New Year’s Eve

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Standing on my best friend’s doorstep, looking up at the falling rain, I wondered how it had come to this. Another year was over and I didn’t want to let it go. So much had happened; good, bad and in-between. My mind jumped over the memories like snap shot photos and I was filled with happiness.

Sighing, I wondered how I was going to move on. It was a strange notion because nothing had actually changed nor would do in the coming weeks, expect for the dates. Why did I feel like this was such a big problem then? I rubbed my head and decided I was just being silly and I should let everything go.

The door opened behind me, party music and shouting voices drifted into the night. I turned around frowning and saw my boyfriend standing there.

‘It’s almost midnight. Come inside,’ he said.

‘No,’ I answered, ‘you come out here.’

I held my hand out and there was a moment where he almost pulled me in and I tried to pull him out. He stepped over to me and we held each other. Someone shouted out the number ‘ten,’ and other voices joined in the countdown.

Muttering the numbers under my breath, I drew my boyfriend closer and he started saying the numbers too. We were wrapped together, smiling at each other, breathing in the cold night air. Reaching ‘one,’ we kissed and welcomed in the new year.

 

 

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Thaw #writephoto

The hills were cover in snow and it didn’t look as if they were going to thaw anytime soon. The bad winter the weatherman had forewarned had had us all laughing but now he was the one in fits of laughter. We had all just had enough already, England wasn’t made for this kind of thing! Still, it had been the white Christmas written into every song and pleaded for by children. To me though, it just made the coming New Year and January feel even bleaker.

(Inspired by; https://wordpress.com/post/thestoryfiles.wordpress.com with thanks).

Christmas Day

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Santa arrived back home feeling tried, stuffed and proud of another successful Christmas. Leaving the reindeer in the hands of some tipsy elves, who were eager to get back to the party, he walked into the large, heavily decorated house. Cheering, clapping and shouting voices trailed after him even as he closed the door.

He would celebrate later, once he had rested. Sinking into his favourite chair before the roaring fire, he began to doze. Images swam before his eyes; presents, chimneys, decorated trees and stockings. Christmas music was playing and in the air was the lovely aroma of sweet baking.

Relieved it was all over for another year, Santa turned his thoughts around and thought about all the children now excitedly opening their presents.

Christmas Eve

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The moon shone of the freshly fallen snow, making it sparkly like diamonds. The little girl sighed and felt the chilly night air deep in her lungs. She should be home, safely tugged in bed, waiting for Father Christmas to arrive, but she wasn’t.

The train station platform the girl stood on was empty expect for her and her mother. They were waiting for the midnight train which was bringing father back to them. Huddled in her new white cloak, the girl looked up at the clear sky and full moon. A shadow in shape she recognised passed by and she pointed excitedly upwards; it was Father Christmas in his sled!

The sound of a train broke the silence as it pulled into the station, black smoke pluming through the air. There was a hiss of steam and squeal of wheels as the train stopped before them. The girl clutched her mother’s skirts and half hide behind her.

The handful of carriage doors opened and only a few people got out. The girl saw her father coming towards her and broke into a run, tugging her mother to do the same. They embraced, all hugging each other and talking at once.

Safe in the arms of her parents, the little girl looked to the sky once more and thanked Father Christmas for the best present she could have asked for.

The Grotto (Part 4)

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I took a shower when I got back home and as I stood under the hot water, I tried to clear my head. Still though the idea that my little niece was growing up and losing her believe in Christmas bugged me. How could I make things better?

My own childhood hadn’t been merry and bright. I knew around Willow’s age that there was no Santa, because nothing would bring my parents back to life. Alex and I had kept up the pretense for my grandparents a little long but then we had all gotten tried of it. We had grown up before we should have done and that was why Alex wanted his children to experience everything for a longer time.

Washing my hair, I wondered if I could write a letter to Willow pretending to be from Santa. As long as I was careful, it might just work. I could do some internet searching and see how to get it right. No one else would have to know about it.

I set to that plan after getting dressed and having something to eat. My granddad normally went out to the pub tonight but with the bad weather he was staying in. Leaving my grandparents to wrap presents, I went upstairs and loaded up my laptop. Making up a letter from Santa was easier then I thought. Only a few times did I wondered if it was the right thing to do and if I should check with Alex. I was done before I could do anything else though.

The next day when I saw Alex leaving early for work as I headed out myself, I called over the road to him.

‘I have this…’ I said fishing the envelope out of handbag, ‘can you put it under the tree on Christmas eve?’

‘Why?’ he asked, accepting the letter.

‘It’s for Willow. Just thought it might help her believing for a bit longer.’

Alex looked at the large cream envelope before replying, ‘I think we’re going to have to tell her. Jo is getting tried of all the questions and with Luke still being ill….’

‘But Christmas is so soon!’ I pointed out, ‘No, you can’t! Next year, maybe. Just give her the letter.’

I shoved his hand and the letter up and did my best sister pleading eyes.

‘Okay,’ he signed.

‘Good. See you later,’

I hurried away and went to catch my bus. On the ride into work, I wondered how Willow would take it. Would she know it was a fake or would it inspire her to carry on believing? Had I done a good thing or not? It was up to the Spirit of Christmas now.

Working at the college library was a bore most days but at least it paid and forced me to carry on looking for other job. Some days, I was able to leave early and go pick Willow up from school which was close by. She finished in three days now which meant Christmas eve was so close! The college had finished last week but the library was still open for those bookworms and panic studying students.

I finished early and since it was too soon to pick Willow up, I went home. The next few days past far too fast, so I didn’t get a chance to tell Alex about my plan. On Christmas eve, I went out with some friends and finally had some downtime. It was good to just forget about Christmas and Santa and believing for a few hours.

Late on Christmas morning, my grandparents and I went went over to Alex’s. We each had a pot or tray of something homemade that my gran had cooked or baked. Jo opened the door and seemed glad to see us. I had not seen her in a few days and she really looked tried.

‘My parents are running late, come in,’ she added.

Willow dashed out of the front room, something in her hand, ‘Auntie Angel! Dad said I could couldn’t open this till you got here!’

Giving Jo the bowl of stuffing I was holding, I went over to Willow and saw the envelope in her hand. She was still in her pajamas which were pink and the top read Princess whilst the bottoms had crowns and hearts on them.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

Willow shrugged and opened it.

I held my breath and bit my lip.

‘It’s a letter…’ Willow trailed.

I hummed and waited. In the background her baby brother Luke started crying and I heard Alex trying to shush him.

‘From…Santa!’ Willow gasped, ‘Angel! He really wrote to me!’

‘What does it say?’ I pressed, trying to keep the smile from my face.

‘He said; I’m sorry I can’t see you in person but I’ve been really busy. My elves and I are finishing up making toys packing the sleigh today. The reindeer are almost ready to fly and I have so many deliveries to make this year. My cousins have been telling me all about you and so have the elves,’ Willow read excitedly.

‘Well that’s good!’

Willow nodded and carried on, ‘it can be hard for me to write to each child, but I do try and will always take the time for those that have been really good. I hope you love the pink unicorn you asked for, it was made just for you.’

She dropped the letter and turned to the front room, ‘you should see her, Aunt, she’s huge!’ Willow cried.

I laughed, ‘what else does the letter say?’

‘That; I hope like the other presents you got too. Have a good Christmas and it’s a special time to be with your family. Thanks for believing in me. Santa,’ Willow took a deep breath, ‘he’s real! He’s real!’ she cried.

I laughed and hugged her, ‘he really is if you believe hard enough,’ I whispered.

The Grotto (Part 3)

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We walked back down the queue which was full of chatting children and parents. Willow hugged the present as if she was never going to let it go. I really hoped there was a unicorn inside of there. Glad that was over, I realised I needed the bathroom and a drink.

‘Hey, how’d meeting the Big Man go?’ the male elf said loudly.

I stopped and grabbed my niece’s arm as he suddenly stood before us all green and bells tinkling. There was a huge grin on his face and he was just too happy. He reminded me of the Grinch after he’d stolen everything.

‘It’s fine thanks,’ I muttered.

‘I got a present,’ Willow said proudly and showed him the box.

‘Wow, that’s just great! You must have been good this year then!’ the elf said in fake shock.

‘I’ve been good! Can I have a present?’ a little boy’s voice shouted from the queue.

The elf turned and replied, ‘of course you can!’

We slipped past him and hurried away into the crowd. I’d had enough of this. Heading into the toilets, there was another queue to join but at least it wasn’t as long. I sighed and lent against the wall. Feeling tried and fed up of all these people. I shut my eyes but still the sounds came. A baby was crying loudly behind a closed door, a child was singing Jingle Bells, a young couple were having an argument and there was a constant chatter of other voices.

I felt Willow tug on my coat and I looked down at her.

‘That elf was a bit weird, wasn’t he?’ Willow asked.

‘He was just really happy, that’s all. It’s how they are, I guess…and I really needed the loo,’ I added.

‘Auntie Angel, tell me the truth, is Santa real?’

I rolled my eyes at her use of my name. God, I hated it with a passion. Like how people hate the taste of fish or the sight of a spider or the same Christmas song on repeat. And how I was meant to answer her question? I didn’t want to be the one to spoil Christmas but I hated to lie.

‘What did Santa say?’ I asked instead.

‘If I believed in him then he was real,’ Willow replied slowly.

‘Do you believe in fairies and unicorns and magic?’

‘Yes, I do! but Santa is just different…somehow.’

‘He’s more magical then the rest?’ I suggested as we become the head of the queue.

Willow shrugged and studied the colorful wrapping on the present.

After we’d been to the toilets, we went to a coffee shop, got drinks and small cakes then we walked to the bus stop. I avoided going anywhere near the Santa’s Grotto which meant we went the back way out of the shopping outlet and had to go around. Willow was quiet for the rest of the time, lost in her thoughts.

The bus was busy and I had to stand. A kind, older lady moved her shopping so Willow could have the seat next to her. I placed the bags at Willow’s feet and hung on tight. The bus driver must have been running late as he zoomed off and raced the traffic. The bus smelt like sweaty bodies, dirty water and oil. People were trying to keep to themselves with headphones, newspapers and phones whilst a few chattered about this person or that present or how they were tried of Christmas already!

‘Have you been to see Santa today? the older lady asked.

Willow nodded.

‘And that’s a present from him? You must have have been good girl then,’ she added.

Willow smiled a little and with a quick glance at me, said to the lady, ‘yes.’

‘Your sister’s so nice to take you shopping isn’t she? Did you buy a present for your mum?’

I pulled a face but held the words back in. I was too use to people guessing the relationship between us now. At least no one had called me Willow’s mum today! That’s always the worse, especially when you then work out the age difference.

‘My Auntie,’ Willow corrected, ‘she took me shopping for my family. We are best friends and she’s far more fun then my parents or baby brother.’

‘I bet she is!’ the lady said and smiled more brightly at me. ‘Are you going to save your present till Christmas day?’

‘Maybe…Do you believe in Santa?’ Willow asked.

‘Willow!’ I snapped.

‘It’s fine,’ the lady waved away, ‘yes I do believe still. It’s hard with all this technology and growing up so fast now. But Santa’s out there still, a symbol of hope and happiness for anyone who keeps believing.’

‘I like that,’ Willow said then under her breath, ‘but I’m still not any closer to the truth!’

The rest of the bus journey was normal and we got off before the lady did. We said good bye and merry Christmas then found ourselves stepping into a sleet storm. As the doors closed the bus pulled away, we hurried up the street we both lived on. My older brother’s house was first and the house I currently shared with my grandparents was close to the end of the street. Willow ran up the pathway and rang the doorbell. I had a key somewhere…

The door opened and we both rushed in.

‘It’s almost snowing!’ Willow cried to her dad.

‘It’s really meant to start tonight,’ her dad added, ‘what’s that? a present for me?’

‘No! It’s from Santa!’

‘Another one?’

Willow giggled and ran off to find her mum without taking anything but her boots off.

I looked at my brother, we were so alike we could still be mistake for twins at a distance. Same brown hair and brown eyes, same slightly over weight bodies, though he looked better then I did at the moment. There was four years between us but we’d been through everything together.

‘Hi Alex,’ I said, ‘it was hard to say no to her! but at least all the present buying is done now.’

‘Thanks, Angel. She’s really attached to you,’ he replied.

‘I should go…’

He pulled me into a hug then we said our goodbyes.

To Be Continued…

The Grotto (Part 2)

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We walked through a plastic curtain that was meant to be dripping icicles and entered the igloo. There was a thick patterned rug on the floor and a huge red plush throne which Santa was sat upon. There was a female elf at his side with a fake book holding loose papers. I remembered that we had been asked Willow’s name soon after we had joined the queue.

Santa looked like anyone you’d find in other shopping centres and events. He was tall and fat – though his stomach was probably padded out. His red suit was bright and the buttons shining. He had a huge white beard that looked almost real but really couldn’t be and matching long white hair. The face peering out from all of that was wrinkled and brushed with make up. Santa looked tried, but he was hiding it well behind that smile and twinkling blue eyes.

‘And who do we have here?’ Santa asked in a deep, jolly voice.

Willow walked over to him, her head and shoulders high, determined to gather more evidence for her mission. I hung back, hoping that she didn’t embarrass me.

‘Ah, Willow!’ Santa said with quick glance at the elf’s open book.

Willow stopped by his massive black boots and as if she was a toddler, Santa lifted her up and on to his knee. I had a flash thought about wondering how okay that was now a days. Willow seemed happy enough.

‘Have you been a good girl this year?’ Santa asked.

Willow nodded, ‘yes,’ she added.

The elf slide the book further down, allowing Santa to look at the pages.

‘Ah, I can see from the good list you have been! What would you like for Christmas?’ Santa asked.

‘A unicorn,’ Willow said quickly, ‘with a rainbow mane and tale, a golden horn and she has to be pink.’

Santa chuckled before saying, ‘I should be able to do that for you.’

‘Thank you,’ Willow replied then, ‘Can I ask you a few questions? It’s for a report at school.’

Santa looked a little worried and the elf’s big smile turned into a frown.

‘Go on,’ Santa said slowly, some of the jolliness gone from his voice.

‘How are you related to the real Santa? And don’t say you are ’cause I know that’s not true as the real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Santa looked thoughtful and in a whisper said, ‘I’m his cousin.’

‘Santa has a LOT of cousins,’ Willow mused.

‘He sure does but we must keep it a secret.’ Santa winked.

‘Are these elves real or just cousins too?’ Willow questioned.

‘Cousins. All the elves are needed at the moment to make all the toys.’

The elf shot me a look then give a small side nod to Willow. A clean sign she wanted me to remove my niece. I looked away, pretending I’d not seen and forcused on the glitter covered wall next to me as if I thought it was real ice. We had waited so long for this and I wasn’t about to drag Willow away…Unless she got too embarrassing.

‘But do know Santa right?’ Willow carried on talking.

‘Of course! And I’ll tell him you were asking about him,’ Santa replied.

‘What about the reindeer? Do they really fly by magic? Why doesn’t Santa get a motor, like on a speed boat?’

‘The reindeer do fly by magic dust but there is also a motor. It helps to get the sled around faster. That’s why it’s very hard to spot.’

‘What happens if things go wrong?’ Willow pressed.

The elf give a small cough and Santa glanced at her, she was tapping her empty wrist.

‘Santa has many back up plans if anything goes wrong. But everything is fully tested, so nothing ever does. Is that all? There are lots of other children waiting to see me,’ Santa explained.

Willow looked across at me then back up at Santa, ‘I guess….I’m still not closer to the truth though.’

‘The truth?’ Santa echoed.

‘Yes,’ Willow uttered as she swung her legs, ready to get down.

‘You want to know if Santa is really real don’t you?’ Santa voiced.

Willow looked startled at him and I bit my lip. It was so time to leave.

‘If you believe,’ Santa begin, ‘then he is real inside of your heart.’

Willow give a nod and slide off his knee.

‘Oh, don’t forget your present!’ the elf called and she handed Willow a gift wrapped in girly unicorn paper.

‘Is it a unicorn?’ Willow asked excitedly.

Santa laughed loudly and replied, ‘you’ll have to open it and see!’

‘Thanks for coming,’ the elf added.

Willow skipped over to me, a huge grin on her face. She showed me her present, her finger itching to open it.

‘We’ll open it at home,’ I told her.

Saying goodbye to Santa and his elf helper, we left the grotto.

To Be Continued…

The Grotto (Part 1)

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The queue to see Santa at the small shopping outlet was far too long but my eight year old niece, Willow, had really wanted to see him. So, after we had eaten lunch and done some Christmas shopping, we had joined the hour wait behind the red ropes.

‘Haven’t you seen Santa four times already?’ I asked her.

Willow give me a hard stare, her arms folded across her chest and replied, ‘yes, but I’m on a mission.’

I couldn’t help but smile. She was trying to look serious but it didn’t work with the cuteness of the grandma made knitted rainbow bobble hat and bright pink puff coat with unicorns on it.

‘What kind of mission?’ I asked.

‘To prove he’s real,’ Willow said in a low voice.

I lent down to hear her better as she explained, ‘kids in my class say he’s not real and it’s their parents who buy all the presents. I though want to prove he’s real and I can only do that by talking to as many ‘Santas’ as possible.’

I nodded then said, ‘but you know all the Santas are like the real Santa’s relatives, right? The real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Willow pressed her lips together and puffed out her cheeks, ‘I know.’

The queue moved a little and a mother ahead of us stopped a passing male elf to ask how long it would be.

‘It won’t be much longer now!’ the elf cheerily replied, ‘and have you been good children this year?’

I turned to Willow who was watching intently. The elf was too tall and it looked like the green trousers, jacket and hat were far too small for him. He was clean shaven and he had short blond hair. He was wearing fake pointy ear tips, there was a bell on the end of of his hat and also atop each of his green pointy shoes. He had red blush circles on his cheeks too and though it was hard to tell his age, he couldn’t have been more then twenty-six – close to my own age. Actually, if wasn’t dressed like he was I would have found him attractive!

He walked down the line, chatting to adults and kids then he reached us.

‘I think my auntie likes you!’ Willow spoke out.

‘Oi!’ I snapped and give her pink fluffy lined hood a tug.

Willow giggled and beamed at me as I felt my cheeks go red.

‘This is your aunt? Why I thought you were sisters!’ the elf said cheekily.

‘Are you a real elf?’ Willow asked.

‘Of course I am! Fresh from the North Pole! Only the best elves get to travel with Santa.’

‘How much longer is it going to be?’ I asked.

‘Shouldn’t be-‘

‘No,’ I cut him off, ‘the real time. We have a bus to catch.’

Willow look at me in shock but I tugged her hood again to stop her from speaking.

‘Oh….erm….an hour or so. He’s really popular today! I’m sure you could catch another bus….’ the elf trailed with a wide grin, ‘he’s worth the wait!’ he winked at Willow then walked off.

‘Meanie!’ Willow snarled, ‘I’m not leaving till I see him!’

She crossed her arms and turned away from me, nose in the air.

I signed and looked around. The shopping outlet shone and glittered with lights and sparkly decorations. Christmas music was playing in the background but the noise of people made it hard to only make out a few louder notes. The window displays of the near by shops were trying their hardest to compete with one another and also draw customers into spend lots of money. With it being the third Saturday to Christmas, a lot of people were doing just that.

Looking back at the Santa’s Grotto which was shaped like a large igloo covered in glitter surrounded by presents and models of penguins, bears and reindeer, I just couldn’t bring myself to drag Willow out of the queue and leave. So, we waited an hour and twenty minutes watching the shoppers and the elves until we were next.

There were two female elves at the front, one was taking money and the other photographs. They looked like twins with their green costumes, blonde hair, blue eyes and too much make up.

‘It’s five pounds to see Santa and another five if you want your photo taken with him,’ the first elf explained.

I glanced at Willow and she responded, ‘just Santa, please.’

‘Are you sure, sweetie?’ the second elf asked, swaying the large camera around her neck.

‘Yes,’ Willow and I said together.

I handed over the note from my purse and lead Willow up the cotton wool pathway. The family that had been before us came out and we went in.

To Be Continued….

Town Decorations #FridayFictioneers

I looked up at the high street’s Christmas decorations with a mixture of  puzzlement and anger. At the lights turn on, the mayor had announced that due to lack of funds this year, they had decided to go with a ‘homemade’ feel..Children, old people and those who had nothing better to do, had dug out their old decorations and got making some too. Long knitted scarfs wrapped around the lampposts, ancient lights danging down, children’s glittered things and was that someone’s Mrs Santa’s nightdress? Well, I guess the town had come together in the spirit of Christmas.

(Inspired from; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/12/13/15-december-2017 with thanks).

Mists #writephoto

He watched the mists rolling across the field and patchy woodland from his bedroom window. He was still in his pajamas, the blue and white stripped ones that his wife had brought him last Christmas. His lower back ached and so did his upper legs, as if he been sleeping on a pebble beach instead of the well worn soft bed.

He did the morning exercises like his doctor had told him too. The bending and stretching helped a little but he’d still need some pain killers to get through the day. Perhaps, he’d take a bath later, if he remembered though he already knew it was going to be another day inside; watching TV, reading, napping, cooking then falling asleep on the sofa.

Watching the mists would entertain him for awhile and if it cleared up maybe he’d go for a walk. It didn’t though. Just like the snow and ice the other day, the mists hung around as if they were happy to be there. He didn’t really mind, it was interesting to see how the mists give everything an out of focus look.

In the evening, it was nice to see that the mists even softened the too harsh Christmas lights coming from other peoples’ houses. He looked at the small tree his daughters and grandchild had set up for him before the front window. The lights were on a timer so he didn’t have to do anything. He and his wife normally put the tree up and placed the children’s presents under for them to open on Christmas day…

This year, he’d be going to stay at his eldest daughter’s for a few days. Then his youngest daughter was bringing her family for New Year’s week. He was looking forward to seeing everyone and having the company. It was going to be just what he needed to being some brightness and colour back into his life again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/12/14/thursday-photo-prompt-mists-writephoto with thanks).