Christmas For Kyle
I wrote a Christmas novella that I am so excited to finally be able to share with you. It follows Kyle who has just arrived in London after the worst year of her life trying to avoid Christmas all together and Ewen who makes it his mission to help her feel festive. After months and months of work it is available to purchase on Amazon but you get a little sneak peak. I am sharing the first chapter down below, I hope you enjoy it. You can buy the full copy by clicking here, or on the book cover.
“Why? Why? Why?”
Each question was punctuated by dropping her head heavily onto her crossed arms on the bar in front of her. By the third “why” the tears had started to fall. They left trail through her makeup as they made the decent off the end of eyelashes where they had clung a second before.
Her head shot up, her momentum broken by the gentle inquiry from a man she hadn’t noticed seated a couple stools down from her before.
She let her red-rimmed eyes meet his and despite her despair, she did not fail to notice their striking blue colour. He waited as she took in his dark hair, a little on the long side, and otherwise casual appearance. Even the two words he said were enough for her to deduce we was a local and that was enough to assure her that she was unlikely to see him again, making her more honest and blunt than she might otherwise be.
“Why did I think it was a good idea to come to England, by myself, three weeks before Christmas, at the end of possibly the worst year of my life ever?”
His eyes filled with panic as her wails grew more uncontrollable, her shoulders rising and falling with each sob. He eliminated the two seats separating them, pulling a crumpled tissue from his pocket and offering it to her as he dropped down beside her. Awkwardly, he patted her back for a few minutes praying that she would calm down.
“Come on now, it can’t be that bad.”
He was as boisterous and happy as he thought he could get away with given the situation.
“You don’t think so?”
There was venom in her voice and even as a complete stranger he knew that he was treading into something he already wished he hadn’t.
“Surely not the entire year was awful,” he tried.
She blinked several times, a fierce hurt replacing the sadness that had been there a moment before.
“Let’s see… My parents were killed in a car accident at the beginning of the year. I am an only child and we were extremely close and because I don’t really have any other family I had to take on all of the responsibility of sorting through their affairs. It took months and it was gut wrenching.
“My boyfriend, who I’d been dating for three years by the way, decided I had been sad and distracted for far too long and dumped me – a few weeks before my birthday. Turns out it might have had more to do with Lauren than me being too sad though. In case you are wondering, Lauren had been my best friend since university but all’s fair in love I guess. They announced their engagement after four months. I guess he does want to settle down just, it would seem, not with me.
“Eight weeks ago I was called into my bosses office and informed that my position at the company was being eliminated. They offered me a severance package but just like that I no longer have a job, the only one I’ve had since graduating. Eight weeks before Christmas. Do you know how many companies are hiring right now? Yeah, none. Try in the new year is the anthem I’ve been hearing for over a month.
“Two nights ago I am pulling out my Christmas decorations, trying to feel a tiny bit of the magic my mom used to make at this time of year and I could not face it. I impulsively decided, and I am never impulsive, to use some of my severance to book an extended holiday in London. I’d always wanted to come and some insane part of me thought it would be a great way to shake off the mire of this year and help me forget how pathetic my life is right now.
“Of course, now I am alone in a city where I don’t know anyone and I don’t know my way around and I feel more isolated and miserable than ever. Instead of feeling buoyed up I am pouring my whole life out to a stranger in a bar on a weekday!”
She hadn’t stopped crying and was now hiccupping with nearly every word.
“And I am actually a very private person!” she finished.
“Well, umm, hmm, yeah, umm,” he fumbled.
“What can I say, it’s been one hell of a year.”
She finally stopped crying as her voice filled with defiance.
“It certainly has been. I am very sorry about your parents. Your ex-boyfriend is a wanker – seriously, don’t waste one more tear over him or your friend for that matter. That’s rubbish about your job too but maybe this will turn out to be some amazing turning point for you. I believe in that kind of thing. As for pouring your guts out at the bar, what do you think bars are open on a weekday afternoon for?”
She laughed lightly as she finally took the tissue he was holding out and started mopping up her tears.
“I’m Ewen and now we aren’t complete strangers so no need to feel uncomfortable about sharing. We are just two friends commiserating over a pint after a long day.”
“Kyle,” she shook his outstretched hand, her smile gaining sincerity. “What is it you are here to commiserate about Ewen?”
“Kyle?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Well, Kylie actually. It was the one thing I strongly disagreed with my parents about. Kylie always felt like a little girls name to me so in an act of rebellion I started going by Kyle as a teenager.”
The memory made her grin and Ewen found it pleasant and captivating.
“Okay, Kyle it is. Truth told Kyle, I’m not here to commiserate after all. I just finished up a big job and came down here to see my mate. He runs the bar.”
Ewen turned and pointed down the bar to the tall guy standing behind it, back to them, chatting with a couple of scantily clad blondes.
“Rich is a bit shallow but a decent bloke nonetheless.”
He laughed at his friend’s total obliviousness to the woman sitting next to him for the much less complicated conversation of the young women at the other end of the bar.
“I’ll introduce you in a bit and then you’ll know two people. That’s almost a group. You’re going to feel like London is home in no time.”
She doubted this was true but nodded her agreement anyway. She could see that Ewen was trying to help and it seemed unkind to imply he wasn’t, especially since he had just listened patiently to her heartbroken rant. She was starting to feel embarrassed about her breakdown and was wishing that he would stop looking at her with so much pity and resolved to pull herself together.
“So, your pal Rich there works here, what is it that you do? Tell me about the big job you just finished?”
Attempting to take the focus off her messy life she barely paused between words in order to get the question out as fast as possible.
“I am a journalist of sorts. A writer. I do freelance writing mostly. My last assignment was for an online women’s magazine.”
“Like, 10 ways to please your partner or how to pick the best dress for your body type?”
Kyle had a mischievous grin that further piqued Ewen’s interest, suggesting to him that when the weight of the world wasn’t on her shoulders she probably had a fun, lighthearted personality.
“Actually, how to apply foundation flawlessly no matter what skin type you have.”
He was overjoyed when she laughed loudly at his joke.
“The fact that you could pull that out of thin air proves me right I think.”
She winked playfully at him and even though her more serious expression replaced it almost instantly Ewen hoped she was feeling calmer.
“You’re not far off if I’m honest.”
He lifted his shoulders in defeat, but he wasn’t actually embarrassed of his work. It paid well and gave him the freedom to pick and choose when he worked and what he wrote about.
“I was asked to write an article about romantic, fun things to do in London at Christmas time. I have spent the last few weeks trying out all the touristy and not so touristy festive things London has to offer and picking the ones I think are most worth doing. It wasn’t a bad gig all things told.”
“Yeah, that could be fun I guess.”
Given her present state of mind, Kyle thought it might have felt like cruel and unusual torture.
“Paid to play you could say?”
“Yeah, I get to do this kind of article a fair amount and occasionally I even feel a bit guilty about how much fun I have but never enough to stop me from insisting I get paid for it. I do sometimes have to endure some rubbish outings though. I did a story once about manor houses in England and I had a hard time finding nice words to describe all the lace and china I was exposed to.”
The expression on his face as he recalled the experience made Kyle smirk, but she thought she might have enjoyed exploring the houses more than he seemed to. She pictured how excited her mom would have been to get inside some of the homes of England’s elite and she found her eyes welling up again.
“And you? What was it you studied at uni and got sacked from?”
Ewen, noticing the tears, attempted to deflect the sadness with his usual blunt humour. He was rewarded with a weak laugh.
“You don’t pull any punches, do you? I am an accountant. It sounds boring, I know, and to most people it is, but I love numbers. I get so much satisfaction from having all the columns add up and balance out the way that they are supposed to. Plus, I’m good at it. I worked as the in-house accountant for a software company back home. It wasn’t exactly challenging me or the kind of work I had envisioned doing but it paid the bills.”
The heavy sigh seemed to have originated from some deep core inside her and gave her an even more careworn appearance.
“And they suddenly had no more need for an accountant? Were they going under or something? You can’t have been that good if that was the case.”
He made the joke before his brain had time to tell him that it might not be the time for it and his face creased with regret. Kyle turned and her nose crinkled in disgust but she stuck her tongue out at him so Ewen was pretty confident he hadn’t crossed too big a line.
“As a matter of fact, I was so good at my job that the company was seeing some big increases in revenue thanks to my input.
She tilted her head smugly and puffed up her chest with overblown pride.
“Ooh, so you are like a full on maths geek then?”
He burst out with a boisterous laugh as her exaggerated brag disappeared into an embarrassed shrug.
“Pretty much, yep. It made it so they took me by complete surprise when they ‘outsourced’ me.”
She punctuated the word outsourced with air quotes and her voice dripped with disdain as she continued.
“I think this had a lot more to do with the boss’s nephew being unemployed after graduation than the bull they fed me about finding a cheaper alternative.
She reddened deeply and her eyes widened in horror.
“I’m sorry, I am going to stop blathering about my depressing life now. I am honestly not like this under normal circumstances. I don’t know what has gotten into me, unloading this on a perfect stranger.”
“Ewen,” he tapped his chest and winked, “remember? We are not strangers. We’re old friends. And it’s not a problem. I don’t mind. You’ve been through a tough year and sometimes you just need to unburden yourself. I am more than happy to be the bloke on the receiving end.”
She appreciated his leaning in on the “old friends” bit.
“Thanks Ewen, that’s very decent of you. You should be warned though, I am a little bit damaged currently. If you’re too nice to me I might start following you around!”
Her attempt at humour fell a little flat but, because he could see she was trying, he chuckled anyway.
“You’d certainly be one of the cuter things to follow me home so I’m game if you are.”
He took a long pull from his beer and glanced at his friend still chatting with the ladies at the bar.
“So, what did you envision doing then?”
Kyle met his gaze again, taking a break from silently berating herself for implying she was going to follow him home and what that might make him think she was suggesting.
“You said your job wasn’t what you’d envisioned doing, which suggests you had some idea. So, what was it?”
She hoped this line of questioning wasn’t due to him sensing her embarrassment but was, in any case, grateful the subject had moved on from her following him around.
“Oh, umm, well I kind of thought I would like to work with a small company just getting off the ground, or maybe a nonprofit with a cause I could really get behind. I hoped I could use my skills to help someone grow. Help build something I guess. I really am quite good at finding ways to grow money or save in ways that other people often miss.”
“If you do say so yourself.”
Ewen notice how easy it was to bring a little extra colour to her cheeks and was now trying to find things to say that would do it.
“That’s very noble though, wanting to help like that.”
“Not really. I still want to be paid,” she laughed and gave an exaggerated shrug, “which is why I ended up working where I did. The kind of place I wanted to work would usually not have the money to hire a full-time accountant, or at least think they don’t. Ironically, hiring me would mean they could find out just how much farther their money could go.”
Kyle’s voice trailed off as she got lost in the memory of trying to explain that very thing to a few people but was soon pulled back into her present situation.
“How about you then? Was freelance writing always the plan?”
“Writing, yes, absolutely. I think from the time I could read I was telling people I was going to be a writer. It took me a while to settle on the kind of writer I wanted to be I guess. I’m still not fully sure I’ve decided which is what makes it nice to work the way I do. Always changing and giving me a chance to learn about all kinds of new things. Plus, it gives me plenty of time to work on my novel.”
“Oh, so you’re writing a novel as well?”
“See how I slid that right in? Thought I could impress you.”
“It almost worked.”
Her low, throaty chuckle was lovely and Ewen wished she would use it more. It was clear to him that she was far more than her present circumstances made her appear.
“So, what’s it about?”
“The end of the world as told through the eyes of God.”
“That’s a line from The Decoy Bride?”
His serious expression crumbled into laughter. Kyle chuckled and shook her head in response.
“I was hoping you’d not seen it.”
“Hello? David Tennant.”
“Oh, well yeah, he is dead sexy, isn’t he?”
Ewen brought his hand to his heart and mimed swooning.
“Mmm, he sure is. It’s the accent I think.”
“Hey, I have an accent!”
“I suppose you do.”
She leaned in close, narrowed her eyes, and examined him intently.
“It must just work better on him.”
“Ouch,” he rubbed his chest as if she’d inflicted actual pain but when she laughed at him he shrugged. “That’s probably fair.”
“I’m surprised you’ve seen it though. Big romantic comedy fan Ewen?”
“I date. And I’ve a sister. I’m not totally unfamiliar with the genre. And yeah, I have a rom-com side.”
He waggled his eyebrows at her a couple of times and was met with an eyeroll in return.
“I figured a maths nerd like yourself would be more into documentaries and not have time for silly films.”
“What are you talking about Mr. I know romantic comedies? All we nerdy accountant types do is watch romantic movies and hope some really hot guy will come into our lives, take off our glasses, and see that we’ve been the prom queen all along.”
Ewen sincerely hoped she was feeling as much better as she sounded and found himself resolving not to leave until he was sure she was.
“Good point. Unfortunately, you aren’t wearing glasses Kyle. I guess you’ll have to keep watching and dreaming.”
He stopped himself from making the observation that she had nothing to worry about, afraid to damage the fragile comfort they had established between them. Even with red-rimmed, jet-lagged eyes and the sad expression that couldn’t be fully lifted with her grin, a blind man could see she how attractive she was. Despite her clear heartache she was not letting it stop her from being interesting company either.
“Okay, smart ass, what’s the book really about? Are you trying to impress me or not?”
“I don’t know if I want to tell you now. It might ruin my sensitive guy rep.”
“It’s something action-y and packed full of testosterone isn’t it?”
His shrug sent her into a fit of giggles.
“I wouldn’t worry too much. You didn’t have much sensitive guy street cred to lose.”
“I happen to be a very sensitive guy I’ll have you know. Just ask my sister. She’s seen me weep many times. That’s right, I weep.”
His smug look brought on another round of laughter and Kyle was surprised at how much better she felt considering the breakdown she’d just had.
“I just also like a little action and murder in my life. I’m complex, Kyle.”
“I can see that,” she winked, “I am also a complex being. I enjoy an action-packed thriller as much as a sappy romance. So tell me about your story. I promise I’ll be impressed.”
She propped her elbows on the bar and leaned in a little closer, giving Ewen her undivided attention.
Maybe because their laughter had drawn his attention or maybe because Kyle was no longer crying, or maybe because the girls at the other end of the bar were getting ready to leave, it was at this moment that Rich chose to sidle up near them.
“Oi, mate, stop staring at the pretty lady. It’s creepy.”
Rich’s louder than necessary comment was enough to break the connection between the other two and they both reddened as they glanced at him.
“I’m creepy? You just chased two paying customers out of the bar by not leaving them alone!”
Ewen ribbed his friend as they performed a complex handshake over the bar.
“None of that. I had to ask them to leave so that I could look after my other customers. They were heartbroken mate. Gutted.”
Kyle wouldn’t have been able to tell you where in the country either friend had originated from, but it was clear from their accents that it was not the same place. Rich sounded far less refined than Ewen but his pleasant smile and playful nature made him appealing in his own way.
“Now are you going to introduce me to your lovely friend here?”
Rich took one of Kyle’s hands in his and bowed to her before kissing the top of it.
“If you hadn’t been so busy trying to get laid you would have met her before I did.”
Ewen found himself annoyed both that Rich was still holding Kyle’s hand and that he hadn’t bothered to try to help her when she had so clearly been upset. Humbled enough by his friend’s tone, Rich dropped her hand and shrugged sheepishly.
“True enough, Ewen, true enough. My oversight seems to have been your gain though. You two looked awfully chummy to me.”
Kyle felt that it was actually her gain as she couldn’t have imagined feeling this much better ten minutes ago, but she didn’t bother sharing that.
“That’s what happens when you look someone in the eye and ask them about themselves Rich.”
Ewen indicated with his hand towards his chest and then waved it in front of his own eyes, once again pointing out his friend’s shallowness. He nodded and tried to look properly chagrined and they both laughed together.
“This is Kyle. She’s here for the holidays. She’s visiting from America.”
She was grateful for his somewhat compressed version of her story and smiled warmly at him to let him know.
“I guess you didn’t get to know her as well as you thought now, did you? Can’t you tell the difference between a Canadian accent and an American one? What an ignorant Brit. It’s all the same to you isn’t it?”
Enjoying the chance to switch roles and give his friend a hard time, Rich threw him a disgusted look before turning to fully face Kyle.
“We aren’t all so insensitive as my friend here. What part of beautiful Canada are you from then Kyle?
Ewen stood on his stool rungs, leaned over the bar, and punched his friend in the shoulder that was now facing him. Rich flinched and rubbed the spot that had been hit and mouthed ‘ow’ at Kyle. Without consciously doing so, Kyle found herself letting go of her earlier worries and let the two men entertain her, laughing at the interaction between the friends, and shaking her head at the show of bravado taking place in front of her.
“So, Kyle, what part of Canada are you from?”
Ewen gave Rich a smug look and Rich let his jaw drop in disgust, muttering something Kyle couldn’t quite make out.
“I am from Vancouver, born and raised.”
She smiled at Evan and then at Rich as well for good measure.
“Vancouver! That’s a beautiful city.”
Rich’s enthusiasm was heightened enough to make him look ridiculous.
“How would you know?” and “Oh, have you been” were said by the other two simultaneously, causing looks to be shared all around and laughter once again erupted.
“I guess that’s a no then,” Kyle gave Rich a stern look.
“I’ve seen pictures,” Rich defended his comment with a shrug. “Isn’t there supposed to be amazing skiing there?” His eyes seemed to light up at the prospect.
“More like Vancouver adjacent, really. Like an hour and a half away in Whistler but it is world class.”
“So, you ski then?” Rich questioned.
“Umm, yeah, I ski. I’m no Olympian but I can hold my own.”
“So, if I come visit you in Vancouver maybe you could teach me?”
Rich had leaned in close and dropped his voice into what he thought was a seductive tone as he propositioned her. Ewen’s hand shot between them and he pushed his friend’s face out of the close proximity he had put himself in.
“Easy, tiger. I’m pretty sure she isn’t quite ready to invite you to stay, no matter how charming you think you are.”
Impervious to embarrassment, Rich laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
“What brings you to this fair city of ours then Kyle?”
“An impromptu Christmas holiday.”
Kyle and Ewen’s eyes met and they exchanged a quick look but there was no way that Kyle was going to spill the whole story again.
“London is a very romantic city at Christmas.”
Rich tried his seductive tone again but Kyle’s raised eyebrows made it clear that she was not biting. She had not come to England with any plans to get into a short-term relationship, especially with the biggest flirt she had possibly ever met. She was grateful to have people to talk and joke with though, it helped fight off the loneliness she’d been experiencing. Rich didn’t seem bothered by the rebuttal and the conversion moved on.
She was surprised at how pleasant her day had ended up, especially considering how she’d felt when she first sat down at the bar. It was actually her hunger that eventually prompted her get up from her stool. Draping her coat over her arm, she turned to bid her farewell’s only to find Ewen tightening the scarf around his neck and pulling his own coat on.
“See you later mate.”
He reached out and did another elaborate handshake with Rich across the bar.
“It was nice to meet you Rich, thanks for the company.”
Content that she probably wouldn’t meet these men again, she wanted to be sincere in her appreciation for the help they’d given her today. In a sudden move, Rich jumped over the bar and wrapped her in a giant bear hug.
“It was nice to meet you too Kyle. Don’t be a stranger.”
In another swift move he was back over the bar and serving a new customer. Kyle chuckled as he she headed for the door, keenly aware that Ewen was only a step behind her.
As promised, here is the rest of the book. If you enjoyed it reviews are always appreciated. Happy Holidays everyone.