Short Story: Another Holy Night Finale by Cyndi Lord
Our Write Side recently had a contest. The theme was family traditions, written with Nicholas Sparks flair. Of the entries we received, only one could be declared the winner, but today’s story came in a very close second. We are very honored to introduce you to author Cyndi Lord and her mystical way with words. Our Write side presents: Another Holy Night finale.
Cyndi Lord moved to North East Texas in 2005 where she lives on a ranch with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. An award winning author, she recently decided to go into semi-retirement from her career as a private investigator and research paralegal in order to write full time. Her novels incorporate her professional experience into the plots readers love to unravel along with the investigator.
She is active in a ministry to the homeless and enjoys many aspects of philosophy. As an animal lover, she is a vegan, and strong voice against cruelty to animals. Cyndi and her husband have nine adult children, sixteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild. For tranquility she loves to work in the garden, and bake. Painting nature scenes is her favorite joy after writing.
She is the Administrator of Elite Critiques – Facebook, and award-winning Bestselling Author of the Sandra Derringer Chronicles, The Plain Series, and Nick The Owlet’s Adventure, and is also the Editor-in-chief for E.C.M (Elite Critiques Magazine).
Another Holy Night
(Last line from last week) The State Welfare Agency car pulled in and he threw his arms around his grandmother. “I want to stay with you. Please, don’t make me go with that lady.”
“You’ll be fine. Al, I have no house. I’m going to live on the streets. You need a home.”
“I can live on the streets with you, Grandma.”
A lady got out of the car and took him by the shoulder. He pulled away.
“Go on now, Al, and never forget me. I’ll never forget you. I love you.” She unwound his arms from her neck. Her lips trembled and tears streamed. “You have to go now.”
“I’ll find you Grandma. When I grow up, I’ll come get you. I promise I will.”
The last words he said to her echoed in his thoughts for fifteen years. Every year since he’d turned eighteen, he made this trip Christmas Eve. An anniversary he memorialized; the day they separated us.
The moisture in his nose froze. Determined not to let tears fall, he brushed his eyes with the cuff of his jacket. Three blocks ahead, festive crowds dwindled, joyful music disappeared, and decorations appeared far and few between. Seedy men stood in groups on corners eying him as he walked past. His throat tightened and he struggled to swallow. Alexander reached a hand into his jacket pocket and tightened cold fingers around the envelope. It held three thousand dollars cash. The make-a-difference gift for some stranger.
The delectable aroma of ham roasting and cheesy scalloped potatoes wafted across the sidewalk as he passed a sleazy diner. His empty stomach rumbled in protest. He turned the corner and spied the expressway overpass two blocks ahead.
Wood smoke filled the air. Groups of people stood around fifty gallon drums absorbing the warmth. Others wrapped in ragged blankets sat on plastic crates. A concrete incline reached the underside of the overpass and leveled off for eight feet at a flat surface. He frowned at the cardboard boxes lining the space used for shelters. Discarded lawn chairs and rotted cushions used for furniture leaned against the barriers.
The lost souls, drug addicts, alcoholics, veterans with PTSD, families who fell on hard times and never recovered, stared at him. Without a word, they spread apart and allowed him to warm his hands at one of the fires. The forgotten, the black sheep, lonely and desperate members of society smiled cautiously. Cheap wine, urine, and dirty body smells penetrated the odor of burning trash.
“You were here last year and helped Regina, weren’t you?” A bearded, elderly man stepped close to him.
“Yes. Why aren’t more of you in shelters in this cold?”
“All full. Plus, we live here and it’s the holidays.”
Alexander looked around the group and their makeshift home. Bulbs, some broken, hung from bare shrubs. Someone had wrapped garland around a pillar. “It looks nice.”
“You looking for a lady, again?” The old man’s eyes stared moist and bloodshot.
“Yes, I’d prefer to help a woman to honor my grandmother.”
“A few of them are sitting by one of those grills over there.” The old man pointed at a group huddled together in a circle. They sat close together, covered in three shared blankets.
He walked across the frozen ground and approached the women. They ranged in ages from twenties to seventies. It surprised him to see two holding small children wrapped in quilts. His heart strings strummed as the women looked up at him. Maybe I can get both of them into an apartment together.
Alexander cleared his throat and smiled. “Hello, I make this trip yearly to help someone. Christmas Eve is an anniversary of sorts for me. I can only help one person, I’m sorry. But, that person can help someone else.”
“Help how?” A toothless woman around thirty who wore a baseball cap pulled over her dirty hair. Earmuffs pressed over the cap. She pulled her threadbare jacket tight. The zipper obviously broke long ago.
“I’ll rent a small furnished apartment for her so she can get benefits started, and give her some cash. It’s not a lot, but I do it for someone because I couldn’t do it for my grandmother.”
He coughed, clenched his teeth and stared at the ground. Unexpected tears blinded him and the flicker of the flames blurred into a kaleidoscope of orange and yellow. “I’m sorry.” His voice cracked, and he thought no one heard him.
A hand clasped his arm, he raised his face. The wrinkled face, gray hair peaking around a floral scarf, and sweet smile, blackened teeth or no, clouded out of focus. Embarrassed, Alexander wiped his eyes with the heels of his palms.
“You’re as sweet as my grandson. I don’t want your help. I don’t need it because he promised me he’d come get me one day, and I know he will. I’ve prayed daily and Jesus will answer my prayers, but you can help…”
He gasped, his heart pounded and clapped as thunder in his ear drums. “Do you call your grandson Al?
The bone thin woman threw her arms around his waist and kissed his chest. “Thank you Jesus. Oh, Al, you’ve found me at last.”
He held her and their tears blended together against pressed cheeks “Am I dreaming? Oh Grandma, Grandma, is it really you?” He hugged her tighter.
“Yes, dear boy. Look at you, all grown up. I knew you’d…” Her slim shoulders pounded against his chest as she sobbed.
Twenty-seven homeless souls circled them in a group hug. Left in their circumstances, they rejoiced as one in her good fortune.
“I’ve prayed and looked for you every year since I became an adult, Grandma.” He took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders. “It’s time for you to come home.”
“For all these years I knew you were looking. I told Jesus you’d keep your promise.” She brushed tears off his face and wiped them on his jacket.
“Thank you, Lord.” He hugged her close and held a hand on the back of her head.
A half hour later, he called for a taxi with his grandmother’s battered suitcase at his feet.
She divided the cash between her friends. “That’s how we do it here, Al. It’s how I’ve survived these many years. What we have, we share.”
He smiled down at her. “We’ll keep making this trip on Christmas Eve, Grandma. It’s what you taught me about loving my neighbor.”
The taxi pulled up and he held the door open for her. To Alexander McArthur, it was another holy night.