As she scribbled her to do list and hummed along quietly to Jingle Bells in the empty waiting room, Nadine was aware that Christmas was almost upon them and she had nothing put aside, bar some empty jam jars. With these she hoped to make some tea light holders to give as gifts, or decorate her own house with. Jim scoffed at the idea, stating his embarrassment on her behalf. She thought he would be pleased, it was cheap after all.
The children had been fawning over adverts on TV for toys since September and Nadine couldn’t help but think back to the Christmas spirit of last year – she had made weekly trips to the city to stock up on toys, clothes and treats for everyone. This year she would try to avoid all that, and order what she could online. The cost of petrol and parking was a luxury she couldn’t justify now her job was gone, and Jim would be extra vigilant this month with the accounts, having already threatened to confiscate her debit card.
Lucy was old enough to notice the tension between her parents, and at nine, Nadine suspected she was well aware that Santa was not all he was cracked up to be. She had been slow to mention what she wanted this year, and Nadine’s heart broke every time she looked in her eyes and the little girl claimed she really didn’t need anything new.
“Mrs. Keane?” Nadine jumped and dropped her pen on the floor. “Yes, here,” she said, and walked into the consultation room.
Nadine opened the post as she bundled the children out of the door to school, warning Lucy to wait for her little sister this time. There was a bill for her phone, which was a little less than usual, a joint bank statement and an envelope with an airmail stamp. Her address had been handwritten on it. She took it back to the kitchen and retrieved her cold tea before opening it.
The jagged pieces of the cup sat on the kitchen floor in the pool of dead tea as Nadine stood at the window and stared blankly at the back garden. Her hands had finally stopped shaking but she was still fixed immobile to the same spot on the floor. Her head was spinning, yet she felt strangely numb, afraid to move in case she would invoke something she didn’t want to acknowledge. She hadn’t even known her father was ill.
She was upstairs sorting laundry when she heard Jim come in the front door. The kids shouted their greetings from in front of the TV, and she heard him go to the kitchen and open the fridge without answering them. The familiar sound of him slurping his beer echoed in the hall before he came up the stairs. Her legs felt weak and her forehead was beaded with sweat as he approached the spare room. “Hi” he said, not looking at her.
“Hello Jim…” she paused, before mustering the strength to say the words she had been rehearsing all day.
When it was done, she was struck by how relieved he looked. She had not seen her husband look relaxed for a long time. It was a saddening assurance of his true motivations. He packed a suitcase and told her he’d come by in a few days to get more of his things and see the kids. She felt she had no choice but to agree, given how complicit he was in her desire for him to leave.
Nadine signed a cheque and handed it to her solicitor. “Is that it now? It’s done?” she asked. “Once he gets it he’ll leave you alone. It’s more than you’d have to give him from your inheritance if you let me take this to court”.
She knew he was right, but she didn’t care. “Just make sure you get it delivered to him in this, and he has to sign for it too,” said Nadine, handing over a painted jam jar.
Anna Foley lives in East Cork, Ireland with her family. She is a freelance writer and has recently had short stories published in Maudlin House and Silver Apples Magazine.
Photograph courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net