Unhappy Christmas, page 1
Translated by Kirsty Catriona Olivant
Written By Miguel Campion
Copyright © 2017 Miguel Campion
All rights reserved
Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.
Translated by Kirsty Catriona Olivant
“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.
Table of Contents
Unhappy Christmas - A novel by Miguel Campion
PART ONE | Chapter 1 | An empty seat
Chapter 2 | A chance meeting at 36,000 feet
Chapter 3 | Honey, I’m home!
Chapter 4 | A face among the crowd
Chapter 5 | A true friend
Chapter 6 | A false friend
Chapter 7 | A shoe for a prince
Chapter 8 | A tramp with class
Chapter 9 | The hellhole
Chapter 10 | A tête-à-tête between brothers
Chapter 11 | Causing a scene
Chapter 12 | A relaxing cup of coffee in Plaza Mayor
Chapter 13 | A dinner invite
PART TWO | Chapter 1 | Jacob's family
Chapter 2 | Dinner at Jacob’s house
Chapter 3 | Dinner at Miguel’s house
Chapter 4 | Confessions of two tramps
Chapter 5 | Glittery angels
Chapter 6 | When Jacob was unhappy
Chapter 7 | Silent night, holy night
Chapter 8 | The awakening
Chapter 9 | The prodigal daughter
Chapter 10 | Weighing things up
Chapter 11 | A tricky conversation
Chapter 12 | Bridges
Chapter 13 | The end
Unhappy Christmas - A novel by Miguel Campion
Chapter 1 - An empty seat
Chapter 2 - A chance meeting at 36,000 feet
Chapter 3 - Honey, I’m home!
Chapter 4 - A face among the crowd
Chapter 5 - A true friend
Chapter 6 - A false friend
Chapter 7 - A shoe for a prince
Chapter 8 - A tramp with class
Chapter 9 - The hellhole
Chapter 10 - A tête-à-tête between brothers
Chapter 11 - Causing a scene
Chapter 12 - A relaxing cup of coffee in Plaza Mayor
Chapter 13 - A dinner invite
Chapter 1 - Jacob's family
Chapter 2 - Dinner at Jacob’s house
Chapter 3 - Dinner at Miguel’s house
Chapter 4 - Confessions of two tramps
Chapter 5 - Glittery angels
Chapter 6 - When Jacob was unhappy
Chapter 7 - Silent night, holy night
Chapter 8 - The awakening
Chapter 9 - The prodigal daughter
Chapter 10 - Weighing things up
Chapter 11 - A tricky conversation
Chapter 12 – Bridges
Chapter 13 - The end
An empty seat
Natalia Velazquez gazed longingly at the empty seat beside her on the plane, imagining her husband was there. If only he were sitting here, next to me, like all those times we’ve travelled together, she thought. But if Miguel were sitting here, I wouldn’t be flying back to see him, feeling like an excited schoolgirl going to her first prom.
Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. That morning Natalia, who had never really been all that bothered about Christmas, was swinging her legs with childish impatience, as if she wanted to propel the aeroplane with the force of her desire, trying to hurry along the arrival of the twenty-fourth of December and wishing that this pointless waiting would just pass.
She was dying to walk beneath the Christmas lights in Madrid. Who would have thought it?! A grown woman, in her late thirties, attractive, tanned, jet black hair, elegant, professional, sitting laughing to herself like a madwoman on the plane that was carrying her over the cold Atlantic to the city she had missed so much. A bustling Madrid was waiting for Natalia, adorned with twinkling lights. And her husband Miguel was there waiting for her too.
Who says out of sight, out of mind? Enough love songs say it isn’t so, but Natalia wanted to see for herself through the eloquence of her green eyes, shining like the stars. Three years away from Miguel, one Christmas without Miguel, seemed like a whole life without Miguel. She had never doubted her love for Miguel, but Miguel, Miguel, what more could she say about Miguel if she didn’t stop whispering his name over and over, bursting with happiness? Miguel, her husband, was her reason for living.
Miguel Mansilla, a gynaecologist of great prestige among the upper-middle class in Madrid, as well as being her husband, was the love of her life. He was handsome, considerate, sensitive, understanding, tender and sincere and he was hers, all hers. Hundreds of women had been in his hands, but only she, his wife, knew that exclusive touch of his hands that made her tremble with pleasure every time.
Natalia stopped herself from laughing hysterically and crossed her legs nervously. She fanned herself hastily, blushing, ignoring the sidelong glances that the other first class passengers were giving her. How she yearned to breathe in Miguel’s unmistakeable scent between the sheets of their marital bed!
Her best friend Veronica had told her a time or two:
‘You should think yourself lucky to have married him.’
She wasn’t just saying that because Miguel was handsome and because ninety percent of the female population found him attractive, no, but because not all husbands would have accepted as he did the decision that Natalia had taken three years ago now.
Ever since the day that she decided she wanted to be a journalist, Natalia Velazquez had been dreaming of such a chance. She had been working in television for ten years and was well-known among her peers, but she never imagined that the moment she had yearned for so long would come so soon. She had just got back off her summer holidays when she received the offer. She had three days to accept or reject the post of foreign correspondent in the US. The first thing she thought about was Miguel. He fixed his dark honey eyes on her and said:
‘Don’t even think about turning down the post.’
‘But the United States...’
‘You've always wanted to be a correspondent somewhere important.’
‘But Washington is so far away...’
‘It’s as near as we want it to be. I won’t hear another word about it. I couldn’t stand seeing you here with me so frustrated while both of us know that you could have been a correspondent in Washington. We’ve discussed it time and time again, Natalia. Neither of us should give up a chance for promotion in our profession because our feelings have got in the way. We’ll get through it, you’ll see.’
Miguel was right. Why should she have to reject a job in Washington if he wasn’t going to give up his clinic in Madrid? Natalia knew that Miguel was happy with his growing, satisfied clientele; Miguel knew that Natalia was happy reporting from the hub of world power. Miguel promised that he would fly over to see her as many weekends as he could. Financially they could afford such a privilege and that’s what they did in the first few months.
But then things started to come up. Medical congresses, social commitments, incompatible timetables... One weekend, Miguel was drinking alone in Natalia’s Washington apartment, whilst she was covering who knows what absurd international conference. Their first argument over the phone, with her in America and him in Europe, was the most painful and upsetting argument they had had during the
The very Scotch whisky that before, when they drank it together, made them feel alive; drinking it alone, it only filled them with pain. The same drink, that extortionate brand of scotch with hints of lost lochs in the Highlands, solitary deer and mysterious legends, which to Miguel tasted of Natalia and to Natalia tasted of Miguel, and which helped to keep their illusion of being united alive. Natalia took a sip, closed her eyes and could almost feel Miguel on her tongue, loving, golden and delicious.
When Miguel finally had the chance to travel to the States, they made love more out of desperation than pleasure, time and again, and again, until they had no energy left to think or regret or even speak to each other. Miguel caught the plane back to Madrid and Natalia stayed awake all night breathing in his scent between the sheets of her American bed. She had to wait more than a month and a half to see him again, touch him, smell him and the more time that passed between visits, the stronger and more desperate the love she felt for him became.
When they got together, they relived the crazy passion that had devoured them when they first met, just after graduating from university. They rediscovered the taste of each other’s skin and the strange landscapes of their loins. They hardly talked, in a frenzied attempt to unweave the fabric they had built over ten years of marriage, desperately searching to find the first threads that had joined them together at the beginning.
Their first Christmas apart was down to Natalia’s excessive workload. They decided that it simply wasn’t worth Miguel travelling all that way and end up being on his own all day. Miguel flew over for New Year, but Natalia was still very busy and Miguel spent many an hour feeling neglected, bored to tears in Natalia’s apartment.
The following year, Natalia had too much work at Christmas once again and couldn’t fly to Madrid either. This time, Miguel didn’t even bother travelling, given his experience the year before. For Natalia it was one of the worst times of her life. She missed Miguel constantly but having to spend Christmas far away from him made her feel twice as lonely.
As she had already been correspondent in the United States for three years, Natalia gathered her courage, worked overtime, listened to her colleagues, called in favours owed and turned to her assistants, leaving more than enough recorded material and getting herself a wonderful Christmas present; three days off in Madrid, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day.
Natalia promised herself that it was going to be the happiest Christmas ever. She would have dinner with Miguel, lunch with Miguel, sleep with Miguel, make love with Miguel... Three days in a row with Miguel was a dizzying perspective for a woman in a position of urgent need.
Her love for Miguel had grown from a distance, turning into an obsession that was bordering on the insane. So it was that Natalia gazed at the empty seat beside her on the plane and sighed, thinking about Miguel, imagining him there, almost seeing him and feeling his warmth.
A chance meeting at 36,000 feet
‘Natalia!’ A shrill cry, both friendly and surprised at the same time, snapped Natalia out of her daydream. Natalia looked up at the woman who was grinning down at her and took a few seconds to recognise her. She was tall and slim, very slim, or rather consumed by the hunger that she inflicted on herself so that she could fit in with the ideals of beauty and into the expensive dresses that she wore. In her forties, bleach-blonde, she had once been pretty, but now there was something in her expression that made her seem cold and fake.
‘Rosa?!’ Natalia reacted in a flash, smiling back at her.
‘What a coincidence meeting you here, on a plane of all places! It must be at least three years since I last saw you!’
Rosa San Lazaro rushed over to plant Natalia the kiss de rigeur on each cheek.
‘Well, I see you on the TV, but I never see you when you come to Madrid...’
‘I don’t come back very often, to tell the truth. You know how time-consuming this job is.’
‘Wow, I’m so happy to see you, Natty! Do you mind if I sit down a minute? There’s nobody sitting here, is there?’ said Rosa, pointing to the empty seat where Natalia had imagined Miguel to be.
Natalia hesitated, confused by the ghost of a husband that she wanted to see, but the illusion faded away quickly under the weight of harsh reality. Rosa had already plonked herself down in the seat, not waiting for an answer.
‘Nice shoes,’ said Rosa ironically, pointing to the grey woollen socks that Natalia had on, totally mismatched with her elegant black trousers, white blouse and dark green jumper, all top brands.
‘Yeah,’ Natalia laughed, ‘these others are really nice but far too uncomfortable for a Transatlantic flight,’ she added, pointing to her expensive designer shoes she had bought in New York.
‘Wow, they’re fabulous!’ shrieked Rosa. ‘They’re absolutely gorgeous, babes.’
‘Thanks, I knew you’d appreciate them,’ said Natalia winking. ‘How’s it going with your show?’ Rosa San Lazaro worked on a gossip show, where her job was to tear the famous and not so famous to pieces. And what’s more, she was married to one of the network’s top executives.
‘Well, you know, gossip, quarrels, more gossip. Same old, same old. Anyway, how about you? Coming home for Christmas, are you? I bet you can’t wait! How’s Miguel?’
‘He’s great, thanks. And I’m dying to see him, of course.’
‘Of course,’ they both laughed heartily. ‘I’m on my way back from a shopping trip in New York. Jose Antonio’s been really busy the last few days, you know, all the special programmes that need to be ready in time for Christmas and New Year... And instead of being home alone and seeing nothing of him, I thought I’d make the most of it and go Christmas shopping in New York, so the presents aren’t the same as everyone’s in Madrid, ‘cos that’s so annoying... But tell me sweetie, how’s it going for you in Washington?’
‘It’s going very well, it really is. I’ve got the job I always wanted and the husband I always wanted is still waiting for me in Madrid when I get back, so I can’t complain, can I?’
‘No, you really can’t... You and I are very lucky. And may it last! Others aren’t this lucky. When I think about all those people who are going to be out of a job, I get a lump in my throat,’ said Rosa, looking conscience-stricken.
‘Who are going to be out of a job where?’
‘Don’t you know? I hope I haven’t put my foot in it... No, I can’t have, Jose Antonio told me it was already official. They’re going to lay off a load of people from the network. They’re not making enough to pay them all.’
‘I had no idea!’
‘I suppose they’ll notify everyone after Christmas. But don’t you worry; it doesn’t affect you, OK? Poor Jose Antonio feels terrible about it, but that’s all part of being a manager, sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. Anyway, I’d better leave you and go back to my seat. It looks like we’re landing soon. I know you’ll be really busy with your darling husband but if you want to drop in and pay us a visit, you know you’re more than welcome. Since you moved to Washington you’ve been MIA, sweetie, and you mustn’t neglect your friends like that. Lots of love and happy Christmas!’
Rosa kissed Natalia - or rather the air around her - goodbye as was expected of her, giving her a forced smile and a wave that signed and sealed her show of cordiality. It was true that she hadn’t seen Rosa for ages, and when she lived in Madrid they had seen a lot of each other, mainly through Jose Antonio. One of those typical friendships that are half work, half social commitment, that weren’t to be neglected if you wanted to stay in the spotlight, but still a friendship at the end of the day.
Natalia looked at the empty seat, now deformed by Rosa’s bony derrière. So her network was in trouble, colleagues were going to lose their jobs... Of course, that didn’t affect her though, so she could breathe easily. She felt a vague sense of pity for her colleagues but the prospect of
She didn’t want any other thoughts to distract her from her obsession: spending Christmas with Miguel. She’d bought tonnes of presents. She’d managed to finish work earlier than expected, having recorded her clichéd Christmas news clip, the same every year after all, and had taken the department stores by storm, maxing out her credit card to lavish Miguel. The most meaningful gift: a bottle of Scotch whisky, his favourite brand, limited edition, matured over several years just like her love for him.
And now, finally, bursting with Christmas spirit she was about to arrive home unexpected, earlier than planned and surprise her husband. She wanted Miguel’s first present to be waking up by her side, spending the early morning hours in her arms. She had so much affection bottled up waiting for him, so many kisses, so much sex... She had to make the most of him, the love of her life, even if it was only for three days.
That’s why she hadn’t told anyone, none of her friends (although now everyone from the TV network knew thanks to Rosa), not even her family who lived in Teruel, which would have meant travelling from Madrid to Teruel and losing precious time that she could be with her husband, so... This made her feel slightly guilty, but, justifying it to herself, she only had three days and she wanted to dedicate them totally to Miguel.
The plane landed at last and Natalia put her thick wool socks away in her bag, slipped into her rich and successful woman’s shoes, which matched her equally expensive coat made by another American designer and got ready to disembark.
Natalia ran into Rosa again in the baggage reclaim hall.
‘I really had no idea about the redundancies. Now you’ve got me worried, Rosa.’
‘You have nothing to worry about, seriously. It’s only going to affect the departments with deficits. They've done a viability study or something like that and they’re only going to dismiss the people that aren’t generating a profit. But the news is going well and there’s always something to talk about in the United States, so just relax, please.’