Light My Sky

It was New Year’s Eve. She sat on the pier, watching the moonlight sparkle on the quiet lake. The thought of a glass of punch or hot cider crossed her mind, but the party lights and music were too irritating to brave for a single drink. It was much more peaceful outside, she thought, though it was a little lonely.

To pass the time, she began to fantasise. The lake was deep; perhaps she would hear the cries of a baby bird, fluttering in the water beneath her feet. A little cardinal drowning. She could rescue it, nurse it back to health, and name it Scarlet No’Haira. They would be friends.

But a bird couldn’t speak to her, couldn’t provide human interaction and love. Perhaps a handsome young man would appear beside her, also seeking refuge from the superficial banter and glamour of the ballroom. He would ask her permission to be her companion for the night, and the two of them could sit on the pier, passing the time, desiring nothing other than each other.

No. That would never happen to her. No one would ever want her, need her.

It was cold, and she shivered. Why hadn’t she brought a coat? For the first time, she realised that coming outside in her thin party dress was a bad idea. Now, the battle was between warmth and peace. Her solitude wasn’t entirely satisfying. But braving the party was…

“Mind if I share your space, love?”

It was an older woman, old enough to allow her hair tinged with gray to show, but young enough to sit on the pier and swing her legs.

“I love the moonlight,” said the woman. “And the lake. It’s almost magical, isn’t it?”

The older woman babbled, commenting on everything from the weather to her latest knitting pattern. Finally, she paused for breath, and her companion relaxed.

“D’you suppose they’ll have fireworks, love?” the older woman said, after a few minutes.

Her companion shrugged.

“I love fireworks. Derek and I always used to sit outside and watch the fireworks. Just the two of us and the night sky.” The woman sighed. “It’s been eight months since he passed away. I still miss him, you know?” The woman’s eyes lit up. “Love, I know this might be asking a bit too much, but would you mind terribly sitting here with me for the show? I wouldn’t want to watch them alone. I know you’re not Derek, but just having someone might help…”

Her companion smiled. Finally, she had found someone who wanted her.

A Christmas Rose for Alice

The roses in the garden were withered and brown. Winter had arrived early this year, and a thick layer of snow already covered the stems and dusted the tops of the crumbling buds. He sifted through the rows of rosebushes in vain. There were no roses to be found among Alice’s collection.

But she needed a rose, he thought. She must have her Christmas rose. That was the way it was. It was the perfect gift. The only gift.

The man went to the store, next. The corner grocery store. But they had no more roses. All of the flowers had been sold.

“When will you have more?” he asked the girl behind the counter.

“Not until Thursday.”

Thursday. He couldn’t wait. Not until Thursday. Today was Christmas Eve!

The florist’s shop received his next visit. They did have roses — big, beautiful bouquets, with holly, mistletoe, and silver ribbons! But the price was more than he had in his pocket. More than he could afford — nearly two days’ pay! And the shopkeeper refused to sell him a single rose.

But it was only one he needed.

The man wandered the streets of the town, watching as the shops closed their doors and the final occupants rushed home to their families. He couldn’t return home. Not without a rose for Alice.

It was getting cold, he noticed. He thought of a nice fire and a good book. Maybe a cup of tea.

But he needed a rose. He’d never failed before. He couldn’t fail now.

Wrapped in his thoughts, he bumped into a person walking down the street. At first, he thought it was Alice, but then realised this girl was too young, tall…

“I’m sorry…” he began, before he noticed her hair. “Where did you find that?”

In her hair rested a single red rose.

“It was for our show…?” The girl fingered the ornament, watching him carefully. “Would you like it?”

The man couldn’t speak. Numbly, he nodded, eyes watering as the girl passed him the flower.

It was several minutes before he regained his thoughts, then only to whisper a single word.

“Alice.”

 

Several hours later, the moon shone brightly over the cemetery. The man stood next to a lonely headstone under a tree, holding the rose in his hands.

“I brought you a rose, Alice,” said the man. “Just like I always did. And I always will.”

Christmas Lights

 

 

The steps leading up to the old castle door were made of stone, but they were cracked and crumbling from years of abuse by both man and God. The rain and snow held no mercy in their torrents, and the burn marks sprinkled across the walls were reminiscent of a horror film — a world separate from the idyllic landscape this land was rumoured to have once been.

 

It was dark; darkness fell early this time of year, and the mist lay heavily around the grounds. No grass or shrub showed its evening dew to the heavens; even the trees seemed gnarled, tired, and bare. There was nothing — no sign of life, no bird or beast. Nothing, until a single creak broke into the darkness, shattering the silence.

 

Quiet footsteps were barely audible, but they spread in many different directions. The castle door had opened, and a group of hooded creatures emerged. A few had wings, a few held staffs, and one held an unlit lantern. In the slippery darkness, it was easy to trip, but the figures held themselves with poise and dignity as they solemnly traced the steps trod by many before them.

 

There was a murmur and a flash of light, and the lantern was lit. The pale ball of fire illuminated the faces of a dozen or so boys and girls, each with a gaunt face and dark eyes filled with hunger, grief, and fear. The youngest girl held the lantern, and, with a nod from one of the others, she began to sing.

 

“On Christmas night, all Christians sing to hear the news that the angels bring….”

 

The others joined in turn, their faces illuminated by the emotions wrestling behind. Eventually, though, each child succumbed to joy, and their faces turn upwards, singing to a sky which could never return their dreams of hope and love.

 

Eventually, their voices tired, and they retreated into the castle, finding refuge amid the ruins of glory and splendor. Only the little lantern remained outside, faithfully shedding its light across the ages.

 

Batman to the Rescue!

“But, Papa! It’s a just a bat! A cute, little, fuzzy bat!”

My father stood at the base of the stairs, armed with a snow shovel and a heavy-duty construction hat. “Shoo it towards me, Em. I’ll take care of it.”

The offending scoundrel hung next to two icicles from the rafters in the attic. “But, Papa! It’s shivering! It’s scared! And cold!”

“Just a minute, it’ll be over –”

“PAPA! Don’t HURT it!”

My father frowned. “Go downstairs, Em!”

“Papa!”

“EMILY!”

I cringed, but didn’t move.

“Young lady, go downstairs NOW!”

I dragged my feet along the floor as I walked towards the door. I didn’t look at my father as I passed him, but, two steps away from the bottom of the stairs, I turned around.

“But, Papa –”

BOOM!

The door slammed in my face, and, after an uncomfortable pause, I heard a symphony of scuffles and shuffling, peppered with the occasional groan.

I ran to find my mother, the only person who could end this injustice. But she had gone shopping, and I found myself alone in the attic a few hours later, with no sign of either father or bat.

Several days later, I was in the kitchen, peeling a potato, when I heard my sister shriek.

The potato fell into the sink. “You okay?” I turned around. “What happened?”

“It’s a s-s-spider, Em.”

“Oh, okay. You can take it outside. There’s paper in the drawer.” I turned back to the sink.

“But i-it’s so ugly.”

I rolled my eyes. “So are you.”

My sister sniffed. “…PAPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Claire, don’t — ”

My father ran into the kitchen. “Claire? What’s wrong?”

“Spider.” Claire pointed to the corner by the window.

“Here,” I said quickly, “let me just wash my hands and we can — ”

SWAT!

Another spider bit the dust.

Later that day, I was walking outside when I saw a small lump of colour on the ground. Curious, I leant closer. A small, flaky beak…damp, downy feathers…

It was a dead bird.

I screamed the first thing which came to mind. “PAPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!”

A few moments passed before he came running around the corner, armed with a broomstick.

“What is it, Em?”

I pointed to the ground. “I-It’s DEAD!”

My father lowered the broom. “Oh.”

“It’s so saaaaaaad.” Tears began to pour down my cheeks.

“Oh, Em, don’t cry.” My father rushed over. “It’s happy, now. It’s at peace.”

“Peace?”

“Sometimes the little mites go where they don’t belong. They’re sick and lost and frightened. It’s more merciful this way, see?”

I sniffed. “Maybe?”

My father smiled. “Good. Now, what about some hot chocolate?”

Time to Say Goodnight

She rolled over, stretching her hands far enough to feel her husband’s sweat soaking the bed. It would leave a stain, surely: a big, unsightly, yellow stain on her new mattress. But that couldn’t be helped. Try as she might, he would never wear the lighter pyjamas or use the cotton blanket instead. The man was stubborn as his mother. An ox. A donkey. A two-headed rhinoceros charging towards, well…

She sighed, rolling onto her back. It really was hot, the woman realised, and she kicked the sheets away, wriggling her toes.

The air conditioner clicked on, and a car beeped outside.

Mrs Mackaver’s  brats, she thought numbly. Always out at strange hours. Wonder they haven’t been caught behind bars, or worse.

A cricket chirped, and her husband murmured in his sleep. The woman listened, recognising the lyrics to their favourite song. The Bee Gees. They had met at the concert, and kissed under the stars.

Her romantic flashbacks, however, were interrupted by a flushing toilet. The woman stiffened. Water rushed through the walls, and ideas raced through her head. She froze at the thought of her children. In their bedrooms. Alone. Were they ill? Had Johnny eaten too many sweets in school? They would come to her if something were wrong, wouldn’t they?

The woman lifted her head off the pillow, watching a trickle of light ooze into the room. Who had closed her door? Was it Gabrielle? The woman didn’t remember hearing the door close. She lifted herself from the bed, wincing as her knees creaked. Her husband was still sleeping. She didn’t want to wake him.

The door opened smoothly, and the woman squinted. Lights were on downstairs. Had Gabby taken her brother downstairs for a drink? Maybe some medication? They shouldn’t take medication without asking her first.

The woman eased herself down the stairs, tracing the outline of each step in the dim light. There was a rustle of cloth — a coat, perhaps — from the back corridor. The woman pattered across the floor, calling: “Gabby? Johnny? Are you there? Is everything all right?”

A stranger’s face appeared at the end of the corridor, and the woman jumped. “Who are you?” she demanded, scowling at the stranger. “Where are my children?”

The stranger’s face melted into concern, pity, and relief. “Did I wake you? I was trying not to make too much noise.”

The woman frowned. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“It’s okay, mum. Go back to sleep. I’m working the early shift today, remember?”

The woman shook her head. “Who are you? You’ll wake little Johnny with all this noise.”

The stranger smiled sadly. “Mum, Johnny will be here in a few hours. With Diane. You remember Diane? You went to the wedding in January.”

“…Diane?”

The stranger nodded.

“Then who are you?”

The stranger sighed. “I’m Gabby, mum. I know you don’t — ”

“You’re not,” the woman said flatly. “You’re too old. And much too ugly.”

A smile played on the stranger’s lips. “I know, mum. Are you hungry? There’s coffee in the kitchen. Johnny will be here in a little bit, okay?”