I twirled on one foot and pulled a face, sticking out my tongue, then threw myself onto the bed. “Did you get it for Christmas?”
“No, it’s dad’s, but he’s said we can use it. We could make a film! Do you want to see?”
She sat next to me and held the camera so I could see myself acting the fool on its tiny screen. We both burst out laughing, then threw ourselves back on the duvet when the scene was over. “We won’t let the boys be in it,” I said. “They’d just mess it up”.
“Yeah, right,” Amy affirmed. “But we could make them be extras! That’s what you call people who don’t have important parts in films. They just stand around and pretend to be crowds and stuff.”
“Maybe,” I murmured. “Or perhaps we’ll film everyone in secret, like spies! Wouldn’t that be cool!”
By the time my father finally reappeared later that afternoon, rubbing his eyes as if he had been sleeping, my mother was flustered, but smiling for the benefit of our guests.
“David, what on earth have you been doing all this time? Nick and Sarah have been here simply ages. And Alex and Charles have just arrived as well.”
“Hiyah, Dave, how’re you doing?” Nick wandered in from the sitting room and patted my father’s shoulder. “Not working over the holiday I hope?”
“It never stops my friend, never stops. Just been chatting with the local parish council clerk. Problems, problems. No rest for the wicked eh?”
Both men laughed as if this was an original line, but my mother retorted, “What on New Year’s Eve? Honestly hasn’t Roger got better things to think about at this time of year? For Heaven’s sake darling, you can say no sometimes, can’t you?”
My father shrugged. “He’s a good chap, Caroline, I’m hardly going to tell him to take a running jump. Besides, he offered me a decent malt while I was there.”
“Now you’re talking,” Nick chortled. “That’s my kind of chap! Any scotch going here while we’re waiting for the night to get going?”
My father grabbed Nick’s arm and indicated the door, then they sloped off to the study where they liked to sit drinking in the battered old leather armchairs beside the fire.
My mother sighed. “Lisa dear, run and tell Auntie Sarah she’d better look in on them in half an hour. I don’t want them getting too sozzled before everyone else gets here. And see if Alex has unpacked yet and can come down to help me for a little while.”
I groaned and stomped off, dragging my feet. My brothers were never asked to pass messages and run errands. But I performed the task nevertheless, finding my aunt unpacking her bag in the larger spare bedroom and laying out a crisply folded white nightdress and Nick’s ironed striped pyjamas on the bed.
She looked at her watch when I gave her my mother’s message, then huffed and said,
“They shouldn’t even be thinking of starting to drink this early. Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to give them at least twenty minutes to themselves.”
I then ran to the next room where Alex was hanging up a black dress glittering with sequins on a padded hanger. Guests had been asked to ‘dress for the party of the century’, which was my mother’s way of telling them she expected glamour from the women and dinner jackets from the men. The children were to be allowed a little more freedom, but I was going to wear a scoop-necked black velvet top with a gauzy black skirt scattered with little stars which I adored.
“That’s such a lovely dress,” I said, as Alex smoothed the silken jersey fabric. “You’ll look really beautiful tonight.”
She gave me a brilliant smile. Even though she was my favourite amongst my parents’ friends I wasn’t biased. She was genuinely beautiful when she smiled and as she caressed the inky black of the dress I could see how it would flatter her skin and blonde hair.
“Thank you sweetie. I will look lovely, won’t I ? And I’m sure you’ll be gorgeous too. What are you going to wear tonight, my sweet?”
“My best dress, with stars on. I wore it when Mummy took me to see the Nutcracker in London before Christmas.”
Alex clapped her hands and giggled. “So we’ll all be looking divinely glam then! I just love dressing up, and guess what,” she reached into her case. “I’ve even brought sparkly undies to wear with it !” She held up the smallest pair of black knickers I had ever seen, little more than a string really, with a glittering jewel on each side. “Aren’t they just gorgeous?” She giggled again and tossed them onto the bedroom chair.