The Angel on the Christmas Treebynorthlander©
This short story is an entry in the Holidays contest. It is the property of the writer and may not be used by others without his permission. It is almost purely factual. It is entered under the Romance category, and out of respect for the participants, there is no descriptive sex in the story.
23 December 1958
The Angel was perched on the top of the Christmas Tree, in the corner of the room, looking outwards into the room, if her eyes could see; she would have seen a young mother to be sitting on the couch in front of the fire, knitting clothes for the unborn child she was carrying. The child that was due to meet the light of day in around three weeks. On the seat alongside her, was the latest letter, delivered that morning, from the young soldier she had married the year before.
Cassie put down her knitting and stretched her body, turning toward the window, so that lifting her legs she could rest them along the seat. She would be glad when this final month was over so that it would not be so awkward for her to move. As she moved she lifted the letter from her lover. Again she read the lines written a week previously telling her that he was still at the base camp in Kenya, busy preparing for a senior officers inspection. She wondered if that was still the case, or whether he was upcountry searching the bush for the Mau Mau remnants that were hiding out there, or whether once more he had been catapulted into some problem spot in Southern Arabia or the Persian Gulf.
Of much more concern to her were the paragraphs telling her that he was still not sure when he would get transport home. The next troopship homeward bound from Mombasa wasn't due until the end of January 1959. It was looking very much like their child would be born before Rob was home. She would still have to depend on her in laws for help until he arrived though. They had been a great help to her since she had separated from the WRNS and had come to her husband's home town to find a place for them to live, and start raising their family.
Outside she could hear the foghorns of the ships on the river, sounding to warn others of their presence, she had looked out earlier and saw a fog so thick that she could barely make out the lighter patches of lit windows in the houses across the street, of the houses themselves she could see no sign. She thought that there would be no travelling tonight, the horns sounded so forlorn and she could imagine that the promenade alongside the river where she walked most days would be deserted. She looked to the coal fire, warm against her cheek, with the carry cot set up at the side of the fireplace ready for the baby when it arrived.
Looking into the fire, she remembered her soldier, the last time she saw him, that day 8 months ago when they had to get up early, leave their second honeymoon island and get to Portsmouth Station, her last sight of him waving from the train to London, where he would board his plane back to his unit in Gibraltar. Then she had walked, oblivious of the life beginning within her, back to her barracks, back to the sick bay where she worked, ready to keep working until he returned home.
He had been so happy, looking forward to being away no more than six months before their separation would be over; after all he had been away for over a year when he got his leave. Then that first letter, the news that when he got back to his unit, he found that he had been re-assigned to a rapid reaction force being formed in East Africa. From a nice safe engineering job, he was going to a combat engineer's unit that could be on the move to anywhere in the world, on just twelve hours' notice. There were no dependents allowed and there was no way that he could afford to fly home on leave. Still that was life in the Army, the Navy was no better.
Then the letters, first from Kenya, then rapidly from different places in the Middle East, several from naval ships as he moved from one temporary duty to another. In one of her letters she had told him that she was scared that he wasn't going to get back to her. Then her relief as he wrote again from Kenya, safely back at the base camp. At least he was safe, even if she had to depend on his family when their child was due. Luckily, she could depend on them, they had helped her find the furnished flat, they had helped her move in, and much more.
Cassie looked around her cozy living room. Even though she would be spending Christmas with her in-laws, they had insisted on decorating the room, her father in law insisting on buying a Christmas tree and them all decorating it. Walking through the Woolworths store, Cassie hadn't been able to resist buying the Angel for the top of the tree, well Angel or Fairy, it was hard to tell. She looked like an angel, with the white lacy dress the large silver wings and the silver halo about her head, but in her hand she held a wand with a star on just like a fairy. Pity she wasn't real, otherwise Cassie could wish her husband home. That would be something, in the two and a half years they had been together, this would be the third Christmas that they had been apart.
The front door bell rang, unusual for this time of night. Mrs. Black her landlady would answer it. She awkwardly lifted herself up, walked over to the window and looked down to the front path. Whoever it was was standing close in to the house so she couldn't see him. She heard the murmur of conversation and surprisingly heard her name, so she went out of the room and on to the landing. Looking over the banister rail and down the stairs she couldn't believe her eyes. This couldn't be happening, he should still be in Kenya, but there standing in the hallway looking up at her, his face dark from the desert sun was Rob, in civilian clothes he was holding a suitcase in his hands. He came up the stairs to her quickly and as she led him along the landing and into the living room, he dropped the case and took off his topcoat and jacket. Unable to take her eyes off him, she backed into the living room and as he walked into the room, he said "Who isn't going to make it home?"
With tears of happiness running down her face, she was in his arms kissing him, being held close to him, his smile wide and happy. His face was tanned, almost blackened by the sun, and thinner than she had ever seen, his body thinner too. Somehow through the maze of her emotions she heard him saying "They flew out a replacement troop for us, so we flew home on the same plane; we got in late yesterday afternoon and had to go to Barton Stacey first. I didn't want to send a telegram in case it got you upset, Cassie, it's over, I don't have to go back, and I don't have to leave you again." Later, after she had given him a light meal and tea she noticed that once in a while his eyes would look as if he was staring away into the distance. That wasn't important, he was home.
Later in the evening, as they both sat cuddled together relaxing on the couch, soaking up the warmth from the fire, one of his arms was around her, the other hand resting on her stomach, his mind full of the pleasure of feeling their baby move, her happiness was complete, they were together, she, her husband and partner, and their child, able to look forward to a future together. She looked over his shoulder at the Angel on the Christmas Tree and whispered, "Thank You."
Epilogue December 2012
The Angel, her name decided many years before was on the tree once again, ruling over the family Christmas. Every year since that first family Christmas of 1958, in spite of trials, tribulations and celebrations, she had been placed in the place of honour atop the tree. Older than the oldest child, she had seen two more children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Now she was on a different continent, in a different country, wherever Cassie and Rob went she went too. Over the years she had lost her wand and her tiara, and her wings looked a little battered by time but her position was secure as each child regarded her as part of their lives. When Cassie and Rob were finished with her sometime in the future, it had already been decided that she would be transferred to the youngest child's tree, to be with her family as they celebrated their Christmases'.