“It’s Eva,” Aoife said with a nod. “An ugly name if ever there was one, but it would be a lovely souvenir, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll buy you each one if you like,” Vinzent offered, pulling a battered wallet from his pocket.
“No, no…” Aoife began.
“Oh, would you?” Blaise said optimistically. “That would be simply lovely, thank you very much.”
Vinzent grinned as Aoife’s expression changed to one pained.
“Choose one each, then. I take it we’re having mugs ‘Eva’ and ‘Daniel’?”
“Yes please, if you’re offering,” Daniel said.
“Has my training been this rude?” Aoife cried despairingly, offering her palms to the sky but nevertheless stepping forward to survey her prize-to-be.
Blaise stared. “We’re not rude; we’re taking up a nice generous offer from a friend freely made,” she replied. Aoife looked as she felt: flummoxed. “I want to be a lawyer,” explained Blaise sweetly.
“‘Inga’, please,” Delia said. “It’s a cute name.”
“Inga? Why? That isn’t cute. Stupid reason, anyway. I’ll have ‘Liesel’, please.”
“Liesel? Why in the world? It’s such a stately, dignified name,” Aoife said, struggling to keep a straight face as she said this. Vinzent’s lips twitched.
“Elizabeth is my middle name, isn’t it?” Blaise reasoned, looking insulted, as indeed she was.
Aoife erupted in a peal of pretty rippling laughter. “I should have guessed there was a reason like that.”
“Anyway, I like stately, dignified names,” Blaise said, sounding injured.
Daniel and Delia’s eyes met accidentally, and they both doubled up with giggles. Blaise looked offended and stalked into the shop, pulling Vinzent along with her.
“Come on!” she said. “Let’s go and pay for these. Shame for them they can’t appreciate stately and dignified names.” This nearly finished Vinzent, but with a great command of self-control he organized himself and paid for the mugs, dictionaries and postcards without further incident. One of his unfailing mottos was not to let children know if he was laughing at them. In fact, had he but known it, it was also one of Aoife’s mottos. Today she had failed in it, but she tried to keep herself from laughing at their childishly unwitting humour unless all else failed.
They ate their picnic in the meadow, pouring the drinks into the thirsty bellies of their new mugs and flourishing them for a toast with pride.
“To Vinzent, new member of our gang!” led Blaise, and the others cried “To Vinzent!” together.
“Thank you very much. I am truly honoured to have been promoted to such a level. I can only hope that I prove worthy of your gang,” Vinzent said, summoning his prettiest English to the task.
“Our gang,” corrected Blaise, who hadn’t understood most of the rest of the speech, but felt that she must correct this blatant error.
“Our gang,” repeated Vinzent with a smile, catching Daniel’s eye. Aoife was quite solemn this time. She was accustomed to Blaise’s ways. The girl was only nine, after all, and she was quite collected.
Then the little ceremony was concluded, and in the children’s eyes, Vinzent was officially admitted into their select and secure little squad.