“Did you get the red onions?” asked Jackie surveying the items she had put into the fridge in the last five minutes.
“What are you talking about?” Matt looked in the fridge over Jackie’s shoulder trying to compute his girlfriend’s latest line of questioning.
“Don’t you remember? I specifically told you to get some red onions.” Jackie pointed to the list Matt had discarded on the kitchen table. Matt picked it up to inspect Exhibit A.
“Wasn’t on the list you gave me!” Matt walked over to Jackie to prove his claim with a slightly smug look on his face which she spotted with annoyance.
“I said it to your face and texted you as well. You nodded at me before you left.” Jackie acted out Matt’s facial expression and made sure she used the most gormless option possible. Matt rolled his eyes knowing he was in it now. He could let it go but he knew that was not what their relationship was built on.
“I was nodding to you on my way out y’know instead of waving ‘See yer!’” Matt stared off into the distance copying her gormless impression waving at an imaginary Jackie. Her lips curled as the flames rose inside her head.
“Well you’ve never done that before!” Jackie said flippantly.
“Or you’ve never noticed” muttered Matt under his breath.
“What!?” Jackie hated it when Matt mumbled like a grumpy Muttley.
“Nothing!” Matt tried to find a smile from deep inside to ease the tension but it wasn’t working.
“No, you’ve clearly got something to say! So say it!” She started tapping her nails on the work surface, Matt knew she knew he hated it when she did that. He was feeling the temperature in the house had gone up 50 degrees in ten seconds.
“Babe, it’s Christmas!” pleaded Matt knowing this argument was spiralling.
“I don’t give a fuck if it’s our wedding day, which to be clear has just got much further away in the last five minutes!” Jackie had Matt on the ropes and was not giving him any time to recover. He rolled his eyes once more, shrugged his shoulders knowing he had no choice but answer honestly.
“Oh for god’s sake! I cannot believe you’re losing your shit over some onions! This is so typical!” chuckled Matt knowing that would wind up Jackie even further.
“What does that mean?” Jackie’s tone was shifting as was the volume of every word coming out of her mouth. Her internal volcano was bubbling. Matt plucked up the courage to stare into the eyes of his opponent / girlfriend.
“Look! I go out because you forgot the online order, I get everything on your list and believe me it was hideous in there. I have to wander around the aisles of hell and because I forgot one thing you act like the world has ended. It’s an onion for Christ’s sake!” Matt noticed his hands were in the shape of a mimed onion trying to convey the craziness of this entire argument. Jackie didn’t care and was already uttering her retort.
“It may just be an onion to you but it matters to me!” shrugging her shoulders Jackie was using the onion to say “this is the problem with our relationship” Matt’s internal touch paper ignited instantly and his eyes widened and went full Manga.
“I’ve had enough of this crap! And the Oscar for biggest overreaction goes to…” Matt slow hand clapped Jackie’s performance.
“YOU PRICK! I DO NOT OVERREACT! STOP LAUGHING!” screamed Jackie. Matt kept giggling to wind up Jackie and because she was being ridiculous.
“Just listen to yourself for a minute and you’ll see what I mean but I warn you, it may send you off to sleep” said Matt sarcastically. A tear or three built up in one of Jackie’s eyes. Rolling up her sleeves she took her metaphorical gloves off ready to take this slanging match to the streets.
“You’re saying I’m boring now?? This coming from Mr Football Manager on his phone every five minutes.” Jackie picked up her mobile and tapped furiously on the screen like a drugged up hedgehog. Even Matt had to concede it was a pretty accurate impression of him in the throws of a transfer window drama.
“That’s not fair! It’s a great game and keeps my brain going whilst I’m trying to tolerate you talking at me about some reality shit like Selling Sunset” parried Matt hoping this would deflate this argument balloon and bring it back to Earth. Sadly it just provided more hot air for the argument balloon to rise further into the stormy clouds.
“Oh grow up! At least my interests are for adults! It’s a kids game for sad old men!” Jackie pointed at Matt to make absolutely clear she meant him.
Matt let out a huge sigh, this conversation was getting tedious so, instead of engaging in this latest argument further – in order to add to all the others they’ve had since the start of their relationship - he held his mouth open thinking carefully of his next sentence. It was never a case of winning, only who had the last word. He stopped catching flies, closed his mouth and began to smirk at Jackie. She was still fuming but gradually one side of her mouth produced a smile under duress.
“Well this Christmas is going well,” said Matt as he walked over to attempt a hug. It was a risky move but with two days until Christmas Day he knew he needed to try.
“Yeah, the best,” sighed Jackie, ready to accept the hug with some caveats.
“Maybe we should y’know…” she began to say.
“What!? Have the meal without red onion?” Matt shut his eyes waiting for the impact, he knew it was too soon to joke but he couldn’t help it. He saw Jackie’s eyes go from white to bright rageful red in milliseconds.
“THAT DOES IT!” she bellowed raising her arms to push Matt away from attempting the hug.
Jackie stormed out of the kitchen before the tears erupted out of her eyes, heading for the stairs when the doorbell rang. Reluctantly opening the front door she was faced with the portly postman holding quite a large parcel.
“Morning! Everything alright?” asked Pat noticing the tears on Jackie’s cheeks. Wiping them away she nodded at the postman, grabbed the parcel and shut the front door on his concerned face. This package was much heavier than she thought. It wasn’t anything that looked familiar or she had ordered. She put it down in the hallway knowing that sadly she needed Matt to carry it into the living room. He walked out of the kitchen to see what was going on, when in actual fact he really needed a wee. He styled it out, stared at the large box in front of Jackie and withheld that information to avoid a dig about his tiny bladder.
“What have you ordered?” sniffled Jackie towards Matt thinking it may be one of his stupid Lego sets again.
“Nothing! All my orders have arrived for Christmas. It must be for…”
Before Matt could finish his sentence the parcel let out a loud snort. Jackie and Matt froze staring at the hefty box and then each other and then back at the mystery delivery waiting for another sound. Nothing happened for 15 seconds and just as Jackie was about to break the silence a louder snort came from the box and it fell on its side. The cardboard split from the side and out rolled a small bundle of green, red and gold and the jingle of a Morris Dancer.
Laying on the floor was a very small person dressed in green shorts and belt and shirt with a red hat that seemed to have a bell on the end. They appeared to be tied up in ribbons around the hands and feet and sparkly tape across their mouth. Matt pointed at this mound of snorting little person and then looked at Jackie.
“Is that a..?” he asked nervously.
“What!?!” snapped Jackie.
“Is it y’know an ornament?” Matt knew this was a stupid question but he was panicking.
“A three foot living ornament. That’s a human being you plank!” Jackie said bluntly making clear Matt was not off the hook just because a little person in a parcel had arrived.
“Should I erm set it free?” Matt mimed cutting the ribbons and although Jackie was shaking her head she knew her man should probably do this, as long as she was far enough away in case it lashed out.
“Oh go on then but be careful!” Jackie took some scissors out from the sideboard in the hallway and handed them to him. She then moved towards the far end of the hallway so she could sprint into the garden if it went pear-shaped.
Matt cut through all the ribbons swiftly and carefully pulled them free making sure not to wake the dozing dwarf.
“There you go!” Matt presented his freed little person like a prize in a cheesy gameshow. Jackie tutted and pointed to the face of their unexpected guest.
“Now the tape!” Jackie motioned the action of ripping the tape off. Matt’s eyes widened.
“Really!? That’s going to hurt it though!” he said feeling sorry for this little guy.
“If it wakes up it will panic if that tape is still on. Go on, if you do it quickly it won’t hurt much.” Jackie knew this wasn’t true but she was enjoying putting Matt in jeopardy.
Matt leaned down towards the face of their sleepy guest and slowly grabbed one end of the tape, counted down from three, sucked in some extra air to his lungs and tore the tape off the face in one quick motion.
The little person’s eyes shot open and screamed “OWWWWW! You got some of me skin!!”
Matt and Jackie screamed at their little talking attendee. Their titchy guest stood up and started walking towards them with his hat jingling and belt contents swinging after every step.
“Please calm down Matt and Jackie! You’re not the ones who’ve been in a box for two days! I’m not going to harm you!” reassured their wee uninvited visitor.
“How do you know our names?” asked Jackie thinking it must a little stalker.
“I know all names, it’s a key part of my job!” bragged the petit parcel passenger.
“Do all midgets have that ability?” asked Matt intrigued by this pint-sized person.
“You can’t say that anymore?” whispered Jackie towards Matt.
“What? Ability?” asked a confused Matt unsure of what he’s done wrong.
“No, the M word is forbidden these days! You’re meant to call them a little person.” Jackie urged Matt to apologise with her accompanying arm movements but he was not catching on.
“What about dwarf??” he asked after a second or two of thinking of alternatives. Jackie paused making sure that one was okay in the current climate.
“I think that’s okay” Jackie gave Matt the thumbs up. Their teensy guest had heard it all though and he disagreed.
“Fuck off! I’m not a bloody dwarf!” said the angry non dwarf.
“What do you mean?? Who or what are you then?” asked Matt still checking if this was a crazy dream caused by relationship troubles.
“My name is Slappy and I’m an elf!” said Slappy proudly standing like he was a small superhero.
“Why are you called…” Matt was rudely interrupted by an elf hand across the face leaving a small red hand print on his cheek. Slappy looked at Matt’s shocked expression and Jackie’s stifled giggles.
“I have a tendency to slap first and ask questions later,” smiled Slappy at Matt as he backed off a few steps to avoid a follow up slap or three.
“What are you doing here?” asked Jackie trying to change the subject and let Matt recover.
“Not sure, I fell into the gift machine and it knocked me out and before I could scream I was wrapped up, gagged and posted out to you. It was meant to be a coffee machine by the way!” Slappy’s story was very upsetting to Jackie. Mainly because she’d wanted a coffee machine for ages.
“So when will that turn up if you’re here instead?” she asked concerned for her missing present.
“You’ll probably have to wait until next Christmas now but hey! Better late than never!” chuckled Slappy, not knowing Jackie hated cheeky comments like that. Matt smirked knowing Slappy was in trouble now. But she didn’t rise to it which annoyed him. Instead she let it pass and asked this elf more questions.
“Wait! you’re telling me you’re one of Santa’s elves?” Jackie had just twigged who was standing in her hallway.
“Yep, I’m one of the big guy’s most trusted elves!” bragged Slappy.
“So he must be out looking for you?” Matt asked sarcastically knowing if he was Santa he’d post Slappy “accidentally” as well just to get rid of him.
“Not sure, but first things first. I noticed your eyes and cheeks are soggy, Jackie. What’s been going on as looks like there might be choppy waters for the good ship Relation?” Snappy stared at Jackie’s tear stained face.
“Oh this… nothing really, we were just having a disagreement.” sniffed Jackie trying to hide her upset at the argument she’d just had.
“Really, that’s one of my specialties in Lapland! Making sure family, friends, reindeers and couples in the workshop have an elfy relationship.” beamed Slappy proud of his track record in this area. Matt and Jackie smirked at each other trying not to laugh. This must be a joke! Matt was the first to react,
“Don’t tell me, you also cover mental elf!” Matt could barely contain his laughter at his verbal cracker joke.
“Elf and safety!” said Jackie as it was the first pun she could think of.
“Eating elfy food!!” Matt continued beating the joke into the ground.
“How to be less elfish in relationships!!” said Jackie proud that this worked for both Slappy and Matt. Slappy looked at his hosts open mouthed.
“This is incredible! Have you seen my cv or something?? Yes I’m classically trained in all those things and much more besides such as updating the naughty list, ironing Santa’s trousers, making toys… y’know the text book elf basics.” Slappy was intrigued.
“You just give off those kind of elf-like vibes.” assured Matt who didn’t want to explain the joke to his pointy-eared acquaintance.
“Maybe I can help you two talk through your problems?” probed Slappy. Matt began to close down that line of questioning before Jackie interrupt him.
“That won’t be necessary we’ll be…”
“Is your favourite movie Elf?” giggled Jackie at her delayed gag. Matt and Slappy stared back at her for a couple of awkward seconds.
“Babe we’ve moved on from that! God! You never know when to stop.” Matt sighed at his girlfriend’s constant game of “last word bingo”.
“Yes Jackie, Matt is correct we have moved on… but yes it is and another incredible guess,” praised Slappy impressed how much they knew about him. Matt could see they needed to get this elf out of the house and try and save his Christmas from getting worse.
“Look Slappy maybe it’s not the right time to have one of your elfy chats and…”
Slappy smacked Matt unexpectedly across the face on both cheeks this time. Mouthing “Sorry!”, it was too late as Matt picked him up to see his happy slapper face to face.
“Stop slapping me you little OW!!” Slappy kicked Matt in the stomach sending him crashing to the floor as they wrestled on the ground.
“Get off him, Matt. He’s only little!” pleaded Jackie worried her boyfriend would squash Slappy and send elf guts everywhere.
“He’s a little prick and I’m not putting up with it!” mumbled Matt during an impressive head kick from Slappy.
Jackie watched on at this bizarre festive wrestling match with both Slappy and Matt trying to get the upper hand. Elves were much stronger than she expected. Within the first ten seconds Matt was pinned to the floor with his hands behind his back and Slappy sitting on his arms.
“Now Matt I will get off you but only if you promise to calm down!” uttered Slappy leaning into the left hand side of Matt’s wriggling body.
“I just want you to leave our house you slappy little twat!” Matt spat back at his opponent.
Slappy leaned harder on Matt’s arms and Jackie was struggling to cope. She wasn’t sure who to side with as both were being equally childish. During the ongoing struggle Matt’s pinned hands felt something on Slappy’s green belt. It felt like a bag of something, coins maybe? If he could just get hold of it maybe he could get free and give Slappy a slap or two of his own. Reaching out further with his stretched fingers Matt edged closer to the bag until Slappy noticed what he was doing.
“Hey!? Matt what are you doing? DON’T TOUCH THAT!!”
It was too late, Matt grabbed the bag, pulled it from Slappy’s belt sending the contents spilling all over them. The glistening dust covered the entirety of Matt and Slappy’s entwined bodies and a split second later they were gone in a flash of gold and then a loud POP!
Jackie, alone again in the hallway with just a torn box and cut ribbons to keep her company, froze to the spot blinking excessively, staring at the place where her boyfriend and Christmas elf were fighting moments before.
All the thoughts of a thousand people raced through her mind until, on the verge of a full mental shutdown, her brain interrupted her panic, did a mental shrug, punched the internal air around the cerebrum out of sheer relief and sent Jackie’s body upstairs to pack.