2016 Christmas Special: A Bloomin' Lovely Christmas Written by James Oswald
Gita was not what you'd call religious. She had been raised surrounded by religion in a religious family and been to her fair share of religious gatherings, events and what not, but she was fairly agnostic up to the point of the events of the previous year - she had seen enough to make anyone doubtful. However, she vouched to never miss out on a celebration, especially when novelty Christmas jumpers were involved.
“Look Haresh! This one lights up!” she rushed over to the display of Christmas jumpers and picked out one with an audacious flashing Father Christmas, a grin plastered on his face, “What do you think?” she held it over her torso and pouted in a model-esque pose.
“Lovely, dear,” Haresh said, quite clearly pained, “Now let’s go find ourselves a turkey before they’re all gone,” Pushing his way through crowds in Tesco was not the way Haresh had wanted to spend Christmas Eve.
Gita made a point of returning the jumper back onto its display before sneaking it under a load of tinsel in their trolley when Haresh’s attention was directed at a large-framed, sweaty man.
“Keith,” he gave the man a courteous handshake.
“Hello Haresh! Some last-minute Christmas shopping?”
“Yes,” he ground his teeth when he noticed Gita in the corner of his eye making a rotation of the displays, grabbing armfuls of mistletoe, plastic santas and tinsel and placing them in the trolley, “How about you?”
“I’m afraid not. I haven’t celebrated christmas since the wife and kids left. Just grabbing a ready-meal for tonight.”
Haresh had known Keith Grossberg, deputy-headteacher of Foxgrove High, little over a term and that was long enough to know sympathy-seeking in hope the recipient would give him what he wanted was one of Keith’s distinguished characteristics. And as he wasn’t planning on inviting possibly the most boring man in the staff room to Christmas dinner, Haresh knew not to provoke the man anymore. Gita, however, did not.
“Why don’t you join us? Plenty room for another since Rani’s gone now!” Gita dumped an extensive collection of glistening tinsel in the trolley.
“Oh!” Keith made an act of being pleasantly surprised, “If that is okay with Haresh…”
“Excellent! I shall be around at 5!” Keith Grossberg waddled off, ready-meal in hand, a spring in his heavy step.
“Gita! Why did you invite him?”
“He seemed lonely and no one should be lonely at Christmas! That reminds me, we must invite Sarah Jane around as well!”
Haresh sighed, “I suppose you’re right...”
The doorbell rang. Sarah Jane groaned. The past few days had been difficult, and she felt it was about to made worse by a gang of carollers. Sarah Jane Smith, stop being such a grinch! Alas, she couldn’t help it. She wearily made her way to the hall and twisted the key until the door unlocked. Here we go! She was about to be showered in annoyingly in-your-face Christmas spirit, she just knew it. In fact, there was only one thing worse than carollers turning up on her doorstep on Christmas Eve, and that was-
“Hi Sarah! I was just coming around to give you this!” Gita handed her a box of chocolates, “Merry Christmas Eve!”
“Merry Christmas Eve!” Sarah Jane forced a smile, “I’ve not got you anything I’m afraid.”
“That’s quite alright!” Gita assured, “I understand completely,” It pained Gita to be in the position. She often liked to cheer up those who were close to her, but Sarah Jane had been so emotionally tormented that she dared not to provoke her anymore. It was as if she was porcelain, willing to break at the slightest blow.
“Is Rani coming back for Christmas?”
“No,” Gita frowned, “She and Clyde are spending Christmas camping in Scotland.”
“They want to see the northern lights… They’re mad, aren’t they?”
“I suppose they must be,” Sarah Jane genuinely smiled for the first time in a while.
“Look, why don’t you come around to ours tomorrow? We’ve got a brilliant turkey! We were lucky to find it so late on as well - Haresh thought they’d all be gone!”
“Oh, Gita, I don’t think I can.”
Gita gasped, “You can’t spend Christmas day alone! What about Luke?”
“He’s staying over at Sanjay’s for the holiday. His car broke down. I’m going to try make the drive down tomorrow, but traffic will be awful. I’ll split the journey with a motel and arrive on Boxing Day.”
Gita gasped, “You can’t spend Christmas alone, let alone driving! What about Christmas dinner?”
Sarah Jane shrugged.
Gita bit her lip; what she was about to propose was absurd, but then again Gita couldn’t bear the thought of Sarah Jane driving through Christmas day without a slap-up dinner. “Then come around tonight!”
“If you can’t make Christmas dinner tomorrow, Christmas dinner will come to you tonight!”
“But, the turkey! Surely you need more time!”
Gita checked her wristwatch, “It’s three now. I can pop the turkey in now and it’ll be ready for five!”
Sarah Jane was hesitant, “I dunno…”
“I insist. C’mon! It’ll be a blast!”
“Look, Gita. I appreciate the gesture but you don't have to do this.”
“Cheer me up; it's not your job.”
Gita frowned, “As your friend, Sarah, I think itis.”
“It's not. Please. I’m sure you don’t need the hassle.”
“What if I said Haresh and I will be lonely without Rani at Christmas time?”
“Well, in that case, I have been feeling very lonely.”
Sarah Jane sighed, “I guess I can pop around.”
Gita smiled, satisfied with her handiwork. “We start at five,” she turned to leave, “oh, and it is my job to cheer you up as it is yours to cheer me up. We’re friends after all.”
Sarah Jane couldn't help but smile, “See you tonight, Gita.”
“How was it?” Haresh asked when Gita returned from her detour, not tearing his eyes away from his Nigella Christmas cookbook.
“She can’t make tomorrow,” Gita poked at a bucket of water atop of the counters, “What’s this for?”
“I’m gonna soak the turkey,” Haresh replied before adding a handful of chopped onions, herbs and various spices to the water. He then carefully placed the turkey in the bucket, “There! That should be nice and moist by the time we cook it tomorrow.”
“Well that’s no good. We need it for tonight!”
“Yeah, Sarah Jane can’t make it so we’re moving the dinner to tonight!”
Haresh scratched his head; he couldn’t say he was particularly surprised. It wouldn’t be the first time Gita went and did something crazy without consulting him first, “You can’t just move Christmas dinner!”
“Why not?” Gita shrugged.
“Because that’s not how it works. You can’t -” Haresh sighed. It was no use. “I guess I better put the turkey in the oven then.”
“I think you better had. I’ll set the table!” Gita left the room, “Oh! And once the turkey’s in the oven you better call your co-worker - what’s his name again? - and tell him to come around today.”
Haresh exhaled, “Do I have to?”
“Yes!” Gita insisted.
“I just hope he won’t be able to make it at such short notice…” Haresh mumbled under his breath and he transferred the pink, glistening turkey into a deep based pan and set about peeling potatoes. Having had a glimpse into his personal life at the supermarket, he was pretty sure Keith had no plans for tonight other than his ready-meal for one.
Five o’clock rolled around quickly and the scene had been set. Gita had hung up mistletoe from every inch of ceiling and a red cloth was laid upon the dining table, plates and a variety of forks, knives and spoons, each with a different purpose were piled atop.
Haresh had been fully occupied in the kitchen and was busy preparing starters. He had suggested they skip starters seeing as time was short, but Gita had insisted.
“Christmas is the only time I have can have three full courses in the comfort of my own home and no one can judge me, so chop chop!” she had said.
The doorbell rung and Gita went to the answer the door.
“Sarah Jane! Hello!”
“Merry Christmas Eve!” Sarah Jane stood on the doorstep
“Merry Christmas Eve to you too! Now come in!” Gita led her through the dining room, before entering the kitchen to check on her husband.
“Is the turkey done?” she peered through the glass door of the oven.
“Yes, almost. It’ll be done in five. Now help me with the starters. We’ve got to divide this salmon up equally between the four plates and there needs to be a slice of lemon accompanying each, as well as some lettuce and-”
Gita had already left.
Keith Grossberg checked his watch. It was ten past five. Excellent, he thought. I’m not too late. He waddled up the front drive of 52 Diamond Way and rung the doorbell. Gita came to the door and welcomed him in, explaining Haresh was tending to the starters and was too busy to welcome him. He joined Sarah Jane in the dining room and Gita went to go aid her husband.
“Hello, I’m Keith,” he smiled, “and you’re…?”
“Sarah Jane Smith; I’m a friend and neighbor of the Chandras.”
“Oh - I work with Haresh. I’m deputy-head of Foxgrove High, you see.”
“Very impressive,” Sarah Jane said dryly.
“Yes, I can confirm the salary is extensive.”
“And I’m single, by the way. Are you? Single?”
Sarah Jane was at loss as what to say. Just then, Gita and Haresh arrived and placed a plate of smoked salmon in front of each place at the table and took their seats.
Grossberg initiated the small talk, “So, Haresh, Gita, how’s the shop?”
“Excellent!” Gita said excitedly, “We had a bit of wobble the other week: the council decided to shut us down, but I gave them a good talking to, so we’ve reopened again now. And things are looking up for us.”
“And what do you do, Sarah?” Grossberg smiled woozily at his new interest.
“Jane,” she added, “I’m a journalist.”
“Are you going to finish your salmon?
He reached across the table and slid the remainder of Sarah Jane’s starter onto his plate, “You’re a journalist, eh? Will I have read your stuff anywhere?”
“I’m not sure, I-”
“Hang on, weren’t you on TV?”
“What’s this?” Gita took a break from battling with the slab of salmon.
“I used to have a show, on Planet 3,” Sarah Jane explained, “I investigated companies dabbling in fraud and scandal.”
“You’re a celebrity!” Gita gasped.
“Not quite - it only lasted a few months and it was quite small-”
“You’re famous!” Gita pulled on Haresh’s sleeve, “Sarah’s famous, Haresh!”
“I remember it very well!” Grossberg reminisced, “I remember thinking, she’s a stunner that one. Of course my wife disapproved. Just for the record we are now divorced. And I am single. Did I mention that I am single?”
“Turkey’s ready!” Gita hopped up from her seat, “Allow me!” she took in every plate in turn and disappeared into the kitchen to return later with a large golden turkey. She plopped it down in the centre of the table (to which Grossberg licked his lips).
“I have been ever so lonely,” Grossberg gazed across the table at Sarah Jane, “Are you lonely, Sarah?”
“How much would you like, Sarah?” Gita asked as Haresh set about carving the turkey.
“Jane. That’ll do thanks.”
“Who’s the kid?” Keith nodded towards a picture frame on the window sill.
“That’s my Rani!” Gita said proudly.
“Is that enough, Keith?” Haresh had moved onto serving Grossberg now.
“More than that! Where is she now? Uni?”
“Travelling,” Gita replied.
“Do you not get lonely?”
“A little. I suppose that’s why we invited you lot around for Christmas. We wouldn’t want to spend it alone, now would we, Haresh?”
“Definitely not,” Haresh replied insincerely, “Is that enough, Gita? Gita?”
“Hm? Oh, sorry, my darling.” Gita snapped out of her thoughts and smiled. “That’s fine thanks. Anyone for potatoes?”
“I love potatoes!” Grossberg announced, “I must say, this turkey is awfully dry!”
“Yeah - Haresh usually soaks it but I dunno why he didn’t this year,” Gita said.
Haresh glared at his wife, “Actually, I-”
“How about you, Sarah? Potatoes?”
“No thanks, I -”
“Is this mistletoe we’re sitting under?” Grossberg gave his best smulder for Sarah Jane across the table.
“Well, that was...an experience.” Haresh finished the last of the washing up and joined Gita on the settee.
“Yeah,” Gita mused, “I’m not sure if I like your friend, Keith.”
“He’s not my friend.”
“Why did you invite him?”
Haresh opened his mouth to argue but sighed forlornly.
“Mince pie?” Gita offered.
“We just had christmas pudding!”
“I know, but it’s Christmas!”
“It’s Christmas Eve actually,” Haresh corrected.
“So it is! I forgot about that… So, are we gonna do it all again tomorrow?”
“What? You mean the turkey, the dinner, the mistletoe?”
“I dunno. I’d like a quiet day in, just the two of us.”
Gita smiled, “Me too,” she leant in for a kiss from her husband, “Ooh! I almost forgot about this!” she picked up a Tesco plastic bag and reached inside.
“Forgot wha- oh.”
Gita pulled her jumper over her head and gawped at the flashing display of festivity.
“What do you think?”
“I think you look lovely,” Haresh said sincerely, putting the fact he explicitly remembered Gita putting the jumper back on its hook to the back of his mind.
Gita wrapped her husband’s arms around herself. “Haresh,”
“Do you think it’s too quiet around the house?”
Haresh was taken back by her question, “Why do you ask that?”
“It’s just when Keith asked if I was lonely, it made me think. I’ve had a hectic first half couple of months with settling down in Foxgrove, but as of recent it’s been quiet. Dull almost.”
“I suppose you might be right,” Haresh deliberated, “What are you suggesting? A dog?”
“Ooh, can we?”
Haresh shook his head, “They shed hair everywhere.”
“How about a cat?”
“I don’t like cats.”
“Ooh! I know!” Gita sat up straight, “How about we have another kid?”
“Yeah, we can adopt!”
Haresh contemplated, “I dunno…”
“There’s a spare bedroom upstairs. I’ve been using it as a greenhouse, but it never worked and the plants kept dying. It’d be perfect!”
“But we’re too old! It’s too late to adopt a child!”
“I mean… you’re not old, I meant to say-”
“It is never too late to adopt a child!” Gita harrumphed, “Just think, all the fun we had with Rani, all the joy she brought us! Don’t you miss it?”
Haresh scratched his head, “I suppose I do…”
“Think on it,” she patted his chest and cozied back onto his shoulder, letting the absurdity of the day take its effect.
The open fire crackled as the light grew dim outside. When finally, the dying embers of the fires extinguished for good, Gita and Haresh lounged, asleep in eachother’s arms, sleeping into the early hours of Christmas day, the real one this time…