Two Birthdays in One Day
After Midnight Mass, Anthony, Mark and Athene had stayed up half the rest of the night chatting excitedly about Christmas that day.
It was for this reason that Athene and Anthony were snuggled up next to each other in Anthony’s bed, whilst Mark was sprawled out in his own bed taking up the whole double bed as usual.
Niki poked her head around the door excitedly, followed closely behind by Simon who was carrying baby Michael.
Niki stood between the two beds trying to decide which one to wake up first before her face split into a grin and she pounced on Mark.
“Jesus Christ!” grumbled Mark burying himself under the duvet.
“Control that thing Simon, it’s far too early!”
Niki shrugged and leapt on Anthony and Athene instead.
“Hmm?” mumbled Anthony as Athene blinked drowsily and somewhat confused.
“Uncle Tony!” beamed Niki, “Aunty Athy!”
“Good morning princess Nicole,” said Anthony yawning widely.
“Do you know what today is?” asked Athene.
“Is it somebodies’ birthday?”
“Baby Jesus!” yelled Niki.
“So it is!” said Anthony dramatically.
“Is it somebody else’s birthday as well though?” asked Simon sitting down on the end of the bed.
Niki shook her head confused.
“Isn’t a little girl turning two today?” asked Simon.
“ME!” yelled Niki her eyes wild with excitement.
“Is it your birthday Niki?” asked Athene.
“And here was I thinking it was Uncle Marky’s,” chuckled Anthony.
“Someone say my name?” mumbled a disembodied voice from underneath three blankets, and a duvet on Mark’s bed.
“You two wake that idiot up,” said Simon, “we’ve still got to wake up Uncle Nick, and Aunty Izzy.”
“Have fun with that,” said Anthony laughing as they got out of bed and pulled on their dressing gowns.
“You ready Athens?” asked Anthony beaming.
“With you, I’m ready to do anything,” said Athene giving him a long kiss.
They both ran across the room barefoot and jumped onto Mark’s bed to start pulling off the covers.
“You needn’t bother waking me up,” said Mark glaring at them both.
“You two flirting with each other is so sick-making if I did go back to sleep, I’d be haunted by nightmares.”
“I’ll go put you on a nice pot of coffee,” said Anthony ruffling his brother’s hair.
“Get out of here you fucking!”
But Anthony and Athene never heard the end of Mark’s sentence as they had legged it out of the door and slammed it behind them.
Athene and Anthony ran downstairs laughing.
“It’s almost as if he has a split personality,” giggled Athene as she put on the coffee.
“A grumpy git before the caffeine, and an excitable puppy for the rest of the day,” agreed Anthony.
Anthony helped Athene get started on the rounds of endless toast. As they had to celebrate Christmas and Niki’s birthday, Christmas was in the morning and the birthday party was that afternoon.
Therefore, they were going to be eating toast whilst everyone opened their presents.
“Is there anyone in?” called a voice from out in the corridor.
“Uncle Davy!” Athene half screamed running into the hallway.
Her Uncle Davy was standing there for once not in his uniform, with a large bag of presents that he had just put down.
“Hi there Cariad!” he chuckled lifting her up.
“If you get any bigger, I’ll have to stop this,” he sighed putting her back down on the ground.
“How’s work?” asked Athene carrying the presents through to the sitting room, her Uncle limping behind her.
“Busy, I’ve never seen so much paperwork.”
Athene looked slightly guilty for a moment.
“Now don’t look like that,” said Major Llewelyn firmly, “I’d do paperwork for an eternity if it meant you didn’t have to worry about me being at the front.”
Athene nodded and gave her Uncle a quick hug before she went to go and help Anthony with the toast.
Ten minutes later, the whole household was sat around the fire that Nick had just built with toast and cups of tea and coffee.
Mark was looking very grumpy; he was on his second cup of coffee and waiting for his caffeine to kick in.
Niki was sitting on Simon’s lap and looking around excitedly.
“Shall we see what Santa’s brought?” asked Mr Pennington handing out everyone their stockings. There was even one for Major Llewelyn.
The stockings were full of silly things like chocolate coins, boiled sweets and an orange apiece.
Niki was happily sucking away at a candy cane as everyone else was handed out their presents.
Niki got lots of little presents including new toys, and books. But she seemed slightly disappointed, she hadn’t got the present she had wanted from Father Christmas.
“What’s this hiding at the back?” asked Nick dramatically pulling out the last present they had been hiding behind the tree.
He handed a box that was almost the same size as Niki to his goddaughter.
“I wonder what could be in here?” asked Simon helping her pull off the wrapping paper and lift the lid off the box.
Inside the box was a beautiful china doll whose eyes were currently shut as she was asleep. The doll had auburn coloured hair and tiny freckles on her cheeks, and she was wearing a beautiful pink party dress.
“It’s Aunty Athy!” exclaimed Niki hugging the doll close.
“You have no idea how long it took me to find that doll in Hamleys,” muttered Celia to Athene.
“She wanted to call it Athene, so she clearly misses you and Anthony when you’re aware.”
“I think that the real Athene is much more beautiful of course,” chuckled Anthony.
“Ah yes,” nodded Simon knowingly, “but Athene can’t open and shut her eyes when you move her.”
“No, she can do that on her own,” drawled Mark, “because she’s not a doll!”
“She is gorgeous,” said Athene stroking the doll's hair.
“She’s mine!” said Niki hugging the doll close.
“Bonne,” said Isabelle getting up, “who wants to help with Christmas lunch?”
“I’m coming,” laughed Athene shaking her head followed by Anthony, Celia and Nick.
They didn’t just have to get the Christmas lunch made, they also had to prepare Niki’s birthday tea. The cake was already made and decorated, and the jelly was setting in the fridge, but they had to make the sandwiches, and cook the sausage rolls.
Mark was keeping Michael and Niki entertained, whilst Mr Pennington and Simon were preparing for the party.
Just before twelve o’clock, Mr and Mrs Bell arrived with a Christmas cake. The Fforbes Hamilton arrived soon after and everyone was carrying presents which were all hidden in the coat cupboard with the other birthday presents until after lunch.
Christmas lunch was just as jolly and cheerful as usual. Niki was so busy pulling crackers and eating mince pies, that she had completely forgotten that it was her birthday.
“Right,” said Mr Pennington with more than a hint of finality, “Christmas is over.”
“No!” protested Niki bursting into tears.
“Come on silly,” chuckled Simon picking up Niki and carrying her through to the sitting room.
There was a very large parcel in the middle of the room.
“Only one present?” asked Niki confused.
“No of course not,” chuckled Simon.
“We’re going to play pass the parcel.”
Everyone sat down in a circle, some people such as Major Llewelyn had to pull up chairs as they couldn’t sit on the floor.
Mark set up his record player which rather than playing Teddy Bear’s picnic or one of Mark’s regular Frank Sinatra or rock albums, started playing one of his newest albums Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms.
It was a little bit more country than Mark usually listened to, but it had been Christmas number one in the Pennington house at least.
They passed the parcel around the circle to the music, and occasionally Mark would stop the record and they would take off a layer of wrapping paper.
Under each layer of wrapping paper was a quality street chocolate.
Soon they got to the end of the game, and Mark made sure that it stopped for the last time on Niki.
“Well go on darling,” said Celia encouragingly as Niki tried to pass the parcel onto Michael.
Niki beamed and ripped at the paper and found a pretty pink party dress, exactly like the one that her new doll Athene was wearing.
“Dolly dress!” she exclaimed holding it up.
“Would you look at that?” said Simon in astonishment.
“How’d you know?” asked Niki.
“Well, you see Santa Clause is a very clever man,” said Simon knowingly.
“He knew that you wanted a doll for Christmas, so he told us what her dress would look like and told Mummy and I where we could buy one exactly like it.”
“I love you Daddy!” beamed Niki giving Simon a huge hug.
“It looks like that’s the only present you’re getting little lady,” said Uncle Davy.
“That’s ok,” said Niki still looking fairly disappointed.
Mr Pennington had slipped out of the room at the end of pass the parcel to go and get changed.
There was a loud ringing of the bell.
“I wonder who that could be?” asked Julie.
“All your friends are here,” shrugged Mr Bell, “I can’t think who it could be.”
“Shall we go find out?” asked Athene taking Niki’s hand.
They all went to go and answer the door, Nick and Izzy at the back trying not to laugh, and Anthony recording the whole thing on his camera.
Athene helped Niki open the door, and there was indeed someone standing on the doorstep with a bulging bag of presents, and he was wearing a red and white suit, and a white bushy beard.
“Santa Clause!” yelled Niki.
“Hello young lady!” exclaimed Santa, who was really Mr Pennington in a costume.
“I heard that somebody here has a birthday today?”
“Me! Me!” yelled Niki shoving her hand in the air and jumping up and down.
“You’re Nicole Charlotte Pennington?” asked Santa.
“Yes!” beamed Niki.
“Are you going to invite Father Christmas in sweetheart?” asked Mrs Bell trying not to laugh out loud.
Santa Clause went through to the sitting room, where Mark had been clearing up from pass the parcel.
“And who’s this?” asked Mark in his most dramatic voice.
Mark did a quick double-take as he took a proper look at Father Christmas.
“You know you’re right!”
Father Christmas sat down on the sofa, and Niki sat down on his lap.
“Now then young lady, I’ve had a very busy night as I’m sure you know. But I’m very good friends with your Daddy, he asked me to come here as a special favour to him on the way back to the North Pole.”
Niki’s face lit up as she beamed at her Daddy. He must be a very important person if he can get Father Christmas to come to her birthday party!
“I’m afraid I can’t stay very long, as I’ve had a very long night. But if you’re a very good girl I might come back next year.”
Niki looked upset that Santa had to leave so soon.
“As you’ve been such a very good girl this year, all your friends and family have got you lots of presents. Which are in that bag right over there.”
Niki looked at the huge bag for a second her eyes shining with joy. She gave Santa Clause one more huge hug before leaping off his lap and going to attack her presents.
Father Christmas left, and Mr Pennington came back in a few minutes later and Niki didn’t even realise he had left in the first place.
Niki had just reached a large box, which Simon had to help her lift out of the bag.
“Who’s this one from?” asked Simon who had been helping unwrap all the presents, whilst Anthony was busy the camera.
“It says it’s from Uncle Tony,” said Simon, “shall we see what’s in here?”
Niki nodded as she ripped the paper off the box and found a set of books.
“Of course, you’ve bought her bloody books,” said Mark as if nothing could have been more obvious.
“The Chronicles of Narnia,” Simon read off the box set.
“There are lots of lovely creatures in those books like dwarves and talking animals,” explained Anthony.
“Hobbitses?” asked Niki hopefully.
“No, but the man who wrote these books is friends with Mr Tolkien.”
“Also those books are a lot more suitable for a child of your age,” chuckled Mr Pennington.
“Thank you!” said Niki giving Anthony such a big hug he nearly dropped his camera.
The next parcel they pulled out was large soft and squashy.
“This one is from Aunty Athy,” Simon said taking off the card.
It was a crocheted granny square blanket, made out of different shades of pink and purple wool. It was single bed sized so Niki could use it as she got older.
“It’s beautiful Athene,” said Celia as Niki stroked it to her face.
“The last few presents, are a bit big,” explained Nick as Mark helped him carry in the last of the presents, “so Santa couldn’t them in his bag.”
One of the presents was a huge box, which unsurprisingly Niki dove on straight away.
“It’s from Mummy and Daddy!” laughed Celia as her daughter attacked the wrapping paper.
On the top of the box were two books, Alice in Wonderland, and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
“Thank you!” beamed Niki.
“There’s more in the box,” laughed Simon moving aside the tissue paper.
There was a second china doll in the box, like the first one. But this doll had long blonde hair and was wearing a blue dress with a white lace pinafore.
“Like me!” she exclaimed comparing her and the doll's hair.
“She’s also like the little girl in the book,” explained Julie.
“This little doll already has a name, her names Alice,” said Celia, “she’s in your book.”
“There’s only one present left,” said Simon shaking his head.
“And it weighs a flipping ton!” yelled Mark as Nick helped him carrying it in.
“Mark!” scolded Mrs Bell glaring at him.
“There is another F word I could have used,” he threatened, raising his eyebrows.
Mark and Nick placed a huge cradle carefully down in front of Niki.
“For the baby?” asked Niki curiously looking from her Mummy’s tummy to the cradle.
“No, it’s for you,” laughed Celia.
“From Granny and Grandpa,” beamed Mr Bell.
Niki looked into the cradle curiously, it was huge, she could sleep in there herself if she had to. It was a proper bed, with pillows and little lace sheets.
“My new bed?” asked Niki still somewhat confused.
“No Cariad,” laughed Major Llewelyn.
“It’s for your dollies,” said Athene demonstrating by putting Niki’s two dolls in the cradle and tucking them in, “so they can sleep when you’re not playing with them.”
Niki looked ecstatic as she rocked the cradle back and forth, so she could put her dolls to sleep.
“Do we want some party games now?” asked Mr Pennington once the paper had been cleared away.
“Yes!” said Niki jumping up and down excitedly.
They ended up teaching her how to play musical chairs, but by the time they moved on to musical statues Mark had enough of Bobby Helms, so they played musical statues to Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock.
Even Michael joined in with the dancing, holding tightly onto Mark’s hands as Mark helped him dance and Nick played the music.
Then they played the biggest game of Hide and Seek using the whole house. Nick was it and found Mrs Bell having a cup of tea in the kitchen and was found within seconds. Anthony was found next who was sitting reading Virgil in the laundry cupboard. He found everyone else, but Athene and Niki seemed to have disappeared.
Nick was about to give up when he checked the attic for the third time when he heard a giggling. He pulled out a torch and checked behind several boxes of old manuscripts in the furthest darkest corner of the attic, and surprise, surprise there were Athene and Niki laughing like mad.
“At least tell me we won,” giggled Athene as she brushed the worst of the dust and cobwebs off her clothes.
“Oh yeah you won, I found everyone else ages ago. I even found Mark and Julie making out in the garden shed.”
“They weren’t?” laughed Athene.
“Well, I presume they had been, they were hiding in there together for over half an hour.”
“Fair enough,” she laughed shaking her head as they went back downstairs.
After that, they had birthday cake, and everyone was absolutely exhausted.
Before Niki went to bed though, she wanted to read some of Alice in Wonderland.
“Shall I read?” asked Simon as Niki got comfortable on Major Llewelyn’s lap with her two new dolls.
“No! Uncle Tony!”
“Why me?” asked Anthony confused as he took the book.
“You can do all the voices.”
“I can do all the voices,” protested Mark.
“Yeah, but Anthony can do good ones,” smirked Julie.