Early morning, and the frost glitters on the tarmac. Everything is ice, and quiet, as though sound itself has chosen to freeze, and listen to itself shatter. I came out here for the quiet, and for the sunrise – in the east, the sky is bleeding.
No-one is awake yet, inside. Perhaps they are dreaming of presents. Perhaps they are recovering from last night’s festivities. Perhaps. Everything seemed rather raucous this year. Kids full of sweeties, adults full of brandy and wine. This is the only peace there will be all day. Breathe: it is so cold my breath doesn’t even steam.
Creaking. Water flushing. Someone, groggily, moves downstairs. I watch them, through the window of the living room. There she is, my Enid. She looks better now than she has for years. Her hair is dyed that vibrant red she so likes (and I have to admit, thinking about it, I don’t know why I didn’t like it before), and she is trim, athletic almost. Her pyjamas are new – no wine stains or splodges of pasta sauce. She crouches around the tree, groans slightly with the movement downwards, but manages to creep low enough to make sure that all the presents are there. She pauses over one for a long time, a small box marked, ‘To Enid, with love, from Dai’. Then she puts it down, amongst the others.
Almost immediately, there is a shriek from upstairs. That’d be Deri, our eldest. He’s always been too excitable, and this year he is more so than most. I hear him squealing with delight upstairs, and Enid giggling with him. Then I hear the softer footsteps of my little girl, Gwen. Her full name is Gwenfrewi, but we were always inclined to shorten our kids names. Pryderi and Gwenfrewi. Mouthfuls, but I’m a traditionalist.
I hear Gweni slide down the stairs on her arse. Clearly, she’s not yet mastered the art of walking down. I feel vaguely disappointed in her – otherwise, she’s so bright. She emerges into the living room, tiny and pale with big dark eyes, and she looks out of the window, directly at me. But she doesn’t seem bothered. She turns around, and pokes at the presents, sitting with the bottled up patience needed to wait for her mother and a suitably calmed brother to emerge. She’s always seemed older than Deri. She looks out of the window again, and I think she almost sees me, there against the background of the trees. She narrows her eyes, and is about to say something when Enid comes in and distracts her with a stocking. I never did stockings – this is new, and Gwen jumps up, more the five year old she really is. She never looked like that when she was with me.
I hear other steps. It’s the other man, the man from last night, downstairs with a fighting seven year old in his arms. He puts the flailing child down, and it’s my son, who has never seemed so happy. He pecks Enid on the cheek, then draws her into a long kiss, and I have to turn away because my stomach is doing somersaults.