The One About Christmas (+ Short Story 13)
Alas, the season of joy and goodwill is upon us. In October when shop stereos start to churn out carols and festive lights are turned on in high streets, it always feels like the fateful day is eons away and we are in no danger of being caught out. I’m amongst the head shakers who frown at smiling shop assistants that are forced to wear Santa hats two months to December. I always want to yell “It’s not even Advent yet!” but bite my tongue and walk on, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to dream up as presents for my friends and family this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and all its wonders but the over commercialisation of it has finally started to get to me. Before I digress and descend to a rant about the real meaning of Christmas, I’ll take a deep breath and point out that this is not why I’m writing this post. This is supposed to be a happy post. I wasn’t going to blog about Christmas at all but as I walked home yesterday, I was overcome with an overwhelming need to burst out in song as I walked past a group of carollers in a shopping mall and once again as I walked past an elderly man playing “Jingle Bells” on a trumpet outside the station. I felt a need to share something (anything!) and as a writer, one way I can do this is to mark the occasion with a festive-esque short story. So, this is Merry Christmas from me to all my readers out there. I hope you all have a lovely time whatever you do.
The Christmas Present
“What is this?”
“It’s a cat.”
“I know it’s a cat. Why are you giving me a cat?”
“Because it’s Christmas.”
“Lisa, a word please.”
Diane dragged her sister to the kitchen and glared at her without saying a word.
“What?” Lisa made no attempt to hide the smirk on her face.
“A cat? Are you trying to tell me something? Have I finally crossed into cat lady realm?”
“She really wanted to get you a cat and I couldn’t say no to a seven year old who thinks her aunt needs company, especially at Christmas. I suggested we get you a bracelet or something like that but she wouldn’t have any of it.”
“Oh come on Dee, you always wanted a cat when you were growing up and mum never let you have one. Think of Jenny as your fairy godmother come to life in the body of my child.”
Diane shook her head. “I also wanted a unicorn and lifetime supply of marshmallows but I’m thirty six now and I know how stupid that was. Did you hear that part about me being thirty six? Picture this single lady growing old with a cat. Soon I’ll decide this one is lonely and decide to get another and then another.”
“You’re overreacting. It’s just one cat given to you with love from your niece. You can’t say no; you’ll break her heart.”
“A bird could have kept me company too. Or some fish. Maybe I can return it when you guys leave. Think about it, if I keep one cat now, when will it stop? And I travel all the time so who’s going to take care of it when I’m away?”
“We’ll watch him when you’re gone. Don’t worry about it Dee. You’ll love having a cat. He’s from a shelter so he’s house trained and everything. Think of all the fun you’ll have repairing the damage he’ll do to your furniture. Fun, fun.”
Diane took a playful swipe at her sister but stopped when she caught a glimpse of little Jenny playing with the tabby through the half open door that led to the living room. It was a cute cat and Lisa was right; she had desperately wanted a cat when she was younger so maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing. But the image of her sitting in her flat ten years from now with the cat as her only companion sent a shiver down her spine.
“So should I tell Jenny you don’t want to keep it?”
“No, don’t do that. I’ll keep him for a month and if I can’t handle him, you’re going to adopt him. That’s non negotiable.”
“Let’s go fetch his basket from my car.”
“So, this is Tom. I know everyone loves dogs but I have to admit I am a cat man. I have one that looks just like him. What’s wrong with him?”
Diane eyed the vet with a raised brow then shrugged. “He isn’t eating and I don’t know what to do. I’ve only had him for two weeks and he was fine at first but he’s become so fussy. Maybe I should have brought him in earlier.”
“That’s fine, we’ll sort him out.”
As the vet examined her cat and asked a multitude of obligatory questions, Diane had nothing else to do but look at the man as he probed and prodded the animal. He wasn’t very tall or well built but had a perfectly formed face that took attention away from his other physical imperfections. It was a face that did not draw immediate attention but once you noticed it, you couldn’t get it out of your mind.
“Are those tickets for Belize?”
“Yes, I’m going to see it tomorrow.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“You play Bethan, don’t you?”
Diane raised her brow again. “How do you know that?”
The vet flushed. “Don’t freak out but I’m a bit of a fan. I’ve seen the show before. I thought I recognised you when you came in but I didn’t want to embarrass you by gushing. It’s a shame they’re not keeping it going for longer. You guys are fantastic.”
It was Diane’s turn to redden. “Thanks. Hopefully whatever the cast moves on to will be better than this.”
“That’s hard to imagine.” The vet stared at her for a little too long and Diane found herself blushing again. She wasn’t sure if he was admiring her or just in awe of her acting skills. Either way, it was nice to have a good looking man observing her like that. With matinees and evening shows, the play had taken over her life recently and she had no time for social ventures. She hadn’t felt attractive in such a long time and this felt nice.
“I think Tom’s alright and is just adjusting to his new environment. You said he’s only been with you for a couple of weeks. He might need some more attention too. You can try feeding him some of this.” He wrote down something and passed it to Diane.
“Oh,” was all Diane could say as she read what he had written down.
“I was going to say that I hope to see you again soon but that would mean Tom’s health would need to be in jeopardy and I don’t want the poor thing to suffer for my selfishness. So do you want to do that instead?”
Diane looked from the piece of paper to the eager face of her cat’s vet and couldn’t help smiling back as she nodded. Maybe Lisa was right, maybe Jenny was really her fairy godmother come to life to grant her all her wishes. She wasn’t going to complain.