Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Fairy

Angie hated present shopping. It was a nightmare when you had hardly any money and anything you could afford was totally naff. She decided to have a quick look round the shopping centre, because you never know, but then it was off to the Pound Shop to get something plastic and useless for everyone.

A large heavily decorated Christmas tree took up most of the space in the shopping centre. As she looked up from the ground floor, the angel on the top was just a circle of silver with pink dangling legs. It was probably a Barbie doll or maybe one of her lesser friends. Angie shrugged. Christmas was meant to be so magical but all it meant for her was a crappy toy to open and family rows all day that were even worse than usual.

She wondered if her Dad would come over, but after what happened last year she doubted it.

She took the moving staircase to the next floor. As she drew level with the Christmas tree fairy she could see its magic wand complete with silver star. The wings were softest white swans-down and moved gently in the air. They fluttered as the fairy turned her head with its silver crown, winked, and turned away again. Angie turned to look back at the fairy but by then she was at the top of the escalator and had to jump off quickly.

The top of the tree was out of sight at this level and the down-escalator was the other side of the store. She ran through the crowds of shoppers, drawing angry looks and a "Do you mind?" as she pushed past. Down the escalator, across the store through another mob of people, then back to the tree again. She looked up through its tinsel branches. There was no silver circle, no dangling legs. The fairy had gone. Disbelieving, she rode the up-escalator again but sure enough, the treetop was bare.

Angie shrugged. She must have imagined it. She had wasted all that time and she still had all her presents to buy. They would be a load of tat but she had to get something. She gave a deep sigh. Why was Christmas so miserable?

***

When she got home, Mum was in the living room with her feet propped up on the settee and a fag in her hand. "I've just sat down," she said. "It's egg and chips tonight; the chips are keeping hot in the oven. If you're doing yourself an egg you can do one for me too."

Angie went through into the tiny space that was her bedroom. The high window let in a little light, and there was just room for her bunk bed and her one book- and toy-shelf. Her clothes lived in her Mum's bedroom which wasn't much bigger but took a double bed. It used to belong to Mum and Dad but now he'd moved out. At least that meant that the rows had mostly stopped, except when Nan came over or Mum had a boyfriend staying. The current one, Steve, wasn't too bad. He didn't talk much to Angie except to say, "How was school then?" but he didn't hit her Mum or make her cry, and he didn't make her feel creepy like some of Mum's boyfriends had.

Angie wrapped the presents she had bought: some hair stuff for her Mum, a keyring for Steve, perfume for Nan and a bracelet for Auntie Jean. She liked the bracelet best. It was so sparkly it was a shame to have to give it away.

She thought again about the fairy. If only it had been real. "I could really do with three wishes," she said to herself.

"And you shall have them." The voice sounded faint and high, like bells or birdsong. Angie looked up at the shelf above her and there, perched on top of a Harry Potter book, was the fairy from the shopping centre. She smiled and waved her magic wand sending out silver sparkles that glittered and fell through the air. Then she spoke.

"You can close your mouth.”

Angie felt a small shiver go down her back. “How did you get here?” she asked.

“I flew,” the fairy said. “Now come on, I haven't got all day. What do you want? Oh, and you can't wish for more wishes or any of that crap.”

Angie had not known that fairies said "crap". "Can I wish that there won't be any rows on Christmas Day?" she asked.

"Well, you can." The fairy shook her wand again sending out red sparkles this time. "I wouldn't advise it though."

"Why not?"

"Wishes have side effects. The smaller the wish, the smaller the side effects. Now for a big wish like that, I might have to make you or your Mum seriously ill, whereas if you just wished for fewer rows, I could get your Mum too drunk to start anything, although it wouldn't stop your Nan arguing with your Auntie Jean."

I might have guessed, Angie thought. Fairies turn out to be real and they're no better than the rest of my crappy life.

"What can I wish for then?"

The fairy flew down and settled on the bottom bunk next to Angie. She fluffed out her skirts and looked up with a confidential air on her face. "I can do favourite foods, better presents, and slightly better moods especially if alcohol is involved."

"That's a bit limited."

"Take it or leave it. Or wish for something bigger but you might not like what you get."

Angie sighed. She was used to having to settle for things. "Can we have trifle, and no Brussels sprouts, and a nice present." It would be better than nothing.

"Done!" the fairy said with a smile. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you." She waved the wand sending rainbow sparkles throughout the room. "I'll even throw in a little bit of happiness as a free gift."

"Free gift? But I'm not paying you!" Angie said.

The fairy looked embarrassed. "Ah. About that. All those times you put a tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy and you didn't get anything back, that was me. Times were hard and I knew you'd blame it on your mother. Now there's been a complaint and the Fairy Counc- Let's just say, I decided to make it up to you. You'll get your wishes. Have a nice day!"

She flew up and out the window, which Angie was sure she'd left closed. All the magic seemed to leave with her and Angie was left with nothing but a heap of badly-wrapped presents and the sound of her mother calling out, "Are you going to do those eggs or not?"

***

Christmas Day dawned bright and cold. Angie was awake and into her Mum's room before she remembered that she was supposed to knock and wait. Mum and Steve were both asleep; he was snoring gently.

"Mum, is it time to get up now?" Angie shook her Mum's shoulder gently.

Her mother stirred and grumbled. "Go back to bed. It's too early."

"I'll make you a cuppa tea, Mum," Angie said hopefully. To her surprise, her mother said, "Oh, all right then. But don't wake Steve. He came in late."

Angie's feet were cold on the kitchen floor and she shivered. She put tea bags into two mugs and added the hot water, leaving the tea to stand just like her Mum liked. Then she carried the tea carefully into her Mum's room.

Her Mum sat up, took the tea, and smiled. "You're a good girl, Angie," she said. "I know it's been hard for you lately but Steve had a bit of a win last week so I think you'll like what you've got from us. Auntie Jean's bringing trifle, too. I know that's your favourite. I think we're going to have a good Christmas this year.”

“What about the sprouts?”

Her Mum laughed. “You and your sprouts! Iceland were out of them so you're let off this time.”

Angie heard a sound she recognised. "Did you hear that, Mum? It sounded like little bells." Or fairy laughter.

"Oh, you! You're always imagining things. I'd have thought you'd be big enough now to know better. Still, it is Christmas. Snuggle under the duvet with me and when we've had our tea, we'll get up and start making the dinner. We've got some cabbage we can have instead of the sprouts."

Angie pulled a face. Still, two out of three wishes wasn't bad. Maybe there would be a bit of magic around this Christmas after all.

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