The door-bell rang just as Gordon was struggling with the long, recently delivered cardboard box to put it into the loft. Cursing to himself he shoved the box into the opening and followed it with the stepladder and shut the hatch.
‘Can you get that Gordon?’ June called from the lounge where she was putting the finishing touches to the tree decorations. It was quite remarkable how, after all these years she managed to make an order sound like a request and worst still, asking him to do something that he was about to do of his own volition anyway.
Smoothing his hair as he went, he approached the front door and opened it with a smile that Richard Nixon would have been proud of.
Janet, his sister-in-law and Freddie her husband stood there, huge friendly grins creasing their faces as they both wished him ‘Merry Christmas’ but then stepped inside almost as if the door had opened automatically and Gordon wasn’t there.
He closed the door and followed them into the lounge where June and Janet were hugging each other as though they had not seen one another for an eternity, when in fact it was less than a week ago they went shopping together.
‘That ain’t a real tree,’ spouted Freddie as though he had made some important discovery.
‘I don’t recall saying it was,’ replied Gordon more than a little indignant, as if he had been caught out on some form of cheating. ‘The real ones are too messy and we got fed up with all the needles they shed.’ He offered in his defence.
‘Why, have you taken over cleaning duties then Gord?’
He looked at Freddie, who had broken out into that ridiculous laugh that always set Gordon’s teeth on edge and the two ladies joined in the chorus of laughter. The trio had the look of the front row of a Michael Macintyre matinee.
‘I’ll go and make some tea,’ Gordon said retreating to the kitchen where above the noise of the electric jug boiling, he could still hear their inane guffaws.
‘What’s that noise Gordon? Gordon, wake up.’ June was feeling around the other side of the bed and panic set in when she found it was empty. She leapt out of bed grabbing her dressing gown as she went and rushed into the lounge.
All the lights were on and Gordon was sitting amongst the artificial Christmas tree that lay in pieces all around him. Baubles and decorations were strewn around the floor as though a mad bear had broken in.
For a split second June was speechless. She thought, no hoped she was dreaming for indeed it was a nightmare scene. Then she screamed, ‘What on earth have you done Gordon? That tree took me bloody hours to decorate.’
He just looked at her, tears streaming down his face, ‘You and your bloody family have laughed at me for the last time you miserable bitch. You know it was all your idea to buy a bloody plastic tree. It was you who complained every minute of the day about the dropping needles but you joined in and laughed at me with those stupid sods. Well, now you’ve really got something to clear up haven’t you?’