The Flurry

Found this wonderful image on Deviant, thought I’d write it. About 5 minutes.

“Now, you must get some sleep, Henri. We have a big day tomorrow. Papa’s coming back to see us. And then tomorrow night, provided you’re asleep, Santa will come down the chimney to visit us. But mind,” she warned, “he’ll only come if you go to sleep quickly, now, and do as you’re told in the morning.”

With that, Isabelle marked the page, and placed the book onto Henri’s nightstand.

“Goodnight, mama, I can’t wait to see papa again”, murmured the sleepy boy, as Isabelle tucked the coarse woollen blanket up to his chin.

Kissing the boy on the forehead, she cooed, “Good night, my precious”.

Isabelle couldn’t wait to see Yves again, either. It had been touch-and-go whether his new employer would release him even for Christmas. He’d only confirmed his visit a week ago. But even at this time, there was work to be done. Lifting a string of tinsel from her shopping bag, Isabelle needed to finish the tree. She wanted it “just so”, not only for Henri to have a special Christmas, but to welcome Yves home.

Isabelle felt tired by the time she was through with the decorations, and sat down to admire her handiwork. She hadn’t done a bad job. What’s more, this chair was comfy. Satisfied, her eyes slowly crept shut.

She’d not wanted him to go, but the job had been too good to ignore. Times were hard, and neither of them had worked properly in three years, so when Yves’ brother had alerted him, he was off. Away from home, but they would manage until something better came along. And now wise to the work involved in being a single parent, Isabelle couldn’t wait for “something better” to materialise.

But in the meantime, they couldn’t complain. Yves’ wages had paid for this, she reflected as she opened her eyes and focussed on the five wrapped presents beneath the tree. At least Henri would have a decent Christmas.

A sharp rap brought her to her senses. Who could that be? She didn’t usually have visitors at all, and certainly not at this time of night. Releasing the tatty, paint-chipped front door, Monsieur Pouillard stare back through the darkness.

Pouillard. She’d never really warmed to him, but… he had his uses. A prosperous grocer, Isabelle couldn’t help but reflect that much of Pouillard’s wealth had come from her purse, and those of her neighbours. So wealthy was Pouillard, he was the first person – and so far the only person – to have one of those new-fangled telephones installed at his home. He’d even allowed her to use it when Yves had called to set out his plans. Yes, it was strange how Pouillard had become more amenable, now that Isabelle had money again to spend in his shop.

“Monsieur Pouillard”, she exclaimed, “will you come in?”

Pouillard pulled up his collar, against a sudden flurry of snow. “It is all right, Madame, I wish to be back to my fireside as soon as possible.” Isabelle was relieved. She worried that her modest front room would not meet Pouillard’s standards, but the man continued, “I have a message from your husband. He says that he has reached Orléans, and will arrive back in Lamotte first-thing tomorrow, on the 9h45 train.”

Her face lit up visibly at the mention of Yves, so much so that Pouillard added, “he informed me, Madame, that he was looking forward to seeing you, also.” With that, Pouillard clicked his heels in salute. A veteran of the war, old habits died hard. “Now, I shall allow you to resume your festivities.”

He turned to leave, before abruptly stopping. “And remember, Madame, my shop will be open until just 2 o’clock tomorrow, should you have any further Christmas needs. After then, I will reopen at 9:30 on the 26th.” Ever the entrepreneur, Isabelle realised that the 26th was a Saturday. “A merry Christmas to you and your family, Madame Gaston. I hope to see you soon.”

Isabelle woke the next day to the tugging of bedclothes. Forcing open her eyes, Henri stood out from the shadows.

“Maman! Maman! Get up, Maman. We must meet Papa, remember? You mustn’t forget!” She glanced at the bedside clock. Just gone five! She settled back.

“Thank you for waking me, dear child, but we have some time yet before his train arrives. Hop in here with me, and you can warm my feet?” The impatient child was still young enough to be bullied, and Henri slipped between his mother’s sheets. Their snuggles soon left Isabelle warn as toast.

With a lively six-year-old in the bed, there was little chance of further sleep, but upon the alarm, Isabelle whispered to the dozing Henri, “Now, have a quick wash, get dressed, and by the time you come downstairs, I’ll have some porridge on the table. And don’t forget Henri… ”, she added, almost as an afterthought, “don’t forget to wrap up well, it’ll be bitter outside.”

. Ready in record time, Henri bounded down the stairs, already wearing his scarf and new coat. His Christmas began at ten o’clock that morning.


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