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A Christmas Story - a fiction short story
The present time
I sipped my hot coca as I looked out the window at the blasting, blizzard of snow grandly sweeping across the yard.
I could barely see the lights of the next house nearly an eighth of a mile away. The night had settled in and was dark and cold and snowy, but I had a fire crackling in the fire place and I was wrapped in my warmest wool sweater. The warmth and glow from the fireplace comforted me and gave me an extra layer of warm.
The dog was fast asleep in front of the fireplace. What great company he is this evening, I thought dryly. Ben was on his way home from up in north country - Canada. I remember the phone ringing in the middle of the night almost a week ago.
Ben's groggy "Hello," and then his jump out of bed had caused me to sit up straight as Ben said, "I'm on my way!"
"Where? What's happening?" I asked.
"It's Dad - he's had a stroke - he's in the hospital - that was Dan Bartlett, the town sheriff - Anne - I have to go up there - there's no one but me."
"I know, Ben," I said as I got out of bed and groped for my robe and then hurriedly struggled to get it on and wrap it around me as quickly as possible on this cold early morning. Ben was an only child. He didn't have six brothers like I did and was always a bit envious I grew up in a big family. I, of course, dreamed of being an only child, not wild about getting the 'stuff' knocked out of me by six older brothers all the time as I was growing up.
"I'll put on some coffee and pack your duffel bag," I said yawning. I stumbled around in the kitchen, crashing and banging around in my urgency to get the coffee brewing.
"Are you okay out there?" called Ben with a chuckle.
"Yes, fine . . . just clumsy," I answered as I dropped a spoon on the floor and then heard the shower door snap close and the water splash on.
I returned to the bedroom and quickly stuffed his duffel bag with the appropriate clothes and threw a plastic bag over his favorite sports jacket. I found his passport in his dresser drawer and put it on top of the completely packed duffel bag and returned to the kitchen to make a few ham and cheese sandwiches, also his favorite. I poured the hot coffee into his driver's tumbler and there was Ben grabbing it all up and he was gone in one big whoosh -- I received a brushed kiss on my check.
"Do you have your passport?" I called. It would be hard for him to get out of Maine and into Canada without one, especially in the middle of the night.
"Yes, got it hon. I'll call you tonight when I know more. Go back to bed and sleep," he called from the garage as he started his Jeep. "Love you!" he called and waved and then he was gone into the dark night.
Sleep now? I thought with you on your way to Canada in eight feet of snow? In all this blasted cold and snow? I knew that no way would I sleep any longer.
I might as well grade some papers I thought as I grabbed my notebooks from my school satchel. Essays. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" tenth grade essays spewed across the kitchen table. 4 am. Classes didn't begin until 7:55 am - Goodness, I could get a few more essays graded this morning. Just hope they don't put me to sleep, I chuckled.
Surprisingly, that day had gone quickly, and in the late evening Ben called from Canada. Dad was conscious - he had had a medium strength stroke and was recovering well. Ben said he would spend the next several days checking into rehab facilities for his father for when he left the hospital. His Dad would need physical therapy to help him with a weakened leg and arm and a little help with his speech. Ben would be there a few more days until Dad was situated in rehab.
After close to a week in Canada with his father, Ben was returning home tonight, Christmas Eve. He wanted to turn around the next day and both of us go back to Canada to help his father ease and adjust into physical therapy.
Winter break from work was a complete two weeks this year, so we would have the time to do this. We were suppose to go skiing this break with some friends, but that was not to be now.
I was standing in the kitchen looking out the windows into the back yard and watched as snowflakes dotted and adhered to the cold glass window. The snowflakes were all different shapes and sizes and glimmered on the window as each design was lit from the glow of the fire from the fireplace behind me.
Life is so delicate and precious, I thought, as I viewed each and every separate snowflake. Each design was unique. Like each one of us. So precious, so unique. Ah, my precious Ben - truly like no other. He was so loving, calm and laid-back, except when his father had suffered a stroke, he was a bit anxious then, but it was not hard to have a successful marriage with Ben.
He took each day and event in stride. Not like me, able to crumble and crash into a million pieces when disaster struck. And, then he lovingly and patiently helped me pick up the pieces and put everything back together again.
Ben is able to stand so much disappointment better than I am, I thought. They had certainly been through a lot in the last several years, but Ben had stood strong through it all. He patiently waited for me to pull it all together. But, I can't think about this now. I will only dissolve into tears, and I needed to be happy now and happy for both of us.
I can't wait for Ben to return tonight. I have missed him so much! I thought. I took a few more sips of coca and turned around and walked to the big comfy chair by the fireplace. I settled in and listened to the Christmas carols quietly playing.
"Oh Holy Night . . . ." was the last thing I remember hearing as I drowsily laid back and . . . .
The delicate snowflake I was watching plastered to the kitchen window suddenly enlarged and a bright light blinded me in both eyes. I took a few steps backwards, stumbling a bit, until I bumped into the kitchen table.
Suddenly, in front of me stood a tall woman with beautiful honey blonde hair, all dressed in white flowing robes. Where those wings at her side? I don't believe in angels, I thought.
"Who are you? How did you get in here?" I asked amazed.
"I am you, yourself, and I and I'm here to keep you company as you wait for Ben," the bright lighted lady said smiling.
"I have news for you . . . .;" the lighted apparition started to say before I rudely interrupted.
"Ben - Oh, God, is it Ben? Has something happened to Ben?" I asked frightfully about ready to faint and only in a voice just above a terrified whisper.
"Ben is on his way -- Ben is fine," said the lighted lady.
"What do you mean you have news for me?" I asked searchingly. Now that we knew Ben's Dad was going to be okay, was there someone in my family who was ill?
"It's about you," said the lighted lady. It is something you have waited for for quite some time now," said the light. "But, first I must show you something," she said quietly.
Suddenly, in a snowy swirl, we were whisked away to a lovely springtime garden - the cold and snow were gone. I was standing in a summer dress and sweater.
Crocuses, daffodils and azaleas were blooming fresh and lovely in different shades and colors and the grass was that lime green color that new grass has in the spring time.
Children were laughing and jumping nearby and playing with a ball.
"I thought you'd like to see her," said the lighted lady. "I think it is an appropriate time," she continued.
"See her - who do you mean?" Then I looked closer at the children and I recognized her. There was Emily - my bright, sweet, lovely, Emily, playing among the children.
"Oh!" I caught my breath - "It's Emily," I said as I began crying softly and quietly. "Who are you, and where am I?" I asked, my heart breaking at the sight of my four year old daughter, Emily.
"You are among the children," said the light - the angel. "All the little children are here in this beautiful garden. You have grieved long enough for Emily, Anne. Now you must see that she is fine and she lives on in her heart and soul - in your heart and soul, Anne. She is in physical form so that you can see her, Anne. She has plenty of playmates - all her hurt and pain is gone, now, she has adjusted to her new life, and she thrives like the other children."
Suddenly, as I looked, Emily looked up and smiled and waved and shouted, "Hi, Mommy - look I'm having fun with my friends - we're playing soccer - watch me!"
Through tears of joy, grief, wonderment, sadness and finally gladness, I watched my dear Emily kick the soccer ball down the field as she joyously ran along with the other children - on wards to make a goal.
"Oh, my Emily --" I began to run toward her, my arms outstretched, but the angel apparition swept in front of me with her robes held wide.
"Anne, you cannot touch her, just as you cannot touch me, but I have brought you here so you can see that Emily is well, happy and adjusted with many friends here," said the angel lady.
"But, where is here? Is this heaven?" I asked
"It is where ever or what ever you want it to be," said the lady of light. "Emily has moved past that tragic night and the tragic car accident. She is whole now and happy and she wants you to be whole and happy now, too," said the lighted apparition.
Suddenly, the snow whirled up again and I was carried back to my kitchen along with the lady angel.
"It's time now for you to move on Anne. It's time for that new baby you and Ben have been trying for the past few months," said the light. "Emily is happy and she wants you to be happy as she is now," said the lighted lady.
"Yes, but are you sure? I have been hesitant - I have missed Emily so - I know Ben is ready - he's been more than ready," said Anne.
"Emily knows you love her, Anne, and that no one can replace that love. She knows from the beautiful children's garden you donated to the city park in her name. Now fill that children's garden with brothers and sisters for Emily, Anne; now is the time," said the angel light.
"Yes, yes, now . . . ."
Anne, Anne, darling, it's Ben, I'm home . . . "
My eyes fluttered open and there was my handsome, beautiful Ben bending over me in the comfy chair by the fireplace.
"I have a Christmas present for you," he said handing me a beautifully wrapped and ribboned box. The clock was chiming midnight.
"How's Dad?" I asked sleepily.
"He's much better and he's looking forward to seeing you," said Ben.
I struggled a bit with the ribbon and paper, so Ben helped me open it.
I opened the box lid slowly and pulled aside the tissue paper and pulled out a beautiful snow globe - inside among the swirling snowflakes was a tiny angel.
"Oh, Ben - it's lovely," I said as I began to cry. "I . . . . "
"Hey, what's my angel crying about on this Christmas Day?" asked Ben as he bent down kissing me on the lips and softly brushing away my tears.
As he did this, Ben noticed a blue pen-like object on the table next to the chair and he picked it up.
"Oh, Ben," I said, as I took the blue object from his hands and turned it over so he could see the huge + on the screen. "I have so much to tell you!"
"Anne," proclaimed Ben as his eyes filled with tears.
"Yes," I said shaking my head affectionately. "Merry Christmas, Ben!
© 2013 Suzette Walker