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As soon as she said it, she knew she couldn't take it back.

Darrell caught up with her in the corridor. "Alicia! Alicia, wait!" she cried, running up and grabbing her arm.

"I'm not going back in there," Alicia informed her, determination in her eyes.

"But you have to - do, it's not too late! The two of you - you can talk this out," Darrell pleaded. She was flushed and unhappy looking. Alicia shrugged Darrell's hand from her arm.

"With Moira?" she said coldly, "I doubt we could shout it out, let alone talk like reasonable people."

"Please Alicia - it's not too late," Darrell said again.

"Of course it is - I resigned, didn't I?" Alicia couldn't help but sound a bit regretful. It was a splendid pantomime, and she had been very good in it.

"That doesn't matter - we can just tell Moira you didn't mean it. She'll take you back - she knows how important your part is. Come on, Alicia," Darrell said desperately, pulling at her elbow again.

"I can't," Alicia said. "I won't go back unless Moira apologises."

"She'll never apologise," Darrell said, running her hands through her hair until it looked quite wild. "Please, Alicia, just say you changed your mind - please! You know how important it is!"

She stared at Darrell for a moment. Change her mind? She took a step away from the other girl. Nobody changed their mind in Malory Towers.

Darrell-and-Sally, Bill-and-Clarissa, Daphne-and-Mary-Lou, Alicia-and-Betty...everyone paired off as soon as possible, and there was no changing your mind next year, or the year after...even if you wanted to.

Even though they'd tried before to get Betty transferred to North Tower, sometimes Alicia thought it was just as well Miss Grayling had refused. At least, with Betty in West Tower, Alicia never got the chance to become tired of her.

"I can't," she said again. "I'm sorry, Darrell."

"Please," Darrell whispered, looking utterly miserable. "You know how important this is to me. You know!"

Alicia did know. She wasn't like Mary-Lou, who only had to be Mary-Lou on stage, or Mavis, who had to showcase her voice, or Louella, who couldn't be bothered to learn her lines properly. Alicia had had to learn how to juggle, and conjure, and do all sorts of difficult tricks. And more than that, she'd thought of things - like the demon chant, or the low bow she gave to Cinderella at the end of that scene - things that weren't there already, but that should be. Whenever she'd put those little touches in, Moira would frown and look cross, but Darrell would light up and smile at Alicia, and Alicia would grin back because they were the only two who really understood about the pantomime. She wondered, abruptly, if Darrell ever got bored with Sally, who could never have thought of any of the things Darrell had written into her script.

"I'm really sorry, Darrell," she said.

Darrell stared at her in disbelief.

"You could always get Moira as the Demon King. I'm sure she'd be splendid," Alicia said to break the silence. Her voice sounded bitter rather than light and joking. She looked at Darrell again, and forgot what she was going to say next.

Darrell Rivers looked heartbroken. She looked worse even than when the Headgirlship had been taken from her in the Fourth Form. Alicia reached out to her, feeling strangely guilty for having made Darrell look like that, even though it was just as much Moira's fault as hers.

"Leave me alone," Darrell choked out, and whirled around. She ran off down the corridor, probably towards the dormitories, Alicia thought. She hesitated, unsure whether to chase after her or not. She did understand about the pantomime - there was a miserable burning in her stomach at the thought of what she'd just lost. All that time practising for nothing...

She had just made up her mind to go after Darrell when Sally came around the corner.

Afterwards, when Moira had saved June's wretched skin and Alicia had to apologise and take back her resignation, rehearsals went on almost as before. Except that Darrell didn't catch her eye whenever Alicia adopted her deep demony voice, or when she did a spectacular trick. Instead, she sat very close to Sally, and murmured to her, and Sally nodded her head and agreed with every whispered word.

Alicia waited around for Betty, and played the fool a but more than usual. It was just as well, she thought. You chose your friend in first year, or whatever year you came to Malory Towers, and there was no going back.