Day 17 - Story Advent Calendar.


Advent Calendar 17th December.

Driving Home For Christmas
By Portia MacIntosh

I hug myself as I stand on the edge of the water. As I look out to sea the cold wind, full of snow, batters my face with all the force of a tonne of bricks. Still, I can’t move from the spot, even with the tide lapping at my toes now. I can’t take my eyes of Hope Island.

Living in a small costal town like Marram Bay has its perks, especially at Christmas time, with the annual Winter Wonderland festival, and the whole town coming together to make sure every inch of the place is elaborately decorated. And usually, I think Hope Island, our tidal island, is the most amazing thing – a true wonder of nature. Ever since I was a child, I would sit for hours, gazing in amazement as I watched the tide come and go, joining Hope Island to the mainland by a mile-long road when the tide went out, before cutting it off again when the tide came back in, leaving it stranded out at sea.

This Christmas Eve isn’t a normal Christmas Eve though, far from it. Ordinarily I love this time of year, but not this year. And my love for our tidal island is fading fast too. With Christmas last year being so horrible, I wanted to make Christmas 1993 something special. Instead I am stuck here, standing on the shore, looking over across the water at Hope Island, where my daughters are, with no way to get to them until morning.
They’re safe, of course. In my extreme efforts to make this year amazing, I managed to track down a couple of this year’s must-have Christmas presents – Barbie Dream Motor Homes – for my girls, but I had to drive to the city for them. I left them with my friends Christine and Adam, who run a B&B on the island, fully intending to get back while the causeway was still safe to cross, but a combination of Christmas chaos and wild weather left me struck in traffic. I just missed crossing, but as much as I want to get back to my kids tonight, I want to get back to them in one piece, so it didn’t seem worth taking my chances driving across, seeing how far I could get without the tide sweeping my car away.

I get back in my car and drive to the Hopeful Ghost, a pub right on the coast, just a couple of minutes away. I ask the barmaid if they have a boat I can use – I know they rent them out in the summer – but she tells me that there’s no way she’s letting me row across in the dark, in this weather. I hadn’t thought about what kind of boats they were. Rowing definitely doesn’t seem like a good idea, as much as I want to get there before the girls fall asleep – if they fall asleep. They’re not supposed to be staying there tonight, I was supposed to be picking them up and taking them home. They must be so worried.
A glimmer of hope comes when the barmaid tells me that, not too far from here, there’s a old man called Reginald who owns a small fishing boat, who she’s sure will happily help me out. Things are looking even brighter when, as I approach his cottage, I look down to the beach and see a light on in his boat.
I carefully make my way down the hill and approach the small white and red fishing boat.
‘Hello,’ I call out.
The man squints as he peers out of the window. When he spots me, he hurries outside.
‘Hello?’ he calls back.
‘I was wondering if you could help me?’ I shout over the wind.
‘Come inside,’ he insists. ‘Out of the cold.’
Reginald extends me a hand and pulls me on board, ushering me inside before closing the door behind us.
‘Here,’ he says, sitting me down, throwing a large tartan blanket around me. ‘You poor mite, you look frozen.’
‘Thank you,’ I say, wrapping it tightly around my body. ‘My name is Audrey, my kids are with a friend over on Hope Island, and I need to get to them. A girl in the pub said you might be able to help me…’
Reginald is a plump old man, with a bushy white beard. In his thick red coat and his beanie hat, he definitely looks like a fisherman. As he smiles widely, wrinkles appear around his eyes.
‘Well, it is Christmas Eve,’ he says with a big smile. ‘Of course I’ll give you a lift.’
‘Thank you, thank you,’ I say.
As Reginald starts up the boat, I feel tears of relief escape my eyes. He glances over at me, but doesn’t mention that I’m crying, instead he makes an effort to distract me, which I appreciate.
‘So, kids – how many?’ he asks.
‘Two,’ I reply. ‘Holly and Ivy, 9 year old twins.’
Reginald smiles.
‘Were the names on purpose?’ he asks with a chuckle.
‘Yes,’ I reply. ‘Christmas has always been my favourite time of year.’
I look out of the window, not that there is anything to see. Between the darkness and the horrible weather, the usual view is non-existent. It’s a little warmer in the boat than it is outside, although not much. I do feel better for being out of the rain though, and this lovely blanket is helping too.
‘Well, no wonder you’re in such a hurry to get back to them,’ he replies as he steers.
‘This year more than ever,’ I say with a sigh.
‘You’ve lost someone,’ he says.
I am taken aback by the man who is practically a stranger to me, peering into my head.
‘How did you...’
‘It’s easy to spot, when you know the signs,’ he says softly.
‘I lost my husband, just before Christmas last year. We would always do our Christmas shopping together - make a big, special day of it, go for lunch, walk around the Christmas lights... But there would always be one day, just before Christmas, when he would go shopping in his own, to buy a present for me. Last year was no different, I kissed him goodbye, he left... I heard from him again, just before he set off back home. He told me about an extra present he’d bought the girls... and then... he never came home.’
The pain feels as fresh as the day it happened.
‘I’m so sorry to hear that,’ he replies sincerely.
This is our first real Christmas since my husband, James, died. That’s why I’ve been trying to make it so special. Because Christmas has always been our family’s favourite time of year, and now I’m worried it might be ruined forever.’
He nods sympathetically.
‘That’s why I have to get to my girls,’ I tell him. ‘Because, last Christmas their dad didn’t come home. If I don’t show up...’
‘Well, you don’t need to worry about that,’ he tells me as the boat stops. ‘Here we are.’
I glance outside the small window to see that we’re at Hope Island.
‘Oh, thank you,’ I say through my relieved sobs. ‘Thank you so much. Please, let me give you some money.’
I search around my messy handbag for my purse.
‘Not necessary,’ Reginald insists. ‘It’s Christmas Eve. Let’s call it your Christmas present.’
Without thinking, I hug him.
‘Thank you so much,’ I say again.
‘Merry Christmas, Audrey,’ he replies.

I persist through the icy, snowy winds, to make my way across the island, to get to the Lighthouse B&B where Christine and Adam live. I bang on the door with the same urgency that has powered me all night.
‘Audrey, there you are,’ Adam says. ‘We were worried sick.’
‘I’m sorry, I missed the crossing,’ I tell him, but then I notice Holly and Ivy on the sofa behind him. ‘Girls!’
I hurry over to hug them.
‘Where were you?’ Holly asks me.
‘I’m sorry, I got stuck in traffic, I missed the crossing... I’m here now.’
‘How did you get here, did you swim?’ Christine asks with a laugh, nodding towards my wet clothes.
‘I didn’t,’ I laugh.
‘Why don’t you all stay here tonight?’ Christine suggests. ‘Adam will make you a bed up, I’ll make us all some hot chocolate.’
‘That would be wonderful, thank you,’ I reply, hugging my girls tightly.
‘Mummy, how did you get here?’ Ivy asks.
‘A very nice man called Reginald gave me a lift in his fishing boat,’ I tell them.
‘Can’t have been Reggie,’ Adam tells us as he walks through the room with fresh linen. ‘Reggie is in France for Christmas, drove him to the airport myself.’
I cast my mind back to old, plump man, with the red coat and the bushy white beard. If he wasn’t Reginald, then... no... surely not?
After a delicious hot chocolate, I climb into bed with the girls.
‘I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until we get home for your presents,’ I tell them, disappointed.
‘That’s OK,’ Holly replies.
‘We just want you,’ Ivy says, squeezing me with what feels like all of her strength. ‘We didn’t know where you were.’
‘I know, I’m so sorry,’ I tell them. ‘That must’ve been hard, especially after... your dad. You know your dad loves you, and he’s watching over us all, right?’
They nod.
I hold them both close, until they fall asleep, before allowing myself to drift off too.

The next morning I am gently woken up by the smell of Christine cooking breakfast.
The three of us head into the breakfast room, to find Christine, Adam and their daughter Lola sitting at a table, spread with every breakfast food imaginable.
The girls immediately get stuck in, while I pour myself a coffee.
‘You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.’ I tell them. ‘Thank you.’
‘It’s no trouble,’ Christine replies. ‘Just let Adam know when you want a lift.’
‘It will be a smoother journey than you had last night,’ Adam chuckles.
‘I imagine so,’ I reply. ‘The weather was awful.’
‘Not just that,’ Adam starts. ‘Micky isn’t supposed to take the boat out.’
‘Reggie’s brother,’ Adam says. ‘He’s housesitting for him. Old bloke, chubby - looks a bit like Santa, now that I think about it.’
I feel my cheeks flush just a little.
‘That’s the guy,’ I say.

I mean, I didn’t really think it was Santa Claus, did I? I don’t suppose there are such things as magical Christmas miracles – big, amazing things that happen to us, just because it’s the most wonderful time of year. These so-called miracles don’t just materialise out of Christmas magic, they happen because we try really hard to make things special for our loved ones, or because generous strangers make them happen for us. People coming together, taking care of each other and acting selflessly – that’s more amazing than any random miracle.


If you enjoyed this story you can find Portia at the following links!! Please do because her books are awesome! :)

Happy Reading!

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