An excellent workshop was held at our local Writers' Group. The idea was to hold a crisis conversation between two people with differing views. Several situations were offered and the following was my choice, written exactly as it came out on the day so please forgive the mistakes:
The Christmas tree lights flickered and died just seconds before two tousled headed children, casting sleep aside, rushed into the cold, dark but beautifully decorated room.
'Has he been yet? Did he come? I heard the bells but kept my eyes shut; didn't want to frighten him away. I have been good, haven't I?'
This was all shared on the cusp of just one breath so as Sam gasped in a refill of oxygen I was able to offer the reassurance he required.
'Yes Sam, he has been and you must have been a very good boy judging by the fullness of your stocking.'
Flo followed her brother through the door and gave me a supercillious glance. All this Father Christmas stuff was beyond her and she planned to let her brother know the truth this year if he was daft enough not to have cottoned on soon.
'Why is it dark and cold?'
'Happy Christmas children; Santa's been' I said, trying to keep a smile in my voice. 'The tree lights must have fused and we are awake too early for the central heating, so here, snuggle under my duvet.'
'I'll open mine first' insisted Flo. 'I am the oldest.' and she began to run her fingers through the long red and green stocking: orange; nuts; selection chocolates; notelets; pencils for school; battery powered car.
'Battery powered car, what on earth does "he" think I want that for? Doesn't "he" even know my name? Probably doesn't know I exist these days.'
'Flo, for goodness sake. I expect Santa was so busy doing the preparations that he wasn't able to check and one of the elves popped it in your sack by accident. Let's see what Sam has been given, shall we?'
'Why bother,' Flo had shaken off the shared duvet and was glaring at Sam whilst preparing to flounce out of the room. 'I expect "Santa" didn't know that I was a girl who doesn't play with cars. I expect "he" was so wrapped up with darling little Sam "he" couldn't even remember what Flo stands for - Florence, a girl - remember!'
'Please don't get so excited and don't be rude' I came back with more tension in my voice than I had intended.
'Well, I've got news for you, lovely, wonderful Sam!' Flo could hear nothing but the sound of her own voice. 'There is no Santa Claus, it's mum pretending and she loves you much more than me, so there!'
'Oh Flo, how could you?'
Sam screamed: 'No Santa, no Santa at all!'
I heard the central heating pop on and the tree lights flickered to life. Happy first Christmas coping alone.