A Family Christmasbykms1987©
Trevor Lloyd was the nicest man I'd ever known. He was kind, compassionate and genuinely cared about other people. So it was no surprise to me or the rest of the neighbourhood that he couldn't bear to leave his wife of fifteen years when he found out she was having an affair. The rest of us, including his children, all knew what was going on, but no one was willing to break the poor guy's heart and tell him.
Mr Lloyd had a few house staff who he was extremely generous to. He had a housekeeper who took care of the cooking and cleaning, a yardsman who also doubled as a pool cleaner and me, the nanny. We all received a large bonus at the end of the year, as well as two weeks holiday leave. Mr Lloyd always loved to celebrate Christmas. It was his favourite time of year, and as such, he paid for his staff's interstate flights to see family for the holiday.
This year, however, it was understandable that he didn't really have much interest in any Christmas festivities. It was always special family time for him. It was really the only time he took time off work. Being the CEO of a national engineering company didn't really allow for many family functions. He was constantly flying around the country.
Rebecca Lloyd, however, was a stark contrast to her husband. Her platinum blond, shoulder-length hair, pale blue eyes and petite figure made her look like an actual ice queen. She was fairly attractive physically, which was another polar opposite to her husband, who was balding, rounding in the middle and rather short. Her personality was her downfall. She was always complaining about how much money Mr Lloyd spent on the staff. Her theory was that we should be lucky to even have live-in jobs, let alone get paid over triple minimum wage.
Not to mention the fact that I'm almost positive the only reason she had children was to keep her husband happy, and that meant she could keep living the high life. Mrs Lloyd wasn't particularly interested in her children, which was why she made her husband hire a nanny. According to the housekeeper, Betty, the only stipulation Mrs Lloyd had was that Mr Lloyd had to hire someone who wasn't attractive. In a way, it made me feel better that I'd gotten the job based on my resume rather than my looks. At five foot seven, slightly overweight with a mass of frizzy, red curls, I wasn't exactly pulling the boys in.
I couldn't understand how a man as nice as Mr Lloyd could stay with a woman like her. A few days after he found out about his wife's affair, I plucked up the courage to ask him.
"Mr Lloyd, may I ask you something personal?" He'd taken some extra time off work in the hope he could fix his marriage.
"Yes, Amanda, what is it?"
"Excuse me for being so blunt, but how could you stay married to Mrs Lloyd knowing what she's done?"
He gave me a sad smile. "Amanda, one day you will find someone who you love so deeply that it far outweighs anything they may or may not do."
I was actually slightly shocked by his answer. I knew how much he loved his wife, but I honestly expected him to tell me he didn't want to hurt his children by leaving his wife. After all, he loved those children more than anything or anyone else.
"Is Mrs Lloyd even interested in fixing this?" I think I pitited the man more than I respected him, at this point.
"I don't know. I haven't had a chance to speak to her about it. She knows I know about the affair, though."
"What about Christmas? It's less than a week away."
"Oh, don't worry, Amanda. You'll all start your leave on the 22nd."
"That's not what I meant. You always have a big family celebration for Christmas. How are you going to cope this year? It's not exactly a happy time for you, or the children, for that matter."
"I'm hoping Rebecca and I can talk things through before Christmas. We're still a family at this point, so even if she does want a divorce, at least we'll get one more Christmas together."
"Well good luck, Mr Lloyd. I hope it all works out for the better." I turned and walked away from the man, and really felt sorry for him, but also felt that he deserved a Christmas worth looking forward to.
I started organising something special for him not long after our conversation. I recruited the other two staff members to help with the planning, and even got the children involved. So far, all we'd worked out was that we'd stay here instead of taking our holiday leave, just in case Mrs Lloyd decided she wanted nothing to do with a family celebration.
It was the 21st of December by the time we'd gotten our plans well and truly underway. Betty was going to cook a traditional Christmas feast using the food Mr Lloyd had already asked her to purchase, Steve, the yardsman, was going to create a "Christmas Wonderland" on the large, manicured back lawn using some decorations he planned to hire, and I was going to organise a photographer for Christmas Day. The three of us were going to use our end-of-year bonus to pay for the photographer.
Mr Lloyd's children, Tabitha and Oliver, had announced that they were going to make the decorations for the table. I'd encouraged them to do something personal rather than asking their mother to buy something. At ages 12 and 10 respectively, they could probably pull off something decent. Either way, I think Mr Lloyd would be thrilled with their efforts.
On the 22nd, Mr Lloyd gathered the staff together, which, at this time of year, meant he was going to hand out our bonuses and organise our flights for that afternoon.
"It's been another great year with the three of you. I honestly don't know what I'd do without you all. Despite the hiccups with my wife, we hope to have a nice Christmas together, and I hope you have a wonderful time with your families as well." He handed each of us an envelope which contained our cheques. "Now. I need to sort out each of your flights. What time do you want to leave?"
We'd all discussed what we were going to do when this conversation came around. It had been decided that we'd allow Mr Lloyd to schedule our flights in our name, and then cancel the flights, refunding the money back to him. The children had even got hold of some local events that they were going to get their father to take them to over the next couple of days so he wouldn't notice us still at the house.
"If you can organise our flights for the same time, Mr Lloyd, we've decided we'd like to leave together at 2pm." Betty was the one who spoke up.
"I'm sure I can do that, Betty. I'll have a driver take you all to the airport at 2pm for 4pm flights. Will that do?"
The three of us nodded and then excused ourselves. I headed to my room to pretend to pack, but instead flicked on the tv and waited for Mr Lloyd's phone call to say he'd organised the flights. It only talk about 20 minutes before that call came. After getting the details from him, he gave his apologies that he wouldn't be able to see us off as the children wanted to go to a Christmas play.
Once we'd said our good-byes and given our well wishes, the phone call was over. I immediately called the airport, gave them all of the details and cancelled my flight. The phone rang again less than a minute after my call to the airport. It was Betty saying that both her and Steve had also cancelled their flights, but they had no idea who Mr Lloyd was going to call to take us to the airport. I hadn't even thought about that part.
When the driver showed up at exactly 2pm, I went out and explained to him that he wouldn't be needed after all. It turned out he'd known Mr Lloyd for quite some time, so when I told him about our plans, he quickly switched from irritated to grateful that Mr Lloyd actually had people who cared about him.
Turning back to the house after seeing the driver off, I guessed that Mr Lloyd and the children would be out until well after dinner time. He wasn't exactly known for his cooking, so it wasn't out of the ordinary that he'd take the children out for dinner. Usually, it resulted in them wanting a burger and a milkshake, rather than some fancy restaurant that his wife preferred.
Once inside, I got some photographer's phone numbers off the internet and started ringing around. Most were not working on Christmas Day, and those that were, were already booked. Only one said he'd call me back if his clients cancelled, but I knew that would be unlikely. I called Betty and Steve, asking them to meet me in the kitchen.
I found them there less than five minutes later.
"I've run into a problem. No photographers are available for Christmas."
Steve spoke up. "I'm alright with a camera, so I could probably take the photos, but I wouldn't be able to do any of the fancy stuff or print them."
"Well, one photographer said he'd call me back if his clients cancelled, but I can't see that happening, so you might have to do it. I can probably get someone to do the editing and printing after Christmas, though. Have you got a decent camera?"
"It takes decent photos, so I guess it's a decent camera. I'm not big on technology, Mandy, you know that."
"Alright. It'll have to do, I guess. How's everything going for the two of you?"
"A few decorations I wanted for the lawn weren't available, but I can make do with what I've got. Otherwise, everything's fine."
"How about you, Betty?"
"I've got everything under control. All of the ingredients I need, Mr Lloyd has already bought." Betty gave a polite smile.
"Ok. Mr Lloyd and the children will be home after dinner most likely, so make sure you're out of sight by then."
We said our good-byes and went off in different directions. I hoped Steve could pull off some good photos, because it may be the last family photos Mr Lloyd will get.
On Christmas Eve, things really got going. The children had finished making their table decorations, which were better than I expected, and they'd got their dad to take them to some sort of Christmas fair for the day. Betty was spending the day preparing and cooking all the meals for the next day, and Steve was starting to set up a few small things that Mr Lloyd wouldn't notice. Steve would put up the rest tonight, so they'd be a surprise tomorrow morning.
I still wasn't sure whether Mr Lloyd had spoken to his wife or whether she was even going to be here for Christmas. Usually, she showed up, but was completely uninterested in the whole event. The only part she enjoyed was her seemingly endless supply of red wine. I felt yet another pang of pity for Mr Lloyd.
By the end of the day, everything was ahead of schedule. Betty had completely finished cooking and Steve had enough spare time that he was practicing his photography skills. He'd shown me his camera and the quality of the photos, and although they were taken by an amateur, they were still pretty good. We all headed back to our rooms long before Mr Lloyd and the children came home.
At about 10pm, after Mr Lloyd and the children had gone to bed, I snuck out to see how much more Steve had done. He was still working hard when I reached the back lawn, and it all looked magical. There was fake snow all over the lawn, fairy lights amonst the trees along with masses of silver tinsel and gold baubles. The trees were even topped with glittery stars.
"Wow, Steve. This looks incredible."
Steve smiled. "Thanks, Mandy. There was more that I wanted to do, but like I said, those decorations weren't available anymore. This'll have to do."
"I think Mr Lloyd and the children will love it no matter what. You've done an amazing job."
Steve and I chatted for a few more minutes before I headed back inside. The children's table decorations were hidden in my wardrobe, so I had to sneak back to my room and retrieve them, and then creep back to the dining room so I could decorate the table. It was nearly midnight by the time I headed to bed.
The next morning, Christmas Day, I woke up to my alarm, which was set for 5am. I quickly showered, put on some smart clothes and headed to the kitchen, to check on Betty. She'd made a start on breakfast and had already set the table. Steve came into the kitchen a few minutes later holding his camera. I was pleased that both of them had put on some decent clothes.
By 6am, Betty had laid out breakfast and the children had woken Mr Lloyd and had come running into the dining room, giving the three of us their cheeky smiles. Mr Lloyd had stumbled sleepily after them. He snapped awake when he saw us there, along with the decorated table and fabulous food Betty had made. He smiled broadly.
"I thought the three of you were supposed to be with your families. It is Christmas, after all."
I smiled back. "We decided to forego our holiday and create a special Christmas for your family. We know it hasn't been an easy time for any of you, so we thought this would lift some stress."
"And here I was planning on just going to a restaurant. Thank you all. I really appreciate this. However, I would like it if the three of you would actually take your holiday leave as of tomorrow. Ok?"
We nodded our agreement, happy that Mr Lloyd was happy.
"Mr Lloyd? Would you like to see something else?" Steve gestured to the back lawn.
"There's more? Come on, kids. Let's go have a look." Mr Lloyd and the children headed out the back, while Steve got ready with his camera. "Holy hell. This is amazing. Who did this?"
"I did, Mr Lloyd. Go out and have a look around. I'll take some photos of you and the children, if you like." Steve lifted his camera.
Mr Lloyd and the children spent a good half hour looking at all of the decorations and playing with the fake snow. Mr Lloyd wandered back over to us while the children continued to play, and Steve kept taking photos. It wasn't hard to notice that Mrs Lloyd hadn't shown up.
"Mr Lloyd, will your wife be joining you today?" I asked quietly.
"Unfortunately not, Amanda. I spoke with her the other day and she's decided she wants a divorce. I did ask her to spend this last Christmas with us, but she said she didn't want anything to do with it."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr Lloyd. If there's anything I can do, please let me know."
"The three of you have done enough. You've made our Christmas. Thank you again."
The rest of the day went along without a hitch. Mr Lloyd insisted Betty, Steve and I join him and the children for the meals. It was one of the best Christmases I'd ever had, and making Mr Lloyd's day just made it even better.