The Glass Penguin

written by Linda Hovord

#ResilienceStories #WordWeaversAnthology2023

“Plop’, post skitters onto the hall floor. Evie heaves herself up from the carpet where she’s wrapping Christmas presents. There is no other sign of the ‘nearly here’ festive period in Evie’s home. There is a reason. She has no intention of there being any. Not this year and none she envisages again.

Scooping up the mail. A quick scan. Bills, bumf, and, her heart sinks, more Christmas cards.
She’s not sent them this year. What to say, what goodwill to send. She’s out of it. It went into the ground.

Evie suffers for her family and friends whom she knows send the cards with all the ‘best intentions’. Their carefully thought-through messages and sign-offs crafted to avoid being ‘insensitive’. Gone are the ‘have a brilliant time’, ‘have a fun-filled festive season’ or ‘wishing you a joyful next year.’ Now the greetings are subtle reminders of her now life – alone, widowed, childless.

Pushing aside her yet uncleared breakfast dishes. She arranges the unopened cards in a neat pile. Makes herself a coffee, proceeds to open them. Fortunately after the third ‘thinking of you at this time of year’ the doorbell rings – a welcome distraction.

Opening it she finds a Christmas tree standing on the top step. Evie scans the street – nothing, no one in sight. A card secured by a deep, red ribbon hangs from the tree. Robbie her neighbour appears.

‘Now that’s what I call a tree. Want a hand with carrying it in.’ He enquires smilingly.
‘I rather you gave me a hand to take it to the tip.’ Evie mutters in reply. ‘Pardon?’
‘No nothing. Yes please.’

Robbie places it next to the fireplace in the lounge. Evie would rather it had another home as that was the spot that had been chosen when the house had been bought nearly 15 years ago.

Instantly envisaged – the perfect place.

‘Okay?’ Robbie asks, ‘looks great. Where are your decorations – loft? I’ll fetch them down for you?’ Evie immersed in her thoughts silently nods her assent.

Boxes of baubles, trinkets and glittery objects shimmer around the base of the tree.

‘Sorry about the dust,’ remarks Robbie as Evie notices how his clothes, hair and hands are covered in grime and cobwebs.

‘It’s been a while since….,’ her voice trails away.

‘Well be seeing you. Have fun decorating. Merry Christmas!’ Robbie says cheerily – he only moved in last year. The outside door shuts quietly.

Evie is still holding the card in her hands – she can’t bear another ‘thinking of you’ message – she leaves it unopened on a side table.

She looks at the naked tree. Her sister and niece are arriving tomorrow. Could she make the effort for them.

Gently, reverently, she peels away the white tissue paper enfolding each precious decoration.

Peeling with it time. Stripping away the years. The crisp white tissue crackles. One by one as each glittering, gorgeous ornament is revealed so are the memories of their purchase. Each piece representing a special time, a deep-seated emotion and a priceless step in her relationship with James.

The last one is finally unwrapped. A tiny fragile, glass penguin with a red, Santa’s cap – their last holiday together – Bermuda. Tears fall softly onto its cheerful features and drip from his black body. A dam has broken sweeping away with it the debris of stored sorrow.

Evie feels a deep cleansing as the tears flood. She had never allowed herself to weep. She cups the penguin in her hands then gently finds a special spot on the tree. The penguin as fragile as life. She could have sworn the penguin smiled – or had she? An unfamiliar lightness seeping through her.

Evie remembers the card. Prises the envelope hesitatingly open. The message reads, ‘Time passes, memories do not and love is held in our hearts forever.’

© Linda Hovord. This story is not based upon any actual persons, living or dead. The events and other details are also a work of fiction and any similarities have not been intended nor should be inferred.

Linda’s comment:
I am not a grief counsellor nor have I been trained as such. Grief can cover many different types of loses – not only those close us but also our animal friends or a valued career – grief takes on many guises. When I practised homeopathy I had the privilege of helping others increase their resilience as they worked through the grief process. So perhaps I have a little insight. Having lost a number of close family and friends I too have felt the impact directly. Grief is individual. There is no formula, no time scale and no right or wrong.Also I’m enjoying working on an anthology that our writing group, Wordweavers, is putting together to be published in the coming year.

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