‘THE SEASON OF PERPETUAL hope. What a fucking joke!‘
Edda truly hated the sodding Yuletide. Hel, she hated the whole damn winter season. ‘Joyful, my arse!’ she grumbled. ‘Dealing with snow and darkness and people with the blooming winter blues for half the year. Delightful! Oh, and why are we celebrating midwinter now anyway? It’s not the middle of the blasted winter yet!‘
Not expecting a response to her rant, Edda made another cup of coffee and sat down by the kitchen window. This was her favourite place in the bog-standard, commonhold flat she currently called home. She knew she should be happy to be living in this place. It was one of many relatively new homes around the city that people were more or less giving away these days. In the wake of the latest bank crisis, interest rates had tripled and families struggling to keep up with their mortgages had to cut and run. Yes, Edda was lucky to have a place to call home, but it was hard to be happy about something that had brought such misfortune to someone else. Besides, technically it wasn’t her home.
This flat, and pretty much everything in it, belonged to Him. Only the kitchen was hers. Here she had the three things she valued most: a large Winnie the Pooh mug; the heavy oakwood dining table a local cabinetmaker back home had made for her; and her great grandmother’s old ashwood kitchen sofa. Sitting on her favourite spot on that sofa, fingers tightly wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee, Edda could blank everything else out and just breathe. It gave her some semblance of peace. A sense of balance and a feeling of belonging to something she knew was important. And a view of the world outside her window. She loved to sit there, watch the kids play and hear them laugh.
Right now, the view was downright depressing, though. It was New Year’s Eve, just after 2 pm, and it was already getting dark outside. The street lights cast an orange light over the playground, and the front yard looked like someone had pulled a thick layer of cotton wool over it. Her driveway and the walk up to her front door were covered in knee-deep snow, but Edda couldn’t be arsed to go downstairs and grab a shovel. The kids weren’t home, so what was the point anyway?
Judging by the feeling in her bones, the weather had turned and there wouldn’t be any more snowfalls for quite some time. She dreaded the nights ahead as she knew they would be unforgiving. ‘Wonderful! Another bloody vargrvetr,’ she growled. ‘As if things aren’t bad enough as they are.’ It was a sign, of that she was sure, and it made her feel even worse.
Suddenly, Edda’s eyes fell on a dark shadow moving across the parking lot. A hint of a smile played on her face as she recognised the unmistakable shape of her best friend. No one could mood walk quite like Angel! There she was, rolling up like a tank to a battlefield, and Edda had a sneaking suspicion that she was the intended target. She gulped down the last of her coffee and grabbed the house keys from the bowl on the windowsill. ‘Oh, well, let’s get this over with then,’ she sighed and opened the window. She leaned out and rattled the keys to get Angel’s attention.
“Hey, you! Cheers for clearing a path through the snow for me,” Angel called up, voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Yeah, I love you too,” Edda quipped, completely avoiding the subject. “Here! Let yourself in and get your arse up here before I freeze my tits off,” she added and dropped the keys from the second-floor window. A part of her hoped they would get lost in the snow. But of course, Angel caught them like a pro and quickly made her way up the stairs.
As she reached the landing, she grabbed hold of Edda and hugged her tight. Almost as if she had been afraid of losing her. “Don’t try to sweet-talk me you fucking brat,” she snapped. “I’m still so bloody mad at you I could wring your neck.” With her hands in a vice grip on Edda’s upper arms, Angel eventually pulled away and gave her friend the no-nonsense supermum look. “Now, you better go hop in the shower while I make us something to eat. It’s New Year’s Eve for fuck’s sake! We’re going to the last Yuletide homecoming party at The Palace tonight, and you won’t get laid smelling like a corpse.”
Knowing full well she had no chance of winning a staring match against Angel in full tank mode, Edda rolled her eyes and made her way to the bathroom. ”Fine!” she called over her shoulder. “I’ll have a fucking shower, but there’s no way I’m going downtown tonight. It’s freezing cold out there, I’ve got nothing to wear and I need a dick about as much as a fish needs a bike. Right after this shower, I’m gonna put my PJs on, eat whatever you’re cooking and get on the couch for a hot date with Beatrice and Benedick.”
Edda slammed the bathroom door shut, turned the shower on and got out of her clothes. ‘Well, thanks for nothing I guess,’ she muttered as she stepped into the shower cabin. As usual, her leaky-eye syndrome kicked in the minute she felt the hot water running down her skin. Edda slammed the bathroom door shut, turned the shower on and got out of her clothes. ‘Well, thanks for nothing I guess,’ she muttered as she stepped into the shower cabin. As usual, her “leaky-eye syndrome” kicked in the minute she felt the hot water running down her skin. She loved Angel, she really did, but all she wanted right now was to be left alone in her misery. ‘You know what she’s like when she’s on a mission,’ she sniffled, working up a lather with the soap and a flannel. She felt violated, but she could not think of anything to say that would make Angel leave her alone. ‘You know, this would’ve been a great time for you to have my back, you stupid twat,’ she spat. Scrubbing her skin raw, Edda watched her tears, soap suds and dirty wash water disappear down the drain, and she wished she could disappear with them.
Weighed down by grief, despair and self-hate she sank down onto the floor. The water kept scorching her skin and the bathroom turned into a steam sauna. Exhausted, she wrapped her arms around her legs, leaned her head against the tiles and full-on ugly cried. Her life was such a mess. She had no control and no idea how to make things right. How could she? She wasn’t even supposed to be here! She’d literally been to Hel and back four times and it made no sense. It was impossible, everybody knew that, and yet here she was. Every time she hit rock bottom she told herself this was it. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse. But, as if she were a delicate chess piece in the hands of a toddler on a tantrum, they always did.
The people she loved died or straight up abandoned her. Which, in fairness, she could understand. Edda would leave herself too, given half the chance. She was a massive potty-mouthed failure, with a foul temper and a malfunctioning body. Her thoughts were all over the place and her body was wracked with tears. ‘Too tall, too fat, too loud, too much. Or not quite good enough. It’s the story of my fucking life,’ she sobbed. She did make fabulous kids, though. That was the one thing she had going for her. They were everything that was good in her world. Too good for someone like her. As much as she hated to admit it, they would, no doubt, be better off with the Wicked Witch of the North. Also known as His mother.
A sudden loud crash startled Edda and broke her out of misery mode. Angel, still with the no-nonsense supermum face on, materialised through the mist and turned the water off. She grabbed Edda’s hands, pulled her off the floor and wrapped her in a big bath towel. Then she pushed her down on the toilet seat and began to towel-dry her unruly hair. She was, indeed, Edda’s Angel, her chosen sister, and the second thing she had going for her.
Angel and the kids. The kids and Angel. And Juicy, of course. Angel’s daughter, born but a day before Edda’s youngest, Sága. Edda loved her unconventional family. all eight of them, with all her heart, but gods be damned they could be infuriating at times. Especially Angel, when she went all supermum on her and treated her like a three-year-old.
Edda glared up at her friend from under the towel. “Did you seriously have to kick the door in? You could have knocked, you know. Now I’ll have to tell Him it needs fixing,” she whined.
“I did knock!” Angel said as sweetly as if she was, indeed, talking to a small child. “Come on now, Hopalong, your hair is dry enough!” She threw the towel over the cabin wall and held out a gorgeous bathrobe in front of Edda. “Put this on and go sit on your spot so we can eat our dinner.”
“Eh, I don’t know where you found that thing, but it’s not mine so I’m not wearing it.”
“Oh, yes you are, Missy Moo. It is yours, and you would’ve known that if you hadn’t chucked all your Christmas presents in a heap on your bed. That you clearly haven’t slept in for days, by the way. I made “that thing” for you! Merry fucking Christmas, you silly cunt. You’re welcome! Can we please eat now?”
“You know I don’t like Christmas, and without the kids I couldn’t stand looking at them. The only reason I didn’t throw the damn decorations in there too is because they will be expecting a julgransplundring when they return. But thank you. It is beautiful and I do love it.”
Dressed in her new bathrobe, Edda took her seat on the kitchen sofa again. Angel had laid the table with a new table cloth, the special china, silver cutlery and crystal glasses. There were candles both on the table and on the kitchen counter. Some of them smelled of winter apples, cinnamon and vanilla. Angel swiftly produced a bottle of wine in the shape of a snowman, a bowl of pasta carbonara and a basket of garlic bread. Then switched the ceiling lights off, said “dig in, my love,” and passed Edda the Carbonara. “We need to eat a proper meal so we can hold our drinks tonight. We don’t want to be plastered before the fireworks and after we’ll be partying all night.”
“We?” Edda glared at her friend. “Listen to me, you nutter. I love you and all, but I’ve already told you I’ve got a date lined up. I’m not leaving this house.”
“Oh, honey, you’re so cute when you’re grumpy. Here’s the deal. You can either come with me to The Palace, looking like a queen in the dress I’ve made for you; or I’ll drag you there, kicking and screaming, in your bathrobe. Either way, we’re going. Here, let me pour you some wine, it’ll soften you up.”
“Eh, no thanks. You know that’s not wine, right? It’s perfumed and sweetened plonk. How many times do I have to tell you not to buy the wine in funny bottles? And white wine? With carbonara? Eww. I don’t think so!”
“Aha!” Angel beamed. “I knew my favourite snob was still in there somewhere! Welcome to the party, my friend. We have cheap perfumed plonk, fatty foods and a table reservation at The Palace. Our ride will pick us up at sevenish, so we have plenty of time to eat, drink, chat shit and get into our mating outfits.”
As much as she hated the idea of a bloody homecoming night downtown, Edda was beginning to feel bad for Angel. She had clearly gone out of her way to plan this evening and was looking forward to a night of boys’n’beers. Still, Edda wasn’t ready to give in just yet. Swapping the glare for her best puppy-eyed look she tried once more to appeal to Angel’s compassionate side.
“But, hunneeee, what about my date? Benedick will be terribly upset if I blow him off like that, and I’d miss him. Plus, it’s getting colder by the hour and you know how I feel about the cold. Can’t we just stay here? Please! I swear, I’ll even drink your sodding plonk and pretend to like it,” Edda pleaded, fluttering her eyelashes.
“Now, listen carefully, my flower. First of all, there are plenty of guys in this world who would love to be blown off by you. Second, there is no universe where reading or watching Much Ado About Nothing counts as a date. This is beyond ridiculous! I don’t need to ask you how you’re feeling, because that damn play is like your personal mood reader. I know you’re in a bad place when you’re reading the book, and I know you’re really struggling when you pop the Kenneth Branagh version in the video. Now the damn thing’s been on repeat for the past two years and even I know the words by heart now. Consider this an intervention. Tonight we’re breaking this cycle, and tomorrow we’re gonna be laying down some ground rules for the new year and for all the years to come. We’ll start with this one: Under no circumstances are you ever allowed to spend Christmas on your own again. Not next year. Not ever.”
“Is that a no to staying in then?” Edda pouted, scrunching her face.
Angel smirked and popped the last spoonful of carbonara in her mouth. Meal finished, she stood up, raised her glass and poured Edda some snowman plonk. “A toast, my heart. To my best friend and the love of my life. The kindest, most generous and most frighteningly intelligent woman I’ve ever met. Cheers! May the new year bring you peace and prosperity.”
Touched, Edda raised her glass too and downed some of the rank liquid. “To my best friend and the love of my life. I know I’m a shitty friend who really doesn’t deserve you, but I want you to know I love you dearly and would be completely lost without you. I’m sorry I’m such a grumpy old bugger. Cheers, my dear, I will go out with you tonight. There’ll be no mating, though. I closed that department down after Sága was born, but I won’t say no to a few more nieces or nephews.” She wiggled her eyebrows, raised her glass again and drank some more of the plonk. ‘It’s like medicine, I guess. You just have to gulp it down and remember not to breathe through your nose.’ Yes, Edda had been right in thinking the night would be unforgiving. And so would her bestie, by the sound of it. ‘Great!‘ Edda groaned.
Angel grabbed a remote from the chair next to her and, at the press of a button, Joe Cocker’s You Can Leave Your Hat On blasted out of the speaker system. It was their party anthem and one of the most requested songs when they were singing. Angel topped up their glasses, got off her chair and held her hand out to Edda who accepted and joined her friend on the floor. She could always find comfort in music. Singing out loud, swaying their hips to the rhythm of the music and downing more of the horrible wine the two dancing queens were soon in the mood for more than a dance.
As the CD shuffled to Try A Little Tenderness, Angel lead the dance into the living room where she had set up a makeshift dressing room and make-up studio. Two spectacular ball gowns, one maroon and one black, were hanging on the bookcase. On a chair in between them, an assortment of jewellery and accessories was laid out; and on the floor, there were two pairs of shoes: maroon stilettos and black knee-high Harley Davidson boots. Edda rolled her eyes, but she had already accepted defeat. Resistance was futile.
Angel lit up two cigarettes, passed one to Edda and cranked up the volume as the intro to Mustang Sally began. She pointed to the swivel chair by the ironing board turned make-up table and grabbed a bottle of hair mousse. Edda obediently sat down and gave her friend free reins. She liked doing her hair and make-up, but Angel was a pro and always made her feel like a fearless shield maiden in war paint. It seemed like a fitting choice for a night like this.
Singing and dancing their way through the first disc The Commitments soundtrack, and a second bottle of snowman plonk, they soon had their hairs done and faces on. Angel, looking amused, handed Edda a brand new lace-up corset with matching garter belt, stockings and knickers. “They’re from Him,” she smirked at Edda’s confused look. “Came with the boots and the jewellery over there.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Edda groaned. “You know I can’t accept any gifts from Him. The Wicked Witch of the North would roast me alive and feed me to my kids if she found out.”
“Oh, Hel no! Breaking the cycle, remember. The Witch can go fuck herself, you’re not taking any more shit from her. Or anyone else, for that matter. Now, turn around so I can lace you up.”
Once all the different bits were in the right place, Edda felt like a first-class fool. Standing in her living room in knee-high boots, and the sexiest lingerie she had ever seen, she looked like sex on legs and it made her feel all kinds of weird. But, as no one, other than Angel, would see what she wore under her clothes it would have to do.
Angel, who had been to the bathroom, whistled when she returned and saw Edda in her new kit. “He may be a wanker, but at least he’s a wanker with good taste and a fat wallet. And you know he loves you.”
Edda turned around, taking the black dress off the hanger, and gave Angel a death glare. “Yes, he loves me like he loves his fucking horses. He wants to own me, fill me with babies and keep me locked up in this fucking shoe box. And yes, he does have good taste, and he does buy me gifts, but they’re not for me. They’re just things he wants me to have because they somehow fit his narrative of who we are and what this is. They don’t feed the kids or pay my bills. I do love him too, you know, but as a friend. He knows I can’t be with him. It was impossible ten years ago, and after all the shit the Witch has put me through I’m so pissed off I can barely look at him anymore.”
“Ok, I’ve never asked you this before, but now I’m curious. Did you tell him any of this before, after or while you were busy making and carrying his kids?”
“Before, in between and after the kids. I’ve told him so many times, but he never listens to me.”
“Well, if you stopped sleeping with him he might.”
“Hey, I’ve been avoiding him for two years now, but he still treats me like his property. His dirty little secret. I think it turns him on that Mommy Dearest doesn’t approve.”
Black ballgown finally donned, Angel picked up the rectangular jewellery box and passed it to Edda with another no-nonsense look. Edda held her palm out, received the box and stared, incredulously, at the shiny pieces inside. There was a necklace with a mermaid holding on to a fé rune. A snake chain bracelet with a heart clasp held six rune charms; and, finally, there was a pair of drop-down earrings with the moon and the sun. The heart clasp on the bracelet and the moon earring were made of red gold, everything else was in platinum.
Taking a deep breath, Edda clasped her hands together and, lips between her thumbs, she breathed life into the runes. She walked over to the full length mirror on her wardrobe and stared at her own reflection as she put the jewellery on. Her fingers brushed slowly over the mermaid on the fé rune. Gently, she touched each of the small rune charms on the bracelet. Ehwaz, ehwaz, ansuz, raidhō, ehwaz and sowilō. One for each child. She had to admit that each piece of the set was stunning, and it was a surprisingly thoughtful gift coming from Him. Edda felt uncomfortable thinking of how much this gift must have cost Him, but returning it was not an option. You had to be mindful of your thoughts and actions when dealing with runes.
She took another good look at her reflection and marvelled at the woman she saw. Powerful. Sexy. Confident. Everything Edda was not. But for tonight she would wear this look like her armour.
© 2021 Lïnnéa Lucifer. All rights reserved.
The right of Lïnnéa Lucifer to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publisher.
First published online in 2021 on www.aswewrite.com and on Wattpad.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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