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It was almost half-term, but Drusilla had taken staff leave of absence

under the medically advised all-purpose condition suggested by the

sanatorium sister: allergic attack.

She was recuperating in Bradford-on-Avon with her mother, Diana,

who had a lovely little honey-coloured cottage near to the centre,

with a garden full of perennial favourites such as Love-Lies-Bleeding.

She would remain there as dust from the school renovation had to

settle, as must the nuclear mushroom cloud which had been raised

by the discovery of the Snodbury communication from years gone

by.  A blast from the past some vulgarians might have dubbed it.

Her mother had slowly come to understand the swings and arrows

of unrequited love and outrageous fortune.  She accepted that

her immature over-reaction to a lover’s tiff, though personally

interpreted at the time as a mere flutter of a social butterfly’s wing,

had instigated a tsunami of overwhelming heartbreak for everyone

concerned, including unborn generations.  One of the unborn was

sitting before her, very much post-natally present. Diana had

paid for her foolish revenge and acknowledged that she had been

wrong to marry Syylk and to pass Drusilla off as his daughter.  Syylk

had been her man and she had done him wrong. This had been as

crass as some country music lyrics, but she had had no excuse. It had

been painful to see her daughter becoming more and more like her

biological father as she aged in teaching.  At this rate she was going

to need a blowtorch, not Botox!

There were tears, recriminations, justifications and apologies, but

how to respond to the discovery was the real dilemma. Diana felt

that she owed Snod an apology for her years of deceit.  Drusilla

wasn’t sure that she, personally, could face the truth.  What if it

became common knowledge between the staffrooms?  She would

lose all credibility.  Parents’ Evenings could become problematic.  He

might want to catch up on all the occasions he had missed in her

personal development.

Mother, do you still love him? Drusilla asked, crumbling a

monumental slice of Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge.

Victoria sponge cake recipe

Dru, I’ve never stopped, cried her mother, nevertheless gathering up

all the crumbs on her plate and licking them greedily from the tines

of her cake fork.

Then we must do him the honour of replying sincerely to his ill-fated

missile, said Drusilla decisively.

Missive, corrected Diana.  Honestly, her daughter was supposed to

be a teacher!  Dru’s missile! You wouldn’t have heard such poor English

in their day.  (Their being the times and mores of Snod and herself.)

Diana was increasingly tired of having to proof-read her daughter’s end

of term reports.  Even as a lax mistress, Diana had known how to spell

practise as a verb.  Yes, we will reply very soon, agreed Diana.

No, you will, mother.  It is your responsibility.

I know, Diana, said.  I will send him a Valentine. Let’s find one that is

suitable.  What about this for the verse?:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

If you ask me again,

I’ll answer: I do!

Drusilla blanched.  No, she said. How about:

Roses are red,

Like my eyes as they water.

But here’s a surprise-

We both have a daughter!-?

That’s quite good actually, said Diana.

I was joking, said Drusilla. I think we have to be a shade more subtle.

Like that ecru you picked out for your floor paint?

Precisely, answered Drusilla. Tone is all –important- in life and


Yes, there are fifty shades of grey, I believe.

Drusilla could only hope that her mother hadn’t read it.  Less is

more, she explained.

There speaks the art teacher, sighed Diana. (But it was never the

case in lacrosse, she thought privately.)