Rodan sat back in the limousine driven by Gallis Limnon, her foster mother's trusted driver, and looked out of the window at a rainswept and dismal southern plain. It was deep into autumn now and the trees that broke up the view were leafless. The grass was yellow brown. The river B?rrow that they followed for part of the journey was flowing fast. It looked cold and uninviting, not like in the summer when she had swum in the natural pool near the Dower House. In a few more weeks when the snows came it would partly freeze over. The brown plain would be white.

But even though it looked so dismal it was a view she cherished. It was the countryside where she had been born and raised. She loved it in rain or sunshine, in all of its changing seasons.

She had seen many wonders on many other worlds in the past few years. She was fortunate in having that opportunity to travel among the stars of many galaxies and see countless skies. But with those travels coming to an end for the immediate future she was content to look at the yellow sky of Gallifrey above and to walk upon the soil of the same.

Even when the sky was grey with rain clouds and the soil sodden after days of such precipitation.

A sight that gladdened her heart even more than a stormswept plain came into view very quickly. It was only a short journey by hover car, after all.

It was the sight of the little house set beside a stand of trees that afforded it shelter from the worst of the winter storms.

It was her home.

For a time she had regarded Mount Loeng House as her home. It always would be a place where she was welcome. That had been impressed upon her by everyone, from her foster father and mother to the staff who cared for her in the years she had lived under that noble roof. Knowing that she might visit there any time was a joy to her. But so, too, was the future prospect of living in her own home with her grandfather who would be home in a matter of weeks from his long inter stellar journey.

It was in preparation for that homecoming that she was coming to the little house today. She wanted to make sure it was ready.

"Here you are, young madam," Gallis said as he stopped the car in front of the house. "Your destination."

"Thank you, Gallis," she answered. As he got out of the car to open the door for her she grasped a large bag that she had packed herself. She didn't let Gallis help her with it, but insisted on carrying it herself to the house.

"I'll be all right by myself," she told the chauffer. "You don't have to stay."

"I will be in the car, madam," he said. "That was the instruction I had from his Lordship – to wait until you were ready. If you have any problem at all, let me know at once."

She was not at all sure what kind of problem she was likely to have in the quiet house in the middle of the plain. She carried the bag to the door and opened it up with her own key. She looked for a moment into the small entry hall and then stepped over the threshold.

She walked into the drawing room of the quiet, empty house. She put the bag down and went first to the kitchen. She set a kettle on the stove and prepared to make a pot of tea. Her bag contained a packet of loose tea as well as milk and sugar. She prepared a tray and made the pot. She brought it to the drawing room and poured a cup for herself.

It was something she had wanted to do for herself. For almost as long as she could remember she had sat with Marion in the white drawing room or in the Conservatory in the Capitol or the Welcome Friend in Liverpool and shared in the ritual of drinking tea. She had graduated from a plastic cup with a lid to using a cup and saucer just like the grown up ladies. She had even learned the more formal and symbolism laden Chinese tea ceremony.

And she had harboured a quiet little dream of taking tea by herself in her own drawing room. Part of the reason for coming here today was to savour that dream for a little time.

She finished her tea and took the tray to the kitchen. She washed the cup and saucer and rinsed the teapot then she set to work in earnest. She opened the big bag and took out new curtains for all of the rooms - white lace ones and lined damask of deep dyed colours. She had bought them, with help from Marion, the last time they had visited Liverpool.

She used a step ladder to hang them in the drawing room and dining room and the two bedrooms belonging to her and her grandfather. There were net curtains and some very pretty red and white flowered ones for the kitchen.

The household department of Lewis’s of Ranelagh Street had yielded other treasures. She spread a fine cream coloured cloth over the dining table and made up the beds with new linen and bedspreads. There were cushions for the armchairs in the drawing room and for the wicker rocking chair by the window in the dining room.

Last of all was something that didn't come from Lewis’s, but from a little shop in Liverpool's Chinatown. It was a bamboo and rice paper scroll to hang on the wall near the door. The Chinese calligraphy welcomed guests and blessed all under the roof.

When it was all done she made another pot of tea for one and put out a plate of biscuits from Tesco. When she was living here properly she would make cakes and biscuits for her grandfather and for any guests who might visit, but today she made do with bought ones.

It was going to be so nice living here again. She was nine, now, nearly ten by the midwinter, quite old enough for the responsibility. She would be mistress of the house, in charge of all that needed to be done to keep a respectable home.

And she was looking forward to doing it all for real, not just pretend as it was today.

After the second pot of tea she went outside. Since she had last lived here some things had changed. A new building had been raised. It was a stable for her horses. Next to it a paddock had been created with adjustable fences for the horses to jump over. She could ride every day unless it was especially bad weather.

She could imagine it so easily. Her young friends like Briessal Arcalian could visit. They could ride together in the paddock and even across the plains with a drink and food in a saddlebag.

She came back inside and sat once again in her own drawing room. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to think of it as it would be.

There would be peaceful evenings here. As the autumn storms raged across the plains the house would be snug and warm. Grandfather would be sitting by the fireside in an armchair, reading a book or perhaps writing one recounting his travels to amazing worlds across distant galaxies. She would be doing the same - studying for the exams she would take in due course to enter the Prydonian Academy or perhaps writing about her own travels to wonderful places. She might do embroidery or beadwork, the crafts that ladies do in the quiet evenings.

And there would be those afternoons when ladies came to tea. Oh, she could imagine that so well. A sleek black car would arrive. A chauffeur would open the back door and Lady Lily D'Alba in a fine white dress would get out and walk up the path. She would knock at the house door. Rodan herself would invite her in. There would be friendly greetings and then they would sit down. The tea would be on the tray already. There would be triangular sandwiches with delicate fillings and dainty iced cakes, perhaps scones with cream. They would talk about dresses and parties and rose gardens just like Marion did. There would be books and plays to discuss, too.

It would be quite perfect.

As she sat thinking about it all, she was surprised to hear a car slowing to a stop outside the little house – just behind the one where Gallis Limnon was drowsing behind the wheel. She watched at the window as Aineytta de Lœngbærrow climbed out from the back seat and gave her own chauffer instructions. Rodan didn’t wait for the knock at the door. She ran to open it before the lady she called grandmamma had quite reached the end of the footpath.

“But I don’t have any proper biscuits,” she protested. “Only bought ones.”

“That’s quite all right,” Aineytta told her. “I’ve brought a cake. Are you going to ask me in?”

“Please, come in,” Rodan answered, remembering the protocol at last.

“Blessings be upon this place,” Aineytta murmured as she crossed the threshold. “I was talking to Marion on the vid-phone and she mentioned that you were here for the afternoon. I realised that I have never visited this house before and I thought it was time I made up for such an omission.”

“I’ll make more tea,” Rodan said. “Please sit down.”

It wasn’t quite as she had pictured it. She had got it wrong at first. But here was her chance to prove that she could be a hostess just like Marion and the other ladies she knew. She carefully prepared the tea and laid out what was left of the shop bought biscuits as well as milk and sugar. She brought the tray to the drawing room table where Aineytta had already placed a beautifully iced cake on a plate.

“A little house warming,” she said. “Just the two of us. You have worked hard. The curtains look beautiful.”

“They come from Earth,” Rodan confessed. “Ready-made.”

“And you put them up all by yourself. You’re growing up so fast, into a very proper young lady.”

“This is my house,” Rodan pointed out. “I’m in charge of it.”

“Yes, you are. Though I wonder if you ought to be managing it all by yourself. It’s a lot of work for one so young. You ought to have a maid for some of the heavy housework.”

“Papa said that, too. He is going to arrange it with grandfather. He said there was nothing wrong with a hard working man without a wife of his own having a paid domestic. He said he would send one of the household staff over for a few hours a day.”

“Quite right. But you will still be mistress of the house, with responsibility for ordering the work to be done.”

“I’ll make cakes,” Rodan promised. “For when I have visitors.”

“Yes, indeed,” Aineytta agreed. She looked around the small but comfortable room. “Do you know, I lived in a much smaller house than this when I was your age. And there were four of us children.”

“Grandfather built the separate dining room before he went on his trip. He wanted the house to be a nice one for me. I think it is just the right size for the two of us to live in. I know I will be happy.”

“You won’t miss having servants to look after you?”

“No. I really don’t need all of that, not in a little house that is just the right size. I won’t be having dinners for fifty people or grand parties. I don’t need to change my clothes for different parts of the day. When I am not riding, a simple dress will do most days.”

“Yes, we make things complicated in our great houses,” Aineytta admitted. “You will be able to enjoy a simple life, here. You have everything you need.”

“Yes, I think so.”

“One thing there ought to be, once you are settled in here with your grandfather. More plants, in the garden and in the house. I shall come over with some potted roses and a few ferns for the drawing room. Then this will be a home, not just a house.”

Rodan smiled happily. She knew for certain she was going to enjoy living here in her own home.