Curses were exchanged, followed by screaming and pointing of fingers. My heart lurches to the ground, my small box that I wrapped myself feeling like a hundred pounds. He began to throw her a look, a disgusted one, something I was used to seeing. He began to blame her for all his problems, as I shivered outside our house.
Snow began to fall, the white flakes sticking to the tears that have managed to escape my eyes. I turned around, walking aimlessly toward nowhere. The neighborhood was quiet, and inside you’d see families together, sharing meals and gifts. Everything felt like a stupid trick, one I was not willing to play in. I began to think why some people were blessed with children but treated them like a curse. Why someone was blessed with a family to go home to, yet acts as if they have nothing at all. It was a twisted world, and no one seemed to notice.
“Back so soon?” A man said as soon as he saw me.
In the middle of my musings I got as far as the town, where the shops were closing.
“I want to return this.”
I showed him the small box, something I once hoped was a symbol that we might act like a family again.
“You can’t return that little lady. Not when you’ve already wrapped it.” He pointed out. I huffed, feeling dismayed that I can’t even get my money back for something that made me feel useless. I began to walk away, hoping that by now they would be asleep.
“Hey. If it really means something to you, we can unwrap it.” He called out. I turned around to meet a kind smile, something I haven’t seen in a long time. He opened the door for me, and turned the lights on. The buzzing of the lights soon filled my ears, as we began to walk through the aisle of his store.
“Let’s see what we got here shall we?” He said, taking a seat at the cashier’s booth. He took the box from me, delicately opening the tape and wrapper.
“Can’t I just take the money and go?” I said impatiently.
“Hold on. We have to make sure that it’s all in one piece.” When he finally got to the box, he opened it and peered into it. “Ah. A snow globe. For the boyfriend I suppose?” He was smiling at me, and something in me wanted to just look away.
“Look. It’s in one piece. Can I go?” I began to gather my things, not caring about how many lunches I had to skip to save for the gift.
“It’s a blizzard out there. You sure you want to leave?” Surely enough, the snow began to fall in a steady pace, making it hard to look at anywhere. “I can make you hot cocoa.”
I couldn’t resist the offer, especially since I haven’t eaten since yesterday.
“Thank you.” I said. The warmth of the cup was most welcome, as my teeth were clattering with the cold. I held it towards my face, letting the steam heat my cheeks. It was served in one of those decorative cups, with whipped cream on top.
“Here’s a seat.” He pulled out a chair from behind the counter, and placed it beside me. “And your 50 dollar return.” He placed the money beside my arms, and I smiled at him in silent thanks.
Silence soon covered us, like a blanket of warm solitude and comfort. It was alien to me, yet I liked the feeling of sitting across someone who didn’t pull you down.
“I guess you can’t go home yet. The road is covered in snow.” He commented after a while.
I felt relieved, cause now I had a reason not to go home immediately. “I’m sorry if you didn’t make it home because of me.”
“It’s alright. Better actually. I live alone, so it’s nice to have someone to be with on a Christmas night.” He took a sip of his drink, humming in appreciation of the taste.
“So where are you from?” He asks. My mind wanders to our house, if it was now silent or still echoing with voices full of venom.
“Four blocks from here. The one with the red roof. You?”
“Just upstairs. It’s mighty lonely there.”
I nodded, not knowing how to continue the conversation. My cup was halfway through when he asked something I hoped to never have to answer.
“Why did you return the gift? You bought it like two hours ago. I saw how you wrapped it outside my store.”
I simply shrugged though, knowing that I didn’t have to answer that to a stranger.
“Can I go now? The weather seems to be letting up.”
He nodded, and soon he was closing shop. “If you want another cup of cocoa, you know where to go.” He said as we parted ways.
I made my way home, dreading to see them still fighting. When I got near enough, I peaked at their window. They were still at it, bickering like a couple of inmates. They haven’t even noticed that their dear daughter hasn’t come home yet. I began to run away, as fast as my feet could carry me. I needed to talk to someone, anyone. I found myself again in front of the store, just as he was going up to what he mentioned as his apartment.
“Hey!” I called. He turned around, and he smiled when he saw that it was me. “Want to spend Christmas with someone over a hot cocoa?”