Every Friendship has a Beginning

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The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Athene came back from Wales a few days later, and the last month of term flew by. There was the house play which Julie and Mark both performed in, they only had a few lines each as they were only first years but they very memorable and then the school carol service which was opened by Julie singing Once In Royal David’s City.

On the afternoon before they all went home for Christmas was the house entertainments. Each of the schoolhouses had half an hour to put on a short show for the rest of the school and everyone was involved, there was singing and dancing and imitating of the teachers.

Nick and Simon gave very memorable impressions of Mr Davies and Mr Mitchell. Simon’s Welsh accent and bellowing had the whole school in stitches.

The only thing better than that had been Mark's impression of Madame Blanche, the French mistress, he was wearing a ridiculous wig and had borrowed a skirt from Julie. His accent was outrageous and over-exaggerated, but at the same time hilarious.

After the four houses put on their shows, then the teachers had their turn. They were rushing about the stage pretending to be students, in blazers, and too-short trousers.

It made an amazing end to the term, and the next day Anthony woke up full of excitement.

His face lit up and he jumped out of bed and started to pack his suitcase.

“What’s all the noise?” grumbled Harry.

“Our parents will be here in an hour, it’s the Christmas hols!”

Harry’s eyes popped open and the other boys all jumped out of bed and rushed around the room singing Christmas carols loudly.

Once Mark, Harry, and Anthony had finished packing and got dressed, they ran across the hallway not even bothering to knock.

“We Wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!” they bellowed.

“Glad tidings we bring to you and your kin,” added Athene and Charlie.

“We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!” they all finished.

“Would you lot please shut up!” groaned Julie, “Christmas isn’t for another week.”

“Come on Ginger!” laughed Mark spinning over to her bed, “dance with me!”

“I hate these red jumpers,” grumbled Lizzie as she came out of the bathroom wearing her uniform, “they’re just so red!”

“Almost as red as Rudolph’s nose!” giggled Charlie.

The dorm was soon full of people singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, even Julie joined in, as they all danced around the room getting ready for the three weeks away.

They were just in the middle of singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause when Matron came into the dorms.

“You won’t be seeing any Santa Clause if you don’t get moving,” said Matron, “your parents are waiting.”

“Race you!” said Charlie picking up her suitcase and charging out of the dorm.

“No fair Mackenzie!” yelled Harry as he followed her, “you had a head start!”

Athene and Anthony picked up their own suitcases and rushed downstairs and out to the school drive where their parents were waiting.

“Grandpa!” exclaimed Athene as she ran over to him.

“Hello, sweetheart!” beamed Major Richards lifting her up in the air.

“You alright Tony?” he asked as he put Athene down.

Major Richards seemed to have taken a liking to Anthony. He had been impressed with how Anthony had stood up to him on their first meeting, that took guts.

“Yes thank you, sir,” said Anthony.

“You got my address to write?” asked Athene.

“We’ll swap presents after Christmas yeah?”

“Yeah,” nodded Athene.

They hugged each other goodbye quickly before Athene got in the car to go home.

“There you are Anthony,” said Mr Pennington giving his son a hug.

“You haven’t seen Fred and Ginger, have you?”

“Last time I saw them they were having one waltz down the corridor,” said Simon.

“We weren’t waltzing,” said Mark as he and Julie appeared almost out of nowhere, “we were doing the tango.”

“Like there’s a difference,” scoffed Simon as he loaded the suitcases into the Range Rover.

They were taking Julie home with them, as she lived next door to them.

“Right headcount!” called Mr Pennington as they all got in the car.

Mr Pennington turned around and quickly counted five students.

“Has everybody got everything?” he asked.

“Yes sir!” called Antony.

“Tap shoes check,” said Mark counting on his fingers, “guitar check, dancing partner check.”

“Homework?” asked Nick already knowing the answer.

“Sod that!” chorused Simon and Mark.

“What was that?” asked Mr Pennington sternly.

“Yes Dad,” said Mark innocently.

“Hmm,” muttered Mr Pennington smirking.

“What you boys going to get up to this holiday?”

“Studying,” sighed Nick.

“Do you ever do anything else,” smirked Simon shaking his head.

“Imagine if there’s snow,” breathed Julie, “it would be so pretty!”

“It would make my commute up to London a bit hard Julie,” chuckled Mr Pennington, “snow on the train lines!”

“But it would be so pretty, a white Christmas,” she said dreamily.

“What about you Simon?” asked Mark.

“Well, you lot have heard of the twelve days of Christmas?”

“Yeah,” they all nodded.

“Well one of the boys in my dorm and me have got a bet,” he beamed, “the twelve dates of Christmas.”

“Oh god!” groaned Mr Pennington.

“Do they have to be with the same girl?” asked Nick.

“No of course not, as many as possible.”

“Just how many girls are you seeing Simon?” asked Mr Pennington suspiciously.

“Four or five, maybe six, can’t quite remember.”

“I give up!” said Mr Pennington.

Before long they arrived back at The Yews, Mrs Fforbes Hamilton seemed to have been waiting for her, because she came charging up the drive to their house pursuing the car.

“Juliet!” exclaimed Mrs Fforbes Hamilton as Julie got down out of the car.

Mrs Fforbes Hamilton pulled her daughter into a bone-crushing hug.

“I’ve missed you so much!”

“Steady on Priss!” said Mr Pennington, “you’ll strangle the girl!”

“Sorry,” said Mrs Fforbes Hamilton loosening her hug, “you’re right Brian, I’ve just missed her so much!”

“I don’t see why your Father insists on sending you too boarding school,” she muttered as tears ran down her cheeks.

“Where is Daddy?” asked Julie getting her suitcase out of the boot.

“Your Father’s visiting some of the farms today,” said Mrs Fforbes Hamilton.

The Fforbes Hamilton’s were dairy farmers and had been for generations. They owned practically all the cows in the county and several hundred acres of land.

Mr George Fforbes Hamilton Julie’s father had taken over from his father a few years ago, the business had been passed down father to son for over a hundred years.

But Julie was an only child, and Mr and Mrs Fforbes Hamilton hadn’t been young when they had her so a male heir coming along now was highly unlikely.

“See you tomorrow Julie!” said Anthony giving her a quick hug.

“Bye Fred!”

“Bye Ginger!”

Julie and her mother skipped along the road slightly to Julie’s house catching up as Mrs Brown came rushing out of the house.

Mrs Brown still had her apron on over her house dress, and her face was half covered in flour.

“Would you look at you all!” she gushed as she pulled them all into hugs.

“Are you sure that’s you Anthony?” she asked suspiciously.

“Because the Anthony I knew was at least half a foot shorter!”

“It’s still me Brownie,” chuckled Anthony as they headed into the house.

They had a quick lunch of tomato soup with fresh bread rolls before they all split.

“Well I’m off,” said Simon coming back down to the kitchen after lunch in a light green jumper and jeans.

“If I’ve got a bet to win, I’ve got some work to do,” he smirked before grabbing his coat and scarf and heading into the village.

Mark checked his watch and leapt up from the table.

“It’s music hour!” he yelled jumping up from the table and running through to the sitting room.

“Starts in two minutes,” he called as he fiddled with the radio finding the right station.

“Dad,” asked Nick nervously biting his lip, “how’s your algebra?”

“Not too bad,” he shrugged, “why?”

“Could you help me go over my Quadratic Equations?”

Mr Pennington seemed to think this over for a moment.

“I know it’s your day off and everything,” rambled Nick, “I’ll get it if you’re busy.”

“Nick, I haven’t said no yet,” chuckled Mr Pennington, “of course I’ll help you.”

“Cheers Dad,” beamed Nick as they went through to his office.

“And then there were two,” muttered Mrs Brown as she finished clearing the table.

“I’ve got to make the mince pies and bake the Christmas cake.”

“We’ve got enough sugar rations for that?” asked Anthony astounded.

“Always do,” beamed Mrs Brown, “I’ve been saving up the rations since September.”

“Why don’t you tell me all about school whilst I get on with the baking?”

Anthony told her enthusiastically about all his new friends and his classes and his teachers.

“The best class though is Latin,” enthused Anthony as he helped Mrs Brown stir the mincemeat for the pies.

“It’s amazing, some people get a bit bored by it, but Latin’s all logic really.”

“Hmmm,” muttered Mrs Brown as she rolled out the pastry.

“And at the end of every single lesson, he tells us all a story from Greek mythology, they’re really fascinating.”

“I’m sure they are,” she nodded.

“You know how everyone calls Mr Mitchell Old Mitch?”

“Yes dear,” she nodded again.

“I swear he’s no more than thirty, he’s really nice and always cheerful. But he’s got a strict side when he has to, he can get really angry!”

“I’m sure he can,” she beamed.

“And then there’s Mr Davies, everyone calls him Dragon because he’s Welsh. He’s really loud, you can hear him from a mile away if he’s shouting for you!”

“Athene’s Welsh too, she’s better at Rugby than over half the boys in the year. Mr Davies is really annoyed that he can’t use her and Charlie on the teams.”

“Why can’t he use Charlie, from your letters Charlie seemed to be a boy.”

“No Charlie’s a girl,” chuckled Anthony.

“But she’s in the military cadets!” said Mrs. Brown astounded.

“I know, she’s a real tomboy, I think it comes from having four older brothers.”

“It’s always a contest between Athene and me who’s going to come top in class, we always study together so we’re quite close.”

“She’s slightly better than me at English and French, but I usually come top in Maths, and of course she always beats me in Home Economics,” he laughed.

“But in Latin, we’re usually about tied. We’re going to write to each other this holiday, Athene lives with her grandparents and doesn’t have any friends at home.”

“You seem to think a lot of this Athene of yours,” chuckled Mrs. Brown as they cut out stars to go on top of the pies.

“What do you mean?” asked Anthony curiously as he ate a spare raisin.

“You talk about her a lot, are you sure you don’t fancy her?”

“What!” asked Anthony astounded.

“No of course not, she’s just my friend.”

“Are you sure?” she asked smirking slightly.

“There’s nothing between me and Athene, of course, I don’t fancy her. She’s my best friend that’s all.”

“If you say so,” she muttered putting the mince pies in the oven.

“It’s like Julie and Mark, we’re just best friends.”

“Nobody could be like Fred and Ginger,” chuckled Mrs. Brown.

“No you’re right,” admitted Anthony beaming, “nobody could!”

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