Sharon Stephenson travels back to the past, to a Christmas meal rich in poignancy.
He was, in no particular order, tall, good-looking and rich, a city trader who did things with bonds I couldn't even begin to understand.
However, having arrived in London six months earlier, high rents and a meagre sub-editor's salary meant I could afford a bottle of wine or the Tube fare home - but not both.
It wasn't hard to get swept up in his world, one he always paid for: expensive restaurants, weekends away, posh delis where he never looked at the price. I imagined life as a kept woman – I wasn't exactly sure what it involved but I liked the sound of not having to work, of swanning around Europe indulging in the kind of glossy existence my working-class Lower Hutt self could never have imagined.
I cringe now but back then, I'm pretty sure if my gold digger-ish behaviour had raised any complex ethical questions, I would have quickly silenced them. Don't judge me. He was my ticket out of poverty and I was going to ride that train to the last stop.
Predictably, the last stop wasn't far away. He'd booked us tickets to visit his parents in Spain for Christmas, four glorious days in sunny Marbella, staying with my potential in-laws. I was buying sundresses in TopShop when he broke up with me: it was moving too fast, he didn't want to be tied down, yada yada.
I cried fat, salty tears on the Tube home, too numb to even find the start line for the five stages of grief. My flatmates – two blokes and a woman I knew vaguely from home – were kinder to me than they should have been.
"Why don't you join us for Christmas?" they suggested. For weeks, they'd been planning an orphan's Christmas with another flat of New Zealanders in the far reaches of the Northern Line. One of the women, back then a temp but now a chef, had thoughtfully tucked the Australian Woman's Weekly's Christmas Cookbook into her backpack before leaving New Zealand. She was responsible for portioning out contributions and photocopying recipes for the 20 attendees.
Our flat was in charge of desserts – pavlova, trifle and rum balls, made with cheap no-label alcohol bought on one of our regular booze runs to the Calais hypermarket. I offered to make fruit mince pies and the organiser agreed, too flustered about trying to find space for another body on her living room floor to care.
Because the Tube doesn't run on Christmas Day, on a freezing Christmas Eve we caught a cab to their house, laden down with food and so much wine we could have opened our own off-licence. We arranged ourselves and our sleeping bags wherever we could find room.
Dinner that night was at their local pub and on our walk home, we called into Midnight Mass. We were tipsy, pulling from our memories to find the words for Christmas carols that had been walled off by European travels, drunken nights and the hustle to keep solvent in one of the world's most expensive cities.
In the church foyer, as I stuffed my face into the enormous Christmas tree and deeply inhaled the scent of pine, I realised I hadn't cried in six, maybe seven, hours.
On Christmas morning there was Secret Santa, a full English breakfast, bubbles and eggnog. And George Michael. So much George Michael I thought I'd have to take out a restraining order.
We wore stupid festive sweaters and paper hats and drank as though we were in training for the alcoholics Olympics. We giggled as we peeled potatoes and argued about the best way to score brussels sprouts; we smelled the delicious aroma of turkey cooking and sliced fat hunks of ham off the bone when we thought no one was looking (I had yet to discover the joys of vegetarianism).
Later, after watching the Queen's Message, we sank forks into plates thick with roasted meat and veges and twirled spoons around creamy, calorific puddings.
Much later, when it got dark, we wrapped up and piled into the tiny garden to let off fireworks, colourful eruptions that blazed across the sky and caused the neighbour to bang on his window.
I cried again but this time because it was beautiful and I was drunk - but also because it had been such a lovely day.
The boyfriend was no more, my chance at a cushy life had disappeared and it would be some time before the angry, snot-filled tears could be put back in their box. But like so many things in life, it turned out for the best. I'd had a happy day with people who actually cared about me. And isn't that what Christmas is all about?