The Millionaire's Christmas Wish

By: Lucy Gordon

‘She’s six years old,’ Jimmy said, from where he was standing behind Corinne. ‘It’s not that long since you were six.’

‘It was ages ago,’ Bobby said indignantly.

Jimmy grinned. He was a cheerful young man with a round face that smiled easily, the kind of man who seemed to have been designed by nature for the express purpose of being an uncle.

He was in the army, on two weeks’ leave, and had gladly accepted Corinne’s invitation to spend Christmas. They were only third cousins, but, with no other family, they had always clung to their kinship.

‘You thought you were a big man at six,’ he reminded Bobby.

‘I was,’ the child said at once. ‘And I’m an even bigger one now. Put ’em up.’

He lifted his fists, boxer-style, and Jimmy obligingly responded with the same stance. For a moment they danced around each other, Jimmy leaning down to get within the child’s range.

Suddenly he yelled, ‘Help! He got me, he got me,’ and collapsed on the floor, clutching his nose.

At once Bobby, the tender-hearted, dropped down beside him.

‘I didn’t really hurt you, did I, Uncle Jimmy?’ he asked anxiously.

Jimmy wobbled his nose and spoke in a heavy nasal whine. ‘I dink you spoiled by dose.’

Bobby giggled.

In falling, Jimmy had dislodged some of the presents and the two of them began to pile them up again. Corinne helped, trying not to be too conscious of the parcel with the tag that read, To Daddy, with love from Bobby.

‘Daddy will like it, won’t he, Mummy? I got it specially with my pocket money.’

‘Then he’ll love it, whatever it is,’ she assured him. ‘Aren’t you going to tell me?’

Bobby shook his head very seriously. ‘It’s a secret between me and Daddy. You don’t mind, do you?’

‘No, darling, I don’t mind.’

She watched how carefully he replaced the box under the tree, and her heart ached for him. Both children loved their father so much, and had been let down by him so often. And the more he failed them, the more anxiously they loved him.

But he would make up for it this time, she thought desperately. Please, don’t let anything go wrong. Make him be here.

When Bobby had gone away, Jimmy murmured, ‘That has to be the sweetest-tempered kid in the world.’

‘Yes, and it scares me. He’s wide open to be badly hurt by Alex.’

‘But that won’t happen, will it? Alex gave his word that he’d arrive on Christmas Eve.’

Corinne made a face. ‘Yes, but a promise to us was always conditional on business.’

‘But not at Christmas?’ Jimmy said, shocked.

‘Especially at Christmas, because that was when he could steal a march on all those wimps who spent it with their families.’

‘But he promised to spend this Christmas with you and the kids.’

‘No, what he promised was to arrive on Christmas Eve and leave on Christmas Day.’

‘So little time? Then surely you don’t have to worry about him cancelling that?’

‘I wish I could believe it. Do you know? I’m not sure the children even realise that our marriage is over. They hardly see less of him now than they did then. Apart from the fact that we’ve moved house, not much has changed.

‘I don’t mind for myself, but if he disappoints Bobby and Mitzi again I’ll never forgive him.’

‘And you’ve put up with that all these years?’

‘Yes,’ she said, almost in a tone of surprise. ‘Until the day came when I wouldn’t put up with it any more. And now we’re separated, soon to be divorced.’

Put like that it sounded so simple, and that was how she wanted to leave it. This wasn’t the time to speak of the pain, misery and disillusionment she’d endured as she had finally given up the fight to save her marriage.

It had been twelve years, starting in unbelievable happiness. And perhaps unbelievable was the right word, because she had believed the impossible.

At eighteen you convinced yourself of whatever suited you. You thought you could marry a tough, ambitious man and not suffer for it. You told yourself that love would soften him, that he would put you first, not every time, but often enough to count.

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