There had been outrage, not only from most of the girls but from their parents, at the school council's ruling shortening the hem of the regulation skirt. This had been the most serious crisis that the Headmistress, Dr Craig, had had to deal with since she had taken over eighteen months earlier.
Despite her power and authority, Dr Craig had been unable to reverse the decision. She had used her veto to quash it, but, as predicted, Aaron Kemp and his gang had reintroduced the measure at the next meeting and Dr Craig was only allowed to veto a proposal once.
The previous Headteacher had allowed the school council too much power and autonomy, that much had become plain, but changes to the constitution could only come from the school council itself and that was firmly under the control of Kemp and so any change was unlikely to happen.
Over the last few months, other changes to female dress had followed. Girls were now allowed to wear make-up, high heels and jewellery. Some girls, like Tania Noble, girlfriend of the school council President, looked more like hookers than schoolgirls.
It was, Amy firmly believed, an attempt by Aaron Kemp, member of the conservative and reactionary Alpha movement, to force girls to conform to traditional gender stereotypes. If a girl was obsessed with her appearance, her mind wouldn't be on her studies or on asserting her rights.
He had to be stopped. But exactly how that was to be accomplished, Amy did not know. She turned back to the English essay she had been writing on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". Part of the tale involved a girl disguising herself as her brother, wearing male clothing and everything. Amy was reminded of the fact that she was currently wearing a schoolgirl's mini skirt, thanks to Aaron Kemp and his machinations.
If Amy had her way, girls would be allowed to wear trousers, just like the boys. It would be a gesture of equality between the sexes.
There was a knock at her bedroom door. A timid little knock. Thinking it was her little sister, Sonia, Amy was surprised to find of all people Antony Starling standing outside. He was clutching a notepad and his copy of "Twelfth Night".
"I'm struggling with this wretched essay" Antony offered by way of explanation "English Literature isn't my strongest subject".
Amy knew that to be untrue. Antony was near the top of the class in the subject. Only Amy herself scored higher marks. That meant that he had to be here for a different purpose.
To see her?
Amy gestured for him to come in. Of all the boys at her school, Antony or "Toni" as the other boys contemptuously dubbed him for his small, girlish figure and features and effeminate manner, was the most likeable. He was also the nearest thing that she had for an ally on a school council completely dominated by the likes of Aaron Kemp.
Antony made a pretence of talking about the problems that he was having with his essay, contradicted by his obvious thorough knowledge of the plot and the meanings of the strange language that Shakespeare used. Amy divined that he sought company, and that she was the nearest thing to a friend that he had.
They spent an hour talking about Antony's essay and he feigned an appreciation for her help. Amy thought about her own essay, still waiting to be written, and gently suggested that he should think about going home.
To Amy's horror, Antony suddenly broke down in tears. Amy had known that he was a very sensitive boy, but to see a boy cry was an unnerving sight. Boys weren't supposed to cry. Amy put an arm around him and tried to comfort him as best she could.
When the tears subsided, Antony said that he didn't want to go home. Not ever again. His father was a complete bully. Worse than Barry Brooks had been in his heyday even. He'd summoned Antony into his study and said that his mother had been too soft with him, turned him into a little pansy, and that he would make a man out of him if it killed him. He was sending Antony off to a military academy. That would toughen him up, get rid of any inclinations towards effeminacy.
A military academy? That was the last place such a sensitive boy like Antony should be sent. The other boys would make mincemeat of him. It would be a far more damaging environment then a school.
There was more, Antony said. His father was beating him and had been for a few years now. To prove it, Antony dropped his trousers and showed Amy the welts on his backside. Amy was of course horrified.
"You must tell someone" Amy insisted "Someone official, like the police".
Antony shook his head "I can't do that. If I do, my Dad will go to prison and my Mum will never forgive me!"
"Does your Mum know about the beatings?"
Antony shook his head again.
"Then your Mum might think differently once she sees those scars".
But Antony was firm. No police, no officials.
Amy took him by the hand and led him to her own mother and told her the tale. Mother was decisive "Antony can stay here for the night and we can decide what to do in the morning. I'll call his parents and just let them know he's staying over. Don't worry, young man, I won't say why".
Amy was left to sort out the sleeping arrangements. There were only three bedrooms in her house. One for her parents, one for herself and one for Sonia. Sonia would have to sleep with her tonight, but the sisters frequently shared a bed, so that would not be a problem. She turned to Antony.
"You can sleep in Sonia's room and she can come in with me. Her room's a bit girly. Barbie bedsheets and stuff like that, but it's only for one night" Amy looked him up and down "I don't suppose you thought to bring your night stuff with you?"
Antony shook his head.
Amy thought and then said "My Dad's pyjamas will be too big for you.....we're about the same size, so you can wear a pair of my PJ's!" Amy went to her dresser and rummaged through it, producing a set of satin pink PJ's and tossing them to Antony, who deftly caught them.
Without protest, Antony went away and reappeared a few minutes later clad in the shimmering pink satin garments. He looked awfully girlish, and actually, very sweet. And he wore something else, something unexpected.