Margot curled up like a gumbie cat to watch the drive as the rain flung itself down on another dark December day. She had been to mass at the little chapel in the valley where her sister lived. Jack, as the available Anglican during an interregnum, had however been expected to celebrate at the other two churches in the benefice this morning, having presided at Christingles, Carols, first communion of Christmas elsewhere and a midnight Eucharist in Howells, before rolling in at 2am after a smidgen too much Frumenty. Fortunately there were only two services that morning and an Evensong timed to start after the Queen's Speech and before the evening films.
That didn't change the present moment. Len, Reg, the young adults and visitors were waiting for their lunch and there was as yet no sign of the errant vicar. Jack had been difficult enough to lever out of bed that morning, and it had taken Margot all of her strength to elbow her troublesome priest into cassock, trousers, collar and alb, and out of the door. Margot dreaded to think what would happen if Jack was caught up in conversations after the service and missed lunch. It would not be a pretty sight. She checked the insulin supplies in the cupboard, and a dose had been used this morning, but a hypoglycaemic crash was not what Dr Margot Maynard wanted to be dealing with on Christmas night. If nothing else, she was hooked on Strictly Come Dancing, and wanted to see what they would come up with.
Margot gave up her perch, and joined them in a brief grace before ensuring that the right combination of carbohydrates and proteins were put aside for her beloved priest. Len's daughter Jessie, girlfriend Sally Sparrow, son James, his girlfriend Sally O'Sullivan, then shared out the remainder of the provender. As usual, there were several waifs and strays who for one reason or another had found themselves stranded at their headmistress's house in the black mountains. Two of them had been the beneficiaries of cancelled flights, the others had been unable to go back to Australia due to bushfires, and instead of a barbeque on the beach found themselves sharing a turducken.
Jack Maynard observed to no one in particular that "if people were truly dreaming of a white Christmas they would actually prepare for it a good deal better, and with significantly less unrealistic expectations of themselves, their families and the British Public Transport system." He was very frail and it had been a miracle that he had made this Christmas. It had been Len who had suggested that Margot came along with her Jack. Their other siblings would be coming for New Year, as was traditional now, as the transport options were better, but somehow Len felt her surviving triplet should be there for Christmas. As the crackers were pulled, they all gave a roar of approval at the animated contents that came spilling out onto the table. They had been a present from Andy, with a note to say that Teddy had enjoyed his first term at school, and they were sure that the Maynard-Entwistle family would appreciate them.
Margot had grinned and shown the card to her Jack who had suggested checking they were safe before handing them over to anyone else. Margot pointed out that this was Andy, who had been married to "one of them" for twenty years and surely ought to be trustworthy in these things. Jack wasn't so sure.
Now they just served to remind them all that someone was missing. Sallio, as the family were referring to her, was complaining of a headache, while SallyS was twittering happily at Margot about all sorts of things, asking her about the relationship between she and Jack, how they'd met and how long they'd been together. Margot smiled, eyes glittering mischievously at the possibilities for the answers, but somehow she decided to behave herself, in a most unusual fashion, and let her young acquaintance into her world a little. Sally had noticed the picture of Margot, Jed and Abby in the downstairs loo, and wanted to know what had brought that about, as well as a letter, signed, mounted and used as a dartboard from Sir Francis Urquhart. Margot, never one to be unduly bothered by either the process of the law (social, scientific or political) was quite happy to talk.
It was only after the second Botswana story, involving copious amounts of Redbush Tea, traditionally built women, and a few interesting adventures, that Jack came through the door, accompanied by a tall, long-haired man wearing a strange head covering and a leather gauntlet that SallyS observed as being like something she'd seen in Coco de Mer. He also had far too much eye-liner, an attitude problem, and answered to "Jack, Cap'n Jack Sparrow to you."
Rev Jack guided the guest in, and invited him to join the table. Cap'n Jack produced his own knife, and seemed surprised when it failed to make any impression on the cold, over-cooked yorkshire puddings that had been sulkily produced. Dr Jack commented something about "young men nowadays" while Sally S started at the idea of someone else sharing her surname. It was only when the television started flickering in a most unusual manner that Sally S put her head on her knees (and a DVD in the player) and pronounced to the assembled company "Oh no, Not Again."