‘What about Christmas Day?’ she asked. ‘It’s tomorrow.’
A blast of white air escaped my mouth like I had a puncture. ‘I won’t make it,’ I winced as I said it, bashing the side of the lorry with my fist. ‘I’m sorry. They needed the extra work, and you know how desperate we are for the extra money. It’s so icy, and the traffic…’
‘Don’t drive dangerously, Liam.’
Cars sped past on the main road. Jaguars and leopards after their warm dinners. They’d be home in time for Christmas. The bitter wind moaned through the trees behind me, and a horn shrieked at a car that had its main beams on.
I stared at the frozen mud. ‘Tell him…’
‘I’ll tell him,’ she said, and we ended it there because there wasn’t much more to say.
That night was darker and longer than the ones before it. Coffee and Snickers remained my faithful allies as we traversed the endless roads together. The deliveries were made, and although I was behind schedule, I imagined Mr. Claus wouldn’t have given me a hard time. He must have known the difficulty in staying on track.
Finally, the sun made its appearance and cloaked all the fields in golden splendour. Charlie would have been up for hours by now. I yawned, rubbed my eyes, and blinked at the red traffic light. My phone hadn’t woken yet. He’d be desperate to tell me what was in his stocking. The traffic light turned green, and just as I released the handbrake, my phone woke up with a message.
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE BREAKS. MERRY CHRISTMAS. XXX
She always knew how to take care of us. I’d stop at the usual services as soon as I got back on the motorway. The one with the good coffee and bacon rolls.
It was only 9AM. I was ready to hit the sack. I pulled into the service station and parked in a bay, arching my back and yawning again. No one was around. There were a few drivers with presents crammed in their boots, children running to the doors of the café, looking desperate for a toilet stop, mothers racing after them, flushed.
That one sounded too close for comfort.
I turned around at the familiar excitable tone, and there they were, at a bench by the river with my stocking that read, Daddy.
‘You made it!’ Charlie squealed.
‘I made it?’ I walked up to them, wondering if I was hallucinating from exhaustion.
‘Yes.’ Sarah nodded, smiling. ‘You made it.’
I kissed the top of her head. ‘How d’you know I’d be here?’
‘I tracked you on my phone. You can never resist the bacon rolls here.’ She winked. ‘Christmas is with you. So, we came to you.’
‘Daddy, see what Santa got you!’
I ruffled my boy’s sandy hair and hoisted him on my shoulders. ‘First. We fly!’
‘On Santa’s sleigh,’ he roared.