Jennifer Jane shut the lever arch file filled by her father with the loose leaves he’d always used. He’d often said he’d write a book about her youthful adventures and here it was as a collection of typewritten files.
Yesterday had been Grande Dame Bell’s 104th birthday. She was running out of time to think of anything that might have happened in her long career, which was to make her be remembered as the greatest Grande Dame that had ever lived.
Ever since she had seen her statue three hundred years in the future she’d wondered. The thoughts were becoming more frequent now that she had finally achieved the year of her death. She had read most of the way through her dad’s writings, bringing back all sorts of details that she’d forgotten, in the hope of finding a clue; without any luck so far.
She hobbled over to the front window of her Merlin Homes’ cottage and looked out to see if anything interesting was likely to happen today. There was nothing unusual to see. The sea in the estuary was blue and calm, there were one or two small dinghies sailing on the other side of the river. In the distance she could sea square sails’ approaching slowly which was probably one of the Davy Jones’ brigs. It might be worth a look later but otherwise it was all lovely to look at but perfectly normal. Nothing really exciting ever seemed to happen to her these days.
With a happy smile she remembered the party outside the Witches' Home on her 40th birthday. The senior partner of Merlin Homes had arrived with a brand new cottage for her, appearing in a space left for it just outside the castle drawbridge. There was a special modification just for her. Once she’d locked the door a “Do not disturb” notice appeared by magic, written in the language spoken in whatever country the cottage happened to be.
As always in the morning she wondered if she should use magic to alleviate her aging symptoms, but as usual she decided against it. Part of her persona during her increasingly rare visits to the parallel worlds was now due to her obvious age, people who’d known her had grown old themselves, indeed nearly all of them had died.
She picked another file from her father’s collection at random and started reading. ‘Well I never,’ she thought ‘I’d completely forgotten that!’
As she continued to read a smile spread across her face, when she was old enough she’d been given her Dame’s ranking without any of the written work normally necessary for such a promotion. This must be the incident responsible for it!
She finished reading, then sent the files written by her father up into the attic. They wouldn’t come to any harm up there and she could always get them down again if she needed them.
Then she settled back in her favourite chair looking out over the water and relaxed with a broad smile of satisfaction on her face. Now she could sit all day in the sunshine and remember the good old days without a worry in the world.
Shortly after the young Jennifer Jane had gone back to her own time, Matilda was beginning to worry. Grande Dame Bell’s statue had been neglected over the years as memories of her had faded.
It was time for a proper clean up. It was easy enough now that Jennifer Jane herself had visited them and restored the use of magic locally.
All the witches in the Home had become a bit rusty with their spell casting due to the previous lack of magic in the area. The assumption had always been that the failure was universal. Matilda and the other witches had been embarrassed when Jennifer Jane herself had turned up in her future accidentally and put things right for them.
The least the Witches' Home could do now was keep her statue clean. She went down to the library and sorted out a suitable spell. 10 minutes later the statue and its enclosure were gleaming in the sun.
Matilda examined it carefully to refresh her memory of the wording on the plinth. It had been overgrown for so long that she’d become hazy about what it actually said, apart from the dates of Grande Dame Bell’s birth and death.
“To the memory of a human who became the greatest Grande Dame who ever lived. Jennifer Jane Bell, who ensured the continuation of Witchcraft in perpetuity by cancelling the effects of the 2000th spell of the wizard RT23.”
The maintenance and returns officer at Merlin Homes was bored. All the paperwork these days was routine, nothing of any real importance ever happened. For the tenth time that day he gave a quick glance to the situation board in front of him. It was always a bank of solid green lights since he’d started working in the department. Very occasionally there’d been an amber light that would cause a great deal of excitement among the work force. This time amongst the sea of green there was a solitary red in one corner of the board.
It was practically unheard of these days to have a return, that part of the job had really become a sinecure. He sauntered over to the safe area in the factory grounds to see which cottage had come back.
Surprisingly it was one of the newer models. Most Homes were usually passed down the generations by their owners until they really did need a complete overhaul to bring them up to modern standards. This one was not more than fifty or so years old, and had obviously been very well looked after.
It was also slightly unusual in one obvious detail, it had a notice on the front door saying “Do not disturb.” Rather strange he thought, he hadn’t been made aware that any such modifications were available. It must have been a special request by the owner.
Even more peculiar; the returns policy only came into operation when the last owner died. This one could never have been passed on to any of the descendants of the registered owner. He opened the door carefully with his pass key and nearly collapsed with fright. An old lady was slumped in a chair apparently looking out of the window, a happy smile frozen on her face.
He called the hospital unit in case there was anyone else inside who might need treatment and had a careful look around before they arrived. Everything appeared normal. There were the usual furnishings and knick knacks. A fair number of witchcraft mementos and then he saw something he’d only ever heard about before hanging on the wall over the bed. A Grande Dame’s staff of power!
He went up into the attic to check the serial number carved into the main beam of the roof. It was registered to a witch called Jennifer Jane and the attic was remarkably clear of rubbish. Hardly a thing in sight, then he spotted several lever arch folders of an old design tucked away in a corner.
He picked them all up and took them back to his desk to see if there was anything of interest inside. The files were all numbered and when he sorted them into order the first one had written across the front, “The adventures of Jennifer Jane”.
Assuming she was the same person as the Grande Dame who’d just died this could prove interesting.
A quick look inside showed that someone had written a series of stories about Jennifer Jane, obviously before she became a Grande Dame. Oh well always start at the beginning!
He began to read the first page in the first file. The story was entitled “Jennifer Jane meets the giant.”