Tag Archives: Troublemaker

When Harry Dumped Sally [1995]

When Harry Dumped Sally 1

Published: Bunty #1950 (27 May 1995) to #1966 (16 September 1995)

Episodes: 17

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Sally Cartwright is going out with Harry Dennis. She’s really enjoying it, but then Harry starts acting as if he’s losing enthusiasm. Eventually he tells Sally he does not want to go out with her anymore. When Sally presses him over it, he snaps at her and tells her to leave him alone, he never wants to see her again. Sally is heartbroken. Her friends, who saw what happened, are sympathetic and tell her to “forget all about the creep!” To all appearances Sally is doing so and her friends admire her for taking it so well. Secretly though, it’s the opposite. Sally has turned extremely nasty over it all. She is thirsting for revenge and out to make Harry rue the day he dumped her.

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So Sally starts taking every single opportunity to play dirty tricks on Harry at every turn. The trouble is, Sally just doesn’t know where to stop and has no limits at all. Soon Harry’s life is not just an utter misery because things are suddenly going wrong for him and he can’t understand why. He is also getting into trouble with the school authorities and developing an unjustified bad reputation as a troublemaker with the teachers, all because of Sally’s tricks. Many of the classmates also begin to think Harry is turning into a troublemaker and can’t put a foot right, and they become unfriendly towards him. But Sally never pauses to think about this, much less have any pang of conscience. On the contrary, Sally loves every minute of Harry’s nightmare. And whenever she sees signs that Harry is getting in good with his friends again, she makes moves to crush it and make him unpopular again, and does the same with another new girlfriend Harry tries to acquire.

Sally doesn’t even stop when the rumour goes around that Harry has an enemy. Some of the classmates believe it while most don’t and just think Harry’s trying to blame someone else for his own trouble. At any rate, Sally never thinks to quit while she’s ahead. She just tells herself to go more carefully whenever she has the inevitable narrow escape now and then.

Harry realises he must have an enemy but seems to be at a loss as to who it is. In fact, he thinks Sally is still friendly with him despite the breakup and even asks to date her again at one point. Of course Sally is just pretending to be friendly in order to make more trouble for him.

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Eventually, when it is brought to Sally’s attention that she is the only girl in the class without a boyfriend, she finally decides it’s time to forget Harry and revenge and look for a new boyfriend. But at the Saturday market she can’t resist playing one more trick on Harry because she still gets full of anger every time she sees him. When she accidentally knocks over a handbag display, she foists the blame onto Harry. Poor, innocent, hapless Harry gets a telling off from the stall owner right in front of everyone while Sally watches with glee.

Later, Sally spots another boy in the market and takes a fancy to him, but he does not respond to her attempts to attract him. She assumes the boy is just shy – but at school on Monday she discovers it is because she has played one trick too many on Harry! The boy is Darren Walker, who is a new pupil and also Harry’s new friend and neighbour. Darren saw what Sally did in the market and reported it to Harry, so now Harry has figured everything out. Harry tells Sally she won’t have a friend left in the school when he and Darren spread the word, and he is right. Sally finds Harry’s revenge is sweeter than hers.

Thoughts

There is no doubt the title is a take on the movie title “When Harry Met Sally”, but the story has no bearing whatsoever on the movie. It’s a morality lesson on what can happen when revenge is taken too far. The story is also structured to present us with a question: are we still sympathetic with Sally by the end of the story?

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The breakup at the beginning is set up to make us sympathetic towards Sally, along with the classmates who witnessed it. But does Sally retain our sympathies by the end of the story? Or do we feel she has gone too far and she’s gotten way too spiteful? Or do we feel she’s just carried it along for far too long, it’s getting out of hand, and it’s time for it to end? Do our sympathies switch to Harry and we wish he would catch her out? These are the questions we face as the story develops.

We must say that Harry was asking for some sort of revenge when he dumped Sally. It’s not just that he dumped her; it’s also because he handled it badly, even aggressively. The girls who witness it say he’s a creep and a pig. All right, so maybe he did not really know how to handle it and found it a very difficult thing to do, so he bungled it. As it is, our sympathies lie with Sally and we all cheer when she starts her revenge.

The question is, do we continue cheering for Sally? As Sally’s revenge continues, she does things that go way too far. Making Harry unpopular with the other classmates and even destroying his friendships are too much. But what really goes beyond the pale is getting Harry into trouble with the teachers and blackening his school record, which would in turn get him into big trouble with his parents for things that are totally unjustified. What’s even more disturbing is that Sally has absolutely no conscience about that whatsoever. There are no twinges of remorse that bite some girls in “revenge” stories. On the contrary, Sally loves it every time she hurts Harry, and has no regrets about anything she has done to him. She is glad she has made his life so miserable ever since he dumped her. Her revenge just goes on and on, and becomes protracted and spinning out the story’s length.

When Sally finally decides to stop, it’s not out of remorse or just getting tired of it – it’s the realisation that she needs to move on if she wants to find a new boyfriend. But even after she decides to stop, she can’t resist passing up another chance to strike at Harry because she can’t let go of her anger. And there is little doubt Sally would have seized more opportunities to hurt Harry if Darren had not caught her out.

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So do our sympathies remain with Sally after this? Or have our sympathies switched to Harry? Does Harry become the sympathetic character in the story and we wish Sally would get caught out? How do we feel when Harry tells Sally he has found her out and calls her a nasty piece of work? It’s all up to the reader. That’s the whole purpose of the story and the way it was structured, including its long length of 17 episodes. The length must have been designed to protract Sally’s revenge and further test our sympathies and feelings towards Sally and Harry.

Whatever our feelings, we know there will be no problems with Sally being dumped in future – because no boy in the class will go out with her. After this, Sally is going to have a reputation among the boys as a spiteful bitch and they should steer well clear of her.

Star of the Silver Pool (1983)

Plot

Invalid Alison West’s mother, a top diving coach, has disappeared in a plane crash so Alison has been sent to live with her cruel uncle and aunt and their selfish daughter, Brenda. Alison discovers a mysterious silver pool deep in a forest. There, with the aid of a mysterious voice, she starts learning to dive, and also begins to secretly use Brenda’s personal gym for the same purpose.

Despite her aunt’s decision to lock her in the cellar to prevent her from getting to the diving championships in the nearby town, Alison manages to escape with the help of a mysterious monk. A neighbour drives her to the venue, where she becomes county champion. Outside the building the monk appears again and leads her to a waiting car belonging to Mr Bundock, the family solicitor. When Alison asks where they are going he says he is to take her to the appointed place, which is an airport. The plane takes her to the very place in the Tibetan Himalayas where her mother’s plane had crashed over a year earlier. There she sees her silver pool and the face of her mother. She feels guilty about letting her mother down but her mother disagrees. When Alison turns round she sees her flesh-and-blood mother who has been cared for by the monks since the crash. A monk tells Alison that her mother had only been able to recover because her daughter had been strong too. The monk tells them that the work of the pool is over, and it is now time for them to return to their own world, time to begin their lives again.

Notes

Appeared

  • Star of the Silver Pool – Suzy: #35 (7 May 1983) – #50 (20 August 1983)

 

The Green Lady (1986)

the-green-lady-cover

 

Published: Debbie Picture Story Library #102

Artists: Cover – uncertain; story – Terry Aspin

Plot

Lucy Lang seems all set to spend her summer holiday at Sheringdale, her boarding school, when a letter arrives from rich Great Aunt Alicia inviting her to spend the holiday at her place, Random House. Great-Aunt is also inviting Lucy’s cousin Cheryl, whose mother (Aunt Jean) is ill in hospital.

When Lucy meets Cheryl at the railway station, Cheryl is rude and cold towards her. Lucy is also surprised to find Cheryl has dark hair instead of blonde, which she thought Cheryl had. Cheryl says she had a change of hair colour, but is soon behaving in other ways that are not so easily explained. She tells Lucy she does not care for her. Even more strangely, Cheryl says she has the perfect way to make sure Lucy stays quiet if she finds out things. And right from the start, Cheryl pulls nasty tricks on Lucy and tells lies about her to completely discredit and blacken Lucy in the eyes of Great-Aunt. One trick is telling Great-Aunt completely false story that Lucy deliberately tried to pull her under when they swim in a lake. Cheryl acts in other odd ways too: she does not recognise her mother’s Christian name; she behaves as if she is a non-swimmer and afraid of water when Aunt Jean said she was a keen swimmer; and she tells Great-Aunt that Lucy has a teacher called Miss Dean, but Lucy has never had a teacher by that name.

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Eventually, Lucy tells Cheryl she has had enough of her, the fraud! The girl replies she is not Cheryl at all. Some friends of hers have kidnapped the real Cheryl, and Lucy had better stay quiet or Cheryl will suffer. When Lucy discovers the imposter is interested in the valuables of the house, she concludes that theft is the motive for the kidnapping.

The imposter tells Great-Aunt she is going to send Aunt Jean a get-well card. Guessing the imposter is planning to relay a message to her accomplices, Lucy follows her and sees her slip a message into the collar of a dog, which then goes in response to someone’s signal. Lucy tries to follow the dog but loses it, and the search makes her late back. The imposter then returns in tears and gives Great-Aunt a phony line about Lucy deliberately losing her in the woods. As a punishment, Great-Aunt locks Lucy in her room.

Lucy creeps up the drainpipe to do some investigating. In the attic, she comes across information about the family’s most valuable heirloom, a miniature called “The Green Lady”. Lucy concludes this is what the imposter is after. But as she climbs back down, the imposter takes photographs of her, and tells Lucy that she is going to use it as “evidence” that Lucy stole the heirloom.

However, the imposter’s threat gives Lucy the idea of travelling to Cheryl’s house to find evidence that the girl is an imposter. Facilitated by a newly arrived gift of a bicycle from her father, she does so. Upon arrival, Lucy sees a woman who is ostensibly going in to clean the house. But when Lucy enters the house afterwards, she finds the house is a tip.

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Then Lucy finds the real Cheryl bound and gagged. As she unties Cheryl, Cheryl explains that a neighbour volunteered to help out with the housework when her mother took ill.  But when the neighbour found out how rich Great-Aunt was, she hatched the scheme of sending her daughter in, posing as Cheryl, to steal the heirloom. Helping the scheme along were big brother Len and his dog Bonzo to carry messages.

The neighbour and Len then corner the girls. The girls put up a fight and scream for help. While they do so, Great-Aunt arrives with the imposter, who tells her relatives that the game is up: Great-Aunt (who got suspicious of her) caught her red-handed and extracted a full confession. The plotters give up the fight and are handed over to the police. Great-Aunt tells Cheryl that her mother has recovered enough to have visitors, and she apologises to Lucy. When Lucy and Cheryl see the miniature, they marvel at how such a tiny thing could have caused so much trouble.

Thoughts

When we see the tricks Cheryl is playing on Lucy, the story seems set up to be another one about a scheming cousin who tries to push out another one. Only the cover saying that a girl’s life is in danger because of a miniature painting suggests it is something bigger than that. And there are odd things about Cheryl that hint she is not just out to cause trouble for Lucy. So it is not too much of a surprise when the imposter reveals herself to Lucy, though it makes a nice change from the spiteful cousin formula. The girl isn’t pulling these tricks because she’s spiteful – it’s all part of a bigger design to commit a crime.

Once it is revealed that a plot to commit a crime is at the centre of the trouble, the story gets really tense and exciting. Lucy knows a crime is planned but doesn’t know just what the criminals are after. She can’t speak out because Great-Aunt has been tricked into thinking badly of her, and the imposter has blackmailed her into staying quiet. She’s all on her own, and she has to figure out the crime while being under a cloud and then being confined to her room. And she is desperately worried about the real Cheryl, who has been kidnapped and being held somewhere, and it sounds like her life is in serious danger. When Lucy sets off on her own, the drama intensifies as we wait anxiously to see what Lucy will find at the other end, including what dangers that might await her. And what will happen when the imposter finds Lucy has gone? She is bound to guess where Lucy is headed and why. It will certainly scare the criminals into stepping up their game or worse, and the imposter making a grab for the miniature points to that.

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The criminals certainly are clever, even if their scheme depends too much on neither Great-Aunt nor Lucy not knowing Cheryl by sight. The imposter bears no resemblance to the real Cheryl and isn’t wearing a disguise, so the plotters must have put some interrogation on Cheryl in order to know they would get away with just planting a strange girl at Great-Aunt’s. The imposter does not put much effort into fooling Lucy – she goes for those nasty tricks instead to discredit her while working her way in with Great-Aunt to get close to the valuables. The tricks certainly look clever. Great-Aunt says afterwards that the girl was not that clever and it was gullibility on her part when she should have seen straight through the girl. Still, it is easy to say that in hindsight. And in the end, Great-Aunt shows perceptiveness in how she finally got suspicious of the girl: the girl refuses to go see her mother when news comes that the mother is well enough for visitors. Great-Aunt was expecting Cheryl to be eager to see her mother, so the refusal made her suspicious at last.

The artwork of the popular Terry Aspin (known for Bunty’s “Maisie Mercury” and “School’s Out!”) lends itself well to the story. However, we are a bit puzzled at the bejewelled hand making a grab for the miniature on the cover. Neither the imposter nor her mother would be wearing such expensive ladies’ jewellery, so whose hand is it? It’s probably just artistic licence for dramatic effect, and perhaps the jewels do make it more effective.

Captain Carol (1997)

Captain Carol logo.jpg

Published: Bunty #2045 (22 March 1997) – #2054 (24 May 1997)

Artist: Unknown

Plot

At St Jade’s Boarding School, Carol Davies and Fiona Mathieson are best friends. One day voting forms go out for School Captain. Fiona wins the post, which gives her privileges such as a whole study to herself. Carol, who was runner-up, is appointed Fiona’s deputy. On parents’ day, Mrs Davies finds her watch has been stolen and then it falls out of Fiona’s pocket. Fiona says she does not know how it got there, but is expelled for theft and Carol takes her place as School Captain.

Before Fiona leaves, she proclaims her innocence to Carol and her other friends. They believe that someone framed her and agree to help her prove her innocence. To this end, Fiona is going to a local boarding school, Hallcote Lawn, which will enable her to stay close by so she can check up on progress, any potential developments in the investigation, and exchange clues.

Captain Carol 1

It turns out that it was Carol who had framed Fiona because, of course, she wanted the School Captain’s job. However, this is not revealed to the reader for several episodes. Still, there were small clues in the first episode, such as Carol not looking happy when the girls say they expected she voted for Fiona. In the meantime we see Carol do subtle things that, after the revelation, we realise were attempts to derail and misdirect the investigation.

First, Carol has word about Fiona’s expulsion spread to Hallcote Lawn by telling another St. Jade’s girl who is transferring there. As planned, Fiona becomes an outcast at her new school. But instead leaving Hallcote Lawn as Carol suggests, Fiona bravely stays on in order to stay close to the girls’ investigation. Then Carol drops a suggestion to the girls that Fiona had actually committed the theft in order to go to Hallcote Lawn, where fees are cheaper, but the girls don’t buy it. She drops another hint that a teacher did it because she was jealous of Fiona’s aunt getting a job she wanted, but the teacher is soon cleared of suspicion.

Then, a mention of pickpockets in Fiona’s English class has her realise that the culprit acted like a pickpocket in reverse – slipping the watch into her pocket instead of taking something out of it. So the culprit has to be someone who got close enough to her for that. Fiona draws up a list of people who would have gotten close enough to her to plant the watch on her and passes it over to the girls. It is this point that it is revealed to the reader that Carol is the culprit. Once this is established, the story puts full focus on her. It openly shows Carol trying to sabotage the investigation, her ruthlessness and underlying desperation in holding onto her position, and also shows her thought bubbles.

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The girls begin to realise that Carol had the strongest motive for getting Fiona expelled – getting the captaincy. Carol deflects suspicion by faking her study being wrecked by an unknown enemy. As planned, this leads the girls to think that the same person is after Carol now. Later, Carol tries to plant evidence for it on another girl. Fortunately it founders and the girl is soon cleared of framing Fiona.

Fiona sneaks back to school, telling Carol she wants to speak to a girl who may be a potential witness. But when they try to hide from the headmistress, she discovers Fiona when Carol “sneezes”. The headmistress throws Fiona out, but is so furious with Carol that her captaincy is put on the line. Carol soon finds a way to get back into the headmistress’ good books; there is no way she is going to lose her captaincy.

Carol has another close call when the girls discover a father made a video of the parents’ day. But when they review the tape they discover it got accidentally taped over. Carol is safe again.

But not for long – a new girl, Kirsty MacPherson arrives, and she happens to have seen Carol slip the watch on Fiona when she and her parents visited on the parents’ day. Once Kirsty discovers why Carol did it, she starts blackmailing her. Carol gives in to Kirsty because she just has to hold onto her captaincy.

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The blackmail does not last long because the next episode is the final one. Carol comes to realise that as long as Fiona persists with the other girls in proving her innocence, they will keep investigating and her secret will never be safe. If Fiona was removed altogether, the girls will soon give up. So at a chess tournament with Hallcote Lawn Carol tries to get Fiona expelled from her new school by using the same trick as before. But when the alarm is raised, the search does not find the stolen item in Fiona’s pocket where Carol planted it. Instead, it is found in Carol’s bag! Carol is so astonished that she openly declares it is impossible because she planted it on Fiona – OOOPS!

Fiona then explains she put the item in Carol’s bag after feeling Carol slip it into her pocket and tells Carol that she is too heavy-handed for tricks like that. Carol retorts that she is not, saying that was precisely what she did with the watch on that fateful parents’ day and Fiona did not notice.

Now the truth is well and truly out, Carol is expelled and Fiona is reinstated to her old school and position as School Captain.

Thoughts

There have been many stories where a best friend becomes a secret worst enemy when the heroine is promoted at school. Stories where this has happened include “The Captain’s Friend” (Tracy) and “In Petra’s Place” (Bunty). In most cases they just try to make the heroine look too irresponsible to have the promotion and don’t go as far as trying to get her expelled. But getting her own best friend expelled for a crime she did not commit is precisely what Carol does. This puts on her on a low that far exceeds the depravity of most schemers. We have seen other girls try to get another expelled, such as “’I’ll Take Care of Tina!’” (Mandy) but they are usually either just out for misguided revenge or are already nasty schemers whom we cannot expect much of. But a best friend? That is beyond the pale. So Carol Davies must rank as one of the most despicable schemers in the history of girls’ comics. Moreover, there is no hint of remorse or shame that could redeem her in any way. Sure, Carol says (to herself) that she did not like to do what she did to Fiona, but she had to because she wanted the job so much and this was the only way to get it. It may or may not be her self-reasoning to ease a guilty conscience, but she never gives any real impression that she is feeling in any way guilty about what she did. Furthermore, she has no compunction in trying it again (which is her undoing) or in trying to shift the blame onto others in the course of the girls’ investigations.

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Having another girl discovering Carol’s secret and start blackmailing her is a surprise twist that is left so underdeveloped. It had the potential to be spun out for more episodes and add more turns and twists that would have made the story even more exciting. And it would have been really interesting to see where Kirsty’s blackmail would lead if it had been developed more. Would it have ended in Carol being discovered? Or would Carol try a frame-up on Kirsty to get her expelled and out of the way? The possibilities are so tantalising. Instead, the blackmail only lasted one episode and left on a thread that was not tied up before the final episode, which is really annoying. Maybe the writer intended to take the blackmail angle further but then the editor gave the order to end the story.

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When considering Fiona and her quest to prove her innocence, we get the impression that there is an untold story that would have made a brilliant and popular serial if told in its entirety. In the brief glimpses we see of Fiona as she pops back to check on progress we can see her courage and persistence shine through. There are also hints and mentions of mental anguish as she tells the detective team she is going through hell at her new school because they think she’s a thief. In the final episode a girl reports back that Fiona is now really desperate, and most likely this is because she has reached breaking point. Just imagine what a powerful and emotional serial this would have made if the story had been told from Fiona’s point of view and we could see it all for ourselves.

The Captain’s Friend (1980)

Plot

June Smith and Vera Forbes-Walker have been friends until June  is voted School Captain and Vera Captain’s Friend. Vera is not settling for Captain’s Friend, so she sets out to discredit June and take her place as Captain.

Captains Friend

Eventually Vera causes the Head’s god-daughter Marion to have a skating accident, with June being blamed. The Head, Miss Roache, decides that June will continue as School Captain, but only until after school governor Lord Sheppard visits the following Friday.

In sick bay, Marion feels guilty because she went skating without telling June and should own up to it. Moreover, she knows the accident was Vera’s fault for not warning her the ice was unsafe. Vera persuades Marion to keep quiet because if she confesses she could be expelled, even if she is the Head’s god-daughter.

On the day of the speech, Vera tricks June into going into the old studio, where she locks her in. But Marion sees this from the sick bay window and goes to let June out. After getting Marion back to sick bay, June goes to deliver her speech, which she has to do without notes as Vera’s trick caused her to leave them in her study. Miss Roache thinks it is an excellent speech. But thanks to  Vera’s tricks, she still thinks June is not responsible enough to be School Captain.

So Vera and June are called into Miss Roache’s study to review the matter of the captaincy. Vera thinks the captaincy is as good as hers, but then Marion comes in to tell the truth about the skating incident. Miss Roache then tells Vera that she is about to become the first-ever girl to be expelled from the school. But June begs Miss Roache to give Vera one more chance, in order to prove she is sorry. Miss Roache is so impressed at this that she tells June that she really is a worthy captain. Vera is given her last chance, with a warning that she will be expelled next time, and stripped of her position as Captain’s Friend.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Captain’s Friend – Tracy: #45 (9 Aug. 1980) – #54 (11 Oct. 1980)

I’ll Get Rid of Rona! (1980)

I'll Get Rid of Rona logo

Published: Tracy: #43 (26 July 1980) to #53 (04 October 1980)

Artist: Unknown

Plot

Two years previously Orphan Rona Parrish had been very happy at Sunnyhills Children’s Home until she was wrongly convicted of theft (the exact circumstances of which are not discussed). Since then, she had been forced to move from children’s home to children’s home and from school to school as the stigma follows her around and people provoke her into “rebellious behaviour” when they bully her over her record. Currently these are the girls at her latest school. They call her a borstal brat, accuse her of stealing their belongings and such, and provoke her into lashing out at them. The lashing out keeps getting Rona  into trouble with the school authorities. The matron of Rona’s current home knows what is going on, but her advice to try to ignore the teasing is not very helpful.

Rona 1

When the girls’ bullying gets Rona suspended, Matron and a social worker named Miss Gregory come up with the idea of fostering Rona out to the Marchant family, in the hope that a fresh start in a locality where nobody knows her past will help. Rona jumps at it. The Marchant parents are very understanding about Rona’s past and agree not to tell their daughter Gwen or even the staff at the new school about it. When Rona arrives, she gets the immediate impression she will be happy at the Marchants’ home.

But already forces are working against Rona. Gwen seems friendly enough to Rona, but in secret she resents having a “strange brat” for a sister. And when she snoops into a confidential letter from Miss Gregory and discovers Rona’s secret, she decides it’s the limit. She sets out to get rid of Rona, figuring that Rona’s record will make it easier.

At home Gwen pulls discreet but dirty tricks to give her parents the impression that Rona is careless, untrustworthy and things always seem to get lost or stolen around her. She also gets Rona into trouble in public incidents, such as hooliganism and stealing on a paper round. At school, where Gwen has to say that Rona is her cousin from Canada, Gwen pilfers items from classmates with the intention of putting the blame on Rona when she is ready. This soon has everyone on the alert for a thief at school. Gwen is pleased to hear the other girls whispering that they suspect Rona is the thief and not Gwen’s cousin from Canada either. When Mrs Marchant hears about the thieving at school she also begins to suspect Rona, much to Gwen’s delight.

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Things get worse for Rona when Peggy Malone joins the school. She is a delinquent and a troublemaker, and everyone soon realises she is a girl to avoid. Peggy also knows Rona’s secret because they were at the same remand home together while Rona was awaiting trial. Peggy starts blackmailing Rona, forcing her to do her homework, buy her cigarettes, do after-school work for her and be her “friend”, which makes Rona unpopular with the other girls. Gwen discovers that Peggy has a hold over Rona and decides to enlist Peggy’s help in getting rid of her.

So through Peggy, Gwen tricks Rona into selling Peggy’s aunt’s jewels and make it look like she stole them. Peggy had agreed to Gwen’s plan in anticipation that she would get money from the sale. But the jeweller gets suspicious and calls the police. The police and Miss Gregory are called in. Rona realises too late that Peggy tricked her while the police think that Rona and Peggy are in it together. However, Gwen’s plan has misfired a bit as she thought the jeweller would call her parents instead of the police, and as there has been no sale she has no money to pay Peggy with. So Gwen gives Peggy her Post Office savings instead, on condition that Peggy disappears without telling on her. The police find out about Peggy running off, which does make her look guilty, and Peggy can’t be questioned over the matter. Things now look even blacker for Rona.

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Gwen has been keeping the items she stole from school in her Box of Secrets. She gloats over them, thinking she won’t have a foster sister much longer. But the police start a search for the stolen items at the Marchants’ home before Gwen realised what they were looking for. This means she did not get the chance to plant them on Rona; they are still in the Box of Secrets. The police find the box and insist on taking a look inside. Gwen tries to stop them by throwing the key out the window, but Dad gets his toolbox to force it open (can’t the police pick the lock?). They find not only the stolen items but also Gwen’s diary – which has all the details of her scheming against Rona and consorting with Peggy.

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The subsequent fates of Peggy and Gwen are not recorded. Presumably they include expulsion and criminal charges.

The Marchants hope Rona will still stay with them, but she declines because she would never be able to forget what Gwen did. So Gwen does succeed in getting rid of Rona, who goes to stay with Miss Gregory while a new start is worked out. Then a letter arrives from Sunnyhills, which says Rona’s name has been cleared as another girl has confessed to the crime she was convicted of (rather belated, as it is two years after the event). Rona is free to return to Sunnyhills, and is thrilled to do so. When she arrives she gets a huge welcome from all the other children in the home.

Thoughts

Stories of spiteful girls who play dirty tricks to get rid of a foster girl/cousin because they are jealous, resentful or don’t want to share have been churned out in quantity at DCT. Examples include “The Dark Secret of Blind Bettina/The Lying Eyes of Linda Lee” (Mandy), “What Lila Wants…” (M&J) and “Sharing with Sonia” (Bunty).

It is unusual, though, to combine the “spiteful foster sister/cousin” premise with the blackmailer premise. Rona has not just one but two enemies working against her – one to get rid of her and one to blackmail her. And then they combine forces against her! Having both a schemer and a blackmailer against Rona puts her through far more than what a protagonist would usually go through with either premise. Added to that, Rona has had a hard time for two years, what with being wrongly convicted and then being bullied over it, which nearly gets her unfairly expelled at her old school – more injustice! Throwing the wrongful conviction premise into the mix as well certainly makes the story a far more gripping one than it would be if it was just a routine “spiteful stepsister/cousin” story.

Rona

The matron and the headmistress at Rona’s old locality must take some of the blame Rona’s “rebellious” behaviour for handling the situation badly and not taking action to stop the bullying that provokes it. Matron knows about it, but just gives Rona unhelpful advice. She does not speak up for Rona at the school and tell the headmistress to sort out the bullies. But at least the decision to get Rona away from it all in foster care was an inspired one, and would have worked out brilliantly if it hadn’t been for Gwen and Peggy. It is a bit strange that Rona stands up to the bullies at school (albeit in an aggressive manner that gets her into constant trouble) but does not stand up to Peggy at all. When Rona is caught with the jewels, she does not even try to explain about the blackmail to Miss Gregory, who knows what Peggy is like because she is on her case files.

The Marchant parents must take some of the blame for Gwen’s resentment of Rona. The fact that Gwen felt they foisted Rona onto her does suggest they did not consult Gwen or consider her feelings as much as they could have. And having Gwen tell everyone at school that Rona is her cousin from Canada is totally unfair, because that is asking both her and Rona to live a lie. And how long would it be before someone sees through that lie anyway? Surely it would have been quite sufficient and honest enough to just say that Rona is a foster sister.

Rona 6

But the fact remains that Gwen was not only spiteful but hypocritical too. She secretly riles against having a “thief” for a foster sister, yet she becomes a thief herself in her scheming against Rona, consorts with a criminal, and has no compunction or guilt about it. When she is caught out, she merely looks furious. There are no tears or shame at all. So it is not surprising and completely realistic that Rona chooses not to stay after she discovers Gwen’s plotting. So many “spiteful stepsister/cousin” stories have ended with the troublemaker being glibly forgiven and becoming best friends with the girl she tried to get rid of (e.g. Mandy’s “That Bad Bettina!”). Still, those were cases where the troublemaker did repent, whereas Gwen did not.

The sudden confession from the true thief at the end comes across as a bit contrived and too convenient. It has been two years since the crime and the thief did nothing to clear Rona in all that time – but now, all of a sudden, she does. Still, we must have a happy ending all round.

 

Sharing with Sonia (1997)

Sharing with Sonia logo

Published: Bunty: #2046 (29 March 1997) – #2057 (14 June 1997)

Photo story

Plot

Kelly Warner is staying with her Aunt Sarah while her parents are abroad, and is looking forward to lots of treats and being spoiled rotten at her kind aunt’s. But then cousin Sonia comes to stay too because her mother is ill. Kelly does not want to share Aunt Sarah and her treats with Sonia, so she starts playing dirty tricks to get rid of Sonia while pretending to be friendly.

Sonia 4

Both girls are temporary pupils at their new school, and the tricks Kelly pulls on Sonia soon give Sonia a reputation at school. The other girls turn against Sonia as they think she is trouble and even accuse her of faking everything in order to get attention. Sonia is readily upset at all the tricks (a nasty note Kelly plants calling her a wimp is unfortunately not too far wrong) and realises she has an enemy, but has no idea who what with all the girls being strangers and turning against her because of her ‘reputation’. It is an easy matter for Kelly to put the blame for a trick on one girl or other so Sonia accuses the unfortunate girl, which further reinforces her bad reputation. Kelly also takes steps to make Aunt Sarah also think Sonia is trouble, so to cut her off from any help there. But Kelly realises that Sonia’s reputation is beginning to have the girls avoiding her too, and says she has to be loyal to her cousin. Nonetheless, the girls say everything was fine until those two arrived and they aren’t very friendly with Kelly either.

Sonia 1

Then someone begins to pull tricks on Kelly, starting with a nasty note in her schoolbag. Kelly wonders if her plan has backfired and one of the girls is playing tricks on her now. Kelly still pulls her own tricks on Sonia, but notices that Sonia is not getting as wound up over them as she was before.

Finally, Kelly ruins the cakes Sonia made in domestic science by putting salt and pepper in them. But then Kelly finds her own cakes have been ruined in the same manner. Sonia then reveals that she had been playing those tricks on Kelly. She had found Kelly out somehow and has been fighting fire with fire!

Sonia then takes her leave; she is free to go home as her mother has recovered. But before Sonia goes, she gives Kelly a warning that has her full of dread. Sonia’s family are moving into the area where Kelly lives soon. So if she ends up at the same school as Kelly….

 Thoughts

It has been done a kazillion times in girls’ comics and would continue in girls’ comics – a spiteful girl plots to get rid of a foster sister/cousin because she is jealous or does not want to share. But what is unique is how the story is resolved. This is the only time I have ever seen this type of story end where the victim turns the tables on the troublemaker with her own tricks. Usually, in cases where the victim realises what the troublemaker is up to (which does not always happen because it’s resolved another way), she makes moves to catch the troublemaker out, not give her a taste of her own medicine. But this is precisely what happens here. The twist raises the eyebrows of anyone who is familiar with the “spiteful stepsister/cousin” story, because it is definitely not what usually happens with this type of premise. If there are other “spiteful stepsister/cousin” stories that were resolved in this manner, I sure would like to know about them!

Sonia 3

The buildup of the tricks at school is well constructed. Both girls are strangers at the school (another odd step – usually it is just the victim who is the newcomer at school in this type of story), so it is easy for Kelly to make everyone a potential suspect in Sonia’s eyes. It is also easier for Kelly to foist the blame for the tricks on other girls who have been unfriendly one way or other. Kelly even pulls tricks to hit back at them at times when they are unfriendly (such as not inviting Kelly to a party) through Sonia. However, the disadvantage of Kelly being a stranger at the school too is that she does not have existing friends or a solid good reputation to keep her protected from a reputation as the “friend” of the girl who has a reputation as a troublemaker. Kelly has unwittingly cut herself off from making friends at her temporary school, and even after Sonia leaves she will most certainly have a hard time making friends.

Sonia 2

Some explanation on how Sonia rumbled Kelly would have been in order. It is, after all, what any reader would love to know. And surely Kelly herself would have been anxious to know it too. But she doesn’t even ask, and the lack of explanation on how Sonia found Kelly out is a bit annoying and feels like something is lacking there in the resolution. The only hint of how it could have happened is Sonia noticing how pale Kelly looks after the girls say they know who is responsible – only for them to say it is Sonia herself. If that was where it happened, it is taking an enormous stretch of perception for Sonia to start suspecting Kelly there. Perhaps there was something else that made Sonia suspicious and Kelly looking pale merely confirmed it.

The warning that Kelly may not have seen the last of Sonia or her revenge also adds to Kelly’s punishment. Even if Sonia does not end up at the same school as Kelly, Kelly is left sweating and beginning to regret what she did because of what may follow because of it. Staying at Aunt Sarah’s won’t be so enjoyable now.

Friend or Foe?

Plot

Karen Fielding’s parents make her change schools because she got mixed up with a bad crowd. At her new school, Karen finds herself in the same class as a group of girls the bad crowd hates. For this reason Karen secretly causes trouble for them while pretending to be friendly. Then Karen comes to her senses and stops her campaign. But when the bad crowd find out about Karen’s change of heart, they swear vengeance.

friendorFoe

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • Friend or Foe? –  Bunty: (?) – #2164 (3 July 1999)

The Loner

Plot

Denise Fraser strikes up a friendship with Sylvie, a girl who travels on the same bus as herself to school. Then odd, suspicious things begin to happen; everyone who is nasty to Denise ends up in trouble of some sort. Denise begins to have doubts about Sylvie.

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • The Loner –  Bunty: – #2122 (12 September 1998) – #2127 (17 October 1998)