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Authors: Nicola Yeager

Christmas Without Holly

BOOK: Christmas Without Holly
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Christmas Without Holly


Nicola Yeager


© Nicola Yeager 2012


Nicola Yeager has
asserted her rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be
identified as the author of this work.

First published 2012
by Endeavour Press Ltd.












Extract from White Christmas, by Emma Lee Potter






Is there one word you hate? I mean really, really hate?
Like, if someone made you write out a list of your least favourite words in the
world, the word that would be at the top of that list? Numero uno? The Hitler
of the world of words? Well, for me it’s ‘hubby’. Whenever I hear another woman
refer to her bloody ‘hubby’, it makes me want to pull each individual hair out
of her head with tweezers. And that’d be just for starters.

I don’t quite know what it is about ‘hubby’ that annoys me
so much. Maybe it’s because it suggests an over-sentimental, matey relationship
with some honest, DIY-expert-father-of-your-kids type who loves his football
and his car. Like your husband is your best mate or something. Your partner in
crime. Your bloody hubby.

There’s an ill-defined smugness to it, as well. ‘I am
married!’ is what it’s saying. ‘I’ve got a hubby! Have you got a hubby? Where’s
my hubby? Hubby’s in a bad mood!’ It’s like a baby word, used by adult baby
cattle-women, whose sole ambition in life since they were three was to get
married and get themselves a ‘hubby’.

Well, I’ll tell you one thing. When I’m married, I’ll never,
ever call my husband ‘hubby’. If you ever catch me using that awful word, you
have my permission to use my head for testing the strength of cricket bats.

I’m not married, though, but I am engaged. More of that
later. At the moment I’m sitting down in the waiting area of a health spa,
waiting for my name to be called. I was feeling so knackered a few weeks ago
that I decided to book myself a few days in a rather swanky health farm in
Surrey. It’s called Willows, though I’ve already checked and I couldn’t see any
actual willows growing anywhere, though I don’t suppose it was that important
to whoever gave it its relaxing, new-agey name.

I’m not only here for a de-stressing pamper-fest, though.
It’ll be Christmas in a week and I’ll be spending it with my fiancé’s family,
so decided to get myself tarted up a bit. New haircut, fingernails done and
maybe even lose a few pounds (I wish!). I’ve also booked quite a few posh
treatments, even though I didn’t quite understand what some of them were. But
what the hell. I’m only going to be here for three days, so I may as well make
the most of it.

This morning, I got shown around everywhere (The Induction,
they called it) and listened to a posh young chap telling us about all the
treatments that were available in the tone of voice you’d expect from a used
car salesman.

He kept telling us about all the celebs that had stayed here,
assuming we were all the sort of people who’d be impressed by that, like he
obviously was. After he’s finished, I think ‘What a slimy guy!’ He reminded me
of a lizard and I half expected a long tongue to come darting out of his mouth
should an unlucky fly stray nearby.

After The Induction was completed (and I immediately forgot
most of it), I had a long, lovely swim, followed by a steam bath. I made the
mistake of taking my book into the steam bath, and watched glumly as it fell
apart when the glue melted in the heat. Duh. I’ve only been here a short while
and my brain is switching off already!

After all that strenuous activity and exhausting sitting
down, I was starving, and had a tiny piece of fish with a large amount of salad
for lunch, washed down with the finest gourmet spring water. I felt really
healthy and pleased with myself. For some reason, I started thinking of baked
bean pizzas almost immediately.

So here I am, slumped in a big green chair in a fluffy,
white Willows robe, staring blankly at some of the other women and wondering,
in some cases, if anything can be done for them. There’re a couple of porky
women sitting across from me who have obviously come here together. Both keep
smiling at me and I wonder if I’m meant to say something like ‘Hi! I guess
you’ve come here to lose a few pounds!’, but I think that would probably be too

There’s a woman of about fifty sitting a bit further away
with the most lovely, smooth skin. Her hair is white, but it’s been styled so
beautifully that dying it would be a sin. It really suits her and I hope I look
that good in twenty-five years. She’s reading a copy of Harper’s Bazaar and
smiling to herself. Maybe she’s thinking about her hubby. Or even a secret

I clasp my hands behind my neck and allow myself a big,
luxuriant stretch, when I’m suddenly aware of someone plonking themselves in
the big green chair next to mine. She’s in her late thirties or early forties,
stick-thin and smelling of expensive perfume. Instinctively, I look at her left
hand and am nauseated to see a white gold wedding band and a massive, and I
mean massive diamond and sapphire engagement ring. Honestly, some people do
like showing off, don’t they!

Her hair is dyed ash blonde (I can always tell when
someone’s hair is dyed – it’s a gift I have) and she has the most immaculate
fingernails I’ve ever seen on another human being (assuming that’s what she
is). Definitely a high maintenance babe. I just hope she doesn’t talk to me.

‘Hi! I’m Rebecca!’

She shakes my hand. I slide my way up to a normal sitting
position and feel my bra clasp come undone as it rubs against the back of the
chair. I’m not going to do anything about this yet as I think it would look a
bit weird.

‘Hello. I’m Holly.’

‘I bet you get lots of jokes, don’t you. At this time of

For a moment, I don’t know what she’s talking about, then I
realise and smile. If you’ve had a name for quite a while, like since you’ve
been born, you sort of get used to it and don’t always see why it’s a source of
amusement to others.

‘Well, no, actually.’

‘Were you born on Christmas day? My sister was born on
Christmas day. She’s called Noelle. I thought that Holly might have been a
similar sort of thing. Do you get invited to a lot of Christmas parties? Is
this your first time?’ She leans forward conspiratorially. ‘It’s my eighth time
this year. I know it’s an indulgence, but who cares when hubby’s footing the
bill, eh?’

I look towards the spa reception area, willing someone to
call out my name. It doesn’t happen. I shall make a complaint. Maybe a fire
alarm will go off. That would do. She stares at my engagement ring as if it’s
made out of a lump of chewing gum. ‘Fiancé paying, is he? When’s the big day?’

God, this woman’s nosy!

‘No. I’m paying for myself.’

‘You’re paying for - you work?’

‘Yes. I’m a nurse.’

‘Not for long, though, eh? No point in getting married if
you have to work afterwards.’

I knew it! She’s a hard-line feminist!

‘Well, we haven’t actually decided on a date yet. He – Clive
– works in Hong Kong…’

‘Oh, I love HK! We went there on our hols two years ago. A
bit smelly, though. What did you think of the Ladies’ Market?’

The Ladies’ Market? What the hell is that? Sounds like it’s
connected to the white slave trade.

‘I haven’t actually ever been there. Clive comes back every
three or four months, usually. The plane fare is a little expensive.’

Even though his company pays for it, a little voice in the
back of my head reminds me.

‘Oh, I see…’ A brief look of pity flashes across her face. A
face which I suddenly want to slap quite hard! I decide to change the subject.

‘What are you having done today? Anything nice?’

‘Non-surgical face firming! Absolutely marvellous. You must
try it. Even if you can only afford one treatment it makes a difference
straight away. What about you?’

‘Well, I’ve booked three bamboo massages. The first one is
in a couple of minutes.’ I glance once again at reception. Why can’t they call
my fucking name out so I can get away from this woman! Even if you can only
afford one treatment, indeed! Cow.

‘Oh my god!’ she rolls her eyes like she’s having an orgasm.
‘That’s James. He’s new. Well, new-ish. I’ve certainly got my eyes on him, I
can tell you that for nothing!’ She crosses her legs and runs a hand through
her hair. Is that what happens here? Is this a place where the wives of rich
guys can get rogered by the staff? I doubt it very much. I think Rebecca is
rather full of crap, I’m afraid.

She licks her lips and leans over to whisper in my ear. ‘I
had a full body Swedish massage here last year. This real hunk did it, but he’s
left, I think. Can’t remember his name now. Anyway, I was really, really
relaxed, feeling very drowsy and…’ she glances at the receptionist to make sure
she’s not listening and whispers ‘…he made me come. I had to bite my lip so I
didn’t cry out.’

For a moment, I’m speechless. Is she kidding? ‘What, er,
what d’you mean? Was it – was it intentional? On his part, I mean?’

‘Oh no! I don’t think he knew what he was doing. Well, he
knew what he was doing, but I don’t think he knew the effect it was having on
me. I mean, I don’t move around or cry out or anything! They would never do
anything like that on purpose. Not in this place, anyway. Far too respectable.
So far.’

‘Oh, right. For a moment, I thought…’

‘Keep it to yourself, though. It’s happened a couple of
times. The better looking they are, the more likely it is to happen.’ She
laughs. It sounds like a distressed seal. ‘I think it’s a lot to do with my
imagination, if you get my drift. Hubby’d go mad if I told him. He’d think it
was perverse. He’s very conservative like that. Real affairs he doesn’t mind,
as long as there’s not too many of them!’ She laughs and snorts. I can’t tell
if she’s joking or not.
‘Have you had a
bamboo massage before?’

‘No. I just thought it looked relaxing from what it said in
the brochure. I get a lot of muscle pain in my back, neck and shoulders.
Thought it might help.’

A very young-looking girl strolls over.

‘Mrs Venfield?’

Rebecca raises her hand like she’s in school and gets up.
Thank god for that. I don’t think I could cope with any more of her
confidences. She smiles at me, revealing perfect and probably expensive teeth.

‘Nice to meet you, Holly. Probably see you later. Have a
nice massage!’ She winks at me. ‘Not too nice, though!’

As she wiggles off for her non-surgical face firming, I have
to stifle a laugh. Whether what she told me was true or not didn’t really
matter. It was the fact that she had to share it with me was what was funny, in
a desperately sad sort of way.

Just as I pick up last month’s Vogue and start reading about
Gwyneth Paltrow’s fruit regime, I hear my name being called, but it’s not one
of the female receptionists.

‘Miss Holly Nightingale? Three-fifteen appointment?’

He’s about thirty, very good-looking and quite tall, wearing
a white masseur’s outfit with short sleeves, revealing his well-toned arm
muscles. Am I drooling? Sorry.

I raise my hand stupidly like Rebecca did and follow him
into one of the massage rooms. He turns around to introduce himself.

‘Hi. I’m James. I’m going to be giving you the bamboo
massage. Have you ever had one before?’

He has a soft voice with just a trace of a Scots accent. I
can quite understand why Rebecca was so keen! What did he just ask me?

‘Um – no. I just saw it in the brochure and thought I’d give
it a go.’

‘OK. Well, it’s a bit firmer than an ordinary massage, but I
guarantee you’ll feel great after it. Let’s go in and have a chat about it

We enter a small room with a massage table at its centre and
there’s a small changing cubicle to the left. It’s pretty warm and the walls
are a beautiful dark green marble. There’s a faint smell of something I can’t
identify. Some sort of essential oil, I suppose. Maybe lavender. James sits on
a chair and indicates that I should take the one opposite.

‘First of all, are there any particular areas that you’d
like me to concentrate on? Any aches and pains that need looking at? This type
of massage covers the whole body, but I can focus on certain areas a little
more, if you like.’

‘Well, I’ve got a bit of knotting on my back and shoulders
at the moment. I keep having to roll my head around to relieve it. Probably
caused by work.’

BOOK: Christmas Without Holly
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