As Donna entered the cafe, she popped on her tiptoes to try to see over the partitions and heads of diners to find her friends, but she needn't have bothered: the loud cacophony of female voices made their location immediately evident. Clutching her purse to her side, she strode among the maze of tables, up to a table with five women, one seat empty. Cocking her shoulders, she lifted her nose in the air as she pulled at the lapels of her pantsuit, then waved the fingers of both hands at her shining gold earrings. "What d’you think, ladies? Dazzling?"
While Nerys, a statuesque, haughty blonde in an off-the-shoulder silky blue dress, sneered her disapproval, Susie, the only other redhead (bottle-born) in the bunch, clapped both hands on the table and gaped at Donna. "Ohhh! Those are simply gorgeous!"
Donna scrunched her shoulders with a delighted little grin. "Christmas present! From my darling Veena! Thank you!" She reached over and squeezed the hand of the gift-giver, a curly-haired woman who was only homely because of the sharp, shrewish expression she always wore, then slipped into the empty seat. "Sorry I'm late. Was shopping. You should’ve seen the sales at Henrik's! Prices even you would have approved of, Nerys." The blonde rewarded her with another sneer.
Connie, the youngest woman in the group, with immaculate brown curls, a smart, fitted dress edged with lace, and simple, elegant gold jewelry, leaned forward to advise Donna, "We've all ordered already," her voice calm and quiet. As if on cue, a waiter appeared next to Donna.
"Fish and chips, and a pint,” she requested, handing her menu to the waiter. “Oh, and bring Nerys a pint, too. She hasn't loosened up enough yet."
“That would take a full keg,” quipped Veena. As Nerys scowled at them, the table, except for the blonde, broke into laughter and the waiter retreated to the kitchen.
“So, as I was saying,” began Senita, a beautiful woman with wide dark eyes and her black hair tied into a complicated bun, “my mum finally managed to stuff him into the hall closet and barred the door. She tried with his bedroom but he just went out the window.”
“What’s this, then?” Donna cut in as she arranged her tableware in front of her.
“What happened yesterday.” When Donna stared at her blankly, Senita leaned forward and pointed her fork at her. “You know, the spaceship and all the people on the roof. My mum couldn’t stop my brother from going, and she had a hell of a time holding onto my nephew.”
Donna rolled her eyes. “You lot still going on about that? I’m telling you, it was just a mass prank. That’s what they said on the news.”
“You can say,” shot back Nerys. “Your family weren’t going crazy. All those people out in the streets like zombies! Like you would know anyway. You were wankered at Angie’s. No way you were up at dawn.”
Donna laughed and pointed at her head. “Still feeling that one, I am! Oh, but that was a party! Few more like that and I might actually like Christmas.”
“Donna like Christmas? Never!” drawled Susie, laughing. “All that great food, and presents, and family and friends. Who could like that shite?”
“Yeah, well, you try spending Christmas with my mum. She’ll blacken your heart, too.” She sat up in her chair officiously and planted her fists on her hips, and twisted her voice into a nasal nag. “‘Another year older and what have you got now, Donna? Look at how your cousin Alice got promoted to team lead in just six months. When are you going to make something of yourself?’ She talked about Alice all day. But you know what? She don’t ask where Alice’s been spending her nights, to get to the top.”
“On the bottom!” Veena shrieked, howling with laughter.
Connie leaned over the table to place a hand on Donna’s arm. “You shouldn’t mind all that. Look at you! You been doing just fine!”
“You’re right, I am!” Donna nodded decisively, her hair bobbing. “I’ve held this job for a year and a half now. That’s ages. And that place would fall apart without me.” A long arm dropped a tall glass of amber liquid in front of her, and she mumbled a thanks at the waiter.
“Well, then,” Susie began, “never you mind what your mum says. You got your life settled...”
“Except for a husband!” Veena cut across her friend, leaning into the table with a wicked grin. “Donna just can’t trap a man long enough.”
As her friends laughed, Donna smiled sourly, and it took her a moment to cover up her discomfiture. It was another sore point between her and her mum, and she didn’t need her friends harping on it. She opened her mouth for a retort, but her usually glib tongue failed her. “Oh, I got plans, sister. You just wait and see!”
Nerys grinned sarcastically. “Yeah. Some plans! Sitting at home watching Strictly Come Dancing and gossiping on the phone with Veena. You think a man’s just going to appear out of thin air and whisk you away? You’ll never get anyone sitting around like that.”
“Better than you, Nerys! Where’s Brian today? At home watching the telly and drinking up your beer?” Donna knew her best friend’s sore points as well as Nerys knew hers, and they both joined the others’ laughter half-heartedly, their eyes shooting daggers at each other.
“Well, never mind that,” Connie threw out. “A new year is coming. Who knows what that’ll bring? Everything could be changed by this time next year.”
“Especially if we all work on it,” Senita declared. “Come on.” She put her hand out over the center of the table. “Let’s all promise. New Years resolutions and all that.” She glanced at each of them in turn. “Come on.”
All of the other women except Nerys, who rolled her eyes at them, placed their hands on Senita’s. “You, too, Nerys,” Donna hissed. “Even the Princess can stand to improve herself.” Pursing her lips, Nerys rolled her eyes again and topped their hands with hers.
“For next year!” cried Susie.
“For next year!” the others repeated.
“Donna’s gonna go out and find that man of hers. And I’m going to get rid of this pot belly.” Susie held her glass up to her friends and took a swig, and Donna followed suit.
Senita held her glass up. “I’m getting that promotion this year. Michael Bridges is not standing in my way again.” The other girls cheered as she drank.
“I,” declared Veena, “am finally going to replace that clunker of a car. I’m getting brand-new, this time.” She nodded decisively, and took a gulp as Susie knocked her on the arm with a fist.
Connie leaned forward with a conspiratorial air. “Ty and I are going to do it this year. We talked about it. We’re going to start our family!” Veena and Senita, on either side of her, threw their arms around her as Donna grasped her hand in congratulations and encouragement.
“What about you, Nerys?” Veena asked.
Nerys sneered. “I’m going to find a better circle of friends.” After being pelted with peanuts, she relented. “I’m going to volunteer for the British Red Cross. You know me, always into the charities.”
The entire table of women stared at her speechless. “You are kidding me!” Donna grunted after a long silence. “You’ve never helped anyone in your life!”
“Still.” Nerys drew herself up. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, so I thought, why not now? So there, Miss Prissy.”
They stared at her for another few seconds, then Connie exclaimed, “Yeah! You do that, Nerys! Good on you!” The rest joined in, patting Nerys on the back and encouraging her to head out the next day to sign up.
And the six women chatted and drank and laughed the rest of the evening away.
. _ . _ . _ . _ .
The red-haired woman arrived before the rest of her friends, reserving a table for six and ordering a lager, which she nursed as she sat, staring at nothing in particular. Her wedding had been two days before, and here she was, still single. Truth be told, she was a widow of sorts - what do you call a person whose fiance had died? Whatever, it didn’t matter. She barely thought about Lance anymore: all she could think about was staring out at the Earth forming from the dust swirling in space, watching a race of giant spiders drown, and the man who brought her to see it all. The pressures of Christmas day, with her mother smothering her out of concern for the ordeal she had gone through (not that Mum knew the real story behind it) and in relief that she had survived, hadn’t helped. Donna didn’t care. She wanted to leave that all behind and run boldly into her future, but she knew what people expected of her, and she pretended to grieve.
Her friends arrived in a group, four of them gathering around her and hugging her in turns. Veena and Susie crowded next to her, while Senita and Nerys sat across the table.
“Oh, love, why are you even here? You should be at home, with your mum and granddad.” Susie held Donna’s hand between both of her own.
“I couldn’t stand being at home one moment longer. Mum won’t stop with the ‘oh, you must feel terrible’ and ‘can I get you anything?’ I’m all right. Everything’s all right.” She looked around at everyone, nodding and smiling to show them that she was just fine, though, ooh, seeing Nerys staring back at her with actual sympathy on her face was extremely disconcerting.
Susie leaned over and hugged Donna again. “Oh, look at you, being so strong. I’m so sorry, Donna. It’s all just so horrible. Lance was so good to you.”
Donna suppressed a grimace at the mention of the name as she tried to extract herself from her friend’s embrace. “No, really. I’m fine. I’m okay. Please don’t. I’m all right.” Susie pecked Donna on the cheek and sat back in her chair.
“But what happened?” asked Veena. “You two disappeared from the reception while we were still crawling out from under the tables, and then you come back that night and say Lance is gone.”
Senita gaped at her. “Veena! Shush, you!”
“No, it’s all right.” Donna had already made up an answer for this very question. “We went to find out what those robot Santa things were. He thought maybe it had something to do with something he found at work, so we went there. And then on the way back, that star thingy attacked and,” - she pretended a theatrical sad gulp - “it hit him, right in the street, with a bolt of lightning, and he was gone.” Susie squeezed her hand in sympathy.
“Oh, that’s just horrible!” exclaimed Senita. “I’m so sorry, Donna.”
“It’s okay. Really.” She squeezed Susie’s hand in return, then reached for her drink. “Talk about something else, will you? I came here to be with my mates, to laugh up the night! Which reminds me, where’s Connie?”
“She couldn’t make it,” Nerys replied. “She had to stay at home with the baby.” She shrugged.
A waiter came by to take their order for drinks and appetizers. When he departed, Veena continued, in a teasing manner. “Connie should be here. Some people have no respect for tradition. Look, even Donna made it this year.”
“I dunno,” Senita mused. “With the way Christmas is getting, maybe it’s better to stay at home.”
“What are you going on about?” Nerys scowled at her.
“Well, last year was that big spaceship. And this year, the Thames suddenly drains away. And they said that star thing was alien, too.”
“Oh, pfah!” Nerys spat. “Everyone blames it all on ‘aliens’ nowadays.”
“They really are!” Susie sided with Senita. “That whole thing at Canary Wharf, with those stomping robot things and all those flying robots. Look!” She pointed at Donna, who, with a peanut halfway to her mouth, blinked in surprise. “Even she thinks its aliens, don’t you, Donna? You’re always the first to say all the alien talk is crazy, but this time, you’re not saying a word.”
Donna was stunned. She had a bit more knowledge on the subject than she had had two days before, but she wasn’t willing to disclose anything. “Well, a girl’s gotta keep an open mind, right? I mean, you never really know. Anyone could be an alien.” She hesitated. “Apparently.”
“See?” Susie shot at Nerys. “There’s aliens all over the place now.” Donna inwardly sighed with relief that no one noticed her babble.
Nerys rolled her eyes. “Well, if it is aliens, being at home wouldn’t help a bit, would it? Those stomping robots were in everybody’s houses.”
“Hey!” drawled Susie. “Maybe those robot Santas were aliens, too. Aliens seem to like robots.”
Donna’s stomach clenched with apprehension as the other girls laughed. “Aliens after Donna?” chortled Veena. “Whatever for? Trying to break up her wedding with…” She broke off as the table fell into an uncomfortable silence and all the women looked anywhere except at Donna.
“I’m sorry, Donna. That was really rude.” With her hands folded in her lap, Veena bowed her head.
“It’s really okay, Veena. I don’t mind. I’ve moved on.” Donna smiled at her friend, both not at all offended and trying not to betray just how close Veena had come to the truth.
“Moved on?” Nerys scowled. “It’s been two days.”
Donna made up her mind to spill the beans; well, what beans she could afford to spill. “I just have, okay? Everything’s opened my eyes. All of it. Lance was just gone, and I realised, I told myself, ‘You can’t wait around for someone to make your life better for you.’ I’m gonna do it myself. Tomorrow I’ll be on that plane to Morocco and exploring the world.”
Susie was appalled. “You’re still going on your honeymoon?”
Donna shrugged. “It’s just a holiday now, and it’s all paid for. Why not? Foreign country! It’s an adventure! I’m gonna walk in the dust.”
Nerys squinted at her. “What’s gotten into you? Your fiance just died! Oh!” Her face twisted into that in that sarcastically knowing smile that was so Nerys. “It’s that bloke, isn’t it?”
Donna feigned ignorance. “What bloke?”
“The one at the wedding, that brought you back and did that thing with the speakers. What was his name?” She waved an open hand at the other girls, prompting them to remember.
“He said he was a doctor,” said Senita.
“Yeah, him.” Nerys pointed at Donna. “He went off with you and Lance. You’re seeing him, aren’t you?” She smirked, innuendo in her eyes. “Is he the one gonna use the other plane ticket?”
Donna’s incredulous laugh was genuine. “The Doctor? You are kidding me!" She grabbed her lager and took a gulp.
Nerys pointed at her and smiled triumphantly. "See, told you. It's him. You found someone else!"
Donna rolled her eyes as she set the glass down. "Not a chance. He’s gone, flown off. I haven’t seen him since, and good riddance.”
“Whyever not?” asked Veena. “He was a looker, in a nice suit, and a doctor to boot. Not a bad catch.”
“Oh, that one, he’s a Martian. Way out there.” She wagged a finger in circles at her temple for emphasis. “Believe me. Gotta stay away from him. You never know what he might do.” Donna’s heart stopped for a moment as she remembered the look in his eyes as the water poured down over him, and she coughed to cover up. “I told him, go on, get going, don’t come back. He just did me a good turn, giving me a ride back to the wedding.”
Nerys pursed her lips, peering at Donna with a skeptical expression. Donna didn’t care what she thought - Nerys never believed anything anyone said anyway - and changed the subject. “But Senita, it’s your turn now. When’re you going to get your hooks into Tom?”
The woman blushed. “It’s been going really well. I don’t think he’s ready to settle down yet, but…”
As she talked, Nerys watched Donna closely. It was obvious, at least to her, that something was going on, that Donna was taking her aborted wedding and the death of her fiance far too well, and she wouldn’t discount this doctor’s involvement in it. But she could wait to find out. And if her best friend got hurt, well, she’d know who to blame.
. _ . _ . _ . _ .
“See?” Senita leaned forward and threw her hands up. “Didn’t I tell you this last year? Christmas is simply dangerous!”
Shaking her head, Nerys rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on! Really? A flying replica of the Titanic buzzing Buckingham Palace? You can’t expect me to believe that.”
“It was on the telly!”
“Special effects,” the blonde mumbled as she sipped her margarita. “They can make it look like a man’s flying around in a red suit of armor shooting lasers from his hands, or giant robots are stomping around a city. They can make it look like the Titanic’s falling on London.”
“People said they saw it.”
Nerys sneered at her. “Did you see it?”
“Then I don’t care.”
Connie offered, “But I did see that hospital, when it disappeared. Ty and I were three blocks away when we heard about it. We got close enough to see the big hole in the ground where it had been. And then there was this flash of light and the hospital was back. And they said that was aliens, too.”
Nerys really didn’t have an answer for that one, so she simply turned her nose up at them.
Donna sipped her beer and mumbled absently, “Wish I’d been there to see that.”
“Yeah, you were in Egypt then, I think. It was surreal” Connie cocked her head to one side. “This big pit in the ground, and all the pipes were broken and spewing gas and water. And London’s finest were just as shocked as the rest of us.”
Donna cocked an eyebrow at her, a flicker of hope lighting her eyes. “You didn’t happen to see a blue police box there, did you?”
Connie frowned. “What? One of those old things? I didn’t think the police used those anymore, what with mobiles and all that.”
“Longer than that,” Veena corrected. “They were probably gone before you were born, Con.”
Connie fiddled with a chip. “Well, I don’t think I saw one there, but I wasn’t really looking, you know?”
“Yeah.” Donna was dejected. “That was a while ago, too.”
Senita reached over and grasped Donna’s hand. “Hey, girl. What’s wrong? Come on, now, it’s Boxing Day, and the tradition is to get completely sloshed and have a great time. No mooning.”
Donna smiled, snorting through her nose. “I guess I’m just getting old.”
“No, you’re not.” Veena wagged a finger at Donna. “You just need to get out of your mum’s house. Living back with her, that’ll kill anyone slowly. But first you need to hold down a job. How long did that bit at Health and Safety last? Three days?”
“At least I got a swanky ID card from that.” Donna slipped it out of the pocket of her purse and waved it before stuffing it back in.
Senita’s jaw dropped. “You shouldn’t have that! You’re supposed to turn that kind of stuff back in!”
Nerys crossed her arms and glared at Donna. “You’re not going to make us pay for your drinks, are you?”
“I can cover my own drinks, thank you.” Donna slurped at her beer. You could always count on Nerys to bring up the bill.
“But really, Donna." Veena waved a finger at her. "You haven’t had a steady job in what, a year? And you were going to go do all those things. What happened?”
Donna shrugged. "I just wanted to get out there, make a difference. You know? I had the chance last year and didn't take it." She took another long gulp of her beer. "Maybe I'm just looking for that opportunity again. I feel like if it comes and I'm tied down, I won't be able to take it." She glanced out the window, as if she expected the opportunity to materialise out in the street.
Nerys snorted. "Same old Donna, sitting there trying to make us feel sorry for her." She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, shaking her head. "Just like always. If you think everyone is always fooled by all those fake tears, think again."
"Nerys!" Connie admonished her, but the blond ignored the interruption.
"She's just fishing for sympathy. Don't fall for it, Connie."
"No," said Donna, and a steely note in her quiet voice silenced the table. "You're wrong, Nerys. I'm not the same old Donna. Haven't been for a year, if you hadn't noticed. There's something out there for me, and I'm going to find it. And I don't want your help or your sympathy." She abruptly stood up and, digging some money out of her purse, she slammed it on the table and strode out of the cafe.
. _ . _ . _ . _ .
The four women rose from their seats and, each in turn, stepped forward to hug Donna as she approached the table. "Donna!" cried Susie. "I'm so glad you could make it! I wasn't sure..."
"I wouldn't miss this for the world," Donna replied as she hugged Nerys. "It's tradition, you know! Though the doctor says I can't have anything, not for another couple of days." Actually, she felt fine enough. She'd had a funny spell the day before, but that was gone. She really wanted a lager, but she get an earful if Mum found out, and she wasn't in the mood for that.
They sat down as Connie squeezed Donna's arm. "Shaun said he found you out in the street, unconscious, and you were so cold."
"Yeah, well, I don't know how I got there. I was in the house, talking to him and Mum, and..." She trailed off. "I don't remember after that. Pretty much sums up my year, don't it?" She gave a nervous little smile. These were her good friends, but she still felt strange discussing with them her illness over the last year, with her complete loss of memory that resulted from it.
"Oh, precious!" Connie breathed as she leaned over and hugged Donna again.
The red-haired woman waved her away in mock irritation. "I'm not a china doll! Go hug Nerys. She can use it more." As Nerys scowled at her, she glanced around at the glasses of pop on the table. "Oh, go on! Order your drinks! Don't stop 'cause of me."
"Are you sure?" Susie looked hesitant.
"Of course! It don't bother me none." The waiter appeared just then, and Donna turned to her. "A big plate of those new nachos you have. And a Virgin Mary, all dressed up and fancy-like." The other women ordered their drinks and she retreated to the kitchen.
"But you should have seen it, Donna." Veena leaned into the table, speaking in a low voice as if she were imparting some great secret. "Everyone looked exactly the same, like this ratty blond man. Lasted for hours, though no one can remember what we did during that time."
"And they're saying some crazy story that wi-fi was giving everyone hallucinations." Nerys sneered. "As if."
"Well, what else could it have been, Nerys?" Connie asked.
"Gotta be aliens," Susie declared, and Veena and Nerys nodded. Connie looked uncertain.
Donna snorted at Nerys. "You think it's aliens?"
Nerys shrugged. "What else could it have been? My dad says government experiments, but they said it happened all over the world."
Veena cackled. "Never! Even the Americans couldn't do that, not all over the world."
Donna rolled her eyes at all of them. "Aliens. I'll believe 'em when I see 'em."
"Oh, just you wait!" Susie wagged a finger at her. "The way it's been going, it's just a matter of time 'til some alien comes down and grabs you, too."
"If I’m gonna be grabbed, I hope mine looks like Hugh Grant!" laughed Donna.
"Nerys' will look like Steve Buscemi," quipped Veena, earning her a sneer from the blonde.
"Senita's got her alien," Connie commented as the nachos and drinks arrived. The others began picking at the food while she talked. "I got a call from her yesterday. She's loving Chicago, though she says to stay out of the city proper. And she's getting along with Alan's mum really well."
"Good for her!" Donna smiled tenderly, as she played with the paper umbrella from her drink. It was great hearing that her friend was happy.
Veena leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. "How long do you think this thing's gonna last?"
Susie stared at her, nacho halfway to her mouth. "You are kidding me, Veena! They only just got married!"
"No! I meant this." She gestured at the table. "Sen got married and left. It's only a matter of time before everyone's gone."
Nerys snorted, pursing her lips. "Sen's just one person. Connie got married and had a kid, and she's here." Connie nodded, indicating that she had no intent of leaving her friends. "And Donna's not going anywhere."
"Nah." Donna waved a dismissive hand at Veena. "Me and Shaun, we'll be living in his flat for some time, I expect." She shrugged. "Besides, I can't leave Chiswick. This is where I belong."
"No going out and seeing the world?" asked Susie. "That's what you wanted, couple years ago."
"I did?" She frowned. Had she? Her first thought was that it wasn't like her at all, but then she felt for a moment like she had wanted to travel. It was true she went to Morocco and Egypt, not long after Lance had died, but she hadn’t done much since then. Well, she certainly didn’t feel like leaving her home now. “That was a long time ago. I’ve got Shaun now. ‘Sall I need.”
“I bet your mum’s going bonkers with the wedding plans, isn’t she?” asked Connie.
“About the bill, she is.” Donna threw her hands up in exasperation. “It was her idea, too, ‘cause she wanted a big reception but me and Shaun couldn’t afford it. So, it’s all, ‘You have to have a good photographer’ and then ‘You’ve blown the budget by three times now!’”
Connie grinned. “She just wants the best for you, and you know it.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Donna replied, a little distracted.
“What’s wrong, hon?” Susie leaned forward and put a comforting hand on Donna’s arm.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really.”
“It’s never ‘nothing’. Out with it,” spat Nerys as she set her glass down on the table a little too firmly.
Donna hesitated, then shrugged. “It’s that, well, I've got Shaun and all, and he makes me happy, but you ever feel like there's just so much more, just beyond your fingertips?" Her friends looked at her with confusion, so she tried again. "Like... You know how it is, you have this wonderful dream, then you wake up and you know you had it, but you can't rememer a moment of it, and you want to go back to sleep to find it again? I feel like that. I lost so much of this year, and I feel like there's something I have to get back to. But I asked Mum, and she said I spent the entire time in my room."
"Oh, Donna." Connie took her friend's hand in both of hers. "It's gotta be hard. I wish I could say I knew what it's like for you, losing so much time."
Nerys scowled at her red-haired friend. "The Donna I know makes her own dream."
Donna couldn't help smiling. People wondered why she was best friends with frosty ol' Nerys, but she knew that Nerys demonstrated her caring and devotion in her own unique way. She nodded.
"I'm trying. Once the wedding's done, I'll be applying around for something better. But even at home.... Since the whole planets in the sky thing - which I still don’t believe for a minute - Mum’s been acting really strange. Like she thinks I’m made of glass. She hasn’t once yelled at me to get my life together or get a better job. And she keeps telling me, all serious and tender-like, that she's so proud of me, and that I could do whatever I wanted, if I just made up my mind and did it. Now what's all that about?” She grimaced in confusion.
"And Gramps hasn’t been much better. He’s spending even more time up on the hill with his telescope. All night. Sleeps during the day. Except last night. Last night, I’ve never seen him so upset. Wouldn’t talk to me or Mum, just sat in his room all night.” She bit her lip.
Susie offered, “Well, that new planet in the sky yesterday, my mum was screaming all day after that one. Maybe…” but Donna cut her off.
“No, that wasn’t it. I overheard him say something about a doctor to Mum, and something about dying.” She fell silent.
Susie leaned over and hugged Donna. “Oh, sweetie. I’m sure he’s fine.”
Donna’s shoulders sagged. “Maybe. He was gone all day yesterday. One moment he was there, and then he just disappeared. On Christmas! It’s not like him.”
“Your granddad will outlive us all,” Nerys snapped. “He’s fine. If there was anything the matter, your mum wouldn’t keep it from you.”
“She might. It’s Christmas.” Donna pressed her lips together in a smile she didn’t feel. “I guess I just have to wait and see.” She took a long swig from her drink, wishing it had any alcohol in it.
"Hey. We'll be right here with you, no matter what." Veena held up her glass. "To Donna's granddad, finest man in the world. They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. Believe me, they don’t. I’ve looked. Oh god, I’ve looked.”
Susie held up her glass to Veena’s. “May he kick Donna down the hill every night for years to come!"
Nerys muttered, "She needs it. Twice a night, I'd say." She held her glass up, and Connie joined her.
"He'd kill me if he knew I was toasting him with a virgin drink." Smirking, Donna finally held her glass up to her friends’. "To Gramps. And to the future. To many more Boxing Days to come."