"You are going to get yourself arrested," his companion shrieked in a shrill-like voice. "You are just mad."
Mike smiled at his friend and shrugged. "I am not mad. It's Christmas. Where's your Christmas spirit? She'll thank me. Well maybe she won't, but she would if she could and knew it was me."
Rose shook her head and took her glass of wine from the table, looking up at her corybantic friend; even by his standards, his planned night-time delivery for the girl next door was simply a ridiculous idea. "How are you going to get in?"
Mike looked around the room, as if he was expecting a foreign spy to be eavesdropping on his conversation before turning back to his best friend, and flat-mate, Rose and spoke in a low voice. "You know when she went away and asked you to look after the fish?"
"Oh my God," Rose immediately replied, her eyes fizzing. "Don't tell me that—"
"Yes, I did," Mike said interrupting. "The 5 minute key cutting place down the road. And it is just perfect. I know she wants them and it'll be cool."
"Something to tell the grandkids, eh?" Mike blushed, his affection towards his Scottish neighbour, Heather, was a constant target for his friend's mocking. He spluttered and stammered, and Rose continued. "Because if she sees you are going to jail, she is going to freak out, she will think you are a rapist or a burglar and I ain't bailing you out." Rose looked at the clock for dramatic effect. "As it is now Christmas Day. I ain't spending my Christmas at the Cop Shop."
Mike stared at the clock and got up, dressed in his newly acquired Santa costume, and picked up a poorly wrapped present from the table. "And another thing," she continued. "Elves can wrap presents."
"Well this one can't," Mike snapped. "I'm Santa, I don't have the practice at doing elf-work. If it that bad you should have done it. And anyway I've had a few too many shots of my Santa juice."
Rose snorted, glanced at the half-empty bottle of finest Scotch and sighed. "I would have helped you if you wanted to go round with it next door and be honest with her on Christmas Day."
Mike snorted in return and she watched as her friend left the confines of the room, their flat and headed across the hall to the abode of Heather, the well-endowed and very popular resident in their apartment block. She wanted to wish him "luck" but ever since he had mentioned it as they settled down to watch Christmas Eve television she had being doing her best to disabuse him of the notion that his plan was a good idea.
She knew she would fail; Mike was as stubborn as they came, and thought that by leaving an anonymous present at the foot of the bed of the woman he admired, but was too embarrassed to ask on a date, would some endear him to the said woman. She knew that this was a ridiculous proposition but he just wouldn't listen. Instead, she waited for the scream, Mike was never quiet when he had had a few whiskies and she guessed he would wake her up and she would be terrified.
Mike looked out of the flat and tiptoed across the landing, quietly removing the key from his pocket and sliding it into the lock. He winced as the door creaked open, unrestricted by the door chain that lay limp by the side of the door: Heather was careless, anyone could have broken in.
He gently closed the door, and tiptoed down the corridor, his heart beating furiously. He heard everything, even the steps he made on the carpet, as being incredibly loud and waited for the inevitable sound of screaming and shouting.
Instead, there was nothing, no television or radio, no sleeping or snoring, absolutely nothing and Mike stopped outside the bedroom door that was ajar. He could make out a sleeping body on the bed, wrapped up in the thick duvet and just a chink of light in the room. He twisted his body around the door, the cheap felt of the Santa costume rubbing against the hairs on his leg uncomfortably.
Mike felt butterflies in his stomach and quietly put the parcel on the padded ottoman at the foot of the double bed that occupied most of the room, and then quietly slipped back past the door. He knew if he moved it, it would creak and he silently tiptoed back down the hall and locked the front door behind him.
"Piece of cake," Mike said as he sauntered in triumphantly. "Don't know why Santa has so many problems, I could do it no problem," he boasted and Rose groaned. In her heart of hearts she was glad she was not down the Police Station explaining that her friend was just a misguided, shy man who fancied the neighbour after being arrested, but just knew that little good could come out of Mike breaking into his neighbour's flat, no matter how well intentioned he was.
Christmas morning brought a small pile of presents for both of them; Mike had been generous, his seasonal bonus had been usually high and Rose opened a new laptop, eBook reader, bottles of expensive perfume and a new tennis racket while Rose had supplied him with two new games for his console. "That doesn't mean you get the television all week," she warned as she disappeared to put the small turkey in the oven.
"I can have it this evening," Mike replied, knowing that after lunch Rose would disappear and see her sister's family. Rose smiled, she felt a little bad about leaving him as they had spent Christmas together every year for five years but her sister had invited her to spend some time with her niece and nephew and she couldn't refuse.
Mike didn't mind, he was steadfastly refusing to even speak to his family, and while he would have liked to have Rose keep him company, he had the regulars at the Hare and Hounds, as well as two new games to occupy him.
Rose cooked a wonderful turkey that was moist and succulent and accompanied with Brussel sprouts, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and sausages wrapped in bacon that his Yorkshire friend called "Pigs in Blankets".
As Rose was driving she let Mike drink most of the wine, and he ushered her out of the flat after she finished her meal and he had beat her at the obligatory Christmas Trivial Pursuit. She was somewhat relieved to see that there was no Police cordon around Heather's flat, but then what could the Primary School teacher actually report – someone had been into her flat dressed in a Santa costume and left an extremely expensive gift as a present. They lock people up for thinking things like that!
That said, Rose still knew the seriousness of Mike's "crime" and had wished she had not been too drunk to talk him out of it the previous day. One day, he was going to get himself into serious trouble, and as his best friend it would come down to her to sort it out for him; he still refused to talk to his family, the stubborn and obstinate bastard that he was and she worried about him.
Heather watched as Rose left the flat from her window. She hadn't travelled up to Scotland to be with her family as they had gone to New Zealand for the festive period to see her other sister, and Heather had not been able to afford the air fare. Instead she intended to treat it as any other day, resisting the inevitable invites from most of the school teaching staff to join them and their family as they "always have too much turkey" and didn't want her to "be lonely on Christmas Day."
Her plans had changed as she returned from the shower when she spotted a red present on the padded cushion at the foot of her bed. She scowled at it, slightly perplexed – she certainly hadn't left it there when she went to bed and didn't remember seeing it before. Drying her hair as she walked into her sitting room and counted her presents under her tiny Norwegian fir tree she had purchased the week before in the pre-Christmas sale. Ten from school teachers, four from pupils, one from her sister, one from her parents and one from Rose and Mike next door. So where did this new one come from, and why was it addressed from "Santa."
Heather wrapped herself in her large beach towel and turned it over. It was definitely for her, addressed to "Heather. You have been on my nice list all year. Have a good Christmas. Love, Santa."
What the hell was going on? Santa didn't exist any more than the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, how come the present was there. Heather stared at her gas fire and then shook herself out of her trance, there was no way anyone could have fit through that, and anyway it wasn't connected to a chimney.
Instead, Heather wandered around her house and checked the doors and windows – they were all locked and fastened securely, even the dodgy window in the kitchen. Added to the fact that she was on the second floor, Heather was certain that no-one had entered her flat from any other method other than the front door and returned to the red parcel.
So could this be a bomb? It wasn't ticking and it felt reasonably light – certainly heavy enough for some explosive to blow up her flat but nothing more, but who would want to blow up a primary school teacher in her mid-20s?
Instead Heather slowly peeked through a gap in the fold of the wrapping paper, it was dark and she tentatively peeled it back. There was no explosion or sound and Heather tore off the paper to reveal a piece of black fabric on top of a small box.
Scowling and unsure, even more, Heather took the black thin fabric and unfurled it, before gasping – it was a designer dress decorated with crystals and almost certainly worth hundreds of pounds. So what just was it doing in her flat addressed to her?
.... There is more of this story ...