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more than bedfellows

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They certainly couldn't be the first or only ones.

It was a boarding school. Of course the girls were going to sneak out at night, into each other's dorms and beds, the dark and tranquillity of the night cloaking them.
After all, no one in their dorm said a thing, when they found Darrell and Sally in bed together, wrapped in each other's arms.

On the contrary, the other girls followed their example.

Belinda and Irene were the next two girls who got into the habit of bed-sharing. This, however, led to them leaving their things in either girl's cubicles, which made finding their lost belongings even more bothersome.

Daphne and Mary-Lou were found in bed together one morning, near the end of the winter term. No one said a thing, but the other girls did send them secretive smiles all throughout breakfast. Mary-Lou blushed but smiled all the same. Daphne just lifted her chin higher and squeezed Mary-Lou's hand tighter.

Unsurprisingly, Bill and Clarissa climbed into bed together every night, almost immediately after they discovered their shared love of horses. They were stuck quite firmly at the hip, from the minute they got up and then well into the night.

Kisses, on the other hand, felt more intimate and were kept well away from any judgmental eyes. Darrell, usually the first to wake, kissed Sally every morning to wake her up. Her lips would curve into a smile and then she would open her sparkling brown eyes, framed by her thick lashes and brows. Then, they would get up and wake the other girls, before getting ready for a fresh, new day.

Bill and Clarissa were far less chaste. They were constantly sneaking off together to spend time with their beloved horses, but of course, they did other things together as well. Broom closets, empty music rooms, a hidden alcove by the stables; their kisses were hungry and frantic. Hands roamed freely over their bodies, tugging hair, palming breasts and groping asses. Clothes and hair rumpled, they left with their cheeks red and spirits high. And always, hand in hand.

Belinda and Irene preferred a more subtle approach. A hand brushing through the hair, a light touch on the arm or waist, reminding the other to take a break from their arts every once in a while. Lending each other their things as much as they lost them. Piling food on the other's plate at meal times. Hooking their pinkies together as they roamed the school grounds for inspiration.

The night after Gwendoline left, the sombre air of the common room rested heavily on the girls. Mary-Lou's eyes were shining with tears as Daphne held her. Then, quite suddenly, she sat up. She turned her watery eyes onto Daphne, and said fiercely, "Life's too short to not love wholly." And she took Daphne's surprised, beautiful face into her hands, and kissed her. Without hesitation, she kissed her back, equally fervent.

When they separated, Mary-Lou looked deep into Daphne's ocean blue eyes and declared loudly for the entire room to hear, "I love you, Daphne Millicent Turner." Daphne broke into a dazzling smile and said just as loud, "And I love you, Mary-Lou Thomas." And then she took her into her hands and kissed her soundly.

The common room, after a shocked, tense moment of silence, broke into deafening screams and cheers. Mary-Lou's declaration of love seemed to have set off a chain reaction in the girls. Bill smiled and turned to Clarissa, her heart beating furiously.

"Clarissa Carter, I love you!"

Clarissa laughed and hugged Bill tightly.

"And I love you, Bill Robinson!"

Irene let out a whoop of amazement and threw her arms around Belinda too.

"I love you, Belinda Morris!"

"I love you too, Irene Finnigan!"

Then, everyone turned their eyes to the last two girls in the room, and they laughed.

"Well," said Darrell cheekily, though her eyes were earnest and loving, "I'd say I love you too, but then you already knew that."

Sally giggled, her chest bubbling with hope, adoration and love. "Come here, you silly goose," she said, already pulling Darrell closer to her. They could feel each other's smiles as they kissed, warm hands cupping their cheeks and flooding the rest of their bodies.

The entire common room was in a riot. Everyone was laughing and cheering, overwhelmingly ecstatic. It was certainly a monumental moment for every girl single there.

"GIRLS!"

The cheering cut off abruptly. Sally and Darrell jumped away from each other, but it was too late. There, standing at the door, was Miss Potts, with a queer expression on her face.

The silence in the common room now was more deafening than the cheers from before. The girls were as white as sheet as they slowly disentangled themselves from each other. Seeing this, Miss Potts seemed to recover from her shock. She cleared her throat, and then, aiming for casual and missing it by a mile, she leaned against the doorway and smiled a little shyly.

"What my wife would have given to be a part of this," said Miss Potts ruefully.

A gasp resonated throughout the entire room as their eyes widened with understanding. Then, quite suddenly, Darrell burst into happy, relieved tears and rushed to hug Miss Potts, tugging a crying but beaming Sally behind her. All the girls seemed to surge forward at once, cheering and shrieking gratefully as they wrapped their arms around their teacher, who was most certainly, the best teacher in Malory Towers ever.

Miss Potts laughed and accepted their hugs, even tearing up a little herself. "Alright, alright, settle down girls," she chided gently, as the noise level had risen again. As they quietened down, she gazed at each girl's eager, happy faces, and beamed too.

"I assume, that you girls have just celebrated something very, very special, and please know that I am so, so happy and proud of all of you that you have chosen the path of courage and acceptance." Miss Potts paused, and her eyes turned a little sad. "I am sorry that you have felt the need to hide your relationships and feelings for each other. Indeed, the world is a cruel place, and not everyone's hearts and minds are as open as yours are." She looked each girl in the eye in turn, the passion in her own burning fierce and bright. "But, remember that you have the support of every single girl in this room, and me. I cannot promise you that everyone outside this room will accept you, but what I can promise you is this: as long as you have each other’s backs, as long as you stick together and protect each other, you will be stronger than anyone who stands in your way.”

“One day,” she said, half-grimly and half-hopefully, “One day, there will be no reason to hide.”

The girls nodded, their faces set with determination, and their hands held tightly together.

Miss Potts broke into a teasing smile. “Now, as fun as that was, it is far past your bedtime so you should all head back to your dormitories now.”

The girls groaned playfully, and Miss Potts laughed. “Come on, you monkeys. Give me one last hug and go up to bed!” And so, with a laugh, the girls wrapped their arms around Miss Potts gratefully and went up to the bed with their hearts much lighter than before.

That night, as Darrell and Sally laid in bed, Darrell whispered, “I love you, Sally Hope.” Sally smiled and snuggled deeper into Darrell’s arms. “And I love you, Darrell Rivers.”