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The Christmas Fairy

Present shopping was a nightmare when you had hardly any money and anything you did buy was going to be crappy. Angie would have a quick look round the shopping centre then it was off to the Pound Shop to buy something plastic and useless for everyone.

She cricked her neck to see the fairy on the shopping centre Christmas tree. From this angle it was just a circle of silver with pink dangling legs. A Barbie doll, maybe, or one of her lesser friends. Angie shrugged. Christmas was meant to be so magical but all it meant for her was a crappy toy to open and family rows all day that were even worse than the ones she'd been used to.

She wondered if her Dad would come over like he had last year. Probably not after what had happened.

She rode the escalator to the next floor. As she drew level with the Christmas tree fairy she could see its magic wand complete with silver star. The wings were softest white swans-down and moved gently in the air. They fluttered as the fairy turned her head with its silver crown, winked, and turned away again. Angie turned to look back at the fairy but by then she was at the top of the staircase and had to jump off quickly.

She stumbled and turned to go back but the down-staircase was the other side of the store, so she ran through the crowds of shoppers, drawing angry looks and a "Do you mind?" as she pushed past. Down the escalator, across the store through another mob of people, then back to the tree again. She looked up through its tinsel branches. No silver circle, no dangling legs. The fairy had gone. Disbelieving, she rode the up-escalator again but sure enough, the treetop was bare.

Angie shrugged. She must have imagined it. She'd wasted all that time and she still had all her presents to buy. They'd be a load of tat but they'd probably be better than what she'd get. She gave a deep sigh. Why was Christmas so miserable?

When she got home, Mum was in the living room with her feet propped up on the sofa and a fag in her hand. "I've just sat down," she said. "It's egg and chips tonight; the chips are keeping hot in the oven. If you're doing yourself an egg you can do one for me too."

Angie went through into the tiny space that was her bedroom. The high window let in a little light, and there was room for her bunk bed and her one book and toy shelf. Her clothes lived in her Mum's bedroom which wasn't much bigger but took a double bed. It used to belong to her Mum and Dad but now he'd moved out so the rows had mostly stopped, except when Nan came over or Mum had a boyfriend staying. The current one, Steve, wasn't too bad. He didn't talk much to Angie except to say, "How was school then?" and not listen to the answer, but he didn't hit her and he didn't make her feel creepy like some of Mum's boyfriends had.

Angie wrapped the presents she'd bought: some hair stuff for her Mum, a keyring for Steve, perfume for Nan and a bracelet for Auntie Jean. She liked the bracelet best; it was so silvery and sparkly it was a shame to have to give it away.

She thought again about the fairy. If only it had been real. "I could really do with three wishes," she said.

"And you shall have them." The voice sounded faint and high, like bells or birdsong. Angie looked up at the shelf above her and there, perched on top of a Harry Potter book, was the fairy from the shopping centre. The fairy smiled and waved her magic wand sending out silver sparkles that glittered and fell through the air.

"You can close your mouth," the fairy said, her pink rosebud lips pulled thin by another smile.

Angie felt a small shiver go down her back. "Can I wish now?" she asked.

"You can. But you can't wish for more wishes or any of that crap," the fairy said.

Angie hadn't known that fairies said "crap". "Can I wish that there won't be any rows on Christmas Day?" she asked.

"Well, you can." The fairy shook her wand again sending out red sparkles this time. "I wouldn't advise it though."

"Why not?"

"The smaller the wish, the smaller the side effects. Now for a big wish like that, I might have to make you or your Mum seriously ill, whereas if you just wished for fewer maybe rows, I could get your Mum too drunk to row but it wouldn't stop your Nan rowing with your Auntie Jean."

I might have guessed, Angie thought. Fairies turn out to be real and they're no better than the rest of my crappy life.

"What can I wish for then?"

The fairy flew down and settled on the bottom bunk near to Angie. She fluffed out her skirts and looked up with a confidential air on her face. "I can do favourite foods, better presents, and slightly better moods especially if alcohol is involved."

"That's a bit limited."

"Take it or leave it. Or wish for something more but you might not like what you get."

Angie sighed. "Can we have trifle, and no Brussels sprouts, and one nice pressie." It would be better than nothing.

"Done!" the fairy said with a smile. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you." She waved the wand sending rainbow sparkles throughout the room. "I'll even throw in a little bit of happiness as a free gift."

"Free gift? But I'm not paying you!" Angie said.

The fairy looked embarrassed. "You already have. All those times you put a tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy and you didn't get anything back, that was me. Times were hard and I knew you'd blame it on your mother. Now, there's been a complaint and the Fairy Counc- Let's just say, I decided to make it up to you. You'll get your wishes. Have a nice day!"

She flew up and out the window, which Angie was sure she'd left closed. All the magic seemed to leave with her and Angie was left with a heap of badly-wrapped presents and the sound of her mother calling out, "Are you going to do those eggs or not?"

Christmas Day dawned bright and cold. Angie was awake and into her Mum's room before she remembered that she was supposed to knock and wait. Mum and Steve were both asleep; he was snoring gently.

"Mum, is it time to get up now?" Angie shook her Mum's shoulder gently.

Her mother stirred and grumbled. "Go back to bed. It's too early."

"I'll make you a cuppa tea, Mum," Angie said hopefully. To her surprise, her mother said, "Oh, all right then. But don't wake Steve. He came in late."

Angie's feet were cold on the kitchen floor and she shivered. She put tea bags into two mugs and added the hot water, leaving the tea to stand just like her Mum liked. Then she carried the tea carefully into her Mum's room.

Her Mum sat up, took the tea, and smiled. "You're a good girl, Angie," she said. "I know it's been hard for you lately but Steve had a bit of a win last week so I think you'll like your present from us. Auntie Jean said no sprouts this year because of her trouble, but she's bringing trifle so you'll be all right there. I think this Christmas is going to be a good one."

Angie heard a sound she recognised. "Did you hear that, Mum? It sounded like tiny bells." Or fairy laughter.

"Oh, you! You're always imagining things. You're big enough now to know better. Still, it is Christmas. Snuggle under the duvet with me and when we've finished the tea, we'll get up and start making the dinner. I think we'll have cabbage instead of Brussells sprouts."

Angie pulled a face. Still, two out of three wishes wasn't bad. Maybe there was a bit of magic around this Christmas after all.

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