* * *
Nellie Russell was quite happy enough among animals for the greater portion of her leisure time. Lizards, parrots, cats; they were all the same to her, and good company, if not ideal.
Her duties were to oversee it that each animal was fed regularly by its owner, and to frequently change and restock the water ‘trough’ and to see to animal hygiene. Her job was not difficult, but it was time-consuming, and she kept strict records of every animal and every stock in her study, which she would have to update habitually.
The Sixth Form at Limeys always shared studies—save for the Head Girl, who had one of her own. Studies had been claimed on the first day of the year in September, and it so happened that one such study fell to the possession of the two ‘leftovers’: stinging Kath Nettleson and reclusive Nellie Russell. Unhappy as both parties felt at the chance arrangement, neither dared to cross Matron with such a ‘nonetical’ reason as a ‘mutual dislike’; thus they stayed put as so.
That afternoon, Kath stole the rare opportunity to invite Mel into her study for a chat while Nellie was indulging in a strenuous game of tennis with some of the Fifth Form, who constituted her friends.
When she returned, rather hot and sweaty despite having changed back into uniform, she arrived to find the two girls settled in the comfiest armchairs, one leg propped up on another, elegantly sipping cups of tea in the true ‘posh totty’ English style.
“That was exhausting!” Nellie remarked, with as much apparent ignorance to coolness as was scarce in most brave young damsels.
“Oh?” Mel Castle asked patiently, with no further betrayal of interest than Kath, who only sniggered.
Proud for her daring to be greeted with admiration, Mel made another infuriating comment. She was so scathing that Nellie had to clench her teeth to keep from erupting in screams of anger and upset. Mel was bullying her, and she knew it.
But she smiled sweetly. “Are you coming to see the Lower Fourth concert?”
“In a while,” Kath said with a leisurely yawn.
Nellie shrugged. “Suit yourself;” and left.