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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.