Christmas Eve | By: Kevin Murphy | | Category: Short Story - Life Bookmark and Share

Christmas Eve

It was Christmas Eve and the lights outside made the snow sparkle in the dark. The world was warm, children held mothers hands, fathers carried bags, woolly hats and scarfs covered smiling faces and people sang songs of olden times. Inside a fat man with a stern face played a piano and people talked and laughed and some listened. One elderly man sat alone at the bar drinking Guinness talking to the barman, groups of women and men sat together at tables smoking and sipping hot whiskeys, logs where burning in a stove and a tree had a star on top. I walked up and asked for another pint, the old man turned at the sound of my order and held up his hand “I’ll get this one” he said. I smiled in approval, “where you from sonny” came his response, I had feared this and not wanting to start a conversation I took my drink and thanked him. On my way back to my seat I caught the eyes of a smiling blonde and she gestured at me to come over, I damned my taciturn nature and returned to my seat rather ignorantly I imagined. Perhaps she genuinely wanted me or perhaps she doesn’t like seeing people alone at Christmas, maybe a drunk, I’ll never know. Traditionally I love Christmas, as a child it filled me with untellable joy but the older I got and the more life, to put it crassly “happened” the more I took a vicarious seat in the magic of it all. I yearned for that spark again but it never came. I had given up hope of such things and bitterness began to creep in like darkness on day but I’m happy to say it was short lived and although it is not mine to have the joy of it all fills me with hope. The door opened and a cold blast blew in and just as quick as it came it was gone and replaced by a man wearing a long grey jacket and carrying a suitcase. Just as he entered the latest melody was over and all eyes turned to him. He walked up to a young girl collecting glasses and asked for a room. His voice was calm and clear; she nodded and led him through a door. I was reading the paper and tried to resume but something about our new visitor enticed me and I could not carry on. I did not see his face, a scarf and bad eye sight hindered me yet when I closed my eyes I had a picture of a man’s face, it was rugged and earnest, hard to pinpoint. Every year on Christmas day my family and I would go down to my grandmothers for dinner. It was my favourite day of the year. After the wonderful feed we would sit around and talk and watch some old film on the telly. Great Expectations was on one year and granny thought it was so scary at the start when Pip finds the old convict in the graveyard but I never thought it was but I let on that I did just to keep her happy. My favourite part of the film was young Estella I thought she was so pretty and funny. I loved the way they talked all proper and smart. Two women dressed in skimpy Santa suits fell in the door with a man. They were very loud and drunk and sat right up beside the old man drinking Guinness. The man ordered three shots and let the barman keep the change, it looked like a fifty. They drank them down and the man put his arms around both women and as quickly as they came they were gone. The bar was peaceful again and I was glad they left. The new arrival had still not come down from his room and I reasoned that he would not be coming at all. The young barman was wearing a Santa hat one of the girls had put on his head and I thought he looked ridiculous. Some time passed and I was awakened by a man singing gently, “it was in another lifetime” these words came softly to my ears and as I glanced at my watch to see how long I was out for I noticed to my left the new lodger. The area was relatively busy but many sections where available and the fact he chose a place so close to me startled me. I tried to act passively but I could not stop glancing over to try better understand his being here. He had a pack of smokes, a wallet and whiskey placed on the table in front of him and was just sitting there arms folded looking fresh, he had cleaned up well since arriving. The rugged face I had envisioned was clean and confident and I felt wholly uncomfortable with his being there. I returned to my paper although I had read everything of interest in it. Did he want to talk to me? Should I talk to him? I looked over again but he didn’t notice me or hid it well if he did. The young brunette who had shown him to his room came down and asked if he would like another drink although he had a near full one already. “Yes please” he smiled up at her and she giggled back. It was a strange encounter and as she walked back to the bar his eyes looked hungrily at her. I decided to leave then, I don’t know if it was spur of the moment but I just got up and walked out. My mother and father met on Christmas Eve in a hotel bar, isn’t that funny? It sounds like some stupid Hollywood film but it’s true. They were both out with work crowds and bumped into each other up at a busy bar when trying to get a drink. My father said it was love at first bump but my mother had a different version. She said he was really ignorant and tried to push in ahead of her but she stood her ground and he just banged into her. I always think of that around Christmas, it’s such a brilliant time to fall in love when you think about it. It was getting late anyway and I wanted to get a nice sleep before mass. I was a little drunk but not too bad so I decided to walk home to try sober up fully. It was bitterly cold and I had no hat or scarf so I decided to run. It was very slippery but the footpaths weren’t too bad. I just ran like mad and for some reason and I started to cry, it was weird. I suppose I’m just emotional and Christmas always gets to me. As I was nearing home the mid-night mass crowd where pouring out of the churchyard and I slowed down to a walk immediately. I wiped my tears away and put a smile on my face. A little girl was walking out the gate hanging out of her mother’s arm shouting happy Christmas at everyone and when I was passing she roared “happy Christmas” at me and I just had to laugh. END

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