Gytha’s Yuletide feast was one that Aelfwyn would never forget.
She was a splendid cook, better even than Aelfwyn’s mother, who was the yardstick by which Aelfwyn judged good cooking. The table groaned under the weight of the magnificent roast fowl and a platter of roasted and braised vegetables, cheeses, pies, and sweet treats. They ate and drank slowly, enjoying the celebration of being able to eat such rich, delicious food. Now that they had little gold to see them through the winter, Aelfwyn and Leofric ate plainly. One cauldron of pottage would need to last three days, and there was very little meat in their meals.
After the feast, they joined the family on comfortable furs piled around the fire pit. Aelfwyn sat curled up against Leofric. Their friends believed them to be a wedded couple and perhaps wondered why they did not show much affection between them. The warmth and hardness of Leofric’s chest against Aelfwyn’s back was distracting to say the least, but her belly was full of good food, and the wine had made her drowsy. She dozed against Leofric’s chest, and was aware of him gently stroking her hair as he chatted to Cynn and Gytha.
She could have sat like that all night but, eventually, the time came for them to take their leave.
Aelfwyn climbed to her feet and stretched sleepily. Yawning, she turned to Gytha and hugged her. “Thank you so much. I have never felt so welcome in someone’s home.”
Gytha hugged her back. “And you always will be.”
Aelfwyn crossed to where Leofric was holding out her cloak. With a smile, she turned, letting him place it over her shoulders.
“Look!” Ealhgyth squealed. “They’re standing under the misteltān!”
Aelfwyn started slightly at the girl’s outburst before craning her neck up. Indeed there was a sprig of mistletoe hanging overhead.
“Now they’ll have to kiss!” Cynn’s eldest daughter clapped her hands together with glee before she and her sisters burst out into tittering laughter.
Smirking, Cynn gently cuffed Ealhgyth around the ear. “They’ve been waiting all afternoon for you two to stand under it.”
Aelfwyn felt her cheeks warm. She glanced over at Leofric who merely raised an eyebrow, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Come on then,” he said softly. “We don’t want to disappoint them.”
He stepped close to her, before reaching down and cupping her face gently. Then he stooped, his lips brushing hers. He drew back slowly, meeting Aelfwyn’s gaze as he did so.
“Give her a decent kiss, man,” Cynn goaded him. “Or do you want Gytha and me to show you how it’s done.”
Leofric cast him a sour look, causing Cynn to bellow with laughter. “I don’t need any lessons from you on how to kiss my wife.”
With that, he drew Aelfwyn into his arms and kissed her deeply.
Aelfwyn melted into him, her arms coming up to encircle his neck. For a moment she forgot where she was. His kiss set her on fire. When they broke apart, both gasping for breath, the hall had fallen silent. The girls were all blushing, although Cynn and Gytha both wore smug grins.
“That’s better, Lenred,” Gytha congratulated him with a wink. “That’s how a woman likes to be kissed.”