Last night my dear friend Lucy Greenfield and I were emailing and BBMing our usual rubbish and silliness and we lamented the absence of our weekly Countdown word game. So, Lucy laughingly decided to challenge me to write a Christmas story without using any of the accepted Christmas words, eg; Christmas, mistletoe, fairy lights, tree, presents carols, tinsel, etc., etc., Well we laughed about it and said we seriously needed to get a life and no more was said . However, today I have thought about it and, never one to shy away from a challenge, I thought I would give it a go. In fact, I have come up with two stories in the hope that at least one of them will please my friend. So, dear reader, here we go ........ I have only used the word Christmas in the titles.
A Gift for Christmas
Marie pulled her ragged shawl tighter round her thin shoulders and shivered against the bitter wind. Her flimsy, well worn boots were full of holes and wet snow seeped between her toes and melted into icy drops around her tiny feet. She was about a hundred yards from her small wooden shack and she had found hardly any kindling or logs for her meagre fire. The snow had fallen steadily for hours now and everything was covered in a thick blanket of icy white, that glittered in the fading light.
Down in the valley, Marie could see sparkling coloured lights and the sound of beautiful music drifted up the pine clad hill. She peered and strained to see what was happening and in the distance she saw people scurrying hither and thither, grasping hands , exchanging packages and embracing everyone they met. Horses gaily pulled carriages of happy people and they all seemed to be heading towards the church in the square.
No-one in the valley gave a thought for the poor disfigured girl up on the hill. Orphaned at birth, she had long been cast out of the community, her wizened and twisted features deemed to be too hideous to be seen in the town, where she may frighten small children.
Marie sighed and wondered what was happening down there, it was obviously some sort of celebration, but one to which she was most definitely not invited. She turned away from the happy scenes and stumbled and fell and dropped her basket spilling the few sticks she had managed to gather. Her ragged clothes were now wet with snow and she was even colder than before. The snow was very heavy now and Marie lay on the freezing ground and wondered if it was worth the effort anymore. All she had to go home to was a cold dark shack, a meal of berries and her own, ugly self for company. No-one ever came and she couldn't blame them. she had caught a glimpse of her face once, reflected in a pool. She knew the fire would have died long ago and surely she would never live through the night, so bitter was the air. Should she just lie here and gaze at the sky and go to sleep ?
She wearily lifted her head one last time and gazed towards her humble home and, as she did, a bright light illuminated the clearing and a pathway cleared of snow ....... a pathway leading to her door ! Startled, Marie picked herself up and shook her clothes , then she proceeded warily along the narrow, grassy path. She was afraid and excited and could hardly believe what was happening. A bright star hovered above her cabin and her windows were filled with a golden glow. Slowly she pushed open the ricketty door and what a sight greeted her . The fire was burning brightly and a stack of logs sat by the hearth. Her old rocking chair was covered with a thick warm blanket and new clothes were folded on top of her little cupboard and , oh, could that really be new boots placed neatly by the fire ? Her table groaned with the most enormous feast of venison , bowls of steaming hot vegetables and fresh, plump fruits. An enormous pudding, finest wine and delicious chocolates completed the picture and all were served on silver platters which glinted and shone in the light of dozens of creamy candles in ornate silver candlesticks.
Marie couldn't believe her eyes and touched everything gingerly to make sure it wasn't a dream, but, no, it was all real, it was a miracle ! She picked up a silver goblet and marvelled at its decoration. In the candlelight, her reflection shone back at her and as she gazed at her face she saw the most wonderful miracle of all; she was beautiful.
A Gift for Christmas
Rosie sat in the hairdressers chair and smiled at her reflection in the huge mirror. The casual chatter of the stylist faded into the background as she thought of her family, all safely at home. She was determined that this year would be different, this year it would all be her choices for a change, her decisions, her treat !
Her husband and all the rest of her family expected the usual two weeks of togetherness, two weeks of being pampered and pandered to. In reality, for Rosie , this meant two weeks of bickering in over-heated rooms. Two weeks of cooking and clearing away dirty dishes, of breaking up quarrels and drying tears. Of endlessly finding more batteries and mending broken things and playing stupid parlour games and watching TV till her eyes ached . Two weeks of,
"Mum, where's the ................ ?" " Mum, can you ..................?" " Rosie, why haven't you.........?"
Two weeks of alcohol filled bodies sleeping on the sofa, of being taken for granted. Ah, yes, that went on all year, actually, being ignored and criticised and taken for granted. But, no more !! How she had changed these last few months, she almost didn't recognise herself . This year she had not shopped in the chain stores of her local shopping mall. She had come to London on the train and pushed her way through the packed streets, scouring the stores for the perfect objects. This had proved difficult as all the shops seemed to have the same bright red items, many trimmed with cheap white faux fur, no , not what she was looking for at all ! Finally, tucked away in a little road just off Bond Street, she had found a lovely little boutique and now the expensive coffee and cream lingerie and the white Brussels lace underwear, the slinky jersey and silk dresses and cashmere sweaters were nestling in her suitcase. This year she had arranged her own treat !
The stylist put down the scissors and comb and Rosie came out of her reverie. She swished her newly trimmed, long blonde hair approvingly and paid the bill. Then she smoothed her new dress down over her hips , slipped on her coat, picked up her suitcase and strode happily out onto the street. A short taxi drive and then............. there he was waiting at the railway station, bag beside him on the pavement, a huge smile on his face. After a long embrace they gathered up their belongings and headed towards the trains and without so much as a backward glance, Rosie and her lover boarded the Eurostar. Yes, this year was going to be different.
So, Lucy, do they meet with your approval ? I think I have avoided the forbidden words !!
In case any of you are wondering about my friend, she is to be found on twitter at @LucyMGreenfield and also has a marvellous blog at http://lucymargaretjane.blogspot.com so do visit her blog too !!