"I stopped off at Oxfam," Gillian calls as she shoulders the door open and backs into the kitchen, her hands full of bags. "Picked us up some new yarn, saw we were getting low."
Alan hauls himself off the settee and comes through, his expression greedy. "Ooh, ta, were there much good?"
"A bit." Gillian digs into one of the bags, smiling as the thick strands brush past her fingers. She pulls out several large balls, soft earth tones, and brandishes them triumphantly. "Think I might have enough of this to make Raff a new jumper, he's gone through the elbows of his again."
"Again?" Alan raises an eyebrow. "What's he doing to them?"
"Growing, I suppose, I wouldn't know." Gillian flashes a self-deprecating look at herself. "Don't know where he gets it from, he'll be taller than all of us soon." She smiles fondly, then turns to start unbagging groceries, leaving Alan to the yarn. "I can always reuse the wool from his old one, maybe make myself something after. See anything you like, then?"
Alan's sifting through the bags, taking his time. He rubs strands between his fingers, checking for scratchiness. "You've the best of it for Raff," he says without rancour, "but there's some to be going on with."
"Getting picky now we're in love, are we?" Gillian asks. "I'll bet you can impress Celia with your striped socks. Say, does Celia knit?" She's struck, suddenly, by an image of the two of them, Alan and Celia, sat side by each on Celia's settee, knitting needles clicking in unison. Then she imagines the woman's stuck-up designer-label daughter wearing a hand-knit jumper and snorts with laughter.
"Oh, aye," Alan says, oblivious. "Not so much now, of course, but she's done a lovely pair of house slippers she showed me."
"How nice," Gillian says, and turning away, mutters, "Glad you've something in common."
Alan finishes sorting through the bags of yarn, coming away with several balls, mostly a gorgeous soft black wool that Gillian'd been eyeing herself – a blanket for the settee, maybe, something to curl up under after a long day, something that gives under her touch. She bites her lip, but doesn't protest: she took first dibs for Raff's jumper, after all.
Alan offers to help with tea, but Gillian shoos him out, and soon she can hear the soft click as he casts on. By the time they say goodnight that evening, the yoke of a jumper is taking shape; he works on it in fits and starts for the next several days, even takes it to Harrogate with him for the weekend.
Gillian sits alone in front of the telly Saturday night, Raff's jumper on her needles and Bringing Up Baby on More4, Hepburn and Grant flirting with the censors and each other. Maybe they're watching it too, she thinks, her dad and Celia, maybe he's working on that lovely jumper as Celia waits and watches.
It's grand that Alan's so in love, it really is, but Gillian can't help but worry. What if Celia hates the jumper? She wouldn't, would she? She did seem genuine, Celia did, but she was certainly used to the better things in life. But surely a gift Alan worked so hard on would have to mean something to her.
She'd best appreciate him, Gillian thinks, snapping the telly off just before Hepburn brings the brontosaurus crashing to the ground. Or else.
When Alan comes home a few days later, he finds Gillian cursing quietly at her knitting, a ball of brown yarn unraveling too quickly as she races to finish a sleeve before it runs out.
"All the sheep and all and you're still short on wool? Might go out and shear your own, next time," Alan jokes.
"Oh, right." Gillian frowns and adjusts the tension in her work, not looking up. "And who'll spin it, then? Dye it? Not me, I hope, and certainly not you."
"All right," Alan says, "was just a thought." He puts his bag down and pulls out his needles, tucking them back in with the rest of their knitting gear.
Gillian finishes the sleeve with just over a foot of yarn to spare and casts off with relief, grinning. She sets the sleeve aside and flexes her fingers, and then she sees it – Alan's jumper, that beautiful black wool shot through with purple accents that shimmer in the firelight. It's off the needles, finished, and he's laid it out on the back of the settee. Gillian is confused for a moment, and then blazingly angry.
"Dad!" she yells, grabbing the jumper. It's soft and cozy in her grip, which just makes her angrier. "What is this?" She shakes the jumper in his face, almost growling.
"Gillian, love, what – "
She ignores him, steamrollering over his attempt at an explanation. "You've been working on this for almost two weeks, did that fff – bloody woman not want it? What is wrong with her? I swear, I'll drive over there myself and – "
"Gillian!" Alan interrupts, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to stop and look at him. "Celia thinks it's lovely, ta. But it isn't for her."
Gillian looks at the jumper crumpled in her fist. Come to think, it's probably a little small for Celia. "It's not? Then who..."
Alan smiles and rolls his eyes. "It's for you, you twit," he says.
"For... me?" Gillian stares at him, mouth half-open in surprise.
"Make washcloths out of Raff's old jumper, if the yarn's even worth that," he continues. "And wear this one for yourself."
Gillian ducks her head and runs her hand over the jumper, smoothing the wrinkles, feeling the softness of it again with a new understanding. "Thanks, Dad," she says, swallowing hard and leaning in for a hug. "Thanks."
"All right, love," Alan says. "Just try not to let the sheep get at it."
Gillian laughs shakily, pressing the jumper to her cheek and closing her eyes. "Promise I won't," she whispers, hiding her grin.