With These Wings

Christmas is a time for joy, but Ashley knows only too well that not everyone gets to feel the joy of Christmas. Not everyone gets to open presents in front of their family on Christmas morning. Not everyone has a reason to feel excited. But Christmas is also a time for giving, so that’s exactly what Ashley plans to do. (Short story for the Christmas Advent Competition.)

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1. With These Wings

 

 

It was 6am sharp when Ashley's alarm rang through her bedroom.
     Within half an hour, she was almost dressed and ready to go. She walked over to her wardrobe and pulled the white, feather wings from the top shelf, as she did on this day every year. They still looked as perfect as they did the day she made them with her mother. She didn’t know, back then, just what good she could do with these wings.
     She popped them into a large black bag along with her halo and flowing white dress before she tiptoed quietly downstairs, not wanting to wake her parents.
     She put some thick gloves on before leaving the house. She didn't want to freeze off her fingers, she needed them today. She found it difficult to hold the bag with her gloves on, but she'd have to manage. There was no way she could go walking the streets at 6am sporting a giant pair of angel wings.
     She placed her headphones in her ears and set off on her half hour walk. It was a long walk to do in weather this cold, but she didn't mind. She liked seeing the city when it wasn't bustling with cars and pedestrians. She liked seeing that early morning mist that was usually long gone by 7am.
     Ashley carried on walking until she saw the all too familiar sight of the children's home in the distance. The old brick house looked smaller and more worn down than the big, modern buildings that surrounded it. The sign outside that said ‘Orchard’s House for Children’ was in desperate need of repainting. She approached the house and climbed the few steps to the doorway. She noticed tiny icicles hanging from the iron railings at each side of the concrete steps. It was turning out to be an extra cold winter this year.

     She knocked on the old, peeling wooden door. A few moments later she was met by Mrs Oaken’s smiling face.

     “Good morning, Ashley!” she greeted cheerily.

     “Hey, Mrs Oaken,” Ashley replied, stepping through the door. “Is the place all set up?”

     “It certainly is,” she replied, brimming with excitement. “We decorated overnight!”

     Ashley walked through the hallway and into the main room of the house. It was completely transformed. There were Christmas decorations everywhere and tinsel draped around every flat surface. The tree that stood by the window was huge and hidden behind hundreds of sparkling lights and baubles. She couldn’t believe how much effort the workers at the children’s home had put in. They were determined for these kids to have a magical Christmas.

     “It looks amazing,” Ashley told Mrs Oaken. “Can I go and get dressed before the kids come down for breakfast?”

     “Sure you can,” Mrs Oaken replied. “Go through to the spare room in the back.”

     Ashley walked back out into the hallway and found the spare room on the ground floor. She went inside and placed the bag on the stripped-bare bed. Opening the bag, she pulled the dress out first and started peeling away her clothes. She put the dress on, loving the feeling of the silky white material. It draped down to her feet, looking as angelic as she’d intended it to. She took the wings out of the bag and fastened them to the back of the dress, the flood of fluffy feather tickling her bare shoulders. Lastly, she took out the silver halo and rested it on the top of her head. Grabbing a few bobby pins from the pocket of her bag, she secured the halo in place.

     Heading over to the mirror by the door, she took a look at herself. She pulled her hair out of its trademark ponytail. Her chestnut coloured locks had stayed sleek and shiny for once, falling way past her shoulders. She removed her thick framed glassed and placed them on the dresser under the mirror. She’d already added rosy red blusher and lipstick, along with plenty of glitter. To the children, she would look completely unrecognisable, as long as she didn’t speak. She looked as close to being a Christmas angel as she ever would. Satisfied with the look, she opened the door and went to re-join Mrs Oaken.

     “You can wait in the backroom, we’ve put the Christmas bag in there for you,” she told Ashley.

     Ashley nodded and walked into the backroom, closing the door behind her. Her eyes rested upon the bulging, red bag in the centre of the room. She and the ladies of Orchard House had been fundraising all year for this moment. Raising cash anyway they could, through bake sales and sponsored runs and craft making. Every bit of money counted, so that the children could have a real Christmas.

     She had done the shopping since the workers at the home barely had the time to leave the children. Ashley had spent enough time with the kids to know what presents they’d enjoy. As much as she understood that she could never provide what each of them really wanted for Christmas, a home and a family, she knew that even a simple gift would bring the happiest of smiles to their faces.

     It wasn’t long before she heard the footsteps of the children coming down for breakfast. Instead of Mrs Oaken leading them to the dining room like she usually did, she would be leading them into the main room. Ashley heard the gasps when the children saw the Christmas decorations for the first time.

     “Wow!” she heard one little girl squeal.

     She couldn’t help but smile at how excited they were getting. It made all of the work she’d done this year worthwhile.

     “Children, as you know, Santa has a really busy night ahead of him,” Mrs Oaken’s voice travelled from the main room to the backroom where Ashley waited, “so he’s sent one of his special Christmas angels to visit you all.”

     That was Ashley’s cue. She managed to lift the red bag from the ground so that she could take it into the room. The minute the door opened, the children looked towards her, their faces lighting up. They then turned their focus to the bag of presents she held in her hands.

     “Now, you need to put them under the tree, ready to open tomorrow morning,” Mrs Oaken told them all.

     Ashley watched the smiling faces and felt the buzz of excitement as she dug out each gift and passed them to the child whose name was on the tag. They’d feel it for a moment, wondering it was, before walking over the tree and placing it on the floor underneath it.

     The faces beaming up at her looked as happy as any child would on Christmas Eve, and it was partly down to her. Nothing in the world felt better than being able to bring joy to children who rarely had an opportunity to smile.

     That was the greatest gift that Ashley could ever wish for.  

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