The Waking Nightmare
Anthony was sat at the piano stool accompanying Julie and Mark as they practised for the audition tomorrow.
“Do you want to try Once In Royal Jules?” asked Mark.
Julie nodded and Anthony began to play the opening notes as Julie prepared to sing.
Then Athene came bursting into the practice room, tears streaming down her cheeks.
She sat down in her usual place next to Anthony on the piano stool.
“Hey,” said Anthony turning away from the piano, “what’s up Athene?”
“Tony!” said Julie with her hands on her hips, “we’re in the middle of practising.”
“You can practise on your bloody own!” said Mark looking at Julie incredulously before going over to the piano where Athene was sitting.
“What happened?” asked Anthony putting an arm around her.
“The dreams,” she sobbed, “they came true!”
“What?” stammered Mark.
“There was a telegram,” she sobbed, “Grandpa got it this afternoon, Dad was killed fighting in Malaya.”
Julie’s mouth dropped open and she rushed over to give Athene a hug.
“I’m sorry Athene,” said Julie giving her a hug, “you must be so upset! And I was so horrible to you!”
“It’s alright,” stammered Athene as Anthony passed her a handkerchief.
Deciding that rehearsal was over for the night, they all headed back to the girl's dorm. The girl's dorm had in a way become the Common Room for their little group.
Charlie and Harry were sat on the floor going through a magazine.
“What happened?” asked Harry.
“Athene’s Dad died,” said Mark, half of him still not believing it.
Anthony sat Athene down on her bed, and Athene pulled her knees into her chest. Anthony sat down at the end of her bed, and Mark and Julie flopped down on Julie’s bed
“What’s going to happen?” asked Charlie.
“I don’t know,” said Athene slightly tearily as she stopped sobbing, “Grandpa’s going to be here in the morning, I suppose he’ll decide.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Harry.
“Well I’ll have to go home for the memorial,” explained Athene, “but I don’t know about after that.”
“Oh God,” she muttered starting to get up off the bed, “I’ll have to pack for a few days.”
“Don’t worry,” said Julie getting up, “we’ll do that.”
Julie fetched out Athene’s small suitcase and started to pack carefully, enough things for a few days home.
“What’s going on?” asked Lucy as she and Lizzie came into the dorm to get ready for bed.
It must have been a very strange scene for the other two girls to walk into. The usually cheerful and somewhat eccentric group of friends were all looking miserable.
Charlie and Artie were rushing around the room packing Athene’s bag with a spare uniform, nightdress, wash bag, and a plain black dress.
Athene had stopped crying but was looking somewhat dazed and had pulled her knees into her chest, her cheeks were blotchy and her eyes were red, so it was clear that she had been crying.
Anthony was polishing his glasses with his jumper, just to give him something to do. Mark and Harry were flopped down on top of Charlie’s bed, staring up at the ceiling expressionless.
None of them responded.
“Who died?” asked Lizzie.
Anthony put his glasses back on and rose his eyebrows at her.
“Athene’s Dad,” said Julie as she did up the suitcase.
Lizzie covered her mouth, and Lucy’s mouth dropped open in shock.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” muttered Lizzie, “I should have guessed.”
“It’s ok,” muttered Athene.
“The dreams!” exclaimed Lucy her eyes wide.
“Athene,” asked Anthony curiously, “do you think you can see the future?”
“No idea,” shrugged Athene, “I hope not.”
“Wouldn’t it be kind of exciting to know what’s coming though?” asked Charlie.
“Yeah, but it would make life less exciting too,” admitted Harry, “no surprises.”
“You’ve got point there Hazzer,” said Mark.
“Would you two mind moving?” asked Charlie with her hands on her hips as she moved over to her bed.
“At least budge up!”
Mark and Harry moved further down the bed still staring up at the ceiling.
“Um lights out in ten minutes,” called Mr Mitchell somewhat awkwardly from the doorway.
Mr Mitchell was acting as if it was a normal night, but tonight was anything but normal!
“Come on boys,” sighed Mr Mitchell, “you need to get to your own dorm.”
Anthony got off the end of Athene’s bed somewhat grudgingly.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Anthony giving her a quick hug.
Fortunately, tomorrow was Saturday so they didn’t have class.
“I’ll see you before you go home alright?”
“Ok,” muttered Athene pulling at the end of one of her plaits.
“Are you sure we can’t stay?” asked Mark sitting up, “just this once?”
“We want to support our friend!” agreed Harry.
“I’m sorry lads,” said Mr Mitchell, “move it.”
Mark and Harry left the room, muttering darkly.
“Try and get some sleep girls,” sighed Mr Mitchell before closing the door.
The five girls got changed into their pyjamas, Athene didn’t feel like sleeping.
“Athene, you look exhausted,” said Lizzie anxiously.
“You could try and sleep,” suggested Lucy, “the nightmares have stopped now that.”
Lucy finished awkwardly and looked slightly foolish.
“It’s ok Luc,” said Athene smiling slightly.
“I don’t know why but I’m just not tired, I’ll probably sleep in the car home tomorrow.”
“Well if you’re staying up, we’re staying up with you!” said Charlie.
They waited until Matron had come around to check that they had turned off the light and were all in bed.
The second she had left, however, Charlie leapt out of bed with a look of glee on her face.
Charlie and Lucy got their torches out, as they had had to turn off the light, and Julie helped Lizzie push Athene and Lizzie’s beds together.
“I think it’s high time we had our first all-nighter!” beamed Charlie.
“Oh can we do each other’s hair?” asked Julie excitedly.
“And tell ghost stories,” said Charlie mischievously.
“And a midnight feast!” breathed Lizzie.
The five girls pooled together the last of their sweet rations and tuck, between the five of them there was a large assortment of various sweets and treats.
“Athene can I do your hair?” asked Julie.
Athene looked slightly uncertain.
“Please!” she begged.
“Well alright then,” sighed Athene giving in.
Julie beamed and started to gently undo Athene’s plaits and brush them out by torchlight.
Julie looked at the wedding photo of Athene’s parents and was suddenly hit by inspiration.
She did Athene’s usual two plaits but didn’t tie them at the top of the bottom. She then took out a box of hairpins and carefully pinned Athene’s plaits in a neat crown on top of her head.
“There, perfect,” said Julie admiring her own work.
“Right,” said Charlie, her face glowing as she shined her torch up into it, “ghost stories.”
The five girls got comfortable on the two beds that had been pushed together, Athene got under her quilt which she shared with Julie.
The girls stayed up all night whispering ghost stories, and gossiping trading secrets and sharing sweets.
Athene didn’t join in much, mostly just listened. She was usually quiet in the first place but tonight she was just content to listen.
She was happy to have friends who were willing to stay up all night with her, waiting to see what the dawn would bring.
At seven o’clock, before the sun had even begun to rise properly there was a soft knock on the door.
“Now’s not a time for knocking politely Tony!” said Mark’s muffled voice through the door.
Mark opened the door not waiting for it be answered as he came bursting into the room.
Mark, Tony and Harry were all standing in the corridor with dressing gowns over their pyjamas, Anthony was already dressed and had clearly been up for hours.
Mark looked outraged as he saw the five girls congregated on the two beds, which were covered in sweets wrappers.
“We’ve been worried about you lot all night!” he protested with his hands on his hips, “and you lot have been having a jolly good time without us!”
“Keep it down Mark!” whispered Charlie, “or Mitch will catch us.”
Mark rolled his eyes at her before coming into the dorm with Anthony and Harry and then shutting the door.
“Next time you’re going to have a midnight feast Jules please invite us,” begged Mark.
Athene smiled slightly as she fished in her dressing gown pocket and pulled out a handful of boiled sweets, she hadn’t wanted her own share earlier.
“Wow thanks, Athene!” beamed Mark as he unwrapped a mint humbug.
“You ok Athene?” asked Anthony.
Athene shrugged slightly.
There was the sound of a car driving across the gravel on the school driveway outside the window.
Athene leapt off the bed frantically and looked out the window.
“Grandpa!” she yelled running fingers through her hair.