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.