Tuesday 12 December 2023

The Christmas Alchemist by Lynn Clement, prosecco

 What an arrogant knob.

That was my instant reaction when I met Leonardo. Of course, his name wasn’t really Leonardo. He’d styled himself on Di Caprio but wasn’t half as good looking – although he was a lot taller. I tried to shorten the name to Leo when I was talking to him at The Alchemist bar in Manchester. He didn’t have any of it.

‘Leonardo,’ he stated, staring at me with steely blue eyes. His Santa lapel badge flashing, Merry Xmas.

His friends laughed. They told me later his actual name was Lee Smith. I should have realized then.

By the end of that night my girl friends and I were smashed. It was Christmas. The £9 for a glass of prosecco didn’t faze us. We were wearing glitter. After five glasses each, we were oblivious anyway.

‘The gentleman sends his compliments,’ said the waiter as he presented a bottle on our table. He pointed to a smirking Leonardo, who was raising his own glass to us. It was Champagne. I smiled - my fave drink, - he took it as a signal.

He swaggered over. He was decidedly aware of all the attention he was attracting. Dressed in black tight-fitting trousers and a crisp white open-necked shirt with one black button at the top. His leather loafers seemed full of air, a broad smile revealing his immaculately veneered canines.

Well, he thinks he can turn base metal into gold, I thought.

My friends departed as quick as a wink, declaring, ‘tune,’ as they scuttled to the dance floor. Wizard were blasting out, ‘I wish it could be Christmas Every Day.’

He sat down and picked up the champagne bottle, pouring me a drink. He clinked my glass with his. All the while fixing me with his hard blue-eyed stare and not saying a word.

I jutted out my chin and looked down my nose at him but managed a, ‘cheers.’

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

My friends looked over from the dance floor and I looked at them, willing them to come and rescue me. Maybe I was too subtle. They didn’t come back, in fact they left without me.

My own fault? Probably. After the first silence, he kissed me, long and hard, - and I didn’t resist. ‘Merry Christmas, babe,’ he whispered in my ear.

We walked home that night. Me, carrying my shoes, with his jacket round my shoulders, a flurry of snow in the air.

I made him coffee the next morning. ‘Black, two sugars,’ he shouted from the bedroom.

Cheeky git, I thought, beginning to sober up. What was I thinking?

Drunk, said a smug Jiminy Cricket sat on my shoulder.

‘Yep,’ I replied out loud. ‘But no harm done. I’m a big girl.’

‘You got any bacon, babe?’ came from upstairs. ‘Make us a sarnie.’

Southern smart-arse. It’s a butty round here.

His phone on the kitchen table buzzed and lit up. Instinctively I looked at the screen.

WHERE ARE YOU??? – YOUR WIFE!!! (Angry Face emoji)

Short and sharp like a stiletto through all that cheese.

Jiminy Cricket gasped.

 I looked in the mirror draped in red tatty tinsel - mascara rings and glitter.

Jiminy Cricket shook his head disapprovingly.

Then a light bulb flickered.

‘Do you like mustard, love?’ I shouted. ‘I got a Christmas spiced one.’

‘I lurrrve it, love,’ he mocked.

With my best acting face on, I duly delivered the bacon butty.

‘I’ll phone you sometime babe,’ he called, as he slung his jacket over his shoulder and sauntered out of my front door.

Neighbours’ curtains twitched, revealing white plastic Christmas trees, with silly golden baubles dangling.

I smiled.

‘I doubt it, - that mustard you lurrrved so much, had me mam’s potent laxatives mixed in it. Merry Christmas - babe!’

About the auhtor  

Lynn is a regular writer for Cafelit. Her first flash fiction collection, The City of Stories,' is published by Chapeltown Books. See 5-star reviews - #amazonthecityofstorieslynnclement 

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