Finding Redemption - Part I - Completed

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Finding Redemption - Part I - Completed

I really must apologise for this drabble, I know that it's dreadful in every sense of the word, but I can tell that I'm going to have to write it so I thought that I'd post and give it a purpose. Please do tell me to stop if you'd rather!

- X -

Her fingers were numb with the cold, swollen and red, but she paid no heed to the discomfort. Even as spears of pain began to bring heavier tears to her eyes, tears that fell and blurred her vision as she ran, so that she collided with people, knocked bags out of hands, very nearly knocked one lady over, even then she didn’t pause for a second, not even to rub them together. Her breath caught in her throat and a cruel stitch in her side made her want to stop, to gasp, to take in the air that she so desperately needed. But there wasn’t time, there was no time, he was disappearing around the corner and out of her life forever.

She turned to chase him down the street he had strode into, but her heel caught on some debris scattered across the pavement and she fell, splitting her knees open and grazing her knuckles. The cold bit into her blood, making her cry out, and tiny stones embedded themselves deep in her skin, but she scrambled up again, resolute, determined. She couldn’t lose sight of him now.

“Papa!” she yelled at his retreating back, voice hoarse, warm breath condensing in the air around her, a sob playing out from the back of her throat. Hollow, spent, she couldn’t hope to catch him now. He was already nearly lost in the crowd, just a black jacket among the many upturned collars against the snow still fluttering gently around the ears of the press against her, sweeping her back with them, away from him.

“Papa!” she called again, but he didn’t turn around, didn’t hear her, and her voice echoed back uselessly, bouncing off the dirty brick walls and turning to mock her. Then he was gone, lost from sight, and she was all alone once again…

Author:  Nightwing [ Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Don't stop! I'm intrigued! :D

Author:  Abi [ Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

A Maynard, I suppose, as she's calling him Papa. But what is going on? This is very intriguing, Ariel - can't wait to see what happens next.

Author:  JellySheep [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

No, don't stop! We want to know who it is and what's happened, and it doesn't look at all dreadful...

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your comments! Hopefully this next bit will answer a lot of questions - and please, please do tell me if you want me to stop, because I really don't want to offend/upset anyone.

- X -

There were, Cecil reflected idly, two types of men in the world; those who lied and pretended to care about her as a person, and those who were at least honest enough to let her know that she was nothing more than a body. It was the latter she preferred on the whole, they tended to be quicker, ask less questions. It was easier to forget them. She puckered her lips together and then stared at her reflection in the cracked, chip mirror that was one of the only pieces of decoration in the sparse, rundown room.

There were some it was difficult to forget, those who asked her questions, about her home, her family, her past, questions that she couldn’t answer. Then there was the first one of all, the one who had lead her to this and kept her locked in his cage. She shivered just at the thought of him; no, he was unforgettable in every sense of the word. Better not to think of it. After all, memories were of no use here, all that they could do was cause pain. She had quickly learnt not to think of what had been, or might have been, or could be tomorrow, this place had lost hope years ago and slowly she had succumbed with it.

Of course, there was one use for memories, but that was only when they were murmured softly in the right ears, whispered quietly. They formed a tenuous link between what she had become and the soft, innocent Cecil who had once tripped so gaily down the path of life, unheeding and uncaring, so blinkered that she thought the wolf was a harmless sheep. She couldn’t bring herself to think of that little girl without tears coming to her eyes, but when those memories were whispered, at the right time, they could do something she needed to happen. And so she forced herself into it, forced herself to relive those last few months of relative innocence, after all it was only submitting to his will in another way.

Naturally he always said that she had chosen to be here, had chosen this life for herself, but she knew that he was only teasing, pushing her into taking on the role she was supposed to play. His little favourite, that’s what she’d been, it’s what she still was whenever the appeal of his latest plaything had worn off for a few months. So she would tell him, would bow her head and confess that he had forced her into it, had cowed her with his power and unleashed the ugly, twisted thing inside her that had first pushed her on to this path.

Then he would laugh, lean back in his chair, ask what she wanted this time. And she would sit in his lap, and tell of the rumours circulating – that he had started, no doubt – and how unhappy they made her, how much she wanted them to stop. Always her wish was granted, and his fingers would stroke her hair and repulse her, as he reminded her of the payment he would need for this, that they had agreed on before she even walked through the door. It was a ritual, one played out whenever he wanted her but couldn’t admit to it. After all, she was privileged, she was special, he looked after her in his own bizarre way.

She knew, had known since she came here, that she was reserved, sheltered for the best, her accent and her bearings marking her out as above the rest. The jewel in his crown, the living, breathing proof of his cunning and persuasiveness, that was the role she played. Among the other women, most of whom didn’t even know her name, she was dirt for his evident preference, and if they were in a bad mood she would often get spat at, sometimes even hit. She bore it in silence, rose above it, kept her head down and did what she had to just to survive.

The worst of them all was his wife, a large, overbearing woman who never got involved in the practical side of things more than she could help. She would bully the girls into obedience, keep the customers in order and report those who needed reporting. The clever kept to the right side of him; the most clever kept to the right side of her. And Cecil played a dangerous power game between them, doing as she was told with a becoming meekness which kept her out of the danger line most of the time and at least didn’t upset her any more than anything else would have.

But all the politics, the begging of favours for seedy acts, it had worn her down, left her hollow and numb inside. Staring at her blank, empty face in the grimy, smeared glass, the reflection was not a person she recognised. She should be a carefree schoolgirl in the gentian blue uniform she had once been so proud to wear. She wasn’t. Staring back at her was nothing more than a cheap prostitute, made up in almost every substance it was possible for a woman to buy, any natural beauty lost in the cosmetics which hid from view the tiny girl huddling underneath.

It took a force of willpower that she wouldn’t have believed she had, before she found this life, not to shut her eyes, not to show the sickness which coursed through her, as the door opened behind her and a familiar shadowy figure filled up the glass behind her.

Author:  Lottie [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You can't stop now, Ariel. We need to know what's happened to cause Cecil to be here. I hope there's going to be a happy ending, but I fear there won't be.

Author:  abbeybufo [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Another one who doesn't want you to stop ... though hardly daring to read on when/if you do continue :hiding:

Author:  clair [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Please don't stop, even though disturbing it's also intriguing

Author:  gwynne [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

certainly, please! do not stop, keep writing - it's brilliant, as ususal, even with the somewhat disturbing subject.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Oct 08, 2009 9:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: How could this have happened? Does the first post mean Jack knows, or was that before this? Please write more soon Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm happy to keep posting while people are happy for me to - I'm just really nervous about upsetting someone. Anyway, I shall assume that I am to keep posting unless and until I hear otherwise. Thankyou for all of your lovely comments so far!

- X -

It had been five hundred and thirty two days. Jack knew this as a fact, for he had counted every one as another day in which his heart broke a little bit more. Sometimes, he even sat down and worked out how many hours and minutes that was, something which consumed a little more time in the endless pit of despair. Usually he did it at work – if Joey saw the pieces of paper with his neat calculations on, it made her angry, upset. The family was strained enough already, he didn’t want to make things worse.

Actually, now that he thought about it, he had taken to hiding at work quite a lot. There was something comforting about the blank white corridors, the smell which had permeated his life for as long as he could remember, the bustle of starch as a Nurse went past his office. It was like a second (well, third) home to him, and it had been his work that he turned to when it had happened, and he couldn’t cope anymore. In the San, nobody asked questions, or if they did they didn’t pry, accepted his monosyllabic answers and swept him into an interesting new case.

And he used his work to make bargains with God; if he saved fifty people, she would come back. If he saved twenty, she would write, to let them know that she was ok. If he saved a hundred, he’d get the answers he so desperately needed. It didn’t work, but it gave him hope for a while, at least. Burying himself in his work had blocked out the voices, as well, the ones that insinuated if a doctor couldn’t even look after his family, how could he protect his patients? Nobody had said anything, not to him at least, aside from the time he had come across Reg telling one of the new Nurses off so strictly that he was the scariest Jack had ever seen him.

Of course, anyone connected with the family came into disrepute. They had fought off the shadow of doubt and bad luck which hung over the, how ironically named, house. In time, people forgot, and they were left alone; no longer were they monsters, just parents who had suffered one of the worst fates of all. With that he could cope, that was fine. While he had his job, and his tenuously held together family, while he still had hope, he could carry on with life as if any of it mattered even half as much as finding Cecil again.

He was the only one left who had hope. Even Joey, his precious Joey, had said that by now Cecil must surely be dead, for she would have got in touch otherwise, just a short note even. She would never have made her parents suffer like this needlessly. Everybody but him thought that she was gone, but he refused to believe that he would never have her back, was sure that one day he would hold her again. They looked at him sometimes, just odd glances from the side of their eyes, Reg and Len, and even Stephen when he had come back for Christmas this year. But the only one brave enough to tell him that they thought he was being silly was Joey, and he forgave her. He forgave them all, but it didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to prove them wrong.

In his efforts to find her, he routinely sent out letters to associates from as far back as college, enclosing a description of his daughter, begging them for information. That description, it was two years old, out of date, and he had shocked himself one morning when he had woken up and could barely remember her face. She was fading even from him, and soon enough he wouldn’t be able to describe her accurately anymore. Soon even he would have to give up on her. But not without a fight, the biggest fight he could put up; and so he wrote endless letters, to people in London, Berlin, even to Jem and Madge in Australia, just saying that if they had any information, if they thought that they saw her, to call him straightaway.

Sometimes he would get a reply, a short, embarrassed apology for his ill fate and a promise that if she was spotted they’d let him know. Other times the letters must just have been cast in the bin, ignored, but there was nothing he could do about them.

And then came the moment, the reward for his energy and dedication, the scrap of hope that he needed to keep going.

It was late one night and he was still in his office, supposedly finishing off some paperwork, though he was finishing more of the bottle of whiskey habitually kept in his drawer now. He just couldn’t face going home, and curling up next to Joey, and pretending that things were still the same as ten years ago, when he’s had all of his children around him. Growing up, getting their own life, he had accepted that, had dealt with it. Disappearing, that was something else altogether.

The phone ringing startled him out of his reverie and he snatched it up, expecting some new emergency.

“Jigger, it’s me,” said a voice down the phone that he hadn’t heard for twenty years or more. An old college friend who he had written to with everyone else. He’d never had a reply to that letter, and he wondered bitterly what he could be wanted of him now. “I think I’ve found her. I don’t know. But she matched your description, so I asked her name, and she said Cecil. I couldn’t get a surname. I’m in Paris – ring me and I’ll meet you at the station.”

Author:  shazwales [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel this is really good,but disturbing.

Author:  Smile :) [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks, I think, Ariel. It is disturbing but also intriguing, please keep writing.

Author:  Abi [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 11:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is brilliant writing, Ariel, and I want to know what happened and what will happen!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

As horrible as the act itself had been, it was over now and Cecil was prepared to forget it as far as was possible. With a tiny shudder, she pulled up the skirt which she may not have been wearing for all the good it would have done her, and then searched around for her top, which he had thrown carelessly across the room. It was crumpled, and covered in dust now, for her room was far from clean, but she brushed it off as best she could and settled it around herself.

He had promised to sort out the rumours that were spreading, as long as she was out of the house for the day, so that he could have words with various people without any trouble erupting. Having had previous experience of some of her colleagues when they were angry with her, Cecil decided that it might be prudent to follow this advice.

Dressed accordingly, she slipped on her lethally high boots that it had taken her weeks to learn how to walk in – weeks spent with him, curled up in a ball of safety and love that she doubted she would ever feel again. She was all alone in the world now, but that was just fine, because it meant that nobody had to witness her fall from grace, there was nobody to see what Cecil Maynard had become.

Sometimes, alone in her room at night – more common that might be expected, as men were encouraged not to stay with her long; she built up her own mystique that way, and she was earning him more money than he made off of two other girls each month – she would hear some of the old voices she had grown up with. Never them, her family, she couldn’t have borne that. But Miss Annersley would sit in the gloom and repeat familiar, comforting phrases to her, just like she was ill and being looked after by Nurse. Then would come Miss Wilson, who was equally loved, and she would remind Cecil of all that she was missing. Finally, to the strains of her song, her Auntie Madge would murmur words of comfort. She could never say why it was Auntie Madge in particular who made her cry, or why the haunting tune that Nina Rutherford had once written for her was always playing, but it moved her every time.

Daylight hours scared these ghosts away, and she had to walk a lonely path, interspersed frequently with strange men whose name she never found out, though there were a few that she recognised, who would come regularly for a few months until they moved on to someone else. At least she got to spend most of the time in her room. As cold as it was, with holes in the walls and unnoticeable damp in one dark corner which she was careful never to light up by a candle, it was still marginally warmer than Paris in the winter. Snow blanketed the streets until the whole city seemed hushed, and a sharp, bitter wind swept through the haunted boulevards, making men turn up their collars and hurry on.

Business wasn’t even very good in such bad weather, for no-one ever stopped to pick up the loose women so much a staple of the seedy underworld. But it was still enforced upon her that at least one day a week she must go out and pace the streets, and not return until she could bring a customer with her. Once, when a blizzard was literally howling around her, and she had walked until she had blisters on both feet without finding anyone, she had tried to return alone with no money, but the pain and starvation which had followed that had persuaded her not to try again.

Now she took up a stance on one of her favourite street corners, where she usually managed to find someone even if they were distinct for being the lowest of the low. When she had been told of what she would be doing, she had at least hoped that it would be discreet, with men of her own class, who would keep her in luxury; it had taken her days to find that hope, but find it she had. Even now she dreamed of a rich client who would sweep her off of her feet and at least provide her with regular meals and the chance to remain faithful. But mostly it was drug dealers and artisans, drop-outs and those lonely enough to occasionally seek solace in loose arms.

She had been there over an hour, and was just considering moving on, when she glimpsed a familiar figure out of the corner of her eye. Automatically she flinched back into the cover of the shadows thrown across her by the wall, until he had passed. But there could be no doubt who he was, and she cursed herself for not staying where she was, so that he could have seen her. There was nothing for it. Ignoring the part of her brain urging her not to be so foolish, to accept that she was what she was now and there was no escape, to understand that her family didn’t want anything to do with her, she began to push her way through the crowds.

She couldn’t clear a path, and often she had to guess at which way he had gone from the snatched glimpses she got now and then, but somehow she managed to follow behind him, just out of calling distance, balancing precariously on her heels, often only stopped from falling by a body next to her, which exclaimed as she careened through them. Then she saw him stop for a second and, gathering every small bit of breath she had, she called as loudly as she could manage,


Author:  Emma A [ Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no, are we back at the beginning again? :cry: Please let her find Jack after all, and free herself from this horrible degradation.

*hugs Cecil*

Author:  shazwales [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 5:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,please let it work out for Cecil!

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

And why is Jack wandering about that part of town anyway :shock: ?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your lovely comments.

- X -

Even though he was completely lost in thought, Jack found himself walking down a side street to the station, the sort where you could buy cheap drugs and even cheaper women. He had been warned by his college friend of the type of girl who’d identified herself as Cecil, and this was exactly the sort of place that she would have come. He had never thought he would, but Jack hoped that this scarlet woman wasn’t his daughter; death would have been a preferable alternative to her having to suffer this.

In fact, he had made a promise to himself that if he could find her, even if it wasn’t his Cecil he would do whatever he could to save her. He couldn’t save his own daughter, but he might be able to save someone else’s. Despite best efforts, though, they had been unable to find her again. They had scoured the city all weekend, spending nine or ten hours a day walking the streets looking, and in Jack’s case only stopping long enough to down a bite to eat before going out into the gloaming to spend another two or three hours just walking, looking.

It had been in vain, and now he was returning home. His sole preparations for this trip had been a frantic call to Len from his office to let her know that Reg was in charge until such time as he got back, and waking an indignant Joey to drive him to the station. She persuaded him to wait until dawn, at least, rightfully pointing out that it would be most rude and ungrateful to wake his friend up before then, and there wouldn’t be much he could do anyway. Then on the car journey down she went on constantly about how pointless all of this would be, because Cecil, their Cecil, was dead and he was wasting time and money and she was sick of him behaving like this.

Of course it hurt him to know what he was doing to her, for he knew that he tore her apart every time he brought it up, mentioned that name. The greatest evidence he had of just how badly she had taken it had been a letter that he stumbled across. Previously, all the correspondence that had come from the Nunnery in Canada had been signed ‘Soeur Marie-Cécile’, but the scribble across the bottom of this one was simply ‘Robin’. After a while, Joey hadn’t allowed anything in the house which might remind her of her lost daughter – Cecil’s room was shut and locked, hadn’t been entered since except by Jack, and all her belongings were put in the attic. He wouldn’t let her throw them out, it was too final, but he had to give in to her wish to put them away. It was best for everyone else.

Now, with a heavy heart, he had to return to her empty handed. He was no fool, and he knew Joey better than anybody else in the world; she was hoping just as badly as he was that she would be proved wrong, and he would walk out of the station at Berne with Cecil on one arm, unchanged, as if she’d just been visiting an old friend. He had let her down, though, had let them both down. Suddenly, he laughed scornfully at himself. The police had failed to track her, nobody in Europe until now had been able to find her. This was the first chink of light and he had actually expected something to come of it. He was a fool.

Sharply, he swung into the train station, frowning to himself. He had walked the long way, for it was the last bit of the city not properly explored – though they had traipsed through it on their way back to the hotel one night – and optimism had forced him to not leave any corner unturned. Now he was worn out, the weekend had taken its toll on him, and he had to go back and face his colleagues. None of them would say anything directly to him, and they wouldn’t have even if he wasn’t the boss, but he had behaved unprofessionally and he knew it. As a doctor he had a duty to his patients and he had failed in it; he just had a bigger duty to his daughter, and if he’d realised that before she might still be here.

Having located his train – it was on the platform that the entrance opened on to, thankfully, for he was running late and steam was already billowing from the front carriage as he climbed aboard – he stashed his suitcase in the rack by the door and prepared to find a seat. As he did so, something caught his eye, a commotion by the guard’s office. A small girl, brown curls flying wildly, was trying to fight her way out of the guard’s arms and on to the platform. He might have thought no more of it, had she not spotted him and screamed,


“Stop!” he bellowed at once, even as the carriages lurched into motion. “Stop, Cecil, wait there, I’ll be back, wait there for me. Wait there!”

His last glimpse back was of her still struggling valiantly to be free, but the second she was out of sight he grabbed his suitcase and prepared to decant at the next station, and get the first train back to her.

“Please wait this time,” he murmured hoarsely to himself.

Author:  clair [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 4:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Please let Cecil have heard him and have the courage to wait.

This is compelling reading even though so disturbing Chubbymonkey

Author:  shazwales [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 4:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks,echoing Clair let her wait for him.

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 4:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hoping she'll wait.

Author:  Emma A [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Echoing everyone else. Poor Cecil. Poor Jack.

Author:  JB [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 5:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel, you can't leave us here. Please come back and write some more.

Author:  Abi [ Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh please let them find one another Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Just a small update today, I'm afraid.

- X -

Even once the train had pulled away, Cecil continued to fight the guard who was holding her back. She didn’t dare to just go and wait outside in case Jack should come back and, not seeing her on the platform, simply turned around again. She had had no idea of her own strength, but despite the guard’s strong arms around her waist she continued to struggle and kick until he was forced to put her down.

“You are feisty,” he commented, pinning her to a wall. “I’m afraid that I really can’t let you into the station without a ticket. But a ticket could appear if you were prepared to work for it.”

He eyed her body salaciously, but for once Cecil wasn’t thinking about anything. At no point had it occurred to her that she would just be allowed to walk out of Paris as if nothing had happened, that she couldn’t just go home, as far as she was concerned she had found Jack and so everything would be ok. Quite often she didn’t have a choice about the men she had pawing her, but this time, and summoning all of her dignity, she said to the guard sharply,

“I am going on to the station.”

Before he could protest, she brought the very edge of her heel down into the centre of his foot with all her force, stabbing it right through the material. He cried out sharply, but let go of her, and she slipped away. Quite a crowd had been attracted now, but she was fortunate enough to run into one old lady, who had heard her shouting for her father, and his bellowed reply which they must have heard at the next train station, and she pulled on Cecil’s arm quickly, dragging her into the shadows.

“Wait here,” she said in a kindly voice. “Your papa should be back at any minute, the next stop should only be five minutes away, and the trains run very frequently.”

All of the conversations so far had been in rapid French, but what Cecil didn’t know from her tri-lingual school she had picked up in the years that she’d lived here. She nodded a mute understanding and pressed herself back against the grimy brick to make sure she was properly hidden. Seeing that she was safe for the moment, the old woman went back and began to point them in the opposite direction, winking to one man next to her who had also seen the commotion, and where Cecil had hidden. Rapidly the body dispersed, the guard beginning to hobble down the platform to try and find her and the rest having trains to catch.

Sadly, the old woman didn’t come back, and so Cecil had no chance to say thankyou for her kind action, but as she got her breath back sensibility began to return too. Far too many people had seen her just now, once he came looking for her he would be bound to hear of it. At all costs he mustn’t learn her whereabouts, or he would snatch her back in whatever way he could – and Cecil shivered at the thought of what must befall her then.

Anxiously, she scanned the people milling on the platform, and those opposite her, but Jack didn’t appear and after five minutes she began to give up hope. It would have been an automatic reaction to tell her to wait, maybe he had changed his mind and simply carried on. Maybe he had only said it so that she wouldn’t come after him until it was too late; he could have been in Paris for any number of reasons, business or pleasure, and he probably never wanted to see her again after what she’d done.

Although the station itself was covered, a grey sludge had been dragged in from the snowy streets outside, and the wind was bitingly cold. In her sparse clothes, she could feel the sharp tang in the air as clearly as if it was actually cutting into her, and even more she could feel the disapproving stares of a few people passing. One man looked at her with deep interest, but the glare she gave him made him scuttle onwards again, head bent against the weather. By now, three trains had come in and two had left again, and still the familiar sandy head hadn’t appeared. Cecil began to lose heart, wondered if she shouldn’t just turn around and go. If she left now, perhaps he wouldn’t hear about it, she could get away with her moment of madness.

And even if Jack did come back, what then? He could hardly want to see her, and there was nowhere for them to go. She had known the last time she looked back at her house that from that moment she was alone in the world, save for him, and nothing had changed that. This meeting, it was a pure coincidence, one she would do better to forget. If she never thought of it again, never thought of that hope which for a moment had swelled within her, then just maybe she could slip back into the murky pond of the underworld which had become her home.

Feeling swept her body suddenly, once she started to think about the pain she was in, and the grazes on her hand started to sting, bringing tears to her eyes again. Her knees were agony. Her skirt, when she had slipped, had ripped up one side almost to the top, and blood trickled down her legs and into her stockings. Only her top was relatively unscathed, though it was damp and clinging uncomfortably to her. She could feel it hugging every part of her body, and she blushed as she realised what she must look like, what her father must have seen. No wonder he hadn’t come back.

Hope deserting her almost completely, Cecil knew that she had to leave. This had all been a waste of time, she should never have chased after him. At least before they didn’t know what their daughter did, the shame that she had brought to the family. She would have been better off staying where she was, finding a customer and slinking back to the den of iniquity like Jack had never passed so close to her for that brief moment.

He wasn’t coming back.

Author:  JMB [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Please let him come back!

I've really been enjoying (although that's not really the right word!) this - thanks, ChubbyMonkey.

Author:  Emma A [ Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

No Cecil, have some trust! Please stay...

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Irresolutely, she turned to go, still glancing over her shoulder constantly. Another train had pulled in, though over the din of people rushing to where they needed to be she couldn’t catch where it was from, but it was coming in from the right direction. She stopped, peering across, wondering if she should give her father one last chance to come back, and this proved to be her downfall. She had completely forgotten the watchful eyes of the guard, but he hadn’t forgotten her, and she was rather difficult to miss in a crowd.

Before she could grasp what had happened, she was pinned against the wall, staring into the furious eyes of a wounded man. When he had pushed her, she had jarred herself against the solid, unforgiving brick, and she couldn’t help letting out a gasping cry. Her hands were trembling, though she did her best not to show him this as she clawed at his own strong fingers, which were now choking off her air supply. Black tinged the edges of her vision, and she struggled desperately but weakly, unable to overcome the strength of his wrath.

“I want a word with you,” he growled, but before he could get any further, a hand tapped his shoulder politely. He turned around, face set in a grimace, and was confronted with a tall, fair-haired man, looking politely intrigued as to the situation. “What?” he barked.

“Is there a problem?” asked the stranger. Cecil had gone strangely limp in his grasp.

“Yes. This whore did her best to break my foot,” he spat, almost literally. He got no further, for the stranger had pulled him back and swung him into a corner, in a not dissimilar position to that which he had been holding his own victim captive in a moment before. Hastily, Cecil did her best to re-arrange her clothes, as the stranger leaned forwards and hissed,

“Let me give you some advice for that, as a doctor. You ever so much as look at my daughter again and I’ll make sure no woman would touch you.” He released the guard and stepped back, smiling pleasantly once more. “Did you understand that?”

Deciding that he would be wiser to limp back to his station and forget that the past ten minutes had happened, the guard ducked away, dishevelled and even more injured than before. Once sure that they were as alone as the public place would allow – several passers-by took one look at them and veered quickly away – Jack turned to his daughter, swallowing the lump in his throat. He didn’t notice the state of her clothes, or the snow which had settled in her hair and turned it damp. All he could see was the beautiful face he had given up all hope of ever seeing again.

“You came back,” she whispered disbelievingly, throwing herself into his arms. She slotted so neatly, as if she were a missing half of him, her hands freezing against his neck and her body trembling now that she was against him again. Something in her seemed to have gone, and she had given herself up to him utterly; he could protect her now, look after her, she didn’t need to worry anymore.

Slowly, Jack prised her away and wrapped his thick winter coat around her shoulders, doing up the buttons at the top and then taking her hands in his own to try and warm them up a little bit. She smelt different and, now that he had got over the first shock, she looked different too. At some point she had grown up, and the make-up heavy on her face now concealed a young woman. There was so much to say, so many years to bridge, but all that he could stammer out was,

“How did you – when –“

“You were carrying a suitcase,” she explained, half a choke half a laugh, tears coming to her eyes. “I guessed you’d be coming to this station. Papa, I – we need to go. Now. He’ll be looking for me soon.”

But Jack had done some rapid thinking on the train, and he shook his head. That would be what whoever controlled her expected them to do, and he wouldn’t waste any time searching Paris once he heard of the scuffle here. They needed to act surprisingly, to not do what was expected of them, if they were to survive this. Therefore, he had decided to take her back to a hotel, where he could ring up the Platz and let them know, and organise what they were to do to get back.

“You’ll be safe with me,” he promised her. “If anyone is stupid enough to try and take you away again, they’ll have to deal with me. And I rescued mama from Nazi officers, you know, so anything Paris can throw at me now shouldn’t be too challenging!”

The look of absolute trust she gave him nearly broke his heart, and he had to fight not to burst into tears right there, in the middle of the platform; never had he imagined that if he did find her she could be so compliant, so willing. After all the things that were said last time they were together, he had half expected to find her only to be rebuffed, the fact that she had waited was the most special thing in the world.

“Come on,” he said as cheerfully as he could manage, a hand on her shoulder to steer her away. “We’ll go to the Gare du Nord, no-one will recognise us there.”

And, satisfied that the guard had caught all of that, and he had successfully set up a false trail through Paris, he slipped a hand into his daughter’s and began to lead her in the right direction, not knowing which hotel they would end up at but convinced that he would keep her safe now.

Author:  Lottie [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank goodness Cecil waited, and Jack came back! But why am I afraid that something could still go wrong? And what had happened to make Cecil disappear in the first place? Thanks, Ariel! Please don't keep us in suspense for too long.

Author:  JellySheep [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank goodness Jack appeared at the right time. I had been worried, though the title sounded hopeful. The beginning parts of the story were so sad, but I hope that Cecil's life will improve.

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Glad that Jack and Cecil have been reunited, but how did Cecil end up in this situation in the first place :( ?

Author:  abbeybufo [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Alison H wrote:
Glad that Jack and Cecil have been reunited, but how did Cecil end up in this situation in the first place :( ?

Echoes both sentiments - am vastly intrigued as to how Cecil could ever have got into this situation, and hoping we'll hear about that as well as What Happens Next ... please

Thanks Ariel :D

Author:  Emma A [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

My guess is that she met the bloke, fell in love, her family disapproved, and she ran away to be with him after a massive family argument. It was only later that she discovered what kind of man it was she had fallen for, and felt too ashamed to go back home (in white so as not to spoil things for others).

So glad she waited, and that she and Jack have been reunited. Also glad that Jack seems to realise that Cecil won't be allowed to escape so easily. I like his planning! I do hope they can both forgive each other.

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for all of your comments :D I only hope that my writing is doing justice to this!

- X -

During the journey to a hotel, Cecil tried to speak on more than one occasion, but Jack was walking as quickly as possible to get them there, and she was breathless just trying to keep up with him. Her shoes didn’t help, either, and if he hadn’t been gripping her hand so tightly it had gone numb, she would have fallen more than once. At one point, she even dragged them both into a side alley, for she had seen one of the women who worked with her, and she had no doubts about her status among them to think her secret would be kept.

Automatically, Jack had pressed his body against hers, shielding her as much as possible, his suitcase stowed in the shadows to try and ensure that he wasn’t identified either. It was a simple action, and it shouldn’t have affected him as much as it did; but until now, he had pointedly been concentrating on how he was going to get them out of Paris, so that he didn’t have to think about anything else. Now he couldn’t help but wonder how many other men had done this to his daughter.

Thankfully, it was only brief, and less than a minute later they were flying through the streets again, until Jack pulled up in front of a grand building, the name of the hotel proudly displayed on one side. His first instinct had been to book into the seediest hotel possible, for nobody would think of looking for the respected Herr Docktor Maynard there, but he guessed that the man in charge of Cecil would know the owners of most. A posh hotel like this would have security, and would know to be discreet about a man with a young girl in his room.

Cecil must have guessed his thoughts, for she shrugged off his coat and handed it to him with an apologetic smile. At least her hands had warmed up a little, and were no longer the faintly blue colour they had been when he found her at the station. She looked a little more relaxed, too, though from the shadows about her eyes Jack guessed this was just an act for his benefit. He appreciated the effort, though, and let her know it by a tiny squeeze of her arm as he led her in.

Checking-in was easy enough, though more than one pointed and faintly disgusted look was sent between the two, and they soon found themselves alone in their room. It was luxurious enough, with its own bathroom complete with shower and a double bed in one corner – Jack had thought it prudent not to arise suspicion by asking for two singles. He could always sleep on the floor if needs be.

He had half-expected Cecil to collapse once they were alone together, and safe for the time being, but instead she sat on the edge of the bed and eased her shoes off slowly. Following her lead, Jack nonchalantly draped his coat over one edge of the arm chair in the corner and then loosened his tie. There was an awkwardness to their actions, partly because of Cecil’s appearance but more because of being together again after all of this time. In fact, had Jack but known it, Cecil was on the verge of wild tears, still half-disbelieving that this was anymore than just a dream.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured softly after a short pause. “I’m sorry for – well, you shouldn’t have to see me like this.”

“It’s ok,” said Jack quickly, too quickly. He took a deep breath and began to plan what he could do, to guess what Cecil would want. Firstly, he wanted to look at her knees, for her tights were now enmeshed in the nasty gashes on them, and he half thought that she might need stitches. Before he could articulate this thought, however, she spoke again, pausing and testing her wording before she continued.

“Do you think that I could have some more clothes? I mean proper ones. I’d like to go for a shower so maybe you could…”

She trailed off delicately, leaving the rest of her sentence hanging between them. Considering that it would be easy enough to excuse leaving again so soon, Jack was surprisingly reluctant to go. Deep down, he had to confess that he still half expected Cecil to go again, of her own accord or otherwise. He could see the sense in her words, though; she certainly needed a new outfit, and he would be as uncomfortable being there while she was in the shower as she would be of his presence.

“Right,” he said in the end, taking a deep breath. “You won’t need anything else? I’ll only be gone ten minutes, I promise, and you can easily call for security if you need them. Try and wash any grit or dirt out of those cuts, but otherwise don’t touch them. I’ll deal with them when I get back.”

The factual nature of this, the familiarity of being able to slip into being a doctor, helped and he turned to go. He was already halfway out of the door, when Cecil called impulsively,

“I love you!”

Turning back, he looked at the small face upturned towards him, so sincere and honest, so eager to please. When had she become so alluring? Pretty, yes, she had always been pretty, but at some point she had developed a whole new quality of beauty that he’d never noticed before. The knowledge that she had changed sat, an apparently unmoveable block, between them for a second, then he shut the door behind him. Time for that later, once he’d fetched the things she wanted.

Author:  shesings [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 4:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It's not a dream, Cecil! And don't open the door to anyone, btw!

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

What a difficult situation for a father to find himself in: no wonder he's focusing on the practical issue of having to deal with the physical injuries, which at least is something he knows where he is with.

I wonder how Joey, who's led such a sheltered life, will deal with this.

Author:  Abi [ Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So glad Jack and Cecil found each other and that Jack is looking after her. I'm just a little worried about what might happen in the next ten minutes, though. Just don't let Cecil open the door!

Thanks Ariel, this is so sad and touching.

Author:  shazwales [ Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,please let us have a happy ending!

Author:  clair [ Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Please let Jack get back to find Cecil still there waiting for him

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou, everyone, for your comments. Shazwales, I don't have an ending planned myself yet, so I think that we'll all have to wait and see!

- X -

The air was warm and steamy around her, but Cecil refused to step out of the shower yet. She had heard the door open and shut again about ten minutes ago, as Jack came back, but she was determined not to leave the shower until she felt clean again. Briefly, she’d dug through his suitcase and unearthed some shampoo and some soap, and the unfamiliar smells comforted her. There was something upright, something proper about them, they didn’t smell of cheap seediness.

Red welts covered her skin where she had scrubbed so hard to erase the memory of everything she had gone through, but eventually she had felt as clean as she knew she could again, and she stepped out of the shower, wrapping the downy towel left in the room from the hotel around her slim body. She secured it tightly, squeezed her hair out over the shower one last time, and cracked open the door an inch.

Her father was organising things onto the bed, and for a second she was able to just watch him, a tiny smile playing on her lips. She could barely believe that she had found him again, she had given up all hope of that long ago. But to see him there, concentrating so hard, the familiar frown darkening his brow as he counted things out, nearly broke her heart. He looked so old and weary, but she still couldn’t feel upset; he had come for her, had found her, had rescued her.

As if sensing her gaze, he turned around and smiled when he saw the tousled head poking out of the door. If he could have heard Joey’s voice downstairs shouting at Geoff for something, again, and Anna singing happily as she lay the table, he could almost have thought that he’d imagined all of this and Cecil had never left him. The barrier between them had fallen away again, though for how long neither knew, but they didn’t mention it. He just scrabbled in the open suitcase at his feet and produced a comb, which he held out to her.

“I got you a nightdress as well,” he offered, holding out the garment. It was ankle-length, a beautiful brown colour, reflecting the shimmering lights from the electric lamp on the bedside table. But Cecil’s face fell, and Jack felt guilt stab through him; he had done something wrong already. “What?” he asked quickly. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said quickly.

“Cecil,” he admonished in a mock stern tone. “After raising twelve children, I think I can tell when something’s up.”

“Really, it’s nothing,” she insisted. “It was just that I was hoping I could wear your pyjamas tonight. They just remind me of you.”

She looked so pathetically forlorn at this admittance of weakness, that he relented instantly, handing them over with good grace. He had no idea what he would wear now – somehow he didn’t think that the nightdress was his style – but he would work it out. If that was what Cecil wanted, he would give it to her.

“While you change,” he said, deliberately laying emphasis on the words, giving her time to object. “I’m going to go and call mama, to let her know that you’re safe.”

Slowly, Cecil nodded. She had been trying not to think of the rest of her family, and where she would go now, but she had known that at some point Joey must find out that she was back. Somewhere in the depths of her heart she wondered just how her mother would take the news.

“Do you want me to ask if Reg can pick us up at Basle?” added her father before he left, tentatively prodding to see if he was on the right path with her. “Of course mama will be happy to, but I thought it might save you being completely overwhelmed; Reg’s a solid enough chap, he won’t make a fuss.”

“Thankyou,” she whispered. Then, in a flurry of blue cloth, she disappeared back into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. The steam which had been billowing around her slowly tailed off, and Jack was alone again. Logically, he knew that they were safe here, that they couldn’t possibly have been tracked down yet, but all the same, and after a second’s pause, he locked the door silently behind him. Better safe than sorry.

In the bathroom, Cecil slowly pulled on the pyjama top, buttoning it up gingerly. Her knuckles still hurt, especially if she bent them, and indeed aches and pains were calling from the rest of her body, too. She was unused to getting much exercise these days; he preferred her to be in the house a lot in case she was asked for, and the run had left her muscles with a dull aching that intensified to sharp stabs of pain when she walked. She could tell that she would be stiff in the morning; plus, when she had fallen over, she had half twisted her ankle. The final touch came when she was combing her hair, and the comb got stuck in a particularly bad knot. She tugged and tugged, but it was only after a good deal of pain that she got it free again, and she threw the comb into the sink in a thoroughly bad temper.

Slowly she let herself out of the bathroom, tiredness making her eyes sting unpleasantly. At least Jack’s pyjamas were more comfortable than any garment she’d known recently; warm and soothing, just slightly too big for her. She was surprised to discover that she felt safe in them. But reaction to her day was coming now, and very deliberately she lay down on the bed, buried her face in the pillow, and began to sob loudly.

Author:  clair [ Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So glad she's still safe - and Jack's being really thoughtful here. Just hope it continues

Thanks Ariel

Author:  Emma A [ Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I do hope everything can be sorted out, and Cecil can see that Joey would want to have her back, however badly her daughter let them down. Also rather hoping that the b*stard who got Cecil into this gets his comeuppance :evil:

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Jack's handling a near-impossible situation very well indeed.

Author:  Abi [ Sat Oct 17, 2009 12:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Jack is being amazing here - a better person couldn't have found Cecil. I hope she doesn't find it too hard when she gets back to the rest of her family.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Oct 17, 2009 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone!

- X -

She began to come to herself again when she felt a hand resting gently on the small of her back, rubbing it ever so slightly to reassure her that she was safe. Her father didn’t move, didn’t talk, just sat there, touching her softly, waiting for the storm to pass. Eventually, she sat up, sniffed, and shook the curls out of her eyes. They fell into place around her shoulders, longer than they had been before.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, curling up gratefully in Jack’s lap when he opened his arms. “I didn’t mean to start bawling.”

“It’s fine,” he reassured, voice as gentle and calm as he could make it when his own heart was breaking in two. He wanted to do something, anything, to help her, to take her pain away and make it his own, but he knew that he couldn’t do that. All that he could do now was to keep her safe from any more harm.

After that, neither spoke for a long time. Cecil stayed lying across his lap, her eyes shut, breath still uneven from her crying fit but almost peaceful when he looked down on her. For his part, Jack was happy just that he could hold her again after so long, so many nights when he had sat alone in his office wishing he could feel her weight shifting comfortably against him again. He couldn’t even remember the last time that he’d hugged her – it wasn’t something that he did to any of the children very often.

If only he’d realised earlier on the sort of sharp, crippling pain that he couldn’t ever get over when one of them was hurt, before she’d gone, things could have been so different. He wouldn’t have let his temper get the better of him, he would have sat her down and told her that he couldn’t possibly let her carry on, because she was his daughter and he loved her like no other. After she’d left, he tried to make amends with his other children, to the point that it was left to Charles to point out gently that he was starting to get slightly overbearing. They knew that he loved them – Cecil, deep down, knew that he loved them – he didn’t need to prove it so often.

Even Joey had got fed up of him after a time, because she was hurting too, she was blaming herself just as much (why, he didn’t know, he was the one who’d forced Cecil away) and he was the only person left that she could take it out on. Their relationship had become an endless cycle of irritable comments, followed by a huge argument, which would always culminate in him leaving and coming back to find her in tears, so apologetic. Nobody could ever have convinced him before that it was Cecil who’d held the family together all these years, but as soon as she was gone so was their unity, their strength. Their belief in him.

And now here she was, back again. Not that Joey had believed him when he rang, she’d demanded to know what proof he had of that, that he hadn’t just taken in some street girl who’d seen a ticket to riches. Wounded, he’d wanted to reply that he couldn’t be mistaken, that he would have known her anywhere and in any guise, that when she looked at him there was a love in her eyes that she couldn’t have been acting. The way her fingers felt against his when they held hands was exactly the same as when she was small and he would take her for a walk on the Platz.

He just told his wife in a severe undertone – the staff were beginning to watch him suspiciously – that she would see when they got home, told her to ring Reg, and hung up abruptly.

All the same, he couldn’t help thinking that Joey was right. Oh, this girl, this body lying across his lap, it couldn’t be anyone but his daughter, he would have staked his life on it. But she was just a street girl who’d seen him as a way to escape her life. His daughter, his baby, his Cecil, she was innocent and carefree, she turned around to wave at him from the playing field where she was engrossed in a game of hockey and barely gave it a second thought. She didn’t run after him to train stations wearing nothing at all. She didn’t make him think of grunting, hideous men on top of her.

“I should look at your knees,” he said abruptly, sliding out from underneath her and beginning to fish out the small first aid kit he always carried through habit. “How did it happen?”

“I fell over running after you,” she said in a small voice, though she was calmer now. When he knelt in front of her, she rolled up her pyjama legs so that he could see the deep red lakes where her skin used to be. Dark bruises formed mountains around them, and when he tried to touch the area she winced.

“I think that they’ll need stitches,” he admitted after a brief examination. “I don’t have the things with me for that, so I’ll bandage them for now and when we get back – “

“If we – “

When," he continued firmly, “we get back, I’ll take you along to the San and we can clear you up. How’s that, not too tight?”

Cecil shook her head and Jack finished putting on the pure white bandages, trying to hide his shaking fingers from her as he did. It was clear that she didn’t trust him to get her out of this, and he couldn’t blame her, he hadn’t done a very good job of protecting her so far. But he didn’t say so, and shortly afterwards she snuggled up in bed contentedly. It was still only early evening, but she was worn out from the day, and Jack couldn’t blame her.

Once sure that she was settled and dozing off, he took out the book he’d packed for long, sleepless nights and settled down to read by the window. He didn’t want to turn the light on and wake her up, so he relied on the street-lamps below him, but that soon brought on a headache and he gave up, gazed unseeingly at the blanket of the night sky instead. While he was securing Cecil some new clothes he’d also bought sandwiches for dinner, but he wasn’t hungry, and he guessed that Cecil would want breakfast in the morning.

At some point in the night, a tiny voice called him to his daughter’s side. He had fallen asleep in his chair, book on his lap, but as soon as she uttered his name he was there, holding her hand.

“Come to bed,” she murmured sleepily. “I want to cuddle you.”

Rational thought made him take off most of his clothes before he climbed in next to her, but seconds after the request he was holding her as close as he could, breathing in the heady smell of his shampoo from her hair, and the faint aroma of Joey inherent in his pyjamas.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “For everything.”

“I forgave you a long time ago,” he promised, kissing the top of her head. “Don’t worry about that, don’t worry about anything. I forgive you.”

And he shut his eyes to feign sleep, deliberately ignoring his conscience shouting at him. You shouldn’t tell lies.

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So Jack obviously feels that he has a lot to blame himself for - am really interested as to what on earth went on.

Author:  Emma A [ Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is so sad, Ariel. I do feel in a wibbly state of mind though, that someone is going to burst in and completely misread (possibly intentionally) the situation.

Please let this turn out alright!

Author:  shazwales [ Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was lovely Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

She could tell it was a dream from the way that she was looking down, watching the young girl meander along the streets. Of course she could still feel the freedom singing in her heart, the sense of being grown-up at last, but those seemed to permeate the very air around her, so that passers-by who saw her smiled to themselves. Now, looking at the tiny figure, she seemed to still be in the first flushes of youth, flourishing under her naïve innocence. It was difficult to believe that it was only two years ago she had felt so very important at such a small thing.

Three of them – her, Joey and Phil – had gone down to Interlaken to go shopping for Christmas presents. They wanted to get as many as possible before the boys came back, for they would require a shopping trip of their own. Felicity had opted out of coming, for Anna was to be making the Christmas pudding today, and she could easily go with her friends now that the school holidays were here; Claire had stayed behind for the same reason.

The morning had been dedicated to joint shopping, choosing presents for people like Jack and Reg, but Cecil had been promised that after lunch she could go off by herself for an hour to do her own shopping. This was a treat not afforded to any of them until Joey was sure that they could be trusted by themselves, and it was the first year that she’d been allowed it, so she was suitably enthralled by everything.

One shop window in particular caught her eye, and the tiny figure stopped before it, gazing at the goods within. She especially wanted to get a wooden picture frame with a gambolling St. Bernard in one corner, which she knew Joey would adore. Bruno had passed away recently, and it seemed like such a fitting thing to buy to remember him. Almost like a good luck charm to the start of her shopping. And so, unheeding the danger around the corner, she slipped into the shop and completed the transaction in the pretty German which came as a second language to her.

Although she soon got lost among the crowds, she paid no heed to it for now; a new set of beautiful pens were purchased for Phil, and a scarf with matching gloves found for Felicity, who was hoping to go to university at the end of the year and who had been promised a whole new wardrobe when she went. Sundry other people were remembered as well, and it was only once her arms were full with bags that Cecil realised she had wandered off from where she was supposed to be and was now thoroughly lost.

Her first instinct was to panic, but she managed to calm herself down and look around for landmarks. An ornate clock set in the wall of a nearby shop told her that she had five minutes before Joey would be expecting her back at their agreed meeting place, and she could expect no mercy if she was late. Frantically, she dived back the way she had come, hoping to find a landmark that she recognised, even, or someone who looked as if they might be able to help her with directions.

It was the latter that she found eventually, and that not by looking. In fact, her inattention to anything brought her into the trouble, for she was gazing wildly at the shops around her, hoping for one that ring a bell, and so failed to see the man sauntering along the street until she bumped into him. She would have fallen if he hadn’t grabbed her, but that simple action even saved her bags, and although she blushed furiously she looked up at him, with a gasped,

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to bump into you. I haven’t hurt you, have I?”

“Not at all, it was an accident,” he promised, his eyes searching hers so deeply that she almost felt as if he were looking at her soul. Now blushing even more, she tried to stammer something, but his gaze was captivating, and her mind went completely blank. He was one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. “You look lost, can I help at all?”

Regaining composure of herself as best she could, Cecil named the place where she was due, confessing that she was hopelessly lost and her mother would be worried about her by now. At best she had hoped for directions, even to somewhere close to her intended destination, but instead he swung around and began to lead her through the crowds, promising that he wouldn’t leave her until he was sure she was safe with her mother. His grip was firm, and tiny shivers went through her where he touched her, so that she barely paid heed to what he was saying.

Fifteen minutes later than she should have been, the crowds parted enough for a now terrified Joey to see her daughter coming along the street, concentrating so hard on listening to the man next to her that she didn’t even see her mother and sister waiting impatiently for her. It was only when her companion pointed them out that she looked at them, laughed and then tossed her hair over her shoulder. She took her bags from him – he had been carrying most of them – brushing her fingertips against his as she did.

“Frau Maynard,” said the stranger, sweeping his hat off to her. “Fraulein has been telling me about you; and, of course, the great Herr Docktor Maynard, of whom all doctors have heard so much.”

As he spoke, Cecil started – until then, she hadn’t noticed the faint thread of German running through his accent. It made her heart beat faster, added somehow to his overall charm. She beamed at him, as her mother frostily thanked him for seeing her safely to them.

“It was not a problem,” he replied quickly. “I came for a medical conference after the New Year, but I wanted a holiday first. I have little to do during the day.” He paused, then added in a slightly odd tone, “If I may be permitted, could I give you the address of my hotel? I should like a letter from Fraulein Cecil, when she has time, just to let me know that she has arrived home safely.”

To Cecil’s delight, Joey couldn’t do anything but nod, for after all he had looked after her daughter, but she looked far from happy at the development. Scribbling quickly, he handed over a small piece of card he had found in a coat pocket, his hand clasping around Cecil’s for just a moment. Only once he had plunged back into the crowds and she was following the other two members of the party back to the car, half-listening to the lecture she was being given about not trusting strangers, did she dare to glance down at the name embossed on the card.

Matthew Ellisman

Author:  Lottie [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

"Curiouser and curiouser!" Who on earth is Matthew Ellismann? And is the dream just remembering this meeting with him? Is he the man who's responsible for Cecil's terrible situation in Paris? Is the story about Jack rescuing her just a dream, too? Ariel, this still seems to be a very long way from giving us the answers, and, dare I hope, a happy ending for Cecil!

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 2:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You mean he's a doctor :shock: ?

Author:  Emma A [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Curiouser and curiouser... How old was Cecil during the dream, by the way? How old is she now?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Emma, I've got her at roughly seventeen now - so about fourteen/fifteen in the dream. Hope that helps!

- X -

Morning was only just beginning to seep through the sky and tinge the clouds pink as Jack rolled over, waking up of his own accord. He glanced at the clock, suppressed a groan so as not to wake the still form lying next to him, and gingerly sat up. His second thought, after coffee, was for Cecil; she was slumbering peacefully on, flushed cheek resting on one hand, hair tumbling across the white sheets innocently. He smiled to himself and stumbled out of bed.

In the absence of coffee, and not wanting to ring down for room service lest there should be a misunderstanding, he contented himself with a hot shower and a shave, and had just finished dressing as five am heralded a new day. Congratulating himself on such good fortune as to be awake this early, he then set about trying to wake Cecil up. This had been no easy feat previously, and time certainly hadn’t improved her in this department, he was pleased to note.

The first time he shook her, she muttered something about getting up in a minute and rolled over with a gentle snore. It was almost exactly the same noise that Joey denied making when she was asleep. He tried again, shaking her harder this time; she sat up with a start, automatically flinching backwards. Then realisation dawned about who it was, and she relaxed a little, for her shoulders had been tense, her face set.

“We need to go,” he murmured, stroking her hair off of her face softly. “Sorry to wake you up.”

“It’s a little early,” whispered Cecil, glancing at the sky behind him. “If he finds us –“

“If,” interrupted Jack, determined to stop her dwelling on it. “If he is stupid enough to try and come anywhere near us, all it means is that at this time of day there’ll be less witnesses to his ultimately violent death.”

He tried to smile, but his eyes gave him away, and Cecil didn’t laugh as he had hoped she would. To cover the awkward moment, he hastily dug out the clothes that he’d invested in the day before and lay them out on the floor. As soon as Cecil saw what he was doing, she scrambled out of bed and came to examine them, as excited as Claire still got over Christmas. First out of the bag was a top, a dark green with long sleeves. Following this was a brown skirt which was designed to float around the wearer, knee length, paired with a pair of sensible black shoes devoid of any heel at all.

“Dad, it’s beautiful,” she whispered, enraptured. Jack was pleased to note a return to the name she’d used for him before she left – she’d outgrown ‘papa’ like all of the children did, and her use of it during the day before had been bugging him. “That skirt is just – wow! I’m not sure about the top, I think that you’re confusing me with Felicity, but that skirt is amazing.”

She fondled the edge of the fabric gently, not noticing the small smile of satisfaction on Jack’s face. He was so pleased that he had managed to get it right, that he didn’t ask any questions when Cecil demanded the reading glasses which had been inflicted on him a few years ago, merely handed them over and turned to packing up his things while she got changed.

When she emerged from the bathroom, she had changed again, this time she was a young teenager, almost unrecognisable. She had used the packet of hair pins he’d added as an afterthought to pin her hair up into a roll along her neck, and had perched his glasses on the edge of her nose so that she could look over them with some ease.

“Will I do?” she asked, looking at him through wide, innocent eyes.

“Perfect,” he smiled. “Now you’d better come and get breakfast quickly, so that we can get to the station and get out of here as soon as possible. I hope that you still like egg sandwiches?”

As a matter of fact, Cecil decidedly did not, but she swallowed her preferences and ate it without complaint, not wanting to upset Jack at this late stage. Secretly, she was terrified that he might still turn on her, might still change his mind and leave her behind to face whatever her punishment must be. She was careful that he didn’t guess this, though. So, within half an hour of her first awaking, they were checking out of the hotel and slipping into the still foggy, damp atmosphere of Paris.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I hadn't realised she was still so young :shock: .

Author:  Chris [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is fascinating! Looking forward to next bit.

Author:  Emma A [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 3:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I suppose it would be natural to have some doubts - Jack, too - but I do hope he can rescue her properly and Cecil's pimp doesn't find them (or if he does, that there's a fantastic show down and the b*stard gets his just deserts).

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Abi [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'd thought she was older; imagine the terrible guilt, feeling that you'd driven your daughter to that life :cry: . I hope Jack gets her away ok, though I think I sense a cliff in the offing (of course that may be merely my paranoia!).

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  shazwales [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel thanks for the update,still worrying that Abi may be right in you leaving us on a cliff???

Author:  Carys [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Have just read all of this Ariel, and it is so sinister and creepy (though in a good way). I really hope Jack and Cecil manage to escape her pimp and that he gets arrested by the police.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks. This is fantastic. Have just read it all through, and can't wait to read more

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Alison, I'm very sorry to have shocked you twice in two updates! Also, Abi and shazwales, you can decide whether this is a cliff or not :twisted:

- X -

It had been Cecil’s suggestion to stop at a café in the railway station, if they had time, to get a cup of coffee before they caught the train. Neither of them were properly awake yet, though the fresh air was working miracles in that department, and Cecil had a healthy enough fear to keep her mind focused on the streets that they were traversing.

The nearest station was the Gare du Nord, but having announced so loudly that they would be leaving from there yesterday, Jack didn’t think it safe to actually go from there, and they spent nearly an hour getting to another station. By this time Paris was just starting to come to life, and they were able to get two cups of milky coffee before they went to hunt down their train. This passed largely without incident, but for the strange man at the table near them, who kept glancing at them over his paper.

Jack only noticed this when his attention was caught by Cecil’s knee shaking nervously against his, as she tried and failed to pretend that she was sipping her coffee calmly. Leaning over, to make sure that nobody would hear him, he asked what the matter was, which got the reply that although she didn’t recognise him, she thought that that man might be spying on them.

“Probably just jealous of me for having such a beautiful daughter,” smiled Jack. But all the same, he sat back and asked loudly, in German, “So, what did you think of England? I know that we didn’t get to see much for a first trip, but I thought that Buckingham Palace was lovely.”

Cecil, who had never properly been to England before, murmured her assent and finished her cup quickly, not sure what to say. Years ago, it had been her dream to explore the capital – mainly after Felix spent a half term week there, staying with a friend from school, and wrote an overenthusiastic letter home about it. It had been something else that she’d given up on recently, another dream which would never be realised.

After what seemed an eternity, to Cecil at least, who was getting considerably more nervous by the minute, Jack announced that their train would be arriving at any moment and they’d better go to the platform. They had been talking in German the whole time, and they seemed to have lost the interest of the man with the newspaper. But just as they left, he looked up, then began to follow them, not doing a very good impression of being nonchalant about it.

It didn’t take long for Jack to guess what had given them away. If they really had just been to London, Cecil would surely have had her own suitcase, and he mentally cursed his own thoughtlessness. He couldn’t do anything about it now, though, and so he lead her into the midst of a large crowd and, momentarily hidden, grappled in his pockets until he could withdraw his wallet and press what notes he had left into her palm.

“Whatever happens,” he informed her in the rapid German he hoped not many people around them would be able to translate, “get on the train. If you have to leave me behind, promise me you’ll do it. Mama was going to get Reg to wait at Berne for as long as necessary, but if you can’t find him when you get there use this to call mama and she’ll come and pick you up. Until she gets there, find a police station.”

Just then the train did pull in and, hoping that they wouldn’t have to resort to his desperate plan, Jack tugged Cecil on to it and hastily found an empty compartment. He was breathless, and he could see that she was close to tears, shaking so much that it was a relief just to flop into her seat. He pulled the blinds down on the window and door – obvious, but it kept everybody else out for now. Carefully stowing his suitcase in the rack, he sat down opposite her and took her hands in his, aiming for a cheerful grin.

“Don’t worry,” he promised as jovially as he could manage. “You won’t get into any trouble now. I’ll look after you. Chin up, or people might start suspecting something.”

Together they sat like this in a state of nervous anticipation, but if the man ever had suspected them, they had clearly evaded him, for no-one came to disturb the quiet sanctity of the compartment, and soon enough the train began to shift and groan underneath them. A shrill whistle echoed across the platform, and then they began to move, slowly but surely.

They were leaving Paris at last!

Author:  clair [ Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is gripping - please come back soon and let us know that they get to Berne all right Ariel.

You can't leave us dangling like this for long, it's not good for us!

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is getting very weird!

Author:  shazwales [ Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel,this is brilliant!still hoping for a happy ending tho!??


Author:  Carys [ Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm a bit worried about how they are going to get into Switzerland as I am guessing Cecil does not have a passport with her :?

Author:  clair [ Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Um, Ariel? You seem to have forgotten to update this today!

(looking beseechingly at the computer)

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

clair wrote:
Um, Ariel? You seem to have forgotten to update this today!

(looking beseechingly at the computer)

Sorry! It seems that thanks to the scintillating read which was the influence of EU law on parliamentary sovreignty within the UK, I've hit a temporary writer's block. I really do promise to update when I have a) time and b) inspiration, though! Don't worry, there's plenty to come yet.

I do apologise for not updating more frequently :oops:

Author:  clair [ Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Crikey - not surprised you have writer's block, the title did me in!

I'm just being impatient - update when you have time Ariel, the work for uni has to take priority even over drabbles as brilliant as this one!

Author:  Abi [ Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well, technically it isn't a cliff, it just feels like one! Hope you get over your block, Ariel. Thanks!

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad they've left Paris, but am curious as to how Cecil will go being reunited with her family and fitting in again

Author:  hac61 [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad there's plenty more to come, but I hope none of it is bad.


Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Uni work? What uni work? :hiding: It seems that the threat of more reading got rid of the block, at least temporarily, so I have a little bit more! I hope that it answers your question, Carys. Thankyou for all of your comments, I'm so pleased to know that people are reading this.

- X -

After what seemed like a lifetime to the two people in the carriage, the train began to pull into their station. Halfway to Berne, once they had both calmed down a little from the seemingly chance encounter at the café, Jack had pulled the blind over the window up, though he kept the door one down so that they couldn’t be scrutinised by curious passengers.The two had sat alone, in silence for the most part. The only interruption came as they crossed the border, and someone came around to check passports. Cecil had panicked, knowing that she didn’t have hers, but she’d left it at home, and thankfully Jack had had the foresight to stow it in his luggage, just in case.

Their journey into Switzerland had, so far, been smooth, and Jack silently prayed that they would be kept safe until they could find Reg. With two men, he was in no doubt that Cecil would be safe, until they could get her back to the Platz. You only needed to look at his son-in-law to decide that you didn’t want to argue with him, and Jack himself, though ageing, could still defend himself.

He had no doubt that if they met either the man himself, or someone hired by him, it would end in a fight. During that long journey, it had seemed impossible to talk about anything but Cecil’s former life, and although conversation had been sparse, he had learnt a little of it. When she had first come, she had been the best of them all, the one to be shown off. Daughter to someone almost famous, connected to people with titles, and beautiful homes in the English countryside, well educated, she was a young lady. It took special cunning to get one of them on to the streets, but it paid when you could, and he could hardly let her go now.

Her father was secretly thankful when the train pulled into the station, for he didn’t know that he could bear to hear any more details of what she’d been through, when he’d been imagining such lurid things to begin with. On the platform was the reassuringly solid, familiar figure, real enough to comfort Jack that he wasn’t just dreaming. He really would be bringing Cecil home soon.

“Stay with me,” he warned her in an undertone all the same, slipping an arm through hers as they descended. There was no point running the risk of losing her now.

They had been spotted, and Reg approached almost warily, though he slipped into a smile when he saw that Cecil really was there. “Hello, stranger!” he beamed, and at once Cecil’s nerves about seeing him again after all this time slipped away. She had been so young when Reg joined the family, as had many of her siblings, that they treated him more as a brother than Len’s husband, a mutual relationship.

“We should go,” said Jack quickly, glancing around again to make sure that there was nobody watching them. “She needs to get to the San, she’s hurt her knees.”

“It’s nice to see you,” Reg murmured as they walked towards the car, and even managed to get out of the returning warrior a small grin. She was just as worried as her father, but she could see no reason to add to his burden by panicking about it; the best thing she could do, she was sure, was just relax and trust him. He wasn’t going to let her down again.

The car had been parked discreetly in one corner, and they had soon eased out of the station and were on to the main roads, where Jack seemed to relax a little at last. As they drove along, he even talked to Reg about a case that was going through the San at the present. In the backseat, Cecil slipped into a dream as she watched the familiar mountains fly past.

”So why has he got such an English name when he was clearly a native German speaker?” demanded Joey, scrutinising her daughter closely.

“Maybe he had English parents who just brought him up in a German speaking area and so it was his first language,” she protested, half concentrating as she scribbled away at the letter. “You did something similar with us. Anyway, he’s coming up for dad’s meeting. He’s a doctor! I’m sure that we can trust him.”

They were turning off for the Platz now, and Cecil realised that the repetitive movement of the car must have lulled her into a doze. The two men were silent in the front, all that she could hear was the wind whipping around them; the pink clouds in the sky promised more snow soon, which explained why Reg was driving so fast. The wind seemed to whisper to her, old words she’d once imprinted on her memory.

You looked so beautiful the other day. I can’t believe how pretty you are. Please say that you’ll meet me underneath the silver tree tonight, I couldn’t bear to spend another twenty-four hours without seeing you. Last time you looked so mystical, so ethereal, I almost thought that I’d stumbled across an angel. … I love you.

“We’re here,” said Jack, with an air of forced cheerfulness, as if he couldn’t guess what she was thinking of, didn’t know what memories the Platz would bring back to her. But they didn’t make her smile as they once had, and she was glad for the sight of the San, so familiar and comforting after all this time. This time he wouldn’t be here. This time she was safe.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Unfortunately, everyone at the CS was so sheltered that it's easy to believe they'd fall prey to a smooth-tongued charmer, especially if he was a doctor :( .

Author:  gwynne [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

this is really brilliantly written Chubbymonkey, and I'm still anxious.....

Author:  Carys [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm not going to stop wibbling until that nasty man is either dead or in jail...
Thanks Ariel!

Author:  cestina [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Great stuff Ariel, shove the law books to one side and continue, pretty please?

Interesting Jack is focussing on her hurt knees, I guess the rest of the pain is too much for him to bear. He's lovely in this but actually I rarely find him less than lovely anyway......

Author:  shazwales [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,glad they made it safely to the san!now worried about the 'so called 'doctor.

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil - what easy prey she would have been for a man like that. :cry: So glad they're safely out of Paris, but now wondering what kind of reception she'll have at home.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad they got back ok and hope everything will go all right at home.

Thanks Ariel!

Author:  clair [ Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel, still wibbling slightly that he's going to be waiting at the san or something - please let us have a happy ending :)

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou once again for your comments!

- X -

The stop at the San was only brief; although Reg agreed that one of her knees needed stitches, which he put in deftly, trying to ignore her uncomfortable wriggling at the pain, he decided after another consultation with Jack that the other could just be bandaged. During this time, more than one doctor knocked on Reg’s door then withdrew again hastily when they saw who was in there, no doubt going to speculate amongst themselves about this latest turn in events. It made Cecil feel uncomfortable, watched almost, and she was pleased when Jack offered to walk her back to Freudesheim, instead of making Reg chauffeur them again.

“But it’s snowing outside!” he protested as soon as the issue was raised. “I need to get back to Len anyway, you know that Mary’s been teething something rotten and I promised that she could have a sleep this afternoon while I looked after the children.”

“You have a daughter?” gasped Cecil. When she had gone, there had only been George, a mischievous young boy who stood in awe of his father and absolutely nobody else, so that he was frequently uncontrollable when Reg wasn’t there. The proud father smiled gently.

“Yes, she’s going to be a year old soon. You’ll have to come and see her, then you can write to Con and Margot and make them wildly jealous; they haven’t seen her yet. Anyway, shall I drop you off? I’m not letting you walk back in this, you’ll get lost, and it’ll be me who has to explain.”

“Well, could you drop us a little way from - please? I just need a little bit of time before –“

Instinctively, Jack slipped an arm around her shoulders as she trailed off, but Reg understood and he promised that he wouldn’t drive them right up to the door. He still remembered his fear when Len’s parents had found out about his attachment to her, and he’d known them for many years by then. Whether she intended it or not, Joey could be very intimidating on occasion.

Accordingly, the car drew up at the side of the road, carefully for the snow was falling in large, fat flakes now and Reg had to be wary of breaking too hard and going into a skid. The last thing he saw, after Cecil had come to kiss him and thank him for collecting them, was the two linking arms to begin their solitary battle back to the warmth of the haven he was sure Freudesheim would turn out to be, no matter what Cecil’s fears were now.

For the two walkers, the world had changed from what they had known before. Once more Jack found himself deprived of his coat to keep Cecil warm, for he had overlooked a jumper the previous day and she was shivery in the chill wind which bit into them as they walked and brought colour to their cheeks. All that could be heard was the crunch of their footsteps in the snow and the occasional howl of a wolf higher up the plains. It had been a hard winter so far, and they were getting more daring in their desperation for food.

The whole world consisted of the white peaks occasionally glimpsed through the grey fog of the snow, rising up into the cotton wool clouds which hung over them, helping to blanket the senses. They had only been going for five minutes, but already limbs were weary from battling the elements, and Jack appeared to have gone grey thanks to the snow settling in his hair. Hands were red and numb, and both had ceased to feel their feet almost as soon as they stepped out of the car. Their breath spiralled in front of them, a tiny sign of life on the otherwise deserted Platz. Not even another vehicle passed them, and if they were close to any chalets they couldn’t see the lights twinkling in the windows.

To Cecil it was blissful. After all the time spent among the constant noise of the city, of having people always there, to be at one again with nature made her feel whole, pure again. All of the pain, the hurt she had caused, the things she had seen and been through, it all just slipped away and into the rapidly growing mounds of snow coating the ground. Underneath that was grass and spring and hope, but first was the numbness, the long winter to be weathered. But to be alone, but for the loving, guiding hand wrapped in hers, to have nothing to worry about except finding home again, was so foreign that it brought tears to her eyes.

In the end, it was only Jack’s knowledge of every inch of the Platz that got them safely to Freudesheim. He recognised the fence around the front garden first of all, and they soon found the opening for the driveway. Cecil paused and hesitated, trying to imagine her mother inside, pottering around, making tea to fight against the cold outside, and then she tried to picture herself as part of that. But it didn’t work anymore, she couldn’t find her place in the family again. She glanced wildly back, wondering if even now it wouldn’t be better for her to just run, but Jack was behind her, and he squeezed her fingers before she could speak.

“This is your home,” he promised gruffly. “You’ll be safe here. Stop worrying, you don’t need to now. We love you, very much, and we forgive you – both of us. Mama can’t wait to see you again." A small pause. "Ready?”

Dumbly, after a few seconds, Cecil nodded almost imperceptibly.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Reg is nice here.

Hope Joey is able to handle this: Jack and Reg as doctors must be used to seeing many things in life but it's something totally outside the breadth of Joey's experience.

Author:  Abi [ Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hopefully Joey's love for her daughter will overcome any other feelings she might have. But I'm not certain enough to be perfectly confident that this will turn out all right :) .

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry, it's just a short update today. The characters aren't doing what they're told.

- X -

It was almost impossible to think that Jack would actually be bringing their daughter home, Joey found. When she had eventually admitted defeat and got up at a ridiculously early hour this morning, she had found Anna in as great a state of excitement as Anna was ever to be found in, bustling around the kitchen trying to make her lemon biscuits. They had always been one of Cecil’s favourites. What nobody else seemed to understand was that she wasn’t excited about her daughter coming home, didn’t want to see her again.

Over the phone, Jack hadn’t said much, though when she’d asked he’d been honest enough to admit that Cecil had been through a difficult time until now. Joey could only conjecture what that might mean, and her brain had come up with all sorts of possibilities, each worse than the last. But what she couldn’t deny, what she stopped trying to deny at around three am, was that it would have been better, easier, less painful, if her daughter really had died. It would have been an end to her suffering, an escape. Of course she wanted Cecil back, of course she loved her, but it would have been best for Cecil not to have suffered anymore.

She wondered, as she sat tensely in the salon, whether Cecil would have changed at all. Undeniably she must have grown up somewhat – Joey remembered too clearly the feeling of sending young boys to school, and having them return in the summer grown men, to think that Cecil wouldn’t have changed a little bit. But would she still be the same girl that they’d raised, the determined, assertive individual who was quite prepared to get what she wanted at any cost? She’d inherited her father’s temper, sadly, and it often got her into trouble.

All morning she had sat in this frozen state, although common sense had told her that they couldn’t be back until at least lunchtime; Jack hadn’t said what time train they would be catching. Dully, she had watched Anna cleaning frantically, trying to get everything in order. The only time she’d moved was before elevenses, when she had helped her faithful factotum to make a bed up for Cecil. She hadn’t dared to put anything else into the room, just the pale pink duvet sprinkled with tiny flowers along the top, along with the wicker furniture and solid oak drawers which stood along one wall.

She heard the door open, and drew her breath in, a sharp pain stabbing at her chest. It had to be them, nobody else would have ventured out to see her in such atrocious weather. Nervous, she stood up, sat down again, took a deep breath, and went to confront her family. There was only her and Anna in the house, since Claire and Phil had started boarding at the school for the winter, and she knew that the latter would have the sense to stay in her kitchen for a little while. Everything was on her shoulders.

“Hello,” said Jack softly, when she appeared in the doorway. He was completely soaked, snow melting as he stood there, his hair plastered to his head and his clothes sticking to him. The young woman with him wasn’t much better, though she was wearing his coat, which she shrugged off to reveal relatively dry clothes.

“Oh, Jack,” burst out Joey, exasperated, half choked by the ball of emotion lodged painfully in the bottom of her throat. All that she could think to do was get annoyed at him, because Cecil wasn’t really there, he’d just gone out in the snow to some patient when she’d told him before that he was too old for that, he shouldn’t be risking his own health anymore. “You’ve got really wet, look. Go up and change, I’ll get Anna to make you a cup of coffee. You’ll catch your death of cold like that, I’ve told you before. What were you doing, rolling through the snow?”

She stopped to take breath, but found herself unable to go on. The two other people stopped and stared at her mutely, not quite knowing what to say or do, this had been the last thing they’d expected of her. For a few more moments, they all stayed completely still, just watching each other, waiting for someone to move. Then Jack nodded softly.

“I’ll go and change,” he murmured, glaring at Joey over Cecil’s head. “You go and sit by the fire and get warm again, you look cold.”

He squeezed Cecil’s shoulder gently before he left, a move which made Joey feel surprisingly jealous. She wanted to reach out and bat his hand away, reassert that he was hers, that he loved her. Her daughter, who she’d hoped would return for so long, was a cuckoo in the nest, usurping the others. Impatiently, hurt by her own inability to even greet Cecil, she turned away, moving her head to stare into the fire, biting her lips so that she wouldn’t cry. There was no point upsetting anyone further, but there was something inside her, something which stopped her from even looking at Cecil.

Scared by this reception, Cecil stood alone in the hallway, still holding Jack’s coat uselessly, until one tear rolled silently down her cheek. She wasn’t wanted here anymore.

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear :( . It's going to be hard for Cecil to try to fit back into her old life, and that wasn't a good start. Maybe Anna will handle things better.

Author:  Carys [ Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Can I knock some sense into Joey please?

Thanks Ariel, you are really making me feel for Cecil.

Author:  Abi [ Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear, poor Cecil. And poor Joey too, in a way, but I hope she pulls herself together for Cecil. Hopefully Jack will be able to help when he comes back.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  shazwales [ Sat Oct 24, 2009 6:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks for the update Ariel.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

THanks for the update. Can understand why Joey was so scared but for goodness sake, she's your daughter Joey. Get a grip, Cecil needs you

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your comments :) I hope you don't find this too unrealistic, I've done my best with Joey, but she was being awkward!

- X -

After a few seconds, she was galvanized into action enough to hang the coat over the stair railing, her fingers running along the black folds in the material almost reverently. She had no idea what she needed to do now, whether it would be best just to creep upstairs and disappear for a while; but was her room still her room? Would she find all of her things there still? Would Joey misunderstand and think that she was trying to run away again? Irresolutely, she glanced into the salon, but there was no help to be gained from the erect back facing her.

As soon as she had sat down, Joey had turned to the fire, staring into it so deeply that the flames leapt across her vision and gave her a good excuse for the tears which stung her cheeks. It was all so confused, everything was wrong, nothing was supposed to turn out this way. She very slowly buried her head in her hands and sighed heavily, a broken old woman. When Cecil had gone, she had still been a vibrant, lively lady, always prepared to play with the children and get involved with the latest scrapes; as she watched her mother now, Cecil saw more clearly than ever before just what she’d done.

Tentatively, her hands shaking, she walked into the salon and knelt down in front the still figure. Still she couldn’t work up the courage to touch her mother, and in the end she folded her hands in her lap, shifting awkwardly. Words wouldn’t come, and she wished heartily that Jack had stayed with them, he seemed to have taken control of the situation, he had looked after her until now. Little did she know that, wise in his generation, Jack had purposefully left the two alone to become reacquainted.

“Mum?” whispered Cecil softly after a while, but still Joey didn’t look up, just kept her face buried so that Cecil couldn’t even see her. “Mum, I’m sorry, I really am. Please don’t hate me, I couldn’t bear that.”

“Oh, you couldn’t bear it?” snapped Joey suddenly, looking up with a wild expression in her eyes that terrified her daughter. “You don’t even know what unbearable is. It’s thinking that your daughter might be dead, being sure that she is, and still not being able to say goodbye because you can’t even get a grave for her. That’s unbearable.”

She had started off angrily enough, but as she spoke her voice died away, until it was just a choked sob, which hurt more than her shouting had. There were so many things that Cecil wanted to say, she wanted to scream that she knew what unbearable was, and that it was her mother who had no idea. For just a second, anger shimmered at the edge of her vision, turning the room blurry; anger at her family, at him, at herself.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated again once she had herself under control, still kneeling pitifully.

“What did you do?” asked Joey quietly, her hands idly smoothing her skirt, again and again, just to try and keep her fingers occupied. When she saw Cecil’s confusion, she repeated, “What did you do, for all of this time? Your father wouldn’t tell me. What have you done that is so awful that I can’t know about it?”

“I –“ she stopped, stumbled. How could she talk about all the things she’d been forced to do to the figure in front of her, so naïve and innocent. Her mother thought that the worst that could happen in the world was death, and even then she saw it as a mercy, as something good. She would never understand that there were things worse than death, things that made you scream and beg for the end, just to stop the pain. “I worked for him,” she stammered eventually, not knowing what else to say.

“What did you do? What kind of work was it? You can’t just have been a secretary or something, your father would have told me that.”

“Mum, I –“

“What did you do? How did you survive?” demanded Joey, leaning down and grasping Cecil’s arms in a tight grip, pain distorting her features, which jumped unpredictably in the light cast by the flames over them.

“I –“ Cecil choked down a cry, then went limp in Joey’s hold. It was no use lying, no use trying to pretend that she hadn’t done what she did. “I let men have sex with me for money.”

Reaction to her news was delayed by something, an incomprehension, a disbelief that her daughter could possibly have done such a thing. Because Joey was so protected, even now, so sheltered from what life really was. When she saw a young girl on the street, in rags, she assumed that all they had to do was hold out their hands and that strangers, like herself, would show them charity, would give them what they needed. She’d never been introduced to a darker side of life, to a place where you had to give something in return.

Suddenly, she let go, pushed Cecil so hard that she fell over backwards, startled by the sudden movement. Her arms ached from where Joey had been holding her a second previously, but as she looked up she could sense what was going to happen, could tell what Joey was going to say. She started to edge backwards, to try and avoid the words before they could cut into her skin.

So many times she had looked at people, who could tell what she was, who could imagine what she had done, and she had seen the disgust etched into their expressions, had known what they thought of her. Now her mother was going to do the same, was going to hate her just as much, and she had so much wanted this to be a new start but it couldn’t possibly be when she would always be something so vile.

She scrambled backwards, to try and get away, to escape while she still could. If she left now, left here, left the Platz, just got away, she would at least have escaped him. She would be safer than she was, and she could look after herself now, she knew how. Of course she shouldn’t have come back here, she was selfish to even think of bringing this pain to her family just as they must have started to recover from her going. But before she could go anywhere, her father appeared in the doorway, and she ran straight into him with a tiny, dry sob.

Author:  shesings [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, Ariel, this is so powerful and so sad - and so realistic! How would a devout and naive mother react to knowing what her daughter has done, or had to do, in these circumstances? Horror, disgust, shame - and, possibly, eventual pity and understanding?

Come on, Jack, be wise and loving and bring mother and daughter back together!

Author:  shazwales [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel,feel so sorry for both Cecil and Joey,hope Jack can sort them out!

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I think it's completely realistic that Joey would react like this. It's the sort of thing that, to someone who's led a life like hers, only happens to "other people", and it's difficult for any of us to cope when something that only happens to "other people" affects our own family or friends.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou! This was a really difficult part of the drabble to write, so your reassurances are lovely.

- X -

Even as he tried to steady himself by grabbing at a table behind, Cecil stopped, then did her best to dart past him. But if she thought she could get away with that, she had forgotten how on the spot her father was, and he hooked her back with ease. Placing her squarely in front of him, where she couldn’t get away, he called for Anna.

“Right,” he said stringently, once he had something approaching order. Anna had appeared anxiously in the doorway, and he sent her to get coffee, asking Cecil to go with her and help carry the tray. Any thoughts that she might have had of escaping, or of disobeying this order in any way, disappeared as she met her father’s eye. There were certain times when you certainly didn’t argue with him, and this was one of them. Meekly she followed in Anna’s footsteps.

In the kitchen, rather than set about preparing the tray as she had been asked, Anna turned and looked Cecil over in a disquieting way that made her shuffle uncomfortably. The last time Anna had made her feel like this, she’d been caught trying to steal sugar cubes from the kitchen, and had known all about it by the time the domestic tyrant had finished.

“It’s good to have you home,” concluded that lady at last, pulling Cecil into a hug. She could never forget raising Cecil, any more than Joey could, and she had a soft spot in her heart for all of the Maynard children. “You’ll forgive your mother, she’s been getting more and more hysterical all morning, I was just waiting for this to happen. You know what she’s like when she gets excited.”

The hug finished with a tiny squeeze from Anna, who turned quickly to make the coffee, so that she could wipe her eye unnoticed. When Cecil had gone missing, she had been part of a group who had walked all day looking for her. She had scoured the mountain until she had blisters and her fingers were bleeding from scrambling up rocks, and then she had only returned because Jack had ordered it, so that there was someone to look after Joey, who had gone completely to pieces. But the only person who’d understood, and been able to comfort her, was Madge. She and Dr Jem had flown out especially, and Madge, with memories of Sybil’s disappearance and all of Joey’s help then, had been able to do what no-one else could with her younger sister.

“Will you take the tray up, mein liebling?” asked Anna unexpectedly, holding it out to Cecil. “I’ve got to go and lay the table.”

“Thankyou,” murmured her charge, but there was more to it than a simple gratitude for the drinks, and they both knew it. However, Anna was an undemonstrative creature as a rule, and she only nodded and herded Cecil out again, muttering something about never getting a moment of peace in her kitchen, even now.

Faltering a little, Cecil made her way back along the corridor to the salon, wondering what sort of reception would greet her there. She couldn’t blame her mother for wanting to know, or her reaction to the news, she imagined that she would have done the same in such a situation – though of course she would never find out. Tentatively, she opened the door with one hand, balancing the tray with the other as she did.

To her surprise, the weight was lifted by Joey, who had jumped up to help. Clumsily, she laid the tray on the table and handed Jack a cup of the sweet coffee which Anna was so good at making. He smiled his thanks and motioned for Cecil to come and sit next to him, wrapping an arm around her waist protectively. After a few seconds, Joey looked up, blushing violently.

“Cecil, I’m sorry for what I did. I’m so sorry. I just wanted to know, and I never meant to hurt you, never, but hearing that I – I wasn’t angry at you, please believe me. I love you, so dearly, and I just couldn’t believe that you were coming home at last. Can you ever forgive me?”

Cecil stood up and gingerly held out a hand.

“Start again?” she whispered awkwardly.

“Deal,” smiled her mother, though her eyes were still watery. The two smiled at each other and then lapsed into awkward silence, not quite knowing what to say. Thankfully, Jack had one more thing to add, to try and ensure relative harmony in his home.

“None of us are going to find this easy,” he started, reclining back into the sofa with a sigh, for Joey was right and he wasn’t getting any younger. His old bones had suffered in the trudge back through the snow, as loathe as he was to admit it. “But what’s happened has happened, and we can’t change that. All that we can do is help each other through this.”

“I promise not to be such a complete pig again,” added Joey frankly, sipping at her drink with a shaking hand. The emotions of the last year and a half had been weighing on her ever since Jack went away, and all night she had lain awake worrying what he could have meant when he said that Cecil had had a hard time. Suddenly the dam had broken, but she was incredibly ashamed of herself now.

With some tact, Jack drew the conversation on to a different topic after that, namely that of Mary. He hadn’t seen Len for a couple of weeks, but she had come over the day before to keep Joey company, and, so the proud grandmother said, both children were in fine health. Of course, Mary had to be described in full detail to Cecil, who was enraptured just from that, and soon after Anna came to call them to Mittagessen.

Author:  shazwales [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel,thank you that was beautifully written.

Author:  Abi [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm so glad I got both bits in one! Also glad Joey now knows the truth, and at least she's able to accept it and mature enough to be able to apologise properly for her reaction.

Thanks, Ariel, this is amazing.

Author:  cestina [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Excellent Ariel, thank you :)

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. Very glad Joey was able to apologise. In some ways she was right it would be easier if Cecil had died, for living with what she has lived through is going to take a very long time to learn to live with but Cecil needs the constant, consistent love in order to be able to live with all that's happened

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh good.

Author:  Carys [ Sun Oct 25, 2009 10:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Awww that was a lovely post!

Author:  clair [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So pleased Joey came round and they've at least been able to start some form of relationship but it won't be easy for any of them. Hope that we get to see the other family/friend reactions as well. Love Anna!

Thanks Ariel

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone! :D The update today is a little longer, so hopefully the story will start to move on soon.

- X -

After the meal, Cecil excused herself to go upstairs for a little while. She was still awkward around her parents, who seemed more like strangers to her after her long absence, and she could sense that they wanted some time alone, as pleased as they were to have her back. Of course they needed time to talk, and to start to come to terms with her return after all of this time. In any case, after all of the worry of being caught, and the fear of what he could still do to her, she just wanted to lie her head down on a cool pillow and think for a while.

Almost proudly, Joey showed her to the room which had been made up for her, different to her old room but the one that she had always coveted. Originally it had been Felicity’s room, and when she left for university Cecil had been told that she couldn’t have it, Felicity would want it when she came back for the holidays, but it seemed that this had been set to one side in favour of helping her. Even Felicity’s small effects which were invariably forgotten when she went back to England – a hairbrush with a ribbon around the handle, and a small bear that she couldn’t bring herself to throw away but which she didn’t want to take with her – had been removed.

“All yours,” smiled her mother quietly. There was an awkward pause, in which she half withdrew, but then she seemed to gather her courage in her hands, for she came and sat on the edge of the bed. Never before had her voice seemed so soft or comforting to Cecil. “I know that you don’t have anything with you at the moment to really make this your room, but I did think of that. Obviously there isn’t much that we can do with the weather like this, but we still have all of your old things if you want any of them.”

Forcefully, Cecil shook her head. This was a fresh start, a new beginning, she didn’t want any reminder of the child that had lived here before. To her surprise, Joey smiled.

“I thought not – I think that this needs to be a clean slate for us all. Sadly we have to do something about clothes; my guess is that you’ll have outgrown your old things, so for the moment I’m afraid that you’ll have to make the best of a bad job with Felicity’s things in the attic. We’d kept most of her clothes for Phil and Claire, but they should be about the right size for you. Then as soon as the snow stops and the roads are safe again – for, you know, they aren’t strictly safe now, and it was only because we had to get you back that Reg agreed to do the journey, I doubt any of us will be leaving the Platz unless there is an emergency for a little while yet – I’ll take you shopping. Not just for clothes, either. I want this to be your room, so if you see anything at all that you like, a picture, maybe, or a vase, we’ll get that too.”

“Like a whole new person,” smiled Cecil sadly, lowering her head. Wisely, Joey didn’t comment on her tears, just kissed her cheek gently and withdrew.

Left alone, Cecil managed to get control of herself and then she stood up and walked slowly around the room, her fingers trailing delicately against things. Her mind was heavy with worry, about the past and the future and, most of all, the present. There was a barrier between her and her parents, even Jack, and she felt as if every move she made was being scrutinised by them to see if she had changed, if she really was sorry.

They could never know the regret that she felt, and that was a good thing, because they would never know her pain, either. She could spare them that, at least. But how she had repented running away after the event, how heavily she had wished that she could go back and turn her head from the serpent, refuse to listen to the sweet poison that had soothed her so effectively. Alone at night, unable to sleep because of the constant drip in one corner and the shouts of a fight between two of the girls outside, plus the loud grunts from the room next door, she would kneel before the window.

Gradually it had become almost a pleasure to watch the men hurrying along the streets below. She always focused on them, it was part of the punishing ritual, she had to study them and guess. Guess which one would come in next, which one would go home to his loving wife and which one had been, that she didn’t remember because he was just another face, there for a few minutes and gone again.

Longs hours had choked the streams of her mind, until night after night she would kneel, watching life scurrying past her, only able to think of the same things over and over again. In her security, she had always assumed that with a family so big she could never be lonely, that there would always be someone to turn to. It was another mark of her foolish youth that until it happened, she hadn’t ever thought of how it was possible to be surrounded by people all the time and yet to have no-one.

Once upon a time, she might even have turned to him, despite all that he’d done. At least he was there, at least he had pretended to care. She’d tried to win his love back, tried to flatter him into speaking those same caressing words which had once been so freely on his lips. But like a hand which touches the flame more than once, she quickly learnt just to hold on to her dignity, it was worth more than his lies.

She’d even written a letter home, when he first told her what her life was to be. For days she’d had nothing to do, nowhere to go but the deepest, darkest parts of her mind, and the dull, numbing horror at his announcement had at first deprived her of her senses. Then she was allowed blissful release, and with it came hope, sense. He’d gone out one day, left her in the house on her own; it wasn’t even a matter of trust. This was before she became streetwise, and they both knew that like a cat with a mouse if she tried to leave he would find her again as easily as he had taken her to begin with.

All the same, she’d written that letter, ostensibly to one Peggy Winterton in England, an old friend, she said, who had done something similar to get her through university and to whom she had applied for tips. She tried to pretend that she had accepted the dictum, had lied to him and said that she wanted to do the best she could, to please him, if he would please just post it for her. He’d burnt the letter in front of her, and then he’d given her the first of many punishments, and taught her the first lesson she must learn at the same time. Never lie to him.

Silently, musing, Cecil held her hands in front of the slight, grey last cast through the window from outside. Even now her fingers were slightly crooked, though he’d made sure that they healed well enough, and she had developed ways of masking the rest of it, so that it was nearly impossible to tell if you didn’t know to look for it. But she knew it was there, and she always would, just like she could lie to everyone about what she’d done but she’d still be haunted by the nightmares.

Almost angrily, she dragged the curtains around the window and, now in almost complete darkness, flung herself on the bed which Joey had made up so carefully, surprisingly unemotional. She couldn’t even cry; she just lay, curled up, not knowing what she was supposed to do now.

Author:  clair [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, it will never fully go but she'll be able to make a new life for herself now. Joey's understanding and the change of room with an acceptance that Cecil wouldn't want her old possessions was lovely

Thanks Ariel, this is so compelling and your writing is superb

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Joey's trying hard, but this is going to be very difficult.

Author:  shazwales [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was so sensitively written.
Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Abi [ Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, she's suffered so much and a lot of that will never go away. But that doesn't mean she can't be happy in the future, as she builds a new life and learns to trust that people still love her.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, she's on a slow uphill walk to healing

Author:  Kacca [ Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you.

I am loving this beautiful, painfully gripping story.

I feel so much for Jack and Joey, either knowing or not knowing details this situation is so heartbreaking for them.

Author:  Emma A [ Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I've just caught up on several updates, Ariel. So glad that Joey has accepted her daughter after that brief moment of disgust and disbelief, and hoping that Cecil can rebuild her life in a better way. I wonder if she'll ever be able to talk to anyone about what she's undergone? Because I can't see her being able to move on if she's the only one who knows.


Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone for your, as ever, kind comments. I'm really sorry for the delay, RL can be annoying on occasion!

- X -

The next incident which she could place in a definite time was when he came up for the conference. Between then they had of course written to each other; in fact, he had just sent her a lovely letter thanking her for her previous correspondence. He said that he’d spent Christmas alone, but that her descriptions of the giant tree in her house, and all of the small ceremonies leading up to the day itself, had cheered up his day no end. He also thanked her profusely for the pair of knitted socks she had shyly sent him, marvelling at how warm and snug they were.

A few days later, he arrived on the Platz to attend the medical conference being held to herald the start of the new year, and look at a new advancement which had been discovered a few months ago. The company had approached the San and asked if they would trial it, and after a lot of board meetings with various high-end doctors, Jack had decided to call in some experts on the matter and see what they thought.

At first, Matthew Ellisman wasn’t even known to him, it was only when somebody else he’d invited had mentioned the name that he started to ask more about him. Although he was only a small practitioner in a provincial German town, he had taken an interest in tuberculosis, and Jack was furnished with a few articles he had had published in medical journals. As they weren’t a large gathering to begin with, he decided that there would be room for one more and sent out the invitation accordingly.

All of this he told Cecil one evening, when she asked why he was coming. By this point she was completely infatuated with him, though she was taking care not to let her father know it, and although their letters were supposed to have been a brief thing as thanks for his rescuing her, she would still sit at the table most evenings of the week and scribble something to him. She had been unable to over the Christmas period, but she had a week before she went back to school, and she was making the most of it.

She really couldn’t wait for Matt – he had told her to call him Matt – to come up to the Pension where he was staying, so that they could meet again. Something had held her back from telling her parents this, but she had detailed when the school went on its walks every morning and promised to send him details of where they would be going nearer the time. Then an accidental-done-a-purpose meeting could be arranged and, being a doctor new to the area, she was sure that if she picked the right escort mistress she could contrive to be allowed to walk with him so that she could show him the sights.

Until then she must be content with her letters, but that was more than enough for her. He had a ready pen when he chose to use it, and some of the things he wrote to her made her feel as if she had just stepped out of a Jane Austen and into Mr Darcy’s arms. Completely enraptured, she had stopped thinking about what she wrote to him, what details she gave away, but her day was suddenly incomplete if she didn’t either write or receive a letter to him.

A few times, Joey, who saw the most of her, had expressed her doubts, but she contented herself with the thought that if he was here on business connected to the San there couldn’t possibly be any harm in it. Most likely, he would get bored of writing to a teenage girl once he went back to his full time job and he didn’t need something to fill in the long hours. She had even said as much to Cecil, who denied it vehemently.

Having been at the receiving end of a complete infatuation, and having run to India to escape it, Joey’s heart ached for her daughter, but she was wise enough not to get involved. When he did stop writing, Cecil would be broken hearted and would need her mother; until then, she might as well be allowed her letters. In any case, she would be back at school soon, which would hopefully wipe all ideas of doctors from her mind. The Chalet School prided itself on its wide range of activities, and Joey was in no doubt that Cecil would find herself with little time for anything else once she was back around her friends.

At least, that was what Cecil, afterwards, guessed her mother had been thinking, and how bitterly she regretted it. If only her father had heard more about it, if only he’d insisted on reading some of those letters that she got. Surely he could have spotted in them what she’d missed, and cautioned her about her acquaintance with such an odious man.

At long last, after weeks of waiting, he came to the Platz. He arrived late one night, but the next day, on a picnic, they passed each other on the main road. Sadly, Anna was in the party, and she had no qualms about hurrying everyone along with a sceptical glance backwards at this stranger, but Cecil managed to snatch a few words with him. He gave her the name of the place that he was staying, and she promised to try and get away and see him, though as it transpired Joey suddenly found a number of things for her to be doing before her return to school, and she didn’t get the chance.

Thus, she let him into her life. Looking back now, her heart ached at what she’d done, and she cried many bitter tears, but at the time she was whirled away on a cloud of true love. He was charming and charismatic, and certainly good looking, and Cecil couldn’t help sometimes thinking smugly of her sisters, and of Len in particular, and how she was having a romance to rival anything they’d had. She even began to dream of a marriage like Len’s, so happy and contented, spending the rest of her life with the wonderful man she cared for so deeply.

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear - there's no way Joey could have foreseen that it would end how it did, but she must be blaming herself now.

Author:  Lottie [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Perhaps this explains why Joey's finding it so hard to forgive Cecil. She hasn't yet forgiven herself for preventing it from happening, and even, unwittingly, encouraging Cecil.

Thanks Ariel. This is gripping writing.

Author:  Emma A [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I wonder how Cecil went from infatutation of this man (horrible as he was), a doctor in Germany, to prostitution in Paris - hope you'll tell us. But it's so understandable that Joey sees herself as having failed to warn Cecil enough and seen how deluded she was. :cry:

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel.

I think it is this air of mystery that is one factor that makes this so intriguing. Just how did Cecil go from infatuated in Switzerland to trapped in Paris? I'm gathering she went willingly at first, so what happened?

The writing is just beautiful.

Author:  Carys [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm intrigued at how Cecil ended up in Paris to, surely Jack and Joey must have thought of Matt when she disappeared and alerted the police that he would be a prime suspect-why wasn't he tracked down?

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  leahbelle [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Your writing is so sensitive.

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  shazwales [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,like several people i'm intrigued to know how she ended up in Paris?

Author:  Abi [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Joey, she must have been racked with guilt. Would also like to know the rest of the story.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

All will be revealed! Patience is a virtue :lol:

- X -

It was only when Joey came up to tell her that Abendessen would be ready that Cecil stirred again. Her head hurt from crying, and her eyes were red and sore, but she obediently stood up and went to tidy herself. In the absence of anything else, she borrowed Felicity’s hairbrush to unpin and tidy her hair, which was a thoroughly woolly mess by this point, though she decided to leave it loose around her shoulders. She just felt so strange having it up after so long.

Next she slipped into the bathroom. The room had been dark when her mother had come in, and she hoped to avoid drawing attention to the fact that she had been crying so heavily. Upon her entry she discovered that another thing she lacked was a flannel or sponge; her mother’s was clearly the lime green one hanging on the edge of the bath, and so she picked up the other one, which by process of elimination must be Jack’s. She was sure that he wouldn’t mind too much.

Having reduced her face to something almost normal, she tugged her clothes around her and, as neat as she could possibly be, prepared to go downstairs. It was only now that she realised how quiet the house was; of course she was used to a relative degree of calm, for it had become more and more silent as her brothers and sisters grew up and flew the nest. But at least before she had always had Geoff and Phil and Claire with her to liven things up, plus one or another of someone’s friends who didn’t have anywhere else to go for Christmas, for whatever reason, plus on occasion either the Bettany or Russell clans.

As lightly as she could manage, she slipped into the dining room, taking her place sombrely next to her father. It was awkward, with just her father and mother, and after Grace had been said a silence descended on them. Sometimes, Anna would join them to eat, especially since the girls had started at school, for this often left Joey to eat by herself otherwise. Tonight she had promised to stay in the kitchen, so that they could have some time alone, but recalling the practice Cecil wished heartily that she had joined them. It would have let her mother organise household affairs so that her transgressions didn’t sit so heavily on them all.

“What am I going to do about a toothbrush?” she stammered out in the end. It was a stupid thing to say, and she knew it, but she didn’t have one and it was the first thing which came to mind. Trying not to look too surprised, Jack said quickly,

“You may have to do without tonight, but tomorrow if the snow stops like the weather report said, I’ll run along to the shop and get you a few things.”

“Could I not borrow yours until then?” persisted Cecil, adding sweetly, “I did borrow it in the hotel, after all.”

Jack raised one eyebrow speculatively. “You did, did you, you cheeky little scaramouch? Well, I suppose that it won’t hurt for one night.”

An almost light tone had entered his voice, and for a minute everyone relaxed, but then the silence became almost painful again and everyone wondered what they could talk about. For her part, Cecil wished heartily that she had made some excuse and not even come down, it would have been easier to hide away, but she had to face up to them some time, and this was all part of her punishment, whether they intended it to be or not. She was relieved when Jack cleared his throat, though at his words her heart sank into panic.

“I’m going to get in touch with the authorities tomorrow and see what they’re doing about the main road. With any luck all of this snow will mean that they have to shut it off and nobody can get up.”

“You think that he’ll come?” whispered his daughter hoarsely, food forgotten. How foolish of her, how naive, to think that she was safe now. Of course he would come to look for her, he knew exactly where she would be and he could bide his time, lure her into a false sense of security, she could never be safe again, not here at least.

“It doesn’t matter if he does,” said Jack trenchantly, attacking his meat as if it had offended him in some manner. “He’ll have to get past me, first, and even if he manages it there’s a whole San full of doctors who will do everything they can to look after you. You’ll be completely safe now you’re here, don’t worry.”

Gently, Joey smiled. There was little that she could do to protect her daughter, she had learnt that when Cecil first left, but she could reassure and comfort her still, which was what she intended to do. But after that, conversation languished completely, and it was with some relief that Cecil escaped upstairs again. Rather than let her thoughts take over once more, she pulled a book indiscriminately off of the shelves at the top of the stairs to read, though if she took in much more than blurred text on the page she didn’t know it.

At some point later on, Joey brought her in the nightdress that Jack had bought the day before, and asked if they could come to say goodnight before she went to bed.

“I know that it’s silly,” confessed her mother, blushing slightly. “And we spent all afternoon telling each other that of course you wouldn’t want us behaving like you were six years old again, but we’re just so pleased to have you back. It would only be one night, I promise, just for us to say goodnight.”

Readily, Cecil acquiesced, secretly pleased. Although she might wish for the others to be here, so that she wasn’t the only topic of conversation in the house, it was nice to have her parents to herself for a little while. When she had gone, she had resented them so badly, not realising what it would be like not to have them there. After all that she had done, she couldn’t expect forgiveness, she knew that, but this acceptance, even if it was only on the surface at the moment, pleased her more than anything else.

Accordingly, Jack and Joey came up half an hour later and knelt beside the bed, Joey stroking Cecil’s hair back from her face while Jack just watched her, entranced. It was only a brief ceremony, just to say a few quiet words about how pleased they were that she was back, and for Cecil to fling her arms around both their necks and kiss them rapturously. Then Joey tucked the plumeaux more firmly around her daughter and they withdrew, smiling as much as if every dream they’d ever had had just come true.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:lol: at the lime green flannel!

Author:  Chatelaine [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ChubbyMonkey wrote:
they withdrew, smiling as much as if every dream they’d ever had had just come true.

That is such a lovely line! I do hope Cecil can get past her belief that she has to be punished and that her parents haven't really forgiven her. It will be difficult for all concerned, of course, but the fact that Joey and Jack are making it so clear that they're delighted to have her back is a great start to fixing things between them all.

I'm really enjoying this drabble :)

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 1:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

When they'd more or less convinced themselves that Cecil was dead, having her back is bound to be a gift or miracle.

Thank-you, Ariel.

Author:  clair [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel. It'll take time for all of them to get used to being together again but hope Cecil realises she's not being punished soon

Cecil's fear of him turning up makes me wibble slightly but am trusting that even he will be scared of Misses Annersley and Wilson should he be lucky enough to meet them!

Author:  Abi [ Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Loved the lime green flannel :lol: .

That was a lovely good-night; the pleasure they all took in it was so evident and was so reassuring after that horribly awkward mealtime. Hopefully by the time the other Maynards arrive Cecil will feel a bit at home and it won't be so threatening.

Thanks Ariel, this is amazing.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your kind comments, everyone! I really don't deserve them, but they're lovely.

- X -

At first, Cecil had drifted into sleep easily enough, but a couple of hours later she was woken by the sound of stifled sobs. She had forgotten that this bedroom was much closer to her parents’ room, and although she had slept through their coming to bed easily enough, the sound of Joey crying had reached her enough to wake her up. Tears sprung to her own eyes as she heard her mother’s anguished cries, muffled presumably by Jack, but not enough to stop her pain shining through. What was worse was that it went on and on, until half an hour had gone by and she still couldn’t be consoled, had in fact become so upset that Cecil could still hear her with a pillow over her head.

Now awake, alone with just her thoughts, she began to cry too, unable to quite comprehend how much she had hurt everyone. This was all her fault, and yet when she turned over there was no-one there to hold her in their arms, to stroke her hair and whisper that things could still turn out all right. Half of her wanted to run to her parents’ bed, to snuggle between them as she had done when she was little and had had a nightmare; but she held back, because she was grown up, now, and she had chosen to be alone.

The next morning, her eyes were heavy, for it had taken her hours to get back to sleep, and she had woken up again as dawn started to vaguely penetrate the heavy layer of cloud still blanketing the mountains. Restless, she had got out of bed and dressed, to go down and help Anna before anybody else got up. She had lain the table, made breakfast and even swept the floor of the kitchen by the time Jack appeared, not looking much more refreshed from the night than herself.

As soon as they heard his heavy tread above them, Anna smiled that Cecil needn’t worry about finishing sorting out the cupboard, which she’d noticed had been looking rather floury recently, and the latter skipped joyfully upstairs. When she entered, Jack spun around and pulled her into his arms, kissing the top of her head softly.

“Good morning,” he greeted jovially, indicating for her to sit next to him on the sofa, a light, wicker affair which had been bought since she left. It was odd to think of her parents buying furniture; something so small and normal showed that life had gone on without her. “How are you? Did you sleep well?”

“Better than usual,” she replied quietly, not completely untruthful. It had been rare, in her previous abode, to get a full night’s sleep, and the bed here was considerably more comfortable. “Dad, I think that I’ve made a decision.”

“Oh yes?”

“From now on, can you, I mean, may I be called Cecilia please?”

Sufficiently startled for the moment, Jack had to think rapidly before he spoke, but when he did he realised the sense in what she had said. Yesterday Joey had told him that she wanted a fresh start, and he supposed that this was part of that. The final realisation was that she wasn’t his little girl, anymore, she was a grown woman, in attitude if not in age, and he was going to have to start bending to her will more than he was accustomed to.

“I’m not promising that we’ll remember, but I don’t see any reason why not,” he replied, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He was experiencing much the same feelings as the first time that she’d called him dad, instead of papa. That had been after Geoff came back from school and refused to any more; it was always sending them to school that made the boys change, and then of course the rest took it up.

After a debate about breakfast, and whether Jack should risk sampling the porridge which Cecil had made and which was now being kept warm until Joey appeared downstairs, he asked if Cecil wanted to go out with him today. As promised, he was going to go to the shop – despite a pink tinge in the clouds, snow was holding off so far – to get not only Cecil’s items, but also a postcard to send to Dick and some cigarettes, as well as one or two other small items Joey was clamouring for.

But as soon as he mentioned buying more tobacco, Cecil paled and began to tremble visibly. A half choked cry of fear escaped her lips, and she stared up at him, dark eyes filling with tears, struggling to talk. Jack took her hands into his own, holding them tightly, asking repeatedly what was wrong, what he’d done.

“Please don’t smoke,” she choked out suddenly, burying her head in his shoulder. “Please stop, please don’t. He – he used to, when I was in his room and – and I can still smell it. Please don’t. Please – “

“Hush,” he soothed quietly, holding her frail body against him softly. “Don’t get upset, there’s no need. Of course we won’t smoke if you don’t want us to, the last thing we want to do is remind you of any of this. It’s ok, you don’t need to worry, you’re safe. Nobody will do anything that you don’t want them to, I promise.”

As Cecil began to calm down, Joey joined them, her hair damp from her shower but still tied up in her familiar plaited corals. She came and sat on the other side of her daughter, at Jack’s look, so that Cecil was being held between both of them. She had stopped trembling now, though she wouldn’t let go of Jack, who explained,

“Cecil – sorry, Cecilia – has asked that we stop smoking. As you can see, she’s quite upset by the thought. I reassured her that you wouldn’t mind.”

“Of course not,” said Joey quickly, stroking Cecil’s back. “And a new name, too? My, you have been busy!”

“That isn’t all,” smiled Jack, determined to get things back on an even keel now that Cecil appeared to have recovered herself. “Someone has made us porridge for breakfast, as well. So why don’t we go and have that, and then we can run along to the shop.”

Although shaky, Cecil obediently followed her mother out of the room, while Jack went to tell Anna that they were ready for breakfast, taking her place at the table with composure. Secretly, she was ashamed of herself for her silly outburst, it was such a stupid thing to get upset over, but she knew that it wouldn’t be mentioned again. Instead she laughingly corrected Joey on her new name, and did her best to pretend that everything was normal.

- X -

Just a small note: unless anyone would rather I changed, the narrative voice will continue to refer to Cecil, rather than Cecilia. Please do say if you think it should be changed, though!

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cecilia's fine - I never understood why anyone would want to refer to a girl as Cecil, rather than Cecile/Cecily/Cecilia, anyway!

Author:  shazwales [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel, the smell of smoke or anything can bring back memories preferably of something nice but i can see why Cecilia wants to get away from it.

Author:  JB [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks, Ariel. :)

Author:  Abi [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, smell can be so evocative that I can quite understand why she reacted so strongly. Thanks Ariel!

Author:  charli [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

These last 2 posts have been so lovely to read , especially the way Jack is with Cecil. Thank You for posting such regular updates, i am really enjoying reading this and finding it very interesting. :)

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Judging from the responses, Cecil or Cecilia is fine :D I've stuck with Cecil for now - I tried Cecilia and it spun me out a bit! It just sounded a little odd. Hope nobody minds!

- X -

That afternoon was to be a special one, as long as the weather held – which it promised to do for now. Overnight the frosts had settled, and accordingly, as they left for the shops, Jack and Cecil had heard the joyful shouts of the Chalet girls enjoying skiing and tobogganing. Surprisingly, Cecil felt no longing to join them, although once winter sports had been one of her favourite things throughout the year. But as she thought about the life she had led there, so confined and dreary, she struggled to find anything positive about it.

Silently, she slipped her arm through her father’s. Before all of this, she wouldn’t have believed someone who told her that one day she would rather be walking along the road with him, trying to keep her balance on the icy roads in nailed boots a size too big, because they had been Felicity’s, than in the large meadow still used by the chalet girls for their sporting needs. But it was true, and she supposed that it was just another sign she was no longer the young girl who had been here before. She liked that, liked to think that she had changed from the person he had fallen in love with.

The visit to the shop was uneventful, but for the final few minutes. Jack had refused to allow Cecil to come, saying that he didn’t want her to be swamped by excited students who hadn’t yet been told of her return, so she had had to go on to the house while he approached the school group with a hearty wave. Secretly, she resented being sent back, as if she was something disgraceful that he couldn’t bear to be seen in public with, but through the rebellion in her heart came the acknowledgement that actually, she was.

Thanks to his consultation with the head, Jack was able to announce that after Mittagessen, if the snow had held off, Phil and Claire would be joining them for the evening. He had wanted them to stay the night, but had been told that they must go back for Abendessen if it was possible. Disappointed, but unable to argue when they were missing classes already, he had agreed. All the same, it was something, and Joey beamed when she heard the news.

The Platz was lonely without some of her children there to keep her occupied, and she was forever asking them home when she could, to occupy herself. But today was especially important, for Jack had insisted on Cecil being there, despite her protests to the contrary. While he didn’t want to overwhelm her with all of her siblings at once, it was important that she started to integrate herself back into the family, and in any case she had no reason to want to hide from them. After much coaxing, he won her over with the news that Len had been supervising the frolicking girls in the field and had promised to come too, bringing with her George and Mary.

All the same, Cecil was nervous about meeting her sisters again after all this time, especially Len who was old enough to know and understand what her sister had been through. Doubtless the worst of her life away would be kept from Phil and Claire, but her eldest sibling must surely know all that she had done, and she didn’t know what reaction to expect. Reg had seemed to be understanding, but Len was nearly as sheltered as Joey – perhaps more so – and she had far less of a reason to hide her feelings than Joey did.

When the knock on the door, followed by Anna’s footsteps along the corridor, heralded the arrival of the five, Cecil was pacing the salon nervously. For starters, she had just received a large contingency of Felicity’s clothes from the roof, and was accordingly looking very different to how she knew that they would remember her. For some reason, all of her fears and nerves had manifested themselves in the overriding thought that someone was bound to object to her taking her sister’s clothes, and that would be the reason they hated her.

“Cecil!” screeched a familiar voice in the door, and she spun around just in time for Claire to throw herself into her arms, hugging her as hard as she could. Tears still came easily to the emotional Cecil, and she was thankful of the opportunity to bury her face in Claire’s hair for a minute until she had composed herself.

“Welcome home,” smiled Len gently, guiding George to a seat on the rocking chair in the corner which he always commandeered, placing Mary gently in his lap to stop him from rocking too violently and falling out – he was amusingly serious about looking after his little sister, and lived for the times he could hold her at the moment – and then coming to claim her own hug with her sister. “It’s lovely to have you back.”

Quietly, Cecil slipped into her arms, finding a calm comfort there. Of them all, Len had always been the most sombre, and the best at comforting her when Joey or Jack couldn’t. Everyone had been so pleased when she came back to the Platz, for she was a favourite with all of the younger ones, not just at home but at the school, too.

Finally, only Phil was left. The relationship between the two sisters had always been somewhat troubled, for various reasons, and inwardly Cecil doubted that Phil would be as welcoming as Len and Claire. In this, she was proved right. Hopefully, she stared at Phil, but that young lady had sat down decidedly on the sofa and didn’t even look at her, preferring to study her hands instead. Aware that the sisters would need time to get to know each other again, Jack and Joey had carefully absented themselves to the study while the reunion was taking place, and so it was left to Len to take charge.

Tactfully ignoring the mutinous expression on Phil’s face, and the hard poke she had received in the ribs from Claire, she took Mary from George and settled herself comfortably in the chair next to Cecil, handing the baby over with a silent pride. Meanwhile, never one to be shy, George piped up eagerly,

“Mummy, is that Auntie Cecil?”

Author:  clair [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Love the relationship with Len, surely she can't be that sheltered after Oxford though? Maybe the relationship with Phil will help Cecil realise she's home - if they weren't close before Cecil went away then why should it be different now - it may help Cecil to see that not everything has changed and be more comfortable

Thanks Ariel, this is certainly one of my favourite drabbles at the moment and love the regular updates

Author:  Carys [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel!

One thing I'm confused about is how many children has Len got I thought it was just George and Mary, but now there is Graham to? Have I missed something!

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Len's seen more of the world that Joey, so maybe she's less easily shocked.

I'm a bit confused about the kids too, sorry!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:oops: :oops: :oops: :oops: :oops:

Sssh! I'm just trying to be a bit more EBD.

Author:  Abi [ Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I like the love everyone has for Len and the way she made Cecil feel so safe and comforted. I hope things will be all right with Phil, though. Thanks Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:oops: I've drawn up some family trees now. Please excuse yesterday, I was incredibly tired and shouldn't really have been writing.

- X -

An awkward silence fell at his question, but rather quickly Len jumped in with a simple reassurance, and a joke about how poor his memory was. “He’ll never be a scholar,” she laughed, ruffling his hair fondly. With a huge effort, Cecil managed a smile; she had to accept that everything had changed, and that it was up to her to fit back in, not everyone else to accommodate her.

Meanwhile, Len was trying to explain to George what a scholar was, and Claire and Phil had started discussing the skiing that morning, with Claire enthusiastically telling her sister about how much she had come on since last winter. Out of the conversations for the moment, Cecil bent over the baby, cooing softly to her. She was a beautiful little girl, with big grey eyes and the downiest baby hair, rapidly turning as ginger as her mother’s. When Cecil stroked her tiny fingers, she gurgled happily, then reached up and attempted to pull the fascinating black curls floating around Cecil’s shoulders.

“Will you be coming back to school now?” asked Claire suddenly, following on from a fierce but brief argument with Phil about the remove she had proudly gained over the summer.

“I doubt it,” said Cecil carefully. “I would have been leaving next year, anyway, and I expect that mum will want me at home now.”

Privately, Len thought that that was probably for the best. She, of all of them, was privy to the real opinions of the staff on the latest issue, and even though they still didn’t know what Cecil had done during her time away, they weren’t going to be quick to welcome her back. Besides which, she very much doubted that Cecil would find school at all pleasant, with all of the questions about what she had done, where she had gone and why. Girls were curious creatures, and even the strictest of embargos by the Head hadn’t stopped them from gossiping when she left; although not officially told, they would be bound to guess that something was up from Phil and Claire’s absence, and she could only imagine the wild rumours which would start soon.

Just then, Joey came in, as beaming and radiant as ever, to hug both of her youngest daughters and ask them all about school life. An increase of new staff, not Old Girls who didn’t know her attachment to the school, had caused some problems a few years ago, and now she relied more than ever on news from her daughters to keep up with what was happening. Once sure that Cecil would be protected from Claire’s more probing questions and Phil’s bad mood, Len excused herself to attend to Mary, who was beginning to whimper for her afternoon feed.

Once she had gone, Cecil settled back, her arms empty and not quite knowing what to do. Deprived of his sister to look after, George had hunted down the drawing things which he knew were always kept close by for him, and was now sat on the floor concentrating on a drawing which would later transpire to be a knight brutally murdering a dragon, his tongue sticking out. Suddenly, she was startled out of her blank reverie by Phil demanding,

“Are you going to stay this time?”

“Phillipa!” exclaimed her mother at once, looking her sternest. “There’s no need to take that tone of voice about it. I know that you were upset when Cecilia left, but that is no excuse for such poor manners now. Apologise please.”

Glowering, Phil had little choice, but it didn’t make her like her sister anymore, and Cecil could feel it. She wished that Joey hadn’t said anything, after all, it was a fair question, she just didn’t know the answer to it yet. Thankfully, Anna entered at that moment with a tray of lemon biscuits and a pot of tea, and in the general excitement of such a treat the moment was forgotten.

In order to ensure a relative degree of harmony, Cecil took over looking after George, not being particularly hungry. She sat him next to her and watched carefully as he took his biscuit, nibbling at it sweetly while he quizzed her on who she thought would win in a fight between a wizard and a monster. Half way through, Len joined them again, just in time to remind her wayward son of what his father would say to stealing biscuits. He subsided, not notably crushed.

Soon after, Jack peered in to say that it was probably time for him to take the two girls back to school, the sky was darkening again. The plan had been for Len to go home as well, Reg would want his dinner, but when she saw Cecil’s pained look, she reconsidered. It must be difficult for her younger sister stuck here, with nobody even approaching her age or who could really understand what she had been through, and although solitude was considerably better at the moment than the alternative, she was sensitive enough to pick up on the awkward undertone of the conversations.

Hastily, she asked for leave to borrow the telephone, and rang up the San to tell Reg to come to Freudesheim for dinner. Then she sweet talked Anna into making a little bit extra, which wasn’t difficult when she added that George and Mary would be staying too. They were Anna’s darlings, and she always had a sweet in her pocket or a piece of cake for George. Finally, Len announced that she would be staying, and Reg would be joining them when he could get away.

“Brilliant,” replied Jack, leaning back with a sigh. “I need to talk to Reg, I’ve got a bit of an announcement to make to you all. But that will have to wait until Abendessen.”

From which position he refused to be moved, despite their best teasing.

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh - now what's Jack got to say?

It's a shame that Cecil won't be finishing her education, but Len has a point about the gossip problem. It might be difficult anyway in a small community like the Platz where everyone knows everyone else's business.

Author:  cestina [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Very much enjoying this Ariel. I hadn't registered that Cecil is still young enough to even consider going back to school. Somehow that thought makes her experiences even more terrible.

Hope that man gets his comeuppance :hammer: :hammer: :hammer: :hammer: (oops didn't mean to put so many hammers but serves him right)

Author:  charli [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Gosh, i hadn't thought about the fact that Cecil would be still at school age either! That would be strange for her if she were to go back.
Thank You, enjoying this especially now Cecil is home

Author:  JB [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 5:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks, Ariel. Loved that little touch about new mistresses at the school and Joey relying on her daughters for news. Poignant and likely to have happened.

Author:  clair [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 8:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel - another loving this Len, she's always been a favourite of mine and I like her sensitivity towards Cecil here. Although not helpful to Cecil I can understand why Joey jumped on Phil, she's probably scared that anything could make Cecil disappear again

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It would have been very uncomfortable for Cecil going back to school - there'd probably be rumours about what she'd been doing, especially as there would inevitably have been mystery about it. It's a shame she won't be able to finish her education, though. I guess she'll want to do something constructive. Did they have distance learning then?

Thanks for the update Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This probably won't make sense until you've read the update, but I don't want to give away spoilers! :wink: I know that I said that I wouldn't write about her again, but she insisted on being included, sorry. If this is still nonsense to anyone, there's a character who appeared in a couple of my drabbles before. Anyway, thankyou for all of your comments, and enjoy!

- X -

It was after dinner that the conversation actually came up. During the, as ever, mouth watering meal that Anna had cooked for them they discussed the weather, what it would do next and whether they would be able to keep the San running efficiently when it was so difficult for doctors to get through. Taking advantage of Reg being present, Jack raised the idea of having one of the wards not in use turned into temporary beds for doctors, and putting them on a rota to stay there for a couple of days at a time in case their colleagues couldn’t get to work.

After that, they had retired to the salon to talk, as Anna had the children upstairs in the nursery. Most of them had a glass of wine, though Len declined while she was nursing Mary and Cecil joined her, saying that she’d had enough of alcohol – a cryptic remark which made her parents raise their eyebrows at each other, though they didn’t question her on it then.

Len and Reg had commandeered the sofa, and Len reclined with a hand lovingly on the inside of Reg’s leg, watching him drink his wine as he rested a head wearily against her shoulder. He was always exhausted when he got home from the San, and she knew that he would have preferred not being called to Freudesheim, though he wouldn’t say anything.

“What shall we do about telling everyone?” she asked suddenly, sighing and shifting slightly. “I don’t suppose that they want four or five different letters saying the same thing, that Cecilia is back. Do you want me to write to a couple of people for you, and save some time? I know that we only need to do family, but with us that’s still a lot.”

“I owe Con a letter,” mused Joey. She was sat in the rocking chair, darning Jack’s socks in front of the fire, while he sat in the other chair with Cecil curled up at his feet, her head in his lap so that he could stroke her hair gently. “She wrote to let me know that her second book has gone to the publishers after the awful time she had with that editing. I meant to mention it to you, Len, but what with everything I completely forgot. Apparently she was trying to amuse Percy the other day and they sat down to write books together – she said that his was really good.”

Thus far, Cecil had been silent, though she beamed at the news. When she had gone, Percy had been little more than a baby, and she had never met him, though she had joined in the celebrations at Con’s first born child. She did sit up, however, when Jack added casually,

“I’ve got to get back to Charles; he wrote to me with some rather important news, and I must send my congratulations.”

“Why?” demanded his daughter at once, and even Len looked curious. At first Joey glanced up curiously too, but when she caught his eye she smiled mysteriously and concentrated on her mending again. Jack bombinated softly under his breath for a moment, maddening his listeners, then smiled and announced,

“Oh, ok, he did ask me to tell everyone when the time was right. Well, Cecilia, it’ll be a double shock for you – first of all, he and Charlie have a daughter. She’ll turn two next week. We all call her Millie, though her real name is Camilla; somehow that doesn’t quite seem to suit her.”

“She’s adorable,” broke in Len, unable to resist. “All big blue eyes and toothless smiles when we saw her; she’ll be a heart-breaker when she grows up.”

“Anyway,” continued Jack firmly. “Do you want to know the news or not? Cecilia will get to see Millie for herself soon enough, they’re coming out for Christmas. Though,” he added over Len’s delighted exclamation, “you’ll have to make the most of them while you can, for they won’t be coming out again for a while after that. Charlie’s pregnant again.”

This was sufficiently startling to divert their attention for ten minutes. After having vowed not to marry early, Charles and Charlie had had a rather rushed ceremony just before Cecil left; then, eight months later, Millie had been born, and as Joey remarked innocently was a good weight for a baby born that early. Suffice to say that nobody had expected them to have another child soon afterwards, though as Reg remarked detachedly with them that only meant that it was bound to happen.

“In any case,” said Len, once the topic had been explored from every angle, recalling what they had been discussing previously. “I was going to say that it’s my turn to write to Mike; I got a lovely long screed the last time that the post came up with all his gossip in. Apparently he was bored, because his friends are in trouble again – they were caught playing poker on the ship when one of them should have been on duty, and that did it – though for once he wasn’t caught up in it, for a miracle, but with the rest in solitary confinement he’s been feeling rather lonely, and took it out in a lovely long description to me of the fantastic weather that they’re having.”

Yawning, Jack stretched his arms upwards as he prepared to drop his final bombshell of the evening, hoping that it would have a sufficiently startling effect. Tease Joey as he would about her love of creating sensations, he couldn’t help doing it himself on occasion.

“I wired Dick this morning, and you’ve no need to worry about letting Jem and Madge know. I rang them this afternoon, because I’ve decided to hand over control of the San temporarily while I’m needed here. Things have been hectic recently, and I badly want a holiday – when I said that we had Cecil back – “


“Cecilia back, Jem understood, and as they were coming for Christmas anyway, they’re getting the first flight out that they can. In the meantime, you’re in charge of the San, Reg. I’m handing it to you lock, stock and barrel.”

And he sat back, gratified with having caused the shock that he wanted.

Author:  JB [ Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I understand now, Ariel. This was all a plot to put Reg in charge of the San. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thanks. That was a lovely update - and it was good to hear about Charlie. I'm glad she forced her way in. Loved Reg's comment about them.

Author:  Carys [ Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel, which of your other drabbles has Charlie appeared in?

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:lol: at Joey and the "premature" baby being a good weight!

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 12:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Lovely to see that Charles and Charlie are still happy together :D . And congratulations, by the way, Reg is very lovely in this :wink: :lol: .


Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, no, you got me JB! Reg and I were in cahoots all along to make sure he got power at last :wink: Anyway, thankyou for your comments, they made me smile! I just hope that this update isn't too... descriptive. Please do say if it is, so that I know for future reference.

- X -

For some reason, Cecil found herself unable to sleep that night, her mind in turmoil over events. Firstly, there was Phil’s attitude, one that she had encountered before, but unpleasant all the same. Usually, the two were as chummy as with any other sisters, always prepared to loan stationery if the other needed it, though Phil knew not to take liberties just because she was Cecil’s sister, for Cecil and her friends wouldn’t have hesitated to squash her thoroughly.

The problem was that Phil was quite possessive of Geoff, who resented it and who, as a consequence, much preferred spending time with Cecil. Naturally, every time Phil sulked about this, it only drove Geoff further away, and there had been many tears over it from both parties. During term, when Geoff was at school in England, there was never a problem between the two, but as soon as he came back arguments would flare up again.

Alone in the dark, Cecil thought about it as hard as she could, and eventually came to the conclusion that Phil was just disconcerted at her return and that her hardness towards her sister would pass. Of course they would have been upset at her for leaving, she understood that now, though at the time she had been convinced that they didn’t care at all and wouldn’t miss her. It would pass, she was sure, if she just remained calm and tried to show Phil that she was sorry, and she wouldn’t do that to them all again.

But the peace that came with the realisation didn’t induce sleep, and she turned over, letting her thoughts wander. Eventually they alighted on a man she knew well, a customer who came to see her at least once a week. He was one of her favourites, a rotund, jolly man with a large moustache that curled at both sides. His name was Emile, and he ran a stall in one of the winding side streets which gave Paris its character, selling fish. Although at first he had repulsed her, when she got used to the feel of his solid stomach rubbing against her and his moustache, which always smelt of the fish he sold, brushing painfully against her skin, she came to quite like him.

It almost made her sad that she couldn’t have said goodbye to him before she left, for he had been one of the only people in Paris to be kind to her. She knew that he had a daughter, six years old, who he was trying to raise correctly although her mother had died giving birth, and he was the only one who could look after her. She knew that if she was ever desperate, she could go and find his stall, and he would share with her whatever lunch he had so that she wasn’t hungry. Every Tuesday he would come and visit her – with a regularity which meant that after about four pm anyone who asked for her would be refused – and only three times had he missed his appointment, each because his daughter was ill and couldn’t go to the ballet class which usually freed him up to visit.

Her favourite customers were always men like him, who asked nothing of her but what they had paid for. There weren’t very many of them around, and even those who tried usually lost her respect when they leered lecherously as she undressed, not giving her the same courtesy but just slipping clothes down over their buttocks and treating her like she was a piece of meat. Some tried to be considerate and kind, but that invariably lead to questions on her home and her family, which only annoyed her. Emile was neither; he was happy to talk, to treat her as a human being, but he only told her about himself, and his little girl, he never asked any questions; in fact, she had surprised herself more than once by volunteering titbits of information, such as Felicity wanting to be a ballet dancer when she was younger.

Unaccountably, Mike slid into her thoughts. Without meaning to, she shuddered in revulsion as she remembered his chipper smile and bright eyes. Before, she had known of his reputation, but it had meant little to her. Now she started to wonder whether he was the sort of man she had had to deal with, whether there were women out there thrown into more despondency than ever by him. Something in her rebelled at the very thought, promised that Mike, friendly, helpful Mike would never go to women like that – like her – but now the thought had come she couldn’t get rid of it.

A floorboard creaked as Jack went to the bathroom to get a glass of water, and for a second she was tempted to run to him. But that would involve explaining, and a deep blush swept her cheeks as she tried to imagine telling her father that. The knowledge of his presence soothed her, though, and suddenly all of her fears were just the demons in the dark who haunted her now and then. Of course Mike wouldn’t do such a despicable thing, whatever else he might be he was always respectful. And she didn’t need to worry about her former life anymore, she was safe here, and there was no point dwelling on it.

She turned over, gathering the plumeaux around her and inhaling deeply. It smelt familiar, comforting, reminded her of her childhood. Smiling gently, she shut her eyes and let sleep wash over her, soothing her nerves. Eventually she was oblivious to all of her surroundings, so that she didn’t hear the tree branch tapping against her window, or see the first flakes of snow start to meander gently down again.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 4:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

She could do with someone to talk to about all this, but I've no idea whom the best person would be.

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil :( . It's not surprising she's feeling like this; it's something she'll have to work through. But it isn't going to be easy.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel, this is amazing

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm afraid that the next couple will just be short updates. Sorry!

- X -

The next day was spent quietly, with Jack tying up some loose ends in his study so that he could hand over to Reg without any need to worry and Joey sitting down to try and apply herself to a book which she had started writing before Cecil left and which was still languishing, about three chapters on from where she had been before. It had been too painful to look at it until now, but with Cecil opposite her in the Salon, mending a few of Felicity’s old clothes so that she had enough of a wardrobe, Joey braved writing it again.

The snow fell for most of that day, but the next morning revealed that a hard frost had left fairy footprints on all of the windows and hardened the ground enough for people to go out. At Frühstück Joey raised the possibility of them going skiing; Cecil was hesitant at first, but it was pointed out to her that she would have to face the school sometime, who were bound to know about her return thanks to Phil and Claire, and in any case she had been cooped up for days now, she must be getting bored. Her next objection was that she didn’t have any skiing equipment, but Anna, who was eating with them, and roughly the same height, promised loan of hers for the day, for she had to polish the floors and wouldn’t be able to get out.

An hour later saw Cecil reluctantly coming out and into the meadow area used for skiing by the school at large and numerous other inhabitants of the Platz. The skis were the wrong size and slightly too big, but she was an experienced skier and had compensated for the most part by wearing a second pair of bulky socks. It was obvious that she wouldn’t be able to remain out for long, but just in skimming over the ground towards the colourful, flying figures, the wan look began to leave her face and a sparkle came to her eyes.

Joey, gliding with her, was pleased that she had insisted now. Secretly she still worried a lot about her daughter, though she was careful to keep her distance and not show this until Cecil invited the confidence. This was a time for building connections with her daughter again, and she was sure that until her concern was wanted it would only push Cecil further away.

On her part, Cecil suddenly felt liberated. It was as if, away from Freudesheim, she didn’t need to worry about where she had been and what she had done, nor care about who knew, that she could be as pure as the mountain air around her and it wouldn’t matter, nobody would correct her for it. Half the time she felt as if she had to play a role, to be repentant and show that she had changed and deserved the acceptance she had been offered from her parents so easily. But here she was just Cecilia, relaxing and preparing to enjoy herself.

She was surprised to find that the mechanics of skiing came back to her easily, although it had been a few years since she last skied, having been ‘out’ of winter sports her last year at school because of a broken leg. In fact, she was nearly as fluid and graceful as her mother next to her by the time they were across Freudesheim’s garden and near to the group of other skiers. Some were swooping down the wooded hill, others shouting with glee or laughter as a number among them tumbled, evidently a newcomer to the sport. In one corner a select few, Len easily visible among them, tugged toboggans along behind them, piled with small, excited children.

Much to Cecil’s surprise, most of them seemed content to ignore her. A few looked over, but if anybody seemed inclined to stop for more than a few seconds a prefect would appear to make sure they went back to their own affairs. Evidently they had been warned about not plaguing her should they see her at any point, and Cecil felt herself blushing as she realised how separate she was from the group.

She half tugged on Joey’s sleeve to ask to go home, or at least move away. The main road was sure to still be fairly deserted after a frost like this, they would be safe enough to ski a little way along there before they returned, but before she could say anything one figure came towards them at speed. Her movements were those of someone expert in the graceful art, and a smile lit up Joey’s face as she recognised Nancy Wilmot coming to greet them.

But as she grew closer it was plain to see that she was displeased to see them, and Cecil felt her confidence slipping straight away. She shouldn’t have come, it was a ridiculous thing to think, she had known that it was a bad idea. Her fears were confirmed at Nancy’s greeting, which although simple had a tone of real anger to it.

“What do you think you’re doing here?” she demanded.

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no! Now I'm feeling so sad for Cecil. And also for Nancy, please don't let them shun Cecil. Perhaps we need some study of the prodigal son in Scripture tomorrow.

I keep forgetting how young Cecil is. How heartbreaking for her and Joey hearing the shouts of glee from schoolgirls her own age. How it shoud have been :cry:

Thank you Ariel, I am loving this.

Author:  Carys [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How rude of Nancy! I never liked her!

Poor Cecil and Joey :(

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm surprised at Nancy: she always struck me as being a very understanding sort of person. Then again, she's never had to confront a situation like this before.

Author:  JB [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel! How can you leave us there?! :cry: :cry: :cry:

Author:  hac61 [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

What's the betting they've got an infectious disease in the school?

This is definitely a cliff, though.


Author:  brie [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 8:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

thanks. have just read all of this in one go. More please!

Author:  Abi [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear, what is going through Nancy's mind, I wonder? I hope she doesn't make herself unpleasant because I can see Joey fighting for Cecil like a mother tiger!

Thanks Ariel!

Author:  Kacca [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I can see Joey fighting for Cecil like a mother tiger!

And so she should!

*says Karen, her Mummy feathers getting all ruffled*

ooh I do like the idea that there's something infectious in the school. I hope that's it because I've always liked Nancy, but I have a feeling that it's not that simple.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry to leave you there. I just thought that there hadn't been a proper cliff for too long! Thankyou for your comments; hopefully this will provide an explanation!

- X -

For a few seconds both people were too stunned to say anything, but quickly Cecil half turned away, prepared to leave. She should have known that she was trouble and wouldn’t be welcomed, after all, who would want someone like her around school children. But if she was prepared to give in, her mother wasn’t, and aggrieved by the evidently confrontational tone of the headmistress, she pulled herself up to her full height, her face set.

“We’ve come to ski,” she said simply. “Forgive me if we wished to do exactly the same as you.”

“Oh, don’t be so flippant,” snapped Nancy, stabbing her sticks viciously into the snow to keep them upright. “You know as well as I do that I can’t possibly let you come near the school. I thought that common sense would have told you that as glad as we are to have Cecil back again, I have a responsibility for these children and I can hardly endorse them being around her, at least not until I’ve consulted all the relevant people over it.”

The icy air was whipping around them, stinging Cecil’s cheeks and deepening her blush at all of this. She could see one or two other mistresses glancing over, clearly wondering whether they should be backing their head up or minding their own business, and even a few of the pupils were showing a marked interest. In fact, she saw Claire start to come over, only to be stopped by an unknown teacher and sent back to her skiing.

“I think you forget,” retorted Joey, “that the school is still owned by my sister. Do you really think she would approve of you treating my family this way?”

“I don’t know,” replied Nancy equably. “But she has placed her trust in me to run the school as I see fit in her absence, so until I hear otherwise from her I must insist that you leave this field.”

Embarrassed by the whole thing, wanting just to escape the inquisitive glances from the eyes which seemed to make up the world at that moment, Cecil sent an imploring look at her mother, pleading with her not to do this.

Doing her best to stay calm, and not bolt as she wished, she tried to convince Joey that she didn’t mind and that they could ski elsewhere, but she was silenced by a glare. Instead she fidgeted with her gloves, doing her best to ignore the whole situation.

“Nancy,” said her mother suddenly, all of the anger leaving her voice. “You know me, and you’ve known Cecilia all her life. You must be able to appreciate that we just want to get back to normal as much as possible. I’m only asking that we be allowed to ski here – we’ll stay in the corner with Biddy and the rest, I promise.”

“I know,” replied Nancy with a sigh, evidently calmed as well, despite the somewhat unfair argument Joey had used by bringing her sister into the matter. “But you must remember the pupils that we lost when Cecil ran away. I have to justify everything that I do; I nearly lost my job over that and you know it. No,” she said firmly, as Joey tried to say something. “I’m sorry, Cecil, but I think you need to hear this. The school suffered badly when you left as you did, so I’m sure you can understand why I can’t let you into contact with the other pupils, at least until I’ve spoken to the board of Governors.”

“I know,” murmured Cecil meekly. “I’m sorry.”

“We’re all pleased to have you back,” responded Nancy kindly. “But my hands are tied.”

Mutely, the young girl nodded, then turned away properly, gliding back over the ice with her head bent, the joy which had been appearing in her face before gone completely. Tears stung at her eyes, and shame convinced her that she shouldn’t ever have left the house. Behind her, she could still hear Joey arguing, but she paid no attention to it, other than to wish that her mother would just leave the matter alone. She could see that she wasn’t welcome at the school, that should have been enough.

She reached the back door still alone, and sat down on the doorstep to take off her skis with a heavy heart. To go back in would be to admit defeat, to admit that she shouldn’t ever leave the house in case she upset someone. Methodically, she stacked the skis next to the door, upright, where Joey would find them and put them away for her. She didn’t have the energy to do more than crawl through the door, curl up on the floor, with the icy air still seeping into the warm chalet and chilling her to the bone, as she began to cry, harder than she had cried since she came back.

Author:  JB [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption


Even if Nancy did get in trouble when Cecil ran away, I think she was a bit of a cow there. Do the school own the field anyway?

Good for Joey sticking up for Cecilia.

Looking forward to hearing more about how Nancy was in so much trouble when Cecil left.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Unfortunately, it's possible that other girls' parents might complain if they knew that Cecil'd been on the premises, so Nancy is genuinely in a difficult position, but there was no need for her to be so rude.

Author:  Sarah_G-G [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecilia! Good on Joey for standing up for her daughter though, even if she did take it a bit far with the "my sister" comment. I see that Nancy is in a difficult situation, but she could have been a lot nicer about it! There was no need to be quite so rude.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It didn't take long for her gulping sobs to echo through the house, and she was only alone for a moment until Anna found her. She had thrown off the goggles which were de rigueur for going out in the bright snow, if one wished to avoid snow blindness, and also the woolly hat that the faithful maid had lent to her. Her hair was tousled wildly, knotted at the back, and her eyes were red rimmed from the suppressed tears as she had skimmed back to Freudesheim.

“Hush,” said Anna gently, as if Cecil were ten years younger than she really was, and picked the suddenly tiny bundle swathed in winter gear into her arms. Holding her as tenderly as she would hold any baby, she rocked her until Jack appeared, concern etched on his face. He had been on the telephone to Reg when he had heard the cries, and had hung up suddenly, startling Reg considerably.

“What's the matter?” he asked quickly, gently transferring her from Anna's arms into his own. Wise in her generation, she left to make some milky coffee to soothe the upset nerves and warm Cecil up, for she was shivering as much in cold as upset, while Jack half shut the door and lead her away to the Salon. Soon enough the amber embers were revived into a crackling, dancing dervish of flames which gave the room a familiar, comforting light and warmth. But as soon as he had done it, Jack cuddled his daughter into him again.

Truthfully, this outburst wasn't unexpected at all, he had been waiting for the barriers Cecil had so skilfully erected to be torn down soon, and when Joey had mentioned going out this morning he had wondered if this would be the trigger. If anything, this would be good for them all, for relations between them had been strained thus far, and this might open a way for them to talk about what had happened.

Before he could calm Cecil down enough to ask what had happened, the door banged shut and Joey appeared in a flourish of snow, anger evident on her face. Thankfully, before she could start to air her woes, Anna appeared with a tray of coffee which, at a glance from Jack, she insisted on Joey taking as soon as she had removed her outdoor things. Such solid common sense in an otherwise emotionally fraught situation calmed everyone down considerably, and ten minutes later they convened again much less agitated than before.

Cecil had been sent to change out of her ski gear as well, and appeared in a simple dress of Felicity’s which brought out the paleness of her cheeks and the red around her eyes. Despite all the reassurances of her parents, she buried her head in Jack's chest again and couldn't be tempted to even take the cup of coffee Anna had prepared. The latter had remained, at Jack's request, for she seemed to be the best of them all at stopping the situation spiralling out of control, and was now doing her knitting in the corner, the kitchen floor she had been sweeping forgotten for now.

“What happened?” he asked neutrally, once Joey was with them as well, far more her old self though anger radiated from her still.

“We are not allowed near the school anymore,” she informed him tightly, sipping the drink in her hands automatically, without appearing to taste it at all. “As soon as we got near the field Nancy came over and said that she couldn't let us near the girls.”

“She may have a point,” said Jack carefully, trying not to antagonise his wife further. “After all, until we've clarified what's happening she'll surely want stability in the school. I'm sure that it's nothing personal – look at when you and Elisaveta disappeared. You told me that nobody was allowed to talk to you about it, and this will be the same. There's no point getting worked up over it.”

This was said with a meaningful glare which implied far more than the words had about how Cecil needed them at the moment and she was being terribly selfish in letting go of herself in this way. Blushing at the reminder of her own past disgraces, Joey sighed, but didn't try and defend herself further – even to point out that Jack would have done exactly the same in her position.

“Right,” said Jack, once he was sure that no further opposition was forthcoming. “Anna, I'm sorry to have disturbed your work, but I think that you can take the tray now. Would you mind delaying Mittagessen by an hour? Thankyou, you're a brick.” With which unexpected praise, that left Anna blushing even more than her mistress, she withdrew, beaming to herself.

“Cecilia,” continued the doctor stringently. “After a crying fit like that, I think it would be best if you lay down until Mittagessen. I don't suppose that you want a headache on top of everything else.”

“Will you come with me?” she asked in a small voice, still horribly ashamed and upset by all that had happened. She had been hiding her head in the sand in many ways so far, pretending that just because she was home her adventure was over and she didn't need to worry anymore. Jack considered carefully. He had been planning on ringing the school, but he reflected that they probably wouldn't appreciate interference from him this soon after the event.

“Of course,” he smiled gently and, taking Cecil by the hand, he led her upstairs to stay with her until she fell asleep, exhausted by the day's events so far.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm afraid she's going to have to accept that everyone at the school and around the Platz will be gossiping about her. It can be very hard to move on from things when everyone around you knows that something's gone on, even when they don't know exactly what :( .

Author:  JB [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Remining Joey about her own exploits like that was a perfect (and subtle) way for Jack to get his point across.

Thanks for the two updates, Ariel.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, that must have been a horrible experience. I can see Nancy's point, but she could have been nicer about it. Jack evidently has more than his fair share of tact!

Thanks Ariel!

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Thu Nov 05, 2009 11:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor cecil. I don't somehow ever think she'll find a home on the Platz. And Joey and Jack have been really good here

Author:  AussieShepherd [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Just read this from cover to cover, as it were :) Brilliant storytelling, thanks Ariel :D

Author:  Kacca [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, I'm afraid it's something she is going to have to face. She needs to talk to her family before she can deal with the outside friends and acquantainces though.

Joey and Jack are both wonderful in this.

“We’re all pleased to have you back,” responded Nancy kindly. “But my hands are tied.”

I'm not surprised by Cecil's reaction I was in tears from this point too.

Author:  JellySheep [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How horrible for Cecil. Echoes the person who asked whether the school actually owns that field, and agrees that, even if Cecilia's presence is problematic for the school, Nancy could have been MUCH nicer about it! I'm a bit concerned as to what Cecilia is going to do with herself - being at a loose end could be quite difficult and make her brood on things she'd rather not.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou, everyone! More about the school later; for now, a little bit more of the story, hopefully.

- X -

It was lucky that tonight was a full moon. This high up in the mountains, it was light most of the time, but this was an especially clear night, a crisp tang to the air that made her draw her breath in as she slipped out of the front door, pulling it very quietly to a close behind her. She had made sure that it wouldn't lock behind her and was now creeping across to the outer fence, intent on keeping to the shadows as much as possible; you never knew who was watching.

Of course Matey had retired many years ago, and had passed away peacefully in her sleep a year previously, despite the best efforts of the San doctors. Now the school was watched over by Matron Smith, who was a deep sleeper, though adept in many other areas, for which she was thankful. At least she didn't have to fear the threat of the slightest creaking floorboard giving her away, as her sisters had. She could still remember the punishment heaped on Felicity’s head when she and her friends had attempted to hold a Midnight Feast.

This was far more serious than just schoolgirl frolicking, however. Tonight she was going to meet Matt. It had been arranged for some time, ever since Jack had intimated that he would prefer the doctor not spending so much time writing to his daughter. Firstly, they were supposed to be holding a medical conference, nothing else. Secondly, as he told Cecil, the man was always creeping around trying to ingratiate himself with someone or another, and Jack just didn't trust him. He had thought that that would be an end to the matter, for he had brought all of his children up to instant obedience, and he hadn't even considered the possibility of Cecil not heeding his ban on letters.

Well, she reflected as she walked, she wasn't technically flouting that ban. After all, he hadn't said that she couldn't see Matt, just that she couldn't write to him, and they hadn't exchanged more than two letters since then. They had only been to arrange this meeting, for it didn't take much for Matt to persuade her that it would be easy enough to slip out of the school buildings by night unnoticed, and he had found the perfect meeting place.

Stars twinkled down on the fresh, pure white snow which crunched under foot as she walked along. For three nights now she had been unable to get out because it had been snowing, and Matron was astute enough to notice wet garments when she saw them, but tonight not a single cloud marred the perfect black sky. Everything about her was silence, not even an owl's soft, swift rustle of flight disturbing the Platz. She could have been the only person in the world.

The meeting place was only half a mile away, set back among the pines that coated the side of the mountain just above them, away from any chalets with inhabitants that might overhear them. The plan was to make this a regular meeting, so that they wouldn't have to write and nobody need know about them. Even after the conference, Matt had said he would rent a chalet in Interlaken, a big enough city for him not to be detected, and travel up once a week when they could be sure of not being found. After all, he loved her, he would do anything for her.

She smiled as she swung into the heavy forest, whistling slightly under her breath now that she was sure she wouldn't be overheard. Under the canopy of the trees it was almost pitch black, but for the delicious smell of pine needles and the crackling of twigs she could almost have believed herself in a dream. In the distance she heard the soothing trickle of a brook, the silky water caressing the mossed boulders as it seeped down the mountainside. Somewhere overhead something moved, making a light shower of snow fall down and cling to her hair.

Shaking her head lightly, she glanced up at the slice of moonlight visible between two trees and smiled. This was perfect. Looking behind her, she could just make out other mighty giants rearing into the canopy of twinkling stars which were the only witness to the liaison. She didn't notice the shadow in the gloom that followed her as she continued to toil upwards, to the eventual destination.

Then, in the middle of the clearing, she noticed a familiar figure approaching the tree that they had agreed to meet under. It seemed to come from just behind her, but slightly to one side, and she stopped so that he wouldn't see her approach. Only her breath spiralled up into the heavens, and she thought that she was safe, but he laughed and called gently to her,

“I watched you coming up the slope.”

Relaxing into a giggle at her own foolishness in thinking that she could possibly surprise him, she danced across the snowy ground to meet him, everything but him forgotten in the moment. It had been nearly a fortnight since she last saw him, but he hadn't changed in the slightest, and as she fell into his arms her heart leapt in her chest. It just felt so right.

“I'm sorry that I couldn't come before,” she whispered, nuzzling against him like a fond puppy to its master. “Even now I have to go back soon, for anyone may notice that I left the door open and then there would be trouble.”

“You're here now,” he promised. “That's all I need.”

Common sense told her that the conference was due to end in two days, that then the chances of them being able to meet were even slimmer, but her heart was ruling her head, and it ached so badly when she was separated from him that she just couldn't bear to think about it. He would come back, he must do, and then none of it would matter – the drudgery of her daily routine, the mistresses always shouting at her for being in a daydream, it would all go away.

“I love you,” she murmured, pressing closer to him for warmth. In response, he tipped her head up by the chin, tracing the line of her delicate chin with the side of his thumb, then bent his head and pressed his lips softly to hers, delicate and gentle. With a sigh Cecil moulded into him, her eyes closed, completely at peace and happy with the whole world.

Author:  shesings [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh the desperate vulnerability of the young! And Cecil in her protected little world would be more naive than most. You can see just how it happened - look how many are tempted by people they 'meet' on internet chatrooms.

Author:  dackel [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil - what chance did she have against someone like that?

I don't think she's going to find the Platz very welcoming. Maybe a trip to New Zealand or Canada or somewhere else far away would be a good idea for her. She desperately needs somewhere to start again - without feeling as if she has been sent away in disgrace. Hopefully she can recover a little at home first.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Could she go and stay with Peggy or Sybil or Josette? Maybe they could make an excuse about needing someone to help with the children.

Author:  Chatelaine [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 2:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm really angry with Nancy's attitude because so far it sounds to me like Cecil was pretty much kidnapped from the school - and yes, I say that even though all the evidence is pointing to her running away. That being the case, I hope the Board of Governors grilled Nancy and the staff on how something like this happened to a child who was in their care.

I do hope Cecil learns to shed the massive feelings of guilt and worthlessness she's experiencing right now, because she's not the only person in this whole situation who needs to do some soul-searching. . . Yes Joey, Jack, Nancy, school staff, I'm looking at all of you (and yes, I'm getting dizzy from swiveling my head from one to the other!).

ETA: Ack! Forgot to mention that I'm loving this story!

Author:  Abi [ Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Interesting point, actually, Chatelaine. I hadn't really thought about it before but as she was boarding the school would have been responsible for her even though her parents lived next door.

Poor Cecil, she was so very young. How could she have known? Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Kacca [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 10:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Nancy did say ....
But you must remember the pupils that we lost when Cecil ran away. I have to justify everything that I do; I nearly lost my job over that and you know it.

so it does look as if the school did have to face consequences.

Oh that awful, awful man, sneaking around meeting young schoolgirls.

Thanks for the update Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for all of your comments, as ever! There will be explanations later on, I promise!

- X -

That evening, Jack got a call, and came back in to the Salon, where they were relaxing before going to bed, to announce that Madge and Jem would be flying out early next morning and should be with them by Mittagessen. He had agreed to pick them up, and accordingly had already left when Cecil got up the next morning, although she was, as ever, an early riser. The roads would still be fraught with danger from the snow, though all of the main roads had been declared clear and even more minor roads were safe enough as long as some caution was used.

Predictably, Joey was worrying and trying to pretend that she wasn't worrying, largely by cleaning everything. This was a ritual employed every time that the Russells and Bettanys came to visit, because if Joey wasn't house proud as a rule she had to be seen to be keeping everything perfectly for her brother and sister. Accordingly, as soon as she had had Frühstück, Cecil was set to polishing all of the brass in the house, a job which promised to keep her occupied for at least two hours.

While she worked, she mused over everything. For starters, she wasn't sure how she felt about Madge and Jem coming to visit. If they were sympathetic, then of course it would be nice to have other people in the house, for since yesterday Cecil had bitterly felt her loneliness. But she feared that they wouldn't be, and that it could only make things worse. Maybe Jack wouldn't have told them what she had done yet, and when they heard they would be so disgusted that they would refuse to stay in the same house as her; she wouldn't have blamed them, she would have felt the same in their position. Or maybe they did know, and they were prepared to put their own feelings to one side for Jack and Joey's sake, but that didn't mean that they had to like her.

She was thankful when Joey came to claim her help in getting one of the guest bedrooms ready. Most of the house had been shut up now, since Dr Benson moved back to Oxford and the other children flew the nest. Those rooms around the part of the house that Jack and Joey usually used were kept clean, but half the house at least was closed for most of the year, and only opened and prepared when a visitor was expected. Cecil could tell how sad this made her mother, for she had been told more than once, and could even vaguely remember, of a time when the house was always full of noise and laughter, the patter of tiny feet on the stairs and the joyous shouts of young children.

Of course, she had ruined even that by returning as she did, laughter was a foreign thing in here now. Only ghosts lurked in the corners, threatening to stifle them all in memories of what was, and could have been, and should have been, and what would have been if she hadn't been so stupid. All of this had been brought on by her solitary walk down a dark corridor as she went to help Joey, and she was hard pressed to stifle her tears as she went.

She buried herself in the task of making up the double bed as soon as she could, ducking any questions from her mother about her silence with a small smile. At least Joey had learnt not to press her daughter, but to let her choose to speak in her own time, and Cecil was pleased to be left alone with her thoughts. As much as she hated them, she would have kept them from her parents for the world, and had no qualms about doing so.

The room made up, Joey scurried off to check with Anna what she was doing for Mittagessen, while Cecil was dispatched to lay the table, with instructions to be careful that once upon a time would have made her burn with resentment. Now she took it meekly enough, aware that she deserved the stricture; she had been a careless child before, and more than one piece of broken crockery had been at her hands.

She was just putting the finishing touches to the beautiful arrangement, by setting in the centre a delicate vase, in the absence of any flowers in this weather, when she heard the car pulling up outside (they kept the minivan for family holidays still, Jack had told her when she asked the other night, but tended to use the car only now that everyone was away at school for most of the year). Heart beating nervously, she retired to the Salon, where she would be found easily enough when she was wanted but out of the way until then.

She hadn't expected to be called until Mittagessen, but to her surprise she was joined five minutes later by all four of the adults, Jack and Jem already discussing things quietly between themselves while Madge clamoured to see her niece. Gingerly, Cecil stood up and presented herself, and was surprised to be drawn into the strong arms and kissed warmly. There was nothing else, no other greeting, it was just as if they had come for a holiday and were treating her the same as ever. She would always be grateful for that, for being treated like any of the other children and not having the wide gulf between her and the rest of her family acknowledged.

Author:  Carys [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm so glad that Madge was glad to see Cecil, was worried she'd have the same attitude as Nancy. I really hope Madge puts Nancy in her place after hearing how she treated Cecil (and that the school has an effective "Don't talk to strangers as they might be grooming you" policy in place).

Author:  cestina [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh nice - just how I would have expected Madge to react.....

Author:  abbeybufo [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well done Madge, that was just what was needed

Author:  JB [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hurrah for Madge.

Love Joey's way of dealing with her worries.

Author:  Kacca [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I did not expect anything less from Madge.


Author:  Alison H [ Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Madge handled that really well.

It was very lucky that nothing worse happened to Cornelia, Robin and Elisaveta when they went off with strange men, and that Val was released unharmed: they really should have made it clear to the girls that they had to be more careful.

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was really lovely of Madge; nothing could have helped Cecil more. Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Your comments are as lovely as ever! After this update, I'm going to try and move the story along a little bit, but I couldn't resist one more "nice" scene before it gets all dark again.

- X -

That afternoon, she found herself alone with Madge in the Salon. She was half perusing a book, though it held little interest for her, for she had been unable to find anything else to do in the absence of school work, mending or cleaning. Ostensibly, Madge was engaged in the same activity, reading the newspaper that Jem had brought with him to browse on the flight, but she glanced up from time to time, and eventually ascertained that her niece wasn't reading at all.

Aware that she had only been here a couple of hours, though she had learnt a lot of the family dynamic during that time, and that she needed to tread carefully, she could still see how unhappy Cecil was. It was, she reflected, almost her duty to try and change that, Jack and Joey finding it difficult enough just to cope at the moment. If it had just been a question of running the San, she probably would have stayed behind, but she knew her sister and she knew that her help here would be needed.

Not sure of the best way to approach the problem, she tried tentatively asking what the book was about. Casting it to one side almost in relief, Cecil answered that she hadn't the faintest idea. Gently, Madge smiled. Although never particularly academic, Cecil had done her best while at school, and was seldom lower than eighth or ninth in the form lists – unlike Phil, who was naturally clever and tended to run rings around everyone else.

“It must be hard having to try and settle back in,” probed Madge softly, doing her best not to upset Cecil. She was as much at a loss as Joey as to what should be said or done in this situation, but at least she was more detached from it and could probably see more clearly.

“I deserve it,” smiled Cecil sadly, tossing her curls over her shoulder. “I know what a dreadful thing I've done, and I don't think I can ever forgive myself for it, so I don't see how anyone else can, either.”

“Oh, we have,” promised Madge. “If I never forgave anyone who made a mistake, I'd be holding a lot of grudges by now, believe me. For starters, I wouldn't speak to your mum anymore; the number of scares she gave me in her childhood, if I hadn't forgiven her, there wouldn't be anything between us now. Uncle Jem, as well, has made mistakes, we all do. Even me.”

So far, she reflected, she didn't seem to have upset Cecil, which must be a good sign, but all the same she wasn't sure what to say next. There really wasn't anything comparable to what she had done, but somehow Madge had to find a way to prove to her that it was all right and she needed to stop worrying so much. Eventually, an incident which she had done her best to forget for many years came back to her, and carefully she introduced it.

“You won't remember – well, you may never even have heard – what happened between Sybil and Josette when they were younger, but it was something just as bad as what you've done. I won't pretend that you haven't done a bad thing, because we both know that you have, but that doesn't mean to say that you can't be forgiven for it. Anyway, because of her disobedience, Sybil hurt Josette very badly indeed, in fact there was a time that we didn't know if she would survive. At first, I admit, I wouldn't even see her, but in the end forgiveness came, because she was just as much my little girl.”

“But I hurt everyone so badly,” murmured Cecil. “I should have listened to them.”

“Yes. And they should have made sure that they did. Not all of this is your fault, believe me, in fact very little of it is. Most of the blame must lie with that vile man, but some must also lie with your parents, and they know that. They're finding it just as difficult to forgive themselves as you are, and yet you've forgiven them, I think, and I know that they've forgiven you. They're just happy to have you back again, they won't worry about anything else, and you shouldn't either. Later on, once you're more settled and you feel safer here, then you can start to think about other things.”

There was an awkward silence as Cecil struggled with herself. There was so much that she wanted to say, so many things she wanted to ask, but it would all involve too much explanation. Fighting back tears, she tried to marshal her thoughts into some sort of order; understanding, Madge left her alone and went back to her newspaper. It was nearly ten minutes, and she was just starting to get worried, when suddenly Cecil burst out,

“How are you so understanding?”

“My dear,” laughed Madge, “I taught girls for many years before I married, raised three of my own and still have an interest in the school. I think that one thing I do understand by this point is how other people feel!”

With which the conversation closed for the present, though it was far from forgotten. Cecil thought about it in great detail for a long time afterwards, and the words would come back to comfort her many months in the future. But she wasn't to know that then, and presently she calmed down a little, and picked up her book again, though the print remained little more than jumbled lines on the page. She was still far from forgiving herself, but Madge had opened up the path to her, and she had started to see the way forwards.

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It's often easier to talk to an aunt or uncle or grandparent than to a parent whom you're with all the time. I always thought it was a shame Len didn't see more of Madge, because Madge was another one who had a lot of responsibility landed on her at an early age. Glad that she's there for Cecil.

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad Madge has helped Cecil. She sounds like the perfect person to talk to.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Having been reading this for the last week, I have just joined the board because I had to post and say how well written this is. Jack and Madge are lovely, it's wonderful to see Anna taking her proper place in the family, and Joey seems so realistic. Can't wait to read more.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Nov 09, 2009 11:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Welcome to the board 2nd Gen Fan! Thankyou for such a lovely comment, it made me blush :oops:

- X -

Over the next few days, Cecil began to relax far more around her family. With great pleasure Jack and Joey watched her confidence blossom, so that she stopped thinking before she said everything and started to just blurt out things on her mind. She was still extremely guarded, and they knew that it would take a long time before she could talk to them properly again, but this improvement was enough for now, and thanks to the arrival of Madge and Jem they all started to find things easier.

The transformation was such that Jack began to face up to what had to be done, if with a heavy heart. He had been doing his best not to think about it, but he was as much a doctor as he was a father, and when Jem had raised the subject he promised that he would deal with it soon. Ideally, and if it had been anyone else, he knew he would have dealt with it as soon as he got her back to San., but he'd been unable to face doing anything about it until now.

Despite this his heart still broke over the thought of what he must do to his daughter, but there was no help for it, it was for her own safety. He hoped that if he just blocked from his mind what he was actually saying, didn't think about what it would mean, he could be strong enough to support her. Of course, although famed as a clinic for the successful treatment of TB, the San had doctors trained in a number of areas, and more than one had specialised in what he needed.

One evening, leaving Jem to make sure that they weren't interrupted, Jack took Cecil into the office and sat her down opposite him. Gravely he played out the motions of an appointment with a patient, shuffling paper into various draws and then pulling towards him a blank sheet and a pen. Finally, he worked up the courage to meet his daughter’s eyes, though all that met him was confusion and fear. Taking a deep breath, he said gently,

“Cecilia, I'm so sorry. But I need you to do something for me, something that will be difficult, I know, but which you have to do at some point, and which would be much better done now than later. I -” he faltered, then suddenly blurted out, “You need to be examined. In case there's anything wrong.”

She turned pale when she realised what this meant, but all the same she kept her head up, focusing on a point on the wall just behind him. Very, very reluctantly she nodded her head, unconsciously holding her breath as she did.

“I'm sorry,” repeated her father uselessly. When he didn't get a reply, he began to recite his planned speech. “There are only a few doctors at the San trained to deal with this sort of problem, but you can choose whichever one you like from them. There's Dr Couvosier, who you know, or -”

“Dad,” she interrupted softly, tears filling her eyes. “I don't care. I don't care who does it. Just – just as long as Reg is there.” She paused, but when Jack didn't reply she tried to explain. “I need someone there to help me and – and I don't want you and mum to see that. But Reg he, he'll understand. Won't he?”

“He will,” said Jack quietly, vowing to make him if he needed to. “I'll make sure that he's there too, I promise. Don't be nervous about it, or feel ashamed. Look, Dr Couvosier told me, when I rang up yesterday, that he had quite a few women patients in his old clinic that he's had to do something similar for, so shall I ask him? He's very kind and understanding, I promise – well, I very much doubt that Auntie Biddy would have married him otherwise.”

He paused, but he could tell that most of the nonsense he was babbling out now in his nerves wasn't being listened to anyway. The shock of what she had agreed to had hit Cecil, and now she was just embarrassed talking to him about it. He could understand that, he was embarrassed too, but making a huge effort he took her hand and tried to articulate his feelings, something that he'd never had to do like this before.

“If you need to talk,” he murmured, but it just sounded like another useless platitude. “What I mean is, well, obviously I'm here if you need me. And I'll be honest, I don't particularly want to hear about what you've been through, I don't even want to think about it, but I can't help it. And it hurts really badly, but I know that you'll be hurting even more, and I just want to make that better. So, if you want to talk, then I want to listen, and so does Joey, and Madge and Jem, and everyone here. We all just want to help you. If you want to talk to a councillor, I can find you the perfect one. I'll do anything to help you, you know that, don't you?”

“I know,” she murmured, but her eyes were lifeless. It was the look of some of the women that he'd talked to that weekend in Paris, a look which haunted him. “Excuse me.”

Quietly, she left the room, her head still reeling from what she had been told. Jack understood. Rather than brood on things that he couldn't change, he set his mind firmly to the practicalities of the situation, and picked up the telephone to ring the San. By his reckoning, Eugen should just have arrived to start a shift. If Jack could get him to come over tomorrow, to stop Cecil worrying, that would be for the best.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Nov 09, 2009 11:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It's a shame Daisy isn't still working: maybe Cecil'd feel a little less uncomfortable if she could see a female doctor about this sort of thing, but the San didn't seem to employ any. Hoping the tests come back clear.

Author:  Emma A [ Mon Nov 09, 2009 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Agreeing with Alison - though I'm not sure why Cecil would find this such a hurdle (perhaps it's just me), but I do understand her embarrassment at talking about it with her father.

Thanks Ariel, this continues to be very thought-provoking (and Madge was lovely in that previous update).

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil - these are people she knows, in a setting where this kind of thing is completely foreign. It must feel a bit like a step backwards. And I hope she's ok. Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

By the time he had finished convincing his colleague to cancel an appointment to make time for him, Cecil had gone to bed, and so he couldn't tell her that it would be happening in the morning, and thinking it best that she ate first he waited until they were finishing Frühstück before he announced it. To his immense relief, Jem looked approving of the move, and Madge tactfully asked Joey an unrelated question before she could demand more information. All the same, she looked suspicious, and cornered Jack as soon as they left the table.

It had been slightly more difficult to persuade Reg to not only get up early on his day off, but waste a precious morning alone with Len, but he was eventually won over by her input that she wanted to see Joey anyway. With a sigh he agreed, on the condition that he got another day off as soon as possible to coincide with one of Len's, which Jem agreed to cheerfully enough.

In name Jem had taken over running the San, but he would be the first to admit that he was getting old now, and it had been many years since he had concerned himself with the practicalities of overseeing such a large place, so it was largely left to Reg to run it, with help from a few of the other top doctors, Dr Couvosier among them. But he knew that this was a temporary arrangement only, for it had long been said that either David or Rix, both now fully trained doctors, would be coming out to take over this branch while one took on the English branch. At one time in his life, Reg might have resented it, for he was sensitive to any perceived injustices, but now he knew how lucky he was to have Len and the children, and he tended to view running the San as just another distraction to keep him away from them.

Certainly marrying Len had been the best day of his life, and over the years she had taught him to relax and see other people's point of view as well. He only hoped that he'd improved enough to be able to help Cecil, for it was clear that she was relying on him today, as uncomfortable as it made him. Thankfully, they'd had a full night with Mary, so he'd been able to avoid having to discuss it with Len, but he still wasn't happy with being called in on such a delicate and intimate matter, and he intended to let Jack know as much.

But when he saw his father-in-law's haggard face, and the sleepless night told clearly by the bags under his eyes, he held his tongue. Cecil had asked for him, and it was clear that he was going to have to do what she wanted or face Jack's wrath, something which most doctors did their utmost to avoid. However, he still felt glad that Cecil was hiding in her room, and he didn't have to see her yet. He couldn't even begin to imagine why she had chosen him, of all people, he assumed that she would have wanted one of her parents, or maybe Jem or Madge.

Ten minutes later and Eugen Couvosier arrived as well, bag in one hand. A few light flakes of snow had fallen as he walked from the car to the house, but this was still early in the year for it, and it seemed to have been dying off for the last few days. There was speculation on the Platz that it might even be replaced by fierce thunder storms by the end of the week. He only hoped that a blizzard didn't come on suddenly and trap him in the house for a few days; that could be incredibly awkward indeed.

Brusquely, doing his best to maintain a professional air, he greeted Jack, as he hoped he might have greeted the father of any other young girl sent to him for this sort of treatment. Trying to ignore his boss's weary resignation to the situation, he asked if Cecil was ready, and tried not to look relieved when he was told that Reg would be sitting in with them. He had been imagining having to conduct his examination with Jack present, or, even worse, Joey. Reg he had worked with many times, and he knew that he could trust him to remain calm and professional.

“Just before you go up,” said Jack suddenly, “I told Sir James that you'd both be more than happy to schedule a meeting with him later in the week. He wants to go over how the San is being run.”

“I'll get my secretary to ring you,” promised Eugen, and Reg smiled. Sir James made him distinctly nervous, for no explainable reason. “Right. Which room are we going to?”

“Third on the left from the stairs,” said Jack, pointing them in the right direction. He didn't stay to watch them walk up, but retired to his office, where he buried himself in some paperwork until Jem escaped from the women and came to distract him.

Meanwhile, Reg and Eugen looked at each other, almost seeming to wish each other luck, before they turned to the door indicated. There wasn't any noise from inside, and in the deserted hallway even their breathing sounded heavy and unnatural. Although neither man would have admitted it, both could feel their hearts pumping loudly in their ears, and neither seemed to quite know what to say.

Eugen chastised himself for being foolish; he had done this sort of thing many times before, it shouldn't matter that he'd watched this particular patient running around as a small girl, attaching herself to his leg and demanding a ride on his back. Once more he looked at Reg, who gave a short nod, and then he turned the handle of the door. Both men entered silently, knowing that they would leave that room changed in some indefinable way.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Reg would be entitled to be narked if he'd worked there for years and then the boss's son or nephew was appointed over his head, but that's life :( .

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That would be so hard for both doctors. Hope it goes alright with and for Cecil. Madge was so lovely there with her as well

Author:  LauraMcC [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Alison H wrote:
Reg would be entitled to be narked...

I first read that bit as "entitled to be naked", so I'm not sure what's going on in my head. :oops:

Anyway, I'm not sure if I've commented on this before, but I have been enjoying it, if that's the right word to use here. I hope that the doctors find that there is nothing physically wrong with Cecil.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cecil's trust in him shows Reg in a really nice light, more of a real character than the one-dimensional one we get from the books. Hope all goes okay for Cecil....

Author:  hac61 [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cliff! Cliff!

Why do I think Cecil is not going to be there? Is that just because I wouldn't have hung around for it?

Some-one could at least have waited with her.


ETA This is the only drabble so far that I keep refreshing the page to see what happens next!

Author:  dackel [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How horrible for everyone concerned. I don't think I could let anyone I knew do that kind of examination, no matter how much I trusted them. And especially not a man.

Poor Cecil, I hope she'll be all right.

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Everyone else has said what I thought! Good luck to the doctors and Cecil.

Author:  charli [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption


ETA This is the only drabble so far that I keep refreshing the page to see what happens next

Me too!

It must be so awkward for the two doctors. They have known Cecil since she was a baby!

Thank You, i am eagerly awaiting the next part!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, dear, if you thought the last one was a cliff maybe I should supply hard hats with the this one - hopefully, anyway, if I haven't written it too badly. Thankyou :D

- X -

After they had finished, Eugen left to tell Jack what had happened, but when Cecil gripped his arm Reg stayed behind. Both men had reassured her that they would keep anything specific confidential, though she accepted that her parents would have to be told that they hadn't found anything wrong with her. She only hoped that they wouldn't ask any more questions; she'd had enough of questions for now.

Once Eugen had tactfully withdrawn, Reg settled back in his chair and looked at her carefully. It was different to reconcile her to her personality; she looked so young, but haunting her eyes and her speech was someone much older, who had seen things none of them could relate to, no matter how hard they tried. Sensing that it was up to him to start the conversation, he tried,

“Are you all right? I know that can't have been pleasant, but it's over now.”

“I just didn't think that I'd have to talk about it at home,” she murmured, watching her fingers twining around themselves. “This was supposed to be the end of it all.”

“You need to talk,” said Reg quickly, catching her hands in his and massaging her palms soothingly. “We all want to help you, but none of us can if we don't know what's wrong. Of course you don't have to tell us anything that you don't want to, but even if you just shout at us when we do something wrong, that would be a start.”

When no reply became forthcoming, he debated leaving, but he could sense that there was more Cecil wanted to say, and she just didn't know how. He could imagine how painful this was for her, having been through everything that she had to have to relive it all again. Still, he rarely underestimated the value of silence, and he waited for her to speak again.

“I just loved him.”

“I know,” replied Reg quietly. They'd all known, after she ran away, just how strong her feelings were, but it was too late by then. Guessing at what she was trying to say, he did his best to console her. “We all do stupid things for love sometimes. Look at me; I don't suppose that Len told you how I proposed to her, or not, but I still blush to think of it. I only did it so badly because I loved her so much, as odd as that sounds. I'd planned it in my head so many times, all of these grand gestures that I could do to make it special, but I was so nervous when the time came...”

“Do you think he ever loved me?” asked Cecil suddenly, looking up at him so hopefully that it nearly broke his heart. “Do you think that's why he treated me like he did, because he loved me and he didn't want to lose me, but he didn't know any other way?”

“I doubt it,” said Reg with a small smile. “And so do you. But maybe. Maybe we all misunderstood him.”

That seemed to be an end of the conversation. Collecting his things together, Reg made sure that Cecil would come down in a minute to see Len before they left and then departed, quietly closing the door behind him. In the corridor, he took a deep breath, trying to marshal his thoughts into some sort of order. Outside of the room it all seemed so natural and normal, just another patient, and he'd learnt not to get too close to them. But at the back of his mind, he knew that it was different.

Running lightly down the staircase he went to find Eugen, who was in the study trying to reassure Jack. Collecting himself, he slid in through the door and stood behind his colleague, doing his best to look generally confident and satisfied with the way things had gone. But his knuckles were white as he gripped his bag, and he was generally reminded of the time that he'd been called innocuously to Jack's office, expecting to be quizzed on a new patient or similar, and had instead had questions about his feelings towards Len fired at him.

The two men finished their brief report about the fact that Cecil was fine physically and he needed to stop worrying about it, and did their best to escape before he could think of anything else to ask them. Thankfully, he seemed rather preoccupied and dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Both looking rather relieved that the ordeal was over, they left as quickly as they politely could, Reg accompanying his friend to the door before he went back to find his wife.

As they said goodbye, they both looked at each other, and the problem hung unspoken between them. A lot of what they'd promised to keep confidential was exactly the sort of thing that Jack must surely have expected not to be told. But there was something, which they couldn't possibly even allude to, and which if Jack ever found out would bring trouble on both their heads. In those few seconds, they promised to stand by each other come what may, to keep Cecil's secret completely and to back each other to the hilt. They just hoped that it wouldn't come to that.

Author:  shazwales [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you,that must have been difficult to write.Now i don't know if i'm dreading or looking forward to the next update.

Author:  JB [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You're right, Ariel. That really was a cliff. The previous one was a gentle slope.

Thanks for the update though.

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was indeed a cliff of monumental scale. I think I needed more than a hard hat Ariel.

Now I'm off to bed all worried and concerned.

Thank you, this is wonderful.

Author:  charli [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

oh my gosh, i walked right over the edge of that cliff! Was just reading on and was totally surprised when it ended! Hmmm i wonder what the confidential information is??

Author:  Abi [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

*sails over the edge of the cliff, having foolishly disregarded the big sign*

What is Cecil's secret? Why is it so important that it stays a secret? Not that I'm really expecting you to answer straight out, but it's always worth a try :wink: .

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I hope it's not some horrible STD that means she's now sterile or something. Please update soon Ariel

Author:  abbeybufo [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Fiona Mc wrote:
I hope it's not some horrible STD that means she's now sterile or something.

Now my thoughts had been going in completely the opposite direction ... patter of tiny feet

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So had mine, especially given Jack's religious convictions.

Author:  Abi [ Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Must admit that's where I was going too, though trying to deny the possibility......

Author:  Kacca [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well I did think of that possiblily but the whole if Jack ever found out thing left me totally befuddled (he would be finding out about anything that kept Cecil busy before too long). What secret could she have that means she is physically fine but also has to remain a secret?

I am currently imagining Ariel taking off her deep, emotional hat and rubbing her hands with glee at the state she has left us in.

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I was thinking that Cecil might have had an abortion at some point in the past... She would be desperate to keep that news from Jack.

Thanks for the updates, Ariel - really do hope she can talk to someone properly about her ordeal.

Author:  Kacca [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh Emma A, that is probably it. And I doubt there was much care.

Oh poor Cecil.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Kacca wrote:
I am currently imagining Ariel taking off her deep, emotional hat and rubbing her hands with glee at the state she has left us in.
- Now, would I be that evil? :devil:

- X -

Meanwhile, Cecil had eventually crawled downstairs, hoping that she could slip into the Salon unnoticed. The Joey of old would have been brimming over with questions for her, but recently she seemed to have accepted that there were things her daughter couldn't tell her, and she was getting better about it. Whether this would prove to be too much for her not to ask about remained to be seen.

The Salon was warm and comforting, and as soon as she stepped through the door the crackling fire seemed to envelop her and draw her into its heat. Contradictorily, she shivered, but it went unnoticed and she was able to take her seat next to Len with a small smile. In one corner, Mary was stacking brick blocks on top of each other, reaching about four and deciding that it was time to knock them over and applaud herself for the effort. For about a year now George had attended the Chalet School kindergarten, which he loved with all his heart for he ruled all the other children by his daring deeds. His only complaint with it was that the teachers always told him off for doing something wrong.

All of this Len explained to Cecil, after she had finished telling Joey of his latest escapade. Apparently, he had been found hacking the hair off of one of the dolls, and when asked why he did it replied that he was only doing what Tante Simone did when she was at school; where he had heard the legend, Len added drily, she couldn't imagine. Suddenly she gave a wistful sigh and said that in a couple of years Mary would be old enough to go as well. For now, Joey looked after her while Len was teaching, or, on the rare occasions that she couldn't do it, there was always someone in the staffroom. But she was growing up fast, and both of her parents could feel it.

After that, Joey and Len began to discuss one of the members of staff new that term, who Joey hadn't seen much of but whom she said sounded horrible. She was a maths teacher, and refused to teach in anything but her native German, which although not too much of a challenge to the pupils who were fluent in it, did prove problematic for new girls who didn't speak it, especially as she was refusing to give them any leeway in the matter, and was marking as if they could understand her perfectly.

Bored by the discussion, Cecil watched the flames leaping up the chimney then suddenly retreating again, feasting merrily on a lump of wood in the middle of the inferno. She remembered how there had been a fire in the building opposite her window one night, in the middle of winter, and for the next six months she had had to look at it being repaired every day. Someone had died in the fire, but the police never really investigated, they all avoided that area of town unless there for pleasure.

A sudden fear gripped her heart once more, as she remembered when a senior ranking officer had threatened them with various charges, and she had been called on to sweeten his mind to them. It was deeply impressed on her how important that it was she got it right, and that alone had been almost enough to make her cry. Most of them learnt very quickly what they could expect if they upset Matt.

Pulling her cardigan more firmly around her, she did her best to tune back in to the conversation happening around her, still about the teacher now that Madge had joined them again and brought back a tray of coffee (Anna had one day off a week, and during winter when she couldn't get out she was often brought breakfast in bed by Joey and spent a frankly lazy morning reading). She was keen to learn more about all of the staff appointed since she had last visited, strictly unofficially, and Len was doing her best to give an impartial account.

“Of course,” she concluded, “that was all strictly off the record and even Nancy won't be hearing of it – will she Auntie Madge?”

“What do you take me for?” laughed Madge, sipping the sweet coffee she delighted in. “I shan't mention a word of it. I've always found, though, that getting an account of someone who has to work directly with people is a good way of building a fuller picture of them. You've been very helpful.”

Then, glancing across at Cecil, she carefully mentioned how she had once hired a Matron through an agency, which made Joey laugh and start reminiscing. Cecil had heard most of the old tales before, but they were more welcoming than her previous thoughts, and she listened gratefully. Soon enough, everyone in the room knowing the eventual ending of Robin being locked in, they began to discuss the Tirol.

The chalet, formerly the home of the Saints, who Joey mentioned every time they went there, while the rest all rolled their eyes at each other and made her laugh, was still a holiday home for them whenever they wanted it, although Joey explained that Simone and Frieda had both wanted it last year over the summer, so that they hadn't been able to go. She had heard, though, that the Kronz Prinz Karl had passed into the ownership of the grandson of the first owner they had known, Herr Braun, and they speculated for a while about what he would do with it.

Then Len announced that she really must go home to start making lunch – they hadn't continued the tradition of giving meals their German names, she said that she got enough of that at school – and collected Mary, who Cecil was secretly sad to see go. She loved babies, and she was still just starting to get to know Mary, but she was determined to be the best aunt ever to her. She had also decided, though she hadn't told Jack and Joey yet, that she was going to write to all of her siblings, to get back in touch with them.

Naturally she followed the rest into the hall to say goodbye, and if there was a slight awkwardness between her and Reg, they seemed natural enough. What made her happiest was when Len let her kiss Mary goodbye, for she was nervous with young children and it often showed. Thus, she was startled when she was asked if she could babysit one night soon. Len and Reg wanted a night off, and rather than have the children sleep at Freudesheim, she wondered if Cecil would stay the night at their house to look after them. It was the nicest thing anyone had said to her in a long time, and as she waved them off she was forced to brush discreetly at her eyes so that nobody would see how close to tears she was.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Glad that Len and Reg have let her see that they trust her.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was nice of Len and Reg. I hope Cecil won't be afraid, though - she hasn't been alone really since Jack rescued her. or alternatively that something awful won't happen....

That was a lovely but sad scene, thanks Ariel.

Author:  JB [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I was just about to say what a lovely warm feeling that update gave me when I saw Abi's post. Gulp.

Author:  Kacca [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh me too JB.

But even if babysitting something way beyond what Cecil could cope with right now, how wonderful to be handed that trust.

I also melted at the fact that Cecil feels nearly able to write to her siblings.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your comments, they're as touching as ever! :oops: Just one quick question; at roughly what age will a baby's eyes start changing colour?

- X -

After that the days flew by without incident until Cecil was surprised to realise that a week had passed, and she had only thought about life outside of Freudesheim once the day before. The weather continued to sporadically dump more snow on them, but by now the authorities had a good grip, and even somewhere as isolated as the Platz had regained most of its transport and other links with the outside world; though to Cecil, who had yet to leave the house after the disastrous ski incident, it mattered little either way.

Her days were easily occupied, for Anna was growing old now, and had to take medication for various aches in her joints. As for Joey, she was as clueless as ever about anything housework related, and so most of it fell to Cecil to do, strictly under Anna's watchful eye. She didn't mind – in fact, she preferred it, for it kept her busy and left her too worn out that she was grateful just to fall into bed and go to sleep by the end of the day.

In fact, she even found herself enjoying it, the satisfaction of seeing a newly polished floor or a now tidy room unequal to anything she had experienced before. What was even better were the lunchtimes spent in the kitchen with Anna – where she was far more comfortable than dining with the rest, who she still couldn't help feeling judged by, despite knowing that it was just her own irrational fear – and the calmness which descended with just the two of them.

The peace was shattered forcefully one morning, when over Frühstück Joey went to answer the telephone in the hallway. They heard a startled squawk, then the sound of hurrying feet, before she burst in on them with the news that Charles and Charlie were in Interlaken. A fresh snowfall the day before had prevented them from reaching the Platz so far, but they were going to catch the rack and pinion railway – tentatively operating enough to allow up relatives of patients and food supplies, after a rock fall on the main road that left it temporarily impassable – that afternoon, and hoped that it wasn't too short notice to demand Abendessen.

The whirlwind tactics were typical of the two, and Joey was accustomed in a long suffering manner to the fact that her quiet son had been firmly led astray by his wife. Quickly, she organised them into teams; Madge and Anna were to cook extra food and make sure that they had enough to satisfy a hungry baby for at least two weeks, it never being possible to say with some certainty how long Charles and Charlie would take it into their heads to stay anywhere. Meanwhile, Jack and Jem were dispatched to rescue some of the children's old things from the attic, with strict instructions to be careful with the cot, which was safe enough but still quite delicate by this stage. She and Cecil would open, air and generally get ready the suite of rooms previously used by Stacie Benson for them to stay in.

The previous day, Madge and Jem, who had taken extended leave of their house and simply told the cook and the housekeeper to expect them when they saw them again, had announced that they would be staying at Freudesheim for Christmas. They'd written to all of the children, but Rix and David had decided to stay with Dick, and Kevin and Kester were staying with friends, while the rest had their own family to attend to.

As Joey was confidently expecting at least some of her brood to turn up, as well as having Phil, Geoff and Claire back to contend with, she decided just to open up that side of the house. Even if Charles left before Christmas, she knew that Stephen and Mike, at least, both of whom she had written to with firm instructions to come, would appreciate having their own space.

Accordingly they spent the morning dusting, and therefore sneezing, making beds, sweeping floors and generally making it inhabitable again. The two men had taken it upon themselves to prepare the nursery, and as Anna and Madge had done themselves proud in making a roast dinner, which they would start to cook closer to the time, everything seemed to be done, and it was a merry throng which sat down to the light lunch of sandwiches – thankfully not prepared by Joey, who had been banned a long time ago after certain experiments.

Only Cecil seemed preoccupied, but they were used to her going off into worlds of her own without notice by now, a trait they had prior experience of thanks to her sister Con, and they paid no attention to it. Instead, Joey warned Jack to wrap up warm when he and Jem went to meet the train and with a long suffering sigh added that she had better go and check the nursery. Jack had always tended to view the children as Joey's department, unless they were behaving or in need of telling off for the good of their souls, but he took a far more active interest in his grandchildren and would happily confess to an afternoon with them being the best thing he could think of to do with his time. He just still wasn't very good at it, especially while they were all still so young.

The meal was only a quick affair, for Jack and Jem would have to set off sharply if they were to catch the train getting in, which might have been for the best given the way that Joey was working herself up about seeing Charles and Millie again. They had visited over the summer, she ostensibly told Madge and Jem, something she did frequently to also tell Cecil without making her feel like an outcast, but even so babies grew up so fast at that age, and Millie was bound to be so different now than she had been then.

Only Cecil didn't partake in the speculation of the others about what she would be like now; Madge and Jem had never seen her, and were pressing her proud grandparents for all the details they could give. But Cecil excused herself as soon as she could, before the meal had finished, with the excuse that the hallway of the apartment still needed sweeping. Joey tried to call her back, but Jack's hand on her arm stopped her, and reminded her that they'd agreed to let Cecil have whatever space she needed. She went back to talking about Millie, and Charlie, whom Madge and Jem still had the pleasure of meeting as well, but it was clear that her heart wasn't in it like before.

Author:  Emma A [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How sad that Cecil is so scared by the prospect of seeing her own brother. Though from what I remember of Charlie. she's probably a great person to confide in.

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

She does seem to be having some issues about the idea of seeing a young baby.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I've just read the last two chapters; everyone is really working hard to reassure Cecil. Len and Anna come across particularly well, I love seeing Anna as more one of the family. I think it's only natural that Cecil will be nervous everytime she has to meet someone else, but I am sure that Charles will be good to her - and babies are always a great distraction!

Author:  Abi [ Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, I can completely understand why she's nervous but I think Charles and Charlie will be good for her - they'll bring a bit of lightness and humour into the situation, maybe help Cecil feel a bit more normal. I don't suppose she's laughed much for a while :( .

Thanks Ariel, this is great as ever.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel, Enjoyed the catch up with updates though am curious about the bombshell you dropped about Cecil's secret

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 11:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, dear, Charlie seems to be channelling OOAO and her propensity for butting-in. I do hope that nobody dislikes her too violently. I also seem to be assuming that everyone knows Charlie's background, so apologies to anyone who doesn't.

- X -

It was Anna who first spotted the group of people coming along the road, and calling to Joey, she made her way to the hallway, wiping her hands on her apron as she did. The rest congregated around her so that when the travellers came there was a vociferous welcome for them. All of them were flushed and healthy, breathless after their tramp through the snow, as well as cold. In fact, Anna only stayed long enough to embrace them both before she disappeared to put on some tea – Charlie begged her for a cup, rather than coffee – to warm them up.

Meanwhile, they had all been trying to pile into the hallway, until Joey laughed and told Cecil to go and get the Salon fire ready. But before she could obey, Charlie, who had been unwrapping a bundle of pink cloth stood shyly at her feet, added cheerfully,

“You can take this little monkey with you. She's been causing problems all the way up, I need a break!”

“Oh,” said Cecil awkwardly, not sure what to do when confronted with the large blue eyes that looked up at her uncertainly, “I-”

“I'll come and help,” said Jack quickly, coming to the rescue by swinging Millie into his arms and tickling her gently. “You can tell me what you've been doing to wear mummy out.”

“Granddad,” sang Millie sweetly, her hands resting on either side of his face, until she added in an exaggerated tone, “Cold.”

Not quite knowing what else to do, Cecil trailed after them into the Salon, where they were soon joined by Madge, who had decided that she would opt for a discreeter and less rushed introduction there, rather than wait in the hallway to watch them all shake off snow-covered outer layers. They settled down, Madge laughing when offered a hug with the small girl that chattered on regardless of whether Jack was paying attention or not, and replying that she didn't think she could be cruel enough to break his heart by taking her away for even a short time. Instead, she sat next to Cecil.

“Are you ok?” she murmured, low enough that they wouldn't be heard over Millie's excited shrieks as Jack started to rock the rocking chair he'd sat down in. Mutely, Cecil nodded, then broke into a smile as Charles and Charlie joined them, Charles talking animatedly to his mother. Jem slipped in a few minutes later and then drew forward some light wicker chairs in one corner which weren't particularly comfortable, but which was all that was left to him, now that Charlie had plumped herself down next to Cecil and Joey and Charles had taken the other two chairs opposite.

For a while the conversation focused on the journey out, and the two days that they'd spent in Interlaken beforehand, getting out whenever they could to see the sights. The promised pot of tea arrived, as Anna also pulled up a wicker chair and carried on work on the Christmas themed jumper she was knitting for Stephen; green with Christmas puddings on. Jack missed most of it, absorbed by his granddaughter, who was currently seeing how hard she could tug his hair before he stopped her, and telling Jem of some of the mischief she'd been known to get up to.

“It's good to see you again,” said Charlie, as soon as she could slip out of the conversation, which had moved on to how Charles' career was currently going, focusing on Cecil, who blushed for no evident reason. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she said quickly, but she could tell that Charlie was asking after more than just her immediate health, and she found herself adding truthfully, “Well, most of the time, when I'm busy.”

“Good,” smiled her sister-in-law, squeezing her hand. “Of course these things will take time, but we're always here if you need us. And,” she added, in typical fashion, “you mustn't ever hesitate to come and visit. I'd love you to come! Charles has decided that he wants to run for government in a couple of years – obviously he'll only try and get elected in a small constituency to start with – but he's still trying to win his way into the Old Boys' Network in preparation for it. Which of course means that his long-suffering wife has to go to the most ghastly parties and listen to Darling Martha boasting about how her wonderful son has been taught to count to five by the Nanny.”

Despite herself, Cecil giggled, but quickly she sobered again.

“I doubt I'd be very helpful to his career.”

“Oh, I don't know,” smiled Charlie, collecting Millie automatically into her arms as her daughter ran up, bored of Jack now. “I don't suppose you heard about Mr Profumo a few years ago? He was caught in a relationship with someone who was also in a relationship with the enemy, and it finished his career. Charles went to a couple of the parties with some of the boys from university that he was at, and I still don't know if I want to ask him about them or not. But society loves nothing more than a good scandal, and you'll be a fresh face.”

She was the first person to address the problem so directly, and Cecil found herself relaxing because of it. Nobody else had dared to mention it to her, but as ever Charlie had known just what to say. However, she could also tell that Cecil was still uncomfortable thinking about it, and, the invitation to stay having been completely genuine, she was compelled to add,

“Don't worry. Nobody will hear anything about it from us, and if you did come and stay you wouldn't be forced to go to anything like that. We just want you to know that you'll always have a home with us if you want it – what's the matter?” she finished in resignation as Millie, deciding that she wasn't getting enough attention, screwed up her face and started to cry.

Author:  Carys [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Have just had lots of this to catch up on :D

I'm really enjoying it, though I am intrigued as to what Cecil's secret is!

Author:  charli [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I like Charlie, and it's really nice that she wants Cecil to feel she has a home with her and Charles, but Ariel, i am still at the bottom of that cliff from earlier...what is the secret????

Author:  Abi [ Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Charlie is lovely and a breath of fresh air. But also still wibbling about Cecil's secret.

Author:  janetbrown23 [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I have a feeling the secret is something to do with the punishment she was given when she tried to write to her family and he found out. Maybe some scarring or something like that, or a mark to show he owned her.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Lovely to see more of Charlie again and she's as wonderful as ever

Author:  Kacca [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hmm I was starting to think Cecil may have had a child she was forced to abandon, perhaps born around the same time as Millie :?: :cry:

I hope that's not it.

Thanks Ariel, it's so lovely to see Charlie here (she's a fabulous character).

Author:  shesings [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I worry she has been forced into a pregnancy termination which would be totally against all the Maynard family's Catholic beliefs. As in those days it was completely illegal virtually everywhere it might have been botched and left scarring and future fertility problems.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It's no use! You'll hear more about her secret when she's ready to tell you and not before! :lol: Thanks for the comments, it's nice to know that Charlie isn't too annoying yet.

- X -

That evening was spent gently, the men congregating in one corner to talk about Charles' chances of being elected and the state of the economy, while Madge and Anna exchanged knitting patterns in one corner and took part in a conversation with Cecil and Charlie, who was telling them about some of the people she knew. Relieved for once of Millie, who was being entertained by Joey, she was slouched across the sofa, yawning intermittently.

“Of course,” she sighed, having told Madge all about two women whose mothers she had known before the war, “I used to have the perfect excuse not to bore myself with them, because someone had to look after Millie, but now I'm out every other night with Charles. Oh, he's grateful enough, and he always makes sure to mention quite loudly that I'm the most beautiful there, but it is tiring. You don't know how much I needed a break to be with people who I can just talk to.”

“I can well imagine,” promised Madge drily, remembering her own life before the trip to Canada, which had done so much for her. “So what do you do about Millie?” she added, not out of nosiness or even politeness, just the friendly interest that she took in everyone she met. It was always her philosophy to treat someone in the same manner she wished to be received unless they proved to her that she didn't like them, but she was most intrigued by Charlie so far.

“Oh,” said the mysterious visitor carelessly, “my younger sister Debbie lives with us a lot. She goes to university nearby, and between mum and Nancy and I we can just about afford to support her, but she lives with us to cut down on costs. So I get free babysitting and help around the house in return.”

Shortly afterwards, Anna announced her intention of retiring for the night, and Madge and Jem followed soon afterwards, as well as Joey, who had barely returned from putting Millie to bed when she started to yawn. Seeing that it would no longer be considered rude, Charles and Charlie, both worn out from travelling, were quick to follow, and within half an hour the last embers of the fire died down, leaving the Salon dark and empty.

The next morning it was proposed to go for a walk. Obviously the whole party couldn't go together, not least because Charles diplomatically hinted that he wanted a talk alone with his father, but they agreed to try one of the mountain paths which was more easily accessible, and which hopefully wouldn't have been made impassable by the snow. It forked at one point, and most of the group could take the easier route along a meandering river, flat for the most part. Jack and Charles would keep going up, and Joey mused aloud that she might join them, for she was still young and agile at heart.

Only Charlie and Cecil said that they would stay behind. The former pointed out that Millie, worn out from the excitements of the day before, was cross and easily upset as a result and wouldn't make a fun companion, though the calm of a quiet house might do her good; besides which someone needed to stay behind to make Mittagessen for when everyone returned. Cecil refused to give a reason, just shook her pretty head and declared that she would rather stay in the house. The four elders glanced at each other, but there wasn't much they could say, so they had to let it go.

In fact, Cecil was nervous about seeing the school, or other people on the Platz who she was sure were talking about her. She knew that in a group that size nobody could possibly hurt her, but she hadn't forgotten Miss Wilmot's anger the last time they'd met, and it would be even worse if they met a group of girls from the school. Of course she would go next time, but she didn't understand why they wanted to freeze tramping through the snow anyway. It would be far more comfortable to stay here, in the warm. Naturally it had nothing to do with her constant fear that he was lurking just outside, waiting until she was most vulnerable to pounce.

She didn't say any of this, but all the same, Jack contrived to pull her to one side as preparations were made, and quietly pointed out that she was supposed to be babysitting next week, and she would have to go out at some point. As tactful as he was, he still managed to upset Cecil, who frowned at him and asked rather crossly to be left alone. Solely to avoid an argument which would only undo all of the progress they'd made so far, he said no more, but he wasn't the only one who'd noticed what had gone on.

Once the rest had left, well wrapped up and chattering among themselves, Charlie insisted on Cecil joining her in the Nursery, so that Millie could play while they talked. The Nursery at Freudesheim was a continual delight to all of the small children, for it housed the toys of all twelve Maynard children, and as a consequence new things were always being discovered. Today, Millie collected the old dolls house which had belonged to the triplets many years ago, and was dispatched to play quietly in the corner.

The two women took a seat on the floor at the other end of the room, Cecil hugging a teddy bear to her chest protectively. He had belonged to Claire, and was quite battered, with one eye and half an ear missing, but she couldn't bear to get rid of him, and Mary was rapidly developing a fondness for him.

“So,” said Charlie quietly, sitting back against the wall and looking at her companion knowingly. “Why didn't you want to go on the walk?”

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 2:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It might do Cecil good to be able to talk to someone who's close enough to be able to trust but not as close as her parents or Len.

Author:  Emma A [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 4:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Agrees with Alison.

Thanks for more of this, Ariel (it's nice to see more of Charlie and Charles, too!).

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, she's going to have to get past her fear at some point, though :( .

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Remembering how great Charlie was with Geoff and Mike, I'm really glad you've ressurrected her for this drabble. Hope she can help Cecil talk about stuff a lot more naturally and easily

Author:  JB [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad Charlie forced her way into your drabble. She's just what Cecil needs.

Am I the only still nervous about the babysitting?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your comments!

- X -

The rest of the party were surprised when they were met on their return by Charlie, Cecil and Millie, walking along the path to meet them. At first they didn't recognise them, it was only when they drew closer and heard Millie urging her mother to pull her faster that Charles broke into a laugh and said that he'd know that voice anywhere. It didn't take them long to meet each other, and Charlie explained that they had a vat of warm soup waiting at home, and had just wanted to have a quick stroll while they could, for grey skies were descending again.

Nobody commented especially on Cecil's presence, though she saw Charles shoot an inquisitive look at his wife and suddenly shuffled her feet in embarrassment. It had taken Charlie nearly all of her persuasive powers to get Cecil to come with her, but the talk in the nursery had done her good, and she even managed to feel almost safe, with Jack on one side loosely holding her hand as they walked and Madge on the other, discussing the likelihood of snow over the next couple of days with Joey.

At first she had refused to tell Charlie anything, just saying that she didn't want to go out because it was so cold, but she should have known that her sister-in-law wouldn't let her get away with that. Not that Charlie asked outright, but she started to muse on how she wished she could have gone, but that she couldn't possibly leave Cecil alone in the house. Seeing that she had hooked Cecil's attention most effectively, she added innocently,

“Well, if you're scared of meeting him outside, it would hardly be fair of me to leave you alone here.”

“I'm not afraid of him,” replied Cecil quickly, refusing to meet Charlie's eye. “I – I just think that it would be awkward, if we met anyone.”

“Oh, I see,” murmured Charlie. “It's gossip that you're worried about, and you think that hiding in here won't just make them speculate even more.”

“I'm not hiding!” burst out Cecil, angry at having her fears pointed out so bluntly. She half stood up to go, tears shining in her eyes, but when Charlie started talking again, she found that she had to listen. It would be impossible to say what made her stay, but there was something compelling about Charlie, and in her heart she knew that this was her best chance of finding understanding so far. She hovered uncertainly by the door, to see what Charlie would have to say.

Inwardly, Charlie was actually nervous, though she wasn't going to show Cecil that. For starters, she had never had to talk to someone like Cecil before, at least not this bluntly, though she knew quite a few women who held their place in society by various unsuitable liaisons. Secondly, she wasn't sure that she should say what she was about to, for although she suspected that Jack had guessed Millie wasn't just an early baby, she didn't know that anybody else had questioned the assumption, and she didn't want to face all of that awkwardness now.

“When I gave birth, there was loads of gossip then, and I admit that to begin with I did hide away because I didn't want people to talk about me. But as soon as I came out and started showing Millie off, it all stopped, and it was just accepted that Charles and I had a daughter. Of course it was probably helped by the Viscount's daughter running off to get married to Baron Johnathon, as we all fondly called him.”

“But if I see them it will only make them worse,” said Cecil miserably, missing completely the revelation that Charlie had just made. “They'll start asking me all these questions, and I'd rather just avoid it if I can.”

“Not if I'm there,” promised Charlie grimly. She had a way all of her own in dealing with people who were just being nosy. “Look, just come out for ten minutes with us once I've got the meal ready. I'll look after you, I promise, and if needs be I can always set Millie on them.”

Millie, who had been half listening to the conversation, even though she didn't understand much of it, suddenly dropped her plaything to curl her tiny fingers into claws and growl most realistically at her startled aunt. All of the prettiness had disappeared from her face, her forget-me-not eyes screwed up and her teeth bared. Her mother laughed and ruffled her blonde curls affectionately.

“We worked on that one for ages. And now whenever Auntie Susan comes around to bore mummy with her idle chatter for hours on end, we get to practice it, don't we. Lady Susan Chester,” she added as an aside to Cecil, “has decided that she needs to teach me all about society so that I don't commit a faux pas and ruin Charles' career. She means well, but she can ramble more than anyone I've ever met. Thankfully she usually announces in advance when she'll be coming and I can warn Charles to be home early.”

All of this had diverted Cecil completely, and she found her bad mood slipping away as she suddenly pulled a face at Millie, who laughed uproariously at the effort. Thus far she had been cautious of Cecil, sensing like all children can when someone was unsure of them, but this won her firmly over, and she began to demand a hug.

“Do come,” urged Charlie gently. “We'll only be going along to meet them, we won't be more than half an hour, and we'll look after you, I promise.”

“Do come,” mimicked Millie, drawling her words slightly as she ponderously tugged at a lock of Cecil's hair. She still wanted to refuse, but something stopped her, and she found herself agreeing with a heavy heart, little realising how much she would enjoy the stinging air or how refreshed she would feel when they got back.

Author:  Kacca [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How I would love to have Charlie on my side .

Thank you Ariel, I've been looking forward to Charlie and Cecil. Hopefully more soon :P :?: :oops:

That flash of anger would have done Cecil good I think.

Author:  clair [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Have just caught up on loads of this - thanks Ariel - only trouble is there's now no more of it to read!

Am loving this drabble, both Joey and Jack are trying so hard to do the right thing and not treat Cecil like a child. Also pleased with the reappearance of Charlie - she's just what Cecil needs right now

Author:  Abi [ Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Good for Charlie! And it's great that Cecil has someone outside the family who understands, at least a little, how she feels.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou, everyone :D Sorry this isn't a brilliant update, I can't do horror writing.

- X -

The babysitting came upon Cecil quicker than she had been expecting, and one afternoon she found herself presented with a bag and instructed to get together her overnight things. Reg was coming to pick her up in an hour, and he would want her to be ready, for he was taking Len to Berne and they would have to leave promptly if they were to get there at a reasonable time. Slowly, she gathered together night clothes, her toothbrush and hairbrush, and other such necessities, but still none of them felt like her own.

Thanks to Charlie, a promise had been elicited out of Joey that once the main road was cleared they could go on the shopping trip she had promised and get Cecil some things of her own; although Madge had declared it was much too boisterous for her, with the expected crowds this close to Christmas, and said she would give Joey a list of things to get. This was quite deliberate on her part, for she had been approached by Charlie the day before; that astute young lady had decided that she needed to take Cecil clothes shopping without Joey trying to buy her completely the wrong thing, which, with Joey's fashion sense, was incredibly likely. She had turned to Madge for help, knowing that she was the least likely to upset their host.

Until then, Cecil was stuck with what they'd been able to find in the attic that would fit her, including some old things which had once belonged to the triplets, that had been overlooked, or which Joey had decided could be used for something – she was quite vague on what – in the future. Today she was wearing a t-shirt Charlie had given her, with all four of the Beatles on. The original owner had confessed to having had it for quite a while now, and largely used it when she couldn't be bothered to get dressed properly because Millie had kept her up all night, but when she saw how longingly Cecil looked at it she gave it up with goodwill.

When Reg came, he looked her and over and grinned, for he distinctly recognised a pair of jeans that he could just about recall Len wearing to go rock climbing with him on one of her holidays from university. He could still remember their celebrations at making the top of the mountain, and for a moment he was thoroughly distracted. Then, shaking his head and mentally reminding himself to see if Len could still recall that day, he picked up Cecil's bag and motioned for her to follow him out to the car.

“Cecilia!” Jack called after them, appearing just as they were climbing in. She spun around, an almost guilty look on her face. “Don't forget that you can call and I'll be there in ten minutes.”

The softness in his voice made her smile, but she nodded her agreement, then slipped in the car. Once Reg had settled her bag on the back seat and waved briefly to Jack, who was already turning to go back inside and shut the door against the cold, they were off, pulling carefully out of the driveway and starting to crawl along the main road. The sky was still wonderfully clear, and the ice piled at the sides of the road sparkled as they drove past.

When they arrived, Len was waiting in the hallway for them, Mary in her arms. They could distinctly hear George destroying something in the main room of the house. Smiling, Len placed her daughter into Cecil's arms, kissing the soft forehead tenderly and then embracing Cecil as well.

“Sorry that we can't stay,” she explained, as Reg moved their things into the car. “Mary decided to be sick on both of us, so we're running late, but Reg said that she should be fine and not to worry. If she does it again and you do want a second opinion, I'm sure that mum and dad have raised enough children in their time to help.” She stopped and grinned fondly, which gave Reg the chance to inform her of bed times and add,

“I've had a word with George and he's been told that if he misbehaves at all he'll have me to deal with in the morning, so he should be ok. If he's not remind him of that, and you can always put him to bed early as a last resort. I'm sure you'll be fine.”

He smiled encouragingly, then slipped an arm around his wife, rubbing her back in a familiar manner so loving that it brought a lump to Cecil's throat. That had never happened to her. Hastily, she wished them a happy evening, promised that she would be fine and would remember the number of the hotel if it was needed, and waved them off, making Mary do the same. It was only once the car was out of sight that she realised that she was completely alone with two small children.

Fixing a delighted smile on her face and doing her best to hide any nerves she might be feeling, she went to find George, who was pretending to be a doctor to some of Mary's dolls, with an old stethoscope that Reg had been going to throw away and a wooden toy injection. The next half an hour was spent in showing Cecil that to do an operation, you bashed the doll's head against the side of the tiled fireplace, listened to the sound of their brain beating and then stitched them up again with the needle.

“Do you think I'll be as good as daddy one day?” he asked hopefully, and Cecil laughed and concluded that he could be even better, which made him beam with pride.

The evening itself went smoothly enough. She relied on George a lot to help her bathe Mary, but as he explained while they were doing it, he usually came upstairs to help Len, and he knew what he was doing; though Cecil did have to explain that he couldn't perform one of his operations on Mary, because she wasn't ill. He took it in a very good natured manner, however, and was surprisingly tender as he bent over to give her a goodnight kiss.

In fact, Cecil reflected, it was all going far too well. Still, she thought optimistically, she had made dinner without any problems, and if the bathroom was far messier than it should have been that was nothing she couldn't clean up once George had gone to bed. She also had the sneaking suspicion that he was going to attempt anything he could to get out of going to bed at his usual time, but she decided to be lenient and let him this once.

What she hadn't thought of was the sudden rustling noise outside as she was reading a story to George, who was snuggled up next to her, leaning against her to see the pages. At first, she put it down to the wind, but when she heard it again, on the other side of the house, she started to panic. Carefully motioning for George to be silent, she crept over to the window and pulled back the curtain, just in time to see a black figure slip on to the porch. It knocked on the door, and Cecil felt her heart stop as she realised who it would be.

Hands shaking, she darted out to the hallway, relying on George following her instructions and staying where he was. Snatching up the telephone, she tried to dial the number but she was too nervous, and her fingers kept missing the numbers. Eventually she managed to get it right, and she was forced to sit and listen to the telephone at Freudesheim ringing as the figure knocked on the door again, more loudly this time.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hoping Cecil's panicking over nothing - it could just be one of the neighbours at the door.

Author:  cestina [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Alison H wrote:
Hoping Cecil's panicking over nothing - it could just be one of the neighbours at the door.

But it won't be, will it? :(

Please where can I find Charlie's previous history/background?

This continues to be great reading.....thanks Ariel

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. Hope Cecilia gets onto freudesheim okay.

BTW Cestine you can find the other three Charlie stories in the archive under ChubbyMonkey. The archive is in St Therese under drabble-orum. Hope you find them. Definitely worth a read.

Author:  Joanne [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm worried for Cecil now - please don't leave her hanging on the phone for too long :( . Even if it is not as bad as she thinks, she'll still be badly shaken.

Thanks for such a brilliant and believable story.

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Agh! I knew it! Please don't let there be a storm and the phone be cut off, or something awful have happened at Freudesheim so no-one hears the phone, or anything else! Though how would he know Cecil was there alone?

Thanks Ariel :) .

Author:  aitchemelle [ Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Aggghhh I have read the whole thing ... and there was a big giant cliff at the end! HELP!

Thank you, loving this so much (I should have been in bed at least 45 minutes ago!) Where would I need to look to read more about Charlie?

Author:  charli [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no! I keep walking over these cliffs.
This is great Ariel, looking forward/a bit scared to find out who is outside! :)

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry for leaving you all hanging... I've brought the metaphorical rope to haul you all up again!

- X -

Her heart beating so hard in her ears that she almost couldn't hear the knocking, which was becoming more insistent, Cecil crept back in to find George, reassured from a murmured conversation that her father would be there in no more than ten minutes. Trying to keep her wits about her, for the children's sake, she collected George into her arms, making sure it was impressed on him to be especially quiet, and slid out into the hallway.

The knocking had stopped for the moment, but it started again a second later, making her jump so much that she nearly dropped her burden. Clutching at him so hard he couldn't help squawking, Cecil gave it up as a bad job and, not bothering to try and be silent, ran up the stairs, stopping only when she was in Len and Reg's bedroom. There, she pulled the curtains and, in the perfect darkness, held George close to her, murmuring soothing words to him. Part of him was quite excited by the whole adventure, but Cecil's fear was having an effect on him, and his lower lip began to tremble.

An eternity passed before there was a heavier knock on the door, and a familiar voice announcing Jack's arrival made relief wash over Cecil. Despite trying to focus on not upsetting George more, her mind had been running quickly over all the possibilities if she was caught, and while her main concern had been for the safety of the children, she couldn't help noticing that the knocking had stopped about a minute ago, and wondering how he would get in to her now.

Leaving George with strict instructions not to move from the bed, no matter what happened, and not to open the door to anyone no matter what they said, she moved down the stairs, one at a time, clutching the walls for support, every muscle in her body tense. Even deep breaths weren't soothing her, and when she reached out a hand to the lock on the door she nearly screamed. Wanting nothing more than to get this over with, if it really was Jack outside or otherwise, she cracked the door open.

On the porch stood her father, reassuringly solid, and next to him the intimidating figure, still half concealed by the shadows. Breath still coming in short, sharp bursts she waved them in, not sure quite what was going on but gradually calming down as she realised that she wasn't in any danger. Solemnly, Jack lead his captive into the warm chalet, spying George peeping over from the landing to see what was going on and beckoning him down. Once they were all sat down, the two having removed outer garments and shaken off errant snow, Jack said quite levelly,

“I do apologise for the scare you received, Cecilia. I cannot think why young Phillipa is here and not safely in her common room getting ready for prayers. However, I'm sure that she'll enlighten us in due course.” With which he nodded and turned to his grandson. “Now, young man, it must be nearly your bedtime. If Cecilia comes up with you and runs the water, I think that you're old enough to be trusted to bathe and dress yourself on this occasion, as a treat, don't you?”

When put in such terms, George swelled at the honour and nodded his head proudly. “Good,” smiled Jack. “Then Cecilia will come and help, and she'll be up as soon as she can to read you a bedtime story; but I'm putting you on honour to behave. If you don't, I'll have to tell your father that you can't be trusted.”

Sure that this threat would quell any mischievous urges, he sent George off, but until Cecil came back down he contented himself with making a cup of tea. Phil sat silently in the chair by the fire, anxious not to make her crime any worse; but once Cecil joined them again, having seen George into his bath and left him putting his pyjamas on in his bedroom, she did her best to explain.

There was some trouble at school – she wouldn't tell them what, and Jack was wise enough not to press her – and she'd wanted Len's advice. Only she'd known that Miss Wilmot would never let her out with the threat of snow again, and so, she faltered, glancing apprehensively at her father, she'd crept out while the rest were involved in a game of charades. Of course, she promised, she would have owned up when she got back, but she really had needed to see Len, and she'd had no idea Cecil was here alone or she wouldn't have come. It was never her intention to frighten anyone.

“But why didn't you just ask Len for a talk when she was in school?” demanded her perplexed father. He was startled by the frank response,

“In school she's Frau Entwistle. I had to speak to Len.”

Seeing that he would be unable to fathom this without Joey's input, Jack gave it up for now. He had decided to leave punishment up to Miss Wilmot, who would surely be frantic with worry by now, and informed Phil so in such a manner as left her dreading her return. Then he turned to Cecil, but her pale face told him that there was no possibility of leaving her alone after such an eventful evening. And so, with reassurances that he wouldn't even go into the school, and would only stop to collect the overnight bag he had always kept packed in case he was called to an emergency, before he returned, he escorted Phil out, to take her back to school and those who should be looking after her.

Left alone again, Cecil had to go around and just check that all of the doors and windows were securely locked, but having satisfied herself on the point, and stuck a head around the door to make sure that Mary hadn't been disturbed, she went to read George his bedtime story, calmer for knowing that Jack would be coming back to sleep on the sofa so that she didn't have to be alone again. As for Phil, she was told that having been out in the cold so long she would have to spend the next two nights in the San, until they were sure that she wasn't contagious, and a thoroughly worried Miss Wilmot promised to speak to her in the morning, at which she retired, bitterly regretting the impulse which had led to her simply taking off.

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Glad it was only Phil.

Author:  LauraMcC [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Glad that Phil didn't deliberately go out to frighten her sister, although it still must have been scary for Cecil. I bet Phil's feeling sorry for herself now, and Cecil must be so relieved.

Author:  Emma A [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Agrees with everyone else, but now wondering what Phil wanted to talk to Len about...

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Emma A wrote:
Agrees with everyone else, but now wondering what Phil wanted to talk to Len about...

Me too! Thank you Ariel! :D

Author:  JB [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Phew! I was really worried about that!

Author:  Abi [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Emma A wrote:
Agrees with everyone else, but now wondering what Phil wanted to talk to Len about...

Yes, I wondered if it was something significant to Cecil. Very glad it was only Phil, though I was *almost* sure it wouldn't be the person Cecil thought it was.

Thanks Ariel :D .

Author:  KJX [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Brilliantly writting, this. Am really enjoying it.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou, once again, for so many lovely comments. I really don't deserve them!

- X -

The next morning Len and Reg returned, both looking much more relaxed after their night off, to be met by Jack. Delighted by the report of George's good behaviour, Reg swung him up and around the room, before holding him in a gentle cuddle in his arms – a treat rarely granted, but which made him bubble over with happiness – while Len promised to put in a good word for Phil and see what she could do. Satisfied that he had done all he could, Jack escorted Cecil home, where she found that instead of the worry over her she had been dreading, Charles was inclined to tease her over the incident until it faded completely into the background.

After that, time seemed to fly by. Charles and Charlie had announced that they would be going home in a few days, for Christmas was now not far away and they had to get back and make preparations for Nancy to come and visit with her new partner - “She always has one,” Charlie explained to Madge one day. “Ever since she got promoted and started organising her own ballet shows she works with different dancers and producers every time, so after a few months I'll start hearing about the next man.” - and to visit Alice afterwards.

Before they left, they treated Millie to a stint of tobogganing in the field the next time the snow froze for long enough to allow it. Although the end of term was rapidly approaching, the school, was out as well. None of the mistresses approached them, but Phil – having been forgiven her previous escapade, as the holidays were so close – and Claire came over with some of their friends to worship Millie. She took the attention firmly in her stride, merely throwing snowballs at their kneecaps, all the while heavily encouraged by her mother.

That same morning, Jack had been called to the San, for there was a patient he had previously been treating, an old woman with something of an affection for him, who was refusing to see anyone else, and Jem had decided to go with him to check that Reg was coping. With Anna as busy as ever in the kitchen, only Madge and Joey remained in the house, apart from Cecil herself, and they were catching up with a pile of mending which needed to be done before Madge went to the school for a meeting with Nancy after Mittagessen.

This left Cecil at something of a loose end, and at first she took the opportunity of Jack not needing it to dust the study. But there wasn't any other housework that she could really do, and soon enough she found boredom kicking in. They were going to Interlaken the following day, but until then there was nothing that she could really do. In fact, she was lost in a daydream again, and barely noticed where she was going until she found herself in an unlit part of the hallway, in front of a very familiar door.

Almost not daring to breathe, she pushed it open, assaulted by an unfamiliar rush of smells, and an unnatural silence. Only the door creaked, in need of oil, for she guessed that nobody had been near here for a long time. Gradually, every nerve on edge, she stepped into her old bedroom, the curtains drawn across the windows and everything preserved as if in a morgue. None of her personal effects were still there, so that all the surfaces were empty, devoid of any memory of her.

It took her a little while to accustom herself to the dark, but she had shut the door and for the first time since she had come home, almost, she felt truly peaceful. She hadn't even made a conscious decision to avoid this room for so long, she just hadn't had any reason to come into what was now a shut up part of the house, and she wondered at herself. Here, she had always been able to relax and be private; she could always come here when she needed to.

At first she was happy to sit with her back against the wall and just breathe in the dust, and the quiet atmosphere, alone with her thoughts. She had still felt no inclination to share them with anyone, they were far too dark for that. But gradually it crept upon her that they might not have discovered all of the letters she had once hidden so faithfully. Of course, they couldn't help finding most, and she knew that if they hadn't gone to the police they would have been destroyed, but a part of her couldn't help regretting that. She didn't want them, however she didn't want to lose the small shred of proof that once upon a time she had been happy.

She fought against it for a while, but inevitably she crawled across to the bed, a hulking giant in this forgotten tomb, and reached underneath until her fingers closed around the loose floorboard. Gently she pulled up one end, holding her breath in case it should fall and trap her fingers, as it had nearly done once before. She was doomed to disappointment, it seemed, for when she felt around it with her other hand nothing came to light. In fact, she might have missed the tiny corner of the envelope just within reach if she hadn't fallen forwards suddenly and brushed it.

Scrabbling desperately, she managed to grasp at it, and tempt it forwards until she could pull it out properly. The room was still pitch black, but she was surprised when she flicked the switch in one corner and light flooded the room. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she just held it for a while, turning it over and over in her hands. The ink had faded long ago, but she could still make out her own name darkening the faded brown paper, without an address. It had always been their system that she would send anonymous letters to someone called Anita, whom she claimed to have met one day while going down to have a day shopping with her friends, and he would hand her a reply when he got up to the Platz to meet her.

After a long time, she worked up the courage to slide the flap open, and pull out the closely written sheets inside, wondering what memories were about to be unleashed by the flimsy bits of paper.

Author:  JB [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I find it very sad that all Cecil's possessions have been moved from her old room. Poor girl.

Thanks for the update, Ariel.

Author:  shazwales [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Just caught back up with this,thank you Ariel for some powerful writing.

Author:  Liz K [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I have just read this from start to finish; this is some story!! :shock:

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks for the update.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Maybe this will help her find some closure. The dark, deserted room was really sad. Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. Glad it was only Phil wanting to see Len. Hope the letters don't bring about too much pain

Author:  aitchemelle [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you x

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption


- X -

Gently, doing her best to be silent, Cecil inched open the window and looked down, holding her breath. Thankfully, her bedroom was only on the second floor, and she should be able to make the drop safely enough. By pure chance they had been doing landing in gym the other day, and she had worked harder than anyone else to make sure that she had completely mastered bending her knees at just the right time, and where to place her hands.

Naturally there was a slight difference between the safety of landing on mats in the gym at the chalet and falling from a window to the grass below, which looked deceptively soft though she knew that the ground was as hard as iron underneath. It had been weeks since it had rained, and the dying greenery would offer her no comfort if she landed wrong. At least she didn't have anything to bring with her; Matt had promised to buy her a whole new set of clothes once they were away from Switzerland.

For a second she hesitated, looking behind her. Her parents were at the other end of the house, as long as she dropped noiselessly they wouldn't notice her absence until the morning, when she didn't come to Frühstück, and by then it would be too late. They'd carefully laid their plans, last time Matt had come to the Platz, about two weeks ago. He would get some false passports, for Cecil knew that she had no chance of stealing hers unnoticed, and he would meet her at the foot of the mountain at dawn. From there, they would go straight to the border and on into France.

Her resolve wavered, as she tried to imagine Jack and Joey's reaction once they ascertained that she really was gone. But it wouldn't come, all that she could picture was her father's face the last time he had talked to her, weeks before, when they had argued so badly. And anyway, she consoled herself, balanced precariously on the windowsill, this wouldn't be forever. She would come back as soon as they accepted that she and Matt loved each other, and that they needed to be together. As soon as Cecil was sixteen they were going to get married, and after that there wouldn't be anything her parents could do even if they wanted to.

Suddenly she propelled herself forwards, with a brief prayer for a good landing. If she twisted her ankle now, the whole plan would be ruined and Jack would make sure that she never got to be with the man she loved. But her training held good, and with barely a sound she tumbled to the ground, slightly shaken but otherwise unharmed. In fact, as she stood up and dusted herself down, she realised that apart from trapping her wrist underneath her body when she fell, so that it ached a little but not unbearably, she was completely fine.

Taking this as a good sign, she crept out of the garden, careful to keep to the shadows just in case one of her parents should still be awake. She had listened as best she could, until she heard them come upstairs to bed, but there was still no guarantee that someone wouldn't see her. But everybody else was deep in slumber, never dreaming that Cecil was no longer in her bedroom, and there was nobody to see the flitting shadow slip out of the garden gate.

In fact, she would have left the entire Platz unnoticed had it not been for a momentary impulse, before the bend, that made her look back at Freudesheim once last time. It had been the only home she knew, and part of her wanted to cry at having to leave it in this way. Then she hardened herself. It wasn't her fault that her parents were being so stubborn and unfair, if they only tried to understand, instead of condemning someone for daring to fall in love with her, she could have stayed.

Unexpectedly a car drew up, and then stopped beside her. The familiar face of Dr Graves leaned out, concerned, and while Cecil did her best not to panic but to think up a reasonable excuse for being out and alone at this time of night, he asked gently,

“Is everything ok? Anything I can do to help?”

“Um,” she stumbled, but lies were coming more easily to her since she had started illicitly meeting Matt, and she forced a smile. “Dad got called out to a patient, but he forgot his coffee.” She indicated the rucksack on her back. “I told mum that I'd take it, as I couldn't sleep.”

Frowning slightly, for he had only just left the San and hadn't heard of any patients needing emergency attention, Dr Graves offered her a lift to wherever she was heading, but with polite thanks she declined. The weather had been scorching recently, and she told him how nice it was to be out in a slightly cooler atmosphere at last, and how she hoped the walk would tire her out so that she could sleep when she got back. He tried to ask her which patient it was, but she had already turned and was walking away, determined not to be caught now.

Still frowning, he drove on, but he resolved to ring Freudesheim in the morning and check that nothing was amiss. Normally he would have done it as soon as he got back, but it was late and he knew that Phil had been ill recently; she had to be treated each year for bad headaches during hot weather, and it was no secret that Jack worried about her. Unaware that it would be an encounter he would relive to the police many times over the coming months, and that it would mean the end of his career at the San, he drove on.

Meanwhile, Cecil had started her descent down the mountain, to Matt and to freedom. Her heart was light with all the hopes and joys in the future. Little did she know then that he would never keep any of his promises, and that she was running to embrace the devil in disguise. But if she could have seen her eventual return to Freudesheim many years later, and all that she had suffered by then, she might not have been so happy as she strode at a measured pace down the road, treating herself to one of the apples she had managed to store up over the past week.

Author:  Kacca [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh lots of lovely updates for me today. Thank you Ariel. This last part followed so beautifully as Cecil reenters her room and her younger self.

Unaware that it would be an encounter he would relive to the police many times over the coming months, and that it would mean the end of his career at the San

Foolish, young Cecil. :cry:

Author:  Chris [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You get over really clearly the feeling a teenager has that her parents/carers thwart them deliberately, though in reality it is almost always due to love and concern. Cecilia has paid a high price for that stubbornness.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Unfortunately things like this happen all too often :( .

Author:  LauraMcC [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I bet that Phil has felt pretty uncomfortable about leaving her like that, although of course he had no idea what was going to happen. Poor Cecil - she was so young. :(

Thanks, Arial.

Author:  Abi [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Phil Graves, he must have felt so guilty. I wonder whether his career was finished because Jack was angry with him or because the police thought he had something to do with her diappearance?

Thanks Ariel. Cecil's thoughts and feelings are only too realistic.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Abi wrote:
Poor Phil Graves, he must have felt so guilty. I wonder whether his career was finished because Jack was angry with him or because the police thought he had something to do with her diappearance?

Or simply because he felt so guilty about not calling, even though he did it with the best of intentions. I do feel sorry for him

Author:  jmc [ Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I have been following this although I haven't commented before. I feel so sorry for Cecil caught up with a man like that but it is so hard on everyone around her. In the sheltered world of the CS not many people would have come across anything like this before and therefore would not know how to act around here. Feeling very sorry for Phil and his family at present.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Eventually, it was Charles who found her. It had been some hours since anyone had seen her last, and they were starting to get worried, though they all just made up excuses for having to go into corners of the house not explored in months and wouldn't admit it to each other. In fact, it had been Charlie who'd guessed where she would be hiding, keeping her own counsel until she saw Joey starting to become frantic, and then quietly sending her husband up to find Cecil.

“Cecilia?” he asked gently from the doorway, a silhouette framed by the now failing light above her. Without even looking up she motioned for him to come in. Sensing that she didn't want to be disturbed, he shut the door behind him, but he still hesitated before he sat down next to her, trying to find the right words to say what he wanted to.

As articulate as he was, as practised in giving speeches and as accustomed to having to understand people to lead them properly, he found that he couldn't even begin to comprehend how Cecil would be feeling, or what he could say to help her. He had tried to persuade Charlie to come up and find her, she was much better at this than him, but he knew that he'd been shirking his duties recently.

“I found this,” she mumbled, holding out the letter, but he refused to take it. Just the sight of that familiar hand brought back to him all that they'd been through when Cecil ran away. When it first happened, all of the children got together and agreed to take turns staying at Freudesheim, to help with the search attempts and look after their parents. He'd been one of the last to come, the others said that he needed time to enjoy his honeymoon first, but by the time they'd arrived, hope had already left.

It had been two months since they'd last seen Cecil, and still nothing had been heard of her. The police were winding down their investigations, and Joey and Jack were starting to come to terms with a life where one of their daughters had gone. Looking at the letter, he remembered all the nights Jack had spent sat in the study, nursing a glass of any alcohol he could get his hands on, reading through the stack of letters they'd found under her bed again and again. The eventual solution had been Joey persuading the rest of the doctors to pass on to him any case that they possibly could, so that whenever he was home he was so tired he did nothing but sleep. Not having him destroyed her, but she maintained that it was preferable to seeing him as the broken man he had been before.

Part of him wanted to tell Cecil all of that. Most of the time she had been away had been carefully shielded from her, and he and Charlie had been warned not to say anything of it to her, because they didn't want to upset her more. The words almost rose, he tried to formulate it all into something comprehensible, but before he could she suddenly started to cry, silent tears that got heavier and heavier.

“It's ok,” he murmured, patting her head ineffectually. He never was very good with tears. A thought struck him, and he offered, “Do you want me to get rid of it?”

“No,” she said quickly, doing her best to wipe at her eyes, though her shoulders still shook for a few minutes. “I don't want to get rid of it, but I don't want to see it. I don't know what to do.”

“I know,” said Charles after a moment's thought. “When I was younger I had a special box of things that I didn't want Mike to steal when I went to school, so I buried it in the garden.” He paused, pleased to see Cecil suddenly give a tiny laugh. “Don't laugh! It was a very serious matter. Anyway, the box should still be there under the tree, if you want to borrow it. I'm sure that it can hold one more thing.”

To his surprise, she let the letter fall to the floor as she turned and hugged him ferociously, almost enough to hurt. Her body was frail and small against him, and it came as a shock to him to realise how much weight she'd lost while she'd been away. Wearing Felicity’s clothes had hidden it before, but she was tiny now, and he could feel her bones. He shut his eyes, cursing the man who'd done this to her.

“Thankyou,” she managed in the end, muffled by his shoulder.

“It's what I'm here for,” he reminded her. “I know that I'm not like Mike and Steve, and I can't promise to smash someone's skull in if they look at you in the wrong way, but I am your brother, and I'll always look after you as best I can.”

Just then, the light stopped flickering and went out, plunging them into darkness. Without needing to speak they both stood up, Cecil bending down to find her letter but then slipping her hand through her brother's. It had been so long since they'd last seen each other, and they'd both changed so much since then. Hers were the more obvious changes, but Charles had grown up as well; he was a husband now, and a father, and he seemed to be a lot older than his age. There had been a certain awkwardness between them until now, but thanks to their conversation it seemed to have just slipped away.

“I love you,” she whispered, as they found their way back along the hallway.

There was no reply to that which could really show Charles' feelings, and he knew that trying to say something would only ruin the moment. So he squeezed her fingers and tried to fumble his way through the dark corridor, still holding her hand tightly as a promise never to let go.

Author:  LauraMcC [ Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Charles is so sweet in this. That was a lovely update, thanks.

Author:  Abi [ Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oooh, look at me being the first to comment on this!

Lovely scene between Cecil and Charles there and I'm glad Charles was able to help her a bit. He may have felt a bit inadequate compared to Steve and Mike but I don't think either of them would have been able to give Cecil what she needed at that particular point.

Thanks Ariel!

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Charles is lovely in this. It must be very hard for the whole family, knowing that although it wasn't their fault they weren't able to protect their daughter/sister.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 2:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou to cestina for pointing out to me what day it is today! And thankyou also for your comments! I shall give due warning now so that I don't get shouted at again, in the next few updates (though not really this one) there is to be some drama...

- X -

The day after had been the trip to Interlaken, which was carried off successfully much to the delight of all. Christmas presents had been bought, and Cecil came home equipped with not just a whole new set of clothes which Charlie had helped her to pick out, but also a few smaller things for her room. One of these was the material to make her own curtains, a project guaranteed to keep her busy and which Joey promised to help her with. Mostly, though, it was just tiny knick-knacks that she had seen and liked, as well as two new jigsaws and a box to keep any jewellery in she might get in the future.

It was only a few days now until Charles and Charlie started the journey back to England, and while Jack and Joey took every opportunity to spoil Millie – whose birthday had been spent in a delightful party with other small children on the Platz, for which Anna had done her best to supply enough jelly, ice-cream and birthday cake – Charles, remembering his promise to Cecil, called her outside in between two snow storms. The weather was far from ideal, but it would probably be the last chance he got to make sure that he'd done all he could for her before they had to go.

As they were pulling on outdoor coats, and Cecil was securing her hair under a beret, Charlie came looking for them and at once insisted on being included in the party. Charles did his best to dissuade her, but when she demanded to know if he was hiding something from her he blushed and was forced to allow her to join them.

They stepped out of the back door and onto a carpet of white, untrodden snow, a harsh wind tearing at them, and for a second they didn't know if the ground would hold their weight. But Charles took a tentative step and didn't disappear, and luckily the tree that they wanted wasn't far from the door. All the same, it was a battle to get there, and if they hadn't clutched wildly at each other they wouldn't have made it safely. Years of living in the Alps had taught Charles all he needed to know about weather, though, and as he had predicted the snow underneath the freshly fallen top layer was as hard as could be wished, and the only damage done was for the snow to slide over their boots and leave them with very wet feet by the time they reached their destination.

It took some time for him to dig a tunnel down through the snow to the tree roots, and then through the soil to his box, and he was moved to wonder aloud why Cecil couldn't have decided to do this in summer, but Charlie only laughed and told him to stop being such a wimp. She was just enjoying being free; she dearly loved her daughter, but nobody had ever pretended that she had the concentration span needed for young children, and she was apt to struggle sometimes. The break had been good for her, and as she tossed her hair back and looked straight into the wind, tears rolling down her cheeks, she was a different person from the tired specimen who had landed among them.

Eventually, once they were all breathless and shivering, the box was secured, and pulled out for all to see. There was no time for ceremony, as a few light flakes started to drift down, and the clouds which promised a heavier load wafted closer over their heads. The wind was becoming worse, until they were all forced to sit down to avoid being blown over, and a blizzard was generally signalled to be coming. Gently, Charles eased the box open, though the lid was stiff from years of not being used and the wood was starting to show signs of ageing. It was clear that it couldn't last much longer, and Cecil began to have doubts about entrusting her letter to it. Thankfully, Charlie guessed the problem and at once said,

“Don't you think it's falling apart a little, dear? In any case, I want to explore the contents properly. Bring it in, before the snow gets any worse, and we can look at it inside by the fire.” She shivered violently at this point, to give weight to her words. “I'm sure Cecilia won't mind if we don't bury it out here again, but hide it in the house instead.”

“Until summer,” offered Charles to his sister. “I'll find a better container and bring it out when we come for our summer holidays and we can bury it again then. There's things in here that I don't want to lose. You won't mind waiting, will you? If you like, I can hide it and not tell you where so you don't have to worry about it until then.”

The last offer convinced her to accept. Really, she just wanted to be rid of the thing, though she couldn't bear to lose it altogether, and knowing that she could truthfully tell anyone who asked that she hadn't the faintest idea where it was reassured her. With a brief nod, she stood up so that they could go back inside. The lights of the windows still shone through the rapidly descending dark, guiding them back the way that they'd come. They were met in the door by Joey, who, becoming worried about them, had come to see if she could find them.

“What on earth were you doing out there?” she demanded as she shut the door behind them.

“Just burying some ghosts,” replied Cecil with a small smile. Before Joey could comment on this startling statement, Charles added hopefully,

“It's very tiring work. Do you think Anna would furnish us with some of her delicious cakes as a reward for getting back safely?”

Joey laughed and went off to see what she could coax out of their cook, while the others shed their extra layers, and Charles took possession of the letter, slipping it into the box which he promised to go and hide straight away. Then, on an impulse, he bent and kissed Cecil's cheek, blushing and hastily leaving the room, while two startled women looked after him.

The next day was a Sunday, and the last day that Charles and Charlie would be staying, but it was also, as Jack had pointed out the evening before, the day of Saint Cecilia. The proud smile on his face had made her namesake smile too, and huddle up against him silently, but she hadn't considered the full implications until she came down for Frühstück. Everyone else was already dressed in Sunday clothes for church, but Cecil hadn't gone since she got back to the Platz, and so was dressed as casually as ever, though in her own clothes this time.

It was only when it was gently suggested to her that it was probably time she started attending church again that she gave the matter any thought, but her instinctive reaction told the adults that it was going to be a struggle to get her there. Blushing deeply, she stammered that she really didn't think it was a good idea. But Joey was adamant, sure that Cecil had been avoiding worship for too long now and that if she didn't start attending again soon the whole of the Platz would be talking about.

She coaxed and pleaded all the way through the meal until, thoroughly exasperated, Cecil stood up, ignoring the half eaten food on her plate that she had only been toying with anyway, and declared in the strongest of terms that she wasn't going to attend and that was final. To make sure that her point was appreciated, she left the room, going upstairs and slamming her bedroom door forcefully behind her.

Author:  hac61 [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Good for her!

I'd probably do more than just slam my bedroom door if I was her. Why can't Joey learn when to shut up?


Author:  JB [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hope Jack can tell Joey to shut up!

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, for heaven's sake! She's an adult - she's able to make her own choices. How is forcing her going to help in the least?

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Joey really didn't handle that very well :( .

Author:  aitchemelle [ Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Joey shhh... you don't want to push her away.

Thank you Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I fear you aren't going to like this update :hiding:

- X -

It was Jack who came upstairs to find her a little later on, once she'd had a chance to calm down. Wounded by her refusal to look at him, he still sat down beside her on the bed and rested a hand on her hip, which he was pleased to see she didn't shake off. He had his own views on the matter, though they were rather similar to Joey's; namely that she needed to ask forgiveness for all that she had done wrong before she could be truly healed, but he also knew that this needed to come from herself and not from him.

“I have a message,” he said with a smile, in the hope of making her relax. “Charlie was going to go to service with Madge and Jem, but she says that if it would make you more comfortable she'll come with us. Apparently you know how she treats people who gossip.”

“It isn't that,” said Cecil quietly, her nose still buried in the pillow. “I just don't want to come.”

But for once Jack was not to be dissuaded, and demanded to know exactly why, refusing to move until he did. At first Cecil resisted him; this did no good, for he was determined that she would come with them unless she could give him a proper reason why. Nothing she said was good enough, and in the end she was forced to give in. She promised to put on the smart skirt and top that had been bought in Interlaken, she now suspected after a quiet word with Charlie who had been most insistent on them though Cecil couldn't think of any occasion for needing them. Pleased, Jack retreated to let the others know.

Miserably, she began to dress, taking as long as possible over it in the hope that the rest would decide they were going to be late and leave without her. Of course she could never have told any of them the truth about why she didn't want to go, that would lead them into dangerous waters which she wasn't prepared for yet. They had all been so kind, and so willing to listen, but she wasn't a fool anymore and although she believed their sincerity she knew better than to even try and tell them some of the things she had seen and done. The look in Joey's eyes when she first found out, the disgust, haunted her daughter, and Cecil couldn't bear to see that again.

Trailing down the stairs, she saw them all waiting expectantly in the hallway. The three others had already made up a party and gone off, so that it was just her immediate family and Anna to face. Unable to look at them, she kept her head bowed as she pulled on her outdoor clothes, still hoping for a reprisal. But none was forthcoming, and she was forced to follow them into the snow, heart heavy.

It was still snowing lightly, but most of it had fallen overnight, and once they made the main road they found that it had been cleared already. Linking hands so that they wouldn't lose each other, with Charles at the front to tug Millie along on the tiny sled which had once pulled Cecil to church, they made good progress, and the echoes of the bells were just dying out across the mountain peaks as they pushed open the heavy wooden door.

Much of the congregation had arrived already, including members of the Chalet School who would be going home on Wednesday. Only the back pews were free, which was a small mercy at least to Cecil, who was blushing furiously and doing her best to hide behind her father. But he was approached by two doctors whom he hadn't seen since his unofficial retirement, and one of the friendlier mistresses came to say hello to Joey, which only left Charles.

He did his best to look after her and Millie at the same time, quietening his daughter's frightened cries and smiling reassuringly at his sister, but he couldn't stop her overhearing the women two rows down, who began to talk about how disgraceful it was that people thought that all they needed to do was turn and up and any sin they committed would be forgotten. Even then things might have turned out differently, for Cecil was doing her best to ignore it, and Charles was pointedly engaging her in conversation, but Joey happened to see the two glancing spitefully at her daughter, and she at once excused herself and went over.

“I was under the impression,” she began. “that that was exactly what church meant. Or did the forgiveness part pass you by?”

“I was merely saying that there are some things which even He can't forgive that easily,” said the older of the two, crossing herself devoutly at the same moment she glared venomously at Cecil. A deep red to the tips of her ears, she turned and pushed her way past Charles, diving for the door as hastily as she could, wanting nothing more than to get away from the curious glances which were growing as people became aware of the commotion.

When she passed him, Jack tried to follow her, but she shook off his arm, and a second later Charles pushed him in the direction of Millie, who was now howling more than ever, as he did his best to catch up with Cecil. He was eventually able to grab at her shoulder as they passed through the church gates, forcing her to spin around and confront him.

“Don't let them get to you,” he gasped breathlessly, panting. “It's none of their business if you want to come and you have as much right to be here as everyone else.”

“It isn't that,” cried Cecil, tears streaming down her cheeks. “It isn't that at all. I don't care what they say. I – I just -”

“What?” demanded Charles, completely perplexed.

“I just don't believe anymore,” whispered Cecil almost inaudibly. “And even if He does exist, I hate Him. I hate Him with a passion. How can I pretend otherwise?”

She turned to leave, head bent again, but Charles called quickly,

“Look, wait there. Millie's in no state to sit through a service anyway. I'll just get her and we can go home and talk about it.”

This last was shouted at her retreating back, for she had paid no attention to him at all and was instead forging ahead into the snowy tracks made by their arrival minutes before. He turned back at the church entrance, but already she had been swallowed by the descending fog. Confused, but hoping fervently that he could catch up with her, he collected Millie, reassured his parents that they could stay for the service in a low undertone, for already the first hymn had started, then discreetly left the church to follow Cecil into the snow.

Author:  JB [ Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear. It was very silly of them to force her to go. Please rescue her soon, Ariel.

Author:  cestina [ Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh poor girl. And on her Names Day too which should be a happy occasion. Stupid parents :megaphone: :poke:

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Her feelings are entirely understandable - although I'm afraid Joey and Jack may be too blinkered to accept that.

Author:  Abi [ Mon Nov 23, 2009 9:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear, what a mess :( .

They shouldn't have made her go; it should have been her decision if she was going to, especially since Cecil feels that way about it.

But, since they did and what happened did happen, I'm very glad Joey went over and said what she did - those nasty women should have been thrown out. That's the kind of attitude that give Christians a bad name.

Most of all, I hope that Cecil is able to talk to her family about the way she feels and that they are able to understand how she feels, because that's something she can't help and she needs their love.

Now getting all choked up, so will stop. :)

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 6:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I can understand why Jack believes that without forgiveness, healing doesn't come, but I don't believe, it's just that because understanding is also needed. I do think Jack and Joey should both have realised that if they themselves struggled with Cecilia's return (and they did love her) then so would others and that understanding and forgiveness and therefore healing has to happen within before it can happen outside. The school itself has made it clear it doesn't forgive and they would be their en masse, how much more would others be like that especially as the school does preach forgiveness and was unable to.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone - it was really interesting to see what other people thought about it.

- X -

Meanwhile, locked in to her own tiny world, Cecil began the trek home, eyes downcast and head bent against the ferocious wind which drove her backwards more than once. Snow whirled in front of her eyes, and she began to wish that she'd waited for her brother; but the entire journey was on the main road, clearly marked out by the piles of snow hedging the sides of it, and as long as she was careful not to miss the turning for the drive she knew that she couldn't get lost.

Still, the weather was less than pleasant, and she huddled despondently into her coat, hugging her scarf closer to her ears by hunching her shoulders. Gloved hands were stuck in her pockets, and earmuffs took the worst of the bite out of the wind. Tears still blurred her vision and stung her cheeks, but as they were as much about her own feelings as the weather she did her best to ignore them and just trudge on, thinking of the warm fire at home and the possibility of making a hot chocolate for herself.

At first she was so intent on the road that she didn't notice the shadow lurking behind her, ostensibly just walking along the road with her, but still keeping at a safe distance. In fact, she might not have seen the figure at all if the wind hadn't suddenly tugged at her so ferociously that her scarf was unwound from her neck. She spun to catch at it and ended up on her knees, having been blown over by the gust. Still clutching the offending garment, she refastened it and glanced up.

Around a corner, about ten steps away, came the man, then stopped and looked at her. For a few seconds they just stared at each other, and even though she couldn't see his face properly his shape was so familiar that she almost refused to believe it. Then a silent scream escaped her, and panicked she did the first thing she could think of and scrambled up, beginning to run despite the iciness of the road and the whirling snowflakes which continued to confuse her.

She glanced back after the next bend in the road, but he was just coming around it, and although he hadn't speeded up at all he was still keeping up with her, his measured, even pace letting him follow her stumbling, awkward gait with ease. Out of breath, and with legs that ached from the unaccustomed exercise, she did her best to gain ground, but each time she tried to run quicker she half fell, and had to catch at the snowdrifts on the sides to keep herself upright.

Sobs tore at the back of her throat, robbing her of the power to scream, and her fingers were numb with cold, her gloves filled with freezing snow. Part of her hair had come loose and cemented itself to her face, obscuring her vision still further until she could hardly see the bleary path in front of her. Never before had she wanted to see a car so badly, she pleaded for someone to come, anyone. Charles should have been just behind her, and she wanted him with her whole heart, until she remembered that he would have Millie with him. She couldn't possibly risk the life of such a tiny, cheerful soul through her own stupidity.

Spent, she forced her feet onwards, though she hadn't dared to glance back for some time, petrified of seeing him coming closer, reaching out for her. The memories of the punishments she had received at his hand before were still close enough to make her whimper in fear. Only he would know what he was planning to do her, what angry whim would force him to heap on her. Despite her tired, heavy limbs her mind was running ahead, and suddenly the threat of death hit her harder than it ever had before.

How easy it would be for him. All it would take would be a gentle shove, over the edge of the road and into the oblivion beyond. Or, worse, he could suffocate her in the snow and leave her body there for her parents to find on their way back from church. She imagined her mother's face as they recognised the bundle of cloth, lightly covered by the snow still whirling dizzyingly around her, pulling her body up. She could hear her father's sobs as he did his best to revive her, but to no avail, the desperation of trying to prove she had been murdered and never being able to.

She was so caught up in the horrific images that she would have missed Freudesheim if she hadn't reached out and clutched the gate for support. With a cry of relief she recognised the driveway down to the house, and safety. Gratefully she plunged through, slamming it behind her, only to tumble down the length of the slippery drive, landing in the heap of snow at the bottom where Charles and Jack had cleared a path the day before.

While she caught her breath she just sat there, surrounded on nearly all sides by the powdery, wet snow that threatened to make her so cold she couldn't move. Tiredness was creeping over her, and aches and pains from various parts of her body, where she had grazed hands, knees and elbows, or pulled muscles as she fell, overwhelmed her, but to her immense surprise the tears had stopped. She just didn't have the energy to left to waste.

She might have sat there until someone found her, if she hadn't glanced up and seen the figure at the gate. This time she scrutinised him, through the white haze that the snow created. She had looked for him approaching once, had rested her head against those broad shoulders and kissed repeatedly the manly chest. With deep breaths she heaved herself out of the drift, forcing herself on to the front door. She would have been unable to say what, other than blind panic, got her so far, but eventually she became conscious of the warmth around her, and the solid floor she was lying on.

Her next thought was of him, picking his way carefully down the drive and coming for her. Overcome, and with trembling hands that refused to do what she wanted, she still somehow locked the door, before giving in completely and just curling up with her back against it, wet, dirty clothes clinging to her and colder than she could ever remember being before. Gradually, the tears came again, until all she could feel was an abject horror of the certainty of the pain lying before her.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It's probably some perfectly innocent person who just happens to be of a similar height and build, but it's no wonder she's panicking :( .

Author:  Abi [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: :shock: :shock:

What I think about this is: Please let someone come home and find Cecil (and possibly beat that man into a bloody pulp).

Thanks Ariel, sort of.

Author:  Chris [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

If it is the baddie, maybe he could 'fall' off the side of the mountain!

Author:  JB [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So much for relaxing CBB time over lunch. That was very powerful, Ariel.

Joining Abi with more "sort of" thanks. Please don't leave Cecil there for too long.

Author:  Liz K [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

Please don't leave it there, please let it be a goodie!!!!!!!!!!!

Author:  aitchemelle [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 5:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

argh *wibbles*
Please come back and save her, or at least let someone save her.

Thank you, I think!

Author:  shesings [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH And oh, that wretched woman who had the arrogance to imagine that she could decide the limitations of Divine mercy!

Author:  Carys [ Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no I thought there would be another update and I'd have missed the cliff!
I hope Cecil is truly save now.

Author:  snowmaiden [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

*Sails right over that cliff*
Genuinely had my heart in my mouth there, ariel. Please don't leave us in suspense too long!

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel though please don't leave us in too much suspence.

Kind of hope it is him and Charles knocks him off. I'm sure there will be a nice cliff handy for him to use. :wink:

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Arghhh!! I don't know whether to be glad Charles and Millie are following or completely terrified.

Thanks Ariel....... but please make it alright .

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry for the delay... Didn't mean to leave you all hanging but it's been a long day! I hope this helps, in any case.

- X -

After a few minutes it dawned on her that the rest of the house might still be unlocked, and that even now he could be inside, waiting for her. A calm descended, a certainty that the moment had come for her to face him and to either lose or to dispel him from her life forever. It was almost a relief to know that she didn't need to worry anymore, that soon she would be free.

First, she methodically removed the wet, clinging clothes that had hampered her so much, until only the damp edges of her skirt brushed her legs, her wet hair plastered to her face. Glancing around, she found a heavy bronze horse rearing up, which had adorned their hall table since before she was born, and which looked heavy enough for her purposes. Hefting it up, she held it against her with one hand as she crept down towards the kitchen, and the back door. The whole house was in darkness, the bottoms of the windows obscured by a white blanket and the thin, grey light which did penetrate not enough to illuminate the corners.

A floorboard above her head creaked, and she started, momentarily shaken. Darting forwards she turned the key in the door, pushing its reassuringly solid weight to make sure that it was truly locked before she slipped the tiny piece of metal into her pocket, where it weighed down, reminding her that she was safe. She was just trying to decide which would be the safest room to be in when there was a thunderous knock on the door.

Nerves shot, she pressed herself against a wall, caressing the ornament slightly to remind herself that she could defend herself if necessary. Whimpering, she inched forwards agonisingly slowly until she was facing the door, upon which someone knocked again, rather impatiently. Raising her chosen weapon as high as she could, she turned the lock, grasping at the door handle for support until, in one fluid move, she flung it back.

“Careful,” said Charles quickly, ducking back slightly to avoid being brained by the horse. They stared at each other, and then Millie's wails of cold pierced Cecil, and she dropped the statue with a sob of relief. To know that she wasn't alone, that there was someone to protect her, was too much, and at once the calm which had been controlling her broke.

Considerably startled, Charles removed Millie from the sled, which sat forgotten on what was usually the doorstep, and ushered her inside, replacing the horse where it belonged and starting to pull off the extra layers always needed at this time of year. While he did, he questioned her carefully as to the reason that she'd tried to attack him, but she shook her head and flew into the Salon, muttering something about making sure Millie was safe. Now worried, Charles made haste to join her, holding his daughter against him as he did.

Once she was settled in front of the stoked up fire with a bottle of milk, she calmed down, and when she found a doll she had tossed behind the rocking chair the night before, she was more than contented to play on the floor while the adults talked. As Charles had been busy sorting her out, Cecil had collapsed on to the sofa, huddled into a tiny ball. All relief had gone, and now she was just faced with the bleak knowledge that he was out there, waiting, and that she was no longer safe.

“What happened?” asked her brother quietly, pushing a mug of warm milk into her hands and wrapping an arm around her shoulders so that she could huddle against him if she wanted. Gratefully she sipped the hot drink, the sugar in it helping to calm her down.

“He followed me,” she whispered, doing her best to overcome the breath catching in the back of her throat and remain coherent. “When I was coming back, he was following me. I saw him stop at the gate and watch me. He's here, he's come to get me.”

There was a long pause as Charles tried to make sense of this, but slowly it dawned what she meant. Holding her more tightly, and cursing himself for not catching her up more quickly, he checked,

“Are you sure? I mean, it could have just been someone who recognised you and wanted to make sure you were ok, or someone walking the path at the same time.”

He was trying to be careful not to offend her, but evidently she read a disbelief in his voice that he honestly hadn't meant to be there, for she sat up, staring at him wildly. Hastily, he tried to explain that all he meant was that he didn't want Jack and Joey to find out unless she was certain, they were worried enough as it was and even if they were careful to keep it from her they were struggling to cope with everything that had happened, and not letting the younger children know, and the last thing that they needed right now was more pressure. But as soon as he started to speak she interrupted him.

“I know him, I know what he looks like. I – I couldn't see his face, but I know it was him. He stopped at the gate, and he watched me. Please, Charles, I'd know him anywhere.”

From the hallway came the sound of a banging door, and Cecil flinched, fearing the worst, but Madge called out to see if anyone else was back yet and she relaxed again. The look on her face had convinced Charles that she meant what she said, though, so before the others could descend he said quickly,

“Will you let me tell mum and dad? You've had a shock you should go upstairs and lie down. I'll talk to them as soon as they get back, I promise.”

Worn out by all the excitement, Cecil was forced to agree with him. She didn't feel up to telling Joey and Jack and having to see the looks on their faces, hear the disappointment in their voices. Suddenly her bed seemed so comforting, a sanctuary where she could hide from everyone else for a little while and just think. Explaining to Madge and Jem that she had left early and was worn out from walking back in such bad weather, she excused herself and went upstairs. Silently she slid under her duvet and curled up, clutching it around her, on the surface completely emotionless.

Author:  Abi [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil - whether it's him or not, this is still a battle she has to fight. And I notice it's still a cliff, Ariel........

Author:  JB [ Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I know it's been a long day Ariel but you didn't really intend to leave us there, did you?

I am rather worried after your post about the way you spent your sleepless night. :hiding:

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil, she's going to be seeing him round every corner and behind every lamp-post.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your comments! I hope that you 'enjoy' the update.

- X -

Presently she began to wonder why Matt hadn't come in. He must have followed them when they left for church, he must have known that she would be alone in the house. It would have been so easy for him to force his way in and take her, even if he knew that Charles was following, for her brother had been some way behind. If Charles hadn't seen him then he must have just gone again.

Unable to fathom why he had suddenly disappeared, she gave it up and fell to wondering what her parents would make of it all. She was the last person who wanted to upset them further, but she couldn't bear to lie to them anymore than she was, and she needed their protection. Hoping against hope that they would believe her, and not see this as simple attention seeking, to try and make them forget what had happened at the church, she turned over miserably. She knew that she was going to have to answer questions about why she had gone, as well, when she saw them.

After a little while she heard the door open downstairs and guessed that they must have returned. Silently she pulled the duvet over her head, heart fluttering in her ears. To keep herself from even thinking that she'd heard anything of what was happening below, she hummed to herself, a mindless tune that she made up as she went along.

The blankets were rough and coarse against her, scratching at her skin. In one corner the steady drip told her that it was raining outside again, and below her window she could hear a deep, male voice attempting to sell his wares. But the whole world was black, for she kept her eyes tightly shut, pretending that none of it was happening.

A sudden rush of cold air made her flinch, but her hands, which had grasped desperately at her blanket a moment before now grasped at thin air. Large, warm fingers wrapped around them, massaging her palms surprisingly gently, though she still whimpered. Obstinately keeping her eyes shut, she tried to roll over, to hide from him, but he had pinned her down by the time the thought came and only laughed at her feeble attempts.

When he told her that she'd been bad, she nodded her agreement, curled up in a tiny, taunt ball as the best form of defence that she had. Her subservience must have pleased him, because instead of the pain she'd been expecting, the punishment that she'd been promised, he only pulled her body straight, running his hands along her back. Her muscles were strained, her skin cold, as she battled with herself to try and remain calm, but when he hit her in the small of her back she didn't even whimper, despite the pain that exploded through her.

Slowly he bent and kissed her shoulder blades, silky and caressing in a complete contrast to his attitude of the moment before. Then he let go of her to pull his shirt off, bending over so that his torso pressed against her and she had to repress a shudder of horror. But dignity prevailed, and even when he bit into her neck, where she could carefully conceal any mark he left with her hair, she didn't give any indication of how repulsed and terrified she was.

Determined to make her show the power that he had over her, he hit her again, in exactly the same place, but she wasn't going to let him have any satisfaction from her disobedience and all that she did was to bury her head in the pillow. When he made her sit up and undo his belt she complied with all the meekness that she could muster, not looking at him but not trembling either. It was all so old, it had been played out so many times before, that it had lost all meaning for her. She was used to him pushing and pulling until she was as he wanted, like so many other men did, and her deadened eyes told him exactly how little impact he was having on her.

The fingers that brushed her shoulder made her jump, and slide across the bed, so tense that she almost couldn't move again. Her humming must have masked the sound of the approach, but now she waited with bated breath for him to pull the cover away, expose her and smile that enticing smile he had, which had once fooled her into thinking that he was a good man, a brave man, who loved her. But nothing happened, and when she dared to sit up and look at the intruder into her grief, she was surprised.

“Are you ok?” asked Charlie in some concern, pushing her overflowing hair over one shoulder and biting her lip as she examined the tiny girl in front of her, who merely smiled weakly. “Sorry if I scared you, I wasn't sure if you were asleep. You look like you need a shower,” she added frankly, spotting the large, muddy damp patch in the sheet thanks to Cecil's hair.

“I can't go,” said Cecil quickly, pulling her duvet more closely around her. “I can't leave, he's out there, waiting for me.”

“I think,” said Charlie delicately, unable to keep the hint of a laugh out of her voice regardless of the situation, “that you'll be fine going to the bathroom and back, though I can check if you'd like.” Then, sobering up, she added, “Seriously, it's ok. As soon as your dad heard he rang the police, and now he's phoning up all of the guesthouses to make sure that that vile man isn't staying in one. While you're gone, I can change the bed, and then if you don't feel up to much you can just come back and try and sleep.”

“I'd like that,” admitted Cecil quietly, smiling timidly. Charlie beamed.

“Excellent. Well, then, you go for a shower, and if you're really lucky I'll even plait your hair up for you when you get back. And if you want any company this afternoon, Millie's been asking if she can play with you, so I can bring her up to sit on the bed and tell you a story about her dolls for a little while. Nothing too taxing, I promise.”

Gingerly, Cecil hugged Charlie, who'd been such a friend to her since they came out. Unaccountably, she remembered a dinner when Charlie had first stayed at Freudesheim, at which she'd asked perfectly innocently if Charlie was going to get married now that she'd met Charles. How stupid she must have seemed back then, how naïve, before she learnt what life truly was.

“Don't be scared,” added Charlie as Cecil left, holding her skirt carefully away from herself so that she wouldn't get anymore wet. “I know that Joey and I haven't always agreed, and that Jack disapproves of me, but they're good people and they'll be sure to look after you. They won't let you get hurt again.”

Cecil nodded her appreciation of this, but when she reached the bathroom she stopped and stared dully at the snow flakes now falling heavily around the house. All of the emotion that she'd allowed herself to feel since she came home, all of the pain and the hurt but also the happiness and the love, it had all gone. She was completely hollow inside, and Matt had won again.

Author:  Chris [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor girl. It's a long hard road she's on.

Author:  hac61 [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

And it could last the rest of her life. It's horrible how one momentary slip can affect the whole of one's future.


Author:  Abi [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:( Poor Cecil.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil. My heart goes out to her. Thank you for the update.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

As Cecil had predicted, strictly to herself, Jack was unable to find out where Matt was staying. He was a master of disguising himself to be someone else; he had told her, after they ran away, that he was actually a French citizen, but she didn't know if even that was true. He had studied all of the European accents and languages and could drop into most of them at a moment's notice; who would connect a wealthy Spaniard or a Russian count with the English doctor who had magicked her away? So, although the police had promised to come up and interview her within a week, there was nothing more that anyone could do, except for impressing upon her that she wasn't to go outside alone, which she secretly resented a little.

The next day a regretful farewell was held for Charles and Charlie, who were going back to England. Thanks to a brilliant piece of organisation on Joey's part, Jack was taking them as far as Berne where he was also to meet Felix and Felicity, who were coming home for Christmas. At first, Cecil had wanted to go with them, but when Jack pointed out that with two people's luggage as well there just wouldn't be room in the car she gave up, though she looked mutinous over it. It seemed to her that her parents were starting to forget that she was an adult now and, especially since the scare with Matt, were being horribly overbearing.

In any case she was left behind to help Joey clean the house before they came, while Madge and Anna started to wrap up all of the Christmas presents stored in hidden places in the house and the rest went out. First of all they drove to the San to drop off Jem, who had been urgently summoned to look at a special case that Reg and Dr Shepphard weren't sure about. This was only a brief stop, for Jack refused to come inside, claiming that times were tight as it was and he wanted to make sure that they got the train safely.

As they were leaving the Platz, a mood of depression settled over them all. It was expressed most vocally by Millie, who objected to having to sit still and promptly started throwing a tantrum, which Charlie spent the rest of the journey trying to calm. Meanwhile, Jack and Charles were having a quiet conversation in the front, occasionally contributed to by Charlie, about how Cecil would fare. Before he left, Charles had noticed the change in attitude towards her, and he was trying to warn his father not to be overly protective.

Disquieted by having left the women alone in the house without even Jem to take care of them, Jack soon let the conversation go, and only Millie's persistent screams filled the car, giving everyone a headache. Charles stared moodily out of his window, worried about his family and about his return to work, for the office had been left in the hands of an incompetent junior who had only got so far thanks to his father's associates. In the end, he turned and demanded of Charlie in brusque tones the reason that she couldn't keep her daughter quiet, at which she bristled and replied shortly that it was their daughter and he could come and try if he thought he could do any better.

The atmosphere after that was stormy, and to his secret shame Jack was relieved to be able to let them decant at the station. Getting caught in the middle of an argument had never been part of his plan, and he was careful to lavish his attention on Millie, who he wouldn't see again until the summer, until the two adults were ready to say goodbye. His patient ministrations had worked, along with her temporary freedom, and when she held out her arms for Charles all that was left of her fit of temper was the tears drying on her cheeks and a redness around her eyes.

Before they could get to the platform, however, they were approached by two youngsters, both with silvery fair hair curling around their face and delicate, rose blush skin, though one was tall and muscular while the other was slight. Upon seeing them, Jack beamed and rushed over to greet them, shaking Felix's hand and then pulling Felicity into a tight hug. There was also just time for them to have a brief conversation with Charles and Charlie, still frostily ignoring each other, and go into raptures over Millie before their train came. Then Charlie kissed Jack quickly on the cheek, which made him blush, and Charles gave him a quick hug, and a last cuddle with Millie, and they were off.

After that those left fell to the business of packing the car, keen to get home before snow should come. There was a keen bite to the air, and it blew around them as Jack and Felix hefted suitcases into the boot and Felicity sat with the passenger door open, waiting impatiently for them to be done. She had removed hat and gloves, freeing the ponytail which she insisted on wearing despite her mother's protests, but leaving her cold, as she complained loudly until they were ready to leave.

As soon as they started driving she turned on the radio and fiddled with it for a while, though she couldn't find a station she liked and soon she turned it off. Felix had taken a seat in the back and was telling his father of his history degree, and the work involved in that. Soon enough Felicity got bored and interrupted with her own tales. She was studying English, though she hoped to join a ballet company once she had finished and was still taking ballet lessons as well; as she was studying near to Con, she was able to give him all the news about his second daughter as well as telling him how much Percy had grown since they'd last seen him.

The chatter continued until they reached the Platz, with Jack asking questions about all the family in England and catching them up on what had been happening since their last holidays. Briefly he touched on Cecil, though he didn't tell them of what she had seen yesterday or of some of the problems that they'd been facing. Nor did they ask, sensing how difficult a subject it was for him, instead moving the conversation on with a brief question about the school.

When they did reach Freudesheim, they tumbled out of the car to be met by Joey, who had seen them coming and had come out to welcome them. Both hugged her, Felix somewhat boisterously so that she complained afterwards she felt as if she had been squeezed through a press, and then clamoured to meet everyone else, forgetting their luggage in the excitement of seeing Madge and Jem again.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Nov 27, 2009 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

They're going to have tell Felix and Felicity everything that's happened at some point. Hope Cecil isn't overwhelmed by having so many people around.

Author:  Abi [ Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I wonder how Felix and Felicity will react? Poor Cecil, there are always new challenges for her to face.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel

Author:  Emma A [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Gosh, I had about six updates to read there! Poor Cecil - her reactions are so believable. I do hope that Jack and Joey can stop themselves being over-protective, though after the scare I'd imagine they'd find it really difficult. I do think that Cecil set herself up for the bit in church, though - couldn't she have said that she'd lost her faith? It would have been a shock to Jack, but I think he might have understood why, given what she was like when he found her, and he must have some suspicion what happened to Cecil when she ran away.

Anyway, this is as gripping as ever, Ariel - thank-you.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou for your lovely comments!

- X -

The arrival of Felix and Felicity considerably lightened the atmosphere in the house, which had been heavy after what had Cecil had been through. Although Charlie was always bubbly and optimistic, her energy tended not to affect others, but the two twins could revive a room the second that they walked into it. Their excitement was certainly contagious, and Joey was practically as lively as them, in a way that she rarely had been since Cecil had left.

While Jack silently carried their cases upstairs to respective rooms, trying his best to be unobtrusive, Joey forced them to come and sit by the fire and warm up while they told her everything that had happened since they last met. They were joined by Madge, while Anna made coffee. Only Cecil didn't come downstairs. She had seen them arrive from an upstairs window and was carefully hiding in her room.

It was Jack who came to find her, guessing how she would be feeling. Sliding in, he smiled gently and sat down on the bed, motioning for her to join him. Tentatively she came, but he only wrapped an arm around her shoulders and held her close, smoothing the hair back from her face with his other hand. At first there was a silence between the two as they just appreciated being alone together, but presently he spoke again.

“You really have to stop hiding as soon as someone new comes. Felix and Flixy were really excited about seeing you, and in a couple of days Claire and Phil will be coming home. Then there's going to be Phil's friend, and the boys. You can't hide in here all of the time.”

He paused, but he could see that he was making Cecil uncomfortable, so he moved swiftly on.

“I'd love to go for a walk, if you want to come? The weather isn't too bad – in fact, it looks almost like the sun might come out if only briefly. Not that it matters to me either way, I'd walk through a blizzard if I had you next to me.”

Blushing, Cecil turned and hugged him appreciatively for the compliment, though she didn't really know what to say. Neither of her parents were overly demonstrative, and the sudden rush of emotion confused her as much as it pleased her. She knew that Jack would understand, though, and her only reply was to say that she would go on the walk with him.

Both feeling a little thrilled at the level of rebellion, they snuck downstairs and quietly donned coats, hats, gloves and walking shoes, doing their best to be silent and not laugh at each other at the same time. It reminded Cecil of a night when she was much younger, and she was just starting to get excited about the prospect of snow. Jack had come home late from work and, looking in to kiss her goodnight even if she was asleep, which he had always done with all the children, he found her knelt in the window watching it through wide eyes. She expected to be told off, but instead he had carried her downstairs, wrapped her up in an old coat of his and taken her outside to stand in the garden among the falling flakes.

They nearly got caught when Anna brought the tray of coffee to the Salon, but she didn't look into the cloakroom and they remained undetected. Seeing that the faithful factotum didn't intend to leave the Salon until she'd made sure that Felix and Felicity were unharmed from being away from her cooking, they silently motioned that they would go through the kitchen and get some food on the way. They couldn't stay long, for they knew that Joey would never let them go out if she heard of what they were doing, but they both picked up an apple and two of the sandwiches sat on the table waiting for Mittagessen. Storing these in a container which Jack put in his pocket, he hastily made a flask of coffee and then motioned Cecil out of the back door.

As they walked through the garden, their arms linked, the snow crunched pleasantly under their feet and a bird sang feebly overhead. Their breathing was heavy by the time they'd ploughed through the heavier snow to the driveway, but they were both smiling at the exertion, and the loneliness of a world in which they were the only two people. The sharp air coupled with the several layers that they both had on made their cheeks red and their eyes sparkle by the time they gained the main road.

While they walked Jack explained that he thought they could go along by the river, which had frozen over and was now just a black chasm among the wooden pillars in a pure land. It was guaranteed to be a lonely walk, and what they needed now more than anything was solitude. Life at Freudesheim was never going to be quiet, and previously Jack had escaped to the San when he needed to be alone; now he didn't have that option, and he had taken to retiring to the study with a book, only even that had started to lose its charm.

Pleased as he was to see Felix and Felicity again, Cecil clearly needed someone to talk to, and he'd promised her that she could always come to him if she wanted too. Besides which, he and Joey had started talking the night before, and had reached a decision which he knew might upset a lot of the family, but Cecil in particular. Joey had wanted to tell everyone at once, but he thought it fairer to warn Cecil of what was coming, even if he only hinted at it for now.

They struggled up the mountain, holding hands and occasionally attempting breathless conversation, though as the path got steeper this became less of an option. What surprised Cecil was that as unpracticed as she was, she was still able to walk faster than her father, who had once strode anywhere as if it was a flat footpath, and who would never have struggled this much before. Since she'd returned she'd noticed more than ever that her father wasn't the youthful, active man he had been even at the time she left.

Eventually they reached the peak of the path, a fallen bough that Jack brushed off to make a seat for them, and sat down to enjoy the small lunch and warm drink they'd brought. Not a single noise drifted up to them, except the occasional bough snapping under the weight of the snow it carried, but they could see across a panorama of mountains, distant peaks rising up until they were lost in cloud. Everything was calm. Contentedly, Cecil shut her eyes and leaned her head against her father's shoulder, completely peaceful for the first time in a long time.

Author:  cestina [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

What a lovely interlude Ariel. But now poor Cecil is peaceful for the first time in a long time and Jack is going to dump some nasty news on her..... :(

Author:  Emma A [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

cestina wrote:
What a lovely interlude Ariel. But now poor Cecil is peaceful for the first time in a long time and Jack is going to dump some nasty news on her..... :(

Agrees with cestina. But thanks for the update, Ariel (in awe at your productivity!).

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Whatever Jack and Joey've decided to do, I wish they'd hang fire for a bit!

Author:  Abi [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I wonder what it is? It sounds like something fairly major, so maybe they can't delay it. :?

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm wondering what it is too. Perhaps it's leaving the Platz which if it is may be the best thing for Cecila nd give her a fresh start with neighbours. It may also make it harder for Eric to find her

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

As ever, all will be revealed soon enough! Thankyou for your comments, though, they continue to make me smile as much as ever.

- X -

The two sat on the bough for some time, nearly always silent but occasionally saying something trivial. With the view of the mountains in front of them and the isolation around them they both felt peace, as if they could just be themselves and nobody would mind. Jack had promised not to give the news away, but he managed to hint at it, which satisfied him for the time being. Largely he just held his daughter to himself and did his best to make her feel safe, to let her have happiness for a brief space of time.

But it couldn't last forever, and after a while time came crashing in around them, reminding them of how cold they were and that their absence would have been noted by now. Wishing to get back to the warmth of the house and reassure Joey that nothing had gone wrong, Jack regretfully moved first, standing up and groaning as feeling began to flow back through him. Gallantly he held out his hand to Cecil, who let herself be pulled up with a tiny smile.

Getting back down the mountain proved to be somewhat more challenging than coming up had been. The path was slippery from the snow which had fallen on it and then frozen, and tree roots stuck up to trip the unwary. Clutching at each other, Jack lead the way, holding on to tree trunks and once sliding down so fast that he very nearly fell over. Somehow he managed to retain his balance, while Cecil stood above him, laughing joyfully. Her breath rose in clouds around her and her face was flushed with health in a way that it hadn't been for a long time. Turning round, Jack suddenly began to laugh too, holding out his arms so that he could catch her as she made her way down.

Hesitatingly, she took a step, and then another, doing her best to keep her balance. But it was no good, and she fell gracefully into his arms, nuzzling against his shoulder as he caught her. As she was an incredibly light weight, and he'd made sure he had a good grounding, he didn't even need to step back to retain his balance.

“Thankyou,” she murmured against the rough cloth of his shirt. He had undone his coat when he began to become uncomfortably warm thanks to the effort required to get safely down the path, and now all she could smell was smoke from the pipe he had taken to smoking and his aftershave.

“I'll always catch you,” he promised seriously, tilting her face up and kissing her cheek. The laughter left her eyes, but quickly she drove back tears and just replied,

“I know. That's why I love you.”

“Is that the only reason?” he asked playfully as they began to scramble back down again, Cecil with occasionally wild shrieks as they found a particularly icy patch. “Nothing at all to do with my dashing good looks and perfect personality?”

Cocking her head to one side to consider, she said slowly, “Ye-es, but then your disgusting socks that mum's always moaning about tend to detract from the effect, so perhaps we shouldn't get into the minutiae of my feelings for you.”

“Cheeky brat,” he laughed, as his voice echoed back mockingly at him from among the trees. “Once we're somewhere safer, I'll scrag you for that.”

Climbing had become difficult by now, for a large tree had sprawled across the path, caught in another's branches, and it took all of their skill to navigate it safely, but Jack had flushed with pride at the conversation. It seemed to him that now he could eventually forget all of the hurtful things he'd shouted at her just before she left. Ever since he had questioned himself, questioned whether she could still love him after he'd done such a horrible thing, but his mind was at ease now. What they had, what he had with all of his children, was an unbreakable bond, and nobody would ever change that.

The Platz seemed noisy after their eerily silent walk, when they eventually regained relatively flat ground. A car drove past, and the doctor inside blew on his horn and waved a hand to Jack, who responded in kind; one of the women walking in the other direction shouted a greeting to them, which made Cecil smile. The world had flooded back in, and what had happened while they were alone could now only be a memory.

Eventually they began to stride down to the front door of Freudesheim, thoroughly worn out but happy all the same. The sun was already dying, trailing blood red over the tops of the mountains and turning the sky above them pink, while a cloud cover began to blanket it protectively, hiding its final throes from view. In unison they turned back to look at it, and Jack instinctively slipped an arm around his daughter, squeezing her gently.

With a small grin, he opened the door and ushered her inside, littering the rug behind the door with snow as he did. Almost immediately Joey was upon them, demanding to know where they had been and chastising them for not telling her of their plans. But, feeling youthful, Jack swept her into his arms and kissed her so passionately that she was forced to desist, blushing as he put her down. Meekly, she suggested that perhaps Cecil had better come and greet Felix and Felicity, as they hadn't seen her yet. After an encouraging glance from Jack, she nodded and turned to follow her mother into the Salon.

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was nice, but I'm worried about what Jack and Joey's news might be.

Author:  Chris [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was a lovely happy post! A little oasis of calm.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel, I really enjoyed those last two posts but now worrying about what Jack will say!

Author:  JB [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 6:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I thought that by reading two posts at once I might have avoided a cliff. No such luck!

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Abi [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Yeeees... I agree! Very nice, but I think that might have been the proverbial calm before the storm.

Thanks Ariel!

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel

Author:  Kacca [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was lovely, thoroughly enjoyed that walk myself :)

Thank you Ariel.

Author:  Nightwing [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel - just caught up on heaps of this, really enjoying it!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm pleased that people enjoyed the walk! I do apologise for all the cliffs I'm keeping you on - I sat and worked it out, and there's quite a few! But you wouldn't enjoy it otherwise :devil:

- X -

The greeting from Felix and Felicity was warm and reassured her that she needn't worry about their response to her. In fact, she burst into tears when Felix hugged her, which made him grin awkwardly and beg her not to “get all upset”. Not much could disturb him, but he was wholly at a loss with how to deal with tears and he didn't quite know where to look, especially as everyone, including Cecil, laughed at his obvious discomfort. His sister was merciful, though, and took Cecil under her wing.

“Mum was just telling us about all the help you've been giving around the house,” she said, wrapping her younger sister in a hug of her own. Being the closest in age to Cecil the two had always known her better than the others. “We all think that you deserve a break for a few days, and now we're here to make sure that it happens.”

As it transpired that everyone backed their plans to the full, Cecil found that she would just have to give in and let herself be taken for a walk the next day, instead of helping to prepare the house. Shortly they would be descended on by Phil and Claire, and the day after that Stephen would be arriving with Geoff under his care. A last minute letter had arrived explaining that Mike couldn't come, as he'd had Christmas last year off and it wouldn't be fair to even ask about shirking this one as well. None of the girls they had informally adopted came anymore, either, Adrienne and Erica both having partners whose family were closer and who it was subsequently easier to visit, and Leila having recently flown to New Zealand (which she assured them was nothing to do with having met Roddy the last time she stayed, not that they believed her). The other two Richardsons would be spending Christmas together in England, so that Ruey could see her boyfriend as well.

At first Joey had been inclined to lament how empty the house was going to be, but Jack had reminded her that it was probably for the best, Cecil being clearly afraid of even her own siblings and not needing a lot of people around. Thus reminded that they had one person with them this year that they hadn't expected, she piped down on the subject, though she continued to rack her brains for other people she could happen to invite. But as Phil was bringing one of her friends to stay, the house wasn't going to be quiet, and there were still rooms to get ready.

Strictly in private, Felicity had moaned about the loss of her room – which Jack had written ahead to warn her of – to her twin brother, but she was careful to keep her feelings from Cecil. The last thing that any of them wanted to do was upset her further, particularly over something so arbitrary. Her care meant that the three were able to take a picnic and have a lovely day out, culminating in a snow fight in which Felix drubbed the two girls thoroughly, before they tramped home, dirty and worn out but happy.

On Wednesday it snowed again and none of them could have gone out even if they wanted to. Thankfully, they were assured that the snow was only this high up and, as the coaches had made it up without any major problems, the school was able to go home safely. The group of three threaded its way through the snow buried garden just after ten o' clock, arriving without their luggage, which they dispatched Jack to fetch forthwith. Despite the tensions with the school that Joey still maintained, indignant about how her daughter had been treated, he stayed for a cup of coffee with Nancy Wilmot and Kathie Ferrars, which did a lot to soothe some ruffled feathers.

Meanwhile, Cecil had appeared to welcome her sisters and ask whether they needed a hot drink. While Claire rushed over to hug her, Phil continued to hang up her coat without a word to Cecil, who stood awkwardly in the doorway. What made it worse was that Phil's friend hovered shyly behind her, not knowing quite what to say. After what seemed an eternity, Joey arrived, and at once guessed the problem.

“Welcome to Freudesheim,” she greeted in her warm, comforting voice, which at once won the new girl to her. “I don't suppose that you know Cecilia, and there's also Felix and Felicity, our first twins. They'll be down presently, I'm sure. Now, Phil tells me that you're Kathryn – do you shorten at all?”

“People usually call me Katie,” she murmured, glancing uncertainly at her friend. This was her second year at the Chalet School, but the first time that she'd stayed at Freudesheim. Since Cecil had left Joey had stopped giving her tea parties for new girls, as so many of the new staff resented her interference even in this way. This was the first time that she'd met Katie, apart from bumping into the school during its walks and similar coincidences, though when she heard Katie's story she was quick to offer her a home at Freudesheim any time that she wanted it.

“Can I get anyone drinks to warm you up?” beamed the mistress of the house, smiling benevolently on them all.

“Cecil already offered,” explained Claire, forgetting that her sister preferred a different name now. “Please can I have a hot chocolate? Please?”

Her voice was so pleading that Joey relented with a laugh and, ushering them all into the Salon, promised to go and fetch the drinks forthwith. Nervously, now that she was left alone with them, Cecil turned to Phil and Katie, wondering what their reaction to her was going to be.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Imagine if the whole lot of them turned up, plus partners!

Author:  Emma A [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Remind me - who is Leila?

Otherwise, I do like the way Cecil is relaxing with the twins, but am wondering whether she might have to work a bit harder with Phil, who would have been most directly affected by the fall-out from Cecil's running-away.

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Abi [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 7:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Also a bit worried about Phil - her reaction before wasn't entirely positive.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Mon Nov 30, 2009 10:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel, am also wondering why Phil wanted to see Len so desperately and if it has anything to do with Cecil and how she's behaving now

Author:  Kacca [ Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I wonder if Phil was having a hard time at school once Cecil appeared. It will be interesting to see how Phil and Katie react.

And I'm still very anxious about Cecil's secret (I'm sure you haven't forgotten Ariel, I am trying to be patient :wink: ).

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I haven't forgotten at all! I'm just amassing a list of things I need to explain :roll: Including who Leila is. Thankyou for your comments! You're all too kind.

- X -

At first there was nothing more than a nervous silence, until presently the two bent their heads over and began a conversation of their own about a piece of history work that they'd been set over the holidays. Glancing across at them, Claire smiled reassuringly and slipped a hand into Cecil's, beginning to chatter about her own school work.

Into their midst soon came Joey with the hot drinks, though she said that she couldn't stay as Anna had scalded her hand boiling the potatoes and she had to go and sort it out. Tentatively, Cecil tried to start a conversation with her sister, but the look that the latter sent her silenced her again. Taking her own cup of hot chocolate, Phil stood up and said decisively,

“Come on, Katie, lets go upstairs. We can be more private there.”

Scared by her friend's angry tone, Katie sent an apologetic glance at Cecil and then hastened to follow, not sure what else to do. Heavily, Cecil sighed, just in time for Felicity to come into the room and stare at her in shock. However, she had bumped into Phil coming down the stairs – almost literally – and she guessed at the problem.

“You nearly knocked me over then,” she exclaimed cheerfully. “Don't look so blue, she'll come around soon enough. And until then, you've got the rest of us.”

This was true; as she had intended, Cecil had written to all of her siblings that didn't live on the Platz, with the exception of Charles who she knew would have been visiting before the letter could have reached him, and had had some lovely replies. Mike in particular had sent a letter which cheered her up; only Margot had yet to write back, but as her parents reassured her it could take up to a month for a letter to get to her, and then another month for her reply to come, Cecil was just forced to be patient.

“Anyway,” added Claire confidentially. “She loves you really. She got into trouble at school the other week because somebody said something about you and she hit them. Miss Wilmot was furious, but Phil said that she'd done it to stand up for you. I guess that she just doesn't know how to tell you that.”

As frequently happened, Claire managed to surprise her elders with her insight into other people. For her age she was amazingly perceptive, and could often identify and explain the cause of someone's behaviour without having to think about it. Sometimes she left those she was addressing speechless, as when she had calmly informed Matron that of course the new girl wouldn't take any medicine, because if she became ill enough her parents would come and then she would feel loved again. Even the girl in question hadn't realised it to that extent, but Claire had befriended her and had seen at once what needed to be done.

“I never heard anything about that,” replied Cecil, frowning slightly, but she was surprised to see Claire suddenly turn a dark crimson.

“Well, Miss Wilmot did say that we weren't to say anything about it because she didn't want mama and papa to worry anymore than they were already. You won't say anything, will you?”

Both girls assured her that they wouldn't, secretly smiling to each other at Claire's so sincere naivety, before Felicity swiftly moved the conversation on. Glancing upstairs, she leaned in and then murmured to ask what they thought of Katie. Opinion was rather divided, Claire saying that she was lovely and not usually as shy in school, which Cecil agreed with but added that she needed to come out of her shell a little bit, though Joey would soon accomplish that. Not many people were able to be shrinking violets at Freudesheim.

“If she's scared of us then I dread to think what she'll make of Felix,” laughed the young man's twin. “I've just discovered that he brought two of his weights with him in his suitcase so that he doesn't have to stop his daily morning routine while he's on holiday. No wonder dad kept moaning about how heavy it was! I just want to know who he's trying to impress.”

This made all three giggle, for Felix's weight lifting was a notorious joke among the Maynards and varied had been the guesses as to why he felt the need to do it. It also broke the ice which had frozen over their conversation until then, and they began to catch up on all that they'd missed since they last saw each other. Once again Felicity had to tell them all about Percy, and how much he had grown and how clever he was now. Cecil then told her about Len's children, with occasional chipped in comments by Claire, who brought her own news of one of the mistresses at the school who had joined that term.

This kept them occupied until Mittagessen, whereat they were joined by the rest. Most of the meal was spent catching up on school news, for Madge was always keen to know what her pupils thought of things, while Jack and Jem quietly discussed what to do with the San once Jack's retirement was officially announced after Christmas. Jem had decided that neither David nor Rix was ready to take it over yet, but Reg had stated categorically that he didn't want to be in charge for three or four years only to be demoted again. Jack had just proposed a system whereby each of the three men owned a third of both branches, and Reg was told that if he was in charge of this San for five years, he could then spend ten years helping to run the English branch, half the time with David and half with Rix.

Slowly, Madge and then Joey got drawn into the debate, leaving the children to talk about their own affairs. Contentedly, Cecil looked at them all, suddenly pleased just by the very fact that she was home. Christmas was going to be a difficult time for her, even if they were all nice, but she knew that the fact she was able to be here at all was something to be pleased about. Smiling, she applied herself to her sandwich and refused to either agree with Felicity’s teasing or stand up for Felix.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Wondering if Joey and Jack intend to stay on in Switzerland once Jack retires. The original idea in Changes was that they'd only stay for 10 years, but - as often happens when people have to relocate for work reasons - they seemed to've got really settled there. Jack'd have to find some sort of hobby, though!

Author:  JB [ Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. That was a really lovely update.

Author:  Abi [ Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Feel a bit more positive about Phil - maybe she and Cecil can work things out between them yet. Thanks Ariel!

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel

Author:  shesings [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cheers, Ariel, loving this drabble!

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Have just caught up on several posts of this - what a treat. Lots of unanswered questions though.....

Author:  shazwales [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,really enjoying the updates.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone :) Please excuse any bad editing in this, I'm very nearly asleep. But I couldn't let you go without a daily update!

- X -

The day after Stephen and Geoff arrived safely, a huge snowball fight was arranged with the aim of getting everyone into the Christmas spirit. The adults had noticed some underlying tensions between certain people, and it had been Madge who suggested that the exercise and fresh air, coupled with the chance for them to have to work as a team, might help them to remember that they were siblings and not bosom enemies.

Accordingly, over Frühstück the next day Jack and Joey announced that they would be heading the teams; Madge and Jem had both cried off, claiming that they were far too old for such things, but had announced that they were going to go for a walk together and have some time alone, which it was often difficult to find at Freudesheim. Anna had also declined to join them, tutting about the amount of washing that would need to be done and the state that her floors would be in.

They were split roughly according to gender, with Jack heading the boys and Jo heading the girls, though with only four men to the six women Claire was forced to join the other team. Satisfied that things had been organised, Joey applied herself to her boiled egg with a vim, declaring that she was going to make sure they won.

Tensions and competitive spirit rife between the two camps, they made their way to the cloakroom to change while Anna cleared up after Frühstück. Guilt-stricken, Cecil offered to do it, for usually it was her responsibility, but Anna shook her head and refused to say more than that Cecil should run to catch up with the rest and go and have fun. Watching her charge scamper away to find her winter clothes, she shook her head and muttered to herself,

“It's a hard road in front of you, mein Liebling. Have fun while you can.”

When Cecil got outside the girls were starting to build their snow fort, surrounded on three sides by sturdy bushes while, undaunted, the men and Claire amassed snowballs in another corner of the garden. She approached and asked her mother, as captain, what she could do. Impatiently brushing her hair out of her face, for it was coming loose from its pins already, Joey glanced around and then said,

“Take Katie and start building up our snowball pile. Your father told me last night that he does not intend to be embarrassed by being beaten by a lot of women, and I've promised him that I fully intend he shall, so we're going to have to fight hard.”

Even shy Katie had begun to come out of her shell when such fresh air and rigorous exercise was combined with the typical atmosphere of Freudesheim, and she followed Cecil quite willingly to start bundling the snow into compact balls that would be perfect for throwing. It was necessary to be careful as you did to ensure that no stones or other debris that could do real harm got in by accident.

The snow was perfect for such an event, light and powdery, and as they worked the two girls talked, with Cecil slowly drawing Katie out of her shell. At length, the younger girl started to chatter about her family, and how she could just remember when she was only tiny, and had been allowed to watch as her brother and his friends made snowmen and pelted each other. Suddenly her face sobered, and she explained in a tiny voice,

“They're dead now. Mum and dad and Jimmy, they died in a car accident. I just have my guardian uncles, who are lovely but both very old; they're dad's uncles, really.”

“Don't be sad,” said Cecil quickly, squeezing Katie's fingers through several layers of glove. “You'll always be welcome here, as I'm sure Phil told you. And now I can see the others getting ready to attack, so we'd better go and back up the troops.”

With a joyous laugh she turned around and began to distribute snowballs to the rest of the team. But the small talk had helped Katie get over her initial shyness enormously, and she threw herself wholeheartedly into the fight after that. Standing in front of the rest, like the Napoleon his wife so idolised, Jack suddenly shouted at the top of his voice,


Before long, they found themselves bombarded on all sides, and there was no time to think of anything but defending the fort. It had been decided that the fight must go on as long as possible, as there was every chance they would be snowbound to the house again as soon as the afternoon, and as such it had been declared that nobody could be out. This was probably just as well, for in a fit of daring Joey left the confines of the fort by jumping over one of the hedges, and promptly fell face first.

Once Geoff had finished stuffing as much snow as he could lay his hands on down her neck, she regained her feet laughing, and promised that she was fine. As most of the others had stopped to make sure she was ok, she was able to pick up a handful of snow and fling it at her husband, who squawked but couldn't duck in time, and who was occupied long enough to let Joey escape back into the safety of the fort.

Soon, the makeshift walls gave way, and it became more a free for all. From the safe vantage point of the kitchen window, where she was peeling potatoes, Anna clucked disapprovingly as she watched Felicity round the house at a run, followed by her twin, both stooping to pick up snow and fling it at each other every few steps. Across the garden the same thing was happening, as even the teams were forgotten in the madness of trying to hurl as much snow as possible at as many people as you could.

Author:  JB [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks, Ariel. That was just what I needed.

Author:  shazwales [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel :D :D :D

Author:  ammonite [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ahh I'm enjoying this - I have just read all the way through.

Author:  Abi [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Aww, that was fun and lovely. Though not removing any of those cliffs... :poke:

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

What fun! I want to have a snow fight now...

Author:  aitchemelle [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

How fabulous! What a great snowball fight and a good way to get conversation to start!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 1:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

DISCLAIMER: Please do not poke the author. This is likely to incur rage and lengthening of time before cliffs are resolved. More cliffs may also be added in a fit of incandescent anger. Thankyou for your co-operation in this matter.

- X -

The snow fight continued in earnest for some time. Nobody seemed to get worn out by the physical exercise, and still yet minded when they received yet another face full of snow. In fact, it even did some good, as Joey said afterwards, when she saw Cecil and Phil laughingly trying to defend each other from the onslaught of all three of their brothers, who had ganged up on them at once. Even she had great fun when she managed to corner Jack and leave him thoroughly whitened.

The best adventure of all, though, was brought about by Phil, who suddenly saw an excellent way to make sure that she won the fight. Amassing a large pile of snow which she heaped into every pocket and nook about her person that she could find, she adeptly climbed a few branches up one of the trees that bordered the garden and began to throw snowballs from above.

It confused Geoff considerably, until he spotted her pink coat and, with a shout of glee, hurtled off to inform all those he could reach of his twin's brilliant idea. Even as he ran off Jack came up, and Phil, chuckling to herself, threw one down at him with surprising accuracy. He quickly guessed what had happened, and ordered her down in no uncertain terms, but the only answer he got was a mouthful of snow.

He declared afterwards that twenty years had left him by that point, and certainly he wouldn't normally have attempted what he did then. However, he managed to climb up the tree, just in time for Joey to come around the corner, tugged by Geoff, and give vent to a cry of horror. Jack knew what he was about, though, and seconds later he was sliding down the trunk – incidentally tearing large holes in both of his trouser knees, which made Anna announce that she wouldn't be mending them when she saw them – with Phil over one shoulder.

Getting safely back down to the ground, he proceeded to set her down and then tickle her into submission, leaving her writhing on the ground screaming for mercy, while he balled some more snow into his hands and threw it at his wife, who had been watching the entire event looking, as her son so elegantly described it later, like a stranded cod that couldn't catch flies. This effectively re-ignited the fight, and the two adults chased each other around the garden several times, to the amusement of their children.

In another part of the garden, Stephen had been hunting Cecil down, determined to catch her before they were called back inside to get ready for Mittagessen. They had been going at least two hours now, he reckoned, and he knew that time was running short. If he could just take her on as well, he would have beaten everyone, and could, he hoped, claim himself the winner. With only this on his mind, he ducked behind a bush, watched and waited, then sprung out suddenly, throwing an incredibly large snowball with good aim.

Unsuspecting, she hadn't even looked around to make sure she was safe, Cecil was caught completely off guard. Jumping, she felt something under her foot and tumbled, landing face down in the snow. At once Stephen was on top of her, stuffing snow down her neck, but as soon as he heard her cry of pain he jumped off, all of the laughter leaving his face as he bent over to make sure that she was ok.

“I'm so sorry,” he gasped, helping her to sit up. “I'm such an idiot. Are you ok? Where does it hurt?”

Shakily, Cecil drew up the leg of her waterproof trousers to reveal a gash across her knee, caused when she had stumbled over the rock which had been cunningly concealed by the snow. She professed herself fine, but all the same she readily agreed when Stephen said that they should go inside so that the wound could be bathed and treated. The cold wasn't helping, making the cut sting more than ever, and she was hard pressed to hold back tears.

Throwing one of her arms around his shoulder, Stephen helped her to stand up, one arm around her waist to support her and one holding her hand as it draped across him to make sure she could maintain her balance. Thankfully she was able to put a little weight on the injured limb, or getting across the snow would have been twice as challenging; but calling up all of the pluck that she had, she hobbled towards the house, resolutely holding back tears so that her brother wouldn't see her cry.

They met Jack on the way, but after Stephen assured him that they could cope, and that he needn't come in with them, he only came to hold the door open for them and illicit the promise that they wouldn't hesitate to come for him if they only thought that it might be serious. In turn, he said that he would keep everyone going for at least another fifteen minutes, to make sure that Cecil wasn't bombarded on all sides, but after that he was going to have to call an end because he could see dark grey clouds lowering over the sky.

Thanking him, the two went inside, and Stephen asked Anna to fetch a bowl of warm water and the first aid kit, while he helped Cecil strip off wet outer layers and fetched the clothes dryer so that they could be put in front of the fire. Then Anna arrived with the medical aid, tutting about how everyone's clothes were to be dried, and sat down to bathe Cecil's knee. It wasn't a deep wound, and she was able to stop it bleeding quite effectively so that by the time the rest piled in Cecil was sat quite happily in the Salon, warming by the fire with her leg raised until Jack could look it over and just make sure that there was no other damage done.

Author:  JB [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 6:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks, Ariel. That was a very active snowball fight.

I looked for smilies behaving in a friendly way but whenever they interact, it's a bit violent. How about one of these? :halo:*

* Paint is guaranteed dry so it won't stick to your curls.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hm, evidently poking is not the way forward. Lovely snowball fight though it was a shame about the ending.

But would love to see at least one cliff resolved, Ariel. :kiss: :heart:

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You know if you don't resolve the cliffs soon, we'll have to stick Lesley, the Queen of Cliffs onto you soon :lol: :P :wink:

Thanks for the updates

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well, I'd hate to upset Lesley! I've written a little bit ahead, but I'll see what I can do about resolving one of them soon.

- X -

As Cecil was declared to absolutely fine, and as she was able to walk unassisted almost straight away, the incident was passed over in favour of an argument between Stephen and Geoff as to who had won the fight. The girls concerned themselves with helping Anna to get Mittagessen ready, while Felix and Jack adjudicated in a solemn manner on the merits of both arguments. The bickering only ceased when Joey declared in some exasperation,

“Honestly, you'd think we'd said that one of you had to be murdered and only the winner was safe. For goodness sake, come and eat and stop such silly arguing. Especially you, Stephen, you should be old enough to know better.”

Thoroughly chastised, the two desisted and joined the rest at the table to stare over the sumptuous feast Anna had laid on for them, aware that they would be hungry after such rigorous exercise in the morning. She sat among them, smiling quietly when they praised her, having explained to Joey that Madge had rung from the Couvosiers' house where they were staying for lunch. It was possibly just as well; as Joey remarked detachedly at one point, the snow seemed to have beaten any sense of table manners out of them, whereat more than one person blushed deeply and stopped gulping their food down at an alarming rate.

It was as the meal was drawing to a close that there was a knock on the door, which Jack excused himself to answer. When he came back in to the crowded room, he looked slightly upset, though he beckoned for Cecil to follow him. Inwardly quaking, she stood up, but even as she came to join him Joey inquired what was wrong.

“Police,” he said briefly. It shouldn't really have been such a surprise, they had been told that the authorities would want to visit Cecil now that she was back, especially after she thought she saw Matt again, but they had all seemed to want to forget it. At the news, she paled, and Stephen rather hastily invited everyone to join him upstairs for a game of Monopoly, which they agreed to without argument.

Once they had filed from the room, and Anna began to stack up the dishes to be taken to the kitchen and washed, Cecil looked around, then lead the way into the Salon, where Jack had ushered the two men. Anxiously, her parents followed her, Jack with a hand on her shoulder, though they stopped in the doorway and looked at the two men, who were stood at the other end of the room talking with bent heads. They looked up when they heard the triumvirate enter, and the elder of the two came over, extending his hand.

“Mrs Maynard, it's a pleasure to meet you again, especially as it is under happier circumstances. And you must be Cecilia. I was the officer in charge of looking for you when you first disappeared. It's lovely to meet you at last.”

Nothing in his face said that he had lost the chance of two promotions thanks to his inability to find her, or that there had been questions about his methods at the time. In fact, nothing about him said anything much at all, until he smiled and even his eyes lit up. He was a tall man, with a shock of black hair that flopped over his brown eyes, of solid build and wearing a black coat which seemed to cloak him in mystery. His junior was far simpler, with blonde hair cropped close to his head and blue eyes which darted over everything, noting every detail.

Before they could all sit down, Cecil suddenly murmured,

“Please, must someone be here? I – I'd rather -”

“It's ok,” said Jack quickly. “I know how awkward you feel. We can go, if you don't mind?”

He turned to the police officers, who looked dubious but nodded all the same. Once they'd established that Joey and Jack didn't mind Cecil being interviewed without an adult present, they sat down and motioned for Cecil to sit opposite them, the younger one pulling out a notebook and a pen, and preparing to take notes. With a glance at each other, Joey and Jack left, Joey declaring that she would help Anna clear up while Jack waved his hands and said something vague about paperwork in the office, telling Cecil to come and find him if she needed him.

Once alone, the elder policeman took out a cigar, which he lit after a glance at Cecil to establish that she didn't mind. Distastefully, she wrinkled her nose and shifted uncomfortably, though she was careful not to let any other sign of her discomfort show. As they had promised, Jack and Joey had stopped smoking around her, although it had led to them being very irritable with each other on occasion when they couldn't get outside – a compromise reached after a few days. It now wasn't an uncommon sight in the evenings for Jack to be on the porch, pipe in hand, watching the sunset across the mountains with Joey by his side.

Fighting the flood of memories which came back to her as the smoke wreathed the room, curling into delicate spirals in the air, she leaned back, calm and confident on the surface. She could feel the so far silent member of the duo watching her closely, but she refused to look at him and instead concentrated on the more dominating force, staring at him until he spoke.

“So,” he said casually, once he'd inhaled on the end of his cigar several times, glancing across at his partner to make sure that notes were being taken. “Tell me about what happened to you.”

Author:  Chris [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ooh - I am excited now. Are we getting to the nitty gritty of how and what and why? Poor Cecilia having to relive it like this.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 1:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil. She knew she would have to talk to the police but I bet was hoping to forget about it all.

Thank you for the update!

Author:  JB [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You aren't going to leave us on the edge of yet another cliff for the weekend are you Ariel?

Author:  Liz K [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Probably. :banghead:

Author:  shazwales [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,loved the build up!
It's to near Christmas to leave us for a whole weekend on a cliff isn't it :halo: :halo: :halo:

Author:  Abi [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 9:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This isn't going to be easy for Cecil, but maybe it will be good for her too. She was going to have to talk about things at some point, and sometimes its easier with strangers. Of course, knowing Ariel, it could also all go horribly wrong. :)

Liked the little bit about Jack and Jo ending up going for walks to smoke - it seems like a real positive thing coming out of something that could have been problematic.

Thanks Ariel. :D

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

JB wrote:
You aren't going to leave us on the edge of yet another cliff for the weekend are you Ariel?

I really, honestly didn't intend to. But I've forgotten my memory stick and my laptop is up at university still... with the next update on it. :banghead: Feel free to prod me all you like! (And if it proves my point, had I known I would be leaving you on a cliff, I would have made it a far more dramatic one!)

Author:  hac61 [ Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption


"Patience is a virtue,
Catch it if you can..."


Author:  janetbrown23 [ Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Enjoy your weekend, especially the chocolate and long leisurely bath and don't worry about us. We are made of sterner stuff, we are the CBBers not spineless jellyfish, besides we all have comfy cushions and trampolines placed strategically for cliffs.

Author:  vlindsay [ Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I've been lurking on the forum for years now - enjoying many of the stories - but this one has really got my interest and so I'm de-lurking!

I'm sure love is in the air for Cecilia and the tall, dark, handsome policeman.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hallo vlindsay! Thankyou for de-lurking :D and thankyou everyone for your comments. I'm very sorry about the disruption, but normal service should now be resumed.

- X -

At first he was so charming that sometimes Cecil had to catch her breath to believe that she was really with him. They arrived safely in Paris, supposedly brother and sister, where they set up home together. He was the perfect gentleman, arranging for her to have a room of her own and insisting on propriety at all times. If the location of his home left something to be desired, she was content for now, for he promised that it was only because of his work and once they were married he would buy them somewhere better. Her only grievance was that he refused to buy her an engagement ring, saying that he would make it her sixteenth birthday present.

Sometimes she couldn't help thinking of her family, and whether they would still be looking for her or not. She had heard through Matt that they were trying to do so; he had his contacts in the police, who kept him informed as best they could of what was happening. When she knew that, she felt a twinge of guilt, though she quickly cast it out of her mind. They hadn't cared about her before, they were only doing it now to make sure they didn't tarnish their glowing reputation.

But more than once Matt had come home and had to provide her with a shoulder to cry on, and he always did it willingly. He would hold her close and shower her with kisses until she felt better, and he would even listen and reassure her when she wondered if she should go back, and wait until she was old enough to be with him. There was always some new reason to stop her, though, and she was always reluctantly persuaded to stay.

One evening, after she had lived with him for about three weeks, Matt proposed taking her out for a meal. Thus far she hadn't left the house without him, but she was beginning to find her way around and, to prove that he trusted her, he said, he gave her some money and let her go to buy a dress for the occasion. Gladly, she set out after breakfast, the notes in her bag which she held close, as she swung gaily through the alleys, heart light.

En route to the centre, where she would find the best shops, she had to pass a train station. She had intended to walk straight past, but when she saw it she stopped in the middle of the street and just stared. There it was, her escape home; she had the money for a train ticket, she just needed to get the right ones to get her to Switzerland, and at the border she could inform the guards of who she was and be sent back.

It took nearly ten minutes of fighting with herself, remembering all that had been said before she left, and convincing herself that she'd never be allowed to see Matt again, before she turned and carried on to the shops. There she quickly found the dress that she wanted and turned to go back, her heart suddenly heavy. It wasn't that she didn't love Matt, she did, dearly, but she couldn't help finding herself missing her family for all that had happened, and she wanted to even just write and let them know that she was safe. When she suggested it to Matt, though, he had vetoed the idea, saying that they would track her down and force her back.

The evening was a lovely one, the restaurant perfect and Matt as brilliant as company as ever. It was when they returned to the house that the uncomfortableness started. For her dress, Cecil had chosen something white, which hugged her figure down to her waist and then flared out, covering her legs until her knees. When he had seen it Matt had complimented her on it, but when she was actually out in it she suddenly felt uncomfortable. It was too revealing, with a lower cut than she was used to, and she flushed more than once as they shifted under the table and brushed against each other.

For a little while they sat together and talked, something that they didn't get to do often because Matt returned from work worn out, but then Cecil declared her intention of going to bed. To her surprise, Matt followed her up the stairs, and when they were in the hallway suddenly grabbed her, pulling her into a crushing embrace as he forced her through the door into his bedroom. She hadn't been in before, carefully avoiding it, and she started to panic.

Slowly he began to kiss her even more passionately, his hand running up her leg, until she pushed him away, breathing heavily. She turned to go, but he caught at her arm, asked what she was doing. Nothing she said could convince him to leave her alone, and instead he began to argue back, saying that they lived together now and if she meant it when she said she loved him she wouldn't even hesitate. Trapped, and unable to think of anything to say, Cecil argued feebly, but in the end he overpowered her by declaring that if she didn't love him she could leave in the morning.

Afterwards she wanted to go to her own room, but Matt had insisted on her sharing the bed with him for the night. She lay looking up at the ceiling, thinking about it all. The only thing that she could think of was her parents, and what they would think if they could see her now, what they would say. No longer was she their daughter, of that she could be certain. She had irrevocably chosen Matt now, for good or evil, and she was surprised that she felt so upset over it. Rolling over, so that she didn't have to see him and could only hear his gentle snores, she pressed her face into the pillow and began to cry silently.

Author:  ammonite [ Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

finally we get to see what happened. woohoo :D
Although I feel the next bit may be more emotional.

Author:  Emma A [ Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Horrible, horrible Matt. Poor Cecil.

Thanks, Ariel - wonder what the policemen think of all this?

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I was wondering how Matt showed his true colours

Thanks Ariel

Author:  Abi [ Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:cry: Bleargh. Poor Cecil; she was so manipulated, so innocent. She never had a chance.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well done, ammonite! You know me too well.

- X -

Alone in her room, Cecil curled up on the bed, letting the tears run silently down her cheeks. It had started off as such a jolly day, and now she had been forced to relive everything that she had been through, and to two strangers as well. She couldn't help but see them judging her, wondering at how ungrateful she was to have left all of this in the first place, but then to be selfish enough to come back and inflict more pain on those she claimed to love.

She had wanted to go out after the interview, but Jack wouldn't let her. It was snowing again, tiny flakes of ghouls sent to lure unsuspecting travellers from their paths, until they were firmly lost and could be killed by the evil creatures that littered the ground. Even if it hadn't been such horrendous weather, she knew that she would never have been let outside by herself, not after she'd seen him. Either she was telling the truth, and she wasn't safe on her own, or she was making it up in which case she couldn't be trusted by herself. The police had thought it was the latter, she could tell, and even her own parents didn't seem to know whether they could believe her or not.

Shame now washed over her, as she remembered all of the things that she'd said to her father. He'd done his best to remain calm, taking deep breaths and not rising to all of the things that she shouted at him, but she could still tell that she'd hurt him. It had been in the hallway, too, where he found her once he'd shown the policemen out, so that everyone else would have heard the things she screamed. Suddenly, it all felt so hopeless; she was just starting to feel like people were accepting her again, and that she could get over this, and she ruined it all.

His voice came back to her, all the hurtful things that he'd said, all the things he told her over and over again, swirling around until she could hardly tell if she was in her bedroom or clasped in his arms once more. She stood up, trying to clear them, but they taunted her from the shadows, reaching out and trying to grab her so that she had to retire back to the bed to avoid being caught. They crowded in, stopping her from escaping, until she thought that she must surely be suffocated by them.

Pressing her hands over her ears, she began to cry again, half choking, begging them to stop, to leave her alone. Nobody would come to rescue her now, she had pushed them all away, even her father who had only ever wanted to love her and forgive her. She had thrown it all back at him, and he wouldn't come now, he wouldn't save her this time.

A shadow flitting in front of the window made her look up, and for a second she thought that she saw him outlined there, the flames jumping over his face from his own private fire, grinning so that he looked twisted, demented, dragging her over to the bed in the corner, waiting for the pain to begin. Terrified, Cecil began to drag her breath in sharply, each one hurting her, sapping her energy until the voices began to overpower her, pin her down. Glancing wildly around, she spotted a pair of nail scissors left on her bedside table. Every instinct told her to reach for them, to force the demons away, but she couldn't help remembering something else that Matt had taught her, in that smooth, silky voice of his, whispering against her so that his hot breath spilled down her neck.

No scars. There were never any scars. All that she had was her beauty. If she ruined that she would never survive. At least she had something.

Before she realised what she was doing, she had started to pinch her skin, twisting it cruelly between her fingers. Pain started to lap over her, making her want to cry out, but at least it gave her something to focus on, lessened the intensity of the voices. They were receding now, back to their shadowy graves, hissing in disappointment but knowing that they wouldn't overpower her. She continued to pull at herself, to hurt herself as much as she could, until she was sure that they'd gone.

The dark room swam back into focus, the curtains shifting slightly in a draft from the door just where he had been standing, laughing at her, the snow still drifting across the glass. Listening intently, she could just hear the creak of floorboards above her as one of the others went to find a new game for them to play, but nothing else. A blanket of silence around her as they all avoided her. And no voices now, nobody there, just her own sense of shame and disappointment.

Vindictively, she pinched herself again, determined to cause herself as much pain as her family had felt when she ran away. It wasn't fair that they should suffer so much and she shouldn't at all, that they should hide from her all the anguish they felt because they had to stop her from being upset. She hadn't meant to shout at her father, didn't mean the cruel words she'd said. Wanting nothing more than to apologise, she crept towards the door, but something stopped her.

Turning back, she flicked the light switch and forced herself to think logically. He was bound to notice the red stains seeping across her arms, before she went anywhere near anyone else she had to cover them. Instinctively she knew that what she had done was selfish, even more selfish than her shouting had been, and she knew that she couldn't let her parents know of this. Frantically, she searched through her drawers until she found a cardigan that would disguise the bruising rapidly coming up.

With a deep breath, she forced herself to inch open the door and glance down the hallway before she slipped towards the stairs. Jack would be outside on the porch, smoking his pipe, hopefully alone. It didn't matter in any case; he would have told Joey of the trouble, if she hadn't overheard it, so she would have to apologise to them all. After that, though, things would go back to normal. Just as long as she had them, she could hold the voices at bay.

Author:  hac61 [ Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor kid. It's horrible the way abuse by another so often leads to self abuse as well.

Wish I could comfort her and tell her that's not the only way.

Author:  clair [ Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil - it's going to take a long time for her to get past all the bad feelings and guilt. Just hope that she's able to accept help from her family along the way

Author:  Abi [ Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I just don't know what to say. I hope someone finds out what is happening and is able to help her.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Dec 08, 2009 8:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil: this is so hard for her, and it's outside Joey's experience and maybe even Jack's as well.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption


Author:  Kacca [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is heartbreaking. Poor, poor kid.

And so painful to write Ariel, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is so moving - thank you.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone. I am, however, now going to aim for some Christmas cheer!

- X -

Christmas descended on them rather suddenly after that. The next day Cecil's arms hurt a lot, but she was careful to hide it, and if she always kept her sleeves down even when next to the constantly stoked log fire in the salon nobody noticed. Only Anna detected anything odd about her behaviour, when she set Cecil to washing the floors, but she was wise enough not to comment; it was none of her business, and there were some things she knew that she was better off not knowing.

Meanwhile, Christmas preparations had to be made. Joey spent a whole day with the three schoolgirls buying them new uniforms and other sundries that were always in demand, as well as procuring the largest turkey she possibly could, which provoked a startled gasp from Anna when she saw it. How it was to be cooked was a mystery that it took some time to solve. There were also the decorations to be put up, and the whole family spent a day liberally bedecking each room. For a miracle, the only casualty was Stephen, who managed to hit his thumb squarely with the hammer, much to Phil's amusement, as she happened to be stood underneath him holding the ladder at the time.

Having made amends with her family, Cecil threw herself into the festivities with all her heart, determined to prove to them that she meant what she said and she wouldn't let them down again. To this end she provided pins, dashed about with boxes that trailed wreaths of ivy behind her and generally did all that she could to help, without ever demanding a more central role in the action. She received her reward in the evening; Jack had gone out to smoke his pipe with Joey for company, and once they had finished, Joey came in and sent her daughter out. Silently, Jack opened his arms for her so that she could tumble into a hug, resting her head on his shoulders.

“It's a beautiful sunset,” he murmured into her ear, rubbing one hand gently up her back. “There were so many times that I wished I could share something this simple with you.”

A desire to tell him of what she had done suddenly rose up and lodged in Cecil's throat, bringing tears to her eyes. She knew in her heart that she could never admit to what had happened, it sounded so mad, and she was terrified that if she told Jack he would see it as a doctor, and not as her father. Besides which she knew the pain it would cause, just as her family were slowly starting to heal. They'd even stopped asking her to talk to someone, and she knew that this would make them insist on it.

In the bitingly cold air that reminded her of when she had first been found in Paris, she huddled even closer to the warm, solid figure, shutting her eyes so that she didn't have to see the world. If there was just her and Jack, it would be like the night in the hotel room, there wouldn't be anyone worse, any worries. Just her and her father, and he would keep the voices away from her, would soothe over them with nice things, comforting words that she could wrap around herself to keep safe.

Night fell, blanketing the trees and even the glittering carpet of snow, leaving it so cold that Jack began to shiver as well, and suggested that they go in. Gathering her sleeves into her hands, an odd habit that she had acquired only since she returned, Cecil agreed, gently slipping her fingers through his as he shut the front door.

“I love you,” she whispered softly, glancing up at him hopefully. In the shadowy hallway, a shaft of light falling on her from the partially open door, she looked so innocent and young, it was hard to believe everything that she'd gone through. “I'm sorry that I ran away. If – if I'd known -”

“I'm sorry that I pushed you to it,” was the only response Jack vouchsafed, tugging her into the salon where even Anna was sat quietly in one corner. The next day would be Christmas eve, to be spent with Len and family as they wanted Christmas day largely to themselves.

Tonight the rest had gathered together for a traditional, festive story.

Taking a seat beside his wife, Jack asked with a twinkle in his eye if he should begin. Briefly, Phil glanced up from roasting chestnuts, which she was doing with Katie, Geoff and Claire, to demand that he wouldn't be as silly this year as he had been last, at which he did his best to look offended while Joey giggled beside him. She had opened a box of chocolates that Grizel had sent as an early Christmas present, and was sharing them with Madge and Anna, while being in a decidedly tipsy mood thanks to the mulled wine Jack had said that they could share, with a strict embargo on one glass apiece for the younger children.

Now he picked up his own beverage, sipped it carefully, glanced at Jem, who winked, then cleared his throat and started in a deep voice. Cecil, sat on the floor at Stephen's feet, wriggled to get more comfortable, and was promptly poked in the side by Felix as a reminder to stay still. The form that the story took was complicated, and demanded concentration; the narrative was passed on to the next person at a suitable point, and if you weren't aware of what had happened in the story it could be embarrassing.

“One Christmas,” began Jack in his deep voice, “there was a little girl called Claire.”

He stopped for Claire to turn, glare at him, roll her eyes and stick out her tongue, which Joey remarked detachedly made her look somewhat grotesque. Patiently, Jack waited until silence had fallen again and then continued, winding a plot around the room and trapping them all in the net of his narrative. When he finished his turn, Joey took it up with considerably more skill than he had, though he could tell a quaint enough story when he chose, and they continued late into the night, proposing new adventures for various members of the family and generally having a good time.

Author:  JB [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. I can just see Joey buying a huge turkey without a thought for how it would fit into the oven.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel! Lovely Christmas moment :)

Author:  Abi [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Aww, lovely family Christmas. Thanks, Ariel. :D

Author:  ammonite [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was nice, really christmassy and cosy.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Pleased that everyone enjoyed it! Just another little Christmassy lull - more action soon, I promise!

- X -

The family rose bright and early on the next day, mainly thanks to Marie-Claire. She was still young enough to get thoroughly over-excited by Christmas, and knowing that on the morrow she should get to open her presents and see if Santa had brought her what she wanted – having explained to Phil rather scathingly when that young lady attempted to tease her that she only condescended to believe in him still for the sake of the babies – she found it somewhat difficult to stay in bed after six am.

Quietly, she crept to the bathroom to wash herself, and, after the two minute cold plunge that she was used to from school, went back to her room to get dressed. From another part of the house she could just hear Anna starting to move around, completing her daily routine by firstly making sure the dying embers from the night before were stoked up, so that the house should warm as quickly as possible, and then beginning on breakfast.

Formulating a plan to entertain herself for the next half hour, Claire made her way downstairs to hunt down the faithful maid, determined that they should finish the Christmas rituals as quickly as possible in the hope that it would somehow make time go faster. Luckily, Anna was perfectly amenable to the suggestion, and as getting into the attic without waking everyone up shouldn't present a problem, the staircase being in a largely unused part of the house, they ventured up together, Claire secretly thrilling at the surprise that would be in store for her family.

The day before, Jurgen from the school had, at Madge's request, brought over a fine example of a pine tree, tall and thick, which had been put into the Salon and now was making the whole room smell of rich pine needles and smoke from the fire. The only way that the room could possibly be made more festive would be for the tree to be adorned with the decorations which Maynards had been adding too for many years.

Hugging herself with glee at being able to be up so early, Claire, with Anna's help, brought down the numerous boxes from which they would choose the best decorations to besprinkle the young, strong boughs with. Together they lined them up in front of the tree, ready for after Frühstück when the children would all get together and wreak havoc on the room which, by tradition, adults were banned from entering until the tree was finished.

To keep up her side of the deal, she then had to go and help Anna by laying the table for the simple meal of porridge followed by scrambled eggs on toast which was being served that morning. By the time she rang the breakfast bell, which pealed out heartily through the house, Cecil was awake, though she was still tugging on her dressing gown as she came downstairs; but everyone else had been snuggled up warmly, dreaming festive dreams.

Gradually the room filled, mainly with people still in their pyjamas, though Madge and Jem coming down almost last had stopped to get dressed. Only Geoff was missing, and they knew that they would never get him out of bed this early during the school holidays. Chattering and laughing among themselves they settled down, not noticing how silent Claire was until Jack wondered aloud why she could be nearly bursting with pride.

“Anna and I got the tree decorations ready!” she exclaimed. “So as soon as people are dressed we can start doing that.”

The wholly disapproving look that she cast on them all that this juncture made more than one of them cough hastily into their bowls of thick, creamy porridge made from the rich milk that Joey insisted on buying. However, they all agreed to be as quick as possible, grinning at each other about Claire's excitement. Usually Leila, who had been adopted into the Maynard family after it emerged that her mother, Ida Reavely, had left Joey as her guardian, looked after her and calmed her down. She had been adopted as a sort of third sister for Claire and Erica, but as she couldn't be with them this year they were starting to feel the force of Claire's seemingly limitless energy.

In an attempt to appear grown-up – which he always moaned that he never felt whenever he came back to Freudesheim – Stephen announced his intention of not helping to decorate the tree this year, sure that Jack would like to accompany him on a walk through the Platz, but his plans were sadly destined to be crushed. Shaking his head, his father announced that when Len and Reg came over, he and Jem needed to go into consultation with the latter and all three could be discounted from any activities until such time as the tree was to be unveiled.

“You could help us,” said Madge craftily. “We agreed to go through the pantry and start organising how we're to cook enough food for you lot, and then we're going to go and deliver all the Christmas cards for the Platz. I'm sure that Grizel and Biddy especially would love to see you again.”

Rather hastily, Stephen decided that if Claire wanted him to help with the tree that badly it would be rude of him not to. His skill at cooking, or lack thereof, was famed, and the diet he lived on at home made Joey loudly despair of his ineptitude whenever she heard of it. Laughing at his discomfort, Madge promised to get him to go out with her at some stage, for she had promised sundry friends that they should get to see him again, then fell to the scrambled eggs which Anna and Cecil brought in at that moment.

As soon as the meal was over, Claire begged that they should be allowed to be excused from helping to clear the dishes just for once so that they could get started on the tree immediately. In the end, a compromise was reached whereby Claire helped until the rest had managed to get dressed, so that they could all start together, and the rest trooped out to argue over who should use the bathrooms first.

Author:  cal562301 [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Came late to this, but am really enjoying it. Nice to have a Christmas lull in the midst of all the drama.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  JB [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. I'm really enjoying the Christmas lull.

Author:  Abi [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Me too, it's lovely!

Except for the part where it's the calm before the storm.

Author:  Alison H [ Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

You mean they don't have a daily bathroom rota :lol: ?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Abi wrote:
Except for the part where it's the calm before the storm.
- Now, would I?

- X -

While the adults spent the morning in making some final preparations before the big day, the children tumbled into the Salon, a surging, writhing mass of excitement as Claire's enthusiasm took hold. They set to their task with a point and vim worthy of a better cause, dividing the decorations among themselves and beginning to sort through them, deciding which could be used and which couldn't. Working together, Felix and Cecil nearly came to blows over a bauble, though Felicity waded in and saved the day. Apart from that, they got on splendidly, and half an hour later saw them ready to begin the actual decorating.

Since she had her friend staying with her, Phil had rather drawn away from the excited chatter of the others, the two girls contenting themselves with their own talk. To this end, they commandeered one corner of the tree and set to work. Disconsolate, for he had been used to having his sister to himself, Geoff, eventually awake, sat himself down on the opposite side of the tree after they refused to let him join them, making sure that he was hidden among the leafy boughs.

Nobody was going to let any sort of unhappiness cloud their day, though, and Felix soon cheered him up with some talk of what their rugby team would be doing next season; Geoff was a member, and had often made the school proud of him with his not inconsiderable skill at the sport. Sadly he tended to let himself down in lessons, but as Joey said rather complacently, nobody could be good at everything. While they reviewed the successes and failures of the team since Felix had left the school, Stephen drew up a chair and looked at the top of the tree doubtfully.

It had traditionally been the job of the three eldest boys, himself, Charles and Mike, to do any of the parts which involved leaving the floor, though the year before Felix had qualified for the privilege as well. Secretly, he cherished rather a fear of heights, and even standing on the chair made him slightly doubtful; he guiltily felt half relieved when he saw Cecil looking out of events. There were just too many of them crowding around, and she had been unable to get at the tree. Greatly daring, he went over as if intending to talk to her, but instead swung her into his arms – he had always been sturdy, but the years had added strength to that, greatly helpful in his job – and placed her carefully on top the chair.

She had been unable to stop herself from squealing as she felt her feet leaving the ground, but once she'd fully recovered herself she glared around at her laughing siblings with great dignity, then relented and demanded a piece of tinsel to start her off. After that, Stephen passed her up decorations which she hung with great care, flushed with pleasure that she had been chosen to do such an important job.

Around the middle of the morning they were joined by George, who dashed straight in from the snow outside without even taking his coat off and had to be hooked back by Len before he could get water all over the rugs in the Salon. When he burst in a second time he was at least devoid of his heavy duffel coat, mittens and bobble hat, though not dampened at all by the few stern words his mother had administered. Brimming over with excitement, he sat down heavily in front of the chair on which Cecil was still precariously perched and informed her at top speed,

“Daddy says that after Christmas me and him can make a dolls house for Mary for next year and mummy's going to make sewing and stuff for it and she said that I could ask you if you'd help. Will you, please?”

As Len came into the room in time to hear the end of this request, carrying a cheerful Mary in her arms, she hushed George with a look and waited until Felicity had joyfully taken her niece into her arms and went to sit with her on the sofa to ask Cecil in more modulated terms. She extended the invitation to any of the girls who cared to donate something, and thereafter they debated who should make what for the project as they worked.

As George and Len gladly joined in with decorating the tree, Len knowing that despite being a mother of two she could still rely on being treated like an unruly teenager if she so wished while she was at Freudesheim, it was ready by Mittagessen. The Entwistles declined to stay, and with many wishes of a happy day tomorrow, and a promise to see them in church for Midnight Mass that night, the children being kept up for once so that Len could go as well, they departed.

Once the meal was completed with a modicum of dignity, Joey refusing to let anyone who didn't display good table manners join in with the carol singing that afternoon, the adults were allowed access to the tree, to view the handiwork of the younger generation. It glistened and twinkled smugly in the soft glow of the firelight, hiding most of its treasures but still looking as breathtakingly magnificent as they always managed.

Everyone had collected in the room, and while the proud decorators took over the furniture the rest examined the tree. Everyone was praised, and the atmosphere was just beginning to calm down when there was a knock on the door. Assuming that it would be nothing more than some late festive visitors, Joey suggested that they start the singing. If she and Madge wished to visit those they had promised, they would have to leave in an hour, so there wasn't much time.

A heated debate about whether to start with 'Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht' or 'Away in a Manger' was just beginning when Anna, propelled through the doorway by her urgency, nearly upset herself into Jack's arms. With flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, she begged him to go into the hallway at once. In the resulting stampede, as everyone tried to follow, the order of the songs was forgotten.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well, it sounds as if something very exciting's about to happen :D .

Author:  JB [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

The longer these happy updates go on, the more I worry about what you're going to do with us next, Ariel.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Why am I so unaccountably nervous I wonder?

Author:  Abi [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

2nd Gen Fan wrote:
Why am I so unaccountably nervous I wonder?

I don't know, but I share your feelings! It was sweet of Stephen to include Cecil in the tree decorating - it would be easy to forget about her in the excitement.

Author:  cal562301 [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Abi wrote:
2nd Gen Fan wrote:
Why am I so unaccountably nervous I wonder?

I don't know, but I share your feelings! It was sweet of Stephen to include Cecil in the tree decorating - it would be easy to forget about her in the excitement.

*Hiding behind the sofa in nervous anticipation of what might happen next and peeping out cautiously*

Author:  ammonite [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Can I join the nervous and worried club?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Dec 12, 2009 2:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ammonite wrote:
Can I join the nervous and worried club?
You can, though whether you'll want to I don't know!

- X -

In the doorway stood two burly men, one fair and angelical while the other was tall, dark and with a dash of the rogue about him. The immediate reaction of all the family who had managed to crowd into the hallway was silent shock, but after a second Steve grinned, and Claire propelled herself forwards and into the arms of one of them, hugging him ferociously.

“It's good to see you too,” he laughed, squeezing her back and then dropping his bag in the doorway and walking through to the Salon, the crowds parting before him. He was followed by the second man, and both started to remove their hats and gloves, which gave everyone else time to recover from the shock. Then Anna announced that she would go and make some coffee, Claire sat down and demanded to be joined by her brother, and Joey exclaimed faintly,


After that they all crowded around, pressing him for explanations and surging towards him to hug him or clap his back before realising themselves and taking a seat out of the way. At last he'd greeted everyone but Joey, who had stood back to try and recover herself so that she could deny there was any trace of tears in her eyes, and Cecil. With a good instinct for avoiding upset females, he turned to his sister, who was looking rather shy.

“It's good to see you again,” he promised, pulling her into a bear hug, then standing back and surveying her. Kissing the back of her hand gallantly, he added, “you look really well.”

Blushing furiously, she did her best to hide behind Felix on the floor, her black curls falling delicately over her face in a protective cloud. For once she'd had no occasion to be nervous about meeting someone for the first time since she'd gone, but she found that it hadn't really helped, had just left her feeling unprepared for all of the emotion that threatened to overcome her. It was with immense relief that she noticed the attention moving on from her.

In all of the bustle, the second man was rather forgotten, though he cheerfully took a seat in the rocking chair by the fire and waited for the greetings of the prodigal son to be finished. But once he had a warm cup of coffee in one hand and one of Anna's infamous lemon biscuits, which she always kept an emergency supply of, in the other, he prodded Mike to introduce him to the rest.

“Oh, sorry,” said his friend, who had sat down next to Joey after having hugged her rapturously and brought tears to her eyes again. “Everyone, this is Peter; Peter, this is everyone. I hope you don't mind me bringing a guest, but it's rather my fault he's here so I thought the least I could do was give him bed and board.”

“It's fine,” said Jack slowly, sipping his coffee and giving his son an all too familiar look. “What is not is you turning up unexpectedly. I know you! What trouble are you in this time?”

“None!” protested Mike, looking as innocent as possible. Then his smile slipped into his usual devilish grin, chief weapon in the fight to charm ladies, and he admitted, “Well, maybe a little, but nothing serious.”

Refusing to say more until he'd had his refreshments and recovered himself, he instead pressed them on what they'd been up to, asking after those who couldn't be with them and demanding to know if motherhood had stopped Charlie being as attractive as ever. The furious look Joey fixed on him did nothing to quail him, it being an old joke used mainly to wind up Charles – who incidentally rose every time, to Mike's delight – but it did make Peter interrupt.

“Aren't you in enough bother in that department already?” he demanded, playfully pushing Mike's arm. Assuming an injured air, Mike announced,

“Perhaps it's time I explained our presence, then no more slurs shall be cast on my name. It really wasn't my fault; all that I did was to have a little liaison with someone. I didn't even know that she was married at the time! Sadly her husband found out about me, and rather took umbrage at what had happened. Anyway, he found our ship yesterday and decided that getting into a fight with me was a good way to solve the problem.

“Luckily Peter was with me, and we managed to convince him to let the matter drop. Couldn't stop the Jolly Roger -” this being Mike's long-suffering Captain, who was often a feature of his letters home for some misdeed or another - “finding out though. He shouted for a while, at one point I thought he was going to burst. I think he would have set us to thirty days' hard labour or some such but it being Christmas he said he was going to be lenient. The ship leaves that dock in eight days, and until then we're to be considered off duty. We'll meet it again in France.

“So until then, we found ourselves at rather a loose end, and thought you might appreciate our company over the festive season. No chance of Peter getting back to England and still having a decent time with his family, no transport now for three days, so we got the train to Switzerland last night, holed up in a hotel and persuaded a taxi to drive us up this morning. And here we are! Now, is there any food going?”

Smiling hopefully, he looked from one to the other, though he was gratified by nothing more than another hug from Joey, until she relented and sent Anna to go and see what she could find. Meanwhile, Jack lectured him severely on his conduct, especially in retailing it in front of Claire and Phil – who both assured him that they'd heard much worse from Mike, at which he wilted slightly and tried a hopeful smile – but he couldn't keep it up. He ended by shaking Mike's hand and promising that it was good to have him home again for Christmas.

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Dec 12, 2009 2:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:lol: at Mike.

Peter sounds nice.

Author:  ammonite [ Sat Dec 12, 2009 3:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Can I join the nervous and worried club?
You can, though whether you'll want to I don't know!

Another nice post, yay :D

but I maybe won't resign my club membership just yet.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh the relief :D But I join Ammonite in keeping up my membership of the nervous and worried club!

Author:  Abi [ Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, what a relief - a nice bit of light relief, too! Thanks Ariel. :roll: at Mike!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I don't know why you're all so suspicious of me! I do lots towards this drabble - even forcing a friend going to a Navy ball this weekend to ask about life in the Navy in the '60s. And all I get is base suspicion in return. I might have to do something evil just because of that!

- X -

That evening saw the rest ready to go to church and Midnight Mass. Cecil had cried off, and after what had happened last time, the rest let it go, not wishing to upset her at such a jolly time. Bundling themselves up until they had “two of everything on, and one over, for luck, of some things!” to quote Joey, they took their leave, smiling and waving, Claire hanging happily off of Mike's hand and still plaguing him with questions. Only Madge and Jem stayed behind, having decided that it was too far for them to go in the dark, and they kept Cecil with them until the rest had turned off of the driveway and were lost to the thick fog crowding around the Platz protectively.

Once the front door had been shut and they'd got out of the drafts, Cecil announced her intention of going to bed, which Madge and Jem endorsed heartily. As they had said when pressed to join the others for the service, they were creatures of habit now, and Jem bemoaned his aching joints at long length. Knowing they were going to be woken up early the next morning, all three retired to their chambers, yawning like cats just woken up from a nap.

Once alone, Cecil pulled on her full length nightgown and then sat on the edge of the bed, thinking hard. It was difficult for her at the moment, not knowing quite how to approach Christmas. In discovering that she could no longer believe in God after the things that she'd been through, she'd also decided that even if the baby Jesus had existed – and she couldn't quite shake all of her training to this point enough to deny that – it would hardly be right of her to celebrate his life. The most sensible course, she knew, was to see it as a time when she could be in the bosom of her family, relatively safe from harm and starting to be accepted again.

At this point her thoughts became muddled as sleep crept over them, so that she barely realised she was climbing into bed until the plumeaux drifted softly around her shoulders and she shut her eyes, her long lashes sweeping her pale cheeks. She didn't hear her family coming home, Mike falling over the hall stand and cursing loudly, or being told off by Jack afterwards. She didn't even wake when her parents crept into her room and knelt by her bed, both kissing her cheek softly and Joey sweeping her hair back off of her face.

The next morning she found that she was up before everyone else, not so wearied after the late night and dreams interspersed with the beautiful choir singing from the service. Dressing silently, she slipped downstairs and revived the fire, huddling before it for a few minutes until she felt warmer. Then she glanced at the presents bundled under the tree, which hadn't been there the night before, and smiled to herself.

By the time Madge found her, she was in the kitchen preparing a large breakfast, for she knew that everyone else would be going to church soon. Her aunt dug in with a vim, so that most people were able to have a riotous meal at the table, wondering what their presents could be. Only Mike and Peter didn't join them, but Cecil had brought them up a tray with two plates on, and they came down in time to accompany the rest to church.

What to do with Cecil was a problem, for Jack wasn't comfortable with leaving her in the house by herself, but he knew that he could hardly force her to come. In the end Anna solved the difficulty by announcing that she would have her own service at the house. It would hardly matter to Him where she said thankyou, and she knew that they would excuse her to go to evening service if the weather held; in the meantime she could tidy the worst of the mess which had accumulated since yesterday with Cecil's help and make sure that the house was clean when they got back.

Her solid sensibility was so reassuring that Jack was moved to kiss her heartily on the cheek and declare that he didn't know what they would do without her. Joey concurred and three cheers were proposed, which were given loudly and at length. Blushing furiously, Anna chastised them for being so silly and sent them off, then bid Cecil join her for a brisk walk around the garden. They didn't want to be stuck inside all day, and there was yet more snow in the offing or she didn't know her weather signs.

Before they realised it, Claire was running excitedly into the Salon to say that they could open their presents now. More sedately the rest followed, laughing and joking among themselves, though when he saw her Felix invited Cecil to join him and Mike on the sofa so that she could decide who made the better argument for the idea of trying to go skiing on the morrow.

“You both want to go,” she laughed, “why not just ask? It isn't like the rest of us would be horrified by the idea.”

She shook her head and turned to watch Claire select the first present. Her brothers could argue about anything, and often did so just for the sake of creating an argument. Pecking her on the cheek, Mike demanded to know if he could open the first present, at which he was told that his had been sent to the ship and should be waiting for him on his return.

“It's your own fault,” Jack finished unemotionally. “If you hadn't started fighting with people then -”

“I wouldn't be here with people who clearly love me so much,” finished Mike with a laugh. As nobody could argue with that, they turned to the far more important business of opening their presents before Claire exploded, watching as Jack experimentally prodded a small box signed “love Phil” and which turned out to be a selection of mints.

Author:  JB [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. I'm enjoying this Maynard Christmas.

Please don't blame us for your evil drabble tendencies. :roll:

Author:  Alison H [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I do like the idea of a Navy ball :D !

Author:  shesings [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Now, if you had just said, Ariel!!! :roll: I was in the WRNS in the 60s (and Mike's exploits sound very familiar) and it's where I met SLOC. :)

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

shesings wrote:
Now, if you had just said, Ariel!!! :roll: I was in the WRNS in the 60s (and Mike's exploits sound very familiar) and it's where I met SLOC. :)

May I say now? Pretty please?

Author:  ammonite [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

And all I get is base suspicion in return. I might have to do something evil just because of that!

Well if we promise not to be suspicious, will you promise not to do something evil?

But I am enjoying this christmas :D

Author:  Abi [ Sun Dec 13, 2009 11:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

*sigh* And I really thought my last remark was quite harmless. Ah well, how about this one: Thanks Ariel!

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Such a joyful occupation kept them busy for over an hour. Everybody had at least one present, Mike having thought in advance and brought one for Peter, and some people certainly had more. Claire had almost disappeared behind her pile, and one end of the sofa had been swallowed by the new things that Felix had gained. In the afternoon they were to have a treasure hunt, but the morning was taken up with wrapping paper being strewn across the floor and joyous shrieks followed by ardent 'thankyou's.

Many and varied were the treats that people had bought for each other. Somehow Jack managed to collect everything from a new book to a tiny wooden mouse which Geoff announced proudly he had made himself – it was slightly lopsided, but this was overlooked in the interests of politeness – with everything in between. Most of what Joey received was expected, a new book she had wanted or some new perfume, but what pleased her most was the brand new hat Stephen had bought for her.

The only person apart from the unexpected guests who didn't have a lot was Cecil. She knew that it had been something of a rush for people to find her something, and as all of her brothers and sisters had clubbed together to buy her a complete set of Agatha Christie books, having heard how bored she was at home, she just had a towering pile by her leg. Added to that was a historical book that Joey had bought her and the new jumper which Madge had knitted. Her final present came from Mike; he'd added in his bit for the books, but he also produced out of his pocket a crumpled envelope with his spidery handwriting on the front.

“I know that I sent you one letter already,” he murmured, shuffling a little. He was as happy-go-lucky as his mother but he never could express his feelings easily. “But I wanted to give you a proper reply, and I didn't get a chance to send this before I came, so – Merry Christmas.”

Blushing, Cecil reached out for the missive, trembling slightly. Feeling tears coming, she hastily scrubbed at her eyes and excused herself from the room, but it was thanks enough for Mike who turned to Peter and demanded gruffly if they should go upstairs and out of the way until Mittagessen was ready. Most of the presents had been opened now, it was only Claire left struggling to open a book shaped one that Jack professed to having wrapped in sellotape.

On their way up they met Cecil coming back down, and she nearly knocked Mike off of his feet when she flung her arms around his neck fiercely. Discreetly, Peter moved past them, letting them have their moment alone; he had an older sister, and he had been with Mike when he received the news that Cecil had come back, and what she had been doing. He didn't want to intrude on his friend now.

“I love you,” whispered Cecil softly. As happy as she was to be here again, and to be having such a jolly Christmas, she was just as sad to see the effort that everyone had to put in to make sure they didn't isolate her, thinking before they spoke so that they wouldn't talk about something she'd missed, and not touching her unexpectedly because they'd seen her flinch when it happened. It made her realise the rift that had appeared between herself and her family, and that she'd barely even begun to bridge it, let alone get rid of it. Guessing in some part at her thoughts, Mike reassured her,

“Whatever else you choose in life, you'll always be my sister. I'm just sorry that – that I let you -”

“I used to dream about you coming to find me sometimes,” said Cecil unexpectedly, almost as if she was confessing. “You'd just come to the place that I worked to hire one of us, and you'd see me in the hall or hear my name. And you'd find me, and rescue me, and bring me home. I used to hope.”

Her voice belied nothing but a dreaminess, almost as if she'd slipped into the past and forgotten that they were stood in the middle of the staircase, with the possibility of anybody stumbling across them at any minute. Mike could see more in her eyes, though, and he guessed what she was thinking. Pulling her hands into his so that his warm, chapped skin brushed against her own, he started to speak in a tremulous voice.

“I did use to look for you, I knew that I was more likely to find you than anyone else. Every port we stopped in I used to spend every minute I could out looking. I even made Peter and a few of the other sailors look for me, though they gave up after a couple of months. I never did, though. But I wouldn't have found you like, that I would never try and pay for a woman like she was an object.” He stopped and breathed deeply, but was compelled to add honestly, “I did once, when I first joined the Navy. It was almost a rite of passage, and there was no real way for me to get out of it. It didn't feel right, though, and I haven't ever since. I certainly wouldn't now.”

What else might have been said was lost as Geoff burst out of the room carrying as many of his presents as he could, and announced that Joey had said they must clear the Salon so that they could sit down and eat before Jem and Jack went to lay the treasure hunt. Several bags of small chocolates had been bought, and while the rest sat in the Salon and entertained themselves, the two men were going to hide them in the rest of the house.

As if nothing had happened, Mike carried on up the stairs, while Cecil finished running down after a small, shy smile at her brother. They had reached a new understanding, though, and she stopped worrying about one thing, at least.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh, bless Mike.

Author:  JB [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Lovely lovely Mike.

Author:  ammonite [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ahhhhhh so nice Mike

Author:  Abi [ Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That was really lovely of Mike. Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ok, so maybe you were right to be a little bit suspicious of me...

- X -

Once all of the presents had been cleared out of the way and Mittagessen was finished, they congregated again to hear the rules of the treasure hunt. All the children were to be included, even where they weren't technically children anymore, but as Jack and Jem had done all the hiding, they also insisted on Madge and Joey teaming up to go searching. The rules, they were told, were that each couple had to find five chocolates apiece – or a total of ten – then make their way back to the Salon. The pair who arrived first would win the biggest prize of all.

A shy glance from Cecil let Mike know that his sister wanted to work with him, and so he loudly claimed her the second that Jack stopped talking. It was assumed that Phil and Katie would work together, and Felix at once asked Geoff to join him. In a fit of gallantry that Mike suspected had little to do with actual gallantry and more to do with the fact his sister was very pretty, Peter asked Felicity if he could have the honour of her help during this challenge, while Stephen grinned at Claire.

Seeing that everyone was paired off satisfactorily, Jack announced the treasure hunt started, at which there was an immediate scramble for the door. In a display of cunning tactics, Mike held Cecil back and they waited to see where the rest had fled so that they could search somewhere different. Then, sure that nobody was in either the cloakroom or the study, which they had been told could be considered open to all for once as long as they were careful and didn't shuffle the papers around, they set off in that direction.

The kitchen had been declared off bounds, for Anna was clearing up from Mittagessen and starting to get Abendessen ready, though it was to be only a light meal after the turkey and roast vegetables they had enjoyed previously. All the same, Joey had insisted that she and Madge wouldn't try and find a full ten, only five between them, so that they could weigh in and help soon enough. Otherwise, the chocolates could be anywhere in the house, and many and varied were the guesses.

Geoff and Felix spent a fruitless ten minutes scouring the attic for delights, though they found nothing, Phil and Katie having bagged the one token chocolate which had been put up there already. More surprisingly, Stephen and Claire ran their hands along everybody's wardrobes, and somehow found three of their chocolates in that way. Hunting downstairs, Mike and Cecil soon amassed six of their chocolates, which were stored in the breast pocket of Mike's shirt; they also stumbled upon Peter and Felicity, the latter trying to insist that they were stood under mistletoe and traditions must be observed. Seeing her brother approaching, Felicity suddenly stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, before declaring that she could see a chocolate on the top of the door frame and running off. Perhaps the most surprising of all was Joey, who arrived with a light dusting of flour turning her hair grey, having ignored Madge's insistence that nothing was in the kitchen and foraged in the flour bin.

For over an hour and a half they all hunted, for there was exactly the right number of chocolates hidden and all must be found before the game could be declared over. In the Salon, Jack and Jem were enjoying a Christmas brandy and congratulating themselves on such a fantastic idea to get everyone else out of the way and give them some peace and quiet, for even when Joey and Madge had found their five they only popped in to share them out before they disappeared to the kitchen regions.

Miraculously, there was only one casualty, when Claire came haring around a corner far too fast and ran straight into Mike. He was little more than shaken, and at the time she carried on regardless, though by that evening a fine bruise was developing over her eye. This was all to be expected in such a riotous game, though, and as Mike and Cecil were on their way to the Salon, having found their ten, they didn't stop over such a trivial thing. In fact, they burst in a second before Felix and Geoff and were consequently crowned the winners.

Once Jack and Jem had fished out the five their wives hadn't found before – none of which were in the flour bin, as was well rubbed in to Joey – and some of the chocolate had been sampled with due regard for the large lunch they had enjoyed and the dinner coming soon, a fine rendition of 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow' was given as thanks to the organisers. After that came dinner, and then they sat around the fire to hear Joey tell of Christ's first birthday on earth, followed by a tale of the first Christmas she and Madge had spent in Innsbruck with Robin.

After that they were all sent to bed, though at the last moment Claire spotted that it had started snowing again and there was a ten minute diversion as they dived outside to begin pelting each other with snowballs. None of them were in anything warmer than a jumper, though, so they came back in again quickly enough to be scolded by Jack for their thoughtlessness then sent upstairs with strict instructions to have a hot bath and keep warm. His eyes twinkled, though, and as Joey only laughed and called him an old fusspot the incident was passed over.

Curling up in bed with a hot water bottle clutched to her side, Cecil smiled to herself, eyes shut though sleep wouldn't come yet. It had been almost a perfect day, one which she knew she would remember forevermore, and there was nothing that she would have changed about it. Mike's letter was still sat on her bedside table, but she resolved to read it on the morrow, unaware of what awaited her then.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It was going so well until the last line!

Author:  JB [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh Ariel. I was totally relaxed by the time you so gently led us to the cliff edge. :(

Author:  KJX [ Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Gently led us to the cliff edge? More like she had us skipping along merrily behind her, singing Christmas Carols!

Great stuff!

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This was such a lovely scene - and it was all a ploy to remove us briefly from the corner where we were having such a good worry! Now very nervous....

Author:  Liz K [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

ChubbyMonkey wrote:
Mike's letter was still sat on her bedside table, but she resolved to read it on the morrow, unaware of what awaited her then.

:banghead: :shock: Oh no, please don't leave us waiting too long! :shock: :banghead:

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

It was a lovely Christmas, thank you Ariel.

But I'm enjoying being nervous now .....

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cliff? I see no cliff! Just a gentle hillock as a warning of a cliff.

- X -

The next morning Cecil awoke to find her father in the kitchen, doing his best to do the washing up but, she could tell from the burnt porridge still stuck to the side of the pan which had been put to dry, failing miserably. Further inquiries told her that Anna had slipped on the stairs and her quiet cry had awoken Jack, who had diagnosed a twisted ankle and sent her upstairs to rest the neatly bandaged limb. As he didn't want to wake Joey, knowing how tired she was after Christmas, he had come to try and make breakfast himself.

With a heartfelt sigh, Cecil offered to get that ready, which was gratefully appreciated a moment later when Joey arrived on the scene to announce that Phil felt ill. She was as sturdy as any other girl her age, but nobody could forget the scare that they'd had when she was younger, and even a cold was treated as a serious matter. Husband and wife ran upstairs together, leaving Cecil to cope with laying the table and preparing enough toast for them all before they started to sound like hungry gannets.

It was destined to be a day that didn't go well. She had just started setting out toast, which Madge and Jem were spreading liberally with jam, when Felix appeared to say that Felicity had requested three trays in Mike's room, as the two sailors were telling her tales of their derring do which wouldn't really be suitable for younger ears, and she didn't want to be torn away. Doing her best to oblige, Cecil finished putting out breakfast for the rest and then set to work to prepare the trays. She could get enough for two on one tray, but it still meant two trips upstairs.

On her way back down from the second, Jack appeared to say that Phil had requested a slice of bread and butter and a cup of milk; but she had a nasty cough developing already, and Joey didn't want to leave her side just yet. That meant another tray had to be made up, and Cecil eventually came to settle herself at the breakfast table to discover that there was no bread left and that the last of the milk in the house had just been spilt over the best tablecloth by Claire, still on there from the day before.

Annoyed that she wouldn't be able to have her own meal, now, and that the cloth must almost certainly be hand washed immediately to get rid of the stain, she snapped at her sister. At once Madge was offering to help, but she shook her head wearily. Her aunt needed a break for recuperation after the antics of the recent days, and she assured her that if Joey wasn't down to help soon she would call on one of the others.

All the same, when she came to ask Felicity if she could spare an hour, she was told that the rest had proposed a card tournament, and couldn't she just leave it? Knowing full well that she could not, Anna being sure to have a fit if she saw the kitchen in its current state, Cecil said no more but resigned herself to giving up her morning while the rest had fun. In fact, half an hour later as she mutinously worked out her frustrations on the hapless tablecloth, there was a knock on the door and Len appeared.

“I heard about the dire straits you'd been left in,” she smiled, collecting a towel and starting to dry the dishes already on the side to clear some space. “I've left Mary with Auntie Madge and told Jem to keep his eye on George, who is going to be in trouble by the end of the day.” She stopped and smiled, then noticed Cecil's battle with the stain, which was refusing to be washed out despite her best efforts. “Look, give me that. You tidy up this bombshell, I'll see what I can do. George is an expert at knocking things over, so I've got quite good at washing out various foods and liquids from material.”

She took over and began to scrub with a good will, while Cecil swept and cleaned the worktops, so that within an hour they were done. Most of the time they worked in silence, having exchanged stories of all that had happened during their respective Christmas days, but it was companionable for it, and Cecil found herself forgiving the others their lack of help. After all, she had undertaken to do this when she came back, and it wasn't as if she would have enjoyed the cards much anyway, she reasoned to herself as she worked.

Her reward was to be allowed to go and see Mary and George once the kitchen was clean, as Len had promised to make lunch for them all. She spent a joyous time listening to George tell her of his presents to the smallest detail, describe the lunch he had eaten, and then demand that she join him in drawing. When Mary started to cry, she was entrusted to her aunt, who cuddled her close and looked down at the tiny, chubby face with such adoration that it made Madge smile to herself.

Just as Jem was folding up his newspaper and wondering if he should go outside for a smoke before Mittagessen, Len came to announce that it was ready, though they would need someone to run to the small shop on the edge of the Platz to fetch some bread, milk and other sundries afterwards as their supplies were critically low. With deep regret, Cecil handed over the baby with a final kiss of the tear-stained cheek and then followed the rest to the splashery.

They were just trooping back to the table when an insistent knock on the door stopped their conversation for a moment. Impatiently, Cecil ran to answer it, just as Mike, the last one, shut the adjoining door quietly. Almost the second that she swung it back a powerful hand gripped her wrist and she looked up into scarily familiar eyes.

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh dear :( .

Author:  snowmaiden [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:( :(
Oh no! Ariel! You can't leave us like this!

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no! Please let us out of our misery soon!

Author:  JennieP [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Nooooooo! Ariel, come back here right now, young lady, and tell us what happens or there will be Trouble!


Author:  cestina [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Arrrrgh! Ariel, where are you? We don't mind you posting twice in one day!

At least it's some consolation to know that with a daily posting we shouldn't have to wait beyond tomorrow - but today would be better. Pretty please?

Author:  Nightwing [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: :? :shock: :? :shock:

*impatiently waits for the next part*

Author:  hac61 [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I hope Mike gives the guy what for.

Author:  cestina [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Eeeek - I've just realised I shall have no access to a computer for two days after 11.30am tomorrow! Please post early for Christmas tomorrow Ariel (imagine going down on my knees smiley)

Author:  JB [ Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel. How could you? I was going to pass on any single doctors I found to you. Now you're right at the back of the queue. :evil:

Author:  Eilidh [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

:shock: :shock:

Where is the next post?? Why didn't I wait another day or so to catch up?

Thanks Ariel :)

Author:  Kacca [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Seconding Eilidh here!!!

How could you leave me like this Ariel? I have to go to bed now and can't check on here until late tomorrow .... sob sob.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry, cestina, I only just saw your post! In any case, an update, as requested. (JB, please don't do that! Or I may have to think up something truly evil.)

- X -

As she walked along the corridor her step was firm, though inside she was terrified. Even if it was best not to antagonise him by letting him see that he could intimidate her, she could hear his wife working downstairs, and feel those eyes boring into her back as she turned the corner. Her pride wouldn't allow her to show any weakness.

All lights were off in the room when she swung open the door and planted herself firmly in his line of vision, so that only flames licked and pranced across her face and sparkled in her hair. He was lying on a bed in the corner, fully dressed but apparently asleep. His arms were resting behind his head, and he looked relaxed, babyish almost. There was something so innocent but sublime about him that she almost forgot why she was there.

Suddenly the lion moved, sensing prey, and sat up, eying her hungrily. All of his movements were supple and graceful, as liquid as water, and she was violently reminded of her sister, moving so smoothly around the house that she almost seemed to glide. Unlike Felicity, she had always been awkward and jerky, and she wondered now if maybe that had been one of the reasons she fell so deeply and so quickly in love, out of admiration for Matt's elegance.

As he approached she refused to move, her gaze fixed at some point in the distance, unwavering. She was only jolted out of it by being swung so easily into the wall, pinned there by a strong, familiar hand. His breath was warm on her cheek, his face unreadable. Darkness consumed them, only the crackling laughter of the fire behind them breaking the tense atmosphere. Unconsciously her breath became more ragged and stertorous, her mind waiting on the edge of tension to see what punishment was awaiting her this time.

There was a bright, blinding flash of silver and then she felt something sharp resting against her cheekbone, not quite slicing the white flesh like china. Realising in that second what he meant to do, she froze, terror filling her eyes and twisting her inside. Gradually tears formed, and one dripped over the deceptively small blade, a silent plea. But she was wise enough not to move, not to make any noise at all, not just because the slightest pressure could leave a tiny red ribbon winding along her face, but because if she said anything wrong he would be merciless.

A log behind them exploded, showering sparks across the grate, but neither flinched. However scared she might be, Cecil still doubted that he would actually force his unspoken threat into action, and she knew that he did, too. She was too valuable, she made him too much money, they both knew she did. He wasn't going to ruin her over something so small. When, after nearly a minute, he still hadn't done more than just caress her collarbone softly, she was moved to murmur something incomprehensible.

“Sorry?” he whispered, deep red lips resting so close to hers that they brushed them as he spoke. “Did you want to say something?”

Desperately she tried to think of the best thing to say. Any sort of apology would just sound false, and he hated it more than anything when she tried to lie to him. A declaration of love would be exactly the same. But it was clear that he meant her to say something, and wasn't going to move again until she'd done her best to stop him. He loved to play these power games with her, taking her with him to the edge of insanity but never quite letting her see just how mad he was. The greatest lesson she could learn under him, he'd told her once, was to never assume she could learn anything.

“I hate you,” she breathed, and was surprised at how pleasant the words felt as they caressed her throat, a ball of loathing buried deep within her that she had never acknowledged before. “I hate you.”

To her surprise, he laughed. It had been a gamble, a huge one, and at the last second she became convinced that it would result in a frenzied attack on herself, but the words had come anyway. Some reckless part of her wanted to be ruined, to be taken from him so permanently forever, at his own hand. But evidently she had said the right thing; she'd always known that he loved to show he had power over her and could control her completely, especially against her will.

The knife scattered across the floor and into a dark corner, while he grabbed her and pulled her in to him, biting her lips so hard as he kissed that she felt blood filling both their mouths. He transferred it through kisses to her collarbone, her neck, tugging at her clothes as he pushed her downwards on to the bed. Mustering everything that she could, she stopped her hands shaking and let contempt and disgust flood her face. She guessed that physically trying to stop him would be taking the game too far, but she was wise enough not to show any weakness.

“My little lioness,” he smiled, trailing her blood down her stomach. Her muscles were taut, but it only made him more salacious, as though he could barely control himself. At long last he gave in to his desires, forcing her to relax slightly. She was safe now as she could ever be. She'd averted the danger, this time.

Author:  2nd Gen Fan [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil...and we are still wobbling on the edge of that cliff for what is going to happen next! Please don't leave us in suspense for too long!

Author:  JB [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I would thank you for the update Ariel but i'm too busy hanging onto the edge of the cliff by my fingernails. :cry:

Author:  cal562301 [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Please, please don't keep us hanging on, Ariel. I'll even write that essay, if you will put us out of our misery!

Author:  shazwales [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel,thats not nice! cliffs at Christmas ???

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no! I thought I was going to avoid the cliff by reading several updates at once, but I'm still falling...

Thanks, Ariel. Poor Cecil has really suffered - I do wish she could trust someone enough to tell them what she's undergone.

Author:  charli [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I have been away from this for a few weeks and have spent the last hour catching up. There went my plans for the night out the window!
This is really interesting, and i'm glad i managed to read through most of the cliffs, although if i'm not mistaken there is still one hanging around??

Author:  Abi [ Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Poor Cecil. I hope she'll find healing somehow.

Author:  snowmaiden [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Cliffs! What has got in to you?! Please please tell us what happens, i have no fingernails left :(

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry to keep you all waiting (well, I'm not, but still). Just to warn that this is a busy weekend, and I'm not expecting to be able to write an update until Monday. I might get one done before, but please don't be alarmed if I don't!

- X -

Before she had time to even realise what was happening, he had drawn her out into the sparkling garden, pushing her through a snow clad bush which sprinkled it's covering merrily on the ground. Pressed up against the solid outer wall of the porch, she gasped in horror, trying feebly to push him away but knowing that he could overpower her with ease. His eyes glinted with manic fascination, and he lowered his mouth to hers, pressing himself against her, even though she did her best to resist.

“I've missed you,” he murmured huskily into her neck, his hands travelling over her familiar body. She pushed them away angrily, shoving against his chest as hard as she could. He laughed and stepped back, so that a bitingly cold wind tore at her eyes and wrapped her dark curls around her face. “Haven't you missed me as well?”

“Go away,” she hissed, trying to turn back inside. “Go away before somebody sees you. Just leave me alone.”

Thunderously, he pulled her back to where she was, so that she hit her head hard against the wall. It seemed as if she must remain trapped in his embrace, as she had so many times before, and tears welled in her eyes as he started to squeeze her neck, choking off her blood supply. Feebly she clawed at his fingers, but it was useless and there was nothing that she could do to fight him.

“I was going to be nice,” he growled, still making sure that they were blanketed by the shadow of the house, unseen. “I thought that I would tell you I understood why you ran away, I thought that when I showed you how much I cared by coming here you'd realise that actually you can't stay, you need to come back to Paris with me. I can see that I was mistaken.”

He paused, and released the pressure on her throat slightly as he pondered what to do next. Gasping in as much of the reassuringly icy air as she could, suddenly Cecil spat,

“I'll never go back with you, I'd sooner die first. You'll never make me.”

“I wasn't going to,” he promised, in a voice that sent chills down her spine and made her shiver. She had heard it so many times before, and it warned without him needing to say anything else that she would never persuade him otherwise. “Do you remember what happened last year? I do wonder if you've told your family about that. No?”

A simple glance told him that his guess had been completely accurate. Panic had taken over Cecil by this point, as well as the freezing, winter weather. She was only in a jumper and a skirt, painfully aware of her bare legs underneath, wondering how long it would take Matt to find out that fact. Tears rolled down her cheeks, burning them with shame and hatred; hatred for him, and the way he won every time, but hatred for herself too, for letting him. If she wasn't such a coward, if she just believed that her family would still love her, there would be nothing that he could do to hurt her.

“You see,” he said delicately, tracing a tiny pattern on her cheek, “if you were in Paris with me, I could hardly tell them, could I? But up here it's ever so dull, you're the only entertainment I know of, and if I don't have you to occupy my thoughts then I might just forget I'm not to mention it, and then everybody could find out.”

“No,” she gasped, begging. When he only laughed she dropped to her knees, crying in earnest now, her terror at her family finding out overpowering her. Grasping at his hands, she knelt before him, ragged breath rising from her in sheets of transparent white as the only barrier between them. “You can't tell anyone. Please. I'll do anything.”

“Well,” he said silkily, pulling her up and running a hand through her hair. “I suppose that if I thought you really wanted me again, and you were prepared to come home with me, we could forget that all of this ever happened. I'd have to very sure that you were coming back because you still loved me, though.”

Disgusted, Cecil shut her eyes as she pushed herself to her full height and forced herself to kiss him, relaxing into him so that he wouldn't guess at her true feelings. But he knew her weaknesses, knew where to touch and where to kiss, and after a few minutes she found that he didn't seem as repulsive anymore. It was a routine, something familiar and bizarrely comforting. And when he whispered those three words, touched her lips so softly to stop her replying, and smiled at her so that his crooked tooth showed, she found butterflies exploding in her stomach again, and the time and the place and everything that had gone on between them was blown away.

“Come with me,” he murmured. “I'll look after you and keep you safe. You don't need to be afraid anymore. I know you, I know everything about you, and I'll still love you.”

It was a promise that she knew nobody else could give, a promise that she'd wanted to hear for so long. She couldn't have said when he stopped telling her that he loved her, but she knew that if he'd been with her that fateful morning, he'd only have had to say it to stop her from running after her father. But she also knew how terrifying he could be, how hard he could hit her, how much he could use her. She knew what it was to be with another man and to imagine that it was him just to make it easier, less painful. She knew what it felt like to live with a broken heart.

“Come,” he repeated, softly, like a father speaking to a baby. She was leaning against his chest as he breathed against her hair, her heart fluttering so loudly that it stopped everything but his voice. Silently, she struggled with herself for an answer, struggled to let go of him and turn and walk away when all that she wanted was to let him lead her wherever he wanted her to follow.

Author:  Alison H [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Surely she won't be enough of a mug to go with him :shock: .

Author:  snowmaiden [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Wot Alison said. Have a nice weekend Ariel, we wait with bated breath for the next installment
*Leaves cushions and mattresses under the cliff*

Author:  hac61 [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Does she have a choice about going with him?

Nobody knows he's out there. He could render her unconscious and just take her.

Still want Mike to come out and bash him.

Author:  shazwales [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Ariel,it is Christmas,you could let Mike and his friend just happen to walk past?

Author:  Abi [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh no! Please let someone come out and rescue Cecil. Or perhaps even better that she should find the strength to not go with him, only I don't know if she has it.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  lexyjune [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is so powerful. Looking forward to more. Thank you.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Using Christmas against me. Honestly. Anyway, you're in luck; though now I'm having problems with the next bit :banghead: Someone is determined to hold this up, I see.

- X -

“Maybe I do love you,” she whispered eventually, her hands resting against his chest almost as if she was going to push him away at any moment. “Maybe I did enjoy those games. Maybe I am as mad as you.”

She laughed, suddenly, then reached up and kissed him, surely and softly. His very presence, the fact he had come to talk to her and win her back, proved to her that he meant what he said, in his own twisted way. He would never have been so gentle with anyone else, but she had always been his favourite and she had never known why before he found her again. They were lost to each other, the familiar smells and familiar tastes, the way she could have mapped the skin under her hands with her eyes shut.

Everything made sense with him there. Despite everything else she could be certain of him, knew that she could trust him to look after her and never let her go; after all, he had nursed her through her lowest times and seen the evil lodged inside her. In him there was a fellow soul, someone just as twisted, and the stifling atmosphere of home pressed down on her when she thought about the freedom she could have with him. They needn't go back to Paris and their old life, they could go anywhere and do anything, set up a new home and start again with just the two of.

Daydreams scattered to the winds, blown across the distant jagged peaks, as he was torn cruelly from her, leaving her exposed and alone. Life washed back over her, and as she saw what was happening she suddenly felt sick. Apparently Mike had become suspicious of the time she was away, for he had come out to find her, and was now dragging Matt backwards, arms pinned behind his back. Fury contorted his face, and Cecil wondered at how he had kept his temper this long. She opened her mouth to say something, to explain, to stop Matt being hurt, but the words that filled the freezing silence weren't her own.

“Get back inside, in the warm. You don't need to see this.”

“No,” she screamed desperately, but already they had hit the slope of the drive and Matt was starting to fight back. He loosened himself and turned, punching violently, but Mike had been expecting it and caught him first, making him double over as the wind was driven from him. Tears clung to Cecil's cheeks and she didn't know what to do. Fear paralysed her, but when she heard the crunch as Matt's nose was broken she screamed, half flinging herself forwards.

Peter, hearing the commotion, caught her as she passed him, wrapping his strong arms around her waist and pulling her back, before bundling her into the arms of Felix, who stood closest. He looked ready to join in the fight, but Peter hastily told them to leave it to him, he'd seen Mike like this before and he would hit anyone who got in his way. By now he had Matt on the ground, reddening the snow around him as he unleashed his unbridled fury.

Hastily, Felicity bundled the younger children inside where Joey ushered them back to the dining table. As she sat at the head of it, watching them all with the sort of look that brooked no argument, they sat in a deadly silence, unable to touch their food and not knowing quite what else to do. Only Felix didn't come back, still battling with a struggling Cecil.

For nearly a minute, Peter gave his friend his head and just edged closer, happening to kick the prostrate bundle on the ground as he came up. Then he grabbed at Mike's shoulder and hauled him, pushing him backwards. He was barely recognisable as her cheerful, cheeky brother, a monster venting itself through his body. If it hadn't been for Peter stood before him, it was clear that he would have carried on until he'd killed Matt, who was half sitting up as he started to cough up blood.

“Go back inside,” said Peter urgently, then lowered his voice so that Cecil wouldn't hear. “Your family don't need to see you like this. I'll escort this thing off the premises, don't worry, and see to it that he doesn't come back. Go and help your sister.”

Even then Mike might not have been persuaded had he not looked behind him and seen Cecil still watching him. Somehow, the sight of her so still, just crying, as Felix hugged her, filled him with shame as nothing else could have done. Breathing deeply, he turned, massaging his cut and swollen hands, then nodded shortly and walked crisply back over the churned up snow. His face was unreadable, but as soon as he reached them he pulled Cecil into his arms.

“I'm sorry,” he said quickly, looking at a point some distance above her head. “I didn't mean to lose my temper in front of you.”

Insistently he ushered her in, before she could see what was now happening to the body behind him. Peter had no intention of lowering himself to let Matt know what he really thought of him, but he saw no reason not to have a few accidents as he kicked him to get him moving. Without being told he had guessed who the unexpected visitor was, and he was as disgusted as the rest at him turning up here, in the middle of Christmas as well.

Still sobbing quietly, Cecil allowed herself to be lead into the warm, welcoming hallway. In the doorway Jack was waiting with a grim look on his face, and, with a glance in at Joey as he shut the joining door, he ushered them into the Salon and sat them by the fire. Having been ignored as thoroughly as if none of them had seen him, Felix thought it best to join the rest and finish the meal, rather pleased from the look on his father's face that they didn't have to be in the same room for some time.

Author:  JB [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. May i kick him too before Peter sees him off the premises?

This is so intriguing. Am longing to know what Cecil's secret is.

Author:  Alison H [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Understandable reaction from Mike.

Author:  YorkshireTeaDrinker [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Just read the entire thread, thinking smugly to myself, that of course it would be finished by the time i got to page 23 and I wouldn't have to worry about all those unanswered questions. Finshed reading about half an hour ago, and found myself dangling over the cliffiest of cliffs!!

This is great Ariel, the characters and their reactions are so real, I am particularly liking Jack in all this.

And thanks so much for posting again in the short time I was away to register with CCB. That's just what I was hoping Mike would do!

Author:  cal562301 [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

This is gripping and so realistically believable.

I have two related ideas about what Cecil's secret may be, but I could be wrong.

More please, as soon as possible.

Author:  Abi [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I think I may have a good (or not so good) idea about the secret.

Very glad that Mike came out when he did. But Cecil :cry: . One day she is going to have to stop allowing Matt to control her, if she ever wants to heal.

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  shazwales [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,i always wanted an elder brother but i have a younger one.If anyone hurts him i will back him up and he's 45 now! that was lovely

Author:  cestina [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Oh my goodness. I am already envisaging the withdrawal symptoms we are all going to have when this particular drabble finishes. Could it go on as long as The Archers perhaps?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thankyou everyone! I'm really sorry for the delay, but now that I'm working again and trying to help with getting Christmas ready, I may have to suspend daily updates and just do it when I can. Sorry! Also, cestina, I don't know yet how long it will be, but I'm waiting for it to tip over into twenty-five pages as I have a nice break planned to start the next thread - so please don't despair yet!

- X -

Once the two were seated, Jack stared at them both until Mike reddened and Cecil dropped her head to hide her muffled sobs. Her father had tried to pull her down next to him, but she refused, sitting opposite instead, not even taking his hand when he held it out. The memory of Matt's face as he threatened to tell them all, and the fear of what he would do now, gripped her. Away from his arms she couldn't believe that she'd felt her old feelings rising again, but when she was with him he was so persuading, so gentle and calm and kind.

“It's ok,” said Jack gently, with some idea of reassuring her. “You're safe now, and Mike isn't going to do any more stupid things.”

Despite the tone of his voice, the look he cast at his son was fury mingled with bafflement mingled with a bizarre pride that Mike had been able to do what he wanted to and could not. Wisely he refrained from asking where Peter was, but he vowed in his heart that that was one of Mike's friends who would always be welcome – not a lot were after a drunken party some three years ago now. Ineffectually, he patted Cecil's hand, but suddenly she looked up.

“Don't,” she said shortly, drawing away and standing up. Pulling her cardigan more closely around her and hoping that they wouldn't notice the damp patches around her knees, she turned to the fire place and refused to look at them. Gently, Jack tried,

“There's something that we should tell you. We meant to announce it yesterday, but we didn't get the chance. And now – well, I want you to know that I will always do everything I can to keep you safe. So Joey and I have made a decision; now that I'm retired, we're going to move back to England. Obviously we'd prefer it if you didn't tell the others until we've had the chance to talk to them.”

All the reaction that came from Cecil was a stiffening of her back, as she tried to digest this information, but Mike ruefully sucked on what was later diagnosed as a chipped knuckle and stared inquisitively at his father. The latter, not knowing what else he could say to comfort Cecil when he couldn't even imagine what she'd gone through, stood up abruptly and tried to wrap her in his arms. Instantly she flinched away, moving to the other side of the room for safety.

“Don't touch me,” she hissed. Startled, her father's initial reaction was to ask, trying to keep his voice neutral,

“Cecilia, did he hurt you?”

Electric tension hung in the air between them as she struggled with herself. A desire to laugh welled up inside her at the absurdity of the question, but she fought it, tried to come up with a reasonable answer. Of course he'd hurt her, he'd hurt her every day since he met her in one way or another. Today had been no exception, it was just a different kind of hurt this time. She'd only ever experienced it once before, when he'd announced his plans for her. It was the kind of hurt born of fear, the hurt of not knowing what the future held but knowing that it would be bad.

“No,” she gasped in the end, struggling for breath through the emotions crowding around her. Terrified, she didn't try and stop Jack this time as he embraced her, holding her close to his chest. But it didn't feel as safe as she had with Matt, it couldn't, because it was Matt that she feared and it was only when she was close to him that she knew she could control the situation. Chest heaving, she clutched wildly at her only support. “Dad, what if he comes back, he'll be angry because he hadn't done anything and -”

“Ssh,” said Jack softly. “If he comes back then I'll deal with him, and the police will deal with him, and if all else fails I'll set Joey on him and she can deal with him. You never, ever have to see him again. In fact, if you wanted, I could get you on a flight to England tomorrow; Dick would have you to stay, or Con. You could even go back with Stephen and stay with him for a little while. We'd be able to join you soon enough.”

As gently as when she had been a teething baby, he rocked her against him, not knowing what else he could say or do to take her pain away. Mike sat relatively unnoticed in the corner, until Peter stuck his head around the door to announce that Matt had gone, and the rest were going for a walk to the shop and did they want anything. Hopefully, Mike hinted,

“Some first aid would be nice.”

“I'd get bandages,” grinned Peter, “but the Jolly Roger would throw a fit.”

“Lawks,” said a startled Mike loudly. “I'd completely forgotten him.”

Now with something else to worry about, he turned back to tending to his wounds and did his best to think of a decent excuse for his damaged hands. A strict embargo had been laid on fighting when they were sent on leave, for the simple reason that his hands were what he used most in his job, and he was no use to anyone without them. In the circumstances he could expect no mercy, and he wasn't very popular to begin with at the moment.

Behind him, Cecil announced that she wanted to go upstairs and lie down. After a heavy morning's work coupled with the tears she had shed, a headache prowled the cages of her mind and her thoughts were jumbled and confused. She could think of nothing more appealing than her own bed, and the comfort of solitude. Regretfully, she declined Jack's offer of joining her, though he promised that he would look in on her in half an hour with some hot milk. What she needed to do now was think, to plan what she needed to do next.

Author:  hac61 [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

And they expect to keep a move like that quiet? On the Platz?

*shakes head sorrowfully*

Author:  Emma A [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I want to shake Cecil and make her tell her family what happened - they will still love her. And I think anything would be better than being back in Matt's clutches again. Poor kid :(

Thanks, Ariel.

Author:  Carys [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Why didn't they keep hold of Matt so the police could finally get him? :banghead:

Author:  JB [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

“Ssh,” said Jack softly. “If he comes back then I'll deal with him, and the police will deal with him, and if all else fails I'll set Joey on him and she can deal with him.

LOL at that bit but the rest of this is so tense. I hope by "nice break" you don't mean a cliff, Ariel.

Author:  Alison H [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hope that the police get hold of him somehow: even if the Maynards go to England there'll always be the worry that he'll catch up with Cecil there.

Author:  Abi [ Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

That man is truly horrible and his complete and utter control over Cecil is terrible. Even if the police find him and deal with him, the legacy of his abuse of Cecil will still be with her.

Thanks Ariel. :cry:

Author:  shazwales [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks again Ariel for some brilliant writing! Whatever happens Cecil will still be affected by the past.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

No, JB, I don't mean cliff! :lol: I mean a nice break that I'd planned for Christmas and will hopefully still manage to slide in before then. Oh, I should point out that I have lifted a quote from a book in this update; bonus cookies for anyone who can give me quote and book!

- X -

Several hours later, she swam up through consciousness. Laying down on her bed she had intended to think about all that had happened and try and clear her head, but she hadn't realised how much the morning's strenuous work had tired her out, and it was dark by the time she opened her eyes and blinked blearily. Snow was lying thick on the windowsill, with more flakes drifting lazily down in front of her, obscuring her vision past the grey fog which provided a backdrop to the blizzard. At least it meant that Matt should have gone; she hoped so, anyway. She wouldn't wish dying of exposure on the mountaintop as a fate on anyone.

Shuddering at the thought, she sat up and tried to marshal her thoughts enough to work out what to do next. Her head was so fuzzy and heavy, and when she shook it slowly she felt as if she was clearing a mist. Staring intently at the dressing table, she slowly groped her way forwards and picked up her hairbrush. Sitting down, she began to tug at the tangled locks, hard enough to make herself wince as she met with a particularly nasty knot. The pain was buoying her up, though, reminding her of what life was, and by the time she'd reduced them to some sort of order she felt more alive.

Usually she hated mirrors and would refuse to go near them. With the amount of time that had been sat in front of one as she meticulously applied foundation to cover the cracks and other make-up to redden her lips and accentuate her eyes, she had come to know her own face rather well, and she couldn't look at it now without seeing it encased in a thick layer of powder and paint. All the same, once she was sure that her hair was gleaming, she leaned forwards, staring at herself intently, wondering whether her father and her brother and Matt all saw the same person when they looked at her and knowing that they didn't.

From their attitudes, she knew that her father still saw the little girl who had once run around the house so gaily, or presented him with a card for his birthday that was nothing more than a set of squiggles and a mass of ink designed to represent something. Clearly Mike had accepted that she was a young woman to be credited with some sense now, but also to be protected as viciously and constantly as possible, for it was not to be assumed that she could look after herself.

As for Matt, well, nobody could say with any certainty what he saw except himself. If she believed her family, he saw a large stack of money and some cheap thrills, nothing more and nothing less. Her own experience told a different story; she wanted to think that he saw a beautiful young girl, one who had to be trained, of course, before she was good enough to be with him, and one whom was disliked enough by others that he had been persuaded to sell her soul for her. That didn't diminish his love for her, though, for she had always been his favourite and clearly still was. Or perhaps he saw the writhing, screaming bundle that he had hurt more than anything else, and who had begged him to save her.

In any case, what she saw when she looked at her reflection was something altogether different. Memories were what came back to her, memories of sitting in her drab room and dabbing valiantly at fingerprint bruises on her arm so that nobody else would know of them, wincing delicately each time she brushed against them. Wryly smiling, she could almost heat Matt's voice again; men like their women subservient and they like not knowing how that subservience came about.

Perhaps, she reflected bleakly, it didn't matter what anybody saw. After all, she was just a collection of cells, a bundle of energy that would one day be extinguished. She could have no bearing on history, her name would never be spoken once she died. She was one of a thousand masses, surging through life, a serving material only for the reproduction of its own kind; there was no occasion to ponder on what she meant to anyone and on how they each saw exactly the same thing, just as there was no purpose to anything other than to produce more of it simply so that it could continue in a banal and empty existence.

Shaking these thoughts from her head for the present, though she knew that they would come back to tug at her as soon as she showed any weakness in the matter, she slipped out of the door, intent on going downstairs and trying to determine her standing within the family. Surely they couldn't blame her for Matt's appearance, except in the sense that she had lead him into their lives to begin with, and they must understand that she would be upset at what Mike had done. After all, she had felt something for the man once, stronger than that she had felt for them, and even if they didn't know that traces of it remained they must know that it would upset her.

Upon opening the door, she was surprised to see two familiar faces looking at her, though afterwards she would wonder why she hadn't thought of them calling the police sooner. What shook her more was the sombre atmosphere in the room, and the fact that the detectives were here at all when gloaming had already been swallowed by night. A nature of this seriousness should have attracted them at once, but that they should stay just to talk to her was absurd, and yet they should have spoken to everyone else already. Hesitantly, she stepped forwards, as they stood up in unison. She half noticed her father shooting them a furious glare as the more dominant personality opened his mouth, but she wouldn't remember it until much later on. For the present, time slowed almost to a halt as several words washed over her at once, and she had to try and sort them into some sort of order.

“I'm sorry,” he said simply, hands crossed in front of him. “We found a dead body on our way up here. It looks likely to be the man who came to see you this afternoon, Jacques Girard. He was confirmed dead at the scene.”

A soundless scream escaped her lips as she came to realise what this meant, and she could feel waves of emotion crashing over her. Gradually tears filled her eyes and she began to tremble; suddenly, the world had lost all meaning but for that one fact. She never knew of Jack springing up in time to catch her, as she fainted neatly into his arms.

Author:  JB [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

She wouldn't wish dying of exposure on the mountaintop as a fate on anyone.

Oh, I dunno. I think he deserved it. It could be worse - you could have handed him over to the Advent Drabblers. :)

Thanks Ariel. That was really powerful writing.

Author:  Alison H [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well, that's solved one problem!

Author:  abbeybufo [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So is his real name Jacques or Matt?
[or did I miss something earlier - I am such a quick reader I do slide over 'crucial' information occasionally :oops: ]

Or is it someone else altogether? :shock: :shock: :shock:

Thanks Ariel

Author:  shazwales [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel,wasn't expecting that :shock: :shock: :shock:

Author:  cal562301 [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thanks Ariel. Really powerful writing. Please don't leave us in suspense for too long about who the dead man was... Matt/Jacques/whoever.

If Ruth missed it through reading too fast, so did I. :oops:

:poke: Also a little reminder, though I'm sure you haven't forgotten, that we're still waiting to find out Cecil's great secret! :D

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Sorry for any confusion! As I think I said before, he is a man of multiple identities - so his 'official' identity is Jacques, but (mainly for the purpose of simplicity in the drabble) he always had Cecil call him Matt; some sort of weird power trip he insisted on.

Author:  abbeybufo [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

So he's really dead?

Phew! Thank goodness for that. Although Cecil is bound to be sad, because he had groomed her so well to fall in love with him, it will be a tremendous escape for her, and relief if he is no longer there to exert that power he had assumed over her.

Author:  aitchemelle [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Thank you Ariel. Just caught up with the last 12 days of updates!

Author:  cestina [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 9:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Hang on, hang on - where does it say he died of exposure? Do we now have to panic for Mike and Peter?

What if Jacques died of the injuries inflicted on him by them? A boot in the kidney perhaps?

This looks like a cliff to me if there ever was one...... :(

Author:  Abi [ Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well, I'm glad he's dead; it means he can't add to the damage he's done. But his control over Cecil is still just as strong as it ever was and there's a lot she'll have to do to recover from that - at the moment I don't think she even realises that she is a victim and until she acknowledges that she can't heal properly because she won't be working with the truth.

But it is a relief that he's dead because that means the most immediate danger is over!

Thanks Ariel.

Author:  Kacca [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Well I'm glad of that news too.

But Mike? Peter? and oh Cecil, she's still so young even with all she's endured.

Thanks Ariel, I've read and run the last few days, but still here and still loving this.

Author:  snowmaiden [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Looking for the *gulp* smiley but there doesn't seem to be one

*wibbling for mike now*

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

As this seems to be twenty-five pages, I believe, mods, that this will have to be my last update on the thread? (I've never reached these heady heights before!) If this is so, I shall be back after Christmas :D Until then, thankyou for all of your comments, it's been wonderful to know that so many people are enjoying it, and I hope this answers most of your immediate questions! Merry Christmas!

- X -

The next thing that she remembered was waking up to see Joey sat next to her bed, attempting to knit calmly although she had already ruined the bobble hat she had promised for George by dropping stitches every few seconds. Even Cecil, no expert in the matter, could see that. She shifted slightly then tried a weak smile as her mother threw the needles away from her and bent over, smoothing the hair from her brow and taking her temperature quickly. Her father approached from the corner where he had been skulking, sitting down next to her with one leg on the bed and one foot on the floor, helping her to sit up slightly.

“How do you feel now?” asked Joey at once, plumping her pillow for her while Jack had her weight. Shutting her eyes so that she wouldn't have to see them in the dark, outlined only by the harsh light from above, she merely replied,

“What happened?”

“You fainted,” began Jack, but she silenced him with a look of deep reproach.

“I meant what happened to Matt. How did he die? Where? Is he – is he really -”

Unable to choke out the words that she wanted she broke off, hoping that they would guess at her meaning. By now she was too tired to talk, too worn out from the day, and it struck her that they must have been worried about her to have left Phil's side when she was ill. Perhaps it was guilt, she thought spitefully, though she shook it away at once. They loved her, and she didn't even know how Matt had died yet, though Jack shifted uncomfortably as Joey tried her best to explain.

“The police think that he must have been staying on a shelf lower down the mountain, they found him on the main road down as they were driving up. It looks like he'd fallen – there was snow above him which was scuffled, and from what they can tell so far he was only stopped by a rock. From the distance he travelled he must have hit it at some speed, and they think it probably broke his spine. If he didn't die instantly then the time he was out in the cold before they found him would have done it.”

It was an uncomfortable truth, and one that nearly reduced Cecil to tears again. The thought of Matt, once someone so warm and kind, who had held her in his arms and managed to inspire wholesome fear, as just a cold body, something reduced to the sum of its parts, hit her hard. Blinking several times, she managed to frame the question that was nagging at her thoughts.

“Did they say what they think happened?”

“Accident,” said Jack briefly. “It's been snowing again, so they wouldn't get any footprints from the scene, and there's no reason to think that he didn't just trip and was unable to stop himself.”

“They don't think that -”

“They know,” said Joey quickly, placing great emphasis on the next part of her speech. “Just as we do, they know that none of us had anything to do with this. After all, Peter was out with the rest while we talked to Mike, and then they went off with Felicity while your father and I spent some time in the study. Together. Alone. The whole time.”

If her voice wavered a little over that last part, and if she glanced at Jack in a slightly funny way, Cecil didn't notice it more than to think of the strain that the day must have brought to her mother, after such a festive, happy time just a few hours before. Soothing as it might have been to hear that her family had nothing to do with – and, as Jack hastened to reassure her, that the police were happy to put the extraordinary number of injuries Matt had sustained down to such a long fall – it didn't make her feel any happier.

Matt was still gone, and she was still all alone in the world now. Part of her couldn't help feeling relived that she was the only one who knew now, though she hated herself for it. But an overwhelming part was so completely sad at the loss of one man she had never thought of as not being there since she met him that it took her all the strength she had not to burst into tears.

Instead she tried to tell her parents that she felt better now. When Joey suggested that she had some food, she shook her head dolefully; she should have felt hungry by now, she hadn't eaten all day, but the thought of doing something so banal and mundane sickened her. All that she wanted, as she told them plaintively, was to be left alone, so that she could curl up and think about it all. More than anything she wanted to see if she was able to remember Matt as he had been at first, a kind, generous man who never said anything against her and who was always there when she needed him, a man that she was to spend the rest of her life with.

Not understanding most of this, but understanding that Cecil needed to be alone now, Joey stood up, then bent over and kissed her daughter silently. It seemed that Jack was unwilling to leave her, but at a pointed look from his wife he mirrored her actions and followed her to the door. But while she went straight along the corridor to make sure that the rest were coping and that Len had cooked them all a meal – having called Reg to pick up the children and offered to stay the night and help after all that had happened, with Anna still out of action – he paused in the doorway and looked down at her.

“Don't waste tears on him. He wasn't worth it, and it's much better now that he's gone. We can all start to try and move on with our lives.”

However, his hard words did nothing to soothe her, and once he had turned and gone she still rolled over and buried her head in the pillow, crying silently. This time, she knew that there was no chance of Matt cracking open the door late at night and coming to apologise, this time she could never tell him how much she still loved him. This time, he really wasn't coming back.

Author:  JB [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

I'm glad he's not coming back and I hope that Cecil will soon realise that too.

Dearest Ariel. When you say "after Christmas", would you care to be more specific? Pretty please ....

Author:  snowmaiden [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Very good, Ariel. Another one very glad he's off the scene but Cecil still has some major issues to contend with which obviously won't disappear just because he has.

In case it has escaped your notice you haven't let on yet about secret.....

Look forward to the continuation after Christmas :D

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Dec 23, 2009 10:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption

Gremlins have been known to start eating posts when threads get over 25 pages, so if this is a good stopping point then, yes, it'd be best to add "part 1" to the title of this and start part 2 in a new thread - looking forward to it :D .

*Alison with mod Santa hat on :santa: *

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Finding Redemption - Part I - Completed

The fact that Cecil wants to remember Matt's good points and the happy times she spent with him is terrifying. And how can she think that she's all alone now? I feel so sorry for her - to be so thoroughly abused that you know it, and yet still crave your abuser - it will take a long time to heal, and she must start being honest. I don't know whether she can, though.

Thanks, Ariel.

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