Home for Christmasbyxelliebabex©
"Hey Honey where are you?" Bruce asked concern obvious in his voice. "I am at the check-in counter. Where are you? Call me when you get this, please." Bruce looked at his phone in consternation and moved up in the line as he waited to check into the flight that would take him home to Australia for Christmas.
"Going home for Christmas," The man behind him in queue asked making conversation.
"Yeah," Bruce said absently.
"Thought so, just I could tell from your accent," He clasped his hands in front of him and rocked on his heels as if he had pronounced some new insight and was proud of the revelation, "I have a bit of an ear for accents. I'm what you might call a bit of an accent enthusiast."
"Yeah," Bruce nodded absently.
"I'm going down under meself," The man said in his best imitation of an Australian accent. "Met a girl online, Karen, she is meeting me in Sydney. Here she is," he said holding up a printout of a blurred photo.
"She's lovely." Bruce squinted at the photo.
"Don't suppose you know her. Ring any bells?" The man actually looked hopeful.
"Nah mate, sorry." Bruce muttered doing his best not to roll his eyes.
"I guess Sydney is a big place, isn't it." The guy sounded disappointed.
"Susan! There you are," Bruce exclaimed cutting the man off. "What are you doing? Where is your luggage?"
"I'm not coming," Susan said shaking her head. "Bruce, where do you see our relationship going?" she put her hands on her hips
"Brisbane via Dubai," Bruce looked up at the departure board confused.
"Stop being funny," Susan had no trouble rolling her eyes, "You only want me to come and hold your hand through another dreadful Christmas with your psychotic family."
"That's not true. I wanted you to see where I was from, meet my family," but she was holding up the card he had gifted her with the ticket. He had clearly written 'Come hold my hand.'
"That's not what I meant, that's just," he stammered. "It was a joke I was being..." he waved his hand around and the man behind him in the queue added.
"Self-deprecating, it's a well-known quality of those from down under," he rocked on his heels again.
"Do we have to argue right now?" Bruce pleaded, "Can't we just board and sort it out on the flight?"
"I don't know what you want from me Bruce. I don't know where this going? I am done," Susan looked at him sadly.
"Can you move up a bit," The man behind Bruce interrupted and seeing the gap, Bruce dragged his bag the foot or so forward.
"Susan, please, just..." Bruce tried to save the moment.
"Good bye, Bruce." She handed him her ticket and walked away leaving him stunned.
"Susan, wait! Can't you just come anyway?" Bruce was almost begging, "Just come for the holiday."
"Come on its Christmas," The man behind him in the queue pleaded on his behalf. Susan shook her head and walked away without another word.
"You can trade that spare seat in for an upgrade," The man behind him said cheerily and Bruce Held up the internet booking sheet he had printed out.
"Ah internet booking, then you're screwed," the man lamented with him.
Bruce turned away moving up to the check-in counter. He boarded the flight alone and friendless heading into what he knew would be a typically disastrous family Christmas.
Bruce had been standing at the Sydney airport pickup zone for over an hour before he finally gave in to the reality that no one was going to bother to pick him up. Shaking his head he gathered his bags and went to the cab rank.
The drive home was depressing and as the cab pulled up outside his parent's house he sighed and just stared out the window of the cab until the cab driver finally turned and looked at him repeating the fare. With bags in hand he walked not to the front door but through the side gate and into the back yard. His father, Noel, was on a ladder hanging a Christmas banner that had "Welcome Bruce and Susan" written onto the bottom of it.
"You may as well take it down Dad, she umm, she not coming." Bruce said as he saw it.
"Bruce, I nearly killed myself putting that up there," Noel said climbing down from the ladder. "It can bloody well stay up now."
"Sorry..." Bruce muttered.
"All your mother's idea. Doreen, she's not even coming now!" He yelled and his arms went wide as if he had suffered greatly for the banner.
"I never asked for a banner," Bruce said as if he was somehow guilty for its existence and his father's subsequent suffering.
"Stay away you and you get a banner," Doreen his mother said as she hurried into the back yard. "Welcome home! Merry Christmas my baby boy. So where is Susan?"
"Umm her grandmother got a bit sick so she stayed back in London," Bruce stumbled over his words.
"Aw that's no good. We were looking forward to meeting her." His mother looked genuinely disappointed.
"Well it's not coming down now I can tell you that," Noel said sternly. "Hey, what's wrong with your eyes you look like you have been crying?"
"I have just been... I have just been on a plane for twenty-four hours Dad give me a break. Have you never heard of jetlag?" He gathered his bags and began to walk into the house he grew up in.
"Where's Shaun didn't he pick you up?" Noel looked around confused.
Bruce growled under his breath and stalked into the house. Searching his brother's bedroom he found what he needed before approaching the still sleeping Shaun. Walking closer to the bed he let the air horn sound making his brother almost leap from the bed as he swore and spluttered awake.
"Merry Christmas, Thanks for picking me up, asshole," Bruce laughed at him.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, what time is it?" Shaun rubbed his face.
"Its eight a.m. You ass," Bruce grumbled
"Wow, you got in early," Shaun said still waking up.
"No, Shaun. I got in at six just like I told you I would," Bruce groaned at his older brother.
"You didn't tell me that," Shaun denied the accusation.
Bruce gave his brother a dead arm punch and walked out of the room. Shaun fell back into the bed rolling over and pulling the blanket back into place. Bruce could hear his parents arguing about the placement of furniture outside in the backyard as he walked to his room planning on grabbing some clean clothes and having a hot shower to revive himself after the long flight. He walked past the wall that held all of their family photos and stood for a moment looking at it. At the centre of the display was a photo he had taken as a cadet journalist of the disaster left by a tropical cyclone.
That was before he sold out and became one of the villainous paparazzi that dogged the celebrities in London. He went to the bathroom and stood under the spluttering hot water dreading the day to come. Exiting the shower he went to the kitchen to grab some coffee and found his brother Shaun, he grimaced, "That shower still sucks, why don't you fix it aren't you a plumbing apprentice."
"That was years ago. Where have you been? Oh that right, London," he put on a phony upper-class British accent. "So what happened to Susan?"
She couldn't make it. Her grandmother was sick, some respiratory thing..." Bruce let his voice trail off.
"She dumped you?" Shaun made it was more of statement than a question
"Yeah at the airport," Bruce admitted.
"Shit man. What a dog. Better off without that bitch," Shaun commiserated.
"Can you just not say anything to the family. I don't want the third degree," Bruce had an edge to his voice knowing his brother could never help himself from blabbing stuff like that. "Yeah, yeah, man it's cool," Shaun agreed too easily.
"Shaun when you gonna cut this grass?" Noel's voice boomed through the house.
"When I get my mower back, I told you it's being fixed," Shaun yelled back.
"Well use the whipper snipper then. You know your mother wanted it done for today," His father seemed irritated more than usual.
"Well thanks Doctor Green thumbs. Do you own a gardening company? No! I do so, fuck off," Yelled an equally irritated Shaun as he moved out of the back door. Bruce heard his father mumble from outside again, "Well, you do a whole yard with a whipper snipper you maniac." Shaun slammed the backdoor as he came back inside. He looked at the expression on Bruce's face and grinned, "No one does Christmas like us."
By ten o'clock the whole tribe that was the Cross family had arrived and gathered around the Christmas tree in the living room. Shaun threw presents over his shoulder to various individuals as he sorted through the huge stack under the tree.
"My present's a little different this year," Sharon, Bruce's sister burst into the rustle of paper, making him look at her quizzically. "It's a group present I'm sure you'll all love. I'll be right back."
Once the wrapped presents under the tree had been distributed Shaun sat down with a large box between his legs and started handing out shirts, mugs and caps from his failed businesses.
"I'll take a my sons sucks at business mug," Noel grumbled.
"Here's a... my old mans scared of new ideas fridge magnet instead," Shaun threw a blue plastic square at him. "At least I give presents, Dad."
"Mines coming don't you worry about that," Noel shook the magnet at him.
Sharon came back in with a home pregnancy stick in her hand and looked at everyone as they stared silently. Waving her hand around excitedly after a few moments silence she exclaimed, "I'm pregnant."
While her parents and Bruce congratulated her and her husband, Darren, Shaun swore, "Fuck is there piss on that stick? Did you just sprinkle your piss on me!"
She flicked the stick at him a few more times while hugging her family. "Are you serious? Piss is my Christmas present?" Shaun was horrified.
At that moment the doorbell rang and in the midst of the bedlam surrounding the pregnancy announcement Bruce mumbled, "I'll get it," and went to answer the door.
A young woman stood there in a white shirt with small red crosses decorating the right shoulder. Bruce took her for a Red Cross charity collector and immediately dove into his pocket for change handing her a dollar fifty in small in small change.
"Oh no," she protested, "I'm Moira, Christians girlfriend." Bruce looked confused so she added. "He's just parking the car." Bruce had worried that his only cousin was not going to make it and had wondered why he had bothered coming home as well, but apparently he was here after all and with a gorgeous girlfriend. His mind immediately went to Susan and he cursed under his breath.
"What?" Moira looked shocked.
Bruce was saved from explaining himself as Christian came up behind Moira and frowned at Bruce, "Bit rude mate. That shirt is one of her original designs." He followed Moira into the house, "I think it's just the colour, babe. Don't worry about Bruce he is just the family moron." Bruce followed them back into the house and then out to the backyard where the party had moved to. He tried to walk back in as he saw his mother approach him with a camera but he was too slow.
"I know it probably seems like work Bruce but could you?" His mother handed him a camera and he nodded silent and gave a tight smile.
Bruce approached his cousin where he stood with his ever present phone in his hand. Shaun was trying to talk him into another of his get rich quick schemes "Funeral Fireworks", as Bruce approached.
"Hey look out, the professionals here," Christian teased Bruce.
"I'm not really a pro..." Bruce was cut off.
"Papa don't they call ya? You gotta a camera Mister Pap, Mister Pappo, Mr Pap-smear." He punched gently into his chest in a mock movement of jest.
"That rich coming from a guy who doesn't own a boat but still wears boat shoes," Moira teased Christian seeing the depressed look on Bruce's face.
"You don't have to be a sailor to wear these there just leather shoes," Christian said in a churlish tone. His phone rang and he moved away from the small group. Shaun hurried along beside him still talking about his scheme even though he was obviously on the phone. Bruce and Moira looked at each other and shrugged.
"So who 's Susan," Moira asked into the silence motioning toward the sign.
"Long story, she couldn't make it. Her grandmother's sick," Bruce explained
"Oh, I thought Shaun said her cat died. Well I am sorry about her grandmother's sick cat thing then," Moira smiled lop-sidedly.
"Brucey boy this must be Susan." The family drunk, Uncle Les, had come up behind them digging Bruce in the ribs, making him jump.
"No, no, this is Moira. She works for the Red Cross," He added as Les studied her chest and the red crosses on the shirt or so Bruce tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Bruce introduced them. "Moira, Uncle Les. Moira is Christian's girlfriend."
"Well that makes sense, pussy follows the coin," Les said with a straight face.
"Absolutely you get the money you get the puss," Moira smiled holding back her mirth.
"So they say," Bruce added giving Moira a dubious look.
"Yeah they do say," Les nodded towards Moira, "She gets it," he said with a dirty laugh.
"We were just going to get a drink," Bruce steered Moira away from Les whispering in her ear "That's the intellectual of the family."
"You do realise I don't work for the Red Cross," Moira asked as they walked towards the ice filled eskies.
"Well are you gonna me my money back then?" Bruce looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"What the whole fifty cents or whatever it was," she sounded stunned.
"This is your last chance," He said in a warning tone.
"Or what?" She laughed.
"Hey Uncle Terry..." Bruce called as they got closer.
"Hey Bruce." They hugged in a manly fashion before Terry kissed him on both cheeks, "Little French thing I picked up watching those foreign movies lately," He indicated his new foreign bride with a tilt of his head. "Lina loves 'em." Terry stepped back and looked Moira up and down. "You were right your Susan's an absolute stunner, the men in our family do alright with the ladies." He indicated his new young bride with an inclination of his head again. He seemed to have developed this unusual gesture since getting married two years ago and often did it even when not speaking about her.
"No, no. This is Moira, Christian's girlfriend," Bruce laughed. "I'll go get us those drinks," Bruce chuckled taking her glass from her hand, As Moira went to follow him, Terry waylaid her. Bruce snickered there was no getting away from a conversation with Uncle Terry, he knew everything about everything or at least thought he did. He knew it was cruel but he had warned her and now Moira was now trapped in an endlessly boring conversation.
Bruce stood beside Christian as they looked into the ice filled eskies frowning, "Geez no decent beer as usual," Christian complained.
"Could have brought your own," Bruce suggested watching Christian look at his phone and asking questioningly, "Working today?"
"Nah, it's just the boss takes his yacht out every Christmas and if you get a call it's as good as a nod for a promotion." He said staring at his phone willing it to ring.
"Yeah right. I can see why you are wearing the boat shoes now," Bruce grinned and Christian walked away shaking his phone. Bruce topped up Moira glass with white wine and grimacing walked to where he had trapped her with Terry and handed her the drink.
"Hey Terry, did Moira mention that she worked for the Red Cross?" He said and turned to walk away hiding his smirk as Terry launched into a new topic of how he used to be a Rotary Club member and his own charity work in conjunction with the Red Cross. Moira scowled at Bruce's back. Bruce chose to sit down in the shade next to his grandmother where he had a view of the lovely Moira and his Uncle talking.
"Here's to my last Christmas," His Grandmother, Edith, raised her glass of sherry,
"I thought last year was your last Christmas?" Bruce said with a straight face.
"Oh you," she smacked his arm lightly and he grinned up at the scowl Moira was still giving him.
Over the Christmas lunch, Bruce leaned across the table to Moira and murmured, "Have a good chat with Terry?"
"Yeah thanks," She smiled but it didn't reach her eyes. "I now know more than I ever wanted to about the Red Cross. Which was just lovely," She said as Terry took note of their quiet conversation.
"Here eat some of Lina's dish no one has touched it," Sharon whispered as she spooned a lump of greyish looking meat or something like it onto his plate.
"Why can't you eat it?" Bruce looked at it in horror.
"I'm pregnant!" Sharon exclaimed as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Urg," Bruce looked at his place trying to ignore the grey gelatinous lump.
Conversation erupted around the table about Bruce running away to London for various dubious and unsavoury reasons and the more he tried to deny them the louder the family got until Shaun stepped in blurting out, "Give him a break his girlfriend's just dumped him."
Edith turned to Moira, "Oh no, on Christmas day? How could you?"
"I'm not.. I'm Moira," She tried to explain.
"Oh Geez, ya could have told me before I put the bloody banner up in the back yard Bruce," Noel grumbled loudly.
"Everyone just stop," Doreen almost shouted.
"See what you have done, Bruce? Upset your mum on Christmas day," he answered his own question pointing out the obvious or so he thought.
Bruce opened his mouth he hadn't said a word through the whole barrage of accusations and disappointment from his family. Nothing came out so he closed his mouth again and just sat there enduring his share of the Christmas craziness and guilt.
"I'm not upset," Doreen protested, "Can we just stop and have nice Christmas?"
"Yeah think of your breasts Doreen," Terry piped up with his all-knowing expression, "You don't need the stress and the cancer to come back"
"My breasts are just fine thank you Terry," she held up her glass, "Merry Christmas everyone, cheers!"
"I see your palette is being obnoxious too," Terry said indicating the grey meat on Bruce's plate.
"Don't make him cry," Lina said quietly to her husband.
"I'm not fucking crying! Geez have none of you ever taken a flight? Had Jetlag?" He looked around the table. "Fine!" Bruce stabbed at the grey lump on his plate hacking off a mouthful and pushed it into his mouth instantly regretting it. He chewed fast choking it down still glaring at everyone watching him.
The rest of the dinner went on in silence until Shaun announced he had a new bat for back yard cricket. Most people went out for the game but Bruce decided to give his mother a hand and began clearing the table. He was standing in the kitchen packing the dishwasher when Moira came in with a casserole dish.
"Want some more of... whatever it is?" She asked with a dubious look at him.
"Nah I'm trying to cut back," Bruce said with a perfectly straight face. Moira laughed easily and put the casserole dish on the bench standing so close to Bruce he had to brush against her to move to the dishwasher. The attraction he felt toward this girl was electric and he turned to look at her their faces almost touching.
"Bruce. Where the fuck is that boy now? Bruce!" They could hear his father calling from the back yard, and startled jumped and move away from each other. Bruce shook his head. 'What the hell was he thinking? This was his cousin's girlfriend.' He turned hurried out to the backyard followed closely by Moira. "Yeah I am here." His father was standing in the middle of the back yard with a shovel.
"Ladies and gentlemen this is the last Christmas will have to suffer through the heat. We're putting in a pool!" Noel said proudly announcing his Christmas gift. The family erupted into cheers.
"Who's doing the installation," Les asked drunkenly, eyeing the shovel.