The Seventh Christmas (excerpt)

My daughter’s Christmas card has pride of place in the centre of the mantelpiece, surrounded by a sumptuous fir and pine cone garland. I pick it up for the umpteenth time today and study the picture for a hidden message. Something only I might see. It’s a photograph of a robin standing on the handle of a snow-topped shovel. She knows I’m fond of robins; is it a sign that she’s softening towards me? My heart flutters and I take a deep breath. I open the card and run my fingers lightly over the signature. I close my eyes, the better to concentrate on the sensation, half-believing that the ink will rise beneath my touch, and I will conjure a living image of my beautiful girl.

Lucy. That’s all it says. Not Love Lucy or Best Wishes from Lucy. Nothing that gives me any reason to suppose that she thought about me any more than she did about the dozens of other recipients of her hastily scrawled name. She isn’t cruel. She wouldn’t give me false hope. In spite of everything I still believe that.

I’ve sent her a card too, care of her brother Nat. I picked it out for its lack of sentimentality, so I wouldn’t cause her any more pain or embarrassment. It was a charity card, made from recycled paper, with a modern painting that could have been anything from a still life to a winter landscape and a simple Season’s Greetings inside. I wonder briefly where she has put it. Whether it has pride of place in her home, wherever that might be. I’ve stopped asking. It puts Nat and their father, Joe, in an impossible position.

This is the seventh Christmas without her, but the first since I’ve lived alone. I wonder what she thinks of that, or if anyone has even told her. I’ve opened her Facebook page a hundred times, my hands hovering over the keys, wondering if I have the courage to tell her and to ask her to come home. What am I thinking? She’s nearly 30. A grown woman with a home of her own.

***

Perhaps it could have been avoided, perhaps not. It’s all academic now. Given those circumstances, other women may have reacted differently but I did what seemed best at the time, at least to me.

I did nothing. Nothing at all.

(end of excerpt)

***

The Seventh Christmas is published by Alfie Dog on as a downloadable story in various formats. It is also included in a Christmas-themed anthology, available in paperback and ebook format from November 2013.

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