The Christmas Fairy
|Posted by admin under Short Stories|
The Christmas Fairy
Julie Mayburn was so excited she almost danced her way home from work. Today she had received some very welcome news and, because Christmas was only a week away, she was particularly aware of all she had to be thankful for.
It was a cold day and patches of snow had fallen, muting the light. Julie loved this time of year – the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. Today she was bunched up in a pair of warm trousers and woolly polo sweater beneath her favourite red woollen overcoat, her feet shoved into the soft leather ankle boots Michael had bought her last Christmas.
Julie touched the parcel under her arm, ensuring it was tucked there, securely. A new sweater she had purchased for Michael’s Christmas gift. She knew he would like it – it was a soft cashmere in his favourite colour, green, perfect to wear on Christmas day.
As she walked she thought about the news that had been confirmed earlier in the day. Michael would be delighted. It was something they had both been hoping for and for it to happen at such a time of year made it even more special. She smiled happily as she mentally checked off the days until she could share it with Michael. His recent promotion as Area Sales Manager for the London company he worked for took him away quite a bit. Sometimes he went to London for a briefing or a manager’s meeting but mostly it was overnight stays around the county, keeping his staff abridge of what was happening and introducing them to new products and methods and holding his own sales meetings. He was quite busy these days but they always made lots of time for each other when he was home. Right now he was in London for what he called the final rev-up of the year.
Julie always thought how lucky she was to have such a handsome, popular husband as Michael. When they started dating three years ago she had just finished with her boyfriend of two years and was dealing with the emotional backlash of the sudden rift. The last thing she had wanted was another relationship straight off. But Michael was persistent and every time he was in the office he’d stop by her desk for a chat.
Each time he’d say, “And what about tonight then? Fancy a bite to eat, or a film?”
And each time she’d say, “No thank you but thanks for asking.”
They got on like that for about two months and then, one day, he refused to take No for an answer.
She remembered his words to the letter as, with a boyish grin, he said, “I know you’re not going out because I talked to your flat-mate so I think it’s time you gave this poor salesman a break.”
She’d been stuck for words and had struggled with the dilemma of whether she should feel annoyed or happy. She would talk to her big-mouthed friend later. The thing was, she actually really liked Michael and it was a mystery to her why someone as good looking and going places as he, should continue asking someone for a date who kept saying `No,’ especially when there were so many pretty girls in the office who would love to be asked.
In the end, she’d agreed to meet him after work at the local Inn, which was just around the corner from the office. She didn’t want to walk there with him as someone was bound to notice and before long they would be gossiping and reading something into it that there wasn’t.
It was nearly Christmas, she remembered, in fact it was three years ago today that they’d had their first date. She was expecting him to call her tonight. He always remembered things like that and made a fuss of them.
Her cheeks, pink with cold, dimpled and her green eyes twinkled as she remembered that first Christmas together and the tree fairy Michael had bought her to replace the rather crumpled star that topped her tiny artificial Christmas tree.
From that very moment, even though they didn’t speak it at first, they had come to think of the fairy as a symbol of their emerging love. Several months into their relationship, when he came by for supper and Kirstie made herself discreetly scarce, he’d gone over to the tree and taken the fairy down and set her on the old coffee table in front of the sofa.
Then, before she realised what he was doing, he was down on one knee asking her to marry him. It was old fashioned but very romantic and the ring he had bought had her favourite stone, a sapphire, in the centre of a ring of tiny diamonds. To her mind it was the most beautiful ring ever. The general concensus around the office, when it became known that they were engaged, was that it was also very quick but they had known from that first date that it was a forever thing and now they were about to celebrate their third Christmas together. Them and the fairy and their pet Scottish Terriers they had bought for their first anniversary, Susan and Peter, too.
It was a pity he was in London. There was no question that he’d be as excited as she was with the news. It was something they both wanted but she didn’t think she’d tell him over the phone. Best to wait until he came home, that way she could see his face when she told him.
Deep in thought, she stepped from the kerb to make her way across to the bus stop. She was nearing the shelter when she spotted a car that looked like Michael’s company vehicle, a smart blue estate car that did him well, he said, on the long journeys. She stopped and looked at the licence plate – S4LES2. That was Michael’s plate, company vehicle number two after Brian, the National Sales Manager’s S4LES1. That was odd, she thought with a frown. She wasn’t expecting him until tomorrow. He said he’d be home late Friday and they would go Christmas shopping together the following day. He’d been very definite about that when they spoke last evening.
Thinking there must be a perfectly good explanation, she crossed to the vehicle. He’d probably swapped cars for some reason. Whoever had it must be about somewhere. She’d wait close by and say hello when they arrived.
The row of shops, near where the car was parked contained a jewllers’ shop so she wandered across to gaze in the window. A pretty ring with a pink stone that reminded her of a dew-kissed rose, because it twinkled so prettily under the light, drew her attention. Fingering her own ring, she stamped her feet on the ground in attempt to warm them and then she heard the.laughter from within the shop. Without thinking much about it she followed the direction of the sound with her eyes and for a moment was shocked into stillness. Standing at the counter beside a stunning, expensively dressed, blonde woman who was trying on a ring, was Michael.
Julie screwed up her eyes and peered harder, thinking she must be mistaken. But at that moment the woman held out her hand before her to study the ring on her finger. Turning sideways, she shook her head and said something. As he turned his head, gesturing to another ring display, she saw his face plainly. There was no mistake. It was Michael.
Her first thought was to rush in and make her presence known but, ridiculously, she didn’t want to make a scene. It would be too humiliating. Her chest heaved and she felt a rise of panic. She had to get away. She couldn’t look any longer, it was like having a knife thrust into her and twisted round and around. How could he? Hot tears coursed down her cheeks as she stumbled away, oblivious to the stares she was attracting.
She didn’t know how she got there but soon she was standing on the doorstep of their lovely little semi. She was still shaking as she struggled to fit the key in the lock. A glance at her watch told her it was three o’clock – almost three hours had passed since she stood at that jewellers’ window but the time was a blank. She wished the picture in her mind of Michael with another woman was also a blank but perhaps he would phone her from London and she’d realise it was all in her imagination.
From behind the door an excited barking had set up and, when she pushed it open she was instantly set upon by two small balls of black fur. For a moment her fears were forgotten as she fondled the lively pair while they pushed against each other in a bid for her attention.
As she moved through to the kitchen, both dogs followed closely at her heels.
“Careful, Peter, don’t scratch my nylons,” she said as the larger of the two dogs threw himself at her ankles.
Nothing felt real any more, she thought, as she went through the motions of preparing the dogs’ evening meal. Finally, she left them lapping and munching from their individually named bowls and walked into the pale green and white lounge she and Michael had painted together. Feeling suddenly very weak she flopped onto the old chesterfield sofa they had found a year or so ago, tucked away at the back of a second hand shop. She had covered it herself after a night classes course in upholstery with a black and white striped linen she’d bought cheap in a fabric sale. Much of their furniture had a little bit of personal history to it like that and they’d often find themselves reminiscing over one piece or another. It was part of what made their relationship special, or so she had thought.
But what was she going to do? She looked at her watch. He would phone soon, she supposed, or maybe not. If he was back in town wouldn’t he be coming home? She was confused. If only she had come straight home, she might never have known. Ignorance was bliss, didn’t they say? But what did she know? That he had a mistress? That their marriage was a sham? And, if he was having an affair, how long had it been going on? Was it a month, or two, or more?
Stumbling to the bathroom, she knelt on the floor and was violently sick. She didn’t pick herself right up but stayed there for a while, crouched on the cold vinyl. Finally, stiff and uncomfortable, she dragged herself up to stand at the vanity and peer into the mirror. She looked awful. Her mascara had run and she looked like she’d been pulled through a hedge backwards.
Taking a clean flannel from an overhead cupboard, she rinsed it in warm water and held it against her face. It felt good against her skin, soft and soothing. Minutes later, face washed, teeth scrubbed and gargled, she felt slightly calmer. Back in the kitchen she made a cup of coffee and took it to the lounge to await his call. What was she going to say to him, she wondered, setting the mug down on a coaster on the coffee table.
Feeling exhaustion wash over her, she leaned back and closed her eyes.
Suddenly she had a feeling that she was not alone and, in the same instant, a movement from the far corner of the room caught her eye.
With a start she turned, heart pounding in her chest. Beside the fir tree, a larger one now that they had more than a shoebox for a lounge, stood a beautiful girl. Dressed in white with a silver band around her forehead, she reminded Julie of the Christmas fairy. She glanced to the top of the tree. It was empty. She didn’t have time to consider the ramifications because, smiling sweetly, the girl started towards her and in a moment was facing her across the coffee table. In one hand was a long slender baton with a star that twinkled and, in the other, a small white box.
“Who are you?” Julie asked in a croaking voice. “How did you get in?”
The girl didn’t speak but bent forward to set the box down on the table.
“Where did you come from?” Julie tried again. “Are you a carol singer?”
At this her visitor simply pointed down at the box.
Tentatively, Julie reached over and lifted the lid. Inside was a tiny paper scroll. She felt rather than saw the girl’s smile of encouragement and reached in and took it out.
The next thing she knew, she was being shaken gently.
“You were sound asleep,” said Michael’s deep voice as she pushed herself up from where she was curled up on the sofa. “Didn’t you hear Susan and Peter’s yapping?”
Sitting down beside her he put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close.
“I couldn’t stay away any longer,” he said. “We were done with meetings and all that
was left was a bit of partying so I decided I’d give it a miss and come back early.”
She nuzzled her head against his shoulder and felt something crunch in her fist. Lifting her hand, she opened her fist and saw she had been clutching a piece of paper. With a flash of memory she leaned forward, looking for the little white box, which along with her strange visitor seemed to have vanished.
“What is it?” he asked, planting a kiss on the top of her head.
“No…nothing, I think I must have been dreaming,” she said, trying to remember what exactly she had dreamed.
As he left the room to bring her the glass of water she requested, she took the paper and flattened it out. On it was drawn a pink heart and inside it was written, in dainty script, the single word, `Trust.’
She was puzzling it when Michael returned and pressed a glass into her hands. As she sipped thoughtfully at the cool mineral water, he crossed the room and returned with the Christmas angel, which had reappeared at the top of the tree. She watched as he set her carefully on the table and, taking something from his pocket, sat down beside her. As he opened the tiny velvet box she instantly recognised the ring from the shop window; a beautiful pink stone in a setting of white gold and tiny diamonds.
“It’s an eternity ring,” he told her as he slipped it on her finger. “But I did have some help choosing it.”
As he turned her hand gently from side to side, allowing the light to reflect in the stone’s facets, she looked up sharply.
“The boss’s wife asked if she could ride back with me. Apparently they’re having Christmas with a spinster aunt of hers and she wanted to come back earlier to spend a bit more time with the old girl.”
“She helped you choose it?” she asked, feeling strangely light-headed.
In one hand the scrap of paper was still clenched tightly.
He nodded. “And it’s just as well because this ring is perfect on you. Diana tried on several but she said from what I’d told her about you, you’d probably like something with a romantic look to it. That’s when the assistant said she knew just the thing and brought this from the window display.”
Halfway through February, Susan gave birth to three tiny black balls of fur, while Peter stood anxiously by.
“How we didn’t realise sooner is beyond me,” said Michael as the newborns, licked to gleaming silkiness by their mother, latched on fast to their mother for their first meal.
Ten months later, rocking a sleeping twin in her arms, Julie snuggled happily against Michael’s warm body while he nursed the other twin over his shoulder.
Before them, Susan, Peter and their identical offspring lay in a contented heap before the fire, snoring softly.
And from her place on the freshly erected Christmas tree, the fairy twinkled, the star on her wand shining like the first star of Christmas.