|It was the third morning of the Christmas holidays, and Peggy Bettany was snuggled up in bed with her book. She’d heard Bride moving around, but she had no intention of going anywhere just yet: it was very early and very cold. |
Suddenly there was a loud rapping on the door, and she groaned. "Peg? Are you awake?" It was Jackie's voice.
"Well, if I wasn’t before, I am now," she retorted. Sighing, she got up, pulled on her dressing gown and opened the bedroom door. "This had better be good."
"It's better than good." He was practically dancing with excitement. "Have you not looked out of the window? It's snowed! A whole load's fallen overnight. Come on, Peg, hurry up and get dressed!"
Peggy started to laugh. His enthusiasm was infectious; and standing behind him was her twin brother, who was grinning almost as broadly as he was. "Honestly, Rix, you should see your face! How old are you?"
"Ten minutes older than you, which puts me in charge – and I'm telling you, get yourself ready," he laughed. "It looks glorious out there. Let's get going and have some fun!"
"All right, all right – I'll be down as soon as I can!" The door shut firmly behind her, she raced to the window to look out, secretly as thrilled as the boys were. She performed her ablutions and dressed as quickly as she could, and before long she was downstairs and eating her breakfast.
"It's no good staring at me, Jackie: I’m not going to give myself indigestion by gobbling down my toast just so that we can go out a few minutes sooner," she informed her brother, who was hopping up and down impatiently. "Anyone would think you were no older than … I say! Are the kids up?"
There was an uncomfortable silence. Even after all these months together, they still felt more like two families than one; and in all the excitement none of them had thought of waking Maeve and Maurice.
"I'l go and get them,"Bride said awkwardly. "ou finish your breakfast. I just didn’t think. Rix was going on about how it was like being back in Tyrol and how mad David was going to be if it was doing this here but not in Armishire, and then Jackie said that it was going to be strange not being at the Round House on Christmas Day, and … I just didn' think."
"None of us did." Rix stood up. "Come on, Bride. I'll come with you. Let's go and tell them to get up and dressed. Then we’ll all go outside together."
"It's amazing," Maurice said, an awestruck look on his face. "Real snow! Is it frightfully hard to walk in?"
"Not as long as you're wearing your boots," Peggy laughed. "Watch that you don’t slip, though: it might look nice but it's very cold and wet! All right – everybody ready? Hats? Scarves? Gloves?"
Maeve pulled a face; but she was glad of her new winter woollies when they got outside. "Is it always this cold in England in winter?" she demanded.
"Oh, this is nothing compared to Tyrol," Rix said reminiscently. "The snow there's much deeper. We had sledges, and we even got to go out for sleigh rides sometimes. And the lake freezes right over, and people go out skating on it. Or, in Auntie Jo's case, fall through the ice into it!"
Maurice shook his head. "That's so weird. I can't imagine anywhere being that cold. And I can't get used to how it never really gets hot here – not like it does in India, I mean."
"I don't remember." Bride shook her head. "We were all just little kids when we left. Jackie was only a baby. We didn't even really remember Mum and Dad. And now we're all here together. It's a bit strange, really."
"It's been a bit strange for all of us." Bride whirled round at the sound of her father's voice and saw him standing behind her, her mother at his side. "Oh come on, you lot – you didn't really think we could sleep through all that noise, did you? Anyway, we weren't going to let you have all the fun and leave us out."
He put his arm round Mollie. "Look … we know it hasn't been easy for any of you; but it’ll get easier. We're a family, the eight of us, and we belong together … and we'll get used to each other.” Bending down, he picked up a snowball. "And you’d better all get used to dodging my snowballs as well, because I used to be the snowball champion of Taverton! Now, who's for a Bettany family snowball fight? Everyone?"
And everyone was.