The Mistletoe Pact by Jo Lovett
Now – Christmas Eve 2021
Evie opened her eyes and squinted upwards.
Pink. She was in a very, very pink room, with a lot of hearts. The ceiling was pink. The wallpaper was pink with padded hearts on it. The cushion on the (pink) chair opposite was pink and heart-shaped.
What room was this? Why was she here? She was definitely awake, not dreaming. This was definitely a real pink room.
She shook her head slightly.
Ow. It was like there was a band clamped across her forehead.
Her neck hurt too. There were a lot of lumps in her pillow.
She turned her head to the right.
Oh no, oh no, oh no.
She was in bed with Dan. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
A lot of drink and a lot of sex.
No, no, no.
Although also, yes, yes, yessss, because from what she remembered, the sex had been good, really good. Amazing.
But mainly, no. Because Dan was Dan and they’d snogged once, a long time ago, and they flirted a bit, but they didn’t sleep together; they just didn’t do that. Maybe they should have done, though, because the more she remembered the more she knew that last night had been fantastic.
The memories were flooding back now.
They’d talked about their fallback pact.
Oh God. A wedding chapel. A wedding service.
She and Dan had got married. Disaster. Married. Married.
They’d got drunk-married in Vegas. Who actually did that?
And now, God, they were obviously going to have to get divorced. Divorced. They’d managed to change their marital status without ever really having been married. And how were they going to get divorced? Would it be expensive? Would it involve a lot of admin?
She turned her head carefully and took another look at Dan. He was still asleep, facing her, his head nestled on his own lumpy, pink, heart-shaped pillow. Funny how someone’s face could look different when they were asleep. Awake, he laughed a lot. In repose, his features looked quite harsh. Still gorgeous, though.
And still lovely, kind, funny Dan. She really hoped that last night wouldn’t have ruined their friendship.
Unbelievable that, after all these years, they’d had actual sex. It had been so good. She wished she’d been sober enough to remember all the good bits properly.
And what was wrong with her? It wasn’t the not-having-been-sober-enough-to-remember-all-the-sex she should be worrying about, it was the marriage.
Dan’s eyes pinged open very suddenly and he did the lying down equivalent of leaping backwards. Yep, she might have had her face a bit too close to his. Her head and neck weren’t feeling very mobile though, so it was hard to move.
‘Evie,’ he barked. ‘Oh my God.’ He was simultaneously staring and frowning, like he’d just seen something truly horrifying. Her.
‘I know,’ Evie said, scrunching her face up. Her head was really hurting now. The lights were far too bright. Getting from here – lying in a random hotel bed next to Dan – to being back in her own hotel, showered and in clean clothes, ready to start her day – her birthday for God’s sake – was suddenly feeling like an insurmountable obstacle. And actually, why were they here and not in their own hotel? She frowned, trying to sift through last night’s memories. Something about them having bought a special honeymoon hotel package?
‘What are we…?’ It was amazing how, with bloodshot eyes that he couldn’t fully open and serious stubble, Dan still looked so good.
Evie just raised her eyebrows and did some more face scrunching. It would probably be better for him to remember things for himself gradually.
Dan did a manic patting motion under the sheets and the cerise, nylonny velour bedspread covering them nearly fell onto the floor.
‘Oh my God. Naked,’ he said. Maybe he didn’t remember all the sex. Maybe he wasn’t going to remember that they were married. Again, God, married.
If he didn’t remember, she was going to have to tell him. Not immediately, though. It would be hard to find the right words. Hopefully he’d remember for himself eventually, if she waited.
‘I know.’ Evie nodded. Ouch.
‘Oh my God.’
‘Oh my God.’ It sounded like he was starting to remember.
He turned away from her and looked over the side of the bed and did more patting around.
‘I can’t see my clothes,’ he said. He suddenly froze. ‘Oh my God.’ There it was; that had to be him remembering everything.
Evie just lay there. She couldn’t think of any words that would do justice to the magnitude of the situation.
Dan unfroze after a few seconds and slid off the bed, taking the bedspread with him and wrapping it round his waist in one impressively athletic motion.
Evie’s shoulders were cold. Because they were bare. She dragged the bedclothes up so that they were tucked round her neck.
‘Um, married,’ Dan said. Croaked, really.
Evie nodded and screwed her face up further.
‘Do you think we can get divorced today?’ Dan adjusted the bedspread so that it covered more of him. At any other time, Evie would have been disappointed, because he had a great chest and it didn’t seem that likely that she was ever going to see it again at close quarters.
‘Probably. I mean, a lot of people probably get married in Vegas and regret it.’ She’d said that in a really normal voice, which was surprising, because married in Vegas; it was really hard not to freak about the fact that they were married.
‘Yeah. We can google it.’ Dan was shuffling himself and the bedspread around the room now, gathering up clothing.
‘Yep. Good plan.’ Evie stayed put, holding the sheets up to her chin. It was a good plan. Definitely. Google had an answer for everything. Hopefully.
Eventually, Dan sat down on the other side of the bed and, with his left hand holding the bedspread in place, began to sort through their clothes with his right.
He placed her lovely new red dress – which she couldn’t really imagine wearing again now because of the memories – on the bed next to her, followed by her tights, her bra (quite a nice black one) and her pants (beige, huge and stomach-flattening because she had not been expecting to pull last night). Dan folded the pants in four as he put them down and Evie winced. And then winced more at the memory of when he’d tried to pull them off and she’d had to help him and it had taken ages and they’d both got quite out of breath because the pants were seriously tight.
‘Would you like to use the bathroom first?’ Dan asked.
Nope. It might not be soundproof and she didn’t fancy weeing with him sitting just outside. Plus, would she realistically be able to get herself out of bed with the sheets still wrapped round her without flashing any more flesh? She’d be a lot better off waiting until he’d gone.
‘You go first,’ she said.
‘Sure? Okay, thanks.’
Evie watched Dan shuffle himself and the bedspread into the bathroom, and then resumed staring at the pink ceiling, trying very hard not to let any tears squeeze out.
Happy birthday, me, she thought. Thirty years old today. She had a lot to be thankful for, like how she’d definitely ticked a lot of the boxes you wanted to tick by your thirtieth. A wonderful family, yes. Great friends, yes. A career that she loved, yes.
No hint of a proper love life and about to be divorced, not so much. Friendship with Dan possibly ruined, also not so much.
In a parallel life, if she was honest, she’d have loved this marriage to have been planned and to have involved all their family and friends and been meant to last forever. Like her occasional fantasies over the years when she thought about their fallback pact.
But this wasn’t a parallel life, it was her actual life, and clearly the pact was never going to have played out like that.