by Karen Gilleland © 2013
“Thank you for coming, Bert and Jennifer,” said Louisa, as she gave each a hug. Martin stood by the door holding James. Louisa handed Jennifer a plate of biscuits from a small table. “Enjoy.”
“Great party, Louisa,” said Bert, wearing a Santa hat and jiggling the bells at James. “Merry Christmas, little fellow.” The two left, and the clock chimed seven as Louisa closed the door.
Martin looked into the sitting room, where Al and Morwenna and Joe Penhale, the last of their guests, were shuffling into coats. The Christmas tree glowed with multicolored lights and tinsel.
“It was nice of you to come,” said Louisa when the three came to the door. “James will love the toys you brought for him.” She gave each one a plate of biscuits and a hug.
“Merry Christmas, Doc,” said Morwenna, tiptoeing to kiss him on the cheek and whisper. “And thanks for the check.”
“Umm.” Martin nodded.
“Merry Christmas to all of you,” waved Louisa as the three walked down the steps.
Martin shrugged and walked into the sitting room. “Do we have to do this every year?” he asked.
“Martin, didn’t you enjoy the party?”
“In answer to your question, yes, we do have to do this every year. Parties create happy memories for James. He loved the excitement.”
“It’s worn him out.” The baby began fussing, and Martin handed James to Louisa.
“I’ll warm up milk and get him ready for bed.”
Martin looked around the room, sighed, and began picking up the discarded wrapping paper and ribbons. He stacked greeting cards on the small end table and put the toys, baby clothing and other gifts under the tree. Then he gathered up the plates and glasses and took them into the kitchen. He looked at the mess on the table and counters, sighed again, and put leftover food into containers, rinsed dishes and ran the dishwasher.
An hour later, the rooms cleared and the baby asleep, Louisa and Martin sat on the sofa facing the tree.
“Martin, when you were a child, was there anything you really wanted for Christmas that you didn’t get?”
Louisa put her hand in his and said. “When I was six years old, I wanted a plain red, wool, pleated skirt. I saw it on a mannequin, but my mother said it wasn’t practical. I cried and cried, but I ended up with a blue-and-green plaid skirt.”
Martin stooped and picked up a small package wrapped in gold foil from under the tree. He handed it to Louisa.
“I have something for you.”
“Not yams, then?” Louisa joked, taking the box from him.
“I was remembering the time you gave me a gift of yams because I was anemic.”
“Right. Practical, you must admit.”
Louisa opened the box to find a beautiful gold chain. On it hung a gold outline of a heart with a diamond. “It’s too beautiful. You shouldn’t have,” she whispered.
“I have a beautiful wife who has stolen my heart. I wanted her to know.”
“Thank you.” Louisa put her arms around Martin and kissed him. Then she smiled. “Did you?
“Did I what?”
“Did you ever want something for Christmas you didn’t get when you were a boy?”
Martin leaned back and looked at the tree, eyes focused on the gifts underneath, quiet.
“A train set. Auntie Joan visited us in London and took me to Harrods. We went straight to the toy floor, and the first thing I saw was a huge display of trains running on a maze of tracks. The train I wanted was running on tiny tracks in the corner. A miniature Lionel HO American Flyer. It was so detailed and ran with such precision. I thought it was amazing.”
“You remember it that well?”
“Auntie Joan said I would have to be a very good boy, indeed, for Santa to bring me that train set.” He stopped speaking for a while, then said, “I tried to be so good, but I got the same gift I got every year. A new pair of pajamas. I’ve often wondered what more I could have done to deserve that train set.”
“Martin, I had a gift for you, but I am returning it after Christmas.”
He looked at Louisa, puzzled.
“I shouldn’t have told you that story. I could use a new pair of pajamas, actually. Let’s keep them.”
The doorbell rang. Martin stood up, wondering if it the caller was a patient. “I’ll get that.”
He opened the door, and Aunt Ruth, looking rakish in a green silk dress with a large pearl pendant at her throat and red cape across her shoulders, came in carrying a canvas shopping bag. He invited her into the sitting room.
“Ruth, I didn’t think you could come today,” said Louisa.
“No, a friend was visiting. An architect from London. He asked me to show him around the area.”
“Let me take your cape,” said Martin.
Ruth set her package on the coffee table, slipped off her cape and handed it to Martin, who hung it on the rack.
“Can I get you a drink – wine, coffee?” asked Louisa.
“No, thank you. I just had dinner. Lovely tree. Did James enjoy the party?”
“He did. He loved the attention, especially Bert in his Santa’s hat.”
“I brought a few things.” Ruth took out a small package and handed it to Louisa. “This one is for you and Martin. Nothing much, but I thought it would look nice on the mantle. Here is a little something for James,” and she dug out a teddy bear with a big red ribbon.
Martin bent down to pick up a small box wrapped in green tissue.
Ruth sat down on the sofa, and Martin and Louisa joined her.
“Merry Christmas, Aunt Ruth,” said Martin, handing her the box.
“Thank you. I’ll open it in the morning. You must remember how no one was ever allowed to open packages until after church on Christmas.”
“My friend and I stopped at the farm, and he looked over the structure, inside and out. He asked if I had ever looked into the attic. Of course, I hadn’t.”
Ruth fumbled with the bag. “I have something else for you, Martin.”
“No need –“
“It’s not from me. It’s from Joan.”
“When my friend opened the hatch to the attic, he found this parcel.” Ruth pulled out a package wrapped in brown butcher paper, with canceled postage stamps in the upper right-hand corner. She placed it on the coffee table. Martin leaned over and examined the markings.
The first thing he noticed was the large black, handwritten word scribbled across the front. “REFUSED.” Then he saw his name on the address label, and “Joan Norton” in the return address space.
“This package was mailed December 20, 1977,” Martin said. “I don’t understand.”
“You won’t remember, but Joan came to London that year.”
“I do remember. She was staying with us. One night late, I heard shouting, and the next day when I got up, she had gone.”
“She told your father about her affair with John Slater. She was trying to decide what to do about her marriage. You know the rest.”
“She must have sent you this gift, but your parents returned it unopened.”
“Open it, Martin,” said Louisa.
He untied the string and unwrapped the package, folding up the brown paper carefully. Inside was a box wrapped in white tissue paper with a card taped onto the outside. Martin opened the card. “To the best boy in the world. All my love, Santa and Auntie Joan.”
Martin sighed and slid his hand under the package. He tore off the tissue paper to reveal
the brightly colored box announcing the Lionel HO American Flyer. “Oh!” Martin sniffled, flickering his eyelids to stop the tears.
Ruth stood and took her coat from the rack and slipped it on. “I must go. Merry Christmas, and thank you for the gift.”
Martin and Louisa walked to the door with her. Ruth looked at Martin and shook her head. “Your parents never appreciated the wonderful son they brought into this world. Enjoy every moment with James Henry. Remember, good or bad, memories last a lifetime.”
– THE END –
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures
Oh how perfect…thank you, thank you! My new favorite Christmas story.
What a fun story! Paul (Pepe)
Karen, Thank you for such a touching early Christmas gift. ‘Twas lovely and right.
Thanks to all of you for your kind words! Happy Holidays.
On Sat, Dec 7, 2013 at 5:09 PM, “Doc Martin” with Martin Clunes
What a lovely story. Thank you.
Brought tears to my eyes. Just what I would want for Doc and Louisa and baby James.
Thank you Karen – what a lovely, heart-warming story. Happy Holidays!
Thanks so much Karen for such a sweet and tender story! It will carry me thru to the New Year filled with hope that Season 7 will provide us with many opportunities to see love given and received! (To our ole Doc and from him)
This would have made a perfect Christmas show. You should have sent it to them.
Thanks to everyone who has replied with such nice words. Happy New Year!
What a beautiful and touching story — please continue to write more fan fic!
That’s lovely!! Many thanks for writing and sharing. I could picture the whole scene…perfect!