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Christmas at Clevenden Cottage

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Emma doesn't particularly like Christmas, so when her best friend drags her along again to Clevenden Cottage for the festive season, she is more than reluctant to go back. In bygone years, this "tradition" of both of their families getting together at Clevenden, was something she wanted to forget. Between her parent's incessant questions about her love life, and her best friend's pesky older brother, Dawson, she has more than one reason to want to stay at home. But what Emma doesn't realize, is that what she's been running away from, may be the best thing that has ever happened to her, and will make her Christmas extra special. Mishaps, surprises, and a whole load of humble pie are served, in this cozy Christmas romance.

CHAPTER 1 – It’s Tradition 1

It’s hard to think straight when you’re holding on for dear life. Tess was behind the wheel, driving us to her parent’s cottage in the Lakes – although her driving had always left a lot to be desired.

The snow had gone from a light drizzle to huge flakes, making the visibility of the road ahead even more haphazard. Tess was driving like she was a Raleigh driver, although she was more like a wonky figure skater at the local ice rink.

“Tell me again why we’re doing this,” I spoke, gripping onto my seat with white knuckles.

“It’s tradition!” Tess cheered, weaving the steering wheel backwards and forwards.

“No, it’s not,” I mumbled.

“It is!” she insisted, shooting me a shocked expression.

It hadn’t been ‘tradition’ in years. Ever since we’d gone to university, and our lives had split off in different directions, it hadn’t been anything of a ‘tradition’. Now, all of a sudden, this annoying ritual that our parents had conjured up, many moons ago, seemed to have been cranked up again. I’d rather have been at home with a hot chocolate and trashy TV, than dicing with death on a snow-riddled country lane.

Every now and then, Tess would start singing along to the Christmas songs that were obliviously emanating out of the car radio, making the backdrop of this death ride even more bizarre.

“Would you please just watch the road,” I pleaded, wondering how easy it would be for me to open the car door and roll out onto the road – should the worst happen.

Interrupting the incessant noise of the music which didn’t fit the occasion, Tess’s phone starting ringing, and I wondered whether it was the emergency services, checking up to see whether we needed them yet.

“There’s Bluetooth in this car,” Tess mumbled, searching for how to answer while unhelpfully not looking at the road.

“Here,” I butted in, grabbing her phone. “I’ll answer it. You drive.”

With a smile from Tess, I grabbed her phone and picking up the call, I immediately switched it to speakerphone – there was no way she was taking it from me and putting it to her ear.

“Hi, Emma! It’s Georgina! Is Tess with you?”

“Mum, yeah, I’m here!” Tess called over.

“Great! Me and your dad will be arriving at the cottage on Christmas Eve! Do me a favour, when you get there, could you set everything up? The tree is in the big box in the hallway!”

“Yay! Oh, I love setting up the tree!” she replied, excitedly swerving the car once again.

I was going to die because of the thought of setting up a Christmas tree.

“We’ll see you both soon!” Georgina called out, hanging up the call.

I was now dreading this even more. I’d always disliked the thought, and the reality of, spending Christmas in another person’s holiday cottage, and now I was going to have to help decorate it in cheer that did not mirror my current mood.

“Cheer up, Ems!” Tess shouted, clocking my expression.

Cheer up? I was faced with spending the next week or so at a cottage, in the middle of nowhere, with a ‘tradition’ that I’d never found to be that traditional. In years, thankfully, gone by, our parents had decided to couple up for the festive season, because they were such good friends (*fingers down throat*), and I’d always hated it. Having said that, I couldn’t remember much about my time here, because I’d put a mental block on it. When I had finished university and got my own place, my parents used to go abroad for the Christmas holidays, but now I was having to endure spending my downtime in someone else’s holiday home again.

Nowadays, I much preferred the Christmases spent at my own house – they were quieter when I didn’t have to contend with my mum and dad’s incessant questions, or the fact that they insisted I fill them in on every detail of my life. They always asked me questions about my love life, or picked holes in it, and I didn’t want to talk about it. My love life was along the lines of the snow outside – cold and rigid.

Between the annoyance of my parent’s and being forced to spend the Christmas period with people who weren’t my close friends, it was no wonder why I hated Christmas.

In another breath, I didn’t mind Tess’s parents, Georgina and Dave, but on my time off work, I would’ve much rather have vegged out and lounged around in my own space – you couldn’t really do that in someone else’s living room.

My own parents, on the other hand, Tanya and Robert, were okay… ish. It may have sounded awful, but I preferred my dad’s company over my mum’s. The least I saw of her, really was for the better. My mum was in a whole world of her own, and my dad went along for the ride. Kooky and quirky, yet only seeing to her own needs at the same time, with little regard for anyone else’s thoughts and feelings, I don’t know how my dad put up with it. Was I the only person in the world that dreaded seeing their parents at Christmas time?

Me and Tess had remained good friends, although we hadn’t seen each other that often, and peace had reigned over my Christmases for the past however many years - up until Tess had mentioned that our parents had decided to spend Christmas together again this year, at Clevenden Cottage. Tess’s bright idea, was that we would travel up earlier, spend a couple of girly days together, because we’d not seen each other in so long, and then both sets of parents would join us on Christmas Eve. I’d really had my hopes set on a quiet festive season, which was never going to happen now.

CHAPTER 2 It’s Tradition 2

Swerving into the dense growth of both grass and snow, I clung on as the sight of the cottage grew closer. I never knew how Tess had managed to find this place, as in the middle of crystal dotted landscapes and mint green fields, it was in the sticks.

“Thank God,” I sighed, unclipping my seatbelt as we came to a stop.

“I’ll have to leave the car here and hope the snow thaws out soon,” she replied, oblivious to my drained state of valuing my life.

“Have you got the key?” I asked, with the realisation that Tess may have forgot it. She was a bit scatter-brained at the best of times.

“Yep, all present and correct. Come on, let’s get our bags inside.”

Clambering out of the car and trying not to slip on the snow, which was becoming thicker by the moment, we made our way around to the back of the car. Opening the boot, we grabbed our bags from inside, and with Tess leading the way up the pebble-stoned path, she opened the door to let us in.

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