He could just hear a bell......
"Hurry Papa! We're almost ready!"
The barely contained excitement in his 7-yr-old daughter was infectious. He laughed as she dragged him into the living room.
"Look," she bubbled, "we've finished the ornaments. All that's left is the angel! Lift me!" she begged, stretching out her arms.
It seemed this ritual became better every year. The room radiated warmth and happiness as the aroma of the freshly cut tree vied for supremacy with the mouthwatering smells coming from the kitchen. Christmas music played softly from speakers placed on either side of the cozy fireplace. In the background, a bell....
"Okay, little one," he said laughing. "Up you go." Brimming with excitement she placed the angel crookedly on top.
"Yay!" she cheered as he set her back down. "It's perfect!" The bell tolled a little louder.
His wife strolled in and they stood together looking proudly at the tree as a family.
This time, the bell was real.
The dream faded into a Salvation Army ringer and the fact the store had opened. He couldn't stay here. He shuffled off in his raggedy coat as images of a past life faded into nothing.