She had always known that the old house held a secret, but that Christmas the unbelievable happened.
It was Christmas Eve and Katie Branham had just finished decorating the tree: it looked wonderful with its red, green and gold baubles and the twinkling tree lights, but she felt that there was something missing. ‘I forgot the fairy.’ She climbed onto the chair, reached up and gave it pride of place just beneath the star. Finally, Katie placed the presents around the base of the tree. She loved Christmas: all those spicy smells, the woody aroma of the fires, the food, the buying and wrapping of the presents. It was a magical time.
Each year she would search for the old Santa doll and the beautiful fairy from amongst the decorations which she kept in a box in the spare room. They had been given to her by the old lady who’d lived and died in the house, prior to them moving in. Since then, Katie had felt compelled to use them, but each year, she’d been putting the Santa doll further to the back of the tree. Just as she was admiring her handiwork, her husband Charles walked in.
‘Looks great,’ he said walking around the large tree. ‘But I see that our old friend The Scary Father Christmas is on the tree again. I don’t see why you should even keep it, let alone put it on the tree. It’s frightful. Look, it’s leering at me.’
‘I don’t like it either, it gives me the creeps, but I can’t dismiss what old Mrs. Bainbridge said about them.’
‘Because they’ve been in her family for many years and according to the old story, if ever one of them was not put on the tree, some terrible disaster would befall the house and everyone in it.’
‘Ah, togetherness, how sweet,’ he scoffed. ‘You’re telling me, that you, Mrs. Katie Sensible, believes all that rubbish?’
‘You do.’ He laughed. ‘I wouldn’t have put you down as a superstitious person?’
‘Well I’m not usually, but…’
‘No buts, Katie. The fairy is fine but the Santa is frightening and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the decorations - the children don’t like it either. Emma screamed when she saw it last year, don’t you remember?’
‘Yes, I do.’ Katie sighed, ‘Right you win, I’ll take it off the tree, but I won’t throw it away. It can go back upstairs.’
‘Good and as its Christmas Eve, I’ll go and get us a drink.’
After he’d left the room, Katie grabbed hold of the offending Santa and pulled it away from the tree. As she did so, she felt a sudden pain in her hand and dropped the doll on the floor: blood oozed from a tiny pin-prick in the centre of her palm. She rubbed it gingerly before picking the doll up. She turned it over and found an open safety pin attached to the back of its grubby red coat. ‘Ah,’ she said. ‘There’s the culprit.’ She pulled it out, closed it, and placed it on the table next to the tree. Later, after enjoying a glass or two of mulled wine, she took the Santa doll up to the spare room and placed it back in the box.
The following morning everyone woke up full of excitement: it was Christmas Day. Katie was up first and when she walked into the sitting room, she noticed something on the floor near the tree.
It was the fairy and her dress was all crumpled and covered in what looked like…blood? Her heart started to thump. Calm down, Katie, she told herself, there has to be a rational explanation for this. But what?
Feeling mystified, she walked into the hall and called out to Charles and the children, Anna aged 7 and Emma who was just four. ‘Charles could you all come into the sitting room please? There’s something strange going on.’ A few moments later the excited children ran into the room followed by Charles.
‘What’s up, doc?’ her husband quipped. Katie pointed to the fairy lying on the floor.
‘Just look’ she said in exasperation.
Charles was angry. ‘Anna, what have you two been doing this morning? Fancy spoiling all your mother’s hard work.’
Anna looked hurt. I haven’t done anything: I’ve been asleep.’
He turned to Emma. ‘What about you?’ She ran behind the tree in tears. ‘Emma come here, please.’ Emma peeped at him through the green branches. ‘Did you come downstairs early this morning and do this?’ He pointed at the doll.
‘No,’ she said tearfully. ‘I’ve been sleepy too. Oh Daddy, poor fairy: pwaps it was that horrid old Santa on the treeee…’
‘Don’t be silly, Emma,’ exclaimed her mother. ‘I put it back upstairs last night.’
‘But Mummy, he IS here,’ Anna said pointing to the tree. ‘Can’t you see him? He’s hiding amongst the branches near the top.’ Katie and Charles turned towards the tree and sure enough, the old Santa doll was back on the tree!
‘Right you two, upstairs and don’t come down again until one of you owns up to this, do you understand?’ Charles was furious and they ran upstairs complaining loudly.
‘Oh Charles, it is Christmas and we mustn’t be too hard on them.’ She stooped down to pick the bedraggled fairy up. ‘Just look at her. I’ll give her a wash and then I must sort out our Christmas lunch.’
Charles tore the Santa doll from the tree. ‘This time, I’m putting him in the garden shed where they can’t get at him,’ he said as he walked out of the room. Katie felt bewildered and worried. The Santa doll had suddenly developed a character of its own – everyone was calling the doll ‘him’ rather than ‘it’ and it was then that she noticed the pin on the floor. She picked it up: it was the same pin that she’d taken out of the old doll’s coat the night before and she shivered…it was open again and had traces of red on it. Questions began to form in her mind as she recalled the old lady’s words. ‘No, that’s impossible’ she told herself, and hurried out to the kitchen.
Despite everything, the children were eventually allowed downstairs and their celebrations began. Presents were opened with shrieks of delight and lots of hugs and kisses, crackers were pulled, games played and a vast amount of food eaten, before two tired children were eventually put to bed with the problems of the morning, apparently forgotten, except by Katie.
They both flopped into their comfortable sofa to enjoy what was left of Christmas Day. Charles put his arm around Katie’s shoulders. ‘Well my love, despite a bad start, we had quite a good day, didn’t we?’
‘Yes we did, but…’ she shuddered. ‘I keep thinking about what happened this morning. It’s as if the Santa doll was jealous of the fairy…and…tried to…’
‘Stop right there, Katie, you’ve been reading too many Stephen King novels. The children did it and that’s the only credible explanation. Put it all down to excitement, they’re good kids and we are very lucky.’ He kissed her warmly.
‘Yes, they are. And look at the fairy up there: she looks clean and bright again, so no harm’s done.’
‘Good. More drink?’
‘Is there any more of the mulled wine left?’
‘Yes, I’ll go and heat it up and then we can play a game of Scrabble perhaps?’
‘Yes Charles,’ she replied smothering a yawn.
‘Or even an early night?’ Katie smiled.
Much later, they were woken suddenly by the sound of the smoke alarm clanging insistently and children screaming. Katie immediately made sure that the children were OK, and Charles ran downstairs. Smoke was billowing out through the sitting room door.
‘Quick Katie,’ he shouted. ‘Get the children and go outside now. There’s a fire in the sitting room. Go out the back way, there’s less smoke there. Hurry.’
‘Yes, go! I’ll call the fire brigade.’
Fortunately, not too much damage was done and after the firemen had left, they surveyed what was left of their sitting room. Katie smothered a scream when she saw the Santa doll lying in front of the burnt and blackened tree: but of the beautiful fairy, there was no trace.
‘You told me that you‘d put the Santa doll in the shed.’
‘But I did…’
‘Oh my God, old Mrs. Bainbridge’s warning…!’
‘Don’t even begin to go there. Katie we’re all safe, thank God.’
‘Charles, when the house is back to normal, I want to move, please.’
‘I don’t trust this house any more.’
‘We’ll think about it darling, OK?’
Katie often wondered whether they’d done the right thing by leaving the Santa doll in the loft when they moved out, or that perhaps he, and the house, was no longer a threat, now that he had finally wreaked “his dreadful revenge…!”