In the lead up to Christmas 2014 we will publish a series of festive and inspirational posts written by the authors at The Madeleine Milburn Agency.
Fionnula writes about relationships: a married couple, a mother and child, siblings, best friends… She likes to peel away the layers and see what’s going on beneath. Her heart-warming, heart-breaking debut, YOU, ME AND OTHER PEOPLE, explores the conditions of love boldly and honestly, through the dual perspective of a marriage in free fall. (HarperCollins: April 2015).
TO THE SOUND OF CHRISTMAS CAROLS – Christmas Day with Marley from A Christmas Carol
I’m standing at the pine-scented tree, a gold bauble in my hand, when I see him from the window. As I open the door, my heart thumps wildly in my ribcage. ‘I wasn’t sure if you’d come.’ I say. A cold rush of December air follows him into the hallway and I tweak the thermostat as we pass by. ‘How have you been?’
He gives a little shrug, tells me that nothing much changes.
‘Do you mind if I keep going with this?’ My head nudges towards the half-naked tree. ‘I have friends coming in an hour.’
‘Of course not.’
I watch him by angling my eyes but suddenly, he’s there, right by my side. He’s studying the gold and silver decorations, smiling, but there’s sadness etched on the lines of his face. This can wait, I decide.
‘Sit,’ I suggest, ‘Let’s talk.’
He sits, on a chair opposite mine.
‘How have you really been?’ I ask. ‘It’s been a year.’
He nods. ‘Time…’ He leans forward, rests his elbows on his lap and steeples his hands. ‘It passes so quickly. More importantly, how has your life been?’
‘I finished with Paul.’ I know it’s what he wants me to say, what he wants to hear and he laughs out loud, slaps his thigh and throws himself back in the chair.
I find myself laughing too, despite the fact that there had been nothing funny about the break up, or the abusive relationship. But I have never heard this man laugh before and it’s a joyous sound.
‘I have you to thank,’ I tell him.
He waves my comment away. ‘Anything, anyone new in your life?’ he asks.
‘No… I’m taking my time, enjoying being on my own. Enjoying the moment. Being present…’
From outside, we both hear the sound of Christmas carols. He closes his eyes, his head gently swaying to the melody.
He looks tired but I don’t tell him, allow him to rest a few minutes. The outside harmonies near and I can tell the local choral group will shortly knock on the door. It’s like he reads my mind and he jolts forward. ‘I should be going.’
I’m not ready for him to leave. I have so much more to say.
‘I’ll go out the back way,’ he says.
We stand at the back door a moment or two.
‘Doors,’ he frowns. ‘Could never master them. Do you mind?’
I put my hand on the door, then face him. ‘Last year when you came, you told me “If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I always got.” I will never forget those words. I’m looking forward to my future. Thank you.’
Marley smiles. ‘I’m glad.’ He puts a cold hand over mine on the door handle and together we turn it to open. A cold shiver runs through me. ‘Goodbye,’ he says and as I watch him walk away, as the carol singers chime my doorbell, his form alters to a blurred and empty outline.