Always In My Head: A London Calling Series
Always In My Head: All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)
“What exactly are we shopping for?” Gemma asked. She’d just climbed in to the passenger seat of my car.
“Well we still need to get the last of Mum’s gift and I ordered something for Robin but I wanted to find a present for Annie.”
“The bookshop girl?” she asked. I nodded. “Why?”
“It’s her first Christmas away from home. She doesn’t get to fly back to the states. I thought I should find something to make her first Christmas in London special.”
“Are you thinking it’s going to give you the edge you need to get her to agree to a date?” My sister loved tormenting me about the fact that the woman I liked and wanted to spend my time with gave me a million excuses as to why she couldn’t go out for drinks.
“No, and I haven’t asked her on a date per say. I’ve asked her to get drinks with me. I think she and I could be great friends. Well we are great friends but I think we would have a lot of fun together if we were to hang out and not in the bookshop. But I also thought it would be nice to get her something to help her through her first Christmas away from home.”
“What were you thinking?”
“A quilt?” Gemma looked confused.
“Yes, she told me the other day that she missed being home because her Mum has this collection of quilts that she’d be curled up under. She said that the blankets she brought with just aren’t the same. So I wanted to make her feel like she was at home.”
“That’s very thoughtful. Well let’s find her the perfect quilt then. When are you planning on giving it to her?”
“Tomorrow morning. I know that she has to work. I stopped in before I came to get you. Her boss decided to close the shop down for the week of Christmas. And since we leave tomorrow afternoon I want to be able to give it to her before that.”
“So is she really staying in London by herself?” Gemma asked.
“Yeah, I must admit I nearly invited her to come home with us. Mum wouldn’t want to know someone was spending Christmas alone but I didn’t know how she’d feel about it. Plus that would leave her flatmate alone too.”
Gemma put up with me as I drug her in and out of boutiques, department stores and even a thrift store or two. We finally came upon a little shop with homemade aprons, baby clothing and quilts. I must’ve stood staring at the quilts for 25 minutes before Gemma and the saleswoman started to try and help me pick out which one was going to be perfect.
I swear I’d seen 20 in this store alone before my eyes landed on it. The quilt was a mix of flower print and plaid. All in pale pinks, greens, blues and yellows. It was soft and cool to the touch at first, but seemed as if it would keep you warm when snuggled in to it. It was in an instant that I knew it was the one I needed to get for Annie.
“This is the one,” I said.
“That’s a lovely choice, sir. Your misses will like it very much,” Rebecca said. She was the employee helping me. She looked about in her fifties with dark hair that had silver streaks through it that were more noticeable in the braid she’d pulled it in to. Her face was soft and happy. She looked like she genuinely wanted to help me pick out the perfect gift today.
“She’s not my misses. Though I’d like for her to be some day,” I said before realizing that my sister had a stunned look on her face. She’d known that I had a crush on Annie. But this felt like so much more. This morning when I’d stopped in she looked like she felt miserable. She said that she woke up feeling off and thought it would turn in to a migraine before too long. I felt terrible about that. I knew that they were very bad when she got them. I’d stopped in one day to see her when Lyla told me that she had to go home early. That Lizzy had driven her home after making her lay in the back office. She was dizzy and couldn’t think straight. I’d called her that evening and her medication made her sound intoxicated. But she had said she was starting to feel better. I was worried that she’d end up with a migraine right before Christmas and not get to enjoy it. She told me that sometimes they would last for days on end without any relief.
“Well whoever she is, she is going to love this. I must admit this one has been my favorite since it was finished. I would love it if a cute young man like yourself bought me something like this.”
“Well I hope she likes it. It reminds me a bit of one of her mother’s that she was telling me about.”
“She’ll love it, Harry,” Gemma said.
“Did you want it gift wrapped?” Rebecca asked.
“No thank you. Do you have a nice bag large enough for it though? She loves to find little shops around London to shop at. If it has your name on it I’m sure it would be better than wrapping.”
“We do have a nice bag for it. I will slip some of the tissue paper and ribbon we use in the bag to help you out when it comes to wrapping this.” I paid for the quilt and Gemma and I finished our shopping. I dropped her off at hers before going home. I took the quilt out of the bag to look at it and study it a bit. I laid down on the sofa, turning the TV on and finding a Christmas movie. Before I knew it I’d fallen asleep. I woke up about an hour later to my phone vibrating on the table.
Message with Annie
How did your shopping go today?
Very well. I picked up the present I’d ordered for my stepdad and we got Mum some perfume and a really lovely scarf to go with the rest of the gifts Gemma and I have picked out. Are you feeling better?
A little bit. I haven’t had a chance to stop moving so I think my body just forgot it hurts. We were busy today with last minute shoppers and I’m at the pub right now. I snuck in the back for a few minutes to grab dinner. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.
That’s not good you need to take care of yourself. What will help your head?
Prescription meds. Sleep. A dark bedroom. Water. Mint tea. Maybe some food. I get to the point where I’m not hungry. Dad used to yell at me. Nausea would get so bad that I’d refuse to eat, which isn’t good on the prescription meds.
Well you need to take care of yourself. What do you work tomorrow?
Open to 4:00. Lizzy is closing early tomorrow and then I have a week off. Well except that the pub will be open so I’ve picked up some extra shifts there since so many people are going to be visiting family.
Well make sure you take care of yourself. If you need anything let me know.
I will. Do I get to see you tomorrow before you leave town?
That’s my plan. We are leaving in the afternoon when Gemma is done with work. I’ll stop in before I go pick her up. Get some rest tonight Sugar.
I’ll try my best Dimples.
I pulled the blanket up around me tighter as I turned my attention back to the Christmas movie. I hadn’t realized I’d fallen asleep with her quilt. It was really soft. I was positive she’d love it. I made myself some dinner quickly and wrapped all of the presents I’d be taking home this weekend. I finished the laundry I’d been working on over the last few days that I’d been home and packed so that I’d be ready to leave when I needed to pick Gemma up from work. I ended up back on the sofa with another Christmas film playing on television and curled up back under the quilt.
Several friends had messaged me to see if I wanted to go out but all I wanted to do was stay home. I started to think about Annie and how she had been feeling when we spoke earlier. What could I do to help her feel better? I wanted her to be able to enjoy the week she had off and her first Christmas in London instead of being at home sick. I grabbed my iPad off of the coffee table and opened up a search window and typed in ‘how to get rid of a migraine’. I clicked the first article that came up suggesting home remedies and started to make a list in the notes app of my phone.
-Calming Bath Stuff
Wait….did that article just say sex?! Evidently the endorphin release can help ease the pain. Well that’s interesting and not something I’m sure I want to tell her I found. That would be a bit awkward. ‘Hey Sugar, so I was trying to figure out how to make your migraine go away and one of the google searches said sex. How about we lock the door and go at it on the counter. Sound good?’ Umm no, I’m pretty sure she’d never speak to me again. I glanced at the clock, it was only 8:00. I’d still have time to run around and get most of the things on my list before the shops closed. I pulled on my coat and headed back out. I’d need to stop in the morning at the spa down the street from the bookshop to get her a gift certificate for a massage. I’d offer my own skills there but as with the sex I’m pretty sure that she’d never speak to me again.
I was going through a store with a cart full of things for her that I’d had on my list. I kept finding other things that I thought she might like. I found a nice basket with a handle to put it all in. She mentioned that she had barely eaten all day. I knew nausea was often a problem with migraines and the only kind of nausea I’d ever dealt with was when I was sick with the flu. And all I could typically eat then was chicken noodle soup. Even though we’d never had a proper meal together I’d eaten take away in the shop with Annie enough to know that she was incredibly particular about her food. She described herself as the pickiest person I’d ever meet, which I knew wasn’t true, but she definitely ranked top ten. She had eaten soup around me once; it was just noodles and chicken broth, no chicken. She said that the actual meat in the soup was something she’d choose to pass on if given the opportunity. I threw some egg noodles and chicken broth in the cart. I’d make her some soup to eat, that couldn’t be hard.
Once home I started to work on preparing the basket. I’d found pretty tissue paper to cushion the bottom and started layering things in. A variety of lavender candles, I’d read that it was calming which must explain why it was a favorite of hers. She tended to let one burn in the shop if she was alone. I wanted her to feel special, pampered, even if it was just to try and help ease the pain she’d end up in after working a long day todayy. Once I had it completed the way I wanted I started making the soup. I brought my laptop in to the kitchen and decided relaxing music would be the perfect addition. I burned a few CDs I liked to listen to when I needed to relax and a mix of songs I thought she’d like as well.
“Not bad,” I said to myself taking a bite of the soup I’d made her. I let it cool before putting it in a fancy glass jar I’d found and tying a ribbon around it. The basket was sitting on the island of my kitchen in all of its glory. I was rather impressed with myself. I’d also decided to buy her a journal today while I was shopping. Gemma thought I was just stocking up on the journals I used. But I’d purchased a grey one for Annie. Somewhere to write her thoughts down if she wanted to keep them to herself. I found my journal to be solace in the midst of the crazier times of my life. Whether I was writing lyrics, thoughts, doodling or putting a memory in that I didn’t want to forget it was where I turned when I needed quiet.
Once the basket was perfect I put a bow on the top of it and decided to go to bed. Being selfish I brought her quilt upstairs with me. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to fall asleep with it earlier. I was going to have a hard time giving it to her tomorrow because I was falling in love with it myself. I slept on top of the covers that night so I could burrow in to the quilt. It was going to be perfect for her, I had a feeling about it.
I eagerly woke up when my alarm went off. I’d be able to go home and visit Mum today. And I was going to give Annie her gifts today. I got ready and made sure that I had everything packed before I carried it down loading it in the car. I safely secured the gift basket in to the passenger seat and took off towards the spa first picking up a gift certificate and then headed to the bookshop. I looked like Santa Claus with the bag that carried her quilt and the basket full of goodies. I’d made sure to pick up gifts for Lizzy and Lyla as well, knowing they’d be in the shop. I got each of them some candles and bath bombs.
“Merry Christmas,” I said as I struggled through the door.
“Harry, what on earth?” Annie exclaimed laughing.
“I come baring gifts.” I put the basket down on the counter and then the two bags full of things for Lizzy and Lyla.
“You shouldn’t have done any of this,” she said with wide eyes looking at the basket in front of her.
“I knew you’d say that but I wanted to.” Lizzy and Lyla both appeared at the counter. “Merry Christmas ladies. For you.”
“Thanks Harry,” Lyla said hugging me after she opened the bag to find her relaxation items. Lizzy did the same but whispered in my ear.
“Someone’s gift seems to be a bit larger. Playing favorites much?”
“Maybe. I just wanted to take care of her. She said she felt a migraine coming.”
“You’re too sweet.” She leaned back and smiled. “Alright Annie, open up your gift. I want to know what he got you.” She started sifting through the basket.
“Harry this is way too much. A massage, all of this bath stuff, candles. Is this chicken noodle soup?” she asked.
“Just noodles. I know you don’t like chicken in your soup. So I made you some noodles and chicken broth. You said you get nauseous with your migraines and try to avoid eating. That will not only give you food that’s easy on your stomach but the chicken broth could maybe help hydrate you. I don’t know.” I laughed uncomfortably.
“My favorite tea,” she said finding the box of Tazo tea I’d picked up for her. She’d tried to convince herself to like fancy loose leaf teas and just fell for the tea she could get at Starbucks, only she liked the mint kind.
“I read that it was good for migraines too. Same with the lavender candles. And the bath bomb and bubbles I got were all lavender scent. I know it’s a favorite of yours and the article said it was good for you.”
“What else did the article say?” Lizzy asked.
“That massage helped so I got you a gift certificate to the spa down the street. It also said sex but I didn’t think you’d appreciate me buying you an escort.” Annie turned red while Lizzy and Lyla laughed loudly.
“No, I don’t think I would,” she said. “Thank you so much for all of this. You shouldn’t have done this, really.”
“I wanted to. I have one more thing for you. This is your real Christmas present. I just got you the basket to try and help prevent migraines from ruining your holiday.” I handed her the bag and shifted back and forth on my feet, anxious to know if I’d been right and she liked the quilt. She pulled it from the bag and I saw her eyes begin to water. She pulled it in to her chest hugging it tightly.
“This is the best gift. Thank you so much Harry,” she said pulling me in to a tight hug and refusing to let go. Totally worth all of the trips around London I made yesterday just for that hug. She was short enough that her head rested on my chest and I could rest my chin on the top of her head. I didn’t ever want the hug to end. “I can’t believe you remembered that I missed my Mom’s quilts.”
“Well now you don’t have to. You have your own quilt. Maybe you can start a collection like she has.”
“You’re so sweet. My gift seems so small and insignificant in comparison now.”
“You got me a gift?” I asked.
“Of course. Why else do you think I asked if I’d get to see you today?”
“Because you’ll miss me while I’m home for Christmas?”
“Nope, because I’m totally awesome and got you a present, though one that is significantly less thoughtful than yours.” She handed me a bag and I opened it to find a Green Bay packers sweater and beanie. “Just so you know I’m pretty sure the NFL’s online store thinks I’ve switched teams. I’ve gotten Packers emails for a few weeks now. I just know that you said you wanted a new hoodie and that it was tough finding Packers stuff here. So I had it shipped over for ya.”
“That’s very sweet. Thank you.” I took off my jacket and pulled the sweater on over my head and put the beanie over my curls. “How do I look?”
“Adorable,” she said smiling at me. “I’m glad I got the right size.”
“Well I better get going I have to pick up Gemma and head home. Have a good Christmas if I don’t talk to you.”
“You too. Have fun at home with your Mum.” She hugged me tightly again and I left to go pick up my sister. The drive home was long but we made the most of it by listening to music and talking about life. It was moments like this where my sister and I were like we always had been before One Direction started. Nothing crazy, just a brother and sister spending time together and talking. We made it home in good time and were able to have dinner with Mum and Robin. I was crawling in bed that night when I realized I hadn’t checked my phone since I’d left London.
Message with Annie
With so much to carry home and the little bit of snow we got your quilt came in handy. Kept me warm on the walk to the tube. Though I swear to you I got the craziest looks from the other riders. I was the freak with the giant gift basket wrapped up in a quilt.
I bet you looked cute.
Judge for yourself. Lizzy took this as I was leaving.
You do look cute. I’m gonna have to save that.
So you made it home okay?
I did. How was the rest of your day?
Good. Got the weekend off at the pub to try and kick the migraine. Took a nice hot long bath when I got home before crawling in bed with an ice pack and a cup of mint tea. I have a massage scheduled for Monday. Thank you for that by the way. I think I need it badly.
I would’ve offered to give it myself but seeing as how you won’t get drinks with me I was positive that giving you a massage was out of the question. If it’s not then I will make you a coupon for a massage a day for a year and have it at your doorstep Christmas morning.
You’re never gonna leave me alone about that are you?
I will once you say yes to the invitation.
Maybe someday. I just don’t know right now. We are good friends and I get the feeling that you don’t completely want the drinks to be just as friends.
You could potentially be right with that assumption.
Well until I’m comfortable with drinks being with more than a friend you’re gonna have to deal with me saying no. Maybe I’ll be ready for that at some point, but not tonight.
You’re in Holmes Chapel. Bit far of a trip for drinks Dimples.
If it meant time with you Sugar it wouldn’t be far enough to keep me away.
Have you been drinking?
I may have had some wine with dinner. ;)
Oh lord. No wonder you’re being so cheeky.
I don’t need the wine to do that but it does help me forget that you might run screaming when I act like that.
I couldn’t run from you. Your legs are longer.
Are you feeling better?
Yes, thank you. I plan on staying snuggled up in this amazing quilt all weekend and doing absolutely nothing but be lazy and watch Love Actually on repeat. I think it’s what I need. I’ve been working almost every day since I got back from my visit to the states in November.
Well get some sleep then.
Thank you again Harry. It was such an amazing gift.
So was yours. Sent Dad a picture. He’s jealous.
I’m glad you like them. And now you need to figure out how to make the Packers emails stop from coming to me.
You like it.
NotesOkay this was originally posted at Christmas so this author's note is really funny for me to copy and paste in August. :)
Merry Christmas!!! I have to say that the inspiration for Always In My Head as a series came from the desire to have something Christmas related to post today as London Calling isn't set during a time where I can do something Christmas. SOOOO the story of the quilt got to be told. I love how much thought Harry put in to the gift for Annie and that he wanted to try and take care of her when she was sick. I bet she felt loved and pampered and that he definitely started to weaken her wall. We will get to find out more about her apprehensions to a relationship and their story through more parts of Always In My Head. Obviously they will not be posted in chronological order but I will put the date in the summary so that you can read them in that order if you so choose.
I hope you have a WONDERFUL Christmas if you celebrate it. If not I hope you have a fabulous day doing what you do. I'm looking forward to time with family, delicious food and a lot of laughter. What is your favorite Christmas tradition in your family? Do you have a favorite holiday food? And what is the best thing you got AND gave for Christmas? Giving gifts is my favorite part!
As always please let me know what you think about Always In My Head as I want to know that you as a reader are enjoying it and want me to continue giving glimpses in to the past of Annie and Harry. Until then....I'm off to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing through my head.