Mia loved Christmas. The world sparkled, cold, damp December days took on an amber glow, shops glittered and shone. Carols filled the air together with the spicy aroma of mince pies and Christmas pudding.
Mia’s cornflower blue eyes twinkled and her blonde curls danced as she bounced up and down with all the heady excitement of a seven-year-old looking forward to having her Christmas wish granted. This year Mia had a special wish, a wish so secret she couldn’t even tell her mother.
‘You’ll have to tell Father Christmas,’ her mother said. ‘Or he won’t know what to bring.’
Mia’s heart trembled as they took their place in the queue for Santa’s Grotto. Ahead of them the snow covered cavern held the answer to her prayers. Elves in green and red costumes guarded the gate entertaining the children and making them giggle. Mia fidgeted with impatience. When it was their turn she was ushered in with her mum. She gazed around in wonderment. Was this really where Father Christmas lived? She closed her eyes and hoped, she could hardly breathe. Her mother pushed her forward. The huge, rosy faced man in a red suit held out his hand to her. She shuffled nervously towards him and stood sheltered in the crook of his arm.
‘Now, what would you like me to bring you for Christmas?’ he asked, his voice soft, his eyes kind.
‘It’s a secret,’ Mia said. ‘I’ll have to whisper.’
He chuckled, a deep belly-shaking chuckle and bent closer. Mia glanced around to make sure no one was listening, then, she put her lips to his ear and whispered her Christmas wish.
He sat back. Puzzlement dulled his eyes, his face creased with concern, or what Mia could see of it beneath his beard. He took Mia’s hand and held it.
‘Is there anything else? A special toy? A bike perhaps?’ He glanced at her mother.
He patted Mia’s hand and picked out a pink-paper-wrapped present from his sack. ‘Be a good girl and you never know what Christmas might bring,’ he said.
Mia’s heart filled with hope.
At home the time came for Mia to write her Christmas list. This was something she’d done every year since she was old enough to hold a pencil and copy the letters her mother wrote out for her. This Christmas tradition brought them close, especially when she was allowed cookies and chocolate milkshake to help her think. This year Mia wanted to do it by herself. She took the cookies and milkshake to her room.
She sat at her desk and, tongue poked out in concentration, she wrote:
Dear Father Christmas.
Please tell my daddy to come home so mummy and me can be happy again. Not the angry daddy that came back from Afghanistan (she’d had to look that bit up) but the happy daddy we had before. Nothing is the same any more. We miss him to bits and love him as big as the sky. I promise I will be good forever. Thank you.
ps my daddy’s name is Corporal Gary Miller and he lives at
Mia didn’t know where her daddy lived, only that he’d come home and was supposed to stay but everything had gone wrong. His breath smelled funny when he came to kiss her goodnight. Then she’d lie in bed listening to the shouting and banging downstairs. Doors slammed, things were thrown, glasses smashed. Mia pulled the covers over her head. She’d had to go and stay with Granny ‘while Mummy and Daddy sort things out,’ Granny said. When she came home he’d gone. That was months ago and she hadn’t seen him since.
She crossed out ‘lives at’ – Father Christmas would know anyway, put the letter in an envelope, sealed it and addressed it to him at the North Pole.
She posted it on her way to school the next morning.
As Christmas drew closer her mother grew sadder, but deep in her heart Mia knew her daddy would come. She’d been good for weeks doing all the chores her mother set her, never answering back and cleaning her teeth every day without being reminded. She’d been picked to sing a solo at the Christmas Carol Concert so it was really, really, important that he be there. Father Christmas would never let her down.
On the day of the concert a sparkling frost covered the landscape. Mia and her friends filed into the church in their angel costumes with silvered wings and tinsel in their hair. Their cherub faces glowed. They sat in the choir stalls anxiously watching the parents arrive to fill the pews. None were as anxious as Mia. She scanned the faces of the congregation and her heart pounded. Her mother and granny sat together in the second row. She attempted a smile but something was missing. She kept watching the door but saw no one she recognised. A heavy stone formed in her stomach. A tear rolled down Mia’s cheek.
Trisha watched her daughter take her place in the choir stalls, her heart swollen with pride. It had been a difficult year but Mia had coped with heartbreaking optimism. She chuckled as she remembered the secrecy of Mia’s Christmas wish and wondered if it had come true.
In the silence of the church she became aware that someone was approaching softly down the aisle. She turned her head and gasped. She shuffled up to make room as her husband Tom squeezed in beside her. Her stomach turned over. She didn’t know what to think.
He touched her hand. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘So sorry.’ The tenderness in his soft hazel eyes made her heart crunch. This was the man she’d fallen in love with and thought was gone forever. She saw Mia’s letter in his hand. Her brow furrowed.
‘How did you get that?’ she whispered.
He grinned and her heart beat a tattoo in her chest. ‘Someone at the post office read it, realised I was in the forces and sent it to the MOD. They sent it on to me.’ He looked sheepish. ‘It made me realise how much you and Mia mean to me. I’ve been a fool and I want to come back, if you’ll have me. I know it’ll take some time but I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll not let you down again. Can you forgive me?’
Any reservations she had melted away when she saw the anguish on his face, the shadows under his eyes and the misery of the last few months reflected in his gaze. A swell of love washed over her. She bit her lips together and squeezed his hand.
The service started. Organ music swelled to the rafters. Trisha’s heart almost burst as Mia walked out to the front for her solo. Tom winked and waved. A broad smile stretched Mia’s face which shone with happiness. Yes, Trisha thought, Christmas truly is magical.
This story was first published in Take a Break Magazine in 2015.
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