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Calico Girl

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Amongst hundreds of other girls, Giselle walked to Houghton Chapel alone. Everyone else was in knots of three and four, young women who’d come on to Wellesley from school together, organised to room together, and stuck together like glue. Giselle had no one to pal up with - even her own roommate wasn’t particularly welcoming. Elisabeth Warren had planned to room with another girl, a best friend since the age of three. Something had gone wrong and someone was going to do something about it. At which she stormed out of the room, which had been the last Giselle had seen of Miss Warren in a waking state during her entire three days at Wellesley so far. Giselle, a Manhattan girl to the tips of her toes, was not only banished to the wilds of Massachusetts for her college education: she had to share a room with a privileged, silver spoon, local girl. Which at least meant that the roommate wouldn’t be staying on campus as much as she would if she were an out-of-towner like Giselle. Weekends were looking up.

Giselle found herself near the front of the group of girls when they reached the chapel steps. One particularly stylish looking girl, her red hair swept up beneath her class cap, had led the girls across the lawn. Now a Sophomore brought a gavel to her, and she rapped it on the door of the chapel.

‘Who knocks at the door of learning?’ came a voice from inside.

‘I do,’ replied the girl with the gavel. ‘I am every woman.’

‘What do you seek?’ The voice from within the chapel echoed.

‘To awaken my spirit through hard work, and to dedicate my life to knowledge,’ replied the girl.

‘Then you are welcome. All women who seek to follow you may enter here. I now declare the academic year begun.’

Giselle wasn’t entirely sure whether the thrill that ran down her spine was from the fine words and the solemnity of the occasion, or because of the beauty of the upperclassman who was first to greet President Carr and enter the chapel.

* * *

When Giselle returned to her room in Severance, she found it full of young women. Miss Warren, at the center of the group, ignored Giselle entirely when she walked into the room and flopped down on her bed.

There was an hour until the dinner bell. Classes wouldn’t begin until the next morning, and Giselle had never been one to open a book if she didn’t have to. And no one expected the Freshmen to do any pre-reading. She listened to the chatter of the other girls - all locals, all from the same, exclusive prep school, it appeared.

‘Well, I think it’s all going to be marvellous,’ said one, in a deep voice that made Giselle shiver.

‘Oh, I’m sure it will be everything our mothers said it would be,’ replied Miss Warren. ‘But Joan, dear, we were promised that we should room together, and here you are stuck with that overweight heap, and as for me...’ Miss Warren’s voice trailed off, but Giselle saw that two or three heads turned to look across the room at her.

The blonde girl with marcelled hair and the deep voice frowned at Miss Warren. ‘Betty! You haven’t made the least attempt to get to know Miss Levy. And Connie Baker is sweet.’

‘And you won’t have a word said against her, right?’ replied Miss Warren. ‘Fine. Listen, let’s go down to the living room. It’s getting stifling in here.’

Miss Warren stalked out of the room, followed by all the girls except the blonde one, who called after them, ‘I’ll catch you up. Someone save me a cig?’ Then she turned back into the room, and walked up to Giselle, holding out her hand. ‘I’m Joan Brandwyn. I’m a friend of Betty’s, we’ve known each other almost our whole lives.’

Giselle sat up and shook Miss Brandwyn’s hand awkwardly. ‘Giselle Levy. But I guess you already knew that.’

‘May I sit down?’ asked Miss Brandwyn, motioning toward the bed. Giselle nodded. ‘Betty’s a dear, but she sometimes forgets that there are more people in the world than just her. You’re not from Massachusetts, are you?’

Giselle spluttered. ‘Manhattan, actually.’

‘My, my! Whatever made you come to Wellesley?’

Giselle suspected that Miss Brandwyn was trying hard to be friendly, but her low, lazy drawl and her New England accent made the whole conversation feel like an insult. Giselle shrugged. ‘It’s the best school there is, and they accepted me. Why shouldn’t I come here?’

‘I didn’t mean anything by it, I assure you,’ said Miss Brandwyn quickly. ‘May I call you Giselle, by the way? I know everyone is still on polite terms at the moment, but all things being equal, we’re here for the next four years and we may as well start as we mean to go on. And you must call me Joan, of course.’ Miss Brandwyn - Joan - smiled so winningly at Giselle that she felt compelled to accept the suggestion. The next moment Joan had jumped up from the bed. ‘Come, Giselle, let’s go collect my little roommate - Miss Constance Baker, but I call her Connie - and join Betty and the others. You’ll be quite welcome. I’ll handle Betty - I know how she works.’

As Joan herself had said, Giselle had the next four years ahead of her among these young women. And Giselle wasn’t about to let Miss Warren - New England snob that she clearly was - get the better of her.

* * *

Constance Baker was as loveable as Joan had said she was. Even Betty Warren, when given no choice by Joan, warmed up a little to both her own roommate and that of her best friend. Giselle and Connie found themselves drawn into Joan and Betty’s circle of friends, and once that happened, neither Giselle nor Connie found it hard to find a seat in the dining room. The first week of classes passed off quite peacefully, and it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that Giselle realised that Betty hadn’t truly forgotten the issue of roommates.

It was the first weekend of term, and by rights, Betty should not have been permitted to leave campus. But the rules were different for the Warrens, and when Giselle returned to their room after an early morning tennis match with Susan Delacorte, she had the room to herself. Betty had gone home for the midday meal, taking Joan along with her.

Connie called by late in the afternoon, while Giselle was wrestling with French. ‘Betty not here either?’ she asked from the doorway.

Giselle turned away from her books gratefully. ‘She and Joan have gone to Betty’s home. They’ll have to be back before curfew.’

Connie sidled into the room. ‘Do you mind if I come in?’

‘Not at all! I’m completely tied up in knots over this French.’ Giselle shut her book and stood up from her desk. She held out a box of cigarettes to Connie. ‘Smoke?’

Connie nodded and took one. ‘Isn’t French a simply dire language?’

‘I’ve learnt it my entire life, and I detest it,’ said Giselle, pausing to light her own cigarette and then passing the match to Connie. ‘I’m thinking I might change to Italian.’

‘Oh, you can’t change!’ said Connie, ‘Not until after Wintersession. It’s like the room freeze.’

Giselle laughed bitterly. ‘This college should come with a handbook,’ she said. ‘The number of things they just assume you’ll know...’

‘I think there is a handbook,’ said Connie. ‘I’ve just never seen it.’

‘What’s this about a room freeze?’

Connie never had a chance to answer. From the door, Betty Warren spoke. ‘It’s some archaic rule that apparently means Joan and I won’t be able to share a room until after Thanksgiving!’ Betty flounced into the room, tossing her purse, hat and gloves on her bed.

‘I didn’t know you wanted to swap,’ said Connie, quietly.

‘Joan and I have been planning this for years,’ replied Betty, taking a cigarette from Giselle’s pack without even a glance in the owner’s direction. ‘I’m not about to let some rule interfere with that. Especially not when my mother is chair of the Alumni Association.’

Which, Giselle realised, explained why there were different rules for Elisabeth Warren.

* * *

Betty got her way, and less than two weeks after the beginning of term, Giselle and Joan spent an afternoon moving their belongings. Connie helped both of them, scurrying back and forth between their rooms with armfuls of dresses and shoes and books and hatboxes. Betty wandered down to the tennis courts, not even helping Joan. Joan herself laughed, and worked just as hard as Giselle and Connie. When they were done, Joan kissed the other two on the cheeks and left Severance to hunt out Betty. Giselle and Connie returned to the room that was now theirs to bring some order to the utter chaos. They were greeted at the door by the red-headed President of the senior class.

‘What in heavens name is going on, here, girls? You’ve had two weeks to get your things in order!’

Connie darted past and into the room. Giselle, however, sauntered past the older girl, looking back over her shoulder with her best devil-may-care attitude. ‘We’re not at boarding school, you know. And in any event, I’ve only just been transferred into this room today.’

‘But you can’t have!’ replied the senior.

‘It’s true, Miss Sommerville,’ said Connie, finding her voice. ‘Giselle - Miss Levy - was rooming with Miss Warren. Miss Levy and Miss Brandwyn have only just changed rooms today.’

‘Miss Warren?’ said Miss Sommerville. Then muttering under her breath, she added, ‘That explains the room freeze.’ Giselle smiled a little, hearing the mutter. Miss Sommerville saw the smile, and evidently appreciated the sense of humour behind it. ‘I don’t know that we’ve been introduced properly, Miss Levy, is it? Amelia Somerville.’

They shook hands, just as Giselle had been drilled by Miss Abbey in their most recent ‘Poise’ class. Not too firmly - one wouldn’t want to be thought mannish.

‘Giselle. Levy. And this is Constance Baker.’

‘Oh, I know Constance,’ said Miss Sommerville. ‘We went to the same Prep school, many years ago. It’s good to see you here, Connie.’

A broad smile broke out on Connie’s face. ‘It’s marvellous to be here, Amelia.’

‘I’m glad you think so.’ Miss Somerville turned back to Giselle. ‘I hope you come to love Wellesley, too, Miss Levy. Now, as you said, you’re not in boarding school any longer, but if Miss Inches decides to have a snap inspection, the two of you will end up gated for three months. So I’d suggest you get to it. Nice to have met you, Miss Levy.’ Her eyes held Giselle’s for a long moment before she left.

Connie was putting Giselle’s dresses away in their shared wardrobe. Giselle began putting her trousers away in the bureau, and wondered how to ask her new roommate about Miss Sommerville.

Connie saved her the trouble. ‘Isn’t Amelia wonderful?’ she said, longingly. ‘I simply worshipped her as a kid.’

‘I can understand why,’ replied Giselle. ‘She’s lovely,’ she added softly.

‘Oh, yes - all the girls at school loved her. Her father is very well off, something in manufacturing. She always had the latest books and the nicest clothes, and she’s very generous.’ Connie babbled away. ‘She helped me with French one year when I was having real difficulties, and there were rumours that she paid for extra tutoring for a girl a year above me. Sarah, I think. She would have failed otherwise.’

Giselle straightened the photograph of her mother on her bureau, and soaked in the insignificant details Connie was providing as though she would be examined on them later.

* * *

Giselle, Connie, Joan and Betty were leaving the dining room, busily discussing what they would do with their evening, as none of them had passes to go into the village.

Miss Inches, the housing director, came hurrying up to them. ‘Miss Levy, might I have a word?’

Giselle took her hand from Connie’s arm and waited with Miss Inches by the dining room door while the other three left in the direction of the Severance sitting room.

‘Yes, Miss Inches?’

The housing director was a slightly mousey woman, with greying hair that she wore mostly loose, when sweeping it up fashionably would have made her look far more elegant. The interminable gray suits didn’t help either, and Miss Inches was universally regarded as drab and dull because of it.

‘I’m so sorry no one mentioned this to you before, Miss Levy. Somehow the information simply slipped through the cracks.’

‘Mentioned what, Miss Inches?’

‘There’s a bus, on Saturday mornings, that takes you girls into Boston. To Temple. Somehow the chaplaincy office didn’t have your name on their list.’

‘Oh. No, I had no idea,’ replied Giselle.

‘The bus leaves from outside the entrance to Tower. Eight o’clock Saturday mornings. And of course, you’ll still be required to attend Chapel on Sundays.’

Giselle nodded, inwardly groaning at the prospect of her one day of sleeping late being taken away from her.

‘That’s all, dear,’ said Miss Inches. ‘Chaplaincy will be expecting you with the others on Saturday morning.’

‘Thank you, Miss Inches,’ said Giselle, and hurried around the corner in the direction of the sitting room. Once she was out of Miss Inches’ sight, she slowed down. She patted her pockets, but she didn’t have her cigarette case with her. Betty would have some, so Giselle sped up her pace again as she strode towards the sitting room.

Connie, Joan and Betty were clustered at the end of one of the large sofas. As Giselle came into the room, Connie’s face lit up.

‘We thought we’d go over to Tower and take over their television set,’ she said to Giselle. ‘What do you think?’

‘Of course, it’s not as though there will be anything watchable on the television,’ added Joan, ‘but the point is to annoy the girls in Tower.’

Giselle raised her eyebrows. ‘I think that sounds like a reasonable way to spend the evening. Bets, do you have...?’ Betty held out her cigarette case before Giselle had even finished the sentence. Giselle grinned at her as she helped herself. Connie snatched at the matches and leaned in close to light Giselle’s cigarette. Giselle smiled back at her. ‘Thanks, pet.’

‘What did old Inchy want with you?’

‘I’ve got religion, apparently,’ said Giselle. ‘There’s a bus in to Boston Saturdays. I’m supposed to have been on it, but no one bothered to tell me about it until now. Is that in the elusive handbook, do you think, Connie?’

Connie giggled.

‘Anyway, now my Saturdays are as scheduled up as my Sundays. Let’s go lay siege to Tower!’ Giselle dismissed the news offhandedly. She’d seen Betty’s face pale slightly when the connection between ‘religion’ and Saturday sank in, and Giselle didn’t want to prolong the agony. Joan and Connie had noticed nothing, and Giselle linked arms with the two of them. Betty hooked her arm Joan’s, and the four girls went barrelling through the corridors, managing to scare more than a few upperclassmen as they went.

* * *

Twenty girls caught the bus into Boston on Saturday mornings. Twenty girls marked out for all the college to see as they boarded the Bus outside Tower while the rest of the college was struggling out of bed and wandering into the dining room for breakfast.

There were enough seats on the bus that no one had to share. Giselle found a seat and leaned into the window, hoping to catch a little bit more sleep before they arrived at Temple.

She didn’t know any of the other girls. Giselle knew every other freshman by sight, at least, which meant that the others must all be sophs and juniors and seniors. She wondered idly how she ended up as the only Jew in her year.

The bus ride was silent, mostly because everyone was trying to doze as much as they could. After Temple, one of the seniors took them all to a nearby coffee shop while they waited for the bus to arrive to return them to Wellesley, and suddenly everyone was far chattier. Giselle sat at a table with two sophs drinking coffee.

‘Everyone’s always quiet during the drive in,’ said one of the sophs. ‘It’s too early in the morning, and we never get over the resentment of having to do it all again tomorrow.’

The other laughed. ‘You’ll get used to us, Giselle. We’re not as insular as we might all look.’

By the time they arrived back at the college, Giselle had two more friends.

* * *

Giselle often went running to clear her head. She had a regular path that she took, finishing at the tennis courts. Amelia Somerville usually played a match late on Sunday afternoon, and Giselle was usually there, at the end of her run, to watch. She sat on a small hill above the courts, her chin in her hand, watching Amelia run and stretch and laugh across the net with her opponent.

Amelia won, and Giselle jogged up to her as she packed up her rackets.

‘Enjoy the match?’

‘As always,’ replied Giselle.

Amelia grinned. ‘Are you going to watch every match I play?’

Giselle shrugged. ‘I enjoy watching tennis.’

‘Do you play?’

‘I haven’t much of a choice while I’m here, as with many other things.’ Giselle saw the look Amelia shot at her, and almost regretted her words.

‘Come up to my room with me. I’ll make coffee for us,’ said Amelia, and Giselle couldn’t hide a grin.

Amelia’s room was in Hazard Quad, at the top of the tower in Beebe. Amelia tossed her racket bag in a corner, and waved Giselle into the room. ‘I’m just going to take a quick shower. Make yourself at home. My roommate has a weekend pass, so no one will disturb you.’

Amelia quickly gathered up some clothes and dashed out the door, leaving Giselle behind. Giselle wandered to the window and looked out over the lawn. But the view from Amelia’s window wasn’t really what Giselle was interested in. She turned around and looked at the room itself. It was a big room, said to be one of the nicest in the college. Amelia and her roommate had done a little decorating - one of them at least had marvellous taste, and a knack for making a room look pretty. Their sofas and chairs held ruffled cushions, small occasional tables held candles and flowers, and a bookshelf was topped with tastefully framed photographs. Amelia’s blue-and-white quilt was her own, not one provided by the school, and on her desk was an expensive-looking desk set. Giselle ran her fingers along the leather edge of the blotter.

The door opened and Amelia walked back in. Instead of her tennis whites, she was wearing a brown plaid skirt and a white blouse. Her hair was still damp from the shower. ‘That feels better,’ said Amelia. ‘Now for coffee.’

She went over to her little cupboard and brought out a hotplate. ‘Strictly forbidden,’ she acknowledged with a wicked grin in Giselle’s direction, ‘but there are advantages to being the senior class president. Remember that,’ she said as she turned back to the hotplate and the coffeepot. ‘It might come in handy some day.’

‘I doubt it,’ replied Giselle.

‘Why so negative, Giselle?’ asked Amelia. ‘Is something wrong with your classes?’

Giselle flopped down into a chair. ‘Apart from the fact that I detest French but I’m not allowed to change to Italian until after Wintersession, our English Literature class is studying the same books I did last year at school, and Miss Abbey is a dried up old maid? Everything’s simply dandy.’

Amelia simply looked at Giselle, a searching look that left Giselle squirming in her chair. Neither girl said anything until the coffee was done, poured out into delicate china cups, and Amelia brought it over to Giselle and settled herself into a chair.

‘Why did you come to Wellesley, Giselle?’ Amelia asked.

‘Because my father agreed to pay for my college education, and so my mother told me to pick whatever college I liked.’

‘Which still doesn’t answer my question,’ replied Amelia.

Giselle shrugged and took a sip of her coffee before answering. ‘Wellesley is the best. Why shouldn’t I want that? Isn’t that why you’re here?’

Amelia smiled. ‘I’m here because my mother came here.’

‘Well, mine didn’t.’ Giselle could have kicked herself. Here she was, all alone with the Senior class president, drinking coffee, and she had to be her antagonistic self.

‘I’m not saying it makes me better than you,’ said Amelia, her voice chilling a little. ‘Just that ... I have different reasons for being here.’

There was another silence. They were getting awfully good at them.

‘Tell me about your family, Giselle. I want to understand where you have come from, how you got here.’

Giselle grinned a little. ‘I came here by train, like everyone else.’

Amelia grinned back, and Giselle breathed a tiny sigh of relief. Then she shrugged. ‘I grew up in Manhattan. We’re not poor, but we’re not terribly rich. I went to a day school - most of the other girls I was at school with went to Barnard, or to schools down South.’

‘Bryn Mawr?’ Amelia asked.

‘A lot of them. No one else came here. I didn’t come here with a gaggle of friends, like Joan and Betty.’

‘I can understand how hard that would be. But you have friends - like Joan and Betty, and Connie.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And you have me,’ Amelia added.

Giselle tried very hard not to grin.

Walking back from Beebe to Tower after her kaffeeklatsch with Amelia, Giselle was still trying hard not to grin too broadly.

The air was clear and crisp, and part of her smile was all about that - about the colours in the trees across the lake, and the crunch of leaves underfoot as she walked past Jewett. Giselle realised that she could fall in love with this place very easily. If she let herself, she could love the college and the other girls, and even her classes - except for French. She could spend four years here in utter bliss, away from Manhattan and her mother always raging about her father, her father’s revolving door of girlfriends who always wanted to call her "Gigi". If only she could shake this feeling that this place didn’t really want her here.

Giselle emerged from Jewett and wandered past the Shakespeare House. She looked over at the porch, where two girls sat close together. Giselle recognised her two sophomore friends from the Saturday trips to Boston, and was about to say hello. She had no time constraints, after all.

As Giselle walked towards them, one girl leaned over to the other, and kissed her. Not on the cheek, but on the mouth. And not jokingly, either. It was a long kiss, and for just a moment, Giselle couldn’t take her eyes away.

Then she swallowed once and turned back towards Tower.

‘Huh,’ she said, under her breath, as she walked away as quietly as she could.

* * *

Giselle had been vocal in her opposition to going to Chapel, and so Connie had taken her by the hand, pretending to drag her along with brute force. Not that Connie could be particularly brutal to anyone. It simply wasn’t in her nature, or if it had been, it was trained out of her at an early age.

Connie was still holding her hand when they ran into Amelia.

‘I haven’t seen you much, lately, Connie,’ said Amelia. ‘I hope you are well.’

‘Fine, thank you, Amelia,’ said Connie.

‘And how about you, Giselle?’

Giselle dropped Connie’s hand. ‘I’m fine, Amelia. I watched your game against Sara Hampton last week, you played really well.’

‘I’m glad you enjoyed it.’ The bells of Houghton Chapel began to ring. ‘Come, girls, we must hurry!’

Giselle took the hand Amelia offered. ‘It would never do for you to be late. Now, with me they almost expect it.’

Quietly, behind them, Connie said ‘I did try to get her to hurry up.’

Giselle turned around and saw Connie’s disappointment. She reached out. ‘Connie, if it weren’t for you, I’d still be in bed. Now, come on.’ Connie took Giselle’s hand and the three of them raced across the lawns to the chapel.

* * *

Giselle, like most of Wellesley, went home for Thanksgiving weekend. She ate dinner with her mother and her grandparents and far too many other relatives. They all went to Temple on Saturday, and after her Boston Saturdays she found that she could follow the service far more easily than she had in the past.

She was surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and all the while, she missed Connie and longed to see Amelia. She had to sneak away to smoke, because her grandmother didn’t approve, and the only thing Giselle truly appreciated was that on Sunday morning she was able to sleep late.

There was a Senior-Freshman mixer Sunday night, as everyone was returning from their weekend away. It was supposed to be a community-building exercise, to make sure that the Freshman knew the Seniors well enough to call on them for support as midterms approached.

But it was also a mixer organised almost entirely by the seniors, who, at the end of a holiday weekend, weren’t quite ready to go back to a supposedly ‘dry’ college existence. So in the absence of the housing directors and social directors, the punch was a little spiked, and the coffee just a touch Irish.

Giselle drank her share of the coffee and the punch. Amelia had called her over as soon as she entered the sitting room in Beebe where the mixer was being held. She and Giselle chatted about Thanksgiving weekend, and about Giselle’s never-ending quest to switch from French to Italian. Then Betty and Joan and Connie arrived, and Giselle was swept away with them and the rest of their group of Freshman for much of the evening.

Giselle knew quite well she was tipsy when Amelia came and asked her for a cigarette. When she handed one over, Amelia leaned in and kissed Giselle on the cheek.

‘You’re a star, I knew you’d have one,’ she said. ‘Come outside with me? It’s getting terribly stuffy in here.’

Giselle laughed and followed Amelia. They took one step outdoors and scurried back indoors. ‘I forgot it was November!’ said Amelia. ‘Come on. My room.’

Amelia took Giselle’s hand to guide her through the groups of girls sitting on the stairs. ‘Don’t you have homes to go to?’ Amelia asked them, laughing.

The response was jovial. ‘We just escaped from them, Melly!’ exclaimed one girl, a senior Giselle didn’t know very well.

Amelia pulled Giselle through the door, and then crossed the room to open a window and let in the crisp air. Amelia lit her cigarette standing by the open window. ‘There,’ she said. ‘Not quite as cold as actually being outside, not as stuffy as that room downstairs. You’ve been having fun tonight, Giselle.’

Giselle reached out her hand. ‘Matches?’ Amelia passed them over, and Giselle lit a cigarette for herself.

As she gave the matches back, Amelia asked, ‘Just how much of the punch did you drink?’

‘Enough,’ replied Giselle. ‘I needed to loosen up.’

Amelia raised her eyebrows. ‘And why would that be?’

‘I need a reason?’ replied Giselle, blowing smoke in Amelia’s direction.

Amelia smiled. ‘Heaven knows I never need one.’

Both girls laughed, until Amelia looked closely at Giselle. ‘You’re getting goosebumps!’ she exclaimed, shutting the window with a bang. Amelia took a shawl from the cupboard and sat down on the bed next to Giselle, wrapping the shawl around Giselle’s shoulders. ‘We can’t have you getting cold, my dear!’

While Amelia’s arm was still around her, Giselle leaned in towards Amelia to kiss her. She felt Amelia’s breath on her lips and saw Amelia’s eyes grow wide. But Amelia pulled back.

‘Just what are you trying to do, Giselle?’ exclaimed Amelia.

Giselle was left speechless. She stared at Amelia, who stood up and moved to the other side of the room, before rounding on Giselle again.

‘I really don’t know what you were thinking,’ Amelia said. ‘And I’m not sure I want to.’

‘I was just,’ Giselle paused. ‘I wanted to kiss you.’

Amelia spluttered. ‘That’s what I thought. What on earth made you think I would... I don’t know what it’s like in New York, but we’re grown up now. It simply isn’t done!’

Giselle didn’t mention her two Sophomore friends at the Shakespeare House.

Amelia kept talking. ‘If this is the way kindness is going to be seen, I may as well not have bothered. All this time on a calico girl! I should have expected it, really.’

Giselle cringed at being called a calico girl. She stood up, the buzz from the doctored punch having mostly dispersed through cold air and shock. ‘I think I should go now.’ She took the shawl from around her shoulders and laid it carefully on the bed.

Amelia watched her, expressionless. ‘Go.’

Giselle shut the door behind her and hurried down the stairs, desperate to get out of Beebe and away from the laughter of the girls and the mix of too much scent with the smoke from cheap cigarettes. She stopped long enough to find her wrap and hurried out the door.

Connie found her later that evening, curled up on her bed. She’d heard Connie bidding Joan and Betty goodnight, and for a moment Giselle had thought about pretending to be asleep. But she was lying on her bed fully dressed, having taken off only her shoes. If she pretended to be asleep, she would simply have to pretend to be woken up, because Connie would insist on helping her to change into nightclothes and hanging up Giselle’s dress.

So Giselle kept her eyes open when Connie walked into the room, and didn’t even bother to wipe away the tears.

‘Honey, what on earth happened?’ asked Connie, hurrying to the side of the bed.

‘Amelia and I, we had a fight.’

‘Why?’

Giselle let out a sharp breath. ‘She doesn’t waste time on charity cases, apparently.’

‘That’s ridiculous,’ said Connie, stroking Giselle’s hair.

‘Oh, I know,’ said Giselle bitterly. ‘She’s the most generous person you’ve ever known. She called me a calico girl.’

Connie’s hand stopped for a moment, then the gentle stroking began again. ‘Well, first of all, you’re not a calico girl. But would it matter if you were?’

‘It does to Amelia.’

‘And what does Amelia matter? Sure, she’s class President, but of the seniors. She leaves at the end of this year, and you’ll be here for another three. You can be friends at a distance, but it’s the rest of us who matter, right?’ Connie smiled down at Giselle.

Giselle’s smile in return was weak, but it was a smile.

‘Now,’ said Connie, ‘we need to get you out of that dress before you ruin it completely.’ Resolute, Connie made Giselle stand up, and then disappeared from the room while Giselle was changing. She returned with a basin of water, and while Giselle bathed her face, Connie hung up the discarded dress. Feeling decidedly better, Giselle reached for her cigarettes. As always, Connie leapt for the matches, and moved in close to hold up a light.

‘You’re such a little gentleman, Connie dear,’ said Giselle, drawing in on the cigarette until it lit. Then she took the cigarette from her mouth, breathed out the smoke, and leaned in to kiss Connie.

It was the kiss she had wanted to share with Amelia. She pressed her lips against Connie’s, teasing until Connie opened her mouth. One hand was on Connie’s shoulder - the other, the one still holding the cigarette, was at the back of Connie’s head. She pulled gently at Connie’s lower lip with her teeth, and then slid her tongue through to slide it around Connie’s lips as well as her own.

Giselle pulled back to make sure that Connie wasn’t about to push her away, too.

Connie didn’t let Giselle get away. She pulled Giselle back to her, and the two girls continued kissing.