December 22. Almost there. 22 days have gone by. Just 2 days left before Christmas Eve. Two days. That’s like nothing.
“Lily, is that you?” someone is shouting, but I don’t turn. Just hurry along. It has been snowing. A lot. More than it usually does. Snow on top of ice. Not really a good combination. Kind of dangerous to be honest. “Lily, wait.” Damn it. I struggle with keeping up the pace. Soon I can’t pretend not to hear him anymore. “Lily, it’s me, Alex.” I finally have to stop. You see, you really can’t walk away from people that fast when they are shouting your name. Getting that close. They just won’t believe that you can’t hear them.
“Oh, hi,” I try to smile, “how nice to see you again.”
“I know,” he really says that, “it’s been some time.”
I nod. Really want to go, but he seems to have more he wants to say. “You should come over for dinner,” he looks at my bag, I can see that. I really should have gotten myself a new bag. This one probably looks a little too old now, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Same old bag I used to have when we used to be together. Seems like ages ago.
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
He touches his coat. Quickly. Almost as if to make sure that it’s there. I remember he used to do that.
“So after Christmas then?”
I should probably look at my watch or something. Give the impression that I’m in a hurry.
“Everything good at work?”
He is actually asking me that, so he must have heard. All those years we were together I never remember him being interested in my job.
“Well, no not really,” he is still looking at my bag, at the little gift sticking out. It is a kind of an ugly-looking gift. I get that. Paper is all wet. “You know, there hasn’t been as much work at the firm as it used to be,” I hesitate. That gift probably looks like something I found in the trash, but I didn’t. I really didn’t. I found it in the park. Things get wet when they lie like that under the snow in the park. You know, that’s totally normal. “So, I don’t work there anymore.”
Still looking at that present. “You’re going to deliver a gift I see,” he nods towards it. Like I actually would give away something like that. Paper all soaked. I look at the present.
“No, that one’s for me.“
He has brown eyes. I used to like that he had brown eyes. Those brown eyes and that brown hair of his. Always a little too long.
“How’s Claire?” I have to ask, we have been talking for too long. You have to ask about other people then.
“She’s great,” he smiles, “You know…” he seems to be struggling with getting the words out. Not really like him, that’s more my thing. Come to think of it, it is strange that he is in this area. They don’t live that close, no special shops here that he would really need to go to. Standing there at the end of the park like that, if I didn’t know better I might think that he was waiting for me. Damn it.
“I just wanted to tell you,” he pauses. I don’t like it when he says that. Reminds me of other things he just had to tell me in the past. Shitty things. How I’m so great. How he loves me, but not in the right way. More like friends. How long were we together? I don’t remember. The years flew by too fast there for a while.
“You just have to say it Alex, I can’t read your mind.” I really do look at my watch now. Like I really have somewhere I need to be.
“Claire’s pregnant.” Strange way he says it. Almost like this is Claire’s child not his, but he doesn’t really fool me. This is his kid. Finally he has his perfect little family it seems.
“I just wanted to tell you.”
I get it. He wanted me to hear it from him. I have no idea why that would be better, but I guess it is.
“Well I’m glad you did,” I try to smile, “and I hope you’ll have a Merry Christmas.”
“You too, Lily,” he says it still looking at my little shitty gift lying in my old bag. Feeling sorry for me I bet.
The apartment feels cold. There are just too many bills to keep track of, I must have forgotten one of the important one’s again. I grab a blanket to wrap around myself, sit down on the couch. Get the wet gift out of my bag. The paper is almost falling off it. It was exactly where I thought it might be, still it is kind of a strange feeling when you’re digging in the snow and suddenly you actually see that colorful Christmas wrapping paper appear.
It is an old cassette. I just sit there looking at it. Do I even have my cassette player? Does it even work? I get up. Start looking through my closets. It is at the back. All dusty. Makes a strange noise as I plug it in. I haven’t listened to a cassette in years.
We wish you a Merry Christmas.
Sounds strange. Not like the original.
We wish you a Merry Christmas.
The doorbell is ringing. Damn it. So typical, right?
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I get up. “Who’s there?”
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I really hate it when people say that. So few people you know well enough to say that to. Right now it feels like no one.
Now, bring us some figgy pudding.
“Who’s there?” I say again, pretending like I didn’t hear it the first time.
Now, bring us some figgy pudding.
I buzz her in. Turn towards the cassette player.
Now, bring us some figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.
Figgy pudding, really? I haven’t heard this song in years, but I remember that Figgy’s mum used to love it. I think she thought it was funny. Figgy didn’t like it though. He was always saying it wasn’t really funny. It probably wasn’t.
“Oh shit it’s cold here,” she says it like I wasn’t aware. Like I wasn’t sitting with my jacket on and with a blanket wrapped around me. I turn off the cassette player. Really no point in playing it anymore. I think I get it. I really do. It is all in the figgy pudding, as Figgy would say.
“If you need money for your electric bill, I can help you out,” Alice says still standing by the door.
“No, I’m fine, I just forgot.”
She is also looking at the wet wrapping paper. That little box that the cassette was lying in. So what? Maybe this doesn’t look fine, doesn’t mean that I can’t be okay.
“You’ve got a present?”
She seems surprised.
“Yeah, I did,” I look at the wet paper. Got it, found it, kind of the same thing.
“Was it wet and dirty?” she picks up a piece of the paper.
“No, I must have lost it in the snow when I walked home.”
“Oh,” she looks at the paper, it looks like something that has been lying outside for a long time, “You must have.”
“Where can I buy some figgy pudding?”
Alice looks suspicious, as if I have asked where they make bombs. I haven’t. Just about the figgy pudding.
“You like figgy pudding?”
“Of course,” I even put on my most normal smile, “it is a Christmas tradition.”
She frowns. “You can’t google it?”
“I have had some problems with my internet connection.”
“Oh really,” she isn’t going to look it up for me, I can hear that in her voice at least. Almost like she has something against figgy pudding, “problems with paying the bill?”
She is still looking at the wet paper.
“I don’t know if I like this,” at least she is honest, “all this nonsense with this wet, dirty paper lying everywhere, sitting in this cold apartment talking about figgy pudding being your Christmas tradition,” she sighs, “Since when?” Alice is my oldest friend, not that it really matters. It’s not like you know everything about a person just because you’ve known them since they were a kid.
“I don’t know,” I say, even though I do know. Figgy pudding has been something I’ve been wanting since I heard that song.
“Figgy pudding,” she almost tastes the word, says it really slowly as if she isn’t sure what to expect, “Figgy,” she suddenly says a little too loudly. “This is about Figgy, isn’t it?”
“No,” I probably shouldn’t have said it so quickly.
“But it is,” she looks from me to the paper so intensely, as if she is figuring out some riddle, “His mother always used to tease him and call him Figgy pudding when she played that song,” she turns to the cassette player, “that you played when I came in the door.” Stupid of me to not have turned the song off before I opened the door, I just didn’t think.
“Figgy hated Christmas,” she says, as if I didn’t know that, “said that it wasn’t magical enough.” Alice always wanted to do what me and Figgy did. Always wanted to come along for whatever we were up to. Even now she kind of wants to, even if she is the one living in the nice apartment with the good job and I sit here freezing with dirty, wrapping paper all around me.
She is going to say something now, something that I’m not going to like. I can see it in her face. “I know this is about Figgy, I know,” she hesitates, but not for long, “it happened in December, didn’t it?” she seems to be thinking. I don’t need to think like that to remember when Figgy died. “It was the first of December, wasn’t it?” It was. She is right. 22 days ago. 22 days and 24 years. Almost forever it seems. I think his mother used to buy that figgy pudding just to have her fun with him, don’t even think she liked to eat it. She bought it at that shop at the train station on her way back from work. Put it in the hallway so that Figgy could see it. I remember it now, even remember the name on that stupid paper bag.
“The first of December this little gift was lying outside my door.”
“What do you mean?” Alice looks worried.
“Just this little gift with a silver bell inside of it.”
“Oh,” she says that, but I can see that she gets it.
“You know,” and she does know, “Like you said, Figgy used to say that Christmas had too little magic in it.”
“He did say that.”
“So it had something engraved on it.”
“First rings the bell,” Figgy did love to make those little verses, “then comes the music.”
“I see,” she doesn’t really get it. Doesn’t get it at all. She always wanted to do what me and Figgy did, but she was a couple of years younger. Felt like too much back then. Hard to include her. We used to buy those stupid cassettes back then. Me and Figgy. Used to go to that same shop every day it was open. The day after I found the bell I went there and found a little gift outside the shop. Inside there was this tiny, little angel.
Figgy used to say that he didn’t really believe that angels could sing, and I told him that someone had said to me that the angels were singing in church at night. We snuck out that night. Went all the way to the church on our own. We were so small it was probably pretty dangerous. No one ever found out. We couldn’t get in. Just had to lean really close to the door. We didn’t hear anything. So I had to admit that Figgy was right. Angels didn’t really sing in church at night.
“You now December 3, I went to a church at night,” Alice looks at me. I started to hang out with her after Figgy was gone. Almost like I had no choice.
“You went to a church at night?”
I became this person that I know Figgy wouldn’t have liked. This person that did what everyone expected me to do. Got a normal, average job and a normal, average boyfriend. Lived my normal, average life, until everything started to crumble.
“I did,” I hesitate, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. “And I’m pretty sure that I heard someone singing in there.”
I got up really early this morning. It has been snowing. Everything is so white. So beautiful. So pure. Like all the dirt has disappeared. It won’t last long, before you know it everything will wake up and the new snow will get dirty again. Nothing stays this new and pure forever, we all get dirty. I know. Figgy knew.
I walk to the train station. Walk quickly as if I’m in a hurry. There is a little bell ringing when I open the door to the shop. I almost can’t believe that the shop can be this filled with Christmas decorations, Christmas everything everywhere, it seems. The woman behind the counter has this big smile. Like there is no other place on earth she would rather be than in this little shop.
“What can I get you?” she says, so much warmth in her voice that I’m amazed that it doesn’t sound fake.
“The largest figgy pudding you have,” I say trying my best to match her smile.
“Sure thing,” she says getting it from the display. She puts it in a little box for me. All sorts of beautiful Christmas patterns on top of it. She hands it over and I get the last money I got out of my pocket. Look at the coins that lie in my hand. Is that really all there is? I thought it was more, but I guess it wasn’t. It isn’t going to be enough.
“You know what sweetheart,” she says before I can open my mouth, “I think this one will be my Christmas present to you.”
“But…”, she interrupts me, pushes the box towards me, “No don’t you even think about it, everyone should have a good figgy pudding at Christmas.” I smile at her. Any other day of the year I wouldn’t have taken it, but I need that figgy pudding.
“Merry Christmas,” she says smilingly.
“And to you too,” I whisper as I take my figgy pudding and go.
I find a bench at the train station to sit down on. Just sit there for a moment looking at it. Figgy liked to eat. He did. Probably too much, but he never ate the figgy pudding that his mother bought. So there is something you won’t eat, his mother would say. Then she would look at me and say: Look at Lily, such a skinny, little kid, I wish I had one of those. I take a piece of the figgy pudding with my hand. Put it in my mouth. Delicious. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days and it is almost like my stomach just noticed how long it has been. It is a strange feeling in my mouth, the paper. I almost bite down on it, but I get it out in one piece. It’s a train ticket. For tomorrow. For Christmas Eve.
I didn’t go home to the apartment. Just slept on the bench for a while. I ate the whole figgy pudding and after that I just got so tired. Like I finally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I have struggled with sleep these last few weeks. It is the 24. The ticket is crumbled in my hand, but I still got it. Alice will probably tell someone how everything has become. My apartment, my old job and my ex-boyfriend. She’ll tell someone for sure. My oldest living friend. Maybe she already did and they’ve been to my apartment. Looking for me.
I get up. Feel rested for once. Still full from the figgy pudding. I don’t get the number on my ticket, it is very hard to read. Strange, large letters, but I go in the direction that I think will get me there. There are almost no people when I get there. Feels abandoned. Probably no train will come here, I must have read the ticket wrong, but I can hear something coming. An unfamiliar sound. Figgy always wanted one of those small model trains for Christmas. One of those small steam trains. Not that he ever got one. One year his mother got so tired of him asking that she made him sleep outside.
There is steam now. Lots of it as the old train comes up to the platform.
“Got your ticket?” Figgy says as he jumps out of the train.
I nod. “Good,” he smiles, “we got somewhere we need to be before Christmas Eve.”
I hope you have enjoyed ”We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories.
About the song: This is my strange cover of the Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
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If you like the that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first photo is by mastergracey, the second photo(SoundCloud) is by polhome, third photo is by pedrojperez, the fourth photo is by mzacha, the fifth photo is by phaewilk and the sixth photo is by krosseel, the seventh photo is by Jusben.
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