coffee in a thermos
day ramble. Meet at 1.30pm at the park gates for a 2 mile walk - weather permitting.
For more information, please email me.'
satisfied see her ad in the local newspaper again.
who would turn up. Her mind wandered back to the previous Christmas day. … two
new people from last year were a retired, gentle vicar called George, and Alec,
an fifty- something, attractive, divorced chap around Meg's own age.
December was Alec's first Christmas without his wife. Meg had sympathised. She
knew how it felt to be alone.
was lucky enough to be happy at Christmas, she reflected, as she booted up the
computer. Just how do you fill those long hours if you lacked a partner and a
range of close friends and family?
Meg and her
late husband Rob hadn't been blessed with children and since the accident, her
friends - all in couples - had drifted away.
Christmases without Rob were so very different. The only way to describe it was
like going from glorious colour to dreary black and white.
early raw days, getting though the festive season was an absolute nightmare.
That was when Meg began to organise her Christmas day rambles. They were
tailored for people who were cast adrift, yet craved company.
scanned the computer screen as she checked her email messages.
Oh good -
George wanted to come along again. But sadly, there was no message from Alec.
When they'd met, she hoped that perhaps he'd make contact. Yet it didn't
happen. Would he appear for this year's ramble?
day morning dawned bright and sunny. The weather had forecast showers for
later, so she packed a waterproof jacket in her rucksack.
breakfast, with a background of carols on the radio, she reached for a new
novel by her favourite author and spent the next few hours escaping into a
tense thriller. The book was a gift from a friend. Because she looked after
elderly parents, she was unable to spend Christmas with Meg.
At 11, she
ate a turkey and stuffing sandwich, then got ready and set out.
At the park
gates, she was relieved and pleased to see George waiting for her. Yet her
heart sank when she discovered there was no Alec.
'Nice to see
you again, George,' she said. 'Let's hang on while we wait for the others.'
Some people didn't bother emailing her – wanting to escape festive stress, they
often turned up on impulse.
rose when Alec ambled into view, but she was taken aback when she realised he
had a high- heeled female companion in tow. She was slim and attractive with
dyed red hair. Meg hid her disappointment well.
everyone, I'm Jean!' she gushed.
there,' George nodded.
to Alec. 'We've just had the most marvellous three-course lunch, haven't we
darling? In a gorgeous top-notch hotel. Alec booked it especially. In fact, I'm
still a bit tipsy from all that wine! All I wanted to do was go home, slump on
the sofa and watch TV but Alec wanted to go for a walk. So here we are!'
being cooped up all day,' Alec said.
appreciate your company.' Meg smiled warmly, yet she held reservations about
Jean's motivation. She clearly wasn't the hiking type and had tagged along
purely to keep Alec happy.
clear blue sky, the foursome headed out down the valley.
'Alec and I
met at a neighbour's Christmas party, ' Jean began. Meg wasn't really in the
mood for her lively narrative. All the same, she listened politely.
managed to escape and joined George.
Alec and Jean giggled away, while George and Meg marvelled at the wonderful
variety of birds and wildlife.
miles of nothing but fields and woodland, they reached a pub, appropriately
called The Traveller's Rest.
Meg knew the
pub well. She and Rob had sometimes popped in for a soft drink when they'd been
a Christmas drink!' Jean piped up.
'I need to
sit down. My feet are killing me!'
it a miss,' George mumbled. Meg knew that, like her, he was a teetotaller.
beer garden around the back. We'll wait for you there,' she said. She hated pub
crowds. A Christmas one would be even worse.
As Alec and
Jean pushed open the door and sailed into a blast of jaunty pop music, the
other duo found a picnic table and got settled. Meg rooted in her rucksack for
her thermos and shared her coffee with George.
Meg. That's very welcome. And here's something to go with it.' George reached
in his rucksack and brought out a tupperware box.
home-made mince pies,' he explained.
better than any pub grub,' Meg said.
that Alec's found a partner,' George remarked.
It was time
to let go of her hopes regarding Alec. Let's face it, she mused, he wasn't
interested in her. He'd had a whole year to ask her out.
nowhere, a tiny robin swooped down and landed on their table.
there,' Meg crooned.
George fed it crumbs. It chirped,
eagerly gobbled them up and promptly flew away.
remember the last time I saw a robin on Christmas day,' George chuckled.
I.' Hmm. Rob's name wasn't Robert. It was Robin. Was the robin a sign to move
on with her life?
gradually darkened as they chatted. Then suddenly, the back door of the pub
smacked open. Jean and Alec staggered out.
have to cut this short, Meg. We've phoned for a taxi,' Alec called.
hike idea was a bit silly, really wasn't it, darling?' Jean added.
George finished the ramble, and at the ancient crossroads, under the bare
branches of the old oak tree, they shook hands.
your company. I've really enjoyed it,' she said. 'And thanks for the mince pies
too. They were delicious.'
hesitated. Meg felt he intended to say more, yet he simply bid farewell and
went on his way.
* * *
arrived home ten minutes later, the heavens opened and a violent hailstorm
hailing when, fifteen years ago, a police officer rang her doorbell on
Christmas Eve evening. He was here to inform her that her husband had died
instantly. He'd been hit by a drunken driver.
Rob had been
out late night shopping, buying last minute gifts for Meg. She blinked back
tears as she stuck the kettle on and made another turkey sandwich.
to live on sandwiches these days. George's mince pies had been a very
fancy the TV programmes on offer, so to help move the day along, she booted up
the computer and checked her inbox.
cheery seasonal greetings from the novel-giving friend, but also, to her
surprise, there was a message from George:
whether you would like to meet for a daytime cuppa in the New Year sometime?'
What a nice
surprise! For the first time in years, her heart warmed with promise.
Meg had a
funny sort of feeling that next year, she could be experiencing a very
different kind of Christmas...
About the author
Sharon is forty-something, married and lives in
She has had letters, opinion pieces and poetry
published in a range national magazines.
Her short stories have appeared in My Weekly,
Your Cat, The Weekly News, Take a Break's Fiction Feast and Prima and Ireland's Own.