It is a Holy Christmas Eve. I think so even when the doors are bursting out of wild crowds of people and lights are beaming out from the photo of the pretentiously-smiling girls. Ms. Martiner brings me a mug of steaming cocoa. I thank her and check her flashing glasses to see how she reacts.
“You wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t Christmas Eve. Never would dream of!” She snaps, sitting down beside me. I guess that meant “you’re welcome”. I roof my hands over the mug’s mouth to seize the warmth.
I sip on my hot chocolate. Bright yellow lights of the café are reflected on its surface, and loud carol jingles and rocks my ears. I can’t decide how I feel. Am I happy? Satisfied? Sad or wistful? I have no idea. Perhaps I have to go back to this morning to unscramble these tangled emotions.
Ms. Aurora was in charge of ‘dropping me out,’ in their professional term. She drove me to the station. She refused any questions, (Because ‘kids don’t ask worthy, useful questions.’) but told me that I was going to stay in Mr. and Mrs. Wilton’s, and that it wasn’t permanent. Nothing was ever permanent to me, in fact. Everything was ‘until’ and ‘for a while’ and ‘temporarily’. I was curious if my stay on this earth was permanent, but I thought I’d better not test her temper.
She dropped me at the platform 9 waiting room, reminding me to stay quiet and not cause troubles. I sat down and looked around.
The first thing I saw was the black smoke, coming out of the cigarettes of two station employees. They were leaning against the wall, talking and laughing heartily. Would my father be like them, having a round, pleasant face, and stout legs? Would he smoke, too? I wish he won’t. I wouldn’t like smokes over my head, dancing its way through the ceiling.
Then there were women at the other corner, covered with thick fur coats and perfumes. They were having a nice gossip about rich Mr. Smith and pretty Ms. Rose. Their precious ‘Pradas’ swayed back and forth as they laughed. Would my mother be plump and talkative like them?
“Good morning, ma’am!” One of the employees chanted pleasantly to the woman who just entered. I wish Ms. Aurora have seen her. I know Ms. Aurora’s golden rules by heart: Be neat. Sit still. Act smart. Be seen and not heard. And this woman would have earned five huge stars from Ms. Aurora. Her gray hair, like iron wires, were tightened in a perfect bun, and her vertebrate was made of a straight iron bars.(I suppose so.) As she sat, her waist and knees formed a perfect right angle. She searched around a room and snorted,“Humph!” Like she found something truly disgusting.
There was a dreadful awkwardness.I began to become quite fidgety-widjety, checking anxiously if I sat perfectly still- what did I forget? Oh, I forgot the hat. I put my hat neatly beside my seat. Awkward silence was wringing around the room like the grim,dark Christmas hymns played by pipe organs. We felt quite like sinful infants under her critical eyes. Now the woman was placing his black, heavy bag beside her. Her white, bony hand, which gripped the bag tightly, looked like an old skeleton.
“Hey, young, lady,” a station employee came over to me. “Why are you here without any companion?”
I answered confidently, “I’m waiting for my parents. They’ll come over to spend Christmas with me.
“Your parents…..” he muttered, taking out his notebook, “can you tell me their names?”
I blushed. I gulped and finally managed to say: “Sorry, that’s privet.”
“Oh,” he chuckled, “Can you tell me some more about your parents and why you’re not with them?”
I realized that the eyes of the whole party in the room was now fixed at me.(And if I have not mistaken, the woman's too.) I cleared my throat timidly and began my story.
It begins with one autumn night. Our walls were not thick enough to block the cold breezes, but our small apartment was always warm with merry luaghters. As I dived happily into my bed that night, I heard my parents talking quietly and seriously. They said something I couldn’t understand. Something about finances and creditors and bills. Something about poverty and going to jail. It didn’t sound very nice but nothing happened until the next morning. Golden sun was humming gently before our window. Cool autumn winds whistled cheerfully. I was hopping and skipping around my mommy, and at occasion laughed and squealed in excitement. Daddy said we were going on a trip. He smiled at me, pulling his big suitcase behind him. I remember that his smile looked sadder than usual.
While waiting for the train, daddy bought me a white hat with blue ribbon on it. I thought how wonderful day it was: we had fair weather, and I had a gorgeous white hat, and we were going on a trip…….
The train arrived to the station, squealing in enthusiasm. Overjoyed,I grabbed my mommy's hand and tried to hop on that train. Suddenly, she snatched her hand out of mine and pushed me back to the station. She smiled. It was a sad smile just like daddy’s. She explained that daddy and she will go for a trip for a while. It was a long trip that I can’t bear.
“Will you come before Christmas?” I asked in a disappointed tone.
“I’ll come Christmas Eve.” She declared. “I promise.”
She drew nearer to me. I remember her rosy, soft cheek that swept on my neck. She put the new hat on my small head. My dad kneeled beside my mother. My eyes preyed greedily upon their faces to remember how they looked like. But their faces blurred and lost forms. Something fell from my eyes and wetted my lips. It tasted salty and bitter. My mom and dad looked each other, panicking and knowing nothing to do. I wiped my tears off and beamed and them to show that I was alright. I learned the first time how to pretend. To pretend that I was happy when I was not.
They hugged me and kissed me and told me that they will come back soon, and that they loved me. They said it. They said that they loved me.
They loved me.
They hopped on the train without turning back. I was alone in the station, licking my tears that collected on my lips. It tasted as bitter as the following nightmares I had to face.
The noise grew louder in the station as thousands of kids with their new hats came to the station, laughing and clutching to their parents' hands. The laughters and merrents and happy families was aboard, along with mine.
The train departed, with endless joys and excitements inside, and leaving me alone in the station with tears for companion.
They loved me.
They said they will come back Christmas Eve.
I believe them. I believe that they miss me and think about me like I think about them. Perhaps they would bring me a whole truck of reward for me. I have always tried to be a good girl, hoping that they would want me back if I behaved. Maybe they will allow me to have a pet. There will be fatherly embraces and motherly kisses and I will forgive them for coming so late, and they will love me as they used to. I'll take out the hat from my suitcase and my mom will put it on my head,astonished by how much I have grown. We will go back home and celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts like every normal family do.
There was another heavy silence. The employee smiled sympathetically at me and the women stopped their blow-by-blow account of Mr. Smith and Ms. Rose and gazed at me with their tearful eyes. I always hate this moment. I remember the fat, round-faced crying over me with tears on her cheeks. She called my classmates ‘poor little things’. One time a boy peeked us through the window, munching his creamy chocolate, with half curiosity and half sympathy. I know they meant well. But they treat us like old stray dog. They forgot that we are someone’s princes and princesses. They are unaware that we are normal kids as they are.
I know my teachers and classmates called me silly all the time I said it. Still, I couldn't (or wouldn't) stop imagining about my mom and dad and the Christmas in our new home.
“Did you know that that woman comes here every day?” Inquired the employee, pointing at Ms. Aurora’s superstar.
I shook my head.
Surprisingly, she once had a happy family, until her husband died and she became a widow. She was a month before her son's birth when he died. Her son plunged into her life like magic after her husband's death. The house once again filled with laughter by this young saviour. One winter, when her son was nearly nine, she decided to go on a Christmas vacation with him.
The station crowded with people on Christmas Eve. Her son was hopping and jumping with anxiety and excitement. He bragged to his mother that he was quite strong now and could even carry the suitcase, but the suitcase fell helplessly to the ground in spite of this little Hereculous' desperate effort. She merely laughed at his innocence, and told him that he can do it when he was all grown up. She stooped down to pick up the suitcase that have fallen.
The train arrived to the station. Swarms of people pushed and pull each other to get into the train. She got up to tell her son that it was time to go. She stretched her hand to pull him to her side but she couldn't reach his hands. She called his name. The same loud, chirping voice did not respond. He wasn't there.
He wasn’t there.
She called and called but his son did not answer. She couldn’t find him the day following and the next week, next month and next Christmas.
She became quite odd after that. She said that his son was hiding somewhere in the station, or went to his vacation without her. She said everything was a nasty joke and her son, now all grown up, will plunge to her arms and tell her that he was sorry.
Every year she bought new Christmas toys and shoes and tickets for him. She always carried her big suitcase to the station,waiting for her son to carry it, for now that he would be strong enough to do it since he would be nearly thirty now.
“So she comes here every day since then, to find her son,” he whispered to me. “Isn’t she crazy?”
Unexplainable feeling began to Rouse inside me. Was it sympathy? I don’t know. I could see myself from her weary, desperate eyes which were staring at the station.
“She ISN'T crazy,” I snarled, “his son will certainly come and carry her suitcase as my mom will put my hat on me.”
The woman stared at me. The cold, small eyes were now widened with surprise. Our eyes met for a second and there my desperate hope was reflected in her eyes.
“I don’t think you’re crazy,” I mumbled to her, my cheeks turning red.
“Humph!” The woman grunted, turning her head to the door.
The door opened. Ms. Aurora came in. She looked annoyed and bothered. She simply spat:
“They don’t want you.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Your foster parents,” she answered, snorting. “They wanted a bigger girl."
I stared at the unsigned form that waved wearily at me in Ms. Aurora’s hand. So they don’t want me.
I looked back at the old woman. She was staring at the last train that arrived at the station.
She once was a mother. Once her stony bosom was filled with her love and her thin arms folded perfectly at an angle went gently around her little boy. But she wasn’t a mother anymore and her son was not coming back.
“Come, girl, we’re going back.” Cried Ms. Aurora, still in her annoyed, exhausted voice.
"My parents would be coming any moment." I whispered, choking with tears."
She rolled her eyes. She was tired of those.
"Silly girl! Have gone totally mad? You're parents do not want you. They're not coming back and they'd probably be happy to get rid of you. Bless 'em! Why cannot I get rid of you?"
The shouting. The words, darting at me. I finally had to face that truth. What I ignored and ran out from. What I dreaded. The truth more bitter than any lies. It now was out of control and barked and scratched and roared inside me like wild beast. I was crumbling into pieces. My parents won't come. They do not want me. They don't love me. No one loves me. Sinking, sinking down......sinking down to endless darkness. Sinking......
“She’s not going back.” Someone blurted out from the corner.
It was that woman.
She stormed to Ms. Aurora. She curled her shoulders back and announced:
“I’ll take her.”
My mind started sinking. Question marks swarmed and buzzed in my head. Who, me? What was she talking about? Is she really crazy?
“It’s not that simple Ma’am,” muttered Ms. Auror, irritated, and folding her arms. “You have to sign the form, and—"
“There is a form and I can sign it,” she snapped, snatching the form out of the lady’s hands. Now Ms. Aurora flushed. She definitely would not give her stars for that. However, she could not protest when the form was signed ‘Mrs. Mary Martiner.’ She finally succeeded in 'dropping me out,' anyway.
Mrs. Martiner jerked her head and eyed at me. Her glance seemed to ask: “What are you waiting for?”
I followed her out of the room like a sleepwalker just woken up from her dream.She stroded swiftly toward the exit. I cautiously trotted along.
“You are just staying for Christmas,” she remarked, “because my son is coming next week.”
She stooped down and put my old hat on me casually, grumbling that 'kids grow too fast.'
It was my turn to do something crazy.
“I know,” I said calmly, picking her black suitcase up, “my parents are coming next Christmas Eve, as you know.
"Humph!" She grunted, glancing at me. There was the same snort but she was smiling now. I smirked and swayed the suicase in the air. How would we look like? A crazy woman and silly girl walking together, still waiting for their child and parents.
I push the finished mug of chocolate aside and lie my weary head on the table. Suddenly, I feel the bony hand on my back. It is trembling. Its every joint is trying to shake off all the sorrows and pains which bound them.
Her white fingers sweep my back. It is a warmer than it seemed to be. The perfect right angle messes up as she stoop further down to stroke my head.
I would finally have something permanent in my life. Perhaps I would not stay at her house permanently (since I was staying only until her son comes back), but she will permanently learn to love again and I’ll learn how to trust her permanently, and it will go on as it should be. No more stations and no more trains.
It is a Holy Christmas Eve. I think so even when my life is ragged with sorrow and loneliness.