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Maddy smiles and points at the Christmas tree in the corner. It flickers. Mom hasn’t finish decorating it. Cardboard boxes, old cotton wool, silver trains, and foil stars are scattered around the floor. A Christmas Angel looks at me from a yellowed newspaper, eyes transparent and sad. Its soaring glass wings scare me.
“TV,” I say, my teeth shattering. I press the buttons on the remote. The bright pink and blue of the cartoons and shrill voices pierce my brain. The sand scorches, the wings grow, the blades burn.
I stumble to the bedroom. The dresser. The jewelry box. The glint of a broken lock. Mother-of-pearl shining smooth, just like when I was little. It’s empty, except for a pair of surgical tweezers.
“Bitch!” I whisper. She hid it. I open the drawers, one by one. There, in her worn, silky, miserable underwear. The peacock brooch with a ruby eye. Torn necklace with a locket, Dad’s picture. And the yellow gleam of her engagement ring. The dim sparkle of the diamond next to a fat, olive-greenish roll of dollar bills, a twisted rubber band around it. Nausea covers me like a dirty plastic bag.
The wings grow, grow, grow. By now they grow all over my body. My bones twist and turn in their sockets like old keys in rusty locks. My tendons turn into ropes. The ropes are fastened to a torture wheel. The wheel gyrates. I’m brittle like old chewing gum. I’m made of glass dust, like the Christmas Angel. I slip the ring into my pocket, and keep the money in my fist. I can’t look at the light. My stomach churns. My eyes, my nose, my mouth are oozing. I wipe my face with a sleeve, sniffle, and, holding on the walls, stumble through the living room and outside, into the car.
With that money, I know I’ll make it. I can see the smooth syringe, I can smell the worn leather of the belt squeezing my arm. The needle would bite my hungry skin, and the warm wave would wash me out onto a lovely shore, envelop me in love and light, lull me to sleep. It will melt the sand in my veins and illuminate me and everything around me from within. Oh how I love its balmy amber glow. The cobweb in the corner, cactus on the windowsill, and the Christmas Angel will fuse like puzzle pieces. The shattered world would be one.
I start the car, look up and see Maddy standing in the open door. She’s naked. A Christmas Angel shines in her hand, wings spread. The green and red lights twinkle above her, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY CHRISTMAS. I see her feet. Bare, pink. Toes spread out, curved up. Like bizarre underwater creatures, blossoming on the blue snow next to Mom’s smashed carnation.
Maddy’s upper lip quivers. Nothing moves, just one small, almost invisible quiver of a lip, “Mommy.”
I run out of the car. I snatch her up from the snow, press her to me, squeeze her, her hair smelling unwashed, making me sick in my stomach. I make it to the floor in front of the couch, wrap her brown blanket around her icy feet, and rock her. Maddy doesn’t cry, she looks at the TV screen—the Christmas Angel tight in her right fist, her left hand to her mouth. She sucks on her thumb, rhythmically, focused. I push my jagged wings into the red leather, say, “Mommy’s here. Mommy stays,” and shake.