"Charlotte flicked the switch and the tree burst into life. Tiny jewels of light shone through the branches and looked so tantalizingly pretty that she was almost tempted to pluck one from the greenery and wear it in her hair.
The tree was a riot of colour. She had toyed briefly with the idea of a theme. The shops had been full of delicate decorations all grouped in accordance with their predominant colour. Wicker baskets overflowed with purple baubles, strings of golden pearls or silver icicles all arranged so that even the least discerning customer could plump for a selection that had half a chance of looking sophisticated and elegant in situ.
Charlotte had wandered about the displays trying to decide which colour would look best but in the end had been unable to resist the childish draw of a few of each. The resulting tree was hardly chic but it summed up Charlotte and her view on life very nicely.
She sat back on her heels and gave her handiwork a final admiring glance. Her hopes and dreams for the first Christmas in her flat were all caught up with the tinsel and the trinkets. Years of shared kitchens, stolen food and other people’s takeaway cartons could be swept away – a necessary part of growing up but now forgotten. Charlotte had great plans for her three rooms, four if you counted the hallway.
She stood up and span round on her heel. Even she was surprised by the level of mess. Shopping bags from that day’s expedition to find the perfect shoes spewed their contents out over the sofa. The packaging from her tights and the new mascara that she had treated herself with were on the coffee table with a lipstick stained wine glass and several discarded coffee cups. Clothes were draped over every surface. Smiling to herself at the disparity between her dream and the reality, Charlotte picked her way across the wooden floor to unhook her bag from the back of the chair. She checked its contents, ensuring that she had everything she needed for her night on the town.
As if awoken by the movement, her phone began to trill loudly and made her jump. Assuming that the call would be to confirm arrangements for the evening ahead, she extracted it from her bag and was about to answer it when she noticed the name on the screen. ‘James calling.’ Her heart plummeted. Not now. Not when she was about to go out. Decisively she rejected the call. James would still be there tomorrow.
A horn hooted in the street below and, grabbing her jacket from underneath a glossy magazine, Charlotte took a final look at her tree and then left the flat, pulling the door to behind her."
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