Christmas with the family

Posted: December 25, 2012 in Free fiction
Tags: , ,

Here’s a new short story, written especially. Wishing everyone a ghoulish Christmas 🙂

* * *

Once upon a time there was a woman named Grace. She lived in a remote area of Scotland, in a house that was far too big for her, a family home though she no longer had a family.

Despite being almost sixty, she was a strong, sprightly woman, and as she did each Christmas Eve, she tidied and arranged the house, hung decorations and placed a dusty old angel atop the tree; preparing everything for the return of her family on Christmas morn.

Some might have seen this as a somewhat redundant task, for Grace’s two children had been taken from her when they were mere bairns, and her husband had left her shortly afterwards, when he realised that she would never be able to let their children go.

Grace of course realised that Christmas, more than any other time of the year, was a time of miracles, of hope, And, most importantly, a time of family. And so each year she followed the same routine, made everything ready for the return of her loved ones, set the table with the kind of precision only a woman who’d been a matron for many years could muster, and then she went to bed early, though like many during the hours when Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, she did not sleep, so excited was she at the prospect of her family finally returning to her.

The snow had yet to fall this winter, but it was still a cold and blustery night, and her house was old and ramshackle. She shivered beneath many blankets, and tried not to hold her breath each time there came the creak of a floorboard, or the groan of a window frame from somewhere deep within the house.

Eventually, despite her excitement, despite the howling gale that swirled around her house as if God himself were trying to sweep her home away, she slept. And whilst she slept, she dreamed, of little Michael, and bonny Miranda, and of her husband, Brian, of the twinkle in his eye. When she awoke she awoke with a smile.

There was, of course, no stocking hung from the end of her bed filled with treats, the kind of stocking she’d got as a child, the kind she and Brian had snuck into the bairns’ rooms many a time to hang upon their bedposts. She did not take this as a bad omen, did not lose her hope. She dressed quickly, yet smartly, pinning her long white hair up with care as if she were still planning to conceal it beneath a nurse’s cap.

She crept slowly downstairs, her hand trembling against the worn wooden bannister. She could hear nothing from below, no voices, no carols echoing from the old television in the sitting room. There was no laughter as children opened their presents.

Still she did not despair, did not turn her back on the possibility that this year, this year the miracle would finally happen.

The door to the kitchen was firmly closed. She lifted the latch and, taking a deep breath, she opened the door. Bright December light streamed in through the windows, so the table was illuminated fully, and so were the members of her family seated around it.

Grace released her breath with an exhale that became a girlish, yet nervous, giggle. Like a wee child she skipped towards the table, resisting the urge to reach out and touch her son as she passed, wary of somehow spoiling the enchantment.

She took her seat at one end of the table. At the other end sat her husband, there was no twinkle in his eye yet, but she knew that would come. To her left sat Michael, her strong wee boy, and to her right was her most precious angel, Miranda. Her children looked at her, their expressions frozen in place as if they too feared that to speak, to acknowledge each other’s presence, might shatter the magic of Christmas morning.

In the end though, excitement, pure unbridled joy, meant Grace couldn’t wait any longer. “Merry Christmas!” she cried, tears of happiness wetting her old weathered cheeks like mountain streams coursing down the ancient, craggy mountains that surrounded her home.

None of her family responded. None of them moved. Not her husband, not her son, not even her wee angel. The three corpses sat rigidly, held in place by petrification and time. For a few seconds more, Grace continued to believe that they might still return to life, but then her tears of joy turned bitter.

She left the table and went into the sitting room. She did not turn the TV on; she didn’t even turn on the lights. She merely sat in her old armchair and wept. She wept for a long time, she wept most of the day until, just before dusk, she gently carried the bodies of her family back to their resting place in the cold, arid cellar.

After the last journey she paused at the top of the cellar stairs for a moment. Looking down at the three bodies sat in a circle on the dry stone floor she smiled sadly to herself, then turned the light out and closed the door.

Maybe next Christmas…

 

 

 

 

 

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