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The Sleeper – Part 1

Jeremy wriggled excitedly in his bed as his mother tried to get him to lie still long enough for her to tuck him in and smooth his blonde hair down against his head. Giggling he slid under the covers away from her kiss. He popped up again a moment later, on the opposite side of his bed, pushing under the curtains to press his face against the window.

“I can’t see him, Mum!” He whispered as though he hadn’t just been making enough noise to wake the dead. “Will he really come? Do you think Rudolph will like the carrot?”

“It’s a lovely carrot” his mother assured him with a smile, “and I’m sure Rudolph will appreciate how hard you tried to pick the right one. Now, settle down and go to sleep. Remember: he can’t come until you are sound asleep and you don’t want to keep him waiting now, do you?”

“Dad says Christmas’ll come quicker if we all go to sleep straight away!” He remembered, spinning on his knees to face his Mum who laughed and guided him back to his pillow.

“I think he might be right.” She agreed as he finally gave up and allowed her to tuck him up snugly in bed. She kissed his brow and wished him a good night, nodding in satisfaction as he murmured his sleepy reply. Pausing at the door, she looked back at her boy, still young enough to believe in the magic, lying there with his eyes screwed tight in the hope that it would make the night pass quicker.

“I love you.” she murmured softly as she clicked off the light and returned to her husband.

***

“Mum! Dad! Wake up! He’s been! He’s really been!” Jeremy bounced onto the bed between his sleeping parents and pulled at their duvet excitedly.

“Jeremy! It is only half past 7! Now stop being silly and go…” His Dad paused mid-sentence and looked around the room. He sat silently for a moment and rubbed at his eyes while on the other side of the bed, his wife was grumbling and muttering as she struggled back to consciousness. Suddenly she went still. She lay motionless for a moment before groping around, feeling the bed beneath her and the covers above. Jeremy was giggling, calling them silly and encouraging them to get up so that Christmas day could finally begin.

“Why are we in bed?” His mum finally asked. “Danny you haven’t been experimenting again, have you? You know I don’t…” Daniel cut in with an angry denial; he didn’t understand this anymore than her he shouted, suddenly angry. As they began to argue Jeremy fell silent. He watched for a moment as they jumped out of the bed, shouting and rowing, blaming each other for their confused state. Then he slipped unnoticed from the room and crawled back into the safety of his own bed.

The shouting seemed to stop fairly quickly and things went silent outside of his room. Things stayed like that for a while, with the house itself seeming to hold its breath until eventually the door to Jeremy’s room edged open and his parents slipped into the darkened silence. The bed creaked as Daniel sat down on the end of it, rubbing at the covers where Jeremy’s leg might be.

“We’re sorry.” he said quietly, pulling back the covers to reveal the crying child beneath. He gathered his son into his arms and rubbed at his back, mumbling apologies into his hair as Marina watched, shaking.

“Not the best start to Christmas, eh?” she asked with forced cheerfulness. “Daddy and I are really sorry, I don’t know what happened. We just can’t seem to remember last night, but you are right. We checked the clock and it is definitely Christmas.” She threw open the curtains, looking outside briefly before turning back into the room. “Now, why don’t we just try to put all this behind us and see if Santa has been?”

Jeremy looked up from his Dad’s embrace, both parents were looking hopefully at him. He took a shaky breath and then stood resolutely as his excitement began to rebuild itself. Quickly it built to a crescendo of speculation as to what Santa could have brought and what he would play with first. His parents exchanged wary glances over his head and then followed him out of the room.

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