Marjorie heard the scream and dropping the tea cloth, raced into the living room. Jamie stood there wailing.
“What’s wrong, love? Shhh now. Tell Mummy what happened.”
“I don’t know. I saw Cuddles on the mantelpiece next to Goldie’s bowl and when I looked in, Goldie was gone, and then Cuddles ran out thru’ the cat-flap.”
“I knew this would happen. I told your father not to put that bowl there. It was fine on the top shelf next to the TV, but No. This year, he had to swap it around with the crib.”
“I hope we find Cuddles soon, Mummy ‘cos Goldie won’t enjoy swimming around in her tummy.”
“Don’t cry any more pet, but remember when Gran got a heart attack and went to heaven? Well… I think poor Goldie must have got an awful fright when she saw Cuddles coming. She probably got a heart attack too, and I’d say she’s already up in heaven with Gran and Holy God.
“Poor Goldie. Does Santa bring presents to heaven, Mummy?”
“I’m not sure, love. Why don’t we ask Daddy when he comes home? I don’t know where he is. He should’ve been home ages ago. Now, let’s get you in your PJ’s and tucked up in bed ready for your story.”
Sean, with a fine glow, tried his best not to stagger, but getting the key into the door had been a mission too far. With a stupid grin, he placed a sloppy kiss on Marj’s cheek.
“Hi, love. Had a hectic day. What’ve you been up to?”
“You’re drunk, Sean.”
“Had a few. Gordon insisted we all go for drinks after our year-end reviews. Got a taxi home.”
“I thought he didn’t drink.”
“So did we. Apparently, he only drinks at Christmas and guess what he ordered? Eggnog. The barman thought it was a wind up ‘til Gordon told him how to mix it. Eggs, cream, sugar, nutmeg and a large brandy.”
“Actually, they were lovely. He insisted we all try them.”
“And my darling, how many did you have?”
“About two or three, I think.”
“That means at least six. You’ll have more than sleigh bells ringing in your head tomorrow. And as you’ve asked, my day was wonderful. The washing machine door jammed again, and I chipped two of my nails trying to open the damn thing. Only had them done yesterday. They cancelled golf because of the awful weather and, to cap it all, Derek phoned to cancel this afternoon’s Pilates class. His Bichon- Frise had a terribly upset tummy and he couldn’t leave him.”
“Don’t be sarcastic, Sean, and try to put some lasagne in your mouth. It’s all over your shirt. And the cat ate Goldie.”
“What? Is Jamie upset. We’ll get him another one.”
“No way. I was the one who cleaned out that horrible bowl every week. It stank. No… no more marine life, thank you. C’mon, hurry up. Jamie is waiting for his story and he has a few theological questions for you, so try to stay awake. I’ll bring you up a cuppa after I’ve tidied up here.”
“Daddy, Cuddles ate Goldie.”
“Mummy told me all about it, but I’d say Goldie is happier than ever. I heard Santa is short of helpers this year because of the virus. He’s worried he might not get presents to the boys and girls who live on islands far, far away. So Santa asked Holy God for help. God told Goldie he had a special and important job for him. He’s not a tiny goldfish anymore, but God made him into a whale, and he’s got thousands of presents in his huge tummy and will help Santa deliver them. I’d say Goldie is smiling right now.”
Jamie seemed happy with the reincarnation explanation, and a relieved Dad settled back into reading Jack in the Beanstalk for the 87th time.
When Marj arrived with the tea, her two heroes were fast asleep, each with a teddy tucked under their arm.
Smiling, she remembered what her mother had said many times: “Let me tell you something. Christmas is only for babies and bigger babies.