By Alison Hilbourne

Mum didn’t like Paul.

“Oh, I thought we would spend Christmas day together,” she said, a catch in her voice, when I said I would be at his house.

I hated the ball of guilt that settled in my stomach.

“He’s got a tree to decorate and turkey and everything. You can come over,” I offered.

She shook her head. “Three’s a crowd.” She smiled. “Do you want these decorations for Paul’s tree?” She handed me a dusty box.

“These aren’t the ones we normally use.”

“No, I haven’t used them since the Christmas your Dad left. Take them, eh?”

Paul and I opened the box. We laughed at the sad baubles.

“Oh, look. An angel!” he said. “We can use her.”

I frowned. Her dress was short, her lips pouty and her silver feathery wings looked sham.

“She’s… tarty,” I said.

“Yeah, cute, eh?” Paul gave me a nudge. “Slutty angel.” He laughed. He stood on a chair to balance the angel on top of the tree. “There.”

During the evening Paul’s eyes strayed from the tv back to the tree.

I stared. The angel’s robe had ridden up her leg, revealing a shapely thigh. Her lips appeared redder and formed a definite rosebud.

I gave a shiver of unease and couldn’t concentrate on the film.

I glanced back to the angel and saw her run her tongue over her lips. Was she flirting with Paul?

“Did—?” I asked pointing.

The stupidity of my question struck me. Goodness, I must be tired.

“I’m going to bed,” I said.

“Yeah, I’ll be up when the film finishes.”

In the morning there was no sign of Paul. A scattering of silver feathers remained where he’d been on the sofa.

Mum didn’t seem surprised when I came home for Christmas Day.