Jane’s first lesson at Lushers was both uninspiring and uneventful. Nominally English literature, the soporific encounter with daffodils, green fields and lonely wandering clouds had precious little to do with Wordsworth and even less to do with poetry. Rescued by the bell, the clatter and chatter of hurried activity soon filled the room.
A small close-knit group of girls, who considered themselves the “brat pack” of Lushers School, hovered near the classroom door, sizing up the new girl openly wondering about her suitability. Should they ask her to become a brat? As Jane passed the group, one of them, a plump girl with a friendly face, offered to show her the way to the next class.
Jane and the brat pack became one of the whirlpools of eagerly talking 16 year olds in the stream of girls moving from one class to the next. Jane listened as they boasted about a beach party they had thrown during the summer holidays. “It was awesome,” the plump girl, Shelley, told Jane. “Just like in those old Hollywood surf movies.”
“That was his brother’s car you know.” Lou said grabbing Shelley’s arm. “That’s why the dag wouldn’t let me drive it up the beach.”
“What a nerd, he told me it was his,” Said Shelley, contributing to the demolition of a boy at the party. “Anyway, the party was great, wasn’t it? Plenty to drink, plenty of boys… Another brat pack all nighter!”
The six brat pack girls screamed with joy as they slapped each others hands with ‘high fives’ and then chanted.
“Brat pack, brat pack
Rage all night
Ask no mercy
Born to fight.”
The sudden outburst made Jane feel strangely embarrassed. She looked away and caught the eye of a tall, strong looking girl with dark black hair who was walking behind them. The girl smiled at Jane, and glanced upwards with a sort of ‘what can you expect’ look.
As Jane was about to return the smile, Shelley pulled at her arm and whispered. “Watchout for Goldshit! She’s a stuck up creep.”
“The queen of scrap and trash!” Lou offered. “She thinks she’s so bloody clever.”
Jane was intrigued and turned around for another look. Ruth Goldsmith was walking alone. She had an air of supreme self-confidence and, as Jane would learn later, an acerbic wit that she was always willing to turn on the brats bringing considerable enjoyment to the rest of the class.
Only a pace behind the brat pack, Ruth heard Shelley ask Jane what her parents did for a crust, and waited for the response.
The question startled Jane. Reluctant to say her family owned a corner shop or deli, she evasively muttered something about them being in retailing.
“Clothes?” Shelley asked.
“No, food mostly.” Jane murmured. “Groceries and things like that.”
The brat pack could sense the embarrassment and knew they were on to something. As luck would have it, Jane’s answer had provided them with a perfect opening. Ruth continued to listen as the intensity of the interrogation went up a notch.
“No kidding, we own Whites. You know the supermarkets?” Lou said with the wide-eyed innocence common to many of the young piranhas of the social set. “My Dad knows everybody in wholesale and retail, he probably already knows your folks. You got many shops?
Jane felt annoyed that she had allowed herself to be dragged into a pointless charade with this group of girls. The more they spoke the less she liked them, and as her anger mounted her confidence returned.
“I doubt it Lou.” Jane said forcefully. “My mum and dad only have one shop. It’s a specialist delicatessen.”
“A deli!” Lou exclaimed in mock horror.
The reaction of indignation that reverberated through the brat pack was cut short as Ruth barged in and grabbed Jane by the arm. The brat pack, although annoyed by this sudden interruption to their fun, were cautious not to say anything that might provoke a verbal, and no doubt public, tongue lashing.
“I’m Ruth Goldsmith.” The rescuer said, guiding Jane down the corridor. “Do you row?”
Jane, impressed with Ruth’s style and pleased to be saved from further embarrassment, replied that she had never been rowing in her life but was willing to give it a go.
In the next episode, “Ruth”, Jane and Ruth are amused by the perfectly timed arrival of Annabelle, the horse queen, in her Rolls.