“What do you want for Christmas?”
The question came a little too suddenly, as if it had been waiting for the right moment to burst out but not quite found it. We were standing in Bond Street, in the rain, in front of a jeweller’s window, and Bunny was looking frantically at the items in it. It was not the same window we had cleaned up some eight or nine months ago, but I had inevitably been thinking of that night.
“Am I supposed to make a list?” I said, and he blushed.
“I’m only wondering.”
“Are you planning on giving me something? Because in that case, my dear rabbit, I must insist on receiving a list from you as well.”
It was all said in jest, of course—I had picked something out for him weeks ago. He gave me a side glance and a smile, but quickly turned his eyes away again.
He had taken off his new felt hat (Lock & Co., purchased barely a week ago) to keep it rather than himself from the rain; and as a result, the drizzle had adorned his head with the finest pearls London could offer. I watched his eyes as they watched the window display: saw the smallest bead shimmer as his brow furrowed ever so slightly; watched the exquisite crystals in his eyelashes sparkle with colour from the electric lights.
“Of course, I assume you’ll want whatever glitters the most,” he said, half-teasingly.
“Hm.” I smiled.
We stood quiet for some moments, before he spoke again.
“And you… how do you usually—you spend Christmas with your family?”
“You’ll be going out of town then.”
“Not this year.” My tone was light, but it was my turn to look at the window, and Bunny’s to look at me. “I shall go up later—after New Year’s, perhaps.”
A wonderful tiara was the crowning of the shop’s exhibition. It caught the sharp light in its diamonds and sapphires, and spread it over the rest like a chandelier in a ball room. A cigarette case with a modest but charming engraving was shining shyly in one corner.
“Because I know exactly what to expect if I go.” I turned to Bunny with a smile. “London is too exciting to abandon this time of year.”
His smile turned anxious as quickly as it had appeared. For a few moments I watched bemused as he struggled to find the words.
“You don’t mean,” he continued then, with a lowered voice, “that you mean to… to do business over the holidays?”
I wanted to laugh out loud—of course the silly rabbit had jumped to the direst of conclusions, when the truth was so simple and bright! I could have told him; but the temptation to play the trick when he served it to me so freely was too strong; and so I put both of my hands on his shoulders, looked him straight in the eye, and said in all seriousness:
“My dear rabbit, Christmas is our busiest time of year!”
His jewel eyes went wide, and I allowed myself a laugh after all. But in my mind’s eye I imagined how those eyes must look on Christmas Eve, when I told him there would be no adventures forth—only a quiet dinner at the club, and a warm fire at the Albany when we tired of any company but each other’s.
“Come now, my silly rabbit,” I said, and took his arm. “Let’s get both you and the hat away from this rain!”