When a heart breaks, the cut is never clean. We can only hope the scars heal and love overcomes all eventually.


2. Christmas


“Merry Christmas!”


Slowly peeling back her sleepy eyes, she was met with a blurry figure almost nose to nose with her.  Although she was still half asleep and struggling to focus, his mischievous smile was instantly noticeable; she couldn’t be, even slightly, irked by the interruption to her peaceful slumber.  “Why are you up so early? Come back to bed.”

“I always get up early on Christmas!”

“Why do you keep saying that?” Confused and still tired from sleep, she was reluctant yet still ready to humour him.  “Don’t you mean happy anniversary?” She couldn’t avoid revealing the smile that always greeted him in the morning; it gradually welled across her face to reciprocate his boyish smirk.  “Seriously,” she continued dozily and at a lazy morning’s pace, “what’s got into you?  You’re never awake before me.  Why are you being weird?  Christmas is a month away.”

“I made you breakfast…” he interjected.

“But I wanted to do that for you this morning!” She was now more awake and began to sit up in the ruffled sheets they had slept in.  Her wakening eyes were greeted with a ready-made breakfast: English muffins, poached eggs and smoked salmon.  Her favourite.


In the middle of the breakfast tray was a card with her name on it; next to it sat one planted white rose.  It was beautiful.  The porcelain complexion of the flower’s delicate petals championed a majestic precision, which belied the forest of thorns and foliage beneath it.  Subtle curls and intricate curves throughout its body appeared divine due to their imperfections: minute creases and suggestive slits in the peeling of the wild waves.  It was a spiral of pure beauty and elegantly demure sovereignty: the magnum opus of the roots, stems and leaves below - simultaneously fragile and completely secure.


She didn’t say a word.  She didn’t need to; her face revealed all and it was exactly what he wanted.  The silence said everything; breaking it would have meant breaking the completeness of the moment that had warmed the room.  His proud, contented smile was, however, broken by the gentle caress of her loving lips and the softest kiss.  They both knew the meaning of this intimate contact: more than just a thank you – a silent I love you. I am in love with you.


“I’ve had an idea…” he began.  Again, the corners of her lips couldn’t prevent themselves from rising to form her sustained expression of amusement and awe at his persistent infatuation with her.  She had grown accustomed to his continued endeavours to take her out of her comfort zone though she still remained impressed by his latest attempt to surprise her with his romance.  He had become the excitement her life had previously lacked, the spark that ignited her confidence, the first person she had been able to feel totally at home with: at one with.  She felt safe with him and, at the same time, more adventurous than ever.  “You need to open your card…”


As she tore open the envelope, she was met with a surprise: not a big red heart, not a sickening picture of a bunch of flowers, no elaborate writing or impersonal poetry – a Christmas card.  The confused and intrigued smile, once again, drew itself across her face.  “Christmas is a month away…I’m confused…” In her confusion, she also failed to notice the two train tickets, previously placed inside the card, fall to the floor alongside her.

“Read the message…”


Inside the card, the message read:

Being with you over the past year has made my life more complete than it has ever been; I am happier when we are together than I ever could have imagined possible.  This, however, only seeks to make the time when we are apart more difficult.  The thought of spending the upcoming Christmas without you, once more, fills me with such a void that I thought today, on our anniversary, we could fill it with a Christmas of our own.  I hope this makes you smile!


“We’re going to London!”


Arriving at King’s Cross, buoyed by the morning they had shared and the champagne they had decided to drink on the train, they headed out for lunch together. It was here they devised a plan for their afternoon, full of the verve of spontaneity.  Despite their admission that they would miss each other’s company dearly, they agreed that this was their best, if only, opportunity to get each other gifts.  Thus, they set themselves an hour to select and purchase a present, and a limit of 50 pounds to spend.  Her protests of not having time to think and worries that her gift would not be suitable were part of the excitement of the idea.


“I’ll meet you in the coffee shop outside the station at 4 o’clock – don’t be late.”  They kissed goodbye and went their separate ways.  “Don’t be late!” he shouted down the street once more and then increasing his volume further, “and I love you!”  This dramatic display of affection filled her with embarrassment on the exterior, and many onlookers with shock and disgust, although he knew she liked the attention and the bashful shake of her head and quiet snigger were her recognition of it.

As he began his walk towards the shops, however, he heard an unexpected response resounding through the streets: “I love you too!”  She walked away laughing at having won the embarrassing battle by causing even more annoyance to the surrounding people.


The bite of the winter cold did little to quell her mood as she entered into the throbbing streets.  The air of Christmas filled the atmosphere.  Although daylight, the decorations, to be lit at night, stretched overhead to make a river of patterns flowing above the hordes of busy shoppers.  Music escaped from every doorway, adding continuous variety to the mesmerising streets as she continued on her exciting foray.  A group of carolers were not deterred, however; their joyful melodies rang clearest of all through the mélange of the city’s buzzing commotion: this was the warmth that filled the air.  Children laughed; couples hugged; she smiled.  Pure happiness.


On arrival at the café, it was inevitable he would be the first one there; her persistent worrying that her gift would be original and exciting enough would certainly have led to a number of timewasting dilemmas throughout her hour shopping.  Nonetheless, he had not been seated long when she arrived alongside him beaming from cheek to cheek with pride due to her hour’s work.  She didn’t even consider apologising for her tardiness but dumped her bags and long winter coat on the chair next to him and headed to the counter to order herself a warm drink.


Within moments of returning and settling into her seat, she confidently put forward her suggestion: “I want to give them now…”

He stopped and studied her for hints that she may have been joking.  “No way – part of the fun is in the unwrapping!”  There was another brief pause, as he looked at her in surprise and she pouted back, the way spoilt children do when things don’t go their way.  Then, she got up abruptly and walked curiously across the busy café, turning playfully to offer a suggestive wink, before approaching a well-dressed businessman sat alone, enjoying a coffee.  He looked less than impressed but, as was often the case with her, welcomed her intrusion.  After what appeared to be a rather confused and uncomfortable conversation, she returned with the man’s newspaper and, once more, that assured understated smile.

“Wrapping paper…” she proclaimed whilst he shook his head in disbelief, “now all we need is something to stick it or tie it together…”

Once more, a pause filled their exchange but he was clearly charmed by her idea.

“Okay Miss Innovative,” he suddenly delved his head beneath the table they were sat at to return a moment later, “one shoe lace each, turn your back…and no peeking!”


Over the course of the following minutes, the couple was, again, met with looks of disgust and embarrassment by others frequenting the café but they remained purposefully oblivious as they wrestled with the stubborn paper with only a single piece of string to wrap their parcels.  The occasional gaze of romantic empathy did not go unnoticed by either of them, however, as the ladies working behind the counter began to whisper and giggle at their bizarre behavior.


What met the two of them, after their moments of rustling and knot tying, was a pair of disheveled bundles of ripped paper and intertwined lace: hardly the perfect gift to show their joint appreciation.  They could not stop themselves from laughing raucously and were again met with condescending glances and shaking heads.  Fortunately, what was inside the unsightly packaging was quite the contrary.


For him: a pair of golden cufflinks, subtly engraved with his initials: an accessory for special occasions personalised by her.  Their golden, circular plates glinted in the artificial lights of the café and reflected in his eyes as he absorbed his new acquisition.  His mind immediately wandered to the extravagant events she had imagined these cufflinks being taken to in their future together: dinners, dances, weddings perhaps.

“Merry Christmas.”


For her: a silver bracelet lined with crystals – he had no intention of sticking to their budget.  Upon opening it, she immediately took it out of the silk-upholstered casing and signaled politely for him to place it on her wrist.  The jewellery was exquisite in its simplicity; a river of pear-shaped crystals was securely set in the delicate chain that slinked neatly over her feminine wrist, sparkling majestically; intricate links intimated a vulnerable fragility, countered by the strength enforced by the time and care evidently invested in its creation.  It was stunning.  It was her.  Them.

“Happy Anniversary.”


They left the café hand in hand: each with a keepsake to cherish forever.  Her bracelet, peeking from under her sleeve, twinkled softly under the now glowing Christmas decorations; his shoelaces dangled gracelessly from his pocket.

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