The Girl in the Green Dress (Part One)
Steve Berry had always had a dislike for Christmas, despite all the jollity and faux fun because unlike many of his Christmas mad friends he had no happy Christmas memories to anesthetise him against the season.
His parents were alcoholics and each year their Christmas came in a bottle and thanks to his father Steve’s came with a slap.
So his childhood Christmases were memories he would rather have forgotten.
But adulthood brought no relief and it always seemed to him that when shit happens Christmas just magnifies the misery.
If someone dies at Christmas the very season makes it more keenly felt.
He could testify to that as his mother died on Christmas Eve when he was 19.
He has no idea where his father is and quite frankly he doesn’t care.
He never showed up for the funeral and he could be dead as well for all he knew.
So as a result he has never trusted Christmas, he knows that shit lurks beneath the coloured lights and paper chains.
That was until Holly Davis opened his eyes to new possibilities and he realised that Christmas could also magnify joy.
But it wasn’t just Christmases that held horrors in his past so did
New Year’s Eve.
Steve wasn’t big on New Year’s Eve, it was not a time that held any deep significance for him
He found the whole idea of it rather pointless, why did people make such a fuss over going from one year to the next.
That would have been reason enough for him to dislike it, far apart from the personal memories it evoked.
It was one New Year’s Eve when he was six years old that his parents locked him in his room while they went off on a three day bender.
But he had decided to try and put that behind him and with Holly’s help he was hopeful that he might.
Since the first day he met her she had helped to tame his demons.
It all began when Holly temporarily took over running her uncles pub, the Pig and Whistle a week and a half before Christmas, Steve had got blind drunk and ended up spending the night in the lounge bar.
When he woke up the next morning she produced a contract he had signed the night before agreeing to work for her until New Year’s Eve.
Despite his initial misgivings he had thoroughly enjoyed it and he was still uncertain as to how she managed it, but during the ten days working for her she had turned his life upside down and it culminated in him wishing her a Merry Christmas and kissing her at closing time on Christmas Eve.
They were then snowed in at the pub for Christmas day and after exchanging presents they kissed again.
In the week that followed there was good deal more kissing as day by day the headed inexorably towards New Year’s Eve.
But he had a sense of foreboding as his normal dislike for the occasion was magnified this year because it marked the final day of his contract at the Pig and Whistle and could also mark the end of Holly’s Tenure at the pub and maybe their budding relationship.
Although he didn’t like it, it was a good earner for the pub and as the takings had not been optimised on Christmas Eve due to the snow added to the fact that the figures had been disappointing in the interim as well so a good New Year’s Eve was vital.
With this in mind Holly and Steve had been at the Cash and Carry all afternoon stocking up on vital supplies.
“Right that’s the lot Hon” she said
“Are you sure that’s enough?” Steve asked facetiously
“That’s enough lip from you” she said and kissed him.
And that simple kiss, a symbol of their familiarity, was a milestone moment for although they had kissed many times in that week since Christmas Eve they had only ever kissed when they were alone and certainly never in public.
“If we sell that lot tonight I’ll be over the moon” she said although there wasn’t any chance that that might actually happen even if they did have an extension until 1.00am.
Steve normally spent New Year’s Eve at home in his flat, watching a DVD and hiding from the world.
But this year was going to be very different.
The Girl in the Green Dress (Part Two)
At least on New Year’s Eve there were none of the annoyingly jolly Christmas songs there was only one annoying New Year’s song and that was usually confined to midnight.
There was a steady trade in the bar, far more than Christmas Eve, but not exactly record breaking numbers, and most of the supplies they had bought earlier would remain unsold.
But just after 9 o’clock the numbers swelled and continued swelling until the place was absolutely banging.
There were seven of them working that night but on six at any one time behind the bar and they were rushed off their feet.
The staff and a hard core of the regulars were in fancy dress. Debbie was a French maid, Stephanos was in a toga, Clare was a witch, Ausra was a Gypsy, Petra was a clown and Steve was a pirate.
While Holly, as was her custom, was dressed immaculately as the Emerald Lady in a wonderful green dress adorned with a garland of holly leaves and around her neck was the holly leaf pendant that Steve gave her for Christmas.
By the end of the night he had to admit that he hadn’t enjoyed a New Year’s Eve more even though his feet were killing him.
When the last of the punters had been ushered out the door and the bolt shot at 1.25 am, Holly said
“Thank God for that, put the kettle on” and then she kicked off her shoes.
Everyone pulled together and gathered up all the glasses and cleared them to the kitchen and then Steph and Clare brought out the drinks on a tray
“Where are the others?” Holly asked
“They’re loading the glasses into the machine” Clare replied “You know what Steve’s like”
“Tell them not to worry” she said “We’ll do it in the morning”
Holly frowned and then corrected herself
“We’ll do it in later this morning”
So they all sat together drinking their tea and coffee and laughing at the exploits of one or two of the more enthusiastic punters.
Very soon there was only Holly and Steve left
“Do you want another tea?” he asked
“I’d rather have a proper drink” she replied “You could join me if you’re staying over”
He nodded and went behind the bar and returned shortly with two glasses of wine.”
As they sat together drinking she said
“My feet are so sore”
“Put them up here” he said tapping his knee “I’ll rub them for you if you want”
“Oh yes please” she said and put both stocking feet on his knee
“Hold up” he said “one at a time”
“Oh that’s really lovely” she said as Steve began massaging he little foot
And that was as all he got out of her for the next twenty minutes until he was halfway through her other foot when she said.
“You’re a free man now”
“What do you mean?” Steve asked
“The contract” she said
“It was only up to and including New Year’s Eve it’s now New Year’s Day so you are free to return to your old life”
“Good” he said sharply and Holly baulked at the force of the word.
“Because now I am here because I want to be”
And Holly’s face broke into a broad smile and she kissed him
They made love for the first time in the early hours of New Year’s Day and as they lay entwined in the semi darkness Holly said.
“We make a good team, we could run this place together”
“What about Phil?” Steve asked
“Ah I may have misled you regarding Uncle Phil” she confessed
“In what way?”
“He’s not coming back” she said
“Why not?” Steve asked
“He’s ill” Holly replied sadly
“The “won’t see another Christmas kind” of ill”
“Oh” he responded “so he’s not on holiday?”
“No” she admitted “I am in the process of buying the pub from him”
“That’s a big step” he said
“I know” she agreed “but I have years of experience in Hospitality and you’re a good accountant”
“So you only want me for my numeracy” he said
“No I want you for your foot rubs” Holly corrected him
“Ok then it’s a deal” he said and sealed it with a kiss.
Which was a prelude to them making love again.
But Steve paused briefly and said
“You do realize what would happen if we were to marry?”
“What’s that?” she said pleasantly surprised that his thoughts had already strayed to the question of marriage
“You would become Holly Berry”
“I could live with that” she said and brought the discourse to a passionate conclusion.