Christmas Friendship Romance

Lilian despised Xmas—the frantic rush to buy presents when the shops were teeming with customers. Navigating through the overcrowded shops, wondering what the hell she would buy. Each counter was knee-deep in potential customers, and given her petite stature of 5 feet, the whole experience was a daunting task. Once the gift shopping was complete, the next challenge would await her - boarding a bus or struggling to the underground train station amid bustling pavements outside the department store on Oxford Street.  The prospect of overcrowded public transport and unreliable schedules loomed over her, requiring strategic gift planning regarding budgeting per person and considering the physical size of the presents to ensure a free hand for navigating the crowded commute.

After completing her purchases, Lilian turned to face the relentless flow of oncoming customers and began to push her way through. Amid the festive chaos, she heard her name being called.

“Lily, Lily, hi.”

“Naomi! My god, it’s been ages”, said Lilian.

“Where are you going?”

“Home”, said Lilian.

“Let’s escape this madness,” suggested Naomi as they dodged another aggressive shopper. “Do you have time for a coffee and a quick catch-up?”

In their late middle age, Lilian and Naomi, once close friends in their 30s, had met at work during social events like Trivial Quizzes. Despite growing apart over the years due to changing lives, careers, and social circles, their chance encounter on this hectic pre-Christmas shopping day rekindled a spark of friendship. Over coffee, Naomi inquired about Lilian's Christmas plans.

“Nothing much, just staying home. I prefer it that way,” Lilian replied.

“With family?”

“No, Naomi, I don’t have any family. My sisters and I fell out years ago, and my nieces and nephews are scattered across the globe. What about you, family?”

“Nope, no family,” Naomi revealed, recounting her history of marriages, the absence of children, and the loss of close family members. “Lily, I was thinking of inviting people over for Christmas dinner, some of whom we both know from work. We’ve all stayed in touch over the years. It seems like fate that we met today. Please come to my house on the 25th and make this a Christmas Day to remember.”

Lilian hesitated but eventually agreed. Naomi provided details about the dinner arrangements, suggesting contributions and attire. Despite not being a social butterfly, Lilian found Naomi's description intriguing, envisioning a more enjoyable Christmas than her solitary routine.

As Lilian bid Naomi farewell, agreeing to meet on the 25th, she noticed a newfound lightness in her step. She glimpsed at her face in a store window and was surprised to see she was wearing an unexpected giant grin. The prospect of an unfamiliar kind of fun had lifted her spirits.


She rang the doorbell and was greeted by a man in his mid-30s holding a glass of wine.

“Lily, you look fabulous,” he said with elegant charm.

“Frank, is it really you?”

They exchanged cheek kisses, and Lilian followed him into the warm, cosy sitting room.


“Lilian, wake up; wake up”, said the young woman, shaking her. “You haven’t finished your Christmas Lunch. Did you fall asleep? Look at you, Lilian; Brussels sprouts are dribbling down your chin. Let me help you. You have been enjoying your food. Shall I get you some more?”

Confused, Lilian surveyed her surroundings—an expansive wooden table filled with elderly people attempting to enjoy their Christmas feast. How had she ended up at this table with old people? Who were they? She looked at the young woman who had recently wiped her face for her, but Lilian hadn’t a clue who it might be.

“Do I know you?” she asked, surprised at how weak and croaky her voice sounded. When Frank had opened the door earlier, her voice had been youthful and vibrant. Now, it was that of a much older woman.

The young woman laughed: “Well, I like to think you do know me - shall I jog your memory? I’m Fiona”, and seeing the continued confusion on Lilian’s face, added, “Your favourite carer. Do you remember where you are?” 

She wanted to say “Noami’s house”, but truthfully, nothing resembled the sitting room into which Frank had so recently shown her.

Fiona said: “Open wide, Lilian, let’s get one more sprout into you. I’ve never known anyone like their sprouts so much as you”.


Naomi’s house exuded warmth and welcome. The murmur from a group of happy, chattering, laughing souls supplied the comfortable ambience that greeted her, and she was warmly welcomed as she entered the sitting room. The room benefitted from natural lighting pouring through the French Windows, and as this December day was full of sunshine, it immediately provided a friendly glow. The room was adorned with plush three-seater sofas, upholstered in a plush deep green and electric blue padded silken brocade; their sofa backs displayed Asian birds and oriental flowers in bright silks. The overall effect was quite stunning. Scattered around the room, which filled the various spaces, were numerous comfortable low, stuffed armchairs in multiple colours - all dressed with dark navy cushions and shaggy white, lightweight, woollen throws.  The whole room was complemented by framed black and white drawings hanging on every wall, several tall oriental vases, various standard and table lamps ready to provide soft, gentle lighting when the sun disappeared, and the wafting scent of delicate perfume.

“Can I get you something to drink, Lily?” Naomi asked, emerging from the kitchen adorned in a crisp white apron and turban.

“Oooh, Naomi, you look like a Chef. Can I help you in the kitchen?’

“No, there is an army in that kitchen. I’m just pretending to be the Chef”, she chuckled.

Once all the guests had arrived, friendships were quickly rekindled. The generous-sized dining table was adorned with silver and glass candlestick holders tied with bright red ribbons and holly. The medium-sized centrepiece was a silver nude, seemingly standing on large bunches of grapes; on the sideboard were small faux Christmas Trees and numerous mini Santa Clauses. The festive ambience and tempting smell of Christmas dinner overwhelmed Lilian. The entire room exuded a festive atmosphere that enchanted her.

Lilian sat with her old workmates, who she fondly remembered had been such good fun and helpful when they all worked together. It was so lovely to see them all. Time had treated them well. When Lilian met Naomi in the Department store, she felt they were in their middle years, but looking around the room, the rest of her ex-workmates appeared to be, at most, 30 years old. She looked down the table for Frank, and in the flickering candlelight and reflection of the small multi-coloured Christmas lights, he looked not only young but oh! so handsome! She looked around the table, again marvelling at how wonderful they all looked.  

“Was it really 40 years or more since we last met?” she mused.

As servers distributed the feast, Lilian focused on the intoxicating aroma of buttered Brussels sprouts. Her enthusiasm for the vegetable led to an extra serving, earning teasing remarks from Naomi. Chattering around the table was non-stop and constantly interspersed with happy laughter. Lilian felt she hadn’t been this cheerful in years; what a wonderful time she was having.


As the sprouts arrived at her setting, Fiona said: ‘Do you want more sprouts, Lillian?’.  

She looked at Fiona and still failed to recognise her, and definitely not as her “favourite carer”. How on earth could she have a carer? Old people had those, but not her!  But she smiled and said:  ‘Yes, I love Brussels sprouts”.

“Yes, I know this is your second helping. Do you think you can stay awake this time to eat them? You fell asleep with the first serving”, said Fiona laughingly.

“Where’s Frank and the others?” said Lilian, peering at her surroundings. This didn’t look like Naomi’s sitting room. It was quite bare despite a large real Christmas tree covered in lights and decorations standing in the corner. The wooden table had no candlestick holders, and the silver nude had entirely disappeared!

“Frank? Do you mean Dr Burrows Lilian? Dr Frank Burrows? Do you mean the Doctor?  He was here talking to you not long ago. No? Is that why you’re shaking your head, Lilian? Not Dr Frank? Which Frank?”

Lilian blinked confusedly. “How many Franks are in my life?” she thought.


Lilian dozed in her chair and reminisced about the beautiful day at Naomi’s. The house was full of her friends and acquaintances from years ago. God knows how Naomi found them and invited them for Christmas dinner.  

“How strange none of us are married or have children”, thought Lilian. “It’s a wonder we all look so good, so fit and healthy. Actually, we don’t look any different than we did when we first met when we were only in our 30s”.


Lilian was vaguely aware of the wheels of her chair being pushed, and when she finally opened her eyes, she found herself in an unfamiliar room. 

“Where am I?” she asked.

Fiona explained that this was her room, but Lilian felt befuddled and struggled to recognise her surroundings and belongings. As Fiona prepared Lilian for bed, she asked if she had enjoyed her Christmas Day.

“Photo,” Lilian blurted, pointing to a group picture of young, smiling faces.

Fiona handed the photo to Lilian, who sat smiling and transfixed by the images. 

Fiona asked: “These are your friends from work, aren’t they, Lilian?”.

Lilian nodded.

“How old were you when this was taken?”

“30 or so”, Lillian mumbled.

“What beautiful people you were. In this second photo, Lilian, it’s the same people. That’s you in the middle. How old were you then?”

“50 or so”, said Lilian obediently. 

“And how old would they all be now?”

“80 or so - my age.”

“Well done, Lilian. Those sprouts have worked wonders on your brain! 

“Yes, I can remember our ages, but not what happened to us.”

“I can help with Naomi and tell you about her if you wish?” Lilian nodded, and Fiona sat on the bed next to Lilian.  

“This one at the front - Naomi - remember her? We went to her funeral last year. Her family said you are the last remaining member from that era”.

Fiona handed Lilian another photo, prompting her to recognise Naomi and a man, a handsome man she had always secretly admired. “It’s Frank, isn’t it, Lilian?’ 

Lilian’s wavering voice, sounding stronger than of late, said: “I remember a fabulous Christmas Party where Frank fancied me, and I had the best buttered Brussels sprouts of my life.” Lilian and Fiona looked at one another and began to laugh.  

“When was this party, Lilian? Can you remember?” asked Fiona.

“Well, I thought it was today. I was in my 30s, young and pretty, but I’m not 30 any more, am I?”

“No, Lilian, you’re 86, just a little older than 30”. As laughter echoed in the room, Lilian happily drifted off to sleep, embracing the joyful memories of a beautiful Christmas Day.

She slowly fell into a deep sleep, and as the sleep got deeper and deeper, she found herself outside Naomi’s front door. The door was open, and she walked in. The house had that warm, welcoming aura she had experienced earlier that day. Turning to her right, she saw the door leading into the fabulous sitting room. Opening the door and entering, she was thrilled to see Frank sitting on one of the sofas.  As he saw her, he immediately stood up, walked over, and kissed her on each cheek.  

“Great to see you again, Lily. Naomi told me that once you had come to the Christmas Lunch, you would start looking at those photos, and it wouldn’t be long before you joined us here permanently. Welcome, welcome.”

“Naomi, Naomi!” a very excited Frank shouted through to the kitchen, “Lily’s arrived”. 

December 16, 2023 02:23

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Karen McDermott
12:51 Dec 19, 2023

Also a fan of sprouts here. This story really rocked my emotions. I'm glad she got to see Frank and Naomi again, though I bet Lilian is going to miss her.


Stevie Burges
13:01 Dec 19, 2023

OK Karen, I'm lost on your comment about 'Lilian is going to miss her'. Lily and Lilian are the same person - so perhaps it wasn't too clear in the story, and as the writer that is entirely my fault. But thanks for reading and for liking. Very grateful.


Karen McDermott
13:02 Dec 19, 2023

Oh sorry, my fault - I meant Fiona


Stevie Burges
13:21 Dec 19, 2023

Sorry to have to make you write back. Actually, it was obvious you meant Fiona - sorry, but too near my bedtime in this part of the globe for my brain to work it out. Thanks for reading the story.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
14:39 Dec 16, 2023

Welcomed by friends.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.