Christmas Needed a Rehearsal

Eleanor's family is a mess. Her older sister, Amelia, wants Christmas Day to go well since it's the first her fiance has ever spent with her family. El's younger siblings, the twins Iris and Ollie, have never felt Amelia cared about them. Also, it's their first Christmas since their parents divorced and Amy has invited him (and his new American girlfriend) over for dinner. What could possibly go wrong?


1. Christmas Eve

The snow had fallen three nights before Christmas Day. It had melted and frozen to create an ice rink that was the size of the small village we lived in. Watching various people walk, or rather, skate down the street made me laugh at least. I needed something to cheer me up. My sister, being the hopeless (and I mean hopeless) romantic she was, had decided that marrying her fiancé on New Year’s Day was the greatest idea she’d ever had. It wasn’t. Jason, my soon-to-be brother-in-law, was boring and the kind of guy who drifted through life. He worked at the same firm as Amelia. My sister had accepted an invite for a drink with him and had never really shaken him off. But if she was happy, I was happy. Amy was five years older and hadn’t really ever shown any interest in having younger siblings. The twins, Iris and Oliver, were hardly ten when she’d gone to university. They didn’t know Amy that well; she was more like a distant cousin to them. Iris was always more bothered about it than Oliver. She felt like Amy didn’t like her because she’d done something wrong, which of course she hadn’t, Amy was just strange when it came to anybody below sixteen.

“El, can you double check you’ve taken turkey out of the garage?” Amy called up the stairs. It interrupted my viewing of Mrs Dunn trying to get to the post office without breaking any major bones so she wasn’t rushed into hospital on Christmas Eve.

I sighed heavily. I’d stupidly agreed to cook Christmas dinner since it was Mum’s first Christmas minus Dad but plus Michael, the new boyfriend. Amy had made a big song and dance about me cooking because I was now eighteen. Amelia was an acquired taste. She honestly was.

I hauled myself off of the window seat in my bedroom and appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Amy, I’m not being funny, but you have legs. You can go look and make sure it’s sat in the fridge. What are you worried about? Mrs Dunn legging it with our turkey is the least of your worries.”

She brushed her curled red hair out of her eyes. “El, please? I need this to be perfect.”

“Why? It’s Christmas, Amy. It’s never going to be perfect.”

Amelia didn’t give me an answer. “Is Danny still coming for tea? The bloody snow will have us buried soon.”

I nodded. If Danny didn’t show up, I’d drag him to our Christmas tea myself; there was no way he was escaping his duty as a boyfriend tomorrow when I had to face my parents being in the same room for the first time since they divorced.

Amy vanished back into the lounge where I heard her talking to beloved Jason, our mother, Michael and, surprisingly, Iris about tomorrow. I checked the turkey was in the fridge even though I knew it was. It was sat rather neatly in its herbs and whatever else Mum had bathed it in.

Before anybody was able to drag me into a conversation, I walked into the garage, pulled the door up, sat on a plastic garden chair and looked out onto the street. The country style houses all had candles in the windows and ‘Santa! Stop here!’ signs out for where the children lived. There was a cold that bit at your cheeks but I didn’t mind it, it stopped me from being inside where Amy was acting like it wasn’t the first Christmas since Dad had walked out on us and Iris was practically attached to our older sister like a conjoined twin. I heard footsteps and Ollie dropped a chair down at the side of me. He lowered himself into it and looked at me.

“Are you okay, El?”

I smiled at my little brother. I guess he wasn’t so little anymore at fifteen though. “I’m fine. I’m just gearing up for the Christmas disaster tomorrow. How much are we betting Amy will throw several tantrums about the veg not being cooked or something daft?”

Ollie laughed. “Several? I’m betting the whole day will be a tantrum from start to finish. Jason will look like a deer in the headlights for the entire day. Mum will fuss over everything and anything.”

I rolled my eyes and did my best impression of Mum. “‘Don’t you dare take your eyes off of those sprouts, Eleanor! You’ve looked miserable all day! You’ll ruin the pictures! And Oliver, what have you done with your hair?!’”

Ollie chuckled darkly. “I fancy dying it purple or something for the pictures of us all opening our presents. Do you want to help?”

“You know full well Mum will murder me for that kind of thing now I’m eighteen and supposed to be teaching you some morals.”

He grinned at me. That was the point. We stared out onto the street for a little longer, Ollie shivered. I cleared my throat and decided it was time to ask the question I’d wanted to ask since I’d found out.

“How do you feel about Dad coming tomorrow, Ollie?”

He shrugged. He did that when he wasn’t happy about something but knew he couldn’t change it. “I suppose it’s the civil thing to do. I’m just worried about Mum; they haven’t really spoken since he left. And you, you haven’t either, El. I just don’t want him coming in and asking questions. I think Mum really has a shot with Michael and I don’t want Dad to ruin it for her.”

Michael was a guy Mum had been seeing since August time. Some people said it was too soon but our parents had stopped being a couple long ago, Dad was just the one who got out and had insulted his children along the way. Since Amy was living near London, I was in my last year of sixth form and the twins were at the age they were having social lives that didn’t involve Mum anymore, she had a lot of free time. So Michael, a guy who had moved into the village as a divorced and childless man, became Mum’s boyfriend. He was a nice guy, he made me laugh and he cared about us. Plus he’d helped peel the mountain of vegetables earlier so that earned him some brownie points.

“Dad wanted me to get you call him.” Ollie glanced at me quickly to check my reaction. “He said that you hardly text him anymore either. He’s sorry, El. He didn’t mean what he said to you.”

“I love you, Ollie, but I can’t forgive him just yet. Okay?”

He nodded then sighed. “I’m going to see if Iris has finished fawning over Amy yet then go to bed. Will you be okay out here, El?”

I smiled at him. “Night, Ollie. You’re my favourite bro.”

He sarcastically celebrated and said goodnight before heading back into the house.

I pulled the garage door shut, locking it so Amelia’s precious Christmas was safe from old Mrs Dunn. Skilfully avoiding the lounge, I went into my room and crawled under the covers. My phone lit up with a familiar name.

Text message from Danny
Is “Good Luck” the right thing to say for tomorrow? Can I add “and please don’t get arrested before I see you” on the end of that? I love you, Eleanor Porter. But I have a feeling that prison would really ruin our plans for the future, just saying.

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