This short story started life as an entry for The Royal Academy of Bards Christmas challenge 2003, first published in the name I E. Although I'd been writing for ages I'd never had the courage to post before. I only decided at the last moment to finally send a story to an archive site. This meant I rushed it. I was never happy with the ending, so I rewrote it. Here it is. There's a fair amount of difference with a bit more conflict but I'm happier with it now - well as happy as anyone ever is with a story - but you have to stop re-writing sometime - right?

The characters are mine, they're both women. There's no sex, no violence. There isn't even really any bad language, which is surprising considering I've a mouth like a Billingsgate Porter, but there is one use of an offensive and mildly racist term.

Any comments feel free to let me know.

Home for Christmas


Insane Englishwoman

Jen turned away from the window and watched her sleeping lover for a moment. "Sandy, you awake?" There was no answer. A little louder, "Sandy, you awake?"

A grunt, a groan and a head appeared. Frowning, blinking and looking like nothing so much as a newly hatched bird. A very annoyed newly hatched bird. "I am now"

"Sorry. Are you in a good mood"?

Sandy blinked again a few times. "Huh? What? Oh! If you want sex, then yes I'm in a good mood but bring coffee first!"

"No, er, it's not that. You know how much I love you - right?"

Sandy stopped smiling, sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Oh God, what have you done now?"

Jen scuffed her feet on the floor before moving to sit beside Sandy on the bed. "My mother rang last night…" Sandy groaned and fell back dramatically.

"….she wanted to know what we were doing on the holiday….".Sandy groaned again. "……I told her I'll be home for Christmas".

"You what! What happened to our nice romantic getaway! Our trip to America; the trip that was supposed to be a fairytale holiday in New England!"

"I'm sorry, babe, I really am" Jen ran her hand through her short, dark hair. "You know how she gets to me though. Makes me guilty. All alone at Christmas. The she sniffs and talks about how lonely will be Christmas all by herself. Mama said I could bring you," Jen finished hopefully.

"Oh joy!" Sandy was working up to a full sarcastic explosion, Jen could tell. "Just how I wanted to spend my time with you. Not making love. Not marvelling at the skyline of New York and enjoying a white Christmas in snow-covered New England. No. Sitting in some winter wonderland in deepest Hendon, praying for a silent night which I won't get as we're right underneath the main flight-path at Heathrow airport. Whilst your dear mama makes patronising enquiries about me being Hindi and celebrating Christian festivals. Asking about my parents even though she knows they disowned me for leaving home and moving in with you. And quaintly wondering in 'my country' do they know it's Christmas! No matter how many times I tell her I was born in Bradford!"

Sandy was building up a real head of steam now. She'd leapt from the bed

and was pacing up and down in front of the window. Completely forgetting she was naked. For a moment Jen lost track of what her partner was saying as she admired anew the beauty of the woman. 'What did I do to deserve her?', she thought. Suddenly becoming aware that Sandy was quiet, Jen blushed.

"Were you listening?"

"Erm, no. I got lost in admiring you," Jen confessed.

"Don't think you can sweet talk me into agreeing to go home for the holiday." Sandy was practically snarling now.

Jen blushed again and stared at her feet. "It's not just the holiday", she mumbled, "it's the whole of the twelve days of Christmas, right up to Epiphany." Sandy didn't say anything. This was a really, really bad sign. She just turned on her heel and walked to the bathroom. Jen lay back and covered her face with her arm. "Damn! I fucked up royally this time. I should have brought coffee."

"No, love", came the voice from the bathroom door, "you should have asked".

"I know mama's a pain…," Jen started.

"It's not that, love. It's the whole thing. I hate sleeping in a single bed in your mother's spare room. I hate being called your 'little ethnic friend'. You're 32 years old, Jennifer. We've been together for 8 years, but when we go to your mother you act like a 15 year old virgin. I want to wake up with you on Christmas morning. I want to hold you and make love with you. Damn it. All I want for Christmas is you - but I can't have that at your mother's house."

"Oh, babe. I really am sorry. I'll fix it, I promise."

"How? If you cancel now she really will pile on the guilt. I want to be with you.

I want to be with you as your lover, not your little friend. You are my family Jen. I don't even know if my parents are still alive. My brother said he will kill me if I ever try to contact any of them ever again. My baby sister could be married by now. I could be an aunt. I have no-one to spend Diwali with who understands what it means. No-one who can even pronounce my full name." She paused and looked towards her lover, her face softening slightly. "Oh love. I know you try, but it's not as real to you as it is me. All I have is you.

And your mother takes that away."

Sandy was crying now. Jen wrapped the smaller woman in her arms and rocked her gently. "I'm so sorry, babe. I love you. I will talk to my mother. If I can't make her understand we won't go. I swear." Reaching up to wipe a tear from Sandy's cheek she teased softly, "Hey, if you keep crying like that you'll end up looking like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer."

Sandy sniffed. "God. I think I must be pmsing or something."

"No, babe, you're right to be mad at me. I keep putting it off. I should

have done it long ago. I am 32, I'm out at work, all our friends know, it really is about time I came out to my mother."

Sandy glanced out of the window. "Ok. We'll go to see her. But you're driving! It's started snowing!"

"Let it snow, I don't care," Jen said gently nuzzling Sandy's neck. "I really love Christmas you know, when I was a kid I used to say I wish it could be Christmas every day. I love the songs, putting up the tree, the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, shouting merry Christmas everybody at midnight. The whole stupid package. I realise how much it must mean to you, that you can't be with your family at your festivals….. C'mon let's get breakfast and I'll call mama".


Three hours later, they'd finished putting up the tree. They'd hung the rows of silver bells they'd bought especially for it, up on the housetop. They'd even been for a walk over the river and through the woods down to The Little Drummer Boy pub to have lunch. It was time.

Holding tightly to her lover's hand, heart beating at twice the speed of sound,

Jen waited for her mother to pick up the phone. "Mama, hi. It's about tomorrow. No, I'm still com…We're still coming. But there's something I need to tell you first. Sandy isn't just my friend Mama, she's my partner, my lover. Mama…. I'm gay." There was a pause while she listened. "Mama it's not a 'phase' we've been together for eight years. I don't need 'help'. Mama, we're English, we're Anglicans would you please stop acting like a bad "Rhoda" episode, your heart is not going to explode with the grief." She was quiet again. "Mama, I do know what I'm doing, Sandy isn't my first girlfriend, she will be my last because this is permanent so you'd better get used to this. No it is not her fault." More silence. "Well if that's how you feel." Jen was silent for a long time. She hung up the phone without saying another word and turned to Sandy, tears in her eyes.

"Oh, love…," Sandy began.

"Just hold me..... please." They stood wrapped each other's arms for a long moment before Jen pulled back, wiping her eyes. "Well," she attempted a smile, "looks like we're going to America after all, that's if we can still get tickets at this late stage."

Sandy looked stricken. "Here, sit." She pulled her partner down and sat beside her on the sofa. "It's my fault; I never meant this to happen, if only I'd just accepted it and not made a fuss."

Jen shook her head. "Don't say that. It is not your fault. I never knew my mother was such a racist. Or such a homophobe. I knew she wouldn't be happy, but..." Her voice drifted into silence.

Gently rubbing her partner's back Sandy said quietly, "Come on let's get a coffee and we can have a think about this. You know I don't think well without coffee."

"You and your coffee." Jen smiled, it was rather a wan smile, but never-the-less it was a smile.


Jen stirred a spoonful of honey into her rose-hip tea as she watched her lover pour two large mugs of coffee. Smiling at the memory. It had been the first thing to bring Sandy to her notice when the younger woman had joined the accountancy firm where they both worked. The little quirk that meant she always, without exception, got two cups of coffee for herself, never just one.

"I don't know how you can drink the amount of coffee you do and still sleep for nine hours a night." Jen shook her head in amusement.

"Practice, darling, long years of practice. Now, sit, tell me what your mother said. The full details; don't hide anything."

Jen grimaced. " heard my side of the conversation. Apart from doing a very bad impersonation of a stereotypical New York Jewish mother - my apologies to New York and all and any mothers of the Jewish faith - she informed me that I wasn't 'like that', that none of our family have ever been 'like that' and....," she hesitated, not liking the way the next words would taste in her mouth. "And if I was now 'like that' it must be because that filthy evil Paki had corrupted me. And that I was welcome in her house but you weren't." Jen reached out and caught her lover's hand. "I'm so sorry, babe. I would never, not in a million years, have believed my mother capable of saying such a hateful thing."

Sandy took a deep breath, then another. "You've never felt..."

Jen interrupted, unable to bear the pain in her partner's voice. "Never, babe. I never forget who you are. I never forget your heritage, your culture. To do so would mean...I don't would seem as if I valued you less, as though your religion, your experiences were less valuable than mine, as if you were an honorary white. I hate it when others do that. I always remember - but it doesn't change my feelings. I don't love you in spite of who you are. I love you because you're you, and I couldn't imagine my life without you in it. I'm sorry I'm not making much sense here, am I?"

Sandy leaned across the table and kissed her partner on the lips. "You're making perfect sense, and I love you too. Thank you for knowing it would matter to me, for caring about my background, my faith, my heritage. And thank you because it doesn't matter to you."

"Thank you, my love, for letting the fact that I'm not Indian not matter to you."

Sandy smiled. "Are we done thanking each other now? Or should I thank you for understanding that your heritage could have been a problem?" She got the result she'd been seeking, as her lover laughed, her mood lifting. "Your mother does realise that I'm 4 years younger than you, doesn't she? Of course, she wouldn't know that my parents had arranged a marriage for me with a nice Indian boy with good prospects, when you came along, swept me off my feet and carried me and my heart away with you."

Jen shook her head. "No, we've never discussed it."

"Well, perhaps it's about time we did." Sandy sat back, thinking hard. "Lover, I think we should get a good night's sleep tonight and bright and early tomorrow morning we'll drive to your mother's house. We'll pack for the stay that you arranged and we'll talk to her. If she won't listen then so be it, we'll at least be close to the airport and maybe we can get a flight." She smiled. "She needs to know what being with you has cost me, and what rejecting you could cost her. She wants you to choose. You need to show her what your choice would be."

"I don't know that's ...."

Sandy interrupted softly. "One of the things I've always loved about you, that first drew me to you was your courage, you were totally out at work, you didn't care who knew, you were always true to yourself. Don't let it desert you now."

Jen nodded. "Ok, it's a plan, Stan."

Taking their empty cups to the sink Sandy winced. "Where do you get these expressions?"


The drive had been pleasant, in spite of the snow, which had, after all, made even the fields around the motorway look magical. As they neared London it had disappeared altogether, leaving a grey drizzle, not very Christmassy but then, neither of them had felt particularly festive. And now they were there.

They'd remained in the car for a good twenty minutes after parking outside the small semi-detached bungalow that Jen's mother had bought shortly after being widowed while Jen was still in college. Eventually plucking up the nerve to get out and walk up the path. Had Jen not been feeling as sick as a landlubber in a typhoon she might have stopped to pass comment on the vast quantity of hideous seasonal ornaments her mother had managed to cram onto her pocket-handkerchief front lawn; as it was she barely noticed them. Stopping on the doorstep she raised a hand to the bell-push, and then changed her mind, reaching into her coat pocket for her mother's front door key. There was no sense in giving her mother the opportunity to slam the door in their faces. They let themselves in, hanging their coats on the rack in the hallway before walking towards the kitchen, the place they were most likely to find the mistress of the house.

Pushing the kitchen door open Jen stepped inside. Her mother was standing at the sink, with her arms, up to her elbows, in the washing-up bowl full of soapy water but doing nothing other stare out of the window. Jen cleared her throat. Her mother whirled around. "You came." She started forward smiling and then stopped as she noticed Sandy partially hidden behind Jen. The two lovers were holding hands. "I thought I told you that ...person...wasn't welcome in my home."

"Mama." Jen paused not sure what to say. "That person, as you so kindly put it, is the woman I love with all my heart and have loved for eight years. She hasn't changed since our last visit here, our relationship is as it always has been, the only change is that I have finally been honest about who I really am."

"She's done this to you."

"Mama, no-one has done anything to me. This is who I am. Do you know that I am the only woman, the only person, Sandy has ever been with? I was her first lover? Regrettably I can't say the same. I wish I could. If I had known that such a wonderful woman would walk into my life I would have waited for her. But I didn't know, so I slept with two women in college, before I met her. She may not have been my first but she'll be my last. Mama, this is the woman I intend to spend the rest of my life with. I love you very much, but if you can't accept who I am, if Sandy is not welcome to visit you with me, then I'm really sorry but I won't be visiting you any more." There were tears in Jen's eyes.

For what could only have been a minute or two but felt like years to all three women, there was total silence. And then Sandy spoke up, very softly. "Mrs Monkton, I know this must have been a shock to you but please believe me when I say I love your daughter with all that I am. I was so miserable when I met her. I didn't fit in my own life and I didn't know why. I knew that what I had was not what I wanted, but I had no idea what I did want. And then I met her. She smiled at me and joked about my coffee cups, and my whole world changed. Everything that never made sense before fell into place. When we finally admitted to ourselves that we were in love I told my parents. They declared me dead to them. My brother informed me that if I ever attempted to speak to him, them or my younger sister ever again he would kill me for our family's honour. It was not an idle threat, he meant it. I have not spoken to any member of my family since. I miss them each and every day, but I would not give Jen up not even for them. Please, please reconsider, I don't want to see Jen miss you as I miss my mother."

There was another long silence. Jen's mother dropped heavily into a chair. "It isn't what I wanted," she stated. "I wanted you to find a nice husband, to be as happy with him as I was with your father. I wanted grandchildren." The last was almost a wail.

Jen regarded her mother sadly. "Mama, I am as happy as you were. I may not have the husband but I have a wonderful wife who makes me happier than any human should be. And even if I'd married a man I wouldn't have wanted children, you know that."

"I thought a husband might change your mind," Mrs Monkton sniffled.

There was another short silence, and then Jen's mother seemed to realise that the two lovers were still standing in the doorway. "Oh, please, come in, sit down." They did so, pulling their chairs close together so that shoulders and thighs touched. They were still holding hands. "She really makes you happy?" spoken tentatively.


"Well, I can't pretend to say I understand but I don't want to lose you. I want to understand. It's not easy for me, but I will try. Now you're here, will you please stay - at least until boxing day?"

"If you'll have us we'll stay until the new year," Jen replied, glancing at Sandy to check she agreed.

"I suppose you want to share your room." They nodded. "Well..." She took a deep breath, "Just please, no - you know - not in my house, not yet." They looked at each other, before agreeing. "So go and bring your bags in while I get your room ready"

Jen and Sandy went out to the car. Sandy threw her arms around her partner, not caring who might be watching. "I'm so very proud of you my love. It's going to be all right. Just give her time"

"I know. I love you very much." And Jen kissed her.

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