I had been sick with the flu on New Year’s Eve, so I didn’t celebrate. In fact, it wasn’t until Friday 11th Jan that I was feeling well again. Despite not feeling in the mood for it, my housemates threw a party – New Year’s take two, they said.
Laughing, I joined in with the singing and dancing. I drink not too much and didn’t snack either. Someone put a recording of London celebrating New Year on the TV. We couldn’t down midnight and welcomed 2019 in.
Then we crowed in the small garden and let off some fireworks. The colours were so bright against the dark, foggy sky. The whizzing and bangs so loud as no one else was celebrating.
Chilled by the coming frost, we warmed inside with more dancing and hot corn beef hash. People started leaving then, a few helping to tidy before doing so. I was in bed before the last guests left, tried out by everything.
Even though my new year hadn’t gotten off to the best of starts, I wanted to make the second take really did.
I liked walking in the rain. I enjoyed listening to the noise of water on the roofs of houses and cars, on discard litter, on leaves and umbrellas. Every note was a different sound, coming together to form the melody of the rainfall. That song for me calmed my soul like nothing else could.
I didn’t walk with a destination in mind. I went wherever I fancied with no fear of getting lost. I had explored the streets of this town for years, little had changed. I crossed roads, went into parks, cut through graveyards with their dark church guardians then over the bridge.
The sound of rain on the river was loud and blocked some of the background town noise. I watched for awhile before turning and heading back home. I felt better, less stressed and calmer. Cold prickled my skin, making my sense of feeling higher, the handle of my umbrella a solid weight in my hands.
Back to the office today and Rose was all ready feeling unwell. Pausing in her work, she listened to the background sounds of people coughing, sneezing and sniffling. Rose signed and sipped her coffee.
From somewhere behind her, a woman’s voice said, ‘Do you want a throat soother?’
‘Go on then,’ a man responded.
Rose cast a look behind her and saw the exchange happen. Turning back to the PC screen she looked at the report but couldn’t focus as her eyes were too tired. Instead, she looked down into her coffee mug and wonder if this was her third or fourth cup.
‘Post is here!’ someone called.
There was a mutter of voices and some people got up too eager to wait for things to be delivered to their desks.
Pretending to get back to work, it wasn’t until things landed in her in the in-tray, that Rose looked up again. She shuffled through the few letters and found a late Christmas card from a client in America.
Not wanting to be reminded that Christmas was over, Rose shoved it into her desk draw. She finished her coffee and trying to fight off the coming illness got back to the report.
In the old days, Santa’s elves worked in pretty wooden sheds but now they worked in metal walled factories. The world’s population of children had become too much for the simpler times and with improvements in technology, the choice had been made to allow production to be faster, better and tripled.
Santa walking around the large conveyor belts and machinery on inspection missed the old days. Before the smell of candy canes, fires, newly sawed wood and paint hung in the air. Now it was all oil, smoke, warm plastic and metallic tang.
‘Are you happy elves?’ Santa asked them.
‘Yes, sir!’ cheery voices shouted, ‘we’re not stressed or tried anymore. There’s more time for creating, planning and double checking now.’
Santa nodded, he believed them but he also knew that in their hearts, just like his, they did missing the wooden workshops. Moving with the times had to be done though.
This year I’ve tried to be good but sometimes it’s been too hard like when my brother pulls my hair or Mummy says my way of helping is the opposite. I know I should be trying harder in school but its been tough as I’ve had to be on the same table as Rebecca Bentwood and we really hate each other. I hope she’s on the naughty list this year!
I’m trying super hard to be good and helpful now that your elf has appeared to watch me. He has been sitting on my bookcase for the last few nights now and each morning he has left me a chocolate to count the days down with. I have started my list which I hope to send to you soon, this is just a postcard to remind you about me and wish you well.
Mummy said it would be a good idea as you get lots of letters every year asking for presents but not many children ask how you are. Daddy said it was a nice thing to do. I drew you a picture too of your reindeer getting ready to help you.
It was getting to Christmas again. This time Terri had been on top of everything. Being off sick from work with stress had turned into a strange blessing. Whilst everyone else was worried about finding the time to get everything done, Terri was racing ahead.
The last of her presents arrived and wanting to put a surge of energy to good use, Terri decided to get wrapping things up. Covering the front room with boxes, wrapping paper, bows, tag, sticky tape and scissors, Terri put on some Christmas themed music and studied her notebook. The page listed peoples’ names and the gifts she had brought them as well as the cost.
Terri humming along to the song and set about wrapping each item up. It was fun for an hour then her head started spinning. She began questioning if she had brought and spent enough on each person, if they would like the gift and how could she be sure they didn’t have this book all ready?
A rant began in her mind and she had to stop to calm down.
It doesn’t matter, she thought finally, everyone is getting a present and that’s what counts the most.
The trees had lost all of their leaves and winter was growing in the air. I walked beside the bending river, listening to the water moving and the hidden birds singing. It was too cold to stop today as I would normally have done, to admire the landscape and the sounds of nature. My heart badly wanted to though.
At a rough wooden bench, huddling in my long coat, I sit down. It was mid-afternoon, too late for lunchtime dog walkers and schools would be out soon, so there wasn’t anyone walking this corner of the countryside. That’s the way I like it, nobody asking if I’m okay, saying it would pass and get better. It was just me and the river with it’s calming flow.
It felt like I could fall asleep and dream safely here. The insomnia and the nightmares couldn’t get me, I could be at peace. I sighed and looked up at the sky. The clouds were drifting lazy, I wish I was up there with them, no worries.
It was getting too cold, I had to go. I got up and walked slowly, trying to delay my return home. Back there all the anxiety and depression was waiting for me. Out here though, I was free.
The conservatory was cold, so Maddie turned up the heating. Then created a nest for herself out of large cushions and soft fluffy blankets, on the large over stuffed leather chair. Snuggling down and hugging the warm mug of tea, Maddie took a few deep breaths.
Minutes before, Maddie had been in the middle of an anxiety attack. All her senses had been overwhelmed, every little sound made her nervous and her mind a hurricane of worrying thoughts. She hadn’t been able to slow down and the pain in her stomach had crippled her. Maddie had felt like the whole world was crushing her.
She had shut her eyes, rubbed her stomach in circles and thought about the sound of the rain on the windows and the wind rattling outside. That had helped ease things, Maddie had got up, made a hot drink and gone into the almost glass room at the back of the house.
Now, she could hear the rain and wind surrounding her, washing over and helping to make her feel much better. Safe in the nest, she sipped the peppermint tea and thought only of all the warmth. She was safe from everything here.
Roxy was dead and drifting through a stark landscape. Below her were bare white trees, branches reaching into an endless grey-white clouded, dark blue sky. Yellowed grass upon rolling hills created a sea for her to look down upon.
She didn’t know where this was. A countryside? A moor? Hell, perhaps and over that hill there’d be lava pools, towers of fires and demons chanting. She flew over, there was nothing. Heaven then? But it seemed too bleak and deserted for that.
Roxy was unable to stop moving but she didn’t feel anything, she was beyond that now. From time to time, she thought she saw white shapes in the distance, she couldn’t make out what they were and never got close enough to see.
On and on she flew, the landscape repeating itself. She tried hard to remember small details; the certain shapes of tree branches or clouds. However, her mind wasn’t working as it once did and she couldn’t keep hold of the memories for long.
An idea came to her, Limbo. That would explain it. So, she was trapped here until what? Roxy couldn’t recall. In fact, she was having a hard time thinking now. She slipped into the drifting motion and let it carry her away, forgetting everything.
Everything was set. The pumpkins with their scary faces were outside the doors or in the windows, the glow of candles bring them to life. Fake cobwebs in white, black, green and orange draped over everything, making real spiders jealous. Plastic skeletons, bats and ghosts hung from walls and ledges.
In front gardens were mock graveyards with zombie and skeleton hands and skulls poking out. Lights in so many shapes glowed along fences, gates and windows. The smell of smoke and rotting leaves clogged the coming night air which was also promised a fresh rainfall.
Voices rose and fell, laughter and delighted screams echoed. Children and adults dressed traditional or not, in a range of colours and fabrics toured the streets. Door knocks and bells sounded chimed with the chant of trick or treat!