Christmas shopping is one of my favourite yuletide activities: the sight of store decorations, the smell of pine and brandy and Grand Marnier, and the warm fuzzy feeling of buying something especially for a loved one.

On this particular occasion, I was in a little shop with TARDIS-like qualities: one particular door led into a cavernous hall that led me to believe that I was standing in an ex-church.

It was in a dusty little corner that I found the Christmas angel.

She was not pretty. That is, she didn't confirm to the modern western ideal of beauty. She was very Renaissance, with a lushly curvy body and a proudly arched nose. Her golden blonde hair was twisted into ringlets and pulled into a loose bun with curls cascading down her neck.

She wore an elaborate white dress scattered with white diamantes, satin ribbons and numerous flounces. Her wings brought to mind a wrought iron fence, and would never sustain flight unless hurled across the room in fury. Her hands were small and delicate, and they held back the overskirt to reveal the intricate design beneath. She had no legs, merely a plastic cone where she would sit on a Christmas tree.

Her head was tilted down and to the side, a subtle gesture of defeat. For it was a doomed angel that stood before me.

She seemed to know her fate as well as I did - to sit, perhaps forever, on a dingy shelf in a gift shop and watch the world go by. Should she ever leave, it would be to a kind of slavery in which she would be alternately locked up and put on display atop a shedding artificial tree. To watch, and not be a part of, all that went on below.

Doomed to suffer forever in silence as others took her for granted. Doomed to see the happiness of others while experiencing none of her own. Doomed.

I left her there, the little doomed angel. Left her to her fate. For she deserved someone better than I. Someone who would care.

Someone who could give her wings.

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