Rita sat by the fire opening the Christmas cards. 'Sparky gave birth to six pups!' announced Paul and Marcia, Poppy and Samantha. The news from Crocket Bottom was less cheery: 'Mother sadly passed away in her sleep'. Rita put that one aside. as a reminder to write her condolences, before opening the next card who had been sent by someone with an illegible scrawl. “Who is this-do you know, Tom?” she passed it to her husband. Tom grunted and returned to his paper.

“Oh no!” said Rita “There's a slip from the Post Office. A card without a stamp-we need to collect it and pay £1.53.”

“Bloody daylight robbery” Tom replied.

“Would you go, dear? I need to know so I can finish sending ours.”

Tom was less enthusiastic. “Does it really matter? Enough to go out in the freezing cold plus having to pay £1.53 just to find out that someone's wretched hamster has keeled over?” He suddenly had a feeling of deja Vu. “I seem to recall this happening before. Your friend Jill forgot to put a stamp on her card which had a red wine glass ring stain on it .Last year.”

“Now Tom. Don't be so grumpy. I haven't had a card from Aunt Agatha- it may be from her. You know how forgetful she is. She may have news of Frank's operation. We've had a card from Cynthia saying her mother died.”

“Oh all right.” Tom stood up, slamming his paper on the coffee table. “There'll be no peace until I do. I'll take the car as the sorting office shuts at five.”

“Don't forget the £1.53!”

Tom grunted, patted his wallet inside his pocket and pulled out his car keys. “See you later.”

It was getting dark as Tom reversed out of the drive. At the end of the lane there was a stream of red rear lights near the junction with the high street. He studied the variety of Christmas decorations, ranging from blow up santas on the roof to tastefully illuminated trees. 'Bloody ridiculous' he thought, 'it'll all be over in a few days.' Eventually the traffic moved, he
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approached the sorting office, looking for a parking space along the way.
They were like gold dust. Everybody was out and about. He looked at the clock as he found a space outside the newsagents. 'Damn and blast!' It was 17.01. He cursed his wife's ridiculous obsession with Christmas and how everything had to be perfect, including the cards, and how it would be a disaster if she forgot someone-even someone who forgot to pay the postage. Then he had a brainwave.

He walked into the newsagents, picked up a box of chocolates- Ferrero Rocher-her favourite. On to the cards. He bought a large but tasteful card 'to my darling wife at Christmas' before moving on to the cheaper ones. He found a suitable card with a chocolate box kitten on the front playing with a piece of tinsel. After paying £7.50 for his goods, he made his way back to the car. He found a pen in the glove compartment and wrote at an awkward angle in the light of the streetlamp in order to disguise his handwriting. 'To Rita and Tom with love from Aunt Agnes' was the message inside. He wrote his own address on the envelope and set off home. 'She'll never know' he thought, if Aunt Agnes did send a card he could suggest the duplicate had been sent in error.

“Tom! You've been ages! Was there a queue?”

Tom handed her the card.

“Oh, pretty kittens! How lovely!”

Then the expression on her face changed as she dropped the card.

“It's from Aunt Agnes! She died just before last Christmas-that explains why it took so long to get here-no stamp! Oh by the way we did get one from Aunt Agatha-Frank's operation was a success.”

Neither Rita nor Tom knew that the mystery card had been posted by Jill along with several others, all without stamps, to irritated recipients at a collective cost of £22.80 including Tom's card and chocolates. Jill's alcohol problem had worsened since last year.



Adam was lying on the bed, half-watching his television, when he heard a text come through on his mobile. He glanced at it and then sat up abruptly when he saw who had sent it. Why on earth should David – the one person in the 6th Form whom he disliked - be sending him a message. He scanned it quickly.

“We are all cross dressing tonight to liven up the party.” Adam was horrified! Cross dressing certainly wasn't his scene. He wouldn't go. Then he remembered that, as Emma who was hosting the party, was the close friend of his girl-friend Amelia, he really couldn't let them down.

Adam went down to the kitchen where his mum and sister Jane, were chatting away as they prepared the evening meal. “I say chaps1” he said. “Can I have some advice? You know I'm going to Emma's party tonight – well it seems we all have to cross dress!”

There was a stunned silence and then they broke into peals of laughter. Jane immediately reached for her mobile. “Wait 'til my friends hear this!” she giggled.

“No, no, “ pleaded Adam, “this is just so embarrassing.

“Oh alright,” muttered Jane. Adam's mum told him they would help him out as soon as dinner was over.

Just before, Adam's mum dropped him off at the party venue. They had decided it would be rather risky for him to walk through town in his “unusual” garb. He drew a deep breath and rang the bell.

The door was opened by Amelia – dressed in a striking black dress. She gasped when she saw him. He started to back away from the door when a loud shout from David drew everyone's attention to him. A sudden silence fell, followed by shouts and guffaws from his friends. He had been set up!

The anger welled through him but he realised that to grab David and knock hell out of him would ruin the evening for everyone. He quickly whispered to Amelia, “David set me up!” and then he moved into the room.

He stood there in his green tights, flouncy skirt and stripey jumper, with a large ribbon in his hair and took an exaggerated bow. In a somewhat distorted French accent he greeted them. “Mesdames et messieurs. Welcome to this special party. I have been asked to instruct you in the delights of dance. Turn on the music”

Then he wriggled, flung his arms around and stuck out his chest and jumped in the air and the whole party collapsed in laughter, clapping and beating in time to the rhythm “Now it is your turn,” he said and to his relief they all started to dance and flail around. Never before had he seen such jollity. Adam swaggered across the room to where David stood, swayed provocatively in front of him and quietly said. “Darling what a bastard you are!”

When the music stopped, Adam quickly changed into the clothes he had fortunately brought with him.

“Well done, you handled that well,” said Amelia. “In fact you were so good you should think of a career on stage!”