Watching Tabitha as she opened an array of presents, which until recently had been piled haphazardly underneath the Christmas tree, brought a glow to Laura’s heart. Their favourite gifts were the ones placed in a red stocking, with their names on the front.
Tabitha grinned and placed it next to a set of colouring pens. ‘Mummy, I’ve always wanted a colouring book.’
Laura unwrapped a present which was tied with a bow. The paper all different colours and styles. It was only a small bottle of bath bubbles, but she hugged her daughter like it was a gold ring. ‘My favourite darling how did you know?’
‘Daddy talked to Santa on the telephone, and he said it was okay to help him buy some presents. He’s so busy at Christmas, I didn’t mind helping.’
‘That’s because you’re a good girl,’ Laura said, kissing her daughter on the forehead.
Tabitha giggled as she opened the rest of her presents – a bobble hat, with pink stripes, a pair of warm gloves, a little snow globe and a reading book about Goldilocks and the three bears.
‘Mummy, what else did Father Christmas buy you?’
To join in the excitement was easy. She tore open the soft parcel to reveal a pair of red and white, stripy socks. She put them on and wriggled her feet, which sent Tabitha into another fit of giggles.
A little prayer recited in her head Laura felt the warmth of her mum’s St Christopher. Wrapping paper covered the carpet. Martin snuggled in close and leant against the sofa, the crumbs of his mince pie falling to the floor like confetti.
Laura nodded – Christmas morning was always a little weird, but this year for some reason, she couldn’t shake off her doubts. Here she was surrounded by love; by the true meaning of Christmas and her Mum had begun the day as she always had.
‘Mummy, I just love my dolly. Santa is so good.’
She took Buddy and sat them together. Plastic cups set in front of them, she tilted the teapot.
‘What about me?’ Laura joked.
Tabitha poured an imaginary drink and put a generous amount of sugar inside. ‘There you go Mummy, but be careful, it’s hot.’
Tipped, the cup was held to her mouth. ‘Thank you that was a lovely cup of tea.’
‘But it’s hot chocolate mummy – we always have hot chocolate at Christmas.’
‘I’m sorry, Mummy meant to say hot chocolate.’
‘Will Nanny be coming for dinner?’ Tabitha suddenly asked.
‘Not today, but Nanny Bingo will see you soon,’ Laura said.
‘Okay, can we save her some mince pies?’
‘I’m sure Nanny will love that.’ Laura’s eyes lost some of their shine and she briefly looked away. ‘We’ll put them in a special box.’
‘With a pink ribbon,’ Tabitha said.
Martin squeezed her hand.
‘I think Mummy is going to have a bath now.’
Martin helped Laura up and she wandered into the hallway. She wanted to keep the day light and full of excitement. But as much as she tried to forget the past, it always pushed through into the future.