On the 8th Day of Christmas Alexis Wolfe gave to me…
The air was thick with cigarette smoke outside my back door. It was the Big Supermarket delivery drivers’ Christmas party. Except, Big Supermarket didn’t give its delivery drivers a Christmas party and the drivers weren’t allowed any time off work during December, so actually it was a house party taking place in late November. Ken’s bright idea.
Ken was semi-retired and drove the Cabbage van part-time, Mondays and Tuesdays only. Cabbage was the darker of the two green vans. The lighter one was Cucumber. That was the one his friend, Chris, drove full time. I had no idea who drove Cabbage for the rest of the week as I religiously booked Mondays.
Ken had just moved in with me, into my house, a few weeks previously. He arrived light, a bike, no car, very few processions, a single suitcase and a ukulele. When he suggested we host the Christmas party, I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or surprised that he wanted to show me off to his colleagues so early in our relationship.
We’d met after he delivered my groceries, naturally. Meeting people was difficult for me these days because I didn’t like going outdoors. I’d just got a puppy, Ralph, to encourage me to take walks, but was struggling to train him. The puppy dashed past me when I opened the door to Ken one Monday morning. I always went for the first available slot, the 6-7am so Ken had seen me in my bedtime attire, a pink ruffled-hem nightdress, right from day one.
Ken caught Ralph with his knees as he tried to escape. Shopping bags were swinging from both his hands, so I took the puppy from between his legs and cradled it to my chest. Ken strode into the kitchen to set down my shopping.
After he’d divided the bags into three areas, cupboard, fresh and frozen, we got to talking about the dog. In particular, the sleeplessness I was having due to Ralph whining from the crate all night. Fortunately, Ken had plenty of tips for me and my sleepless nights. Ralph nuzzled up to Ken right from day one too.
For the duration of the party, Ralph was locked in our spare bedroom upstairs. This was because we feared there might be drunkenness, loud music and co-workers with dog allergies.
“Here she is,” Ken said, as I passed him and three of his buddies standing around the island in my kitchen. He bopped me on the bottom with a cocktail stirrer as I went past. “My little lady.”
I gave him a look. Was he going to stand there all night? There were crisp bowls in the lounge that needed topping up already. These drivers could certainly pack away the tortilla chips. I noticed my homemade paper chains were drooping and then the Christmas melodies CD ended abruptly. Rushing back to the stereo to set it off again, I had to dodge between inebriated drivers in their Christmas jumpers. Ken continued chatting with his mates, his nose red and shiny, Rudolph-like, it went that way when he drank beer.
I remembered reading that a lot of relationships broke up immediately after the stress of Christmas.
I crept upstairs to the spare bedroom, sinking onto the bed. Ralph bounded over and rested his head in my lap, I rustled his ears. Jingling pop music rose out of the carpet beneath our paws and feet.
“Good boy, Ralph,” I said. “We’ll have a Merry Christmas, won’t we, boy?”
I decided from now on I’d switch my delivery day to a Friday.
Alexis Wolfe lives in Berkshire, UK. She has been published in The London Reader, The Wild Word, Spelk Fiction, Lucent Dreaming and New Flash Fiction Review. Her writing has been shortlisted in various competitions and has won the RW Creating Characters competition, 1000 Word Challenge and London Independent Story Prize. She tweets @LexiWolfeWrites
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