She lies in the shadows of the tree, amongst shiny packages choked with coloured ribbons - secret parcels promising fleeting happiness for the two angels who lie still in their beds, waiting in frightened silence for her to kiss them goodnight, to make everything better again.
Her hand shakes, exhausted, on a nest of broken glass. Egg-shell shards of gold reflect the emptiness in her eyes.
She can not feel the trickle of blood from her nose that catches the glow of the lights as they flash on... off... on... off... Over and over. Mesmerising. Lulling her into a dream-state where she doesn't know whether she's awake or asleep.
It's late. It's quiet. He’s gone.
Her broken body rests alongside her crushed spirit and fractured dreams. Although she no longer cowers under the waves of his emotional and physical fury, she lies foetally in the on-again off-again kaleidoscope between reality and make-believe.
She is completely, hopelessly and utterly alone. A defeated moth whose relentless path of self-destruction into the flames of his rage has finally left her shrouded in gray ash. A white ribbon of surrender curls up above her, through the dying branches of the tree.
She dimly remembers a time when Christmas meant life, colour, beauty, love.
When she had eagles’ wings and the heart of a lioness. Not now.
A small whimper cuts through the fog, reminding her who she is, first and foremost.
Slowly, she moves, testing her body for damage with each movement. She limps gently and silently towards the bathroom where she carefully washes away the night.
She is grateful for the nightlight in the children’s room when she enters. They don’t need to see her as she is. One at a time, she holds them close to her chest to heal their damaged souls with her heartbeat. To heal her own. She stays with them until they drift off to sleep, where dreams take away their sadness.
She sighs as she closes their door and sees the broken glass around the tree. As she reaches down for the dustpan and brush, she wishes she still believed in Santa Claus.