“Honestly,” Darrell said to Sally, “you’d think they were all five years old the way they carry on sometimes.”
“Aren’t they?” Sally asked with a smirk. “They’re such… such… boys!” she finished with a laugh. She squeezed Darrell’s arm as they walked. “I’m glad we’re here,” she said as the snow began to fall faster. “And I’m glad the boys are here,” she added. “I’ve been dying to see Ju since we broke up for Christmas!”
“They are such boys,” Darrell agreed, “but we wouldn’t be without them. I was the same with Toly, I was so disappointed when he said he might not make it, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait until the start of term to see him again.”
“I know you were darling, but he’s here, and what an entrance!” Sally said with a giggle. She spotted a stall and pulled Darrell over. “I saw a scarf on here earlier that I thought I wanted to buy Ju,” she said embarrassed, picking out a dark blue, green and purple tartan scarf with the town’s coat of arms on it. She paid for it, blushing. “Do you think it’s a bad idea?” she asked Darrell.
“I know, Darrell giggled, “my boyfriend, the elderly man. It’s really nice Sally, I’m sure he’ll love it,” she said encouragingly.
Sally smiled and tucked it in the pocket of her coat. “I’ll give it to him tomorrow after the swim,” she told Darrell. “Are you going to get something for Toly?”
“I’d like to,” Darrell said, “but I have no idea what! It took me forever to pick his Christmas present.”
“That’s true, you almost drove me to distraction trying to find that good luck charm,” Sally teased her friend.
“He’s difficult to buy for,” Darrell defended herself. “I mean have you any suggestions on what I could get him tonight?”
“Not one, sorry Darrell,” she said with a giggle. “How about a bottle of whisky?” she suggested looking at a few stalls a little further down. “You said he was getting a taste for it before Christmas.”
Darrell smiled. “He is, which is nice as he says he can’t find decent vodka here. But it’s so expensive for a bottle, I’m not sure I’ve got enough money with me.”
“Look they’ve got small ones,” Sally pointed out. “And I can lend you any if you need it? You could get him a small one as a prize for doing the swim, but if we’re going to do that, shouldn’t we get a pack of three one for each of the boys? We can’t possibly leave David out can we?”
Darrell had a closer look at the little set of whiskies, three small bottles on a wooden tray. “I’ve got enough to share that with you,” she said, “they can warm up with one each after they come out of the water. I’d like to get him something, well, personal though. Something just for him.”
Sally looked around. “I’ll get the whiskies and you can owe me. You go and have a quick look for something for Toly. We ought to be getting back to them soon.”
“Do you think they’ve even noticed we’re gone yet?” she asked absently as she looked at a stall full of trinkety gifts, searching for something Anatoly might like.
Sally paid for the small bottles of whisky before she spoke. “It depends on how big an argument they’re having,” she said with a smile. “You know what they can be like,” she chuckled. “Remember that day we couldn’t get a word out of them because they were arguing about nuclear power?”
“Which day was that exactly?” Darrell asked wryly, picking up an ornament and then putting it down again, “as I’m sure that’s happened on several occasions.”
“It has,” Sally giggled. “I’m thinking of the time we told them to shut up because we both had deadlines to finish work for and we were proofing each other’s work. That argument where we walked out on them and they didn’t notice for three hours.”
Darrell laughed, “oh yes, I do remember that. They were so grumpy with us when they finally realised we were gone.”
“Serves them right,” Sally laughed as they scanned the table together for a present for Anatoly, until Sally pounced on a small thistle pin. “How about this? Something to wear in his jacket?”
“Ooh, that is nice Sally,” Darrell said, pinching it from her to take a better look. “I think he’d like that.”
Sally laughed. “You better get it for him then,” she smiled. “And then we better get back to the boys.”
Darrell nodded at her and then spoke to the man behind the stall, paying for the pin and having him put it in a small paper bag for her. She tucked it into the little bag she was wearing, the strap running diagonally across her body, and returned her purse to the bag as well. “Shall we go then?” she asked, linking her arm with Sally’s.
“I suppose we better,” Sally said with a smile, leading her back the way they had come. “Then we can go and find a good place to stand for the parade and the fireworks,” she said with a grin. “I do love that we have done this Darrell,” she added as they wandered. “It’s so lovely up here in our little bubble, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. I love the way the snow looks on the ground, with all the lights.”
“It is beautiful,” Darrell agreed. “And it is really nice to just have time to mess about and have fun without lectures and essays.”
Sally smiled as they reached the table they had sat at before and shook her head as the boys were still talking.
“Did you miss us?” Sally asked them, sitting down next to Julian and pinching the chip from his fingers.
“Hah, those two did not even notice you were gone for a long time,” Anatoly said with a grin.
Julian kicked him under the table. “We did notice! Just not, um, immediately.”
Sally smiled smugly as David blushed. “What did I tell you Darrell?”
“That they wouldn’t notice, because they were too busy arguing,” Darrell said with a laugh.
“I noticed the minute you left,” Anatoly pointed out.
Darrell leant over and pressed a pacifying kiss to his lips. “Well done darling,” she teased, winking at Sally, who giggled.
“Shall we go and find a good place to watch the parade?” she suggested.
“Good idea,” David said with a smile, slapping his thighs and standing up, all raring to go.
Julian rose too, slipping an arm around Sally’s waist. “Any ideas for where we’re heading for?” he asked
Anatoly took Darrell’s hand after he had stretched. “Well the parade should be heading up Market Street to the cathedral, so we just have to get further up the road perhaps?”
“Good idea,” David said sticking his hands in his pockets again. He whistled tunelessly, making his way up the street through the crowds. He turned when he found a good place. “Here?”
“Here works,” Sally said, slipping her hand under Julian’s jacket to keep it warm.
“And I was just thinking…”
“There is a novelty!” Anatoly jumped in with.
“Very funny,” David said rolling his eyes. “Anyway, I was just thinking…”
“Did it hurt?” Julian asked.
“Will you two shut up? Look I was thinking, after the swim tomorrow, to warm up again, if we do the pier walk, you know the one we do after chapel every Sunday?” David suggested. “Before we go and shovel our faces with food and coffee!”
“We could do,” Anatoly agreed. “Dorogoy?”
“I’d be up for it,” Darrell said, “though I don’t think Sally and I have agreed whether we’re doing the swim or not first!”
“Can we wait and see how cold it is tomorrow?” Sally asked with a nervous giggle as she snuggled closer to Julian.
“You just want to see how blue we turn and then laugh don’t you?” David challenged with a twinkle in his eye.
“Sounds like fun to me!” Darrell teased him. “And if it’s that bad at least we’re not silly enough to put ourselves through it.”
“Then why are we doing it?” David asked, raising an eyebrow at Julian and Anatoly for an answer. Neither of them supplied an answer as the girls giggled. “It’ll be an experience I suppose,” David muttered.
“Foolish male pride?” Darrell said sweetly.
“Har de har Rivers,” David said sarcastically. “I think for that you should do the swim, don’t you chaps?”
“Steady on Morton!” Sally said, pinching David’s elbow. “That’s rather a harsh punishment don’t you think?”
“Never,” David said with a grin. “I’m not insisting that you do it as well, for her comment, am I?”
Sally bit her lip, “Well no…”
“Well then? Who thinks Darrell should do it?”
“All right then I will!” Darrell said, her eyes glinting.
“Darrell!” Sally groaned. “No!”
“Well why not Sally?” Darrell asked as Anatoly watched them in amusement. “We can’t let the boys think they’re superior to us girls now, can we?”
“You sound like my cousin George, Darrell!” Julian laughed as Sally considered this.
“I suppose I have no choice do I Darrell? Not now,” she sighed. “And I was looking forward to just watching everyone swimming from the pier.”
“Well, I do think your cousin makes some valid points, sometimes,” Darrell said to him. “And you don’t have to join me Sally, I can represent the entire female population by myself,” she added teasingly.
Anatoly half-wanted to tell Darrell not to do the dip, his natural protectiveness wanting her to stay warm and dry and not risk catching a cold, but he knew she would be furious if he suggested it purely because she was a girl.
“Well I do, as if I would let you do it on your own,” Sally said, nudging her as Julian had the same worried face as Anatoly did. “What’s the matter Ju?” she asked as they heard the parade turn into the end of the street.
“Nothing,” Julian said, giving her a squeeze. “Just don’t want you to catch a cold, that’s all!”
“Don’t worry,” Sally told him. “I’m planning on borrowing two of your rugby shirts,” she said with a teasing smile.
“Oh are you now?” he teased back, “planning to sneak up to my room and steal them are you?”
“No, I’m going to use my feminine charm to get you to lend them to me,” she teased. “One to go swimming in and one to keep me warm afterwards!”
“Feminine charms, eh?” he teased, “and what do those involve? Because, I suppose, I could lend them to you, and agree some sort of payment from you? Perhaps in kisses?”
“How about I treat you?” Sally said coyly as the others turned away. Then she blushed. “Oh God, no I mean…” she covered her hands with her face. “What must you think of me…I meant like lunch or something… I’m sorry Ju!”
“It’s all right,” he replied. “I know what you meant,” he assured her, though he was quite wishing she hadn’t meant it the innocent way.
She turned away, embarrassed and upset, afraid that she’d made a terrible fool of herself.
“Hey now, silly goose,” he said, keeping his arm around her. “However you want to treat me is fine by me.”
She turned and smiled at him as the parade got closer. “How do you always know the right thing to say?”
“It’s a skill of mine,” he said, pulling her to stand with her back against his front, slipping his arms around her waist. Sally leant back against him, rubbing her cheek against his coat, she covered his hands with hers and let herself relax.
“It’s a good skill my daft boy,” she said fondly. Julian planted a kiss on the top of her head.
“Good, I’m glad. Now buck up, and let’s enjoy New Year’s eve. I’m very glad we decided to do this, especially as I get to enjoy it with you.”
David and Anatoly shared a smirk, but in a very gentlemanly way, didn’t say anything. At least they wouldn’t say anything while Sally was in hearing, later on they would tease Julian mercilessly for his soppy nature. Sally turned and gave him a light kiss on the chin as the parade finally reached their end of Market Street. There were a few floats with locals, one with children from one of the secondary schools arranged as a manager scene . A young man led the precession dressed in a robe with a big book and a fake beard on, who was clearly supposed to be St Andrew.
Then at the end of the parade there was a marching band, the bagpipes making the biggest and most distinctive sound. The parade went up past them, towards the cathedral and would remain outside when the fireworks were let off at midnight.
“We’ve only got a few moments to go,” David said checking his watch. “Almost perfect timing!” The others nodded as the sounds of the band dulled and the last torch from the precession disappeared around the corner. People pushed past the street barriers and walked quickly up to the new barriers across the road to keep people back from the cathedral just as the bell in St Salvator’s chapel began to chime midnight with all the other church bells in the town.
“Happy New Year!” the five of them chorused and then Sally and Darrell kissed a surprised David on each cheek before being claimed by Julian and Anatoly respectively.
Darrell flung her arms around Anatoly’s neck and pressed herself close to him as they kissed in the New Year and the fireworks started behind them.
Julian cupped Sally’s face in his hands, stroking her cheeks. He smiled at her as the colours of the fireworks lit up her excited face.
“Happy New Year Sally. I’m so glad I get to spend it with you,” he whispered, before he kissed her. Sally wrapped her arms around his waist, smiling as he kissed her. It was a less amorous kiss than Darrell and Anatoly, but that didn’t bother her. She hugged him close for a moment and he wrapped his arms around her.
“I’m glad I get to spend it with you as well,” Sally said with a smile at him as they stood and watched the fireworks. Julian stroked her back as they watched the big fireworks explode over their head. The display went on for about ten minutes, lighting up the town and the old cathedral ruins.
After the last fireworks had gone off, the band struck up again with the traditional song of Auld Lang Syne. They all crossed their hands over their bodies and the five of them made a mini circle and began singing along. Anatoly was the worst has he actually had no idea of the words.
When they were done, there was one last cheer of “Happy New Year” and then people began to disperse.
“Shall we go back to St Sal’s and crack open a bottle of whisky to toast the year in?” Anatoly suggested after he had hugged Sally and Darrell had finished hugging David and Julian.
“Now that sounds like a good idea,” Sally said with a smile. “Have you got a spare bottle?” she teased him.
“Always, well it’s one I brought before we left for the holidays,” Anatoly said as Darrell slipped her hand into his.
“Well lets go and sample it then,” David said with a big smile, rubbing his hands together to warm them. “Then a good night’s sleep for the swim tomorrow!” he added with a wink. “So are you girls definitely joining us?”
Darrell and Sally exchanged looks as they began walking the short distance to St Salvator’s.
“Well I shall,” Darrell said with a big grin. “As someone needs to show you boys that we’re as good as you are. Sally?”
“I don’t want to, but I do feel as though I should help Darrell make a point,” she said, relenting a little. Julian gave her hand a squeeze. “But I think I should like to get it over and done with and go first!” she added with a laugh.
“You don’t have to swim if you don’t want to Sally,” Julian said quietly.
“I know Ju,” Sally said biting her lip. “But I sort of want to now; I don’t want to be the only one left out!”
“That’s the spirit!” David said with a grin at her, putting an arm around her shoulders to hug her for a second as the snow began to fall again. “Knew you wouldn’t say no Sally!”
“I’m blaming you if I get a stinking cold then David!” Sally told him with a laugh as the snow began to settle in their hair as they hurried towards St Salvator’s.
They hurried the last few steps as the snow really began to fall and, laughing, hurried upstairs to the boys’ common room, where the embers of a fire was still glowing. Julian stoked it up into a roaring blaze as Anatoly slipped upstairs to his room to get the bottle of whisky he had promised them, and came back with some glasses. He put them down and poured them all a measure. He handed them out and then sat down with his arm around Darrell’s shoulders on the sofa, feet stretched out in front of him towards the fire.
“To new friends,” he said raising his glass. “And a very happy new, adventure free,” he winked at Sally, “year!”
“An adventure free year!” Everyone agreed clinking glasses softly.
“Does it have to be a totally adventure free year?” Julian asked, a glint in his eye.
“No, but as long as it doesn’t involve me,” Sally said with a laugh, poking him in the ribs.
“Not even if you don’t play and damsel in distress role this time?” David teased her, slumping in his seat, legs outstretched.
“Even if,” Sally said haughtily, giving his feet a little nudge with her own as she leant back against Julian on the footstool in front of the fire. Julian wound his arm around her waist and wound his fingers through hers. Sally rested back on him as the others bantered playfully and Anatoly shared out another generous measure of his Ben Nevis single malt whisky.
“I think I’m going to go to bed if you don’t mind,” David yawned suddenly. “I’m quite tired, and I don’t think I can stand the soppiness of you four much longer!” he teased.
“You’re a cad, David,” Darrell told him primly kissing him on the cheek and giving him a hug. Sally did the same.
“I know,” he grinned. “But someone has to retain normality,” he laughed. “See you tomorrow for the swim girls, and don’t forget to wear warm clothes, and bring a thermos of something warming.”
“I suppose we could stretch for that!” Sally teased, waving as he disappeared out of the common room and headed upstairs.