Lonely Christmas without you.
It suddenly dawned on her that she would be spending the next five days by herself, snowed in, in a log cabin, high up in the mountains. Tara Murphy had been looking forward to this holiday with her husband, Gerry, all year. But at the last minute, Gerry's boss had begged him to forego his holiday in order to save the vital account that would keep their management company from going under.
Gerry had insisted that Tara should go on holiday without him. She had complained countless times but it had proved pointless. Gerry had urged her to telephone all her friends to see if anyone could accompany her on the trip, but at this late stage all her friends had made other arrangements. It was Christmas after all.
When she arrived yesterday the sun had been shining and the views had been spectacular. The cabin, which stood isolated on the highest peak around, was on the edge of a pine tree forest. But when she woke up this morning and looked out the window, everywhere was covered in snow and it was still falling, hard. This was not her idea of a wonderful Christmas.
"Come on, girl, we've got to make the best of things."
Luckily, Tara had stopped off at the supermarket on her way up to the cabin. The rental car's boot had been full of carrier bags laden with groceries that would see her through the next four days. Searching through the cupboards she pulled out a frying pan, took the eggs out of the fridge, broke them into a bowl and beat them with a fork.
After eating her omelette, she put on her coat and ventured outside. To the side of the cabin, under a wooden porch, was a good supply of timber that the owner had chopped up ready to use as firewood. She breathed a sigh of relief that the wood hadn't been left out in the elements. Carrying an armful of logs inside, Tara searched the area next to the wood-burning stove looking for the firelighters. Remembering how her grandfather used to build his open fires she placed firelighters, screwed up newspaper, and finally twiglets inside the stove before lighting it. Shortly after there was a roaring fire in the grate which added a source of comfort to the lounge area. Pulling up the easy chair she positioned it in front of the fire and sat for the next few hours reading her magazine. What else was there for her to do?
On the one hand she welcomed the peace and quiet. Tara led a hectic life, working long hours as an air hostess. Quite often she was away from home several days at a time on long haul flights, which was why, this time with her husband meant so much to her. But then as the day dragged by the peace and quiet became unbearable.
Several times while preparing her dinner, she thought she heard noises outside the cabin. Scared, she ran to the window but saw nothing.
That night she'd slept with her head buried below the ten layers of blankets, well, slept wasn't really the right word. She'd never felt so terrified or alone in her life before. At 6am she got up and cleaned out the fire and started a new one before making herself a bacon sandwich. When she went to retrieve more wood, she stood on the porch looking out at picturesque scenery that at any other time would have been something she cherished. But now, she shuddered at the feeling of isolation gripping her insides, it wasn’t long before resentment towards her husband took over.
She doubted if she would be feeling this way had she been isolated on a desert island in blistering heat, relaxing on a sandy beach. Being trapped in a snowstorm had never been high up on her list of priorities.
The hours dragged by and her mood deepened. This had to be the worst Christmas she'd ever spent. She gave herself a serious talking to and decided to make the best of her time alone. Hunting in the cupboards in the spare bedroom, she found a collection of puzzles. Sitting on the Aztec style rug in front of the fire, Tara emptied out the pieces of the 5000 piece round puzzle. This was new to her she'd never attempted this kind of puzzle before and relished the challenge.
Sometime during the evening, immediately after dinner, she heard a noise on the porch. Jumping to her feet, she ran into the kitchen and picked up the frying pan. Her heart pounded as she hid behind the front door. Fear tickled its way up her spine, she turned to look out the window but all she saw was darkness. A noise she couldn't distinguish sounded outside the front door. Her hand trembled as she held the frying pan above her head, ready to strike. When something scratched the door and flicked the latch Tara sucked in her breath. Her heart missed several beats. Oh my God! Do they have bears up in the Alps?
Then there was nothing.
Tara let out the breath she was holding in and returned to sit by the fire, crazy thoughts of escaped lunatics on the run racing through her mind. Don’t be daft, they’re hardly likely to come all the way up here, are they?
This was Christmas Eve what a way to spend it, scared witless and alone. Gerry would certainly have a lot of making up to do when she got home, if she got home!
After knocking up a chicken stir-fry with the trusty frying pan, Tara spent the evening reading by the fire, one ear cocked listening for her visitor to return. She was just about to go to bed at 9pm when she heard heavy footsteps on the porch outside.
Her first instinct was to scream but she soon realised she’d go unheard. Instead she flew into the kitchen to fetch the frying pan sitting on the draining board.
As if in slow motion she watched the latch go down on the door. Damn I forgot to lock the door when I fetched the wood for the fire.
The door eased open, the cold night air crept in along with the intruder. She was ready as usual with the frying pan held high above her head, unable to breath for fear of alerting the stranger of her whereabouts. She could tell her visitor was a male, but snow covered his coat and hair.
Suddenly, she yelled and charged, whacking the intruder over the head and shoulders nonstop until he fell to the floor.
She was just about to swipe him round the face when he called out her name. “Tara … what the hell …?”
Dropping to her knees and throwing her weapon aside, she took his face in her hands. A face she’d known and loved for the past ten years.
“My God, Gerry, what are you doing here?”
He looked dazed and in shock. “I came to spend Christmas with my gorgeous wife. I wasn’t expecting to get beaten up by her though.”
Tears of guilt and relief poured down her cheeks. “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry, I had no idea you were coming.”
“Merry Christmas, darling. I dread to think what you would’ve done if Santa had been your secret visitor.”
They laughed and shared a loving kiss. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a lonely Christmas after all.
Mel Comley writes gritty no nonsense thrillers. She also writes Mills and Boon type romances. You can find out more about Mel on blogs.