A Christmas Apart

31 Dec

It was late in the evening on Christmas Day. Mick had gone to bed early, but didn’t go to sleep. He had a glass of port and lay there thinking. As usual, his thoughts turned to Rita, and what she might be doing. He texted her a reminder of one of the texts she’d sent him a couple of weeks ago: “And I quote: I absolutely guarantee I have no desire to and will not sleep with anyone else for a very long time even if we were to split, if that helps.”
Then he sent her another text, quoting John Squire of The Stone Roses, not too long before the Stone Roses reformed: “ Similar quote: I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses.”
Of course, as usual, there was no reply from Rita. Instead, oddly enough, he did get a Whatsapp message from an old friend, asking how he was. It was someone he hadn’t seen for a long time, and was never really involved with. She just asked Mick in the message how his Christmas was. She was a very religious person, so Mick asked if she’d been praying. He probably could do with a prayer for himself.
His mind turned back to Rita, and he thought about her, drunk in Fred “The Devil” Cougar’s flat. He wondered about what they’d been getting up to. Rita had always said she and Fred hadn’t slept together when they’d lived together before, but Mick could be fairly sure they did, and she just said things like that to make people feel better about themselves.
Then he imagined Fred going to the front door and finding a baby. “There’s a baby outside,” said Fred.
“What do you mean there’s a baby outside?” asked Rita.
“There is,” Fred said, going back to the door. He picked up the baby and brought it in, “Here.”
Rita could barely believe her eyes. This wasn’t possible. How could there be a baby there? Had someone left it? Was it a miracle? But she looked at it, and smiled.
“It’s a beautiful baby,” she said. “Why do you think it’s here?” she asked Fred.
“I don’t know,” said Fred, curiously, “Where do you think it’s come from?”
As it was Christmas Day, each had the same idea. “From God?” Rita said.
They were just getting over the possibility of it indeed being a miracle, when Fred saw something out of the corner of his eye through the front door which he’d left slightly ajar. He went to pick it up.
“Oh, it’s the new Stone Roses album,” he said calmly to Rita.
“What do you mean the new Stone Roses album?” Rita asked, “It hasn’t been released yet, has it?”
“Well, it looks like it has now,” said Fred.
Both looked at each other in astonishment. If the first of these things was a miracle, but one that could be explained – someone could have left the baby there – the second certainly couldn’t be explained. How could the new Stone Roses album, which hadn’t been released, just miraculously appear?
“Well, what are we going to do with that?” Rita asked.
“I don’t know,” said Fred, “We could put it on?”
So Fred put the CD in his CD player, and pressed play. The first song was called Daybreak, which was a bit odd, because the Stone Roses had already released a song called Daybreak.
Fred was holding the baby and the two of them looked at it for a while, still in utter bewilderment. Rita, fairly drunk, and totally confused, suddenly felt the need to get out for a while.
“I’m going to get cigarettes,” Rita said drunkenly, walking to the door.
“Wait!” Fred said, “You can’t just leave! What am I going to do with the baby?!” as the new Stone Roses album played in the background.
“Just look after it until I come back,” Rita said, and with that, she was gone.
The whole time Mick was imagining this going on, at the same time, he wondered – what if it really was true – that these events had in fact just happened? What did it mean? What future lay in store? Was this definitive proof of God’s existence, for any people who needed it? What were Fred and Rita going to do? What should he do?
He still wanted to give Rita the Christmas present he’d bought her, a caged bird wrapped in gold paper. He wondered if maybe he should take it to her – any excuse to see if the miracles really had occurred. But he was a bit tired and a bit drunk, and he didn’t after all know exactly where Fred’s flat was. There was a full moon that night – the first for forty years on Christmas Day – but the night was overcast, so if he’d thought there’d be a bright light to guide him, there would not be – well, not the moon, anyway.
Rita meanwhile was once again in turmoil, wandering around, fairly drunk, really not sure what to do. If she was confused before, this threw things into still further confusion. But if these were miracles, or signs from God, could that mean that her life could begin to improve and take on more meaning? Was God trying to help show her the way? Eventually, she decided she would walk back to the hostel she’d been staying at. Fred wasn’t going to be happy about it, but he was going to have to live with it. She needed to be alone.
Fred was indeed not happy. Rita had now been gone for twenty minutes. She’d only gone out for cigarettes, she’d said. He wasn’t sure which shops were open, if any – maybe she was going to have to walk to the garage which was quite a long way, but somehow, he sensed she wasn’t just going out for cigarettes. He began to feel quite angry, and in his rage, he thought to himself – if she doesn’t come back soon, I’m going to kill the baby and destroy the CD. He went to the door, in case he could see Rita. Then he noticed another package at the door. He picked it up – it was a segway, this year’s “trend” Christmas present – and brought it inside. He calmed down a bit, and carried on listening to the CD, holding the baby who was staying very quiet, fortunately.
Mick meanwhile was still unsure about what he should do. Surely this is ridiculous, he thought, this idea of me going to Fred’s house like some kind of “wise man” in a nativity scene. He thought about how maybe Rita had returned “home” to the hostel, and he wandered out into the street, just looking around, fairly aimlessly. He went back, and remembered about how he’d asked Kelly in a reply to her Whatsapp message if she’d been praying today, and decided maybe that’s what he should do. He said a short prayer to God, asking if he could help Rita to tell the truth and be faithful. He didn’t specify what he wanted her to be faithful to. He left that deliberately vague, I guess he meant true to herself, true to her word – he couldn’t ask God to force her to be true to him, and besides, he wasn’t sure if that’s what he wanted – who she was true to would have to be her decision. He also apologised to God for all the terrible things he’d done and said, and said Amen. A short, simple prayer.
After this, he thought he’d just stay put. It was possibly the lazy option, but he was not in a good enough state to go out on a mission. The baby and The Stone Roses CD weren’t going to go anywhere, if they existed at all. If they did exist, he expected someone would bring them round for him to see.
Rita was now back at the hostel. Because it had been some time, she thought she’d better ring Fred and let him know. “I’m sorry Fred, but I’ve come back to the hostel,” she told him.
“Are you telling the truth?” Fred asked. “You haven’t gone round to Mick’s have you?”
“Of course not!” Rita said, “It would take a bloody miracle for me to go there again!”
“Yes,” said Fred, “Well, there was the baby and the Stone Roses CD and the segway…”
“What do you mean the segway?” Rita asked.
“Well, a segway’s turned up now as well.”
“Really?!” said Rita. She paused, then asked, “How’s the baby?”
“The baby’s ok. What do you think we should call him?”
“I don’t know, Jesus?!” said Rita, “He was born on Christmas Day!”
“Yes, I suppose that would be an apt name for him,” said Rob, thinking it was possibly a bit predictable.
“And what do you think of the new Stone Roses album?” Rita asked.
“It’s ok. It doesn’t really sound like them.”
“Does it sound like Ian Brown?”
“Oh yes, it’s obviously Ian Brown.”
“Well it must be them then,” she said. She paused again and said. “I think you should take them to Mick – those were the two things he wanted, a baby, and the new Stone Roses album.”
“You want me to take them to Mick?! I’m not going there!” said Fred.
“Well maybe I should take them then,” said Rita, “Or we both could.”
“You’re not thinking of getting back with him now?” asked Rob.
“No,” said Rita, “I think that would be impossible.” She paused again, “I’ve treated Mick so badly, I’ve been very dishonest towards him,” she began. “I’ve tried to make out it’s all his fault, when it wasn’t really. I’ve done things behind his back, and I just denied it. He knew it had happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him, which made it even worse. I wasn’t faithful to him and it hasn’t been fair. Even if I was honest with him, I don’t see how that would help. And I haven’t been honest with you either Fred. Listen, I was even with someone else this morning before I came round to see you. I’m really just looking for somewhere to stay Fred; I’m not looking for a relationship.”
After a short pause, Fred said, “Well, that’s fair enough. I do appreciate honesty sometimes.”
“I think I just need to be on my own tonight,” Rita said, “Maybe I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yes, ok,” said Fred.
“Good night,” Rita said.
“Good night,” said Fred.
Just then, Father Christmas appeared in Fred’s living room. “Ho ho ho!” he said, “Have you got the presents I gave you?”
“Which presents?” Fred asked.
“The baby, and the Stone Roses CD, and the segway. The baby and the Stone Roses CD are for Mick. The segway is for Rita. Mick, the tight bastard, was going to get her one. He bought a ring instead, the daft fool.”
“Merry Christmas!” said Father Christmas. And with that, he disappeared, leaving Fred holding the baby.

Leave a Reply