Once Andrea had moved her possessions into place, Lucas felt himself begin to relax more and more. They spent the afternoon at home, it being a special three days off work that were for the nation to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which left only Monday and Friday active work days that week. Lucas, listening to Andrea burble on about some novel she had glimpsed in passing and that seemed too extraordinary to have sold out already, frowned; the system seemed a pointless one, especially for the students, but at least their run of Twelfth Night had not been interrupted by such festivities.
The next day, spiteful as fate might have had it, Andrea had to make her way into work. It was a public holiday, but still there were many who had no rest: policeman, shopkeepers, doctors…psychologists. Lucas shook his head, trying to find things to do. Andrea’s efficient message of goodbye, stuck- Lucas noticed this with pleasure- perfectly straight to the kitchen door, rang through his head, as if she were there herself, dictating his thoughts to him. She had told him of her usual leaving time, 8.15, just as in a casual conversation, and signed off with an apology that she could not spend the day free with him.
And of course, he had chosen that exact day to have a lie in. Lucas felt annoyed with himself for not being there for his beautiful partner’s exit.
He attempted to spend the morning usefully, folding paper and marking exercise books, but no amount of Year Seven quips with their failure of Religious Studies’ knowledge could cheer him today.
So, instead, Lucas spent his time doing things that were less than useful, such as reading through the local magazine, ‘Walkabout’, so called because it was meant to represent all that one could do whilst walking out and about in Lansdale. It was there that the Diamond Jubilee special caught his eye.
Granted, not everything in the magazine held a dedication to Her Majesty, but it became clear to Lucas that those pieces decked in red, white and blue would be the ones to catch his attention the most, no matter how odd the colours looked, white, pink, red blurring into one shade. But it was the Union Jack, something no one could lose track of or misinterpret. Only France had the same colours, and Lansdale would never talk about France in a self-advertising brochure of theirs.
By that Wednesday, he’d all but forgotten the Lansdale event that all the younger children at St. Anne’s had been talking about. It had been the words on their lips for months, but, since the whole escapade with Andrea, it had been swept from Lucas’ mind. He half expected to turn to his phone and find an inquiring or scolding text from Ryan, but Mr. Garner and his family didn’t live in the town.
Lucas swept a crown of red pen around the note, leaving it for Andrea’s return.
They never text any more, Lucas noticed, now that the two of them lived as housemates and best friends. Andrea could say everything in her masterful glances and the quaint turns of her body language, the way only a woman could.
Luckily, Lucas didn’t have to frustrate his thought of boredom for too long as she came back at lunchtime.
“Hello. Is that you done for the day?”
“No, I’ve got another shift after lunch, even if this lunch-break has the advantage of being lengthened.”
Lucas grinned despite his disgruntled temper.
“I’m sorry, Lucas,” Andrea added. “I know you probably were looking forward to spending today with me.”
“That’s okay… I’ve got something planned for the Jubilee tomorrow anyway.”
“Have you ever heard of the Lansdale bun throw?”
“No… What is it?”
Lucas began to giggle in his usual way. How could he explain something so clear to him as the bun throw?
“Well, the mayor of Lansdale and his officials stand atop the Woodall Tower and throw hot cross buns, to be caught by the residents. They continue until all the buns are gone. It’s tomorrow, beginning at two in the afternoon; do you want to come?”
“Okay,” Andrea replied with a smile, her own giggle mellifluous across the whole room.
It decided to rain that day.
As Lucas dragged out his favourite umbrella, simply black and white, but large enough to protect two, Andrea noticed, he called to her not to wear her longest trousers.
“They’ll definitely get soaked.”
“Quite the optimist you are,” Andrea teased back; “it’s not raining that badly.”
“Believe me, it will be.”
She made her way down the stairs, resolute in her layered trousers. It seemed silly to wear cut-offs at this time of year. Lucas shot her one disappointed glance before he disappeared into the kitchen.
“You’ll get wet.”
“You know what?” she replied. “I don’t actually mind. Are you ready to go? How long will it take us to walk there?”
“In this weather? Depends how fast you hurry. I’d say we could make it for the opening if we left in five minutes.”
Andrea had followed Lucas’ playing voice into the kitchen. There she found him bringing out a bottle of bubbling champagne, sparkling and twitching as Lucas escorted it onto the counter next to two champagne flutes already there. He glanced at Andrea’s raised eyebrows.
“I need to let it get to room temperature, otherwise the alcohol will be spoilt.”
“To The Queen. May she have many a Jubilee to come!”
Watching him, Andrea couldn’t help but remark, “you are so British, Lucas.”
“Thank you. I try my best.” His eyes twinkled as he drew Andrea closer to him. “That’s one of the first proper things you said to me, remember? In one of the little cafes down the way. You didn’t know, back then, that it’s a mere five minutes walk away.”
“I didn’t,” Andrea replied. “I chose it because-”
“It serves great banoffee pie.”
“Yes! How did you…?”
“Ah, Lucas instinct.”
She almost launched herself at him. Instead, she clasped onto one of his warm palms, only subconsciously aware of the rosary beads clutched in his spare fingers.
“Come on. I don’t want to be late for…whatever this is.”
“Oh, it’s fun…” he told her, the twinkle still deep within his sea-tone eyes. One minute later and the rosary was gone, down into the pockets of his hemmed trousers.
As they rounded a corner, going from the rural casualness that the shops and houses lay in to the formal business state of Lansdale’s centre, albeit a small one for the small town, a large brick tower bloomed into sight…or as much of sight as Andrea could tell. She pondered the feeling of being rained on, beginning to notice, even then, that her trousers were heavier with the water.
Andrea felt as if she had been put in blinkers, or glasses that were constantly smudged. She tried to gaze sky-ward, but all she could notice was the pouring of water, splashing into her eyes. The little mascara that Andrea had decorated herself with quickly became black marks at the base of her eyelid. Yet, Andrea didn’t care. Her laughing lips caught the sweet drops of Lucas’ weather.
“Glorious, isn’t it? I gather you don’t go out much in the rain, am I right?”
“It’s the rain, Lucas. Who does?”
They had found themselves shouting, especially as, moving towards a great crowd, each person’s voice was being drowned in two torrents of sound, one from above, the other from the nearing group. At first, Andrea thought the amount of people gathered was crazy, but then it hit her. They were all there for the bun throw.
“I never realised it was so momentous,” said she, but Lucas had already turned away, his eyes locked, like the rest, on the tower above them.
The Woodall Tower glimmered as rainwater sent flurries of trickles running down it. It looked as if it were turreted at the top, tapered to a set of four equal points, each only slightly worn down by erosion. The monument was untainted by plants running up it, and its bell caught the variable sunlight, one giant, golden raindrop to refract the sight further. The tower stunned. A carved masterpiece and Andrea could barely see it.
When the festivities began, they were brilliant. There was not, as Andrea had assumed, some sort of Mayoral speech about The Queen and her nation, but simply the blowing of a horn- followed by the crowd’s mimic on vuvuzelas- some proclamation of beginning, and then the buns soared from the turret in random formation.
At first, the informality of such an event took Andrea by surprise. In fact, it took her a full ten minutes to become accustomed to the springing of Baker’s Favourites through the sodden air. Only once in that time, however, did it pass her mind, the question of how these treats were being kept dry and solid.
A figure, swamped in a blue raincoat that Andrea vaguely recognised, came forward and nudged her on the shoulder. As Andrea turned, the hood of the raincoat was lifted by a delicate hand.
The women embraced wetly, giggling as each considered the poor weather to herself.
“It’s great to see you here,” Léa chortled.
“Yeah! I didn’t think you’d be down.”
“What and miss a Lansdale tradition? I might as well make the utmost of my stay.”
“Well, this is my first time, too.”
“But not Lucas’.”
“No; he went last year for the Royal Wedding when a group of his students did. I guess I’ve just not opened my eyes to the stranger traditions of my home town.”
“Okay,” laughed Léa.
“How’s staying with Keith?”
“It’s…not too bad, actually. As I’m sure you know, when you give him a chance, he can be very gentle.” Léa blushed, bright in the dark mass of coats.
That was when the idea of possibly evil proportions bloomed in Andrea’s mind. She watched Léa move herself away into a better bun-catching position, waving to the woman as new knowledge saturated with its hilarity, even irony. Looking around, Andrea noticed that Lucas, too, had been swallowed by the collective, leaving her to laugh to herself for a moment, psychologist’s eyes ever watching.
The crowd bubbled and burst around Andrea. Every moment was one of intrigue and resistance to waiting. Then, when a wave of buns started being thrown down, the whole crowd surged as one, swiftly moving in and out of the wave.
The buns became droplets in themselves, precious items to be held close. There came a triumphant roar whenever someone caught one straight in their hands, but the squeals of progress were also clear when those who were using their umbrellas as cups also felt a landing.
A particular group of four young teenage girls to the left side of Andrea became the epitome of the day’s actions. Whenever a bun soared in the five-metre radius of them, they would all spread out their hands and open their lips to make coo-noise rising in pitch as the pastry approached. They were very rarely successful in their attempts, but the joy on their faces was clear and priceless each time, showing that it was the taking part that counted.
When Andrea pointed them out to a suddenly-returned Lucas, he nodded, replying, “the perfect example of childish innocence that keeps The Queen on her throne.”
“Don’t be a cynic,” Andrea said.
“I’m not,” Lucas replied, grinning his usual way; “I’m simply saying-”
But he was cut off by the approach of another delicacy, soaring their way in perfect spinning formation. The crowd sighed as one again. Andrea raised her own arms with the rest of them, the only one not calculating, the only one not counting on victory.
But victory was exactly her prize. Hands waiting, Andrea felt the soft morsel fall into her.
“I caught it, I caught it,” she cried to the spectators around her, whom she felt were cheering for her. Andrea squealed in glee, no more containable.
Lucas laughed along with her, embracing Andrea, his chestnut hair dappled and spiked now from the pounding rain.
“Oh, Lucas,” Andrea cried as he swept her away, surrounded by the midst of the thrumming. Her curls were limp and plastered to her forehead, but still Andrea no longer cared.
Every time she tried to speak, her voice filled with euphoric giggles. She couldn’t believe it was only about three o’ clock or perhaps half three. Each hour had vanished when they had been waiting for the onslaught of buns. Now that she herself had caught one (and Lucas had acquired one some way or another), neither needed to stay. The bun-throwing might have still been going on, but Andrea was lost in her excitement.
“Are they still going?”
“Yes!” Lucas told her as he guided her away. “They’ll work for another hour, probably. Until they’ve run out of buns.”
“And that’s not going to happen yet!”
“No! Come on!”