Page last updated: January 1, 2005
"We haveta what?" Jo asked, feeling sick to her stomach.
Mrs. Garret finished tying off the short string around the two girls' wrists. There was barely a foot of length between Jo's left wrist and Blair's right.
"You girls are going to do everything together. That string is as far apart as you're allowed to get, and you can only take it off when you're in your room," Mrs. Garret informed them.
"But Mrs. Garret... I can't be seen like this... My reputation..." Blair said in horror.
"This is just like what they did to Haley Mills in The Parent Trap," Natalie supplied genially.
"Yeah. Hey, maybe you guys are like long-lost sisters, and you were separated at birth," Tootie said enthusiastically. Then she looked at her best friend, and they both shook their heads at the same time. "Naaaah."
"Mrs. G. I get what your tryin' to do here, really, I do. But I don't think you've really thought this one out. I mean, what about goin' to the bathroom? And I got P.E.... I can't be luggin' her carcass around with me," Jo said reasonably.
"And I am certainly not going to have her tagging along with me when I go shopping. What will my friends think?" Blair added as though she were actually helping their case.
"Well, I don't know what to tell you ladies," Mrs. Garret said, though her tone sounded as though she had several choice thoughts she'd like to express. "You're just going to have to find a way to work together. Now, off you go. You don't want to be late for class."
Blair reached for her books stacked on one of the dining tables and immediately wrenched Jo's arm as she did so.
"Hey! Watch it!" Jo yelled, yanking her arm back and pulling Blair partially off balance, which forced her to drop her books.
"Ow! Mrs. Garret, look how she's treating me!" Blair complained.
"Work it out, girls," Mrs. Garret told them and walked into the kitchen.
"Lets go, Nat. We're going to be late," Tootie said.
"Have fun, guys," Nat told them cheekily and then followed her best friend out of the room.
"Oh, this is just great," Blair said to no one in particular. "I'm chained to Jonan the Barbarian and then deserted by the people I thought were my friends!" Blair yelled the last in the direction of Natalie and Tootie's departure.
"Well, it ain't no picnic for me either, Princess," Jo returned the sentiment. "Come on. Get yer books so we can go."
Blair glared at her, but she stooped down to pick up her books from the floor, pulling Jo down with her. Jo tolerated it, but only just barely.
The walk to class was silent, and they found seats next to each other so that their arms could hang down between them in the aisle. Several of the students looked at them strangely and laughed, but then the teacher began the lesson.
When it came time to work, Blair dragged Jo's arm with her onto her desk so that she could write.
"Hey, it's attached," Jo reminded her, as her arm was pulled beyond what was physically comfortable.
"I have to be able to write," Blair responded.
"Is there a problem, ladies?" the teacher asked sternly, as he walked up and down the aisles to check on the students' progress.
"Problem? No. No problem," Blair replied sweetly and turned to Jo. "Do you have a problem? No, she doesn't have a problem. We were just discussing the wonderful points you made, Mr. Hinkle. You're such an inspiring teacher."
Mr. Hinkle eyed them.
"I know about your little punishment, ladies, and I expect you to keep it from interfering with your schoolwork. Are we clear?"
"Crystal, sir," Jo replied icily.
"As long as we understand each other," he said and then continued on his way to check on the other students.
The two girls glared at each other, but Jo finally picked up her desk and moved closer to Blair. She let her arm rest on Blair's desk and tried to ignore their proximity as she worked on her own paper.
The rest of their classes went similarly until lunchtime came. They finally decided to just take turns eating so that they didn't spill food all over themselves. But then they had to figure out how they were going to do their jobs in the cafeteria. As they stood behind the serving counter, they didn't have too many problems offering up the food one-handed, but once it was time to clean up, things became a little more difficult.
"Mrs. G., how am I supposed to clear the tables with one arm?" Jo asked plaintively, as she held up her left arm attached to Blair's right to illustrate her predicament.
"You're two intelligent girls. I'm sure you'll be able to figure something out," Mrs. Garret told them, as she took the leftover food back into the kitchen.
"Now what?" Blair asked unhappily.
"Just don't get in my way," Jo warned her, as she headed for one of the plastic bussing tubs.
Blair was dragged along until she stood her ground and brought Jo to a screeching halt.
"Wait. Maybe we should talk about this. There has to be a way for us to get this done without yanking each other's arms out," Blair said, being reasonable for once, mostly because it was her arm that kept getting yanked around.
"Fine. What's your plan?" Jo asked impatiently.
"Well, what if we do the tables together? You can grab one side of the tub, and I'll take the other. Then you can pick up the dishes, and I'll wipe up after you."
Jo thought it over. She was getting the heavy work, but she didn't really mind. She always liked showing off how tough she was to the other girls.
It took them a little while to get into the rhythm of coordinating their movements. First, Jo removed the plates, and then Blair wiped down the area after her, as they went around each table counter-clockwise. But by the time they were done, they were moving pretty fast, and they actually finished earlier than they normally did when they worked separately.
They carried the last tub of dirty dishes to the sink where Natalie and Tootie were washing them up. Normally, they were supposed to help, but neither of them was sure how they could do it.
"Well, don't just stand there. Start drying," Natalie scolded them, as she tossed them each a towel and then went back to rinsing the soapy dishes that Tootie gave her.
"Yeah. Get crackin'," Tootie backed her up.
"Oh, I'm sure there'll be plenty of crackin'... the dishes hittin' the floor," Jo replied sarcastically.
"As much as I hate to say it, Jo's r-..." She tried again. "Jo's ri-... r-, r-... I can't say it," Blair gave up. "But we can't dry dishes one-handed."
"Maybe we can," Jo disagreed, as she got an idea.
Jo picked up a dish and handed it to Blair. Then she took the towel in her right hand and swabbed it over the surface of the plate to remove the excess water. When she was done, Blair set the dish down with her left hand and picked up another one from the drying rack.
"See? Now that's teamwork," Natalie enthused with a grin, but the two older girls glared at her, so she ducked her head and went back to rinsing.
The time passed quickly, and then they had to go to the rest of their classes. Finally, school was over, and they walked into the common room to do their homework.
"Would you quit it, Blair?" Jo said in aggravation, as her arm was continually twitched every time Blair turned the page of her book.
"I'm just reading," Blair replied innocently.
"Yeah, well, can you read without moving? You're driving me crazy."
"And you two are driving me crazy. Can't you guys get along for one hour?" Natalie requested.
"Yeah. Some people are actually trying to study here," Tootie chimed in.
"Fine. Come on, Blair. Lets go to our room, so we can take this stupid leash off," Jo ordered.
"All right. Let me just gather my things."
They made it to their tiny room, and Jo didn't waste any time releasing herself from the string handcuff.
"That feels so much better," Jo sighed in relief, as she tested the movement of her left arm in wide circles.
"Tell me about it," Blair agreed, as she rubbed her right wrist.
They both settled onto their halves of the bed and studied in peace until it was time for dinner. They got through dinner as fast as they could by taking turns eating again. Their cooperation had nothing to do with wanting to help each other. They just wanted to get back to their room where they knew they could be free of the string and put at least a few more feet of space between each other.
Once they were in their room again, they continued studying, since there wasn't much else for them to do without their normal accoutrements from their regular dorm room. That had actually been part of the arrangement; less distractions, so they couldn't completely ignore each other in the more confined space, but the girls were doing their best to thwart that plan.
Eventually, Mrs. Garret knocked on the door.
"Come in," Blair called.
"Lights out, girls," she told them from the doorway, since there wasn't much room for her to come in very far. "So, how did it go today?" she asked them, as they put their books away.
"It was okay," Jo said vaguely.
"Mrs. Garret, can I please make a request?" Blair pleaded.
"What is it, Blair?" Mrs. Garret asked in concern.
"I know you said we have to keep that string on unless we're in here, but can using the restroom be an exception? It's just too horrifying," Blair complained.
Mrs. Garret considered saying no, but she decided this one exception might make them more cooperative.
"All right. But as soon as you come out, you have to put it back on. And whichever one of you is left outside, you can't go wandering off," Mrs. Garret compromised.
"Thank you," Blair sighed in relief.
"Well, goodnight girls. Sweet dreams."
"Goodnight," the two young women replied in unison, as Mrs. Garret closed the door behind her.
"At least she didn't lock us in again," Jo mumbled when she didn't hear the click after the door shut.
Jo got up and pulled out her pajamas from the top drawer. Then she opened the third drawer and withdrew a nightgown. She tossed it over to Blair.
"Here ya go," Jo said.
"Thanks," Blair said in surprise.
"Yeah, well, thanks for getting us that break on the bathroom," Jo offered reluctantly.
"You're welcome," Blair replied.
They both faced away from each other to get dressed for bed, and then Blair cut the lights.
"Goodnight, Jo," Blair said cautiously, unsure of how her attempt at civility would be received.
"'Night, Blair," Jo replied easily.
They were asleep in no time.
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