What If… A Gentle Christmas







There are many things that are an influence on my writing…  My faith… The fact I grew up in the Sixties and Seventies…  And a love of really cheesy album covers.  So the cover that accompanies this story inspired some thinking…

December 24th, 1975


“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”


For twenty-year-old Clara Oldham, it was the most special of nights.  The young woman had long brown hair, and was wearing a long-sleeved white blouse with a small collar, a long brown skirt with coloured polka dots and a thin brown belt, and brown boots that hugged her lower legs.


Clara was, to put it politely, a larger woman, but her heart was full of happiness and love as she hung another bauble on the tree.  The main room of their house was tastefully decorated in brown and green, with a wreath on the fireplace that had a large red bow attached to it.


“You finished in there yet Clara?”


“I have Mom,” Clara called back as Denise Oldham walked into the room.  The fifty-year-old had her black hair arranged in a high style, and was wearing large, rimmed glasses as she looked round.  Her white jacket was fastened over a chocolate brown roll neck sweater, the matching short skirt coming to just above her knees, while the white leather boots she was wearing were fastened tightly on her legs.


“I do love Nat King Cole at this time,” Denise said with a smile, “so appropriate for the time.  Any word from your sisters?”


“All I know is they are on their way,” Clara said as they both heard the front doorbell ring.  “That might be Mary now – I’ll go and look.”


Denise nodded as her daughter left the room, humming to herself as she looked through the LPs arranged on the shelf.




“What is it,” Denise said as she turned round and saw Clara – and the two men who had accompanied her into the room.  They were identically dressed – tailored blazers over roll neck sweaters, tight trousers, Chelsea boots, black leather gloves – and black balaclava masks that covered their heads, so that only their eyes and mouths were visible.  The only real difference was their height – while one as tall as Clara, the other stood a good foot taller.


“Good evening, Mrs Oldham,” the taller of the two men said as he pointed a Walther PPK at Denise, “I ask you to forgive our unexpected call, but we ask for your cooperation.  In return, my friend Mister Small and I guarantee the continued safety of you and your daughter.”


“Mister…  Mister Small?  And what do they call you, Mister Tall?”


“Precisely Mrs Oldham – or may we call you Denise?  IT does not need to be so formal – wouldn’t you agree Clara?”


“So you know who we are?”


“OF course we do, Denise,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “we make sure we know as much as possible about all those we visit.  So, will you cooperate with us?”


“You have the gun,” Denise said quietly as she looked at Clara.


“Excellent - I promise you, while we must ensure you are secured and silenced, we will take every possible care.  So to begin – Mister Small, would you please ensure that Clara’s wrists are secured together behind her back?”


“Of course, Mister Tall,” his partner said as he put a large canvas bag down, and then took Clara’s hands behind her back as she felt some sort of cord being pulled tightly round them.  She choked back an urge to cry as her wrists were forced together, and then wondered what else was happening as Mister Small removed a long length of rope from the bag, and wrapped it round her body.


“If I put this gun down, are you going to do anything to raise the alarm, Denise?”


The older woman shook her head as Mister Tall put the gun down on a side table, then walked over and retrieved two lengths of rope from the bag.  Walking behind Denise, he  guided her hands behind her back and secured her wrists together as well, before the longer rope was wrapped round her and she felt it tighten under her chest.


“Do you…  Do you know how this feels,” she said as she watched Mister Small frame Clara’s chest with two bands of rope.  “I mean, you’re not going to…. To…”


Mister Tall pulled the rope tighter round Denise’s body, and then secured the ends behind her back before he stood between the two women.  “Denise…  Clara… I know the way we have tied the ropes may make you feel different – but I ask you if we have done anything other than that to give you cause for concern?”


The two women looked at each other, then shook their heads as Mister Small said “Would you please take a seat, Clara, and then put your feet on the coffee table, ankles crossed?”


The young woman did as she was asked, watching as the masked man wrapped the rope round her ankles and pulled di tight, making several more passes around and between her legs before he tied the ends off behind her legs.  He then passed another length of rope round her legs above her knees, pulling it tight as she felt her legs being forced together, and saw the material of the skirt gather under the band as she watched.


“There – I trust that is not too uncomfortable?”


“No,” Clara whispered – and then all four turned their heads as they heard the front door open and close.




“Oh no – Martha?”


“Please remain quiet,” Mister Tall said as he looked to the doorway, and another young woman walked in.  she had a long-sleeved black jersey dress on, a white brooch fastened to the front below her throat, and black fabric boots that came to below her knees.  Her long hair was the same shade as Denise, as she said “what on earth…”


“Martha, please, listen to what they say…”


“Ah – so this is your middle daughter, Martha.  May we offer our congratulations on your recent 21st birthday my dear – and ask you to do what we ask, and not to cause any noise or attempt to call for help.”


Martha looked round, and then slowly nodded as Mister Small took some more ropes from the bag, and walked behind her.


“If you will ensure Martha is comfortably secured as well, Mister Small,” Mister Tall said, “I will take their mother for a tour of the house.”


“Of course, Mister Tall,” the smaller masked man said as his partner took Denise by the arm, and walked her out of the room towards the staircase.  As they walked up, Denise said “you do know who my husband is?”


“The Reverend Douglas J Oldman, who I am told is a reasonably popular evangelist on a local network.”


“So you are not a believer?”


“I do not believe I said I was not,” Mister Tall said with a smile, “but I respect those who follow that path as a calling.  My faith, however, is not the matter of concern here today?”


“Oh?”  Denise raised an eyebrow and said “what is?”


“Let us go into the main bedroom,” Mister Tall said, “and we can discuss this therein…”




“So you opened the door and they barged in?”


“Barged is the wrong word,” Clara said as she watched Mister Small securing Martha’s ankles together in the same way as hers.  “I opened the door, the taller one showed me the gun and asked if I would allow them to enter quietly – and I really did not think I had a choice.”


“Mannered robbers – you learn something new every day?”


“Well, we do like to surprise those we visit,” Mister Small said as he secured Martha’s legs together below her knees, and then lowered her legs so that her heels touched the floor.  “If you promise not to shout for help, I will only be a few minutes.”


“Where will you be,” Martha said quietly as she twisted her legs round.


“Outside, disconnecting the telephone,” Mister Small said with a smile as he walked out of the room, Clara and Martha looking at each other.


“A very different Christmas Eve then?”


“Yes – Martha, these ropes.  Do they make you feel?”


Martha slowly nodded as she said “we should give thanks that this is all they have done.  I know Father doesn’t like us watching some films, but when you see what happens in some of them…”


“Why?  What happens in some of them?”


Martha looked at her sister, and said “something for another…”


“Oh lord – this really is happening?”


The two women looked to the doorway as another young woman stood there, with long brown hair over her shoulders.  She was wearing a roll necked purple silk sweater and matching pants, the legs tucked into purple suede boots, while over the outfit was a purple suede sleeveless coat with wide lapels.


“Hey Mary,” Martha said quietly, “welcome to the party.”


“What’s going on,” the young woman said as Mister Small guided her hands behind her back.


“Robbery – and some family time I guess,” Clara said as she wriggled round, the ropes rubbing on her chest as her blouse was stretched over it.


“Well, once I have your older sister secured,” Mister Small said, “I will be removing any rings or jewellery you have on – and then you can have some time for silent meditation and prayer…”






“That must be Mary – she is what, 23?”


Denise nodded as she felt Mister Tall easing her rings off her fingers, looking at the empty jewellery boxes in Clara’s room.  “We were expecting her to call round – it was Martha that was the surprise.”


“If I may say, they are fine young women, daughters to be proud of,” Mister Tall said with a smile.


“I accept that compliment – even if I am afraid for all of us…”


“Do you still fear?”


“Only what we may do when you have left us?”


Mister Tall chuckled as he said “be assured, you will all be in a position to relax and be at peace with the world, unable to be interrupted or to interrupt it.”


“And what does that mean?”


“It is probably better if I show you.  Please, stand up and come with me.”


Denise nodded as she walked out of the bedroom with Mister Tall, down the staircase and into the front room, her eyes widening as she looked to the long leather couch.  Clara, Martha and Mary were sitting side by side, ropes encircling their upper bodies and holding their arms against their sides, their ankles crossed and secured together with rope as were their legs, and strips of brown fabric pressed firmly down over their mouths.


“Are you girls all right?”


As they nodded, Mister Tall helped Denise to sit in an armchair, and then he knelt down, passing the rope round her ankles and securing them together.


“I understand the man of the house is currently on the local channel,” Mister Small said as he turned the television on, and managed to get up a picture of Douglas Oldman wearing a checked suit with wide lapels on the jacket, speaking to an audience.


“I guess we have to wait for him to come home now,” Denise said as the masked man secured her legs together below her knees as well, the rope rubbing on her legs.


“Indeed – but consider how much sweeter the reunion will be, and the celebrations when you are freed from the effects of our sin as well.  After all, it is Christmas – the time of hope.”


Denise looked at Mister Tall, before she said “you are certainly a gentleman – despite this.”


“I accept the compliment – now, purse your lips.”


Denise could feel the fabric tugging on the skin round her mouth as Mister Tall smoothed it down over her mouth, preventing her from speaking as Mister Small collected the detritus and put it into the bag.


“We must leave you now,” Mister Tall said, “May you have a very Happy and Loving Christmas – after your husband and father gets home.”


All four watched the two masked men as they left the room, and the organ started to play on the television…







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