It was the last day of term and Anthony had helped Athene carry all her luggage down and they were both sitting on top of Anthony’s trunk whilst they waited for their families to arrive.
Graham and Lizzie were getting in some last-minute snogging around the corner before they both went home. Malcolm and Lucy were swapping addresses and had promised to write every day.
Harry and Charlie had started an impromptu game of rugby with some of the other students, throwing the ball and running around between all the luggage and cars.
Julie and Mark were chatting away two to a dozen as if there was no tomorrow. But in a way there was no tomorrow. Julie’s parents were taking her on a driving tour of Europe for the whole Summer and they were leaving the very next day.
Anthony had his arm around Athene, and they were laughing at Mr Jones who was trying to stop the rugby game because of the cars.
Anthony had hardly let Athene out of his sight for the last few weeks. It was almost he was worried that if she went out of his sight that she going to disappear again.
They had done everything together for the last few weeks, reading in the library, Athene helping him with piano practise. Anthony felt like it was his job to protect her from any other dangers.
Major Llewelyn, and Mr Pennington’s cars pulled up in front of the drive at the same moment.
“Can’t we just have five more minutes Dad?” groaned Mark.
“Come on Marky, get the kit loaded, there’s a queue!”
“Ay ay sir,” muttered Mark loading his bags into the boot with help from his Dad, as Anthony loaded Athene’s bags.
Anthony gave Athene a tight hug as they finished packing the bags. Anthony seemed close to tears, and Athene was already crying.
“Let the girl go, old man,” chuckled Mr Pennington kindly, “she’s not going to waste away, you’ll see her next month as always.”
Anthony nodded and bit his lip as he let go of Athene.
“Take good care of her,” he said to Major Llewelyn.
“Don’t worry son, I always do,” said Major Llewelyn patting Anthony on the back.
“Enjoy Wales!” said Mark waving goodbye before pulling himself into the front of the car.
Anthony seemed close to tears as they drove away from the school, every inch they drove was further away from Athene.
“Hey cheer up Tony!” called Mr Pennington.
“Celia came down yesterday, she brought Niki and Mikey with her. Simon will be here for the weekends as well.”
Anthony flinched his upper lip slightly not smiling but not grimacing either.
“I’m so excited,” beamed Mark, “I’ve been asked to help out at the stage school in Horsham all Summer, I’m going to help all the kids.”
“Do you want to go into dance teaching when you finish school maybe Marky?” asked0 Mr Pennington.
“If plans A and B don’t work.”
“Which are?” asked Mr Pennington curiously as if Mark hadn’t explained his dreams fifty times before.
“Plan A,” said Mark proudly, “is to be a film star in movie musicals, like Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.”
“Plan B,” he continued, “is to dazzle them all with my beautiful voice, and my guitar playing and be a music sensation.”
“Either way, you’ll have the ladies swarming around you like bees to honey,” laughed Mr Pennington.
Mark shrugged as if wasn’t too bothered about the girls swarming around him.
“What about you Tony?”
“Hmmm?” asked Anthony distractedly as he stopped looking out the window.
“What are you going to be up to this Summer?”
“Oh I don’t know, trying to figure out my A-Level subjects, I suppose.”
“Tony!” groaned Mark.
“We’ve got a whole two months with no homework! Take a ruddy break!”
“If I pick the wrong subjects it will be a huge mistake,” he sighed, “I need to start thinking now about what I want to do at uni.”
“Anthony, calm down. You don’t have to worry about it, you’re good at all your subjects.”
“But I’ve got to cut them down by half,” he muttered.
“Mr Mitchell recommends not taking more than four or five at the most.”
“Tony son don’t worry about it. Mr Mitchell’s already told you that he will help you figure it out if you can’t decide by the end of the Summer.”
“Alright,” muttered Anthony smiling weakly.
The car pulled up in front of the house, and Anthony started to carry his suitcase into the house when he was crashed into something with a mass of bright blonde curls.
“Uncle Tony!” screamed Niki grabbing him around the knees.
“Hi there princess,” chuckled Anthony putting his suitcase down and picking up Niki.
Niki was now eighteen months old, and as beautiful as her mother. She had shoulder-length golden curls and cornflower blue eyes, but she had a mischievous glint in her eye that she definitely got from her father.
“I see you’ve found the welcoming committee,” said Simon shaking his head and smirking.
“Why don’t I get welcomed like that?” asked Mark outraged.
“Oh Marky!” exclaimed Simon dramatically pulling his brother in for a hug.
“I’ve missed you so much!”
“Leave off,” grumbled Mark smiling at his older brother.
“Have you missed me little one?” asked Anthony looking at Niki on his hip.
“Why have you missed me?”
“Because you spoil her rotten,” said Simon who couldn’t help himself but laugh.
“Book?” asked Niki hopefully.
“Why don’t we go see your Uncle Nick and Aunty Izzy first?”
“Ok,” said Niki still smiling.
Anthony left his suitcase in the hallway and went through to the kitchen where Isabelle was making a chocolate cake, whilst Nick talked to her.
“Tony!” beamed Nick giving his younger brother a hug.
“You can’t have grown have you?”
“Yeah,” sighed Anthony who hoped he would stop growing soon.
He was now six foot six. Mark had stopped at six foot two, a year and a half ago. Anthony was now slightly over a foot and a half taller than Athene and it was highly inconvenient if they wanted to kiss, not to mention he had to duck to get through nearly any door.
“At least we’ll never lose you in a crowd,” said Isabelle giving him a hug.
“You’re taller than everyone else in the crowd!”
“Book?” asked Niki again pouting slightly.
“Which book would you like?”
“Hobbitses,” she said grinning toothily.
“I’ve been reminding her about Tolkien her Uncle Tony’s favourite book,” said Nick.
“Come on princess, let’s go learn about some Hobbits.”
Anthony passed Celia and Simon in the living room who were watching Mark throw Michael in the air.
Anthony carried Niki up to his room and put Niki down on his bed as he went over to his bookcase.
“Ok Niki, are you sure you want The Hobbit, you wouldn’t prefer Winnie the Pooh.”
“Hobbitses right,” muttered Anthony smiling slightly.
He sat down on his bed and pulled Niki onto his lap.
“Are we comfy?”
“Yes,” said Niki nodding.
“Then I’ll begin,” said Anthony opening the book.
“In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit…..”