Dave’s Miracle on 34th Street – Part 2

Look, everybody, it’s the conclusion of Dave’s Miracle on 34th Street!!

He was three days into his stint as Santa, and actually enjoying it when his whole charade came crashing around him. To his horror, who should come in than Donna?! She was in town with her sister and four year old niece that Dave had heard Annabel talk about but never met, and they decided to come and see Santa. Somehow, despite his beard and cushion padded coat, Donna noticed something familiar. Maybe it was the voice, or the eyes, Dave wasn’t sure. But when Donna walked past him, she pulled his beard down and laughed scornfully. The Head Elf came rushing up to prevent any further problems and asked “Chris” if he was alright. Dave nodded and was almost in the clear when Donna stopped and asked who “Chris” was, as this Santa was called Dave.

One thing led to another and before long, Dave was carted off to the Police Station with Donna shouting behind him that he was never going to see Annabel ever again. From there, rather than accept he was in the wrong, he decided, inexplicably to try and keep up the pretence that he was Chris Cringle, and so despite his personal ID clearly showing him as Dave, and him assuring everyone he was Chris, he was sent off to the Mental Health ward of the local hospital.

Now, his reverie was interrupted by a visit from a solicitor who introduced himself as Fred and was aiming to get Dave released in time for Christmas. Dave thanked him, but declined the assistance. Fred refused to leave and explained that he had been appointed by Dave’s parents on behalf of Annabel. Dave looked surprised. Fred went on to explain that the people who owned the Shopping Centre had also stepped in to defend Dave in the face of some pretty vociferous complaints from parents. Galvanised, Dave agreed to accept the legal help so he could get out of there for Christmas.

Things moved very quickly (even though it was Christmas, this is a work of entire fiction, so realism has to be suspended), and Dave made his way to court for a hearing in front of the judge. Judge Jeffreys was a descendent of another Judge Jeffreys who had been a bit of a twat back in the 17th Century, and as Dave sat before him with Fred sat beside him, he figured that this guy was also going to be quite twattish. His fears were confirmed as a string of witnesses came forward to accuse Dave of taking advantage of their children by dressing up as Santa to get them sat on his knee like a weird pervert. The Judge sighed and made various notes. Then came the surprise appearance of the drunken Santa who accused Dave of spiking his coffee with drugs to render him unconscious so that he – Dave – could take his place and get access to the children. Even Fred’s questioning failed to mitigate the apparent damage done. As the first day drew to a close, Dave was resigned to spending Christmas either in jail as a convicted kiddie-fiddler, or in a mental institution for claiming he was really Santa Claus.

The second day – Christmas Eve – began with Fred calling forward witnesses for the Defence. First up was the French lady and her child. The child sat in the dock with her mother, and through an independent translator, told everyone how Dave had put her at ease and made her feel less frightened. Then came the Managing Director of the Shopping Centre who categorically confirmed that drunken Santa was actually allergic to coffee, and had been seen staggering into the lingerie section with a bottle of vodka in his mittens. Finally, to his complete surprise, Donna and Annabel took the stand. Donna looked ashamed and refused to meet Dave’s eyes. Under Fred’s questioning, Donna admitted that Dave had been a good father to Annabel both before, during and after the break up of their relationship, and had never shown any indication of being a weirdo. Then Annabel told the courtroom how, when she was smaller, Dave had always dressed up as Santa on Christmas Eve to put the presents out under the tree.

Finally, it was Dave’s turn in the witness box. Fred asked him his name. Dave confirmed he was, in fact, called Dave, not Chris Cringle.

Then Dave explained: The hardest thing about admitting this was that he wasn’t going to be Santa any more. He still loved being Santa. He was treated like a hero with a heart. He had it all for the taking. The parents, the children, they came along for the ride. At home, he was lonely. He had his PlayStation, and his records, but he wasn’t happy. Once the novelty of FIFA or Madden had worn off, he could come and play Santa again, and it was all good again. It didn’t matter. He was making people happy, and now it was all over.

And now, he had to go back to being just Dave. He picked up Annabel and, along with Fred and Dave’s parents beside him he walked out of the courtroom to freedom. Outside the court, there was a mulled wine stand. Dave, feeling festive once more, bought a cup and took a sip. It tasted like warm Ribena and glue. Dave sighed and realised he was going to live like a schnook.

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Dave’s Miracle on 34th Street – Part 1

A lot of trouble comes from overdoing it on the beer. That’s the conclusion Dave came to as he sat in the mental health ward in the hospital. He sat by the window, looking out at all the people rushing past as they probably went about their Christmas shopping. It was two days before Christmas Eve and Dave still had his shopping to do. As he looked outside longingly, it started to snow, and Dave reflected on how he got there…

There was a week until Christmas Day, and Dave was trying desperately to find suitable presents for his fourteen year old daughter. Since he was now a part-time parent, he had to pull out the stops, or at least felt he had to, to ensure he got Annabel something better than Donna did. Which is why he was rushing hurriedly towards the department store. As he made his way through the throngs of shoppers, all who seemed intent on getting in his way, Dave came to a Santa’s Grotto. The queue was ridiculously long, and Dave was thankful he’d passed that now his daughter was a teenager that knew she only got her presents because her parents went out into the madness to buy them for her.

Dave, who had popped to the pub for a pre-shopping drink or three, was now walking past the hoards of impatient kids and their exasperated parents, smiling a little smugly. The entrance to the grotto was directly opposite the entrance to the department store, and Dave could see some frantic-looking elves in a whispered conference. On a sign, it read “Back in 10 minutes”, and Dave heard a frustrated child ask their parent if it had been ten minutes yet, to which the parent muttered it had been more like thirty minutes. Dave went into the store and headed for the women’s section, and in particular the girls bit. He came off the escalator and was confronted with rows and rows of lingerie. He looked hopefully for a sign for the girls clothes and, to his relief, spotted it. He made his way through the frilly knickers and lacy bras, not looking too closely at them for fear of being branded a dirty pervert by any passing woman. Looking at either his feet or the floor, Dave suddenly tripped over a pair of black boots. Picking himself up, he followed the boots to find a sleeping Santa with a pair of lacy knickers draped over his face. Tutting scornfully, Dave picked himself up, dusted himself off and went about his business.

Eventually, with a shopping bag filled with pyjamas, a dressing gown and some bath smellies (chosen after a slightly panicked phone call with his mother), Dave was finished. He made his way out, and noticed the black boots were still where he had fallen over them. As he left the store, he could see the elves trying to ward off the angry parents who were now starting to turn confrontational. Dave sidled up to one of the elves and informed him that Santa was currently flat out in the lingerie section.

And this is where the alcohol began to cloud the synapses. Rather than carry on home, a little voice in his head told him that he could make a good Santa Claus. And so, he offered his services to the Elf, who looked dubiously at him, then at the crowd, and back at Dave. The Elf nodded and hustled Dave around the back. Luckily, there was a spare suit and Dave quickly got dressed, stuffing a pillow down the front of his coat for effect. Then he sat on the big chair, adjusted his fake beard and awaited the kids. One by one them came in, sat on his knee and regaled him with a list of crap they wanted for Christmas. Dave listened, nodded and smiled and then handed each child a generic wrapped parcel before waving them off. The last child was reluctant and hung back with her mother. Dave beckoned her forward, but she shook her head. The mother stepped forward and, in a strong French accent explained that they were from France and the child didn’t really know much English. Dave laughed and then explained, in perfect French, that he was not scary, and was harmless.

After the elves had closed up the grotto for the day, Dave was thanked profusely. The Head Elf came to tell him that the other pissed up Santa had been sacked, and would he – Dave – be willing to do the job? Still high from good vibes and the beer, Dave nodded and gave a name and number to the elf.

Dave heard nothing more until two days later, when he got a phone call asking for Chris Cringle. He was momentarily stumped and was about to hang up when something triggered the memory in the back of his mind. Embarrassed, Dave started to explain that it was all a mistake, and he’d been a little drunk, but then he started to see newspaper headlines floating around his mind – “Drunken man takes advantage of children” and “Santa’s Grotty” as well as “The Pervert who would be Santa” and “French immigrant children stealing British presents” (The Daily Mail). Reluctantly, Dave accepted the job and promised to return.

Come back next week for the conclusion…

Mother’s Day

Stan owed his mum big time. She’d always been there for him – when he had his heart broken by a girl for the first time, and for the tenth time. And all eight occasions in between. She never said “I told you so”, she just comforted him and made him cups of coffee and brought him cake. She had been there when he finally found ‘Miss Wright’ and he remembered her beaming with pride on his wedding day, and the big hug she’d given him at the end of the night. He knew she’d been a little tipsy, because his mum wasn’t the hugging sort, but it meant a hell of a lot anyway. He remembered the little sobs of joy when he’d called her to announce the birth of Lenny, even if she didn’t entirely agree with the choice of name.

Now, Stan was driving back to his home town to visit his mum on Mother’s Day. Things were a little different now, his dad was gone, and his mum had moved into a residential home because she was struggling to adapt to life on her own. He pulled on to the car park and found a parking space. He retrieved the flowers from the back seat and walked up the long path to the main entrance. He was about to ask a petite little woman in a white tunic where to find her, when he heard his name being called. He turned to see his brother, Bobby hustling through the door, a box of Milk Tray tucked under his arm.

“Stan, I’m glad I caught you first,” he said with a serious look on his face.

“Why?” Stan questioned him.

“Mum’s taken a turn for the worse since you were last here.”

“What do you mean?” Stan urged his brother.

“She’s not seeing things the same,” Bobby explained.

“Huh?”

“You’ll see, but I thought I’d pre-warn you,” Bobby patted him on the arm gently.

Together, they wandered down a corridor and Bobby came to a stop outside a door, with the number Thirteen on it, Stan looked at the number and wondered if this was an omen. His brother opened the door and ushered Stan in. He was not prepared for what he saw. His formerly strong-willed mother was sat in an armchair looking out of the window with a vacant look on her face.

“Hi mum,” Stan said, bending over to kiss her on the cheek.

“Get off,” she snapped, wiping her cheek with her hand, and then her hand on the arm of the chair.

“Hey mum,” Bobby greeted his mum.

“Oh, hello Robert,” his mum smiled. She leaned over to him and said not so quietly, “who’s that weirdo that slobbered over me?”

“That’s Stanley, your other son,” Bobby explained.

“What other son? I had a daughter, what happened to her?”

“No, mum,” Bobby smiled patiently, “you had two sons. Robert and Stanley.”

“Don’t lie to me!” she snapped. “I had a daughter. Her name was Jenny.”

“Wasn’t your sister called Jenny?” Stan offered.

“Shut up,” his mum yelled at him. “I know who was my sister, and who was my daughter.” She turned back to Bobby. “Tell this weirdo to get lost, will you?”

Bobby looked sadly at Stan. Stan felt like his heart had been taken out of his chest, kicked around by a load of hyper-active eight-year-olds and then stuffed back inside his body. He stood up and walked over to his mother. She leaned away from him, a look of disgust on her face.

“You may have forgotten me, mum,” Stan whispered tenderly, “but I’ll never forget you.”

With those words, he opened the door and stepped out into the corridor.

A Very Short Valentines Day Story

It was love at first sight. For him. For her, not so much. It took months of perseverance, badgering and borderline stalking before Jeanie finally agreed to a date with him. He tried to make it a first date to remember, taking her to a nice restaurant for a romantic candle-lit dinner, with wine and good food. Then, afterwards, a romantic walk down by the river on the way back to her place. He tried to get a good-night kiss out of her, but she wouldn’t. He settled for a peck on the cheek and the hope of a second date.

He gave it a couple of days before calling her again. He tried, but the number was not obtainable. He went round to her home, but the place was empty. Almost as if she’d never been there. Confused and feeling lonely, he wandered down by the river. He looked at the fast flowing water, and felt it beckoning him in. Without another thought, he felt himself enveloped by a cold wetness. As he was carried away by the torrent, he thought he heard his name. Just before he sank below the surface, he thought he saw Jeanie standing on the river bank.

The Dark Side of Christmas

For all the happy Christmases out there, unfortunately, there will be some people who aren’t so lucky. This is a story for those people…

Charlie sat down with Lorna in front of the television. The kids were in bed, and it was grown-up time. The coffee table was littered with empty mince pie cases and the open box of Celebrations was almost empty. He put his arm around her and pulled her in close.

“Have you eaten all those mince pies tonight?”

“Not all of them, no,” Lorna laughed, snuggling up to him. Charlie smelled her coconut-infused shampoo and felt hungry.

“I should hope not,” he murmured.

“What does that mean?” Lorna wondered.

“Well,” Charlie shrugged, playfully poking her midriff. “Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean you have to eat for the sake of it. I’m just saying.”

“Okay, okay,” Lorna shifted slightly. “I’ll go easy.”

“Cool.”

Lorna sat up and looked at Charlie.

“Shall I pop upstairs and slip into something a little more comfortable, and even more revealing?” She smiled and winked at him. Charlie looked at her and felt something stirring.

“God, yeah,” he grinned. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Lorna chuckled and gave his groin a gentle grope. He watched her tiptoe sexily up the stairs.

“I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come,” she licked her lips and winked. Charlie nodded and stood up to clear the table of rubbish and crumbs. He took it into the kitchen and stuffed it into the bin. He went upstairs and hovered outside the bedroom window. From inside he heard Lorna shuffling around, so he coughed gently.

“A few more minutes,” came the call. Charlie nodded, and nipped into the bathroom for a wee. After washing his hands and cleaning his teeth, he checked on Dan and Kelly – who were both fast asleep – and as he approached the bedroom door, he heard Lorna’s voice bid him enter. He took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Lorna lay on the bed, resplendent in a red basque with suspenders and black sheer stockings. Charlie grinned with a sex-hungry leer. He joined her on the bed and soon they were touching and kissing each other.

Later, as they lay naked in bed, Charlie was watching the football highlights on television. Lorna was snuggled up to him, her head resting on his chest. She raised her head and turned to look at him.

“Is everything alright?”

“Sure, why?” Charlie replied distractedly, his focus still firmly on the football.

“I don’t know,” she hesitated, “I just got the sense you weren’t ‘feeling it’ tonight.”

“Why’s that?” Charlie muttered.

“There wasn’t the same passion as usual,” Lorna pointed out.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” Charlie rolled his eyes. But she was right. He hadn’t quite felt the same tonight. He was on the horns of a dilemma. Should he be honest?

“Well, there’s a bit more of you to love these days.” He went for honesty. Brutal honesty.

“Huh?” Lorna looked at him confused.

“Well, you know, there’s a bit more Lorna to get to grips with this year.” He smiled and grabbed hold of her waist. “And as much as that basque is sexy, your little tummy sticking out takes away a little bit of the appeal.”

Lorna looked at him, confused, but now a little hurt.

“I’m sorry, I guess,” she stuttered. “I’ll try and lose some weight.”

Charlie nodded and smiled at her. He patted her shoulder and returned his attention to the football.

Lorna turned away and picked up her mobile phone. She was typing away with her fingers and thumbs and Charlie was distracted by the tapping.

“Can’t you turn off the key sounds? The tap-tap-tapping really gets on my wick.” Charlie snapped. “Who are you texting at this time of night anyway?”

“It’s only Carla,” Lorna told him.

“God,” Charlie rolled his eyes. “She’s such a two-faced cow.”

“What makes you say that?” Lorna wondered, her phone resting absent-mindedly in her palm.

“Well, the other day she was round, and I get the impression she doesn’t like your parenting.”

“Why? Lorna sat up and looked at him. There was a definite change in her demeanour. “What did she say?”

“Well,” Charlie sucked air through his teeth, “when you were giving Kelly that bottle of Coke, she said it wasn’t the sort of drink to give a six-year-old.” He looked at Lorna and tried to ignore her naked chest and concentrate on her face.

“She said that?” Lorna looked crestfallen.

“Yeah,” Charlie nodded. “Not just that. I’m pretty sure she tried to come on to me.”

“Yeah, right,” Lorna scoffed.

“Seriously. She groped my bum more than once in the pub last night.”

Lorna flung the duvet back and got up. She went over to the television and switched it off. She stood there, completely naked, hands on her hips, with a stern look on her face.

“This is not a joke,” she told him firmly.

“I’m not joking,” Charlie said.

“Right,” Lorna walked opened a drawer and pulled out a nightie. She put it on and came back to the bed. She snatched up her mobile phone and went downstairs. Charlie put his arms behind his back and sat back with his eyes closed. Carla was such a bore, and he hoped this would be the end of her.

The next morning was Christmas Eve. Charlie woke to find Lorna already up. He went downstairs and found her in the kitchen making breakfast. There was a plate of pancakes and croissants on the counter-top. Charlie picked up a pancake and popped it into his mouth. He stood behind her and reached his arms round her waist. He mockingly pretended that he couldn’t reach all the way round, resting his chin on her shoulder. Her skin felt wet, so Charlie stood up and turned her round to face him. Her face was blotchy and puffy round the eyes.

“What’s up?” He asked soothingly.

“Carla.” That was all she said.

“What about her?”

“I’m done with her.”

“How come?”

“She basically told me that you were turning me against her, and it was you that tried it on with her the other night.”

“Wow, what a lying bitch,” Charlie sneered. Inside his heart skipped a beat, and his stomach lurched a little. He knew that it was him that had tried to push his hand up her skirt at the bar while Lorna and Carla’s husband Tom sat at the table. He also knew that it was him who had basically told Carla that he was bored with Lorna, and wanted some excitement in his life. But he knew that driving a wedge between the two friends would only work in his favour. Lorna reached into her dressing-gown pocket and took her phone out, holding it out to him.

“Do you want to see what other rubbish she accused you of?”

Charlie looked into her eyes and summoned up all the emotion he could. “No,” he said, his voice strained with the forced emotion. “I don’t need to. I can see what it’s done to you.” He took the phone off her and put it into his own pocket. Before they could continue the conversation, there was a stomping of feet on the stairs and he could hear Dan and Kelly rushing through the lounge into the kitchen. In the hubbub, he snuck into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. He closed the toilet seat and sat down. He took out Lorna’s phone and quietly read through her text messages. Apart from Carla, there were some from her dad – boring father/daughter stuff; a few from her various work colleagues – again, work-related and boring. He then poked around her Facebook and Instagram apps. Checking out who had liked her posts, and then looking up these people. Mostly her friends and family. He then happened to look at her Snapchat. He didn’t even know she used Snapchat. He couldn’t really see much, but he was about to give up when there was an Instagram notification. Someone had liked a picture she had posted of the breakfast plate. He snooped on to the fella’s own profile. By the looks of it, he had been following Lorna for a while. Longer than he’d known her, in fact. It looked harmless enough. This guy was married and had his own family, but something about him made Charlie feel uneasy. With a quick tap, he ‘blocked’ this guy, so he couldn’t follow Lorna any more. He put the phone back in his pocket and returned to the family.

Once breakfast was done, Lorna took the kids out to see her dad, while Charlie stayed at home to wrap some last minute presents. He was busy wrapping when he felt a buzz in his trouser pocket. He reached in and pulled out Lorna’s phone. It was a message from Carla. He opened it up and read the message. It told Lorna that Charlie was bad news and she was better off without him. Charlie calmly deleted the message, and then scrolled through Lorna’s address book for Tom’s number. He then took out his own phone and typed a message to Tom, telling him that Carla had propositioned him more than once. Feeling satisfied, he returned to his wrapping.

Charlie was finishing the washing up, when Lorna’s phone buzzed again. He dried his hands and saw another message from Carla. This one was angry and confrontational. And it was good news. It told Lorna that as long as she was with Charlie, they wouldn’t be friends. With a smile, Charlie deleted the message and put the phone on the side. He returned to the washing up and whistled a happy tune.

It was late when Lorna returned with the kids. Charlie snatched the door open and hustled them inside.

“Where have you been?”

“To my dad’s,” Lorna told him. “You know where I’ve been,”

“All this time?”

“Why? I didn’t know there was a time limit.” Lorna was exasperated.

“There isn’t,” Charlie shrugged. He handed Lorna’s phone to her. “You left this behind.”

She took it from him and smiled.

“By the way, who’s this William fella?”

“William?” Lorna stopped suddenly, one arm still in her coat.

“Yeah. William,” Charlie replied icily calm.

“Just someone on Instagram.”

“Oh, right,” Charlie bobbed his head as if he understood. “So, why is he worried about you?”

“I don’t know,” Lorna hesitated.

“Have you known him long?”

“A while, I suppose.” Lorna shrugged dismissively.

“Longer than you’ve known me?” Charlie asked her.

“Probably, why?”

“No reason,” Charlie lied.

“No, come on,” Lorna pressed. “What’s up?”

“Well, it feels like all the sacrifices I make are for nothing.”

Lorna looked at him with a look of absolute confusion. “What sacrifices?”

“I sold my flat to move in here with you. I changed jobs so I could spend more time with you and less time on the road.”

“I thought you did it for love,” Lorna told him, her coat now fully off and being hung up.

“Love,” Charlie scoffed. “If you think so.”

Lorna looked at him with surprise.

“If you think looking after your children is something I do for love, then you are mistaken.”

Lorna leant against the radiator. She quickly pulled her hand away after realising how hot it was.

“Why are you saying this?”

“Because I’m sick of this relationship being one-way. I’m sick of your lies.”

Lorna pushed past him and went into the kitchen. Charlie followed her and found her opening another box of mince pies.

“I thought you were going to leave the food alone?” He sneered.

“Shut up,” Lorna cried. Her eyes looked up at the ceiling.

“Don’t talk to me like that,” Charlie snapped. He followed her gaze. “The kids are busy, they can’t hear us. Now I want to know about William.”

“There’s nothing to know,” Lorna assured him. Charlie moved closer, and she took a step back.

“Are you sure?” Charlie pressed closer.

“Yes!”

“Well then, tell him to go away. He’s been sending you messages.”

Lorna took her phone and looked at it. Charlie stared at her expectantly. He watched as she quietly typed out a message and then put the phone away. He moved closer and put his arm around her.

“You know it makes sense.” Charlie soothed her. “Fancy a Christmas Eve drink?”

Lorna nodded and followed him into the lounge. She sat on the sofa and watched as Charlie poured out two glasses of wine. He handed one to Lorna and raised a glass to toast.

The kids were in bed, and the presents were under the tree. Charlie and Lorna were sat watching a sanitised for TV version of a stand up comedy show, and every now and then, Lorna would check her phone. After three or four instances, Charlie’s patience ran out.

“Who is that?”

“Nobody,” Lorna told him.

“Nobody seems quite persistant.” He reached over and snatched the phone from Lorna’s hand. He read the phone, while pushing Lorna’s arm away. It was William. “I thought you told him to leave you alone?”

“I did, honest,” Lorna assured him.

“Well he’s not getting the message, is he?”

“I can’t help that.”

“Turn your phone off.” Charlie held down the power switch and flung the phone away. Lorna winced as it landed on the hard floor with a crack. She stood up to retrieve it, but Charlie put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her back down. “Leave it.”

“But-”

“I said, leave it,” Charlie dug his fingers into her shoulder.

“Ow,” Lorna yelped, “you’re hurting me. Stop it, you’re scaring me!”

“I’m scaring you?” Charlie sounded incredulous. “I haven’t even started.”

Lorna pushed his arm away, and hurriedly stood up. She went over to get her phone.

“If you turn that phone on, we’re done,” Charlie threatened her. She fixed him with a stern look and switched her phone on.

“I guess we’re done then.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? On Christmas Eve?”

“I don’t care. Get out.” There was an unusual tone to her voice. It was probably determination. Charlie stood up slowly and walked over to her. He raised his hand as if to strike her and stopped. Lorna was holding her phone screen towards him. She had dialled ‘999’ and her finger was hovering over the ‘call’ button. Charlie laughed and punched the phone out of her hand. He felt a searing pain in his knuckles and pulled his hand back to see lines of blood. The phone had been sent spinning under the dining table. Lorna took a step back, the determination replaced with genuine fear.

“You’re not even worth it,” he sneered. “Look at you, who would want you?”

“Please, get out of my house,” she whispered.

“With pleasure. You call me when you come to your senses.” Charlie calmly picked up his jacket and car keys and opened the front door. “Happy Christmas, you pathetic cow.” He slammed the door shut behind him and drove off.

Charlie spent Christmas with his parents, waiting for Lorna to come to her senses. Three days later, he got the call he was expecting.

“I’m sorry,” Lorna told him. “Please come home.”

“If that’s what you really want,” Charlie agreed, smiling to himself smugly. He hopped in the car and drove back to Lorna’s house.

He arrived to see a strange car on the drive. He went up to the front door and was about to simply open the door when he stopped. He rang the doorbell and waited to be welcomed back with open arms. He saw a shape coming to the front door and prepared himself for a heroes welcome. The door opened and Lorna stood there before him. Her face was pale and blotchy, her hair needed washing. She stood aside to allow him to enter. He bent over to kiss her, but she took another step back. Charlie shrugged.

“No kids?”

“They’re at my dad’s.”

“Some quality time together? Good thinking.”

“Thanks,” Lorna muttered quietly. Charlie noticed her eyes fixed on something behind him. He went to turn but before he could even get ninety degrees, there was a sharp pain between his shoulder blades. He staggered, completing the semi-circle and was met with a strangely familiar male face staring at him with steely determination.

“Who the fuck are you?” Charlie groaned in agony.

“Hello, Charlie,” the face said. “I’m your worst nightmare. Goodbye, Charlie,” it finished, and there was a metallic glint before Charlie felt another sharp pain in his stomach, and then he blacked out.

Song Title Short Story #15

Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

“Pass me the tinsel?” Neil waved his hand in the general direction of the box of tinsel. Gemma grabbed a handful and thrust it into his hand. He took it and draped it around the tree. He stood back and marvelled at his tree decorating skills.

“Aren’t you decorating the other side?” Gemma asked him. She walked past him and turned the tree around to reveal the bare back-side. Neil shrugged in a ‘what am I like?’ way and sat back as Gemma proceeded to re-distribute the existing decorations and then add a few more. Once finished she joined Neil on the sofa and drained the last dregs of her wine. She shifted uncomfortably.

“What am I sitting on?” She lifted one bum cheek and pulled out three Christmas stockings. Neil took them off her and picked up some drawing pins off the coffee table. He tried to push them into the wood of the mantelpiece. He stood back and watched as all three fell back down again. Gemma laughed and got up to do the job properly, before heading out to the kitchen to refill her wine glass.

“Do you think it’ll snow?” Neil called out.

“Neil, it’s twelve degrees out there. What do you think?”

“Probably not then,” Neil shrugged.

“Have you got the camp bed down from the loft?”

Neil clapped his palm against his forehead. He cursed under his breath and stomped upstairs. He was sliding the ladder down when he heard Gemma hissing at him.

“Are you trying to wake the baby?”

Neil smiled an apology and finished sliding the ladder down as quietly as possible until he heard the reassuring click. He gently climbed up into the loft and retrieved the camp bed. He looked down and saw Gemma waiting under the hatch in readiness to receive it. He lowered it down into Gemma’s arms and then followed himself. Gemma carried the bed down the stairs, while Neil tiptoed downstairs past her into the kitchen. He was stood in the kitchen deliberating which beer to have when Gemma stormed in with a look of pure anger.

“It’s for your bloody parents we’re doing this! Why you had to invite them to stay in our two bedroom house I’ll never know. I love them, but we’re not exactly blessed with space since Carmela was born.”

“I don’t know, it was a spur of the moment thing. Dad doesn’t like travelling in the bad weather-”

“The weather isn’t bad. It’s going to be a nice day.” Gemma interrupted him.

“Well, you say that, but the weather forecast did say a cold snap was coming.”

Gemma rolled her eyes at him. Neil chose his beer and took off the cap and took the first swig straight from the bottle to prevent the beer from spilling out.

Later on, Neil put on his Santa hat and put all the Christmas presents under the tree before getting a kiss from Gemma under the mistletoe. They then went upstairs so that Gemma could put on her sexy Christmas nightie, and Neil could take it off again.

The next morning, Carmela made an attempt to enjoy having numerous wrapped presents in front of her face, while being photographed and videoed. Gemma was busy in the kitchen trying to get the turkey into the oven when the doorbell rang. Neil opened the door to his parents and, completely unexpected, his grandma. He welcomed them inside and took his dad aside.

“You didn’t say Grandma was coming.” He whispered.

“We didn’t know either. We had a call from the home saying she wanted to come to us for Christmas. What could I do?”

Neil gave his dad a panicked look and glanced nervously at the kitchen. His mum and grandma had already gone into the lounge and were fussing over Carmela. Neil took a deep breath and stepped into the kitchen. Gemma was obscured by steam which Neil wasn’t certain wasn’t emanating from her rather than the pans on the hob.

“Is there enough for one more?”

Gemma stalked towards him with a potato peeler in her hand, and a murderous look on her face.

“Who?”

“Grandma.”

“Fucks sake, Neil!”

“I know, I know.

“Fine, I can stretch it out to one more plate.”

“You’re an angel,” Neil kissed her and ducked out of the kitchen door. He returned to the lounge where his mum was playing with Carmela while dad was sitting on the sofa with Grandma.

“What’s this song called?” Grandma asked Neil.

“I think it’s Michael Buble,” Neil replied. He wasn’t sure. It was the Christmas album he’d bought for Gemma last year.

“Hmmm, he’s no Sinatra, is he?” Grandma sneered. Neil laughed.

“No Grandma.”

The song finished, and then Slade came on.

“Ooh, I like this one,” Grandma grinned. She tried to get up, but the sofa was so low, she couldn’t do it on her own. She settled for tapping her stick on the floor in time.

Gemma came through from the kitchen with a bottle of prosecco and five glasses.

“Drink anyone?”

“Lovely, thank you,” Neil’s mum smiled as Gemma poured her a glass.

“Just a small one for me,” Neil’s dad smiled. “I’ve got to take mum back to the home later.”

“Fill mine to the top,” Grandma chuckled. “It’s Christmas after all!”

Song Title Short Story #14

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

Bobby should have been looking forward to Christmas. His parents had been at loggerheads for weeks, to the extent that his dad had spent the last couple of nights away. Bobby didn’t understand, and his mum said nothing when he asked her. She would stand in the hallway with her arms crossed and watch her husband peel Bobby off his legs every night before giving him a goodnight kiss on the forehead and a ruffle of his hair, then going out into the darkness and driving off in his company car.

Now, Bobby was kneeling on his bed, looking out of his bedroom window into the night. The sky was dark, and the cloud looked heavy. He had seen the man on television earlier saying there was a chance of snow, and although his mum had groaned, Bobby knew this meant he could wake up in the morning to a real, non-imaginary white Christmas. He heard his mum shouting his name from downstairs.

“Bobby, have you got your pyjamas on yet? It’s half past eight!” Bobby was too busy looking up at the sky to reply. The next thing he knew, his mum was stood in the open doorway of his bedroom.

“Bobby!” She yelled at him. “When I ask you a question, I expect an acknowledgement of some sort.”

“Sorry, mum,” Bobby murmured, dragging his attention away from the outside and slowly undressing. “Do you think it will snow?”

“It might do,” she replied, moving over to the bed and helping Bobby out of his t-shirt. She craned her neck to look at the sky through the window. “Now hurry up and get your pyjamas on. If you want to put the food out for Santa and his reindeer, I suggest you pull your finger out.” Her face softened and she flattened his unruly hair.

Finally in his pyjamas, Bobby went downstairs to help his mum put some chocolate chip cookies and a carrot on a plate and a glass of milk on a tray. They left the tray on the coffee table and Bobby begged his mum to put the ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign in the front lawn. With a deep sigh, she flung a coat on and went outside. Bobby watched through the living room window as she plonked it into the firm soil. She looked over and Bobby gave her the thumbs up. Relieved, she came back inside and closed the door behind her.

Bobby was finally cajoled into bed, and his mum read him the now traditional ‘The Night Before Christmas’ book. She didn’t quite put the same effort in as his dad always had, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt for at least giving it a try. She gave him a good night kiss, warned him that Santa wouldn’t come if he was awake, and then turned the light off. Bobby lifted the corner of the curtain and had one last look at the sky. He thought he saw some snow flakes in the white glow of the street lamp.

Bobby woke up the next morning, and looked outside to see the ground covered with a generous layer of snow. He squealed with delight, and then remembered what day it was. He leapt out of bed and ran into his mum and dad’s room. He jumped onto the bed where his dad would have been, and shook his mum awake.

“It’s Christmas!!!!!” he yelled at the top of his voice. “Can I go downstairs mum, can I, can I?” He bounced up and down beside her. She nodded and was about to open her mouth to speak, but Bobby was already halfway down the stairs. By the time she joined her son, Bobby was sat in the midst of a pile of torn wrapping paper with a pile of toys stacked neatly at his side.

With the snow and the pile of presents, Bobby wondered if the day could get any better. And then, it did. He heard the sound of a car pulling onto the drive, crunching the snow. Then, a door slammed shut. A figure walked past the front window and then the doorbell rang. Bobby rushed to the door and fumbled the key into the front door. He managed to get it open and there stood his dad, covered in snow and a large wrapped present under his arm.

“Dad!!! Santa’s been and brought me loads of cool presents. Come and look.” His dad grinned and stepped inside. He held the present out for Bobby to take and then his face froze. His gaze was locked on something behind Bobby.

“Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Merry Christmas,” came his mum’s voice from behind him.

“Look, before you start-”

“I’m not starting anything,” his mum cut him off. “Want some coffee?”

“Sure,” his dad nodded.

“You go and sit with Bobby, I’ll bring it through.” Bobby watched his dad crack a smile and then he took his hand and dragged him into the living room to show him what Santa had brought.

Bobby didn’t really notice much of what was going on around him that day. He was busy playing with his toys, and gazing out at the snow through the window. He didn’t really like playing in the snow, it was cold and wet, and not his scene. But the one thing he could sense was the atmosphere. It wasn’t strained or unnatural, it was like it used to be.

However, when it came to bed time, Bobby knew what was coming. His dad would leave and he would be sad again. Bobby kept looking at the clock on the mantelpiece, expecting his dad to finally stand up to leave. And yet he didn’t. He sat in the armchair, his smiling face lit by the glow from the fire. Bobby looked across at his mum on the sofa. She had a glass of something red in her hand, and a box of yucky chocolates was open beside her. She was smiling too. Bobby felt his mouth open and a loud, uncontrollable yawn emitted from within. His parents laughed at him, and his dad stood up and scooped him up in his arms. Bobby allowed himself to be carried up to bed, and stood in his bedroom while his dad skilfully undressed him and helped him into his new Star Wars pyjamas with Kylo Ren on. He felt himself sliding into bed, and then his mum came into give him a good night kiss.

“Ooh, look,” his dad pointed at something outside. “A shooting star. Quick, Bobby, make a wish.”

Bobby looked outside and followed his dad’s finger. He saw the fleeting glow in the sky and made his wish. Then, as tiredness took over, he settled into his pillows and pulled the duvet up to his chin. He heard the light click and he was plunged into darkness. He sensed his parents leave the room, and turned over.

Bobby woke up the next morning, and looked outside to see the ground covered with a generous layer of snow. He squealed with delight, and then remembered what day it was. He leapt out of bed and ran into his mum and dad’s room. He jumped onto the bed where his dad would have been, and shook his mum awake.

“It’s Christmas!!!!!” he yelled at the top of his voice. “Can I go downstairs mum, can I, can I?” He bounced up and down beside her. She nodded and was about to open her mouth to speak, but Bobby was already halfway down the stairs. By the time she joined her son, Bobby was sat in the midst of a pile of torn wrapping paper with a pile of toys stacked neatly at his side.

With the snow and the pile of presents, Bobby wondered if the day could get any better. And then, it did. He heard the sound of a car pulling onto the drive, crunching the snow. Then, a door slammed shut. A figure walked past the front window and then the doorbell rang. Bobby rushed to the door and fumbled the key into the front door. He managed to get it open and there stood his dad, covered in snow and a large wrapped present under his arm. In his other hand was the bag he had seen his dad take with him that first night he left.

Bobby stood there and wondered why he felt like he had been here before, but not exactly the same.

It was almost as if it was Christmas, every day.