As Long As There's Christmas: A Short Story

The fire took away my Mama and Papa on Christmas Eve last year. What it didn't take away was the love between my sister and me.

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1. As Long As There's Christmas

As Long As There's Christmas

    Noela runs ahead of me. I follow her. She has a lead of maybe ten feet, but I'm fast and I could probably catch up if I want to. I don't, though. My twin sister needs something to pick her up, and letting her beat me home should be a tiny reminder that I care, a tiny declaration of "I love you."

    Noela's round face is contorted into an expression of glee. She's a mute - she can't talk, or laugh, otherwise she'd be yukking it up right now. Her green eyes are half closed and her long chestnut hair is trailing behind her in the wind. Her loose red sweatshirt and jeans are in tatters, hiding her skinny frame. We're identical, right down to the shabby clothes and bare feet.

    We can't afford shoes. Our feet are frozen.

    It's Christmas Eve 1859 and we're eleven years old tomorrow. This used to mean something to us, but ever since the fire this very day last year took away Mama and Papa and Noela's voice and my looks and our house, it hurts too much to celebrate. When our clothes got too small, we started to use the small amount of clothing our papa had owned that survived the fire.

    Noela turns around to face me. 'Come on, Carol!' she mouths to me. 'I know you're going easy on me!'

    I laugh humorlessly. "Yeah, I'm letting you win, ya slowpoke!" I yell forward in reply.

    She does that weird silent laugh thing where it looks like she's laughing and her shoulders shake but no sound comes out. She speeds up and I step up my game too.

    We reach the alleyway where our house used to stand. In it sits two cardboard boxes, two blankets, a place for fire, and our small amount of belongings. In soundless hysterics, Noela leans against a trash can. I laugh with her for a little while until I notice something in a pile of soot brushed aside by the wind.

    A tiny sparkle. A glint of gold.

    Mama's locket.

    I'd buried it as soon as the coroner had left the remains of the house. I was the only thing he didn't take away with him. It hurt too much to look at it. 

    I make a wild dive for the pile of soot and retrieve the tiny gold circle. I pry it open and see a familiar picture that brings tears to my eyes.

    Two years ago, the last Christmas we had together. Me and Noela are arm in arm, with Mama's hand on her shoulder and Papa's on mine. Mama is laughing, with her hair pulled into a bun on the back of her head. Papa's thick and dark mustache hides his smile, but it's apparent in his eyes - though the picture doesn't show it, they were green - that he's just as happy as the rest of us. Noela and I are laughing too. It's a wonder the photographer managed to take a clear picture. Our Christmas tree, a majestic evergreen, is behind us, covered in tinsel.

    A tear splashes onto Papa's face. I'm crying. Then a tear hits Mama, then me, then Noela.

    Curious, my sister joins me, and we're both crying before we know it.

    We're so upset that we don't hear the woman coming up behind us.

    She has beautiful golden hair. She's tall and wears a red Christmas dress. She has beautiful green eyes the color of a Christmas evergreen. She looks at us with pity. Street urchins, she's probably thinking. Poor things, my fortune can't do anything for them, she's probably imagining.

    But no. She hands us a big bag of silver and gold.

    "Noela and Carol Evergreen, you need to remember that as long as there's Christmas there is love. As long as there's love, there's hope. And as long as there's hope, your parents' spirits will be with you." she speaks with a voice reminiscent of ringing bells. We look in the bag at our new fortune, then back up to the woman.

     She's gone.

     But what she told us will stick with us for a long, long time.

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