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Written for Alice from her Secret Santa

Christmas wasn’t Christmas without snow thought Peggy disconsolately, gazing out at the steady drizzle that marked Christmas Eve. There was ALWAYS snow in the winter, except here in Guernsey when it was lovely and hot in the summer, but horrid and wet now. The little girl kicked out at the wall, doing no damage in her soft slippers, but relieving her feelings a little. Rix was busy with David, and Daisy had swooped Bride, Jackie, Sybil and Primula off on a mysterious errand. Peggy had wrapped up her parcels and was now huddled in the window seat of the pretty nursery feeling abandoned, and very homesick.

Most of the time her memories of Tyrol were held at the back of her mind. Occasionally she would catch a flash of the past and a pang so painful she could cry, but mostly she was a cheery little soul. But now… Mummy and Daddy were so far away, and now everything was uncertain. Maybe they were happy with the new little babies, who wouldn’t be able to come to Auntie Madge like the rest of them because of the Situation, and so maybe they would stay out there forever. There would never be any snow ever again because of the bad people in Austria (Peggy’s thoughts were getting muddled) and she was all alone on Christmas Eve. Auntie Jo was busy with Uncle Jack and wouldn’t be there to open stockings and things, and now the others were happy without her. A lump came up in her throat and she put her head in her arms and sobbed.

The door opened and a tall girl came in. She looked about her for a moment before catching sight of the little misery shadowed in the window seat. The next thing Peggy knew was a pair of arms around her heaving shoulders and a gentle voice asking her what was wrong. The younger girl choked out an explanation

“… and it’s almost all I can remember and now we can’t go there anymore!”

Robin cuddled her and then turned the woebegone face to her own. “I’ll go and fetch some hot milk – you must be frozen – and then we can sit by the fire and you can tell me all of your plans for Christmas.” She was as good as her word, and when she returned, Peggy was curled up in an armchair, her face washed and curls smooth again.

Peggy was feeling much warmer now, and the ache in her chest was easing as she confided her Christmas secrets to Robin. They switched on the wireless and found a programme of light seasonal music. Robin told Peggy about her first Christmas in the Tyrol, and Peggy told Robin about Christmas in India, having had a long letter from Mummy two days before.

Suddenly the door flew open and Sybil stood there, eyes sparkling and cheeks pink with excitement.

“There you are, Peg. You have to come with me!” Normally her younger cousin’s self important tone would have provoked a cross response, even in easy going Peggy, but she was feeling festive so she got to her feet.

“Where are we going, Sybs?” but the small girl shook her head, clutched at Peggy’s hand and tugged her towards the door. Miss Bettany was even more puzzled as they reached the door of the schoolroom and she was pushed firmly inside.

What she saw made her blink in astonishment. The heavy table and bookshelves had all been moved to the sides of the room and covered with dustsheets. Sheets also covered the curtains, and heaps of what looked like cushions on the floor. The rugs were gone, and strange lumps lay in bundles on the polished surface.

In front of the table stood the other children, all dressed in woolly scarves and hats. Jackie ran forward to clutch at his sister’s free hand. “We know you’ve missed the snow, so we’ve made you some here.”

Daisy grinned from the back. “Auntie Madge says we can go skating on the floor if we wear old slippers” and she gestured towards a battered pair. Peg noticed that the others were similarly clad.

Jackie pulled on her arm “Snowballs too, look Peggy.”

David chimed in “We’ve moved anything smashable and we’ve rolled up rags and the ends of the shelf paper…”

“…so we can have an almost snow fight!” this last from Bride, who was bouncing with excitement as they all looked at Peggy for her reaction.

For a moment she said nothing. They grew anxious. Suddenly the snow covered ‘hills’ looked like old furniture again. Then, a huge smile spread across her face and she hugged her family.

Robin, watching from the door, passed Peggy a blue woollen cap to pull over her silky curls. Then they were off, pelting each other with ‘snow’ and sliding about with great delight.

The noise was considerable, despite Robin’s efforts, but Madge smiled to herself as she and Margot Venables put the finishing touches to a pile of gaily wrapped parcels. Much of the past year had been beyond imagining, but now they were here and safe, in their new island home.

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