Christmas at the Vicarage(7)By: Rebecca Boxall
‘Of course. Oh, and tell me before I go, how are your family? I haven’t asked.’
‘Mum and Dad are well, thanks, and Benedict is Benedict! Hopeless!’ Kizzie rolled her eyes at the thought of her younger brother, who’d been the source of much irritation to her and Rosamunde throughout their childhood. ‘And still gay,’ she added, with a wry smile. Benedict had emerged from the closet only relatively recently. ‘He’s working at The Dragon’s Head at the moment,’ Kizzie continued. ‘Drop in there sometime. He’d like to see you.’
Rosamunde nodded, though she was fairly sure she wouldn’t. And for now, she needed to return to the Vicarage and find out how the auditions had gone.
Letting herself in through the back door she found the kitchen pristine, with only a small lamp beside the Aga shedding any light on the room. She heard laughter coming from the sitting room. After helping a seemingly hungry Gladys to some food (the cat was a convincing liar, having been fed by Bernie only half an hour before), Rosamunde made her way to the sitting room where she found her father and Mrs Garfield chattering away beside the fire, drinking gin and tonics. It was only late afternoon but Bernie generally took the view that the sun was always over the yardarm in some part of the world, and Mrs G was not one to worry about drinking on the job.
‘Rosie! There you are! I was just filling Mrs Garfield in on today’s auditions. Mrs G is doubting my choice.’
‘Why?’ asked Rosamunde as she crouched by the fireplace, warming her cold hands in front of the blazing fire.
‘Tell her who you’ve chosen,’ Mrs Garfield ordered Bernie.
‘Well, I went for Florence and Anna in the end. It was a tough call but I decided, all things being equal, that they were the best for the job,’ he announced. ‘You have to change with the times, Rosamunde,’ he added.
‘But, Dad, Joseph and Mary were clearly male and female! You can’t just make them the same sex all these centuries later!’ Rosamunde giggled.
‘Well, I don’t see that it matters,’ he said. ‘After all, it was an immaculate conception.’ Bernie’s lips twitched and a moment later the three of them were collapsed in hysteria. It was the second time that day that Rosamunde had needed to mop her eyes from tears of laughter, and she couldn’t help but think how different it was to fifteen years ago.
Rosamunde looked up from her backpack to see her dad in the doorway to her bedroom. She nodded, stuffing the final item into her bag – her oldest teddy, Nibbles.
‘Sure you’re not missing anything? A bedtime story, perhaps?’
Rosamunde grinned up at her father. She was far too old for bedtime stories at the age of twelve and both she and her dad knew it, yet neither was ready to give them up just yet.
‘Yes, I’m definitely missing that,’ she said, hopping up onto her bed and patting the garishly pink duvet. Bernie squashed up next to her.
‘Thought you might be. Well, it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon but you’ll just have to have it early, before you set off. Then you’ll sleep well in the tent tonight. Budge over a little – that’s right. So, what’s it to be?’ he asked, though he knew what she would say.
‘Tell me the story about the man with the red hair and the beautiful lady.’
‘All right then. Well, let me see. Once upon a time there was a young man. He was very plain in every way apart from his hair, which was brilliantly red and made him stand out even when he didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure what to do with his life but he was good with numbers so he decided to work in a bank. It was a good job and the money was excellent but every day was the same and he felt as though he were living in a world where everything was grey.’
Rosamunde leant against her father’s shoulder, thumb in mouth, relishing every word.
‘Then one day he was sitting on the lavatory when he was visited by God. He wasn’t a religious man and so he was astonished. But he soon realised he was being told by God to work for him instead of the bank. So he decided to leave his sensible, well-paid job and train as a vicar. Colour began to emerge at last and yet, still, everything was a dark, muted kind of shade. Then one day the man was enjoying a pint of ale in a pub near his college when the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen walked in. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her, which was not surprising. But what was astounding was that she couldn’t keep her eyes off him. It wasn’t long until the man married the beautiful lady and on that day, suddenly, the man’s world was filled with every colour in the rainbow, the most brilliant and sparkling colours the man had ever seen.’