It was Christmas Eve and Sophie-May found herself in a police cell. Part of her was upset, scared and embarrassed. The other part was relishing the feeling of rebellion and anarchy and she thought that she could get a good article for the student newspaper out of it.
In reality, Sophie-May hadn’t really been too much of a rebellious anarchist. She had gone to a student protest outside the new supermarket on Mill Road. Somebody had got hurt and everyone present had been arrested, though they were expected to be released without charge.
The man in the cell next to her seemed to have had quite a few Christmas spirits. He was singing loudly and slurring all the words together. Sophie-May had heard the door to his cell open.
“Back again then, Shane? We’ve seen quite a lot of you lately. What’s been going on?”
“You probably have a better idea than I do” he mumbled, scratching his chin stubble with nicotine-stained fingers.
“Drunk and disorderly, it says ‘ere. Sounded like you’d been celebrating. Getting caught up in the excitement of the holidays were we?”
“Had a win on the horses.Came in eighteen to one. I was gonna spend it on something nice for the missus but ended up in ‘ere. Shops’ll be shut now” he slurred.
“I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes tomorrow morning. But right now, that missus of yours is the least of your worries.You’ve been in and out of ‘ere more often than I have lately. You’re gonna end up inside sooner rather than later if you don’t sort yourself out. You can go soon, they’re just signing your papers and waiting for your missus to turn up and collect you. Make sure she takes you straight home. If we see you out in town again tonight, that’ll be it. Understand, Shane?” the police officer pressed.
Sophie-May felt guilty to be listening in on their conversation, but she had very little else to keep her occupied.
“Where is he then?” Shane’s wife askedbefore she’d even reached the front desk. An officer led her to the cell, Sophie-May listening intently and noting the difference between the officer’s squeaking rubber soles and the woman’s sling backs clicking on the linoleum.
“Just where I wanted to be tonight. Don’t you think I’ve gotbetter things to do tonight than pick you up from the bloody drunk tank?’ she spat, angrily brushing her auburn hair away from her face.
“Happy Christmas. I love you, baby” he said, drunkenly oblivious to her temper. “C’mon. It’s Christmas Eve, babe.”
“It was Christmas Eve when we first met, do you remember? You promised me everything that night. Look at you now. You’re a bum. You were so handsome back then…”
“Yeah and you were pretty. I remember it all; the band, the dancing, the bells. That junk has ruined you.” he replied, his mood beginning to match that of his wife.
Despite herself, Sophie-May couldn’t help but get excited. She had always lived a rather sheltered life. Her family were fairly well off and they lived in a nice house in a respectable area. Yet here she was now, with real life drug addicts! She really resented the police officer on the front desk for confiscating her bag, leaving her without a notepad and pen. She really hoped she could remember the juicy bits for her article.
“You’re a cheap, lousy scumbag. Happy Christmas you say? Happy Christmas your arse. I had everything in front of me when I met you. I could have done anything, been anybody.”
“I know how you feel. I could have been someone”.
“So could anyone.” the wife said, now sounding more upset than angry. “You took away everything I had. You even took my dreams away from me.”
“I kept them with me. They’re with mine.” he said with a sudden warmth in his gravelly voice. He lifted his head and held his wife’s gaze for the first time since she arrived. The moment of heavy silence was killing Sophie-May. But then door of her cold cell clanged open and in stepped an overweight, tired-looking officer. In as few words as possible he informed her that no charges were being brought against her and she was free to go.
Later that night, Sophie-May sat with a handsome ginger cat on her lap, her parents cuddled up on the sofa and an Only Fools and HorsesChristmas specialon the telly. Del Boy threw his arm around Raquel and Sophie-May’s mind went back to the couple she had encountered in the police station. Had they gone their separate ways, with a lonely, bitter Christmas ahead of them? Or had the memory of how happy they were on that cold Christmas Eve years ago won? She took a swig of mulled wine, stroked the cat under his chin and sincerely hoped it was the latter.
The Progues Featuring Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York