March 19, 2011
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The stockings were hung on the mantle with care and the tree had been erected in the center of room. The dying light from the fire cast a warm orange glow over the room, casting great shadows from the furniture that lay there. It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a louse. The man and woman had fallen asleep long ago, draped in each other’s arms; they had retired with their work done.

I peered through the window, the cold biting my fingers as they clung to the windowsill. I gazed longingly at the warm fire that lay beyond my reach, its glow seeping out of the window onto the cold street below. With a great heave, I pulled myself away from the sight and with immense sorrow, began my return journey.

The night hadn’t been kind to me. I had found little to eat and my stomach rumbled with the hunger it felt. Most people had been indoors, away from work and spending their time with their families.

With no family to go to, I had continued my wandering among the streets and back alleys of the town. I never spent long anywhere, so I didn’t spend the time to learn its name. My life had been one great retreat from society, ever since the incident that put me out on the streets. School had never been kind to me and after the accident, I saw no use for Algebra and English, the only thing I ever learned from school was how to survive.

I felt the cold biting through the soles of my shoes as I walked down the street. It was empty and the only light was from the small street lamps and the pale moon that hung like a silver coin in the sky through the clouds. A lone car sat empty in a vacant lot and the snow blanketed it like a white cloak. The fluffy white flakes continued to fall, unrelenting in their blanket.

I came to my destination, the old burnt out apartment that I called home. I walked over the threshold, the cold of the outside barely lessening among the broken walls of the building. The boards creaked under my feet and I felt the step sag as I moved up them.

I enter the dark room with a sigh as I saw the little that I could call my own. The place was grim and foreboding, the home of a run away. The dark windows were covered in the remnants of drapes and patches of light shone through from the outside. The bed was nearly destroyed, but I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag I had found along the road. Probably the passage of some unlucky campers.

My few belongs lay splayed across the room and I moved around, gathering them in my hands. A sigh issued from my mouth as I stared at the little I owned. A penknife I had growing up, an old scarf that belonged to my mother and the coin and watch. I had spent many hours staring at them, thinking of all that might’ve been and then feeling remorse for what happened.

The coin had belonged to my great grandfather, brought over from ireland during the years of The Depression. At the time, most immigrants had little to call their own and only the hope that they could make a future for themselves in America. My great grandfather came over with his family, seeking his fortunes and a new life. He had no money, only the clothes on his back and shoes on his feet, save for a single family heirloom, passed down through generations of Celtic men to the time of the Roman conquest of Brittany. It was a simple thing, yet held a majestic beauty about it, as if it were the coin of kings. Its old surface had been polished many times, so that once it was a great sight to behold. Now, it was laden with dirt and grime and carried in the pockets of a child lost in their life.

It was originally given to me by my parents and I had kept it with me after the accident, seeing no reason to return it. I had originally thought to sell it for money by which to pay my way, but I couldn’t bear to see it dealt away so. Even though I now resented my family, the true owners of the coin were not be insulted by such a careless act. So I kept it, hoping that one day I might rise from my hopeless life and be able to claim lineage to the great men and women who had come before me.

The watch was my fathers. Twas a gift on my twelfth birthday and I had kept it with me always since then. It was one of the last things I had to remind me of home, of a life long gone. I cherished it in the years that followed my eviction.

I sat alone for several minutes before the cold began to gnaw at my bones again. I stood, stretching my legs and allowing blood to flow freely. I sighed again, the weight of the day laying hard on my shoulders. My bed looked warm and comforting, but my thoughts strayed to that home, with its warm fire and cozy couch. These were the thoughts going through my head as I lay down on Christmas Eve.

It was only the vague sound that awakened me. It had started low and soft, and then grew loud and jovial. It floated across the frigid air, wafting through the window to my ears. I sat up, wondering what it could be. My eyes were still have closed, the half hour of sleep making me even drowsier than I had been before. I walked over to the window, my feet thudding the floor with dullness.

Outside, stood the dark streetlight below, lit only by the street lamps and the moon that shone like a silver coin through the clouds. The snow had stopped and the night was clear now, the stars twinkling above. Below, stood the houses and I gazed once more at the house with the warm fire.

Thats when the carolers caught my attention. They stood outside the house, crowded in a half circle, singing their hearts out for the couple that stood in the doorway. They were all smiling and the music brought a warmth to my heart that I had seldom felt while on the streets. I watched them for a little, waiting for it to end. But it didn’t. They kept singing, their repertoire vast and unknown to me.

It was with a little jump that I saw my opportunity. The people I saw below were wealthy and could easily do without a little food. The carolers could be there for hours, keeping the occupants of the house preoccupied. With a start, I dashed out of the apartment and ran around to the back of their house. As I hoisted myself up, I saw the same sight. The fire, the tree, the stockings, all as had been before. I looked at the window, my hopes coming alive as I saw the latch unlocked.

I couldn’t believe my luck. With a quick push, I lifted the window up. Barely making a sound, I crept inside. The warmth hit me like a wave, sending shivers down my body as it heated my bones. I looked around, and seeing no one, moved towards the kitchen. The lights were still on and I quickly found food. I grabbed what I could, stuffing it in among my clothing. I looked around and saw a bag and then began stuffing food into that.

When I heard the door close, I froze. My heart stopped, then began beating with great force that I knew they must be able to hear it. I bolted, taking what I could carry, I ran for the open window, the only exit to freedom.

Then he was there, standing in my way, a look of shock covering his face. I tried to push past him, but iron hands gripped my shoulders and I felt his eyes bore into me as my body prepared for death.

“Who the hell are you?” He said, his voice gruff and filled with force. My eyes were closed and I trembled in his grip.

“No, one sir. Just...” I trailed off, wondering what to saying, knowing I couldn’t say what was true.

“Who is that?” I heard a women’s voice, filled with fear say. The mans grip loosened slightly and I tried to make a bid for freedom, but was caught once again as soon as I opened my eyes.

The two stood before me, the woman scared and the man protective. The woman was short and rather portly, with a round face and kind eyes that may have twinkled if not filled with fear. The man was tall and looked as he sounded. He had a worn, chiseled face and large arms and legs that were probably used for hard manual labor. They were both middle aged and looked as if they had been married many years.

“I... I.” I stammered, unable to flee from their reproachful eyes. I expected anger, I expected fear, what I didn’t expect was kindness. Their faces softened slightly as I stood, naked in their eyes.

“Were you looking for anything in particular?” The woman said, as if I were an old friend who stopped by for a glass of milk.

“Well... I was... Food...” I managed to sputter, totally and completely bewildered by her attitude.

“Well then, we can give you some. And what about a bed?” She added, noticing my ragged and run down appearance.

“I have a bed.” I said indignantly, almost as a child who had been scolded.

“Not a very good one, I don’t doubt.” She said as her husband continued to eye me warily. “Would you like to stay here?”

I just stared at her as if she’d gone mad, her husband did the same.

“Are you crazy?” He said finally, making me feel quite hurt honestly.

“Darling, its Christmas and I wouldn’t expect to give it to him for free.” She said charmingly, as if she had struck a wonderful deal with a salesman.

“But-” He began before he was cut off.

“Now,” She said, flattening her dress slightly and motioning for me to approach. “Heres what we’ll do. You can stay here for the night and in the morning you can decide whether you wish to continue here, or move on. If you do wish to stay, you will have to attend school and earn your own living, I’ll have no slacking off. Understand?”

I nodded numbly, regretting it almost instantly as she smiled at me and motioned towards the couch and its comfortable folds.

“You can sleep here tonight and tomorrow we’ll talk.” She said as she moved away. He husband stared after her and finally followed, giving me a dirty look as they ascended the stairs.

I stared at the couch, bewildered and confused by what had just happened. Never in all my life would I have thought that this would be the outcome of a theft. Because that was my life, robbery and stealing, followed by punishment and running. But now, a warm bed had been laid before me and with a great sigh, I found hope for the future, for the present, and the magic of Christmas, as I fell asleep with my worries gone.

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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Garnet77 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 2:25 am
That ending made me smile. I love this so much!!! :)
rage_against_the_machine said...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 12:07 am
Perfect magical story that embodies Christmas. A+. Just try a touch more revision before next time.
CarrieAnn13 said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm
This is a heartwarming story!  I like the ending especially.  You describe stuff a bit much, so next time try cutting down a little bit on the descriptions.  There are also a few grammar errors that could have been caught by proofreading a bit more.
tealbird said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

This is so sweet! I really like how you kept the details of the background to a minimum, it's a really interesting way to tell a story. Here's what I kind of found myself imagining--


A boy, about seventeen kicked out of his parents house. I don't know why, but I was kinda seeing an evil stepfather in the mix. Anyways, great work! 5 stars!

Harebelle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 10:51 am
This is such a heartwarming story! I like how you didn't give too many details, the reader gets a clear picture of the character anyway. Personally, I think you could even cut a few if you wanted. Good job!
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