“Buller dear, please forgive my outburst. It was rude and uncalled for. I really don’t know what’s come over me recently. I seem to be in the grip of a dreadful funk of late. Please do tee off.”
Buller was looking pale and a little shaky. He had just had a fiery face full of his little sister at her most scary and intimidating. Pat was little in stature only. She was two years younger than his own fifteen years, and almost two feet shorter. He had always been in awe of her. He wished fervently he had her self-possession and confidence. He took a deep breath and said, “No Pat, you were correct, it is you to tee off first.”
Buller stepped back and watched as Pat made her little sand pile and placed her ball. He noted how she carefully adjusted the tight bun of coiled fair hair on the back of her head, checking it was central so it would not upset her balance. He noted the way she had rolled up the sleeves of her white shirt so her forearms were bare and showed the sinewy strength so unlike any other girl he’d ever seen. Not that he’d seen many, only his other sisters, Winny and little Mary. Pat’s fierce concentration and determination to do everything she ever attempted as perfectly as she could, was one of the things Buller both admired and was intimidated by. Pat looked up the fairway, jutted her chin in her typical manner, then grinned over at him. The smile was genuine, radiant and full of love and warmth, so he could do nothing but grin back and laugh at his own trepidation. Patricia may have been fierce and quick to anger but she was also happy, high spirited and full of mischievous humour.
It is little wonder so many of my friends want me to introduce them or curry favour for them. They all love Pat’s company. She is in many ways quite ageless; she does not seem girlish and silly like others her age. She seems to have changed so suddenly. Her crowd have been left behind. That gang of boys she used to play with are scarcely ever seen now. Childish games on the beach to a three handicap at the golf in only a few months. Drat! I do wish she’d not been so ridiculously good at it. I feel like a flailing fool now.
The wood sang in the air and the music of the strike told of a perfect hit. The ball soared straight and further than Buller could ever hope to manage without hooking into the rough.
After the game, Buller went into the clubhouse and left Pat fuming about the unfairness of the men only rule. She set off for home, walking at her normal long striding pace that always drew comment from her mother: “Patricia dear, that is a most graceless gait. Do slow down.” Pat’s response was always to thrust out her chin and lengthen her stride further.
As she came into Christchurch’s main street she heard her name called and saw two girls she knew from school. They were peering at the dresses in Goddard’s Drapery store. Her father’s shop.
“Goddard, can you get us a discount on bonnets?”
Pat stopped before the two and said, “I could but I won’t. I saw you two teasing one of the borders last week. You are a cruel and nasty pair and I’ll not give you the time of day.”
One grinned and said to the other in a stage whisper: “What can one expect? Her father is only a shopkeeper after all, no breeding.”
Pat stepped closer to the speaker and thrust her face close, as the taller girl shied away. Pat spoke softly: “Oh I see, so the girl you teased was fair game because she’s too well-bred, too aristocratic and I’m too common. Tell me, what is acceptable? Stupid foolish prattling ninnies like you are the judges, are you?”
“Ninnies indeed. We shall tell Miss Sweetapple about your coarseness.”
“You do that and don’t forget to include the ‘foolish prattling’ part. Be gone before I show you what real coarseness is and knock your empty head off your skinny shoulders. And leave Clara Fitz-Gibbon alone from now on or you’ll have me to answer to.”
Pat’s face was inches from the older girls as she spoke and she could see the fear and shock there. They didn’t speak again and scuttled off arm in arm.
What is happening to me? Everything seems to bother me and I’m forever snarling at people and getting stroppy. That Clara girl seems nice enough but I’ve never even talked to her and here’s me threatening those twits. I wanted to biff that silly girl. I seem to want to biff everybody. What ever has come over me? I feel happy enough but only when I’m on my own. Everybody miffs me. Even Mary and Winny and especially Buller. I think I need a friend. Yes, Clara shall be my new friend. I should have a sensible pal. I do hope she’s not wet like those drips. Yes, I shall speak to her first thing Monday morning. Why do boys get so silly as they get older? All my pals are a pain now.
At six forty-five on Monday morning Pat ran up the stairs in the large Victorian mansion that was Miss Sweetapple’s Academy for Young Ladies. On the top floor there were three dormitories housing the boarding girls. Pat stormed two and caused much flapping and complaint before she found the room containing Clara Fitz-Gibbon. Clara was sitting at a dressing-table mirror carefully brushing her long ash blond hair with counted strokes. She heard the commotion as Pat came in and said, “Oh do give over you silly ninnies,” as a few of the five girls Clara shared with objected to Pat’s invasion of their privacy.
Clara swivelled in her seat and peered at Pat through the veil of hair hanging across her lowered head. Pat walked to her and stopped uncomfortable close. “Do lift your head, Clara. You are so pretty, ’tis a shame to walk around stooped and hiding as you do. I’m Patricia Flora Goddard and I’ve decided we shall be friends now. Best friends. When do you take breakfast? I shall join you for a cup of tea and we shall begin.”
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