In the second weekend of December, Athene and Anthony went up to Oxford to take their entrance exams. If they passed those, they might get offered a place, but they’d still have to get the right A Level results.
They were trying not to worry about the exams too much, they were done and whether they had passed or not there was nothing they could do about it.
Mark and Julie threw themselves into preparing the Christmas entertainment, with help from Johnnie. Johnnie had his own house, but you’d never know it from how little time he actually spent in his house, he was usually hanging out with Mark and Julie.
As it was their last ever Christmas entertainment, Mark and Julie wanted to make it as good as possible, so were trying to cram in as much as they could.
This was when Johnnie came up with the idea, of a regular school day, but a spell had been put on the students, that they kept on bursting into song spontaneously. It was a perfect idea, as they could fit in all their favourite songs from their favourite musicals and artists.
The end of term finally came, and Anthony was on a razor-sharp edge. He had taken his entrance exams a week ago, and Oxford said they’d be back to them by now.
He was riffling through the post one last time to try and check for his and Athene’s letters from the admissions board.
“Tony!” sighed Mark exasperated shaking his head.
“There is no letter, now come on lets get a move on, Nick’s waiting.”
Mark practically dragged his brother out to the car, Athene had already gone home and Nick and Julie were waiting in the car.
“Still no news?” asked Nick as Anthony got in the front of the range rover next to him.
“No news,” muttered Anthony.
“Maybe no news is good news?” asked Julie.
“I doubt it,” grumbled Anthony.
On the way home, Julie and Mark were talking enthusiastically about their plans for the Christmas holidays.
As they pulled up towards the house, they passed the Fforbes Hamiltons, and Roger was sitting on the gate waiting for her.
He was swinging back and forth on the gate in a pair of muddy overalls and a pair of even muddier wellies.
“Julie!” he yelled leaping down from the gate and rushing towards the car to get the door for her.
He lifted her out of the car gracefully as Nick got Julie’s bags out the boot. Julie got her pristine uniform completely covered in mud, but Julie had a grin a mile wide.
“I’ve missed you,” he beamed holding her face in his strong hands.
“Did you get my letters?” she asked.
“Read and treasured everyone,” nodded Roger patting his overall pocket where he kept the letters from Julie.
“Why didn’t you write then?” laughed Julie.
“I didn’t know what to write,” blushed Roger, “I’m not up to anything exciting here.”
“I would have been happy to read anything as long as it was from you,” laughed Julie as Roger took her suitcases and they headed towards the house together.
“Have you two broken up then?” asked Anthony looking back at Mark.
“What?” asked Mark confused and somewhat flustered.
“Oh yeah, we broke up over the Summer.”
Anthony had noticed that Julie and Mark weren’t kissing anymore, but other than that nothing else had changed. The breakup can’t have been that bad, because Mark and Julie still did everything together like they always used to.
He soon forgot about this, as he saw Niki and Michael rush out of the open door to the house, followed by a frantic Simon who managed to catch Michael.
“You two are getting too fast for old Daddy,” chuckled Simon putting Michael on his hip.
“Uncle Tony!” screamed Niki clinging onto Anthony’s legs.
“Hey there little princess,” said Anthony crouching down to her height.
“My eyes must be deceiving me,” said Anthony shaking his head exaggeratedly.
“The little Niki I left behind was only a little thing, but you’re such a big girl. You’re almost as tall as me!”
“No I’m not!” laughed Niki.
“Oh yes you are,” said Anthony kneeling down.
“You’re being silly,” laughed Niki.
“Have you written to Father Christmas?”
“I’ve invited him to my birthday party!”
“Mummy helped you write the invitation didn’t she sweetheart?” asked Simon as they all headed inside.
“Yes, we even got a reply.”
“You didn’t,” exclaimed Mark.
“Yes, I’ve been a good girl, so Santa is coming to my party. But he can’t come until after lunch.”
“I wonder why?” asked Anthony.
“Maybe because he has to carve the turkey at Christmas lunch first,” smirked Mark quietly enough so Niki didn’t hear him.
They left the bags in the hallway, and Mark ran off to drive into town to do his Christmas shopping.
Anthony went through to the sitting room with Niki. Isabelle seemed to be struggling with knitting which seemed to be a jumbled mess, and Celia was trying Tim on a bottle and Tim didn’t seem too impressed.
“You learning to knit Niki?” chuckled Anthony.
“I’m not very good at it,” sighed Niki giving it up as a bad job.
“I could give you a hand.”
“You can knit!” asked Isabelle and Celia.
“Maybe,” he shrugged.
“Boarding school is very boring, so Athene started teaching me how to knit a few months back. It calms me down when im stressing about work too much.”
“Why are you bothering anyway?” asked Anthony, “I never thought you were much of a knitter.”
Then Anthony saw the pattern for baby boots that Isabelle was trying to follow.
“Oh Cels,” said Anthony exasperatedly, “you’re not pregnant again!”
“No,” laughed Celia, “I’ve got my hands full for now thanks!”
“Glad to hear it,” chuckled Simon as he came in playing with Michael.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” muttered Izzy, “I’m pregnant.”
“What?” stammered Anthony, “when are you due?”
“About May,” said Izzy.
“The doctors even think it might be twins!” said Nick proudly.
“I would not wish that on my worst enemy,” said Celia patting Izzy on the shoulder.
At that moment the telephone rang from Mr Pennington’s office next door.
Nick ran to answer it.
“The Pennington Residence?”
“Tony!” Nick called from the other room, “it’s for you.”
A phone call for him?
The only person who might call him was Athene, and they saw each other that morning.
“It’s really important Tony,” said Nick grinning like mad.
Tony was even more confused as he took the phone from his brother.
“Hello, this is Anthony Pennington.”
“Ah, hello Anthony. This is Dr Fairbrother, we met on the day of your interview for Brasenose college.”
“Oh hello sir,” stammered Anthony flusteredly.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get in touch with Athene and you earlier, but it took longer than we thought it would to mark the papers.”
“Um that’s alright,” said Anthony loaghing nervously.
“Well, now the papers have been marked, we’re trying to get in touch with the most urgent cases first.”
“Urgent!” stammered Anthony, “if there something wrong!”
“No of course not,” chuckled Dr Fairbrother.
“You did very well at the interview, even though we did throw some quite difficult questions at you. And as for your exam results, they were remarkable.”
“Thank you sir,” nodded Anthony blushing slightly.
“Well, we are ringing our most urgent students first, but there will of course be confirmation in the post.”
“Have I passed?” asked Anthony dreading the answer.
“Passed!” exclaimed Dr Fairbrother, “of course you’ve passed! Athene and you were in top five percent of all the students taking the entrance exams.”
“Five percent,” mouthed Anthony hardly believing it.
“I am ringing to offer you an unconditional place at Brasenose College for next academic year.”
“Unconditional?” asked Anthony.
“It means, all you have to do is sit the exams in June. However, you do, we’ll take you, just show up for the exams.”
Anthony went silent for a moment, his mind had gone into shock.
“Anthony?” asked Dr. Fairbrother, “are you there?”
“If you don’t want the place we can offer it to someone else.”
“No sir,” stammered Anthony, “I’m here. I’d be honoured to accept!”
“Jolly good,” chuckled Dr Fairbrother.
“Before you go,” said Anthony frantically, “can I ask about Athene?”
“Miss Richards is getting the same offer as you, unconditional.”
“Thank you sir,” said Anthony weakly.
He put the phone back and walked back through to the sitting room.
“What’s up Tony?” asked Simon.
But Anthony had fainted and fell onto the floor out of complete shock.