Countdown To Christmas – Episode 21

AS a chilly dawn broke over the village of Helmshill the residents awoke to a peculiar hush that ominous hush that only comes when everywhere is very still and muffled . . . and white.Kate opened her eyes and saw the brightness of the light slicing in around the edges of the bedroom curtains, and groaned as she guessed what it meant.“Snow!”“Huh?” Beside her, Steve stirred. She nudged him with her elbow as she clambered out of bed and went to the window to tug one of the curtains aside. She was almost blinded by the white outside, sparkling in the early morning sunshine.“It’s been snowing,” she said over her shoulder. “All night, by the looks of it. And look at the way it’s drifted! The car’s completely covered. And the paper boy’s not been no footprints.”Steve appeared at her side, draping her dressing-gown around her as she shivered slightly.“Pretty, though, isn’t it?” she murmured. “When it’s all clean and fresh like that.”“Hmm,” he said thoughtfully. “I wonder what the roads are like?”And that was when she remembered.“The show! The show’s tonight! What if the roads are blocked?”She’d been planning to go back to bed for another half-hour with her book, but there was no way she’d be able to relax now. She headed downstairs to put the kettle on instead, Steve right behind her.“Turn the radio on,” he suggested. “The local station might have some news . . .”The DJ was in the middle of listing a number of bus routes that were currently impassable. None were especially close by. Kate looked more optimistic as she handed Steve a mug of tea and pushed the sugar bowl across the table to him.“Maybe we’ve missed the worst of it,” she said hopefully.“We’ll soon find out. I’ll just have this, then get myself sorted to take a look. Are my wellies still in the cupboard under the stairs?”“Think so. I’ll make some porridge, then get the boys up. They’ll want to go with you. Lucky it’s Saturday.”Robbie and Jack were ecstatic at the sight of the snow, and in fact it was all four of them who stomped down the path and along their street to the road at the end, their breath white clouds leading the way.Kate had hoped a snowplough might have been along, but the snow there was as deep as anywhere.“I wonder what the road to the hall’s like? And the car park. Oh, Steve, what if we have to cancel the show? After all our hard work?”Steve gave her a bracing hug.“Don’t go worrying about that yet. With this sun, a lot of it should melt,” he said reassuringly, though in truth it was so bitingly cold that he doubted the sun would have much impact.More subdued now, they trekked up the road to where it joined the village’s main through-route. They could see the hall in the distance. And the road between them and it was just as deep with snow.A fistful of white stuff went whizzing past Kate’s ear, and she turned to see Sally pretending innocence as she and Phil waded towards them, their two youngsters having a snowball fight which they eagerly extended to embrace Robbie and Jack.“What do you think of this, then?” Phil called.“I didn’t even know snow was forecast!” Sally exclaimed. “Do you think we’ll have to cancel the show?”They were looking helplessly at each other when flashing orange lights appeared in the distance, slowly creeping closer. A snowplough!By the time it rumbled past them, sweeping the snowfall to the side of the road, more people had appeared, and by unspoken consensus were homing in on the hall.Ted Hodges was already there, hands on hips, surveying the car park, as deeply covered as the roads had been, and, what’s more, now cut off by the mountain of ice and slush piled across its entrance by the snowplough. The poor man almost looked defeated.Steve and Phil nodded at each other in instant agreement, and stepped forward.“Is the hall all right, Ted? Power on? Then you leave this lot to us. We’ll get it shifted.”Steve turned to the growing crowd.“We’ve all got someone involved in the show tonight, and there’s no way we’re going to let a bit of snow scupper all their hard work. We’re looking for volunteers to help us get this car park cleared . . .”A rousing cheer arose, and at least a dozen men thrust their hands in the air.“Right, we’ll meet back here in an hour. Phone all your friends . . . and bring your shovels!”“It’s like one of those Westerns where John Wayne circles the wagons,” Kate muttered to Sally, but she had never been so proud of her husband.It was as they were walking back along the road that Kate saw Sally, larking about with the twins, suddenly skid sideways and hit the ground with a crunch.“Sally!” She ran forward.Phil was already on his knees beside his wife. The twins were standing back, shocked and a bit scared.“Mum! Is she all right, Dad?”“You didn’t half fall with a wallop, love. Are you OK? Just stay there for a minute . . .”“I will not stay here!” Sally protested indignantly. “It’s freezing and I’m getting soaked through! Just help me up. I’m fine.” But as Phil and Steve helped her to her feet she yowled with pain and clutched her arm.“Ow, that hurts!” she said, holding her wrist and turning suddenly pale. “I think it might be broken . . .”Kate had a horrible sense of dj vu, remembering when Sally had fallen at the rehearsal. That night, she had been fine, but this looked much more serious, and if it was, Sally wouldn’t be dancing tonight. And if Sally couldn’t, there was no way Kate was setting foot on that stage without her.


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