"I've heard the rumors," said Kelly, closing the door behind her. She hadn't changed one bit since Annabelle had last seen her, heading off to MI-7 and ready to save the world from terrorists. Or criminals. Or whatever MI-7 did. They might actually be the criminals, for all Annabelle knew. "Is what everyone's saying true?"
"Is what true?" Annabelle sat behind Auntie Carmilla's desk, her mouth pursed and frowning at an accounting ledger. The whole place was filled with dusty old books that hadn't helped Annabelle a bit. Auntie Carmilla had been dreadfully old-fashioned in so many ways. There wasn't even an internet hookup in this dreadful old place if it hadn't been put in by the geeks.
"Are you the headmistress?" asked Kelly, smirking at her. "Did Miss Fritton toddle off to a nursing home to live happily ever after with Matron and leave you to be responsible?"
"Auntie Carmilla and Matron did not toddle off to a nursing home," said Annabelle, affecting her best 'I know better than you silly first years' voice, not that it ever affected Kelly, except sometimes when they were in bed together. "They've received word that Sir Piers escaped from prison and they've decided to go after him with Geoffrey Thwaites."
"Only after she almost lost St. Trinian's," said Kelly, crossing her arms. "Again."
It had not been one of Auntie Carmilla's finest moments, but they'd turned it around. Daddy had come lurking about, like he did every few years, trying to insist that Great-Aunt Millicent had left the property to him and bringing the police to evict the students. She'd almost lost the whole school, but Annabelle had come on holiday and found Daddy off his medication and Auntie Carmilla on it. A medication switch - or two, thanks to Celia's fumbling - later, and Auntie Carmilla was back to her old self, forging a lost Gaugin to sell Daddy, while the First Years were selling some very overpriced sugar pills to a couple of fences they knew in Mayfair.
"Why are you here?" asked Annabelle, closing the account books and rubbing her eyes. "I thought you were off saving the world. We've sent Daddy off packing; there's not much saving left to do at St. Trinian's."
"I'm here to save the Acting Headmistress from being too much of a bore," said Kelly, and Annabelle would have looked up to find out how Kelly had gotten behind her, but Kelly's hands were on Annabelle's shoulders, and a month running St. Trinian's was like five years running Annabelle's last school, made only a little easier by knowing that Celia was teaching English and keeping an eye on the worst students. At least, as much as Celia noticed anything.
"Mmphflrergle." Annabelle slumped down, her cheek resting on the account book and her nose itching from the decades' worth of dust. Didn't matter. Kelly knew exactly where all Annabelle's stress points where, especially that knot in the base of her neck that had been throbbing non-stop for three weeks. "Can't stop. Too much to do."
Her girlfriend's literally killer touch with pressure points was going to work against her this time. Annabelle struggled against the mush that her brain was turning into. "What's wrong, Annabelle?" asked Kelly, her voice sultry in Annabelle's ear.
Annabelle wiggled out from under Kelly's hands and stood, whirling around and pointing at Kelly. "You're a terrible person. The mortgage is paid off, but the property taxes are overdue. Auntie Carmilla is dead set on this Sir Piers vendetta and she's left the whole mess in my hands. I can't lose St. Trinian's on her."
"I'm calling Polly," said Kelly, reaching out and swiping dust off Annabelle's cheek. "If there's anyone who can make sense of the mess of St. Trinian's finances, it's her, and I don't trust the new Bursar. After that, you and I are going to sit down and have a long talk about how, if you're going to call anyone to get you out of a mess, it's a St. Trinan's alum. You're not alone in this, Annabelle."
"Chelsea and Peaches have sent their daughters here," said Annabelle. "I can't let the Posh Totties down. Or afford to lose their tuition."
"We'll fix it," said Kelly. "Trust a St. Trinian's girl to handle St. Trinian's. That's why you're headmistress here instead of that stuffy Cheltenham Ladies Academy."
"I hated it there," admitted Annabelle. "The teachers aren't any less snotty than they were when I was a student." She laughed, a little awkwardly. "I think they were in talks with Verity Thwaites to replace me, even before I left."
"Verity, seriously?" asks Kelly. She slides into the chair Annabelle had been in, wraps one arm around Annabelle's waist, and tugs her down into Kelly's lap. "Whole school will be done up in a month. Everyone hates Verity."
"Everyone's afraid of Verity," corrected Annabelle, leaning back in Kelly's arms. "She'll bully them into hiring her and the students will be too terrified to step out of line. We, on the other hand, need to get the money for the taxes, and Auntie Carmilla just pulled the lost Gaugin scam on Daddy again, so that's out."
"Damn," said Kelly, leaning her head against Annabelle's back. "I suppose everyone does suspect that after the second or third time."
"Or fourth or fifth," said Annabelle. She nestled back, closer to Kelly, and sighed. "I did find about two dozen phone lines installed in an actual boiler room. We could start selling stock in St. Trinian's. It's not like we could ever afford to pay out."
"I've got a better idea," said Kelly, with a Cheshire Cat grin Annabelle could hear a mile away. "Why don't we start selling stock in Cheltenham's instead? Verity will have to pay out, the parents will hate her, and Polly can hook up the phone lines so they'd never find out it was us."
"Kelly, you're brilliant," said Annabelle, bolting upright. "Call Polly, and quick. The final property tax payment's due next week, and I'll be damned if I'm going to lose St. Trinian's on a Fritton's watch."
"That's my girl," said Kelly.