The presents glittered under the tree as the lights caught pieces of tape and the silver in the wrapping paper. Joey wandered into the living room and tucked herself as far behind the tree as possible.
It had only been 3 months since she officially moved in with her new family. While they constantly reassure her that they weren’t going to send her back, each time there were visitors she’d hide in case they had come to take her away.
Listening to the chatter in the dining room and the reassuring clink of silverware against the good china, Joey could almost imagine that she was back home with her parents and brothers. It was almost like it was before the accident but not quite. The ornaments were different and she was sitting on hardwood, not carpet. If she closed her eyes tight enough she could remember each detail of her last Christmas with her family.
She traced her finger around the closest present to her and kept flicking the tag on it. She wanted to believe that they loved her and that this was her new forever home but she didn’t trust anything or anyone. Most of the presents under the tree were for her; she knew because when they were first put out, that night she had snuck down and checked.
The adults laughed in the other room and she could hear the kids begin to get restless. All at once they flooded the living room and it wasn’t long before they found her. Joey was soon joined by tiny Delilah and the two of them pushed the presents out from the tree and laid down underneath it to look up into the branches.
The other kids came over, curious about what the two girls were doing. By the time the adults had finished their coffee and were trickling in, presents were scattered around the room and they saw ten pairs of little feet sticking out from under the giant balsam fir.
Joey may have still felt like she didn’t fully belong but with brand new cousins snuggled close to her, she could feel that everything was going to be okay. She may not love them yet but they loved her.
© Sandra O’Driscoll 2012