As it’s nearly Christmas, I’ve opted for a magical Christmas story this week…
No one understood how lonely it was being stuck up a tree all on your own. Flora sighed and fluttered her wings. One wing barely moved and the other nearly fell off. Her nose was feeling a bit delicate too and the lacy trim on her dress was a little wonky. She was sure fairies weren’t supposed to have problems like this.
She leaned forward, swaying slightly. It was such a long way down. Why did they need such a great big tree? It was only a tiny flat after all. And if they were going to have such a huge tree, then why didn’t they decorate it properly? A bit of gold tinsel and five baubles could hardly be called decorating.
But then she couldn’t really expect anything else of them – well, her anyway. Not after her reaction to Flora when she had been presented to them.
Little Damien had been so proud of all his hard work. He had spent hours cutting, colouring, sticking, gluing and glittering. His teacher had called her a masterpiece.
‘I’m going to call her Flora and I’m going to give her to my favourite uncle. Well, my only uncle, actually. He’s called Uncle Jamie. I’m not going to give her to Aunt Alice though. Mum says she’s a miserable old cow.’
Flora had tried not to giggle. Surely Alice couldn’t be that bad.
‘What on earth is that?’ Alice had said, snorting and pursing her thin lips.
Flora sighed. It looked like she could be.
‘Well, I think she’s wonderful. I’m going to place her straight on top of the tree when we get one,’ Jamie had said.
‘I am not having a tree on my cream carpet,’ Alice said, shuddering.
Flora didn’t think people had red eyes, but Alice’s definitely looked red. Scarlet even. Flora had looked at Damien, willing for him to change his mind and keep her.
‘Uncle Jamie, you will take good care of Flora, won’t you?’
‘Of course. How about you come with us and choose a Christmas tree right now? Then you can put Flora on the top,’ Jamie beamed round the room.
Flora was sure she could see smoke shooting out of Alice’s ears.
When they all came trudging back home a few hours later, Alice holding a small bag containing the tinsel and baubles in a vice like grip, Jamie struggling under the weight of the tree and Damien with a huge grin on his face, Flora couldn’t help but smile.
She had been pleased at first, especially when Jamie lifted her onto the top of the tree. When the ‘decorating’ had taken place, all thirty seconds of it and under the supervision of a chilling glare, Flora had realised how ridiculous her situation was.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if she had had some friends to talk to – a Father Christmas or a snowman. It wasn’t much to ask. But tinsel and baubles didn’t do a lot. They just sat there all shiny and looking pretty. Besides, they were miles away, right at the bottom.
When Damien had left, Flora thought Alice was going to go wild and slice the tree in two just by looking at it.
‘Do you realise how cross I am?’ Alice said, slamming the door behind Damien and his mother, who had come to collect her son and been late as usual.
‘Yes,’ Jamie said, easing himself into the armchair and placing his hands behind his head.
‘Look at her. Look at that hideous thing he calls a fairy. It all started with her.’
Flora had blushed, her wings curling under the piercing stare.
‘Her hair is made of string. Blue string. Who ever heard of a fairy with blue hair? And it’s falling off. She’s only got two strands left.’
A tear fell down Flora’s cheek. She brushed it away with a wing, wincing as a smattering of glitter glided down to the branches below. She had never felt so unwanted and unloved.
‘Well, I think she looks fantastic,’ Jamie said.
Flora smiled. He thought she was fantastic. Someone cared.
‘And why did you let him pick such an enormous…No, that’s not the right word. Colossal. Yes, that’s it. Look at all those needles on my carpet. Look!’
‘Actually, it’s my carpet. You moved in with me, but that’s not important. What is important are decorations. I think we ought to buy a few more. How about some lights? All colours of the rainbow. It might brighten up this room a bit.’
‘My magnolia walls do not need brightening up with disco lights.’
Flora watched Alice’s face flush from pink, to purple, then red, easing back to pink again. Flora had never seen anyone explode before. She wondered if she was about to. She almost felt disappointed when Alice didn’t explode and chose to stomp across the room and slam the door behind her instead.
That had been a week ago. A whole week of loneliness. Flora wasn’t sure if she could bear much more. Her hopes were raised when Damien came over at the weekend with some chocolate reindeer to put on the tree. Jamie helped Damien to put one on the next branch down. Flora clapped her wings in delight until ten minutes later, Damien asked Jamie if he could eat them all instead.
Alice was horrified when she came home from her mother’s. ‘You let him eat ten chocolates? At once? What will his mother say? Oh, of course. She won’t care, will she? Do you realise how many calories there are in chocolate? Not to mention the amount of sugar.’
‘He’s a child, Alice. Children eat chocolate. A few chocolates won’t hurt him. It’s Christmas. Anyway, I thought we would be doing you a favour. Perhaps we should have left them on the tree,’ Jamie said, winking at Damien.
‘You put those tacky things on the tree? This tree? That’s worse than the fairy.’
‘What’s wrong with my fairy?’ Damien said, sounding hurt.
‘Nothing. I’m sure you did your best, but…um…’ Alice said.
‘What’s wrong with my fairy, Uncle Jamie? Why doesn’t Aunt Alice like her?’
‘Excuse me, I have to go somewhere,’ Alice said and she ran from the room.
Jamie knelt down and held Damien’s hands. The little boy’s eyes filled with tears. Flora could hardly bear to watch and her own eyes glistened.
‘Do you know something, Damien? Aunt Alice sometimes gets a bit silly. I think it’s something women do every now and then.’
Jamie continued, ‘But I’ve been thinking. I need your help with a very special assignment. It’s called Operation Flora. I can’t do it on my own. Do you think you can help me?’
Damien grinned and puffed out his chest with pride. Flora watched them leave the room and she hung her head. Operation Flora? She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that.
Two hours later and there was still no sign of Alice. There had been a lot more slamming, followed by muttering and banging, then some more slamming and then nothing. And all Flora could hear from Jamie and Damien were muffled voices and squeals of delight. It was awful waiting, just sitting there and waiting for Operation Flora to begin.
Suddenly the door burst open and Damien ran into the room giggling madly. He ran up to the tree and looked straight at Flora.
‘Uncle Jamie said you looked a bit lonely up there all on your own, so I’ve made you some friends,’ Damien said, ‘I hope you like them.’
Flora looked down at Damien’s arms brimming with cotton wool snowmen, tissue paper Father Christmases, cardboard robins, toilet-roll elves and foil stars. Damien licked his lips in concentration and started dangling the decorations over the branches. Flora’s heart surged with joy. She had some friends at last. A tear of happiness fell down her cheek. She would never be lonely again.
‘Uncle Jamie, hurry up. I can’t reach the high branches. I think Flora would like Father Christmas to talk to. Or maybe she would like a snowman.’
Jamie entered the room.
‘She can have them all. You’ve done enough to fill the whole tree,’ Jamie said, forcing lightness into his voice.
‘What’s wrong, Uncle Jamie? Don’t you like them? Or is it Aunt Alice? She’ll go really mad when she sees these, won’t she?’
‘I love them, Damien. Each and every one of them. And it doesn’t matter what Aunt Alice thinks. She won’t be seeing them anyway.’
‘Not at all?’
‘No, Damien, she’s gone. She’s packed her bags and gone.’
‘Are you sad, Uncle Jamie? Won’t you be really lonely?’
Jamie looked at Damien. Then he smiled, a huge beaming smile.
‘Actually, I don’t feel very sad at all. I think it’s something that should have happened a long time ago. And you’re coming to stay with me for a week after Christmas, so I shan’t even be a tiny bit lonely. Come on, let’s finish the tree,’ Jamie said, placing an elf an inch away from Flora. ‘Look at Flora’s face, Damien. She looks so happy. I rather think Operation Flora has been a success.’