As I walked home I felt incredibly subdued. With every step I took, more and more doubt trickled into my mind that I’d imagined the whole encounter with Angie. It had been such a surreal experience that maybe I had made it all up in my head. Maybe I was coming down with the flu or something and should just go back to bed with a whole vat of warm chicken soup. When I arrived back at my house, I barely even noticed the unnecessary Christmas display opposite and had already floated half way up my garden path when I heard someone calling my name. I spun around grinning, expecting Angie to be there in her ridiculous angel costume laughing and explaining that she’d disappeared as some big elaborate joke. Instead Dan a member of my choir stood there smiling goofily at me.
“Hey Zo!” He half-shouted.
“Oh hi,” I said meekly, finding myself feeling disappointed, even though Dan had been a good friend to me for what seemed like forever.
Dan frowned, “Are you ok? I called you about five times before you even reacted. You look like you’re in a different world.
I gave a half-hearted laugh, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Anyway, will we be seeing you tonight? I know you haven’t made it to a Christmas carol service for a while, but we do miss you at them. You know all the songs and you wouldn’t have to sing your usual solo if you don’t want to.”
Dan was one of the few people who I’d confided in the reasons that I didn’t sing at Christmas anymore but he never stopped trying to help me.
“Come on, it would be nice to spend some time with you!”
A flicker of something ignited in my stomach and I realised that it was happiness. Happiness that I had such a good friend. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed being happy.
“You know Dan, I think I will join you all actually, what time does it start?”
A couple of hours later and I was dressed in a black skater dress with a lace hem. My hair was freshly washed and fell in bouncy curls down my back. I had even put on a pair of red heels and a fresh coat of mascara. I hadn’t been so dressed up on Christmas Eve for years and I liked how it felt. I shrugged on my best leather jacket and grabbed a handbag. Before getting ready I’d spent some time drafting out the note I was leaving for my dad. I really didn’t want to see his face when I told him I was going to sing carols. I didn’t think I could face anymore heartache. I crept downstairs, trying to be as inconspicuous as one wearing heels could be. I gently placed the letter on the dining room table, before creeping to the living room door and peering around it. Dad was asleep, snoring softly.
“Goodnight,” I whispered, before turning and slipping out, into the night.
“Zo!” Dan greeted me at the door of the church. He rushed towards me and affectionately took me by the arm, leading me inside.
I stumbled a little in my heels on the tiled flooring and Dan chuckled, helping to keep me upright.
“Man, I just cannot carry off graceful can I?” I giggled.
“I prefer you this way, otherwise I’d have nothing to laugh at,” Dan said, nudging me softly, which only caused me to slip again.
“Hey!” I exclaimed, having to grab onto one the church pews.
“Sorry,” Dan said when he’d managed to stopped laughing.
“You know, I’ve missed hanging out with you Zo, you’ve been way too distant.”
I took in Daniel, his smart black shirt and red tie, slightly ruffled blonde hair and friendly expression. Why had I ever wanted to shut him out? Why had I ever wanted to shut anyone out?
“I know. I won’t be from now on though, promise.”
Dan grinned at me and we took our places at the front of the church. The atmosphere was brilliant. People were constantly piling in and filling up the pews, laughing and chatting some even wearing Santa hats. There was a massive Christmas tree at the back of the church, crowned by a proud angel. Candelabras on the walls shimmered and shone sending wavy shadows dancing across the floor and arrangements of Christmas flowers were everywhere. Suddenly silence fell on the audience. The conductor stepped up and grinned at us and waved her arms, counting us in. The first note I sang was a little bit rusty, but after that the words felt like syrup as the floated from my mouth. I couldn’t believe how glorious singing felt. It was exactly the same as it had always been.
After the first few carols, it was time for my solo, ’Do You Hear What I Hear?’.
I stepped forwards ready and raring to go, but Dan poked me in the side.
“Look,” he whispered, pointing into the audience.
I scanned the crowd for a moment before I realised what he meant. It was him. It was my Dad, he was there, sitting in the middle of the audience grinning at me. Tears of joy sprung to my eyes. I almost missed my cue but I caught it just in time, not taking my eyes off him. He suddenly turned to his left and whispered something into the ear of a woman, a woman who looked just like mum. Of course I knew that it wasn’t her, but I let my mind’s eye run wild, imagining that it was. As I pictured both of my parents sitting there together listening to me sing, I could feel my voice getting louder and stronger. My body was tingling and I almost felt as if I could burst, I had so much adrenaline rushing through my veins. Once I sung the last note the church exploded into applause. People were on their feet, clapping their hands and chanting my name. The conductor motioned for me to take a bow and I did, before stepping back again, feeling as if there was an electric pulse zooming around my body. Back in my normal position I found Dan and he grinned at me, reaching down to take my hand. The rest of the service we sung hand in hand, and I spent my time glancing back and forth between him, my dad and the mystery woman.
When the service was over I gave Dan a quick peck on the cheek before forcing my way to the front of the crowd.
“Dad!” I squealed, wheeling into his arms like I used to when I was a toddler and he would come home after a long day at work.
“Zoey,” Dad caught me and hugged me close, stroking my hair and kissing my head.
I took a step back and looked him over. Thankfully he was fully dressed and he’d even had a shower. He smelt like mint and hand soap.
“Dad, what are you doing here?! Did you get my note?”
Dad frowned, “Note? No I didn’t see any note. No this girl- Angie she said her name was- well she said some things that really made sense and she convinced me to come and watch you.”
“Angie’s here?” I exclaimed, feeling as high as a kite.
“Yeah I was sitting next to her. She is right over there-” Dad pointed back to where he had been sitting but there was no one there. Of course. It had been Angie who’d I’d seen, not mum.
“Oh. She’s gone.” He murmured. Again. I thought to myself, smiling a little.
There was a silence for a moment before dad looked down at me with tears in his eyes and a sad smile on his face.
“Your Mum loved Christmas didn’t she?” He asked.
I wiped away a tear that began rolling down his newly shaved cheek
“Yeah she did dad, And so did we.”
Dad smiled at me but didn’t look so sad anymore. He put his arm around me and started to lead me out of the church.
“What do you sat we go home and put the tree up eh? And you bought some chicken today didn’t you? I can make a nice Christmas dinner out of that for us tomorrow and I might have a few gifts that I was saving to give you in the new year that I could wrap up,” Dad paused rubbing his chin thoughtfully, “I was going to invite that friend of yours, Angie over sometime in the holiday, to thank her for convincing me to get out of the house.” He started to glance around the dimly lit churchyard. “I wonder where she got to?”
I gazed up at my dad, not bothering to join his search for Angie. Even if I never found out who she really was, I didn’t mind. Because what I did know about her was that she was my guardian angel and that she’d made everything better.
“Love you Dad.” I said.
Dad glanced down at me and squeezed me closer.
“I know. You too. Now lets go home and have a hot chocolate and you can explain to me how you have such a beautiful voice when I can’t sing a line without the neighbours calling the police!”
I giggled. Suddenly I felt something damp land on my nose. I help my palm out to the sky and watched as a couple of snowflakes landed there before quickly melting away.
“Snow!” I exclaimed stupidly excited, but also stupidly, stupidly happy.