My Dream Santa


"Hi sweetheart," Lisa had called her on her mobile back in mid August.

"Oh, hi Mum." Jennifer had said, knowing that she was expected to go home for the late August long weekend holiday, and wondering how she was going to get out of it.

"Just checking that both you and that gorgeous hunk Scott are still coming down for the August bank holiday?"

"Well, I am coming, but alone, Mum, no Scott."

"That boy works too hard, Jen, you have to stop him or he'll burn himself out. How are you two going to be making babies if your man is exhausted all the time? You could go part-time and and take some of the weight off him, dear. I mean he had to work during both Easter and the May bank holiday."

"I really don't know if Scott's working or not, Mum, we're not together any more."

There, she thought, I've said it. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mum!

"What, you two have a tiff?"

"Not a tiff exactly."

"Well, you two are practically a married couple, you've been together, what, nearly eight years isn't it?"

"About that, it was, yes."

"Get him to come down anyway, we can put on a front and once he sees he's still part of the fam—"

"Mum! I can't! We're not seeing each other, we're not even talking to each other."

"Well, put him on the phone and I'll talk some sense into him."

"He's not here, Mum, we split up, and he's not living with me any more. We've both moved on."

"He moved out, where?" Lisa was also shouting down the phone, "is his mobile still the same? I want to give him a piece —"

"We both moved, we had to sell the house. I live in a rented flat now. I think he has moved into a flat too."

"Oh, honey, what did you do?"

"What? Why do you think it was my fault?"

"Well, you are the only one in the family who hasn't settled down and started a family, so you must've—"

"Well, maybe I have found someone better, Mum."

"Better than Scott? I mean he was a real catch, handsome, charming, had a great job." Lisa had paused, "so who is this guy who is better than Scott?"

'Oh, bugger!' Jennifer thought, 'that's torn it. Do I fold or bluff my way through this?'

"He's called ..." Jennifer was at a loss to come up with something, but her eyes fell on an old Christmas present she had found while unpacking, a travel guide that she had been re-reading, by an author called Jeffrey Campbell, "he's called 'Jeff', and he travels, goes abroad a lot, and I am afraid he will be away out of the country on the bank holiday."

Why she lied? Honestly, she couldn't figure it out, even to herself. Jennifer had just got to the end of her tether and fibbed, making out she had "traded up" to a better boyfriend than Scott, rather than traded down to ... well, to having absolutely nobody in her life at all. She didn't even admit that the reason for the split was that she had found out that he had cheated on her. She only hinted that Scott was slow in committing to their relationship and so she had found someone better and had moved on.

Moving out had been a wrench, but she felt unable to forgive Scott one more time, and that gave her the strength to complete the break and ensure that there was never going to be any going back. However, the strength she felt by the move hadn't lasted long before the doubts about her ability to hold onto a relationship had come bubbling to the surface again.

Rather than empowering her in this new relationship with her mother, Jennifer found that the lying had only further damaged her self-confidence and she just couldn't find within her the motivation to even seek out, let alone actually find another boyfriend, even though Satish had suggested one or two of her husband's friends as dates, or even going as far as urging her to use a dating site. Jennifer was aghast at the very thought!

'Oh, how our lies eventually come home to roost and torment us,' she thought, when the Christmas season came around all too soon and a trip home was unavoidable. 'What can I do now?' she wailed to herself.

What else could she do, but lie once again? She thought that she would have to saying this time to her Mum that 'Jeff' was forced to send his apologies. It would be unfortunate but he had to work over Christmas again, as he did most holidays, and couldn't make it. Perhaps Jennifer could soften the blow by saying that maybe he would be free to visit sometime early in the new year. It sounded reasonable, so that is what she said to her mother a couple of weeks before she made the journey back to what used to be her home. And she had to repeat the lie the following week, avoiding giving more information about the so-called 'Jeff', in case she slipped up, by saying she had a parcel delivery at the door and had to hang up and deal with it.

After hanging up, Jennifer sat in her tiny galley kitchen in her flat, that only had one breakfast stool to sit on, and cried.

So it was with some dread that Jennifer set out after her work was completed, two days before the festive holidays began. She was not looking forward to lying face to face with her mother about this fictitious boyfriend, which had been so easy, or at least relatively, over the phone line. She knew that she would never manage to lie without blushing to her hair roots. What was she going to do? Admit to bare-faced lying?

'Yes,' she thought, 'I probably will.' Honesty was the only policy, and live with the shame, although she knew that her mother would torment her about it for years to come.

As she drove along, she was still trying to work out a scenario where she had just split with 'Jeff' and had torn up all his photos, and deleting any she held from all her devices. She knew that it would just mean that she was digging a bigger hole for herself. This could end up being worse than if she just admitted that Scott had repeatedly cheated on her throughout their relationship. Tell her Mum that she had chosen to ignore the evidence until the last affair was so in her face that it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Thank goodness her Mum wasn't on any social media sites, she sighed.

She was still in the middle of scheming the devastating demise of poor old 'Jeff' when her car suddenly died on her, with at least five miles to go to her destination, and snow was falling thick and fast all around her.

Chapter 4

There Jennifer sat, broken down on an isolated country road on the outskirts of her home town, where she had been trying to find Mum's new house in the dark without the aid of a satellite navigation system which she couldn't afford. The engine died, the car stopped and it got quite cold in her little car very quickly. She tried to restart the engine, but it refused to fire and, in a short spell of a couple of attempts, her battery died. It was then that she realised that the only breakdown cover she had had for the last few years, was Scott's. She snuggled down in her coat, but she didn't feel any warmer. What was she going to do now?

She heard a tap on the window. She must've closed her eyes for a few moments and almost fallen asleep in the miserable cold. Now she could see that there was bright light all around her, that she hadn't noticed until the knock on the window. A face, a man's face, was peering through her car window. She stared at him blankly, barely registering his presence, not sure whether she was dreaming his existence or not. She felt very, very cold.

He tapped on the window again. He was twirling his hand around in a circular motion, what did that mean? She never learned sign language at school. He did it again and it dawned on her that he was indicating that he wanted her to wind down the window. There was no power left in the battery to open the window, so she opened the door a crack, and an icy blast blew in, loaded with stinging snow flakes. She shivered even more than simply from the cold.

"Hello, have you broken down?" he asked cheerfully.

"Yes," she answered automatically, "I don't know what's wrong, it just stopped and the engine won't start again."

"I'll have a look at it, would you like to pop the hood for me?"

"Er, what? Where?" She tried to feel around in the dark without finding the lever that she had never pulled before in her life and had only a vague idea where it was. Somewhere under the dashboard, wasn't it?

"Let me," he said gently.

His voice was warm, and gentle, trustworthy even. He seemed familiar to Jennifer somehow, like she had known him before, from somewhere. His voice was reassuring, reminiscent of her father in the time before his marriage broke up. In fact the voice was so patient that Jennifer was also somehow reminded of her kindly grandfather. This stranger was a combination of all the really good guys she'd ever known. She tried to focus on this stranger's face but he was much too close to her, so close that she would need to change into her reading glasses to see him clearly. He seemed young, but was somehow blessed with a mature voice, full of quiet confidence and empathy for her predicament.

"OK," she agreed automatically.

"Look, you're freezing," he noted, "why don't you get up into my cab and sit there. The heater's on and it's really nice and warm in there. You could wait there perhaps while I get your car going?"

"I don't know you ... do I?" He did seem so familiar, but she had no idea why she would think so.

"No, of course you don't," he replied in his cheerfully upbeat voice, as though all was well in the world, his world anyway, "or at least I'm pretty sure we've never been introduced to each other before. I am a delivery driver, and I work for Webster's Haulage, they are a small local firm with a very good reputation around here. They only employ the most trustworthy staff to haul stuff around these parts, you know, so you could think of me as a reliable person. I'm actually Webster's leading charge hand."

"Yes, yes, I do know them, Webster's. Yes, of course I do. I, er, I'm Jennifer Webster. Andy Webster is my father."

"Oh, great, it's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Webster. Your Dad talks about you all the time. In fact, it gives him so much pleasure talking about you that I tend to encourage him." His smile was so infectious that Jennifer would have smiled too, if she hadn't been trying to hard to stop her teeth chattering in the cold.

He laughed at that and Jennifer thought it was a sweet, gentle laugh, full of remembrances of pleasant conversation, imprinted with the humanity of indulgent friendship between this young man and her father. His laugh was so infectious that Jennifer would have smiled too, if she hadn't been trying to hard to stop her teeth chattering in the cold.

He continued, "That means that I can therefore trust you to sit on your own in my cab, and by the same token you can trust me with your car. Your Dad wouldn't take on a driver he wasn't one hundred percent happy with, now, would he?"

"No," she had to agree, nodding involuntarily, "I'm sure he wouldn't."

"Come on then, let's get you sitting up in the warm. Then I'll see if I can fix this car for you and get you on your way. You're staying up here for the next two or three nights, aren't you?"

As she stiffly climbed out of her seat, she realised how cold she had become in such a short time. Her rescuer peeled off his thick, heavy high visibility jacket and draped it over her shoulders. She felt his body warmth inside that coat immediately. It was snowing quite thickly now and she noticed that the car was now completely covered in a thick layer of fluffy snow. With his firm arms guiding her, she was up and into the passenger seat of his cab in moments. It was only she was outside the passenger door that she could see the company name painted on the side, "Webster's Haulage".

The lorry driver removed his jacket from her shoulders and stepped down from the cab, shutting the door, and keeping the heat in. She breathed out the breath she had been holding all that time since exiting the car. He was right, it was really warm in that cab compared to her car, and there was even comforting Christmas music playing softly from an iPod plugged into the cab's dashboard.

Jennifer watched through the lorry's windscreen as the truck driver stepped out in front of the truck's blazing headlights, donning the high visibility jacket as he went. He briefly fiddled inside the driver's side of the car to find the bonnet release, then got out, shut the door, and walked around in front of her car. There, he fully opened the bonnet, ducking his head down for a few seconds, maybe half a minute. She could see the odd flash from a torch. Then he walked back, passed the truck cab and she could hear scraping metal. Moments later he reappeared, this time with a box of tools and was back under the bonnet for a couple of minutes. Then he sat in the driving seat of the car for a few seconds before the car restarted, with a big puff of smoke belching dramatically out of the exhaust pipe. The car's headlights and rear lights came on again briefly, before he switched the lights off.

The truck driver got out, closed the car door, and shut up the bonnet. He walked past the cab again with his toolbox. More booming came through the walls, of metal lightly banging and scraping, indicating him putting his tools away, before the cab driver's door was yanked open and he climbed in next to her, accompanied by a flurry of snowflakes.

"Well, Miss Webster," he said, a little less cheerfully than previously, "your car is started and I've left it running, to charge up the battery a bit more and warm up the interior for you. If you drive it, in five minutes or so, I could follow you to your Dad's house, or wherever you're going, and make sure you don't break down again."

"I'm going to my Mum's actually, do you know where that is?"

"Er, yes, I think so, I've not been there before but I think your Dad's mentioned where it was at one time or another. Number 16, isn't it?"

Jen nodded. "You've got a good memory."

"Almost photographic. Some people get freaked out about what I remember. Anyway, you're not too far away from your Mum's, we can be there in a matter of five to ten minutes, depending on how well treated the roads are. I am sure that the rest are better than this one you're on. I hope you have a fantastic Christmas staying up here. In fact I will be seeing you again, as I've been invited to dinner at your Dad and Kayla's place on Boxing Day. We'll just sit here though for a minute or two more, while the interior of your car warms up."

"Thank you, what was wrong with it, anyway?"

"Well, when did you last have it serviced?"

Jen squirmed in embarrassment, "My ex-boyfriend used to do the servicing for me, for the last six years anyway, since I bought it second hand, but we broke up eight months ago, so the car hasn't actually been serviced this year...."

"That car hasn't had a proper service for four or five years, Miss Webster, the oil is black, and urgently needs changing and the level is very low too, and the spark plugs are almost completely burned out. Judging from their appearances, I would think that the oil and air filters haven't been changed for three or four years at least."

"Why the good for nothing, cheating ..." Jennifer banged her fists on her knees in frustration. "So, do you think it'll get me back to the city after the holidays?"

"Probably not. It's barely drivable. And everything's going to be closing down by noon tomorrow until after the new year."

"Damn! What am I going to do?"

"Well, I can do the service tomorrow morning if you bring your car to your Dad's depot by the airfield."

"I don't get my pay cheque until after Christmas. We gat paid on the 28th. I can't afford to pay you for labour, although I could always buy the parts on credit card, I hope, how much would the parts cost?"

"Don't worry about paying me, my time's free and we can get all the parts we need on your Dad's account at the garage, it's all standard stuff and he gets a big discount. I'll clear it with him first, it's not a problem."

"Aren't you working tomorrow morning though? Dad usually closes up lunchtime on Christmas Eve."

"No, I'm taking a day's personal leave in the morning, I'm owed a lot of vacation time. I have to fly out tomorrow night and it's an all-night round trip."

"I can't put you to that much trouble if you are going to be flying late into the night, though, can I?"

"Of course you can. I'm quite good at fixing stuff and I enjoy delivering too."

"You make deliveries by plane? I assumed you were catching a holiday flight."

"No, I have my own light aircraft on the airfield. Most of the time I only fly for pleasure. You can just about squeeze in four people in my plane, but that doesn't leave much room for luggage."

"I've never met anyone with their own plane before."

"Oh, technically, it's my father's plane, not mine. He loaned it to me for this summer but he needs it back for the second half of the winter, so I'm flying it up to him. Having a couple of days off at this time of year is convenient as I don't have any family living anywhere around here."

"Do you fly much?"

"I love flying and usually get up in the plane for a short flight once a week or so. Pick me up in the morning and we can collect the parts you need from the garage. It won't take much more than an hour and a half or so to do the service. Then I'd be happy to take you up in the old jalopy for a spin, if the weather clears up."

He put his left hand on the steering wheel and she couldn't help but look, and notice that he wasn't wearing a ring.

Chapter 5

"Thank you," Jennifer said, "I, er, I appreciate your offer to do the car service, and I really would like to take you up on it. To be honest, I really don't think I've got much choice."

"I guarantee your car would receive the best service it has ever had, although I say so myself, I am really quite good at fixing things."

"Ha! I think I believe you, after getting the car going, I thought the battery had nothing left in it."

Once everything else was in its proper place and ready to go, it only needed a tiny spark."

"Well, I am very grateful, both for the rescue and the offer to sort the problem. Perhaps I could treat you to lunch afterwards, if you have time before you fly."

"I'll have plenty of time," he smiled, "and thanks, I'd like to share lunch with someone, it would make a nice change."

"You don't normally have anyone to have lunch with?"

"Well, I'm not from round here and I've been too busy working for your father that I've not made many friends except at work."

"I see. So, what time will you be at my father's depot in the morning?" "I'll be there waiting, whenever you get there," he smiled, "as early as you like, in fact."

"You live nearby, then? Maybe I should ring you when I'm ready to come over?"

"No, I do have a caravan, on the site where my house is being built, but it is too far to walk in this weather. Your Dad rightly prefers his trucks locked up safe in the depot overnight. So I'll be sleeping in this cab, there's actually a bunk right behind us."

"Oh? But you'll freeze to death in here, won't you? It's still snowing."

"I'm accustomed to the cold, don't worry," he grinned, "it'll be warmer than the caravan, that's not connected to the mains."

"Oh, does my Dad know you are sleeping in the cab at the depot?"

"Yes, of course he does. He knows about tonight, and he is aware that I'll also use the cab to sleep in during Christmas and Boxing Day nights. I simply cannot get to and from the airfield during the holidays. I don't have a car."

"I see. So are you flying to see your family tomorrow evening, then, to spend Christmas with them?" she asked.

"Well, I have a long-standing arrangement with my father, I'll be flying to his place and picking him up and then we'll share the flying. He's in the distribution business, too, and needs some last minute help with a long haul freight job. You would be surprised how far we have to go."

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