There were twelve of us in all, friends from university days. The men were Peter, John, Edward, Roger, David (Dave), and myself. The girls were Helen, Jennifer (Jenny), Joan, Mary, and Martha - yes, really, which was probably why we called ourselves the Disciples, that and there being twelve of us as well! - and Cynthia.
Although a number of us may have been ‘interested’, there was only one actual couple among us - Peter and Helen. I say one couple, but there had been another relationship, that between John and Cynthia. According to Cynthia, she had dropped him as a bit of a creep. According to John, it was a mutual decision. However, we had become a group, and so John and Cynthia agreed to come along even though they sought to avoid one another. In a company of twelve, it wasn’t too hard!
We had hired a minibus for the weekend. We would travel wherever we felt like. Hotels or B&Bs were not booked. We would see where we ended up in the evening and make a decision then. That decision was likely to be, as it had been on other occasions when we had had similar outings, that we would end up sleeping in the minibus or in the open air.
And so we set out, a happy band of friends. Even John and Cynthia were reasonably affable towards one another.
As evening drew on we came to a small wooded area and decided to set up camp there for the night. But we had hardly started our preparations before an horrendous storm broke. No trees could protect us from that. We hurried back into our vehicle.
I think it was Edward who first noticed it. Half a mile or so back down the way we had come, there was what looked like a large, empty Victorian style mansion. ( ‘Mansion’ sounds very grandiose, but it's the best I can do to describe it. It was large, old, and forbidding! This, we thought, would offer us protection from the rain and perhaps more room to spread out than the minibus offered.
Within about half an hour, we had located the building, transferred some of our necessary belongings into it, and found one fairly large room that offered both protection from the storm still raging outside and a degree of comfort. We set up our sleeping bags and were soon happily inside them. All, that is, except for Cynthia, who decided that she wanted to explore the rest of the place. Some of us offered to accompany her - John was not one of these! - but she insisted that she was very content to explore on her own.
As the night deepened, the rest of us settled contentedly into our sleeping bags, somehow feeling all the more cosy as we heard the torrential rain beating on the roof and against the windows. Speaking for myself, and I think the others also, we were soon in the Land of Nod.
We had a bit of a lie in when morning came, but finally got up. I think I was the first to notice it. Cynthia’s sleeping bag had not been occupied, and there was no sign of Cynthia herself.
Where was she? We felt that a search was necessary. This was a large old building. There may have been parts of it that were unsafe. Could she have had an accident - perhaps a broken leg or some such, was too far off for us to hear her call out?
And so our search began. It was a truly rambling big old place, and it must have taken us more than an hour to look into every room, into every hole and corner, into every dark place - but no sign of Cynthia.
What were we to do? Perhaps she had gone back to the minibus. I was deputed to check, but no, she wasn't there.
We couldn’t wait forever. Maybe she had gone off by herself in a sulk - it was not unknown. We were not too far from a small town. Perhaps she had gone there and decided to get a train home. With Cynthia, you never knew what to expect next!!
We decided to carry on without her. All of us, that is, except John. I think he may have felt guilty for not offering to accompany her earlier. We could hardly wait forever. So it was agreed that he go back to the house and complete a thorough search again. He would contact us later and let us know how he had got on.
As the rest of us got into the minibus, we saw John disappear into the house and heard him calling, "Cynthia, Cynthia".
We never saw either of them again.