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So what is this secret guard? Apparently it's a group of seven- to eight-year-old girls. And their group exists for two very important reasons:
Reason #1: to make gifts for Miss Geraldine, their favorite teacher. She's the nicest! So they give her dried flowers glued to paper.
Reason #2: to protect Miss Geraldine from the plot to kidnap her. Wait, what? Kidnap her? That sounds both scary and ridiculous, all at once.
The secret guard doesn't know when the teacher-napping will occur. And they don't know who will do it. Turns out, they don't really know anything at all.
But they do think that the abduction of Miss Geraldine will have something to do with the creepy woods behind Hailsham. There are stories of students who wandered into the woods only to be found dismembered or dead. Okay, this potential snatching of Miss G is getting creepier by the page, especially if you're a seven-year-old with a wild imagination.
Ruth is the secret guard's leader (surprise, surprise) and she turns out to be a master of secrecy and mind-games. And playground warfare. She constantly alludes to information that only she knows. Ruth also claims the power to kick girls out of the secret guard.
Case in point: the chess-playing incident. One day during the time they were in the secret guard, Kathy decides to purchase a chess set at a Sale and asks Ruth to teach her how to play.
Ruth has pretended that she's the best chess player in the whole wide world. But when she teaches Kathy a game that clearly isn't chess, Kathy gets fed up and leaves in a huff. Uh oh, this can't end well.
The next day, Kathy goes up to her secret guard friends in poetry class. They're all whispering together but Kathy doesn't get to join in on the fun. Ruthless Ruth has already passed judgment on poor Kathy and she gets the boot.
So Kathy feels left out and doesn't get to gossip in corners anymore, which stinks big-time.
A couple days later, Kathy finds herself chatting with Moira B., another secret guard cast-off. Moira says that the secret guard is stupid and childish.
Instead of agreeing with Moira, though, Kathy gets seriously ticked off at the poor girl. She even lies and tells Moira that she heard about the plot against Miss Geraldine with her own ears, so Moira better go mind her own beeswax.
Years later, when Kathy is caring for Ruth at the donor center in Dover, she remembers this conversation with Moira. Kathy doesn't tell Ruth about it, but it does remind Kathy that there was a certain kind of loyalty in their friendship.
Telling her readers about Miss Geraldine makes Kathy think about this thing that happened involving her, Ruth, and Ruth's pretty pencil case. So it's time for another flashback.
It's been three years since their secret guard obsession. One day, Kathy goes into class, sits by Ruth, and compliments Ruth's super fabulous pencil case. When Kathy asks if Ruth got this new accessory at a Sale, Ruth gives a cryptic answer: "Let's agree I got it in the Sale" (5.36).
Apparently this comment actually implies that Miss Geraldine had given Ruth the pencil case. Kathy is sure this is what Ruth wants everyone to think, because Ruth had acquired the annoying habit of acting like Miss Geraldine gives her special treatment.
Kathy normally tries to let these things roll right off of her, but this time she just can't let Ruth's lie go unexposed.
After days of brooding and fantasizing about Ruth's future humiliation, Kathy realizes that maybe Ruth did buy the pencil case in a Sale. If Ruth had reserved the pencil case ahead of time, no one would have seen it before she purchased it. And if Kathy wanted to, she could just check the register of everything bought at the Sales. We've got a sleuth on our hands.
But instead of actually checking the records, Kathy just pretends like she's checked the Sales register. So a month after the pencil case comment (yes, a month—the girl sure can brood), Kathy has a private conversation with Ruth. Kathy casually mentions that she was reading the Sales register and seeing what people had bought. To her surprise and horror, Ruth becomes extremely upset.
Kathy immediately regrets all that time she's spent trying to hurt her friend's feelings and tries to backpedal, but Ruth walks off.