It’s been a hard, busy week for me- Not only have I been trying to curb my chocolate biscuit addiction, as well as dramatically reducing my sugar intake (which led to a mid-week sugar crash) on Monday I dropped my whole weeks schedule in order to focus on writing something that has left me drained, mentally speaking. So instead of an article I thought I would put up a short story instead… It’s one of the Bangor stories, partially inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl.
Since it’s been a good few months since I released the last one of these, and for those who don’t know, I’ll just give a quick refresher about what these are- The Bangor Stories are my attempt to emulate James Joyce’s Dubliners- They will eventually be twenty six stories about Bangor, with each one focusing on a different person (one for each letter of the alphabet.) They are generally a way of challenging myself, to improve my own writing and making it more realistic… If finding a dead dragon on a beach can be considered realistic.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this: The story of Leticia…
The snow blew down the high street and gathered in drifts against the shop fronts and doorways, a growing valley of white that had fluttered down from the sky and blanketed the usually brown brick road. Against the black, starless sky from which it fell Christmas lights twinkled; bright reds and greens, flashing reindeer and fir trees and Santa upon his sleigh. Leticia, huddled for warmth in her battered coat and with her knees up to her chest, watched the snow falling against the backdrop of this black sky and twinkling Christmas lights, watched from the alcove of the empty Stead and Simpson shoe shop. About her posters placed against the dirty glass of the shop front rippled and ripped with the chill air and a light breeze; posters for bands like The Chaffinches who had played PJ Hall a month ago, posters for a summer fete at Penrhyn Castle and one poster about a missing cat which had the word FOUND scrawled across it in permanent marker.
Across the way the door to W.H Smith opened and out came the two ladies who worked there, the young and pretty black haired woman and the older, more haughty one with the glasses.
‘Merry Christmas,’ the black haired woman waved as she waked off in the direction of the cathedral.
‘Same to you… Merry Christmas!’ The other woman walked in the opposite direction and then around the corner. Letitia observed her. Half way down the street she stopped to shake the snow from her boots and then moved into the doorway of The Waterloo and did not come out again.
Leticia was jealous. It would be warm in there. Drinks would be flowing and everybody would be full of Christmas cheer. Hot meals were being served; meals of turkey with gravy and stuffing, Brussels sprouts and nut roasts, pigs in blankets and potatoes that were crispy and slightly charred on the outside but fluffy and delicious on the inside. Music would be playing in the background, Christmas carols and modern classics alike. Leticia longed to hear those songs, to partake in the wassails and the cheer and the flowing drink. She wished to be among them, to be one of them.
If she were not too cold and too numb to move she would stand and follow in the now disappearing footsteps of the woman from W.H Smith. Outside the ancient multi-panelled front window where the snow rested on the corners of the black painted wooden bars she would press her face and fingers to the glass and peer in at the drinkers and the Christmas merriment and imagine she was amongst them, joining in and celebrating the holiday season. But she could not stand up and she could not imagine for she could hardly move at all for the cold that numbed her bones. Movement, even a small shuffle, was painful for her.
Happy voices chimed out the direction of HMV. The owners were of her own age, a man and a woman and both dressed in a fashionable fashion. The man looked cool- tall with dark, gingery hair on his head and a darker, rough beard covering the lower half of his face. The woman was average looking in Leticia’s opinion- Black with a glint in her eyes and a powerful stance. She had a look that told everyone not to mess with her. Was she his girlfriend? His fiancé? His wife? They looked like a happy couple but saying that they didn’t hold hands or have their arms around each other in the way that couples walking together through the snow usually do. They walked close but still apart and from the way they smiled at each other Leticia was certain that they were a couple.
They turned the corner and started down towards The Waterloo before the man bent down and scooped up a handful of snow from the ground. In his glove he formed it into a ball and then skipped backwards down the street, playfully threatening to throw it at his girlfriend.
‘Marco… You dare throw that and I will make you eat…’ Before she could finish Marco had thrown the snowball into her face and had run off in the direction of The Waterloo. His girlfriend gave chase and soon caught him, Leticia thought that he let her, tackling him down to the ground and shovelling a fistful of snow into his mouth.
‘Tastes lovely! Better than your cooking at least,’ he laughed in response. His girlfriend playfully struck him across the shoulder and then helped him to his feet before both retired into the warmth of the inn, both still laughing.
They looked the kind of people Leticia wanted to be friends with, the kind of cool people she once enjoyed hanging around with. If she were not stuck to the floor, if she were not so wretched and dishevelled, she would have gone up, greeted them and spoken to them. She would have at least tried to make friends with them, followed them into the inn and sat at their table for a while getting to know them. She decided she would call the woman Adele, she had the look of an Adele, and Adele would become her best friend…
If only she could move it might all be possible. She tried to forget them, to move on and tell herself that she would never see them again, but couldn’t. They were metres away in The Waterloo and all she had to do was to stand up, to move to the inn and the warmth and sit down at their table and start talking and she would be friends with them. Thoughts of the things they would do together flashed through her mind- They would give gifts, playing secret Santa where she would go over the spending limit buying Marco some expensive cologne. They would holiday in Marbella together. She would be at their wedding, she would be chief bridesmaid, nabbing Marco for a dance and planting a cheeky kiss on his lips before Adele claimed him forever. They would send their children to the same schools and the friendship would pass over to the next generation. Everything would be marvellous.
Knowing that this wonderful life would never be, Leticia broke down in tears. Life was not supposed to be this way, the way it really was. She should not be spending Christmas eve alone in the alcove entrance of an empty shoe shop, hardly able to move for the cold numbing her bones. She should be in The Waterloo making friends with Marco and Adele, wishing the W.H Smith woman a merry Christmas and scoffing down all the mince pies and roast potatoes which she could eat.
Her tears froze against her face. She couldn’t even move her hands in order to wipe them away and more tears came, freezing just like the others. Nobody who passed by noticed her, heard her tears. Christmas was in the air and they were all too happy, too merry and too drunk to care. It was Christmas eve and Letitia sat alone, frozen, in the alcove of the empty Stead and Simpson shoe shop.
If you liked this you can check out the other Bangor Stories (and more) on my short stories page.