Christmas Part Three: The End

We looked at her, horrified, and she looked at us like a snake would look at a mouse before eating it alive..
           She cast her gaze downward and we followed suit. All around were the presents that had been saved up for, carefully chosen and fastidiously hidden, just to make our Christmas Day special.
            “Take a good look,” she said quietly, “because you won’t be seeing them again.”
            We packed them away in silence, tears pricking my eyes each time I retrieved a toy I really wanted but knew I wouldn’t be getting. The ruptured plaster and torn paper was noted, our mother gently touching it in that scarily silent way parents do to indicate the size of trouble you were in. The silence sounded like Big Trouble.
            We made our way into the living room. The Christmas tree lay on its side, its fairy askew and showing off her knickers. The Very Old what I now know to be Victorian glass baubles that had been my great-grandmother’s lay in shattered shards across the carpet like a broken rainbow; the lights were dead and there was a faint whiff of something strange in the air. Mrs Tibbs sat by the window, staring out.
            She looked really odd.
            But then, when a cat chews the flex of Christmas tree lights and electrocutes herself, she’s going to look a bit odd, isn’t she?
            White whiskers – those that were left – were black and curly, and her fur had a tough melted feel about it. The vet was good enough to see her that very night – Christmas eve night (imagine the cost!) – and despite shock and a burnt tongue, Mrs Tibbs survived.
            Christmas day came and went unnoticed and for the first time ever we were marched down to the church service at our village church where I sang my little heart out and my brother put a half-chewed toffee in Jennifer White’s hair just for fun.
            By the evening however, our mother’s rage had ebbed, our father was pretty well sedated and something resembling reluctant calm had fallen: mum gave us each a present.
            “From Father Christmas,” she said.  I took the present unenthusiastically. I had always been told not to tell lies, and here was my mother lying to me about Father Christmas. Straight up. An In-Your-Face Adult Lie.
            She smiled wanly.
            “It seems he came after all,” she said. “I’ll go and check on Mrs Tibbs,” she continued, leaving us to unwrap our gifts.
            “Heh heh heh! Told you it was mum and dad,” my brother sniggered, and lifting one buttock, farted loudly.
            Christmases came and went, and as I grew up I promised myself that if I ever had children of my own, I would a) apologise that they had my brother for an uncle, and b) never ever ever ever ever ever ever lie to them about Father Christmas. How hard could it be?
            Shoot forward a few decades as I held my breath deciding between truth or lie.
            “Well does he, mummy?” my six year old daughter had asked.
            “Well…” I began… ’
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