Par t three of Della Galton’s Christmas romance
Katie was woken on Saturday morning by the smell of burned toast and crashing. This was swiftly followed by the sound of cursing. Her brother must be making breakfast. Or more to the point, cremating breakfast.
By the time she got to the kitchen door, the smoke alarm in the hall had added its voice in a tuneless crescendo. Jimmy was flapping a tea towel beneath it.
“Sorry… I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I thought you might be in need of some TLC. But it’s all gone a bit wrong.”
She smiled at his crestfallen expression. “Thanks,” she said as the smoke alarm was finally silenced. “That was a very nice thought. Never mind the toast but I’d love some coffee.”
“Are you OK?” Jimmy asked as they drank it. “Bet you didn’t get much sleep.”
“Actually, I slept really well. To be honest I wasn’t all that surprised about Marcus’s decision to finish things. Although I was a bit shocked that he’d moved on before he’d thought to actually mention it!”
“Did he say who?”
“No, and I’m not really that bothered. Which sounds mad, I know, considering we’ve been together for nearly a year, but deep down I’ve known for a while that it isn’t working.” She hesitated. “Being here for a few days has given me chance to get some perspective on my life.”
“That’s not why he ended it, is it
– you being here?” He looked worried.
“No, honey. If he was going to cheat on me, he’d have found a way to do it wherever I was. I’m glad I am here, though. At least I haven’t got to panic about finding somewhere to live just before Christmas…” She looked at him. “I’m assuming it’s OK if I stay on a bit?”
“You don’t even need to ask. Mi casa es su casa.”
“Thanks. Anyway, enough about me. How are you? Did you hear anything from Lindsey in the end?”
“Yeah. She phoned up first thing. We were chatting. That’s why I burned the toast. Apparently she was on her way to meet me when the babysitter phoned to tell her William had really bad pains in his stomach. They thought he had appendicitis so they ended up taking the little lad to hospital.” He shook his head. “Luckily it was only a bug. It’s been going round his school. Doesn’t last long.”
“Bless him. At least you know she didn’t stand you up on purpose.”
“No. She was really apologetic. She asked if we could reschedule for next Friday, subject to William being OK.” He hesitated. “And subject to being able to get a babysitter.”
“I can babysit if you like?” she offered because she knew he wouldn’t ask.
“Thanks.” He blinked a few times. “Are you sure you’re OK about Marcus? I’m happy to go up with you when you collect your stuff. I might not be able to drive with this plaster on my foot, but I can still carry boxes and I can do moral support. And I can kick him quite hard – if you need me to.”
“I’ll take you up on the moral support bit. Thank you. Now, talking of carrying stuff, don’t we have a party to go to, Jimmy Juggle?”
There wasn’t time to brood about Marcus and his defection over the next few days because it was Jimmy’s busiest week of the year. There were Christmas parties every day.
It was also Holly Baker’s birthday party on Wednesday afternoon. Aiden Baker had decided he wanted the full show for this one as it was being held in a village hall, and so Jimmy had persuaded Katie to be his “glamorous assistant”.
“There’s nothing to it,” he’d said when she’d protested that she wouldn’t know what to do. “All you have to do is wear a sparkly costume and smile a lot.” “I haven’t got a sparkly costume.” “I have,” her brother had said. “Please. Just try it on. I’ll pay you.”
“I don’t need you to pay me,” she said, feeling slightly irritated that the sparkly outfit, which was a lot skimpier than she’d been expecting, fitted perfectly.
“Yes you do, you don’t have a job. Besides, I’d have paid my usual assistant if she hadn’t double-booked me.” He named a figure which would have been tempting even if he hadn’t had his pleading elder-brother look on his face.
“OK, I’ll do it,” she said grudgingly. He was right. She’d been living off her savings for the last six weeks, but they wouldn’t last indefinitely.
“You are an absolute star,” Jimmy said, hugging her.
She felt slightly irritated that the skimpy outfit fitted her perfectly
You don’t need to get changed until the last minute,” Jimmy told her on the day of Holly’s party, as he applied his clown make-up.
“Thank goodness for small mercies, as our mum would say,” she replied with a wry grin.
They’d practised the routine several times. It was a little more complex than Jimmy had implied, but Katie was confident she knew what she was doing.
“I know I shouldn’t get emotionally involved but I’m quite nervous about this party,” he told her as they set off.
“Me too,” Katie agreed, thinking of the evening she’d spent with Aiden. This was his little girl’s first birthday, not to mention Christmas, without her mother. He’d had to be both father and mother to her this last year – and he’d been