Some Things Just Never Change
By S. Faith, © 2010
Rating: K+ / PG
Summary: It's that time of year again…
Disclaimer: With love and affection, as always.
Notes: To commemorate the 15th (!) anniversary of the first Bridget Jones column, which first appeared in The Independent on 28 Feb 1995. It's now the 28th in the UK. (And yes, I know Mark didn't appear until the second year.)
It was that time of year again, and Mark was not looking forward to it.
Well, save for one reason.
He was sure to shave with the greatest of attention, carefully comb his curling brown hair, dress in his nicest jumper, wear crisply pressed trousers and shoes that shone like a new penny. He took one last look in the mirror, smiled a little to himself, then donned his overcoat.
Time for the Turkey Curry Buffet.
He went into the frigid winter air, pulling his muffler up close to his ears, and walked to the car. His parents were already waiting, the car fully warmed. He hadn't kept them long, but he honestly had wanted that little bit of extra time to mentally prepare.
The drive did not take long, and before he knew it they were parking his car along the circular drive. Before exiting the car, he took in a steadying breath.
"Elaine! Malcolm! Oh, and Mark!"
"You three hardly need knock," she went on, effusively hugging him and pecking a kiss on his cheek, then moving to his mother to offer a friendly embrace. "Come in, come in."
His father bore a chocolate cake with a ganache frosting and topped with a raspberry compote, which he then handed off to Pam with a light hug; damage to his mother's cake would have been unforgiveable, and both knew it. His father helped his mother out of her coat as Mark slipped out of his own.
"Make yourself comfortable, but again, I hardly need say so," chirped Pam. "I'll just take this to the kitchen."
They were hardly among the first to arrive, and Mark's eyes travelled around the room, glancing over Una, Geoffrey, Mavis and Brian as well as others whom he recognised but did not know their names.
He did not see her shining hair, her effervescent smile, her twinkling eyes.
"Oh, Mark," said Elaine quietly. "She's probably in the kitchen."
"I don't want to bother her if she's still helping her mother."
"She's probably sticking her finger into the cake frosting," Elaine said with affection, which made him smile. She was likely right. "Go on in there."
Looking down, he tugged down on the bottom edge of his jumper, then looked up to his mother. "Be right back."
He wove through the assembled partiers, and the purpose of his stride must have said plenty that he was not interested in small talk. He pushed the door open to the kitchen. She was not there.
He could, however, see a figure standing just outside the back door. Right height, right colouring, and posture indicating she was trying to keep warm. He knew exactly what she was up to.
He strode to the back door and quietly swung it open. He was met with a face full of cigarette smoke. His intent to quietly approach her was dashed when he involuntarily began coughing.
She turned around, skin flushing with shocked embarrassment as she tried in vain to hide the lit cigarette behind her back.
"Hi," she said uncertainly.
"Bridget," he said sternly.
"I was just getting some fresh air," she said.
"Mmm," he said, cocking an eyebrow, staring pointedly at the stream of smoke coming up from her hand. "Very fresh indeed."
He could not help what happened next: a smile spread over his face as he stepped close to her; he then placed his hand upon her cheek, bent and kissed her.
"Some things just never change," he said tenderly as he drew back, then took her free hand in his, feeling the band around her finger against the skin of his palm, "not even after fifteen years." He then reached around, took the cigarette from her hand, dropped it into the snow, and decidedly stepped on it.
She glanced sadly down to the crushed, sodden, barely smoked cigarette, then back up at him with a half-hearted smile as she said, "Indeed not."
From within the house, Mark could hear Pam calling for her daughter, who sighed. "I suppose it's time to face the Turkey Curry Buffet," she lamented.
"At least we now face the atrocity together, and afterwards," he said, taking her in his arms again, "we can console one another in the usual way."
She chuckled and nodded, then lifted her chin and kissed him properly.
"Honestly," came the voice of Pam Jones, partly scolding, partly amused, interrupting their little snog. "You'd think you two were still newlyweds."
Mark never wanted things to be any different.