It was Christmas morning and Nancy was woken up by her boyfriend. She rubbed her eyes and looked into his, wide with excitement as though he had been awake for hours.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day today.”
“Is today a special day?” Nancy teased.
“Yes, it’s Saturday. The best day of the week. Football is on, full English in a bit, some drinks later.”
Jude looked curiously at her, thought for a moment, and replied with a simple not that I can think of. He was, however, running over a plan in his mind.
“It’s Christmas Day, darling.”
“Today? Well of course it is!” Jude laughed and cuddled his girlfriend, kissing the hand in which he hoped to place a ring on that day. He’d had a feeling it was going to snow, and he couldn’t think of anything more romantic than proposing on a snowy day.
The two had been together for almost five years, and Nancy had been his rock after the accident, nearly a year ago. He didn’t remember it and didn’t want to remember it. It had affected Nancy too, and for a long time she would become frustrated with him, herself, the situation. Jude had felt as though she had taken up a mother figure and longed for the days that they would be equals again. But eventually, when he was out of the wheelchair and back to living a life as close to normal as possible, their relationship had restarted. Days spent together seemed to pass by without Jude even noticing, and he wanted to spend as many of those days married to Nancy as he could. She’d never given up on him.
Nancy handed Jude his breakfast and swept her dark hair away from her face. Her eyes were so tired. Sometimes he worried about her.
“You going to watch the first game with me?” he asked.
“No football on today, babe. We can watch a film instead, if you like.”
“No football? Why?”
“It’s Christmas Day.” Nancy kissed her boyfriend on the head and sat down to begin her food.
She looked outside and saw snow trickling down, starting to settle on their grass. It reminded her of the first Christmas that the couple had spent in their cottage, and she sighed at how she had let the garden get so out of hand. Then, she smiled to herself thinking about how Jude had tried to put the star on the top of their tree, gotten his foot stuck in the lights and fallen from his chair, taking the tree down with him. She didn’t think she had ever laughed so much in her life. But while thinking about it, she realised her cheeks had become wet with tears.
“What are you thinking about?” Jude asked, noticing his girlfriend’s eyes begin to glaze over.
“Nothing, I just love when it snows.”
Once breakfast had finished, Jude had decided that this was going to be his moment. Nancy cleaned the plates and he hurried to the living room to turn on their record player. She had always said that Songbird was their song, as Jude had put on his Fleetwood Mac CD in the car when he drove them to their first date. He hadn’t remembered that being his favourite song, but whenever she played it, he’d say it felt like listening to it for the first time again. He put the vinyl in, got down on one knee and waited. Being a simple person, he’d known that this was the kind of proposal Nancy would have wanted.
She walked in and tilted her head, as if she had been expecting it.
“Surprised?” Jude asked.
“Very,” she smiled.
Jude proposed and Nancy said yes. The couple had sat and hugged, cried, and talked about their dreams for the wedding and life afterwards.
She had told Jude the ring was a little small, unfortunately, and needed to be adjusted.
The day was passing by and mainly consisted of watching films. They tended to watch the same ones every Christmas. As this year was only the two of them, they weren’t going to bother with a full roast, but Nancy had said it was tradition and decided to try her best at one. She was a good cook as she had gotten a lot of practice from cooking for Jude since his accident. He tended to set the smoke alarm off nowadays.
Nancy was busy carving the turkey and Jude had decided that this would be the perfect moment to catch her off guard. She was flustered, as she tended to get in the kitchen. While she was distracted, Jude picked up two champagne glasses, put a ring in one and filled them both up with Buck’s Fizz. Nancy dished up the meal and the two sat and admired her work, with Songbird playing on the record player in the background. Jude knew how much Nancy loved this song.
“I’ve been drinking all day! I’m taking my time with this one.”
“Come on, Nance. We’ve got to get started on the real stuff soon, that bottle of champagne over there looks pretty fancy. When did you buy that?”
“You bought it. But yes, I am excited to get a glass of that down me. Oh, go on then!” Nancy giggled and drank the contents of her glass in one go. When she put the glass back on the table, she noticed the ring. She frowned, and then she smiled, and then her eyes began to glisten once again with tears.
“Will you marry me?”
The two sat and talked about their future, sipping on champagne. Nancy didn’t place the ring on her finger.
Having spent the afternoon drinking and watching anything they could find on the television, Jude turned to his girlfriend and told her it had been the most perfect Christmas he could have asked for. Just the two of them together was always how he liked it, and it wouldn’t be too long, he considered, until their Christmas Day would be spent exhausted from wrapping their children’s presents and waking up at the crack of dawn. He’d envisioned them to have three, two boys and one girl. They’d all have to watch the football with them – he’d finally convinced Nancy that it was entertaining, and she was even beginning to celebrate goals. They’d been to a few games together. There was one in particular he remembered, right before his accident, where they had gone away for his birthday and Nancy had surprised him with Barcelona versus Real Madrid tickets. They’d drank beer all day long in a local bar and ate tapas for dinner, slept in a cheap hotel and spent three nights having the time of their lives. He thought that, perhaps, when they eventually had children, they’d be able to do things like this again. But for now, just still being here with her was enough.
Jude realised he’d been daydreaming.
“Tired yet?” Nancy asked, stroking his hair and they lay next to each other on the sofa.
The snow had settled completely now and the lit fireplace in their small living room was keeping them warm. They sipped on the remainder of their champagne. Nancy was feeling her head begin to spin, and she knew was drunk.
“Not really. There’s something I want to talk to you about first.” Jude picked up Nancy’s hand and looked her directly in the eyes. Hers fell straight down to her lap. “Nance?”
She burst into tears.
“I can’t keep pretending.”
A sinking feeling formed from the pit of Jude’s stomach, although he didn’t know why.
“I know what you’re going to ask me. I know the song you’re going to play. I know the ring you’re going to take out of the small red box you keep on you at all times. I know every detail of the future we are going to talk about having afterwards. The dog you want, the three children, how you want to watch football with them, and how you will teach them to cook so you don’t have to watch me struggle in the kitchen anymore. We’ve had the conservation five times today.” Nancy’s voice was full of pity, but the firm undertones were deafening.
“I don’t quite know what you mean.” Tears began to fall from Jude’s eyes, and he attempted to piece together what had happened that day. The pieces were always missing.
Nancy never put the ring on as a way of giving Jude something to look forward to every morning. He had been proposing to her every day since his accident. The blow from the crash had caused Jude to suffer from memory loss, which was beginning to increase in severity day by day. Focusing on their future together was a coping mechanism, in some sense for the both of them, that Jude was unable to have children anymore, as a result of his injuries. Nancy had taken care of him every day and was hopeful that their optimism would eventually bring him back to her.
Nancy and Jude went to bed late that night. They’d hugged and they’d cried, and although confused, Jude was more in love with his girlfriend than ever before. The next morning, Nancy opened her eyes to see his, wide with excitement, telling her it going to be a beautiful day.