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I have news." said Phil with a grin, as she fell into a vacant armchair in Felicity's bedroom.

Felicity didn't bother to look up.

"News Flixy! Did you hear? Of the exciting sort."

She seemed to have caught her sister's attention slightly.

"What?" asked Felicity without looking up from the magazine with which she was curled up.

"I wish Adrienne had let me go to Cece first, she would have been so much more fun.." said Phil wistfully.

Felicity sat bolt upright. "Phillipa Anne Maynard! When did you hear from Adrienne?" she asked, finally rising to the bait.

"She sent me a letter." said Phil tantalisingly.

"Pippa" wailed Felicity.

"Thats better." said Phil, satisfied. "Much more Cecey-like of a reaction."

"Pippa" said Felicity warningly, "Give it!"

"That's hardly a polite way in which to talk to your sister Felicity dearest. I mean you are supposed to be a role model to me..."

Felicity's reply was to lunge at her sister.

"Careful you'll rip it!" shrieked Phil.

Felicity forsook dignity, and sat on her sister.

"Give it." she repeated, this time with a sweet smile, and syrupy tones that were far more menacing than before.

"Alright, alright spoilsport. Now gerroff already."

Felicity acquiesced and re-settled herself with a crumpled letter now in her hand.

"Well read it!" glared Phil impatiently.

"Shh." was her only reply.

Dear Pippa (and everyone else whom this letter gets passed to),

How are you poppet? Yes, I know, you're not delicate I'm just asking a caring question of my favourite red-haired rebel. Since this letter is probably going to get passed around I had better not write favouritie Maynard! But enough! I have some very exciting news. I'm coming up for Christmas, but it is already the twenty-somethingth you say. Alas you do not reckon with this Desmoines extreme cunning. For you see I am travelling with someone, and no not Ailie or Jane or someone dull like that, but a certain Nun who happens to be on a short remove back to Paris, and who during this stint has to go to Basle for a few days, OVER CHRISTMAS. I have no idea how she 'wangled' it, as you say, but you will all have to come down on Christmas morning, and me being the charmer that I am I shall hitch a lift back with you for my Christmas tea. Oh and don't you even think about dreaming of telling Auntie Jo. This is my christmas present to her, and yours to if you like. Pretty please get one of the boys to drive you all down down, Souer Marie-Cecile will be so thrilled. If you must tell Uncle Jack then you must but it would be so much better if you didn't. Well see you in a few days,


P.S. Tell Felicity before you and Cecil go haring off with plans, she at least has a sensible head on her shoulders.

P.P.S. Just re-read this and don't have time to re-write so apologies for the drama. That's what I get for sharing digs with an Actress. But i'll tell you all about Jane when I see you.
Adieu for now.

Felicity folded up the short letter with a giggle.

"Hasn't Adrienne improved since we first met her, not that you will remember, being as you were just an adoring babe at the time. But as sweet as she was she was dull as dishwater!"

Phil stared at her sister. "You're awful." she proclaimed, "going about with that angel face and then startling people by saying things like that."

"Well it's true" said Felicity sweetly, "Ask Mamma if you don't believe me. But not now or she might guess something is up!"

"Well duh! We'll have to tell Roddy because he is the only one of us who can drive."

"Oh I can't wait to meet Auntie Rob. I mean I have met her, but I was so tiny I can't remember her at all. Does Auntie Daisy know? Cos we'll have to invite her if she doesn't. She would never forgive us else, she always says Aunt Rob is as much a sister to her as Auntie Prim" said Felicity thoughtfully.

Meanwhile in her boyish room next door, Cecil was struggling with her own letter. Cecil glanced around her fairly bare walls searching for inspiration. The room had used to belong to Mike, but when it had become clear that there would be little or no roof left if Cecil and Phil remained sharing, Cecil had been upgraded, and Mike had been moved upstairs with the 'old 'uns' into Len's old bedroom from before she was married. This had left Phil bemoaning the fact that she had a rosey pink room, whilst Cecil now had one that had been decorated around young Mike's naval dreams. Pippa being Pippa this had of course resulted in her 'borrowing' of several tins of paint from the school. Somehow the re-decoration hadn't been noticed for a full three months after, by which point Phil, at least, felt it would be rather unfair to punish her for something which had clearly done so little harm!

Cecil began re-reading what she had written, knowing it would not be nearly enough to satisfy Con of the readily flowing pen. In such a large family it was perhaps natural that they all had their 'favourites' as it were. They were very clannish as a whole, and to insult one Maynard was to insult them all, but of course underneath that, close friendships had been formed. To the younger members of the Maynard family at least, the Richardsons, Erica and Adrienne were all part and parcel of their jumble of siblings. Marie-claire who had been adopted by Jo and Jack when she was only two, didn't remember a time before the Freudeshiem nursery, and indeed no one on the Platz remembered any longer that she was adopted. To all and sundry she was the twelfth Maynard, the baby of the clan.

Con was decidedly Cecil's favourite sister, although Cecil was so close to Pippa, and the two of them had always felt the need to 'protect' homely Felicity. Although why this was was unknown as Felicity, like everyone else in their family, had more than learnt to fight for her corner. But exotic Con who lived in London, and travelled to lots of far-flung places held a very dear place in Cecil's heart, perhaps because in so many ways they were very alike in temperament, and Con seemed to Cecil like the only person she could ask about Felicity, Who was growing up, and perplexing Cecil by doing so.

Dear Con, the note ran so far

I know you won't get this for ages, since you are with Margot just now, but I thought I would write you before Christmas madness completely takes over. By the way Len was on the 'phone last week, and wasn't she just wild? She was just dying to come over with you, but of course she couldn't leave the babes at Christmas, and she had the Christmas play to deal with as well. She was cursing you for that too! Mamma said she said that she hadn't seen such ghastly acting in her life, and she hoped to goodness Her plays weren't like that to watch! I think they made an awful hash of things by the sound of it, and Len was raging with them 'cos of course it's your play and she wanted it to be special. It was her first as producer and everything as well!

But anyway you probably want to hear about here, not there I expect. Len's probably sent you one of her scathing epistles anyway, it's probably waiting for you at home as a present for when you get back! Well we have had a strange time of it here I can tell you! Of course first it was just everyone having measles, and trying to spoil our holidays, we had to stay at the school for TWO days of the hols it was awful with only some of the mistresses there, everyone else that was staying was away on their term trips. Auntie Hilda's a dear but she does have such a fearsome glare, and she sees EVERYTHING. Mamma told Papa that Auntie Hilda's started wearing glasses in private. I don't think I was supposed to hear that but I was walking past the door and it was open. I wonder why she doesn't have to wear them in public. It can't be looks- she's quick enough to lecture us lot when it comes to vanity. She had the whole Middle school on the Mat because some of them had started wearing make-up in school. Pip was disgusted afterwards: for once she hadn't even been involved. It was all Marienne Von Ahlen's fault: she started it, though you wouldn't have thought butter would melt in her mouth to look at her. She's lucky she didn't try it while Gretchen was still head girl she would have eaten her for breakfast. Gretchen always was a goody-good! Carlotta's still off too so really Mari got away a lot easier than she might, because Lotta would have been a Prefect this year, with Fliss, if she was here.

I hope you don't mind a rambly letter Con, 'cos I'm NOT starting this again, and I've barely even got into the problems yet. Well, we finally got home, about four days ago now, and who was waiting for us but Daphne Bettany! She's coming to the school at some point and boy is she a queer fish! You know the Bettanys much better than me are they all odd? Daph's really nice- she's the same age as me, so yonk's younger than even Maeve- but she is SO quiet, and Mamma has thrust her upon me. I like her but I don't know what to do with her Con! I mean she sews for FUN. She doesn't talk, or play sports and she clings to me like a barnacle when the boys are about. The only one she'll utter a word to is Felix, which is the biggest mystery of all because Felix has come back more melodramatic than ever! He's starting talking Shakespearian, or at least his idea of it. Of all the odd things he's started doing he's been practising 'playing dead'. Yesterday Mamma went to open the Nursery door and Felix fell out to quote her looking "Still, gray and to all appearances dead" she nearly had hysterics, especially when the corpse started giggling! I think Pappa's started accepting that Felix at least isn't going to be a Doctor or a Lawyer, though he still insisted on dragging him and Geoff round the San on the first day of their holiday.

We've been preparing for the San show, it's been left really late this year because of the measles and quarantines and stuff but everyones coming over later this afternoon and we'll rig something up. We won't let you down Con I promise, none of us have ever forgotten the looks on their faces that first year, when you tried to inject some Christmas cheer into the place. It's so little to do, especially now when there are so many of us older ones living on the Platz. Even me and Pip have taken part in the mending of last years costumes- now thats dedication for you! I can see your mind whirring as you read this, probably thinking including Daphne in this would help bring her out of her shell? Well i've tried! Oh, she wants to help of course, who wouldn't? She's spruced up more costumes than me and Pip and Claire put together but she won't go. She won't even go and not say a word. I don't know what to do. We need all the poeple we can get, and people will think badly of her if she doesn't go, even though she's making doll's clothes for some of the stockings. She has to go to school with the girls at least and they will wonder, even if they don't say anything. Oh this is such a mess, and there are only two days 'til Christmas eve to sort out what we are doing, its going to be hard enough without sticking my neck out for Daph.

I suppose I ought to wind this up now it shall cost a fortune to post, and i'm planning to slip it in with Mamma's so when she sees how thick it is she will rant- not that hers will be any thinner! I just have one last thing I need to ask, but you can't tell anyone Con, 'cos she'll kill me if she knows, and I feel bad for saying anything behind her back, but i need advice and I haven't got anyone else to ask. It's about Fliss. Well you see Roddy came back unexpectedly- "there's always one" Mamma said- except he brought a friend Seth something-or-other from college.

Here Cecil was stuck, she already felt bad for talking about her sister behind her back, even if it was just to Con, and she didn't really know what to say. It wasn't even like anything was happening between them. She stuck her pen resolutely down on the paper, Felix had offered to do the post run and he would be leaving in an hour to catch 'Postie' on his way back from the San and all the houses at the other end of the Platz.

Well Con the thing is I think Fliss likes him, she has been acting all, well, un-Fliss-like recently. She blushes like anything at the least provacation, and she's being snappy and clumsy. She's not talking to us the same anymore either. Just this morning I found out that she's been visiting this girl in the San, who is really ill- and she hasn't said a word about it to any of us. I mean why wouldn't she tell us something like that? Oh I don't know. I know you think I'm talking an absolute cartload of rubbish. Seeing it written down in black and white it does look that way and maybe it is all in my head. I know Pip doesn't think there is anything to it, but Claire does. I know- I know, why am I taking an eleven year old's relationship advice? Well thats why I'm writing you Con. I don't know what to think? It is silly to be writing to you of course. By the time you even read this we will all be back at school and it probably won't matter anymore...

Well I really had better go if this is to make the post. Make sure you write ALL about Margot when you come back, and i want my OWN letter i'm not being fobbed off by a Dear Freudesheim or Dear Maynards or the like!


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