The final bite-sized extract before we start the serious task of finding an agent for Defining Moments after Christmas. A huge thank you and a very happy Christmas to everybody who has taken the time to read and like them.
Defining Moment 11 sees Lisa starting her first term at boarding school. It is still early days in the bittersweet life of Lisa Grant, but I hope 2019 will be the year for her full story to be read by a wider audience.
“Boarding school is a wicked thing.”
Kristin Scott Thomas
‘I went away to boarding school when I was eight,’ Elizabeth was upbeat. ‘You’re ten now, so it’s high time you went.’
‘But I don’t want to go anywhere!’ The words whined their way out of Lisa’s mouth, accompanied by an emphatic stamp of her right foot.
‘You will be eleven very soon and your teacher tells me that you are very bright for your age. Just like your mother…’ Elizabeth guffawed at her own joke, which failed to amuse Lisa, before delivering another well-prepared, rambling monologue about how boarding school would be the making of her.
‘And, after seven years at boarding school, you will go to The Debutantes’ House in London and from there we will find you an ideal husband. Someone who will provide you with financial security for life, so you don’t have to look for a ghastly job and remember, Lisa dear, all prospective husbands will always look at the mother first.’ Lisa was listening, clinging on to the pertinent points, but her mother could well have been talking Chinese.
‘But I don’t want a husband and I don’t want to go away!’ Lisa stood in front of her mother, pouting in defiance with her hands on her hips.
‘Petulance really doesn’t suit you, Lisa dear. It’s all arranged, you are going and that is the end of it.’
Elizabeth had never been to see Coln Castle, the boarding school for young ladies in Gloucestershire, but they always advertised in Country Lifestyle and that was good enough for her. Country Lifestyle was the bastion of rural English literature for the husky-wearing brigade, which often featured articles by Lady Prunella Plumpton. Such was their reputation, which meant they would never publish advertisements about any dodgy educational establishments, so Elizabeth had enrolled Lisa five years previously. It would be useful if her daughter had some knowledge of the wider world before she found her a suitable husband. Coln Castle was also ideal because it was very close to Silkwoods and Jim could carry on taking and collecting her from school.
When the fateful day arrived, Lisa shuddered as Jim drove up the impressive driveway to Coln Castle.
‘It looks like the Sheriff of Nottingham’s castle in Robin Hood,’ she mumbled, blowing out her red cheeks as Jim got her trunk out of the back of the car. He nodded his head in silent sympathy, aware that Lisa was watching the other girls hugging and tearfully saying goodbye to both sets of parents. To Jim and Nellie, sending a child away to boarding school was alien and barbaric. He didn’t want to leave her, but he had no choice.
‘Well, goodbye, love,’ he said putting his hands on her shoulders. Lisa was looking at the gravel trying not to cry. ‘Er, um, Nellie and I will write to you regular, love, I promise.’
Lisa responded by throwing her arms around his waist. He always smelt of the residue of the cleaning agent used in the milking parlour. How she would miss that smell. When Jim got home he said to a tearful Nellie, ‘It near broke my heart leaving the little ‘un.’
Lisa tried to control her jerky sobs as she watched Jim drive away. She felt alone and abandoned and just like when she had started prep school, she knew no one.
‘Lisa Grrrrraaaaannttttt?’ Hearing her name called out made her jump and spin around, her buckled Start-Rite shoes scrunching on the gravel. A small, rotund woman in her sixties waddled across the driveway towards her. Her body rocked from side to side with each step, her ill-fitting wartime Mary Jane court shoes, causing her more than just a slight degree of pain. A tired ankle length tweed skirt clung to her hips with a cream silk blouse tucked in at the waist. Her long grey hair was wound into a chignon. A few of the bobby pins had already slid out under its weight. It would never stay upright for the rest of the day.
‘Yes…’ Lisa managed.
‘Come ziz vay pleeeze. I am Mademoiselle Petit your ’ousemistrezz. Vas zat your fazur?’ she asked pointing in the general direction of the drive.
‘No, not my father, Mademoiselle Petit, my father lives in Portugal,’ she said quietly, her eyes rooted to the ground.
‘Ahh yes, I zink I know zomesink aboot your fazur. Now come viz me please.’
The palms of her hands felt cold and clammy as she followed Mademoiselle Petit into the foreboding building, wondering how many other people knew zomesink aboot her fazur.