Jack considered going to the club to celebrate New Year’s Eve, it was always a busy day and a very lively night but he didn’t really want to, so he stayed at home and sulked and spent much of the day in reflective mood and felt more than a little saddened by Kayleigh’s absence.
The village was shrouded in freezing fog which did little to lift his spirits so he just slobbed around the house and watched old movies,
Not that he was particular big on New Year’s Eve, it was not a time that held any deep significance for him and he was normally feeling a bit jaded by the time it arrived anyway but it was a good earner at the club and that year was certainly going to be no exception
He would have preferred to have spent the evening in the same vein as he had recently, another cosy and intimate day with Kayleigh would have been lovely but there was a very good reason why she couldn’t be with him.
She wasn’t really a New Year’s Eve person either.
Jack wasn’t the only villager facing the prospect of seeing the New Year in alone, Church warden Tony Vassell, church organist Ian Riley and Plaxton Park Matron and all round good egg, Gemma Frost were in the same boat although that wasn’t the plan.
Tony and Ian were supposed to be spending the evening together but during the afternoon Ian received a phone call from Reverend Massey about a change to the New Year’s Day service.
He wanted to include The 18th Hymn for New Year’s Day by Charles Wesley in the service, and Ian was not entirely unfamiliar with it but he hadn’t played it for a while so he wanted to practice it that evening so that left his old friend Tony on his own.
Gemma also had alternative plans for the evening which involved dinner with friends in Purplemere, it was the first New Year’s Eve she hadn’t had to work for three years, so dressed to kill in a new dress and all the accessories, hair, nails and makeover courtesy of Mazzone’s, she walked down the drive and unlocked the car .
“Hi Gemma” Tony Vassell said, making her jump
“Oh goodness” she exclaimed
Tony was just going back in the house after retrieving his book from the car.
After a brief greeting Gemma got in her car and Tony went indoors so wasn’t there to witness the fact that her car wouldn’t start.
“Bollocks” she shouted before getting out of the car again and going back in doors.
First she phoned the RAC but she was told it would be at least 2 hours before they could get out to her, so she then phoned a taxi to take her to Purplemere but she couldn’t get one of those either.
Meanwhile at St Lucy’s church Ian Riley was sat at the organ stubbornly practicing the troublesome piece by Wesley and was cursing Reverend Massey for his last minute change to the New Year program and wished he was at Tony’s place drinking a quality whisky while beating him at chess.
Ian Riley was thin and pale with sandy hair, sharp featured and keen eyed, not entirely unlike a bird in appearance, he was 45 year old and still lived in the house he was born in with his Niece Elise who was only 10 years younger than him, the only child of his elder brother.
When he was 22 years old Elise’s parents were killed in a car crash so Ian suddenly had a 12 year old child that he had to raise.
But he took it in his stride and as they had lived in the same house all of her life they were able to be there for each other without the need to get to know a stranger.
She was now in her mid-thirties and apart from five years living in Purplemere she had lived her whole life in Turnoak with her Uncle and he was delighted when she chose to move back to the village after her divorce.
It was assumed by those who didn’t know him very well that she was the reason he hadn’t married but that was only partly true
Ian had his heart broken when he was young which was why he settled in a Village where he thought he would be safe, where he could indulge his love of music as the Church organist and play chess with his best friend Tony Vassell.
Like Gemma Frost, Tony Vassell was forty six years old and divorced and was born and bred in Turnoak in fact they had known each since nursery school and he also worked up at Plaxton Park though his job was in administration.
The other thing they had in common was the fact that they fancied the pants off each other.
Tony though could do nothing about it because he thought that romantically Gemma was so far out of his league and would never give him a second look in that regard.
After all he was overweight, balding and had the physique of a couch potato even though he was far from being one, and what hair hadn’t fallen out had gone grey.
Whereas she was lovely, a short rotund redhead with a heart as big as her bust size and the persona of one of the angels, so he just admired his neighbour from a distance.
Meanwhile as Gemma stood in front of her hall mirror she smiled at her reflection and winked.
“This is providence” she said out loud “and it would be a shame to waste this outfit”
Martina Wingrove was second in command to Gary Spiers at his company Sound in Spiers and was staying at her sister Anne’s house in Clarence for the New Year celebrations but she told Anne that she needed to go to St Lucy’s in Turnoak to tweak the sound system to make sure everything was all set for the next day.
But that was not entirely true, she needed to go Turnoak that was certainly true but the real reason was that she wanted to see Paul Massey.
So Anne dropped her off just after lunch and was picking her up again at 9 o’clock from St Lucy’s.
She was to the casual observer unmistakable Martina’s sister, just a different build she was also tall, but was slight to Martina’s curvy and her eyes were a darker blue and her straw coloured hair was straight rather than curly and was less unruly.
However what she didn’t know at the time she arrived to collect her sister, was that Martina was in the Vestry kissing Paul Massey.
What she did find though was someone doing battle with a piece by Wesley.
Anne was also an accomplished organist and often played at her church in Clarence, Mary of Bethany.
So as there was no sign of her sister she decided to sit down in one of the pews and listened to the music and when the piece was finished she nodded and smiled and when he emerged from behind the curtain she said
“You really nailed it that time”
“Oh bless me” he said “you scared me”
“Sorry” Anne said and giggled
“That’s ok I just didn’t know there was anyone else here” he said
“How come you’re practising this late on New Year’s Eve?” she asked
“Ah it was a last minute inclusion” he said and raised his eyebrows “And I needed to reacquaint myself with it”
“That makes sense then” Anne said “It’s a tricky piece if you haven’t played it in a while”
“Do you play then?” he asked with genuine interest and sat on the pew in front of her
“Yes I play at St Mary of Bethany” she replied
“Yes” she replied “but alas our organ is being renovated at the moment”
“Oh dear, how long for?”
“We are hopeful it will be completed in time for Easter” she said wistfully “I will be quite rusty by then”
“Would you like to play now?” he asked hopefully, it was so rare for him to have someone to talk to about music let alone church music and even rarer than that, organ music
“Oh yes please” she replied enthusiastically
Ian was sat in a pew with his eyes closed and moving his hands and fingers as if he were playing it when he was discovered
“Now that’s clever Ian” Reverend Massey said “You don’t even need to touch the keys and you can make it sing”
“I wish I could play that well” he said modestly
“So who is playing?” he asked
“It’s Anne isn’t it” Martina said “My sister”
“Oh she’s your sister?” Ian said noticing the resemblance for the first time.
A few minutes later the music stopped and Anne’s face appeared from around the curtain
“Oh there you are” she said addressing Martina “Ian kindly let me play…” she began but stopped herself because she thought completing the sentence with “with his organ” didn’t sound quite right.
“So have you finished playing?” Martina asked with a grin knowing exactly where Anne’s sentence was heading
“I wouldn’t mind a quick two hander” she said “if Ian is amenable”
And Martina dissolved into fits of laughter and Paul had to guide her away.
Ian was completely oblivious to the double entendre, which went straight over his head, but then he was just pleased to have been asked to play a duet by such an accomplished organist.
So Anne and Ian sat at the Church organ and played a two hander while Paul calmed Martina down at the back of the nave by kissing her again.
Gemma Frost had unfortunately been thwarted in her plans for the night due to car trouble.
She was going to spend the evening having dinner with friends in Purplemere, which was the first New Year’s Eve she hadn’t had to work for three years, so she was dressed to kill in a new dress and all the accessories, hair, nails and makeover courtesy of Mazzone’s,
So in essence she was all dressed up with know where to go, that was until she decided to pay a surprise visit on her neighbour Tony Vassell after a couple of large white wines for Dutch courage.
Having completed their duet on the organ Ian and Anne walked slowly through the nave and found Martina and Paul waiting sheepishly by the door.
“Well we had better get going if we’re going to get home in time for Big Ben” Anne said
“Well you’re more than welcome to see in the New Year at Chez Riley” Ian said and before Anne had the opportunity to answer Martina said
“What a great idea, lead the way”
Which had she been allowed to respond herself Anne would have responded likewise.
In the absence of his best friend and chess partner, Tony settled down to a quite evening on his own and apart from bumping into the lovely Gemma when he was putting the rubbish out he hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone.
He had his favourite book to hand, the complete collection of Christmas books by Charles Dickens and he read for about an hour, then he made himself a sandwich and watched TV as he ate it.
It was about an hour later as he was taking his dirty plate to the kitchen when the doorbell rang.
He had no idea who it might be, he certainly wasn’t expecting anyone.
When he opened the door he was surprised to see Gemma Frost standing on the doorstep.
“Hello” he said with genuine surprise
“Hello Tony” Gemma said, “Can I come in? It’s a bit chilly”
“Of course you can” he said fussily “come in, come in”
Once inside she slipped off her coat and walked through to the lounge and Tony thought she looked absolutely gorgeous in her knee-length blue cocktail dress, and she was perfectly accessorized to boot.
“You look lovely” he observed
“Thank you” Gemma said as she sat down “I was going out to dinner in Purplemere but…”
“But?” he asked
“The car broke down” she replied
“Oh no” he exclaimed
“I’m afraid so” she said “And it’s the first New Year’s Eve I’ve had off for three years”
“Oh that’s not fair, why didn’t you knock?” he said “I would have driven you into Purplemere”
“Would you?” she asked
“That’s really sweet” she said and blushed
“So are you on your own tonight then?” Tony asked
“Yes the boys have gone to a party” she replied
“Well I’m on my own as well so would you like to see the New Year in with me?” Tony asked
“I would love too” she replied “in fact I was hoping you’d ask”
“Great I’ll get us a drink then” he said “is wine ok?”
“Perfect” she replied
As Martina and Paul walked up from the church they were desperate to hold hands but they couldn’t do so in public at that moment, she hadn’t even told her sister Anne about her and Paul, although several of her inner circle, as well as most of the members of St Lucy’s Church committee, were aware that they were smitten.
But at that precise moment Anne’s thoughts were not concerned with her sister she was giving her undivided attention to her new acquaintance, Ian Riley.
At Tony Vassell house, after several drinks, as they approached midnight Tony said
“I should be sorry,”
“Why is that?” she asked
“Because you missed out on dinner with your friends” he said “but I’m not in fact I’m rather pleased I got to spend it with you”
“Because I could have been sitting here alone but instead I’m spending New Year’s Eve with an attractive woman, a sexy woman” he said
“Well thank you” Gemma responded and blushed and then added
“Oh look it’s nearly time, I need more wine”
“Ok” he said cursing himself for saying too much as he walked to the kitchen, then he opened the fridge and took out an open bottle of wine.
Tony then filled two large and returned to the lounge where Gemma stood up and walked towards him.
He expected her to take the wine glass from his hand but instead she walked between his outstretched hands and kissed him.
“I think this is the best New Year’s Eve I have ever spent” she said and kissed him again.
“Happy New Year” they all cheered and chinked glasses
“And new beginnings” Paul added and Ian awkwardly kissed Anne’s cheek making her blush
“I… we, have an announcement to make” Martina began
“Oh do tell” Anne urged
“Ok then” she said and took a deep breath, “Paul and I are a couple again”
“Is that it?” Anne asked
“Yes” she said with affront
“Well I already knew that” she said
“Me too” Ian added
“Oh God, does anyone else know?” Martina asked and Paul smiled at her discomfiture
“Jack, Kayleigh, Katie, Sarah, Elise, Gemma, Tony……” Ian listed
“Ok, ok I get it” she said “But how does everyone know?”
“Oh come on we’re not blind” Anne pointed out “you look at each other like a couple of love sick cows”
“In fact you make love sick cows look cold and aloof” Ian said and he and Anne dissolved into laughter
They left Martina and Paul at Ian’s house where they could discreetly kiss good night while Ian walked with Anne to collect her car from outside the church then she drove it back to his house to collect Martina.
“There is an organ recital at Abbottsford Cathedral next weekend” he said “would you like to go?”
“Yes that would be lovely” she said “And perhaps we could have dinner while we’re there”
“That’s a great idea” Ian agreed “If you give me your number I’ll call you to firm up”
“There is a card in the glove box with all my details on” she replied
So he opened the box and took out her card and read the details for Anne Wingrove, Deputy Head at Purplemere Park Music Academy.
Ian also worked in a musical capacity but in a much more humble way in the Music department at St Hilda’s Theological College in Grangemount.
“No wonder you’re so good” he said
It was one thirty on New Year’s morning when Anne drove Martina home after Ian’s wonderful New Year.
Perhaps not the start to the year he had planned, it was supposed to be a quiet night in with a friend but he much preferred what transpired but then he began to feel guilty because his best friend Tony had had to spend the evening alone due to his absence.
However his guilt soon melted away when he saw Gemma Frost emerge from his house and a long lingering kiss on the door step followed and Ian smiled.