Festive Cheer

How will the day go when Annabelle spends Christmas Day with her family? Does she really have cause to be pessimistic?

These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:

annie with holdallAnnabelle clutched the holdall, packed full of gifts for her family, all ready to take to her parents’ home. She sat in her hotel room all morning trying to mentally prepare for a day she knew would be at least uncomfortable at times. “Just one last time,” she thought to herself.

When Annabelle arrived at her parent’s home, the house she had lived in until a couple of months before her nineteenth birthday, her mother opened the door to her and then immediately rushed off back into the kitchen, without saying a word. Annabelle stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind her. She understood that her mother always found it stressful to cook a large meal. She didn’t take it personally. She also knew exactly what would happen if she offered to help. So instead, she walked into the living room where her father and two young men were sat watching television.

She approached her father’s armchair and greeted him, “Hi Dad.”

“Will you make us a cup of tea Annabelle? There’s my mug, just give it a rinse out will you?” Annabelle picked the mug up and turned towards the kitchen, “Half a tea-spoon of sugar, and half of honey, just a dash of milk. Boys, tell Annabelle how you have your tea.”

carol rileyAfter Annabelle had received her orders, she headed to the kitchen. Her mother was crouching down to check the turkey in the oven. Annabelle tried to slip behind her mother towards the kettle, which was located in the corner, near to the sink. “Annabelle, please, not now, you’re in the way. Can’t you see it’s pandemonium in here.”

“But Dad wants a drink. He told me to make some tea for him and the boys.”

“Well tell him he’s have to wait Annabelle. Ugh, please don’t stand there, I need to drain the potatoes.” Annabelle placed her father’s mug down on the counter near to the kettle and turned to leave, “Annabelle, don’t just leave that there, it’s in the way. Take it with you, go on.”

Annabelle returned to the living room and explained to her father that it wasn’t convenient to make tea. Her father glared at her, “I suppose I’ll have to collapse with dehydration before I can get a drink around here.”

hallway.jpgAnnabelle turned out into the hallway where she had noticed a crate of beer had been wedged under the side table, upon which the telephone sat. She took four bottles of beer out and returned. Her nephews looked very pleased. Her father, whose gaze was fixed on the television, just took the bottle from her without saying a word.

Remembering the hold-all she had brought with her, Annabelle went to find the Christmas tree which was in the corner of the dining room. She began to kneel down and unpack the wrapped presents she had brought in the hold-all. She lay them at the base of the Christmas tree with the other gifts that were there. She had almost completed her task when a voice from behind her shrieked, “What are you doing? There isn’t room Annabelle. Put them out of the way. Do you want us all tripping over?” Annabelle’s heart sunk. Without saying a word, she began to put the gifts back into the holdall. She then stashed the bag in the dark recess under the stairs, a part of the house she had often crouched in weeping bitterly after being belittled by her parents in front of the rest of the family.

riley tableShe decided to take one of the dining room chairs into the living room, so that she could sit with her father and nephews and watch television with them. As she picked up a chair, she accidentally caught the table cloth. Tugging the chair didn’t release the table cloth, it just pulled it further causing a glass to clatter onto one of the plates set ready for dinner. Her mother was back in the room in seconds, “What are you doing? Just don’t touch anything Annabelle, I’ve been busy all morning, please don’t ruin everything.”

Annabelle felt a lurch in her stomach. “I’m sorry mom.” Her mother sighed heavily and left the room again. On returning to the living room, Annabelle sat on the floor leaning against the side of the sofa. She realized her eyes were blurry and tried to bat away the tears that were in danger of brimming over. One of her nephews passed her an open bottle of beer and she thanked him. She gulped back about half of the bottle and wiped the dribble that escaped down the side of her mouth.

mildew1The boys were whispering and chuckling while they nudged each other. Annabelle wasn’t listening to what they were saying, so just sat with her eyes glued to the television screen. Jake, who had passed her the beer lent over and asked her if it was true that she was friends with Mildew. Annabelle turned around to look at her nephews. She could see that both of them looked quite eager to hear her reply. She nodded and told them that she used to be fairly close to them. They seemed reasonably impressed. Luke asked her if she was still in touch with the band. Annabelle hesitated to answer. She cast a glance over at her father, but he didn’t seem to be paying any attention to anything other than the television.

“I met up with them last month actually when they were in New York.” she whispered.

“No way, how cool!” Luke’s face lit up.

mildew at msg“Do you like their music?” she asked.

“Yeah. They’re great,” nodded Jake.

Luke started to talk about their concert in New York and how he wished they could have afforded to buy tickets and travel to New York to see them. “I heard their show was awesome. Dean Mathers performed solo, everyone has been raving about it.”

“What did you think of the new song Only One Woman?” Annabelle took delight in hearing warm praise of the song and Dean’s singing voice. Annabelle felt a swell of pride fill her chest. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and typed a text message: CALL ME WHEN YOU ARE AWAKE, and sent it to Dean.

annie beerThe next time Annabelle’s mother entered the room, it was the beer bottles that caught her attention. It didn’t help that Annabelle had just stood up to stretch her legs out and was taking a swig of beer. There erupted an argument about taking the beer without asking permission and giving beer to Jake who was under twenty-one. “Irresponsible”, “presumptuous”, “a bad example for the boys” was the worse of the scalding on that occasion.

The reprimand was interrupted by the arrival of more family members. Annabelle’s older brothers Adam and Andrew with their wives and children poured through the door. Before all of the affectionate greetings towards the younger children were completed, Alicia and her husband arrived. Alicia, the oldest of the four siblings frowned on hearing that Annabelle had given Jake a bottle of beer and muttered “She hasn’t changed – has she?”.

oliver1.jpgAt dinner, Annabelle ended up sitting between her young nephew Oliver and her oldest nephew, Luke. Oliver repeatedly kicked Annabelle’s leg under the table, but she was able to ignore him. She tried to chat with him, but he would just stick his tongue at her. Luke, who was in his final year at college was the center of the conversation around the dinner table. His mother Alicia boasted about his grades and the prizes he had won at college.

Little Oliver started to stab at Annabelle’s thigh with his fork. Annabelle tried to brush his hand away, but it made Oliver more determined. He stabbed harder and harder at her leg. He wasn’t strong enough to cause serious injury to Annabelle, but the repetitive stabs began to hurt her leg. She glared at him and he pulled a face. Annabelle then picked up her fork and dug it into her own leg and opened her mouth wide into a silent laugh. Oliver’s face expressed his shock. Annabelle’s action was noticed by her older brother Andrew, who was Oliver’s father. Andrew immediately blew up at Annabelle, causing everyone around the dinner table to glare at Annabelle as if she was crazy.

smart phoneThere was one more incident that evening which Annabelle would remember for a long time to come. Her phone rang and she noticed it was Dean calling. She excused herself from the dinner table, pretending to not hear her father’s command that there were no phones allowed at the dinner table. She hurried into the hallway and sat on the stairs. Dean sounded cheerful. He laughed contemplating Annabelle being with her family for Christmas. Luke came out into the hallway to use the bathroom and Annabelle beckoned to him and then told Dean that her nephew thought Mildew were great and asked him to wish Luke festive cheer. She handed the phone to Luke and laughed to herself at what she could make sense of the conversation between Luke and Dean.

After a few minutes Luke handed the phone back to Annabelle and rushed off towards the dining room. Moments later he returned with his younger brother Jake. Realizing that both of the boys were keen to speak with Dean, Annabelle continued asking him questions about what was going on in his house and who was with him for Christmas Day while she walked up the stairs, indicating to her nephews to follow her.

luke and jakeJake opened the door to the bedroom that Annabelle had slept in throughout her childhood. The single bed and a blow-up mattress filled most of the room. The boys and Annabelle all perched on the bed and Annabelle put Dean on loud-speaker. Dean carried on chatting away, asking Luke and Jake where they went to college and what  they were studying. He asked them what their plans were for after college. Abruptly another gruffer voice was heard yelling, “Is that Nan? Nan…are you there?”

“Hi Rick, how’s it going?”

“Nan, were you and Dean shagging the night before the gig in New York?”

Seeing the look on her nephew’s faces, Annabelle grabbed her phone, which Luke was holding, and turned loud-speaker off, “Did Dean tell you that Rick?”

rick.jpg“He says you weren’t, none of us believe that! Come on Nan, you were in his bed.” Rick, who played bass guitar in the band, was laughing while he spoke.

“Dean is telling the truth Rick. He was a perfect gentleman.” replied Annabelle.

“Hah! Lauren they were definitely shagging. Lauren says hi Nan. get off Dean…” the deeper voice trailed off, replaced by Dean’s tones, “I’ll kill him later Nan.” Dean started to ask Annabelle if she wanted him to send anything special for her nephews.”

“I’m sure they’d love any freebies you have lying around Dean…hold on my Dad is calling me, let me hand you back over to the boys,” Annabelle passed the phone back to Luke and opened the door to run down the stairs.

“What’s going on Annabelle?” demanded her father.

An apologetic expression appeared on Annabelle’s face, “I had to take that call Dad, sorry.”

alicia.jpgWhile her father began to complain about her manners, Alicia ran up the stairs. Moments later, her angry voice was heard. Alicia had ended the call between Dean and her sons and hurled the phone down at Annabelle venting her fury about her recklessness. For the next half an hour Annabelle’s parents, along with her sister Alicia, were united in a chorus of criticism, admonishing Luke and Jake that Dean, his horrible music and that bunch of losers that called themselves a band, had been a terrible influence on Annabelle and involved her in scandals. They related to the two young men how the band members abused drugs and alcohol, and were uneducated and immoral brutes. Annabelle was scolded for encouraging her nephews to speak to Dean. It was her mother’s last words, “That boy is poison, his name should not even be mentioned. I hate him, he’s a wicked boy. Wicked!” was what caused Annabelle to decide she had stayed long enough.

“Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks for having me, it’s been a blast,” were her words before she picked up her coat and her small handbag and headed to the front door. The rest of the family were all sat in the dining room looking at each other and muttering. Annabelle peered into the room and noticed her older brothers and their wives turned away, while the younger children all stared at her. Oliver pulled faces at Annabelle, “Sayonara chicos.” were her words and she saluted her family before heading to the front door.

annie snow.jpgBecause it was Christmas Day, and there was a reduced service on the subway trains, it was a whole hour before Annabelle was walking down the road to her hotel. The snow began to fall in hefty clumps. She still felt wired with the adrenaline that had rushed through her body while listening to the tirade from the senior members of her family about Dean. She thought to herself, “They did not even ask about Robin, they didn’t even ask how he is!”

Annabelle opened her mouth and held her head back to let snowflakes land on her tongue. A sense of relief that Christmas with her family was over crept through her. She had done it. She had gone home for one last Christmas with them. No more. She wasn’t going to do that again.


You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:


Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matosfrom Pexels 





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