Darrell rolled over as the alarm went off at half-past six and shut it off with a yawn. She chucked a pillow at Sally. “Wake up! Dipping time.”
Sally cuddled deeper into her bed and groaned. “Darrell you’re mean. We only just went to bed!”
“Well the cold water will wake you up nicely,” Darrell retorted, rubbing her eyes as she forced herself to sit up, shivering a little at the cool air in the room.
Sally cuddled deeper into her blankets. “Why did I agree to do this? I mean even at Malory Towers we wouldn’t have been so fool hardy!”
Darrell, stubborn and determined as always, threw off her covers and got up, grabbing Sally’s and hauling them off the bed. “Miss Grayling wouldn’t have let us take a dip at this time of year even if we had been at school on New Year’s Day,” she pointed out. “Now, are you going to let the boys show us up?”
“You and your competitive streak!” Sally said, sitting up bleary eyed. She got up and shivered in the cold room and hurried around, dressing with her swimsuit under her clothes. She pulled on a pair of nylon trousers to keep herself a little warmer in the snow, and then pulled on Julian’s rugby shirt. She pulled a couple of jumpers on over the top, and packed her spare rugby shirt, brush, towel and swim hat into her rucksack. “Shall I go and make the coffee Darrell?”
“Yes please,” Darrell replied, grinning at Sally’s efficiency. She had her costume on, and Anatoly’s rugby shirt, but she’d gotten rather distracted by the way it smelled of him and was only now pulling on her thick tights, planning to tuck the top into a warm skirt.
Sally nodded and hurried outside. She stood waiting for the kettle with their thermos and wrapped her arms around herself and buried her face in the collar of Julian’s shirt, smelling the sweet soapy smell of him and the smell of his aftershave. She bit her lip and made up her mind to find out what his aftershave was so that she could get him some for his birthday.
She made the coffee in the flask and slipped back into the room. “Have you got the whisky bottles Darrell? Shame we didn’t get two small ones for us as well isn’t it?”
“They’re in my bedside drawer,” she said, nodding her head in that direction. She stood, her boots tightly laced on her feet and gave Sally a little twirl. “New fashion, do you think?” she asked teasingly.
“Very fetching,” Sally said with a smile. “No wonder Anatoly’s smitten!”
Darrell stuck her tongue out at Sally and pulled on a thick cardigan and then wrapped a scarf around her neck. She shoved a jumper, towel, comb and her bathing cap into a tote bag and reached for her coat. “All ready?”
“I am if you are,” Sally said with a smile. “Got your keys?”
Darrell looked around and then snatched them up triumphantly from the dressing table. “I do now!”
Sally shook her head and laughed, following Darrell out. They hurried down the stairs and along the road to St Salvator’s. They waited outside for a while for the boys, stamping their feet in their snow boots to keep warm. “There’s no way to get hold of them if they’ve not woken up, this is the only thing,” Sally mused.
“You’d think at least one of them would have woken up by now,” Darrell grumbled, wrapping her arms around herself.
Just as she grumbled, David stuck his head out of his window. “Sorry girls!” he called as Sally carefully began gathering some snow. “Alarms weren’t set and things, and Julian and Pilks are still getting ready. I’ll come down and let you in if you’ll let me have a moment?”
“I suppose we could allow you that,” Darrell called back. “But don’t be long, it’s freezing out here!”
“Otherwise you’ll get a snowball in the face!” Sally called, standing up with her snowball.
“I said I was coming didn’t I?” David called back, disappearing from the window in a hurry.
He appeared a moment later at the door and beckoned them inside. “What time were you two here until last night? Because I had a devil of a time getting Anatoly and Julian up!” he said as the girls stamped snow off their boots in the hallway. “Come up to the common room and warm up if you like while I go and tell them to get a move on, unless you’d rather do it?”
Sally blushed. “No, You can go and chivvy Julian along for me David,” she said softly. “Just tell him I’m not impressed will you?”
“Aye aye Captain!” he said saluting with a smile. “And you Miss Rivers? Will you take charge or are you delegating just like Miss Hope?”
Darrell gave him a wicked grin. “Rather late I’m afraid. And I think I’ll be the one to chivvy Anatoly along this fine morning. I imagine he’ll be a little less of a crosspatch with me than he would be with you!”
David and Sally laughed and David gave her another salute. “Will you care to follow me then Miss Rivers? Miss Hope would you care to wait in the common room?”
“I would,” Sally said with a smile, taking Darrell’s bag from her and heading towards the boys’ common room a little further up the hall.
David smiled and turned to Darrell, “Ready?” he asked, foot on the first stair.
“As I’ll ever be,” she replied, faintly nervous despite her bravado. She’d never been in Anatoly’s room before and she hoped she wouldn’t get into trouble for being up there.
“I can do it if you would rather,” David said softly, sensing her nervousness. “I don’t mind.”
“No,” she said, steeling herself. “I want to see his face when he realises it’s me banging on his door!”
“All right,” David said with a shrug and led her upstairs to the top floor where Julian and Anatoly had their rooms. He showed her to Anatoly’s and smiled at her. “Shall I knock for you?” When Darrell nodded, David thumped heavily on the door three times. “Pilks, you better be almost ready!” he called out, before hurrying over to Julian’s door and doing the same. He disappeared into Julian’s room at a call from his friend, giving Darrell a friendly wink as he disappeared, nodding at her to do the same with Anatoly.
Darrell took a deep breath and turned the handle, pushing the door open and stepping inside. She didn’t say anything as Anatoly had his back to her, pulling his jumper on.
“Morton! I did not say you could come in!” Anatoly snapped his back still to the door. “Why do you not go and annoy Kirrin?”
Darrell took a step back against the door, suddenly regretting trying to surprise him. “Sorry, Toly,” she said quietly, “should I go and leave you to get ready?”
Anatoly spun round, eyes wide. “Darrell!” he said surprised, his face breaking from a startled expression to a happy smile. “Sorry, I thought you were Morton after that knock on the door.” He moved forward and took her hand, swallowing nervously. “Welcome to my room!”
“I was just wanting to surprise you,” she said awkwardly, “so David knocked for me. I hope you don’t mind.” She looked around the little room, surprised at how tidy it was, how little in the way of personal things he had out. “It’s very neat,” she said to him shyly, “much neater than Julian’s or David’s.”
Anatoly laughed and cuddled her close. “Now, that I know!” He kissed her forehead. “S novym godom dorogoy moya!”
“Happy new year to you too, Toly,” she replied, giving him a squeeze.
“You understood what I said?” he asked surprised, pulling back a little, his arms still wrapped around her to look at her face.
“Well, it was a bit of a guess,” she admitted. “I got it right then?”
“You did, dorogoy,” he said with a smile. He kissed her forehead again. “Are you still swimming with us today?”
“I am indeed. I’ve got my costume on under all these layers,” she said with a grin. “Sally’s ready for it too.”
“Good,” Anatoly said. “Do I get to hold your hand as we go into the water?”
“Afraid I’ll chicken out if you don’t?” she teased him.
“No, I just want to be the one looking after you,” Anatoly said with a smile.
“Well, all right then. I accept your offer,” she said shyly.
He kissed her and took her hand, picking up a towel, and a coat with his other. “Shall we go and find the others? Has Sally gone in to see to Julian?” he asked her as he motioned her out of the door and stopped to lock his door behind him.
“No, she’s in the common room,” she replied. “She baulked at going up to his room to hurry him along.”
“Baulked?” Anatoly queried.
Darrell chewed on her lip. “Are you asking me what that word means or why she did it?” she asked, not wanting to assume anything in case she offended him.
“Both,” Anatoly assured her. “I do not think I have heard it before.”
“Oh. Well, it just means she chickened out, really. And I’m not sure why, I suppose she just felt a bit shy as she’s not been dating Julian very long.”
“I see. I forget that they only sorted things out before Christmas. They seem to have a good rapport going after such a short time. They are almost like they have been together longer than two weeks!”
“I know. I was beginning to think they’d never get together,” Darrell replied, “but at the same time it often felt like they were already a couple!”
“They are good together,” Anatoly agreed. “Almost as good as us!”
“We are good together,” she agreed, squeezing his hand. “I’m glad I had the courage to ask you about going out!”
“You did not ask me out, dorogoy!” Anatoly protested. “You asked me if we could spend time together! I was the one who mentioned a date!”
“Same thing!” Darrell argued, elbowing his side. “You only said ‘date’ after I’d asked if we could do something alone!”
“But I had been going to ask you out the moment you asked me to spend time,” Anatoly pointed out as David and Julian appeared in the hall.
“Ah young love on New Year’s Day morning,” David said sarcastically to Julian as they watched Anatoly and Darrell.
“Shut up Morton!” Anatoly told him firmly.
“Well I’m glad you did that too,” Darrell said quietly, squeezing his hand again as they approached Julian and David.
Anatoly squeezed her hand back and smiled at her. “Raring to go you two?” he asked Julian and David.
“Well, not exactly raring,” David said. “Have you felt how cold it is out there?”
“Are you chicken Morton?” Anatoly asked with a smile. “It is nothing new to me how cold it is!”
“It is rather cold out there, Toly,” Darrell said softly.
“Well the sooner we’ve dipped, the sooner we can warm up,” Julian said with a grin.
“Course I’m not,” David huffed. “Just don’t think freezing my a- toes off is the most fun thing I could do today!”
“Well you don’t have to swim David,” Julian teased him. “Does he Toly?”
“Not if he thinks it will be too cold,” Anatoly said with a grin, winking at Darrell.
“You know that is not what I meant!” David protested as Julian turned and hurried downstairs his rucksack over one shoulder.
“Where did you say Sally was David?”
“Common room! I never said I was going to be too cold, I was just asking you if you were aware of how cold it was outside!” he pointed out as Anatoly and Darrell followed Julian, although not quite so eagerly and David brought up the rear of the party.
Julian dashed ahead to the common room and burst in to find Sally sitting in the chair he had sat in last night, dreamily looking into the fire.
“Morning,” he said, a beaming smile on his face.
“Hullo,” Sally said, getting up and biting her lip.
“Did you sleep well?” they asked each other at the same moment.
“You first,” Julian insisted.
“Well, thank you,” Sally said softly, reaching out to take his hand in hers. “You?”
“Can’t complain,” Julian replied, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. “Wasn’t too impressed when David started battering on my door this morning though!”
Sally giggled. “Yes, we heard that you were less that co-operative this morning. You’re lucky I’m not chucking a snowball at you, for not being ready!” She moved gently into his embrace and hugged him, resting her cheek against his jacket.
“What exactly has Morton been saying about me?” Julian asked in an injured tone. “I should like to see how he deals with being woken early after not getting to bed until after two in the morning!”
“Just that you weren’t up,” Sally chuckled. “Are you ready for a swim then?”
“I think so,” he replied, giving her a squeeze. “Are you?”
“I’m a little afraid of getting cold,” she whispered. “I wish I hadn’t agreed to this!”
“Oh my silly goose,” he said fondly, pressing a kiss to her hair. “You absolutely don’t have to do the swim if you don’t want to. Forget about whatever Darrell, Anatoly or David have said.”
“Silly goose?” she asked, surprised. She sighed and stroked his back. “I… I… should though. To say I have done, and it’s not fitting for previous Malory Towers games captain to turn down such a thing,” she added, straightening her back and looking at him haughtily. “We have standards you know!”
“Sorry, that just slipped out,” he said, a little embarrassed. “I just want you to do what you want to do, and not what you think you ought to.”
“No, I like it,” Sally said slowly. She brought his face down to hers and kissed him softly. “But what do I get to call you?” she stroked the back of his neck and grinned. “I know I don’t have to, but I should,” she said softly. “I’ll be jealous if I don’t get to do it with all of you today!”
“I’ll let you come up with something,” he smiled. “And I’d very much love for you to do the dip with me today. How about I hold your hand? Do you think that’ll make you any warmer?”
Sally smiled and buried her face against his chest, her cheeks flushing. “It might do,” she whispered as David blundered in and groaned.
“Can I go nowhere without running into cuddly couples?” he said covering his eyes. “Are you two ready?”
“He thinks he’s funny,” Julian told Sally sourly, as David pretended not to look.
“Oh I don’t know,” Sally said softly. “I think he can be, even if he is an insufferable idiot at time,” she grinned, landing on her new name for him. She pulled herself out of Julian’s arms and smiled at him. “Shall we get going?” she asked reaching for her bag. “Let’s get this cold dip over and done with!”
“Sounds like a good plan to me!” Anatoly chipped in. “The sooner we get cold the sooner we can get warmed up again!”
“I thought you didn’t mind the cold?” Darrell teased him.
“I do not!” Anatoly said with a smile. “I just know that the sooner we get it over and done with, the sooner everyone else can stop moaning about how cold it is!”
“If I hear one word of complaint about the cold from you Toly you’re not going to hear the end of it,” Julian warned him, a big grin on his face.
“I have been warned, it seems,” Anatoly said with a smile as David rolled his eyes.
“Shall we go?” he asked with a sigh.
“Yes let’s,” Sally said gently, taking her hands from Julian and picking her bag up. She smiled at Darrell, blushing a little. “Are we going to the east pier?”
“I think that was the plan. It should be a bit quieter along there,” Darrell said, buttoning up her coat.
“Let’s go then,” Julian said, reaching for and catching Sally’s hand. He held it tightly in his own and led the way out of the common room and St Salvator’s. David and Anatoly smirked at each other as Anatoly slung an arm around Darrell’s shoulders.
Darrell slipped her free arm around Anatoly’s waist, glad she had just pulled her gloves on as it was another chilly day, the snow crunchy under their boots as they walked. It didn’t take long for them to reach the East Sands, having walked up The Scores and past the castle and the cathedral, then over the harbour bridge. There were a handful of people there already, most of them just taking a New Years stroll along the beach, but there were a couple of groups of people who looked like they were either about to or had already had a dip.
They picked a quieter piece of beach as the wind buffeted around them, the girls glad they had pinned back their hair tightly. The pulled their swim hats on as the boys found a couple of large stones to keep everything from flying away. Very slowly, they stripped off their clothes, bundling their clothes up in their coats and piling them under their bags. Soon they were all standing in warm rugby shirts, the boys having caved to the chill of the day and brought their spare ones.
Anatoly took Darrell’s hand in his own, as she and Sally gripped David’s and Julian held on tightly to Sally’s.
“All together?” Sally asked, eyeing up the waves rolling lazily up the beach. It was a rather calm, but steely grey day, making everything seem colder than it was. The wind whipped around them again and they all, apart from Anatoly gave a little shiver.
“All together,” Darrell said determinedly as they all started to walk the short distance to the water. Then they began to run, the boys pulling the girls along, running faster and faster, leaving footprints in the sand as they ran into the cold waves, kicking up spray, laughing and shouting at the cold.
They let go of hands when they were waist deep and dived neatly into the oncoming waves.
“Oh my goodness it’s freezing!” Sally shouted when she surfaced. Julian appeared behind her and wrapped his arms around her.
“What are you talking about? The water is fine!” Anatoly said with a smile, and began to really swim out to the edge of the harbour.
“Show off!” David shouted at him through cupped hands.
“Toly! For god’s sake!” Darrell shouted after him, shivering in the water. She rolled her eyes and turned to the others, everyone’s teeth chattering. “If he gets the flu he had better not come crying to me!”
“Told you,” David said firmly. “Showing off!” He looked around at them. “Shall we get out of the water?”
“Y-yes p-please!” Sally said as Darrell nodded vigorously.
Julian wrapped a cold, wet arm around Sally as he urged her back towards the sand, David and Darrell following.