The Millionaire's Christmas Wish

By: Lucy Gordon

When that didn’t work you told yourself that the babies would make a difference. He was so proud of his children. Surely at least he would put them first?

‘He can’t have missed everything, surely?’ Jimmy asked now.

‘No, he was there for some birthdays, even some Christmases. But I always knew that if the phone rang he’d be off somewhere.’

Jimmy looked into her face, trying to see past the wry resignation to whatever she really felt. He doubted that she would let him catch a glimpse. She’d perfected that cheerful, unrevealing mask by now. That was what marriage to Alex Mead had done for her.

To Jimmy’s loving eyes there was little change from the dazzling bride of twelve years ago, gloriously blonde and blue-eyed in white satin and lace, unwittingly tormenting him with the opportunity he’d missed. But opportunities sometimes came again to a man who was patient.

‘By the way,’ he said, ‘is there somewhere I can hide my costume so that the kids don’t find it?’

He was playing Santa at HawksmereHospital that evening, roped in by Corinne, a member of the ‘Friends of Hawksmere Hospital.’

‘It means going round the wards, ho-ho-ho-ing,’ she’d said. ‘And then you settle down in the grotto for the children who can walk out of the ward, or who happen to be in the hospital visiting someone.’

And Jimmy, good-natured as always, had agreed, just to please her.

‘You can put it in the boot of my car,’ she said now. ‘I’ll be leaving at five to take Bobby and Mitzi to a kids’ party. When I’ve dropped them off I’ll come back for you at six, and deliver you to the hospital by seven.’

‘Yes, sir!’ He saluted.

‘Idiot!’ She laughed.

‘I’m paying you a compliment. You’ve got this organisation thing down to a fine art,’ he said admiringly.

It was true; she was good at arrangements. Years of last-minute changes of plan, because Alex had been called away, had made her an expert.

‘At eight o’clock,’ she resumed, ‘I collect the kids and take them to the hospital, where they’ll find Santa already in place. They’ll never dream it’s you.’

‘What about coming home?’

‘Easy. When Bobby and Mitzi have finished I’ll take them to the “Friends” office on some errand that I’ll suddenly remember, while you get changed. When we leave the office we bump into you. We’ll say you’ve been visiting a friend.’

‘By the way, Alex won’t mind my staying here, will he?’

‘It doesn’t matter if he does,’ she said firmly. ‘Our marriage is over in all but name, and he has no say. Besides, you and I are related.’

Which wasn’t quite fair because she knew how Jimmy had always felt about her. But that was something she wasn’t ready to confront just yet.

‘It could be such a happy time,’ she said, ‘if only that phone doesn’t ring. But I’ll bet you anything you like that in the next few minutes Alex will call and say, “Corinne, there’s been a change of plan.” And I’ll be expected to be “reasonable” and not “make a fuss”.’

Her voice rose sharply on the last words, making her bite it back with an alarmed look at the door in case Bobby or Mitzi could hear.

‘Hey, steady.’ Jimmy gently took hold of her shoulders. ‘That’s all over, remember?’

‘It’s not really over.’ She sighed. ‘Not while Alex and I share children who can be hurt by him.’

‘In the end they’ll see him for what he is.’

‘But that’s just it. I don’t want them to see him for what he is. I want them to go on believing in him as the most wonderful, glorious father there ever was, because that’s what they need.’

‘Just don’t let yourself be hurt by him.’

‘No, that can’t happen any more.’

‘I wish I believed that.’

‘Believe it. I’m completely immune. Whatever was between Alex and me was over a long time ago.’ She gave him a bright smile. ‘Honestly.’

‘Mummy!’ came a shriek from the garden. ‘Uncle Jimmy! Come and look. It’s going to be a white Christmas.’

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