A/N: Keep in mind this fic is supposed to be set in the 1950s! :)
"I can't believe you're finally joining me at university!" Darrell exclaimed, her eyes gleaming.
She looked as excited as she had been the day Felicity was going to Malory Towers for the first time. Even though she was now a mature young woman of twenty-two, at that moment she seemed like an excited schoolgirl again, a goofy grin spread wide across her tanned, less-but-still-slightly-freckled face. That grin and that excitement was where the schoolgirl similarities ended, for she definitely did not look like a little girl or even a teenager anymore, but a fully grown woman. She wasn't quite as stylish as Alicia and Betty had become – Felicity had hardly recognized them in the photograph Darrell had shown her – but she had definitely acquired a rather more serious, professional style, with many white button up shirts and blouses and brown and black skirts with flattering cuts.
Felicity looked at herself in the mirror and felt a twinge of nerves. She still looked like a schoolgirl. She had tried her best, tying her dark blonde hair back in a ponytail instead of her usual two plaits, and borrowing some of Darrell's clothes, but she still looked painfully young, almost naïve. She had tried some lipstick and blush on for the first time, but her mother and Darrell's coloring were quite a bit darker than her own, so the blush had looked much too dark on her and the shade of lipstick hadn't looked right. She had hastily wiped it off, in fear her family might laugh at her attempt to look more grown up, and had been too shy to ask her mother to advise her on what makeup to buy; anyway, it was too late to go shopping at that point, so she decided a bare face would have to do.
Darrell saw her young sister looking dubiously at her reflection and smiled.
"You look great, silly. Don't worry. I felt just like you when I first started university...young and lost!"
Felicity smiled weakly at this small bit of comfort.
"Come on, we have to pick up Sally on the way"
Sally had become more like another big sister to Felicity, over the years; she found that she tended to give more sensible, level headed, objective advice than the sometimes hot-headed, biased Darrell. She looked younger than Darrell, and perhaps most of her university classmates, on the outside – still fresh faced, without a trace of makeup, wearing simple, sensible clothes that privileged comfort over style. However, Felicity could tell she was the one who had matured the most since leaving Malory Towers; she always seemed to possess a clear head, a strong sense of self and vision about what she wanted. She was studying History, and was doing extremely well. She also had a very steady boyfriend in a neighboring university, George Wells, and planned to get married after finishing her studies. She was very clear about wanting to wait until graduation to marry, and often expressed her feelings about girls who abandoned their education for this reason.
"It's just such a shame", she sighed, in her soft, somewhat posh voice. "And it's not fair that men can continue their careers while married and women can't."
"Well, they can", corrected Darrell, who was in the driver's seat.
Felicity felt a little nervous. Darrell was good at many things, but driving was not one of them; she had already done two last minute harsh breaking. Sally hadn't yet learned how to drive; she was accustomed – and she chided herself for this – to have George, Darrell and Alicia drive her everywhere.
"It's almost impossible though, isn't it…as soon as they're married, they're expected to focus on their housework and then babies come along…not that I wouldn't like to get married and have babies, I would. But I just think it's such a shame they don't wait to complete their education."
"Are there many girls who do that? Get married before they graduate?" piped up Felicity.
"Oh, yes. It's expected, really. I mean, we have a whole class dedicated to housewife duties. You should see Alicia winding up poor old Mrs. Fields" chuckled Darrell. Sally laughed.
"She's awful. Remember that time Mrs Fields asked us what we would do if our husband invited his boss and wife to dinner at last minute and Alicia said 'I'd tell both him and his boss to cook their own bloody dinner while the wife and I have a smoke in the parlour'?"
Darrell guffawed. "Her face! Poor thing, she's a nice old lady, just really old fashioned. She thinks it's a shame women have to worry their pretty little heads over dreary things like careers. I heard her say that once. Sometimes when you go out with George, Sally, and she sees me studying alone, she pats my arm sympathetically and asks me if I haven't found a nice potential husband yet. So I say 'no' and she just looks at me and shakes her head, muttering 'such a shame'. I never have the heart to tell her I'm quite happy being single, thank you very much."
Sally laughed. "Poor Roger was heartbroken when you turned him down last year."
Darrell groaned. "I felt so bad, but I just couldn't go out with him! He's so…boring! I'm just not attracted to him in the slightest. If I ever find someone, great, but I'm not going to go out of my way to make it happen. If I die a spinster so be it!"
"You'll be a rich writer with the world at your feet and won't need any husband" replied Sally warmly. "Oh…watch out, Darrell, you're driving in the middle of the lane!"
"Oops. Sorry" laughed Darrell sheepishly. "I don't know about a husband, but when I'm a rich writer I could most definitely do with a chauffeur".
Felicity laughed. It always felt strange, listening to her sister talk about men and marriage. It seemed like just yesterday they were two little sisters in school uniforms, playing hockey and lacrosse and giggling non-stop at her father's jokes. She supposed she would see Darrell giggling at boys' jokes now, at parties and meeting.
"Do any of the other girls from back at Malory Towers have boyfriends, or are they married?" asked Felicity. She was genuinely curious, but she only really cared about the marital status of one of them.
"You'll have to ask Alicia on more information about that, she's the one who knows all the gossip" laughed Darrell. "I know she's been playing the field – I can hardly keep track of all the boys she's been toying with. You say I broke Roger's heart, well, she's broken Ron's, Peter's and Brian's hearts in less than one month!"
"She's definitely a heartbreaker" laughed Sally.
"Betty's not much better. They're both always going to parties, getting drunk and going out with different boys each week" said Darrell, shaking her head, a note of disapproval in her voice.
"There's a difference, though", said Sally. "Alicia has fun with her boys. She toys with them and dumps them. She's the heartbreaker. Betty on the other hand…she's the one getting her heart broken most of the time."
"True", reflected Darrell. "I think boys don't take her seriously. She's just Alicia's slightly drunker sidekick."
"I think she picks the wrong ones, as well. I mean, George Lake? You can tell he's trouble from miles away" laughed Sally.
"Not like your George!" said Darrell. "Poor Betty. She was devastated over him. She gets over them quickly, though."
Sally shook her head.
"Alicia makes her get over them quickly by throwing another troublesome boy at her. It's not healthy. She never truly gets over them, she just numbs the pain with more alcohol and another boy. It's all most superficial and frivolous" she sighed.
Darrell nodded in agreement. "There's nothing wrong with partying, but they take it to extremes…"
"So they don't look like they'll be marrying anytime soon. What about the others? Any you know of?" interrupted Felicity, trying not to sound too eager.
"Well, we know Mary-Lou's getting married…she invited us all…"
Felicity nodded. Mary-Lou's letter had arrived in the holidays, telling the happy news. She would be getting married in May.
"…who else? I think Belinda's got some boyfriend, I don't know about Irene…I haven't heard from them in ages. You'll really have to ask Alicia; she knows everything…"
Then the subject turned to something else, and Felicity sighed, slightly frustrated. The person she was most interested in knowing about hadn't even come up in conversation. She supposed Darrell and Sally weren't really friends with her, even though they went to the same university as her.
Gosh, just thinking about seeing her again made Felicity's stomach turn with nerves. She shook her head, inwardly scolding herself for being so silly. She probably wouldn't even remember her, much less what had happened back at Malory Towers. She had probably laughed about it and then forgotten it altogether. Part of her hoped so; it was one of her most embarrassing memories. And yet, another part of her cherished the memory, and still hoped for – for what?
It was silly. What hopes could she have? It had been so long ago, and it had probably been so insignificant to her.
"DARRELL! SALLY!" a voice called out, and for a minute Felicity felt like she was back in Malory Towers, girls calling out excitedly at each other, running around, with flushed cheeks, letting out squeals of joy at being reunited with their friends.
The woman who had called out wasn't running – she couldn't, in those heels – but rather stylishly rushing towards them; and her cheeks weren't flushed, but slightly blushed with powder. However, when she reached them, she let out a squeal of joy, just like the old Alicia did back at school, and hugged them. Darrell and Sally laughed and hugged her back, while Felicity stood back rather awkwardly.
Alicia looked very different; elegant, but with a touch of her natural playfulness and fun-loving personality showing in her colorful necklace and red shoes. Her eyes were as wicked and gleaming as ever, her smile as wide and contagious, only with peach lipstick adorning it.
Her sharp, wicked eyes finally saw Felicity and she gasped.
"Felicity Rivers, is that you? How you've grown!" immediately she winced. "Lord, I sound like my auntie Tessie. Every time she sees us she goes on and on about how we've grown so big even though even though we've stopped growing years ago"
Felicity laughed. Still same old Alicia, with her family stories and her sense of fun.
"Betty still hasn't arrived. Late as usual! Come on, we'll get your room sorted and then we'll take you to see our flat. You'll be sharing with June, by the way, I just took her there and left her to unpack her things."
Darrell, Sally, Alicia and Betty all shared a flat near the university campus. Darrell had offered Felicity a place there, but Felicity had declined; she liked the girls, and they all liked her, but she would feel a bit like an intruder, and she knew the little flat was already quite crammed with the four of them as it was – and with Alicia and Betty being as messy as they were, it was even more crammed up! Neat and tidy Sally had had a hard time with them at first, and Darrell had been close to losing her temper a few times, but all in all they seemed to get on well together as a foursome.
So Felicity had decided to live in the university, at least for the first year, until she found some friends to maybe share a flat with. Darrell had been so lucky; so many girls in her year had decided to go to university, the same university as her. Felicity hadn't been so lucky; only June Johns was beginning this year with her, and Pam. She liked Pam, but she had never been close friends with her; June, she had a complicated relationship with, and she wasn't sure how she felt, sharing a room with her. She was a lot like Alicia, but harder, and had a dishonesty about her that Felicity didn't like. She had done some things, back at school, that Felicity hadn't liked one bit, like the whole anonymous letter incident.
That stupid incident had led to a lot of other things too. A lot of embarrassing situations.
Felicity shook her head like she always did when she remembered something embarrassing, almost as if she was trying to rid her mind of said thoughts.
June looked up from her packing and Felicity braced herself for whatever reaction the other girl would have. She was so unpredictable. She might scowl, she might laugh, she might smile…you never knew with June. Thankfully, she grinned, walked towards her, and thumped her lightly on the back.
"Hey, old thing! We'll be roommates, isn't that smashing? Just like old times. We can plait each other's hair and get drunk."
Darrell looked slightly worried, and Alicia rolled her eyes, laughing.
"June's been talking my ear off about how she wants to go to parties and meet people. Specifically boys. I bet you're looking forward to that as well, Felicity! Maybe you can look after June, she's bound to acquire the taste of alcohol pretty quickly if she's anything like me, and then watch out!" she laughed.
"It's not all parties and fun, though. You'll have to work jolly hard" added Darrell, furrowing her brow slightly.
Alicia laughed and rolled her eyes again. "Gosh, Darrell, don't be a spoilsport. You'll have them wanting to leave before they've even begun! Sure, you have classes, and work…but in the end, the parties and the fun is what you'll remember the most about your time here, so you might as well make the most of it."
"I'll definitely remember your stumbling home drunk each weekend", shot Sally. Alicia laughed.
"Don't be prudish, Sally. Anyway, there's a party this friday, to celebrate the beginning of term. So I expect you'll be coming along…" began Alicia, just to be interrupted by Darrell.
"All right, we'll leave you to unpack your things and then you can both come along to see our flat."
"Maybe I can get Betty to make us all some lunch. She's makes super roast chicken!" Alicia called out as she closed the door beind them, leaving them to unpack.
Alicia did not get Betty to make them roast chicken – she laughed and told her to "fuck off", a phrase which shocked Felicity somewhat, but she didn't show it. The only times she'd ever heard anyone curse or swear was her father, in a moment of hot temper while driving. He had apologized profusely afterwards, due to intense disapproving looks from his wife.
Betty did, however, make them all turkey sandwiches, and Felicity had to admit, they were the best turkey sandwiches she'd ever had.
Betty was as fun-loving and full of life as ever, but she had a tiredness and a hint of sadness to her eyes that was new. She looked as though she had had her heart broken a couple of times but she still managed to laugh and joke around despite it all. Alicia, on the other hand, looked as though she had never had a moment of sadness in her life. She looked almost...arrogant, more aloof and cocksure of herself than ever.
Betty had always been a slightly less charismatic version of Alicia, and now it showed, more than it had when they went to school. Everything Alicia did, she copied. Not only copied, but tried to exceed, as though she knew she was a lesser version and had to do twice what Alicia did in order to compensate. If Alicia swore, she swore worse. If Alicia lit a cigarette, she lit two. If Alicia's sharp tongue criticized someone, she would add a crueler, cattier opinion. Felicity could tell, however, that it wasn't conscious; it was just what Betty did.
The flat was nice and neat when they had walked in, only to be quickly messed up by Alicia flinging her jacket on the floor and by Betty sending her shoes flying. The walls were painted a light blue; Sally's doing. It had a dining room with a sofa and two armchairs, two bedrooms – Sally shared with Darrell and Alicia with Betty, of course - and a kitchen with a long kitchen table and a little stove.
After they had eaten, they had a cup of tea each, and Betty and Alicia had a cigarette. It wasn't long before the conversation turned to gossip.
"Little Mary-Lou's the first one of us to get married! Who'd have thought? She told me to invite you too, June" said Alicia.
"She sounded really happy in her letter", smiled Sally.
"I just hope he's a good man. He better kill all the earwigs for her" said Darrell, a protective tone to her voice. Everyone laughed, remembering Mary-Lou's fear of "creepy-crawlies" as Alicia called them.
"Apparently he was her patient. That's how they met." Alicia added, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively and tossing the ashes of her cigarette into the ashtray in front of her.
Sally laughed. "How did you know? She didn't mention that!"
Alicia's eyes gleamed mischievously. "Oh, you know me. I have my sources everywhere".
Everyone laughed, Felicity rather nervously. She hoped Alicia didn't have any sources on her particular business! Not that anyone knew her business, apart from her.
"Felicity was just asking who else from school had married, or has a boyfriend. I told her you were the one to ask about that", Darrell said in a teasing manner.
"Let's see…darling Gwen managed to get some poor sap to marry her. She didn't invite anyone to the wedding apart from her dear friend Darrell. How was that wedding, by the way? Do dish"
Darrell rolled her eyes. She was the only one who kept writing to Gwen every so often, mostly because she felt sorry for her. "She's a bit better. Still has some silly ideas in her head, but that's not likely to change. I thought she'd humbled down a bit after having to get a job, but she managed to trap a rich husband. Wouldn't expect less of her, honestly."
Alicia snorted. "That's the thing with Gwen…she always got better for a little bit, and then once her life got back to the way she wanted it, she completely forgot all the lessons learned. Seems that hasn't changed. Oh, well. What is life without a few Gwens", she shrugged.
"Daphne left uni to get married last year to some rich lad…shame, she was actually doing fairly well, wasn't she? Mind you, I'd leave uni for a man like that…he looked like a dark handsome stranger from a romance novel. A real Mr. Darcy but more muscular" added Betty.
Alicia grinned. "And Saint Catherine apparently became a nun."
"How very fitting", replied June malevolently. Alicia chuckled.
"What about Moira? She was Catherine's friend at one point, wasn't she?" asked Felicity, seizing her chance.
A soft groan rippled among the older girls.
"Moira, god. She hasn't changed. She walks around thinking she owns the university, you should see her. Domineering and sour as ever. She runs the debate club – only she doesn't respect any debate that doesn't share her opinion. She runs the hockey team here too."
"I tried to run it with her, but she was impossible. She got worse than ever last year, I don't know why. Just snappy and rigid and completely, well…dictatorial. She wasn't as bad when I started running it with her, but last year I just couldn't deal with her anymore" sighed Sally.
"She didn't marry; I suppose?" Felicity asked, trying to keep her tone casual.
"God, no. Can you imagine a man putting up with that? Also…I don't think she's wired that way, to be honest." Alicia's eyes gleamed more and more as her tongue got sharper, and sipped her tea.
"Alicia…" Darrell shot her a warning glance, but the corners of her lips twitched slightly at her friend's malicious tongue.
"What do you mean, not wired that way?" June asked, her brow furrowing.
"Nothing", said Sally, her tone slightly sharp. "It's just rumors. We don't know anything about that."
"Rumors about what?" asked Felicity, feeling her body become tense and her heartbeat speed up slightly.
"It's not important" said Darrell, firmly.
"Well, so what!" Alicia exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air, the ashes of her cigarette landing on June's hair.
"Hey!" protested her younger cousin mildly.
"Sorry…but so what, honestly? What's the big hoo-ha? Look at Bill and Clarissa, they're fine, aren't they? There's nothing wrong with…"
"Ooooh, right" said June under her breath, a look of wicked realization on her face.
"We don't know about that either, Alicia", Sally snapped, looking uncomfortable.
Alicia snorted, a disbelieving look on her face, as if she thought Sally was too naïve and stupid to bear.
"Oh, come on. You can't tell me those rumors aren't real."
"Stop. You know I don't like it; it's not natural", snapped Sally. Darrell looked slightly uncomfortable, almost embarrassed for her best friend, and rubbed her nose. Felicity drank her lemonade, trying to keep her face neutral. Of course, Sally's reaction was only normal; most people she knew would consider it a taboo subject.
Alicia rolled her eyes and scoffed. Sally looked defensive.
"Well, it's not! I love them both, and they're good people, but…you know. I don't have to agree with it". She shook her head. "We don't even know it's the case, really…"
"Fine, whatever", Alicia cut across her, in a bored voice, masking the slight frustration at what she believed to be Sally's 'close mindedness'.
There was a moments silence, until at some point Alicia cracked a joke, everyone laughed, and the chatting and giggling resumed, as if nothing had happened.
No one noticed Felicity had turned a deep shade of red, and had begun to bite her fingernails. No one, that is, except for June, whose sharp eyes were watching her curiously.
Felicity only saw her once that day, from afar, as they left the flat and walked towards Alicia's car.
That was enough to make her heart leap and her stomach feel like it was going to come out through her mouth.
She was getting out of her car, a black, shiny Ford, in front of one of the more expensive looking flats in the street. She was dressed in an almost boyish, yet still stylish manner, with a simple white shirt, navy blue trouser pants and flat, black, well-polished shoes. The sleeves of her shirt were rolled up, revealing strong, slightly tanned forearms. Her shiny, straight, dark brown hair was cut shorter than it had been when she left Malory Towers, yet it was still long enough to have it tucked behind her ears. She looked slim, but with a more athletic, strong build; she had obviously been playing sports a lot in the past few years.
She didn't see them at first, as she was busy maneuvering her suitcase out of the boot, her dark eyebrows knotted toqgether in a frown, her face harder and stonier than Felicity had ever seen it.
Then, as she finally put the suitcase on the concrete floor, she looked up, and Felicity saw unsurprised recognition in her eyes as she first saw Darrell. Her eyes then locked with Felicity's. She felt an electric jolt run through her whole body, and her heart started pumping at a ridiculous speed. She could have sworn a hint of surprise, almost shock - but the good kind of shock, like a pleasant shock - flashed across the older girl's features, for a mere second. But before she could quite catch it, her face returned to its expressionless, stony self. She gave them a quick nod and stiff wave of recognition and greeting – and a look of slight distaste directed towards June. Then she turned on her heel and walked inside the apartment, taking her suitcase with her.
Felicity faintly heard June snort beside her. "Warm and friendly as always."
"Well, she has reason not to like you, specifically, June, to be fair", she heard Alicia reply. Their voices sounded far away, almost like she was underwater and they were speaking above the surface.
"Anyway, in you get…Felicity? Felicity? Felicity! Are you all right?"
Felicity jumped, feeling herself being jolted back into reality, back to the surface. "W-what?" she stammered, looking at the girl beside her but not quite focusing on her.
"I'm giving you a ride to the university, remember?" said a bemused Alicia, raising her eyebrows and speaking slowly and plaintively, as though she was speaking to a particularly slow child.
"Oh…yes. Sorry", said a dazed Felicity. Alicia stared at her.
"So…you know. If you'd like to get in…"
"Oh. Right. Right, sorry, yes" she stammered, shaking her head and getting into the car, feeling dizzy and slightly nauseous with nerves.
She ignored the slightly concerned, confused and bemused stares both Alicia and June gave her as flashbacks began to cloud her mind…
"That's an awful way of serving"
Thirteen-year-old Felicity stopped swinging her racket and turned around, indignantly, to see who had so rudely interrupted her practice. Moira stood behind her, watching.
"Darrell said it was fine" she replied, shocking herself with her bravery at answering back the head of fifth form.
Moira raised her eyebrows.
"Well, Darrell's wrong."
Felicity blinked at the older girl's blunt, domineering tone.
"The way you swing back your arm, you lose your force. Here, I'll show you"
She stood behind the smaller girl and took her arm. Her grasp was firm, but surprisingly gentle. She held her arm back, but not nearly as far back as Felicity was used to swinging it.
"Throw the ball"
Felicity threw the ball, swung back only slightly this time, and hit it.
"Better" Moira smiled. Felicity looked back at the older girl. Their faces were only inches away. Not in an inappropriate way, just in a 'trying to help you serve better' kind of way. Even so, the proximity, and the touch, made Felicity feel weird, like an electricity spreading through her body and up her cheeks, making them flush. Moira seemed to notice and abruptly dropped Felicity's arm, clearing her throat nervously.
"Sorry" they both muttered. Although sorry for what, Felicity didn't know.
"No, I'm sorry…I didn't mean…I was trying to help. It usually comes of wrong when I try to help" sighed Moira, smiling weakly. "Domineering, or…dictator-like."
Felicity shook her head.
"No. You did help me. Thank you."
Moira nodded, smiled and turned away.
"Moira?" Called the younger girl after her.
There was a slight silence.
"You're not a dictator. I mean – maybe you come off as one sometimes, but you're not."
Moira smiled and bowed her head; the first true act of humility Felicity had ever seen from her.
"Felicity? What's gotten into her?"
June's incredulous, slightly concerned voice snapped her out of her trip down memory lane.
"Sorry, what were you saying?" she asked, shaking her head.
"I was saying, I can't believe she lives all alone in that flat."
"Well, she couldn't find anyone who wanted to share with her. Or maybe she just doesn't want to share with anyone. She's a lone wolf. Always has been, she never really had a friend back at school, did she? Apart from Catherine, if you call that friendship... and she doesn't really have friends here, that I know of. Daphne tried, for a while, but she must have gotten tired of her ways. Plus she left, so...", replied Alicia, as she pulled up to the university entrance.
"She must be loaded. I mean, the university fee is already expensive enough, but that flat, just for her? And that car", said June, astonishment on her face.
"You sound like Gwendoline or Jo, talking about money like that. Come on, off you go. Be good, or at least, don't do anything I wouldn't do!"
They waved as Alicia drove off, and made their way inside the building.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this first chapter! More to come soon. I don't really know how universities work in the UK, much less UK universities in the 1950s, so I'm trying to steer away from too much description about it lol...please correct me if something isn't right! :)
Please review, I'm always grateful for any constructive criticism!