So Christmas was going to be different! After 3 years of living away from home, I’d kicked my boyfriend to the kerb. All my friends were in couples, I didn’t want to be their third wheel, so I packed a bag and drove to visit my parents. They’d moved away from the suburbs, to a rambling house with a couple of guest rooms so I could have their company or privacy – still it felt funny to be less independent than usual.
My mother told me they were attending a drinks party. Friends who were going on a cruise for Christmas were having people round before they left. I’d met a few of my parents’ friends so I I’d be able to make conversation, but I wasn’t looking forward to it much. Still I got dressed up – a leather pencil skirt, stockings and heels, cute cardigan unbuttoned at the neck. I was still getting used to my new hairstyle – the long wavy curls my ex-boyfriend had loved were now cut into a blunt bob. I wore damson purple lipstick and big hooped earrings.
As we parked I admired the grand house; in an old market town it fronted onto the town square and looked to be three storeys high. As my father raised the brass knocker, the door swung open and our host welcomed us in, his face flushed from the toasty temperature inside! The house groaned with guests generating a low hum of conversation. Standing on the periphery I had a chance to admire the fancy decor – Laura Ashley meets gentleman’s study.
Our host and hostess were very welcoming. Soon I had a drink in hand and was trailing my mother, saying hello and being introduced, she explained I was staying over Christmas. It was heavy going though, how much could I say about my job doing admin? Most guests were middle aged and I was floundering.
Suddenly my eyes were caught by a vision of youth, his ‘viking handsomeness’ speared me! With chiselled cheekbones, milky skin and flaxen hair, I looked into his pale grey gaze and was transfixed by his beauty!
I flushed, embarrassed. Had I been staring? – time had stood still for a moment. I was about to ask my mother if she knew who he was, when he hobbled over to our group, walking with a stick.
Our host introduced his eldest son Hamish and my mother ventured to ask what he’d done to his leg. A suitably dramatic story ensued. Hamish had been pushed from the path of a speeding van on a night out, the push propelling him into a wall. He’d sustained injuries to his leg and cracked his ribs. But, we all agreed, better than being hit by the van, making noises of shock and concern.
My mother introduced us. Hamish was polite, but after very little small talk he excused himself, he was retiring to his room, needing to keep the weight off his leg. Everyone was sympathetic, I was thinking lucky bastard, when I realised he was speaking to me! Did I want to join him?
Could I? Would my parents think it was rude? My mother was smiling and nodding that I should go. I flashed back to the years of parties I’d attended with my parents, the ‘young people’ would be encouraged to go off together to watch TV or entertain themselves, despite the fact that we had nothing in common. On this occasion, however, my hormones were invested in me spending time with this ‘young person’.
I followed Hamish slowly up the stairs, admiring his forethought when he handed me a bottle of Pepsi and snagged tray of snacks to take with us.
OK – I was 25, but I really hadn’t been in many boys’ bedrooms! A room with a bed and someone of the opposite sex usually implied an agenda. I immediately felt a nervous frisson. Add that to the fact I didn’t know this guy, (although I wanted to!) and now we needed to make conversation for about an hour! He showed me into a fussy but tidy bedroom, where I sat on the bed and he took a desk chair (seems like a gentleman!)
This was his sister’s room (which explained the decor!) he poured himself a glass of Pepsi, he couldn’t drink with the tablets he was on for his injuries. I was feeling a little calmer by now.
As we talked I discovered he was in his first year of university, so I had the upper hand, being older with more life experience. Hamish had the self assurance which often accompanies private education and wealth, a confidence that nothing was out of reach, no doors would be shut to him. Although not obnoxious or entitled, he had that shine about him created by youth and privilege. I found him charming and open, we chatted easily. He put music on in the background, something I hadn’t heard before, so we listened and discussed the development of the artist’s style from the previous album. We moved onto live acts we’d seen then Hamish stated his ambitions to be a music manager – probably an area his parents’ influence could not reach!
While we talked I was fascinated by his sheer beauty. His eyes, although hauntingly pale, were very intense when he was animated about a topic. His lips were full; he smiled widely, generously and laughed easily. Such a change from my ex-boyfriend who’d become sulky and complacent towards the end, never wanting to go out or try new experiences. This young man had his whole life in front of him and was eager to explore.
He touched on girlfriends past, there had been one at his private boarding school. Their relationship sounded intense and formative, as first loves often are. Most recently he’d dated someone older – 26 and a model. How did his parents feel about that I wondered? They were cool with it apparently but it had been short-lived as they were never in the same place, basically it had been a ski-holiday romance.
It was a shock how fast time had flown, when my mother put her head round the door to say they were leaving. Even more surprising was that I didn’t want to go! She must’ve read my expression.
“If you want to stay longer, Fred can bring you home,” my mother said.
“Okay,” I agreed, “that would be great! If that’s alright with you?” I turned to Hamish feeling suddenly shy. Had he simply been polite in entertaining me? Perhaps he was dying for me to leave so he could get back to his Xbox. But he nodded, smiling widely and we carried on where we left off as soon as the door closed. I don’t know what else we talked about but I wanted to make an entertaining impression.
The time flew, then his father knocked on the door to tell us Fred & his wife were leaving. I got up reluctantly, smoothing the soft leather of my skirt over my hips then headed downstairs.
There was the usual fuss, locating my coat, did I have a scarf? Thanking our host and hostess for the party and wishing them well on their cruise. The whole time I hugged to myself the pleasant, warm feeling created by spending time with Hamish, not looking for anything more. He would go on holiday with his family the next day, my visit with my parents extended to the start of January, at which time I would return to my flat and my job …
“Oh no, I’m not going!” Hamish answered when Fred’s wife wished him happy holiday. “I’m staying at home to look after the house and the cats.”
I stood there dumbstruck by that tidbit of information, looking up at Hamish’s six-foot frame where he stood, a couple of stairs up from the bottom. When I noticed I was positioned immediately under a sprig of mistletoe I blushed – I felt Hamish’s eyes on me and ‘imagined’ everyone was thinking “Kiss, kiss, kiss!”
Amidst a flurry of goodbyes and Christmas well-wishes I was swept out of the front door, down the steps and into Fred’s car for the journey back to my parents’ house.
To be continued …