It was over, Holly reached up and took down the last piece of Mistletoe, it was the great bunch that she had hung over the entrance. In the days before Christmas she had dreamed of how it would be, she would hear him, the taxi door, and she would fling back the door. In the light that flooded the path he would be highlighted, his uniform dark against the background light of the street lamps, his medals glinting and his smile, his beautiful smile lighting the night and warming her world.
When the phone rang, a whole week ago now and she heard the voice she had known straight away that it wasn’t good news. They had agreed you see, when he first went away that they wouldn’t fall into the trap of regular calls. On the surface it appeared a good idea and many of the troops committed to it but often and often she had seen what it did. When the call was delayed, the trauma, the fear and anguish until news came through, either the lines were down or there had been an extra patrol but it was too hard, harrowing and wearing. So they agreed, he would ring often but always unexpectedly, unlooked for. The surprise was a thrill and though she lived, all the time in the hope of the call she didn’t experience the fear when there wasn’t one.
That last call though, she had known immediately that it was bad news, his voice, subdued and careful, and he told her. “I’m sorry love, I don’t think we’ll make it home now for Christmas, I can’t tell you more than that.” She had been stoic, understanding, a soldier’s wife through and through and as her heart broke she made jokes and told him stories, what the family had done, the silly dog chasing a squirrel, the car passing its MOT. When the call finished he was reassured and happy, she put down the receiver and let the tears flow, the hot angry, sorry, self-indulgent tears. She gave them their time, from long experience she knew that not to do it would leave her irritated and depressed for weeks and so she indulged herself in the cleansing grief and so as before, carried on.
This time though her soul wouldn’t accept what her head was telling her, surely he would come, this would be their last Christmas as a couple, next year there would be three of them, a pile of baby toys under the tree, the silly pretence of Santa and the tiny new life which would demand a share of the fun and the affection. This Christmas should have been the last on their own and now it wasn’t to be.
She had waited all day, Christmas Eve, jumping and starting at each car door slamming, peering through the curtains into the damp night and then when the phone had trilled she had answered it with a traitorous heart knowing that it was the end of hope. They had tried to be upbeat and cheerful but they were devastated and she had spent Christmas day alone and sad…
She was glad it was over, the fire in the big metal drum was warming as she flung the tree into the conflagration and the cards and tinsel. Yes thank goodness, it was over and now there was the New Year to look forward to, the baby and Steve, soon now he would come.
She raised the sprig of greenery gathering the trailing branches and lifting them high, “Don’t you have a better use for that?”
She turned, the mistletoe gripped tight, her eyes already flooded and there he was, his eyes alight with love as he reached and took the branch from her, held it high and lowered his head, his lips seeking hers, his arms folding her, her and their baby, and their future. Christmas might be over but the rest of their life was just starting.