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Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve: the mini Christmas before the main event. Yesterday finished without problem. I soon forgot about Amy when I got home and turned blue thinking of Mrs Mellor again.

I try to think about tomorrow. Going to mum and dad’s in Blackpool should be fun. I don’t see my parents enough. I know I should make more effort but I hate driving to Blackpool. It’s a shit excuse but it’s a true one. I don’t like Blackpool. Why couldn’t they live somewhere like Southport? It’s always clean and is full of retired people they can talk to. Blackpool is the opposite: rowdy with endless stag and hen parties. And cross dressers. But it seems to be a lot of peoples’ cup of tea. Bitter tea.

I wake up early with excitement. I take my shower as usual and brush my teeth while in there. The steam is turning the room into a sauna. My skin should be glowing when I leave.

I take longer than I should. I can imagine that, if Mei’s mum wasn’t in such a good mood, she’d be banging on the door complaining that I’m using too much electricity. It’s my house as much as anyone’s, so she can piss off. Listen to me, getting myself all worked up for no reason. She is a delight. Though I don’t know why.

I go downstairs after getting dressed and find a bowl of porridge made for me. Mei is there watching me with a smile on her face that is both perplexed and admirable. She’s as surprised as I am that her mum made me some porridge. There’s honey and jam and even peanut butter there to add to it. It must be Christmas. Unless she just feels sorry for me after everything lately. Wait until she gets a load of Amy. I can never tell Mei how pretty Amy actually is. Jealousy will definitely take over. I’ll have to find another job or migrate.

Being Christmas Eve I won’t have many deliveries today, which means I don’t have to be at work so early, which means I might not run into Amy, which means today will hopefully be event free. I just want to deliver my meals and head home to spend the evening with my wife.

Before I can do any of that, I tuck into this porridge. It’s lovely. It might only be porridge but knowing her mum made it makes it taste better.

As we leave the house Harold is coming out of his. He’s going to do a small job for someone. ‘I can’t say no,’ he says. ‘Not on Christmas Eve.’

I don’t ask what it is he’s doing. ‘I’ll see you later.’

He nods and we leave in our respective cars.

Judging by the sky it looks like it will more than likely be a white Christmas. It also means driving to Blackpool will be like a white knuckle ride, sliding from left to right. The news will tell me not to travel unless absolutely necessary. If you’d tasted my mum’s Christmas dinner you’d think that the journey is definitely necessary. You’d probably walk naked through a field of roses to get there.

After dropping Mei off and saying I’ll see her at four, I head to Leyland. I put Rock FM on, which is Preston’s main station. It’s like a local Radio One as it plays every kind of latest song, not just rock. Anyway, the news comes on with an update on Jason’s murder, albeit a trickle of an update ‘Police say they are pursuing other avenues in the murder of Jason Kirkland. They have been under pressure lately for not doing enough.’

What a Christmas this is going to be for his mum. And the kids, taken away from their mum so close to the best day of their year.

Turns out that I only have eleven deliveries today. I reach work later than usual and it seems everyone has the same idea. Agatha is turning into her usual witchy self. I wonder what her Christmas will be like. I can imagine her in a rocking chair plotting a mass murder of some sort while she has her cauldron bubbling away beside her. I knew her fake façade wouldn’t last. Isn’t it about time someone else was found to help her out? Working every day must be taking its toll on her health.

The only driver missing here is Amy. I know she’s working today on Leyland but I can’t see her. Not that I’m looking for her. I wonder if Naz still works here.

I can sense that everyone is still itching to find out what was in that letter. I still have it in the car. Her funeral should be next week so I need to find out when that is.

As I leave the depot, Amy is heading in. She blows me a kiss as she passes. I smile but it’s a smile of nervousness. The more I see her the more I’m convinced she’s after me. Hopefully it’s just innocent flirting. If there is such a thing. She shouldn’t be teasing me like that. For all she knows I could be a stalker or a rapist. Or she could.

I’ve delivered my last drop and it’s only one o’clock. It occurs to me that I’ve not bought Mei’s mum anything for Christmas. She’s here in our country so I think she should be part of our celebrations. It wouldn’t feel right if she wasn’t. And I know exactly what to get her: a thick throw. I’m pretty sure Primark sell them. I know it seems like I’m e cheapskate but their throws are really warm. Mei has bought some in the past. There’s one on her mum’s bed right now in fact. But she doesn’t have her own and she’s always complaining she’s cold. Especially when she opens the windows. Fresh air is more important than being warm apparently.

The shop is heaving with last minute shoppers, mainly men. It’s like almost every man has forgotten or couldn’t be arsed to shop before now. They put my gender to shame. Not that I’m doing much to improve it.

It’s a hostile kind of atmosphere as everyone it stressed. It’s supposed to be a happy time of year but everyone still wants to pile the pressure on everyone else. I don’t think I mentioned to Mei what I would like for Christmas even once this year. Whatever she gets me will be fine. But here, in this shop, it looks like hell.

I get lucky and find a thick blanket. It’s the last one. There’s something about buying the last of something on a shelf, like there’s a reason it’s alone and nobody has claimed it. I look it over and it looks all right to me, so I head to the back of the queue and wait forever to be served.

Afterwards, as I’m in the car leaving the multi-storey carpark by Preston train station, I wish I’d gone home first and gotten the bus into town. The carpark is heaving almost as much as the shops. I’m on the second floor and I’m still on it five minutes later. It’s like everyone is on a go slow. I can just about see the mini roundabout that’s outside by the barriers. People leaving Fishergate carpark opposite this one are not letting the car in front of them in. What a nightmare. I’m getting impatient. I know that when I leave I’ll be in a right foul mood. It doesn’t help that the road past the train station is clogged up most of the time. There’s a zebra crossing there and on Christmas Eve it’s in use almost all fucking day.

It takes me thirty minutes to leave the station and another fifteen to make it past the station and through town. I look at the clock. It’s almost quarter to four. Jesus. I need to pick Mei up. Luckily I’m only on Corporation Street, which is where the entrance to the old Blockbuster carpark is. I head inside.

There are plenty of cars leaving which I mistakenly take as meaning there will be a lot of empty spaces. There aren’t. Those cars must be the people who failed to get a space. This isn’t a good afternoon. Why did I have to bother coming to town. Her mum doesn’t even care about Christmas; it’s just another day to her. But being English I feel I have to cater for everyone else. I’m an idiot.

As I can’t find a space all I do is circle the carpark until Mei appears twenty minutes later. My mood is lifted when I see her and I forget that I’m in a carpark surrounded by other impatient shoppers.

She gets in and I we head home. She’s happy that I bought her mum something for Christmas. She says her mum will be happy, which is good. More brownie points.

When I pull up outside my house there is a news reporter on the corner doing a follow up report on Jason’s murder. I hope I don’t get on there. I’m already on Emma’s movie of Bournemouth Avenue.

I rush inside my house before anyone can speak to me.

Later that night we watch the news. I want to see if I’m on there. I’m not, but Bret and Alan Fogarty are. The two from next door but one. They’re talking away about the trouble Jason caused. Personally, I think they’re coming on a little strong about him. They’re on TV and talking like that? If I were a policeman watching this they’d be my first suspects. And what if Jason’s mum is watching?

From now on I think I’ll be keeping my distance from them.

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