Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a magical Christmas Eve, and a wonderful Christmas Day!

Love Jen x

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The Christmas Promise

The Christmas Promise

It was a crisp starry night, and the stars looked like pinprick glimpses into heaven on indigo velvet. The birds were silent, and the trees were still. It had happened a year ago today, on Christmas Eve. He hadn’t stood a chance in his small car against a lorry, and now it had come around again. She glanced at the withered stumps sticking out from the soil in her window box. It had been alright at first, the Silence. It had long made itself at home by the time the crocuses were in full bloom, and the dawn of that morning sky that was blue and alight with golden rays and the promise of hope to come. And now it was time. She was sure of that.
She had held Jim’s hand as he went, unable to look into his eyes until the last moment, and when she did and he smiled at her, she was glad he was at peace. The light in his eyes didn’t fade; it simply went elsewhere. That she knew. And one day–one day–she would go with him.
*****
It started with the small things. A sock here, a mug or two there. They’d disappear, then reappear.
‘It’s him!’, laughed her friend.
‘Don’t be silly’, she’d chide, certain he wouldn’t frighten or annoy her like that.
‘I’m telling you it is!’ the friend persisted, but she just smiled, shook her head, and offered another cup of tea.
However, deep within, she was aware that there was more to life, and believed it could be him.
When the sparrow showed up on her window box later that Spring, his leg wounded, she took him in. She made a bed for him with a shoebox, and one of those blankets designed for small dogs. She fed him, and put him next to her bed to sleep. The curious disappearances stopped, or she stopped noticing them, and the sparrow was slowly getting better. She knew he was well when she entered her room a few days later, and saw him out of the box and flying around it.
‘Ah, you’re ready to go!’ she clapped.  She overrode the twinge of sadness she felt as she opened the window with thoughts of the bird flying free and well, back in his natural habitat.
He stopped flying around and stood on her bed post, looking at her quizzically.
‘The window’s open’, she said gently. ‘You are able to go now’.
His feathers ruffled in the breeze from the opened window. He didn’t move.
‘Well, I will leave it open darling, and you can fly out when you’re ready’, she said, leaving the room and conceding that his post-recovery apprehension was understandable.
She walked out to the post office, and to the grocer, and to the baker. She couldn’t see her house from the market square, but remembered the sparrow now and then. She imagined him long gone to a tree branch somewhere, and tears formed in her eyes but she held them back.
When she returned, it was almost dusk and she put the kettle on, before wearily making her way upstairs to deposit her hat and coat. Opening the door confirmed what she knew to be true–the sparrow had gone. She couldn’t see him anywhere. The net blew inward and swirled in the wind, and he was no longer on the bed post. Sighing with forlorn relief, she fastened the window shut, and went back downstairs to make her cup of tea.
She always went to bed at 9pm sharp and had been asleep for a few hours when something woke her. As she came to, rubbing her eyes to get them to focus, she felt two tiny claws digging into her nose. Head tilted, one eye sharp and glistening, the sparrow was looking at her. She grappled for the night light, and tried to push him away but, before she could, he had already flown over to the bed post. The skin on her nose was bleeding and she was shaking.
‘You’ve got to go!’ she ordered.
He hopped a little closer.  He stared into her eyes as if to say, ‘I’m not going anywhere’. His eyes hit hers like a lightning bolt. She knew them somehow. Her gasp was hoarse and high.
‘No, you can’t! You have to go’.
He continued to sit and stare at her.
Then he flew into the box and began to try to draw the blanket around him with his beak.
She relented, helped cover him, made him cosy, and then put his bed box on her bookshelf next to one of her late husband’s favourite authors. The bird didn’t protest, and seemed to settle down. She got back into bed, and so they were until morning.  For two years he lived with her, and became her constant companion. She felt her loneliness evaporating.

                  On Christmas Eve, the third anniversary of Jim’s death, she went to bed at 9.30pm. She’d had a little festive nightcap, and toasted him for the first time since he died. She made sure the sparrow was warm in his bed, and set her alarm for church the next morning, before switching off the light.
When she awoke, the daylight was streaming in from the window. But it was not a normal light. It was brighter than usual. As her eyes struggled to adjust, she immediately recognised the figure that had materialised before her. ‘Merry Christmas’, he said. He reached out his hand. ‘Come my love’. She rose up in her blue nightdress, swirling with the light and him, rippling waves of white light and blue cotton.

                                                                                  *****
It was late on Christmas Day when her neighbours turned up at her house. She kept a key under her begonias, and they entered easily. They called for her; first gently and then more forcefully. The house felt silent. Empty.
When they reached her bedroom, they were stunned to find not one but two stiff, yet still warm, bodies. One was her, still in her night clothes, lying in bed, and the other was a little sparrow covered with a blanket in a box on the bookshelf.
And she was smiling.

                                              ———-——————THE END—————————

©Jennifer Smedley, 2017.

A Perfect Bay (short story working title) excerpt 2 :)

A Perfect Bay (short story working title) excerpt 2 :)

She got back to her cottage as the birds were singing. It was funny that she didn’t have any pain because she was sure he said she had fallen. The birds were up, the sun was rising but there was to be no walk on the beach that day.

          She started off well. She did the laundry, fed and let the dogs into the garden, even took them with her to the village store in the square. The shopkeeper, Mr Jenkins, was as welcoming and cheery as usual, but he always had one eye on the weather.
‘It’s getting dark out there’, he remarked. ’There’s a storm coming in’.
He was like a walking barometer.
She bought some flour for cakes, yeast for bread, a carton of milk, and made it home just as the rain began to fall. The lightning flashed and rain battered the windows, but she was cosy inside, feeding pieces of beef to the dogs from the stew she’d made for dinner.The fire blazed fully, and now and then the flames would leap up and sizzle slightly with the odd drop of rain from the roof.  She picked up her book and began to read, but stopped after a few lines. She was thinking about him. His eyes, his smile, his laugh. He was a little older than her but it didn’t matter. The way he looked at her, that smile he gave when it was all too much for her and he knew it. He seemed to care for her and it had been a long time since she had felt that. She contemplated going back to the cottage, but it was late and besides—the storm—and, well she didn’t know what else, but she felt uneasy too. Nerves, she thought.

              Hours later, the feeling of heat on her cheek woke her. He was holding a candle to her face, smiling.
‘How did I get here?’, she stammered.
‘You dreamt it my darling’, he whispered and kissed her.

She felt him.

               Then she really did wake up. The birds were singing. It was 6am. Desire overwhelmed her. She got up, threw some clothes on, and ran to the beach. She avoided the fish this time, and sat down to meditate. Sleep arrived quickly.
‘I thought you’d never come’, he whispered, climbing into bed with her in the dark.

A Perfect Bay (short story, working title) excerpt :) 

A Perfect Bay (short story, working title) excerpt :) 

She walked on the beach every day, and breathed deeply the smell of the fresh morning air, lightly tinged with sea salt and clifftop flowers. She could see the sea from where she lived, and on stormy days the clouds would swirl about the headland, and a uniform curtain of persistent rain would steadily wade its way through the atmosphere towards her village. But today was a sunny day, and her customary walk required only a soft comfortable shirt, pants, and some sandals. She threw them on without thinking about it, and left the cottage.

      In the silence and semi darkness, the sound of lapping water calmed her instantly. It was early, around 6am, and the sun was barely risen. You could still see the moon. She smiled at this, she found it amusing. Sun and moon together sharing the same sky, if only for a few hours. It is such a beautiful and perfectly formed bay, she thought. Secluded and sandy with a gentle, undulating tide. Gulls flew overhead and a gentle breeze carried the scent of wildflowers to her soul, keeping her from feeling cold.

            She had passed the small old beach house on the cliff often, when she walked with her father. Dilapidated and its wood rotten, it was very different from the others around it. She had never paid much attention to it; it had been there a long time but nobody knew, nobody asked. Lost in her thoughts, she almost tripped over a dead fish and was grateful for the floral breeze that had followed her all the way from home, because it counteracted the stench. She found herself a place to sit, at a safe distance from the fish, and began her customary daily meditation. Closing her eyes, she breathed deeply once more and let the images that flashed into her mind rise and fall with her breaths. Her cottage, the laundry, her dogs, friends from school twenty years ago, her father, summer holidays, the pantry, her husband, the dogs again, her husband.

          When she woke up, it was dark and the waves had stopped. She didn’t remember going home, but as she tried to get up a soft male voice came from a corner of the darkness.

       ‘Sssh’, it soothed.

        She looked around frantically. ‘Where am I?’

        She felt for a light. ‘Who are you?’

        The man stood up and switched the light on. He was smiling.

        ‘You’re safe here’, he said, murmuring her name.

        ‘How do you know my name?’

        ‘We live in the same village!’

        ‘I’ve never seen you before’.

        ‘No, well, I keep my own counsel’.

She thought there was something strange about the way he spoke and dressed, but she was too frightened to think beyond that.

        ‘What is your name?’

        ‘I can’t tell you’.

        ‘But you know mine!’

        ‘I have to know yours’.

        ‘Why?’

Silence.

He sat with his back to her. She saw her chance, and got up and ran out of the bedroom, out of whatever place she was in. She didn’t look back and he didn’t follow her.