SOUND EF­FECTS

Par t three of Della Gal­ton’s Christ­mas ro­mance

My Weekly Special - - Fiction First Class -

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

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