Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Thurrock Writers Circle: Christmas Short Story winner

THERE WAS a host of excellent entries for the annual Thurrock Writers Circle, Christmas short story competition.

The editor of Your Thurrock, Michael Casey, had the pleasure of judging the entries.

Here is the winner, written by the chair, Joy Ridgewell. For the record, they are all submitted without the author’s name on them.

Christmas Eve

“Thank goodness it’s Christmas Eve four whole days before I have to come back to this madhouse.” Ellie sighed tiredly stretching her arms over her head then running her fingers through her dark hair. It had been a really busy time in the Social Service’s office of the Children’s Welfare Department placing children into care and sorting out to various foster families all before Christmas. Ellie was dedicated to her job but now she wanted to help her husband fill the stockings for her two boys and enjoy Christmas.

Becky nodded in agreement she was on the computer sorting out a few last minute blips.
“I know what you mean I’ve still got to go into town and buy a present for my cousin who has suddenly decided to turn up for Christmas.”
Just as the two women were leaving for the night the phone rang.
“It’s OK Becky I’ll deal with this you go.”
“Thanks Ellie I’ll see you after Christmas have a lovely time.
“Hello, Yes it is,” Ellie listened to the caller.
“You’re sure there is no other relative to take her? Well I don’t know who I can get at this late date but I’ll do my best and will be back to you as soon as possible.”

After an hour of calling several people she knew who had previously fostered children in need, Ellie had finally found some one to take four year old Ruby whose mother had gone into premature labour with her baby.
Ruby’s father was away fighting Afghanistan so this was a stressful time for his family. Ruby had no close relative to look after her until her mother was able to take care of her.

It was very quiet in the hospital where a very subdued little girl waited in an office with one of the nursing orderlies, she had a crayoning book open on the table before her but the orderly was doing more to colour in the picture than Ruby. She looked up to see Ellie standing in the doorway.
“Oh look Ruby here’s a nice lady who has come to take you to a lovely house with other children to wait for Santa until your Mummy gets better.” Two big tears ran down Ruby’s face.
“I want my Mummy.” She sobbed her thin little arms clutching at a raggy doll her little face a picture of misery as she looked at Ellie.
“Hey come on now. It’s going to be all right. We will go and meet the family that is going to look after you. There has to be somewhere for Santa to bring your presents you can’t have him trying to find a stocking that’s not in the right place can you?”

As they left the hospital a group of carol singers walked into the foyer they were dressed in olden style cloaks the ladies in bonnets with feathers and flowers decorating them, some of the men wearing top hats, they carried lanterns with candles lighting up the colours of the glass.
One small child was dressed as a chimney sweep’s boy and he had an imitation brush that looked too big for him slung on his shoulder.
He gave Ellie and Ruby a cheeky grin as they passed.
“Well Ruby there is something to tell Mummy when you come back to see her.”
Ruby sat silently in the car giving little sighing sobs Ellie patted her knee comfortingly.
“You can go and see Mummy tomorrow after Santa’s been, you can tell her all about the carol singers and you’re new friends; I’m sure you will have plenty to talk about if I’ve picked the right ones.”

After a short ride Ellie’s car pulled up outside a wide driveway and she helped Ruby out, they walked up the path their feet crunching on the crisp snow that had fallen previously. The garden was lit with coloured fairy lights that twinkled and glowed in the trees, a rocking horse with a teddy bear on it’s back in a prominent position inside a huge well decorated landing window Ruth’s eyes were growing large as she looked in wonder at it all.
Then both Ellie and Ruth saw a man run out from the back of the house and up to the side of the garage he waved to them cheerfully before climbing swiftly up a ladder onto the garage’s flat roof carrying a broomstick with bells tied all along it, these were jangling merrily.
He leaned over precariously shaking the bells at the nearest bedroom window and then dashed down again to reach up and shake his bells below another window at the front of the house. Ellie could hear a woman’s voice calling to the excited children inside.
“Quick, quick get into bed can you hear the bells on Santa’s reindeer? He must be near if you aren’t asleep when he gets here he won’t leave any presents.”
There were sounds of laughter and more excited squeals and shouts but in a few minutes the light in the bedrooms dimmed and all quietened down.
Ellie laughed at the man who came to greet them he bent down to Ruth and put his finger to his lips.
“Hello you must be Ruth, this is a secret don’t tell the others will you? I’m just helping out Santa, his bells are getting old and they don’t always sound so good so I said I’d ring some for my family, you might hear the real ones later if you listen carefully.”

A delicious waft of smells from a turkey that was cooking in the oven floated out as the front door opened and a pretty woman stood smiling down holding her arms out to a bemused Ruby her tears forgotten for now. The door opened to the hallway this was beautifully decorated and strewn with fairy lights. Clusters of stars hung down from the ceiling. Holly its berries shining in the light hung along the walls, wind chimes gave a merry tinkle in the draft from the open door. Through the open door to the lounge they could see as they entered brightly wrapped presents laying on the bottom of a red cloth skirt underneath a beautiful decorated tree a bright shining star at its tip. Ellie felt the love in this house, its warm and welcoming feel like no other she had seen. The smiling young woman took Ruby’s hand leading her into the kitchen.

“Come on Ruby there’s some hot chocolate and a mince pie if you would like one and for you too,” she added to Ellie.
“Well have to hang up a stocking for you and get you settled in before Santa comes. I’ve made you a bed up ready, it’s in the room with my daughter Poppy she will be waiting for you I’m sure.”

Ruth felt a fritter of excitement go through her, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad and she could tell Mummy all about the funny man who was helping Santa when she saw her in the hospital tomorrow and then there would be a new baby. She did hope it would be a little brother Mummy had said she could help pick the baby’s name. She did like Rover but maybe that wasn’t right?

Ellie was relieved and happy to see Ruth had perked up as they ate their mince pies and enjoyed the hot chocolate drink.
“Gosh Ruth you are a lucky girl; Santa wont have any trouble finding you tonight, I really do think you have come to the right place for a wonderful Christmas.”



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