A nephew’s gift leads to things both naughty and nice
Christmas was always busy in the Jamieson household. Every year, the family of four would swell to host grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins over the festive period, and with only three days until Christmas Day, the mad rush was on to complete their preparations.
‘Now remember,’ Julie said as they neared the airport, ‘This is your Aunt Holly’s first Christmas since her separation from Uncle Jim. She’s taking it very hard, so be especially nice to her and Olivia, okay?’
‘Don’t see why,’ said Liz in the backseat without looking up from her phone, ‘I’d be happy to get shot of my husband if he’d had an affair with his PA.’
‘They’ve been married for seventeen years,’ Julie said, ‘That’s longer than your father and me. She loved him and he betrayed her, of course she’s going to be upset.’
‘I just hope she’s not going to be crying about it all Christmas,’ Liz said.
Julie rolled her eyes, attributing her daughter’s lack of empathy to a self-absorbed teenage phase that she’d hopefully grow out of.
‘You’re so anti-social, you know,’ Tom said to his sister. ‘Don’t they teach people skills at school these days?’
‘Leave me alone, dickhead,’ she retorted.
‘Thus, proving my point,’ Tom said with a satisfied grin.
‘Enough,’ ordered Julie. ‘I don’t want you two bickering all the way home. Liz: phone away.’
As she tossed it into the door compartment with a disgruntled sigh, Julie turned into the airport and parked outside arrivals. Holly and Oliva had flown in from Edinburgh, where they had moved eight years ago for Jim’s new job. As well as more responsibilities and a bigger pay packet, it had come with another perk: a doe-eyed twenty-something who — sadly for his family — he had been unable to resist.
‘There they are,’ Julie said, pointing to her sister and niece beside a pair of suitcases. ‘Tom, help them get their luggage in the boot.’
‘Aye, aye, captain,’ he said, getting out of the car.
He hugged the taller of the women first. ‘Hi, Aunt Holly. How are you holding up?’
‘Better with each day,’ she said, giving him a squeeze. ‘My, you’ve filled out. You were a rake last time I saw you.’
‘Uni football. Don’t tell mum, but I spend too much time in the gym and not enough studying,’ he joked.
‘Well, you look very handsome,’ she said.
Tom smiled, then turned his attention to his cousin. ‘Alright, Liv?’
‘Yeah, thanks, you?’
‘Good, looking forward to this week,’ he said.
He gave her a hug — although she was only a year older than Liz, she lacked his sister’s surly disposition — then put their luggage in the car.
Julie and Liz completed their greetings, then they squeezed in the car for the drive home.
‘Bill, we’re back,’ Julie called out.
‘Coming,’ he replied from the living room. He paused the game and made his way to the hall. ‘Lovely to see you,’ he said, giving Holly a cheek to cheek kiss and Olivia a smile, ‘How was the flight?’
‘Surprisingly painless,’ Holly said. ‘An improvement on last year.’
Bill chuckled. ‘I remember. A two-hour delay and lost luggage.’
‘Nightmare,’ Holly said.
‘Right, I’ll take your cases up. Guest room for you, Holly. Olivia, you’re in with Liz again if that’s okay.’
‘Sure,’ she said.
‘How are United doing?’ Tom said as he sank down onto the sofa.
‘They’re shambolic. To go from beating City to losing to bottom of the league. We’ve got no clue how to play against the lesser teams.’
‘Been like that all season.’
‘I know. Shocking. By the way, have you bought your mother and sister a present yet? I don’t want you leaving it until the last minute like last year.’
‘Don’t worry, lesson learnt. I’m sorted for everyone except Aunt Holly. I’m going to go into town later and get her a bottle of that wine she likes.’
‘Good idea,’ Bill said. ‘Ohhhhh,’ he exclaimed as United put an easy chance wide.
After an embarrassing 2-0 defeat, Tom decided it was as good a time as any to go to town. He went to the kitchen to grab the car keys, but paused outside the door at what sounded like a heartfelt — and intimate — conversation.