It's that time of year again.
In our house that means checking all the bunks have fresh sheets for the influx of family. This year we will have all seven children in the house plus a ring-in attached to No. 5. No.2's fiancé is missing in action, spending Christmas with his family as his parents are just back from touring the country. Seriously you don't need an occasion when the whole family is together to have a party, but these days with No.1 in Berlin more often than not, and Nos. 2, 3 and 5 living in Brisbane, it isn't that common to have everyone in one place.
I will probably dig out some favourite Christmas movies, "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Love Actually" and this year I'm thinking of watching "The Holiday" for a little romance with a seasonal touch. Speaking of Jude Law... No.7 and I went to see "Rise of the Guardians" at the cinema in the neighbouring town of Warwick. Jude Law is the voice of Pitch Black aka The Boogyman. Is there a reason why a British voice does evil villain so very well? No. 7 thought it was the best Christmas movie she'd seen. It had humour, pathos and lots of good will and a hot Australian bunny voiced by Hugh Jackman. What more could you ask for?
Still on the subject of Hugh Jackman, I hope to see Les Miserables in the New Year. I've managed to avoid reading the book and the 'serious' movies for years. Surely with music and singing it wont be depressing. Nos. 4, 6 & 7 are coming with me to see The Hobbit in 3D at a Vmax cinema in Brisbane on Boxing Day as a special treat.
Christmas reading. So far I've read Christmas Wishes by Rhian Cahill, a spicy little short set in Australia. Another Australian Writer with a historical in an English setting is Anna Campbell with The Winter Wife which is a nice little reunion Novella. I also read and enjoyed Newborn Baby for Christmas by Fiona Lowe, set in Australia too. On my Christmas TBR I have a duet by Sarah Morgan Wish Upon a Star and a trilogy of linked stories, A Christmas Letter by authors Fiona Harper, Donna Alward and Shirley Jump. Intriguing because each of the authors comes from a different country so I'm looking forward to seeing if there are any notable differences considering they are all snowy northern hemisphere stories.
I am in big trouble because I forgot the Baby It's Cold Outside Anthology which I read a while ago. It's a terrific read from four of my favourite sizzling hot Harlequin Mills & Boon authors, Amy Andrews, Heidi Rice, Aimee Carson and Kate Hardy. Sorry girls. Don't know how I could forget those totally Hot guys. Maybe it was jealousy, maybe I was blocking them from my mind. Maybe I drank too much Bailey's...
This is the picture we used on our Christmas Card this year created by No.6
DH and myself as Mr and Mrs Claus and the elves from left to right are as follows.
No. 4, No. 6, No. 1, No. 5, No.2, No. 3 and on the floor is baby elf No.7
To finish off, I'll include the 1k short I wrote for the latest Seasonal Themed Writers Challenge on the Harlequin boards. It's a matched set with my other reunion short. It didn't win so by all means finish reading here.
A big thank you to all those people who have read my blog over the year.
Tis the Season
The ice clinked and settled, melting slowly in the heat of a late December evening. Dipping one finger into the glass, Jess swirled the frozen lumps into a whirlpool. Her mother always said drinking alone was a bad sign. As usual she was right. Annoying woman. She’d been right about everything even til the end.
‘This is my time, Jessica.’
‘That’s just stupid Mum. You’re only fifty-four.’
Not that she looked it. Years of fighting for her life, the chemo, the surgeries, the pain. She looked old. And tired.
‘They’ve been fifty-four good years, in spite of losing your father so young. Don’t hold on Jessica. You’ve your own life to live.’
Maybe mum hadn’t known everything. Not that it was her fault. Oliver still turned up to visit the hospice regularly. Pretended all was well between them. He’d moved out a couple of months before the funeral. That beautiful spring day at the cemetery was the last time she’d seen him. Doing his duty, standing beside her through the Church Service and at the interment. His grave expression suited his long patrician good looks. Cool grey eyes mocked her gently when she had to beg a handkerchief. She never could remember to bring her own. Right to the end he did everything expected. Holding her hand, his long elegant fingers threaded through her small slender ones. Even letting her bury her face in his shoulder to dampen his dark, well cut suit with her tears.
Right until the end when everyone had gone home and just the two of them remained. Embarrassed by the memory of how she clung during the service, she’d withdrawn from him, uncertain about his mood. He stood silent, watchful, his thumbs hooked into the waistband of his trousers. At some point he’d loosened his tie and run his fingers through the pale blond hair giving him a faintly disreputable air.
‘Thank you for all your support, Oliver. I appreciated you being here.’ He didn’t answer, just stood there expectantly. ‘Well, I suppose this is goodbye.’
‘Is it, Jess?’
‘You won’t need to come around any more now Mum’s gone.’ That tell tale nerve in his jaw pulsed. He probably couldn’t wait to get away.
‘True. I suppose there’s no other reason for us to see each other.’
That hurt. Hearing him say it finally. Cautiously, Jess extended her hand. ‘Friends?’
A strange silver glint showed in his eyes. ‘Friends? I don’t think so, Jess.’
Scrubbing her face, Jess frowned at a brightly clad Santa on a Christmas card. ‘There’s no need to stare, haven’t you seen anyone drunk before?’
He didn’t respond, his jolly red-flushed face indicated he’d probably been into the Bailey’s too. Bailey’s on ice. She giggled. Bailey’s on a snow cone at the North Pole. Not sweltering in the heat of an Australian summer.
She could hear bells ringing. Santa’s sleigh no doubt. He’d have a hard time getting down the narrow flu of this fireplace.
A figure swam into view. Not dressed in red. Not Santa then. ‘What happened? Couldn’t Santa make it? Fancy sending Frosty the Snowman instead.’
‘You’ve been drinking.’
‘Clever, clever Snowman. Do you think your icicle heart will melt in the heat?’
‘I don’t have a heart remember. You told me I came fully formed in solid marble.’
‘Marble. Cold hard marble. I remember now.’
The tears came, trickling beside her nose. He’d liked her nose once upon a time. Liked the freckles, the ginger curls, even the muddy hazel brown eyes. Liked the fact she was only as tall as his heart.
‘I’d forgotten what a maudlin drunk you were.’
‘I’m not mor…maudlin. I’m just tired. I’ve been working right up til this evening.’
‘Saving the world from silence at the music store.’
‘Music is very shmoozing. Soothing.’
‘I think it’s time for bed, Jess.’
‘Didn’t you bring me a Christmas present?’
‘I did, but I don’t think you’re in any condition to receive it.’
The world spun as strong arms scooped her up. ‘Marble, cold hard marble.’
Daylight illumined the sleeping figure, the milky skin with the smattering of freckles on shoulder and nose. The kissable lips, the lush curve of…
‘Oliver? What are you doing here?’ She pulled the sheet up, hiding the tantalising curves.
‘Sleeping. What one usually does in bed.’
‘Not this bed.’
‘Why not? This is the marital bed and we are married.’
His chest tightened painfully at the memories. ‘You threw me out.’
‘No I didn’t. Did I?’ Her forehead creased in a frown. ‘Did I?’
‘I certainly understood “Get out and stay out” to have that meaning.’
‘I didn’t mean it. I was upset.’ She struggled into a sitting position holding the sheet across her chest.
‘Not surprising. It is upsetting when your exceedingly heartless husband demands sex of you now and then. But I think you did mean it.’
‘My mother was dying.’
‘And in my purely selfish male way I thought I was offering you comfort. I was wrong apparently.’ He could see her eyes studying him. So much hinged on her response.
‘No you weren’t wrong, Oliver. I just wasn’t prepared to see it.’
‘You could have just told me you weren’t in the mood.’
‘You said I was immature and needed to grow up.’
‘I cared about your mother too. You never gave me credit for that, Jess. You were hurting but so was I. You were slipping away from me. Every day you seemed more distant. It’s hard to be shut out.’
‘I didn’t know I was doing it.’
‘I know. And every time I pushed, you just retreated more. So when you told me to go, I went.’
‘Why are you back?’
‘Christmas is the Season for Peace and Goodwill to all men. I was hoping for a little of that to come my way.’
‘You want to come home?’
‘I would very much like to come home.’
Her hand reached out and her fingers intertwined with his.
‘Tis the Season.’