|It was a fine weekend, and Ted and Con had decided to drive over to Kirren Farm, to show everybody the new campervan. |
Tom and Dinah were there when they arrived, and joined in the praise and exclamations.
Tom looked critically at the bed platforms and suggested to Ted some improvements. Soon the two of them were happily working away with Tom's carpentry tools, strengthening various parts of the van.
Tom had just oiled a hinge on one of the vents, absently brushing a mark of oil onto her neck without realising it.
Con looked at her, with the smudgey mark on her neck, and was suddenly reminded of years earlier. Specifically of Tom coming out of the herdsman's hut with Clem. Tom's neck had been covered in green make up, which could only have come from Clem, who still had remains of the make up from being the witch in the pantomime.
Ted and Con had both noticed this, and more importantly, had realised that they were both thinking the same thing, had both noticed the chemistry between Tom and Clem.
In the present day, Con looked thoughtfully at Dinah. She didn't know how much of her past Tom had passed on, so decided against reminding Ted and Tom of that day just then.
As she watched, she saw Ted run her fingers through her hair in an absent manner, as she looked at the changes Tom was making. This was so much a part of Ted, this familiar movement, that it brought a smile to Con's face, and again reminded her of that time. They had both been 17, and still at school, best friends already, and inseperable.
That day, they had sent a message between them with their eyes after seeing Tom's neck and blouse. The closeness of their friendship meant that they didn't need to talk, to know that they had things to say to each other. Nor did they need to say out loud that this subject needed to wait until they were alone. It had taken a while, since a boarding school has very few private spaces. After several failed attempts at privacy, Ted had suggested a space she knew on a flat roof outside of one of the box rooms.
At last they were alone to talk, but suddenly neither of them were quite sure how to start the conversation. Finally Con broke the silence.
" Tom and Clem, do you think"
" I think so. They came out of that herdsman's hut, and there were bits of Clem's make up all over, er well all over Tom's blouse" Ted replied, blushing as she reached the end comment.
Con gave a giggle.
" I assumed it would only be me that realised, but then I saw your face" she said. "Your mouth couldn't have been wider open if you had weights in it!"
Ted smiled, but was looking worried.
" Con, I don't know what you think about all this," she said seriously, looking everywhere but at her friend. " About people who, who are, are, well..."
Con looked curiously at her friend. Ted was often quite confident, but now she seemed so small, vunerable and anxious. Ted was holding a pencil in her hand, resting it between two fingers, in a way that Con had seen her do before when very worried about something.
Con chose her words carefully.
" I think it is something that some people are just born with." she said slowly, then looked at Ted and seemed to make a decision. " I know I don't remember really feeling any other way..."
Ted had frozen, and seemed petrified of looking at Con. She seemed to be grappling with something inside of her. Eventually she spoke.
" I try not to, but I ... I don't think I have either. Felt any other way that is."
Con looked at her friend. While this hadn't been easy for her, the signs of strain in Ted were far greater than her own feelings of stress. She leant forward to touch Ted's hand, not thinking anything more of the contact than she would towards her sister or any of her friends. To her suprise, Ted snatched her hand away as if burnt.
With no explanation, Ted just left, climbing through the window and half running to the boxroom door. Con was left sitting on the flat roof, unsure how to take this development.
The next week, Ted avoided Con. Len and Ros noticed this, but just assumed that they had had an arguement. It seemed unlikely, since Ted and Con rarely quarrelled, although they bantered regularly, they were really good friends, seeming able to know what the other was thinking, and finishing each other's sentences without conscious effort.
Len wondered if she ought to try anf help. However Len was doing her best not to get involved in her sister's lives, so she decided to leave them to it for now.
Finally, it was the end of term. Ted was staying with the Maynards, and so they all headed over to Freudesheim in a group. Con trailed slightly behind Ted, looking at her talking with Len and Margot.
Joey greeted them and bade them take off their outer clothes and come downstairs again, she wanted to know all the 'hanes' from school.
It wasn't until they got upstairs that Con and Ted realised that this time they were sharing a room, since the Triplet's bedroom was being redecorated. Ted panicked briefly as there was a bit of discussion about who would have the room where there was a need to share the double bed.
Len didn't know the reason, but she knew something was wrong with Ted and Con, and was perceptive enough of Ted to know that she wasn't happy about the first room choice offered.
Deciding this didn't QUITE count as interfering, Len suggested her and Margot for that room before Margot could even express a preference. Ted was able to breathe again, though still worried about sharing a room with Con when they were barely speaking.
That evening, Ted was lying in bed, tossing and turning, trying to ignore the fact that, even in separate beds, she was acutely aware of every movement Con made, of every change of breathing pattern.
Through her tension, she heard a low voice, and turned towards Con, wondering if she was sleeptalking or walking. She looked across to the other bed, straight into Con's eyes. Deep, almost black, and thoughtful.
Having got her attention, Con began to speak, still in that low voice.
"Ted, please talk to me. I didn't mean to scare you. Its just... Its a part of who I am. I can't help it, I don't want to lose you as a friend. Please, I wasn't meaning anything by touching your hand.
To Ted's shock, Con's eyes were filled with tears. She hadn't ever seen the self contained Con like this, and she couldn't help but respond. She reached out her hand accross the gap between the beds, and grabbed hold of the other girl's hand, not quite trusting herself yet to speak.
Quietly, with many hesitations, Ted told Con her own story, avoiding her eyes, afraid of the disgust she had seen in so many eyes before now. She told her everything.
She told her about the conversion centre, how she had been confused and alone, her mother hating her, desperate to go to school. Then how her reputation as a perverted girl follow her from school to school.
She told her slowly about how a curious girl at her last school had kissed her, and the two of them had been caught. The girl had cried and pretended that Ted had been the instigator, that Ted had made her do it. The head had had no choice but to expell her, although for the smoking out of the window being a final offence on top if many others, not the kissing.
Finally she came to a stop. As she looked up nervously to Con's eyes, she was suprised at the anger in them. Con, usually so mild, was furious.
"I just want to ... to HIT, all those people, to push them under a train, to ... to ..." she fumed, the need to speak quietly making her seem to spit the words out. She got out of bed, and strode up and down the room, as if the rage within her refused to allow staying still.
After the first shock, Ted grinned delightedly. This angry Con was a sight to behold! And she was angry for her. For Ted. The defensive wall within Ted began to crumble brick by brick at such a show of support.
" You'll wear the carpet out if you keep pacing like that!" she joked, and Con gave her the edge of a smile in return.
"I need to move, and we need to talk properly" Con said. "D'you want to come with me for a walk? This is Steven's old room, he showed me how to get accross to the tree outside amd down, if you are up for it? If we go out of the door we will wake people, and I don't want company right now.
Ted agreed happily, and they scrambled out and down to the ground. Con set off through the trees, and once they were far enough away not to be heard, she let rip with how despicable, how stupid she thought all of these people were. As she ran out of steam, Ted saw a gap in the stream of words.
" Well it wasn't all bad, all those things led me here, to the Chalet School" she said, then without thinking, she added, " and you"
Con stopped short, and looked at Ted. As Ted realised what she had said, she coloured and tried to back track.
" You know, we are good friends, its really nice you are so angry at these people, you are a good... Friend...." She gabbled.
Con was silent. She hardly dared to think what she was starting to hope. She had been trying so hard not to think of Ted in that way, not to keep analyzing every slight touch, replaying moments together in her mind. This past week where she thought Ted hated her for being how she was, had been a misery for Con. She was prepared not to risk that friendship for more if Ted just wanted companionship. Those last words though. Did they mean anything?
They continued on, chatting at first, comparing first realisations, laughing over both of them having had a slight crush on Miss Wilmot, and then fell into a companionable silence. Without needing to discuss it, they bent their path back to the house and clambered back into the room.
Settled back in their beds, they smiled at each other, slightly shyly, and closed their eyes to sleep.
They woke the next day and grinned at each other, still with a slight shyness on both parts. As they went through the day they were relieved to find themselves able to fall back into the jokey banter that they had been so used to before. Len was glad to see them back to normal, and didn't think much of it past assuming it to be a friends quarrel. Heedless Margot barely noticed that anything had been wrong, and certainly thought nothing of it.
That night they got ready for bed, but sat together on Con's bed, talking in low voices, revelling in having someone else who knew, someone who understood. They had a few giggly moments comparing their taste in actresses and singers, and had to stop themselves from laughing out loud at how similar some choices were, how different others were.
Hearing the giggling on the way to bed, Joey absently tapped on the door and called out to them to 'stop chattering now, girls, get to bed' and carried on to her room without much thought.
Inside the room, Con and Ted had grabbed hold of each other in fright that she might come in, and were now in fits of laughter at themselves. After all, they were only talking, what were they worried about?
However they were both reluctant to let go. They settled against each other, both enjoying the feeling of closeness.
Once they were sure that Joey had gone, they started talking again, even more quietly. It seemed sensible to stay close, after all that allowed them to hear each othet better. It was Con who first asked.
" So... You have kissed another girl then?" in tones so quiet that Ted coukd barely hear, even as close as they were. Ted nodded.
"But it wasn't for long - our form mistress found us just at that point!" Ted said, which brought on another attack of stifled giggling from them both.
Afterwards, neither of them could say who had moved first. But they were both happy with the result. Past experiences, being unsure and worrying about losing their friendship were wiped away with that one gentle first kiss. There are some people who just fit each other, who are two halves of one whole. Ted and Con were one of those, and the physical expression of that followed naturally for them both.
Back in the present day, Ted turned round to Con and smiled happily at her. Con returned the smile and laughed at how excited Ted and Tom were to show her the improvements to the van.
It seemed incredible that that night had been 7 years ago. They had argued, life hadn't always worked out easily, but one thing was solid, and that was their being together. She felt incredibly lucky, and ultimately very grateful to Tom for unwittingly setting the two of them towards finding out about each other. Con counted several things in her blessings, but the biggest of those was having Ted.
Author's Chapter Notes:
This could fit in either Short Stories or after Theodora's Journey, or even as a standalone. It feels right here however, so that is where I have put it. If you haven't read All Change, the situation referenced with Tom and Clem is in the All Change short stories. Hope people don't find it too soppy, but Ted and Con were insistent that their story hadn't been properly told, so here it is!