- Sisters in Secret– M&J: #01 (18 May 1991) – #10 (20 July 1991)
- Art: Maria Dembilio
Jackie Munroe and Alison Brown meet on the first day of school and immediately hit it off. They are shocked to discover at the end of the day, when talking to their mothers, that the girls are actually half sisters. Both mothers have reasons to dislike the other, Ms Munroe because her husband left her for Mrs Brown, when she was still pregnant with Jackie and Mrs Brown because when her husband got sick Ms Munroe wouldn’t let him reconcile with Jackie before he died. Their mothers don’t know the girls have become friendly and on hearing their mothers’ stories, at first Jackie and Alison decided the other wouldn’t be a good friend after all, but after being paired up in class they realise they still like each other. They decide to continue their friendship but have to hide it from their mothers.
This leads to episodic story where each week the girls miss out in something or get in trouble trying to keep their friendship secret, and at the end of the episode conclude it’s still worth it to be friends. Such events include Jackie sneaking Alison to her birthday party but when her mum comes back early, Alison has to sneak out and accidentally breaks an ornament. Jackie has to pay for it and Alison also gives her money towards replacing so they can’t afford tickets to go to concert they wanted to see. They both miss out on being form rep when a teacher sees them getting in trouble with police for leaving café without paying, they can’t explain to teacher that it was all cleared up and they did leave money but rushed out to avoid being seen by Mrs Brown. When a picture is taken of the girls together at opening of new school library, they expose the film, but that means Jackie doesn’t get her memento photo of presenting flowers to Duchess either. Alison is caught out in one of her lies when she sneaks out to meet Jackie, meaning she is grounded for a month. Jackie has to spend all her money on a top she doesn’t like, to avoid trouble with a shopkeeper, who thinks the girls are messing when they try to avoid her mum. Another time Jackie hurts her leg when she thinks Alison’s mom is going to catch them together, but it turns out to be someone else.
Meanwhile their mom’s begin to ask about friends, Mrs Brown insists she invites her best friend around for tea. They get new girl Sylvia to agree to pretend to be her best friend, but then she wants to hang around as a threesome all the time, and the girls find she is selfish and not so nice. Luckily Sylvia finds a more suitable friend by the end of the episode. With the school holidays approaching Alison and Jackie are not looking forward to it, because it will be harder to meet each other. Ten the Brown’s get into an accident, hearing about it on radio, Alison goes to see Jackie, who is luckily not badly injured but her mum is and will need to stay in hospital. Later at home Alison is surprised when her mum arrives with Jackie. She explains to Alison when she heard about the accident, she felt bad for Jackie who already lost her father and may have lost her mother, as Alison and Jackie share a father, they are the closest thing to family Jackie has so she has taken her in. She asks Alison to try and make an effort with her. Jackie and Alison discuss the situation and decide it is best to not let her know they were already friends. When Mrs Brown recovers she is grateful for the Munroes taking Jackie in. They decide to put past behind them and form a relationship for their daughters.
Like I mentioned above, it is quite an episodic story, with the set up each issue being how their secret friendship causes them trouble, but although they lose out on something they still think it is worth it. There might have been a bit more opportunity to dive into family issues particularly with their dad. How does Jackie feel about being raised without her dad and never meeting him? After finding out he wanted a relationship with her before he dies seems odd she doesn’t does she ever ask Alison more about him (at least from what we see). Does she feel resentment to her mother for not allowing her to get to know him before he died? For Alison, there is less than a year between the girls, so it does seem likely her dad had an affair does this make her feel and differently about her parents now? While it is briefly addressed in the first episode, with the girls taking their respective mother’s side of stories at first, they quickly move past it and decide what happened back then shouldn’t effect them, but it could have been interesting to see them have more conflicted feelings about their parents even if Jackie and Alison weren’t holding resentment against each other.
While they continue to have trouble with hiding the friendship and this means some conflict with their mothers, such as Jackie being grounded because she lied about where she was, the mothers never actually find out what the girls are doing. Perhaps if they talked to them, they could have resolved the feud earlier, but at least the mothers do come around in the end on their own terms. There have been other stories with this theme of two families falling out and the children have to hide their friendship, such as Let’s Pretend or The Secret Friends . For this category of story, it is is quite a strong entry, the actual reason for the mothers disliking each other in this story are quite reasonable motives (even if it would have been nice to dive into it more) and Alison and Jackie are likeable, each episode you hope for once something will work out for them. Each situation they find themselves in is interesting, and Maria Dembilio, who would become a staple artist for M&J, is a perfect choice for depicting the the girls problems. It is a relief to see at the end the girls get their wish of becoming family and no more secrets.