The Lushers Invitation Girls Rowing Competition was an important event, not so much for the sport of rowing, but for the students at the school. Held a month or so before the state titles each year, it was an opportunity for the best young women rowers to assess the preparation of their main competitors. For most of the girls from Lushers however, the main attraction was the large turnout of young male spectators.
Annabelle Purvis had no interest in rowing, but was interested in a rower, Peter McBain, a tall handsome young man who had stroked his school’s eight to victory in the recent inter-school competition. Annabelle and fellow brat packers, Shelley and Lou, had watched the race from the deck of Ray Purvis’s yacht. At the after-party, a futile attempt at sophistication that quickly morphed into a drunken free-for-all, Annabelle and her friends were able to corner Peter and the number seven oarsman Marty. The young men and women sized each other up and agreed to meet again at the Lushers Invitation in two weeks time.
Annabelle and her friends arrived at the Girls Invitation Regatta dressed to kill in the latest of imported fashion. They met the boys next to rowing shed ramp. As Peter and Marty queued to buy refreshments, Annabelle with high hopes of romantic success, promised Shelley and Lou that after a short walk Peter McBain would be hers.
“Come on,” Peter said as he Marty re-joined the girls. “Let’s get a good possie.”
“What’s the hurry?” Annabelle asked, taking a can of coke.
“Yeah, why don’t we go for a walk by the river”? Shelley suggested.
“But the coxed quad race is starting,” Marty replied.
“How exciting!” Annabelle said sarcastically to her girl friends as the boys headed towards the river bank.
Seated in line with the two tinnies that marked the end of the course, Peter and Marty enthusiastically watched the conclusion of a close race. Annabelle, Lou and Shelley lay back on the grass checking out the plumage of the young men and women on parade. Annabelle noticed Ruth and Jane in their brown janitor’s jackets at the edge of the river as Lou got to her feet with the wrapper from a Cornetto ice-cream that she wanted to bin.
“Give it to me,” Annabelle said. “What do you think we’ve got janitors for?”
With regal nonchalance Annabelle held up the ice-cream wrappers and empty coke cans. “Hey Goldschmidt! Don’t forget these,” she shouted as she threw the rubbish in the direction of the “janitors”.
Distracted by the sudden movement, Peter and Marty turned away from the race and looked at the two girls picking up rubbish. “Isn’t that Ruth Goldsmith? The single sculls champion?” Peter asked.
“You don’t know her, do you?” Lou said incredulously.
“Never met her, but we know who she is,” Marty answered. As the two boys got to their feet, Marty added, “That could be the mysterious new rowing partner”.
Annabelle, regretting the attention she had drawn to the enemy of the brat pack, grabbed Peter’s hand and pulled him back down. “Come on, she’s a pain.”
“Why aren’t they rowing today?” Peter asked.
“They’re banned,” Shelley said with gleeful finality.
“The school got fed up with her thinking she was better than everyone else,” Lou added.
“You’re joking,” Marty said, genuinely surprised the school had banned their best rower from competing in this event.
“Look, uh,” Peter cautiously asked Annabelle. “Would you mind introducing us?”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Annabelle said derisively. “She’s a bitch!”
Peter stood up, a little taken aback by the sudden hostility of Annabelle’s response. “Sure, err, just excuse me for a minute.”
Annabelle gave a small wave of agreement that was less than encouraging, and the two young men walked over and introduced themselves to Ruth and Jane.
Soon the four rowers were laughing at common experiences and shared jokes. Ruth explained why the school had banned them from all rowing and the occasional glances in the direction of the three brat-packers still lying on the grass did not go unnoticed by Annabelle.
After an excruciating five minutes, it was clear to Annabelle that the boys would not be returning soon. Seething with anger, Annabelle stood up. She dragged the other two girls to their feet and with talk of revenge they walked with as much casualness as they could muster.
The next race was the coxless pairs. Jane and Ruth watched with extra interest.
“They’re all so fast,” Jane said to Ruth and their two new rowing friends.
“So are we,” Ruth replied confidently. “Those two are the ones we’ve got to worry about,” she said pointing out the boat that was currently coming second. “They won last year.”
“Nice finishes, they’re good,” Peter told the group.
“We can beat them though, can’t we Jane?”
“If you say so,” was Jane’s less than enthusiastic reply. “But, I can’t see how. We’re banned from the boat shed and I have never been in a race in my life.”
“We might be able to help there,” Marty told the girls before looking to Peter. “What do you reckon Steve’d say?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Peter replied. He turned to Ruth and Jane, “Steve’s the coach at our rowing club, we could ask if you can use one of our pairs.”
“That’d be great,” Ruth said enthusiastically.
“Yeah, and we could give you some race-practice,” Marty contributed. “Maybe a couple of the other boys as well.”
A smile returned to Jane’s face, “You know we might still have a chance, assuming Steve the saviour agrees.”
In the next episode, “Regal Trouble”, things start to go belly-up at Regal Mortgage, which is bad news for Dean Thomas and all the other depositors.