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In Spite of Fear

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Mary Lou shuddered as the thunder rumbled overhead. Everyone expected her to have gotten over her fear of storms after last term. It was as though people thought that since she had been brave once, she would never be scared of storms again. She did so hate to disappoint them and that was why she had cobbled together this mask of bravery whenever storms broke out. 

But sat here, in the middle of the dorms as the storm clouded over Malory Towers, was a different matter entirely. No-one was awake to see how it really affected her.

Lightning flashed, lighting up the dorm through the gap in the curtains and Mary Lou tugged her duvet up a little higher. It couldn’t hurt her in here, she knew that, but it made her stomach churn and her heart race. It made her remember that night where she thought that her and Daphne would end up tumbling down into the rocks and sea below. Sometimes sleeping under a storm brought nightmares of Daphne losing her grip and Mary Lou screaming into the abyss as the other girl plummeted out of sight.

“Do you want me to close the curtains?”, the voice was soft but it made Mary Lou jump all the same and she looked around for the source. 

“Oh, Sally! Did I wake you?”, Mary Lou asked as she realised that the other girl was out of bed.

Sally shook her head, then she crossed over the room and put on hand on the curtain.

“Wait”, Mary Lou whispered a little louder and she carefully got out of bed and crept over to the window as well.

She hesitated for a moment. She could practically feel Sally studying her. The quiet girl always seemed to be reading more off of people than most, as though she had some deep insight that passed other people by. 

“C-could you open it?”, Mary Lou asked eventually and Sally slowly drew the curtain back. Mary Lou could barely see, everything was covered in a midnight blanket pelted in rain. The rain rattled against the window and Mary Lou went stiff as the thunder growled again. She waited.

The flash of lightning lit up the fields and cliffline for just a moment, and illuminated the sea and it’s choppy, angry waves. Then darkness covered them all again. Sally closed the curtains and the dorm fell into similar darkness.

“Did the storm disturb you too?”, Mary Lou asked.

“The thunder”, Sally confirmed.

“You’re not scared though are you?”, Mary Lou asked. She wrapped her arms around herself to stop another shudder. She wasn’t surprised when Sally shook her head. Sally didn’t seem scared of much. 

“I wish I could be braver”, Mary Lou sighed.

“You are”, Sally said.

“Not like Alicia, or you, or...or Darrell”, Mary Lou shrugged.

“But we’ve rarely been tested on our bravery”, Sally said. She stopped speaking for a moment as another rumble of thunder rolled over the school.

“If you’re not scared to do something, it’s not really brave to do it”, Sally said once the thunder had passed, “you were terrified to do lots of things, but when it mattered, you did them anyway. That is being brave”. 

Mary Lou felt tongue-tied. She knew Sally didn’t say things unless she meant them and what she said made sense, but Mary Lou still couldn’t imagine being considered a brave person.

“The storms moving out over the sea, it’ll quieten down soon”, Sally said, changing the subject, “best we both try and get back to sleep”. With that, Sally returned to her own bed and Mary Lou had little choice but to go back to hers.