Every Friendship has a Beginning

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Athene’s Box

Athene was riffling under her bed for her old shoebox. She had just finished her last end of year exam, Latin, the end of term wasn’t for another few weeks though.

It was strange to think that she had nearly reached the end of her first-ever year at St Christopher’s.

Now that her exams were over though, she found herself thinking about her parents, she always tended to think about her parents today. The 10th of June was her parent's wedding anniversary, but it was also her birthday.

When she had been born her Dad had laughed that he was never going to forget the date, because now the two happiest days of his life could be celebrated on the same day, the day he had married Ruth the love of his life, and the day that Athene had been born.

As she was taking the lid off the box, Anthony and Julie came into the room with Mark.

“What’s in your box Pandora?” asked Mark flopping down on Julie’s bed.

Athene smiled slightly.

“Nothing much, just personal stuff really, newspaper clippings, some of my parents’ old stuff.”

The things in the box weren’t of very much monetary value, but they meant a lot to Athene, her Mum’s old pointe shoes which were slightly worn out, a piece of lace from her Mum’s wedding dress, some newspaper clippings announcing their wedding stuff like that. Most of the box was taken up by letters that they had written to each other during the war.

“Is that a pair of pointe shoes!” asked Julie excitedly picking them out of the shoe box.

“Be careful!” exclaimed Athene, “they were my Mum’s and they’re really old so they’re a bit fragile.”

“Don’t worry I am being careful,” scoffed Julie as she took a proper look at the pink satin shoes.

“What’s this?” asked Anthony pulling a small box out.

“It’s the Victoria Cross,” beamed Athene.

“Just a sec,” said Athene riffling through the box for a newspaper clipping.

“Here you are,” she nodded passing him an old well-read article.

Anthony read it out loud.

July 10th 1941.

Sergeant Daniel Richards (26) was decorated for bravery today by King George VI with the Victoria Cross. He was fighting in the front in Egypt under heavy fire, when his commanding officer, Captain Smith (31) was shot. Without a commanding officer, Sergeant Richards took control of his battalion the Pembrokeshire 2nd division and not only managed to get his battalion to safety and out of the line of fire without any more injuries, but he was also able to take several prisoners.

As well as being awarded the Victoria Cross, Sergeant Richards has now been promoted to Captain Richards making his command over the Pembrokeshire 2nd division official.

Captain Richards shall be returning to the front next month after a month’s leave.

When speaking to Captain Richards, we asked him what he was going to do during his leave.

“I am going to go home to see my family,” he told us, “my wife Ruth gave birth to our first child a month ago, and I can’t wait to meet her!”

Captain Richards told us that he and his battalion had been trying to find names for his new-born daughter. Captain Michael Smith (deceased) had suggested naming her Athene after the Greek goddess of war strategy. Captain Richards and his wife have decided to name their daughter Athene, in Captain Richards late friend Captain Smith’s honour.

“I’ve got to stay,” chuckled Anthony, “that is pretty amazing, your Dad must have quite a man!”

“So you’re telling me that your Dad got back from Egypt, and the king got to see him before his wife and newborn baby?” asked Mark incredulously.

Athene shrugged as she put the things back away in the box and Julie passed her back Ruth’s old ballet shoes.

“You ready in here?” asked Harry poking his head around the door.

“Ready for what?” asked Athene confused.

Charlie ignored her and she came into the room with Lizzie, Lucy and Harry.

Lizzie was carrying something behind her back, and everyone looked very excited.

Anthony rushed to go and get his camera out.

“What’s going on?”

Lizzie pulled out a cupcake from behind her back with a single candle on it.

“Happy birthday to you,” they chorused, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Athene! Happy birthday to you!”

“And many more!” sung Mark.

“Well go on Athene!” said Anthony behind his camera, “make a wish!”

Athene closed her eyes and blew the candle out.

“For she’s a jolly good fellow!” sang Harry and Charlie, “for she’s a jolly good fellow! For she’s a jolly good fellow! That nobody can deny!”

“How did you lot even know it’s my birthday!” she laughed.

“I didn’t tell you all because it was on the last day of exams.”

“Well we knew it was in June,” explained Anthony.

“So we wrote to your grandparents and asked them for the date,” beamed Mark.

“Of course you did,” chuckled Athene.

Because of rationing, there hadn’t been enough eggs and sugar for a proper cake, but Lizzie had made one cupcake so at least Athene got cake on her birthday.

“So what did you wish for Athene?” asked Lucy.

“She’s not allowed to say,” said Lizzie.

“I know what I would have wished for,” grumbled Charlie.

“Enough cake to go around!” Charlie laughed.

“That’s really wishing for the end of rationing Charlie,” pointed out Anthony.

“Dad says that won’t be for about another year,” sighed Harry.

Harry’s Dad, Sir Graham Knowles, was a very rich landowner who also worked for the Ministry of Defence. So if Harry’s Dad said that rationing probably wouldn’t end for another year, rationing wouldn’t end for another year.

“There might not be enough cake,” said Harry pulling out several bottles and glasses, “but we do have ginger beer!”

“You’re a real brick Harry!” beamed Charlie as he poured out eight bottles of ginger beer.

“A toast!” said Mark raising his glass.

“To the end of rationing in 1954!” called Harry.

“To not having failed our exams!” laughed Athene as she rose her own glass.

“To getting picked for the Speech Day entertainment!” exclaimed Julie.

“To winning the swimming race on Sports Day!” called Charlie.

“You’ll have to beat me first,” muttered Harry smirking at Charlie.

“And most importantly,” said Anthony smiling at Athene, “to Athene, may she be blessed with many more happy years!”

Athene blushed slightly as Anthony smiled at her.

“Drink up then!” beamed Harry.

They all downed the glasses, and the bubbled tickled Athene’s throat on the way down.

“Right presents!” called Mark.

“I’ve got presents?” spluttered Athene.

“Of course, you’ve got presents silly,” said Charlie as she and Harry placed about half a dozen presents and a huge parcel on Athene’s bed.

Lizzie had made Athene a bookmark in purple wool, matron had been teaching the girls how to knit and sew. It was optional, and some of the boys took it as well.

Lucy had given Athene a small bag of lavender for her underwear drawer.

Harry had gotten Athene a book on famous Welsh rugby players.

Julie had gotten Athene a leather-bound diary, and Charlie had gotten her a nice new fountain pen to go with it.

Mark had given her a large bag of blackcurrant liquorices which were her favourites.

Anthony handed Athene a small book.

It was a photo journal and was labelled St. Christopher’s first year.

It was full of black and white stills that he had taken on his camera over the last six months, there were photos from Christmas, and of Athene and all her friends. When anything important had happened over the last six months, or even anything perfectly ordinary Anthony could be found behind his camera, this meant that although there was a lot of photos, Anthony wasn’t in most of them, apart from the one.

The six of them were all sat on a bench in the grounds of the school. Harry and Charlie were perched on the arms of the bench, Mark was sitting in the middle between Julie and Athene and had his arms around them all. They were all laughing at Anthony who had managed to dive into the grass next to the bench and was lying down in it, as he had set a timer on his camera.

“Thanks, Anthony!” beamed Athene getting up and giving him a huge hug.

“It’s perfect!”

“I only wish you were in more of them,” she laughed.

“I’ll bear that in mind for next time,” beamed Anthony.

“You’ve still got to open the big box!” pointed out Charlie who had been eyeing the huge box covered in postage stamps.

“Oh of course!” Athene laughed as she took the string and brown paper off the box.

She lifted off the lid of the box and found a large number of presents

These were her presents from back home, which was also a care package as it included a long letter and a large tin on top of the presents.

Athene pulled the tin out and opened it.

“I think your wish has come true Charlie,” chuckled Athene, “my Gran’s sent a tin of Welsh Cakes, there’s more than enough for everyone!”

“Oh!” exclaimed Charlie, “I’ve never had one of those!”

“Help yourself,” chuckled Athene as she went through the rest of the box.

Her Grandpa had sent her a new rugby top.

She pulled out a parcel which felt light and Athene unwrapped it.

It was a pink floral summer dress with matching hair ribbons.

“Where did you get that?” exclaimed Julie as she looked at the dress.

“My Granny made it,” said Athene beaming, “she’s going to teach me dressmaking this summer!”

There were still two parcels left in the box, one large and one quite small.

She pulled out the smaller one which had a small note attached.

“We found this going through your Dad’s things, Granny and Grandpa.”

Athene looked somewhat nervous, almost as if she didn’t want to open the box, this was her Dad’s last ever gift to her.

She took a deep breath and took the paper off and found a small box with a card attached.

“Dear Athene, Happy Birthday Cariad! Sorry if I can’t be with you today. I saw these and thought of you. Love always Dad.”

Athene bit her lip to stop any tears running down her cheeks before taking the lid off the box.

There was a small pair of silver stud earrings in the box, and a necklace with a heart-shaped gemstone attached.

Athene took the necklace out of the box delicately and looked at it properly.

The gemstone appeared to be clear white almost transparent but also had bits of blue shining almost ethereally.

“Oh my Mum’s got some of those,” said Charlie, “that’s a moonstone!”

“It’s gorgeous!” gushed Lizzie.

“Your Grandparents will have to let you pierce your ears now,” said Julie, “if your Dad gave you a pair of earrings.”

Julie had got her ears pierced over the Easter holidays.

“You’ve still got that big one left!” said Mark who was desperate to know what was in there.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.

She pulled the parcel out, it was quite light for its size.

Athene carefully pulled off the paper and found a single bed sized quilt, made up of dozens of different materials.

“Whats that?” asked Harry.

“You’re already got loads of quilts, haven’t you?” asked Mark.

“This one’s different,” explained Athene as she unfolded it carefully.

“It’s called a memory quilt,” she explained, “my Mum started it when I was born. You start it when a child is born and put scrap material from all their different clothes as they grow up until you’ve got a quilt. Mum died when I was two though, so Granny continued it for her.”

“Every single dress you’ve had since a little girl?” asked Harry impressed.

“Hmm,” nodded Athene.

“See that one’s from my Christening dress,” she said pointing to some white lace, “my first party dress,” pointing to some red velvet, “primary school uniform,” she said pointing at some green and blue tartan.

“That one’s from my St David’s day costume when I was eight,” she chuckled reminiscently looking at some black and red tartan material.

“I heard a rumour that there were some Welsh cakes in this room,” said Mr Davies poking his head around the dorm door.

“How did you even know?” laughed Athene as she passed him the tin.

“Your Gran’s Welsh cakes are so good, that I’ve started being able to sense them by smell,” he chuckled.

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