’Twas the night before Christmas, in brisk cold of London, Blu wanders from her home in South Kensington enjoying the stillness of the night. She loves the cold, loves staying out in it, the sharpness and the chill that makes one want to snuggle a little deeper and closer. Winter is her favourite season, a thing which made her an odd child growing up, but what did the other children know hey? With winter came Christmas! the most wonderful time of the year. And with Christmas comes traditions, besides the requisite eating and drinking and presents, it’s the little ones that matter. Her father would make all of them go to bed at ten o’clock on Christmas Eve after an elaborate dinner prepared by her mother and watching Christmas movies all day. The grandchildren would put out cookies, milk and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. Her mother was up before anyone else on Christmas Day, and halfway through making lunch by the time they make their way downstairs for breakfast. Even she, the consummate early riser slept in on Christmas morning. Breakfast was always eaten in their pyjamas, as they bickered over things that didn’t matter. It is also the one time in the year that she and Abi get along. It was akin to a miracle.

Then she met Brodie and they started a tradition of their own; she would sneak out to meet him on Christmas Eve and they would walk to several of the stores to look at the window displays and make up stories. It’s what they enjoyed doing before going away to spend Christmas with their families. At about two a.m. she would sneak back in, check on the presents, made sure Santa had left the appropriate amount of crumbs and reindeer, the half eaten carrots, before quietly heading up the stairs to her bedroom. Her father would often be at the top of the stairs to welcome her back home, with a little laugh and a hug good night.

This was to be their first Christmas together as a unit, her and Brodie, to build on that tradition and make it all theirs. This year was meant to be different. So tonight she is taking him with her.

Her first stop is Harrods, the entire façade is lit hundreds of lights, the window theme this year is an animal Kingdom, with the animals bearing gifts. She stops at every window to observe, wondering what stories Brodie would make up from them. Last year he made up a story about the witch who restored Christmas, from the Harrods Christmas window. That memory makes Blu smile and sad at the same time.

*

Ding! Dong! Brodie hears the chime of the doorbell inside, this was an uncivilised time to call on someone but he simply had to and she wouldn’t mind.

Franny answers the door, she’d given the staff the week off for the holidays and Roland was busy tending to the children. ‘Hi Brodie.’ She is not entirely surprised to see him standing there, considering she just got off the phone with his mother. Leila Sterling called her to apologise.

‘Hi. Sorry to come so late, but I had to.’

‘It’s okay, come on in.’

‘Thanks.’ Brodie has a lot on his mind. ‘I’ll be quick.’

‘No rush.’

‘Who’s at the door at this hour?’ Roland calls from the third floor.

‘It’s Brodie. It’s fine.’

‘Hey man.’

‘Hey.’

‘Hi Uncle Brodie!’ Gemima and Ethan, Franny’s two eldest children call excitedly from upstairs.

‘Hey guys.’ Brodie looks up to see them looking down at him, dressed for bed in their pyjamas, holding their toothbrushes.

‘Honestly if you two don’t brush your teeth and get to bed you are going to do the dishes tomorrow.’

‘Bye Uncle Brodie.’ Both children scuttle away to do as they are told.

‘Drink?’ Franny offers Brodie.

‘Nah I’m good. Franny I talked to Logan and my mom.’

‘You did huh?’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘For what?’

‘For the way she treated you. For you and Logan, and for being a jerk to you most of the time.’

‘Brodie you have nothing to apologise for.’

‘But on the contrary, I do.’

‘No you don’t. That was on your mom. The rest of it I put down to human nature, we clashed but we have Blu in common so we were always going to be fine.’

Brodie smiles a little, the have Blu in common. ‘Speaking of… are you guys going to be okay?’

‘Blu and I will be fine. I choked her with pastries and calls. I love her dearly and we have been through more than our share of bust ups. Admittedly this was the worst so I think I’ve used up my unforgivable quota with her. We’re good. What about you two?’

Brodie shrugs.

‘Brodie, you love her so much. What are going to do about that?’

‘I don’t know.’ Brodie answers, suddenly overwhelmed by a need to see Blu. Christmas Eve was their night. He would spend it with her before heading over to his mother’s house in Knightsbridge. They would go out for a long walk, stopping by the store windows to see the displays. This year Christmas was meant to be different, it was meant to theirs together, for the first time in three years of dating and what should have been three months of being married. ‘I just wanted to drop by and apologise for the bullshit Franny.’

‘You didn’t have to but thank you. For what its worth, your mother called me, we just got off the phone when you pressed the bell.’

‘She did?’

‘Yes. To apologise. I was touched.’

Brodie is surprised. ‘Does Roland know?’

‘He does. You know me, straight shooter and all I told him all about Logan on the first night we met.’

Brodie laughs, typical Francesca, it wouldn’t be her if she didn’t shoot that way. She walks him to the door.

‘Brodie, can I ask you one question?’

‘Shoot.’

‘If Blu were standing here right now what would you tell her?’

Brodie stops to look at Franny, ‘I would tell her that I love her, apologise for what my mother did and then I’d steal her away for the rest of our lives because I would never want to lose her again.’

Franny leans forward and kisses Brodie on the cheek. ‘I’m going to say a prayer on that. Merry Christmas Brodie.’

‘And to you.’

He could’ve have gone back to his hotel but Brodie needs the air. He walks down the Kings road, stopping every so often to look at the shop window displays, the streets are quiet but the houses tell a different story, one of joy and laughter, lights stay on and London sparkles. Faint sounds of Christmas carols drift from windows as he walks past. It reminds him of his family, all the Christmases they’d spent together, and tonight, that talk with his mother. He is mad at her, but then he can’t be, not after all she went through…

‘Brodie I’m sorry.’ Leila joined her son on the veranda where he’d been sitting by himself, the others were in the house.

‘Does dad know?’

‘That’s why he filed. I told him one day when he asked me if I ever loved him. I told him I tried to but couldn’t. For thirty five years I tried but could not bring myself to let go of the past or forget the son I gave up. We fought over you from the moment you were born. He wanted to name you William but I was adamant about naming you Brodie, matter of fact we had to rename you because they’d already printed William on the certificate.’

Brodie wanted to be madder at her than he was, wanted to walk away from her and not forgive her for what she’d done, but he couldn’t, when he thought about what she’d been through, the child she gave up but never stopped loving, knowing she would never see him again. Him not knowing how much we has loved by her… he simply couldn’t stay mad at her.

‘I want to help make amends with Blu, this is all my fault… I am so sorry.’

‘Don’t worry about it-’

‘But you love her and I had to ruin that.’

Brodie doesn’t know what to tell his mother so they sat in silence a while. ‘You owe dad and Andi an apology.’

‘I know. I called him. I’ll be seeing him tomorrow.’

‘And Francesca.’

‘I know.’

He stands to leave, he’d had enough. ‘I’m not coming by tomorrow, I have some things to take care of.’

‘Okay.’ Leila did not expect any of her children to want to be around her, they’d endured enough of her over the years.

‘I love you mum.’ He felt the need to say that because it is important that she know that despite their testy relationship and all she just told them, he loves her and is sorry for what she has had to live with.

Leila looked up at her son, touched by his words.

‘Are you going to be okay?’ Isabel asked Brodie on their way out.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Do you need a lift?’ Anais was worried about her brother, she wanted them to resolve things before going their separate ways.

‘No I’ll walk, I have to clear my head.’

‘Brodie…’

‘Anais I can’t talk about this, not right now. I’ll speak with you tomorrow.’

‘Brodie talk to us.’

‘I’ve done enough talking-’

‘Brodie come on.’

‘Now? Now is when you want me to talk? After everything we just found out? I’m tired.’

‘Anais, stop.’ Elliot knows to leave Brodie alone, Anais would rather they talked things out and resolve any issues but, this is not her problem to fix and it will not be fixed in one night. ‘Call us. Okay?’

‘I will.’

Elliot hugs his youngest brother, giving him a kiss on the head, they are all so fond of each other, their parents’ marriage notwithstanding, they love each other fiercely and will always be there for each other, but this is something Brodie has to navigate himself and he needs to be given room to do it.

Blu stops briefly in Hyde Park to look at the winter wonderland Ferris wheel, in the daytime it was unbearable but at night, without the crowds, surrounded by a quiet London it is quite lovely. She wanders on through the park, out onto Park Lane and heads up the road to Green Park. She knows where her next stop will be.

*

Brodie sees her first. She is at the first window, leaning in closely to observe; Fortnum and Mason was always her favourite. The display this year is Cats preparing for Christmas. She isn’t a fan of cats, but the window was so jolly it is hard not to love it. And from that look on Blu’s face she loves the window. Even from this distance he knows what her face looks like, big bright smile that reach her eyes, as she stands mesmerised by the display. She is dressed in black leather pants, thick black jumper; his black jumper, and a woollen trench coat that hit her mid-calf. She has on a pair of black knee-high Timberlands, one of several pairs she owns, her curly fro is piled high in a lose bun. Brodie is more in love with her now, than he was when he first said those words, three years ago, the morning after their first night together. He didn’t think he could love like this, of all his siblings he is the most guarded, and therefore his relationships, outside of family and a few close friends, had very little impact on him, until he met Blu. Her family welcomed him, her friends treat him like they’d been best friends forever; he stepped into her world and was engulfed by its fullness of life- family, friends, obligations, work, connections, travel, celebrations… but Blu knew him, knew when to bring him in and just how far, even if most of the time he was willing to go all the way in because he did not want to be guarded around her; he’d seen her world and been enchanted by it. He loved being loved by her.

Blu looks away from the window momentarily and that’s when she saw him. There were a few people about, hurrying to get home before Christmas, but she had a feeling someone was watching her. She looks up and there he is, standing at the corner of the store, a hint of a smile. That smile she’ll know from anywhere.

They walk towards each other, as if they made the mental agreement to, at the same time, and meet in the middle. She takes another step forward so Brodie has to step back; they could not meet in the middle she has to go one further than him because she walked away.

Brodie understands that. ‘Hi.’

‘Brodie… I’m so-’

Blu did not get a chance to tell him how sorry she is, because Brodie’s silences her with a kiss. He is in love with her, madly in love with her, and nothing will ever change that. That kiss ought to let her know.

‘I love you. Nothing is ever going to change that.’ With her forehead resting on his chest, Brodie puts his arms around her. He’d waited so long to feel her again.

Blu looks up at Brodie. ‘I Blu, take thee Brodie to be my lawfully wedded husband, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, with all that I am and ever will be. Always and forever.’ Those were the words that stayed stuck in her throat, the ones she had to say to him before anything else. He’d said them to her but she never got the chance to say them to him. ‘I love to you too.’

Brodie kisses his bride once more. It is the natural next step…

The clock strikes midnight and selection of airs start playing to Christmas carols for the couple beneath the store, as the advent calendar façade glows in the night.

Light specs of snow had begun to fall.

‘Where are we spending our first Christmas?’ Brodie asks Blu.

‘Your place.’ She answers.

‘I’m staying at a hotel.’

‘We’ll be together, and that’s all the matters.’

Indeed it is all that matters.