It was past midnight, and after her fourth cup of coffee Fiona finally realized that the excessive caffeine didn’t help make her decision any easier. She stumbled down the hallway, her tired body aching for sleep. Out of habit, she softly opened her daughter’s door before slipping into her own cramp room, just to watch that darling face blissful in sleep. The light was still on in Mersades’ room, and little girl was slumped on the worn little table in the corner of the room, fast asleep. Her tiny hand grasped loosely at a glitter pen, her soft cheek resting on a childish handmade Christmas card. Gently taking the glitter pen out of her daughter’s grasp, Fiona bent down to cradle Sadie in her arms. She settled her daughter down on a Disney-princess bed, and the tiptoed over to the table, intending to turn out the lights. But a sparkle caught her eye. Fiona couldn’t help but read over and over those glittery words scribbled in a childish hand.
Dear Mr Santa Claus,
I’ve tried to be good this year. For Christmas I just want a few things. Santa, can you give Mummy a new job for Christmas? She’d been so worried since she lost her old one. And Santa, can you bring me Coco back? Mummy gave her away to Tobey’s family, because she said we couldn’t afford to keep her. I don’t really understand what that means, but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you bring Coco back. I miss Coco a lot.
Thanks a lot Santa J
Fiona cried silently as she folded the card and tucked it under Sadie’s pencil case. Turning out the light, she crept back to her desk and picked the confirmation letter out of the paper bin. Her hands shook as she folded the letter and placed it inside a thin white envelope. Pen poised to inscribe the address of an American cruising company onto the envelope, Fiona backed out at the last minute and dropped the ballpoint onto the desk. I can’t do this; I can’t leave Sadie here without a mother, a little voice pleaded inside her head, pulling at all the memories she shared with her daughter. She thought of the time they built a cubby house together in the backyard of their old place, and Sadie knocked her arm against the rickety plank of wood that served as the grand entrance to “Fairy Castle”. She had cried for a good hour in Fiona’s lap, to be finally soothed by a cup of hot chocolate and a rerun of Mary Poppins. When Fiona left, who will be the one that Sadie can run to whenever she’s hurt or scared? Who will cuddle the little girl in their arms and tell her that everything is OK? Who will be Sadie’s mother?
But this cramp old flat is no place for an angel to grow up in, another voiced reasoned inside her head. Involuntarily Fiona saw the worn clothes and shoes that make up her daughter’s wardrobe. Fiona saw the look on her daughter’s face when her best friend boasted about her new Barbie doll that can sing and twirl and all she had was an old baby doll from the two-dollar shop. Fiona saw a heartbroken Sadie curled up in her bed the day her dog Coco was given away. It felt as though all the love that Fiona could give couldn’t erase Sadie’s ache for the old comforts and pleasures. And it wasn’t just that. The accumulation of electricity and rental bills under the fruit bowl over the year that Fiona had been unemployed had become ridiculous. It seemed nobody needed a pastry chef. So take the job! Don’t be so stupid as to say no! But working on an American cruise meant that she will be away from home for the better part of the year. But I have to provide for Sadie. Who else will work to put a roof over her head, and food on her table?
When the clock struck 3, she finally decided to go to bed. But sleep wouldn’t come; she twisted and turned, waiting for that moment when the right decision would miraculously be shown to her. But nothing came, save a massive headache, and finally she drifted off into an exhausted daze. It seemed all too soon when the alarm clock beeped, and Fiona hurried into the kitchen to fix her daughter breakfast.
The snow was drifting lightly over Fiona and Sadie as they left for school that morning, the little girl almost skipping down the path in her excitement. She was going to send her very special letter to Mr Santa Claus that day, for it was merely a dozen days before Christmas. Her mother trudged behind wearily, weighed down by the decisions that she have yet to make. The confirmation letter lay in her pocket, a constant reminder.
“Mummy! Hurry up!” yelled Sadie from somewhere up the path.
Fiona quickened her pace. Sadie was waiting for her at the post box, arms crossed.
“Did you put it in already?” her mother asked, smiling at her impatience.
“Yep! Do you think he will bring everything this year?” Sadie asked, her eyes glowing from anticipation.
Fiona nodded and smiled, but on the inside her heart was breaking, because she knew that Santa would once again disappoint Sadie.
The remainder of the walk was filled with Sadie’s chatter. Watching her daughter’s face, Fiona felt as though she could never leave. At last they reached the school gate, and Sadie ran off to her friends. She tripped halfway, the sole of her ancient boots falling apart. Fiona watched as the group of boys near Sadie laughed and teased her about her old boots, old clothes and the worn old bear that fell out of her bag. She watched her daughter’s face turning a bright red as she hurriedly limp away. And she watched as hot tears slid down Sadie’s cheeks.
Suddenly Fiona’s mind was made. Sprinting back to the post box, she pulled out its bright red handle and dropped in her confirmation letter. Before she could change her mind, she slammed the handle shut. It’s gone. What about Sadie?