilda disappeared with her luggage to her own room, an air of thankfulness about her for having escaped to a relatively quiet haven for the time being, and Charles and Charlie betook themselves to Joey and Jack's old bedroom, which they were reluctantly inhabiting as the only double room in the house – though Charlie made enough promises to cheer Charles up that her eldest daughter was forced to tell her off in a thoroughly disgusted manner.

Her parents' morals attended to, Millie dragged her own luggage upstairs and into the first room she found – she cared little for her surroundings – then went to unpack the food and start to work out what they could possibly make for dinner on the meagre supplies that they'd been able to bring, when even pasta would be taken plain. A rummage through the cupboards produced nothing of much use, though Jack had done his best to stock it up, and she was just concluding that they would have to walk to whichever shop was closest when John appeared with another query and she forgot all about it.

Time flew, and before long there was a feeling in the air that it was time for a walk. The younger ones, at least, had been having fun exploring Freudesheim, which had changed since their last visit two years previously, while the adults had finally finished unpacking and were debating where they could go. A quick walk that would still shake the cobwebs away was eventually decided on, and they were just going to hunt down the rest of the party when it happened.

Poppy, in a fit of daring that she would later regret, had snuck past the bit they had been told was within their boundaries and into a part of Freudesheim technically forbidden to them. No reason had been given for this, as it was a rather rushed last minute order, though Charlie would have been happy to explain had they asked; as she hadn't, what Poppy saw when she swung open the first door made her scream in shock, and the rest of the party come pouring in on her, convinced that there'd been a catastrophe.

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