She awoke to find his hand cupping her breast over the floral, fleece material of her nightgown. Taking great care not to disturb him she pulled herself into a sitting position and smiled at the spectacles skewed across the bridge of Eric’s bent nose. From his open mouth, a small stream of saliva pooled on the navy pillowcase and Carinna stifled a giggle as it watered the chain stitch daisies.
She shook her head as she trod the threadbare carpet on the stairs and went into the kitchen. Even in his sleep, her husband was the diligent gardener.
Turning the tap proved futile. Striking a match, she lit the gas burner on the ancient stove and waited for the block of ice inside the dented pan to melt. On a tray, she put a plate of ginger nut biscuits and two cups from her best china.
‘Breakfast is served’ she said as she climbed back underneath the covers.
‘What time is it?’
‘Just after nine, Eric.’
His hand reached up to touch the snowy garland of hair that hung around her shoulders.
‘Happy Christmas old girl.’
Carinna bit her lip, then leant forward to kiss his forehead, but missed as he turned to retrieve his teeth from the glass on the beside table.
‘Want to try that again?’
She looked up at the outstretched arm over her head and saw a tiny sprig of mistletoe.
‘I pinched it from the wreath across the road when I delivered her celebrity magazine.’
‘I know, balls of brass, that’s me.’ He winked at her and taking the cup of tea from her hand, said. ‘Speaking of which, I’ll go and set the fire in while, but as it’s Christmas…’
Carinna slid the tray of turkey sausages into the oven and went back into the sitting room. Eric lit the candles from last year and set them on the dining table. On her dinner plate lay a soft package wrapped in recycled Christmas paper.
‘Open it, then.’
Her top teeth made contact with her lower lip.She took a pair of scissors, snipped through the sticky tape and untied the bow. Folding back the paper, she found a pair of silk seamed stockings and a sample phial of Azuree.
‘Remember our honeymoon and the balcony?’
Carinna’s neck and cheeks flushed pink. She knew exactly what he meant.With a deep sigh, she handed him the box that she had decorated with scraps of tired tinsel and tiny baubles. It felt light in his hand and he shook it.
As he lifted the lid, he felt sure his wife would draw blood if she did not relinquish the hold on her bottom lip. Under the first layer of toilet tissue, he found a bracelet braid of hair, with gold thread running through it. The second layer revealed a packet of sweet pea seeds. At the bottom of the box he found a small gift card, it read, Dear Eric, I love you. The spidery scrawl had been embellished with a lipstick pout.
‘Oh… I wondered where those seeds had disappeared to… Now I know.’
Carinna, beat a hasty retreat as he stood staring out the window. Bending to open the oven door, she heard the first chords of Harvest Moon and seconds later felt hands the size of spades encircle her waist.
‘Lass, don’t take on so. I understand. This government will be the death of us.’
‘Oh Eric, I’m so sorry, It was coal or nothing. I wanted…’
Two fingers silenced her words and he kissed the nape of her neck.
‘What good is the most expensive gift in the world, if the box it comes in doesn’t contain love?’ he said.
‘May Christmas 2010 be filled with the one thing that all of humanity needs most, the contents of the box.’
Copyright ©Talia Hardy. 20.12.2010.