For the last of my Twelve Days of Christmas feature, I have such a heartwarming and romantic story from Jennifer Joyce. Jennifer is the author of The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea which was published earlier this year by HQDigital. You can read more about the book further down and order a copy online here.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken part in this feature. There’s been such a wonderful variety of stories and I hope all my blog readers have enjoyed them as much as I have.
The Perfect Winter Weekend
The flat was toasty after standing at the blustery station for over an hour, her arms wrapped around her body as though she could warm herself up if she held on tight enough. She hadn’t dressed for standing around on a cold December afternoon; the tartan skirt was too short, the black tights not quite thick enough, and her ankle boots were cute when she’d slipped them on her feet, but they were now torture devices in the guise of footwear. She had blisters on top of blisters, and the balls of her feet were on fire. And the worst bit was, it hadn’t even been worth it. She could stand being chilled to the bone, wouldn’t mind her torn-to-shred feet, if Johnny had stepped off the 13.07 from Llandudno. Or even the 14.07. But he hadn’t. She’d stood and waited on that platform, shivering, neck craning every time she heard a train approaching, for nothing.
‘Liz? Is that you?’
Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’ was – ironically – blasting from the radio in the kitchen, but the volume was lowered a moment before Liz’s flatmate popped his head out into the tiny hallway.
‘I thought you’d be out with Johnny for your perfect winter weekend?’ Jamie started to make kissy faces at Liz, but while she’d normally laugh at his teasing, she wasn’t in the mood right now. ‘What’s the matter?’ Jamie paused, mid-pout, and looked past Liz, a frown starting to crease his face. ‘Where’s Johnny?’
‘Still in Llandudno.’ Liz sighed and shuffled through to the living room, throwing herself down onto the sofa with another sigh. ‘He never got on the train.’ She thumped her arms down across her chest. ‘He never even got out of bed. Full of a cold, he says, probably flu. He’ll be out of action for the entire weekend.’
The entire weekend she’d spent weeks planning. She had a spreadsheet of fun and festive activities to fill the next two days, but she needn’t have bothered.
‘Oh, Liz.’ Jamie sank down next to his flatmate and pulled her into a hug. ‘That sucks. I know how much you’ve been looking forward to this. You must be so disappointed.’
Disappointed didn’t cover it. While most people were counting down the days until Christmas, Liz had been counting down the hours until Johnny arrived. It would have been the first time they’d seen each other in the flesh since graduation. The first time Johnny would have seen her flat, the friends she’d known before uni, her family. She’d told everybody about Johnny, and while she’d made the trip to meet his friends and family on numerous occasions, he’d never made it to Manchester to meet hers.
She was livid.
‘Maybe he’ll make it up here next weekend?’
It was sweet of Jamie to try to make her feel better, but she shook her head. ‘Like the weekend he never made it up here in October? Or the two he cancelled during the summer?’ She unzipped her boots and kicked them across the room, almost taking out a ceramic snowman sitting beside the fireplace. ‘I think it’s time I faced facts: Johnny’s lost interest. He lost interest a long time ago.’
There’d been niggling doubts even before they graduated, with Johnny using every excuse he could think of to avoid spending time with her, and their relationship during their last six months at uni had been completely one-sided, but she’d pushed her qualms aside, clinging onto their relationship for dear life. If she wanted it badly enough for both of them, it could work.
‘Flu is pretty nasty.’ Jamie smiled weakly. ‘It probably took all his energy just to phone you.’
Liz barked out a laugh. ‘You think he phoned me? He sent me a text message after I’d phoned him to ask why he hadn’t got off the train. Two had been and gone before he bothered to get in touch to tell me he had the flu.’ She grabbed her phone to show Jamie her boyfriend’s Facebook timeline of incriminating evidence. ‘He’s not ill – he’s hungover. He lied to me. Again.’ She wanted to cry, but she wouldn’t. Not in front of Jamie. ‘My perfect winter weekend is ruined.’
‘Not necessarily.’ Jamie rubbed his hands together. ‘What did you have planned?’
Liz eyed her friend for a moment before reaching into her handbag for the printout of the planned activities.
‘Wow.’ Jamie’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. ‘That’s quite a jam-packed weekend.’
Liz shrugged. ‘I wanted to make the most of our time together. I didn’t know when we’d get to see each other again after this.’
They wouldn’t get to see each other at all now.
‘Well, we can do this one.’ Jamie pointed at the first item on the list.
‘Bake mince pies?’
Jamie nodded, already standing up. ‘I was just in the middle of making some when you got home, so the pastry’s done but we can do the rest together.’
‘You were making mince pies?’ Liz couldn’t keep the scepticism from her voice. She’d known Jamie since primary school. Had been his best friend for over a decade and knew him inside out. Jamie liked football, playing the drums in his band, enjoyed a swift pint or two in their local pub. He didn’t bake. Heating a microwave meal was as sophisticated as Jamie got in the kitchen.
‘I’m giving them a go.’ Jamie held out a hand for Liz, helping her up off the sofa. ‘It’s probably for the best that you came home when you did.’
Liz almost fell down with shock when she saw the sight of the kitchen (and not only because it looked as though Mary Berry and Prue Leith had had a food fight in there). Jamie actually had been attempting to bake mince pies.
‘So? What do you think?’ Jamie indicated the rather messy kitchen counter.
‘I think you should turn the radio back up and pop an apron on.’
The mince pies weren’t a huge success, but they were edible (once you’d picked off the worst of the burnt bits of pastry). Next up on Liz’s ‘Perfect Winter Weekend’ list was an outdoor ice skating session, which Jamie agreed to take part in, despite never having held a pair of ice skates in his life, never mind try to balance on them while moving across a super-slippery surface. Still, he didn’t fall over too much (and Liz totally didn’t giggle behind her mittens every time he landed on his bum), and he assured Liz he’d enjoyed his first go on the ice while trying to hide his funny, bruise-induced walk afterwards.
‘This is more like it.’ Jamie held his mug of hot chocolate – the third item on the list – aloft and clinked it against Liz’s. They’d purchased their warming drinks from the Christmas market in town and were now standing in front of the giant, twinkly Christmas tree, where a small crowd had gathered.
‘You might not be saying that in a minute.’ Liz hid her smirk behind her mug.
‘What do you mean?’
But Liz didn’t have to answer Jamie’s question, as a brass band suddenly started up (scaring the life out of Jamie, who almost tossed the contents of his mug over the little old lady standing in front of him) and a song sheet was thrust into his hand.
‘Carol singing?’ he called over the intro to ‘Once In Royal David’s City’. The little old lady in front turned to tut at him.
Liz shrugged. ‘It’s something to tick off my list.’
It was growing dark by the time they’d sang their hearts out and returned their mugs to the market stall, so Liz and Jamie took the scenic route home to look at the Christmas lights, wreaths and decorations brightening the streets (item #5 on the list) before returning to the flat to watch Christmas films in their pyjamas.
‘Today has been perfect.’ Liz sank onto the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and wedged it between herself and Jamie. ‘Which is amazing, considering the way the day started out.’
Jamie grabbed a handful of popcorn. ‘Has he even contacted you since?’ Liz shook her head. ‘The guy’s an idiot, Liz. You deserve better.’
Liz sighed. ‘You’re right. I’ve been fooling myself.’
Liz’s forehead creased into a frown. ‘What do you mean?’
Jamie shook his head. ‘Doesn’t matter.’ He looked away, his full concentration now on the TV.
‘Jamie?’ Liz nudged him playfully. ‘Tell me what you meant.’ She wriggled her fingers at him. ‘I’ll tickle you if you don’t.’
Liz knew her flatmate’s weak spot, and Jamie reacted as she suspected he would, almost jumping up off the sofa, hands held up in surrender.
Liz grinned, fingers still wriggling. ‘Tell me, then.’
Jamie eyed her poised fingers and sighed. ‘Fine, I’ll spill.’ He plucked a piece of popcorn from the bowl and took his time chewing it. Liz waited, eyebrows raised.
‘You really want to know?’
Liz nodded. ‘I really want to know.’
Jamie closed his eyes, and his words tumbled out in a rush before he could change his mind. ‘I like you, Liz. I thought it was just a silly crush that would go away, but it hasn’t.’ He opened his eyes, but he couldn’t look at Liz and instead eyed the popcorn intently as an agonising silence followed.
‘Do you know what the last item on my list is?’ Liz reached into the pocket of her pyjamas, where her ‘Perfect Winter Weekend’ list was folded up.
‘Wash the dishes?’ Jamie peeked up from the popcorn, a cheeky smile on his face. The detritus from their baking session was still piled up in the sink.
Liz shook her head as she unfolded the list. She handed it to Jamie, who read out the final point.
‘Kiss under the mistletoe?’ His gaze slid up slowly to meet Liz’s. She was smiling shyly at him, her eyebrows lifted ever so slightly. ‘Do we even have any mistletoe?’
‘Johnny was supposed to bring it.’
Jamie’s shoulders slumped. ‘Oh.’
‘But who needs mistletoe anyway?’
Liz had made many plans for that weekend, but kissing her best friend hadn’t featured at all. Still, had she known just how lovely kissing Jamie would feel, it would have been at the very top of her perfect winter weekend list.
Thank you so much Jennifer – a perfect winter’s weekend indeed and a perfect way to round off my Twelve Days of Christmas feature.
Jennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. Her latest novel, The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea is out now. You can find out more about Jennifer and her books on:
About The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea
One summer can change everything…
Mae has no time for men in her life! Local vet Alfie might be totally gorgeous but she’s far too busy looking after her young daughter and running her little bed & breakfast by the sea.
Willow is in the middle of building her dream home with her husband, Ethan, when disaster strikes. And with every month that passes she secretly worries that her happy ever after will never come true…
Melody only intended to stay in the bustling seaside town for a few days. But when she meets Hugo – the charming man in the ice cream van – she decides to stay a little longer.
It seems the little bed & breakfast is full of surprises!