Conversation over Christmas Lunch turned to plans for New Year's Eve. Jess and Alex had planned to throw a party and, following their break-up, Jess was more determined than ever to go ahead with it.
"But Alex won't be there?" Mum asked.
I shook my head as I finished my mouthful of turkey. "No. She wants to carry on as normal, rather than changing plans just because of him."
"Sensible," Mum said with a nod. "And she's better being around friends on New Year's Eve anyway to keep her mind off him."
"Such a shame," my dad chipped in. "He was a nice lad."
"Just wasn't meant to be," I said.
Jess had been putting on a brave face recently, but the subject of Alex was banned. I knew she wanted to move on, but I worried that by not talking about him, she risked bottling up unexpressed emotions which would then explode.
When Nathan offered to help clear up after dinner, I excused myself upstairs to call her. It would be the first Christmas in years that she hadn't spent with Alex, and that was bound to be playing on her mind.
Despite that, she answered the phone with a cheery sing-song voice that left me wondering whether I should even ask about Alex at all.
"I don't even think the presents are my favourite part of Christmas," she was saying to me. "It's definitely the food."
"Urgh, agreed," I replied, reclining on the bed and running a hand over my stomach. "I'm nursing a serious food baby."
"As long as this isn't your subtle way of saying that you're pregnant with a real baby..."
I snorted. "God, can you imagine?"
"I don't know... you and Nate have been having a lot of serious make-up sex recently..."
"How would you know how much sex we're having?"
"I wouldn't. But I can imagine you're having a lot."
"Well, for the avoidance of doubt, I am definitely not pregnant."
Her laugh faded away and I nibbled on my lip, wondering whether to mention Alex. I didn't want to upset her on Christmas Day, and I knew she'd appreciate me being there even if we didn't talk about it, but I also hated the thought of her suffering in silence.
"I'm honestly so relieved that you both worked it out," she said.
"Yeah, but I'm not naïve enough to think that the next two-thirds of my year abroad are going to run without hitches."
"That doesn't matter, though. You've overcome a huge obstacle. It's made you stronger. You can take on anything."
"Let's hope so."
When she fell quiet again, I rolled onto my side and allowed my eyes to drift over the few photos that remained blu-tacked to my old bedroom wall. Some I'd transferred to frames and moved to mine and Nathan's flat, but it was nice keeping the rest of the memories in this room. It always reminded me of school and growing up, as well as being a statement of how much I'd changed over the years. I barely recognised the girl I was four years ago, before Nathan and I started dating.
"I really miss him," Jess said, her voice soft on the other end of the phone.
I tore my gaze away from a photo of a group of us at Thorpe Park, arms around each other. It had been the first time that Jess had brought Alex along; Matt—my ex—and Katrina, who was an old friend, had known of Alex and seen him around at school, but our trip to the theme park had been our first opportunity to properly chat to him and spend time together.
YOU ARE READING
Getting Through ItalyRomance
Italy: home of pizza, pasta and prosecco. It will also be Isobel Smith's home for the next year as she embarks on her Erasmus placement in Bologna. What she soon discovers, though, is that life in Italy isn't just about enjoying the local cuisine. L...