Once upon a time there was a story…but not that kind of story. A story which promises to teach you at least 365 of the most intriguing words in the English language, and will perhaps provide an enjoyable repose for you at the same time. A story which will unfold month by month, with each excerpt containing all of the word-of-the-day entries for that month, as depicted in my very well-favoured 365 New Words A Year Calendar. The particular words are referenced with footnotes (and if you click the footnote you’ll be able to jump straight to the definition at the the bottom of the article; then click the definition to jump straight back up the relevant part in the main text.) Read these words, learn them, use them; they’re all wonderful.
Then come to love the story, and follow it each month. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, but I do know that it’s going to be special.
They did it every year, even though every year Erica begged them not to.
Once, she could understand. Once was acceptable, even twice would have been tolerable. Three times? Well, it was evidently starting to become tiresome for her, but she could have found a way to make it bearable if she knew it was not going to perdure . But despite her every annoyance it did. With her parents insisting on continuing the spectacle every single year, making it quite painfully clear that no amount of clamant disapproval on her part would make them rescind on what became known as their family tradition.
The Freeman Family New Years Eve Party.
If you’re in New York you go to Times Square, if you’re in Rio you go to Copacabana Beach, if you’re in Sydney you go to the Harbour Bridge, and if you’re anywhere in the South of England – and happen to be, what Erica secretly called, a highfalutin-pompous-old-toff – you go to Weybridge for the Freeman Family New Years Eve Party. Sure, everyone on the guest list lives close enough to get into Central London, but they’re all similarly of the opinion that the idea of standing amongst a rabble, waiting for fireworks, is the closest thing to barbaric they could ever imagine. A fact which Erica discovered the hard way last year, when she made the mistake of asking her parents to cancel the party and let them go into the city for the fireworks instead, only for them to look askance at her suggestion, before proceeding to explain that “the idea of beginning the New Year by participating in such common frivolity is a genuine debacle. One which we shall never be subjecting ourselves to.”
So ever since then she gave up trying to protest. She just sadly came to terms with the fact that since that house was their bailiwick, for as long as she lived there, they would always have the authority to subject her to that New Years Eve party that she detested so ardently. The only thing she could do to preserve her own sanity in the meantime was minimise her interaction at the event as much as possible. That meant she always gave the swiftest of swift greetings, before quickly exiting the room in a genuine attempt to eschew the remainder of the festivities. Her parents never really minded this of course, they knew full well that those things would transpire much more happily if her presence was somewhat evanescent.
That’s because they knew she had absolutely no inclination to position herself amongst a room full of big egos and false bravado, much less to actually engage in the false alacrity of ‘high society’. Personally she would have preferred to tell them all that she found their company less than enjoyable, with their sense of humour as svelte as their morals, and the only reason they continue to make such an accolade of excessive wherewithal is because it disguises the fact that they’re all completely devoid of any real personality – barely having the talent to create a single magnum opus between the lot of them.
But of course if she said that her parents would have practically killed her.
Or at least they would have if they believed in pugilism (come on – they were far too upper class for contact sports.) Instead they would have found some kind of psychologically nefarious punishment, which would have etched a lasting memento into her heart – like a lapidary carefully engraving an emerald – to never have the audacity to speak out of turn again.
So as much as she dreamed of enlightening the highfalutin-pompous-old-toffs with a few home truths about all of their most common foibles, she had the gumption to know that it would have ultimately ended much worse for her than it would have done for any of them. Which is why she had to wait, and why she had to spend another New Year’s Eve slumped in the loneliest corner of that overcrowded, overdecorated, over exaggerated house, completely isolated from everybody – with a plate full of canapés and vol-au-vents (neither of which were particularly palatable) acting as her only emollient.
She wasn’t particularly happy about it; but it sure did beat mindlessly mingling her way around the crowd full of hypocrisy.
It wasn’t until right before midnight, when there happened to be a loud, unsuspecting knock at the door, that things actually – and most surprisingly – started to get interesting.
Everybody who was supposed to be attending the party was already present, and everybody else knew full well that you didn’t just knock on the Freeman door. On any given day you can’t even make it past the gate without a written invitation, so to have someone violate that protocol so publicly, and on such a momentous occasion, was a major pratfall. One which left both Mr and Mrs Freeman with a tincture of embarrassment in their cheeks, but made Erica certain it was an act of social defiance so magnificent she was willing to grant it the highest veneration.
As the door carefully opened, revealing who was waiting on the other side, the flush of colour completely drained from the faces of Mr and Mrs Freeman, leaving them both with a most sallow complexion indeed. At the same time the sight made Erica beam with incomparable excitement.
“Charlie Whittaker,” she smiled to herself, quietly pronouncing his name so her voice trailed off to a delicate whisper on the ultima.
“Erica Freeman,” he whispered back, with an undeniably winsome glint in his eye.