A few days later between Athene and Captain Llewelyn they had managed to pack up the Richards’ house.
Everything that Athene had owned since she was a tiny little girl, had been carefully packed into boxes, some of which were being put into storage until Uncle Davy moved to a new house, but the rest of the boxes were going to the Pennington’s tonight. She was going to have half her things at each house so that she could stay at either one.
This morning was the funeral, and Athene was pulling on the old black velvet dress she had worn a year and a half ago at her Dad’s funeral. She must have grown at least a little bit because it was slightly shorter than it had been last time.
As she tied the ribbons on the end of her neat plaits, she heard a car pull up outside the house.
She hung her head out the window, and saw a familiar car, with five people with dark suits sitting inside.
She came rushing down the stairs nearly crashing into Uncle Davy.
“Be careful,” he chuckled as Athene ran into him, “or you’ll knock me over and I’ll never get back up.”
“Sorry,” she called back quickly as she headed out of the house.
“Anthony!” she exclaimed giving him a huge hug.
“Steady on Athene,” he chuckled, “I only saw you five days ago!”
“It’s been a very long five days,” she sighed.
Between her grandparents dying, packing up the house, and having to put up with a seemingly endless stream of mourners, it felt like it had been a year since she had seen Anthony and the others.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said earnestly as she looked around at the Pennington’s.
“It’s nearly over now,” said Mr Pennington hugging her.
“Hmm,” she muttered.
The church was packed. The church wasn’t small, but there seemed to be several hundred mourners there. More than half of them were in dress uniform with their medals shining like a bright new penny.
Athene felt terrified that all those people were going to want to talk to her after the service and was dreading having to talk to so many people.
Major and Mrs Richards were buried with full military honours. This meant a twelve-gun salute over the graves.
Athene had to struggle to keep herself from shoving her fingers in her ears during the gunfire. But as she had been to her Father’s funeral, she had known to expect it.
After the funeral, came the funeral tea. As Athene had feared, her Grandfather’s old friends kept on coming up to talk to her during the wake. And her Granny’s friends kept on coming over and telling her how much she looked like her mother and pinching her cheeks.
But Anthony stuck by her the whole time. He kept a firm grip on her hand, and whenever she got nervous, she would just squeeze his hand.
Fortunately, after what felt like days, the wake ended in the early evening.
Athene got changed into a more comfortable jumper and skirt as they loaded her bags into the boot of the car.
“Right then you,” said Captain Llewelyn as they stood by the packed car.
“I’ll see you in July, might be able to pop in for Sports Day if I can get the day off.”
Athene nodded slightly as she gave her Uncle a huge hug before getting in the car next to Anthony.
She hadn’t realised quite how tired she had been after the funeral until they started driving.
She found herself leaning on Anthony’s shoulder and dropped off to sleep within minutes.
The next thing she knew, it was pitch black and she could hear muttering around her.
“It’s meant to be true loves kiss that wakes up the sleeping princess, right?” asked Simon.
“We’re not in love,” said Anthony firmly.
“Tell that to the princess sleeping on your shoulder,” smirked Mark.
“What’s going on?” she mumbled half asleep.
“We’re home,” said Mr Pennington.
Home. That sounded like such a good word.
Mrs Brown had run Athene a nice warm bath in her own bathroom, and she then pulled on a clean pair of flannel pyjamas.
When she got back to her room after the bath, she found Anthony sitting on her bed reading, and Mark was strumming his guitar.
“We can go if you want to sleep,” said Anthony.
“No,” she mumbled, “I haven’t been sleeping well, I’d rather stay up and chat.”
“Tell you what,” suggested Anthony beaming, “why don’t you get into bed and I’ll read to you?”
Nothing had ever sounded better.
Anthony opened his copy of The Odyssey to the first page.
“If you two are going to read a boring book like that I’m off,” he grumbled taking his guitar with him as he hopped off the bed.
Athene snuggled under the bedsheets and Anthony lay down on top of the sheets at the end of the bed and started to read to her.
He hadn’t gotten past the first few pages though when Athene fell asleep.
Anthony smiled as he closed the book.
“Goodnight Sleeping Beauty,” he muttered kissing her on the forehead as he readjusted her pillows.
“Welcome home!” he whispered as he turned off the light and closed her door.