An Unexpected Guest – An Xmas Short Story

 

Again, I drive my spade into the frozen ground. Tiny rockets of pain shoot through my wrists, up into my shoulders. Tears spring to my eyes and I tell myself it’s frustration, pain, anything but this horrible sense of missing you. I drop to my knees, the coldness seeping through my jeans, and I burrow at the earth with my gloved fingers but the mud is as solid as the gold band I still wear on my wedding finger. I look up at the fir tree, branches dusted with snow and my heart aches. We’d brought this tree inside every single Christmas eve; you were big on traditions. Mulled wine warmed on the stove, the house smelling of cinnamon and cloves, as you’d heft the tree into its usual place, standing tall and proud in the dining room. You’d twist lights around its middle – a man’s job – you’d say, and then I’d hang baubles and candy canes. Three tiny felt stockings for the children we’d longed for but were never blessed with. Now you’re gone too. Loneliness wraps itself around me like a second skin. I raise my eyes to the flat, white sky and scream out my frustration, my breath billowing in front of me like a cloud. I wonder if you’re looking down. I like to think you are.

Despite my protestations, my sister’s coming for Christmas dinner this year. We’re going to have roast beef the way we always had growing up. Dad was a butcher and always insisted on something ‘with a bit of blood in it.’ You’d been horrified. ‘It must be turkey. It’s traditional.’ I still feel fragile. Raw. It’s too soon for snapping crackers and flaming puddings, carols about peace and goodwill to all men, but ‘it is the season for families,’ my sister insisted. She’s bringing Sophie my niece. ‘It will be odd without Dan at the table.’ She had said. Grief shimmering in her eyes. She adored you, as did Sophie and you were so good with her. Every visit I got a glimpse of the father you could have been and a painful lump rose in my chest.

Sometimes I’d pretend Sophie was ours. She had the same colouring as you. You’d stretch in front of the open fire, her cradled in your lap, reading stories about big bad wolves and too-hot porridge, heads bent, blonde hair glimmering as the flames crackled and hissed. She could almost have been ours I thought as I toasted pink marshmallows brown. Almost.

Except she isn’t ours.

She is yours though.

I still remember the heart wrenching pain when you’d told me you were leaving me for my sister. I still remember the weight of the iron in my hand. The sizzle as it hit your face. The sickening crack as your head hit the flagstone floor. I do hope the blood doesn’t stain.

I’d told everyone you’d run off with your secretary. I almost felt sorry for my poor sister as I watched confusion, disappointment, anger slide across her perfect, perfect face. She believed me. Why wouldn’t she? After all I’m not the liar here.

I sit back on my heels. It’s no good. I can’t indent the earth at all, let alone dig a hole big enough to bury you in. No matter. I’ve a batch of pastry resting in the fridge and mince pies were traditionally made of meat weren’t they? You’d appreciate the tradition. I’ll get dad’s old mincer out of the garage.

You’ll be joining us at the dinner table after all, darling.

 

Thanks so much for reading, reviewing and recommending my books this year. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. See you next year. Louise x

 

 

‘An Unexpected Guest’ recently appeared on Portobello Book Blogs 12 Days of Christmas feature. You can hop over and read the other short stories from various writers here.

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The one thing I loathe about Christmas has taught me this…

There are rolls of sparkly wrapping paper stacked in the corner of my bedroom, a bag of silver bows, shiny red tags. Today, the first of the gifts I ordered from Amazon arrived and I had a fleeting thought I should wrap up the presents as I buy them, before dismissing it instantly. It’s my least favourite job. There’s never enough room cramped around the table and my back screams with pain if I’m hunched on the floor. No matter how careful I am, I can never, ever, locate the end of the Sellotape and making anything beyond a square shape look enticing is far outside my very limited capabilities.

With a sinking feeling, I totted up the amount of presents I’ve yet to buy, calculating the amount I’ll have to wrap, until a slow and sickening dawning crept over me.

Yet again, there will be less under the tree than last year.

The children are older, two of them adults now, and the enormous pile of plastic, noisy, toys we used to accumulate are long gone. Instead, a sleek gift-wrapped gadget or two will replace all the smaller, cheaper presents, they’d shake and sniff, hazarding wild guesses before excitedly tearing off the paper to see if they were right.

It’s not only my growing family responsible for diminishing the pile of presents under our tree, there’s the inevitable, heart-wrenching loss we’ve experienced. One less person to buy for. One empty space at our dining table. One less cracker to pull. And suddenly having lots to wrap doesn’t feel like the worst thing, having nothing to wrap does.

Tonight I shall pour a glass of red wine before sliding off the plastic coating from my rolls of paper and think how grateful I am to still have people I love to buy gifts for, and the money to buy them, and you never know, my most loathed job, might just become my favourite.

Tis the season to be… #Flashfiction

Image © Marie Gail Stratford

 

Ten. Nine.

I love Jen.

Eight. Seven.

We’ve been friends forever. First day at preschool. First love. First kiss. First loss.

Six. Five.

Now we’ve children of our own.

Four. Three.

But today there’s tension between us as we shuffle impatiently in the queue. She smiles, her teeth pointed and white. Nudges me with her sharp elbow.

‘Look.’ She nods behind me.

Stupidly I turn.

Two. One.

Too late, I miss the doors flinging open. Jen racing inside. Triumphant, she raises this Christmas’s must have toy over her head. I’m only seconds behind but the shelf is already empty.

I hate Jen.

 

I’ve really missed participating in Friday Fictioneers these past few weeks – it’s the first time in years I haven’t taken part but I’m (trying) to focus on nailing the first draft of my fourth psychological thriller which is due out next summer. I couldn’t resist joining in today though. I popped out on Monday for a pint of milk and came back with a Santa dog toy, a tub of Quality Street & a bottle of Bailey’s. The Christmas madness has started!

‘Tis the season’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge inspired by a photo prompt, hosted by Rochelle. Hop over to her blog to read the other entries or join in yourself.

 

Twas the night before Christmas

santa-sleigh_1780995c

 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Written by Clement Moore

 

Wishing all my fellow bloggers a very Merry Christmas.