A Christmas Play


“It won’t take you long to do the unpacking,” I said, “She’s got very little and most of what she does have looks as it’s fit for the rag bag, especially her underwear. Would you mind if I made a contribution and bought her a few things?”

“Good idea,” mother said.

“Only thing is, I don’t know what…you know…how to…”

“You men really are a useless lot,” mother snorted. “All right, I’ll check up on her sizes while we unpack, and you and me can go out together to get the things when the shops open on Monday. Now don’t go away because I want to talk to you when I’ve got Aine settled.”

“Where’s Sam,” I asked.

“Out in the park again with your father, on her bicycle.”

“Right, I’ll go and take over for a while and send dad back. He can give me a call when you want to talk.”


I retired to the park and was greeted by an exuberant Sam with, “Look what I can do daddy.”

She had previously had to stop the bike and get off to turn the thing around. She now demonstrated her ability to turn the bicycle around while still on the move. I had to witness this feat a number of times, offering my praise and admiration.

My father returned to announce that Aine was asleep and mother was ready to talk with me.

“You’re getting a bit left out, dad,” I remarked.

“Don’t worry, she’ll reserve her talk with me until we get into bed tonight,” he grinned. “By the way, she says it’s time for Sam to come in, and I’ve got to supervise her shower. She really knows how to take over once she’s committed, that woman of mine,” he laughed.

Mother looked all limbered up for serious talk, but she began by saying, “She’s a size fourteen and takes a 38C in bras. I can see what you mean; her stuff is falling to bits. We’ll shop on Monday if it’s all right with you.”

“Fine, but you don’t think she’ll object to us taking over like this?”

“That’s partly what I want to talk to you about, Derek. Let’s go and sit in the lounge.”

Seated, mother started. “Aine and I have had a long talk. She’s been wide open, letting all the misery and pain, all the poison, come out. I don’t need to give you the sordid details, do I?”

“No, I read them for myself.”

“There is something you probably don’t know, Derek, and I don’t know what to make of it. When she came to the church last night it was a sort of farewell. She was going back to her room to turn on the gas fire and kill herself. I can see that she had plenty of reasons for giving up on life, but there was one last straw that broke the camel’s back.”

She paused for a moment seeming to be struggling with her own emotions, then went on in a low voice: “You saw that big box wrapped in Christmas paper?”

“Yes, what’s in it?”

“An electric train set. It was for Jamie. She bought it with money she’d saved out of her social security, but knowing she wouldn’t be allowed to see Jamie, she sent it, and they returned it. No note, nothing, just sent it back. Can you imagine anything crueller you could do to a mother?”

“During the church service she changed her mind about committing suicide, and do you know why?”

“No, why?”

“Because somebody cared enough about her to pray for her, and you know who that was, don’t you?”

“Yes. But I don’t understand how she knew, I mean, I didn’t speak out loud, except during that hymn ‘Away in a Manger’, but I was so quiet she couldn’t have heard.”

“No, she didn’t hear in the accepted way of hearing, she felt.”

“How do you mean, ’felt’?”

“I tried to get her to explain that, and all she said was it was like a warm feeling, and she knew somebody cared enough and was praying for her, and she felt the compassion coming from you.”

“I can’t say any more than that, Derek, because she didn’t say any more herself. Perhaps when you were a child I should have warned you about praying for people.”

“Warned me?”

“Yes, I should have told you that praying for people can be risky.”

I was completely lost as to what mother meant and I asked, “How is it risky praying for someone, after all, it’s just words?”

“Yes, that’s what a lot of people think about praying, but that’s not really prayer at all. Real prayer puts us in the position of being responsible to and for the person we pray for.”

I felt a sudden lurch in my stomach. I contemplated telling mother about the voice I had heard, but decided against it. She might think I’d gone crazy, so I remained silent on the matter and merely indicated to her that I’d understood.

Mother went on: “At the moment Aine is right down at the bottom of the pit, emotionally, physically and intellectually. What she needs is a hand stretched out to give her a start in her climb out of that dark place. We can offer that hand.”

Mother fell silent, and we both sat meditating on the situation. I began to wonder why we had got our selves involved. With all the pain and suffering in the world, why this one? And what of myself, did I not have pain?

Then the realisation came that since first seeing Aine at the Christmas play, I had hardly thought about my problems with Gloria. I had gradually focused away from my own difficulties, and begun to focus on someone else’s situation.

But what about mother, and father for that matter? I found myself cynically asking myself, “What’s in it for them.” I decided to voice that thought.

“Mother, why are we…why are you going to all this trouble for Aine, when…?”

“When there are so many others? It’s simple, Derek. Aine came across our path. I can do very little for the entire world’s suffering, but I can do something for this one sufferer. She was there, Derek…”

Mother paused; staring into space, then went on: “No, I’m not telling the complete truth.”

“Which is?” I asked.

“Derek, I’m not being the unselfish person I’ve been trying to tell you I am. There’s something in it for me.”

I couldn’t see what would be “in it” for her, so I asked, “What is in it for you?”

“Something I’ve always wanted, a daughter. I love you Derek, you know that, but one of the sad things for your father and I is that we never had a girl. When you brought Gloria into our lives I tried to be a mother to her, tried to love her, but she was too independent, too ambitious and quite frankly, too self-important to want anything I had to give. Perhaps it was my fault as much as hers. I never really liked her, and maybe she felt that.”

“And you want to take Aine as a daughter?”

Mother gave a wan smile and said, “That’s not biologically possible, and in any case she might not want it, but in the mean time I shall give her the love I would have wanted to give to a daughter in trouble.”

“Do you expect me to be her brother?” I asked, grimacing.

“What you are to Aine will be your decision, but just remember, you were the one who prayed for her.”

Mother suddenly changed the direction of the discussion and said, “Regarding her son Jamie, I shall get your father’s legal brain working on that one, he’s a solicitor so I’m sure he can find out the situation in law.”

“Ah,” I thought, “that will be dad’s bedtime fare tonight.”

“About Monday’s shopping,” mother went on, “pick me up about nine. Would you? Now I’ve got to get on preparing the meal or we’ll all starve.”

She rose and went to the door, and then turned and said, “Well, don’t just sit there, come and help me.”

I followed her to the kitchen to peel and wash things.

Father arrived with a polished Sam. “We’ll leave as soon as we’ve eaten,” I said, then hastily added, “I mean, after we’ve helped clear up. I think Sam should have an early night.”

“Don’t bother about clearing up; go as soon as we’ve eaten, your father can help clear up.”

Aine joined us for the meal, and although she said very little, she did seem better for her rest. Sam and I left when we had finished amid a flurry of kisses. As I passed Aine at the door she made as if to kiss me, and then drew back. Instead she offered me her hand which I took, but pulled her to me and kissed her on the cheek. It was just a brotherly kiss!

Chapter 9: Brotherly Love?

Putting Sam’s bicycle into the back of the car together with her other gifts and mine; we drove home, both of us in thoughtful mood. As we neared the house Sam sighed, “Mrs. Lady didn’t see me ride my bicycle, can she see me tomorrow?”

“Not tomorrow, darling, but we are going to grandma's again on Monday; she might be able to see you then.”

“Good. I think she’s nice, daddy.”

“Yes, darling, but she is very tired.”

“Why is she tired, has she been working hard?”

“No, I don’t think so. There are other things that make people tired.”

“Oh. Will she be tired on Monday?”

“I don’t know, Sam. We’ll have to wait and see.”

With Sam tucked up in bed I sat back with a glass of whisky and contemplated the events of the last couple of days. It was all rather confusing. It was I who had brought Aine into our lives, but I wasn’t sure why. Connected to that question “why?” and in some ways more important, were my feelings about Aine.

Mother’s talk of seeing her as a daughter had been faintly disturbing. If it were pursued by mother and accepted by Aine, I foresaw certain complications arising for me. It would put her much more into the centre of our lives, and did I want a “brother substitute” role? After all, what did we really know about Aine? We knew what the media had splashed around, and had heard people talking about her. Their views ranged from “She should have been hung,” to my initial questioning of putting her in prison.

I gave up the mental struggle and my mind wandered on to Gloria. Where had she been during Christmas? Had she thought of Sam? Was there any pain for her? With the influence of a second glass of whisky I drifted off to sleep in the armchair and dreamed of pulling a white faced Aine out of a dark pit.

I woke some time later and dragged myself to bed and another dream of Aine, but this time it was…well, I awoke with an erection in the morning.

It was Sunday and Sam was given permission to ride her bicycle up and down on the footpath without oversight from me, but with a stern directive, “Don’t go on to the road.”

I pottered around the house doing odd jobs that had been left over from before Christmas, catching up with the washing and ironing, and preparing meals for Sam and I.

Throughout the day Sam kept raising matters concerning “Mrs. Lady.”

“She’s very pretty isn’t she?” “Why was her face so white?” “If Jamie is her little boy, why doesn’t he live with her?” “Will she be tired tomorrow?” “I think Mrs. Lady likes me. Do you think she likes me, daddy?” “Will mummy come home one day?”

And so it went on, with that heart wrenching innocent persistence with which a child can seize upon the core of matters, while we adults continue to argue with ourselves or others about the “Ifs and buts”.

Chapter 10: I Go Shopping With Mother.

When Monday morning dawned I felt oddly pleased with myself and wondered why. A bit of psyche prodding allowed me to admit that I was pleased I would see Aine. Further more, I was pleased that mother and I would be out doing something nice for her, or at least, I hoped it would be nice.

Sam and I, together with the beloved bicycle, arrived dead on the appointed time. Knowing mother I wouldn’t dare do anything else.

Aine was looking much better, no doubt because of the rest she had, but also because she found herself in an accepting environment. Mother would have been fussing over her, and father would have been engaged in his rumbling concern.

Father was to take charge of Sam while mother and I went on our errand, but it was Aine who first took charge of her, telling her how pretty she looked and that they would go for a walk.

I didn’t think it would be a walk for Sam, as she would no doubt insist on riding her bike.

Mother and I departed, and under mother’s instructions we entered the car park of a large store. We seemed to ride up and down a bewildering array of escalators until we finally arrived at a department with a sign, “Ladies Lingerie.”

Like many men I hesitated to enter this silken region for fear that people, especially the shop assistants, would get the wrong impression. I hung back, but mother saw my wavering and commanded, “Don’t be so silly, Derek, you’re the one who is buying.” Taking me by the arm she impelled me into department and up to a glass counter.

The place was festooned with a bewildering array of vests, panties, bras, slips and other items of female underwear that I could not give a name to. Sylph like waxen models with blank faces and nigh impossible figures displayed the items for sale.

Mother took control of an assistant and began the task of choosing the items. Her selection was, shall we say, practical. The sort of thing a girl would wear in the everyday hustle and bustle of life when the gear was not intended for the eyes of another in the more intimate moments.

Starting to feel a little more relaxed in the ambience, I let my eyes rove over the multitude of things for sale. I had no idea there could be such a variety of ladies personal attire.

In the process of looking around my eyes fell upon one particular model wearing what almost did not exist. What there was of the garments consisted of a matching set of panties and bra. They were made of the finest delicate black material; the bra consisting of little more than under lift and the panties seemed to be made of narrow pieces of cloth.

I nudged mother and whispered, “What about something for special occasions,” and jerked my head in the direction of the displayed delicacies.

Mother stared at the items for a moment, and then turned her gaze on me. “What ‘special occasions’ did you have in mind, Derek?”

Realising I had committed a faux pa I tried to amend my words. “I mean something to make her feel really nice.”

“Are you sure you don’t mean to make someone else feel ‘nice’?” She giggled, which is most unusual for mother, then said, “You’re right, Derek; something to make her feel pretty, but they’ll cost you fortune.”

I failed to see how the substantial things mother had chosen, containing far more material than the scant objects I had chosen, could cost less. However, such are the mysterious ways of the female and their attire.

I shrugged and said, “We’ll take them.”

I had taken scant notice of the things mother had decided on, and had little idea about relative sizes. When mother told the assistant “38C bra, please”, and the bra appeared, I had a dazzling vision of what would go inside those near non-existent cups. Something stirred in my nether region.

Our purchases wrapped we began our journey through the maze, and in doing so passed another department selling female clothing. I think both of us were struck by one displayed item. It was a sea green pant suit.

“With her hair colouring she’d look lovely in that,” remarked mother.

“Yes, stunning,” I murmured as I pictured Aine wearing it together with the special panties and bra. “She’s only got that white suit and a couple of rather washed out dresses.”

Mother contemplated for a minute or so, and then said decisively, “I’ll get it for her.”

Twenty minutes later we emerged from the store triumphantly bearing our purchases and headed for home, anticipating the pleasure we would give Aine. Didn’t someone say, “It is better to give than receive”?

Chapter 11: A Delayed Christmas Day.

When we got to the house it was to find Aine, father and Sam absent. “They’ve gone out with Sam and her bicycle,” I commented.

The Christmas tree was still standing in the corner of the lounge, so we decided that the parcels should be put under there, and on Aine’s arrival we would announce that they were belated Christmas presents for her.

Then began that impatient excitement that besets the givers of gifts as they await the arrival of the intended recipient. One of us was constantly looking through the window or going to the front gate to see if they were coming.

Eventually mother came rushing in from the front gasping, “They’re coming, they’re coming.”

I draped myself nonchalantly on the sofa, while mother prepared to waylay father in the hall to alert him to what was about to happen. I heard mother say to Aine, “Just go in to the lounge, would you dear?”

Aine came in holding Sam’s hand and there was a low murmur in the hall and mother and father entered.

Mother and I had failed to arrange who was to present the gifts, so there was a brief hold up as we each waited for the other to speak. I decided to take the initiative and said, “Aine, we thought as you only had a gift from Sam on Christmas Day, we’d like you to have a late Christmas Day, so we bought you some presents.”

I pointed to the parcels under the tree and Aine, with a look of bewilderment, knelt down to begin opening them.

Mother and I decided that the best should be last, so the everyday things were on top, followed by the delicacies of my choice, and finally the pant suit.

Opening the “every days” Aine was delighted and said, “Oh, lovely, they’re just what I need, how did you know?”

She looked at me, and then blushed, realising I had noted her underwear when I helped her pack. She turned away and opened the second parcel and became very still, staring at the panties and bra for a long time. She said nothing and finally opened the last parcel.

It was too late to whisk Sam out of the room this time as we were all taken by surprise.

Aine clutched the suit to her breasts and began to sob helplessly. Through the gasps and gulps could be heard, “No… no… I can’t…it’s too much…Oh no…Why did you…?

Sam ran to her and put her arms round her neck and began to kiss Aine’s tear soaked cheeks. “Don’t cry, Lady (‘Misses’ had dropped off and ‘Lady’ had taken on the character of a proper name). Please don’t cry you’ll look very pretty in it.”

Aine held Sam to her as well as the suit, and her sobs began to diminish. I had expected mother to swing into action as she had the first time Aine wept, but instead, she looked at me and whispered, “You prayed for her.”

I went to them and engulfed Aine and Sam in my arms. “It’s all right Aine, we loved getting them for you. We didn’t want to make you unhappy, we just thought…” I stopped speaking. Holding Aine and Sam I felt warmth emanating from them. I had thought we were fulfilling a need in Aine, but suddenly I found that these two were gratifying something in me.

Aine turned her face to me and kissed me on the lips, then still with her arm round Sam, went to my mother, kissed her and did the same to my father.

She stood for a moment looking at us, then very quietly said, “There aren’t the words to express what I’m feeling so, thank you.”

We all stood silent for a moment, then mother went to Aine and putting her arm round her said, “Let’s go to your room and put the things away.”

“Can I help, Lady? I can put things away,” Sam pleaded.

Aine took her hand and said, “Of course you can.” The three of them left the room.

Chapter 12: Father Has a Talk.

Father rumbled wordlessly for a moment, then said, “Feel a bit of a cheat getting a kiss, I haven’t done anything.

“Yes you have, dad,” I grinned, “You’ve provided the money for mother to spend.”

He laughed then said, “I’ve got my orders. I’ve got to look into the business of her son. Not my line of law really, but I can get one of the colleagues to take it up. Can be very tangled this family business. People using kids and property to get back at each other. See what I can do, eh?”

“Yes, mum said she’d get you going on the matter.”

He laughed again; “She’s always getting me going on something, but what about you?”

“What about me?”

“You know, you and Gloria. Heard anything?”

“Nothing; She could have disappeared of the face of the earth as far as Sam and I are concerned. I could have tried to get in touch with her through the company she works for, but what would be the use. If she doesn’t want Sam and me, especially Sam, there’s no point in pursuing her.”

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