By: Luisa Rose
It was Christmas eve, and an orphan girl sat on the rooftop with a cookie and a glass of milk beside her. She was but as happy as she was alone on the cold winter night. Below her stretches the city covered in white sheets of snow and bright gems of dancing lights. There were some people singing and dancing by the streets, and some were just piling out of the church after mass. All of them had this warm and joyous smiles painted on their faces, and she contented herself on this exultant sight.
Rose above the vast cityscape was a big tower clock. In her rag clothes she stepped above where she sat, stood there raising both of her skinny arms wide like she was as tall and mighty as the clock, like she owned the whole world. She closed her eyes, listened to the sweet sweet music of mirth and breath in the fragrance of the night, and smile curved on her face.
It was a time when little children would curl up in a blanket by the fireplace with their milk and cookies readied beside them. It was a time when they would hang their socks before sleeping and wake up to see them filled with their wishes. She could have done the same is she was born that way.
The clock bells rang as it struck 11:00. She could have wished for a pretty dress or bagful of sweets. But she whispered to the wind what her heart ached to have for so long, and that was to have a family to spend Christmas with.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself standing in front of the tower clock, but on a different cold concrete with black iron railing around which kept her from falling, because she stood there with her toes at the edge of the veranda.
A voice of a woman called out her name. She turned to see a beautiful middle-aged woman in a white floral dress with her hair tied in a bun walking towards her. Her mother asked why she hadn’t dressed yet, and she looked down to see her dirty rag clothes still on. Her mother held her tender hands and they walked inside to change her clothes. And for that moment before Christmas, she wasn’t orphan anymore.
When she was all clean and dressed, and her messy short curls were neatly tied, they ate dinner together. She had not seen so many scrumptious delicacies! She could savor them all while listening to the Christmas songs playing in the background. She could be happy, but something was amiss.
She sat left of a man who was probably her mother’s husband, her father, whose brows were creased while talking on the phone. Mother sat across her, eating silently. An older boy, her brother, sat beside her and smiled sadly at her. Why so forlorn when you had all you’ve got to celebrate?
She glanced at the tower clock and wondered.
After dinner, her father took her for a walk. They talked about trains and airplanes and roller coasters, because she had always dreamed to ride on them someday. Her father promised to buy ride tickets for her and her brother tomorrow. She asked if he would come along, but he shook his head saying he had work to do. She pleaded with him, told him Christmas just comes once in a year. Couldn’t he just trade a few days’ work for his family holiday?
They walked further in silence. She glanced above the tower clock which looked taller now that she was on the ground. She closed her eyes and sent silent prayer that her father would ride on a the roller coaster with them and enjoy the season. Just this once, just for him to see what he’s missing.
When she opened her eyes, she caught sight of a small family of vagabonds at the alley near the tower clock, and they were clapping and laughing under the dim illumination of their flickering Christmas lights, One big guy, who might be her father, was drinking his bottle of beer while watching his family with a big joyful grin plastered on his face. A woman, who might be his wife, was singing and clapping for their two happy children.
They had nothing but one loaf of bread and butter and few bottles of cheap beverages, but they were also nothing as melancholic as her family tonight.
The girl asked her father if they could buy food. He protested, of course, because they just ate dinner. He asked why, and she pointed to the direction of the alley.
They said countless thanks when they got their gifts from her father, since he was the one who bought them. The big guy shook hands with her father, and the wife planted a kiss on her cheek. Her father was smiling a satisfied smile the whole time, and she was satisfied seeing him that way.
As they were about to leave the alley, the little boy who was the youngest of the family they visited ran after them and handed a small box to the orphan girl, who wasn’t an orphan that night. He said that it’s all he could give in exchange for their kindness. She thanked and hugged him. He smiled and wished them a merry Christmas before running back and disappeared into dimness.
“Let’s go, dear. It’s time for us to celebrate, too.” And when he said that, the girl knew he would ride with them on the roller coaster.
So they sang, danced and laughed in rhythm with the city. And when they started to tire, they huddled by the fire, their mother singing lullaby. It was a perfect night, and all of them had this warm and joyous smiles painted on their faces.
She curled up in the blanket by the fireplace with her milk and cookies beside her. And as the orphan girl who wasn’t alone that night closed her eyes, she knew she was contented on that exultant sight.
She sat up on the familiar cold concrete just as the tower clock struck twelve.
Clang! clang! clang! And she was the orphan girl again.
She felt a familiar box on her hand, and she saw the box in her dreams. She opened it and saw a small old locket in it, which had a portrait of a man who had the same eyes, and a woman who had the same curls and the same curve of lips as hers.
She looked at her milk and cookies, which were already partially consumed. She glanced at the clock and the vastness that spread below it. The cold wind ruffled her hair as she breathed in the scent of that wondrous night, and a smile lit up her face. For others, it may be just a dream. But for this orphan girl, it was a reality that will remain in her heart forever.