The Ten Weeks, 9 January (Part II), Living Dangerously at the Edge

Both Joyce’s and Carla’s parents arrived in time to see all of their matches. Because they played Aloxan schools more often, they had a better idea of the possible schedule than the Point Collinans, so Pete Stanley could open up the store and Hank Kerr could get his early farm chores out of the way before they went up to Beran to see their daughters compete. When the match ended, the Hallett team decided to avail themselves of the new locker rooms to clean up before they began their journey home.
Hallett was less than half the distance from Beran than Point Collina was, and for the Kerrs—who lived in the corner of Uranus north-west of North Hallett—the distance was even less. They made their way across the width of Aloxa along a narrow road whose pavement left a good deal to be desired of, passing through a collection of woods and royal estates. Before they reached the Uranan border, though, the girls, their parents and Madeleine took their leave from the boys and the coaches, who proceeded onward. They hung a left turn, went a hundred metres or so through the woods, crossed a small bridge and entered an open clearing, in the middle of which was the Three Corners Inn.
Verecundan papers had spilt a good deal of ink on “in-depth” investigation of the Three Corners region, which was simply the area where Aloxa, Uranus/Verecunda and Vidamera met. The area was described luridly as a place of “shady dealings” and “shadowy activities,” as if the sun never quite came up on the place. Reporters would repeat hushed whisperings of unnamed sources about drug deals, gun running, large cash transactions, the occasional murder and what was in the eyes of Verecundan authorities the most disreputable activity of all—the fact that the Three Corners Inn served the best snook on the Island, a fish that was illegal to sell in a restaurant in Verecundan and Collinan territory.
However, the Three Corners Inn, itself located in the realm of the King of Vidamera, was beyond the reach of the Verecundan Ministry of Health. The two families alighted from their vehicles and walked into the spacious inn, a large, sturdily built frame building with a surrounding porch. In Beran times it was the home of a cattle-raising branch of the Amhersts, and cattle could be seen grazing around the restaurant in the fading light. The ranching was now done by the Count of West Vidamera, who himself was there with his family, including his son Charles.
The Count, who well knew the adults (especially the Stanleys,) invited them to join him and his wife. The three girls were seated separately, with Charles inviting himself to be their company for the evening. The waiter came with drinks. Carla stuck with water while Madeleine took a little table wine.
Charles was a dapper looking Sixth Former who had not quite connected with the hirsute fashion of the day, combing his hair straight back. His eyes betrayed a steely, almost cold look that many said ran in the family.
“The trip to the edge of my father’s realm was well worth it,” he said, looking at Carla. “‘Came a thousand miles just to catch you while you’re smiling. . .’”
“Thousand miles?” Madeleine asked. “How is this possible on the Island?”
“He only came from Alemara,” Carla sourly noted. “It’s probably not fifty kilometres, as we’re forced to say now.”
Charles turned to Madeleine. “And who is this, who graces our table with her slightly outrageous accent?”
“Madeleine des Cieux,” Carla replied.
“Raymond’s brother?” Charles asked.
“Of course,” Madeleine replied.
“That’s what I was afraid of. I’m his hall monitor at school. He almost burned the dorm down—he’s lucky to still be in school. If you ask me, the boy’s a twit.”
The girls fell silent. Finally Madeleine said, “To be frank, sometimes I am in agreement with you.” Charles got a chuckle out of that.
“We need to say the blessing, especially with our ‘friends’ here,” Carla observed.
“We do,” Madeleine agreed. The three girls bowed their heads. Carla glanced a Madeleine, who replied by making the sign of the cross and praying the same grace she did at home, only in English.
“That means you’re Catholic,” Charles observed. “You know, in our realm, it is illegal to be under the Pope’s authority. Who knows, you might be an agent of the Jesuits. However, as long as I have anything to say about it, if you come in looking like you do now, we’ll overlook your pernicious church association.”
“And what does that have to do with it?” Joyce asked, finally getting into the conversation.
“This land you sit on is under our family’s authority,” Charles declared. “We are the masters of all that enter.”
“‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness therein,’” Carla quoted.
“Ah, yes, the Bible,” Charles said. “For you, it is the Word of God. For us who have joined ourselves to the Lodge, it is but a piece of furniture, a symbol, if you please.”
“You’d be better off if you followed it,” Carla observed.
“You Christians are all alike,” Charles retorted. “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ How can you know it? What do you have to show for it? When the Lodge ruled from one side of the Island to the other, we had order and prosperity. Now look at it. The Serelians set up this screwy church of theirs—but they still elect their Senior and Junior Wardens. It’s just the Lodge with a cross and candles at the front. Even the Verecundans are abandoning the faith—you know that better than anybody, Little Miss Muffett,” he said, looking at Carla.
“Going to the US won’t help either. It’s the biggest Masonic nation of all. You travel anywhere—I hitch-hiked around last summer. You see all of these monuments to the Ten Commandments, ‘In God We Trust’ on the money. It’s even Florida’s motto. But they have no state church. Why? All of their leaders are Masons. Look at an American dollar bill—the eye in the pyramid’s right there, along with that motto. They know all of this is pure symbolism, just like in the Lodge. When the Masons no longer run the place, and people start taking all of this seriously—one way or the other—they’ll start fighting like we do.”
Charles—and everyone else—could see the anger welling up in Carla. Finally she said, “Is that what you’re taught at home? And in the Lodge?”
“He’s taught at home to keep his mouth shut,” a voice came from the adult table. It was the Count, obviously able to hear his son’s speech.
“But it’s the truth,” Charles said, defending himself.
“You’d do well to learn from her and her family the practical virtues you’re supposed to be learning in the Lodge.”
“Yes, sir,” Charles replied. He turned to Carla. “Sorry.”
“That’s OK,” Carla breathed.
“So did you win the tournament?” Charles asked, trying to cheer her up.
“Lost to Denise Kendall in the championship round,” Carla reported sadly.
“I didn’t even get out of the first round,” Joyce added with embarrassment.
“You think you can beat her this season?” Charles asked.
“I don’t know,” Carla answered. She turned to Madeleine. “Should I tell him?”
“I think that Denise has realised the truth after today,” Madeleine said.
“Madeleine’s been working with me for about a year. It’s done a lot of good. . .”
“But. . .but, you’re supposed to be on the Point Collina team, aren’t you?” Charles asked Madeleine, puzzled.
“Until my season ended with encephalitis, this is true,” Madeleine confirmed. “Carla is my friend. Doing it has been a pleasure for me.”
“You two live almost as dangerously as we do,” Charles observed, after trying to sort out this new information. “You think the guys are any good?”
“Pete is very good,” Madeleine said. “The team has good depth—Jack Arnold is good when he cares. You will have hard matches. I hope Raymond improves some—really, he has a long way to go.”
“He still made the team, though,” Charles related.
“So did I,” Joyce chimed in. “Didn’t do me much good.”

The snook consumed, the families resumed their journey, crossing the Aloxan border and picking up the Stanley truck at the Kerr’s farm. They finished the trek back to Hallett and the Stanley’s house.
Their home was a ranch house on the inland side of town, about two hundred metres from the main road and on about five hectares of land which the Stanley’s fitfully farmed and diligently gardened. The land had been in their family since they came to Hallett in the last part of the nineteenth century; the house was about twenty years old. Pete had built it himself with the help of his family. But Pete found that the feed and seed store was an easier way of life than farming itself, and his nice, semi-suburban homestead confirmed this.
Carla left the losses of the tournament and the insults of the Vidameran nobility behind as the well-moonlit night made it easy to see the house coming up at the end of the dirt road. She stopped the estate car in the carport and turned off the ignition, then turned to her friend.
“I can’t believe we’re finally here together,” Carla said. “We’ve known each other for this long, and you’ve never been to my house, nor I to yours. This is great.”
“It is,” Madeleine replied.
“I’ll help with your things,” Carla said. They both got out and brought their belongings in, taking them back to Carla’s room on the back side of the house.
“So you are the baby of the family,” Madeleine observed as they put down their bags.
“I’m it. Junior moved to the mainland. Nathan’s house is over there,” Carla said, pointing to another house across the field. “But I’ve always had my own room. We’ll see how a room-mate works out.”
“You must have been looking for one,” she said, looking at the bunk beds.
“Those are my brothers’,” Carla replied. “I moved them in here for you. Dad’s remodelling the boys’ room for when Junior comes home to visit.”
Madeleine’s eyes were drawn to the awards all around her, starting with the trophies and letters for tennis and soccer. She stopped when she saw a soccer team group photo with her the only girl on a team of boys.
“How did this happen?” Madeleine asked, pointing at the photo.
“Oh,” Carla said. “That was in First Form. The goalie for the Lower Division team was killed in a car wreck right before the season started. They knew what kind of girl I was, so they asked me to play. It started out as a joke but I did all right. I was the first girl to play on a boys team in the country. But they changed the rules after that so I didn’t play boys’ soccer again. Didn’t play much of any kind of soccer after I got going with tennis.”
Madeleine continued to look at this display of victory, but her attention then focused on a group of certificates.
“Bible memorisation,” Madeleine repeated. “You actually entered contests in this?”
“Our church,” Carla said. “We have Island-wide competitions. Last year we had to go to Collina because the CPL people demonstrated the year before, even before Denise’s father became President.”
“So that’s how you could quote it to Charles.”
“That’s right. ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’ It’s important. Does your church do that?”
“I think that the Pope issued an encyclical—yes, it was during World War II—encouraging us to read the Bible, but generally we don’t do it very much.” Madeleine continued to look around the room. There were signs peeking out from behind the trophies that a young woman lived there, but not as many as even Madeleine expected.
“Not much of a girl’s room, is it?” Carla asked, almost reading Madeleine’s thoughts.
“It is yours. You are different. I know that. And you have to work between winning all of these awards.”
“Daddy started me to work when I was ten. When Nathan graduated and went away to school, I worked more. I went to Vidamera and got my drivers licence when I was in Third Form so I could make deliveries and drive the truck around. You could get away with it then.”
“I carry a Vidameran driver’s licence,” Madeleine confessed.
“Do you? Let me see it.” They spent the next five minutes comparing their licenses, which did not have photos.
“When Nathan came back from university,” Carla resumed, “he took a position as an accountant with the farmers’ co-op. Since Junior wasn’t coming back, that left me to do the work. It’s not bad; I get to know everybody around here and they give me time to play tennis and do other things.”
“You have a boyfriend now?”
“Not right at the moment,” Carla replied. Madeleine always sensed that this was a sore subject with Carla, so she didn’t press it.
“So is Junior still on the mainland?”
“Yeah. Daddy was sure he’d come back to the business, but he took a position working for a farm equipment company. Regional sales manager, or something. He knew everything about it, so he does real well. Wife is what they call a ‘Southern Belle,’ not like me. He’s on the Deacon Council at his church. Kids are beautiful. He’s got everything. He can make so much more money there than he can here, it’s unbelievable.”
“So will you come back and run the business?”
“Me? No. Girls don’t do that up here. Daddy’s tried to talk Nathan into it, but he’s doing too good these days. I don’t know what Daddy’s going to do. I really don’t want it anyway—I like working there, but it’s not something I want to do the rest of my life. You still work sometimes at your dad’s place, don’t you.”
“Occasionally,” Madeleine replied. “Especially when the workers are on holiday in the summer. You know I don’t do the physical labour you do. But there is no danger in me inheriting the business—unless I go back to France and charm the right man. . .” They both got a laugh out of that.
Alice walked into the room. “Is everything OK?”
“It’s great,” Madeleine replied. “This is a very nice place.”
“Bet you don’t have all of these trophies in your room,” Alice said.
“No, I don’t,” Madeleine answered.
“When I found that that Carla’s best friend was French, I was hoping that some of that elegance and chic would rub off.”
“Unfortunately for Carla, France is also the country that produced Jeanne d’Arc,” Madeleine observed. Alice gave a blank look.
“Joan of Arc,” Carla clarified.
“Oh,” Alice said. “You want anything else to eat or drink?”
“We’re still stuffed,” Carla replied. “No, thanks.” Madeleine nodded in agreement.
“Well, if there’s anything else, let me know. We’re exhausted—it’s been a long day. Good night,” she said, hugging both Carla and Madeleine.
The two girls—especially Carla—were too excited for bed, so they continued to tour the room and then went outside. The house had a little back porch where the family would gather for cook-outs. The moon made for excellent illumination, along with the security light.
“I still can’t believe Terry Marlowe got past the first round. We were surprised when Terry went in the first place. She’s not that good. Besides, in the coaches’ meeting, Denise insisted on having her play Elisabeth Cassidy. We figured going in that Joyce would play her—she’s not the best to start with, and she’s still struggling to get over mono. Denise must have it in for Terry.”
“It is primarily political,” Madeleine observed. “Terry is a Gerland. Her grandfather and Denise’s father are mortal enemies. It’s her way of playing out her father’s desires. And, of course. . .as you say here, Terry doesn’t ‘run in the pack’ with Denise or her friends. But I don’t know her that well.”
“Oh. . .” Carla replied. “I hate it when everything turns into politics. Why can’t we just live? It’s just like the Student Council thing. And the taxes. They’ve raised them twice on our business in the last two years.”
“We know what he is doing.”
“I’ve hung around you too long—I tried to explain this to my parents. Daddy got real mad, told me the less fortunate need the extra help. Besides, a lot of people up here think that Kendall’s the one who saved them from their land being taken by Lucian Gerland. All I see is a bunch of bureaucrats hassling us more all the time. But he won’t see that. I guess that’s why I want to beat Denise so bad. You think I can do it?”
“You can,” Madeleine replied. “It will not be easy. She is a very good athlete. I’m not sure I could have beaten her for first on the ladder. But you may have to win because of circumstances beyond your control.”
“And what can I do about those?”
“You still must try.”
Carla looked towards the moon, then turned back to her friend. “I’m going to do it. For you. For my family. For my country. For my God. I know, I’ll be ‘Carla Stanley, Maid of Hallett.’” Madeleine started to giggle at that. “All right, it’s the best I can do.”
“Then you must do it,” Madeleine replied.

The Ten Weeks, 9 January (Part I), A Miracle Victory

It was still dark as the Point Collina tennis teams—or the portions of them which were headed to Beran—gathered at the bus parked near the two locker rooms. Three planets hovered near the horizon in the direction of the government beach, and the Moon was just setting more or less in the direction they were about to go. Terry was the last one to arrive, springing from her grandmother’s Mini and surprised to see that her team captain was already there. Denise wasn’t known as a morning person, but there she was, talking to the girl’s coach, Jane Dorr, a well tanned, mannish looking woman a shade shorter than Denise, who was also the school’s Girls’ Athletic Director. The guys were all together with their coach, an American named Thomas Hancock, who came to Verecunda when his student deferment expired and ended up coaching tennis and teaching English.
“You finally made it,” Denise contemptuously told Terry as she started up the bus stairs to store her bags.
“Did we have to all go together? It’s awful early, and a little chilly,” Terry observed, wearing her sweater over her tennis outfit. “And why couldn’t we dress when we got there?”
“Ever been inside an Aloxan locker room?” Dorr asked. “It’s for your own good.”
“We’re a team,” Denise reminded Terry. “We play together, we travel together.”
“Daddy said he could have found some place up there where we could have stayed.”
“Daddy’s off the Island,” Denise reminded Terry with a sneer. “You need to grow up.”
“Are we all ready?” Dorr asked Hancock, yelling over to the guys.
“Yeah, let’s go!” Hancock agreed, and with that the bus was loaded.
In a nation whose president’s inaugural address promised “real equality,” rank and hierarchy reigned on the bus. Hancock drove, having just acquired his Verecundan commercial driver’s license. Dorr was up front with the two team captains Denise and Pete, obviously steady now. Although it was a “small” school bus, it swallowed up its six occupants. Terry and Jack Arnold went to the back together. As they stopped at their “appointed” row, Jack leaned over to Terry and whispered, “Welcome to my world.”
“Thanks a lot,” Terry replied.
They sat across the aisle from each other. Jack’s hair and skin colouring were very much like his sister’s, reflecting both genetics and spending a lot of time in the sun. His hair was very full and shaggy, parted on one side and just barely touching his collar, with the ample sideburns that were the order of the day. Although two forms ahead of Terry, he had to look up to her a bit when they were standing together.
Leaving the school, they went down Bolton Street to Ocean Avenue. Turning right, they went through the town centre and arrived shortly at the Collinan border. Passing through was a formality, although the Collinan authorities required passports from everyone.
Development stopped right at the border; beyond it was an undeveloped estate that sat between Verecunda Bay and the ocean. The road narrowed considerably as they got into Collina, slowing their advance through the Island’s oldest republic. The group in front had some conversation but not much; the back sat in silence, taking in the morning to the extent that they could, as the wall of sleep hadn’t been broken very long for either of them.
They reached Collina town, passing through a quiet city centre and crossing the river. About 0730, as the sun’s light finally appeared on the horizon and outlined the trees to shine through the windows on the right side of the bus, the trip came to an abrupt halt at the Aloxan border as the bus stopped at the gate.
Hancock opened the bus door, and the Aloxan border guard came up the steps, complete with immaculate uniform and AK-47 slung around his back. He looked around, then said, “Everyone off of the bus. Leave your articles on.” Terry and Jack looked at each other in a worried way as they were the last off. The border guard’s colleague motioned the team and coaches to make a kind of line-up along the side.
“Passports, please,” the other guard said as the one boarded the bus.
“You can’t search my things—I carry a diplomatic passport, if you don’t mind,” Denise sternly said, taking her specially coloured one and handing it to the guard. “My bag has my name marked on it.”
“Don’t search Miss Kendall’s things,” the guard yelled to his fellow on the bus. He took everyone’s passport and he also searched the girls’ purses (except, of course, Denise’s.) “Wait here,” the guard said upon finishing passport roundup. He went into the guard house.
Terry and Jack eased away from the rest and went around back.
“What are they looking for?” Terry asked.
“Drugs,” Jack replied. “I hope Pete left his pot at home. I sure did. If he didn’t, they’ll throw us all in the klink—except, of course, ‘her highness.’”
“Great,” Terry sighed. “Or maybe he stashed it in Denise’s bag.”
“You two trying to start something?” a voice came from the left. They turned and saw it was Denise. She looked first at Jack. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” she asked. She then turned to Terry. “He’s not your type—trust me. They’re just about through.” Denise walked back towards the bus door. By that time the guard had emerged from the house with the passports. He gave back each of them stamped, but saved Terry’s for last.
“You’re Mr. Richard Marlowe’s daughter, aren’t you?” he asked Terry.
“Yes, sir, I am,” Terry answered.
“I see him at the border often,” the guard said. “Haven’t you been to Aloxa lately? I thought I recognised you.”
“I think it was back in June,” Terry said.
“Your father is a fine man,” the guard said, handing her passport back. “Tell him that Noel Saxton was asking about him. I usually am posted along the Beran-Hallett Road, but I am on temporary duty here.”
“I’ll do that. Thank you,” Terry replied, turned, and stepped back up into the bus. She was barely at the top of the stairs when the Aloxans raised the gate. Hancock put the bus in gear and lurched forward, sending Terry hurtling down the aisle. When she came even with her seat, she threw herself backwards, landing sitting upright on the vinyl seat with a satisfying, if not particularly ladylike, thud.
“That’s right slick,” Jack said, impressed with the show of female gymnastics. “Think you can manoeuvre that good on the court?”
“If we make the trip,” Terry answered. Denise and Pete were laughing at the whole show; it broke Denise’s jealous stare at Terry’s nice talk with the guard.
The bus’ progress was reasonable until they got to Aloxa town. It was market day, and the streets were crowded. The bus picked its way past the central square and the palace. The people in the streets were virtually all black, except for the occasional native from Fort Keane, and this intimidated the bus riders. They also passed the Aloxa Royal school, one of their rivals in the tournament they were going up to. As the bus worked its way through Aloxa town traffic, Dorr made her way to the back of the bus people to brief them on what she didn’t know.
“Do we know anything more than we did before? Coach Hancock didn’t say much other than to pick Pete and me to go and told us to show up at 6:00 this morning at school,” Jack asked.
“Not really,” Dorr replied. “We know the Aloxans want to show of their new school—Beran-Williamstown. We know each school invited—and that means us and Hallett—were to send two boys and two girls. Beyond that, we don’t know much of anything.”
“Is this a new court?” Terry asked.
“It is a new court,” Dorr confirmed. “But nobody from our side of the border has ever seen it. I think they’ve been practising on it so they’ll have an advantage.”
“How good are these people, compared to last year?” Jack asked.
“Depends,” Dorr replied. “The three schools—now two—only graduated two boys off the team between them. You remember how they played last year at the Collinan Invitational.”
“Really,” Jack recalled, “that guy from Aloxa Royal knocked me out the first round.”
“We’ll, he’s back.”
“So what about the girls?” Terry asked.
“Hard to say,” Dorr answered. “They’ve only had organised girls’ athletics in Aloxa since King Leslie was crowned. There’s one girl from Williamstown who’s supposed to be terrific, but she’s never played outside the country before.”
“So that leaves us Hallett,” Jack observed.
“Their boys’ team is the worst Upper Division team in the country,” Dorr declared. “The girls have Carla Stanley, and in my opinion she’s the only one in our regular season schedule who can beat Denise.”
“She wasn’t that strong last year—good, but not great,” Terry noted.
“I saw her at an exhibition match they had with Uranus Consolidated about a month ago. She’s come a long way. Somebody’s been working with her other than her coach, but I don’t know who.”
As they eased out of Aloxa town, they entered what should have been the most scenic part of the trip: the journey down the Royal Road along the Aloxa River to Beran. Out of the left they could see the river pass by them with its overhanging trees, but the closer they got to Beran the more nervous they became, as much from the uncertainty of the tournament structure itself as from the possibility of losing.
But their worries did nothing to slow their advance. It wasn’t long before they came up on a bridge which carried them over Beran Creek. Off to the left about 500 metres away they could see the creek open up to the Beran Bay. In front of them was the town of Beran, Aloxa’s second largest.
The name Beran was one East Islanders spoke with reverence. It had not yet been a half century since the slave revolt that birthed Aloxa swept away the Masonic monarchy that lorded over a realm extending from where they rode to Drago on the other end of the Island, and up to the Claudian Islands that marked the northern limit of this patch of sand and coral. For Verecundans, Beran was their chief rival; its elimination assured Verecunda’s pre-eminence—if not its territorial dominance—over the Island, and Verecundans tended to regard Beran as a quaint, picturesque town inhabited with black people they had as little to do with as they could.
Jack and Pete had never seen the place before; they took it in as best they could as Hancock made his way to his appointed left turn onto Central Axis Road. Ahead of them in the distance was the Ashlar Pier, the traditional entrance into Beran, but today Verecunda’s privileged children entered by means of school bus. The traffic was very moderate—market day concentrated itself down towards the pier—as they passed the old Beran school, now consolidated with Williamstown’s to the north. Terry looked out and noted that it was now owned by the Beran Pentecostal Church, who were converting the building to their own use.
They then turned right onto the Williamstown Road and proceeded slowly. Hancock wasn’t completely sure what he was looking for next, but Denise spotted a very small, hand painted sign pointing left to the school. Hancock made an abrupt turn to follow it; Terry found it necessary to hang on to the seat in front of her to prevent her tall frame from ending up on the bus floor. Driving down the new Beran-Williamstown School Road about 750 metres, they bore slightly left through an impressive gate announcing the school and at last came onto school property.
On their right was a nice looking, Spanish style building in concrete-block stucco, painted pink, with a white roof.
“This looks better than some of our schools,” Jack noted.
“Yeah, but. . .where is everybody?” Denise asked.
“When did they say we were supposed to be here?” Pete asked, realising that Denise was right.
“Says here eight thirty,” Dorr replied, looking at a piece of paper in her hand.
“I should have known,” Denise sighed. “These people haven’t figured out what a clock is for.”
Terry looked at her coach with concern. “I need to go to the bathroom,” she said softly.
“What a baby!” Denise scolded.
“Just because you’re a camel!” Jack shot back.
“Shut your face!” Denise shot back. Hancock, re-engaged the clutch and threw the bus back into gear, forcing everyone firmly back into their seats. He drove around the west end of the school and found a custodian walking on the back side of the building.
“We’re here from the Point Collina school for the tennis tournament. Where are the Aloxan teams and coaches?” Hancock asked the custodian.
“I don’t know,” the custodian replied. “They should be here in a while.” Denise rolled her eyes at this response.
“Are there locker rooms where these people could freshen up?” Hancock asked.
“Oh, yes, they’re right over there,” pointing to the two doors about ten metres away. “I’ll open them up for you. And, welcome to Beran.”
“Thank you,” Hancock replied. He pulled a little closer, stopped and opened the door. The bus riders—all of them, including Denise—bounded out and headed straight for the two of them, barely allowing the custodian to unlock the doors and turn on the lights.
The guys came out first and, each looking around as he emerged, spotted the tennis courts in front of them and a little to the left. The girls came out as a unit and, seeing the guys already at the court, went the same way.
“The plumbing sure was screwy in there,” Denise observed. “I could barely figure out how to wash my hands, let alone flush the john.”
“I think some Swiss contractor built this for them,” Terry replied. “They had to bring just about everything in from Europe.”
“And how did you know that, smarty pants?” Denise asked.
“I was working at Daddy’s last summer,” Terry replied. “We sold them some things, did some freight forwarding as well.”
“You get around too much,” Denise replied. They came to the courts. There were two of them in a common, chain-link enclosure with wind break material threaded in the links. Obviously meant for spectator events, there were two sets of bleachers, one on each side. What really caught everyone’s attention, however, was the fact that the courts were right next to a beach on the Beran Bay. All of them stood in front of the fence and looked out on the beach in front of them and outward to the bay. It was a very nice day, with a breeze blowing from inland and the temperature already around 22ºC.
“I don’t believe these stupid people wasted a perfectly good beach on a school,” Denise said as she looked wide-eyed on the scene.
“You and Cat would be out on the beach every day if you went here,” Jack said.
“We don’t go to the beach that much,” Terry replied.
“Hey, speaking of beaches, isn’t that Avinet’s Beach over there on the right?” Dorr asked, pointing at the beach across the bay whose shore curved towards the north.
“What about it?” Hancock asked.
“It’s the place where the first King of Beran crucified an entire family of Christian people for not being Masons,” Dorr said.
“You mean, literally, crucified them?” Hancock asked, taken aback.
“Yes, sir,” Dorr replied. “The King didn’t want any Christians in his realm, and that stuck until Beran came apart.”
“Oughta do it again,” Denise said. The conversation came to a sudden halt with that remark; even Hancock was shocked, and they looked at each other in disbelief.
They drifted back in silence towards the courts; Denise walked on, first looking over them very carefully. They were brand new and obviously played on very little. She pawed the surface with her tennis shoe, then turned to Dorr in amazement.
“They’ve put clay courts in,” she said. “I can’t believe these turds did this.”
“Are there any others on the Island?” Terry asked.
“Not that I know of,” Dorr said.
“I wonder what other booby traps these spooks have set,” Denise mused.
“I guess we’ll find out when we have the coaches meeting,” Dorr replied. Hancock shook his head in disbelief at this kind of dialogue. They wandered around; Denise got out her racquet and a ball or two and tested the courts out, as did the guys. About ten minutes later two vehicles came around the school, a large American estate car and a VW Beetle right behind it.
“Here come the hillbillies,” Denise said. The two cars rolled up and stopped behind the bleachers; Carla emerged from the driver’s seat of the estate car, dressed pretty much the same way she was when making deliveries. The rest of the passengers and the Beetle’s driver followed suit.
“Don’t you people have a bus?” Dorr asked their coaches, a husband and wife team named William and Cassie Lawrence.
“Broke down yesterday,” William replied. “Have to get a part from the mainland.” Denise’s attention immediately shifted from the coaches when she saw Madeleine des Cieux emerge from the back seat of the estate car.
“What are you doing with these people?” Denise asked.
“They offered me a ride,” Madeleine simply replied.
“You could have ridden with us—we had plenty of room,” Denise came back.
“I don’t remember receiving an invitation,” Madeleine answered in her soft voice. Now it was Dorr’s turn to show displeasure in her face at this dialogue.
“So where are the Aloxans?” William asked.
“Haven’t seen them yet,” Hancock replied.
“Is there anywhere to change?” Carla asked. “We need to be getting ready.”
“Locker rooms are over there,” Terry pointed. “They’re pretty nice.” The Hallett teams went and got their gear out of the estate car and headed towards the locker room. Madeleine, dressed in shorts, decided to go down and wade in the bay, taking a spare towel from the estate car. The Point Collina team beat the ball around for a few minutes while the coaches traded whatever notes they could while waiting for the Aloxans.
It was another fifteen minutes before both Aloxan teams emerged from the locker rooms, the boys first and the girls a minute later. They had gained access through the front of the building shortly after the Point Collinans had passed it. The Point Collina and Hallett coaches introduced themselves, then the teams were introduced to each other. The coaches then retreated to the building for the meeting. The Aloxan coaches did not bring their captains with them while the others did.
The Aloxan players for their part took over the court. Jack wandered off to the beach to admire the scenery. A couple of Aloxans sat where the grass met the beach and watched.
“How did you know this place was next to a beach?” Jack yelled to Madeleine as she eased through the water.
“Papa told me,” she coolly replied, turning back to Jack to answer him.
“Does he know everything?”
“And everyone,” Madeleine added.
“So you were ready,” he said, pointing to her legs in the water.
“Haven’t you seen a woman dressed in this way before? This is the Island, after all.”
“Well, yeah, but. . .”
“So it is not a problem.” She turned back and waded some more. Jack, sufficiently buffaloed, wandered around a bit more.
“Is she your girlfriend?” one of the Aloxan boys asked Jack.
“Nah,” he replied. “Just in my class.”
“If you want to change that, you have a long way to go,” the Aloxan came back, laughing with his friend. Jack swallowed the insult; he could have started a fight but didn’t.
He looked at her sandals and towel on the beach. I could swipe these, he thought to himself as his glance alternated between her and her belongings. But her purse is somewhere else. Bet it’s locked up in the hicks’ car. She thinks of everything. If I did, all she’d do is walk barefoot to the bleachers. Not quite like stealing Vannie’s panties at the Elaron Beach Hotel last spring. Besides. . .he looked at her again. . .I don’t know. Better not. He found his own restraint inexplicable as he left the beach and worked his way back to the courts.
Terry retreated to the eastern bleachers, too keyed up from both past and future to do much else. Shortly thereafter Elisabeth Cassidy, one of the Aloxan girls, stopped practising and went over to Terry. She was different in that, while the other Aloxan girls sported Afros, her own hairdo was more in the style of Diana Ross.
“You have been up here before, haven’t you?” she asked.
“Some,” Terry said, still not totally there.
“You are Richard Marlowe’s daughter, aren’t you?” Elisabeth asked.
“Yes, I am,” Terry said, lightening up a bit.
“Your father is a very nice man,” Elisabeth said. “My father is grove manager up in Williamstown. Your father comes to see us every now and then; he helps us a great deal when we need to obtain things from off the Island.”
The light finally came on inside of Terry. “You’re Devin Cassidy’s daughter then,” she said. “That means. . .you’re Queen Arlene’s younger sister. I’m sorry, Your Highness,” she said, coming up from her seat and bowing.
Elisabeth laughed. “Don’t be so formal,” she said, looking up at Terry. “Besides, according to our law, I am not to be addressed as a princess. But you are very kind. You are also very attractive, you look very much like your father.”
“Thanks for saying so,” Terry answered. “People back home think I look strange.”
“To be honest, people in Verecunda have odd attitudes about many things,” Elisabeth observed. “Your father always treats us with respect, as does hers,” she continued, pointing to Madeleine, knee-deep in water.
“Daddy always enjoyed coming up here. He also liked seeing his Aloxan customers at the office. Sometimes they would bring large amounts of cash to pay for their items. Sometimes Daddy sent me to the bank with it—I always was scared to carry all of that.”
Elisabeth laughed again. “The only thing worse is to go to the bank with nothing.” They both laughed at that, talked about mutual friends, adult and teenage. Finally the coaches meeting broke and Elisabeth left to meet with her team.
The Point Collina teams coalesced around the back side of the bleachers. Jack was the last to join them.
“So what’s the deal?” Jack asked.
“Single elimination tournament. No doubles. Consolation match, no tiebreaker. Here’s the line-up,” Hancock said, handing the men’s chart to Pete and Jack.
“So what about us?” Terry asked.
“You were talking with your opponent,” Denise said angrily to Terry. “She’s second seed, the best girl in the country.”
“Denise is first seed. She plays Alice Fitzwilliam, Beran-Williamstown’s other player,” Dorr said, trying to avert another round of sour dialogue. “Girls play the west court, boys play the east. Your match is first,” she continued, looking at Terry.
“Let’s go get ‘em,” Hancock said, and with that their little huddle broke. As they dispersed, Denise grabbed Terry by the arm.
“I didn’t bring you up here to jive with the jigs,” she angrily snapped. “You’re here to play tennis. You screw this up, and your season is over with, just like hers,” she said, pointing to Madeleine. Terry fought back the tears as she turned away to head to the court.
By this time a crowd was filling up the stands, mostly Aloxans and mostly to watch the men, but a few Verecundans sprinkled the spectators. Madeleine slipped behind the bleachers to intercept Carla before she joined her team on the bottom row.
“I can’t believe they matched Terry with Elisabeth Cassidy,” Carla said. “That’s sheep to the slaughter.”
“Denise has her own idea,” Madeleine replied.
“I hope I can beat her, if we play,” Carla said. “Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.”
“Just do your best,” Madeleine said. Carla joined her team-mates while Madeleine went to the third row. It wasn’t a minute before Madeleine’s journey through her inner thoughts was interrupted by a voice.
“Is this seat taken?” a Chinese woman, of greater than expected height and cheery disposition, asked.
“Oh, no,” Madeleine replied. The woman sat down.
“I am Ling Shu-Yi, Terry’s grandmother,” she said. Madeleine mentally made the connections, a process made simpler by the facial resemblance between Shu-Yi and Terry.
Down on the team level, Denise looked around as Terry got ready to go out on the court. She spotted James Bennett, an Aloxan student at Point Collina, in the stands, looking very ebullient.
“I’ll bet he’s rooting for Cassidy,” Denise said to Pete, who was sitting next to her.
“Who’s that?” Pete asked.
“Bennett. Look over your right shoulder.” Pete did so and recognised him. “We got a lot of rats in this school.”
“I’ll say,” Pete agreed. “The two here are foreigners. Maybe your dad could revoke their visas.”
“He won’t do it. Bennett has a diplomatic visa, if he was expelled, he’d just come back up here a hero. Maddy. . .I don’t know, her father seems to have a lot of connections. So he won’t do that either.”
“Yet,” Pete added. He got up and went over to the eastern, “men’s” court to join Jack, who himself was first up. At this point the provincial governor got up and made what seemed to be an endless speech of welcome, with greetings from King Leslie. This was followed by similar speeches from the headmasters of the two Aloxan schools; neither of the Verecundan schools’ chiefs bothered to show up. After this they announced the first two sets.
Terry walked out onto the court, visibly nervous but making an attempt to carry herself properly. Her jet-black hair was tied back and formed far more than a ponytail down her back. Her visor strapped itself under her hair tie and her sweat band was already doing its job on her right wrist. Her metal racquet stood out on her team; before her only Madeleine had used one, a habit she passed along to Carla. The Point Collina girls had the shortest skirts of any team on the Island, which worked against Terry in that it called attention to her very long legs. Her long figure cast a slender shadow, nearly four metres long, which stretched diagonally across the court towards the bleachers where the spectators for the girls’ competition sat.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Shu-Yi asked Madeleine, pointing to her granddaughter getting ready to receive the serve. “She will make a fine wife someday.”
Her physique is totally unsuited for this game, Madeleine thought to herself. At that uninspiring thought Madeleine was seized by another one, one that seemed to come from somewhere else: Pray for Terry. Pray like you never prayed before. Pray like Carla prayed for you.
Madeleine responded to this impulse by reaching in her purse. She pulled out her rosary, and looked at it. This just won’t do the job, she thought to herself. She threw it back in, put her purse down between herself and Shu-Yi, and crossed herself. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, she prayed silently. Shu-Yi picked up on this immediately and followed suit.
Madeleine continued silently: Our Heavenly Father, please have Terry Marlowe win this match, for our good, and the good of all his church, and for the greater glory of God, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end, Amen. She continued in this vein intermittently as Terry played.
Terry’s strength was in her serve; unfortunately, while in Lower Division, she had lost many a match by fumbling game after game after a killer serve. She started out repeating this pattern, and Elisabeth seemed to be moving towards wrapping things up in two sets. However, as she got the feel of the clay court, she progressed beyond her previous play. Instead of having to think about every shot and return, she more and more felt like she was running on autopilot; she just reacted and volleyed the ball back before she knew it. The more she went into this mode, the harder Elisabeth found it to keep the ball in play, and so Elisabeth was only able to win the first set 9-7.
By this time the Point Collinans suddenly realised they had a contest on their hands. Shu-Yi stopped praying and starting screaming for her “baby,” as she called Terry. Dorr started to get carried away as well, and even Denise starting cheering for Terry. Madeleine yelled some between prayers. Most schools—to say nothing of tennis clubs—on the Island were strict about controlling their crowds, but the Aloxan schools always had a different view of this, which their opponents usually found unnerving. This time the shoe was on the other foot, but the Aloxans, always lively spectators, tried to counter this with larger numbers. As Elisabeth’s whole élan kept slipping away, they turned more to silence. Terry was energised by all of this and kept the pressure up. The second set went 7-5 for Terry, and the final set 6-4 for her also, with only two games in the last set going deuce.
There was applause from the few Verecundans when Terry’s victory was announced, but after that the crowd got quiet again, the Verecundans regaining their normal tennis decorum and the Aloxans in a state of shock. The two players went to the net to shake hands. As Elisabeth came close, she made eye contact with James Bennett and made a quick clapping motion, and he responded by standing and applauding, and his fellow countrymen followed suit, giving Terry a standing ovation.
“You played magnificently,” Elisabeth said to Terry as they shook hands. “How did you do it?”
“I have no idea,” Terry replied sheepishly. They walked off of the court and Terry sat down. It was Denise’s turn to defend Point Collina’s honour, and she got up without saying anything to her victorious team-mate.
“I knew she could win,” a jubilant Shu-Yi told Madeleine. All Madeleine could think of is, What have I done? She was lost in the whole thing. She was taught to pray. She was taught it worked. She prayed. It worked. Now she didn’t know how to take the results. Why did Elisabeth have to lose? And would Terry go on to win the tournament?
All of these hung over Madeleine like an invisible cloud as Denise faced Alice Fitzwilliam, the other Beran-Williamstown player. It was Alice who didn’t have a prayer this time; Denise dispatched her in two lopsided sets. A similar result took place when Carla Stanley played Aloxa Royal’s Maureen Avinet. Carla had the same kind of help that Terry did, although not as intense.
Elisabeth’s loss put the Aloxans’ strategy for their girls in jeopardy. Any hope of winning anything came down to Philomene Scott, who played Carla’s team-mate Joyce Kerr. A slightly chunky brunette who was as close to the court as Terry was to the sky, Kerr showed Hallett’s lack of depth by being nearly blanked in two sets.
As the girls’ first round ended, the Aloxan boys were doing better. Both Pete and Jack advanced, as Hallett was knocked out up front.
The second round began. Denise went up first, taking longer than expected to beat Philomene Scott. For Madeleine, the time of hard choices came when Terry played Carla. Shu-Yi was doing her usual support, but Madeleine was torn. Carla was her friend, Terry her schoolmate. She decided to keep quiet both on earth and to heaven, and under these circumstances Carla kept Terry off balance most of the match, although it took her the full three sets to beat the tournament’s surprise.
“Carla’s playing better that she was last year,” Denise noted to Dorr as they watched her play. “A lot better.” She looked up at Madeleine, then turned back to Dorr. “You think Maddy’s been coaching her?”
“Looks that way,” Dorr agreed.
“What were we supposed to do if Maddy played with us?”
“Glad we didn’t have to find out. Now, she’s too out of commission to really coach her right. But Carla’s still playing well. You better be your best.”
“Carla can’t win,” Denise flatly stated. “She just can’t.”
As the tournament went to its championship matches, the Aloxans decided to take no chances on losing it all, especially with the women. Some of the students headed to the music room—Beran-Williamstown was the first school in the country to have a symphonic band—and returned with drums and brass instruments. By the time Terry made it to the court to play Philomene Scott, she could barely hear herself think, let alone her grandmother cheer her on. Not only did they do the cheers, but they also did some gospel music, since many of the players were both students at the school and members of a church. None of the Point Collinans had any idea what they were playing, and Coach Dorr’s attempts to get the Aloxans to stop it were in vain. The fact that Philomene wasn’t a Christian didn’t seem to faze anyone either. Carla knew what they were playing, but she also knew it sounded entirely differently at her church. Terry was unable to keep her wits about her and went down 6-4, 3-6, and 9-11.
“You play very well,” Terry said to Philomene at the end of the match.
“We learn the hard way,” Philomene replied. “I chopped cane before I took up the racquet.”
The Aloxans weren’t too interested in the girls’ championship between Denise and Carla, which Denise won after more effort than she thought she would have to put into it. Carla was thrown off by Denise’s powerful backhand, which put the ball in places that most girls on the Island could not match. In the meanwhile the church band had repositioned itself on the men’s side, now with steel band elements. The Point Collinans braced themselves for the worst.
They got it. Hancock’s complaints almost got him thrown out as Jack struggled in his consolation round with Prince Desmond of Aloxa. Jack finally cracked and went down in four sets. Now it was left for Pete to play proper lawn tennis against Claude Millington of Beran-Williamstown. Millington was a good player, but he wasn’t quite ready to go up against someone whose game had few weak spots, a game which vaulted him to first on the ladder and the team captainship at Point Collina. It took a string of drug-out deuces but Pete finally managed to put Millington away and obtain the championship.
The winners’ ceremony was brief. As the Point Collinans walked back towards their bus, Terry felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was Elisabeth Cassidy. “You had the touch of God on your game today. What church do you go to?”
“I’m Catholic,” Terry replied.
“You come see us the next time you’re in Aloxa.”
“Thanks,” Terry replied.
They got to the bus, and Dorr asked Terry, “Are you sure that hotel has good shower facilities available? It’s the high season.”
“Yeah, they do—I called the manager yesterday. He’s waiting for us.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
“Great idea,” Hancock agreed. They piled into the bus with their things, assumed the same positions they had going up. With a jolt Hancock put the bus in gear and began their journey back to the Point.
As they left Beran and headed down the road back towards Collina, they could see the sun set over the right front hood of the bus and the moon rising nearly behind them. For a bus that carried both tournament champions and the upset of the day, the mood was sombre, induced as much as anything by fatigue. Everyone was content to look out of the windows and content themselves with the company of their own thoughts, which interacted with the passing scenery. Hancock decided that the trip back didn’t need to be made in silence, so he turned on the radio to Verecunda’s “Top 40” station, which entertained them with Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” and Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” as they sped through the Aloxan countryside. The town itself was clearing up, so getting through it was relatively easy, as was making the border crossing. About 1800 they turned into the resort entrance.
The name Collina—both republic and town—means “the place with hills,” which are exceptional on an Island where flat is the rule. The country sat on top of a group of coral ridges that began at Point Collina itself and curved around, forming the west coast of the island all the way to Beran Bay and reaching heights of around sixty metres. When travelling through Collina, the team followed one ridge from the Point to Collina town and crossed the river. Immediately after that it ascended to the crest of another ridge. From there it gently descended to Aloxa town and Beran.
The nation itself thus sat on the most interesting—and in case of hurricane, the most protected—real estate on the Island. Unfortunately it had difficulty translating this into greatness. From the start it had to compete with Verecunda’s superior port, and also with Beran’s slave system for primacy in agriculture. It was also trapped between the two rivals, siding with Verecunda until Beran’s collapse. Verecunda rewarded Collina’s loyalty by forcing it to concede Point Collina, and in the meanwhile the drainage and cultivation of Uranus put it at a disadvantage agriculturally. This led to emigration to Verecunda, and not a few inhabitants of districts such as Dillman-Arnold and University came or had ancestors from Collina. In more recent times there were a few émigrés from Verecunda who wanted to get away from Kendalls “march into the future,” but Verecunda leaned on its small neighbour to avoid turning it into a hotbed of dissent and governments in exile. The Republic of Collina that presented itself to the tennis teams was one of a collection of small to medium size farms and old estates which had grown over with subtropical scrub, a tangled mess of palmetto palms and slash pines with the occasional row of Australian pines.
The one exception to this was Collina town itself. The Collina River—a creek in reality—emptied itself into Collina Bay. On the south side of both was the town itself, a picturesque collection of houses and buildings that reminded foreign visitors of Bermuda but with a warmer climate. Beyond the town and peninsula was a chain of small islands on top of the best coral reef in the West Island for diving and snorkelling, but they also afforded some protection to the harbour itself. On the steep slopes of the north side was the place where the coral ridge that formed the nation’s backbone came closest to the coastline, and it was here that Lucian Gerland had built his first resort outside of Verecundan territory.
The Collina Hotel and Resort was perched on a terrace in the rapid rise of the hills from the water, and its first storey sat about twenty metres above the water. It was situated to have easy access to the fine beaches in the small bight to the north-west and a dock for boating in the inner harbour to the south-east. Above the hotel were the tennis courts and golf course. To get to the hotel, it was necessary to turn westward from the main road and go past the course and courts, then make a sharp left turn and descend down a road to the main entrance on the north-west end of the building. The bus did just that and came to a halt in front of the lobby entrance.
For the first time all day, the team was in Terry’s territory, and she got up and out of the bus to see what was what. In her own element and coming off of an improbable victory, Terry entered the lobby alone with a princess’ demeanour. To be a grandchild of Lucian Gerland was to have at one’s disposal the best recreational facilities on the Island, and the various properties got a taste of these presumed heirs and heiresses often. Of the six of them, Terry was the oldest, and also had the reputation as the most personable and best mannered. The help was always happy to see her. About five minutes later she returned to the bus.
“They’ve had a tour cancellation,” Terry explained. “We have six rooms on the hill side to clean up in. I have the keys here,” holding them up. “They’ll be expecting us for dinner shortly.”
“Great,” Denise said. They piled out of the bus, taking the keys and Terry’s directions to each room. Terry herself was thrilled to get a chance to clean up and revert to her preferred slacks so she wouldn’t look like something out of the Wild Kingdom. She made her way to the dining room, which overlooked the bay. The maître d’ sat her a table next to the plate glass window, which gave a spectacular vista of Collina town on the left, now illuminated with its own lights, the Collinan Peninsula at the centre and right which ended at the lighthouse, and the last gasp of the light of day over the bay in front of them. The ridge that started at the end of the peninsula rose slowly as one panned one’s eyes to the left. Unlike other places on the Island, where the front row of buildings blocked the view of most of what was behind them, the houses and other buildings built on the side of the ridge could easily be seen from the downward vista of the resort.
She was taking in the scene in while trying to put the day behind her when she heard a voice. “May I sit and stare at you for awhile? I’d like the company of your smile.” She looked up. It was Jack.
“Sure,” she replied.
“The sunlight in your hair—you look so good, just sitting there,” Jack continued after seating himself.
“You like that album, don’t you?” Terry asked, piercing his boulevardier talk.
“It’s great,” Jack agreed. “‘Brown is the colour of skin/that I’d like to be in/’cause it doesn’t seem right/to be coloured so white.’ Bet you like that line.”
“Actually, I do,” Terry said, smiling. “But I’m not that brown. Seems you like like the album a lot better than Cathy did. I brought it back to her all the way from England, got an extra copy. Glad someone else likes it.”
“Cat’s a teeny bopper,” Jack observed. “So where did you go in England?”
“It wasn’t a big tourist deal or anything,” Terry replied. “Daddy went to see some of his British business associates, so he took me with him.” Jack could see Terry’s face lighten up at the thought. “We rode a lot of trains, and got to see a lot of factories and offices.”
“Like what?”
“Well, a couple of candy factories—tried not to eat too much, I love English candy—and the place where they make Aston Martins.”
“Like your old man’s DB-4?”
“Yeah. . .actually, Daddy’s made arrangements to get me a DBM.”
“DBM? No screaming!” Jack exclaimed.
“It’s a used one, some managing director wants a new one. It’s only supposed to be a year old. It’s supposed to get here in October.”
“Cat always said you could be a Bond girl. . .now, you’ll just be Bond! When can we ride in it?”
Terry blushed as best she could. “I promised Cathy she’d be the first one. You can come along.”
Jack thought a second. “I’ll be going to university on the mainland by then. But I’ll check it out on Christmas break.”
“I hope my mother doesn’t mess it up,” Terry said. “She’s not too happy about it. Says I shouldn’t have an expensive car like that, especially with the crime we’ve got. But I want it so bad.”
“You’ll get it,” Jack assured her. They looked out of the corner of their eyes to see the coaches come in and be seated. Right then the waiter came up and took their drink order.
“I wonder where’s Denise and Pete?” Terry asked.
“As they say in the sticks, they’re probably makin’ bacon. Denise is pretty fast.”
“I was afraid of that.”
“Can’t stop ‘em.”
“So why did she break up with you?” Terry asked.
“Beats me,” Jack shrugged. “One day we were tight, the next day we weren’t. I kinda think when Pete made captain she decided to back a winner. Maybe he’s better at what he’s doing now. There may be some politics involved, too.”
“My old man shot his mouth off about Denise’s a couple of months ago at some meeting. That probably painted a target on me. Besides, Pete’s stepdad is big in the CPL. Like your mom.”
“I know that.”
“Well, it’s over now. We had a lot of fun times—Denise is a great girl when you’re on her good side. All I ended up showing for it was the clap. But I’ll be okay.” He looked out the window at the city lights. Terry could see the pain he was trying to hide. They sat in silence for what seemed to Terry like an eternity. Finally the silence was broken by Denise and Pete making their entrance. They were seated across the room from Terry and Jack and not so far from the coaches.
“Cat thinks you’re the greatest,” Jack said.
“I’m not sure why—I don’t do a lot of the things she does,” Terry replied.
“She’s okay with that. Opposites attract. She needs somebody to turn to when the party’s over. She thinks you’re the prettiest girl in the school—she thinks you make her look good.”
“I keep telling her she needs glasses,” Terry replied. “Besides. . .gentlemen prefer blondes. Like the Americans say, ‘five foot two, eyes of blue.’”
“What gentlemen?” Jack shot back. They both got a chuckle out of that. “She thinks you could model, with your height and figure.”
“This place isn’t ready for an Oriental model.”
“Then move to the U.S.”
“I don’t like the U.S. That’s where all our problems come from.”
“Maybe your dad could line up something for you in England then. The Island is a small place. Maybe you’re ready for something bigger.”
“I couldn’t even get to go to St. Anne’s. It was all Daddy could do to get her to let me go to England with him for two weeks.”
“Your old lady’s cracked. Cat talks about it all the time. One minute she wants you to party like her, the next she won’t let you go where you could really do some damage. You can’t live with that.”
“I know. . .” It was Terry’s turn for silence. The waiter came back with their drinks and took their meal order. “Did you hear them talk about Maddy helping Carla Stanley out?”
“A little bit. From what I saw, Stanley was playing a lot better.”
Terry looked around, then leaned towards Jack. “Did Cat tell you?”
“Tell me about what?”
“Our trip up here last summer.”
“She had a blast.”
“Yeah. . .but she did a lot of that on her own.”
“I never figured that part out. Where were you?”
“Up here taking tennis lessons. The pro here is the coach at Collina Comprehensive. I came up several times after that.”
“It’s no different with Maddy and Stanley.”
Jack took a swig of his soda. “It’s all a bunch of crap. Everybody needs help to get better. So what? That isn’t the problem. Denise hates Maddy. Hates you too, but that’s no surprise. I can’t blame you for sneaking up here—you can’t learn this game with Denise breathing down your neck. You two won’t drink, smoke pot and get laid like she does. She doesn’t trust anybody that won’t. Besides, Maddy’s stuck up—thinks she’s better than everybody because she’s French. You are better than everybody. That sticks in Denise’s craw.
“The big problem, though, is that Maddy really has better technique. On the court. If Denise wasn’t such a mo, Maddy would have started first on the ladder. But now that she’s sick, Denise has the top spot to herself—no one else will challenge her. Least of all Vannie.”
“So why did Denise make me come to this tournament? Vannie should have. They’re so tight, and everything.”
“It was a set-up. Denise figured Cassidy would wipe you out, then she could claim you were an embarrassment to the team and the country and force you to quit. You totally screwed up her plans. Now she’s stuck with you, for a while at least. Besides, the last thing she wanted was to go to this tournament. Her old man made her go—diplomacy, or something. If it had been up to her, you and Vannie would have gone.”
“Then Vannie and Carla would have played the final. I don’t think Vannie would have won.”
They had a good time talking, although Jack tended to turn the conversation intoz a “Cat Roast.” But the meal came to an end, the teams and coaches gathered themselves together, they got back in their bus and began the last leg of the journey home.
By this time night had fallen. The full moon was rising over Uranus; there was little in the sky to obscure it except for the trees and the cut that was blasted into the coral rock to allow the road to make a gentler downward slope to the bridge that crossed the Collina River. They passed once again through the city centre and the parallel rows of royal palms that lined the road south through Collina town. Ascending the ridge behind the town, they left it behind and once again found themselves in rural Collina. As was the case going through Aloxa, the bus was regaled with AM rock as they moved through the southern Collinan countryside. It wasn’t so long when they arrived at the border.
“Finally back in civilisation,” Denise proclaimed as they pulled away from the border crossing. They retraced their route from early morning back to the school.
Shu-Yi was faithfully waiting for her granddaughter when they pulled in. The weary teams gathered their things and got off of the bus. As Terry started towards the Mini, she felt a hard tug on her left arm. She turned around to see Denise.
“That was a great match you played today,” Denise said, looking her straight in the eyes. “I know I’m on your case all the time, but I needed to say that. Thanks too for dinner—it was great.”
“You’re welcome,” Terry replied blankly. She turned to walk to towards Shu-Yi. They threw their arms around each other.
“I am so proud of you,” Shu-Yi said. “Your father will be too. Would you like to drive?”
“Yeah,” Terry answered, cracking a smile. They loaded Terry’s things in the back, then Terry got behind the wheel, readjusted the seat and mirrors the best she could as Shu-Yi got in, started it up, and pulled out of the school.
She turned right onto Bolton, then left onto Bay Avenue, which in that stretch didn’t actually face the bay but was separated from it by houses that did. The moon was up enough to give good supplement to the street lights, welcome since the new regime wasn’t much on replacing them. The night air was pleasant as it blew through the windows of the Mini, occasionally picking up the scent of melaleuca from the passing shrubbery. When Bay Avenue ended, Terry turned right onto Stinson Street, then left back onto Ocean for the final leg of her journey home.

The Ten Weeks, 4 January, When You’re the President’s Kid, You’ve Got Privileges

The cafeteria of the Point Collina school was a cut above those of any other school in the Republic of Verecunda, which reflected the fact that everything else about the school was the same way. In theory it was a “private” school, but it received some money from the Republic, which made it affordable for exceptional students. The cafeteria spanned the building, on one side having large windows that gave a view of the street below and the other that opened up to the athletic fields. Separating these two views were a series of parallel long tables where the students took in whatever lunch the kitchen took a notion to fixing for them.
In the corner closest to the exit from the cafeteria line and on the side of the athletic fields, Denise Kendall “held court” during lunch with about a half dozen of her friends, male and female alike, the first day back from Yule vacation. Daughter of the President of the Republic, she presided over her court—and the student body that surrounded it in the cafeteria—with an authority that sometimes made her father envious. The only thing average about her was her height. Her wavy, medium brown hair, wrapped into a ponytail that never quite hung straight, sat atop a well-tanned, husky, athletic physique that was the base for her position as the Republic’s—and possibly the Island’s—foremost Upper Division girl tennis player, ruling that court as she ruled the one facing her at lunch.
Most of the people surrounding her were on the Upper Division tennis teams. To her left was Marguerite van Bokhoven, whom everybody at school called “Vannie.” She was almost Denise’s alter ego, with fairer complexion and slighter build than her imperious friend. Her wide green eyes reminded some people of the shallow waters of the Cresca Sound, but her face reflected an uncertainty that drew her to stick with Denise for stability.
Across from Denise was Pete Alter. Although Point Collina still had rules for maximum hair length, Pete chose to push his long wavy brown hair to the limit, as it rested on his collar. Already at noon he had a five o’clock shadow, and although his back was to most of the cafeteria he spent a lot of time turning around to check out who was there.
Diagonally across the room were two Fourth Formers who spent a lot of time together but were opposites from their appearance onwards. One was Cathy Arnold, a petite, miniskirted blonde with the rather strange combination of one grey eye and one green one. Her family went back to the beginnings of the Republic, but her informal demeanour did not betray that to the casual observer. The other was Terry Marlowe, whose straight, jet black hair went straight down to her waist. Her facial features, along with her hair, reflected her Sino-Italian background, especially the Chinese part. A scion of the Gerland family, she wore slacks and a shocking pink top, as opposed to the more muted colours of her friend. Terry’s use of bold colours was her preference but unnecessary to draw attention. At 181 centimetres, she was the tallest girl in the school, and that included the Fifth and Sixth Formers, and even sitting she looked down at her friend.
“I still can’t believe that Denise dumped Jack the way she did,” Terry said to Cathy, referring to her brother.
“She sure did,” Cathy replied mournfully. “We got back from our Christmas trip to Serelia, we went to the yacht club, found her with Petey boy over there. You could tell they were already steady. Jack went up to them but Denise blew him off. No goodbye, no ‘Dear John’ letter, nothing. I think that her and Pete went to the club knowing we ate there on Friday night, just to make the point.”
“But. . .why?” Terry pressed.
“I dunno. Maybe it’s because Pete was elected captain of the boys’ tennis team. It looks so cute when the two captains are going steady,” Cathy said sarcastically.
“Maybe it’s political,” Terry observed. “Maybe her dad’s about ready to put the hurts on your family.”
“You’re too paranoid about that,” Cathy retorted. “Face it, Jack and Denise are ‘kissing cousins,’ as they used to say. We’re related somewhere back there.”
“More than kissing,” Terry wryly observed.
“Don’t be smart,” Cathy came back. “Just because you don’t. . .”
“I’m sorry,” Terry apologised. “So what about this trip to Serelia?”
“Oh, yeah, that,” Cathy remembered. “It was weird. Really different.”
“You actually spent Christmas up there?”
“Yeah, we did.”
“My father had a client with some kind of legal problem up there. Mother was tired of the same old thing at Christmas, and Trey was going to his girlfriend’s home on Long Island, so we just decided on the spur of the moment to head to the East Island.”
“So what’s it like? Mother won’t let me go.”
“Primitive,” Cathy replied. “We stayed at this inn in Serelia, right near the Palace and the Cathedral. Bathroom was down the hall—good thing we were the only people there, but we made our own line anyway. But it’s right on the beach, I got to sunbathe. The Serelians kept staring at me, like I was a creature from another planet.”
“They probably hadn’t seen a bikini like yours.”
“Very funny,” Cathy came back. “But you’re probably right.”
“So what about this legal matter?” Terry asked curiously.
“It was a joke,” Cathy answered. “We got there on Wednesday before Christmas. They made us cool our heels until after Winter Court started on Monday. We’d still be there, but my father has connections in the church—Grandpa helped start the Church of Serelia—and as soon as they were past their Christmas liturgies, they arranged a special audience with the King. They brought us all in, we did our little bow, Dad went back into a meeting with the King, we waited about half an hour, he came out, the matter was settled, and that was it. We came home and Jack found out Denise had pulled a switch on him.”
“I’ve heard the Cathedral up there is beautiful,” Terry said.
“It is,” Cathy agreed. “In some ways, the best part of the trip. It takes your breath away the first time you walk in. But going to church there—it seemed like we made every service, there wasn’t anything else to do—is like a time machine. Old prayer book, old music, everything’s old. . .but there was one point where I really wished you were with me.”
“When was that?”
“It was after Morning Prayer on Sunday,” Cathy continued. “We were standing in the narthex while Dad was trying to figure out something with Bishop Tanger. This guy came up to me and starting talking to me about my family—my grandfather, everything he did for the Church of Serelia, all of my relatives. It was really weird. He was a walking encyclopaedia about my family. He just went on and on.”
“What did he look like?” Terry asked, intrigued.
“He was tall—God, he was an inch taller than you, and skinny, like you. His hair was a shade darker than mine. Kind of a nerd, but kind of cute, too. I think he’s a Fifth Former.”
“Two and a half centimetres taller, Cathy,” Terry reminded her friend.
“Sorry,” Cathy said, only half-apologetically.
“Just trying to keep you out of trouble.”
“How do you keep up with that?”
“Working for Daddy,” Terry answered. “A lot of the stuff he brings in is in metric—weight, size, all of that. So I had to learn. So what’s his name?”
“Let me see. . .oh, yeah, Lewis. Julian Lewis.” Cathy looked at Terry intensely. “You two would make a cute couple—if you could get him down here.”
“Probably not my type,” Terry sighed despondently at the thought of the geographical separation.
“So how was your Christmas?” Cathy asked, abruptly changing the subject.
“About the same,” Terry replied laconically.
“Still fighting with your mother?” Cathy asked.
“Yeah,” Terry answered. “Daddy did manage to take me to Midnight and Sunday Mass. And Mother and I argued over the same old thing.”
“She needs to get off your case about that,” Cathy said. “It’s your body. If I can go along with you, so can she. Look, why don’t you tell her that I do it enough for both of us?”
Terry giggled at the suggestion. “You’re the best. I wish that would work. But she’s worried about her reputation in the CPL.”
They would have continued but the dismissal of court in the corner caught their attention.
“What’s she coming over here for?” Cathy asked, realising that Denise was coming in their direction.
“I dunno,” Terry answered. “Hope it’s not to rub it in about Jack.”
“You and me both,” Cathy agreed. The closer she got, the more evident it was that Denise was focused on Terry, not Cathy.
“Frenchie’s off the team for the season,” Denise announced to Terry. “You know she got real sick. You’re going with me to the Beran Invitational this Saturday.”
“But. . .I’m only sixth on the ladder,” Terry protested.
“Fifth,” Denise corrected her. “I don’t care. You’re still going. And if you get up there and screw up like you’re famous for, your half-breed ass is grassed.”
“Who else is playing?” Cathy asked while Terry winced from the racial slur.
“It’s their tournament, so they choose,” Denise answered. “Two schools from Verecunda and two from Aloxa. It’s to show off their new tennis court at Beran-Williamstown Comprehensive, although I hate to see what their idea of a new tennis court is. Aloxa Royal is the other school of theirs. I just learned all of this late last week.”
“So isn’t there one more Verecundan school?” Cathy asked.
“Close, it’s Uranan. They picked Hallett, which means that I’ll probably play that Bible-thumping Goldilocks for the championship.” She turned to Terry and said, “But you’ll have your hands full. See you at practice.” She began to walk away, but turned back to Terry and warned, “You better be careful who you hang out with. It could be hazardous to your health, if you know what I mean.”
“Be seeing you,” Terry said cheerily as Denise turned and walked away. Cathy fumed like she was about to explode when Terry softly sang, “Love like a man. . .”
Cathy started giggling, and Terry broke down with her. “You’re wicked. That black hair of yours becomes you today,” Cathy finally managed to come out with.
“It’s the truth,” Terry simply replied.
“Speaking of the tennis team, where is ‘Frenchie,’ as she calls her?” Cathy asked.
“Saw her walk into the building this morning,” Terry informed her friend. “She looks really pale. Isn’t moving too fast, either.”
“I haven’t seen her here the whole lunch break. . .come to think of it, I’ve hardly seen her at lunch this whole year.”
“I think she has lunch with Madame Seignet a lot. I’ve heard”—she looked around to make sure no one else was in earshot, then leaned over to Cathy—“that they drink wine when they close the door to Seignet’s room”
“Talk about teacher’s pet!” Cathy exclaimed.
“Maybe she deserves it,” Terry observed.
“What do you mean?”
“Madeleine does a lot of work teaching the little primary school kids French. I think they do planning while eating. Gets credit for it too. Besides, Daddy told me that Monsieur des Cieux told him she almost died from that encephalitis. Guess they’re still glad to have her around. . .well, I guess we better get back to class. I’ve got a long week ahead of me.”
“So does Jack,” Cathy said. “He’s supposed to make the trip too.”

The Ten Weeks, Meet the Characters Through Their Music

The Ten Weeks revolves around an interesting set of characters, to say the least. Long before the time of streaming and mp3, they had their music too, but they had different ways of playing it–8-track, the emerging cassette, and of course the best of the bunch, the enduring medium of vinyl.

BSR turntable. Probably the most popular turntable of the Ten Weeks era, they were fitted into thousands of consoles, “portables” and the occasional stand-alone turntable. This one had a magnetic cartridge; most of them sported ceramic cartridges, which were cheap but hard on the vinyl, which is why so many used records from the era sound so bad.

So let’s “drop the needle” and sort through what they were listening to, “grooving” to (literally) and expressing what was at the bottom of their souls. In some cases, you can even fill up your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player with it and experience what they did. Some of the links are to videos of concerts of the era or later ones, so you can see it as well as hear it.

Denise Kendall

“The only thing average about her was her height. Her wavy, medium brown hair, wrapped into a ponytail that never quite hung straight, sat atop a well-tanned, husky, athletic physique…” (p. 43)
Denise was one of those people who had to be in absolute control of her situation. When you read what happens when she wasn’t, you’ll find out why.

The Music Denise Lived:

Love Like a Man
Ten Years After, Cricklewood Green

“‘Be seeing you,’ Terry said cheerily as Denise turned and walked away. Cathy fumed like she was about to explode when Terry softly sang, ‘Love like a man. . .’ Cathy started giggling, and Terry broke down with her. ‘You’re wicked…'” (p. 47)

The Music Denise Liked:

Pressed Rack and Warthog”
Cream, Wheels of Fire

“‘All of these twits…they’re all short timers. Like Pressed Rat and Warthog, they’ll never come back. Trust me.'” (p. 228)

Marguerite "Vannie"<br />van Bokhoven

“She was almost Denise’s alter ego, with fairer complexion and slighter build than her imperious friend. Her wide green eyes reminded some people of the shallow waters of the Cresca Sound, but her face reflected an uncertainty that drew her to stick with Denise for stability.” (p. 43)

The Music Vannie Liked:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Rolling Stones, Let it Bleed

“‘Looks like she’s got a new boyfriend,’ Vannie said to Denise.
‘Not a chance,’ Denise replied. ‘She’s won’t give him what he wants.’
You can’t always get what you want, Vannie mused, singing to herself very softly.” (p. 104)

Jack Arnold

“Jack’s hair and skin colouring were very much like his sister’s, reflecting both genetics and spending a lot of time in the sun. His hair was very full and shaggy, parted on one side and just barely touching his collar, with the ample sideburns that were the order of the day.” (p. 49)

The Music Jack Liked:

Sometime in Winter
Blood, Sweat and Tears

“By this time the stereo was playing ‘Sometime in Winter,’ a mellow lament of lost love. The Island was a place which redefined winter for many of those who came there, but tonight it was cold enough to awake both ancestral memories and present, passionless fact…Finally, he carefully replaced the joint in the cigarette holder, closed it and shoved it into his pocket. ‘I’m going to get her,’ he said. ‘I’m going to get her.'” (p. 119)

“Madeleine’s shoulder-length dirty blond hair and clear blue eyes made her a near replica of her Norman mother.” (p. 13)

The Music Madeleine Lived:

“Un aveugle à Jéricho (A Blind Man at Jericho)
Les Reflets, De l’abondance du coeur, la bouche parle (For what fills the heart will rise to the lips.)

“She reached into her purse and, after some riffling about, extracted a metal tube of aloe vera which she carried for her dry skin…She put her purse down, took the top off of the tube and set it aside also, got up, and walked over to Carol. For her part (blind) Carol sat contentedly and in silence, following with her ears Madeleine’s movement around the room.” (p. 88)

Carla Stanley

“A Sixth Former like Madeleine, Carla was almost the perfect ‘Aryan’ in appearance: bleached wavy blonde hair flowing down her back, blue eyes and fair complexion complemented by broad shoulders and a slender figure.” (p.28)

The Music Carla Lived:

“Pass it On”
One Way, The Alethians and the Right Angle with David Pope

“Carla could barely catch her breath. The statement she had been looking for was suddenly out, and she was totally unprepared for it. She felt that, if she said the wrong thing in response, she would hurt her friend, so she said nothing.” (p. 144)

Julian Lewis

“‘He was tall…he was an inch taller than you, and skinny, like you. His hair was a shade darker than mine. Kind of a nerd, but kind of cute, too.'” (p. 46)

The Music Julian Liked:

Brother James Air

Julian, a proper Anglican, makes more of an appearance in At the Inlet.

Terry Marlowe

“…whose…jet black hair went straight down to her waist. Her facial features, along with her hair, reflected her Sino-Italian background, especially the Chinese part…Terry’s use of bold colours was her preference but unnecessary to draw attention. At 181 centimetres, she was the tallest girl in the school…” (p. 44)

The Music Terry Liked:

“May I?”
Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, Shooting at the Moon

“She was taking the scene in while trying to put the day behind her when she heard a voice. ‘May I sit and stare at you for awhile? I’d like the company of your smile.’ She looked up. It was Jack.” (p. 65)

Catherine<br />(Cat) Arnold

“…a petite, miniskirted blonde with the rather strange combination of one grey eye and one green one.” (p. 44)

The Music Cat Lived:

One Bad Apple
Osmond Brothers

“‘Cat’s a teeny bopper,’ Jack observed.” (p. 66)

Alicia Decker

“Petite with long, straight auburn hair and a plastic hair bow, she eyed the young guard from head to toe.” (p. 173)

Click here to view what Alicia saw from the roof of the guest house, and the music that went with it.


The Ten Weeks, A Note About School Terminology

Although the Island had a wide variety of school systems, their terminology for grades and divisions was fairly consistent from country to country.
As is the case with schools in the U.S., Island schools had twelve regular graded divisions. The first six made up “primary’ school and the last six “secondary” schools, corresponding to U.S. grades 1-6 and 7-12 respectively. Only Verecunda had compulsory kindergarten at the time of The Ten Weeks. Islanders referred to their primary grades in the same way as U.S. public schools, but for the secondary schools they referred to the grades as “forms,” as is customary in many preparatory schools. Thus U.S. seventh grade was “Form I,” eighth “Form II,” and so on through twelfth, “Form VI.”
Secondary schools were further divided into Lower and Upper Division, Lower Division having Forms I-III and Upper Division Forms IV-VI. This division, however, was mostly applied to athletic teams and competition.
The reality was that most Island schools were “comprehensive,” namely that they contained both primary grades and secondary forms in one school. There were exceptions, such as the Cathedral of St. Thomas School in Serelia (a primary school.) It wasn’t until well after The Ten Weeks when schools were split up, and then only in Verecunda.

The Ten Weeks, 25 December, See the Blazing Yule Before Us

It took Madeleine longer than usual to get ready, but that was the beauty of Midnight Mass—no celebration of the sacred mysteries afforded the faithful more time to prepare during the day. As midnight approached, they made their way from the Evan Point area they lived in across Central Avenue to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Even though Yule was now the rule in Verecunda, the municipal government continued to decorate for the season, although they stuck with Santas, candy canes and snowmen, the last of which Pierre always found odd in a sub-tropical place like this. Madeleine’s insistence upon going to confession had one important benefit: they were able to secure a parking place close to the entrance of the cathedral, which was especially useful to Madeleine in her current state.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral was the oldest Catholic church of any kind on the Island; the original structure dated back to the 1870’s, and the Cathedral was preparing for its centennial. It was rather small for a cathedral, and although quaint it had none of the architectural beauty of St. Sebastian’s over on Point Collina, which Lucian Gerland built in part to make up for the Cathedral’s shortcomings. Nevertheless the Cathedral had one unique adjacent feature: the Island’s only completely Catholic cemetery, which was the final resting place for many Catholics who came and laboured in a land which always looked at Roman Catholicism as an aberration in the general scheme of things.
Madeleine found the transition from deft handling of a tennis racquet to handling a cane easier on her physically than her pride, but going to the Cathedral meant that she saw few of her Catholic schoolmates, most of whom went to St. Sebastian’s. She managed to genuflect upon entry with her family and then made her way towards the confessional boxes, which had a reasonably short line. Behind her was Raymond, who knew he needed forgiveness—from God and his family—more than his sister did.
This evening she insisted upon wearing a veil on her head in the old Catholic tradition, even though this had been discarded by most of the women in the Cathedral. As she stood waiting for her turn in the box, Pierre turned to Yveline and said, “She looks just like you did when you were young and going to Mass.”
“Her dress is considerably shorter than mine was,” Yveline noted.
“Young men do have some advantages these days,” Pierre said. Her illness had obviously not dimmed her focus on outfit coordination, with her white dress and matching stockings and shoes which exuded a message somewhere between the angelic and the sensual. The way she carried herself, accentuated by the cane, tended to shift the scene towards the angelic.
The cane did help steady her through the entry, exit and kneeling of the confessional box, as it had on the steps that led into the Cathedral. She emerged shortly, followed even more shortly by Raymond (“He must have given the executive version,” Pierre dryly noted later.) They returned to their pews towards the back to join their parents, where they prayed as they waited for Mass to begin.
The Cathedral’s conduct of the Mass was about as eclectic of a business as Madeleine’s outfit. The Novus Ordo Missae had been introduced into the diocese earlier that year, and priest and lay person alike were settling into it. The Cathedral’s music was still traditional, unlike St. Sebastian’s which set forth as much of the new music from the mainland as it could get through customs. The Cathedral was at its best at Midnight Mass, but one got the impression that the exhortations of Vatican II for congregational participation in the liturgy had a long way to go to realisation.
That impression was driven home with the people’s hearty response to Bishop Santini’s announcement that the Mass was ended. But the usual stampede for the door was braked by the conflagration outside. The des Cieux were a little slower than usual thanks to Madeleine’s condition, but they managed to make their way around the edge of the crowd which had filled the narthex and spilled out into the street and ended up at the curb on First Avenue.
The focus of everyone’s attention was the large trash fire that was burning in the middle of the street. Obviously the subject of great care of its makers, it burned white and hot in the cool Christmas Eve night which had turned to Christmas Day.
The des Cieux ended up standing next to Father Moore, who attempted to compensate his short visit to Madeleine as she lay ill by standing next to her family admiring the bonfire before them.
“What is this? Why is there a fire in the street?” Moore asked.
“It is a Yule Fire,” Madeleine replied without emotion. “They have set it to remind us of what they want this holiday to be.”
“Yule Fire. . .isn’t it supposed to be a ‘Yule Log?’” Moore came back.
“It is the best this place can manage,” Pierre observed.
“Shouldn’t we call the police?” Moore asked.
“Why? This is not a hidden event. They know what is going on. They just don’t want to come,” Pierre stated.
“But that is their job,” Father Moore came back.
“Their job is to stay out of the CPL’s way,” Pierre said.
“The CPL is behind this?” Moore asked, surprised.
“You and Bishop Santini are slow learners,” Pierre sighed. With that the des Cieux turned away to find their car. As the fire started to go down, others did likewise to find that their cars were either stolen or vandalised. Now the frantic calls to the police began, and they duly arrived to go through the motions of taking the information so at least their insurance company would do something.
The 2CV was unharmed. “Papa, why do you think that they left our 2CV unhurt?” Madeleine asked as they puttered home.
“Maybe they didn’t think it was a car,” Raymond quipped.

The Ten Weeks, 24 December, So Do I Go to Confession?

Christmas Eve at the des Cieux residence started off with breakfast. The presence of all four members of the family was a sign that normality was returning. Madeleine was the last to come to the table. Still moving slowly, she eased herself into her seat and said grace as the rest of the family followed along. After this they started into the usual delicious feast that Yveline set before them.
“Is it possible for me to go to confession this evening before Midnight Mass?” Madeleine asked, breaking the rather trivial conversation that preceded it.
“You only went a couple of weeks ago,” Yveline observed. “You have been ill much of the time since. How is it possible for you to have committed mortal sin during that time?”
“I don’t know. . .I feel I need to,” Madeleine replied vaguely.
“It is her Baptist friend,” Raymond chimed in. “They have spent a lot of time together. Baptists believe that, once you have been ‘saved,’ to use their expression, that your state of grace cannot change, that you will go to heaven. It is far better than the opinions probables of the reverends pères jesuites. There is no telling what kind of influence she has been.”
“He is too proud of his term paper on Les Provinciales,” Madeleine sourly observed.
“Much too proud,” Yveline added. “All we have heard about since he has been home are Mohatra contracts and how you can defend your honour in a duel.”
“He has already tried the latter,” Pierre said. “I found out that he turned his aerosol deodorant into a flame thrower. But his aim wasn’t so good, and he singed the curtains in his dormitory room. He spent more time at detention than he has admitted.”
“Serves him right,” Madeleine added, giving her younger brother an imperious look. Raymond looked sheepish at this revelation; once again, his father’s connections had pierced his adolescent secrecy.
“I think that it is reasonable to say that Carla is much the janseniste. Were it otherwise, she would not be having the problems with the school that she has had.”
“Papa is right,” Madeleine agreed. “We played tennis the weekend after she was forbidden to stand for Student Council. She played rather poorly, then broke down in tears. It was very sad for her.”
“And she is a very faithful friend too,” Yveline observed. “I was shocked when she refused to leave Madeleine in the hospital. She has been very helpful to us.”
“So what about confession?” Madeleine interrupted.
“Are you able to go to Midnight Mass?” Yveline asked. “You are still very weak.”
“I must go,” Madeleine replied.
“Then you must use my grandfather’s cane,” Pierre insisted. “You are not steady enough on your feet, especially getting around the Cathedral. If you agree, we can go early for confession. Perhaps Raymond will feel the need for absolution after his semester at Alemara Academy.”
“Maybe,” Raymond said. “But why go early for confession? You do not commit mortal sin unless you arrive at Mass after the elevation of the host.”
Madeleine rolled her eyes in disgust. “Very well, Papa, I will use the cane. But, before I confess, I may use it for more than steadying my feet. My forehand was doing well before my illness.”
Raymond resumed his breakfast in silence.

The Ten Weeks, 23 December, What Women Are Expected To Do

Winter on the Island was always called “the dry season,” but this year was dryer than usual, and around 3ºC warmer too. As the morning progressed and the temperature passed through 18ºC, another very nice day was in the making at the Stanley Farm and Supply Store.
The store was located about halfway between Hallett and North Hallett, in the north of Uranus. As one drove up from the coast towards Hallett and, if one dared, towards Beran, the store came up along the left, across the road from the canal which was only separated from the road by about twenty metres. The store itself was a little below road level. A nondescript concrete block building, the store front was almost completely open when the roll-up doors were raised, revealing the smaller equipment and things that didn’t need to be out in the rain. The tractor lot was off to the side, and there was more equipment, supplies, feed and seed out in the back. Every square centimetre of the property was occupied by something, including the junk in the far back, and the property itself butted up against one of the farms it serviced, in this case owned by Carla’s uncle.
The Stanleys were blessed in that the year-round planting and harvest schedule of Uranan farming made for year-round business. But as Christmas was only two days away and most of the farmers were in a festive mood, most of the Stanleys’ sales and repairs were on an “emergency” basis.
Pete Stanley was leaning on the main counter, which was on the right side of the store as viewed from the road. Next to him was John Agelasos, his main “right-hand man” who was frequently the salesman that Pete wasn’t. The open roll-up doors on the front afforded as much breeze through the place as one could expect, especially when the back door was left up. This was supplemented by the spotty ceiling fans and, in very hot weather, by a floor fan or two. In an attempt to supplement Verecunda’s limited radio offerings, Pete had an 8-track player mounted on a high shelf, its speakers sharing the shelf. Country and Gospel music alternated, and even at this time of year the polyester suit boys’ muffled refrain echoed across the store, softly reverberating against the concrete block walls in such a way as to obscure the good news they had to offer.
Things were slow until a somewhat battered Ford Cortina pulled up in front of the counter. The Cortina has Uranan state licence plates on it and “Hallett Regional Comprehensive School” crudely stencilled on the two front doors of the car. A thin man who really didn’t look like he belonged at a feed and seed store got out and walked up to the counter.
“Colin Dirksen,” Pete addressed the visitor. “How may we help you today?”
“Is Carla here?” Dirksen asked.
“She’s out making deliveries,” Pete informed him. “She should be back shortly.”
“Thank you,” Dirksen replied. He started to wander about the store, killing time while waiting for her. He was the school’s guidance counsellor, a relatively new position at Hallett Comprehensive.
He didn’t have to wait long; about ten minutes later everyone heard a Ford pick-up truck make a stiff left turn and, braking against the loose gravel in the parking lot, come to a stop just in front of one of the roll-up doors. Dirksen wasn’t far from the counter and came back towards it as the truck door opened and the engine stopped. Carla emerged from the truck, which had the company logo on the doors and showed signs of many miles. She was dressed in jeans and a Western shirt. She closed the door to the truck with a satisfying thud, slung her long blonde mane behind her head and down her back, and walked up towards the counter, stopping at a suitable distance from both Dirksen and her father.
“Mr. Dirksen,” she said, obviously surprised. “I thought you’d be on Christmas vacation.”
“Yule vacation,” he corrected her. “You know our new law. Don’t you remember this from our last school assembly?”
“Oh, yeah, I do,” Carla unhappily recalled.
“So what brings you here?” Pete asked.
“Well, I just stopped by to invite Carla to a new organisation we are having at our school. For some reason, we didn’t work out all of the details before the last bell, so I’m going round to students I feel have potential. Carla always has been one of our outstanding students, so she was at the top of my list.”
“We’ve always been proud of her,” Pete chimed in.
“So what organisation is this?” Carla asked, still suspicious.
“It’s a Life Identification Society,” Dirksen replied. “Other schools have been very successful with them. Our organisational meeting is on Tuesday, January 5. I very much hope that you can come.”
“Well. . .identification isn’t my problem. Everybody in the school knows the kind of person I am. That’s why I wasn’t allowed to stand for Student Council this year.”
“I am unimpressed with your self-pity,” Dirksen came back. “You know the school rules require that any member of the Student Council must take a cooperative attitude towards the school administration and its policies. If you haven’t forgotten, your attitude was anything but cooperative last year. We indulged you far too long. Besides, the purpose of the Life Identification Society isn’t to enable us to assume an identity, but to come out of our shell and find our real self.”
“Well, I’ve never been a wallflower,” Carla observed.
“Shows such as you put on last year are just that. We’re talking about what you really are.” He looked at Carla from head to toe and back again several times. “It is obvious that you are well gifted for such a pursuit.”
Carla stood and thought for a bit. She looked at her father, who didn’t signal anything back with his expression.
“I’m not interested,” she firmly replied, trying to get her point across without losing her temper, which was obvious by the redness that was coming up in her face. “I know girls in other schools who are in them. I know what they do. I don’t do those kinds of things. I won’t join, period, paragraph.”
Dirksen was obviously not totally prepared for Carla reaction. It was his turn to think.
“Suit yourself,” he said, trying to regain the upper hand. “You’re not dating Annette Connolly’s son any more, are you?”
“I broke up with him right after school started,” Carla informed him.
“Pity. . .surely someone like you would not leave that part of your life empty, now?”
“Between school, tennis and work, I really don’t have much time for dating. I’m trying to get ready to go away to university next year.”
“Oh yes. . .since you brought that up, are you still going to that religious college on the mainland?”
“Yeah,” she answered.
“I still find that disappointing,” Dirksen said. “You are a very bright girl. Your academic performance has only been matched by your exploits on the tennis court, which has brought a great deal of pride to HRCS. I cannot understand why you would want to throw all that away in an environment where your only future would be raising some fundamentalist stud’s six or so children.” He stopped and thought for a second. “You know that your graduation is a necessary prerequisite to going to a school even like this, don’t you?”
“There are other ways of fulfilling that requirement,” she responded, anticipating the threat.
“I find it hard to believe that even they would want to take a school leaver—voluntary or otherwise—into their institution,” Dirksen came back. “Well, if you ever change your mind, let me know—you have two weeks until the meeting.” He turned to walk away, then turned back towards Pete. “You know, I always found it odd that you, with the traditional attitudes towards women that are so prevalent around here, that you work Carla the way you do.”
“A Stanley is never afraid of hard work,” Pete answered. “All of my children have worked in the business. It’s good for them and good for the family.”
“How do you think she got in shape to play tennis the way she does?” John interjected.
“How indeed,” Dirksen came back. “Well, good day and Happy Yule.” With that he walked out to the Cortina, got in and left while the rest stood and watched him.
“That was very impertinent of you, young lady,” Pete scolded Carla. “You should show more respect to an official of your school than that, even if you don’t agree with him. You’d still be on Student Council if you had last year.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she replied. She wanted to say more but knew better.
“I need to go over our receivables with your mother in the office,” Pete said. “You’ve got work to do.”
“Yes, sir,” she dutifully replied. He turned to go to the office. It had the only air conditioning in the place in the form of a window unit. Much of the year it was the place to be, but now the air conditioning served mostly as a dehumidifier. He went back and closed the door, leaving Carla and John up front.
John looked around and then back at Carla. “You did the right thing, kid,” he said. “I’ve got a niece down at Dillman-Arnold who’s in one of those. I hate to talk like this in front of you, but it turned her into a complete slut. If it were my kid he was talking to, I’d have belted him in the mouth.”
“He just doesn’t understand,” Carla replied. “I just want to explode, but Mother says not to, it’s not the Christian thing to do, and it probably wouldn’t do any good. But I can’t understand why he’s making it so hard for me to be the Christian he raised me to be.”
“Don’t take it personal,” John advised. “He means well. Like you say, he just doesn’t understand.”
“You’re right,” Carla reluctantly agreed. “I’ll take the truck around back and start straightening things up before we close for Christmas.”
“I’ll come help you when I can break loose from here,” John promised. Carla turned and walked back towards the truck. John looked at her and said to himself, “That kid’s got everything. . .everything.”

The Ten Weeks, 21 December, The Doctors Have Done All They Can Do

Monday brought an endless battery of medical tests to Madeleine’s life, convincing her and her mother that getting to the diagnosis was worse than than the disease itself. Finally at 1630, the doctor decided to release Madeleine, convinced that they had little additional to contribute, and satisfied that the des Cieux could give her sufficient care at home to allow her release. Armed with a long list of orders and prescriptions, Pierre and Yveline wheeled Madeleine out of the hospital, gingerly loaded her into her own Citröen Dyane, and brought her back to that little piece of France that they called home.

The Ten Weeks, 20 December, Arguing With the Bishop

Without Carla, the des Cieux had to take up the slack of supplementing what the hospital could do for her. Pierre brought in a small shortwave radio and they were able to listen to broadcasts from back home, dispensing with the non-functional television. The family took times about going home to rest, to get more things for a stronger and more demanding Madeleine, and to attend Mass at the Cathedral. Pierre went to the 1100 Mass, and wasn’t in a very pious mood as he greeted his bishop, Anthony Santini, as he was leaving.
Santini looked like more like a Cardinal than the bishop of a very small diocese whose presence was illegal in most of the Island. In his early fifties, with his wire-rimmed glasses perched on his large nose, Santini had only been bishop for a year and a half. Like most Catholic Bishops of Verecunda the past forty years, Santini had been elevated with Lucian Gerland’s blessing, as if the man had la regale that had slipped out of the hands of the crowned heads of Europe. But Santini also prided himself in his good relationship with the current government, a useful if short-sighted expedient in Allan Kendall’s Verecunda.
“I understand from Raymond that your daughter is doing better,” Santini proclaimed to Pierre.
“If Father Moore had made more than one fleeting visit, you would know this for yourself,” Pierre replied sourly.
“You make many demands on mother church you should not,” Santini scolded back. “The Secretary of State—excuse me, the Foreign Minister—just revoked the visas of my two Irish priests. I am short handed.”
“So why don’t you send at least one of them to Collina and bring Father Becker over?”
“Vatican II notwithstanding, it is not the role of the laity to dictate assignment of priests. Besides, I may have to send Avalon back to his native land if he keeps kicking against the goads on the subject of abortion and the many other things he does to antagonise the government.”
“I regret to inform you that we have had better ecclesiastical representation from Madeleine’s Baptist friends than from ‘mother church,’” Pierre retorted.
“Your Baptist friends are in more serious trouble than we are,” Santini came back. “Sects such as they are at the top of the government’s list of bad elements, as they should be, ecumenical considerations notwithstanding.”
“And whom do you think they will visit when they are finished with them?” Pierre asked.
“You are very impertinent, my son,” Santini replied irritatedly. “The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Good day,” and with that he turned and walked away. But he did actually visit Madeleine early that evening.