I'm sorry this has taken so long, but here it is, the first part of my holiday story!
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction; none of this happened; and Máire is really a very nice person who would never, never do such a thing.
'Have Yourself a Máire Little Christmas'
‘Is that the menu?’ I asked Roma, who sat at my dining-room table fussing intently over a cream-coloured card.
‘Sure, sure,’ she replied distractedly. ‘Did you really ask them for winter squash alongside the lamb?’
‘Yes,’ I said, raising my eyebrows slightly. ‘Don’t you like squash?’
‘Oh, I dunno,’ she said through a rather pained expression. ‘It’s so... er, squashy.’
‘I thought it would be warm and wintry, you know,’ I sighed. ‘I do think the guests will like it.’
‘The guests will not like it,’ Roma assured me.
‘I’ll talk to Nicky about it,’ I said. It was really too late to make changes to the menu, though, with the album launch less than a week off. ‘One Winter’s Eve’, our new holiday album, was set to be released on the first of December, at a festive Christmas gala that had been two months in the planning.
‘You know, I’m still not certain I like this font...’ sighed Roma unhappily, a curious thing. Perfectionism is not in Roma’s nature; she’s a source of calm for myself and Nicky, as we both suffer from awful tempers. In the studio, she’s the one who brings us cups of tea and keeps us from destroying anything. I knew there must be something worrying her today. When I enquired, she wearily passed me a small white envelope. It was a rather nice envelope, with delicate gold detailing, addressed in neat calligraphy to Aigle Music.
‘No, no,’ said Roma, ‘not the envelope, the letter.’
I gently removed the letter from its casing. A few specks of fine gold powder floated down and glinted slightly against the ebony floor. But as I began to read, I felt my hands shake and my lip tremble. The letter read:
Moya Brennan and RCA Records cordially invite you to join them on
for a festive holiday gala celebrating the release of Moya’s newest Christmas album:
‘Ar Oíche Nollaig’
Máire had signed the letter herself, in gold pen. There was no note. Still shaking, I placed the letter on the table. ‘I didn’t know- I didn’t know even that she was working on an album, not this... I mean, I thought... she couldn’t have waited one day?’ my voice trailed off.
‘Sit down, Eithne, before you fall over,’ advised Roma, moving a chair out for me. I sat, and stared out the windows for a while, looking out across the gardens, thinking. It was several minutes before I could say: ‘Who’ll tell Nicky?’
‘Er, I suppose I’ll have to,’ said Roma.
Later that day...
‘What did you do, Eithne?’
I looked at Nicky, who stood in the doorway red-faced and slightly winded. He held Máire’s invitation in one hand, and when I opened my mouth to protest, he shook it at me. ‘This is not an accident. Máire planned this for a reason. What in the name of cheese sandwiches did you do?’
‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’ I howled, ‘I thought we were getting on so well...’
‘Well, you must’ve done something to deserve this,’ said Nicky exasperatedly.
Finally, it occurred to me. ‘It’s about the song,’ I said, ‘the Wexford Carol.’ Our version of the lovely Advent carol had been so loved by all three of us that it had become our first promotional single. We had released it at the beginning of November, and it had been getting a surprising amount of airplay with the start of the holiday season. I always felt a bit joyful when I heard it played in the shops.
‘What about it?’ asked Nicky.
‘Máire recorded it,’ I said,’she did it for ‘An Irish Christmas’, last year.’
‘I know that,’ said Nicky. ‘Why does it matter? She did ‘Oiche Chiuin’, and you didn’t mind a bit.’
‘No, no,’ I said. ‘It’s the chocolates.’
Nicky raised an eyebrow. I told him the story:
‘A little while after ‘Wexford Carol’ went to number one in the holiday charts, I received a box in the post. I suppose I didn’t think much of it, until I saw the sender was ‘S. Claus, North Pole’. I thought it was a joke, of course. But when I opened it, there was a box of Ethereal Celtic Chocolates.’
‘Er.’ said Nicky. ‘Ethereal... Celtic... Chocolates?’
‘Oh, the best chocolates in the world!’ I said, drooling a little on my sleeve. Nicky stared at me in horror.
‘Not only are they absolutely delicious-’ and this I drew out, a contented smile on my face, and surreptitiously dabbed at the corners of my mouth- ‘they also make you younger.’
This captured Nicky’s attention. ‘They work?’ he asked, seeming nonchalant.
‘I haven’t had eye wrinkles for weeks,’ I cooed delightedly. Hmm, perhaps there was a mint truffle left in that box... mmm, chocolates...
‘Hm,’ said Nicky wryly, ‘now, why haven’t you shared them with me?’
‘They won’t work on you,’ I said.
‘Why not?’ he sulked.
‘You’re simply not-’ and I waved my hand haughtily- ‘ethereal’.
‘But what has this got to do with Máire’s launch party?’ asked Nicky, when I had stopped rolling about on the floor with laughter.
‘Inside the box of chocolates- mm, chocolates- was a note. It read, ‘Number 1 on the Holiday charts! That deserves a special gift! - S. Claus.’ Of course, I told Máire all about it...’
‘And now, she wants some chocolates for herself,’ added Nicky.
‘That has to be it,’ I said. 'Now, what's to do about it...'
... to be continued...