The Millionaire's Christmas Wish

By: Lucy Gordon

It wasn’t merely snowing; it was coming down in drifts, huge, thick snowflakes that settled and piled up. Jimmy immediately bounded out into the garden to join the children in a game. Corinne stood in the window, watching them jumping about and laughing. Dusk was falling and the only light came from the house. Through the driving snow she could only just make out the fast moving figures. They could have been anyone.

They could have been the newly-weds, blissful in their first Christmas, hurrying together through the snow to the shabby little flat that had been their first home.

And the happiest, she recalled now.

The next one had still been happy, but they had already been in their first proper house, with Alex promising her ‘a palace by next year’. She hadn’t wanted a palace. All she had asked was for her joy to last, but the first cracks were already appearing.

Even so, she hadn’t realised yet that she had a rival, a beloved mistress called Mead Consolidated. And, as years had passed, the rival had grown all-consuming. How wearily used she had grown to the phone calls, and Alex’s voice saying, ‘There’s been a change of plan.’

But not this year, she thought desperately. I don’t mind for myself, but don’t let him disappoint the children.

The phone rang.

For a moment she couldn’t move. Then, in a burst of anger, she snatched up the phone, and snapped, ‘Alex, is that you?’

‘Yes, it’s me. Look, Corinne, there’s been a change of plan-’

On the last lap of the journey the snow began to come down even harder. Alex cursed and set his windscreen wipers to go fast.

It had been an awkward sort of day, with people forcing him to change course at the last moment, which he disliked. First Craddock and his mad Caribbean party, then, just as he was reaching out to call Corinne, the phone had rung.

It had been Craddock’s secretary to say that her boss had been rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis. The whole trip was off. The signing would have to be done later.

The upside was that he could call Corinne and say he would be there a day earlier.

‘Alex, that’s wonderful. The children will be thrilled.’

‘OK, I’ll be there tonight, but I’m not sure when. The traffic’s difficult.’

‘We’re going out, but I’ll leave the key in a little box in the porch. Maybe you’ll be there when we get back.’

‘Fine. I’ll see you.’

The snow was coming down harder, and his car began to slide over the road. He slowed, but then more snow seemed to collect on his windscreen.

Why had she insisted on moving out to the very edge of London instead of staying in the mansion he’d bought her? It was a beautiful house, full of everything a wife could possibly want, but she had fled it without a backward glance.

And where had she chosen instead? A dump. A cottage. He knew he was exaggerating because it was a five-bedroom detached house, far better than where they’d lived when they were first married, but nothing compared to what he’d given her later.

It still hurt when he thought of the home he’d provided for her. The price had been extortionate, but he’d paid it willingly, thinking how thrilled Corinne would be.

It had had everything, including a paddock for the pony he intended to buy as soon as Bobby had learned to ride. Those riding lessons had been a kind of eldorado in his mind. How he would have loved them in his own childhood! And how different the reality had been!

But, for Bobby, everything would be perfect.

As always, he felt something melt inside him when he thought of his children, Mitzi, wide-eyed and appealingly cheeky. Bobby, quiet, self-assured even at nine, rapidly growing up to be a companion to his father.

And then Corinne had blown the whole dream apart. He’d come home one day to find the beautiful house empty and his family gone.

When he’d seen her again she’d talked about divorce, which he didn’t understand. There was nobody else for either of them, so who needed divorce? He’d refused even to consider it.

He had thought his firmness would make her see sense and come home, but she had quietly refused to budge. She would wait out the divorce, if necessary.

She didn’t actually say that the important thing was to be away from him, but the implication hung in the air.

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