Sunday, December 30, 2012

Life Rekindled

Life Rekindled
Ben Hannigan

The  crowd was tight packed and rushed, Callum felt almost crushed, like he could barely breathe. Still, he soldiered on. He hated Christmas shopping, had since his wife died but he had promised her towards the very end of the illness that took her that he would always celebrate.

 So he was here preparing to head to a family Christmas event. It had been six years but he was finally facing the rest of the world during the holidays, rather than staring at his tv with Chinese food in his pj’s, having ordered all his presents online so he didn’t have to speak to anyone or be forced to hear those ghastly false expressions of glad tidings from psaltic salespeople who couldn’t give a fuck about anyone they talked to other than for a tick on the target sheet.

 He stood searching for something for his mother. Lana usually handled all this or he did himself slowly working his way through the list and rather quicker working through the bottle of bourbon by the mouse pad. He finally, after what seemed like hours of searching in a hell of baubles, tinsel and tat, found a small, delicate, white pin that was apparanlty carved out of a whitish wood and trimmed with, a rosewood inlay spiral.

 As he reached for the box he felt the teasing brushing motion of a woman’s hand sliding over his. He paused almost guiltily enjoying the contact as he turned into the touch. Almost buried into his chest by the crush of the crowd was a small woman. Violet hair, five foot tall, bright pink eyes that were obviously contacts, all in a package containing boobs that were probably a thirty two B but looked huge on her frame. “Hey" he said to himself, "I’m a widower not dead." He nodded to her and asked “You want me to delve into this bin of pins and grab you one since I have the display one?”

She nodded gratefully, looking flushed and harried before he bent over the edge of the bin and delved. He was always fairly indifferent to the cold and today was no exception.  He was wearing an NFL style jersey, slightly baggy and riding up as he bent over into the barrel showing his toned body and the swirling mix of scars and tattoos that adorned much of his back. She stood admiring the sight as he delved and had to be nudged to realise he had retrieved the pin.

“Sorry just  tired I guess, spaced out.”

 He nodded and waved his hand sagely “It’s this shit that does it, sends people mental.”  Laughing and enjoying the brief moment that broke for just a second the tense nature of the Christmas shopping combat.

 Hours later Callum was stood in the queue. N,o not the queue, this was the tertiary queue, a sort of holding tank for the queue to the queue. Annoyed, he stood and steadily vaped producing a cloud of water vapour which in deference to the season had a heady odour of clove, orange peel, cinnamon and dark chocolate. Whilst being asked by the curious about the electronic cigarette he handed out business cards and talked about the tech whilst revelling in the hateful glares of the evangelical ex-smokers. Whilst enjoying his vape and lazily breathing smoke rings he was startled by a request. “Do the ship that floats through the smoke ring.”

 He laughed and said in response “Do I look like Gandalf?” as he spoke he turned and saw the violet haired girl in the sonic t shirt from earlier. She giggled, and that broke the ice. They started to talk. He was twenty eight, had been married until she got ill, he showed her the rings round his throat, his and hers. His Elrond’s ring of power, Hers Galadrial’s. They chatted about fantasy novels and film and television fitting comfortably in the hour they had to talk. As she paid for her purchases she scrawled a note which had the name of a pub and a time on it and bribed the cashier a fiver to give it to him. He checked out the mix of clothes, cheap kids toys for friends’ kids and the other old standards of present buying before being handed his receipt. Opening the note he read it and was shocked into freezing outside the store entrance. “Do I go? I mean it has been six years and she ordered me to be happy.” praying softly he waited for a sign, what to do which way to go. As he left the shop he heard the opening of the Christmas song that had defined his season as a married man, almost as if it was a preordained order for him to begin moving on and looking to the future.

 Checking the note again he headed to the pub realising if he ran through the crowds he could just about make it. He stopped outside and took a deep breath and had a quick vape to calm his nerves,.Stood by the pub door wondering whether he was doing the right thing. He almost heard her voice in his ear one last time telling him what he had told her before she died, “Be happy and live, if not for you but for me”. That was the last push he needed to open the door. Weirdly the pub was empty but for one person, the girl from earlier. She was sat at a table by the lit fire watching the snow fall outside, he moved past the bar ordered a drink and went to sit down. Over the next few hours they talked and talked, learning each other and just exploring the exciting and the newness of meeting someone and feeling that instant rush of attraction.

 They laughed and talked, and over the hours as the snow fell ate together and moved closer till in the end they were hand in hand as the bell for last orders chimed. Shrugging on their coats they were discussing where to go next when they were faced with the choice being made for them. The new couple slowly struggled with the door, first pulling gently then yanking harder then trying to tap it then pull before the bloke behind the bar came to look. Even with his help it wouldn’t shift. He turned the lights up and then they saw the true issue. The snow had piled up to the point that the door wouldn’t budge and they couldn’t leave.
 “Well this solves that question.” Lucy giggled before turning to the barman. “Still have a room spare for tonight?”
He nodded laughing a little before digging out the key and grabbing a couple of bottles of beer for himself and sorting a final drink for each of the couple.
Heading up the winding stairs they walked together still hand in hand and Callum stood at the door awkwardly. Lucy  plucked both drinks from his hand and returned slyly grinning before pulling him into a deep long rough kiss by his shirt collar and dragging him through the open door, kicking the door shut as she pushed him to the bed ravishing his mouth and running her hands across his body.

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