Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
ChestnutsI walked down the boulevard, wrapping myself like a limp gift in my own arms, like wrapping a shirt without a box, cold in the snowy streets. Christmas eve, and all the shops were wide open, everything more expensive than ever, waiting for all those lucky mothers to go get a gift last minute for the cousin who just called to say he was coming. Each shop was like a fireplace, glowing warm and welcomingly, but if you got to close to the grate, it would burn you, crushing your dreams. That's exactly how the shops were- each with its own glittering fir tree, each more noble and green than the last, each with a more beautiful angel or more golden star adorning its highest bough, but if I dared step nearer to one, I knew the treatment I would recieve- the wealthy customers in their velvet and fur, their silk and pearls, wallowing in self-admiration would stare at me in all my vulnerability, my matted curls free from any satin ribbon, my mud-stained dress open to the weather without any coat to hide beneath. Then, as soon as the manager noticed the source of the staring, I would be shouted at, maybe pushed a bit, until I left the store. Better not to go in in the first place.
I envied the children from the rich families. I envied their coats, and the pretty ribbons in their hair. I coveted the blue and white sailor dresses they wore in the summer. I wished for a mother and father, or someone who loved me. I wanted the warm dinner they ate every night, the scent of which wafted out their open windows in summer, and the glory of which I gazed at through the frosty panes each night throughout the winter. I envied having some place to go home to, and the ease with which they went through the day, not having to worry about where they would get their next meal, if they would get in trouble for it, or if they would even get it at all. I envied how they had no clue what it was like to be me.
"Chestnuts, hot roasted chestnuts, fresh, hot and cheap!" I heard from the street corner up ahead. "Get your chestnuts, keep you warm whilst you shop!" I walked to the corner. Warm chestnuts would have been welcome, given the snow and my lack of coat, not to mention the fact that I hadn't eaten since last night when I nicked a cob of roasted corn from a similar vendor. I stared at the gleaming silver cart, chestnuts steaming, and the lady in the long blue felt coat, with a small bit of veil hanging over her eyes from her pretty black hat. She seemed for a second to notice me as she handed the vendor a coin and he filled up a paper cone from his cart with the hot nuts for her.
I stuffed my hand under my arms to keep my fingers from turning blue, and looked away, down the boulevard at the theaters. Everything would be closed tomorrow, because everyone's kids would be at home opening presents, drinking hot chocolate, and eating hot ham and pecan pie.
The lady in the blue coat was no longer at the silver cart, and the vendor was helping a family of four, with little twin girls, all happily unaware of my existence.
"Miss?" I jumped. The cold had me jittery already, and, not expecting anyone to talk to me, much less notice me, I could only be surprised. I whipped my head around to see a pretty face behind a small black veil, topped off by a fashionable hat. The lady's blue felt coat looked even warmer up close, and I almost wanted to fall into her arms, like she was my mother.
"Yes, ma'am?" I replied politely, hoping I had said the right thing.
The Lady in the blue coat smiled, the red corners of her nice mouth stretching apart to make her even prettier. "Would you like some chestnuts, miss? You look so cold."
I was speechless. The Lady In The Blue Coat had noticed me, and been kind to me. She hadn't bitterly avoided me like a virus, or looked down on me, or seen me and pretended not to have. I accepted the chestnuts, and looked into her eyes with a thank you, pleading for her to understand that I could not understand, and I turned and ran, clutching the warm paper cone close to my body.
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