a cup of Earl Grey
She ran her fingers across the only Christmas card on the mantelpiece. After picking it up she read out loud the spidery inscription, ‘To my dearest wife, Marjorie, Merry Christmas from your loving husband, Albert.’ The edges had curled a little, but it still looked in good condition; considering it was ten years old.
‘He was a good man, my Albert,’ She said, ‘I miss him terribly. Heart attack . . . it was so sudden.’ She dabbed her eyes. ‘He was strong as well . . . who could have known?’
After opening the sitting room curtains, she peered outside. ‘Rupert,’ she called, ‘I’m afraid there isn’t any snow for us this year.’
Rupert stretched, blinked his feline eyes, and led her to his empty bowl in the kitchen. She wagged a finger towards him. ‘You’re such a greedy cat. I’ve only just fed you . . . at least I think I have.’ She opened another tin. ‘I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time.’ She bent down, stroked his head. He purred and rubbed against her hand.
Shuffling back to the fireside, her thoughts drifted to her only surviving relative; her daughter. Well, Australia is a long way from here and things do get lost in the post. Susan phones me every Christmas. All right, it’s me who always rings her, but she is a very busy woman.
‘Anyway, enough of that, here’s our presents. You go first.’ The cat yawned, curled up in a ball, as she tore off the colourful paper and pushed a tin of red salmon in front of him.
‘You do test my patience, Ruby . . . I mean, Rupert.’ She shook her head. ‘Did I just call you Ruby? Of course I didn’t. I might be old, but I’ve still got all of my faculties. In a year or so, I hope to receive a birthday card from the Queen.’ She glanced at the mantelpiece. ‘It would be even nicer if she’d sent me a Christmas card.’
She rubbed her hands. ‘I’ll open my gift now.’ Feigning surprise, she clutched a shiny black tin to her chest. ‘Earl Grey, my favourite.’
Her eyes widened at the sound of a vehicle approaching her bungalow. ‘Oh, Rupert, it seems like we’ve got visitors.’ She twitched the net curtains. Her shoulders slumped. ‘It’s for next door. They have their groceries delivered in a van.’ She scratched her head. ‘Surely there aren’t any deliveries on Christmas day?’
She drummed her fingers on the window sill. ‘Of course, silly old me, the big day is tomorrow . . . or is it the day after? I’ll have to wrap up those presents again, just like I did yesterday.’
Rupert padded along the hallway. The rattle of a cat flap echoed around the room. Marjorie held a new sheet of festive paper and a roll of Sellotape in her hands. ‘Don’t worry, let’s be positive. We’ve still got it all to look forward to again.’
* * *
About the author
Alan has been writing short stories for ten years. In 2011 he made the short list for one story and a prize winner for flash fiction. He also won first prize, of £100, in a poetry competition in 2013. The three accolades were awarded by the best-selling UK magazine for writers. His work has been read out on Internet radio and published in hard copy magazines and e-zines.