I love Christmas but sometimes it can all be a bit much. Trying to fit in the normal day to day trials, clean the house, put up the decorations and provide enough food to feed a small army for the dozen or so people coming to dinner becomes overwhelming. Then there are the presents to buy, cards to write, and all the other things designed to bury the true meaning of the feast.
I was stressed and exhausted. Christmas was our busiest time of year at work but Phil finished on the 20th December and didn’t go back until the 5th January so how come everything was left to me?
‘Did you send a card to Ronnie?’ he asked as I was trying to cook dinner in between loading the washing machine, responding to urgent e-mails about an office disaster, and trying to wrap the final presents.
‘Who’s Ronnie? I yelled as he had returned to the front room and started an argument with the kids about which TV programme to watch. No answer.
‘Who’s Ronnie?’ I asked again storming into the lounge when the noise of bickering became unbearable.
‘Ronnie who?’ Phil responded. ‘Move out the way love, I’m trying to watch this.’
‘The Ronnie you wanted me to send a card to,’ I muttered through gritted teeth.
‘Oh that one. He’s just a guy I know from the pub, it’s no big deal.’
‘Well, what’s his address?’
‘How should I know? You do make a fuss over nothing. I said he might like to join us for Christmas dinner with his wife and three kids. Shame we won’t have any presents to give them. Can you smell something burning?’
‘You might have mentioned it before,’ I fumed. ‘I suppose it never occurred to you to get them something when you were wandering around town today while I was working?’
‘You know I’m no good at that sort of thing. Anyway, you always cook too much so I don’t know why you’re making such a kerfuffle. That’s if we’ve got any saucepans left after you finish burning them all.’
Oh shit. Dashing back into the kitchen I managed to rescue the dinner before it was totally cremated just as the phone rang.
‘Can someone get that please?’ I called as the washing machine demanded unloading as it had finished its cycle. No response. Running into the front room I reached across Phil to pick up the receiver from the table next to him. ‘Ronnie, for you,’ I said as I thrust the phone into his hand and dashed back to sort the washing before serving up dinner.
Obviously no one had bothered to set the table so by the time I got round to eating mine it was stone cold and they had nearly finished. ‘Maybe you should watch one of those cooking programmes; might give you some ideas,’ teenager number one suggested as she left the room. Would it be too much to ask that she took her plate out on the way, rather than leave me to clear everything so I could wash up?
By eleven o’clock on Christmas Eve I was exhausted and too tired to think straight, but I still had to clean up the spare room and make up the bed before the in-laws arrived the following morning. At least it was peaceful as the teenagers had gone to their rooms to Facetime their friends, and Phil had gone off to bed telling me he needed to be fresh for his long day ahead. I jumped when my mobile buzzed, assuming a call at that time of night would be bad news.
‘Ruth, it’s Jackie. Sorry to disturb you so late but I guessed you’d still be up. I’ve had enough; do you need to escape too?’
‘Tell me about it, but what do you mean “escape”?’
‘See you in five minutes, be ready,’ came the cryptic reply before the line went dead.
Jackie had always been unconventional but she was my best friend, and being able to share my woes had saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Seeing her walk up the path a few minutes later I opened the door to have a piece of paper thrust into my hand.
‘Read it, then sign it,’ she commanded.
“I’m fine and not in any trouble so no need to worry. I’ve just decided to have a short break and some ‘me-time.’ Everything is prepared so enjoy your Christmas and see you in a few days. Ruth. Aka Wife, Mum and Slave.”
‘I hope it isn’t too OTT,’ Jackie said as I burst out laughing. ‘Put it where they’ll find it and let’s go.’
‘Go where? How? You’re crazy. I can’t desert them now, they couldn’t cope, and we’ve got visitors coming tomorrow.’
‘Tuf!’ Jackie smiled. ‘Now grab my hand, hold on tight and don’t let go. Close your eyes and think of pleasant things.’
For the first time I noticed she was holding a moth-eaten old book, but I did as I was told and heard her muttering some odd words. Whoosh. It felt as if I was flying then it got cold before the heat of the sun warmed my very bones as we gently descended to solid ground.
Gazing round I realised we were on a golden sandy beach with the waves gently lapping on the shore. Luxurious sun beds were spread out in front of a mansion from which music emanated, and in the distance two Unicorns grazed in perfect harmony.
Immediately we were surrounded by a myriad of fairies who fluttered around as they led us inside the beautiful building. They pointed out walk-in wardrobes holding gorgeous clothes, hung next to drawers containing designer underwear and swimwear. The bathrooms were candle lit, with every imaginable perfume, massage oil and body lotion.
After changing into bikinis, Jackie and I chased each other into the warm seawater before flopping back laughing, and relaxing onto the sumptuous loungers. No sooner had we settled ourselves than elves appeared with soft, fluffy towels so we could dry ourselves off, although the hot sun was already managing that task quite well.
They were followed by a regiment of pixies, and the sun glasses, books and chilled cocktails they provided definitely met with our approval. This was the life, warm, cossetted and stress-free. The rays of the sun seeped into our winter-weary bones and calmed our shattered nerves. After a few hours soaking up the sun, reading and chatting, we realised we were hungry.
‘I wonder if there’s a café on this paradise island?’ Jackie asked, stretching luxuriously.
As if by magic a tall bronzed hunk appeared, wanting to know if we would prefer a nibble on the beach or to be served on the veranda. We both decided to have a break from the sun, which was already changing my pasty-pale skin to a glowing pink. The meal was sumptuous; a range of dishes from savoury to sweet, all washed down with some chilled wine and never a thought to the washing-up.
The perfect day ended with a walk along the moonlit beach before retiring to our plush bedrooms, preceded by a luxurious bath and relaxing massage. Feeling rejuvenated, I was even able to spend an hour or so on my unfinished manuscript before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
When I woke the next morning I stayed with my eyes closed, wondering what felt different. The sound of the television competing with bickering teenagers brought me back to reality, and made me long to escape back to my wonderful fantasy. It had felt so real. Forcing myself from my bed I prepared to face the day ahead.
That’s when I noticed the beautiful golden colour of my sun-kissed skin.
© Voinks December 2016