Johanna and I are both in the ‘WE’VE JUST PUBLISHED A BOOK’ club. Information about Johanna’s book is below. She’s another writer that I’m just getting to know and I’m so thrilled to have one of her stories as part of this collection.
Christmas Eve by Johanna Buchanan
The thing was Caro had never thought of herself as a bah-humbug sort of person. Yet, just a few minutes ago she had snapped at Hannah that Jesus hadn’t been born in a barn just so she could get a pair of designer jeans for Christmas.
Hannah’s eyes narrowed and she told Caro she was ruining her life but that was an accusation that had been hurled at Caro so many times over the last few months that it sailed right over her head this time. Hannah realised it the minute the words were out of her mouth and she recovered quickly. “And you’re like the Christmas Grinch.”
Caro’s nostrils flared and Hannah smiled triumphantly, knowing that had hit nearer the mark. Then she flounced off with all the scorn of a frustrated fourteen year old fashionista. Caro breathed a sign of relief as she heard the kitchen door slam shut with a satisfying bang. It was very nerve-wracking living with a teenager.
She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down, warming her hands on the mug. She knew why Hannah’s barb had rattled her so much – it was because all the women in work had more or less agreed with her assessment earlier in the week when Caro had explained that she wasn’t allowing any Christmas advertisements into her home this year. Five heads had turned to look at her reproachfully. They had all been chattering good-naturedly about which ad was best this year – the one with all the girls going out on the razzle or the one with the good-looking couple and their tousled-haired children opening the hall-door to some long-lost (but still beloved) relative. Or something. Carolyn hadn’t really been able to follow the conversation because she had taken to taping anything she wanted to watch so she could fast-forward through the breaks.
“What?” She faced down their stares. “Those ads are designed to extract money from people, which they don’t have, for stuff they don’t need, to give to people they don’t see from one end of the year to the other.” She sniffed piously and then felt guilty as the frivolity in the office evaporated and her colleagues turned resentfully back to their desks.
But Caro refused to be cowed by them.
Last year Christmas had been an endurance test. Fitful nights stressing about how she was going to make everything perfect for everyone. Distracted days, racing through her work so she could get off early to race around the shops, mindlessly shoving festive fare into her basket. Two for the Price of One – or was it Three for the Price of Two? She couldn’t remember the details now – but they hadn’t been pretty.
This was the year the Cassidy clan were going to celebrate the true nature of Christmas. There would be presents, of course there would. But just a few tasteful ones (maybe even hand-made if she ever got to the end of her to-do list). None of your iThis and iThat gadgets. They would walk in the woods at the back of the house, take part in the carol service at their local church, get midnight Mass. That’s what it was all about, Caro decided. Holiness, not Ho Ho Ho.
But by the time Christmas Eve rolled around Caro was wondering if she had made a huge mistake. Everyone in the house was miserable. Her lovely husband Rob had dropped a massive hint that he was giving her a giant bottle of her favourite (and super expensive) perfume, but under open challenge from Hannah – staring at her over the trifle ingredients – Caro had to lie and say she just wanted a small, token gift this year. The disappointment in his eyes reminded her that sometimes the gift really is in the giving. And then she started to worry that the bargain dressing gown she’d got for him would look like a present from a miser. Or a woman who hadn’t put one thought into her gifts when in fact she had done nothing but think about them for weeks – trying to get the balance exactly right between tacky over-kill and cheerful generosity.
They’d missed the Carol service night because Caro had to stay late at work and the whole walk in the woods thing hadn’t materialised either because everyone was up to high doh trying to get their last minute bits and pieces done.
But then, on the stroke of seven, the whole atmosphere in the house somehow changed. It dawned on everyone that whatever they hadn’t done by now was not going to get done, and they may as well give up on it. And one by one they started to relax.
Hannah worked off her teenage angst by making home-made mince pies and dished them up with such pride she looked about seven instead of fourteen. Rob was making secret rustling sounds from the front room, evidently wrapping his presents.
Caro had been sitting down for longer than she had in a month, just drinking in the peace and quiet of this particular Christmas eve. The fire was crackling, the candles were flickering. Even Sheba, their old collie, was playing his part, snoozing on an old rug beside her feet.
It was almost like a Christmas ad.
And then Caro remembered this was exactly how it had all played out last year too.
You can find out more about Johanna Buchanan and her writing
on her blog Johanna Buchanan Writes
or you can follow her on Twitter @buchananjohanna
She is the author of The Cinderella Reflex available for Kindle here