There was one present left under the tree. It had been pushed to the back, lost in all the rough and tumble of the festive period. Now that it was the only one left, it became more apparent. The paper sparkled, reflecting the tree lights, and had left a trail of glitter over the floor. It was gathering pine needles too, as the days passed by and the tree grew old. Died.
Christmas had long gone. The New Year had been brought in with champagne, the countdown, and the fireworks on the television.
The present was still there.
It was the elephant in the room, unmentioned by everyone, as if it was a blind spot, something that nobody quite really saw. Not properly.
And yet it was still there.
The decorations were pulled off the branches, stuffed back into a tatty box that had held them for several years. She was alone now. Family and friends had all left, returned to their normal lives, leaving her with her ordinary life. Time to think and remember. She didn’t like that time at all.
She unplugged the lights and folded them away. She pulled the tree out, tugged it out the stand. It was a job that she hadn’t done alone before Christmas.
Now she was alone.
She preferred it really, when the house was full of people, life and noise, when there was someone round every corner and a constant jolly atmosphere.
But they couldn’t stay forever.
She paused before bending to pull out the forgotten present from under the branches of the fallen tree.
No, not really. It was always existing there in the corners of everyone’s minds.
She picked it up, turned it over in her hands. She knew what it was – she had picked it out herself. She picked it out every year. It was always the same. ‘Mum,’ he said, ‘Mum I’d love one of those jumpers. Something to keep warm.’
Every year, she picked out a similar one.
Everyone else, swayed by her belief that he would be there this year, had taken their presents away with them. She hadn’t. She had left hers – for her poor boy.
The boy who was never going to come home now. There would be no prodigal son return.
She held the present up to her lips before squashing it down into the decoration box. She heaved the box up into her arms and stashed it at the back of the cupboard.
Until next year.