Today it's my stop on Julia Williams' Make a Christmas Wish blog tour and thanks to the lovely people at Avon I am able to share with you an extract from Part One featuring Adam, a year after the accident.
Last Christmas, when Livvy was knocked down in the supermarket car park, she certainly wasn’t ready to actually be dead! For months now she’s floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.
And she’s not ready to go just yet! She’s furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she’s worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.
This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take it and give her family the perfect Christmas?
I can remember the day I first met Livvy as clearly as if it was yesterday. It was our first term at uni in Manchester, and there was this bright, vivid, red-headed girl standing in the student bar, downing shots in a competition and drinking all the boys under the table. I was too shy to talk to her that first night, but gradually I found myself more and more drawn to her, and to my surprise my interest was reciprocated. It was Livvy who took the initiative from the first, kissing me suddenly and fiercely one night when we’d sat out all evening staring at the stars together. She was so unlike anyone I’d met: a free spirit, spontaneous in a way I wasn’t. She breathed life into me, showing me there was more than the staid and rather restrictive outlook my parents had given me. It was a magical, wonderful time. Since she’s died, I often think of those days and wonder how it could have gone so badly wrong.
But it did, and instead I’ve spent the last year picking up the pieces of my life. Even though our marriage was a sham by the end, I was devastated when Livvy died. I never got to say sorry that a love that had started out with such hope and promise had disintegrated in the way it did, and now there was no possibility of ever putting it right.
And now here we are and it’s coming up for Christmas again, and I owe it to Joe to try and make things cheerful even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing. I’m never sure how much of what’s happened he’s taken in, and wonder what is going on inside his head. He says things like, ‘My mum is dead,’ deadpan to complete strangers, showing no emotion. Emily says we just have to support him the best we can. So today, though I’m not sure I have the stomach for Christmas decorations (last year the lights seemed to twinkle malevolently at me as if proof of my guilt), Emily and I are putting up the Christmas tree. We always put the tree up a fortnight before Christmas, and Joe with his obsessive need for order has had it written on the calendar for weeks.
Actually, it turns out to be fun. It’s been a really blowy day, and after Joe and I put flowers on Livvy’s grave first thing, we went for a wet walk down by the canal. We get back home and make hot chocolate and sit by the fire drinking it, feeling cosy and warm, till Joe starts insisting it’s time to decorate the tree. I’d thought he might not want to do it today, on the anniversary, but he is insistent. ‘We always decorate the tree two weeks before Christmas,’ he says. ‘Mum won’t like it if we don’t.’
It makes my heart ache to hear him speak about her in such a matter-of-fact way. He must be grieving for Livvy, but it’s hard for him to articulate it.
‘Five thirty,’ Joe says now, pointing at his watch – time is very important to him – ‘if we don’t do it soon, it will be dinner time and too late.’
‘OK, Joe,’ I say, ‘let’s get on with it.’
The wind is howling down the chimney now, and the kitchen door rattles. This is an old house, with ill-fitting doors and windows. We’ve always meant to get double glazing, but I like the old sash windows, and wooden frames. They give the place character, though on a night like tonight I’m not grateful for the draughts blowing through the house.
Joe in his methodical way is sorting out how to decorate the tree. After the lights go up, he insists that certain decorations, like the Santa he made for us when he was five, and the reindeer Livvy once bought him at a Christmas market, take pride of place. Then he organizes the baubles according to a colour scheme: gold, red, silver hung in serried rows round the tree. This is something Livvy used to do with him, and I had no idea he had it down to such a fine art. Emily and I are there to do things the way Joe likes them, and I am finding it quite soothing.
After the baubles, Joe makes us wrap the tree in tinsel – he won’t let us use red because ‘it doesn’t look right’ – and I mean literally wrap it. It is starting to look overloaded, but he won’t hear of us taking any off.
We’ve just put the last bit of tinsel on the tree, when Joe suddenly looks at Emily in that disconcerting way he has and asks, ‘Are you my mother now?’
Julia has always made up stories in her head, and until recently she thought everyone else did too. She grew up in London, one of eight children, including a twin sister. She married Dave, a dentist, in 1989, and they have four daughters.
After the birth of the second Julia decided to try her hand at writing. Since then she has written 8 hugely popular novels, selling over a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone, and hitting the Sunday Times bestseller list.