When Grandmother Eliza arrives in a big black car,
Mother opens the front door. The pheasant feather in Grandmother's hat bobs up and down in the doorway. At her feet, beautifully wrapped gifts beckon from their bags. From the stairway directly behind the door, the girl sees everything. She waits at the top of the stairs in a white nightgown, seen but not heard.
"No, you can't see her," Mother says at the door. There's something spoiled in those bags.
The girl hears Swan Lake, owls, doves, sparrows, dogs barking, Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor" on the silver upright piano. Mother knows best. Once the girl unwrapped all the presents under the Christmas tree in Mother's office, and saw what was really inside the empty boxes.
"Then I'll just pretend she's dead," replies Grandmother. She turns to go. The gifts at the door heave in their bags. The feather disappears. The car pulls away.
The girl hears Swan Lake, owls, doves, sparrows, dogs barking, Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor." The gifts disappear.
The girl, now dead, was an angel then. Candles were lighted and prayers said. At Christ Church they dressed her in white, an acolyte's robe, extending her arms behind to locate her shoulder blades. Great, drooping wings of silver foil were tied around her waist. On Christmas Eve, they positioned her on the sanctuary steps.