It has been a long time since a lovely, shiny parcel fell out of a package that arrived at Bryn Derw. The label said it was for Bertie and, as he scampered off to sit in Mamgu's room with it, we all listened out for the squeals of delight we all assumed would soon accompany, or replace the rustling we could all hear as he turned it over and over.
Several hours later, having missed lunch, Bertie is still to be found, parcel unopened, holding the label in his left hand and looking a little sad.
No amount of encouragement from the rest of the family seems to make Bertie feel more inclined to open it and, after several attempts to get him to do so, they all wander off to play, leaving him in solitary and gloomy silence.
Time ticks by and Bertie still sits in his grandmother's chair. Once in a while he sighs, but he doesn't move.....
until an unfamiliar voice suddenly asks,
"May I sit here?"
"If you like." Bertie replies, before going back into his sombre daydream.
"I'm new here and feel a bit shy," the new kid says. "Which is a bit odd really, because my teacher used to say that I am too friendly and talkative for my own good and that that was why I never finished any of my work...."
"Not too shy to help yourself to the spider sweater set I brought back from The Village Snippy Chip day!" thinks Bertie to himself. "Nor are you too shy to interupt me when I just want to sit quietly and think about my REAL FRIENDS!!"
But Bertie is a kind-hearted boy and doesn't want to make a newcomer feel unwelcome.
"Sorry if I seem rude," he says aloud. "It's just that I've got this and it made me feel sad, you see."
" You got a PRESENT? A PRESENT makes you SAD? Why, if I ever got presents, I wouldn't need to help myself to things without asking. Take these clothes, for instance, they were just lying over there and as I arrived here in my birthday suit....."
"Is it your birthday then?" asks Bertie who, in his confusion, has been jolted out of his sad thoughts. "What's your name?"
"I'm Sacha. And before you ask, yes I do have longish hair, because I like to keep my ears warm and no, I'm not a girl. S.A.S.H.A. is short for Alexandra but S.A.C.H.A. is short for AlexanDER. And I'm a C one not an S one, except in school where they INSIST on calling me Alexander so I'm a boy....... and it isn't my birthday, wearing your birthday suit means wearing what you wore when you were born and that means nothing at all.....
........You've opened the end of your parcel, so what was inside? because...." the boy goes on.
Bertie decides he'd rather like Sacha to listen and to stop talking. He might pass out if he doesn't stop talking long enough to breathe. And anyway, he thinks, how can Sacha be short for Alexander? They don't even sound similar.
"Russian." Sacha informs him and Bertie nods wisely, though he hasn't the faintest idea what Sacha is trying to tell him.
"Wow!" he exclaims, trying to change the subject. " A great shirt! Look!"
Sacha looks down and, oh joy, he doesn't say anything. He merely points at the parcel.
When Bertie looks down, Sacha picks the parcel up and pops it over his head. They giggle as Bertie passes something out for Sacha to hold before he wriggles out from under the paper.
" Hey! These are really cool cords!" says Sacha. "Lucky you! Who sent them to you?"
" That's why I was upset. I miss them, you see. I mean my best fr....." Bertie begins. "I mean my OTHER great friends, Ollie and Wolfie from The Village."
"My cousin Valentine lives there!" Sacha tells him. "He'd love these cords, he'd rave over the quality. Just look at this waist band is what he'd say! Then he'd talk for ages about feeling the quality of the fabric and looking at the fine stitching. He's into fashion. Maybe he helped Ollie and what's-his-name choose them!"
"Woolfie," Bertie tells him. "Short for Wolfgang."
Sacha raises a quizical eyebrow.
"German." states Bertie.
Sacha nods wisely, though he hasn't a clue what Bertie means.
"Me too - German name." says Bertie. "Bertie's short for it."
Sacha stops nodding as he isn't sure what Bertie means, but IS sure that he is beginning to look like one of those nodding dog ornaments he sometimes sees in cars.
Bertie looks down at Sacha's feet. They look cold.
"No socks?" he asks. "Here, borrow these. They are my special Christmas slippers and I'd only lend them to one of my three best friends!"
Bertie will always look forward to seeing Ollie and Wolfie again, but life seems so much better now he has another great friend, right here, at home in Bryn Derw.