Chapter 1 : A Time for War and a Time for Peace
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It’s hard to say whether it was the pounding on the door that awakened Angelina, or whether it was the drunken caroling. She stirred and rubbed her eyes as the pounding grew frantic. The off-key voice rose even higher in its warbling pitch.
“Not again,” she thought, as she arose, “the last time he woke up my neighbours and I never heard the end of it.” She stalked angrily toward the door, her stride purposeful as she moved through her flat. She spun the dead-bolt, making a loud click that carried even over George’s singing. Yanking the door open, ready to shout at him, she stopped in her tracks, her jaw hanging open. George stood on her stoop, but not the drunken George that had visited her each of the last three Christmases; each time holding a half-drunk bottle of firewhiskey and with a bleary promise to stay sober next year. This George was dressed in his best formal dress-robes, and instead of a liquor bottle, he carried a small parcel wrapped in Christmas paper and a corsage.
Pushing passed the stunned woman in the doorway, he began to speak.
“No, no, no, that won’t do,” he said as he looked her over shaking his head. “I don’t think that sleep shirt is at all appropriate for where were going. Accio dress.”
A dark blue formal dress zipped down the hallway into his waiting hands.
“Now just wait a …” she faltered as George tossed the dress into her arms. He repeated his summoning three more times before getting the dress he wanted, each time tossing the rejected dress into Angelina’s hand as she tried to talk.
He pushed her toward the back bedroom.
“Look, I know I haven’t been good company at Christmas and the last few years I’ve embarrassed and worried you.” She placed the three dresses she held onto her bed and turned to watch George as he spoke. “I’ve promised each of the last three years that next year would be different, but I haven’t come through on that promise. This year, I’m finally making good.”
“Do you remember when I bought this for you?” he asked, handing her the creamy-coloured ball gown he had chosen.
She stroked the silk fabric and replied, “It was for the SPEW benefit ball. Percy’s eyes just about jumped out of his skull when he saw us come in together.”
George laughed. “I don’t think my family’s ever quite gotten used to the idea of seeing us together.”
Angelina moved to George, leaned in and kissed him gently before embracing him tightly. George wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her closer, returning the kiss before pushing her away. “Hurry, there’s not much time.”
She rummaged in her dresser, searching through until she found the pair of knickers she wanted. She slipped them on, George’s eyes following her hands as she slid them on under her long sleep shirt. Unselfconsciosly, she stripped off her sleep shirt and slipped into the dress, George helping her adjust and zipping her in.
“Do I have time to put on make-up?” she asked, moving toward her vanity.
“You’re lovely as-is, but you might want to do something with your hair.”
She retrieved her wand from the bedside table and fixed her hair, glossing it and shaping it until it hung gleaming and elegant, slicked back over her neck, stopping just before her shoulders.
George kept his eyes on her as she fixed her hair. When she had finished he kissed her gently on the side of the neck. “Just need one more thing to finish this outfit off,” he whispered in her ear, causing her to catch her breath.
She started to reach for the corsage. “I didn’t mean this,” he said, flinging the corsage onto the bed. “I don’t even know why I bought it.”
He handed her the small parcel wrapped in Christmas paper. “Happy Christmas.”
With trembling fingers she opened her gift. She ripped the paper off, revealing a small box and pulled a strand of shining pearls out of it. She raised the necklace and fingered the pearls gently, enjoying their cool feel as she looked at George’s face in the mirror. Finally, she spoke, her voice cracking slightly as she did. “Thank you, they’re lovely.”
“You’re welcome. You deserve fine things, especially for putting up with me.”
“It’s never been a chore to put up with you. You’re mad, yes, but it’s a good sort of madness. It’s only ever been hard at Christmas time or on your birthday.” She turned and kissed him on the cheek. She rose and dug in her closet until she found a pair of heels that matched her outfit. She slipped them on and said, “I’m ready now.”
George moved to her, smiling as he took her hand and said, “I’m ready now too. Finally, I know. I understand that Fred would have wanted this. He would’ve wanted us to both be happy.”
She met his eyes and lifted her hand to stroke his cheek gently, her finger tracing over his scarred ear. “Yes, he would have wanted us to be happy.”
She pulled back, checked herself over one more time in the mirror and asked, “Where are we going that you’re in such in a hurry?”
She turned back to find George on his knees, a ring box open in his hands with a small diamond ring glittering in it.
“We’re going on the trip of the rest of our lives. Will you marry me?”
She fell to her knees beside George, tears streaming down both of their faces.
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