Welcome to the Advent Calendar Story Train, where you can read through 24 stories under the theme The Gift. Thank you for reading today’s story. The next one will be available to read on December 18th, titled “A Special Visit“. The link will be active tomorrow when the post goes live.
If you missed yesterday’s you can go and read it here.
A Christmas Wish
Cassie watched as her boss, red-faced and tipsy, pranced across the makeshift karaoke stage at the back of the pub. He tapped the microphone, which crackled and screeched.
‘Sorry.’ He shouted just as someone turned down the Christmas music.
‘Grab your drinks and gather round.’
Cassie took her wine from the bar and stood at the back. Lynn, her best friend, sidled up beside her pulling a face. ‘This’ll be good.’
Cassie hid a snigger as Derek launched into his speech. Polite laughter followed his lame attempts at humour. Not that Derek was a bad boss, he just wasn’t very inventive – same venue, same food, same speech every year.
She hid a yawn behind her hand.
Lynn nudged her. ‘You’re slow tonight.’ By the slur in Lynn’s voice, Cassie knew she’d already consumed enough alcohol for them both.
‘I’m not feeling it.’ She stifled another yawn; she needed the two-week Christmas break. Lie in’s, no commute – bliss.
‘Where’s Cassie?’ Derek’s words filtered into her thoughts.
Lynn waved helpfully. Cassie wanted to melt into the floorboards along with the sticky stains beneath her feet.
‘Cassie’s been working on a special project for me. Thanks to her, tonight is an extra celebration. With this new contract secured, I’m pleased to announce this year’s Christmas bonus is doubled!’
Enthusiastic cheers rang out and glasses were raised in her direction.
‘When I step down next year, I know the company will be in good hands.’
Cassie forced a smile, her cheeks blazing. Ten years she’d coveted that role but now she only had one dream, and it wasn’t being CEO of Derek’s company.
‘The next round’s on me.’ Derek’s words sparked a mad scramble for the bar.
Disco lights flashed and the music throbbed. The smell of party nibbles and spilt beer mingled, and she fought back nausea. ‘I need some air.’
Lynn took her arm and barged through the throng of people to the door. Outside cool, fresh air washed over them.
Her friend sipped her drink, rubbing a bare arm as the winter chill wrapped around them. ‘I’m booking myself a winter sun getaway with that bonus. What about you?’
‘IVF. We’re going to start trying again in the new year.’
‘Oh Cass.’ Lynn squeezed her hand. ‘It’ll happen one day.’
She tried to smile but there was an empty ache inside her only a baby could fix. ‘Two years we’ve tried. It’s like we’re not meant to be parents.’
‘Rubbish, you and Scott will be great parents.’
‘I hope so, otherwise it’ll be me up there making awful speeches every Christmas.’ When did she lose her passion for the job? Around the time her biological clock kicked in she supposed.
Cassie sipped warm wine. Grimacing, she tossed it away.
‘Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve been looking peaky recently.’
‘Just overworked. I can’t wait to spend the day in bed.’
Lynn downed her drink. ‘Best have something to recover from then.’ She cackled, her laugh always turned filthy after a few rums.
‘Actually, I’m heading home.’
‘You can’t leave me. I wanted your help putting the moves on Hot Harry.’
‘You don’t need my help. And I’m tired. I might be coming down with something.’
Lynn squinted at her. ‘Are you sure you’re not pregnant already?’
‘It’s hardly likely. I’ve been working too hard to bother trying.’
‘My sister acted like this when she fell. When was your last period?’
‘I don’t know… a while ago. They’re so irregular I lose track.’
‘Maybe it’s a Christmas wish come true.’
‘Don’t.’ She didn’t want to get her hopes up, but anticipation fizzed in her belly all the same.
Lynn disappeared inside and returned with their coats and handbags. ‘There’s a late-night chemist up the road.’
‘I can’t do it now.’
‘Course you can.’
Ten minutes later Cassie found herself back in the pub, perched over the toilet peeing on a stick.
‘Hurry up, I’m busting,’ Lynn called through the door.
Cassie left the stall, pregnancy test hidden in her bag. Suddenly overwhelmed, she couldn’t bear to find out while surrounded by drunken colleagues. ‘I’m going home.’
‘Wait, I can’t stop mid-flow.’
‘Sorry. Call you tomorrow.’
Cassie snuck out the back of the pub. She squeezed the strap of her handbag as she ran to the tube station, too scared to look at the result. Every negative took her closer to the CEO role and further from her dream of motherhood.
She needed to get home. Scott knew how to make the darkness go away.
Scott looked up from watching TV. ‘That finished early. How was it?’
‘When you’ve been to one piss up…’ She shrugged. ‘Fancy putting the kettle on while I get changed?’
Upstairs she stripped off the party dress that emphasised her flat, empty stomach and tossed it on the bed. Pulling on her favourite flannelette PJ’s, she felt a little better though her hand still shook as she reached for her handbag.
Two cooling cups of tea waited on the coffee table when she eventually returned. Scott lifted the throw, and they snuggled together on the sofa.
She handed him a small parcel.
‘It’s a week until Christmas.’
Scott grinned and tore at the Christmas wrapping paper like a little boy. Two plastic sticks fell onto his lap. Turning them over, he stared at two sets of identical blue lines.
‘Does this mean…’
He squeezed her in a hug. ‘My god, how?’
She laughed. ‘You’ve had enough practice to work that out for yourself.’
‘I can’t believe it.’
‘Our wish finally came true.’ The words caught in her throat. This time next year they’d be a family; the promotion would have to wait.
‘This is the best gift I could ever ask for.’ Scott nuzzled her neck. ‘I’ll miss all that practice though.’
Cassie kissed him, all trace of tiredness gone. ‘I’m still up for a little practice if you are.’
Thanks for reading. If you want to check out all the other blogs involved see Ari’s blog post for The Advent Story Train (containing links to all the blog).
If you enjoyed A Christmas Wish, it’s part of my Christmas short story collection which published on 3rd December 2022. Please take a look on Amazon – A Christmas Wish. The collection is only 99p. The audiobook will be out before Christmas too!
Happy Christmas everyone!
Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance
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