Crystalline drops of water made their way from the corners of my eyes. Falling slowly,
Down my cheeks, until they hit the cracked pavement with an almost silent ‘plip’.
My breath hitched as my heart felt numb. I clutched the rolled newspaper in my hands more tightly, the paper crackling with the unfathomable pain that was a betrayal. My head told me to run but my feet were glued to their spot, as if still familiar with the woman in front of me. The girl I pledged my undying love to, now twirled happily in another woman’s arms.
The snow piled up the longer I stood there. It felt like I had been watching them for hours, though my watch told me it had barely been ten seconds. Pain obliterated my entire being, like a merciless arrow piercing my head over and over and over again.
The other girl knocked into a bauble on their large Christmas tree and the both of them stopped dancing. They looked at each other with loving eyes that made my chest squeeze in jealousy before laughing. The woman I once loved assured her partner that she’d get the bauble instead and she nodded. As her girlfriend left the room, Anna kneeled to get the fallen bauble. Our eyes connected for a split second, and I felt an electric shock course through my body.
But unlike the first time I met her, it wasn’t love. It was shame. Fear. Betrayal.
Anna’s girlfriend walked into the living room with a batch of freshly baked gingerbread cookies and Anna stood up and turned around in a split second. As if I was a disease ready to be caught. Or someone who could easily be forgotten. I didn’t know what felt worse.
My heeled boots trudged their way back to my apartment. I ended up wiping my tears away with a coupon in the newspaper. The door to my apartment clicked shut. I immediately fell into my bed. The room was incredibly small. A single bed, a miniature kitchen and a barely functioning bathroom. No Christmas decorations adorned my room despite the festive season.
Unlike all the other apartments which were brimming with lights, gifts, laughter and the scent of braised lamb, my room was desolate.
I grabbed a nearby tissue box, curled into a ball and cried into my knees. How pathetic, I thought. It’s Christmas Eve and I can’t even afford a nice dinner for myself. I’m all alone, poor and empty.
My mind wandered to my favourite Christmas tale: The Little Match Girl. It was a tragic story about a neglected girl who wanted nothing but love from her father on Christmas Eve, who couldn’t contain her excitement when visions of warmth and love appeared whenever she lit one of the matches. She died that night, however, she had never been happier with her grandmother in heaven.
Matches, huh? I have nothing better to do, so the least I can do is warm myself. I stood up and walked over to my kitchen counter, pulling out a box of matchsticks. I struck the match against the patterned side and the fire came to life with a ravenous yellow.
The colour caught my eye. Vivid against my bare room. When I was no longer entranced by the flame, I shut my eyes and wished for a heartfelt gift. My fingers sweated against the heat as I furrowed my brows in hope.
I slowly flicked one eye open, with the next coming shortly after. Unexpectedly, hope filled my mind and a large, beaming smile appeared on my face.
However, I swore and threw the match into the sink when I was met with nothing. I trudged to my bed, hugging my knees to my chest once more. Suddenly I felt a tap on my back. My spine prickled with fear and dread filled my body as I slowly turned around to face whatever was behind me.
When I saw the creature, I shrieked with fear. It was a large blob of black smoke, with blinking white ovals as eyes that were so bright they almost blinded me. I jumped onto the wall, terrified. However, the black smoke just watched me curiously, cocking its head to the side. It cautiously probed a small bouquet of white lilies towards me in its smoke-made arm.
My eye’s widened in confusion, “What?”.
“You wanted a Christmas present, right?”, It spoke. I was surprised it could speak. Its voice was strangely calming, neither male nor female but smooth and echoing.
“Yes, but . . . How did you know?”
“You called for me, the Christmas Spirit”, it answered.
My mind faltered before remembering the matches, “T-then are you from the matches?”
“Yes”, it answered simply.
I noticed how it started to fade away, “Y-you’re fading!”, I exclaimed.
“Yes, that’s what usually happens to smoke”, It replied calmly.
“Are you going to die? How do I save you?”, My voice became frantic and hitched.
“I’m not dying. I was just temporarily seen because you lit a match and wished for a Christmas gift. I’m the Spirit of Christmas, I can never disappear”.
The smoke got skinnier and skinnier with every passing second, “Well- How can I see you longer?”.
“Light another match and make a wish”, It said before fading away.
I jumped up, desperately lunging for the match sticks and lit another one. I clasped the match in my hands and prayed for a nice Christmas dinner. I looked around and noticed the shadow contorting from under my bed. When I blew out the flame, the smoke emerged from under my bed and into the fancily arranged dinner table it conjured in the middle of the room.
“You’re back”, I breathed, relieved.
“Hello again, little match girl”, It blinked.
“Little Match girl?”, I pondered before nodding, “I really am like her. I light a match and all these visions appear”, I spoke in wonder.
The smoke grew a large, pill-shaped arm like those clipart pandas look like and patted the seat in front of him, “You weren’t able to enjoy your Christmas wish last time. Here: eat it all before I fade away again”.
I nodded and dug into the steamy lasagne, braised lamb, mashed potatoes drizzled with cranberry juice and hot fudge pudding. The smoke and I held a pleasant conversation over the feast. When I noticed it started to fade away, my heart broke way more so than before.
“If I just light a match now, could you stay for longer?”, I asked.
“Technically, yes”, it blinked, “But it’d just be a duplicate of me delivering whatever you wished for now”.
“Oh”, I said, not expecting that.
Tears pearled my eyes as I waved goodbye to the smoke. It’s panda-like arm waving goodbye back. Emptiness filled the dimly lit room once more. The candles and festive music, red banners and cosy chairs, disappeared with the smoke.
I lifted my damp eyes when I realised how I could use the next wish to my advantage.
I ran for the matchsticks again. Finally, I won’t be alone anymore! I’d have someone to spend my days with! After all these sleepless nights, I’ll finally be lulled to sleep!
I grabbed all the matchsticks and lit them, I wish for a lifelong friend to spend all my years with for the many Christmases to come!
48 matchsticks were lit one after the other, each one falling into the ink to burn out. The shadows under my bead started to move more and more frantically, turning into a concerning lump of black, see-through smoke. I faltered, worried about my wish.
Masses of black smoke made their way from my bed and my room was filled with them. However, this time, the smoke had no voice, no face and no comforting aura. The smoke I wanted to spend forever with didn’t appear.
Instead, the fire alarm went off and I felt myself falling,
To the hard, kitchen floor.
My mind drifted to the tale of the Little Match Girl once more. She died after lighting all her matches. My heart plummeted, I’m such an idiot.
The sound of sizzling filled my ears. The aroma of pancakes and berries took over the room. I grunted, surprise that my body felt no pain.
“Good morning, Little Match Girl”, A freckled guy turned around from the stove with smokey black hair and bright amber-coloured eyes that was similar to the flame of fire. He held out a pancake that he styled to look like a snowman. “Merry Christmas. Thanks to your wish, I’ll be spending the rest of my life with you”, but he didn’t seem angered by that fact at all.
Instead, he seemed pleased.
I bawled for the umpteenth time and wrapped my arms around his chest, “Thank you!”. I didn’t understand what happened but that wasn’t important to me right now. For now, just having someone to hold and to love was the most important thing.
“Thank you”, I breathed, “For making my Christmas wish come true”
“Of course”, he smiled.
“Merry Christmas”, I wished.
“This is the merriest one I’ve ever had”, he replied, hugging me tighter to his chest.