Choc Lit Mother’s Day Round Robin – Part One by Margaret James

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It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and what better way to celebrate than a Round-Robin romance written by five talented Choc Lit authors? We’ll be sharing a part of the story every day until Mother’s Day and there’ll be a competition a day too! 

Margaret James is starting us off today. Read right until the end to take part in the competition! 

‘Mum, he isn’t right for you. He’s a jobbing builder on zero hours contracts and you’re a grammar school deputy headmistress. I can’t believe my mother’s sleeping with a bricklayer and everybody in the village knows about it. They’ll all be laughing at you behind your back. You really shouldn’t see him any more.’ Lucy dumped her Prada handbag on the kitchen counter and gave me that particular look, the one I guess I must have given her myself when she’d brought unsuitable boyfriends home in the past.

But I’m not a teenager. I’m nearly forty-five, for heaven’s sake, not seventeen. Jack and I split up three years ago. I know Lucy loves her father, idolises him in fact, even though he’s married to someone who is Lucy’s age and now she has a half-brother who’s almost two. So aren’t I entitled to have a life as well? Who kidnapped my rebellious, free-thinking daughter and replaced her with this strict, judgemental snob who tells me how to live my life?

‘I don’t know why you’re so upset,’ I said. ‘Mike’s a perfectly nice man. He’s thoughtful, generous and kind. We get on very well. We have lots of interesting chats about all kinds of things. We both like gardening and we’re both alone, so what’s your problem?’

‘The fact he made a brilliant job of mending your old garden wall didn’t mean you had to go to bed with him. Does he even wash his hands before he touches you?’

‘Lucy, that’s enough.’ Okay, I could accept that Lucy might not want her mother to be sleeping with somebody and that it must have been a shock when she called unexpectedly last Saturday and found Mike in his dressing gown making coffee in the kitchen while I was still in bed.

‘Granny’s coming round on Sunday,’ I reminded Lucy. ‘It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve invited her for lunch. You’re welcome too, of course.’

‘I’ll check my diary,’ she said, clearly having forgotten that I’m a mother too and I might like to see my daughter on my special day.

As Lucy’s Clubman drove away, my mobile rang. It was Mike ‘Hello, beautiful. How are you doing today?’

I’ve just got home from work,’ I told him. ‘Do you fancy coming round for dinner later – half past six to seven?’

‘Sounds great. I’ll bring a bottle, shall I?’

‘Lovely.’

‘But you mustn’t go to any trouble, love. I bet you’ve had a busy day so you’ll be tired. Maybe I could cook?’

‘I was thinking M&S,’ I said, ‘and letting someone else do all the work.’

When Mike arrived he smelled of something citrus-based and altogether gorgeous. He was carrying a bunch of freesias and a bottle of Pinot Grigio. He’s not very tall and he’s not movie-actor handsome. But he’s solid, strong and capable, good to snuggle up against. He makes me feel secure, something Lucy’s father never did.

‘What are you doing on Sunday?’ he enquired as we drank the last of the white wine, lolling comfortably on the sofa. ‘I was thinking we could drive into the countryside, have lunch at some old country pub and then go for a ramble in the woods.’

‘I can’t.’ I twisted round to look at him. ‘It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve invited Mum for lunch. My daughter will be coming too, that’s if she’s free.’

‘Maybe I’ll see you later, then? We could still go out somewhere, have dinner, maybe?’

‘After the kind of Sunday lunch my mother will expect, I’m going to be stuffed. But we could walk into the village, have a drink. Yes, let’s do that. Lucy can drive her granny home. Come and call for me about half seven. Or maybe – ’

‘What?’

‘You could come to lunch. Yes, come and meet three generations of my family. It’s time you got to know them.’

‘But Jenny, didn’t you tell me Lucy isn’t keen on you having relationships? Didn’t you say she’s still upset about you and her dad splitting up? She might not want to see me.’

‘Lucy is twenty-three. She’s not a child, even though she often acts like one. It’s time she started to grow up. My mother’s getting a bit forgetful nowadays, but she’s very sweet and I’m sure she will like you. Mike, will you come?’

Oh dear! Sounds like Jenny’s Mother’s Day Sunday lunch could end up being quite an explosive affair. Come back tomorrow for Part Two by Jane Lovering to see what happens. You don’t want to miss it!

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If you enjoyed Margaret’s writing, make sure you keep an eye out in the coming months for a new release ;) Until then, you can check out her existing novels HERE

COMPETITION TIME

To be in with a chance of winning one of Margaret’s novels and some chocolate simply answer this question:

What does Mike bring for Jenny when he comes round for dinner?

To enter, send your answer to info@choc-lit.co.uk with the subject heading ‘Round Robin Margaret James comp’ by Monday 27th March. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday 28th March.

Read Part Two by Jane Lovering HERE.

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

Halloween Round Robin DAY FIVE

 

Happy Halloween everyone! We know you’ll no doubt be busy preparing for trick-or-treaters and pumpkin carving but make sure you take some time out with your morning coffee to read the last part of our Halloween Round Robin and find out what happens to Kalen and Faye. A Jane Lovering finale is not to be missed :) There’s one more competition to enter too!

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order.

Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens

Click HERE to read Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Click HERE to read Part Three by Christina Courtenay

Click HERE to read Part Four by Kirsty Ferry 

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Final Part by Jane Lovering

We danced for what felt like days, but every time I glanced up the moon was still in the same position, as though it had been nailed to the black silk of the sky.

‘The queen wishes to meet our human guest,’ Kalen said, after we’d performed a particularly difficult waltz that had left me out of breath whilst all the other dancers seemed unaffected, almost cat-like in their grace and elegance, and also their air of slightly self-satisfied arrogance. ‘She is intrigued by your presence.’

He took my hand and led me to a dais, surrounded by gauzy curtains which fluttered in an unfelt breeze. Upon the platform sat a woman so beautiful that I immediately felt pathetically unworthy and slightly fat in my laced-up bodice and swirly skirt. Everything about her was perfect. Her hair was glossy black, parted in the middle and rippled with just enough curl to make it not hang like a 1960’s folk singer. Her face could have advertised anything from perfume to expensive cars and she wore a dress that managed to leave everything to the imagination whilst assuming that you didn’t have a very good one. She looked like Faerie Barbie.

‘So.’ And even her voice was perfect, light and amused, accentless. ‘This is the human woman that you rescued from the Dark Court’s attention.’  She rested her chin in her cupped hand and looked at me as though she was going to buy me. ‘Hmmm.’ She made a ‘twirling’ motion in the air with her other hand and Kalen obediently swung me around.  ’I suppose she will do.’ Then her attention focused in on me. ‘Has Kalen provided you with refreshment yet, my dear? Do have a cup of sherbet.’

I wanted to point out that, what with it being Halloween, I’d already had enough sherbet to knock out a ten-year-old, but Kalen was already passing me an ornate silver goblet filled with liquid. It foamed and smelled of all the delicious things I’d ever eaten or drunk. I realised that, with all the dancing and partying and not knowing how much time had elapsed, I was actually really thirsty, and raised the cup to my lips.

A large tartan shopping bag appeared out of nowhere and smacked the goblet from my hand, spilling frothing liquid across the impeccable grass in front of me.

‘Don’t you know that you never eat or drink in Faerie?’ a crotchety voice asked. ‘Honestly, what do they teach them in schools these days?  Well, geography, I suppose. And French. But obviously not how to behave when you’ve been stolen away by the Folk… tch.’

Mrs Alden, wearing what looked suspiciously like a winceyette nightie and ankle-high slippers in purple tartan stood in the middle of the faerie ball, as incongruous as a naked man in Harrods. She’d lowered her wheeled shopping bag, but was still holding it slightly threateningly by its long handle.

The queen looked furious.  She actually hissed at Mrs Arden.

‘Now, now, my lady. You’ll not use this poor child in one of your battles against the Unseelie.’ Mrs Arden gave me A Look. ‘Just because she’s a bit simple and has her head easily turned by a man in tight britches does not give you the right to keep her in Faerie.’  A hand fastened around my wrist. ‘And you, come with me.’

She pulled me away from the floating candles and the music and the laughter.  Away from the magic that had made me feel so special, and back through the wooden door. Instantly we were outside the flats again and I could smell the rubbish bins and the damp compost from my pots. My clothes were back to being jeans and trainers, and I felt a brief pang for the loss of the cobweb dress and silver slippers. Mrs Arden continued to bundle me until we were back inside the building, and then inside her flat, whereupon she pushed me down into an armchair, made a quick phone call that I couldn’t hear, and turned to me.

‘I suppose you told them your name.’  She was shaking her head. ‘Really, child.  You let yourself be elf-struck, and on this night of all nights … well. You were just lucky I was there.’  She reached into the tartan shopper and pulled out another horse-shoe, this one was still bright and had a few nails protruding. Mrs Arden sighed. ‘And at my age I shouldn’t be wrestling with horses, it’s no joke trying to pull these things off, you know, when you’ve got half a tonne of Welsh Cob trying to nibble your nightie.’

I was still stunned.  I just sat, trying to get my head around what had just happened.  The memory of the faerie ball was fading, wisping into dream.

‘I knew what was happening the second you burst in and stole my horseshoe. If you eat or drink in Faerie, they have you, you know.’  Mrs Arden’s voice softened now. ‘They can keep you for two hundred years and do what they want with you. And what they want is rarely pleasant.’ Her voice dropped away, as though she knew. ‘And then they just drop you back where they found you.  All your family dead and gone, never knowing what happened to you.’

There was a knock at the door and she went off to open it to a tall young man with familiar piercing blue eyes, who I was absolutely NOT going to refer to as Kalen No. 3. ‘This is my great great grandson,’ she said.

The young man smiled at me, with absolutely no sense of recognition, but a warm friendliness. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘I’m Mark.’

I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times.  ’And I’m …’ I hesitated.

Mrs Arden twinkled at me. ‘It’s all right,’ she said. ‘Halloween is just about over, and this one is definitely mortal. He’s the spitting image of his great great grandad, though …’ she added softly.

‘I’m Faye,’ I said.  ’From next door.’

Mark nodded. ‘I’ve seen you coming and going, when I’ve been visiting Great Gran. I’m renovating the old hall down the road there, going to turn it into a house … I was going to knock and ask you to come over for a coffee, but …’ he spread his hands, ‘it just never seemed the right time.’

Mrs Arden nodded to herself, as though quietly satisfied. Then she stared at the space above the door where I’d wrenched holes in her architrave. ‘Now, I’ll leave you two alone together to get to know one another … and to get that bloody horseshoe back up where it belongs!’

We were beginning to have our suspicions about ‘Kalen Number 1′, but we’re so glad Mrs Arden stepped in to save the day – and that Faye finally met the ‘right’ Kalen (or Mark!) What a fabulous way to end our Round Robin and to begin the Halloween celebrations! 

Thank you to all of our talented authors for putting the story together. We don’t know how you manage it! And thank you also to everyone who has read the story and commented. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you all have a wonderful Halloween. 

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Jane’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Vampire State of Mind and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

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A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Halloween Round Robin DAY TWO

In yesterday’s instalment of our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, Berni Stevens introduced us to Kalen and Faye. Today we have Rhoda Baxter picking up where she left off and we can’t wait to find out more! Remember to read on right until the end to find out how to take part in one of our special Halloween competitions :)  

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order. Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens first!

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

It was fully dark now. I pulled my bag a little closer to me, as I hurried along. It wasn’t far to my place and I’d been down the road many, many times before, so why the sense of unease? I guess Kalen’s warning spooked me more than I thought.

I looked over my shoulder at the church hall. It was dark and still again. As though Kalen had never been there at all. I stopped and turned back to stare at it. Nothing moved. The light in the window was gone. There was only one road away from the building and I was on it. If Kalen had left, I’d see him. Odd.

I could go back and see what was going on … except, it was getting late. My stomach gave a little growl. Yep. Definitely getting late. I had leftover pasta bake waiting for me at my place.  I didn’t need to worry about Kalen. He looked like a guy who could take care of himself. Besides, there wasn’t anything to worry about. Was there?

I hitched my bag up a bit. There was approximately half a kilo of mixed sweets in there. Mrs Alden, my neighbour in the flat across the hall liked to put a pumpkin out, so we always got kids coming round trick or treating. They always tried knocking on my door after Mrs Alden had given them chocolates.

I lived in one of the old townhouses that had been converted into flats. The flats at the top were lovely and roomy, but down at the bottom, Mrs Alden and I had tiny little one bedroom places that barely passed the bedsit/flat divide. As I neared the door, I fished out my key and put it in the lock.

And something changed.

The hairs on the back of my neck tickled and they rose. I had the strangest sensation between my shoulderblades. As though, if I just turned round, I would find someone watching me. I turned the key in the lock, fighting the urge to turn. Just before opening the door, I looked over my shoulder. Someone was walking towards me from the direction of the church. Kalen?

I paused, my hand on the door-handle. Suddenly, the door flew open, wrenching me forward into the house. I would have landed face first if someone hadn’t put out a strong arm and caught me.

‘Woah. Are you okay?’ said the owner of the arm. A warm, solid, male arm, I noticed. Behind him, the door thumped shut.

I regained my balance and turned to thank him. The words fizzled out in my brain. Kalen. Against all common sense, he was standing in front me. Inside the house.

‘Hi.’ He smiled. ‘I’m Kalen. I’m visiting my friends upstairs for a few days. Are-’ he stopped. Frowned. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘You. But. How?’ I shook my head. He had been behind me. It’d just seen him walking up the road. There was no way he could have got in before me. The feeling of wrongness, of things out of place, returned in full force. I clutched my bag to me, although it wasn’t much use to me unless I was going to kill someone slowly with diabetes.

The new Kalen seemed concerned. He gazed at me, with intense blue eyes. ‘Are you okay miss … er … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’ It was question. An invitation.

‘Fay-… Fe-licity,’ I remembered Gran’s warning this time. ‘I’m Felicity.’

‘Pleased to meet you Felicity,’ said the new Kalen. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were trying to open the door at the same time as me. Are you okay?’

Behind him someone hammered on the door. He glanced back at it. My mind whirred. What else had Gran told me? Didn’t I have to invite them in … oh no, that was vampires … Iron. That was it. They didn’t like iron. I started to back away towards the door to my flat.

Did I have anything iron? Mrs Alden had an old iron skillet. She’d shown me once. And there was a horseshoe above the door to her flat. On the inside. Not much use to me now.

The hammering on the door grew louder.

‘You have very insistent trick-or-treaters around here,’ said the new Kalen.

‘Uh … yes. Yes. Quite frequent too.’ Should I try and get into my flat? I didn’t want whatever this weirdness was to follow me in there. My eyes flicked to Mrs Alden’s door. If I could get there … I could get hold of the horseshoe …

There was a soft pop, like one of those suction pads coming off a wall, and the front door flew open. The guy standing in front of me whirled round to face … Kalen. Great. There were two of them now.

They glared at each other. Weird and identical with their tawny hair and matching intense stares. They circled each other. This was creepy as all hell. And worse, they were in between me and the front door.

Oh wow! We were NOT expecting that. And now there are two Kalens – but the question is which one is good, and which one is evil? Maybe we will find out tomorrow when Christina Courtenay takes up the reins …

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Please Release Me and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

PLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiPart Three by Christina Courtenay is now available to read, click HERE

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

Halloween Round Robin DAY ONE

 

It’s that spooky time of year again and what better way to celebrate than a Round Robin written by five talented Choc Lit authors? To start off our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, we have our very own vampire expert Berni Stevens! Make sure you read right until the end for details on how to take part in a competition too – we’ll be giving out prizes throughout the week right up until Halloween!

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

I’ve always had a strange fascination for the abandoned church hall at the end of our road. It’s been lying empty and disused for years, shrouded in neglect and secrecy. I’ve never seen any birds in the trees that surround it, and I’ve certainly never heard a bird sing there. The place looks forlorn and unloved.  I think it’s quite sad.

The date engraved on the plaque above the old oak door, says ‘1750’, so I assume the building is protected. Hopefully that will keep greedy property developers at bay.  It has to be the only reason the hall’s still standing, and thirty ‘luxury apartments’ not put up in its place. Real estate in this part of London is valuable and much sought after. The church itself was turned into an academy for the performing arts some years ago, aimed at children aged between eight and sixteen. Know your market. There are plenty of pushy parents in this area, who want their little darlings to be famous. Actually, there’s probably plenty of little darlings who want to be the next pop prince or princess too.

I stopped by the crumbling brick wall that circled the hall. To my surprise I saw a light inside. A trick of the light reflected from the street lamps maybe?

Without thinking, I walked up the path to the front door. Stretching out a hand, I touched the rough wood. It felt strangely warm to my touch, and when the door swung open, I squeaked in alarm. A warm yellow light flooded out onto the path, and I stepped back, not wanting to intrude.

‘Come on in,’ said a deep male voice.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. Impulsive I may be, but I’m not stupid.

‘Who are you?’ Not the best line, but I couldn’t think what else to say.

I could hear someone walking towards me, and moved back to a safe vantage point closer to the pavement. A tall figure loomed in the doorway.

‘I’m called Kalen,’ he said. He sounded vaguely Irish, his voice lilting and pleasant. ‘And you are?’

‘Faye.’

‘Are you indeed?’ He sounded amused.

I vaguely remembered my grandmother telling me you should never give your name freely to strangers. I couldn’t remember why.

‘Kalen is an unusual name.’

Piercing blue eyes searched my face. ‘It means warrior.’ He said.

‘In what language?’

‘It’s Celtic. You are very inquisitive.’

I flushed with embarrassment. ‘I’m sorry.’ I turned away. ‘I should go.’

He was suddenly standing in front of me. His hand rested gently on my arm. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That was exceedingly rude of me.’

He looked every inch a warrior, tall and lean with a mane of tawny hair that nearly reached his broad shoulders.  A  contemporary warrior in faded blue jeans and a navy shirt.

‘I shouldn’t be here.’ I made to move around him, but he didn’t move his hand from my arm.

‘I didn’t mean to make you feel unwelcome … Faye.’

The way he said my name sent a little shiver down my spine. Definitely time to go. I looked down at his hand on my arm and he moved it at once.

‘You should take care who you give your name to, especially on these dark evenings.’ He spoke conversationally, but his words scared me.

‘Why?’ I couldn’t help asking the question. Funny how his warning sounded the same as my grandmother’s.

‘You never know who might be listening.’ He glanced over his shoulder as if expecting to see a crowd of people. ‘Or who might be wanting to use it.’

‘For what?’

‘A person’s name is a powerful thing. If the wrong kind take control of it, they control the person.’

Wrong kind?

‘You gave me your name, Kalen.’

He gave me a mocking smile. ‘So I did. But there are not many would control me. Or try.’

I tried for a change of subject. ‘Are you renovating the hall?’

‘Perhaps.’

‘I must go.’

He gestured for me to go around him. ‘It was a pleasure to meet you, Faye. Remember what I said about your name. Be careful – especially on All Hallows Eve.’

‘Now you’re scaring me.’

‘Much better to be afraid than to lose yourself.’

I left him standing on the path staring after me, as I trudged home down the hill. I remembered the old stories of the Seelie and Unseelie courts that Gran used to tell. They had always fascinated me. The shining good faeries of the Seelie Court, versus the dark bad faeries of the Unseelie Court. All nonsense of course.  Even to someone called Faye. Although I wouldn’t mind bumping into Kalen the warrior again …

An intriguing start! But who is Kalen, and will Faye meet him again? We hope so! Find out tomorrow when Rhoda Baxter will be taking up where Berni left off. Can’t wait :)  

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her fantastic vampire novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Dance until Dawn and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

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Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read, click HERE

Exclusive short story: Sugar Coated by Angela Britnell

Woohoo! Sugar and Spice is the Kindle Daily Deal at only 99p! To celebrate, Angela’s written an exclusive short story to enjoy this bank holiday weekend.

Sam selected the last beignet from her plate and sunk her teeth into the soft squishy goodness, not caring when another puff of icing sugar stuck to her chin. The good side of her business trip to New Orleans in the sweltering summer heat sat right in front of her, in the form of the Cafe du Monde’s  hip-destroying doughnuts.

Today's Kindle Daily Deal!

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal!

‘Samantha?’

She jerked her head up and met Gareth’s shocked stare. Her ex-fiancé’s sweeping gaze ran down over her and Sam winced, acutely aware of her sticky, overheated skin, wrinkled dress and lack of make-up.

‘Fancy meeting you here.’

Just fancy.

‘This is Lucinda,’ he beamed at the tall, elegant blonde draped over his arm. ‘Lucinda Morecombe, my new wife. We’re on our honeymoon.’

Sam didn’t respond and she watched a rush of heat colour his face and neck. Even thick-skinned Gareth must realise his enthusiasm was tactless in the circumstances – she almost asked if he’d actually turned up and gone through with the ceremony this time. Sam experienced a violent urge to pick up the plate of leftover icing sugar and throw it all over his immaculate black golf shirt and crisp chinos.

‘Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend, Snugglepuff?’ Lucinda whined.

‘Yes, Snugglepuff, why don’t you.’ Sam teased and Gareth shifted from one foot to the other,  mumbling something which Lucinda immediately asked him to repeat.

‘This is Samantha Black. I told you about her. We were … um, engaged a long time ago.’

This is Samantha?’ Lucinda’s eyes narrowed. ‘You told me she was plain and you’d felt sorry for her.’

Sam couldn’t decide whether to smack Gareth for making derogatory remarks about her, or gloat because Lucinda obviously didn’t agree with his assessment. Jealousy made the other woman’s face pinched and shrewish. Good. Gareth deserved every miserable minute of what he’d have to endure when they left. She stared at him and waited as he weighed his options. If he denied everything he’d be calling his new wife a liar. Hurting Sam’s feelings was much better on the Protect Gareth At All Costs scale.

‘No one could match up to you, my angel,’ Gareth purred and Sam thought she might lose her beignets all over his glossy black shoes. He flashed Sam an apologetic smile. ‘No offence intended.’

‘None taken,’ she replied through clenched teeth.

Gareth cleared his throat. ‘We ought to be going.’

‘Of course,’ Sam agreed, casually raising her left hand to push back her hair.

‘What’s that?’ Gareth snapped, pointed at her finger.

She smirked at the glittering two-caret diamond. ‘What do you think?’

‘Who’s the, er, lucky man?’

Sam gave what she hoped was an enigmatic smile. ‘No one you’d know.’

‘I hope you’ll be very happy.’ Gareth’s grudging tone was beyond satisfying. ‘Come on, Lucinda.’

Sam chuckled to herself as they left. Discreetly switching the ring from her right hand had been a touch of genius. She’d bought it from her lottery winnings, the obscenely large jackpot Gareth missed out on by leaving her standing at the altar a year ago.

Sometimes revenge really was best served sugar coated.

 

Angela enjoying a plate of beignets in the Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

Angela enjoying a plate of beignets in the Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onesie for Christmas by Melanie Hudson

Kneeling on all fours, Janet rested the present from Pete against the tree, reversed under the branches while ChocLit-logoXmasdisentangling the lights from her hair, stood and rubbed her bruised knee caps.  After flopping onto the sofa, she tucked cold feet into the gap between the cushions, and slugged back the last of Santa’s sherry.  Staring blankly at the twinkling tree, she wondered how her life could have gone belly-up so quickly (she also wondered if it was the tears in her eyes that blurred the tree lights, or if she had accidentally bought the kind of lights that were impossible to focus on – they’d go back!).  Padding her left hand round the mahogany side table that was a wedding present in 1989, she found a mince pie (which was placed on the arm of the sofa for later) then found the phone.    

‘Hi, Jan.  What’s up?’

On hearing her sister’s voice, Janet released the sob of a grieving Mafia mother, and dabbed wet lashes with the sleeve of her Monsoon Christmas jumper.

‘Pete’s having an affair…ohhhhh, how could he?  And when we were just about to get a new kitchen!’

Sue – a sensible woman – could not have imagined a more unlikely candidate for a ‘bit of extra’ than Pete.

‘Never.  How do you know?’

‘I’ve just been under the tree, and he’s bought me a – I can hardly bring myself to say it – but he’s bought me a… onesie for Christmas, the swine!’

‘Hmm.  And a onesie is?

Janet blew her nose on a stray tissue her toe had touched down the crack of the sofa.

‘You must have seen them, Sue.  They’ve got them everywhere…Next…M&S…Primark.  A onesie is an all-in-one pyjama suit.’

‘So?’

So, buying me a onesie is his way of saying, ‘Wife of mine, I’m not intending to have hot sex with you ever again!’

Sue tried to find a balance between commiseration and common sense.

‘But accusing him of an affair based on pyjamas…isn’t that a bit of a leap, even for you?’

Janet rallied.  ‘For goodness sake, Sue. I told you last week, all the signs are there.  He’s been closing the screen of the laptop whenever I walk in the room, and the lock on his phone isn’t Pollock1982 anymore, I checked.’

‘Er…pollock?’

‘…his first fish.’

‘Oh.’

‘And then there’s his new clothes (since when has Pete been trendy?), and he’s even had his bloody back waxed, for crying out loud.  So anyway, I followed him…’

‘Oh, no!  How demeaning.  Where to?’

‘The travel agents.’

Sue gasped.  Even the voice of reason found this a step too far.  ‘The travel agents!!  You surely don’t mean the travel agents, where Hard-On Heidi works?’

Janet let out a low guttural wail.  ‘Yeeessss.  And, oh God, Sue, they hugged and kissed on both cheeks…both!’

Sue tried reason again.  ‘That doesn’t necessarily mean…’  But Janet wasn’t listening.

‘It’s all my fault.  I should never have knitted that nativity scene in front of him.  Week after week he had to put up with the relentless click, click, click of the needles – I think the knitted baby Jesus was just a step too far.  Let’s face it, he sees me as…as…as an old woman now.’  Another wail.  ‘And the sex has all but gone.’

‘What?  No sex…ever?’

‘Well, we did try to do it the other day, when he came home in his Santa suit…’

‘Santa suit?  Seriously?’

Janet’s voice softened.  ‘We do this… thing, every year.’

Sue couldn’t help but ask, even though she knew it would be the sexual equivalent of looking at a car crash. ‘What thing?’

‘Every Christmas, Pete opens the front door and shouts up, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! Does my little elf want to see what Santa’s got in his sack today’… and then I…’  Janet paused,  ‘…well, it doesn’t matter what I do, but this year, I was just about to tie him to the bed with his Santa braces, when he sat up and said, ‘hold on a minute love, I’ve just got to nip downstairs and record Deadliest Catch’.’

Sue swallowed a laugh. ‘Oh no, how humiliating.’

‘But it gets worse.  The daft arse still had his welly boots on and his Santa trousers round his ankles, so he hopped off like a randy bloody penguin, then tripped over his trousers and fell down the stairs.’

‘What did you do?’

‘Dabbed the blood with his beard, went to casualty to get his head stitched (we told that staff we were doing the grotto at the garden centre) and then stopped off at B&Q on the way back – the sale’s started and he wanted to get the grout for the bathroom.  And that was that, no sex.  It’s obvious, he’s leaving me…’

The front door banged.  Janet took another deep sniff and dabbed her eyes again.

‘He’s back.  I’m going to confront him.  Phone you later.’

 

Two hours later, Sue’s phone rang.

‘Hi, Jan.  Dare I ask what happened?’

‘Happened?  What do you mean?  Oh, the affair…I got it wrong.  Poor Pete.  When I said I wanted something sparkly and magical for Christmas, you’ll never guess what he did…’

Relieved (but not surprised) that her sister’s latest crisis had been averted, Sue started flicking through the TV channels to see if she could find a re-run of Cadfael.

‘No idea.’

‘Go on,’ Janet pressed, ‘I bet you can’t guess.’

Sue tried to hide her indifference.  ‘Er, a ring?  A necklace?’

‘No!  He’s only gone and booked us on a trip to Norway to see the northern lights!  The tickets were in the sleeve of the onesie.  Ok, he’s going to spend the day ice fishing, but still, how amazing is that?  I would have phoned you back earlier, but we’ve just had sex.’

Sue smiled.

‘And the onesie?  Have you told him to take it back?’

‘God, no.  I’m wearing it now – ever so toasty.  And Pete loves it, especially when I do this elf-type thing where I unzip…’

‘Happy Christmas, Janet.’

‘Oh, and to you, Sue.’

 

Merry Christmas!

Mel

xxx