Elizabeth had no close family. There were only an assortment of cousins she hadn’t even received a card from. Thomas was spending the day with Martha and couldn’t get away, so she had to spend the day alone.
She wished her cat were there, to keep her company, but Thomas was allergic to cats. He now had a new home with her elderly neighbour.
Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without sharing it with Prince. The turkey was the consistency of rubber and cardboard put together. The taste wasn’t much better, but at least it stopped the rumbling inside her stomach. A glass of tepid wine with her dinner, and it still felt bitter on her tongue. She had never much liked drinking. Her mother said it turned normal people into sadistic monsters – jumping into bed with anyone that came their way. Never a day went by when she didn’t remark on her father’s fall from grace. A man who couldn’t resist his primal urges, wasn’t worth the salt in the sea. He deserved to die in a deep pit along with the woman he had run away with.
Thomas would be sitting down to dinner with Martha, lucky to have a man who loved her enough, to sacrifice his own happiness. Elizabeth hadn’t bothered to change out of her nightdress and spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the television. It didn’t matter what was on, just that there was another voice in the room.
She flicked through the channels, until she found a black and white version of Scrooge. He was having an argument with his partner Jacob Marley, who clashed around in chains, warning him of a future he would now share.
It was fitting somehow and suited her mood perfectly.
A wooden cabinet, full of china cats, was the only piece of furniture she kept when her mother had died. Her dad had never much liked them. She had toyed with the idea of getting in touch with him, but too many years had gone by. His promise to come back had never materialised.
Her mobile vibrated on the small table beside her floral-patterned chair. She barely heard it at first, still absorbed in her dream. However, the last few digits of the number caught her eye. It could be nobody else. Nobody else would care enough to call.
‘Thomas,’ she said, looking at the time – just past four o’clock in the afternoon.
‘Come and pick me up,’ Thomas said. ‘It’s freezing outside, and I’ll catch my death.’
‘Where are you?’
‘Langley Road, at the bus stop. Will you hurry up woman?’
‘I’ll be there straight away.’
Elizabeth jumped to her feet and rushed up the stairs. She almost threw her blue dress on. Thomas was staying for Christmas Day, and she wasn’t sure she was ready. There was barely any food in the cupboard. She hadn’t tidied up, but it was more important to collect him – the rest would have to come later.
‘What kept you?’ Thomas said, grumbling as soon as he got into the car.
‘I’m sorry, Thomas.’
She didn’t dare look in his direction and kept her eyes firmly on the road ahead. His surly silence filled the car. Elizabeth drummed on the steering wheel, until deep scratches dented into the plastic.
‘What took you so long!’
‘The car wouldn’t start at first, I had to ask a neighbour, but I’ll soon have you home and warmed up. Have you eaten?’
‘I’ve eaten, could do with a stiff drink though.’