Jo Maynard was, and always had been, a force to be reckoned with. Within an hour she had ensconced herself in Mrs Ransome’s study and, sitting in state with a colourful rug over her knees, she faced Ceridwen, Liddy and Meg.
“Now then, young lady,” she addressed herself to her granddaughter, “what’s all this about, if you please?” Meg rather stunned at her grandmother’s appearance, burbled for a moment, until Ceridwen rolled her eyes.
“It was me, really, Mrs Maynard,” she explained. “I asked Meg to send you the picture to see if you recognised it. And since you’re here,” she added daringly, “I assume that you did.” Mrs Maynard peered at her closely.
“Quite. And you have the look of someone I know,” she said accusingly. “An old girl somewhere in the family, I take it?”
“My grandmother,” said Ceridwen. “I think you probably knew her. She was Gwensi Howell, back in the day.”
“Gwensi! Well, that explains a lot. How is she?”
“Pretty well,” said Ceridwen, hoping that this wasn’t going to turn into one of those interminable conversations that old people liked to have.
“Excellent. Yes, I knew Gwensi when she was young, when the school took over her brother’s house, during the War. How she hated us all then,” and Mrs Maynard sighed reminiscently. “I get the occasional news from my niece Daisy – she and your grandmother were great friends at school, you know.” Ceridwen murmured something affirmative, and then pulled her scan of Carey’s photograph out of her pocket, and laid it on the desk.
“Mrs Maynard, *do* you know who she is?” Mrs Maynard reached out and touched the edge of the paper, then pulled her hand away, and Ceridwen was surprised to see that she was crying.
“Yes, I knew her. The poor girl, I knew her very well. But where did you get it from? It’s mine, you know. I took it. When I got your e-mail, I looked through all the albums, but that one was missing. How did you get a copy?” Ceridwen wondered how best to answer this, when an interruption saved her. It was Carla, one of the school’s reception staff.
“Please, there is someone to see Ceridwen Lytton here,” she said briefly. Ceridwen frowned – surely it couldn’t be her parents?
“Who is it, Carla?” asked Meg.
“Someone called Miss Howard? She said she would…”
“Carey!” exclaimed Liddy and Ceridwen in unison. “Oh, could you ask her to come in here, please, Carla?” asked Liddy, before Ceridwen could decide what was best. Carla nodded obligingly, and a minute later they heard the sound of light footsteps, and Carey Howard walked into the study. Her eyes lit up at the sight of Ceridwen, and she moved forward impulsively, her hand out, only to stop and stare, as everyone did, at the elderly lady sitting behind the wide mahogany desk, who was clutching the arms of the chair, knuckles white, a look of nightmarish horror on her face.
“Marie?” And then there was nothing to be said, for Mrs Maynard had fainted.