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Bells will be Ringing

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“Roxy get the door will you” Paul shouted from the kitchen

“Every time” Roxy muttered as she walked towards the door. As she opened it, on the other side stood Jane. Roxy waved her hand, ushering her in before shouting “It’s Jane”

“Merry Christmas everyone” Jane said

“Merry Christmas everyone muttered over each other. Paul came rushing out of the kitchen.

“Merry Christmas Jane” he said as he gave her a hug. He stood back and smiled as Terese came to join him.

“Just a little something from me and Nicolette” she said as she handed Terese a rectangular shaped gift wrapped in silver.

“Thank You” Terese said “And I trust you got ours"

“Yeah, it was very kind of you.”

“So how are the boys and Isla. Did you all have a good morning” Paul asked

“It was quite delightful, yes.”

“Good. I’ve told David we’ll be round later on tonight.”

“Are you sure, after eating all of that.” Jane said pointing towards the kitchen bench.

“Yeah, we’re feeding an army. I doubt me and Terese will see much of it”

“Six is hardly an Army Paul” Terese said looking at him with a confused look her face.

“It is with Roxy at the table” he said with a cheeky grin on his face.

Terese gave him a playful slap on his arm and shook her head.

“Well, I’ll best leave you to it.”

“I’ll walk you to the door” Paul said

As she walked towards the door Jane looked towards the tree and something caught her eye. She stopped in her tracks.

“Is that…?” she asked turning to look at Paul

“The bauble you gave me that Christmas we spent together. One of my favourite decorations” he said smiling at Jane.

Jane smiled back before carrying on towards the door. Just as she opened it, she turned around.

“Merry Christmas Paul.”

“Merry Christmas Jane” he replied before she turned on her heels and headed out the door.

As he closed the door, he heard a shout from behind him.

“Paulie how long till lunch?” Roxy asked

Paul looked at his watch before lifting his head to see all eyes on him.

“Another half an hour”

“What? Ned said.

“This hot roast better be worth it Harlow.” Roxy said looking in her direction”

“Hey, I never told Grandad to go to this much effort”

“So, this is all you” Roxy said turning her attention back to Paul

“Well, I believe in doing everything right.” Paul said in his defense

Kyle and Ned couldn’t help but snigger at the irony in his words. Paul looked less than impressed by the boys reaction. Watching on Terese felt the room heating up and decided to jump in and save her husband.

“While we wait, why don’t we give you your gifts?”

“Now you’re talking” Roxy agreed.

“Right, remember these are from the both of us. There are some other little things but these are the main ones” Terese said as he walked into the kitchen. Returning she carried one box and two envelopes. She handed Ned the box and the girls an envelope each. Ned looked it over and shook it.

“Just open it” Paul said impatiently

“Alright, alright.” He answered as he unwrapped it. “Guys this is…”

“Is it good?” Terese asked

“It’s perfect” Ned answered as he got to his feet. “Thank You” he said before giving Terese a peck on the cheek.

“What is it mate?” Kyle asked

“It a vintage camera”

“So, Paul recycled his old toy. That’s sweet” Roxy teased

“Watch it, I can take that back you know” Paul answered pointing towards the envelope in her hand.

“Nah be fair Rox, Paul was way too old when that came out to have it as a toy.” Kyle joined in.

As the room erupted in laughter, Paul looked around unamused. Terese on the other hand couldn’t help but find the comment slightly amusing.

“Oh, ha ha” Paul replied sarcastically “Harlow can you move this charade along please”

As she opened her envelope a broad smile engulfed her face.

“We know you’ve been missing home recently, so we decided that a trip home would be the only thing you could need.” Paul said

“Thank you so much.” She answered as she walked towards Paul and gave him a hug.

“I’m glad you’re happy, sweetheart” Terese said before Harlow wrapped her arms around her.

“So, we have a camera and a trip to London. I wonder what we’ll get” Roxy said getting excited

“Well considering that we spent a lot on Harlow and Ned, the budget got a bit tight, so try and not be too disappointed” Paul teased

Roxy looked at him suspiciously before tearing up her envelope. She took a single piece of paper out, read it before looking at Kyle and then looking in the direction of Paul and Terese. Both standing there with smiles on their faces.

“Are you guys’ serious” she asked

“What is it babe?” Kyle asked before grabbing the piece of paper. His face turned to shock as he read it. “Are you guys for real. This is too much”

“What does it say” Harlow asked

Kyle turned the paper around. Harlow and Ned could only smile as they read the one word written on the paper. Roxy, still stunned, kept her gaze at Paul.

“Is this a joke? Is this your idea of a wind up?”

Paul shook his head. Roxy came racing over and gave him a warm hug. Taken aback, Paul decided to embrace the moment and hug her back. As she let go and moved on to Terese, Kyle walked towards them.

“Why?”

“You have been through a lot recently. A lot more than a young couple should. If there’s one thing you should be doing it’s enjoying yourselves and if we can help you do that then we are more than happy to do so.” Terese said

“So, by honeymoon, you mean anywhere in the world, right? Roxy asked

“I’m starting to regret this now” Paul said looking at Terese

“Thank you, guys, it’s more than generous” Kyle said as he gave Terese a hug. As he moved to Paul he looked at him before grabbing him in a tight embrace “It really means the world.”

“Now if you could get that lunch on the table Paul, it would really make the day.” Roxy teased

“Yes, my lady” he answered while sarcastically bowing.

As the kids gathered round the couch discussing their presents Paul and Terese headed into the kitchen.

“We did good darling” Paul said as he turned around to look at them.

Terese nodded as she looked at him. She raised her hand, placed it on his cheek and turned his gaze towards her. “Yes, we did” she agreed before they both leaned in for a kiss.

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As they all sat in their cracker hats waiting for Harlow to finish, Paul looked at Terese and smiled. With a clatter of cutlery Harlow placed hers on her plate and puffed out her cheeks.

“That was wonderful grandad, thank you”

“It was pretty good Paul, almost as good as Grans. Almost” Kyle agreed

“To Paul and his very British Christmas lunch” Ned said raising his glass

“To Paul” they all joined in

“Well, I can’t take all the credit. What is a chef without his sous” Paul said looking at Terese

“To Paul and Auntie T.” Roxy shouted raising her glass

“Ooh, how about this one guys” Harlow said holding a cracker joke in her hand “Why was the turkey allowed in the band?”

“I know this one……. Because he was the only one with drumsticks” Ned answered as he tapped the table to imitate a drumbeat.

“That was bad” Terese said as she looked at Harlow. “Who writes this stuff”

“Someone that gets paid a lot of money to do so.” Harlow said as she scrunched the paper up and threw it on the table.

“Oh, wait here’s another one” Ned said.

As he finished reading the table erupted in boos followed by laughter. Sitting at the end of the table, Paul looked on with a broad smile on his face. Next to him Terese sat, looking at her husband. She reached out and placed her hand on his hand that was resting on the table. He turned to look at her. He smiled as he placed his hand on hers. Both sat for a while, in silence, just enjoying the moment.

“Do you realise that this is the first proper Christmas we’ve had together since we got married?” Paul asked.

“Well, they do say third times a charm”

“I know I don’t say it enough, but I will be forever grateful that you said yes to me on that Queensland beach”

“It would’ve been a bit hard to say no after you went to all the effort of knelling down in that sand” Terese teased

“I’m serious Terese. Everything was telling you to walk away but you chose to stay. Because of you, we have this. We have this little family. Our very own little patchwork family that’s not perfect but is ours. You are the glue that holds us all together and I am so lucky that you chose me to share it with you.”

“Oh Paul”

“You know, it’s days like today you truly appreciate what you have in life.”

“And we have you.” Terese carried on “It may not always be easy or perfect but show me a family that is. We are a team and I will be forever grateful that you never gave up on us”

“I love you so much Terese”

“Come here” Terese said as they both leaned in and shared a kiss. The noise faded into the background and for a moment there was only them, in their own little bubble, and it was perfect. Suddenly the moment was interrupted by a question from the other side of the table. Paul turned his head with a disgusted look on his face.

“What?” he asked

“Movie or games?” Roxy asked

“Can’t you guys choose” Paul asked

“We did, but it was a tied vote, so it over to you”

“Fine, movie.” Paul said abruptly, still annoyed that their moment was interrupted.

“Great. You need to write what movie on the back of this” Harlow said passing them each a piece of napkin “and place it in the bowl”

Paul sighed as he let go of Terese hand and picked up the napkin. He passed one to her, both wrote on them and placed them in the bowl.

“Right, Kyle can choose” Harlow said as she passed the bowl to him. He twirled the papers round for a little before pulling one out. Before he read it, he looked at it and looked at Paul.

“Ben-Hur (1950s)” he said still looking at Paul and then around the table.

“Really Paul” Ned asked “You couldn’t pick something less old”

“Nope. Now who wants to help me clear all this up”

“No chance” Roxy said as they all got up off the table and walked out the back.

Paul tutted and rolled his eyes.

“Typical” he said looking at Terese.

“Don’t worry darling, I’ll stay. But maybe next time don’t get them offside before asking a favour.”

“Yes miss, lesson learned” he mocked as he gave her a quick kiss. He picked up some plates off the table, and with a cheeky smile left her standing there in her own little world. With a little smile and a shake of her head she grabbed some glasses and joined him in the kitchen.

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“Well, that was three and a half hours I will never get back” Harlow muttered as the credits rolled.

“Well, I didn’t mind it at all” Roxy admitted as the others looked at her “C’mon guys, it had topless men, horses and a handsome hero. What else do you need”

“You really thought he was handsome?” Kyle questioned

“Yeah. But I bet you’d look better on a horse though babe” Roxy reassured him as she leaned in for a kiss.

“Guys look” Ned said pointing towards couch. Sitting in the middle, snuggled together and sleeping soundly were Paul and Terese. Their hands locked together as her head rested on his shoulder and his head resting on hers.

“Can’t believe he choose the movie and fell asleep in the middle of it” Harlow ranted

“Look at them though, so sweet all snuggled up.” Roxy said “Aww look at their hands” she gushed as she held Kyles tightly. “Ned take a picture. It will be a perfect first for your camera”

“Really Rox, you want a picture of Paul and Terese, sleeping, to be my first of the film,”

“Why not. A sweet reminder, why you got it in the first place”

“Fair enough” Ned agreed. He set himself up for the perfect shot. There was a shutter click and then a flash that lit up the room. Terese opened her eyes. Felling Terese move, Paul woke up.

“What was that?” she asked

“You mean the bells?” Paul asked looking at Terese

“What, no, the light?”

“Sorry” Ned apologised “I was testing the camera.”

“Oh, did the movie end” Paul asked

“Yep. It was the worst.” Harlow said

“Well, we enjoyed it” said Kyle “Although Gran won’t thank you for keeping me this long”

“What time is it” Ned asked

“Seven. We should’ve been at Grans half an hour ago” he said looking at Roxy before getting up off the couch. “We best get a move on. Thank you, guys, for everything”

“It’s been our pleasure.” Terese answered “Let me grab some of that cake for Sheila.” she said getting up off the couch and off into the kitchen with Kyle.

“You coming back tonight” Paul asked Roxy

“Nah, I’ll stay at Kyles. So, don’t worry, you can sleep in peace in front of the tv” Roxy said giving Paul a cheeky wink

Paul gave her a sarcastic smile as Kyle returned from the kitchen with Terese.

“You know that cake won’t soften the blow with Mamma don’t you” Roxy told Kyle as they headed towards the door. As the door closed Ned and Harlow got to their feet and started walking towards the stairs.

“You two heading off as well?” Terese asked with a slight disappointment in her voice.

“Yeah, I promised my aunt that I’d call her today” Harlow said as she walked up the stairs

“Yeah, and I’ve got a skype session with Dad and Lauren” Ned said as he followed her up the stairs. “Maybe I can challenge you to a game of blackjack later though?”

“Yeah, that would be nice” Terese said as he disappeared upstairs.

Walking behind the couch Terese ran her hand across Pauls' shoulders as she made her way around. As she sat next to him, she smiled.

“So, you fell asleep during your favourite movie”

“It was a movie, never said it was my favourite.” Paul said with a smug tone

“I don’t understand?”

Paul turned to face Terese.

“Our house was all about tradition when we were kids. Wake up in the morning, everyone around the tree opening presents together, mum in the kitchen while dad entertained us and then after lunch, we all sat down to watch a movie. Every year the same.”

“And the movie?”

“Well one Christmas one of Dad’s favourite movies was on. I remember we all sat down, the movie came on and none of us could stand it.” Paul chuckled “I remember Mum and Gran had fallen asleep half an hour in but me and my brother didn’t want to disappoint dad so we stuck with it. He was so happy that we did and his excitement at the end was priceless. I’ve watched that movie countess times after that day and mostly at Christmas time”

“So, it’s your tradition. And you wanted to share it with the kids?”

“And if we learned anything we learned that Harlow really is my granddaughter.” he said as he smiled “I wanted to share something from my Christmas with them. They may not know the true meaning behind it but their reaction was priceless.”

“I think they’d love that story”

“Christmas is all about family, Terese, and I’m glad we got to spend this one with ours. Even if it will be the first and the last” he said with a deflated look on his face

“Hey, they might be growing up and doing their own thing but Christmas will always bring them home, you’ll see. Especially after the gifts they got” she said smiling

“Yeah, maybe” he answered “Talking of gifts” he said getting off the couch. As he walked towards the kitchen and out the back, Terese sat for a little while thinking. She felt herself getting a bit excited at the thought of what he’d bought her. As he returned into the kitchen, she looked at him. In his hands he had a big, round like present. The wrapping was pretty with a nice little red bow on top. It was bigger than the usual presents he gave.

“I thought we promised we weren’t doing gifts this year.”

“C’mon darling. You should know by now my promises aren’t known for being kept.”

Terese shook her head.

“Aren’t you lucky I love you” she teased before stretching out her arms to reach the present. Paul handed her the present and sat back down next to her.

“Now it’s not much but” he carried on as she ripped the wrapping to pieces “I hope you like it"

“It a blanket” she said looking at him a bit confused

“I wanted to give you something that would remind you of us. Something that would, no matter where we were, together or apart, make it feel like I was close. See, I gave you a blanket when you were ill. Every cold night I see you wrapped in it and I can’t help but think of all the bad memories it carries along with the good. So, I bought you a new one, given to you at a happier time. So, when you feel cold or just need comfort, I hope the blanket will remind you of all of this. Our best life.

“Oh Paul” she said with a loving look on her face

Paul sat in silence as he watched Terese wrap herself in the blanket. As she lifted her head and looked at him, he raised his eyebrows and asked.

“So....”

“So, what?”

“My present. Your broken promise?” he said as his smile slowly faded

“I’m sorry, unlike you, my darling husband, I don’t break promises”

“Really?” he said, the smile now turning into a disappointed frown.

“Sorry.”

Paul sighed

“Well aren’t you lucky I love you” he replied touching her nose in a playful manner. He stopped, looked at her and smiled “Merry Christmas Terese”

“Merry Christmas” she replied as she leaned in and gave him a kiss. As he pulled away, she opened her arms. He leaned and rested his head on her shoulder. Once he was comfortable, she wrapped her arms around him. As they snuggled on the couch, with the blanket draped over them, Terese looked down at Paul and smiled. He looked so content. So calm and carefree. It wasn’t often she saw him like this. She just sat there for a while, looking at her husband. They were lucky. No love could compare to theirs and today was just another reminder that this was all they needed.

“We should really be making our way to David’s you know” she said

“Can’t we stay for a little while longer.” he said looking up at her “Just you and me. No interruptions, no entertaining. Just you, me and the sleigh bells”

“The what?”

“The bells darling, can’t you hear them” he replied as he closed his eyes.

“Paul”

“Yes, darling” he mumbled

“Paul”

As he slowly opened his eyes he took in his surroundings. He lifted himself up in the chair, rubbed his eyes and looked around. His heart sunk. He turned his head to the left. Sitting there, smiling, was Roxy. He smiled back.

“How long was I out for”

“A couple of hours”

“A couple of hours! Why didn’t you wake me?”

“You looked so peaceful. You had a little smile on your face, something I haven’t seen for a while.”

“And the bells?”

“Christmas Elf’s spreading the cheer” Roxy said while pointing towards a room at the end of the corridor.

“Right” Paul nodded

“So, was it a good dream?”

“I’m sorry?” Paul answered

“The reason you were smiling. Was it anything good?”

“It was perfect.” He stopped and turn to look at the ring on his finger. “If only dreams could be a reality”

“Oh, you’re awake” a voice said walking towards him. Paul lifted his head.

“Oh, hey Karl. Any news on Terese?”

Karl looked in Roxy’s direction. She shook her head.

“What?” Paul asked turning his head from one to the other “What’s going on? Is Terese ok? Did something happen?” He said getting to his feet.

“No, no everything’s fine, Paul.” Karl reassured him

“Then tell me Karl. What’s going on?”

“Can you just sit back down please? I promise, I will explain everything”

As Paul sat back down. Roxy looked at Karl and nodded her head.

“I’ll leave you two to chat then” Karl said as he placed his hand on Pauls shoulder before walking towards the nurses’ station behind them. Paul turned to look at Roxy.

“What’s going on”

“Well the good news is, you don’t need to worry about Auntie T. She’s going to be just fine. Nothing can keep that woman down.”

Paul smiled. Seconds later his smile disappeared as he realised there was more.

“And the bad news? Please just be straight with me”

“Well, when she woke up earlier, we were all eager to see her but she was only keen to see one person”

Paul sighed

“Glen?” he questioned

“I’m so sorry Paul” Roxy said

He leaned back and rested his head on the back of the chair. He placed his fingers on his wedding ring and started playing with it. Holding back the tears he turned his head to look at Roxy.

“At least she’s not alone.”

Roxy smiled as she leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. Paul turned his head and looked at the ceiling.

“But do me a favour. Next time you see me smiling in my sleep, wake me up.”

“Why?”

“Because reality isn’t perfect, and dreams shouldn’t break your heart.”

Roxy lifted her head and looked at him.

“Listen, I may have been team Terese recently but I, just like half the street, know you two belong together. You and Auntie T will find your way back to each other, I guarantee it. You will be back home hassling us and all will be as it was. So please, don’t give up hope. Promise me you won’t give up on her.”

He turned to look at Roxy.

“Don’t worry Roxy. That’s one promise I will never break”