So, you know how it is… you’ve meant to do it for years. Every Christmas when you meet, you say, ‘We really must get together in the summer, have a long weekend – heck, even a week – it’s school hols after all.’
But somehow, it’s never really happened – the Leighton-White’s can’t leave their sick dog, the Pierce’s are having another baby, and the Lee’s have hopped off to France again.
And this year, when you met up for Christmas, you looked around the table and realised: the oldest of the children are off to university soon, the Leighton-White’s dog gave up the ghost years ago, and the Lee’s actually live in France now.
It’s now or never, and you seize the laptop off the nearest teenagers, and immediately Google: Big House To Rent In… oh, where?
William Pierce is wearing tartan socks.
You type in ‘Scotland’.
You click on Landed Houses, because it has the words ‘fantastic reunion’ written beneath its banner, and that’s what this will be; one last, fantastic reunion before the big gang are whittled away, back to the original six who met at uni.
The house names that come up sound so magical; Assynt House in the Highlands, Roshven with its sea views and little islands, Ormidale overlooking the Kyles of Bute. Or castles! Hafton or Kinnettles.
Everyone’s starting to gather round you now, ‘Hey look, look what Mum’s found,’ ‘ Molly – oo, look! Hot tubs!’ The houses promise time-out, and country-sport, long walks, fishing and shopping. Space.
‘Yes, yes,’ says Richard, grinning, clapping you on the shoulder.
‘Perfect,’ says Ness.
You meet the eyes of your husband over everyone’s heads. He winks at you, knowing what you’re thinking. The last chance, the last fantastic chance, and it could be amazing.
Suddenly, all the women are scrabbling for diaries; all the men are flicking through their smart phones.
The second week in August is a go-er – is it a go-er darling? Shall we pencil it in? And then, because you’ve been here before, you’ve been this close in the past, you pick up the phone, and start dialling.
‘Assynt House,’ says a lady called Elizabeth. And you smile, because this time, this year, it really is going to happen.