"Love leaves a memory no one can steal
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal"
Charlie woke with a gasp.
She couldn't figure out where she was. She felt confused, dizzy, like she had forgotten something. She could hear music from somewhere; jolly music... in fact - Christmas music.
What? She thought to herself. She lifted her head up to look around and found she was laying on a sofa. She recognised it too, but couldn't place it right now. Where was she?
Charlie quickly pushed herself up and swung her legs over the edge of the sofa so she was sitting on it, and glanced up. Her mouth opened in astonishment and shock as she saw who walked into the room.
Her mother frowned at her confusion and came towards her in concern.
"What's wrong, love?" She asked gently, sitting down right beside Charlie on the sofa and reaching out a hand to smooth her hair and keep her calm.
Charlie trembled, closing her eyes. The feeling of love, or caring - she hadn't felt this in years. She leaned into the touch and her mother pulled her instinctively closer, so they were hugging on the sofa.
"Nothing," Charlie realised. "Nothing is wrong."
Because nothing was; it was Christmas dinner in her family's old house and her father was waiting for his girls in the dining room, to come and join him with the celebrations, as they did every year.
Charlie pulled away from her mother and jumped up, filled with a sudden happiness. Her mother looked up at her expectantly, smiling. This was the young daughter she knew.
"Comes on, mom, dad's waiting for us!"
Charlie ran into the other room to find her dad as her mother laughed and followed her out of the lounge, which, had Charlie had seen it, disappeared as soon as no one was present.
Sure enough, at the cooker, her dad glanced around with a smile as Charlie skipped into the kitchen, which had become a place as soon as she had thought about it.
"Hey, hon, turkey's ready," he told her, pulling her into a brief hug. "Now go and sit at the table!"
Charlie giggled and hurried out and to the dining room, where the jolly Christmas music sang from the radio, and the beautifully decorated tree glittered in the corner.
They had all decorated the tree together, Charlie remembered, on a cold December night, next to the warm fire. They had laughed and fooled around and had had a great time as a family.
Her mother was already sitting at their small, round, table, and Charlie sat down next to her, smiling too as she looked around appreciatively. The room was covered in tinsel that, she recalled, her parents had put up overnight while she slept on the last night of November.
This was absolutely perfect. Her idea of Heaven.
Her father came in just then, whistling a jaunty tune, holding the turkey out on a silver platter in front of him, sprigs of holly and rosemary around and on the meat.
He put it down in the middle of the table with a flourish and took the last seat, smiling widely at his little but brilliant family.
"Make a wish," Charlie's mother whispered in her ear with another smile.
Charlie nodded and closed her eyes, the smell of turkey and her mother's perfume in her nose, the sound of music and her father's laugh in her ear...
Charlie woke with a gasp.
"Merry Christmas," she murmured, eyes still half-closed, not registering where she was now, and not caring at that moment. She had no idea what had just happened.
"Charlie?" asked a voice near her, full of concern and love like her mother's was - but this wasn't her mother; it was a masculine voice, and she ought to do something about the smothered panic in it.
She glanced briefly around, and found a man beside her, watching her with green eyes, bright with fear, relief and guilt that was written all over his face.
She couldn't recall his name right now, she was too disorientated, but she remembered him from somewhere, and she knew that he made her feel safe.
"Yeah, I know you," she mumbled, her body still not fully cooperating with her.
Conversation went on for a minute around her and briefly with her, but she didn't focus on it... her mother's last touch was still in her hair, and her father's distant voice was still in her ear.