Melanie had been worried about her sister. Sue was newly divorced, but that wasn’t the problem. Sue’s life had been much lighter since her husband Malcolm had left – around 180lbs lighter to be precise – and everyone had commented on how different she now looked. Prettier, happier, not so skinny and care-worn.
No, the problem was Sue’s son, Martin who wasn’t spending Christmas at home this year. Having announced that he and his girlfriend were now “serious”, Martin had asked Sue if he could use his grandmother’s ring as an engagement ring when he popped the question on Christmas Eve. Sue had been delighted, but she’d rather assumed he’d meant to do that at her house. Martin being rather too much his father’s son had avoided making it clear to Sue that his plans had always been to spend Christmas with his girlfriend’s family. Well, until it was too late to ask him to make a change, that is.
For Martin preferred being with Patty’s family. There was a huge crowd of them all living in the same village and they tended to have relaxed and somewhat rowdy gatherings, whereas Sue liked everything to be structured and restrained. Oh … and the wrapping paper always had to bloody match whatever colour theme she’d decided on for that year’s tree. Still, it had been mean of him, for it left Sue alone having turned down many invitations, all whilst hinting heavily there’d be something rather special happening at home.
And this year, Melanie and Bob were also going away. The kids being all grown up and travelling round various parts of the globe, they’d decided to have that New York Christmas they’d always talked about. Melanie tried to persuade Sue to come – and she’d nearly succeeded – until Sue saw the cost of flights. She could afford it, truly she could, but … Melanie reckoned that spending too big a sum of money might make it appear as if she was desperate, and that would never do for Sue. Too proud by half. And always had been.
That left Melanie – on December the 20th – packing for a dream holiday … and worrying. With a sigh, she closed up her suitcase, ready for Bob to carry downstairs. It was time to finish off her carefully planned care package. Pulling a few last items from carrier bags – books and DVDs – Melanie carefully tucked them inside coloured tissue paper before popping them into the huge gift-wrapped box. It had taken for ever to wrap the damn thing but, even if she said so herself, it did look dead classy. Covered tastefully in silver and white paper – to match Sue’s theme for the year – Melanie tied up the big satin ribbon, attached a few silver and white baubles, finally tucked in some silvery-sprayed holly. Stepping back to admire her handiwork, Melanie nodded. Yes, that would meet Sue’s exacting standards, now they just needed to stop at her sister’s home on their way to the airport so Bob could put in under the tree. Sue was out, meeting Martin in London to hand over the ring, so it would be a nice surprise for when she returned later on.
Melanie smiled. Before she’d met Bob she’d had a Christmas alone – the children were spending it with their father for the first time since the divorce. Some kind person had done the same for her – one of her divorced friends. They’d asked for no thanks, simply saying it was something to be ‘paid forward’… and now it was Melanie’s chance to do just that.
It would be different next year. Sue would have the kind of Christmas she liked. She’d scoop up the local waifs and strays, give them a wonderful meal, full of tastes and traditions. Melanie and Bob would be there too, for there’s no doubting Sue was an excellent hostess. Even Martin and his fiancee might get an invite …
© Debra Carey, 2017