After saying goodbye to Warren and wishing his friends a happy Christmas, Ingrid asked the others, ?Will there be time for me to nip over to the admin block and see Warren?s psychiatrist??
Alice frowned. ?No, darling. Really, we need to get back. It?s the Christmas Eve service tonight, and we?re going to be pressed for time as it is.?
?We don?t have to drive in convoy,? Ingrid argued.
Tracey stamped impatiently. ?Let?s go, Alice. If Ingrid needs to stay, she can.? With a haughty toss of her head, she added, ?My darling sister-in-law probably wants to find out what Warren will be getting for Christmas dinner.?
Stung by her cattiness, Ingrid retorted, ?You may be surprised to hear that I?ve got far weightier things to discuss than that, Trace.?
Nevertheless, she turned her back on the administration block along with the rest of them.
Tracey?s step was jaunty. ?Oh? And what might those far weightier things be? The amount of fruit they put in the Christmas pudding, perhaps?? She sniggered, determined to mock Ingrid for spending so much time in her own kitchen.
?More like, how to cope with you in my house!? Ingrid snapped. ?Do you want me to list your faults here and now? I?ll do it with pleasure!?
At this, Alice interjected, ?Darling! Can you stop arguing with Tracey and put the children into the car?? Ingrid could see the whites of her mother-in-law’s knuckles as she gripped her handbag. She was clearly in battle mode, alerted by her offer to expose Tracey?s shortcomings.
Submissively, Ingrid called the girls. She wanted to follow the Peugeot in silence and let her thoughts dwell on Carl, but there was no chance of that. Caroline and Debbie were gearing up for the nativity play that evening. They talked the whole way home about what Ingrid could expect to see.
Debbie had been cast as an angel. The idea had originally been for her to perform some cartwheels across the stage while the other angels were singing; however, this had been ruled out when she hurt her ankle riding Pepper. Then someone had come up with the suggestion that she should perform her hoop sequence instead, especially since it was the routine for which she had won a medal in the provincial contest. She was so excited at the prospect of showing off her skill that she’d hardly given a thought to the rest of the play.
Caroline wasn?t in the play itself, but she had worked hard along with the youth group to coach the children and make the sets. She had even, it turned out, coaxed Tracey to help her the previous Saturday. Tracey had once been a faithful member of the church youth group, but had stopped attending because of peer pressure. Ingrid was proud of Caroline for breaking through her resistance and getting her involved again.
Inside the church, the air was fragrant with the scent of candle wax and pine needles brought in for the manger scene. With the setting sun gleaming golden through the side windows, the organ signalled that the service was about to begin. Then the pipe music ceased and the congregation fell into a hush. From the rear of the church, a procession of children entered, dressed in robes and carrying candles. They walked silently up the aisle. From among them came a clear, young voice singing, “Oh, little town of Bethlehem”.
Through shimmering tears, Ingrid watched the familiar scenes of the nativity play unfold. It was a beautifully moving production. The fact that the girl who played Mary was undergoing treatment for leukaemia added drama to the virgin?s quiet words, ?let it be done unto me as you have said?, causing murmurs to ripple throughout the auditorium. Debbie performed her hoop sequence perfectly, dressed in a white shift with tinsel in her hair. Ingrid took special notice of the sets, with a view to congratulating Caroline and Tracey on their hard work.
Afterwards, they all filed out into the hall for the traditional sequel of coffee and fruit cake. Beth, who had brought Amy to watch her friend?s performance, cornered Ingrid and begged hher to go and see her on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Once again, Ingrid felt slightly annoyed by the way her friend clutched her arm and whined about Brian?s tardiness, because it struck her as rather self-centred. Brian was a doctor, after all, and doctors were known to be busy people. If she wanted to see him so badly, Ingrid told her, she ought to find out which church he attended and get there in the morning.
Meanwhile, out of the corner of her eye, she was witnessing a scene she could not believe. Gavin van Breda, the youth leader, had come up to Tracey and kissed her on the cheek. Tracey, in turn, had passed Luke into his arms, and he was now holding the child up into the air, making him shriek and gurgle with delight.
Just then, a low female voice said at Ingrid’s ear, ?What do you think? Don?t they make a grand couple??
Looking sideways, Ingrid saw that it was Beaver. Her straight, shoulder length hair was streaked with grey, and she wore round glasses halfway down her long nose. Behind these, her eyes were glowing with affection. ?Aren?t they great?? she repeated, smiling broadly. ?It?s just been going on a week, and it feels to me as if they?re meant for each other. Look how happy Gavin is!?
Amazed, Ingrid struggled to find the words with which to answer her. ?Beaver, how come you?re so pleased? You must know??
Squeezing Ingrid’s arm, Beaver whispered, ?Shhh. Don?t spoil the moment. Just be glad for them. They deserve their happiness, both of them.?
Ingrid smiled, amazed. It was indeed the season of wonder.
To read earlier chapters of this novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/roses_arent_everything/