Christmas at the Vicarage(6)

By: Rebecca Boxall



‘Rosamunde, look at you! So bloody gorgeous! So bloody tanned! Oh, it’s so good to see you. Long distance phone calls just don’t cut it.’ Kizzie immediately clasped her friend to her ample bosom. It was a tearful reunion   on both parts and Kizzie’s baby soon joined in.

‘Hello, little one,’ said Rosamunde as she ruffled the infant’s fluffy hair. ‘You must be Emma,’ she smiled, and the baby raised a plump hand to Rosamunde’s face, calmer now. ‘She’s adorable,’ Rosamunde told her friend.

‘Most of the time,’ grinned Kizzie. ‘But she needs her nap. Let me put her up and you make yourself at home. I’ll not be five minutes.’

Rosamunde was instantly drawn to the photos displayed on a small table behind the sofa. There was a picture of Kizzie and Gerard on their wedding day twenty years ago, at which Rosamunde had been bridesmaid. Her small friend had looked so beautiful – despite the enormous meringue-like dress – with her dark hair cascading down her back and her warm eyes gazing at Gerard. He was the strong silent type, a man whom Rosamunde had rarely witnessed utter a word but who’d clearly held an enormous appeal for Kizzie since they were in their first year of secondary school. Gerard was possibly a little too silent in Rosamunde’s view, but the relationship certainly seemed to work, perhaps assisted by his long absences at sea as a fisherman.

There was also a photo of Rosamunde and Kizzie in their twenties wearing scanty summer clothes, the pair a study in contrasts with Rosamunde’s dark red hair, amber eyes and tanned skin next to Kizzie with her dark-as-tar hair, fair skin and those soulful, deep brown eyes. In the photo they were laughing at something someone – the photographer, probably – had said and their eyes glittered with joy. Next to this photo was a picture of Kizzie’s five children: the twins, Georgiana and Elizabeth, at nineteen, Lydia, who was sixteen, and the little ones – Harriet, who was four, and nine-month-old Emma. Kizzie had always been a huge devotee of Jane Austen.

Kizzie’s life was completely alien to Rosamunde and a part of her ached at what might have been if things had turned out differently. But they hadn’t, so Rosamunde, ever pragmatic, parcelled away any latent pangs.

When Kizzie returned downstairs she prepared an impromptu lunch for them both and the friends sat at the kitchen counter with a bottle of wine, trying to cram the last fifteen years into a few short hours. In tacit agreement neither referred to the events before Rosamunde had made her departure, but they eagerly discussed the news they hadn’t managed to pack into their emails. Rosamunde discovered Kizzie had taken a year’s maternity leave from teaching at the local primary school to focus on baby Emma, but that she’d be returning in three months’ time, much to the pupils’ delight – Kizzie was by far the most popular teacher, having introduced extreme sports to the PE curriculum.

‘But enough about me,’ she announced. ‘Tell me about your travels properly,’ Kizzie told her friend. ‘I’ve been so jealous,’ she added, popping an olive into her mouth. ‘Where was your favourite place?’

‘Oh gosh.’ Rosamunde rested her chin in her hand and thought about her travels. She’d gone from country to country like a nomad, finding work or voluntary posts as she went – always ready to move on, always hoping to forget.

‘Australia. Western Australia. Which is why I ended up spending my last two years there.’

‘Oh, I can imagine – the beaches, the weather . . .’

‘. . . the men,’ finished Rosamunde, and the two women began to giggle as they’d always done at the smallest of prompts, tears running down their cheeks as they mopped hopelessly at their faces with kitchen roll, screeching until Emma woke up and put a stop to the hilarity.

‘But seriously,’ Kizzie continued, after Emma had been calmed and soothed. ‘Has there been anyone serious since, you know . . .’ She left his name hanging. Her sweetly featured face was etched with concern. Rosamunde told her about Troy, a toy boy she’d had a fling with in Perth.

‘But I’ve enjoyed quite a few dalliances. I take lovers nowadays, you know,’ Rosamunde laughed. She checked her watch before downing a black coffee and starting to gather her belongings. ‘Well, I did, at least. I’m not expecting a lot of Potter’s Cove.’

‘Well, you’re right there,’ Kizzie smiled. ‘I’m glad I bagged the only decent man produced by the village when I did,’ she laughed. ‘You’ll visit again soon?’ she asked as she hugged Rosamunde goodbye.

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