A Winter Tale
WHO PUT IT THERE?
John loved this time of year. The summer was long gone and now Christmas was just two days away. The cold crisp mornings looked beautiful. The sun low in the sky shone through winter snow clouds, lighting up the frost along each branch of bare trees and twinkled like Christmas lights. The cold air made breath linger, looking like fog.
It wasn’t easy getting up so early on these cold mornings to do a paper round, leaving behind a warm cosy bed. But John had to help his parents to make ends meet; these were difficult times. His father had suffered a severe head injury at work six months ago, and this had stopped his working life abruptly. Mum had increased her working hours at the local hospital. John aged thirteen was still at school, but he wanted to contribute to the household budget. Each week he would give all his wages apart from £5 to Mum. There was a reason for this – he was trying to save enough money to buy the beautiful model car that stood in the window of the Model Shop he passed twice each day whilst on his rounds. The Lamborghini was silver with such detail it was breath-taking. The shop owner could set his watch by John’s daily visits.
The time was 5.30pm, his paper round was finished and it was payday. As usual, John would open the small brown envelope to take out his £5 and then put the rest safely in his pocket for his Mum.
It started to snow and the little town lights were throwing a misty glow along the busy town centre. People were filled with the Christmas atmosphere. All the shops were staying open until late. John stood a while longer to take in the scene. There was a stall selling roasted chestnuts and the Salvation Army were playing Christmas carols. As John walked through the narrow streets to the bus station, he worked out his savings and knew with today’s money he had enough to buy his beloved Lamborghini. The rest of the money was at home and he would return the following day, Christmas Eve, to buy the car.
The snow had fallen silently all night and by morning there was quite a covering. Buses crunched the fallen snow into clearways for other vehicles to follow; cars inched their way carefully.
John helped his Mum with the rest of the decorations and despite money being short, the house was filled with Christmas cheer. The mince pies and sausage rolls were in the oven and the cake was ready for icing. This was always Dad’s job. He enjoyed putting a Christmas scene made from icing in the middle of the cake. It was a work of art – little snowmen and children making their way down a snow-covered hill in their toboggans. And finally – a beautiful gold band around the side.
The tree was always dressed on Christmas Eve. Tinsel ornaments and twinkling lights carefully draped the tree from top to bottom. Yet another masterpiece! With everything finished, John left for the short journey back into town. He had already
bought Mum and Dad’s presents. So now was the time he had longed for, over weeks of careful saving.
The bus was full of families with young children longing for this day to be over. At the station it was Christmas chaos. Hundreds of people thronged the pavements. John turned the corner into Liberty Square. The model shop was just down the end on the left. He could see the sign just above the door; he would soon be carrying his dream home. As he passed an alleyway John heard someone crying. A small figure of a girl was sobbing; her hands covered her face. John approached slowly, not wanting to frighten her. ‘What’s the matter?’ he asked, kneeling down in front of her. The little girl looked up at him, eyes wet with tears. ‘I can’t get home’ she said ‘I’ve lost my bus fare’.
John was always a kind lad and the scene of a lonely and frightened little girl stole his heart. ‘Come on’ he said ‘ Let’s get you to the station and find the bus you need to get home.’ He stood up and the little girl put her hand in his. Warmly dressed and well spoken, Jasmine said she had lost her purse and become separated from her friends. John found the next bus to the girl’s village, paid for the fare and saw that she was safely inside.
Making his way back to the Model Shop, John realised that he did not have enough money to buy the car now and when he arrived, the shop had closed. His heart sank. He pressed his face against the window. The Lamborghini had gone! What a Christmas this was turning out to be. He decided not to tell his Mum and Dad about it. He did not want to spoil their Christmas too. So, he put on a smile and when he arrived at the door he sang carols and laughed when Mum arrived at the door carrying a tray of goodies.
Christmas was wonderful as usual. John could not remember having a bad one. Good company, good food and presents. What more could he ask for ……
Before long it was Twelfth Night and time for the decorations to be packed away. John always felt sad on this day. The tinsel and ornaments were packed in their boxes and stored in the attic. As John manoeuvred the container holding the tree towards the front door, something fell from behind the tree. He looked across to Mum and Dad but they looked puzzled too. John unwrapped the brown paper parcel tied with string. He opened the box and looked – mouth open, eyes wide. Words failed him.
‘What is it?’ asked Dad. John lifted the item out of the box. ‘How did it get there?’ ‘When did it arrive?’ His parents did not seem to have the answers, but that did not matter. The moment was very special. There in all its glory was his beautiful Lamborghini. He would cherish it always.
To this day, John would wonder about that Christmas years ago, still puzzled over that one question – WHO PUT IT THERE?
By Maureen Richards