|I spent so much time worrying what it would be like going to the Chalet School, but until today it never occurred to me to think what it would be like coming home. And now the train’s heading rapidly towards Meadowfield and suddenly I’ve realised that I don’t know where I belong any more.|
It’s all right for Len and Con and Margot. In their world, school and home just flow into one another, in both directions, with no gaps and no bridges. Even for people like Heather and Betty and Alicia, school and home are two halves of a whole. Going away during term time and coming home for the holidays is normal to them, and all the people they know are the sort of people you find at the sort of place like the Chalet School. It’s all so different for me. I’m living in two different worlds now.
In some ways I wish I was more like Joan. Joan hasn’t changed. She’ll fit back into her old life in Worthing as if she’d never been away. She’ll have all her friends there roaring with laughter when she tells them about Old Frozen Limit Matron making her wash her make-up off and the prefects being horrified when they heard her talking about boys. She’ll end up being the centre of attention when she talks about the Chalet School, good old Joan who’s been away amongst the posh sorts ... but I can’t help feeling that when I talk about it I’ll put myself further and further on the outside.
I’m trying to what I should say. How on earth can I tell someone like Kath Stevens about all the places I’ve been to, and all the things I’ve seen? She’d probably think that I was showing off and, even if she didn’t, it’d just emphasise that I’m not a part of her world any more. I’m not part of the old crowd any more. I’m an outsider. They’ve all spent the last term together, and I’ve spent it hundreds of miles away. I’m not part of things in Meadowfield any more. And so what am I going to do all summer? And every other time I come home?
Kath’ll be nice to me, at least. I hope. But what if I run into ... well, Vic Coles and the rest of his gang, for example? I can just imagine what they’d have to say about me. They’d say that I’ve put on airs, and started talking in a la-di-dah accent? Ros Lilley. Thinks she’s better than us now. Thinks she’s too good for the people round here. Don’t you, Ros? Don’t you? Ros, the outsider. Ros, who doesn’t belong in Meadowfield any more. I know I speak differently now, I know I don’t speak quite like the people at home any more; but I’m not doing it on purpose: it just seems to have happened. I suppose it’s because I was trying to fit in. But I was trying to fit into the Chalet School world, and now, because of that, I’m not sure that I’m ever going to fit into my own world again.
My own world. Meadowfield. My world. The world of my mum and dad and my sisters and brothers, and my niece or nephew to come. My home town, and the friends and neighbours I’ve known all my life. What on earth am I going to do if I end up feeling that I don’t belong there any more? Because if I don’t belong there, then where do I belong?
Well, the time for wondering is nearly over. Here’s Meadowfield now. And there’s Mum, waiting on the platform. Oh, and Dad’s there too! He must have got the day off work, somehow. And Dorothy’s with them as well. I’m getting off the train now, and Dad’s taking my trunk, and Mum and Dorothy are hugging me, and Mum’s telling me that she’s made a special tea to welcome me home, and that she’s even made Leafy cake because she knows it’s my favourite. Kath can’t wait to see me, she says. She’s kept on asking when I’ll be home, and she’ll be round tomorrow to tell me all the news and hear all about Switzerland. Even Dad’s giving me a hug now, and he never does that in public. “Welcome home, Ros, love,” he’s saying. “It’s good to have you back.”
What an idiot I’ve been. Of course I belong here. This is my home. These are my own people. My friends, and my family. As for Vic Coles and co, they never noticed that I existed anyway.
What on earth have I been worrying about?
This is my world.
This is my home.
“It’s good to be back,” I tell him. “It’s good to be back.”