Every Friendship has a Beginning

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A White Christmas

Athene was sat on top of her bed, as always, for Late December in Wales it was freezing.

She was lying on top of her bed wearing a warm jumper and a skirt. She was also wearing a pair of fingerless gloves to keep her fingers from getting cold.

25th December 1953

Dear Anthony,

Merry Christmas! I presume that even though it’s only six o’clock in the morning you’ve been up for hours, courtesy of Mark!

This must be one of the only two days of the year it isn’t difficult to get Mark out of bed, today and 1st of October your birthdays. The only reason he doesn’t want to sleep is that he wants his presents!

I hope it’s not as cold for you in Sussex as it is here. I’m having to wear fingerless gloves as I write just so my hands don’t freeze!

We already went to church yesterday, so all we’re going to do today is open presents and have Christmas dinner.

Uncle David is coming around today to celebrate Christmas with us. Even though Dad and David aren’t actually related, he’s always been like a son to Granny and Grandpa.

It keeps on threatening to snow down here, imagine how beautiful a white Christmas could be!

I don’t really want much for Christmas this year, I just want to spend some time with my family.

Hope you get everything that you wanted for Christmas and that you all like the presents I sent with Nick. (I had a feeling if I sent them with anyone else, they’d get opened a week early!)

Miss you loads, send my love to Fred and Ginger, Athene.

Athene took a deep breath and pulled herself off the bed, and went over to open the window.

She looked out the window, which showed the hill opposite the base, which was usually full of little white dots that were dozens of sheep.

But there were no little white dots today because the whole landscape was covered in pure white snow.

“Granny!” she screamed rushing out of her room, “Grandpa!”

“Good morning Cariad,” muttered Major Richards drowsily from his room down the corridor.

She ran into their room and leapt onto the bed.

“Merry Christmas sweetheart,” said Mrs Richards still half asleep.

“That’s not what I’m excited about!” she giggled.

“It’s been snowing!”

“What?” asked Major Richards rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Snowing!” she beamed, “there’s got to be three inches of it!”

Major Richards got out of bed and went over to look out the window pulling on his dressing gown.

“Well if that’s not a Christmas miracle I don’t know what is,” he muttered beaming.

“Athene darling, if you would put the kettle on your Grandfather will be down soon.”

“Ok,” said Athene practically skipping down to the kitchen where she lit the hob carefully and placed the kettle over the hob.

By the time that the kettle had started whistling, Major and Mrs Richards had come back downstairs fully dressed in warm clothes.

“Now then the question is,” said Major Richards, “do we wait for Davy to get here before we open presents?”

“Of course we’re going to wait for Davy to get here Morgan,” muttered Mrs Richards as she put on the toast.

“Well he’s not going to be here for another two hours at least,” he beamed, “how about you and I go and play some rugby, Athy?”

“Rugby!” exclaimed Mrs Richards, “in the snow!”

“She’ll get hurt, you’ll slip!”

“It’ll be fine,” shrugged Major Richards, “the snow will make a nice soft landing.”

“You’ll catch your deaths!” she stammered.

“We’ll get changed afterwards; I promise.”

Mrs Richards still looked somewhat unimpressed.

“The minute that David gets here you get back inside, agreed?”

Major Richards and Athene nodded enthusiastically.

They had a quick breakfast before pulling on warm coats and wellie boots over their already warm clothes.

“Don’t get hurt!” said Mrs Richards as she pulled a woolly hat over Athene’s ears.

Athene and Major Richards played rugby in the snow and were soon joined by other people from the base who had wanted to go out and play in the snow, there was soon an impromptu match in the middle of the base in the snow.

They only stopped two hours later, when impatient mothers and wives started to come outside, to pull in their husbands and children to open their Christmas presents.

Athene and her Grandpa were both soaking wet and freezing cold.

“For god's sake,” muttered Mrs Richards as she helped Athene pull off her wet clothes and hung them over the fire.

She had to take off everything from her hat and coat, to her jumper, tights and skirt. All she had left on were her underthing’s, but fortunately, Mrs Richards had been expecting this and had been warming a fresh set of clothes for them both over the fire.

She quickly pulled on a fresh pair of tights, and a warm skirt and jumper.

Just as she was pulling her jumper on over the top of her head, Captain Llewelyn came limping into the sitting room.

“Uncle Davy!” she shouted as her head popped out of the hole on her jumper.

She ran over him and he lifted her up.

“Hiya sweetheart,” he chuckled hugging her.

“See you two have been busy Morgan,” he chuckled as Major Richards put on his warm jumper.

There were now several rows of damp clothes drying in front of the fire.

“Look how big you’ve gotten!” he chuckled as he sat down in one of the two armchairs by the fire.

“Not big enough,” she grumbled.

“You’re thin as a whippet dear,” muttered Mrs Richards, “bloody rationing!”

“You’ve always been small; it hasn’t upset you before.”

“Oh, I don’t mind being skinny. That’s bad enough but I can live with it, but everyone towers over me.”

“Well boys are taller than girls Cariad,” chuckled Major Richards.

“Even the girls are taller than me,” she sighed, “Charlie’s a foot taller than me if she’s an inch, and Julie’s parents let her wear heels.”

“Not for school surely!” said Mrs Richards astounded.

“Well no, but she’s four inches taller than me without the heels,” she shrugged.

“I’ll never hit five foot,” she muttered slightly sulkily.

“Well I can think of one good thing of being tiny,” said Captain Llewelyn.

“What?” she asked looking up at him.

“If you weren’t so tiny, you wouldn’t still be able to do this.”

He lifted her up off the floor by his feet as Athene giggled, and he sat her down on his good leg.

“Besides,” said Major Richards, “if you weren’t so short you wouldn’t be as good a flyhalf!”

Athene got off Captain Llewelyn’s lap still giggling and knelt down next to him as Major Richards handed out the presents.

Athene got her regular small presents. She got a pound of blackcurrant and liquorices, and a tin of Welsh Cakes.

Grandpa had got her a copy of The Mabinogi, which were Welsh myths.

Captain Llewelyn passed her two small parcels.

“You’re a proper young lady now,” he said, “you need to look like one.”

In the first parcel, there was a pair of earrings which had small moonstones like the necklace from her Dad. She had managed to talk Granny into letting her pierce her ears last Summer.

In the second parcel was a small bottle of lavender water.

“Thank you, Uncle Davy,!” she beamed giving him a huge hug.

“For goodness same David,” muttered Mrs Richards shaking her head, “she’s only twelve! She doesn’t need perfume!”

“Twelve and a half,” corrected Captain Llewelyn, “and she gets prettier and more like her Mam by the day!”

Mrs Richards smiled slightly and didn’t say anything more on the subject, as she passed Athene her presents.

There was her usual jumper, hat and scarf which were forest green that year to bring out the colour of her eyes.

Mrs Richards then passed her a parcel. Athene took off the paper and found the most beautiful material she had ever seen. There was a light cream silk material and also one that was navy blue embroidered with tiny white flowers.

“They’re beautiful!” she gushed hugging her.

“I thought they might make a nice blouse and skirt, something a bit more grown-up. You’re getting very good at dressmaking so I thought you could pick your own pattern and make them up yourself. Maybe we could do something together over the Easter holidays?”

“It’s perfect!” exclaimed Athene.

Even though she had opened her presents from everyone there, there still seemed to be several presents left for her.

Lucy was getting quite good at art and had sent her a sketch of Athene for Christmas. It was a pencil sketch of Athene trying to show some of the first years how to do a line out properly.

Lizzie had sent her a desk calendar.

Charlie and Harry had sent her a book on the different British flowers.

There was still a huge box left to be unwrapped though.

“What the devil could be in there?” asked Captain Llewelyn as Major Richards prized the lid of the packing case.

It turns out that inside the huge box, were several small presents from all the Pennington’s.

Mrs Brown had sent her some crochet and dress patterns that she thought Athene might like. Julie had sent her a tube of lipstick, which Captain Llewelyn helped Athene hide quickly before her Granny could see it and confiscate it. Mark had sent her a record, with some traditional Welsh songs on it.

Anthony had sent Athene the Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology, which was a paperback book, that had all the characters and creatures from Classical Mythology and their definitions. Mark had probably thought it looked deadly boring, but Athene thought it could actually be quite useful.

There was a light package wrapped in tissue paper, with a card attached.

“For when you don’t want to wear a skirt, Simon and Nick.”

Athene looked confused, but then she opened the parcel and found a pair of dark blue denim jeans!

“Heavens preserve us!” exclaimed Mrs Richards as she saw the jeans, “you’re a young lady! Young ladies don’t wear trousers!”

“Thank God she didn’t see the lipstick,” muttered Captain Llewelyn only loud enough for Athene to hear.

There was still one more present left at the bottom. It also had a small card attached.

“Anthony said you didn’t have any photos of him, because he’s always behind the camera. Well, I found you one! Mr P.”

She unwrapped the parcel and found a black and white photograph that had been taken last Summer in a glass frame. Anthony and Athene were both poking their heads out curiously from behind a tent flap, and Mr Pennington had managed to get a photograph.

“Oh so that’s the dashing young Anthony,” said Captain Llewelyn with interest.

“I’ll give it to you Athy, you’ve got good taste, he’s a right looker!”

“He’s not my boyfriend!” she laughed.

“Hmm,” he muttered smirking slightly.

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