Miss Timber lost no time in scheduling an emergency staff meeting for that evening, and immediately after dinner the entire teaching personal was congregated in their large recreational room.
“I only have a few words to say to you,” Ivy Timber began, “before I must release a few of you to supervise the girls.”
“Can’t you trust the prefects to do that for half an hour or so while we have a cup of tea?” queried one of the younger mistresses from nearby. Miss O’Connor, as mistress to the sedate Fifth Form with the largest syllabus in the whole school, always had more marking and lesson preparation with which to occupy her spare time.
Miss Timber flicked her eyes to her youngest mistress and back to the room at large. Bridget O’Connor looked uncomfortable.
“We must have Cina Lee as our Head Girl next year!” Miss Timber said bluntly.
The staff room gurgled with laughter at this unexpected announcement.
“But she is staying for four terms, not three. I think we ought to give someone else a chance,” Miss Logun put forward. She was not antipathetic to the notion, but she had a strong sense of justice, and Cina Lee was one of the youngest in the Fifth Form.
“Who else ought we to give a chance, Ellie?” scoffed Matron.
“I don’t know; Philippa Mortimer?”
“Phil?” the others chorused.
“You might be onto something there,” Miss Trevor said slowly. “Phil would only have two terms in the Sixth Form, whereas Cina would have four. Phil for two terms; then Cina for the next two. And have one of the Upper Fourth lot for the final two terms. That would work, wouldn’t it?”
Her colleagues nodded.
“But Selina,” Miss Barratts moaned, “it’s only the beginning of March.”
The school bell rang for evening Prayers, but Miss Timber was too composed to make a face at her watch.
No one knew how she did it, but Miss Timber had often been regarded by many of the Juniors as ‘superwoman’, and she proved it at the most unlikely of moments; she contrived to reform the Sixth Form before lunchtime the following day.
A note of apology signed by each of the Sixth Formers turned up underneath her soup bowl, and her classmates were civil to her forever after. Moreover, the chronic power struggles within the highest form had diminished, and poorly-founded petty jealousies discarded. The younger girls swiftly noted the change and reacted to it, and authority was restored to its rightful altitude.
“So thanks, Cina,” Nellie wound up her feelings to the best friend she had ever had. “I’m still not as happy as I’d like to be, but there are things and there are things.”
“My mother would say that.”
“I haven’t heard you mention your mother before.”
“Nor you yours.”
“It’s just an aunt,” replied Nellie with a wry smile.
Cina squeezed her friend in a tight hug. “Come to ours for some of the holidays,” she offered. “Rosemary and Sara always have their friends but I never have anyone to ask.”