If the reversed school buildings hadn't been enough to convince Samantha,
she'd received further evidence that they were in a mirror universe as soon
as she and Jamie had reached the main door. Deputy Headmaster Maxil had been
standing just inside, chivvying latecomers to their respective lessons -- and
unlike the Maxil they knew, he was sporting a toothbrush moustache.

It took Samantha longer than she'd expected to find her way to the
classroom; the layout of the building was tantalisingly familiar, but the
mirror inversion meant that she kept turning right where she should have
turned left. or /vice versa./ When she did reach the right classroom,
apart from it being a mirror image, it differed only in minor details from
the one she knew: the windows were grimier, the seats more uncomfortable,
and a nauseating odour of stale vegetables hung in the air. Samantha had
barely had time to take her seat and open her -- or Cleo's -- satchel, before
the teacher had arrived.

"Now, class," Miss Oswald began. She was dressed in a severe black suit,
trimmed with red, and holding an undeniable cane in her left hand. "Today we
will be resuming our study of /Pride and Prejudice/. Where had we got
to? Yes, Nancy?"

Samantha would have named the girl who had raised her hand as Ted Maxtible's
sister Ruth, but as she already knew, names seemed to be one of the first
things to change between one universe and another.

"Book Two, Chapter Eleven, miss," was what Nancy said.

"Quite. Now, I want you to pay special attention to what Darcy and Elizabeth
have to say to each other, as well as what they do. Tori, perhaps you'd like
to start us off?"

For a moment, Samantha struggled to place the busty, arrogant-looking girl
with the leather jacket and bobbed hair. Then Tori began to speak, and
recognition struck Samantha like a blow. This was the counterpart of Victoria
Waterfield, no less.

"'When they were gone,'" Tori began to read, in Victoria's cutglass tones,
"'Elizabeth, as if attempting to exasperate herself as much as possible...'"


"'The tumult of her mind,'" Samantha read, "'was now painfully great. She
knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried
for half an hour.'"

Miss Oswald, who was looking somewhat pink in the face, ran a finger round
her collar. "Stop there. Thank you, Cleo. Now, class, what did you notice?

Nik, a lanky blond youth with a greasy ponytail and oil stains on his
cuffs, gave a panicked look as if he'd been unexpectedly dropped into the
/Mastermind/ chair. "He spanked her, miss," he managed, after some thought.

"How perceptive of you," Miss Oswald replied in biting tones. "Considering
the prominence given to it in the text. Anyone else?"

A girl who might have resembled Zoë, had Zoë had bleach-blonde hair, scarlet
lipstick and a Birmingham accent, raised her hand. "She could sit down
afterwards, miss. So he couldn't have hit her that hard."

"Remember, I told you to look at what the characters /say/, not just
what they /do/."

Samantha decided to make a suggestion. "She said she wouldn't marry him."

"Exactly. Why not?"

"Because..." Samantha thought back over the chapter, trying to not to dwell
on the more lurid passages. "She thought he'd sell her down the river. Like he
did to Wickham."

"But he could do what he wanted with her anyway," Nancy objected. "He
could've just grabbed her and dragged her off to his lair. No-one would've
stopped him."

"A good point, Nancy," Miss Oswald said. "Why do you think he didn't?"

Tori raised her hand. "Because that wouldn't be winning, miss. Not for him.
He wants her to say yes and mean it."

"And there you have it." Miss Oswald rose to her feet, as the distant
tolling of the bell was heard. "Tomorrow, we'll be looking at how various
adaptations have treated that scene."

"I expect she'll be watching them on a loop this evening," Tori remarked to
Samantha, as they left the classroom. "I have no idea why she finds that
ancient smut so thrilling. It's terribly tame stuff."

/That's not what I'd have called it/, Samantha thought. But she decided
that remark was better kept to herself. She made a noncommittal reply instead;
Tori, who seemed fond of the sound of her own voice, didn't seem to notice.

"Fire and death, I'm starving," she said cheerfully. "I wonder what slop
they're dishing up for lunch?"


To begin with, Tori and Samantha had had the table to themselves; a number
of people had tentatively approached, but in each case a single ice-blue
stare from Tori had been enough to send them scurrying away. Presently, the
party had been joined by the blonde Zoë-alike, who apparently rejoiced in the
name of 'Slash', and smelt strongly of cigarette smoke.

"You're late," Tori said, as Slash took her seat.

Slash cringed. "Sorry, Tori. Only Nik really wanted to see me."

"Behind the bike sheds, of course," Tori said. "Boys always do. You
shouldn't give in to them so easily. Or stick to girls, like Cleo does. They
don't muck you around, do they?"

"Not if I can help it," Samantha said, inwardly struggling to process this
latest piece of information about her counterpart.

"Quite. That girl Lucie in the Lower Third's still got the black eye you
gave her." Tori smiled sweetly. "Ah, here's Jezebel."

Jezebel, a punk Isobel with spiky orange hair, sat down beside Tori with an
elaborately casual slouch. "Food any good today?" she asked,

"Disgusting as ever."

"I suppose you get what you pay for," Samantha ventured.

"Or in your case, what the kiddies pay for," Jezebel said, with a grin.
"Be careful you don't take too much off them. If they actually start starving
even old Powell's going to notice."

Samantha was quite relieved that her mouth full of borderline-rancid
cabbage leaves, since it eliminated any requirement to answer that.

"Oh yes," Jezebel said, digging in her blazer pocket. "You might like

She slid a couple of Polaroids across the surface of the table to Tori,
who glanced over them, then looked more closely. Setting her knife and fork
down, Tori turned her cold blue eyes fully onto Samantha.

"Cleo," she said sweetly. "You never told me you'd been with Hamish in
morning break."

Samantha gulped down the cabbage, which fought every step of the way.
"Didn't I? I must've done."

"You most certainly did not." Tori's voice was positively dripping with
sugared ice. "Cleo, you know that I consider you a dear friend?"


"I would hate for you to be the cause of any friction between Hamish and
myself. Surely there is nothing that you cannot say to him in the presence
of me and of my friends?"

Attack, Samantha decided, was the best form of defence. "What's it to you?"

Distantly, she was aware of Slash and Jezebel edging their chairs slightly
away from her.

"Cleo," Tori said, still in the same sweet, level tone. "If you know what is
good for you, you do not interfere with my possessions. It would be much safer
for you to confine your attentions to the fairer sex, as hitherto." She calmly
picked up her spoon, dipped it into her bowl of rice pudding, and flicked a
blob into Samantha's face. "Keep your nose clean, Cleo. I trust that we
understand each other."

"Yeah," Samantha said, trying to ignore the sensation of rice pudding
sliding down her cheek. "I get you."

"Splendid." Tori passed her a paper napkin. "Wipe your face, Cleo. I don't
know if you've noticed, but you've got something on it. Just here."

Part 1 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Back to E