Lonely this Christmas
Tea for One
Marjorie ran her fingers across the handful of Christmas cards displayed on the mantelpiece. She picked up her favourite one and read out loud the spidery inscription, ‘To my dearest wife Marge, Merry Christmas, from your loving husband, Albert.’ The edges of the card had curled a little, but it still looked in good condition; considering it was ten years old.
‘He was a good man, my Albert,’ Marjorie said, ‘I miss him terribly. Heart attack . . . so sudden.’ She dabbed her eyes. ‘He was strong as well . . . who could have known?’ She flung open the lounge curtains and looked outside. ‘Rupert,’ she called, ‘I’m afraid there isn’t any snow for us this year.’ Rupert swished his tail by the fireplace, blinked open his feline eyes, and led her to his empty bowl in the kitchen.
She wagged a finger at him. ‘You’re such a greedy cat. I’ve only just fed you . . . at least I think I have.’ She opened a tin of Felix. ‘I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time.’ She stroked the cat, who purred and rubbed against her hand.
Marjorie shuffled back to the lounge. Her thoughts drifted to her only surviving relative; her daughter Susan. ‘Well, Australia is a long way from here,’ she shouted over her shoulder, ‘and things do get lost in the post. Susan always phones me every Christmas morning though. All right, I’ll be honest with you, Rupert, it’s me who rings her, but she is a very busy woman and there’s the time difference to consider as well.’
Rupert joined her by the fireside. Marjorie held up a colourful parcel and tore it open. ‘Anyway, it’s time for our presents. You first.’ She pushed a tin of red salmon in front of the cat who yawned and curled up into a ball.
‘You do test my patience, Ruby . . . I mean, Rupert.’ She shook her head. ‘Did I just call you Ruby? Of course I didn’t. I might be old, but I’ve still got all of my faculties. In fact in ten years time,’ Marjorie went on proudly, ‘I’ll receive a birthday card from the Queen.’ She glanced at the mantelpiece. ‘It would be even nicer if she sent me a Christmas card.’
Marjorie rubbed her hands, ‘I’ll open my gift now.’ She feigned surprise and clutched the shiny black tin to her chest. ‘Earl Grey, my favourite.’
Her eyes widened at the sound of a vehicle approaching her bungalow. ‘Oh, Rupert, It seems like we’ve got visitors!’ She twitched the net curtains. Her shoulders slumped. ‘It’s for next door. They have their groceries delivered in a van. Wait a moment, surely there aren’t any deliveries on Christmas day?’
She drummed her fingers on the window sill. ‘Of course, silly old me, today is Christmas Eve . . . well I think it is. I’ll have to wrap those presents up again, just like I did yesterday.’
Rupert padded along the hallway. The rattle of the cat flap echoed around the room. Marjorie held a new sheet of paper and a roll of Sellotape in her hands. ‘Don’t worry, let’s be positive. We’ve still got it all to look forward to again tomorrow morning.’
Bio: Alan has been writing short stories for three years. His published work has mainly been rewarded with complimentary issues from magazines. His first and only cheque, so far, arrived on Christmas Eve 2009. Before that, he was editor of a civic society newsletter for seven years.