Who Will Tell Their Story – Chapter Six – “Agnes”

Agnes was a woman who had finally escaped a torturous marriage to a Godless, abusive husband, who had rendered her to nothing more than a frail, frightened and broken replica of her former self.

Even after she won her freedom, she would still be battered and bruised, from running into things.  She never turned on her lights and never opened her blinds.  She seemed to take comfort in the dark, where no one could see her, or touch her, or hurt her.  She had never known how it felt to be loved, other than having it show in the form of blackened eyes and swollen lips.

Agnes wore her pain like a crown of thorns.  Her soul had been broken, her heart had been ripped to shreds, but it still beat and she wondered why.

If someone made a sudden move, she would flinch and if someone walked up behind her and merely spoke, she would scream and cover her head. When she first arrived at the Battery Park Hotel, she was understandably, quiet and reserved.

Then she met Eloise, who wouldn’t accept her life of solitude and fear.  She insinuated herself into Agnes’ dark world and tried to diffuse her defense mechanisms by insisting that she turn on her lights, open her blinds, participate in game night and go on regular shopping trips for new clothes.

Agnes was by all rights a wallflower and Eloise…well, Eloise was the life of the party.  They were an unlikely pair but they seemed to mesh somehow. Agnes was hungry for normalcy…something she hadn’t known in years, and although no one would ever describe Eloise as being “normal,” she gave the impression that her motto was, “live it up, folks.  We never know how long this dance is going to last.”

Eloise didn’t “cure” Agnes but she did expose her to beautiful sights, wonderful sounds and a way of life that she had only dreamed of.  Agnes was never going to be one to yank up her shirt and expose herself, but she had learned to smile instead of wincing in fear, and eventually learned to laugh instead of crying in despair.

Agnes seemed to be an old soul, attuned to things others were not.  She wasn’t sure how to react when things appeared to be good.  She was always waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.”  Maybe she didn’t recognize happiness when she saw it, or maybe she was afraid that if she was happy, something or someone would snatch it away from her.  Maybe she had suffered too much trauma.  Maybe she was afraid “he” would find her.

When she voiced her trepidation, Eloise comforted her and said, “You’ve come too far.  I am not going to let you go backward.  I’m not going to let anything happen to you, and if that son-of-a-bitch ex-husband of yours ever dared to come within ten miles of you, my Smith and Wesson would be the last thing he ever saw.”

When Agnes asked if she had a gun, Eloise made her laugh when she said, “no, but it sounded good, right?”

Despite Eloise’s efforts, Agnes was still afraid.  She didn’t know why…there was just this gnawing feeling deep down in her gut and she had learned not to ignore that feeling.  She told Eloise, “I just get the feeling that something terrible is going to happen.”

Like so many of the other residents of the Battery Park Hotel, Anges’ remains were never identified.



To be continued_________________




Who Will Tell Their Story – Chapter Five – “The Jonah”

Otis Hall was the eighth and final child born to Carmen and “Bump” Hall, in the small town of Accident.  His mama used to laugh and say, “You were an accident that was born in Accident.  We weren’t planning on having any more young’uns, but the good Lord saw fit to give us you.”

Throughout his childhood, Otis’ siblings affectionately and jokingly called him “an accident waiting to happen.”  If a piece of sidewalk was just the slightest bit raised above the other, Otis would stump his toe and fall down.  It there was the tiniest bit of a tree stump left in the vast yard, Otis would find it, trip over it and fall down.  There were thresholds in every doorway of their old house and sure enough, Otis would at least twice a day, trip over one of them and fall down.

His mama and daddy owned a little country store, and it was a given that if he even looked at a nice, pyramid-shaped group of vegetables or fruit, they would come cascading down like a stack of dominoes.

His teacher and the neighbors took to calling him “the Jonah.”  Back in his day, if you were called a Jonah, it meant that you brought bad luck every where you went.  “Here comes the Jonah,” they’d say.

His mama told him not to pay any mind to what people called him, because they just didn’t know what a good boy he was, and although he had been an accident, he was a blessing from the Lord.

When his mama and daddy died, Otis took over their little country store and somehow managed not to destroy everything in it with his clumsiness. Eventually, a big box store came to town and the little store had to close its doors.

Despite Otis’ moniker of being a Jonah, he became a greeter for the big box store.  Only having to say “hello and welcome” to the patrons seemed ideal, although a few times, a display was positioned a little too close to the door and one misstep from Otis sent the goods tumbling into the isles.

Otis worked at the store for almost thirty years until one day, it started pouring and the rain-soaked patrons tracked in water.  Otis slipped and fell down.  While waiting for the ambulance, he heard one of the youngsters laughing while he said “told you.  He’s a Jonah.”

At the hospital, the doctor told Otis that he had broken his hip…badly.  He would need extensive physical therapy and constant care.  His older siblings were long gone and having never had time for a wife and children, left Otis at the mercy of a nursing home.

He spent several months there, learning to maneuver with a walker that he fondly called his “rollater.”  It had the usual bright yellow tennis balls on the front legs, that he had covertly mucked from an unused “loaner” he found in the closet.

He didn’t like being there.  It felt like a prison and he often complained that everyone “just seemed so old.”  There wasn’t much attention from the staff and many nights, he listened to the cries and moans of people who had all but been forgotten.

One day, Otis decided to be a rebel and “break out.”  He packed his bags, called a taxi and left.  He had heard about the Battery Park Hotel and sets his sights on living there.  Although there was some question about his mobility, he was granted admission.

He had found his milieu.  He was welcomed by the other residents, who knew nothing about “the Jonah.”  He had been flashed by Eloise and yes, like all the other men, he loved her.  He had met Irene and thought she was beautiful, but he knew that she would never be interested in a broken-down old “accident,” like him.  Raden had offered the same obligatory nod that he afforded to everyone else, but he and Otis had never spoken.

At night, Otis didn’t hear cries and moans.  He heard laughter and sometimes, the sound of big-band era music, playing on someone’s antique record player.  He was happy.

On game night, Otis would leave his room a good thirty minutes early.  It took him a while to negotiate the long hallways and more often than not, the elevator doors would try to close on him mid-way into his entrance. He would good-naturedly fuss at the doors and call them “scoundrels.”

There had only been a few mishaps during Otis’ tenure there.  Once he overturned one of the game tables and checkers went flying all over the room.  The people with two good hips, took it in stride and picked them up,one by one.  In the dining room, he accidentally knocked over a large basket of rolls and much to the chagrin of the employees, it resulted in a mini-food fight. Even though most of the people had two good hips, they were a bit slower than they were in their youth, so the five second rule didn’t apply.

Otis was found huddled in the elevator, along with his trusty “rollater.”


To be continued________________________


Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Four – “Irene”

Irene was a recent widow who graced the Battery Park Hotel after she sold the house that she had shared with her husband for almost fifty years. Unlike Eloise, Irene didn’t hate the word “widow.”

She lived on the sixth floor and from the window, could see the house that she had lived in since she married at the age of eighteen.  She and her husband had raised five children in that house and the memories she collected over the years overflowed like a mighty waterfall.

She was a master crocheter and knitter and possessed an imagination that allowed her to literally make something out of nothing.  She could run across a rusted tin can and in her mind, see a beautiful container for a treasure.

She loved to hear dirty jokes and loved to tell them.  One of her favorites was “look down your shirt and spell attic.”  She knew Eloise but never told her that joke, although she mused about how she could say “pull up your shirt and spell attic, instead of look down your shirt and spell attic.”

Blessed with unusually long fingers, she played the piano at the church she had been going to for as long as she could remember.  Also blessed with a remarkable soprano voice, she sang in the choir.  Over time, the dress code had become less rigid but Irene wasn’t one to show up wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  She would dress to the nines and one of her favorite outfits was a bright pink suit with matching shoes.

She had her hair done every week but settled for its natural color of silvery white.  When asked if she’d like a little color added, she would laugh and say “I have earned every single white hair on my head and every single one of them has a name attached to it.”

She no longer drove and relied heavily on her best friend, Lilly, to take her to church, the grocery store and an occasional trip to the mall.  They got along so well, people who didn’t know them thought they were sisters. When Irene fell and broke her arm, she stayed with Lilly, until she was able to fend for herself again.  As Irene put it, “It was like a month-long pajama party.”

Irene had been a beautiful woman in her youth.  She had chestnut brown hair that looked as if it had been kissed by the sun and she had piercing blue eyes that made you think she could see straight through you.  She was taller than average and in her old age, still struck quite a figure.

She loved to watch game shows.  Her favorite was Wheel of Fortune and she could, many times, figure out the word after only one letter had been exposed.

When someone described Irene, they talked about funny and friendly she was, but if you pissed her off, you had better run for the hills.  With the expertise of an accomplished swordsman, she could metaphorically cut you in half before you ever saw the blade.

But Irene had a past.  Due to a tragic accident, she lost a child when she was younger and had suffered a mental breakdown.  She spent a few years in what they called back then, a nervous hospital.  She recovered, as much as could be expected when you lose a child, but if one looked closely, they could see the deep sadness that still showed in her eyes.

She loved holidays and was always the first volunteer when it was time to decorate the lobby.  When she got through, it was often described as a masterpiece of artistry.  She appeared to enjoy her golden years and the camaraderie she found with the other patrons of the Battery Park Hotel seemed to enliven her.

As the fire raged up from floor to floor, Irene decided to cheat death and take her own life.  She made her way up to the top of the Hotel and jumped.  She was wearing her bright pink suit and matching shoes.



To be continued_______________



Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Three – “Ray Dean”

Ray Dean aka Raden, was a purveyor of chicanery.  Three life-altering events had taken place in the last few months.  He had turned sixty-five, had just been released from a federal prison after serving a thirty-year sentence for defrauding several unsuspecting elderly people and he had been graciously admitted to the Battery Park Hotel, on the condition that his evil ways had been put behind him.

Born in the hills of North Carolina to uneducated parents who had to scrimp and save every dollar just to make ends meet, he decided at an early age that was not the life he wanted.

With an IQ of 165, his debauchery began at twelve years old.  He started stealing goats and cows from neighbors, tying them to a tree, waiting for a reward to be posted and then returning them to collect the money.  It was a brilliant ploy and the grateful people started calling him “the little Pinkerton.”

But his ruse would come to an end when they began to wise up and realized that he was the one who always seemed to “find” the missing animals.  He got what you would call a good ole whoopin’ from his Papa, and a lecture about right and wrong but his Papa’s speech went the way of the proverbial “in one ear and out the other.”

His Papa said, “I know you’re smarter than I am, son, but there’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things.  You need to do things the right way.”

Raden was smart enough to placate his Papa and showed the proper remorse but all the while, he was planning his next caper.

Feeling that higher education was for chumps, and also believing that he was always the smartest person in the room, he opted to drop out of high school at sixteen and start his own business.

That business took him from state to state, not because he was successful, but because he was outrunning the law.

He would travel around, find depressed houses and use his considerable, smooth-talking charm to entice the owners with promises of repairing roofs, mending broken down fences and replacing leaking pipes for a more than fair price.  All he required was half the money down and then he would begin the project.  Once he got their hard-earned money, he would skip town, live high on the hog for a few weeks and then move on to his next victim.

His turpitude continued for years and not until he met Isobel, did he start to show a bit of conscience.  She was a spit-fire of a woman who could match his intellect and he found her to be quite challenging.

She had just inherited a tidy sum of money from her folks as well as their old farmhouse, which she intended to restore to its original state.  Raden saw an opportunity to make a quick killing, but he found Isobel to be so alluring that he couldn’t take advantage and decided that maybe meeting her was a sign that he should start traveling the straight and narrow path of honesty.

They would meet and he would pretend to know what he was talking about as they looked at the rusty old tin roof and rotten eaves.  He was being pretentious and his only purpose was to spend more time with her, not help fix the house.

The more time he spent with her, the more enamored he became and the more guilt he felt, but his funds were running low and he needed a quick fix.  He fell back into his old ways and took several thousand dollars from her.

They planned to meet the next morning and start working.  Isobel arrived at the house and waited all day but Raden never showed up.  He took her money and left but Isobel was not going to be just another one of his victims.

She hired a private investigator and Raden’s luck ran out when the long arm of the law came knocking on his door.  He was living in a dismal flat, crawling with roaches and rats and littered with empty liquor bottles.  He had made off with her money but as soon as he skipped town, his daddy’s words of doing the right thing began to echo in his ears like the tolling of a death knell.  Instead of cheating people out of money, he started begging people for money.

If he had ever been able to love anyone other than himself, Isobel had been the recipient.  While in prison, Raden became an accomplished artist. His cell housed hundreds of paintings.  Other inmates asked for their likenesses or those of loved ones, but Raden refused.  All of his paintings were of Isobel and when he was released, he took those paintings to the Battery Park Hotel.

He was reclusive and other than an occasional nod to someone in passing, he kept to himself.  It was almost as if he was self-imposed to another prison as a form of further penitence, although in the eyes of the law, he had paid his debt to society.

He never participated on game night and it’s questionable if he ever had the pleasure of meeting Eloise.  He never visited the hairdresser nor did he ever lounge around in the main lobby.

He was found in the hallway with his arms full of melted oil paintings that were not recognizable.  Perhaps in his last moments of life, he finally found peace and a modicum of comfort, knowing that he was going to die…with Isobel.


To be continued___________________



Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Two – “Eloise”

Eloise had been a resident of the Battery Park Hotel since it opened its doors to the elderly.  She was a sixty-seven year old widow who hated the word “widow.”  She showed her annoyance when she tersely said “don’t call me a widow.  That makes me sound like a spider!”

Eloise was a force of nature.  She never wore a brassiere and had no compunction about flashing her ample but sagging breasts when she heard that “hated” word.  She would let out a hearty grunt, raise her shirt and say “do you see a red hourglass on my chest?”

Most women ignored her but others would gasp in horror and show their disgust…but all the men loved Eloise.  A few protests were sent to the manager, a middle-aged, slightly over-weight, balding man, who politely nodded while listening to the sensitivities of the complainants but shook his head and smiled as soon as they walked away.  He loved Eloise, too.

Eloise frequented the hairdresser but blue was the color of her eyes and would never be the color of her hair.  Her choice was a jet black color called Raven and she never let her silver roots show.  She proudly called herself “a Raven beauty.”  It was a clever pun on the word “raving” and Eloise was a master of puns.

On game night, Eloise made the rounds, floating fluidly from table to table.  She was a fairly good poker player, although it was discouraged, especially if it involved money.  But Eloise was a rule-maker and a rule-breaker.  “If I want to play poker, I’m going to play poker,” she said.  “If I win your money, don’t cry to me.  You shouldn’t be gambling if you’re going to be a big baby.”

She had never worked a day in her life, as far having an actual paying job, but would quickly remind everyone that looking after a man for forty-some-odd years was one of the hardest jobs a woman could ever have. She didn’t talk much about her late husband but once you got to know her, albeit casually because even though she would bare her breasts, she never completely bared her soul to anyone, you sensed that he was an honorable man who was very good to her.

She still wore a simple gold band on her left hand and always wore a locket on a long chain that seemed to have great sentimental value.  If she still grieved for him, she did it in private or maybe she had reached the point of acceptance and resigned herself to believing the often used words, “until we meet again.”

Eloise didn’t dress like an old woman.  You wouldn’t find any polyester frocks in her closet and stiletto heels were at home on her feet.  She was never seen without make-up and may have singlehandedly kept Max Factor in business for years.

She could be described as flashy, but not trashy.  She could be described as eye-catching, but not gaudy.  She could be described as someone who wasn’t going to let time and age slow her down or resign her to a mundane life of mere existence.

The fact that Eloise loved to flirt did not go unnoticed.  She loved the attention and loved even more that she could get a rise out of an embarrassed old man, whose certain appendage hadn’t stood at attention in possibly many years.

But Eloise was not interested in having a relationship.  She didn’t need a man to take care of, nor did she need a man to take care of her.  She was by no means wealthy, but she was frugal.  She didn’t need a man to pay her bills, nor was she interested in paying his.  She just wanted to live and laugh and spit in the face of age, while defying its onslaught of brittle bones, arthritic hands and the eventual final surrender.

Eloise was found huddled next to the window in her bedroom, clutching a scorched silver picture frame that one could only guess held a picture of her late husband.  The remains of a chair were beside her and she may have been trying in vain to break the reinforced window.  Fused to her finger was the gold band and the locket still hung around her charred neck.



To be continued________________________




Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter One

Standing in the middle of town, was the grand Queen Anne styled Battery Park Hotel.  Its name came from Confederate forces, using the site for batteries of artillery during the Civil War.

As a little girl, I remember looking up at the fourteen story tall building and thinking that it surely must touch the sky and tickle the soft, underbelly of angels who were flying a little too close to the spire.

I had heard that famous people had once sought rest in its grand rooms, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.  There was a rumor that the fabulous Elvis Presley had stayed there and in a fit of rage, shot the television when he saw Robert Goulet on the screen.

Forty years later, the grand hotel had all but been abandoned in favor of more modern, sterile glass and steel architecture.  It was slated for demolition but special interest groups rallied and petitioned to save the old historic building.

People who had migrated to the suburbs and built or bought one-story cookie-cutter houses, were now flocking back to the city.  They were eyeing the building for lush pent-house style apartments, but the city decided that the grand hotel should be designated for senior citizens, who, living on small fixed incomes, should have a bit of luxury in the winter of their lives.

The age requirement was at least sixty-five and the residents had to have a bit of independence, although there were the required accouterments for wheel chairs and walkers.  Once the remodeling was completed, all two hundred and thirty-eight rooms were occupied within three weeks and a waiting list numbered in the hundreds.

Once again, the Battery Park Hotel had a heartbeat.

There was a laundromat in the basement that boasted ten washing machines, twelve dryers and for fifty cents, a chest of drawers could be filled with fresh, clean clothes.

Once a week, a hairdresser would come to coif and apply just the right tint of blue to old ladies’ hair of another time, who would never dream of venturing outside looking unkempt.  The men could opt for the long ago discarded tradition of a straight-razor shave, if they trusted that the hairdresser had steady hands.

There was a room designated for clothing that had been outgrown or was no longer wanted, appliances that were no longer needed, magazines that had been read hundreds of times and bits of yarn and fabric that were too small to save.  All of these things could be bought for a mere pittance.

Every Friday night was game night.  The residents could partake in Bridge, Checkers, Gin Rummy, try to coax together a five-thousand piece puzzle, or just sit around and talk about old times, old men and old women.
As they played, they could hear the lonesome, forlonging, yet romantic call of the train that rode along the French Broad River.

The residents consisted of spry, maverick “oldsters,” taking advantage of a new kind of freedom as well as the sad, forgotten ones, tossed away like last weeks’ Sunday newspaper.

Sometimes you could see one of them peering out of a window as if perhaps nostalgically looking for their lost childhood or hoping to see a loved one stroll by.  Surely, whatever they saw was from an entirely different perspective than what they could see from the ground.

Through the years, residents came and went.  Some had to go to assisted care living.  Some died and went to their final resting place, be it to a cemetery with an elaborate tombstone, or to the neglected Potters’ field.

Old people who should be treasured for their wealth of knowledge and the stories they can tell are more often than not, considered to be nothing more than relics.  They are frail and wrinkled and some of them smell like dusty furniture.  Their eyes are cloudy and their hearing has gone the way of their youth.

Some of them are still full of life.  They don’t care how they smell, and it doesn’t matter if they can still see or hear.  They’re just happy to be alive. But there are those who are so lonely, their tears could water the nearby flowers and they silently wish for a visit from the angel of death, whose soft underbelly may have been tickled by the spire.

Centuries of memories crept along the corridors and settled into the crevices of the Battery Park Hotel.  It would be an idealistic notion that traces of everyone who had entered the front door, walked the halls, and lounged on the comfortable, overstuffed furniture in the lobby had left an indelible mark, but who would tell their story?

If those walls could only talk…but on a cold December day, the walls were silenced forever. That was the day the grand Battery Park Hotel burned to the ground and took every living soul with it.



To be continued__________________





A Christmas To Remember

Christmas was coming!  There was a nip in the air, frost on the ground and little girl excitement abounded.  Even though she was an old woman now, she remembered how it had been in the before time.

This year, she took a picture of her house and had it mounted on a special card.  She sent it to all of her children with an invitation to come visit and enjoy the wonderful memories of their youth.

“Come spend the holidays with me and relive the days when you were knee-high to a grasshopper.  There’s lots of room and you can choose from the pink room, the green room, the blue room, the yellow room or the white room.  All will be adorned with decorations and the spirit of Christmas!  There will be presents to open, apple cider to sip and dinner to feast upon.  I’ll be expecting you around noon.  Love, Mom.”

Day after day she lugged bins filled with ornaments into the house.  Most of the trees were in cumbersome boxes and were three or four feet taller than she, but with her rickety old step-ladder, she could conquer even the tallest.  Often, she would stop and laugh as she said to herself, “oh, land.  My blood pressure.  What was I thinking?”

She tried to ignore the nagging thought that maybe she was getting too old to do this sort of thing but she had missed it terribly.  It had been so long since the before time and this year, she felt like she could decorate again.

Every room had a tree with a different theme and the ornaments matched the color of the room.  Stockings hung from every mantle and Steinbach nutcrackers stood guard over them.  There were hand-knitted stockings that her mama had made for the children, silk stockings that she had purchased, cross-stitched stockings that she had made, and old, felt stockings rescued from her mama and daddy’s attic, that still bore the faint smell of her daddy’s cigarette smoke.

Her finest handmade quilts covered holiday-themed flannel sheets on each bed and soft feather pillows beckoned a weary traveler with the promise of a wonderful night’s rest.  Balsam scented candles filled each room with ambient lighting and that fresh-cut Christmas tree smell.

Hand-cut paper snowflakes, strung together with fishing line, served as temporary curtains in all the bedrooms and each room had its own “Elf On The Shelf,” moved to a different place every night.

Characters who held candles in arms that moved back and forth had been with her since the children were little.  There was Mr. and Mrs. Clause, who for thirty years had stood on the main fireplace.  There was Mr. Scrooge, the Lamplighter, four elves and several carolers.  There was a little girl with blonde, curly hair who wore a red checked dress and reminded her of her daughters.

In front of the window at the top of the stairs, a tree was heavy laden with speaking ornaments from the movie, “A Christmas Story.”  On a table beside it, was a full-sized famous Leg Lamp, the bunny slippers, a porcelain replica of the house, a bobble headed Ralphie and of course, “the old man.”  It was one of her favorites.

Lighted garland wound its way around the banisters of the stairs, intermittently boasting a large red bow.  Old world Santas that she had collected over the years, stood on the each corner of the twenty steps.

All of the artwork on the walls had been replaced with smiling pictures of Santa, and a basket overflowing with a collection of “The Night Before Christmas” books sat in the foyer.   A large old world Santa stood beside a sleigh, filled with antique toys and represented a step back into her time as a little girl.

The outside of her house had wreaths with red bows on all thirty-eight windows and a large twig snowman, complete with carrot nose and top hat, held a welcome sign on the front porch.  Sleigh bells on a leather strap, hung from the doorknob.

In the living room, her handmade Twelve Days Of Christmas quilt was draped over the sofa and in the chair was her hand embroidered pillow that said “The Bell Still Rings For Me.”  Cinnamon pine cones lent an aromatic smell to the room while an old, scratched 45 record of White Christmas strained to play on her childhood phonograph.

In the kitchen, stood a replica of the famous tinsel trees of the fifties, complete with the color-wheel that cast several different hues.  It was full of red and white candy canes, red glass balls, ornaments shaped like peppermints and miniature retro appliances.

Even the bathrooms had their own trees, each decorated with a different theme.  One had miniature purses, high-topped boots, pointed high-heeled shoes and feathered hats.  Another had hand crocheted snowflakes, coupled with silver balls.  The third had firefighter ornaments and village fire houses stood proudly around the base as if ready to answer a call.

Her finest china and crystal graced the dining room table and beside each place setting, was a special gift.  Over sized Santa hats covered the tops of each chair and The Polar Express Train encircled the base of the large tree that stood in the corner.

A six-foot tall dancing Santa, who let out a boisterous “ho-ho-ho” when someone walked by, was poised next to the fireplace.  He had gotten old as well during the last thirty years, and sometimes needed a slight tap to make him wake up and start moving.

Christmas day arrived and she was up at the crack of dawn.  By noon, a turkey was warming in the oven, buttered rolls were in a special basket and a freshly baked chocolate cake with white mountain icing waited under a special covered plate.  Her famous macaroni and cheese, a favorite of her children, rested in a dish for them to devour and fill their bellies.

She sat and sipped the freshly made warm apple cider while she waited for her children to arrive.  She listened to Christmas songs being chimed from the church bells and thought about how beautiful they sounded.

Having made certain that everything was perfect, she closed her eyes and smiled as she reminisced about Christmases of long ago.  She remembered her children’s squeals of delight as they opened their presents and once again, thought of how very much she missed those days.

When nighttime fell, she carefully put the china and crystal back into the hutch and gathered up the unopened gifts.

No one came.