Anna’s elbow pushed down on her right knee as she rested her head on a clenched fist and studied the grey monopoly board. She had just landed on a light blue street and already owned the other two. Looking down at her depleted pile of money she considered her position; buying the last street in the set was always the plan, but she could only just afford it and there were still two of her mum’s hotels and a tax square to get past before she passed ‘Go’ and collected £200.
Something shifted in the corner of Anna’s eye, she turned around to see her Nana softly laughing, “You’re taking this awfully seriously Anna. If you can’t be reckless in a board game, when can you be?” Anna counted out £100 and handed it to her Dad, the banker, confident in the decision.
Six throws of the dice later Anna was bankrupt and she left her parents to continue the game. Worn cushions rested on the old floral sofa that had developed an Anna-shaped dent after years of curling up and sleeping. She had decided at a fairly young age that the most productive thing to do at her Nana’s house was to sleep and had never gotten past the habit. Settling into her well-developed sleeping position, her eyes turned towards the Christmas tree. Nana might read the dictionary and bake dry cakes, but she really knows how to decorate the house at Christmas. Her gaze traced the soft yellow lights cascading through the branches of the tree, their light reflected in glass baubles. Over the fireplace hung homemade stockings, each decorated with handfuls of snowflakes in glittering silver thread. Her eyes focused on a small ball of dull, red wrapping paper, it looked out of place next to the elaborately decorated paper her family used. Jonathan had bought her a CD of a band she had never heard of before. The corners of Anna’s lips pulled upwards as she closed her eyes and drifted to sleep. If his taste in music was half as bad as his taste in films, that album would be lucky to get one full play through.
Anna was frustrated by the time they reached the run down old cinema; it was alright for Jonathan who didn’t have a heavy school bag with him, her shoulder was still weighed down with a year’s worth of not-quite-rubbish that had collected in her locker and had to be emptied on the last day of term.
“Are you serious? You brought me to a closed cinema?” Her bag dropped to the floor as she massaged her shoulder.
“They’re going to reopen it, a chain has brought it. Obviously it needs a lot of work, basically going to strip it out apparently.” He noticed Anna’s confused expression, “my brother’s one of the guys clearing it out, it’s not bad pay and pretty easy work. Anyway, that they came across a load of old films from when the cinema was open before and I thought it might be fun to watch one.”
“You never mentioned you have a brother before.”
“Yeah, that’s right, you always pick up on the least interesting bit of the conversation. He got back from uni this month. This isn’t exactly his dream job, but it’s something.”
“What does he want to do?”
“He’s a pretty good writer, but I don’t really know. Do you want to watch a film, or not?” He reached down to pick up her bag.
“Hey, wait – I know you’re still kind of new here, but this cinema has been closed for as long as I can remember. I seriously doubt any of the films are good.”
“The Jungle Book was released in the 60s.”
“We’re going to watch a cartoon?” As hard as she tried Anna couldn’t picture Jonathan settling into an armchair and watching Disney films on a Saturday afternoon.
“Probably not, but I was just saying that some old films are good. The Jungle Book was my favourite film when I was a kid.”
As Anna pushed the heavy wooden door open, she caught sight of Jonathan pulling a face as he lifted her bag onto his shoulder, “Well I’ve always liked Aladdin personally,” she continued through the door, letting it swing shut behind her.
“Anna, Anna honey,” she felt a warm hand gently shaking her shoulder, “the Queen’s speech is over, we’re going to finish opening presents now.” Anna was still drifting between dreaming and waking up as her Nana turned towards the Christmas tree to pick out a small misshapen package with Anna’s name on. The small bundle was placed into Anna’s hands as she scrunched her eyes together and threw them open in an attempt to clear away her relentless desire to sleep. Opening presents on Christmas day had always been a clear and structured procedure in Anna’s family. Stockings were opened before they went to Nana’s church for the Christmas day service, then two tree presents before Christmas lunch, one before the Queen’s speech and the very last, most special present was saved until the evening. Anna examined her package, looking for a way in. It was clearly wrapped by her Dad; he always tapes over every possible hole in the wrapping so that the present-opener has to patiently peel away a single piece at a time. Eventually enough small entrances have been made and the paper can be ripped away in one smooth action, leaving soft blue fabric falling into Anna’s hands. She carefully ran her fingers across the delicate fabric looking for the corners. When her search was complete she lifted the fabric in front of her face to see it in its complete form.
“It’s a scarf Anna, although, I suppose it could be a headband too. Blue is still your favourite colour isn’t it?”
“Yes Dad! Thank you it’s so pretty!” She let go of the corners, letting the soft fabric down onto her knees. Her fingers traced the barely visible circular patterns that covered the translucent scarf.
The faux velvet of the cinema chair irritated Anna’s bare elbow, but she dared not move it, too aware of Jonathan’s hand resting on the chair-arm between them. It had soon become clear that the cinema had been open more recently than 1960. Jonathan had picked out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and so now they were too close to an old screen in an empty theatre watching the opening titles of Say Anything.
It was late as Anna, now wide awake, slid a box of opened presents into the car. It was a short drive home from her Nana’s house and she mindlessly looked through the box as the small car wound through the empty Christmas streets. Her eyes rested on the unexpected present from Matthew’s parents. She frowned as she flicked through the pages of manuscript paper. They had given her a book of film music for the ‘cello. She still took lessons, but the realisation that they didn’t really know her at all hung heavy on her chest.
END OF THE FIRST PART