Worst Christmas Ever – a short story

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Julie had woken refreshed and over excited; she had always loved Christmas mornings and this one promised to be the best ever, only to have her dreams shattered by one simple text message.

She had met John last Boxing Day on a blind date, set up through an internet dating site. She realised she had hit the jackpot from the first meeting, a gentle giant, full of interesting stories of his travels but grounded by his love for his family. He had been attentive from the first, fascinated by her looks and enchanted by her conversation. He had even been understanding of her compulsive tidying of the table as they enjoyed a meal at the local Chinese restaurant.

She looked back fondly at their interesting dates, not only the usual trips to the cinema and theatre but also to the museums and historic houses that she loved. Many of these visits prompted by her role as contributor to House and Gardens magazine.

When it eventually happened, their lovemaking had been wonderful and mutually exciting. In truth she had secretly visited the ‘naughty’ sites on the web, to make sure she was doing everything right.

This Christmas promised even more joy, as she was convinced that John would propose, as they had been looking in jewellers’ windows, discussing engagement rings and she had picked out one she especially liked, as it reminded her of her mother’s ring she had always admired. Sadly, it had been lost when her mother had been killed in a plane crash over the seas in Asia.

She had adorned her house tastefully, with exquisite Christmas decorations and a perfectly shaped tree, symmetrically hung with twinkling blue and white lights. They had switched on the lights in a little ceremony, pretending to be superstars invited to turn on the town’s lights. A small pile of neatly wrapped presents huddled under the tree, heralding a joy of secrets, waiting to be opened on John’s return. One of the boxes could even be her ring, although no visible box was small enough.

She had spent the morning cleaning the small house, proud of her achievement in having purchased it with her mother’s legacy. She had created a tiny version of the elegant houses she visited, small but perfectly formed, which was just as John had described her, after their first few meetings.

She sat in the kitchen, tears dripping onto the screen of her smartphone, blurring the message, staring brightly back at her.

‘Relationship Broken won’t be back forever leave stuff outside’

He didn’t even want to come inside and tell her what had gone wrong. She decided to make a list of possible problems with explanations, so that she could leave it outside with his personal things. She inserted into a plastic sleeve, so that the snow wouldn’t smudge her message.

She carefully took his small collection of clothes, neatly folding each article and arranging them from largest on the bottom, before wrapping the pile in clingfilm. She put his toiletries in a plastic bag after meticulously cleaning each item. She took her presents from him and placed them with his clothes.

Finally, with tears streaming down her face, she placed the ensemble outside the door under the protecting porch, after clearing the snow from the step. Errant snowflakes floating onto her cheeks, putting the final touches on her already devastated face.

She closed and locked the door and went upstairs to change into her nightdress and gown, before coming downstairs to watch a happy Christmas film. Unfortunately, the happiness of the heroine, highlighted her own situation, and far from helping her forget today’s sad event. made her even more depressed.

………..

John arrived at Julies house soon after his expected 4 o’clock return, having had a fearful journey through the thickening snow. Despite the frustration of other drivers’ inability to drive through the lightest of snow and the smallest of ice patches. He was feeling particularly happy though and he inserted the key into Julie’s front door only to find the Yale lock had been snibbed shut.

“Hello!” he called. “What’s going on?”

Julie was obviously at home, where else would she be, he thought, as there was a flickering glow from the TV, behind the closed curtains.

He saw the pile of his clothes neatly folded and stacked on the porch. Had she kicked him out for being a few minutes late? She must have guessed he was about to propose. Maybe that had scared her off, but to end what promised to be a life of happiness for the sake of a few minutes, seemed a bit extreme, even for her.

He spotted the plastic envelope with the enclosed list of Julies possible problems but as he read it, he realised this was obviously a list of her own perceived shortcomings and insecurities, ending with ‘I’m sorry I haven’t met your expectations and I wish you well for the future.’ followed by the smallest x.

This was not what he had expected and certainly not a result of being a few minutes, late but some sort of misunderstanding. He rang the bell and called out to her. “Julie, answer the door please. I love you and we need to talk.”

“Go away,” came a muffled reply from inside the locked door. “I’ve left your stuff outside as requested. What more do you want?”

“I didn’t request anything, when did I do that?”

“On your text, you said we were breaking up.”

“What? No, I don’t think so.”

She opened the letterbox flap to show John her smartphone with the text message.

John knelt down to read. ‘Relationship Broken won’t be back forever leave stuff outside’

“Oh dear, predictive text and cold fingers,” said John. “What I meant to say was my aunt and uncle’s car had broken down. I’ll be back at 4pm this evening and leave the outside light on.”

He grabbed a special present and passed it through the letterbox. “Here, open this one.”

He watched through the gap as she carefully opened the present, careful not to tare the paper before spreading it out flat. Inside the first box was a second and a third before revealing the last blue, felt box.

“Julie I’m already on my knees out here. Will you marry me?”

“But what about my OCD?”

“That’s one of the things I love about you, I need your neatness to combat my chaotic life style.”

The door flew open as she rushed out, tripping over him and falling together into the snow. “Oh yes oh yes,” she said, smothering him with kisses.