Christmas heartbreak turns to happiness
A CHRISTMAS STORY
The gale force wind sent ice cold rain sweeping across the garage forecourt. It rattled the signs, pulled at the bunting and threatened the brightly coloured lights on the huge Christmas tree outside the door. Mike Drew ran a hand distractedly through his thick brown curls and sighed. If the tree came down, he would have to go out and rescue it, and get soaked, although even that wouldn’t make him any unhappier than he already was. What a Christmas Eve, pouring with rain, hardly any customers and the prospect of spending Christmas alone.
A car swished through the puddles in the gutter and then disappeared. Like it or not, the takings were down and the boss wouldn’t be happy. But he would have to admit Mike had tried hard. The shop was cheerfully decorated with inflatable Santas and glittering decorations, he had draped tinsel around the invitingly stacked car accessories and hung a huge HAPPY CHRISTMAS across the door. And he had paid for the tree himself, too, bringing the coloured bulbs from his home to light it.
At least the residents on the mobile home park behind the garage appreciated the efforts he had made, because they said so as they passed him on their way home. A nice bunch of people, always smiling, always with a greeting for him.
Well, most of them, anyway.
But even the ones who didn’t smile often had been kind enough not to say anything when they saw - surely they saw - Carole leaving home, suitcase in hand, eyes red from crying.
The gale proved too much for the overhead wiring and without so much as a flicker of warning, the lights went out. All afternoon Mike had sat alone, staring out of the rain streaked windows for hours. Now he had an excuse to lock the pumps and cash up the till. He could go home and drink the rest of the sad empty grey day away.
He found the large torch he always kept under the counter in case of emergencies and transferred the money into plastic bags from the bank. Carole would normally have been there to help, to split the silver from the copper, to put the bank notes the right way round.
When she left, the light had gone out of his life.
It had all been so stupid, so ridiculous, but then didn’t all arguments start over stupid things? The trouble is, Mike reflected, I want more out of life than she does. I want a double unit and a good car, while she would have settled for the single unit - and a baby.
That was where the row had really started, with Mike shouting that he didn’t want a squalling smelly child in the place and Carole accusing him of being utterly selfish.
The row had escalated and bitter words passed between them until the point came when they had stared at one another, no words left.
They had gone to bed in stony silence, Carole clinging to her side while Mike lay flat, ensuring that his arm didn’t come into contact with her body, while every particle of him cried out to take her in his arms, to say sorry and couldn’t they wait just a bit longer for a baby? But he had refused to make the first move and the night had passed in silence and tension.
When he had locked the shop at lunch time the next day and walked home, she had gone. The suitcase and half the clothes from the wardrobe were missing and the curt note, saying he would find her at her mother’s, if he really wanted to, was on the table.
That had been a week ago, the longest week of his life. In a state of shock he had gone to work, served customers with petrol, sold oil and anti-freeze, without feeling anything. It was as if a huge door had slammed shut when she left, leaving him in darkness. He wondered if he would ever really feel anything again.
He lived out of tins, washed up only when there were no more cups or plates and smoked his mouth into a state of dryness no amount of alcohol could dampen again.
On the telephone to his parents he had said all was well and that he would see them in the New Year. And wondered, as he replaced the receiver, how he would be able to face them.
Come on, he told himself, get organised, go home and put something on the stove to eat. Then, and only then, you can take a drink.
He shouldered his way into his waterproof, stowed the money bag in a voluminous pocket and left the shop. Standing in the rain, he checked the locks on the shop door and finally walked round the corner into the park.
It seemed as if everyone was home that Christmas Eve. They still had power, it seemed, for in every window was the warm glow of lamps, fairy lights shining on decorations and sending rays of light into the dull day. Mike stared around him, feeling the weight of his loneliness settle even more heavily on his heart.
Lights, warmth, people. His unit would be cold, dark and oh so empty.
‘Merry Christmas, Mike!’ called Mr Bevan, busy shovelling coal despite the rain.
‘Thanks,’ he answered, surprised he could say anything.
He walked more and more slowly, reluctant to see his home an island of darkness in the sea of light.
At last he stood at the gate of his tiny plot and looked up. It was all he could do not to cry out, for a Christmas tree twinkled in the window, decorations hung from the ceiling, a holly wreath was pinned to the door and best of all, Carole stood in the doorway, holding out her arms.
Perhaps we could think about a baby after all, Mike thought, as he ran up the path. Isn’t that what this particular holiday is all about?