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Carol [SCC 2016]

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posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:35 PM
Carol was well wrapped up against the cold and could have wished for her charges to be equally warmly clad.

She had volunteered, against her better judgement, to help supervise a group of disadvantaged children on a carol singing round and, just as they'd set out, a light snow had begun to fall.

Far from being daunted the kids had been delighted and excitedly discussed the idea of a White Christmas. 'Miss, miss' yelled one 'we could sing that, too'.

'Perhaps not tonight' she demurred, to be greeted with a low chorus of 'aws'.

She smiled weakly at her fellow volunteer. 'At least they're enthusiastic' she said. Which was far more than could be said for her own feelings.

Carol hated Christmas and had been guilt-tripped into this outing by the local Women's Institute who had half convinced her that it would do her good too. They were all so mumsy and none of them could bear the thought of her spending Christmas on her own, as was usual.

She looked at one kid, smaller than the rest who kept moving his woollen cap about. 'Nits' whispered Marjorie, the fellow volunteer. Carol stepped back and almost fell over another child who was scratching a bit. She looked questioningly at Marjorie. 'No, impetigo' came the response.

Oh god, pestilence and disease for Christmas. This occasion was certainly shaping up to be Biblical.

As they trudged off to the first lucky recipients of the carols Carol thought back to some of her own Christmases. The first one she'd ever spent alone had been at age 17, a few months after leaving home. She'd slept all day. It was the first hint she'd had that happy Christmases were a thing of the past now unless she was prepared to put in all the work herself, and have friends and family. And preferably a bit of money, none of which she'd had at the time. Well, a bit of family but she'd been scrupulously avoiding them.

She got used to being on her own at Christmas with a cheap tinsel tree and presents from colleagues, since office workers always felt obliged to celebrate Christmas in some way and wouldn't let anyone abstain.

The group of carollers arrived at the first house and all went rather well. The kids were a bit shy at first but got into their stride and by the time they'd finished off with Away in a Manger the householders were a bit tearful, dabbing at their eyes. Carol had to admit that the kids did look a bit angelic as well as itchy. And they sounded better than she had expected.

Off they went to the next house and Carol started to remember a Christmas, not so long ago, when she'd had a partner and an elderly dog – a squat, brindled, Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The dog had enjoyed that Christmas. When she came home laden with shopping and presents from work he'd followed her across the living room. Carol had dropped all the bags on the floor and shaken off her coat, tossing it into the armchair. In the space of that time the dog, somehow, had worked out which was his present from the Boss, unwrapped it, extricated the treat he wanted from the doggy stocking and had started to munch it.

Carol smiled as she remembered. He was so lovely and barrel-shaped and a delight to cuddle up to, which she did as often as she could. Early mornings in bed with her partner and the dog sharing tea and biscuits were treasured memories. The dog would be in the middle with his head on her pillow but, eventually would want to get up. Not one to believe in subtle hints he'd simply turn himself round, bum on pillow, and gas them out of bed.

Her mind drifted back to that Christmas. The dog had been lying on the sofa when she'd walked into the room carrying that year's beautiful Christmas cake. As she'd approached him he'd roused himself and a look of complete wonder and awe had blossomed on his face, as if he literally could not believe what he was seeing. And to think, some of that cake was for him, too...

Carol was feeling a bit teary herself now and smiled encouragingly at the kids. 'You're all doing very well' she said shyly and was pleased to see some of them puff up a bit, happy to have the praise and approval.

She did her best to concentrate more on the job in hand but her mind kept wandering back to Christmases past. Her partner had started to show less and less enthusiasm for it and some years they didn't bother with the tree which was a pity. She'd loved going together to buy it – a tasteful, real looking, artificial one – and had enjoyed picking up the baubles, a few more each year. The tree was a bit of a joke. It had come without its stand and, rather than take it back to complain, they'd simply planted it in a large pot as if it was a real tree. It made her laugh every Christmas even if it was a bit of a pain to dig up the earth or sand for it but that was one of the joys of having a partner, large plant pot filling was men's work.

Sadly, most of the rest of their Christmases were anything but joyful especially as his drinking had got more and more out of control.

One year he'd taken their dog for a walk – they had a new one by then – and had come back to report that he'd been talking to a homeless man who'd been sitting on a bench by himself. Carol immediately offered to send down a bag of Christmas sweets and biscuits for him. It was the best she could do since nothing was cooked yet and she thought a kind gesture might make a difference to the man.

Her partner had practically sneered at her 'What good would that do him?'.

'Well' she'd faltered 'I thought it might cheer him up a bit'. It took her quite a while to realise that the man would have been a street drinker, waiting for someone to come along and offer beer. In fact, that was probably the reason her partner had stopped to talk to him – he'd been hoping for a beer, too.

At least that wasn't the year he'd taken the dog out for three hours on Christmas morning right after they'd opened their presents, leaving her to enjoy her expensive perfume all by herself, deprived of the dog's company and wondering what state her partner would be in when he returned.

Was it the same year he'd been as good as gold throughout December until she'd bought him an expensive guitar after which he went back to being his usual miserable, unenthusiastic-unless-it-involved-a-drink self?

Carol couldn't remember, the hurts and disappointments all seemed to roll into one somehow. New Year was never any better. They'd watch the midnight fireworks on TV and she'd look over to wish him a Happy New Year and he wouldn't even shift himself look at her, let alone offer New Year wishes.

It had occurred to Carol that perhaps she was putting too much pressure on him to enjoy the Season even though she'd always kept things to a minimum: tree, few bits of special food, presents and obligatory Christmas cards. So she cut out the lot, except for the cards. People expected those even if it did put enormous strain on him to sign them.

And so Christmas, a Season she just wasn't interested in, started to become something she just loathed. There was a big difference in the disappointment she'd felt as a kid when she realised that it wasn't really for her any more and the disappointment caused by the lack of enthusiasm from a partner who didn't even want to participate in the few things she'd hoped to enjoy.


posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:35 PM

Well, except for that time in the country when they'd just moved into a new house. They'd planted the tree in the posh dining room and even got a video of it. A video enhanced by the dog's tail as it went wagging past. That little sweetheart never wanted to be left out of anything. After filming they'd decided to go outside to see how the tree looked through the window. It was getting very late and the village was still, the air crisp. A beautiful Christmas Eve. Except...

Carol went the long way round to the front of the house but her partner decided to take a short cut through the garage, knowing that the door was faulty. Sure enough, as he tried to raise it, it slipped partially out of its frame and he had no option but to just stand there holding it in place.

Carol had stood there on the pavement wondering where he was until she heard the complaints and profanity coming from behind the garage door. She'd tried to help from her side but the door was too heavy and she wasn't tall enough to be of much use. Something told her to stay put and wait and so she did.

It wasn't long before a very nice, respectable young couple walked by, obviously on the way to the Midnight Service at the church just up the road. The man was (thankfully) very tall and volunteered to help when she explained the problem. It's what nice, respectable people do.

Unfortunately, her partner wasn't very nice sometimes and could be far from respectable. He'd continued to cuss and swear even knowing that there were people outside, one of whom was willing to help him and the other who was prepared to wait for her young man on their way to church.

Carol had noticed the uncomfortable looks exchanged between them and begged her partner to be quiet and mind his language. He toned things down a bit after more complaining but she still had to stay there, completely embarrassed, until the job was done. And him! He could just stay behind the garage door and not face the people he'd offended when they'd offered help.

Back in the present, the carol singing was going from strength to strength. People were enjoying what had turned into a real treat and the kids were being offered sweets and biscuits which, Carol noted, they were grateful for.

She thought back to her last Christmas with her partner. They'd spent an enjoyable Christmas Eve together watching films on TV. She hadn't seen him for several months and was glad of the company. It made a big difference after being on her own for so long. She'd been looking forward to doing the same thing on Christmas afternoon, watch some old twaddle on TV, chat a bit, be companionable, set herself up for the next few months when she'd be alone again...

What happened? Her partner, sober that year thank goodness, had decided to spend the afternoon cleaning the oven. Carol had the TV on, told him the film had started and waited for him to join her. But he never came, he'd stayed out there in the kitchen for the whole time the film was on.

She'd tried to look on the bright side, after all she was getting a clean oven. She never used it, she never cooked and it was too complicated for her anyway. The only reason it needed cleaning was because he'd used it. So why complain? Well, because it buggered Christmas when her only treat was going to be spending the afternoon together. She hadn't expected presents, or asked to put up the tree. The special Christmas lunch had just consisted of roast potatoes and stuffing so it was hardly pushing the boat out.

Still, she'd managed to come to terms with it and it might not have rankled any more. Except somehow it cropped up in their conversation later.

'Oh, yes' he'd said 'I knew you were upset...'

So he'd known, even though she hadn't complained, and yet he'd gone ahead with it anyway.

It was a small thing, of course, but all the small things added up. Yet more straws for the camel's back.

By the time their relationship had hit its death throes Carol was more emotionally numb than she'd ever been before. She wondered sometimes if she was in some sort of permanent state of shock. She rode out so many crises, of his making, with not even a flicker of something that could be regarded as a feeling.

They were at the last house now, Jack Frost had been nipping at the kids a bit and they were glad to huddle near a doorway with some warmth flooding outside from the house,

She looked at one little boy who was singing his heart out to the point that he'd started to glow. Still so young, and resilient enough to throw himself into something good and forget for a little while whatever his own personal tribulations may be.

She exchanged a fond smile with Marjorie as she nodded towards the boy. Marjorie whispered 'He's going without his dinner to be out here tonight. Nobody at home will save him anything, but he so wanted to join in'.

First pestilence, then disease, now famine. Perfectly biblical... She just hoped the kids would keep behaving well and not end up in a scrap before bedtime.

After the singing they all trooped down the long drive from the house, cheerful and making footprints in the fine layer of snow. Carol hesitated and then asked 'Would anyone like a bag of chips on the way home?' The kids looked at her, round eyed, some falling over themselves to say 'Yes please, Miss' and others hanging back a bit, she hoped due to shyness and not because they'd got used to so many broken promises that they now believed good things might not come to pass.

'You're a good egg' said Marjorie 'I knew this would bring you out of yourself'.

'And I bet you think you've done me a favour' thought Carol, who kept to herself on the way to the chip shop as she let the awful thought sink in:

These little carollers had touched her in such a way that she'd realised she still had a heart, after all. It wasn't as dead as she'd suspected and, that being the case, she'd become vulnerable again to exactly the sort of pains and pleasures that had numbed it in the first place. And that was the scariest experience she was likely to have this Christmas.

edit on 8-12-2016 by berenike because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:35 PM
Smiley Christmas party:

always one who overdoes it.

edit on 8-12-2016 by berenike because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 07:38 PM
a reply to: berenike

Good story you wrote there then, is it ongoing?

I get it now no prob that was the end of it, cool.

edit on 8-12-2016 by Archonic because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 09:47 PM
Nice story!

posted on Dec, 8 2016 @ 10:24 PM
a reply to: berenike

Hey that was amazing, star and Flag!

posted on Dec, 9 2016 @ 12:27 AM
a reply to: Archonic
a reply to: Night Star
a reply to: Jdennis10

Thanks everybody for taking the time to read my story and leave comments, I appreciate it.

posted on Dec, 9 2016 @ 12:37 AM
a reply to: berenike

Excellent read!


posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 03:57 AM
a reply to: JinMI

Thank you.

posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 04:05 AM
a reply to: berenike

Hey Good one, Well Done!

posted on Dec, 10 2016 @ 04:22 AM
a reply to: JesusXst

Thank you.

posted on Dec, 11 2016 @ 10:34 AM
a reply to: berenike

Nice Tale Beren! Well done!!

Nice to see You again too!!


posted on Dec, 11 2016 @ 12:05 PM
a reply to: SyxPak

Hey Syx - thanks. Nice to see you, too.

Happy Christmas to you and CC.

posted on Dec, 11 2016 @ 01:14 PM
a reply to: berenike

Thank You and Happy Holidays to You and Yours as well!!

I LOVE that little Flyin' Dragon! So Cool!!

edit on 11-12-2016 by SyxPak because: (no reason given)

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