The snow falls, but what does it matter? It’s like ash. Ash raining to cover the streets, to cover his stale footprints that are still there from the last meager snow. I gaze at the tiny white specks falling from the sky, somehow keeping in the melancholy tears. I could be decorating the tree. I could be sticking paper snowflakes to the windows or baking cookies. Instead my eyes glaze over as I remember…. everything.
He promised me he would come home. As he squeezed my hand he assured me the fire would be put out easily. But no one can promise something like that; no one can know what is going to happen in the next hour, the next day, the next week. No one can possibly know if they’re going to make it out of a burning building alive.
I can only imagine his bulked-up form as he disappeared into a burning building with his fellow firefighters. I can hear his coarse breathing as he lay alone underneath smoldering beams, thinking of the Christmas he would miss with me. All alone as the flames slowly took him from me.
And now I cry. I cry like I never have before. For the look in his eyes as he loved me, for the kiss he gave me every time he got home. I cried for his prone figure that had no one to save him, how he must have lain in pain and fear, wondering, will anyone come?
So the day passes. I haven’t done anything but eat and sleep and take showers in my week of Christmas break. An attempt to do anything but those things ends up in failure, sitting wherever I feel like and putting my head in my hands. And then I sob into my pillow almost every night, the other side of the bed cold and lonesome without him.
I am cold and lonesome without him.
My grief-induced sleep is broken by a knock at the door. It’s soft, tentative. I can’t imagine someone coming now, as I look out the window and see the thick, wet snow still falling. I slip out of bed and shuffle to the door, every ounce of my body wishing they hadn’t come. I’m a mess. A mess in every form, body and spirit.
I open it anyway.
We just look at each other, her and I. My best friend, in every level of neatness. I know she is looking at my puffy eyes now, seeing how I’ve treated myself. She steps in without bidding and wraps her arms around me, and I hug her back, never wanting to let go. I know my tears are drenching her sweater and she hugs me tighter as I cry what tears I have left.
“I saw you cry last night, through your window. I was going to visit you, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t, Sophie.”
She steps back to look at me, and I see the tears brimming in her eyes.
“I’m sorry.” She envelopes me again. “I’m sorry.”
I don’t know how much time passed, but eventually she sat me down on the sofa and started opening cabinets in the kitchen.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making you hot chocolate.”
“I don’t have any.”
She looks at me, then back at the cabinets. “Coffee, then.”
She goes about it as I sit dumbfounded. The fragrant scent fills the air for the first time in days. She sits beside me and wraps my hands around the warm mug, and after a while, she gets up again to open the curtains. Brilliant snowy light fills the rooms.
I can almost feel my spirits lift, maybe by a fraction. It’s been too long since anyone has kept me company. I needed her. I needed her so badly and finally she was there, doing everything I was supposed to do and taking care of me.
“We’re going to decorate the Christmas tree,” she says. “We’re going to be cheerful. Sophie, I’m going to help you do it.” She sits down on the coffee table, facing me, and takes my empty hand. “Everyone at church is praying for you. I’ve never prayed harder in my life. I’ve- I’ve got something for you.”
I look around, but as I remembered, she hadn’t brought anything in. She sees my look and takes my coffee, setting it on the table. “It’s in the car.”
She urges me to put my boots and coat on, and I obey. I could never have thought the day would go like this.
She’s pulling me outside now, pushing through the clinging snow like a plow. I squint in the brightness, marvelling at the world around me. I haven’t been outside since… his death. The snow lands in her dark hair like sparkling confetti, scattering across her red coat, dancing in the chilled air. Her blue car sits humming in my driveway. My cold, gloveless hand clutches hers as she pulls open the passenger door, stepping aside to let me see what sat in the seat.
She brought me puppy.
I start to cry, kneeling in the snow beside the car as I pick up the bundle of excited fur and hold it to my chest. The puppy licks my salty tears; I hardly know what kind of tears. She smiles and hugs me again, letting me cry over her gift like a little girl. Like a woman who has seen more good things than she can take in one day, the beautiful things, things that overwhelm her.
“Time to decorate the tree.”
I hope you enjoyed this story! I was kinda thinking that puppies for Christmas is cliched, but then I was like “meh, I don’t care”. The Christmas spirit is thick in the air, let me tell you, so how could I not write something Christmas themed?
*remembers that this story is not exactly merry*
(note: I know, and my mom has said this too, that grief is not automatically solved by a friend and a puppy. It is a long, hard process, and it is different for everyone. This story is more of the beginning of Sophie’s recovery, and how her best friend helps her along the way and and cares about her. The puppy is something that helps Sophie in her lonely hours; cheery, energetic, loyal animals can always help, in my experience.
Tell me, have you written anything Christmas themed? What is your favorite Christmas goodie?