Breaking Point
Womans Weekly Fiction Special|December 2020
She hoped her children would start to compromise soon, or they were in for a distinctly frosty festive season
Bailey Morgan

In the usually tranquil lounge, I sat with my arms crossed, my crutches leaning against the sofa, as battle raged.

‘You are not cooking Christmas dinner, Zac!’ my daughter Sophie yelled, aiming a cushion at my son. ‘You couldn’t even cook a fish finger.’

‘Are you talking about yourself again?’ he retorted.

The cushion brushed across the streamers hanging from the ceiling. ‘Mind the tree!’ I warned, as its passing set some of the baubles swinging. The cushion landed with a thud in the corner.

I could hardly believe my children were both intelligent, successful young people, now at university. They’d started acting like 12-year-olds ever since they arrived home for the holidays. I struggled to my feet, leaning my weight onto my crutches. ‘You need to stop this nonsense right now.’

‘What nonsense?’ Zac looks so much like his late father, all blue eyes and blond hair.

‘Yes, what nonsense?’ Sophie looks like me – dark hair and brown eyes.

I glanced around the room. Is it possible to over-do the decorations? My children had tried, plus the task had gained something of a competitive edge this year.

Even the hall looked like Santa’s grotto. Then they’d moved on to the cooking – who had the best stuffing recipe, Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver? Who ought to be in charge of the bird on the big day..?

Zac put on his jacket. Luckily, he was off out with some school friends tonight. He smiled at me before planting a kiss on my cheek. ‘See you later, Mum. Don’t do too much on your ankle.’

‘Just remember not to wake her up when you come home drunk after midnight,’ Sophie said, as he headed for the door. She crossed her arms as soon as he’d disappeared. ‘He’s so immature.’ She gave me a laser-bright smile. ‘Sit down, Mum. I’ll fetch us a cuppa and a mince pie, then we can find something to watch. It is lovely being home with you again.’

I decided not to mention last year, when she hadn’t made an appearance at all, too besotted with her now exboyfriend.

‘I can’t wait to go to Nan’s party tomorrow, either,’ she added. Her gaze lingered on the chair in the corner for a moment. Her dad always used to sit there. ‘It’ll be nice seeing all the family together again.’

‘Yes, it seems your brother feels the same.’

Last year, I’d barely seen anything of Zac either. He’d been too busy off out having fun with his friends.

I rolled over in bed that night, just as the kitchen clock chimed midnight. My ankle was niggling again. I’d tripped as I was running for a bus one icy morning, desperate to get to work early to get on with the hundred things I needed to do that day. I just about ran the offices of the engineering firm I joined five years ago.

Now I could hear Sophie’s voice echoing downstairs. ‘I knew that you’d wake everybody up!’

‘You can’t wake up somebody who’s been waiting for you,’ came Zac’s swift, acidic retort.

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