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Frankie’s head hit the top of the box, not once but seven times.

“Mum, Mum! I’ve found them! I’m sure Francesca is in here, she’s so pretty. Santa will be so pleased.” The familiar childish voice had changed. No lisps.

“It can’t be that time of the year again,” Frankie moaned between the bounces. “It’s not been twelve months, surely?” She listened to the groans of the others as she rubbed her head. “And I hate the name Francesca.”

The dulcet tones of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas filtered through her cardboard home and she hugged her knees. This could only mean one thing. The prickly pink dress that made her itch and pine needles which prickled her legs. She’d much rather wear her leopard print leggings, some long boots, and listen to the Pogues.

Frankie tumbled out onto the carpet. She rolled over and over a soft carpet before settling at a fringed edge which tickled her nose.

“Time to decorate the tree, Mum. You promised. I’ve tidied my room and everything.”

Frankie eyed the young girl dangling the now empty box beside a Christmas tree. She searched for the top. Oh no! It was almost to the ceiling, and she hated heights! A podgy hand reached over her and placed something on one of the lower branches. It was Ginger! “Hey, good to see you,” said Frankie.

“Good? What’s good about it?” asked the gingerbread man, his mouth set in a straight line. “Can you believe she put me here? The pocket rocket will have a field day.”

“Don’t worry,” Frankie soothed, “I’m sure she’ll move you to a higher position. We don’t want a repeat of last year.” She winced, remembering the struggle to remove Ginger from the family’s mad spaniel’s mouth. The dog raced about day in day out, never stopping to catch its breath. Ginger nodded his head and gazed longingly at his missing right arm.

Frankie held herself stiff as sticky fingers grabbed her.
“Time for your pretty dress, little Christmas fairy,” the young girl said, holding Frankie so close to her face that she could smell toothpaste.

“Don’t want no pretty dress.” Frankie bristled as the girl slipped the gown with purple fairy wings over her head and fastened the Velcro strip.

“There, don’t you look lovely? Now, I need some ladders to get to the top.”

*

Ten minutes later Frankie looked down into the room from the top of the tree. At the bottom were two figurines, a crib, a donkey and a cow. Typical, some people got all the best jobs, she fumed.

As she twisted and turned, Frankie heard a blubbering coming from below.

“Hey, what’s up?” she whispered through the tinsel. She could just see the top of Snowy’s head. He was the first school project fashioned out of toilet rolls and cotton wool. He looked more grey than white and one of his buttons was missing.

“I’m melting,” he complained with a sniffle. Frankie glanced at the hearth where an open fire crackled and spat.

“You can’t melt,” she reasoned. “And anyway, it won’t last long. Just until The Queen’s Speech, then they’ll be off to Grandma Gertrude’s. We’ll have some peace then. Just hang on in there.”

Frankie tried to make herself comfortable, but it wasn’t easy. The heavy scent of pine was giving her a headache and not helped by the shouting coming from the kitchen. The turkey underdone and the sprouts like bullets. Some things never changed. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall asleep. Nothing doing up here.

*

She woke later. The pulsating flashing bulbs on the tree provided the only light. It was nighttime. One day down, only eleven more to go. A movement caught her eye through the doorway and she squinted. Two yellow, almond-shaped eyes stared back through the darkness. Oh, no! Tabitha! Tabitha was a cylindrical shaped tortoiseshell cat who spent most of her time eating and sleeping. Frankie tried to call out a warning to the others, but the feline was too quick, despite her size, and in a flash, she’d pounced. Frankie clung to the treetop as it crashed to the floor.

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