Sally stared despondently at the tangle of lights. Although she was an arty person, there was something troubling her about the messy thread of wires. Wrapping the cords around the branches had always been Chris' domain. This year it would be up to her.
She was patently aware of Chloe eyeing the trees in the shop windows and, after visiting a friend's house the other day, her daughter asked when they would be able to decorate a tree of their own. She was old enough to be aware of what was happening but still young enough to be enamoured with all the magic Christmas was supposed to bring, so Sally has given in and picked up a tree.
Now Chloe sat sorting through the coloured baubles while Sally carefully teased the string of lights through the branches. When the last bulb was balanced on a branch and she stood back to admire her handiwork, things became too much for Sally to bear. She hurried out of the living room and made her way to the back verandah for some air. Chloe's chattering voice drifted out through the open door as the child sorted through the decorations, arranging them in order of colour and size.
"Mummy, can I put the angel on the tree?"
The angel. Her husband, the love of her life, was now 'with the angels' as she had explained to Chloe. Her daughter's simple question brought forth another wave of emotion.
There wasn't a day go by when she didn't see his smiling face in front of her. She had made a conscious effort to keep as many photographs and mementoes as possible in plain sight so it didn't feel as though they were forgetting him.
The sound of smashing glass wrenched her from her memories and she raced inside to her daughter.
It seemed decoration had begun without her presence and there before her stood their tree, adorned with a mismatched effort of tinsel and coloured baubles. Beside the tree, Chloe was balanced on one of the dining room chairs. She stared at the floor then at her mother with tears in her eyes. Sally's eyes followed her daughter's gaze to the small frame lying on the tiles.
"I'm sorry, Mummy," Chloe sobbed.
Her eyes flicked to the tree and Sally noticed the glimmer of silver wound around the top. She reached out and touched the dog tags nestled between the branches, the chain looped unevenly around the top of the tree.
"Did you try and hang it up here?" Sally asked softly, gesturing from the shattered frame on the floor to the chain at her fingertips.
Chloe nodded slowly, searching her mother's face for signs of understanding.
"I wanted Daddy to be our angel."