The top secret diary of davina dupree

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The TOP SECRET Diary of Davina Dupree (Aged 10)

First in the Egmont School Series

S K Sheridan

For Bethan, Olivia and Ben

Sunday, 1stSeptember

Hello New Diary,

My name is Davina Dupree, I’m ten and a half and I’m kind of in shock because my parents have just left me in Egmont Exclusive Boarding School for Girls. They took off in our deluxe helicopter from the middle of an enormous hockey pitch about five minutes ago and for once no one stared because arriving by helicopter is a normal thing here. A couple of girls even touched down in private jets - there’s a landing strip squashed next to the tennis courts with a big sign next to it saying, ‘NO Ball Games, Walking, Running or Cycling on the Runway Please’. Can you imagine!

So here I am. Abandoned. Mum shoved a brochure about the school on to my bed a couple of months ago. It had glossy photos of girls in pink, purple and white uniforms doing things like painting huge pictures, riding horses, learning to fly small aircraft (yes, really, it’s that kind of school), swimming in a dolphin shaped pool with multi coloured water slides, feeding chickens in the school farm and doing gymnastics. The school building itself looks like a fairytale palace, all white marble and turrets with violet roses climbing up its walls. Quite impressive.

Mum then announced that this incredibly expensive private school would be my new home for a while as she and Dad had been assigned secret posts on an island in the Pacific Ocean. I’m never sure what their job is and they say they can’t tell me for my own safety, but I think they work for the Secret Service as spies or something. They are good sorts really but we don’t spend much time together. It’s my wispy haired old nanny, Carrie Whepple, who usually looks after me. She’s really kind and always smells of strawberry and vanilla cakes because she bakes them so much. She says they’re her speciality. Mmmm,

But the sad news is that Carrie’s just had to retire because her arthritis is so bad and she’s nearly seventy, which is mega old to be working. I cried when she told me she was leaving and actually her eyes looked a bit weepy too. She gave me a photo album full of snaps of her and me from when I was a baby and she promised to write lots and come and see me when she can. Last week, I tried to teach her how to send emails but she says she doesn’t trust computers and that you can’t beat a good, honest, handwritten letter.

I told Mum and Dad that I DID NOT WANT TO GO TO BOARDING SCHOOL because I wanted to stay near Carrie, but they didn’t listen. Instead, they just muttered things I couldn’t really hear, that sounded like, ‘the school will be good for you’ and ‘other girls your own age’.

So hey ho, here I am actually sitting on my own bed in the incredibly expensive private school, wearing the pink, purple and white uniform, with Carrie’s photo album next to me. I’ve just looked through it again. You, dear Diary, are a present from Mum and Dad. As always, they’ve paid for the very best and you are have a white leather cover with a pink buckle to do you up and small yellow flowers embroidered over your front. Mum knows I like writing so she’s probably hoping you’ll keep me busy.

I’m kind of used to being alone anyway, because I’m an only child. I know some people think only children are spoiled brats and I suppose I am when it comes to money because my parents have got so much of it! Honestly, I don’t know where they get it all from. Altogether, they own two mansions - one in the city and one in the country, a villa by the sea and four holiday apartments in different countries around the world. As well as the helicopter, they’ve got five vintage cars, a speed boat and a yacht. I heard Dad saying once that he’d like to buy a private train and track one day. But what’s the point of having all that if you’re never around to enjoy it? I don’t know, I really don’t, I do despair of Pip and Sally. (I like to call my parents by their first names sometimes because we have that sort of relationship). I know they don’t spoil me with attention because Mum says when she’s away (which is ALL the time) she sometimes forgets she has a child, which is charming isn’t it? I was a bit upset when she said that actually, but Carrie said they do love me in their own way and not to take any notice of silly comments and that she, (Carrie), loves me VERY much. And I love her. I hope she comes to visit soon.

At the moment I’m sitting on my bed in my ‘dorm’, which is what they call a dormitory or bedroom here, although it’s not one of those horrid old fashioned ones with rows of metal framed beds and scratchy blankets like you read about in books. There are only two beds in this ENORMOUS room, with purple and pink heart duvets. Along one wall there are three windows that go right up to the ceiling. Each window has purple and gold, velvet curtains draped over both sides of it, which are held in place by gold tassels. The view looks out over the school’s riding stables. I can hear the ponies braying now, it’s actually quite a sweet sound. I might ask if I can go riding later as I’ve never tried it before. I like the silver carpet that covers the floor of the dorm because it’s very deep and squashy and my feet literally sink down when I stand on

A large flat screen TV takes up the whole of another wall, which Carrie wouldn’t like because she says watching too much of it rots your brain, so I might forget to mention it to her. There’s a little shower and toilet room attached to the dorm, that has flashing star lights around the mirror over the

In the middle of the room there are two baby pink leather sofas with fluffy white cushions on them. Over to one side are two wide, wooden desks which must be for all the hard work they want us to do here. On each desk are identical new, shiny laptops, iPod’s still in their boxes, fresh new folders and lots of unopened packets of pens, pencils and felt tips. Wowzers! I haven’t touched any of mine yet, because everything looks so lovely in its packaging. I’m just enjoying looking at it.

The girl I’m sharing with is acting strangely. She got here first and has had her face squashed down in to her pillow ever since I arrived. She’s still breathing, I checked. All I can see from her back view is that her hair is bright red and curly and her legs are extremely long and thin. When I sat on her bed and asked what her name was, she told me to go away through her pillow. How rude! Oh well, maybe she’s shy or something.

Hang on, a bell just went. I think it’s time for dinner. Brilliant, I’m absolutely starving. See you later, Diary.

Monday, 2ndSeptember

Hello Diary,

Yum, I had the best dinner yesterday evening. I don’t know what they eat in other boarding schools but here they laid on a three course feast! I hope they do that every evening. To start, I had melon and ham with fizzy apple juice to drink. Then for the main I chose roast chicken with sweet potato mash and peas and for dessert I had triple chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream which was SERIOUSLY DELISH! We were sitting four to a table in a large dining room that has crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Each plate of food was served by a French waiter in a puffy white hat, who came zooming out of the kitchen with different dishes balanced all the way up his arms, shouting and arguing with all the other waiters at top speed. Once or twice, plates crashed to the floor and then the waiters went in to complete uproar, screaming and jumping around, with a couple actually crying. It was better than watching a play. Can you imagine!

My roommate must have been hungry because when I told her it was dinner time she lifted her head off her pillow and I saw streaky tear marks down each of her red cheeks. I pretended not to notice and started chattering away about rubbish, trying to cheer her up. She didn’t talk much but she did tell me her name is Arabella Rothsbury. We ended up sitting on the same table at dinner, together with a couple of other new girls called Clarice and Cleo, who I didn’t really take to as all they did was look in pocket mirrors and brush their long, swishy, blonde hair with foldaway

After dinner, our lovely, cosy housemistress, Mrs Honeysuckle, knocked on our bedroom door then came in to say goodnight and to find out how we’re settling in. She’s in charge of us for the whole of the first year. I saw the second year’s housemistress, Miss Ferret, at dinner and she had a rather sharp and serious face so I’m glad we’ve got smiley Mrs Honeysuckle at the moment.

Arabella and I couldn’t be more different and opposite. She has fiery red hair like I already said, pale skin, freckles and is as thin as a pencil. I, on the other hand, am definitely not as thin as a pencil but I’m not as fat as a tomato either, so I must be somewhere in between. My hair is golden brown, straight and so long I can sit on it. I always wear it in a plait down my back, just because it’s easier like that. Arabella is quiet and serious but I like chatting. Carrie says I could talk the hind leg off a donkey although I’ve never actually tried it. Yet.

Arabella, who doesn’t smile much by the way because she’s homesick, says her favourite subject is maths. Now maths is OK but my favourite subject has got to be art, I seriously love painting pictures and want to be a famous artist when I grow up. I’ve been studying our time table and have seen that we’ve got one whole hour of art on Tuesday. At my old day school, we had the same teacher all the time who taught us pretty much everything but he wasn’t that interested in art so we did it about once a month. A boy at my old school used to call me a boffin because I liked staying in at break times to do extra painting, but he didn’t realise that Ihaveto do extra art because I need to practise. I’ll never be famous otherwise, will I?

Carrie used to work in an art gallery in London, so knows all about already famous artists, alive and dead. She’s the one who first got me interested in painting. We used to paint together in the evenings when my parents were away and she said I have a ‘natural talent’. Her favourite artist is a French one called Claude Monet because he painted feathery pictures of beautiful landscapes andmyfavourite is one called Vincent Van Gogh, who painted swirly pictures and went mad and chopped his ear off. Can you imagine, what a mess! They both died a while ago. Carrie says lots of artists are a bit crazy because they have so many emotions rushing round inside them which they channel to help them create amazing works of art. My absolute favourite painting by Van Gogh (you always call artists by their surnames, I’m not sure why), is one called ‘Starry Night’. It is of a pretty village at night that is being looked after by the most ENORMOUS starry sky. The stars are so big they look like planets or suns and I like it because it makes me feel magical.

Gosh, I hope Arabella cheers up a bit, she’s so gloomy. I do like her but it’s like living with a rain cloud. We’ve got maths this morning so maybe that will make her smile. I’ll report back to you, dear Diary, after my first, glorious art lesson.

Wednesday, 4thSeptember

Hello again, Diary,

Well! Where do I start? I went to the art room for the first time yesterday and am pleased to report that it was as arty and colourful as I’d hoped. I was so excited when I saw it, like a chocolate addict whose been given the most delish box of chocolates in the world.

The art room’s walls are painted snowflake white and it has a glass ceiling so that lots of light comes in. I looked up a couple of times during the lesson and saw birds flying - one actually went to the toilet on the ceiling above my head while I was watching – No one else noticed.

Two of the high walls are packed with shelves. They are full of colourful paint bottles, which stand to attention like soldiers. Piles of brushes, glue sticks, trays, clay, felt tips, cardboard and rainbow coloured pencils are squashed in around the bottles and there are rolls of bumpy material lined up under the bottom shelf - I’m not sure what these are for but they look interesting. The whole room smells divine, all painty and gluey and arty. Honestly, when I saw all this I couldn’t wait to get started.

But the two art teachers – they always teach each lesson together apparently – are SO STRANGE! Not what I expected at all. They were both standing together with their hands behind their backs when we arrived and just stared at us without smiling as we came in and sat down. Because they didn’t say anything and just kept eye balling us, the whole class got the giggles and for that they gave us a detention. Can you imagine – how unfair!

We have quite a small class. In my old school, there were thirty of us squashed in to a room but here there are only ten to a group. There are thirty of us in the first year altogether but we’re divided in to three groups and each group has been named after a precious stone. Our group is known as Sapphires and the other two groups are called Rubies and Emeralds. In our group, as well as me and Arabella, there are Cleo and Clarice, who brush their hair, file their nails and look in pocket mirrors together. Woo, what fun. Then there are the identical twins, Moira and Lynne, with their tumbly brown hair and freckly noses. They’re very naughty and keep getting told off for whispering and passing notes. They love horse riding and have each brought their enormous black stallions to keep in the stables at Egmont, which is where they go whenever lessons are over. Sometimes they actually whinny like horses when they’re Melody is a very pretty girl, who sits day dreaming at the back of the class. She has chocolate coloured, shoulder length hair and big grey eyes with enormously long lashes. I’ve sat on the same table as her at dinner a couple of times and I like her, she’s funny and she wants to be a famous actress when she grows up. Zoe wears glasses and finds learning difficult, I sit next to her in the writing class to try and help with spellings. Hannah has long legs and is very sporty, she hangs around with the older girls a lot because she has two older sisters at Egmont and Joan is very mousy and quiet. I don’t know what she’s like because she never says anything. Maybe I should get to know her better. When I looked around and saw us all sitting there in front of our big, white canvases, (which are stretched material blocks I’ve painted on before), waiting for the freaky teachers to actually start the lesson, I thought we all looked like proper artists.

But they stood and stared at us for nearly ten minutes. It was Miss Croaka, (they were wearing name badges), is taller than my Dad and about as wide as a bus. She has a face like a pork chop and messy black hair. When we eventually got started, she strode around the classroom, booming out instructions in her deep, manly voice. When she marched past me, I saw some beardy hairs on her chin and her breath smelt so strongly I had to turn my head

The other art teacher, Miss Pike, is tiny. She was wearing men’s clothes – a country gentleman’s, green tweed dinner suit to be precise - and had an eye glass squashed in to her eye. She hardly spoke at all but when she did her words came out in a tiny, mousy squeak. What an unlikely pair!

But the weirdest thing is: neither of them are any good at art! When she actually decided to speak, Miss Croaka announced that we were going to paint self-portraits. She marched to the whiteboard with her tree trunk legs and said she was going to show us what to do. But the face she drew on the board was rubbish! It was what a three year old would draw. Actually that is insulting to young children, a three year old’s drawing would have been better. All she did was draw a circle that didn’t even meet, put two dots in for the eyes, a line for the nose, a wiggly half-moon for the mouth and some spikes for the hair. Can you imagine? An art teacher actually teaching us this! Well, I was shocked and there were a few gasps from around the class, (many parents would be shocked to know their high fees are paying for this kind of teaching, I’m sure), but as we’d already been given a detention for giggling nobody wanted to chance another one so we all kept quiet and got on with our work.

When I put my hand up because I needed some help with the eyes, Miss Pike came over. But do you know what she did? She rubbed out the eye I’d drawn - I’d been having trouble getting the shape of the eyelid over the eye but had put in some lashes - and she drew a dot instead. A dot! For goodness sake, they are supposed to be experts. I’m very surprised that a school like Egmont hired them in the first place. I’m quite tempted to write to Pip and Sally to ask them to complain as one of the only things I’d been looking forward to at boarding school was getting some good painting tips.

But that’s not the end of it. Arabella and I were washing our painting stuff at the sink near the end of the pointless lesson when we overheard a very strange conversation between the two odd bods. They were standing in the drying cupboard next to the sink where all the wet paintings go and didn’t know we were listening because they couldn’t see us.

‘How long have we got to put up with these wretched kids for?’ Miss Pike squeaked in her high voice. ‘They’re giving me a headache.’

‘You know the plan, Jacinta, so don’t get your knickers in a twist. There’s only six weeks until blast off and we just have to be patient until then.’ Miss Croaka growled back. ‘Play your part properly and we’ll soon reap the rewards.’ Arabella and I looked at each other in amazement when she said that. We didn’t understand what she was going on about, but it certainly didnotsound good.

‘I don’t how those other poor idiots did this day in and day out.’ Miss Pike squealed crossly. ‘They must have been mad.’

‘Speakin’ of which.’ Miss Croaka growled. ‘Did you do the feedin’ this mornin’, Jacinta?’

‘Oh darn it to the moon and back, Chris, I forgot again.’

‘Are you completely useless?’ Miss Croaka’s voice got angrier and more rumbly. ‘We agreed, alive not dead. That is really important. I suppose I’ll have to do it myself after school. Where’s the key?’

‘Where it usually is, in my room under the notepad in the top drawer.’ Miss Pinta replied huffily.

They might have gone on talking for longer if I hadn’t dropped my brush and water pot in shock at that point. They came storming out of the cupboard to see who was there. It’s not my fault, you don’t expect to hear your teachers talking about ‘alive not dead’ in a lesson, do you? Arabella saved our skins by breaking in to a loud and convincing hum. She’d cheered up a lot during maths yesterday morning, because we’d been given a test to see what standard we all were and she got the highest mark in the class. She’s been much smilier and talkative ever since, which is a relief, I can tell you. When Miss Croaka and Miss Pike, or Little and Large as I like to think of them, came bombing round corner, I gave them a fake grin and started humming too. They stared at us for a minute or two with faces as angry as thunder clouds, obviously trying to work out if we’d heard anything, but we kept up our tunes and in the end they went

Arabella and I talked it over for ages yesterday evening before watching a hilarious film about talking dogs on our gigantic TV. We got all wrapped up in our fluffy duvets and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows in it! Totally delish. It’s not such a hard life at boarding school actually, although I do still miss Carrie.

Anyway, basically, we both think that Croaka and Pike are highly suspect and we’ve decided to keep an eye on them by doing some serious detective work. I mean, what on earth were they going on about? Blast off? Reap the rewards? The feeding? Alive not dead? The Key? For goodness sake, something is so not right about that pair.

Arabella suggested we try and find the key that they were talking about, because it might give us a clue as to what they are up to. I was quite impressed with her for that. After all, if they are up to something really bad, the school ought to know. The only trouble is, Miss Pike said it’s in her bedroom and all the staff have rooms in the south wing of the school, where pupils are strictlynotallowed.

I have to go now Diary, because Mrs Fairchild - the headmistress - is going to give a talk to all us new girls in the hall.

Thursday, 5thSeptember

Hi Diary,

Mrs Fairchild is such a lamb! She actually looks like one, with her snowy white hair all curled into ringlets against her head. Also, she has the sweetest nature. I thought she looked so tiny, standing up there on the big stage, a little white dot on a sea of polished wood, smiling away like a little child and welcoming us new arrivals to the school. I’m not sure how old she is, maybe sixty five or seventy, so she’s doing really well for her age. But to be honest shedidstart laughing at a few random things and at one point she started singing and twirling around on the stage and none of us really knew what she was doing, but I thought that was rather sweet anyway.

Clarice and Cleo didn’t though. They’re mean girls and kept sniggering whenever Mrs Fairchild said something a bit odd, which really annoyed me and Arabella, so we poked them in the back to make them shut up. But then Clarice turn round, flicking her long blonde hair in my face and said, ‘Oh look Cleo, it’s the nerds,’ and Cleo giggled and pulled a face at us. I mean honestly, how rude! It’s not our fault that we do more work than them and get better marks, is it? If there was a ‘staring in the mirror’ class, Clarice and Cleo would be top of it, I’m sure. I think I’m going to suggest to Arabella that we stay out of their way from now on, because they’re

A letter arrived from Carrie today, so I wrote back at once, telling her all about Arabella, our room (I didn’t mention the television), Clarice and Cleo and Mrs Fairchild. She said she’s missing me a lot and that her arthritis is hurting her wrists and knees badly. She’s going to come and see me in a couple of weeks, whoopee!

I’m going to meet Arabella in the lunch hall now, Diary. She says she has an idea about how we can get in to Miss Pike’s room without being caught and she’s going to tell me about it over our smoked salmon and olive multigrain pitta breads.

Saturday, 7thSeptmber

Oh dear, Diary,

We have to put Arabella’s cunning plan in to action this afternoon and I’m REALLY, REALLY NERVOUS! She explained it all to me yesterday in the lunch hall – which has canaries in gold cages hanging from the ceiling by the way, they make one big racket while we’re eating - and although it is a brilliant plan, I’m REALLY worried in case something goes wrong.

Basically, after lunch today, everyone in the whole school – INCLUDING THE TEACHERS - are going to have their picture taken. It’s going to be one of those enormous, long, group photographs. We have to be down by the hanging garden next to the tropical fish pond, at two o’clock sharp, just after lunch. Some men from a photo company have already arrived to build a massive stand that they are going to position all the girls and the teachers on. Arabella and I saw them putting it up while we walked back to school after feeding our baby chicks on the school farm. Each girl from Sapphires, Rubies and Emeralds has been given one of the new hatchlings to look after. Can you imagine? What a treat! Mine is sooo sweet and I’ve named her Lemony because, you’ve guessed it, she’s the colour of a pale lemon. I hope I can still look after her when she’s a hen.

Anyway, Arabella’s brilliant and scary plan is that just as everyone is being positioned for the school photo, she’s going to come over all weak and sickly. We’ll ask to be excused, (I’ll have to make sure I go too, to “look after her”), then when we’re back in the school and sure no one’s watching we’ll rush over to the south wing and have a quick nosy around Miss Pike’s room. The good thing is that none of the teachers or pupils are ever allowed to lock their rooms – it’s a fire hazard, apparently - so what could possibly go wrong? Aggghhh!

I’ll report back later, Diary, if I haven’t been caught and expelled by then that is…

Saturday, 7thSeptember (Midnight)


I can’t quite believe it, but we actually got away with it, (by the skin of our teeth), and it’s a good thing too, after what we discovered.

Today, after we’d had lunch, (I could only manage a small pumpkin seed roll because I was so nervous), Arabella and I went down to the hanging garden with everybody else. It’s really beautiful there, with crimson, gold, violet and pure white flowers drooping out of lots of hanging baskets that are attached to a high overhead frame. The garden smells how Turkish Delight sweets taste: totally scrummy. There’s a blanket of grass underneath the hanging baskets where all of us first years sat, with Mrs Honeysuckle taking the register, waiting to be directed on to the enormous stand. All the other years in the school had their own special waiting areas.

Arabella, (who I’m now best friends with, by the way), had made a big show of feeling ill over lunch, so that everyone around us heard her moaning and groaning about wanting to be sick. She was so funny that I had to try hard not to laugh. I kept saying, ‘Oh you poor thing’, stroking her hair every time she collapsed dramatically across the lunch table. Melody, who was sitting with us, looked shocked and offered to fetch Matron from the Infirmary – a small hospital wing where we go if we’re sick – but Arabella said not to worry - she was sure she’d feel better soon.

Clarice and Cleo, who were sitting on a table next to ours, looked beyond disgusted. It was completely fab! After listening to Arabella making nearly sick noises for the tenth time, they got up and flounced off, with Clarice saying loudly over her shoulder that she didn’t want to “catch a filthy plague from a swotty nerd”. I hope she hits herself in the face with her hairbrush, mean creature.

By the time the men were in the process of positioning us on the different levels of their complicated stand in height order, Arabella handily took a turn for the worse and half collapsed, saying she thought she was really going to be sick this time. I took up my acting roll and - with my heart beating so fast I could hear it in my ears - said loudly, ‘Come on you poor thing, I’d better take you to the Infirmary. Stand back everyone, we’re coming through.’ I don’t think I should ever be an actress because I sounded quite wooden but no one seemed to bat an eyelid.

We’d made sure that Croaka and Pike definitelywereaway from the south wing - we’d seen them standing silently together, giving off their weird, laser like stare, at the back of a group of teachers. Even the domestic staff were there, with the French chefs and waiters looking very dashing in their aprons and hats.

Once we were through the grand back door of the school, we raced down the corridor, turned right, raced down another corridor, skidded round the corner and came face to face with a sign that said, “SOUTH WING. TEACHER’S QUARTERS. STRICTLY NO ENTRY TO PUPILS”. We checked over our shoulders, took deep breaths and walked past the sign.

I now know that the teachers’ rooms are all off softly lit corridors where twinkly music plays from hidden We soon saw we’d hit a problem when we realised that all thirty three of the teachers’ doors look the same – none have name tags or anything on them. At that point, I honestly had no idea how we were going to find Miss Pike’s room quickly and for a moment it looked like our plan was doomed.

We were walking up and down the first teachers’ corridor, (there are six altogether) checking each door again and again like headless chickens, when I noticed a silvery outline of something glowing from the door nearest me. I stopped to look and saw that it was actually the exact shape of Mr Drumlin the history teacher, complete with his sticking out paunch. Thank goodness we’d a history lesson for the first time yesterday or I wouldn’t have recognised him! Someone very clever must have painted it on with shining

‘Brilliant!’ Arabella whispered. ‘Trust this school to dothisrather than have common old name tags. All we have to do now is find the glowing outline of Miss Pike, get in to her room and find the key before the teachers start coming back from the photo.’

‘Oh, is that all?’ I whispered with wide eyes and she grinned. In a spilt second, we were off, working our way along opposite sides of every corridor, stopping to stare closely at each door in turn.

Arabella found Miss Pike’s door down the sixth corridor we trawled along. Her door was next to the one that had the giant outline of Miss Croaka on it, which was so large, both feet and half the head had been left off. A very strange shape for a woman, I thought. Miss Pike’s outline, on the other hand, was so small it only took up half the door. What an ODD PAIR! I stood on guard while Arabella knocked softly, just in case. No one answered, so she opened the door.

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