See that Gerry Wheeler? I’m so going to break his arms! I’m walking up to the podium, about to receive my Pulitzer Prize and give my speech when his whining voice breaks into my perfect day dream.
“Kayleigh…you can do that, can’t you? After all you are as good as elected as the next May Queen.”
What? Me? Demean myself to wear a white dress and ride in a horse driven carriage while some overweight pensioner shouts “Oh Yez! Oh Yez!”? I don’t think so. They can’t make me do it! I am a serious writer, not an empty headed bimbo. I know I should have been born ugly! No one takes me seriously. And May Day is so a pagan festival!
Anyway, what exactly is it they want me to do?
“A perfect idea,” says Mr Chesterfield. He’s the new teacher, fresh out of college, brim full of new ideas. A school paper, “The Cricklehaven Chronicle”, is the perfect opportunity to develop my writing skills. “I’m sure we have a record of past May Queens. The May Queen waiting in the wings interviewing the dowager queen! Perfect!”
“My grandmother was May Queen in 1955,” says Gerry.
Great! The prospect of interviewing anyone remotely related to Gerry does not appeal. I bet his grandfather is a Morris dancer or something. Gerry’s family have lived in the village for generations. Most of the graves in the graveyard are occupied by long dead Wheelers.
“She would love to meet you!”
Yeah, right! It’s no secret that Gerry has a crush on me. Someone said he wrote something about me on the wall of the boy’s toilet. I just hope he spelt my name right!
I mean…the woman still lives in this backwater of a Warwickshire village. What has she done with her life that’s going to be worth writing about?
Before I know it, Gerry has talked with his grandmother, and the date and time’s set. The good thing about it is I get an afternoon off from school. I absolutely detest sewing class. It took me four months to hem a wretched apron. It is so sexist.
So, here I am standing on the doorstep, and standing next to Gerry. Why he needs to be here I really don’t know. He says we could just go in, but I’m a professional. Future Pulitzer Prize winners don’t barge into houses.
Do you ever get it so totally wrong? This woman! There is no way that she can be Gerry’s gran. Maybe it’s the wrong house. It would be just like Gerry to go to the wrong house! She doesn’t look like anyone’s grandmother, certainly not Gerry’s.
“Miss Derwent?” I like that. She is so treating me seriously!
“Mrs…” Ah! And I call myself a reporter! I don’t even know Gerry’s gran’s name. I can hardly say “Good afternoon, Gerry’s gran,” can I?
“Mrs Smith…Juliet Smith…my friends call me Jules.”
Wait a minute! Jules? Jules Smith? Not THE Jules Smith, author of “Fleetwood Farm Tales”? I absolutely adore that book. I can see it now, on the bookcase. I can see the “This book belongs to Miss Kayleigh Derwent” sticker on the front page.
“Jules Smith? You are my inspiration…” Oh, no! Did I really say that out loud? I am gushing. It is so embarrassing. The interview is not going as planned.
The house is just the kind of house a writer ought to live in. It is just so atmospheric! I just love the conservatory. The desk beside the window is so Jane Austin!
Jules Smith talks as eloquently as she writes. She smiles as we talk about her May Queen days and shows us photographs taken with a Polaroid camera. She has a little about the Gerry in her face.
“This is my diary,” she says, as she passes me a faded blue school exercise book, “I dug it out for you. It has been such a long time, that I am not sure what I remember.”
I resist the urge to kiss the exercise book. It’s all here. The dress, all white and weddingy. The ride in the carriage and man shouting “Oh Yez!” The crown on her head. The maypole dancing. This is my village in the little corner of England where I live. Living history! The traditions have remained unchanged for so many generations!
My favourite author was once the May Queen? Maybe being chosen as May Queen won’t seriously ruin my life after all.
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