The sale of the house was swift. It hadn’t required much administration, relatively speaking. There had been lawyers, and surveyors, and estate agents asking if they could please get involved, they’d sold a lot of properties in the area recently and could put Julia in touch with some satisfied customers if she required testimonials.
Julia had told them to fuck off, using precisely those words. There was a time for engaging her limited social prowess, and a time for being as rude as possible. This was the latter.
She opened her back door. It took her into the front yard, which took her to the garden.
She walked down the main path. Again, it was all about knowing the plants and the paths. As she continued, she found somebody who hadn’t.
She bent down by the face of Lady Marguerite. Her body was in a condition that would have made the best surgeons suck air through their teeth. There wasn’t a lot left of her legs.
It took a moment for the wicket to be registered, most of all by Julia herself.
She remembered that she had to appeal to the umpire, technically, for the wicket to be granted.
‘Rargh,’ she said.
The delivery landed a fraction shorter than she’d meant it to. One of the people with bats somewhere on the pitch (she was no longer keeping track of where) duly smacked it into the scoreboard, earning six runs and various other beneficial additions to the score.
It was a disappointing start. It was also not at all what she ought to be doing. She had the Sealing Stone, and now if any of the Circle of the Pillars got a hand to it in the field, they would have it instead. The whole of the past two weeks would be for nought. She ought to be getting the bloody thing the hell out of here, or putting the Stone in her pocket and bowling with the hollow ball, or pretty much anything other than what she was doing.
The ball was tossed back to her. She rubbed it on her trousers.
She shuffled in again.
Thirteen minutes later, all of the Pierstree fielders were out on the field. The ‘Midwick’ opening bats were too, still with light pouring out of their faces, but looking slightly more confused than they had done when they thought they were going forth in glory.
The Scone was Cast. It was Cast well. In fact, it made its way around the bend in the road. Some of the Midwickians went chasing after it, hollering. The rest of Solstice Field clapped and cheered.
Julia, through all of her fear, still bemoaned the loss of a good pudding.
The woman marched to the centre of the field, Midwick’s previously victorious team behind her.
‘That’s odd,’ said Barbara. ‘I don’t recognise any of the primary squad from last time.’
It was two days later. The Solstice Field was busy. From the Pierstree temporary pavilion-tent, Julia watched and sweated.
For starters, her system’s weather forecast had been incorrect. It had remained gloriously sunny until today, yes; but it was continuing to remain gloriously sunny. She would have been sweating anyway, but this took the biscuit, heated the biscuit up, and stuffed it down her bra.
For main courses, the field was absolutely packed. She’d been prepared for a certain amount of packed-ness, of course. She’d skimmed over it in drones in previous years. That had in no way prepared her for being there.