Drawn to the window by outside tidings, Rose peered through vertical blinds into the twilight of Christmas Eve. A boy of seven or eight wearing a blue wool cap was laughing as he crunched through the snow. Hand-in hand-with his mother, he was bounding up the worn steps of the church across the street.
In his free hand, he clutched a bouquet of red carnations, the same flower her late husband had courted her with. Suddenly the boy stopped and looked up at her, three floors above. Their eyes locked like two magnets. It was brief, almost magical, but broken as his mother tugged him up the final steps to enter the church.
Behind her, a door opened. Harsh, white fluorescence from the hallway flushed the room with light. “Miss Rose,” an attendant said, “I’ll be leaving your pills on your nightstand. I’ll be back to see you took them.” The attendant left, closing the door, taking the light with her.
From the hallway, Rose could hear her voice. “Nothing sadder than an old widow with no children at Christmas, nothing sadder, I swan.”
Rose shut off the lights and put a hand to the cold window pane and then to her face. A smile fleeted across her lips. It was one her favorite pastimes, peering out the window to watch people pass like shadows in a pantomime of life.
Her hand reached for the silky glaze of the window again, its December coldness a welcomed comfort against the hot room the senior home called her apartment.
Night drew deeper; its darkness a magical potion spilling to release bursts of colors entrapped earlier by the gray shadowed sun. Christmas lights strung over trees and, suspended under building eaves blinked silently to life.
She watched as more worshippers, warmly bundled, carrying bright, gaily wrapped packages with satiny bows raced up and through the doors of the church. The doors, ancient and brown, arched and trimmed with polished brass, swung outward like welcoming arms, embracing the entrants with a warm yellow light.
“Do you know how lucky you are?” she whispered, her breath causing the window to fog. “Draw close, stay close, for you will not have this moment for ever.”
The door behind her opened for a second time. “Miss Rose, you standing in the dark again? You know that’s not good for you, you might stumble over something.” The attendant flipped on a light, bathing the room in an antiseptic whiteness.
The attendant left and Rose moved to turn off the light, returning the room to an ambient darkness now suffused with the muffled sound of carols coming from the church. She returned to the window, rocking softly to the rhythm and meter of the familiar songs.
Her hands, pale and veined went to her breast and she could feel her heart beating. She blew a breath on the window pane, fogging it. With childlike joy, she printed the letters RK & NK; and, with equal joy, enclosed them with a heart.
She stepped back, tears stinging her eyes. “I miss you Noah Kane. I miss our church, the fellowship…”
The door opened behind her again. “Miss Rose, I swan you and this light.” The light flipped on. “There’s someone here to see you.”
A woman entered. “Miss Kane? This is a little awkward, but I’m Virginia Clark. I attend the church across the street.” She paused. “May I come in?”
Rose nodded and smiled as the boy with a blue cap followed her into the room. He was hiding something behind his back. “This is my son, Davey. He said he saw you, in the window earlier this evening…and well, he insists he give you this.”
Davey took his hand from behind his back and presented her with a single, red carnation. As she bent to receive it, he kissed her on the cheek, his skin still cold from the outside air.
“I think you remind him of my mother, his grandmother. She passed away last summer. They were very close.”
I’m sorry for your loss and thank-you, Davey. This flower is very special to me.”
“I gave the others to Jesus, in the manger,” Davey explained.
“Miss Kane, I know it’s late and you may have other plans, but it would mean so much if you’d join us for fellowship at the church.”
“We got pancakes with strawberries,” Davey said, tugging her hand.
“Nothing thing could be more perfect,” Rose answered, touching the flower to her cheek. “Absolutely nothing.”
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