He was still holding the perfectly-wrapped present. The glossy smiling row of Santas beaming happily from the red and green paper at him. He studied their identical faces, looking for any sort of imperfection that could distinguish them from each other. A pointless task but he wasn’t prepared to look up at Marge yet. He wondered if she would have actually liked the small golden ring he had bought her, the one with little green Colombian emerald that cost him a small fortune. ‘It’s perfect,’ he remembered thinking when he chanced upon it a couple of months earlier whilst browsing idly in a second-hand shop. And now he was holding it in his hands, wrapped in the special Christmas paper that they had bought together a few days before to wrap the gifts of those friends they didn’t really liked who lived down the road. A joke he thought she’d appreciate. How irrelevant it seemed now.
‘Are you not going to say anything? He heard Marge saying and he suddenly became aware of the Christmas lights wrapped around the tree next to him. ‘Will you marry me?’ he remembered practising in front of the mirror that morning. He didn’t want to ruin a moment they’ve both been waiting for for over 5 years. He smiled as he remembered his ruddy reflection in the mirror. ‘I’ve called Michael already,’ Marge went on, ‘he’s picking me up in 5 minutes.’
She stood up quickly, dropping the Christmas crackers she’d had on her lap. ‘I’m really sorry about this, Peter,’ she hesitated, ‘I just can’t do it anymore.’ He heard her steps as she walked away. He picked up one of the crackers and in search of another pointless task, he pulled it. The paper-thin hat, a miniature bowling set and the joke all fell to the ground. He picked up the hat and the joke. He looked toward the door where Marge was crying and pulling her coat on. Looking down, he read the joke. ‘What question can you never answer yes to? Are you asleep?’ The front door slammed closed. He could feel a tear forming in the corner of his eye and he dropped the joke and the wrapped present on the floor. He didn’t want to look up so he put his cracker hat on and softly muttered goodbye.