Mary Maveryck was fed up.
Mary was finding her situation quite hard to understand, let alone accept. She was lying in an old sleeping bag (Olive had bagged the bed), with a hard, scratchy pillow underneath her head, and she was underneath her own double bed.
It was the day of the first official meeting of the Team, since the failure of Operation Shannon a few days ago. Mary had been looking forward to this day since they had first organised it in ‘The Barmy Duck’ just yesterday. She had spent hours getting everything ready; the caviar had been specially bought for Albert and Priscilla, and, of course, the Team’s leader. Mary had spent even longer than usual cleaning her kitchen, as well as everything else; she had made sure that the sauna was spotless, that her game room was fully equipped with all of the games functioning perfectly, that the sitting room’s sofas were as bouncy as possible, which was just how Olive liked them. She had very kindly offered her home to the entire Team. But what was she getting in return?
Mary went through all of the events of the day: Olive had arrived, looking as grumpy as usual. She hadn’t even bothered to wipe her feet, which were all muddy from pushing Fred’s car up the hill, on the doormat, so as she confidently waltzed into the sitting room Mary had had to anxiously follow her with a damp cloth, when her back was already fit to snap in half. Frederick and Augustus and Adolphus had been looking amazed and delighted as usual, but that was more to do with the fact that Olive had chosen them to be a part of the Team than because they appreciated all of Mary’s efforts. And imagine, Frederick as a co-leader! Mary knew that of course she had to be a Team leader. It had been her idea to invent this organisation in the first place! She could remember: Mary had popped round that day that Olive had poured out her heart to her about the failure of Operation Shannon, and Olive had had to speak to her daughter on the phone about a broken radiator. It had been this which had prompted the idea of the Team, because they had both realised that they needed an organisation in which Olive, Mary and their friends could work together to fulfil Olive’s ambition. Olive’s ambition…
Mary didn’t feel like being optimistic anymore. It was true; she was getting absolutely nothing out of the Team, even though she had tried so hard. She’d used her own table legs and her own games boards to make that map of hers and Raymond’s (and later Lucy’s) houses, and the figures of the members of the Team and their rivals. In order to make that map to a suitable scale, she’d had to go into every single room of her house with a tape-measure, and had recorded each measurement carefully in a notebook. Her hand had ached for hours after she’d finished drawing her map. That had been one of her favourite tables, as well, that had been used for the figures, and she had used to enjoy a nice game of ‘Monopoly’ whenever anyone was willing to play with her. Furthermore, she had paid for the Team’s special t-shirts to be made out of her own pocket, and what had Olive done? She had scorned all of her efforts. She had moaned about the state of her own figure, had the cheek to spurn Mary’s, thought that all of Mary’s ideas sounded like too much work, and to top it all off, she still wasn’t sure that she wanted Mary to be her co-leader! That application essay had taken her hours to write…she had included every last detail of her life to put in there, in order to convince Olive to let her have some say in the organisation that was practically hers, judging from all the work that she had done.
Mary had been simply a sidekick for as long as she could remember. Even when the two girls were toddlers, and that photograph had been taken of Olive screaming and throwing a tantrum, Mary had only been a minor figure in the background, peering anxiously at her friend, who seemed to grab all of the attention. When they had been evacuated to the country, Olive had only cared about herself. Mary didn’t even know why she had done everything that Olive said. She didn’t even want to remember that horrible Christmas play; that had been her one chance to shine, but Olive had selfishly gone and ruined it, just so that she could have some fun (and, for the record, Mary had heard Olive coming back upstairs from when she had surely been ‘improving’ the scripts that night). Mary had hoped that she was finally becoming the lucky one when Olive got expelled from school and she didn’t, but Olive had seen the temporary termination of her education to be a positive thing. It was true that Olive had hated Miss March, and Mary had had to endure her for years, until they were able to get home…
And even when they were home, things were not better. After having been practically forced to leave school, despite all the praise that her teachers were giving her, Mary had had almost an equal blame in that incident with the Rowlings’ car, and she had done her very best to discourage Olive. Frederick had no reason for liking Olive more than Mary; Mary had always been considered to be just as pretty as Olive! Yet Olive had been the one that he proposed to. This sort of thing had simply continued until the present. And finally, Mary had had enough.
Mary could hear the bed-clothes rustling as Olive rolled over in Mary’s bed. No doubt she was terribly comfortable. Mary’s sleeping bag was having hardly any effect; she could feel every lump in the dusty carpet under her bed through the material. Olive had apparently needed all four of the good pillows. Because there were so many boxes and things under the bed, Mary had not been able to crawl under it completely, so some of her was poking out from underneath it, and a tent peg was jabbing her in the side. The underside of the mattress, which was terribly saggy and bulged out from inbetween the wooden slats, kept juddering as Olive moved around – why did she have to turn over so violently? – and it was within millimetres of Mary’s nose. Well, this was it. Mary wasn’t going to stand it any longer.
Mary, in her eagerness, forgot her situation for a second, and swiftly attempted to sit up. She cursed aloud as her head banged, hard, on the underside of the bed. Mary stuck her head out from underneath it and covered her mouth in horror – but Olive simply murmured something in her sleep and rolled over. Mary was frozen for a few seconds, her top half raised up by her arms, and her legs still half in the sleeping bag. When her back could stand it no longer, she painfully crawled out from underneath the side of the tent.
The curtains were still open from where Olive and Mary had been Raymond-spotting, and the pale light of the full moon shone dimly on the walls. Mary could not hear a sound apart from Frederick’s snoring somewhere up the corridor. The house was all hers and Mary knew exactly what she had to do.
She allowed herself a wicked smile, and her memory suddenly flashed back to when the children had all been evacuees together, living with Mr and Mrs. Baxter. Most of all, she remembered what Olive had said about wanting to have some fun. Mary instantly made the decision that she would follow in her friend’s footsteps.
It was an incredible, unusual, astonishing feeling. Mary had never allowed herself to do anything remotely like this before. She felt a wave of sudden, delighted excitement pass through her, and she felt a strange need to laugh out loud, but she was able to control herself. Simply grinning broadly into the gloom, Mary took a step forward. As she came to the wardrobe, she reached inside, brushing past several layers of black clothing until she reached a long, cold object at the back of the cupboard, and pulled out her trusty old army rifle. Then she turned back towards the door, and took another step.
Creeeaaaak. Mary froze once again, but her smile did not disappear. The danger of all this was oddly exciting. She momentarily glanced back to check whether Olive had awoken, but her friend simply went on sleeping and muttering to herself. Mary turned back around and very slowly eased the bedroom door open. It squeaked loudly, and scraped along the thick carpet of the landing, but Mary did not turn back around.
Mary, still grinning, amazed and ecstatic by how daring she could be, crept along the landing towards the staircase. Her smile widened with amusement as she passed the spare room, where Frederick, Augustus and Adolphus were snoring loudly, but still she did not utter even a giggle. She grabbed the stair rail to guide the way, and slowly began to descend the staircase. The steps creaked noisily as she went, but Mary did not care anymore.
The staircase was not very long, and soon enough Mary found herself in her hallway. To her left, at the end of the hallway, was the front door, and through another door, the front room. On her right was the large, spotless kitchen. Mary checked around her, but then she shook her head violently. No, she didn’t believe in ghosts.
The room that Mary entered was the living room. On the far wall, just a few feet from the television, was what Mary had come downstairs to use. She quickly dodged round her sofa, narrowly avoided slipping on some magazine that Olive had undoubtedly left lying around, and sat down at the desk in front of the computer.
Mary switched the computer on, and instantly the bright white light from the screen lit up the room, almost blinding her. Carefully, so as not to create too much of a tapping noise with the computer keys, she typed in her password: ‘Raymond’ (there was no mistaking whose choice that was, Mary thought), and as soon as the computer had loaded, Mary opened the internet. She had to find a way to tell everyone about what Olive was up to.
She was going to start a new ‘Facebook’ account. Even though ‘Operation Shannon’ had apparently failed, Mary had observed over the last few weeks how successful Olive had been in getting Raymond to like her, even with that peculiar profile picture of the knitting needles and wool.
Mary already had one ‘Facebook’ account which listed her as ‘Mary Maveryck’, and she wasn’t stupid enough to use that one in order to woo Raymond. As she began to create a new account, she wondered what she could call herself. ‘Mary’ might be a bit too obvious, and it was a bit uncreative anyway, as was ‘Maveryck’, which was even more obvious. Mary quickly dismissed the thought of naming her account after one of the other Team members. If Olive asked, they would easily prove that the account wasn’t theirs.
Mary went through all of her favourite names – Prunella, Bellarina, Rubella – but she wasn’t entirely sure that even that would fool Olive. After all, the two women had known one another for such a long time that they had literally no secrets, and Olive probably knew about all of Mary’s favourite names.
She toyed with the idea of naming the account after one of Olive’s cats, so that she might be momentarily confused, but there weren’t very many people who kept track of all of the cats’ names after Olive had acquired so many.
It was whilst thinking of all of the other names that Mary was familiar with that she came across the idea. She suddenly remembered Olive’s middle name, Juliet, thinking that it would be rather appropriate for wooing someone whose middle name was Romeo. It was just a shame that it had to be Olive’s middle name – but then Mary remembered her own middle name. Louisa.
She wouldn’t just type in Louisa, of course. Too obvious. She had to water it down a little. What names could she use? Louise? Lois? Lucy? Each suggestion initially seemed to be a good idea, but Mary continually found some kind of personal objection to each one. In her eyes, many of the names that she gradually came up with were far too sensible; they didn’t have the kind of ring to them that Mary wanted. People had to notice her, of course. And yet, some of the more eccentric names that she came up with, such as ‘Glimmer’ or ‘Glam’ didn’t really represent Mary or fit with her personality enough. Catching a glimpse of her fluffy hairstyle in her reflection in the computer screen, Mary deliberated upon ‘Pinkie’, but that reminded her too much of Olive’s insulting codename for her. Mary pondered all of this for several minutes, until she grew too exasperated to carry on, and finally typed in the name ‘Lulu’, without really thinking about it, before filling in her fake details and creating the account.