Pleasantly weary, Maia slid into a doze; all that lit the room was the glow from the smouldering yule log and the green and white fairy lights on the Christmas tree. Were trees really decorated with candles in the past, she wondered dreamily. She was tired, but pleasantly so… she would have five minutes and then go to her desk and catch up with work and wait for Alex. She would try not to be distracted by gazing out of the window, but the snow was so magical, the sight of it taking her back to her childhood. The full moon peeped through the window, everything outside would be crystal and sparkling.
Maybe tomorrow she would finish dressing the tree, but for the moment with just the twinkling of the tiny bulbs, it was enough, and her thoughts drifted to her own childhood, to Christmases full of laughter and happy memories of family and friends. She slipped further into a sort of doze and sleep blurred her vision as if a tree-green mist drifted across the room. She must have dozed, lulled by the crackle of the log burning, a slip of sound of embers falling, the wind in the eaves blowing a gentle melody. She was warm, and safe and content.
A rustle of sound, as if there was a breeze in the branches of the tree and reluctantly she tried to wake from her dream… she had things to do. She breathed deeply, the scent of Christmas, pine, the comforting smell of the fire, all the seasonal smells of spice and citrus, wine and brandy. Alex would be here soon, she should rouse herself, go to her desk and get things done.
She opened her eyes and for a moment her hazy dreams were still there, before evaporating like wisps of smoke from a snuffed candle. Her vision was still clouded with the soft green of the lights and the tree itself. It seemed to move, but of course it didn’t, it was someone standing half behind the lowest branches.
Maia sat up, apologising. Of course, this must be some friend of Alex, Alex who no doubt was in the kitchen looking for what Christmas treats were on offer.
“I’m so sorry, I dozed off, come in, come in and be at home,” she tried to rise but her limbs were still heavy with sleep, she felt almost dazed with the warmth of the fire, the pale light from moon on snow outside, and the green lights giving tree the a radiant, lambent glow.
“Welcome Jelka, I expect Alex is finding something to eat and drink.”
Jelka gave a curious bob of the head and turned slightly to look again at the tree, smiling. The green lights twinkled gently casting a malachite glow across Jelka’s face.
“Have you come far?” Maia asked, trying to rouse herself from her soporific state.
“Not far, not far at all. Shall I dance?”
“Dance? Well, yes, if you like, yes, please do… a Christmas dance… ” I must be dreaming, thought Maia, but it was pleasant – strange, but pleasant as Jelka began to sing, swaying to a wordless melody, arms waving, head nodding. There was a crackle from the grate, and a spurt of blue and orange as the yule log split, flames licking round the blackened bark.
Maia’s gaze had been drawn to the fire but she looked up as Jelka’s song faded, and in a curious way, so did Jelka. Maia woke properly and pulled herself from her chair. Good heavens, that’s what tiredness and a warm room does, slipping in and out of sleep and dream. She must go and find Alex, apologise to Jelka – what a welcome home, to be sleeping and dreaming beside the fire!
There was a knock at the front door as she entered the hall, and on opening it there stood Alex, wrapped well against the cold, scarves, a hat and furry mittens, snow dusting the shoulders of the coat.
“Come in, come in, Jelka is already here, entertaining me with singing and dancing – and I’m afraid I nodded off!”
“Jelka? Who is Jelka? A friend of yours? You must introduce me!”
The door was closed, coat and hat and scarves and mitts removed, a pile of gifts deposited on the small table as Maia tried to tell Alex about Jelka – if not a friend of Alex then who?
“Come and get warm by the fire and meet Jelka, then all will be explained!”
But the cosy sitting room, though warm and welcoming, was empty of anything but the fir tree, garlanded with green lights.