Amy’s Christmas Guest Ch. 21

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When I woke in the morning, Laura was curled up next to me, her blonde hair spread across the pillow. I watched her breathing for a moment, then slid carefully out of the bed so as not to wake her. Amy and Sarah still seemed sound asleep on the other side of the bed.

I went to my study, and turned on the computer, then started to look at flights. As I checked out connections and stopover times, I heard soft footsteps behind me, and my view was blocked by hands over my eyes.

“Guess who?”

I pretended to think. “I give up.”

The hands were removed and I saw Amy, a playful smile on her face.

“That was quite a time you gave Laura last night,” she said.

“I thought you might have been watching,” I grinned. “Actually, both of us enjoyed ourselves.”

“I don’t doubt it,” she said. “Several times I nearly joined in, but fair’s fair – just don’t forget to make time for just you and I one day.”

“I won’t forget,” I promised. She bent over and kissed me, then glanced at the screen.

“What have you found?” she asked.

I pointed to the Web page. “The first leg is the same, to Dubai. But the next flight takes us to Kolkata – what used to be called Calcutta. Then we’ll get a company flight to Kalaikunda.”

I clicked to confirm the booking. “There – all done. We fly tomorrow afternoon – that should give us enough time to pack.”

Sarah came into the room, pausing to hug Amy, then giving me a good morning kiss. She glanced at the screen.

“All sorted then?” she asked.

“Definitely,” I replied. “We fly out tomorrow.”

“Good,” she said. “It’ll be great to get back. I’ll get in touch with the base and let them know to expect us.”

“Is Laura still asleep?” Amy asked.

“Like a baby,” smiled Sarah. “Did I miss something last night?”

Amy grinned. “I think Tim should answer that.”

“Let’s just say Laura was pretty relaxed when she went to sleep,” I smiled.

“Shall we start breakfast?” Sarah suggested. “How about pancakes – we’ll just make enough batter so that Laura can have some when she does surface.”

We went through to the kitchen, and Amy and Sarah started the pancakes while I made coffee.

I had just finished my second pancake when Laura came down, rubbing her eyes.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” said Sarah.

Laura nodded, and sat down at the table. Amy put a plate in front of her, and I poured coffee into her mug. Laura smiled her thanks, and began to eat.

“We can take our time packing,” I said. “Sarah, we’ll need some advice from you on what to take.”

Sarah sipped her coffee. “Well, clothes mainly. And it’s not always as warm as you probably imagine out there – winter nights can be pretty cold – so don’t forget sweaters and fleeces.”

She thought for a moment. “I suppose the other thing would be photographs, a few books – anything familiar you want with you. There really will be a lot of strangeness, you know.”

Laura stopped with her fork halfway to her mouth. “My paintings?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We can have them stored safely until we have our own place. I promise to make sure there’s somewhere special to hang them.”

We finished breakfast, and I retrieved suitcases from the box room for myself and the girls.

I went into the bedroom and started to fold shirts. I assumed I’d need some business clothes for my consultancy work, so I packed a couple of suits. As I was looking at my shoes and trying to decide which pairs to take, Sarah came in from helping the girls.

“I’m living out of a suitcase anyway,” she grinned, “so I won’t need to pack until the morning. You casino şirketleri look like you’ve got everything under control.”

I put a couple of pairs of shoes into my case and closed the lid. “I think that’s pretty much it, apart from last-minute things like my toothbrush. The girls will probably take until at least lunchtime – do you want to go for a walk or something?”

Sarah smiled. “The last time we went for a walk was pretty eventful.”

“But I can hardly propose again, can I,” I grinned.

I walked across the landing and looked in at the girls. Clothes and other items were strewn across the bed, and the suitcases were still mostly empty, but the girls looked happy; I guessed they were enjoying the process.

“Sarah and I are just off for a walk,” I said. “We’ll pick something up for lunch on the way back.”

We walked down the stairs and let ourselves out of the front door. When we reached the bottom of the drive, we turned right, away from the village. We walked along the road, hand in hand, then I helped Sarah over the stile where the path led across the fields.

The path took us up onto the ridge, and we looked back down into the valley. I pointed out the house, matchbox-sized from this distance. Above, in the sky, a bird of prey – kite or buzzard – was soaring.

I took in the scene, imprinting it on my memory, and Sarah put her hand on my shoulder without speaking. I knew she understood what I was doing.

We turned and retraced our route down the slope. Again I helped Sarah over the stile, and we walked back along the road. We passed the bottom of the drive and carried on towards the village.

“Here’s the shop,” I said. “Let’s take a look what we can have for lunch.”

We went into the small shop, the bell on the door announcing our entrance. Sarah went over to the refrigerated section, while I glanced at the papers.

“Can’t say I’ll miss the headlines,” I said, joining her.

“Let’s take some of these sausage rolls,” Sarah suggested. She picked up a couple of packets, and we walked over to the cash register. I paid, and we went out of the shop. Soon we were walking back up the drive; the girls must have seen us from the window, and they met us at the door.

“We’re just about finished,” Amy said. “Did you bring lunch?”

We went into the kitchen and drank tea while we ate our sausage rolls.

“I thought we’d go out for dinner tonight, as it’s our last night,” I said. “Not curry, this time.”

“That place you went with Laura and me before, when Pam was away one time?” asked Amy. “That was lovely.”

“Sounds great,” said Sarah. “Hope you left something nice out to wear, girls.”

“You’ll see,” grinned Laura.

“So if we’re mostly packed, what shall we do before dinner? I know you three will need a while to get ready to go out,” I said.

“Why don’t we play tennis for a while? We haven’t had that game of doubles,” said Sarah.

“Great idea,” I said.

We changed and went over to the tennis court. The girls fooled around for a while, knocking a tennis ball to one another, then took up their positions on one side of the net. Sarah and I faced them, and I said, “OK, Amy, you serve first.”

We played a couple of practice games, then I said, “Right, girls. Best of three sets?”

Amy nodded, and threw up the ball to serve. She hit it squarely, and the ball rocketed between Sarah and me, hitting the ground just inside the line.

“Fifteen love,” Amy called, smiling.

Sarah and I managed to win the first set by the skin of our teeth, but the girls easily took the second set.

We casino firmaları took a break, and I fetched cold drinks for us from the house. When we had rested for a while, we started to play again, and Amy and Laura quickly took the advantage.

“Match point,” said Sarah. “I think we’ve had it, Tim.”

Laura tossed the ball up in the air, and hit another ace, clinching the match. She and Amy high-fived one another, then came over to the net.

“Starting and finishing with an ace,” I said. “Well done, you two.”

“Nearly time we got ready,” said Amy. “I think we’ll need a shower or something after all that exercise.”

“How about we go in the hot tub for a few minutes?” suggested Sarah.

“Great idea,” I said. We walked over to the pool, and shed our tennis things. Sarah was first in, sinking down into the warm water with a sigh.

“This’ll stop me stiffening up after all that exercise,” she said with her eyes closed.

Laura and Amy climbed in, sitting one each side of Sarah, who put an arm around the girls’ shoulders.

I got in last, sitting opposite Sarah and touching her feet with mine. We relaxed silently for a while.

“I can hardly believe we’re really going,” said Laura. “How long does it actually take?”

Sarah counted up. “Well, we have to check in three hours before the flight; then it’s about six hours to Dubai, an hour to change planes, six hours to Kolkata. Then it’s only about an hour to Kalaikunda, and we’ll get a jeep to the officers’ compound.”

“Those flights are quite long,” said Amy. “Can’t imagine we’ll run out of things to do, though.” She winked at me.

“Anyway,” said Sarah, “it really is time we got dressed now.” She rose from the water, dripping, her long dark hair wet and sleek.

I fetched bathrobes, and we walked barefoot back across the grass to the house.

“You three go up and take your time,” I said. “Give me a shout as usual when I’ve got half an hour left.”

I sat in the living room and found my place in the book I was reading. I made a mental note to pack it in my hand luggage for the times we would be waiting in the airports.

It seemed hardly any time at all before I heard Sarah calling me. I went up to the bedroom, passing her on the landing. She was wearing an elegant wine-coloured dress, and her hair was caught up in a silver clasp she’d borrowed from Amy.

“Just got to help those two with the finishing touches,” she said, kissing me lightly. “Oops,” she said, and reached out a hand to remove a trace of her lipstick from my lips.

I went into the bedroom and quickly put on my dress suit, finding my favourite cufflinks in a drawer and making sure my bow tie was straight. Then I went back downstairs to wait for Sarah and the girls.

They came down, Sarah in front as I’d seen her, Amy in her low-cut red dress with her rubies at her throat, and Laura in a form-fitting dress in a lighter shade that went with her blonde hair. Laura was wearing the bracelet that usually went with Amy’s necklace, and I made a mental note to get her something special of her own after our arrival in India.

“Wait,” I said. “I’ll get the camera. You look too amazing to lose this moment.”

I took several shots, and said, “Laura, perhaps you could do a painting sometime?”

She leaned over to look at the last image captured on the screen, and smiled. “Yes, I can think of a picture I know that would make a good starting point.”

We got in the car, and I drove us to the restaurant. The maitre’d seated us, and I leaned over to speak privately into his ear. He nodded.

The waiter güvenilir casino brought menus and we leafed through them. After a few moments he returned with a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket with its own stand.

“Gosh,” said Laura. “Champagne twice in a week. You do spoil us, Tim.”

I grinned. “Anyway, have you decided what you want to eat yet?”

We ordered, and after a few minutes our starters arrived. As we ate, Sarah told us more about the part of India where we were going.

“The base itself is on the plains,” she said, “but the road going north is pretty good, and in less than an hour we can be in the foothills of the Himalayas.”

“Wow,” said Amy. “It’s like a dream. As if you’d said we were going to Shangri-La.”

“There are a few problems over there too,” warned Sarah. “There’s a lot of poverty – and they’re still struggling to bring everyone in their society fully into the democratic process.”

“I hadn’t thought about the politics,” I admitted.

“I don’t get involved,” said Sarah, “but it’s important to know what’s going on.”

The waiter removed our plates and brought the next course, and the conversation lapsed as we concentrated on the superb food.

When we had finished the main course, I topped up our glasses from the champagne bottle and raised my glass in a toast. “To the utter East.”

Sarah and the girls lifted their glasses and drank.

“Now, who’s for dessert?” I asked.

Laura and Amy looked at one another and grinned.

“Not for me,” said Sarah, “but go ahead if you want to, girls.”

I called over the waiter and he brought the sweet trolley. The girls took their time choosing, but eventually settled on a gooey chocolate gateau.

As they ate, Sarah and I sipped liqueurs. “You’re sure you’re ready for this?” she asked.

I nodded. “I have you and the girls, I know where we’ll be living, Jo promised me some work. And I’ve already learned from you that there’ll be things I’ll find challenging.”

I paused. “But there will be ‘wonderful things’, too, I’m certain.”

Sarah looked puzzled for a moment, then placed the reference and smiled.

The girls finished their dessert and we talked for a while longer. Then I glanced at my watch. “Probably time we got some sleep – we have a tiring day ahead of us.”

I settled the bill, and we walked slowly back out to the car park. When we arrived back at the house, we went straight upstairs. Sarah reached up and released her hair from its clasp, then undressed, slipping on her cotton nightdress. Laura removed the bracelet from her wrist and put it back in the velvet case that lay open on the dressing table. She unzipped her dress and slipped out of it; I wasn’t all that surprised to see that she wore nothing underneath.

Sarah and Laura climbed into bed, Laura snuggling up to Sarah and enjoying the feel of the nightdress against her skin.

I moved behind Amy and unclasped her necklace, laying it carefully beside the bracelet, then put my hands on her waist, placing a light kiss on the back of her neck. She shivered, and drew my arms around her, folding her arms on top of mine.

I embraced her for a moment longer, catching a hint of her perfume – the fragrance I’d bought for her such a long time ago. I felt a strange emotion – perhaps the only proper word for it was nostalgia.

I released Amy, and she undressed, putting on the cotton nightdress that Sarah had given her.

“Last again, Tim,” Sarah teased from the bed. I took off my suit, hanging it carefully in the wardrobe, then removed the rest of my clothes.

Amy got into the other side of the bed and patted the space beside her. I joined her, and she pulled the covers over us. I put out the light. Amy lay down, facing away from me, and I fitted my body against hers, my arm encircling her waist. She snuggled closer into me, and we slept.

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