Carla, Rosetta and Jess met the next day in a corner shop down the road from the estate where Jessica and her family lived. It was an unintentional meeting, but a meeting nevertheless.
Carla walked in, about to buy a newspaper for her dad and some cough sweets for David, who had contracted a sore throat in the night. Her mum had miraculously mislaid every biro pen in existence, to quote her, and Carla needed some socks and hair utensils: they had all somehow vanished during the Summer. The store was a small but a very general store, and had sold each of these items at some time or other within the last year. Carla hoped to discover each of them today.
She found teh biros in a short space of time. There were blue ones, black ones, red ones and green ones. Carla didn't know which colour was wanted, but she had a £20, so she decided to buy one of each colour and keep the unwanted ones. It was funny how pens had the power to make themselves invisible at the very time they were wanted.
Newspapers were also easy to find. Not having clear instructions as to which newspaper was wanted - though she may not have been listening - Carla picked up The Daily Mirror (Carl was later sent back for The Times).
Carla picked out a few packets of hair clips, slides, a few hair bands and a couple of scrunchies for school. As she was doing this the door of the shop opened and some nearby windchimes tinkled in the warm burst of air. Carla did not look up, but she though, "What a warm day! I could do with an evening picnic!"
At this exclamation Carla turned abruptly, dropping three of the biros. It was Jessie.
"Oh, hello," Carla said quicly as she stooped to pick up the red one. The blue seemed to have rolled under a stand and the black was nowhere to be seen.
Trying to retrieve the blue pen resulted in the newspaper, hair things and the remaining pen crashing to the floor. Carla turned scarlet, and Jessica was giggling as she helped to pick up the fallen things.
"What are you after?" Carla asked finally.
"Livvy's birthday card. She'll be seven next month. I'll give her some money as well, I think."
"I just need cough sweets and socks now," Carla said. "I've been browsing and I don't think either of those things is here."
"There are some cough sweets at the counter," observed Jess.
Carla stood on tiptoe. "I'll get them when I pay."
Carla made a short fruitless detour of the shop in search of socks, while Jessica browsed the card section, and soon both were ready to pay.
They did so, picking up the sweets on the way, and were about to exit the shop. Just as Carla pulled the handle, someone else pushed on the other side of the door. Carla fell back, surprised, just as Rosetta came in.
"Rosie! What a coincidence!"
"You must've had an hour's walk from your house to get here," observed Jess.
"I cycled of course," Rosetta replied. "We'll be seeing Vienna soon. School starts in ten days."
"I know," Carla said dubiously.
Rosetta gave her a look and Carla hurriedly changed the subject.
"It's sos hot. I think we should do something to round off the holidays and the hot weather. What about an evening picnic?"
"A picnic? Why not make it a midnight picnic? There's a full moon tomorrow night," Rosetta suggested. "We can have it on the ruins of the old house by our shed."
This idea was acclaimed with enthusiasm, and the three quickly made plans outside the shop as to how to get out of their homes and how to transport the food. Carla offered the remains of her £20 note and Rosetta agreed to drop the food in the shed on the way home.
"Tomorrow night; Saturday night"; the words were said again and again. The food was bought in the shop that moment, then Carla realised that she had been sent out forty-five minutes ago with orders not to be longer than twenty-five minutes.
She ran down the road and back to her house, making five minutes of a usual ten. Nevertheless she was not home before Mr Carter, and, as he was no person to go back on his word made not lightly several months ago, Carla found herself confined to her room and the dining room for forty-eight hours. That lasted until Sunday evening.
It was a huge blow. Carla was not even permitted to use the telephone to inform her friends.
"Why do you want to use the phone?" Mrs Carter asked. She did not really agree with Carla's punishment. She had been anxious, true, but Carla had been none the worse for her outing and Auriol Carter herself had got over the worry. Mrs Carter also understood that there was a reason for Carla's lateness, as there was a reason for the full use of the £20 Carla had been given. Tactfully Mrs Carter did not press her to repay it. (Tact was something Mrs Carter had acquired through having children; she had alwyas been as tactless as Carla before. On the contrary, having children had not cured Mrs Carter of her happy-go-lucky ways.) Mrs Carter did not want to pry or to know what Carla had been up to. She was sorry for her.
"I arranged to meet up with my friends tomorrow or Sunday," Carla said truthfully.
"I'll ring up Jess and Rosie's mums and tell them that you won't be available this weekend as we have already made plans without your knowing," Mrs Carter offered. That only made Carla feel worse. She declined the offer. She could not miss out on the picnic.
She would not.