Maria Thermann

Showdown in Pink


      „Attention, mes amies! Un, deux, trois!“ Madame Katharina Tolstoy, no relation to the famous author as she had frequently pointed out on enrolment day, cast her steely eye over the line up of her pupils. She stopped her inspection in front of one grubby, tutu-clad girl and frowned.


        “Your mother has received my letter, yes? Dress rehearsal is on Saturday at 6pm sharp. She will allow you to come, yes? She will send you out to me in a…harrumph…suitable outfit for such an important occasion, ma petite?”


        “Mum’s been a bit busy this week…new job, you know. Lots to learn and all that.” Willow Band looked down her pink leotard and tights and frowned at the mud stain on her shin, as if staring at it would make it disappear. “I’ll be there on Saturday, suitably dressed,” she hastened to add, when Madame raised a perfectly drawn eyebrow.


        “Best foot forward now, girls, and no more chatting!” Madame clapped her hands and flicked the switch on her ancient tape recorder.


        “Please, not Schubert’s Trout again!” Willow groaned. “Old Pointy-Toes is obsessed with that tune!”


        “Shush, she’ll hear you!” Felicity Henderson whispered next to her. Willow’s arch rival and fellow pupil raised her arms gracefully and pirouetted as instructed. “Won’t kill you to wash your own tights once in a while, lazy bones!” Felicity hissed.


Willow stuck out her tongue and tried to copy Felicity’s arm movements – with moderate success. That was the trouble with Felicity. She was just so terribly good at everything. Except for jumping. She was useless at jumping. Sack of potatoes coming down with a crash, bang, wallop! Being a vampire gave Willow a natural advantage when performing some of Madame’s more ambitious dance routines. Willow flew through the air with feline grace. Felicity had clearly not forgiven her for being chosen as Saturday’s leading lady.


        “I’d like to help more around the house, but Mum won’t let me. She wants me to concentrate on my poetry,” Willow smiled sweetly. Felicity tripped and had to steady herself. The Band’s mantle piece displayed a small silver trophy inscribed with the words Stinkforth-upon-Avon’s School for the Gifted Annual Poetry Award 2009. Felicity had been tipped as the hot favourite. Losing out to Willow had been a bitter blow.


Madame finally released her pupils, after she had repeated Schubert’s fishy melody five times over. Willow felt as if a whole shoal of trout swam through her head. She hurried to take off her ballet shoes and stashed her soiled tights and tutu into her gym bag. She felt better once she was back in her jeans and boots. She ran out of the school and down the drive, heading for the bus stop.


Willow waited for ten minutes but the bus didn’t arrive. She was just trying to make up her mind, if she should return to school and telephone her mother or start walking home, when a car stopped next to her. It was the headmaster.


        “No bus today?” Mr. Henderson stuck his head out of the car window. Felicity sat in the back craning her neck to see what was going on. “Can we give you a lift?”


        “Something must have happened. If you wouldn’t mind dropping me off at the junction?” Willow didn’t like accepting a lift but it had started to rain and she didn’t feel like walking through the mud again.


        “I’ll run you home; you can’t walk in this weather! We’ll take the route by the river, it’s quicker.” Mr. Henderson closed the window and Felicity opened the door for her.


It was only when Willow got into the back seat that she realised there was another passenger in the car. A small boy, about seven or eight-years-old, sat next to Felicity.


        “This is Kevin, Mr. Bakewell’s son.” Felicity explained. “His father couldn’t pick him up from school today, so Daddy’s taking him home first, if you don’t mind.”


Kevin was the son of their former headmaster. Willow was itching to ask, why his father had left his post so suddenly at the beginning of the autumn term, but something in Kevin’s face kept her from enquiring into this mystery. He was staring hard at the seat in front of him, avoiding eye contact.


Mr. Henderson turned into Wilberforce Lane, recently named after their late vicar, and the car hurtled through the stormy night. Hail stones beat against the windscreen and looking through the window, Willow noticed that the river had swollen in the last few days due to exceptional rainfall. Felicity prattled on about her day at school and Willow answered mechanically, whenever Mr. Henderson directed a question at her. Kevin kept staring at the seat in front of him and never uttered a word.


Suddenly the car swerved and Mr. Henderson let out an oath. Felicity squealed and Kevin gasped. Mr. Henderson slammed the breaks and the car came to the shuddering halt. In the headlights stood a man, his hair wild, eyes wide. He was drenched to the skin but didn’t seem to feel the cold.


        “Dad?” Kevin’s frightened voice broke the silence.


        “Hello son. Get out of the car Henderson and face me like a man!” Mr. Bakewell shook his fist at the windscreen.


        “Don’t be foolish, Bakewell. I’ve got three children in the car and I’m taking them home. Where’s your car? Shall I run you home?” Mr. Henderson spoke kindly but firmly.


        “Henderson, you slimy toad! Don’t play the Mr. Charming game with me! You cost me my job. Now get out of the car!”


Mr. Bakewell had planted himself in front of the car and seemed ready to spend the night there if necessary. Mr. Henderson hesitated. Willow suspected that he was a bit of a coward.


        “Don’t do it, Daddy.” Felicity put her hand on her father’s shoulder. “No wonder he lost his job. That man’s deranged.”


        Willow rammed her elbow into Felicity’s ribs and said with a brief nod into Kevin’s direction. ”Kevin’s dad is a bit upset. I’m sure he’ll be better when he’s back inside and had some tea or something.”


A large tear rolled down Kevin’s cheek and then another and another. Willow tried to think of something comforting to say, but at that moment Mr. Henderson decided to impress his daughter and he opened the door for a fraction. Mr. Bakewell darted around the car and grabbed hold of Mr. Henderson’s sleeve before the startled headmaster could shut the door again.


Mr. Bakewell pulled Mr. Henderson out of the car and pushed him towards the muddy embankment. Below, the river rushed past and swept away everything in its path. The children watched how a bedraggled Mr. Henderson slipped, fell and crawled through the mud searching for his glasses. A crack and the sound of shattering glass told Willow that he had found them. Felicity had started to squeal again, a high-pitched squeaking noise, which reminded Willow of her mum’s boiling kettle. She gave Felicity a good slapping, which shut her up instantly.


        “Stop screeching and help me get those two away from the river’s edge!” Willow pulled Felicity out of the vehicle. “Kevin, stay in the car. Don’t move, do you hear?” Willow glared at the little boy. Kevin’s white face stared defiantly back at her for a moment, but he obeyed.


It would have been easy for Willow to grab hold of either man and hurl him back into the car one by one. A weasel like Mr. Henderson posed no difficulty to her vampire strength. Even the chunky Mr. Bakewell wouldn’t stand a chance against a determined vampire girl – but how could she use her natural strength without giving away what she was? A demon, a bloodsucking fiend, a creature of the night! What would become of her career as a poet if she had to give up English literature with Miss Witherspoon?


The hamlets in this district and the village of Stinkforth-upon-Avon in particular were a closely knit community. Her parents had warned her that she mustn’t draw attention to herself. The unfortunate incident with the late vicar had stirred up a lot of publicity. Therefore, fellow pupils, their parents and teachers were strictly off the menu. Willow couldn’t remember what her parents had said about eating headmasters, but they were probably off limits, too.


Mr. Bakewell had started circling Mr. Henderson, who was cowering in the mud, rain flattening his thinning hair and soaking his expensive suit. Closer and closer, tighter and tighter the circle became. Willow didn’t think Mr. Henderson stood much of a chance against the bulk of the former headmaster, but Felicity had started shouting encouraging remarks such as Go on Daddy, give him what for and Daddy, I know you can take him!


        Henderson, you louse! Fifteen years of my life I invested in that school, made it what it is today. I hired you, you little pipsqueak. Makes me sick when I think of all the times you sucked up to me, those endless Saturday afternoons going fishing, those bland dinners with your sugar-obsessed dentist wife! How I hated it!”


        “Now look here, Bakewell, be reasonable. The school’s governors decided it was time for a change. Nothing to do with –“


        “Nothing to do with you? Hah, I’ve got it on good authority that it was you who planted rumours about my gambling debts and my drinking. All lies, filthy lies!” Mr. Bakewell charged and took a swipe at Mr. Henderson, who’d only just managed to stand up again in the slime.


Both men fell to the ground and started rolling around, taking turns to hit each other, albeit not very successfully. Eventually, Mr. Bakewell’s bulk won the day and he sat on the flattened Henderson, pummelling him with blow after blow.


Felicity had just started making her kettle noise again, when the embankment gave way and both men fell into the river.


They were carried away with the current, a gurgling, hissing, spitting conveyor belt racing through the autumn night. Felicity screamed. Kevin scrambled out of the car and would have run down to the river, if Willow hadn’t stopped him.


        “What did I tell you about staying in the car? Felicity and I will deal with this. You’re far too…important – if any adult passes by you must tell them what has happened. Tell them we’ve taken the path towards Lower Stinkforth!” Willow shoved Kevin back into the car and slammed the door shut.


She tore open the boot. She found a spare tire, Mr. Henderson’s waders and two gym bags containing tights and leotards. Willow grabbed the ballet garments and spare tire, pulled a shocked Felicity with her and they hurtled down the path by the raging river.


The wind beat the rain into their faces and it was thanks to Willow’s vampire night vision that she spotted the two men tumbling through the water – still clinging on to each other.


        “There, by the bridge! If we make it in time, we can save them!” Willow ran ahead with Felicity panting after her.


        “Here, hold this!” Willow shoved the car tire into Felicity’s hands. She staggered backwards under the weight but didn’t let go. Willow knotted the tights’ legs and the leotards together, wrapped one end of her make-shift rope around the tire, fastening the other end to the bridge.


        “Here it goes!” Willow took the tire from Felicity and threw it off the bridge, where it hung just above the torrent.


        “Daddy, grab the tire! Please, Daddy, please hear me!” Felicity lay down on the bridge and screamed into the abyss below.


“Gotcha!” Willow felt the heavy weight pulling at the other end of her pink fishing line. “Are you going to lie around all day, lazybones, or are you going to help me reel in two hapless trout?”


Felicity jumped to it and together the girls helped the men scramble onto the bridge. Willow suppressed a grin at their sorry sight. Mr. Henderson had lost his jacket and his shoes. He had gained two black eyes. Mr. Bakewell had a bruise across his cheek and one of his front teeth was missing. His jacket was in tatters and he wore only one shoe, showing a darned sock on the other foot.


        “Thank you Willow, I don’t know what I would have done without you!” Felicity held out her hand. Willow shook it briefly, not looking at her, finding it far more interesting to stare at her own boots instead. “Erm…you won’t say anything at school about this, will you?” Felicity said imploringly.


Willow swallowed hard and made up her mind. “Nah, who’d want to hear a story about girls going fishing anyway? Dead boring!” They both grinned.


“By all that is sinister and evil, what’s been going on here?” Willow’s mother appeared out of nowhere, holding Kevin by the hand. The little boy ran to his father and crouched down beside him, throwing his arms around his father’s neck. “I was on my way to work, when I found him in the car all on his own!” Mrs. Alice Band put an arm around her daughter’s shoulders and pulled her close.


“Mr. Henderson was going to drive us home and then suddenly there was Mr. Bakewell and he said, Mr. Henderson was a louse and had cost him his job because of fishing…no…gambling, I think he said…and then they fought and the embankment gave way and they fell into the river and –“


“…and in the excitement you forgot about being an evil demon and risked your own skin saving these two fools?” Alice Band held her daughter’s face between her soft hands. “I see your tights and leotard are as filthy as ever…what is Madame going to say?”


Willow chuckled. She pictured Madame’s face at seeing two of her pupils appearing in muddy tights for Saturday’s dress rehearsal. As for the tutus, the wind had torn them out of the open car boot and had blown them across the field, where they now graced a scare crow.


        “I promised Felicity I wouldn’t say anything at school about this, Mum.” Willow looked into her mother’s pale face and frowned. “You won’t mention anything in the village either, will you?”


        Alice shook her head and took her daughter’s hand. “You show way too much consideration for a vampire. Not wishing to draw attention is one thing, but this borders on humanity!”


        “I only promised I wouldn’t SAY ANYTHING…I didn’t promise not writing about it!” Willow squeezed her mother’s hand. “How about Trout Fishing with Tights as a title for next year’s poetry competition?”


        “That’s my little fiend!” Alice’s beautiful face lit up.


The rain had finally stopped pelting down and a pale moon rose in the sky. The moonlight fell on mother and daughter smiling at each other and for a moment, Mr. Henderson thought he had seen fangs. He shook his head and mumbled: “A month into the job and I’m just as barmy as Bakewell. Curse that school!”


The End


I'm gradually revealing more about Willow's world and the people living in Stinkforth-upon-Avon. Having finished Willow's own website ( I'm planning to eventually present the stories as a graphic novel or a series of cartoons. There'll be music on the site thanks to help from the Welsh Music Foundation and bands located in Cardiff. Just keep popping back to the site, there'll be changes once a month.Comentario del autro


Todos los derechos pertenecen a su autor. Ha sido publicado en a solicitud de Maria Thermann.
Publicado en el 15.01.2010.


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