Marion was lunching with Lily at Maison D’Alba. She had eaten lunch there in Lily’s beautifully appointed dining room many times, and it had always been a pleasant experience. But today, it didn’t seem quite right. The driving rain outside didn’t help, of course. The sky was a dreary dirty yellow colour and the sun was nowhere to be seen.

“It looked like that the first time I ever saw the Gallifreyan sky,” Marion said as she looked out at the sodden garden.

“Yes, it did,” Lily remembered. “That was a wet summer’s day, though. The day after it was sunny and you came and enjoyed my rose garden.”

“No roses now. In dreary Fibster. It’s too cold for them.”

“They’ll bloom again in summer.” Lily told her. “We all will. It’s been a bad few weeks. We’ve had to come to terms with so many losses. Especially here, in this house. But we will get over it. Life will go on.”

“There have been no parties or luncheons for weeks,” Marion commented. “I never thought I would miss that scene. I always found it tedious. But it’s part of normal life, and I shall be glad when people are able to enjoy themselves again.”

“Everyone is afraid to be the first to have a party, in case they’re thought disrespectful,” Lily said. “I think I might have to make the first move myself. A small luncheon, or a soiree at least. Something to break the ice, as it were.”

“You don’t sound like you want to,” Marion told her.

“No, I don’t. But I think I have a duty.”

“Then count me in,” Marion said. “I will help any way I can.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Lily said to her. Then she sighed, and Marion’s gaze drifted once more to the view through the French doors to the rain-soaked terrace leading down to the uninviting and grey looking carp pond.

Then she saw something that made her smile. In the middle of the rain-soaked terrace an English red telephone box materialised. She remembered when Kristoph used to meet her outside of the university gates with the TARDIS disguised that way and take her off for exciting weekends in exotic places. She opened the French door as he stepped out of the TARDIS and ran across the terrace to her.

“Come on, both of you,” he said. “You need cheering up. I’m going to take you somewhere the sun is shining.”

“Just like that?” Lily asked, surprised. “But what about…” She caught his eye and couldn’t help smiling. “Just let me tell my butler that I'm going to be out, then. They worry about me, you know.” She rang a bell and summoned her servant, then she was ready. Marion carried Rodan in her arms, wrapped in a blanket for the short walk in the rain to the warmth and comfort of the TARDIS.

She was surprised to see there were already passengers aboard the TARDIS. She hugged Rika and Remonte happily. She hadn’t seen them for so long except on the videophone. She was so busy talking to Rika that she hardly noticed the TARDIS passing through the Transduction Barrier.

She and Lily both chatted happily with Rika, once a ladies maid to them both, but now wife of the Gallifreyan vice-consul to Ventura IV, an equal and a friend. They glossed over the recent trouble and spoke of happier subjects like Calliope Patriclian’s forthcoming Alliance and the time passed by quickly. They were all very surprised when they looked at the viewscreen to see a Liverpool street that was as wet and miserable as Gallifrey currently was.

“I thought we were going somewhere sunny,” Marion queried. But Kristoph just smiled and opened the door. Lily gave a cry of delight when Li stepped into the TARDIS. She had not been able to visit him for so many weeks with the portal out of order. They kissed lovingly, and passionately, to Remonte de Lœngbærrow’s puzzlement.

“That’s the last stop,” Kristoph said. “Sunshine coming up in fifty minutes. Just time for a pot of tea, I think.”

He said it all so nonchalantly as he locked off their co-ordinate and came to sit with everyone else on the comfortable sofas in the corner of the TARDIS. Remonte was still puzzled. He didn’t know that Lily and Li had become so close, of course. Marion and Kristoph were the only people who did know about that. Li was no longer under sentence of death, but he was still persona non grata in Galifreyan society.

“I thought Li couldn’t leave Earth,” he pointed out.

“He can’t leave Earth in his own TARDIS,” Kristoph replied. “I don’t intend telling anyone he came with us on this trip. And I trust you won’t be mentioning it, brother of mine.”

“Only because nobody is likely to ask. But I do wish you wouldn’t put me in these situations where I have to cover up dubious activities.”

“Remonte,” Li said quietly. “You’re an honest politician. A rare thing in the universe.”

“That he is,” Kristoph agreed. “But you’re not a politician today. Or a vice-consul. We’re all having a holiday from our responsibilities, including you.”

Remonte accepted that, reluctantly. Marion noticed that he did talk to Li quite pleasantly. He was, of course, an old friend. Remonte must have known him since he was a child. He tried not to let his adult duties and obligations come between them.

The TARDIS materialised again on schedule, in a little less than an hour. And as promised, the sun was shining. Everyone had changed for summer weather by then, the ladies and Rodan in sundresses and big hats, Kristoph and Remonte in light coloured slacks and blazers and straw hats that made Marion and Rika smile. Li was dignified in a Chinese shirt and loose fitting trousers.

They emerged from a TARDIS disguised as a closed newspaper kiosk on a sun-drenched city street. The only surprise was that it was covered in flowers, real and artificial, in long, fragrant and colourful chains wound around it. The whole street was similarly adorned. There were flower baskets hanging from every lamppost and more garlands and chains of flowers strung back and forward across the street.

The buildings either side were tall, very much like New York at the start of the twentieth century. There were flowers at all of the windows and people looking out, some of them throwing flower petals out so that they filled the air.

The streets were full of people in gaily coloured clothes, lining up as if in expectation of something spectacular happening.

“This way,” Kristoph told his party. “We’re in the grandstand.” He brought them to a wooden stand that had been erected for the VIP guests. He produced tickets for them all and they were conducted to their seats. There, Marion had a further surprise when she found her friend Hillary and her two youngest children, Cam and Kaye, already there.

“How did you get here?” she asked as they hugged fondly.

“I live here,” she answered. “You have never seen the Northern capital of Haollstrom, have you? This is it. And you’re just in time for our Flower Parade.”

As they took their seats, Hillary explained that the wealth of the Northern capital came from the perfume industry. They were renowned in the galaxy for their exquisite scents. And since flowers were the basis of that industry, they celebrated every year with a parade and a festival in the park.

Marion liked the sound of that. Rodan seemed to, as well. She squirmed with excitement as she sat on her knee. Then Marion was surprised when something else fell in her lap. She picked up the soft, delicately coloured flower made of something that smelt sweet and appetising, vanilla and rose hip or something very like it. Hillary told her it was a confection, perfectly edible. She gave it to Rodan, who bit into it happily. A whole shower of the flowers came their way, thrown into the crowd by people in flower costumes who carried huge bags of the sweets to give away. Marion tried to gather them all up.

“Does anyone have a bag I can put them in?” she asked. “I’d like to take some home. For the children in school when I go back there next week.”

“These won’t keep,” Kristoph told her. “They’re made of something a little like candy floss. It goes sticky and messy if it isn’t eaten right away.”

“You can buy boxes of better quality ones later at the festival itself,” Hillary promised her. “Just… indulge yourself. The sugar is actually self-absorbing. You can eat lots of it and it doesn’t make you sick. Rodan can stuff herself just like my two are doing!”

Kay and Cam had handfuls of the flower sweets and they were munching them voraciously. Marion took Hillary’s word and let Rodan have as much as she liked, too. Usually she only let her have a few sweets every day. She was happy to be allowed to indulge her sweet tooth. Lily delicately ate one of the sweets. So did Rika. Even their men tried them. Marion ate three of them in different flavours and thought about when she was a child, and she didn’t have many sweets not because they weren’t good for her, but because there wasn’t a lot of money to spare. She would have been delighted by free sweets that didn’t make her sick, then. Now she resisted the urge to stuff herself and looked forward to the parade itself.

She didn’t have long to wait. The sound of the music and cheering of crowds further along the road preceded the arrival of a marching band in colourful costumes followed by a troupe of dancing girls dressed as rosebuds. After them was a car on which a young lady in a sparkling dress was perched. She had a sash declaring her ‘Flower Parade Queen’. She was followed by a group of acrobats who turned cartwheels and did amazing things with their bodies as they moved along. Behind them was the first of at least thirty ‘floats’ on the back of lorries festooned with flowers. They all had colourful tableaux with either flowers or perfumes as their theme. One such float had a young woman in a gauzy nightdress lying on a soft bed shaped like a flower. People walking along the side of the float threw soft little pillows into the crowds. Marion caught one and found that it was scented with a delicate perfume and was meant to go inside her pillow case for a fragrant night’s sleep. She thought that was a wonderful idea and made up her mind to see if she could buy a box of those later, too.

Samples of perfumes in plastic bubbles that burst when they touched anything solid were thrown about all through the parade. Marion found herself covered in different exotic scents. Everyone was, and there was no distinction between male perfumes and female. There wouldn’t be on Haolstrom, of course, home of the Gendermorph species. Kristoph and Remonte both commented that it didn’t do much for their dignity as Time Lords, but Marion giggled and said that their straw boaters already ruined that dignity.

There were more marching bands and lots more dancers and acrobats, and more colourful floats and decorated cars. Marion was almost sorry when it came close to the end. But then Hillary told her to hang on to Rodan, and the VIPs from the grandstand were ushered down to a long, fantastic looking car capable of carrying at least twenty people. It was covered in flowers, of course, and when they sat in it and followed the end of the parade through the streets, they were showered with real and artificial rose petals that were thrown from the high windows. Behind them, the ordinary people who had lined the streets followed, petals covering them until they looked as if they were in a fragrant snowstorm.

The parade ended in a wide parkland in the middle of the city, something like Central Park in New York, Marion thought as she looked at the tall buildings that could be seen above the trees. The park had been turned into a festival venue with roped off arenas where the dancers and the bands competed for prizes through the afternoon, and an area where the floats were all lined up to be judged and awarded trophies. There was a fairground with rides, brightly lit and inviting, and sideshows. There were stalls where Marion bought many boxes of flower shaped sweets and a whole year’s supply of the fragrant pillows, and several bottles of the exquisite perfumes that she planned to give as gifts to her friends on Gallifrey.

“I married a shopaholic,” Kristoph complained good naturedly as it fell to him to carry most of her purchases. But he didn’t mind. She was smiling. All the ladies were smiling. Remonte and Rika had gone through the same anxieties as they all had on Gallifrey. But now everyone seemed well on the way to recovering their spirits.

As night fell, the park became a grotto of coloured lights, bonfires and firework displays. But by then there were three tired children for whom the noise and the crowds were beginning to pall. Hillary brought everyone back to her town apartment, which happened to be the penthouse of one of those tall buildings overlooking the park. With the little ones tucked up in bed, the adults stood on the balcony, sipping brandies and watching the continued celebrations. Lily and Li forgot about the fireworks and concentrated on each other after a while. So did the other two couples. Hillary, who was a couple all by herself, smiled happily to see her friends spiritually renewed and enriched by the pleasant day.