Christmas at the Vicarage(5)By: Rebecca Boxall
Rosamunde abandoned her Sindy dolls, which Bernie had allowed to encroach on the entire landing of the Vicarage – he was a very soft touch: Granny Dupont was the fierce one. She sat herself down on the little seat tucked into the landing’s bay window. It was her favourite place to sit in the whole house, with its view of Outer Cove below. She could also be nosy and see who was walking past the cottage along the path into the village. Usually she recognised every single person who walked by, but it was the height of summer and there were lots of new faces. It was thus, spying out of the landing window with her thumb firmly in her mouth, that she spotted a boy of around her own age wandering along on his own, kicking at the gravel on the path. A boy who looked bored and like he might not be too interested in the Royal Wedding either. Abandoning the window seat, Sindys forgotten, Rosamunde ran downstairs, pulled on her jelly shoes and jogged down the hilly pathway.
‘Wait!’ Rosamunde shouted as she approached him down the hill, unusually brave. Startled, the boy turned round and, as it became clear this strange girl with long red hair wasn’t going to stop before flying into the gorse bushes ahead, he held out his arms and she tumbled into them. She looked up, then, into his eyes and saw immediately, in a way she couldn’t entirely comprehend at the age of ten, that he was someone. His name was Stephen Jameson.
MONDAY 17TH NOVEMBER 2014
Rosie! Rosamunde darling!’
Awakened from a deep, dream-filled slumber, Rosamunde tried to summon up the energy to reply to her father, but found herself drifting back to sleep until she was stirred again by a rap at the door.
‘Here, I’ve brought you up a cup of tea. Strong and orange, just as you like it.’ Rosamunde shifted herself up onto the squashy goose-down pillows and took a grateful gulp. There was nothing like that first sip of tea in the morning. The tea she’d drunk in various corners of the globe over the last fifteen years had never tasted the same as a homely mug of Tetley.
‘I’m sorry to wake you but I’ve got to head over to the school to take assembly this morning and I’m afraid I may not be back exactly in time for the nativity auditions. The candidates are due to arrive at ten o’clock. Would you mind terribly letting them in and giving them a cup of something?’
‘Of course not, Dad,’ Rosamunde replied. She took another slurp. ‘But since when did you conduct auditions for the church nativity play?’
‘Oh, things have changed enormously. Nowadays everyone in the village fancies themselves as the next big thing. I think it might have something to do with all the talent shows on the television. Anyway, it’s become very competitive.’
‘So who are we auditioning for this morning?’
‘Joseph and Mary. Next week we’ve got the shepherds and kings. We do Jesus a little nearer the time for authenticity. Now, I must head off . . .’
‘Hang on, though,’ Rosamunde called as Bernie began to make his way out of the bedroom, ducking his head at the doorframe. ‘What are their names?’
‘Mick and Jensy – you know, they run the newsagent’s – and Alison and Richard Thacker. You don’t know them but they’re lovely. Live in the Dickensons’ old house. Must dash.’ A moment later Bernie’s head appeared again around the bedroom door. ‘Oh, one other couple. Florence and Anna. Super girls.’ And with that Bernie was gone. Rosamunde took another gulp of tea and smiled to herself. She’d forgotten what Vicarage life was like.
Just over an hour later Rosamunde welcomed the three couples into the Vicarage. She immediately warmed to Richard Thacker, who seemed like enormous fun, and his wife Alison, who was very sweet and helped Rosamunde make the tea and coffee. In the larder was a newly baked coffee and walnut cake courtesy of Mrs Garfield, which Rosamunde deposited in the middle of the scrubbed kitchen table, around which the three couples now sat expectantly with what looked like scripts in front of them.
Although she was adept at it, Rosamunde had never been entirely comfortable with the social side of being a vicar’s daughter – she was too shy at heart – and she was relieved when Bernie returned, his large figure and presence immediately making their small kitchen seem even more confined. Before he could rope her into the role of co-judge she grabbed her bag and keys to drive Bernie’s ancient Citroën to Kizzie’s house in the nearby town of Thatchley. It was time to catch up with her oldest friend.
The house was in a modern estate but inside it was as cosy as Kizzie’s old family farmhouse in Potter’s Cove. There was no log fire – a gas one glowed instead – but there were books piled in every direction, small lamps burned in the corners of the sitting room, and there were Christmas carols on the CD player. Rosamunde smiled to herself as she remembered how Kizzie had always been eager to start the festivities of Christmas. To cap it all, the delicious scent of baking mince pies pervaded the small house, the familiar but exotic smell making Rosamunde’s mouth water as soon as she stepped inside.