I said I wouldn't promise but after listening to Kings College Cambridge singing Christmas Carols, I am finally in the damn mood! So, here, we, go...
Magic Noel© Billy London
“How does anyone get this excited about Midnight Mass?” Aydin asked, struggling to hold back the gigantic yawn that interrupted the pause between verses in O Come All Ye Faithful, while his sister had hit the top C note to piercing acclaim. The only reason he’d gone with her, was because his sister knew blackmail. His sister and blackmail and Christmas happened to be the worst combination of guilt he normally encountered. It was their first Christmas together as a family since their parents’ divorce, and he had been looking forward to a quiet one at his flat. But Kina had sung In the Bleak Midwinter down the phone to him, then Silent Night and much to his eternal shame, Away in a Manger, and tears clogged his throat.
“Are you going to come and be happy with Dad and me?”
“Why Dad’s?” Aydin asked, once he could speak.
“Because Mum’s going off on a cruise with that friend of hers whose blatantly been trying to get mum to switch teams. We’re not as fancy as London, but we’re good fun in t’country,” she faked a farmer’s accent.
Aydin had put Hertfordshire behind him, along with anything else that remained there. Except his sister, of course. But he hadn’t been able to bear the indignity of his life falling apart to an audience, who would comment at each turn. First his relationship, then his job having to move back in with his parents, then finally unable to help feeling he contributed to the last straw of their struggling marriage breaking once and for all.
An old school friend messaged him. Told him he’d be able to help him out with some construction work if he came to London. With the last of his savings, and a loan from Kina, he got a studio flat on the outskirts of the city and worked until he was able to get back to what he was used to, what he felt comfortable with. There he’d stayed for the last two years, until Kina with her voice to make even Scrooge cry, dragged him back.
“Where are we going?” he asked, noting they weren’t on the path back to the house.
“We’re going to the pub,” she announced. “Alfie’s there as well.”
“The Fox and Hound?” Aydin groaned. “No, please, that pub is so tired…”
Kina flickered her eyebrows. “You haven’t been here for a while, have you?”
He curled his lip, unable to hide his disdain for the crusty old house. It always seemed to be furnished with old men who smelled of old beer and wee. When Kina pulled up, he rubbed the condensation from the window, and blinked. A huge tree roped with gold blinking lights and edged with red bows sat outside of what seemed to be a gleaming building. People were spilling outside into the below freezing air, under heated lamps cradling steaming mugs.
“All right Kina?” a hairy looking bloke acknowledged Aydin ’s sister, his hefty arm around the slender neck of a thin man.
“Merry Christmas Aaron! Hi Zlatan!” Kina beamed at both men, opening the door for Aydin to squeeze inside.
The pub had to be different. It couldn’t at all be the same place his dad had dragged him to on his eighteenth birthday to celebrate his manhood. It seemed to glow, and smelled incredible. The scent of mulled, spiced wine, mingled with the wafting delight of baking.
“All right Aydin!” his father called out, a hand of cards waving in his direction. He waved back in confusion. How strangely happy his dad looked. A tall, sleek woman drifted through the tables with bowls full of flaming Christmas puddings.
“Kina!” she called from around her tray. “How are you?”
“Great, thanks Mike. This is my brother, Aydin.” She shoved him in the shoulder. “He’s home for the holidays.”
Mike – how such a woman ended up with such a butch name – handed him a bowl and a spoon. “Find yourself a seat. I’ll bring you some spiced ale.”
“I’m…” He lost his words in the dark blue pools of her eyes.
“Hello I’m, my name’s Mical. Pleasure to meet you. Merry Christmas”
He wanted to speak, he really did, but he wasn’t quite sure he’d ever seen anyone as naturally beautiful as her.
“Be careful staring at me like that,” She warned, swaying to the bar. “My husband will have your eyes out.”
Aydin blinked again, trying to shake the fog from his brain. Kina shoved him to a small table in the corner that was miraculously free. “What’s happened here?” he hissed to his sister, astounded by the change of the place.
“That bird,” Kina pointed to Mical. “Is magic. Oi, watch out. Paris is here.” Of course, he thought. Why not add to it?
“I really should find my husband.”
“Kina,” Aydin warned. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
His sister grinned, before calling out, “Hi Paris!”
His ex-fiancée saw them both and seemed to burst with embarrassment. Same, he thought, sighing heavily. Unable to avoid either of them, it seemed, Paris made her way through the throng and sat at the table.
“Hello.” She sounded so very quiet. Just as quiet as when she’d broken his heart and handed back his engagement ring. It had stayed in his old bedroom at his parents’ home.
Mical leaned over the table, placing a bowl of Christmas pudding in front of Paris, along with two pints of the delicious smelling ale.
“Lovely to see you here tonight Paris,” Mical said with such warmth, the other woman smiled. Mical tapped them both on the hands and commanded, “Talk.”
“Why are you here?” Paris blurted. “I could have coped if you weren’t here.”
“Kina brought me,” Aydin returned, unable to halt the words falling from him. They seemed to gush like a waterfall. “Because whatever you think, this is my home. This has always been my home.”
“You never said that,” she said, in a similar rush. “You were just ready to get out, and get as far away from here as possible.”
“I wanted you to come with me!” he yelled, quieting the pub. “But you didn’t want to support me.”
“I didn’t want to hold you back. You had this look in your eye that everything here meant the end of your life. And I didn’t want to be that bitch. Not me. That’s not me.”
Mical tapped the bell, calling the pub’s attention. “Last orders!”
The scraping of chairs and bustling of feet drowned the rest of Paris and Aydin ’s conversation. Paris rolled her hands as she spoke, talking faster as if she would be in pain if she stopped. “I was really scared that you and I were going to end up like your parents, hating each other because neither of them did what they wanted to do. And to be honest, I think your mum’s a lesbian.”
“Everyone knows she’s been in love with Francine forever,” Aydin dismissed. “Is that really all it was? You were scared?”
“Yes,” Paris admitted, tears filling her eyes. “You’re the only boyfriend I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to regret giving up everything for you and you just finding some London bird to replace me.”
He caught both her hands tightly in his. “Paris, I haven’t dated anyone since I left here. I haven’t even looked at anyone, because I love you, I haven’t stopped…”
She sobbed, reaching across the table to pull him into her. “I still love you,” she cried, her tears soaking into his skin. The relief that swept through him allowed him to only grip her as tightly as she did him. If only the honesty they’d shared in the last five minutes been obvious when they were arguing… Suspicion made him lift his head. That bird is magic. His sister said, without a bit of artifice.
No, he thought, trying to refocus on Paris wiping his cheeks with her thumbs. It can’t be…
“You drinking or kissing?” An accented voice demanded. Aydin looked up into a red bearded face, a huge man hovering over the table.
“Both?” Paris and Aydin suggested, like naughty children stealing Santa’s snacks.
He frowned at them. “Do it quickly. We close in an hour. I’d like five minutes of quiet with my wife before Christmas.” With that he turned to the other tables, collecting glasses and bowls with his gigantic hands.
“The hell?” Aydin whispered.
“That’s Mical’s husband,” Paris confided. “Possessive.”
He could fully understand why but Paris’ sweet smile pulled him back to her. “We’re all coming back here tomorrow night. Will you come?”
Aydin looked for Kina, who was bellowing along to Last Christmas on her husband’s shoulders. His dad crowed with laughter surrounded by his friends. The joy that permeated the very air of the pub caused tears to sting his eyes. How he’d ever left his home…
He turned back to Paris, lifting her hand to his lips. “I’ll be here.”