A short story for the festive season – completely fiction…
A Christmas Story of our Time
My daughter Dani arrives via the backdoor just as I’m putting my feet up with the first coffee of the day. And as always begins her incessant monologue of telling me what to do.
“Dad, I can’t stop long, I’ve bought you a few bits from the shops.”
She plonks a Salisbury’s bag on the kitchen table.
“You can pay me later. Milk, butter, the usual things you forget since you’ve been living alone.”
I open my mouth to say something but she just roller-coasts along.
“Anyhow, I’m off to get Evie from pre-school. They’ve been working on advent activities and today she’s making the Christmas fairy. She insists it will be for the top of your tree. We’ve got one at home. So…” she pauses for breath and looks at me. “So… I thought while I’m gone, you could look out the old tree from the garage and I promised her you’d find the little wooden decorations we used when I was young.”
Finally, she stops.
Slowly I take a sip of my coffee.
“I’m not sure where they will be Dani. Probably right at the back of hoards of junk. Does she really need them?”
“Ah c’mon Dad. Don’t be a grinch. She’s four years old. Christmas is magical at that age. Give it a go for your granddaughter. Then once we’ve sorted the decorations Evie and I will be off to see Mum. Why don’t you come this time?”
Immediately I get up and busy myself. Enough talk of her blasted Mother.
“Right then Dani, I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
I leave her standing in the kitchen as I head through the extension door towards the garage.
The air is freezing so I put on the little gas heater in the corner. Still got a full canister of fuel. I hear the sound of Dani’s car starting up and sigh. I would quite happily forget about Christmas but I suppose that wouldn’t really be fair on little Evie.
Immediately I spy the speckled green tree and take it through to the living room. Returning I begin the arduous task of sorting though the junk. Eventually I find a small cloth bag with the ancient tree decorations and… what’s that behind? An old bucket. More like a pail really. They were solid in the olden days. I could do with one to house the mop. Just as I grab it I have a memory flash back which leads me to look into the bottom of the pail. My eyes fill with tears and I sharply catch my breath.
Turning off the heater I retreat to the living room with the cloth bag and the bucket. Paying no mind to the clock telling me it is only half eleven in the morning I pour a small brandy and in one gulp swallow it down. My body’s displaying signs of shock but I can’t turn back now. Reaching in the bucket I take hold of the envelope and pull out the contents, knowing it has never been removed since the day we sealed it. The list-in-a-bucket idea was my wife’s. In fact, I can almost hear her voice as if she is in the room.
“Well Ron, the best place for a bucket list is… in… the bucket.”
Fiona giggled at her pun then rubbed her baby bump. In only a few months our daughter Dani would be born and we both felt the list should retire, at least for a few years. And, of course, we never had time to return to it once we had a child. But our lives seemed full, of Dani and joy, until a year and a half ago when Fiona… well she broke my heart when she… well… she left me.
Enough of that. I have to face the list. It’s been a big part of my life with Fee.
It was created when we returned from our honeymoon. How time flies. Thirty-five years ago. My wife was younger than Dani is now and I was only twenty nine. Falling through the door we made love in this very room. I can still visualise her laying on the floor, red hair splayed out like a halo around her head. After, I put the kettle on and she grabbed paper and pen.
“I don’t care about flash cars and houses. I like our home and love you. Lets use our money to have grand holidays and make special memories together. Time for the bucket list, Ron. I’ll start it.”
Sitting down I kissed her cheek. She slipped one arm around my waist and began to write, the pad perched on her lap.
She included a few countries we had talked of visiting. Greece, Italy and Canada.
(Of course two of these had been ticked. Santorini was a dream come true and we’d made it to Sorento, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. There had been plans for Canada but we found out Fee was pregnant. Money became a little tight so we postponed it indefinitely.)
“It’s important we have simple entries on the list too. You know like sexy ones.” She had smiled and her eyes sparkled with hope as she wrote –
Make love outside on a summer evening under the stars.
One look at the large, bold tick took me back to that memorable night. The summer was hot – 1976. We drove out to the Kent countryside and camped for the night. It was so balmy there was no need for a tent.
Fee ran around singing at the top of her voice teasing me as she stripped off her clothes, and then we fell on top of our open sleeping bags kissing. Long and deep. Sitting up I caressed her moonlit body. Stroking across her mound, the hair shimming like silken gold. She pushed against my palm and my fingers slipped into her. Seeing her writhe against my hand was too much and I replaced it with my cock. Grinding down hard. Nature took hold and we fucked like animals. Her nails digging and gashing my back, my hips and mouth pinning her to the ground. We came together and I melted into her as we lay and dozed until a breeze had us zipping up the sleeping bag and cuddling until the morning.
And the next tick was right next to my “sexy” suggestion. She was to be waiting for me one night after work dressed like a lusty secretary in tight skirt, stockings and heels. And then all evening my wish would be her command. Oh goodness, she carried it off like a dream and ended up naked, laying across my desk for me to take as I pleased.
But, if I remember rightly, the evening started with a rather amusing hitch. I was held up at work and the plumber who had been due the previous day rang the bell. Thinking it was me Fee opened the door, half hiding behind it, and requested,
“Come in big boy. I’m dressed to thrill and won’t disappoint.”
He walked in, their eyes met and apparently his nearly jumped out on stalks as she stammered an apology.
“No, no,” he laughed. “I can assure you the thrill is all mine. As much as I’d like to stay, I don’t think it’s me you’re waiting for.”
He made another appointment and left. When I came through the door an hour later my poor love was still blushing.
Looking down the list at some of the other ticks I realise how many simple pleasures had indeed come our way. The bucket list had been a great idea.
Since she left I hadn’t dared let myself reminisce. I feared my old heart could not bear it. But the memories filling my head now are vibrant and happy. I smile, until I see the last un-ticked note in Fiona’s handwriting.
Stay together, forever.
My head falls forward and my breathing is shallow. Why did she have to leave me? Tears smart my eyes and I don’t notice the door open.
“Grandaddy! Look – fairy. Made her today. Special, like you.” Evie throws herself on my lap and I pull her close. Such a precious child. “Mummy is making lunch before we go see Grannie.”
I can hear Dani in the kitchen. Taking a deep breath I wipe my face with my sleeve and turn to Evie.
“How about we decorate the tree Evie? I have your Mummy’s wooden decorations.”
Within moments the floor is littered with bits. Old and new. My soul is full of sadness, love and delight. Tangled and woven together – the threads of my life.
We sit, eat sandwiches and watch as the tree becomes a colorful mass of Evie’s creation.
Dani gets to her feet, looking so like her mother did at that age. I’m waiting for the question.
“Dad… We’re going to see Mum now. Why don’t you come?”
I reach out and hug her. The tears begin to stream down my face. I’m starting to accept my wife has gone. And though I know I will always miss Fee, I am not too old to live a life without her. Maybe in a while write my own bucket list – things to as I get older. It’s also what she would want.
“Yes…yes it’s about time I came to visit.”
Evie shouts out in a shrill little voice. “I have saved two wooden decorations for Grannie’s grave. Put em in my pocket and we can hang one each.”
Her warm, sweaty child’s hand takes hold of mine and as we walk through the door I’m no longer crying.
Written December 2019 – updated for 2020
Here is another Christmas tale to wet your festive appetite…