Twinkling Lights

Twinkling Lights

A Christmas story I did for a competition. :)

Chapter 1

Twinkling Lights

~A Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man's heart through half the year- Sir Walter Scott~

They say Christmas is a time of giving.

What do you give, when you have nothing?

They say it's a time for sharing.

Could one share their last will, last wistful breath?

A time for being with your family.

What if you have no one?

A time for giving thanks.

What if there is nothing you are thankful for?

And a time for celebrating life.

What if you wished yourself dead....

Claudine sighed at the girl in the window. She was small; and thin, too, paticularly for her age; with dark brown hair that looked rather unkempt and unbrushed framing her small face. Her face itself was hardly distinctible beyond the dirt and soot, though it was clear that two little bright blue eyes peeked back.
The girl's lips were plump and red, though still small, as the rest of her was. All in all, the girl was beautiful.

But Claudine didn't think so.

She turned her nose up at the girl, ignoring how the girl's chin trembled when she did so.

She huffed and turned away, stomping down the street and tucking a loose strand of hair behind her left ear.

Claudine didn't hate the girl, not really. She just found her to be excrutiating company. Not worth her time, anyway.
And not worth anything.

Because, you see, it was not that Claudine did not like the look of the girl; which she did not, nevertheless. It was not even that she didn't like how pathetic the girl looked. No, it was the sole fact that the girl, in fact, was Claudine.

She felt herself start to sniffe, but ignored it, willing the tears to stay put. She couldn't come home with icicles clinging to her cheeks again, that often started momma on one of her cries. Claudine hated to see her mother cry.

The small girl that stood in the middle of the snow put her hands in her pockets, pulling from them nothing. She frowned. Claudine at least wished she had some crumbs to keep her going her entire trip. She was rather famished from begging and brooding.

Momma hated it when Claudine begged. She'd pull her aside and scald the small girl. "That's what poor people do Claud," She'd say. "Pathetic people beg. We're not pathetic."

But Claudine knew they were pathetic. Actually they were very pathetic.

No money, no family to turn to.

Claudine stuffed her hands back in the pockets of the black coat, shivering violently. She was wearing grey slacks and a black coat. She was freezing, and the clothes no longer fit properly, but she didn't dare tell momma that. She wanted her momma to use their money to buy food for christmas lunch this year; clothes weren't priority for Claudia.

She began to make her way home, through the heavy sludge and snow. Her boots made squelching noises as she walked, and the snow sunk up to her thighs. By the time she got to the road her thighs were completely red and raw, and she had to stop to rub them for a moment; not that it did any good.

She made her way across the road, and as always took the long route home, passing by the rows of tightly packed houses, full of happy, wealthy families, families Claudia would never be a part of.

She stopped at her favorite one; number 14; and stared in. The family; the one that consited of the woman with light brown hair and the kind face, her dark haired husband and their three children; were setting the table for their Christmas eve dinner. The woman was setting down a plate and laughing, trying to push her husband away, who was nuzzling himself in to her neck. Two of the children; the boy and girl; were giggling and pretending to gag; while the third was still setting the other side of the table, obviously singing as she did so.

Claudia sighed and continued walking, deciding that perhaps she didn't want to freeze after all.

She rounded the corner and cut across the field she knew grew beautiful daisies in the summer time; she'd have to wait a while for that, now.

She finally got to the end of the road and ducked under the dense dying vegetation and broken fence, slipping in to the back of her trailer park.

The smell of cinnamon and firewood disolved in to a sweeter, much more unpleasant stench of cigarette and whiskey, and she knew she was home.

She could hear Mr Murray shouting from lot number four, most probably at either his wife or cats again.

Claudia kept her head down, knowing the other tenants of the trailer park took no pity on her just because she was a little girl of only nine.

Soon she reached her own trailer, and fished under the mat for the key, unlocking it and going inside.

She went straight to the kitchen, ignoring the fact that the walk through the heavy snow had almost completely attenuated her, and made her mother some soup.

I heated it up with hot water from our rusted kettle, waiting patiently for it to finish. When it was done, I poured it in a bowl and carried it to her room, where she was sleeping.

"Momma?" I whispered, and she woke up.

"Wha-? Oh- Claud! Sorry sweetie, could you please turn momma's nightlamp on?"

Claudia nodded and fumbled around in her mother's draw, balancing the soup bowl in her other hand. She finally found a match, and set the bowl down on her mother's nightstand, striking it and lighting the oil lamp.

Her mother coughed and sat up, picking up the bowl.

"Thank you darling," She croaked, trying to maintain a smile so not to scare Claudia. But Claudia knew how sick her mother was getting. She was so sick she couldn't even go out and work any more.

While she was sipping at her soup, I reached in to my shoe and pulled out the small baggie of coins, setting it down on her nightstand.

Claudia's mother; Natasha; stopped drinking and looked at the money in confusion. Then recognition flashed in her eyes, and she looked at Claudia disappointedly. "Claudia," She said gently, but with warning in her voice. "We talked about this."

Claudia shrugged. "We need money, momma. I want to have a big christmas lunch."

Natasha sighed, and took the small bag, opening it up. Inside were a handful of dimes and a penny or two. "And you can't go out and return the poor people's money to them now..." She sighed sadly. "Very well. But next time do as I say, alright?"

Claudia nodded, though she herself knew she might not obey that rule. She hugged her mother. "Alright, momma."

Natasha placed the money in Claudia's hands. "The charity dropped off some new clothes for you today, Claudia, they're on your bed."

Claudia's eyes brightened. She rushed off down to her bedroom, opening the door with a creak.

In the middle of her dusty, rotted old looking bed sat two new pairs of pants, three shirts, a faded red dress, two coats, some socks, a beanie and a new pair of yellow gumboots.

She smiled brilliantly and changed in to the obviously warmer shirt, dry pants and a new white coat that fit her snugly. She slipped the white beanie on over her head, then the hood and gloves, instantly feeling wamer. She changed socks and shoes and went back to her mother's room.

"Thank you momma, they fit perfect!"

Natasha smiled at Claudia's brilliant grin that showed all of her teeth. She nodded to the money. "How about you go and buy us something special, hey? Just be back by eight, okay?"

Claudia nodded, and kissed her mother on the cheek. "I will, momma."

She took the money, stuffed it in her pocket and hurried out the door.

This time Claudia took a short cut in to the main part of town. She walked along the cobblestones that weren't quite frozen over, and balanced along the low wooden barrier between the curb and pathway, sticking her arms out to keep herself upright. Just ahead of her was a man shovelling salt on to the sidewalks.

Claudia watched him as she walked, noting how tired he looked. He was dressed as unkempt as her, and his face, too, was covered in sweat and soot and dirt. He wasn't rich. He didn't carry a fancy brief case, or wear a fancy watch. But he was working hard. And he wore a smile on his face. Before Claudia could wonder why, a small girl, possibly about her age, came running towards him, squealing. The man set his shovel aside to catch the girl in his arms, chuckling.

The girl giggled as the man picked her up, and kissed his cheek. "Daddy," She giggled.

Claudia hopped down from where she was balancing, still watching them.

They were poor. Just like her. And they were happy.



Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.


Claudia walked over to the row of small shops they had here, and peered in the window of a clothes store, looking at the dress that was displayed. It was pretty- long and white- but something she could never begin to afford. Claudia didn't mind. She'd never gotten to wear clothes like that anyway.

She moved along to a bakery, and went inside to smell all of the tasty looking foods. The man working there looked back at her sympathetically, and Claudia acted like she couldn't see him.

It didn't take long for him to come offer her some bread. Claudia took it and thanked him, eating the whole thing. She was starved. It tasted good; not stale, like the bread she normally had. She felt only a little bad for not telling the man she had money, but hurried out of the store nonetheless.

The next store along was a toy store, and Claudia couldn't help but peer in, musing to herself at the wonderous toys in the window. Something compelled her to go in, and she gasped when she did so. The toy store was decorated for the Christmas season, and a red toy train circled its route along the roof.

Claudia took her time exploring, stopping only when she saw a doll. It was beautiful; a rag doll, with long red hair and button eyes, and a stitched mouth. Claudia hugged the doll to her chest, deciding she wanted it.

She brought it up to the counter, where an old looking woman sat, with glasses perched on the end of her nose.

"Yes, dear, may I help you?" The woman asked kindly. Claudia placed the doll on the counter, smiling wildly, and then the money.

The woman scanned over the both of the items, pursing her lips. It was clear that Claudia didn't have enough money to buy the doll, but out of kindness the woman decided to give it to her anyway.

"Here you are, love," She said. Claudia took the doll and hugged it, and started to leave the store.

The woman watched her leave, debating something, when finally she called, "Wait."

Claudia turned back to her, small brows furrowed. Did she do something wrong?

"Would you like to stay a bit?" The woman asked. "Wait for the snow to pass? I have a house in the back of the store; come on, would you like some tea, you look famished!"

Claudia nodded, eyes wide, and let the kind old woman lead her to the back of the store. She was told to wait at the woman's small kitchen table, which was round and sat in the middle of the small room next to the kitchen. The house was small itself, but lovely, warm and homey, complete with a fireplace that hung two stockings.

"I have two children about your age," The woman said. "Amelia and Peter. They're upstairs sleeping though, waiting for Santa I should expect," She chuckled. "Did you ask Saint Nick for anything special this year?" She asked.

Claudia bit her lip. She had wished for something actually; a warm place to stay and some good food to eat. Claudia hadn't really thought about anything she wanted, other than what she needed for herself and her mother to keep together. She finally told the woman this, and the woman regarded her with a sad smile.

She went to the kitchen and came back with two cups of tea and a large slice of coffee cake, which she gave to Claudia. Claudia thanked her and ate it all, feeling full after the large slice. It tasted wonderful, and was probably the best thing she'd eaten in years.
She drank her tea, feeling thankful.

"My husband and I have lived in this house for forty years, can you believe that?"

Claudia shook her head. "No, I cannot. I've lived in my trailer for five years now, momma tells me, so that must be an awfully long time."

The woman chuckled. "Do you live with both of your parents?"

Claudia shook her head. "No, just momma. Father left us when I was only little."

The old woman shook her head sadly. She tried not to show us, but she felt incredibly saddened by this small girl. So beautiful and young and curious, such a free mind, yet contained because of her financial and family disadvantages.

"What's your name, child?" She asked.

"Claudia," Claudia said bravely, finishing off her tea.
The woman shook her hand, smiling warmly. "Well, it's a pleasure to have had you for tea and supper, Claudia. My name is Elspeth."

How pretty, Claudia thought, studying the quick movement of the old woman's violet eyes and long white hair. It suits her.

Suddenly a wonderful idea struck the old woman's mind, but before she could get a word out Claudia suddenly noticed the time, and jumped up. "Ten o'clock! Already! I do apologize, Elspeth, but I must be getting home!"


Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home. –Carol Nelson


Elspeth stood, too. "Nonsense," She said, shaking her head. "I'll drive you, my husband owns a horse and cart, we'll be there much faster!"

Claudia allowed herself to be lead out by Elspeth, who's husband turned out to be the kind baker.
After a short explanation, he agreed, and we all got in the cart.

"Thank you so much for such a lovely evening," Claudia thanked Elspeth while they rode, snuggling in to her arm.

"Anytime, love," The old woman told her, while Claudia felt herself drifting off to sleep on the woman's shoulder.

"What did you say your last name was again?"

Claudia yawned, and said sleepily, "June."

She didn't know it, but Elspeth's eyes widened as they approached the trailer park.

She told Claudia to follow her, and the three of them went up to Claudia's trailer. Claudia unlocked it, to find her mother in a worn purple dressing gown, standing by the front door, out of bed.

She threw her arms around Claudia. "Thank goodness," She breathed. "Momma was so worried! Don't ever do that again, Claudia, you scared me so much..." She turned to the old couple. "Thank you." She said.

Elspeth stepped forward. "Natasha."

Natasha frowned, but then realisation flashed in her own violet eyes, and she let go of Claudia to hug the old woman. "Oh- Elspeth! It's been so long! How...?"

"Dear, it doesn't matter how when or why, the only thing that matters is you're clearly in trouble, and I know your mother wouldn't have approved of seeing me let you live like this."

Natasha bit her lip, but couldn't stop from coughing. "I'm fine..." She managed. "It's just this silly little fever anyway; I'll be back to work in no time."

Elspeth rolled her eyes. "That's such an excuse if I've ever heard one. Go on, tell Claudia to pack her things, you're coming to live with me."

Natasha shook her head. "No...No. Elspeth, it is very kind, but I could never ask that of you."

Elspeth nodded, and Claudia decided she liked how feisty yet gentle the old woman could be. "Don't be daft, Natasha. You're my beautiful neice and I intend to keep you that way! You're not asking- I'm telling. Now, go pack your things."

Natasha hesitated, but threw her arms around the old woman, hugging tightly and sobbing. She soon pulled the man in for a hug also. "Uncle Henry! Oh...oh thank you!" She looked at her confused daughter through teary eyes and her first genuine smile she'd had in months.

"Go pack, darling, we're leaving."

Claudia beamed. "For good?"

"For good," Elspeth chimed in assuringly.

Claudia ran off to her room and collected her old clothes, teddy bear and her mother's engagement ring she kept with her in her old trunk, picking it up and running back out. Her mother was already waiting with her own trunk full of things, and they weren't leaving behind much- their trailer was empty.

The four of them got back in the cart and rode back.

"Thank you so much," She heard her mother whisper.

Elspeth kissed Claudia's cheek. "Go to sleep, child," She whispered. "If you don't go to sleep before midnight, Saint Nicholas won't visit you!"

Claudia fell asleep smiling, wondering if Santa Claus truly would pay her a visit.

...



This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone. –Taylor Caldwell


...

When she woke up, it was in a warm bed, dressed in a warm night gown.

She sat up and gazed around, slightly dazed.

She was in a bedroom she didn't recognise as her own, in a comfortable bed with lots of blankets. She got up and stretched, and snuck out the door.

She wasn't alone long before she saw two more children- a boy and a girl.
"Hello," The girl said. "Are you who mommy said would be living here?" She yawned. She seemed a little older than Claudia. Claudia nodded.

The girl shook her hand. "I'm Amelia, and this is my brother Peter. He's a mute if you don't mind."

"Hello, Peter, how do you do?" Claudia curtsied. After talking a bit with Claudia, Elspeth came down the hall, a sly grin on her face.

"What are you doing up so early?" She chuckled. "Wait...it couldn't be Christmas, could it?"

They all giggled, and Elspeth lead them to the front room that had had the Christmas tree in it.

"Come, let's see if Santa Claus came!"

Claudia had never felt happier as she walked through. A gasp escaped her parted red lips as she entered the room to find a half eaten plate of cookies and an almost empty glass of milk- had Santa been? What was even more exciting were the presents, paticularly the one that had her name on it.

She opened it to find toys, and smiled sillily.

Christmas lunch was spectacular. They all ate together, and later sat by the roaring fire and told Christmas tales.

Did Claudia believe in miracles? Certainly not. She had lived enough to know that there was no such thing. But what had happened now was a miracle...

Did she believe in magic? No. She'd never seen any.

No, it wasn't magic, or witchcraft or miracles, it wasn't coincidence either, or fate or destiny.

No, it was none of these things.

But there was one thing it was, and that was enough to warm Claudia's heart completely and give her the hope that everything was going to be okay.

It was Christmas.

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