Catherine Ferguson shares a snippet from her latest festive book.
Lola Plumpton can’t believe her luck.
Christmas is coming and her gorgeous boyfriend, Nathan has offered up his swanky apartment to host the Plumpton family’s festive celebrations. It looks set to be a Christmas to remember. And it is – but for all the wrong reasons.
As the 25th December draws closer, Lola unexpectedly finds herself missing some key components:
1. A job (but who needs one of those anyway, when you’ve got the ultimate family Christmas to prepare for?)
2. Money (no job equals no money, it turns out.)
3. A boyfriend (yup, Nathan the hunk has said adios to Lola – and in the *most* embarrassing way possible…)
4. Somewhere to host her fabulous family Christmas (because of course, no Nathan means no des res apartment.)
Lola’s at a loss about what to do. But one way or another, she’s going to make this the happiest Christmas her family’s ever had.
‘Dad, why don’t we do Christmas at our own places this year? Just this once?’
‘What?’ Dad sounds horrified. Definitely the wrong thing to say. ‘Not spend Christmas with you and Rob? But we’ve never missed a year yet. Oh, Lola, that would really do for your mum, not seeing you and your brother.’
‘Well, come to mine, then,’ I hear myself say. ‘Mum always does it. It’s high time I took a turn.’
‘Really, love?’ Dad sounds doubtful.
His uncertainty just makes me even more determined to show him I can manage it. I’m turning my life around. I’m going for promotion.
I’m becoming a proper grown-up at last.
‘Yes, really. It’ll be fun.’
‘Come on, Dad. I’ll make it the best Christmas ever.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Oh God, Lola, that would be great!’
His relief is so obvious, I can tell it’s been a real load on his shoulders. And I’m so glad I can relieve him of the worry.
I hang up and start tackling the smoothie stain.
As I scrub away, I think about Mum. Is she really improving? Or is Dad just doing his usual thing of putting a positive spin on a dismal situation? We’ve never been great, in our family, at talking about the emotional stuff. Letting it all hang out, if you like. But when something happens that’s almost too painful to bear, you have a choice. You can talk about it openly and risk scratching at the open wound and making it worse. Or you can keep it all inside, paper over the cracks and get on with life as cheerfully as you can.
In my family, we’ve got papering over the cracks down to a fine art. Mainly for Mum’s sake.
We chat about the weather and the state of the world, while resolutely ignoring the elephant in the room.
It’s just the way we cope.
The fly in the ointment is my sister-in-law. She talks without thinking and is always putting her foot in it without realising what she’s said.
Lately, she’s seemed more controlling and moody than ever.
I only hope she and Mum will rub along okay at Christmas …
I stop rubbing and stare at the vaguely orange patch on the carpet.
They’re all coming to me for Christmas!
Oh my God.
What on earth was I thinking? It’s just not possible.
There’s absolutely no room for them in my flat.
The place is almost too small for Barb and me, without having four other people staying over for five consecutive days, fighting over the one bathroom. Every wardrobe and drawer is full to overflowing. Even the ‘shoe tidy’ in the hallway makes the place look cluttered.
If Dad knew what our flat was really like, he’d never have jumped so eagerly at my offer to host Christmas. But none of the family has seen it yet.
It’s not that I feel ashamed of 5 Rustic Place exactly. Actually, I rather like it. It’s cosy.
Catherine Ferguson burst on to the writing scene at the age of nine, anonymously penning a weekly magazine for her five-year-old brother (mysteriously titled the ‘Willy’ comic). Catherine’s continuing love of writing saw her spend her twenties writing for various teenage magazines including Jackie and Blue Jeans before getting serious and becoming a sub-editor on the Dundee Courier & Advertiser. This is her third novel. She lives with her son in Northumberland.