Working as a security guard gives him valuable dreaming time, a skill he practises during the long hours that make up his dull day. He is a natural fantasist, having honed his skill to such a level that he can enter a fugue like state for several hours at a time, and yet function and complete his rounds on time.
It is during a lucid stupor, triggered by trying to remember what Sally subtly hinted at only the night before, when he first sees her. She stands inside the large store window, straight and true, her face turned away from him as if winking at some unseen admirer. She is exquisite, not a term he thought he would ever use, or even knew. With skin a shade darker than alabaster and hair almost golden. He realises he is being poetic and forces himself to look away, embarrassed. Fearful others might see his awkward reaction to such a face, he turns his back on her, joining the crowds that throng the perfume counter, getting lost in the crush.
He thinks about her later, whilst cooking dinner.
Twice when watching television.
And again, cleaning his teeth.
In bed her face floats before his closed eyes like a shimmering mirage; and she is there when he wakes up in the morning.
He doesn’t mention her to Sally. He knows she will disapprove, so he keeps it a secret. He doesn’t feel bad, a little guilty, maybe.
A week passes. Christmas draws closer. Decorations go up, prodigious amounts of food is bought and the weather seriously deteriorates.
He sees her again inside the shop. He is on the third floor, ambling through women’s hosiery. She stands with her back to a pillar, looking out onto the shop floor, eyes wide and blue, mouth perfectly pouting. He watches her for a good ten minutes, examining the curve of her bust, the line of her thighs and long legs visible through the pale skirt that modestly covers them. Only when interrupted by a lost customer does he pull himself away, but he thinks about her for the rest of the afternoon, and the following day. Even when he isn’t at work she plagues his mind.
Eventually he makes a decision.
He wants her, desires her, covets her.
She will be his.
It will happen on his night shift. The last one, Christmas Eve. Just as the customers are leaving and the staff are thinking of going home, their day done. During that perilous period between open and closed, he will make his move. The act is illegal, but he has done it before. In his mind, he has already pardoned himself.
Fortunate favours the brave and his plan is made that much easier by the fact she is standing close by a staff entrance, seemingly absorbed in a selection of pillow cases and duvet covers. He moves in quick, takes her by the hand, her fingers tiny and cold in his own, and drags her through the double door before anyone notices her missing.
In the early hours of the morning, the world asleep, Sally in bed dreaming and snoring, he smuggles her into their flat, bound tightly in a roll of thick plastic to disguise her shape. In the living room he goes to work, pulling open her dress and making a deep incision between her shoulder blades, pulling apart her legs and searching up her thighs for his goal. Right there, in the dark of the cold crisp Christmas morning, in almost silence, he mounts her.
The next day he sheepishly reenters the room, the knowledge of what he has done the night before weighing heavy on his mind. He hopes he has cleared up after him, hidden any evidence, the deed erased from trace, but Sally already knows what has happened. He is surprised when she forgives him, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, but then his daughter understands that he loves her, and the fairy on top of the tree; with her too blonde hair, snow white skin and waxen stare, stolen to please only her, proves that.