by P. A. Westgate
a glass of warm Ribena
Emma wasn’t asleep yet. She should have been. It had been a long, exciting and tiring day. It had been intended to be tiring. First there was decorating the tree, with Emma carefully selecting the decorations one at a time and handing them solemnly to her dad, to be placed with much pointing and explanation in just the right place. Then there was the party where her dad works, with new, if temporary, friends to make, and too much to eat and drink. Later on there had been the pantomime – Aladdin – with heroes and villains and magic. And then it was bath time with some of her mum’s special bath salts and finally time for bed. Emma had been told that Father Christmas didn’t come if you were awake so she should go to sleep. Christmas Day would be here soon enough.
Miss Reid, Emma’s teacher, had told her that Aladdin lived not far from where she would be staying when she visited her friends this Christmas. So adventurous and such a long way Emma had thought. From Emma’s home to where she would be going it was nearly 18 inches on the big map. Auntie Jane’s house was only a quarter of an inch away and that took ages to get to. Emma wondered if Miss Reid would meet a Sultan or perhaps a wizard.
Emma’s Santa letter had contained an impressive list of presents. Her mum had warned her not to expect everything. There had been quite a bit of “I’ve been very good all year” and “helped mum ever so much”. “Pretty good, most of the year, and helped out a bit” would have been more accurate. Pretty good, yes, but tomorrow it will have to be “very good, all day”. Come what may there would probably be tantrums and tears and not just from Emma.
It’s quite late now and a full moon has come out from behind the clouds. It’s turned Emma’s room into a wonderland of black and white and silver. The moonlight is sparkling on the bedspread’s intricate hand-stitching - put on especially for tonight – and the planets, moons and shooting stars on it have come alive in the light. It’s now a magic carpet every bit as good as Aladdin’s. The dark shadows are mysterious and the carefully arranged ornaments, pictures, little keepsakes and knick-knacks lit up by the moon are somehow not quite as they are in daylight.
Teddy is propped on the chair next to the cupboard where he usually sits. He can keep an eye on the mince pie and the carrot by the fireplace from there. She can’t remember when he arrived; he’s just always been there. He looks just a bit careworn now. You can’t be dribbled over, tucked under an arm or dragged along by one leg, your head bumping on the ground, without something showing. He’s smiling. That’s strange because Teddy never smiles. There’s no time for smiling usually. Not with all the whispered confidences he hears and the tears he cuddles away and the good advice he gives. It’s a tough life being Teddy.
What’s that? It sounded like a thump. As if a box had been dropped. Emma’s not sure if it’s from inside or outside her room. She wonders if it's mummy and daddy as her friends have been saying but perhaps, just perhaps, it might really be Him. Mindful that in either case, presents won’t come if she’s awake, Emma closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep.
She wonders if he really has a long white beard and is wearing a big red coat. Where has he put Rudolph and the sleigh? Does he park it somewhere and visit a number of houses on foot like the postman does? Or perhaps… What would her first wish… How do hold on to a magic… perhaps the sleigh is…
Emma is finally, truly, asleep now. The moon has gone back behind the clouds and her room is just an ordinary room once again but it’s no longer the same. There are presents at the foot of the bed now and the sock is no longer empty. Teddy is still in his place but the mince pie and carrot are gone.