I took up a challenge from the erotic writer, Patient Lee (http://www.patientlee.com/radio-challenge.html) to turn on the radio and write a story based on the first song being played. Being a few days before Christmas I guess the odds of getting a Christmas Song were short, and the first song was the title of this post, sung by an Irish singer, Dana, who was popular in the 1970s. I was tempted to wait for another song, in an effort to get something a little more ‘cool’, but my sense of honour prevailed, and so I have stayed with this first song. I hope you enjoy my interpretation of the it. Here is the link if you want to hear the song for yourself. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvp2uYJXZ8A)
I looked up at the photo of my husband, Frank, in its usual place on the mantelpiece, surrounded by both this year’s Christmas cards, and a few from last year too. It does seem silly to put up cards from a previous Christmas, but this year’s delivery had only been two, and they looked so lonesome on their own that I had burrowed into the drawer of the sideboard, where I keep old cards and postcards, and the like. I like to take them out from time to time and look at them again, remembering past Christmases and people, now sadly passed away. I even put up the last one I had from Frank.
Each year the number of cards I receive has dwindled as friends and family have either died, or descended into that living death of dementia, and now there are just two people left to send me a card at this festive time of year. I haven’t seen either of them for a few years, as age had robbed them of mobility and the strength to travel to visit friends. Its three years now since Frank left me, but I speak to him all the time, telling him about my day and remembering people and events of the past. I just wish so much that once, just once, I might hear his lovely voice answering me one more time. But that wish will never come true, no matter how much I hope for it.
I should have made a tape recording of you talking, Frank. Wouldn’t that have been a treat, sitting here in front of the fire and hearing you talk to me like you used to do? You never think of doing things like that when you are both here, and able to chat to each other, do you? We thought that our life together would go on forever, didn’t we?
I paused, but of course there would be no response. We were married for fifty-eight years, and we always talked to each other easily all through our marriage. Of course, we had our quarrels like everyone else, but we never had endless silences like my Mum and Dad used to do, when I was young. I used to hate those icy silences. I would rather have heard them shouting at each other than enduring that.
Frank and I never had children. We didn’t really know why, although we certainly practised enough in bed at night to have produced dozens, but somehow it never happened, and we didn’t try to find out why. Of course there was none of that…what do they call it nowadays? VIF or something like that. Anyway, there was none of that when we were young. You just had to get on with things, or do what some families did and pass on a child from a sister or brother, to a sibling that didn’t have one. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so that was never an option for me, and besides, I wasn’t sure whether I could love a child as much as one that was made by Frank and me.
Do you think we could have loved one of your brother’s children, Frank? None of them turned out to be much good in the end. And what would have happened when you and Tom fell out and stopped speaking? He could have come and asked for his child back, couldn’t he? I don’t think he would have, though. He didn’t seem to care much for the ones he had. And I heard gossip that Brenda Collins, who used to be the barmaid at the pub, had another child for him too. He did seem to spread himself around a bit, didn’t he?
I’ve heard people say that having children can make a marriage, but they can also break a marriage too. So who’s to say that life would have been any different if we had had children. We were lucky, Frank and I. We were always best friends as well as husband and wife, and we had a lot of fun together over the years. I’ve heard women at the hairdressers say that they were fed up with their husbands pestering them for sex. Mrs Riley used to say, “If I get pregnant one more time, I’m going to go mad. I can’t cope with the ones I’ve got now, let alone have another, especially at my age.” But sex was always good for Frank and me. I looked up at his picture, on the mantelpiece, and I could swear I saw him wink at me.
We had some good times, didn’t we, Frank? I never talked about it to other people, well you didn’t, did you in those days. It’s not like the youngsters today. They don’t seem shy about talking publicly about anything now. I wonder what they would have said at the hairdressers if I had come out with stuff like that? They would have all had heart attacks, and we would be the stuff of gossip for years.
I was a virgin when I married Frank. Well, if you don’t count that Fred Spencer. I never did tell Frank about him, for fear he might have gone and done something really stupid, and ended up in trouble. Fred Spencer tried to force himself on me when we were going home from school one day. He managed to touch my breasts, and even got his hand inside my knickers, but, thankfully for me, someone came along the footpath and frightened him off. I never told anyone about it, but it scared me quite a lot at the time. I always walked the long way home after that.
When I met Frank I wouldn’t even let him put his hand up my jumper, and he accepted that. We fell in love and were married when I was nineteen and he was twenty. It was only on our wedding night that I found out that it was the first time for both of us. We never had any sex education at school in those days, and there was none of this Internet thing. The only education we had was in listening to older children talking about it, and looking at the odd mucky magazine that one of the older boys had pinched from the newsagents, or from his Dad.
I know that most young people don’t like to think about old people having sex. Some of them even think it is disgusting. But it was never like that for Frank and me. We kept having sex until a year before Frank died, and even after his health started to fail, we also liked ‘cuddling’ in bed, even if Frank wasn’t able to do anything by then. In fact, just a few days before he died, and he was lying in his hospital bed hardly able to move, he asked me to stroke him down there. I waited until there was no one around, and then slipped my hand under the sheet and touched him. He did not respond physically, but he smiled at me the way he always used to do. I looked up at his picture and grinned.
We always knew what to do to keep each other satisfied, didn’t we? I certainly never strayed, and I don’t think you did either, Frank. Although I must be honest now and tell you that Roy Grainger, from the shop on the corner, always fancied me, and I must admit that he had a lot of charm, and a wicked twinkle in his eye. But I never took him up on it, Frank, because I was satisfied with you.
Of course, our lovemaking as we got older wasn’t as energetic as when we were young. Like every other aspect of our lives, we changed and slowed down, but it never became monotonous. Frank seemed to have the knack of knowing just what to do to make me feel good, and we were never afraid to experiment a little. I will never forget the time he first suggested that I suck his willy. I’d never heard of anything like that, but I trusted him and he told me what to do, and I enjoyed it nearly as much as he did. I won’t say what he did for me in return, because it will embarrass me too much, but I can tell you that it was like Blackpool Illuminations in our bedroom that night. I never knew it was possible to feel the way I did that night.
Do you remember the time you got a pair of handcuffs, Frank? You fastened my hands to the top of the bed, and then we lost the key. How we laughed about that afterwards. We were almost at the point of you going to borrow some metal cutters from a chap down the road, and then we found the keys had slipped down the back of the bedside table and on to the floor. We were very careful with them after that. Oh I do miss you so, my love. We had such fun.
The funny thing about young people is that every generation thinks they invented sex. I expect we were the same when we were young. I could never imagine my Mum and Dad doing it. The whole thing seemed so ridiculous. Perhaps they weren’t doing it, and that was the reason for the long silences between them. I would never have dared ask my mother anything about sex. She would have pursed her lips and probably said something like, “It’s something you have to do when you get married.” She never looked as though she got any great pleasure from being married to my Dad. And they certainly never seemed to talk much to each other, unlike Frank and me. We used to chatter for hours sometimes. In fact, my friend Myra said she had never know a couple like us, with all the talking and laughing we used to do. Perhaps we were different from other people. Perhaps we just struck lucky, finding each other.
We were lucky, Frank, weren’t we? And I miss you so much my love, especially at night. Our bed is big and cold without you there to hold me like you used to, and run your big, warm hands over my body, and tell me that I was the sexiest girl in the world. And even though I am old and don’t think I am at all sexy, you made me feel that I was. You made me feel young again.
I looked at the clock on the mantelpiece and saw that it was nearly six o’clock. I’d better get some tea and turn up the heating a little more. I don’t like to have it on too early, because it costs so much these days. It’s Christmas Eve, and as I looked out of the window I saw a flurry of snowflakes, just as the weather forecaster on the television had predicted. I turned on the radio, hoping to hear a few Christmas songs, and funnily enough, the first one I heard was It’s Going to be a Cold, Cold Christmas Without You, by Dana. It was such a coincidence, because she was one of the singers that Frank really liked. I used to tease him that, if she came to the door, he’d be off like a shot with her. But he would only laugh and tell me I was daft.
But it is going to be a cold, cold Christmas without the love of my life. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I will probably be completely alone. Even my next-door neighbour, who is very good about keeping an eye on me, won’t be there, as she has gone to her sister’s for the holiday. But I am not too unhappy. I have bought a piece of chicken to roast, and some mince pies, and of course I have my darling Frank to chat to. I am grateful for what I have had for so many years. Can you imagine what it would have been like if I had been in a marriage like my Mum and Dad? I leaned over and kissed the photo, like I often do.
Merry Christmas, Frank, I love you very much, and maybe we will be together again one day in another place.
I hope you have enjoyed my little story, and if you have a neighbour whom you know will be alone over Christmas, why not pop in and say hello? I’m sure they will be happy to see you, and, after all, they might be you and me a few years down the line. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, and Happy Holidays to you all.
(And to my American friends, hope you understand the colloquial English. I am sure you can guess most of the words.)