He’d positioned the gift it so that it would be hidden all through Christmas. Then on the twelfth night, once the decorations had been removed and they were carefully packing the tinsel and baubles up ready for next year, she’d find it nestling securely between the inner branches of the tree and she’d be so surprised and delighted it’d be like Christmas morning all over again.
It’d been packaged it in such a way that he hoped she’d think the box contained something innocuous: perfume; hand cream; a size which she could lift from its hiding place, weigh in the palm of her hand and believe it commonplace. He’d pictured her turning the box around and around searching for a tag which would indicate who it might be from. Who it might be to. And he’d frown convincingly and say “Oooh what could it be?” and join in the game with her; urge her to shake it gently; to sniff the outer casing; give it a little squeeze.
Inside there was another, smaller box wrapped in far more decorative paper: gold, greens and scarlets that swirled, glittered and enticed – tied with a plush ruby ribbon. He could see the puzzled delight in her eyes as she removed this shining smaller box from the one she’d just discarded, now weighing this in the palm of her hand the way she’d done the larger, outer box.
He knew she’d be gentle unpeeling this wrapper because the brightly-coloured paper virtually sang its importance; a gleaming pearl revealed from a dull shell. She’d take her time and turn the little box around seeking out the preferred entry point, almost knowing that this moment – this gift – would be the most important one she would receive this Christmas.
With methodical precision he’d been planning the surprise reveal for the past six months; from the moment she’d taken his hand and placed it on her still-flat belly and watched his face as his eyes had registered first confusion and then astonishment that they’d done it – finally. She was growing the last piece of their jigsaw. The clear-cut diamond ring inside the velvet box diminished compared with the precious gift she was carrying inside her, but for him it signified the glue which would show their foundations would be as strong as they could make them.
When the family had left and the visits from friends had quietened; when the furore of new year’s eve had quelled to a dim murmur, they would spend the next few days recovering in a blissful fog of overindulgence and start to make considered plans for the final three months of the pregnancy. They’d make full use of the January sales and choose the crib, the pram, the car-seat, the tiny outfits that looked only big enough for baby birds. And they’d be as happy as they’d always imagined they would.
Like a boy on Christmas Eve and knowing that tonight the tree would be stripped, he’d driven home in an excitable mood. He’d had to lean over to grab the bottle of Champagne, tumbling as he took the corner, so that it wouldn’t smash down onto the bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling wine resting in the passenger footwell. He hadn’t seen the delivery lorry reversing into the driveway of the plant machinery yard; hadn’t even imagined they’d be back at work so soon.
For some, lives flash before the eyes, but his own prevailing image was of the gift; planned for so meticuolously; positioned so carefully; intended to elicit such joy. Tonight. As the lorry’s steel framework shattered the window and pinioned his torso to the back of the seat, disappointment seared just as painfully through his crushed body.
Written in response to the www.creativewritingink prompt 15th December 2016