On the 20th Day of Christmas Marie Day gave to me…
Marnie’s all in white; a celebrity ghost of Christmas past, hammering on my door at two in the morning.
‘Don’t worry, no one’s died. Except mebbe me career.’ She stumbles over the stone step into the house. The whiff of white wine and Black Opium embrace me before her arms do.
I never believed my cousin’s pissed-up promise of a Christmas return to her home village. Yet here she is. Golden chains jingle along her arms; my insomniac soul-searching disturbed.
‘How did you even get here?’
‘There’s no trains to Middle of Nowhere.’ Her white dress gleams by the Christmas tree lights. ‘A mate drove me.’
My pug slippers peer from under my pyjama bottoms and eyeball Marnie’s thigh high boots.
‘Forget what yer’ve read. I’m clean.’ She swipes a hand across her mascara streaked face. ‘You aren’t gonna turf me out on moors with Heathcliff, are yer?’
‘He’d soon send you back looking like that.’ I hand her a tissue to wipe her sculpted new nose.
She collapses on the sofa like a giant, tipsy Christmas fairy that’s toppled from the tree under the weight of wishes.
The laptop’s glow from the coffee table is bright on her fake-tanned skin. ‘Still writing and not getting paid?’
Still getting paid to drink, shag and sing hopelessly out of tune on TV? And miraculously, on one occasion, all at the same time.
‘Wasn’t criticising, Hon. You deserve success.’
I bury bad thoughts about her career choices under torn wrapping paper. At least she’s made choices. Not shushed them in the dead of night.
‘Is Celebrity Cocktails still going ahead after…’
‘All that shit in the papers?’ Photos of her on all fours snorting a line with a rolled-up twenty looked real enough. ‘They’re on about replacing me with Sonia from Eastenders. I’ll find summat else.’ Marnie’s had more new starts than nose jobs. She nods to the laptop. ‘Thought about getting those plays published?’
Most days and nights my thoughts go nowhere else. But my confidence double crosses me time and again. It points to opportunities and drops me before I can press send.
‘There’s a playwriting course in York. I’ve written the application but…’
‘It’s possible to escape here for a few hours. There’s roads to York. I’ve seen ’em. Besides, everyone deserves a new start.’
My new start’s been a long time in production. Two years since Jamie chased his new start. And left me stranded in the middle of nowhere.
‘You’ll make it out,’ she whispers.
‘We both will.’ I squeeze her hand.
Marnie’s eyes shine under the lights. ‘Weird in’t it this time of year?’
The shadow between the sparkle of Christmas and fizz of New Year; the waiting for normality. I’ve been stuck here forever. Waiting for Jamie’s return. For life to begin. Again.
I gaze at the laptop. Send. Four letters. One dream; one new start. Years of insecurities to ring out before New Year. But hope now gleaming in those Happy Christmases yet-to-come.
Marie Day is a teacher and writer from Yorkshire, now living in Bristol. One of her stories was chosen for the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2019. She has recently finished writing a contemporary teen novel. Find her on Twitter @mariedaywriting
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