Chapter Two - The Inverenglass Lodge Hotel
But of course, with our bags lined up along one wall, and with about a million soggy girls wandering about like headless chickens, the place was total chaos, so I found a quiet corner for Megan and me to hide in.
“Stand still and be quiet a moment now, please!” Droopy tried shouting but of course everyone ignored her. “I said stand still!”
“Right,” she said when, at long last, she managed to get everyone to stand still and shut up. “Here we are in Inverenglass and I’m sure we’re all going to have a super time. This is Mrs Andrews.” She gave a funny smile type thing to an old woman who’d appeared through a door. “She’s going to make sure we have a really super time here.”
“Would you like to say anything?” she asked Mrs Andrews.
“Oh, I just wanted to bid you a welcome to the Highlands and to The Inverenglass Lodge Hotel,” she answered in this wild Scottish accent. Your rooms are up the stairs, there. Dinner’s in about forty five minutes in the dining room, through here. I’ll ring the bell to let you know it’s ready. Now, if you’ve not got any questions, I’ve got to go and see to the potatoes.”
She bustled back through the door into the dining room.
“Good… now, if you’ll just excuse me… ” Droopy said, gently shoving Claire out of the way and lumbering over to a notice board that was hanging on one wall. “Here’s the list of who’s in which room. Let me know if you want to change anything around but no squabbling, please.”
I’d guessed what was coming so I made sure I was one of the first to get a look at the list. I’d been put in a room with Megan and another girl, Barbara.
We’ll soon see about that!
“You’ve been stuck in with Megan and me,” I told Barbara, “but I’m sure you’ll have more fun here if we found another room for you.”
“Oh, I don’t know…” Barbara began but I quickly cut her off.
“You know that we’re not very good company,” I told her. “Look, Claire and Ellie are in a room together. I’m sure that you’d rather be in with them. Why don’t you go and have a chat?”
“But Claire and Ellie might not want to share with me.”
“If they don’t, I’m sure I’ll be able to persuade them. Why don’t you go and see?”
I gave Barbara an encouraging smile and she hurried away to organise another room.
I could see Droopy looking at me. I mean… I knew she thought I was a bully but I wasn’t really. I just wanted everybody to leave me alone… and Barbara really would be much happier in another room.
“Come on!” I said, grabbing my bag and chucking Megan’s in her direction. “Let’s get out of here.”
We carried our stuff up the dark, wooden staircase and quickly found our room. It had a high ceiling and looked as if it had once been really posh but it had been split in two by an ugly partition wall.
Instead of a window, it had a fancy glass and metal door which led out onto a tiny balcony. “That looks like it might be fun if it ever stops raining,” Megan said as she started to unpack.
I didn’t bother answering. I just dragged a chair across and sat on it, backwards, with my chin resting on the backrest, staring out into the rising storm. Through the rain, you could see down their little street to the harbour where the boats were already being tossed about on the waves.
But, again, my eyes were sort of pulled off in the direction of the island, even though I couldn’t possibly see the thing. “There is something out there,” I said, pretty much to myself. “Old Droopy might be too stupid to believe me but I really could see something.”
Megan looked at me for a bit then said, “Okay, tell me what you could see. It was too hazy for me and I couldn’t make anything out.”
I had to smile. I guess she knew how to deal with me when I got wound up. “OK… there’s an island out there, quite a long way off. There’s one big mountain in the middle and it’s got some sort of birds flying around it.”
“Yeah, I could see birds flying round the top. And they must be absolutely enormous because I could see them quite clearly.”
I turned back to the window as Megan finished unpacking. I guess putting the whole thing into words made me feel a bit better.
But the calm was shattered by the dinner bell and there was basically a stampede in the corridor outside. “Thank goodness! I’m starving,” Megan said as she headed towards the door.
“You coming?” she added when I didn’t move.
I mean… I wanted more time on my own but I just knew that Droopy would have kittens if I didn’t turn up for dinner. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I told her with a sigh.
The dining room was full and loud by the time I made it down and I had to wait by the door for a moment to kind of build up enough enthusiasm to open the thing.
“Oh there you are,” Miss Parsons said with a smile. “We were just about to send out a search party!”
There was absolutely nothing I could say which wasn’t going to land me with dirty great heaps of grief so I ignored the stupid cow and wandered across the room to Megan - at least she’d saved me a place.
I stayed pretty much wrapped up in my own thoughts through the meal. I mean… a couple of the others tried to chat but I let them know I just wasn’t interested. At least Megan knew when to keep quiet.
I ate enough to stop Droopy from getting all stressy and, as soon as I was done, I asked her if I could go back up to my room.
“Are you feeling poorly?” she asked, doing her sympathy thing.
“Yeah,” I answered. In fact I was just feeling sick of the whole thing but I thought it was best not to tell her that. “Just a bit of a headache.”
“It’s not surprising after such a long journey,” Miss Parsons said. “Go on up to bed. I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning.”
“Should I come up with you?” Megan asked.
“No, I’ll be fine. I’ll see you later.”
Up in the room, I sat down by the window again and stared out in the direction of the island. The wild weather kind of fitted with my mood and I found my mind drifting.
OK… I know it wasn’t exactly anybody’s fault that my mum had died… but why did dad have to pretend that I didn’t exist any more. I mean… he’d always been busy with his stupid planes but that was sort of expected from a flying officer in the Air Force… but he’d always managed to make time for me when I was little…
But, just recently, it really did feel like he was trying to avoid me.
And there was this constant, nagging feeling that there was something really important missing from my life.
As the storm grew wilder, the lashing rain and driving wind seemed to fit in with my mood and I found myself relaxing.
But then I gradually sort of noticed that there was something out in the direction of the island.
I mean… I knew that there was no way I could see anything on a night like this, but still, there were these little pinpricks of light out there… and they were dancing and sparkling… a bit like specks of dust in a sunbeam.
I even tried closing my eyes but that didn’t make them go away. If anything, it made them easier to see. I kind of tried to reach out towards the things with my mind but I just couldn’t get any sort of grip on them. They seemed to slip away like water through your fingers.
I was still puzzling over the things when Megan appeared.
“You should have been there,” Megan said, giggling. “Claire and Annette were trying to dance the can-can and then Droopy joined in to show them how it was done and then…”
She stopped talking… I guess she could see how little I cared.
“You feeling okay?” she asked. “Should I go and get Miss Parsons?”
“No, I’m fine,” I answered. “I just wanted a bit of time on my own. Leave the light off though, would you. I don’t want anyone else coming in here and disturbing us.”
Megan nodded. “What’s up?” she asked, She sounded a bit worried.
“Nothing much. I was just enjoying the storm and thinking.” I thought about telling her about the little lights but there really wasn’t any point. I mean… she couldn’t even see the island.
Megan pulled a chair across to join me but I didn’t mind… at least she understood I didn’t want to talk. So we sat there together in silence, staring out into the night. The storm was properly raging now. There was a bit of light from a couple of streetlights and from the occasional flash of lightning and you could see the sea churning down in the harbour.
She didn’t even say anything when we saw somebody battling their way down the street below us, dressed head to toe in yellow waterproofs. We did share a bit of a smile, though.
And even when Droopy went galumphing down the corridor to tell everyone to settle down and put the lights out, we carried on staring out into the night. The storm seemed to be rising to a peak now. Waves were crashing over the breakwater and the spray was being thrown about by the raging wind, adding to the sheets of rain.
And then, above the violence of the storm, there was this noise… this strange cry that just didn’t sound human. It made you think of power and cruelty… and of pain.
Megan gave me a look… she’d heard it too. I smiled back at her, kind of relieved to know it wasn’t just me.
And I guess that must have been what I’d been waiting for because, without really thinking about it, I stood up and got myself ready for bed.