Christmas With A Stranger

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It was one of those situations that could only come once in a lifetime. A sequence of events that led to something unexpected, something unplanned that ends up being something special, something amazing.

Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of things here. Let me introduce myself. My name is Lucy Montgomery. Lucy Elizabeth Mary Montgomery to be precise. You may have heard of Montgomery Jewellers. Well, that's me, or I should say that's my father and his father and maybe even his father for all I know. I'm aged twenty-one. I have ginger hair, which goes frizzy when wet, pale skin, which reddens when I blush, freckles, which I hate, green eyes, which I love, and a petite figure, which the men seem to love. I would like to think myself a modern woman. I was privately educated and went to college, where I studied English literature. I drive a motor car, which Daddy bought me for my birthday. I don't know much about motor cars, but it is painted red, which matches my usual nail varnish and lipstick.

This was the plan. My friends and I had arranged to spend Christmas 1933 together at a holiday lodge near a place called Killiecrankie in Scotland. The group consisted of Tilly and Milly, who we call 'The Twins'. Although they are not sisters or even related, they look the same and act the same. They are both blonde and bubbly and loud and fun to be with. Then there was Susie. She was the opposite of the twins. She was shy and a little awkward. She wore glasses and always had her nose in a book. I met her at college. If there was someone you wanted to confide in or ask for advice then it would be her. Pam was another college friend. She says she wants to be a working woman but can't make her mind up on what she wants to work at. Then there were the boys. George, I had known all my life. His parents had a house near my parents, and when we were children, we would often play together. Nigel was another college friend, a perfect match with Susie, if only they both got their noses out of their books. Finally, there was Donald, dependable Donald. He worked in one of Daddy's stores and was one of the many boring men that was paraded in front of me as a possible suitor at every social gathering arranged by my parents. I think the only reason I was allowed to travel to Scotland was dependable Donald. He was the one that would look after me and make sure I didn't do anything silly. Well, that's what Daddy thought. If only Daddy knew what wandering hands Donald had. Nothing I couldn't handle but still annoying. Anyway, Donald wasn't my type. He was too... Too predictable. Too boring. Splendid, if you want to marry and spend the next five years being pregnant and then join the pearl and cardigan set. You know the type. They meet for afternoon tea, sponge cake, and gossip, then sneak away for the secret gin and tonic when they think no one is watching. Not for me. No! No! No! And an extra No! Just to make the point.

So, there am I, bags stuffed into the small boot of my lovely new motor car when Pam telephones.

"I've got an awful cold and headache," she said. "I must be coming down with something."

Yes, I thought. A cold and headache.

Now it's just the six of us. Some of us were travelling up by train. Some of us were driving up. I had planned to drive up. I had it all worked out. In fact, even Daddy would have been pleased, if not a little surprised, at my planning skills. I had the route all planned. The stops all planned. The hotels with their cosy little rooms, or so the adverts said, all planned. It would have pleased the Brigadier. The Brigadier, who now commanded a brigade of jewellery stores.

Mummy stood by the kerb outside the family home in Knightsbridge and waved me off with a tear in her eye as she had probably done with my daddy when he was on his way to the battlefields of Northern France.

* * *

Once outside of London, I was able to put my foot down and was soon at my first planned stop, a hotel just outside of Doncaster.

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