- Pub. Date:
As the snow begins to fall, will all her dreams come true?
Flora Phillips has an excuse for everything; she was abandoned as a baby on a doorstep, wrapped in nothing but a towel. Her philosophy is simple: if your mother doesn't want you – who will?
Now thirty, with no boyfriend, career or home, it's time to find out who she really is. So, whilst everyone else enjoys their Christmas Eve traditions, Flora heads off to seek a special doorstep. Her doorstep.
There she finds more than her life story. She finds friends, laughter, someone to love. Because once you know where you come from, it's so much easier to know where you're going.
A story of love, romance and Christmas dreams-come-true.
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||Head of Zeus|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire, where she resides with her husband. She writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and copious amounts of tea. Erin was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017 and previously, Love Stories 'New Talent Award' in 2015. For more about Erin, visit her website www.ErinGreenAuthor.co.uk or follow on Twitter @ErinGreenAuthor
Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire, where she resides with her husband. She writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and copious amounts of tea. Erin was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017 and previously, Love Stories 'New Talent Award' in 2015. For more about Erin, visit her website www.ErinGreenAuthor.co.uk or follow on Twitter @ErinGreenAuthor.
Read an Excerpt
24th December 2016
I'm driving. Not my usual tootle around town driving, but pedal to the metal with power ballad blaring driving – the kind seen in plush car adverts. If I were driving in a snazzy commercial I'd have a backdrop of raging fire, tornados or cyclones looming over a dusky landscape to reinforce my mood. Instead there's a pitch-black night sky and a heavy flurry of snow pelting the windscreen creating a deep in outer space illusion.
Like the car commercials, I have navigated many winding and twisting roads but despite having a Sat Nav with the destination entered, I have no idea where I am.
'Take the third exit at the roundabout,' orders the Sat Nav lady.
I follow her instructions as I have for the previous two hours. 'Continue for one mile ... arriving at your destination on the left.' The tiny screen depicts a chequered flag and a blobby image unrecognisable as my red Mini.
My stomach flips; I want to be sick.
Not the drunken sickness that Christmas Eve parties can deliver, I haven't touched a drop of alcohol, but that nervy tremor, butterflies in your stomach kind of sick.
Within minutes, I arrive at my destination: St Bede's Mews, Pooley.
I indicate, park at the kerb and switch off the engine in front of a large church with stone angles and angels illuminated by spotlights strategically positioned amongst the tilting gravestones. The church looks empty and locked, I presume Christmas Eve mass was earlier in the evening. Janet, my mum, always goes to church on Christmas Eve – though not this year.
Is this a bad idea? Should I stay or return home? I want someone else to decide – there's no chance of assistance; I'm on my own.
The church clock strikes half eleven.
I hadn't planned on driving here. I'm supposed to be dancing under neon lights at the Pink Coconut, laughing and joking alongside Lisa and Steph surrounded by tonight's selection of tall, dark and handsome Prince Charmings.
Was I right to dash off into the night? Did they manage to flog my Christmas Eve Extravaganza party invite to the ticketless crowd huddled by the club entrance?
I stare at my surroundings. Adjacent to the church, is a row of Edwardian houses with steep stone steps leading to impressive doorways. A large archway is straight ahead, through which the road snakes before disappearing, linking the houses to a quadrangle of commercial buildings. The buildings edge a pretty cobblestone square freshly decorated with the flurry of snow and dominated by a community Christmas tree. On the far side of The Square, opposite the church, a noisy pub spews festive spirit from an open doorway.
My stomach convulses and my mouth unattractively dry gags.
'Don't puke,' I mutter, looking down at the red chiffon skimming my bare thighs. 'I haven't paid for it yet.'
I don't do tights, even in winter. I don't do spare plastic bags to act as sick bags stashed in glove compartments either.
I lower the window by an inch allowing a whoosh of cold air to bathe my clammy forehead.
Breathe, just breathe.
I close my eyes.
This has to be the right decision. How many nights have I dreamt of seeing The Square?
It's not easy growing up being different. Different from every child in the extended family, your English class, girl guides or youth club. Everyone I know knows where they came from: job relocation from Newcastle, divorcing parents or social aspirations – they all knew how they'd arrived in the leafy suburbs of Bushey. Except me, because I am different. I'm special, as Janet says.
'Special' – not the most flattering of labels in today's society. 'Special' counts for nothing in the employment stakes, the education system or a long-term romance. 'Special' doesn't get you far in life outside the three bedroomed detached belonging to Janet and David Phillips, my adoptive parents.
What would they say if they knew I was here? I peer into the Mini's tiny rear-view mirror where my sea-green eyes reflect a wave of guilt that snags in my throat. Was this the way to repay their kindness and love? Snooping behind their backs while they cruise the Bahamas escaping the British winter and celebrating an early Ruby wedding anniversary. What harm could it do? They'd never know. A quick look and I'd be starting the return journey towards Bushey within ten minutes.
The majority of the world were preparing for the fraught and frantic celebrations of a family Christmas, so why wasn't I? Because family is the Achilles heel of my life, through no fault of my own. Sadly, I seek answers to the complex curiosity or sheer spite of the seven year olds who taunted me relentlessly in a primary school playground.
I was destined to be different from day one. Different from Steph and her infectious laughter, her overflowing confidence and in control attitude. Or Lisa, with her delicate manner, her ditzy brain and her constant search for Mr Right. Or as Steph jokes, her 'Mr Right-Now'.
I snort at the very thought.
My Mr Right-Now had been Julian Wright who swiftly became Mr Has-been-and-gone two months ago by knobbing the blonde who serves in the local chemist. Before Julian, I swore blind Robbie Brookes was my Prince but he stuffed it up on a stag weekend in Blackpool. Before him was Terry, Rikki, Seb, Jamie and ...
Need I torture myself by continuing?
I open my eyes; the nausea has passed – much like the heavy snow flurry which has eased to a light sprinkle.
Reaching for my silver clutch bag on the passenger seat, I rummage for my purse and unzip the back pocket. Lisa keeps an emergency twenty tucked in hers. Steph an emergency condom. I keep a yellowing piece of newspaper.
I know the piece off by heart.
I carefully unfold my clipping and stare at the black and white image, gently stroking the baby's forehead, as if she can feel my touch. This was my beginning, my first photograph, technically the first entry in my baby record book, if I had one.
I carefully fold my newspaper cutting. I've treasured this clipping since the story was explained to me by Janet, amidst tears and gentle hugs, at the tender age of seven.
I've heard about The Square in Pooley, throughout my life.
Be it a scrubbed red tile, rough cement or coloured block paving that doorstep was the beginning of my story.
I might as well take a look. It won't hurt. I may never be this near again.
I haven't brought a coat so reach for the tartan blanket stashed on the rear seat, wrap it around my bare shoulders and make my way from the car, clutching my newspaper clipping. Instantly, the snow permeates my strappy heels as I head for the row of Edwardian houses.
The houses in St Bede's Mews vary in original features and renovation work. Number three, the middle house, is in darkness like every other house; the occupants were obviously out enjoying themselves or early to bed awaiting Santa.
I suppose this is how burglaries occur.
If I was a burglar I could nip over the wrought iron fencing, jemmy up the front window and be off with their presents from beneath their decorated tree. But I'm not a burglar; I'm a single, thirty year old who wasted an hour curling her hair and a hundred quid on a red dress to stand and stare at a doorstep on Christmas Eve.
I stand before their gate and stare at the pathway of tiny black and white tiles lightly covered in snow.
If the tiles are original, and they definitely look original, then my birth mother walked along them, twice.
Never before have I been in close proximity to anything that my birth mother had touched.
Clutching the tartan blanket beneath my chin, I place the yellowed clipping in my lap as I crouch down, passing my hand through the swirls of wrought iron to touch the snow frosted tiles that she walked upon.
My eyes fill with tears.
I can touch something that my birth mother touched – this is a first.
The church bells strike midnight; immediately an explosion of coloured fireworks fills the night sky.
'I may be a little old to make Christmas wishes but let's hope this one brings me some happiness and festive cheer.'
I depress the radio button.
'Officer 4402 to control. We have a lone female acting suspiciously in St Bede's Mews just off The Square at Pooley – we'll investigate and report back, over.'
A crackled acknowledgement is received from control.
'She'll be drunk,' says Scotty, my partner in crime, from the driving seat.
I step from the patrol car, grabbing my hat and notebook as the church bells strike midnight and fireworks burst across the snowy night sky. Since when did fireworks belong to Christmas Eve?
'Merry Christmas, mate,' I say cheerily, leaning back into the patrol car.
'Same to you, it can't be any worse than the last one, hey Joel?' laughs Scotty, showing his fillings.
He's not wrong.
'You git,' I mutter, as the face of Veronica, my ex, flashes before my eyes. The image of her blue eyes and blonde highlights wasn't the issue. It was the unexpected reminder. 'Are fireworks now compulsory for every celebration?' I ask, quickly changing the subject, I know what I should say but can't bring myself to ask how he and his dad plan to spend Christmas without his mum?
'I know, every weekend since Halloween I've heard the same routine after dark. It's probably a birthday celebration for a family on the estate. Pound to a penny she's drunk,' he scoffs, nodding towards our crouching figure. 'She's probably been dumped by her fella and downed a bottle of vodka.'
Slamming the patrol car door, I stride across The Square towards the Edwardian houses –my size ten boots disturb the picturesque snow scene around the giant Christmas tree.
He's got a fair point; we've patrolled this area long enough to know. Thanks to the extended licencing hours, the streets were always deserted while the revellers were squashed inside the pubs and the Liberal Welfare club celebrating finishing work for the holidays. So, an hour ago we'd pitched our patrol car in the small car park facing the church, knowing we had a short time before the drama started. Experience had taught us that we'd only be needed once kick-out occurred and then the booze induced fights and the rowdy behaviour would erupt.
The figure is crouching beside the gateway.
We'd watched her silhouette for nearly thirty minutes.
'She's parked on double yellows and hasn't even noticed,' said Scotty, as we observed her actions.
'Just watch. We'll pounce when necessary but right now she's only sitting there – hardly a crime.'
'It's the most we've seen tonight.'
'Be grateful then ... or can't we handle a lone female on Christmas Eve?' I'd laughed, knowing the waiting game was killing Scotty.
'I dread this shift every year. We always get the dodgy folk when huge fights kick off and spend extra hours booking them into custody when we should have clocked off and gone home.'
'Stop moaning and think of the overtime,' I say, my eyes fixed upon the red Mini.
She'd spent several minutes composing herself before climbing from the vehicle with a blanket slung around her shoulders.
'Now, she's definitely parked illegally, go!' urges Scotty.
'Seriously, would you nick her ... tonight of all nights?'
'Yeah! She shouldn't be parked on double yellows.' He answers without hesitation.
'Nah.' I pulled a face at my partner. He thinks he's mighty tough and an advocate for by-the-book policing but I know deep down he's kinder than that.
'Seriously, I would,' he continued. 'There's a perfectly good car park provided ... as proven, we're parked in it.'
Eleven years in the police force has taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt. You'd be surprised how wrong you can be by making snap judgements. I keep telling Scotty, you can't predict. She may be drunk, in which case she'll be breathalysed and cautioned. But, there may be a reasonable explanation.
'She's not a local,' I'd added before radioing the station and climbing from the patrol car.
'We'd know her name, entire family tree and her employment history – if she were local, Joel,' laughed Scotty. 'Plus, she wouldn't be parked on double yellows in front of the church.'
He was right, there was an advantage of being raised in the neighbourhood – we knew all the yokels.
As I approach, she's bent double by the gate; one hand reaching through the metalwork, her long curls have fallen forward covering her face.
Trust me to get the first sick job of the night.
I scan the pavement as I near – there's no vomit, but that doesn't mean anything nowadays. I've seen many a young lady vomit into her own lap, or handbag.
'Excuse me, Madam – is everything alright?' I stop short of her position.
She flinches as I speak, snatching her hand back through the wrought iron gate.
'Sorry ... I was ...' she turns, her hair parting around her slender face, her almond-shaped eyes widen.
'Is everything alright?' I repeat, as she straightens up, one hand clutching at the draped blanket. A fold of paper falls to the pavement. I'm relieved to see her red dress is clear of vomit.
'How embarrassing ... I was just ... I thought ...' she falls silent under my gaze. I scour the pavement around her. No wine bottle, no shot glass, no vomit. I step forward and sniff the air. Not a hint of alcohol, but just to be sure.
'Have you been drinking this evening, Madam?' 'Are you bloody joking?' Her temper flares now she's risen to her full height; five foot three is my guess.
Here we go, Scotty will be pleased.
This isn't unusual, the general public are all politeness and goodwill one minute. The next they're charging at my uniform with a smashed bottle and a knuckle duster.
'Madam, please ... myself and my colleague are parked across the way ...' I proceed to explain what we've witnessed.
'Whoopi-bloody-do, a sodding parking offence – haven't you got anything better to do?' Great, a feisty one. Just what I need to start the Christmas holidays.
I do the usual routine, ask Madam to take a step backwards, ask her to refrain from shouting and to calm down. I'm only trying to ascertain that no harm has come to her. Sadly, Madam's having none of it.
'Madam ... please.' I'm usually pretty good talking to irate females. I do the whole gently, gently routine knowing Scotty's probably killing himself laughing.
She steps closer, her perfume filling my personal space.
'Don't you Madam me in that patronising tone ... you think I'm drunk, don't you? Well, I'm not. I've got a good reason to be here ... I have every reason to be here ... in fact I have more ...' She stops dead, looking round frantically. 'Where's my clipping?'
'As you stood up ...' I say, remembering the slip of paper that fell to the pavement, but she's not listening.
'Oh no, I can't lose it,' she cries, turning around frantically, scouring the ground.
At the same time, we spot the folded paper lying against the fence post amidst a smattering of snow. Instantly, we bend and grab for the paper in a swift synchronised move. Crash! Her forehead collides full force with the bridge of my nose.
I hear the break.
The pain registers and my eyesight blurs to a pool of red as I double over in agony.
'Sorry, I was only trying to grab ... my clipping. I didn't mean too ...' she stutters.
I hear the slam of the patrol car door and the rumble of black boots – Scotty's size elevens soon fill my line of vision along with the snow-flurried cracks in the pavement.
'Lady, you're coming with us. I am arresting you on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, you do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court ...'
Amidst the whoops and bangs of fireworks overhead, I hear the cuffs snap on her wrists as Scotty continues his spiel and my fingers curl tightly round her folded clipping.
My tea steams in a white polystyrene cup. I'd give anything for a Massimo latte with chocolate sprinkles but I assume the beverage menu is limited at Pooley police station. On arrival, they'd confiscated my tartan blanket as a personal possession and provided me with a larger cream-coloured blanket, which remains draped around my shoulders. They'd also confirmed the charge of assaulting a police officer so I'm not about to complain about my tea.
My fingers gingerly lift the flimsy cup, squashing its wide mouth to a quivering oval. I tentatively sip under the watchful glare of two officers: my arresting male officer and a willowy framed female, whose strawberry blonde hair is snared in a severe ponytail. The hot tea scalds my tongue so I quickly replace the wobbly cup on the table top.
Excerpted from "A Christmas Wish"
Copyright © 2017 Erin Green.
Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.