Chasing pavements

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Okay, so this is my Christmas oneshot for this year! Yay! So, I got the idea for this when I was listening to The Pogues' Fairytale of New York - my favourite Christmas song of all time! - and I thought it'd be different from Christmas stories I've read before. But, hey, if it's been done, well, I've not seen it so don't think I'm copying anybody's ideas.

Anyways, enjoy, fan and vomment. Thanks, Josie, X.

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   My entire body shook violently as a strong wind blew down the alleyway. Instantly, I pulled my knees closer to my body and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag, if you could still call it that. After three years of sleeping rough, this sleeping bag was the only possession that I could still call my own. Admittedly, it was ratty and tattered in every area, but, well, I'm sleeping on the floor for Christ's sake, what do you expect? Sighing, I pressed my back farther against the wall as the gale became stronger and my body temperature lessened. You'd think I'd be used to it, wouldn't you, but this winter, in my eyes, was the harshest so far. And with my sleeping bag being on its last line, I knew I'd struggle to make it through this one.

   Nonetheless, I continued to hang on to survival.

   It was Christmas Eve, the streets were dark, cold and lonely - well, lonely of the company I wanted. I mean, there were plenty of drunks staggering down the streets, shouting insults about how 'I should get a job and off of the fucking streets that they pay for', and getting themselves into arguments that are pointless and have no cause. Honestly, as much as I'd like to say it's entertaining, it's not really, because that's what got me where I am tonight: excessive drinking along with driving home in that state and earning fines and points on my license (which is now nonexistent).

   By three forty on Christmas morning, there was nobody on the streets but myself and the few drunkards that had passed out alongside the road. With a sigh, I lay on the floor, the damp cardboard being the only thing between myself and the cold floor. Shivering again, I slowly felt the pains of hunger and cold pull me into a painful yet comforting sleep. It wouldn't be classed as comfortable for anyone else - though it wasn't particularly so for me - I did find comfort in the fact that I could be anywhere I wanted to be in the dream; I didn't have to worry about where I was going to sleep, if someone was going to attack me during the night or where my next meal was going to come from. The only worry I had was deciding what I wanted to dream about. My mind had ideas different to those of my usual dreams, and gave me something I never thought I'd get again: Christmas with my family.

    Naya was pulling at ribbon and tearing at paper, the biggest grin plastered on her face as my wife and I looked down at her with bright smiles. Naya was four before Kim, my wife, kicked me out and still loved the antics of Christmas. She still found unexpected and spontaneous kisses under mistletoe exciting - if also icky and a walking case of the cooties. With a joyous laugh, she hugged the toy she'd just opened to her chest - a large white stuffed unicorn with a horn of rainbow threads and materials coming to a cushioned point. Kim and I smiled.down at her and exchanged our gifts - a fully-charmed Andorra bracelet of blues and turquoises for Kim; a 1930 CYMA watch for myself. Chaste kisses were exchanged before the doorbell ringing interrupted the opening of Naya's penultimate present. Rising from my seat, I made my way to the front door and opened it to see a man and woman - both in uniform - stood on the porch.

   After asking how I could help, there was a short question and answer session in which I told them whom I was and where I had been the night previous: at the pub with friends. And then they asked how I'd returned home. With a quick dart of my eyes, I told them I had walked home alone at about two in the morning. The two of them had shared a look before Kim came out asking what was wrong, Naya hiding behind her legs. Before I could say anything, the two officers said that they just had to assist me down to the station for a brief talk. Kim asked for a moment alone, to which they agreed, and as soon as the door closed she turned to me and said, with a monotone voice, "I don't care what you've done, I want you to leave and never come back. Don't ever try to communicate with us, just forget you ever had a family. We're going to my mother's for the afternoon; I expect you to be gone by the time we return. Goodbye, James." She then retrieved their coats coats and shoes, put them on and then left. I heard her bid farewell and merry Christmas to the officers in a cut tone before I heard a sharp rap on the door. I opened it and followed the officers to their car and sat in the back of the car just staring ahead at nothing.  

   I woke to someone tapping my shoulder. With a start, I opened my eyes and put my fists up. The person was in a red coat and laughed lightly before putting a hand over either of my fists and put them down gently. "I'm not here to hurt you. Just come with me and enjoy Christmas, okay?" 

Reluctantly, I nodded and took the hand she had offered to me. I shivered as the cold air hit me and accepted the coat that she put around my shoulders. We arrived at a large red mini bus that she unlocked and slid open the door for me. I looked inside to see seven other people sitting in there wearing jackets much alike to the one I had around my shoulders. Once I was inside and strapped in, we were off, all of us in the back avoiding socializing altogether. There was an awkward air that was filled with unanswered questions and curiosity.

   The engine died and the door was soon pulled open, the woman in red standing before us with a bright smile on her face. "Okay, everyone, welcome to our humble abode." She grinned even brighter and flung her arms in the direction of an enormous building; it was made of a dull grey brick that gave the building the image of a prison, and the small barred windows that let out dim yellow light on either side of a set of steel double doors didn't help the matter.

"This isn't going to be like The Holocaust, is it? You're just gonna' send us in and the last people will hear of us is the screams before smoke comes out of the chimneys? Well, I ain't goin' in there, you can't make me!" A man with long, shaggy black hair streaked with silver cried before running away.

"No! No, we won'- that's not it. Come back!" The woman cried, throwing her arms in the air to try and get his attention. After a few more cries about not wanting to die like his ancestors, or be murdered in the flames of Satan, the woman dropped her arms and said "We're not going to do anything here aside from give you as good a Christmas as we can. So, if you'd all like to follow me in?" She then made her way to the doors and pushed them open, showing a massive room filled with rows of tables, benches on either side of the tables, with peoples of all sizes, colours and ages seated along the rows, silver trays holding Christmas dinners on them, white plastic cups also on the table, and wrapped packages beneath the benches. There were laughs ands cheers standing out of the rabble of conversation that echoed around the hall.

   The woman smiled to all of them before saying "You wouldn't believe that they all had being homeless in common, you;d just think they were ordinary people enjoying a Christmas dinner with friends." There were nods and noises of agreement before they walked in and went to the serving table.

   As I sat at the table, taking a gulp of mulled wine, I smiled at the woman sitting opposite me, Jean, who had started talking with me. We were talking for a long time before the people at the tables slowly started to disperse and leave as night drew closer. "Are you going to open your present?" She asked, smiling lightly.

"If you do." I replied. She nodded and we both reached down for the wrapped parcels under our benches. When the shiny red and gold paper was removed, we both sat with new sleeping bags on our laps, mine green and hers a salmon-y colour. I left the hall with Jean and we both found a small alley together before nestling down for the night, smiles on our lips as we snuggled into our new sleeping bags. The last thought before I fell to sleep being I think this has been the best Christmas I've ever had.

   And today, I still say that that was the best Christmas I'd ever had, eight years later. I remind Jean of it every time we leave the building, and she always agrees and says that she'll never forget it.

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So, I hope you liked it. And take the ending as you will, I know I have a particular idea as to what happened with the two of them, but I'd like to hear your own ideas too.

Thanks, Josie, X.

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