Christie was cold, lonely and hungry again this year. For four years in total now, she had not managed to beg for a meal. "Everything changed around Christmas," Christie thought, people got selfish. Sure, people chucked unwanted clothes in a homeless bin, but what was she going to do with a spaghetti string sequin top, when it was snowing? She needed to keep warm, not sparkly. They shut themselves in their warm houses and ignored everyone else. They gave overpriced presents to people they loved. Did they have any idea how much it would change her life if they gave that much money to her?"
She sighed and huddled up against the blizzard that was starting to form. She started to cry. Everyone would be happy to see that it was snowing on Christmas day; everyone but Christie. She could not sit safely inside by the fire on Christmas Eve and looking out at the beautiful white flakes slowly piling up, excited to see the kids wake up with wide eyes waiting for presents and Christmas dinner. Snow on Christmas day meant she could die in her sleep, or wake up with no fingers.
She had tried all day to find somewhere to spend the night, but to no avail. She thought about what they taught her when she was little, about Mary and Joseph, about all the Inns being full. "Yeah right", she thought. People here are too stingy even to let you stay in their barn.
She pressed herself into the doorway as far as she could go and putting her head inside her coat, tried to catch some sleep before it was too dangerous to drift off. Sometimes she wished she would never wake up.
There is something indefinable about the human spirit; something no one can put their finger on. Hundreds of generations, cultures, philosophers, scientists, preachers and paupers; all have tried to pinpoint what it is that makes us who we are, but no one has ever been able to do so. Our struggle to persevere against all odds, even when we reach our darkest hour, even when we wish the world would just turn to dust around us, we find it impossible to fully let go, find it necessary to go on.
"Christmas is a time when all men recognize the human spirit in each of us. We remember that deep down we all have the same heart beating in our chests," John thought. He knew this as surely as he knew his own name.
John had seen Christie before; last Christmas, in fact. He had been another person then. Funny how life bringing a man to his knees can make him see other people in a different way. Back then, he had judged Christie, he assumed she was one of those people who would never stop blaming others for her own stupidity and addiction. He thought maybe it would be a good thing if she did not wake up in the morning.
He had seen her once in the summer. She had looked like the most beautiful person he had ever seen. She had been sitting by the river, the water's reflection playing across her face. Basking in the light of the sun, she seemed a golden goddess. She was thin, waif-like but healthy, with skin like fine porcelain. She might have been a model, or a movie star. How did she end up in such a state, hungry and homeless, lonely and poor? What had life done to Christie to bring her to her knees, never to rise again?
John had to know. He walked to her and tried to wake her, but she did not respond. He panicked. He shook her repeatedly, but she would not awaken. He could feel her pulse only faintly. He called an ambulance. Things were a blur. It seemed one minute the EMTs were taking forever, the next he was in the ambulance by her side, rushing to hospital with the emergency siren blaring.
"Is this heaven?" She asked no one in particular, three days later.
"No, this is hospital. You are going to be fine." John sighed; he felt like he had been holding his breath since he hadn't been able to wake her.
"Are you a doctor? You don't look like one." A smile lit up her face.
"No. I found you and brought you here. You nearly died because of the cold." He said.
"Why are you still here?" she asked.
"I have nowhere else to be," he smiled.
They talked for hours about the last few years of their lives. She told him about her abusive father: how she and her mother had been forced out onto the streets; her mother dying of the cold the same year. Christie had found her and had not been able to wake her. She had been forced to grow up alone. She could not trust anyone.
He told her about the car crash in which his wife and child had died; how he could think of it only as his fault, for working late. If he had been home to nip out for milk, Lisa would not have had to take Anna in the car with her. Dead, they had looked cold and lonely. Three nights ago, Christie had looked the same. He never wanted her to look like that again.
She should have been resting, but they talked until the sun rose, then fell asleep, John sitting in his chair with his hand in hers.
A nurse walked in to check on Christie, saw they were finally sleeping, smiled, and turned away.
Christie was allowed to leave the hospital the next day. They did not speak to each other. He left her standing at the entrance while he went to fetch his car. She looked lonely and lost. She looked almost surprised when he pulled up next to her and opened the door.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
She never asked him why he had taken her home. It was something they never felt the need to speak about. Sometimes when you know something in your heart you do not need to hear someone say it. She sat on his couch and watched "A Muppet's Christmas Carol." When he saw her laugh it brought tears to his eyes. He wiped them away so she could not see him cry for her.
He made her dinner and they ate it by candle light. She exclaimed how delicious it was with almost every mouthful. After dinner they went and sat in front of the fire. She looked out of the window at the snow falling with a look he could not fathom.
He held her close, and she looked up at him with a mixture of adoration and what he was scared to admit was love. He kissed her. She kissed him back. They did this for hours, just sitting together, being together and kissing.
He ran her a bath and bathed her. He threw away the clothes that she had worn on the streets without telling her; he never wanted to see her in them again. He massaged her, and she moaned with every touch. She could not believe how amazing it made her body feel. Sometimes it hurt a little, but it reached the core of her muscles and she felt light as a feather afterwards.
He took her to the bedroom. She was light enough to carry while she was curled up in his arms. He laid her on the bed. Her nipples were pink and rippled. He could see goose pimples on them as well as on her stomach and legs, because she had just come out of the hot water. He turned the heating up a little to keep her comfortable.
He played his hands over her stomach, and just under her breasts. She shivered and looked up at him and smiled. She giggled and pulled him down on top of her for another kiss. Her lips were velvet soft and tickled him like butterfly wings. She was perfect, he thought, as he snaked his hand around her back. He kissed her neck, her chest, her stomach. He moved his hands down her sides, massaged her belly and her calves. He put his hands all over her, and when she moaned he thought his heart would burst with love for her.
He moved his mouth to her vagina while stroking her stomach and sides. He pushed her legs open just enough so she stayed comfortable. He licked and stroked her, worshipping his goddess with his tongue. His movements quickened and she began moaning repeatedly. He needed no more invitation or preparation to be inside her. He felt like he had always been ready. He lined up and slid in almost gracefully. She arched her back and gasped. He rocked his hips against hers and she met him thrust for thrust. They were working slow, making it last. They kissed and groped each other, touching and caressing.
She moaned with every thrust now, he filled her to the hilt. He gasped with her, their bodies entwined and soaked with sweat. The room was hot. They panted for air. He thrust harder, but not faster. She cried for release and they came together in a moment of pure magic. They shuddered and held each other for a long time afterwards.
He rolled off her, and pulled her onto his chest. She lolled against him, breathing hard.
"I love you." She said in almost a whisper.
"I love you too." He kissed her forehead.
She closed her eyes and thought about the last Christmas she had had, and how it different from this one. She wondered what the next would bring.
She fell asleep on his chest that night, just as she did every night for the rest of their lives.
Next Christmas Eve, she sat by the fire looking out the window watching the snow, with their three month old baby in her arms. She would be that woman now. In the years to come, she would wait eagerly for her children to rise in the morning and play in the snow. But she would never forget what it was like to be on the other side of that window pane, looking in.
She would never forget her Christmas miracle.