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A Christmas Story

Jessica Clifton

         "It's Christmas again," thought Aggie as she stood at the window staring at passersby on the street below. The night was cold & dreary, the street was lit with the brilliance of the Christmas lights and she always loved to look at them. Aggie went to turn the heat up in her little apartment before she returned to her post at the window.

        People these days were always so wrapped up in their own lives that they missed the true meaning of the Christmas spirit. Aggie could just hear the thoughts running through their heads. Thoughts of getting the kids those delightful, new, expensive toys they wanted, where they were going to fit everyone who came to visit this year, baking just the way the mother-in-law likes it. These thoughts were quite normal for the holidays but every thought just as trivial as the next. People just didn't remember the spirit of giving like they used to.

        Aggie was a widow living alone. Her dearest Gregory had died five years before and she'd been living alone ever since. The kids were grown with families and lives of their own. They couldn't be troubled with taking care of their widowed mother. It wasn't' that they hadn't tried to care for her but that she wouldn't have it. She was a good soul but proud right down to the last pore. She had been independent for way too long and she wouldn't start living off her kids' generosity. It hurt her pride too much to think of it. So now she was spending her Christmas alone. John had tried to get her to move in with him. Goodness, how he had tried, but she wouldn't allow that to happen.

        Aggie's mind wandered to a Christmas long ago. She remembered it well although it had been years and years ago. In her mind she could see the homely little Christmas tree and the meager little lights. It had been decorated with popcorn strands and a foil star on top. That year was the best Christmas that Aggie had ever known.

        She was the daughter of a local business tycoon. She had been educated in private schools and was her daddy's little girl. Her father gave her everything for which a child could ever wish. She was dressed in the finest clothes and the latest fashions. She was fluent in three languages and no expense was spared for her. It was every child's fondest wish to live the life she led. Only it wasn't HER fondest wish.

        She lived like a princess and yet she wasn't happy. It gets very lonely at the top. She was also painfully shy so it was construed among her peers that she was a conceited, rich little snob. She longed to play with other children but had no idea how to go about befriending them.

        To the other children she just looked so unapproachable. Her beautiful golden ringlets that fell to her waist, were a source of envy among the other girls. Her beautiful green eyes seemed to gleam haughtily at times, for there were those looking for any excuse to hate her and they often saw what was not there. The finery of her clothes made many an enemy. Jealousy ran rampant in her little school for all the things she had that they did not.

        Such was her existence. She saw others had friends with whom they could confide their innermost, secret desires. They could pour their little hearts out and know that their secrets were safe. How she longed for just one friend with whom she could share herself in such a manner. Just one friend.

        The lonely little girl didn't know it but her fondest wish was about to come true. There was someone who had noticed her loneliness and felt an echo in his own heart. He alone saw through all the lace and finery to the person who lay beneath.

        It was in December when Aggie first became aware that someone had noticed her. The snow was falling at a steady pace, the trees were all leafless and seemingly lifeless. The city was decorated with lights and the children played endlessly on the ice and in snow banks.

        Exactly twelve days before Christmas, Aggie went to school to find a small gift on her slate. She stared at it for a moment and then slowly reached down to pick it up. She was blissfully unaware of a pair of brilliant blue eyes watching her as she surveyed her little present. She looked up and around the room trying to fathom who could have left it for her. She did not catch the shifting of those eyes to avoid being caught staring. To be caught would defeat the purpose and ruin the fun of the surprise.

        Aggie hurriedly opened the box to find what lay within. She tore at the small ribbon and tore the plain brown paper from it. Inside was a pair of small home-knit gloves made with love and tenderness to warm a small girl's hands in the cold. Little did they know it, but the gift warmed her heart too.

        Aggie slowly turned in a complete circle, looking at her many classmates and wondering which of them could possibly have given her the gift. She could find no one that she thought would have done such a thing. The tears were shining in her vivid green eyes as she sat down in her desk to start the day's activities.

        Slowly, a smile reached those blue eyes that had been intently watching from afar. It started with a twitching of the lips and slowly spread through the face until it reached those eyes and made them sparkle with mirth. To know you've brought someone such happiness gives one such a feeling of warmth inside.

        The gifts continued. Aggie began to look forward to going to school and finding a special something that was meant just for her. The next day, after the gloves, came a simple little note telling her how special she was and how pretty. The day after that was something different. Each day something awaited her. The gifts were small and handmade. They were not expensive and the latest, fashionable gifts she was used to receiving from her father. It was because of this that they were worth more than any amount of money her father had ever spent on her.

        School eventually let out for the holiday and Aggie was so afraid that her little treasures would quit coming. She was wrong. Even at home they were delivered to her door. The butler would bring them in and tell her that the gift had just been delivered. She would quiz him adamantly about how they came to be there.

        The old butler adored little Miss Agatha and he was quick to see the shine in her eyes every time she received one. He wouldn't take that from her for anything so he kept mum. He refused to budge and say a word about it.

        Alas, it was two days before Christmas when her last gift was to arrive. She was sitting in her window seat, staring at the passersby by below, when there was a knock on her door. "Aggie, may I come in?" called her father's voice. Aggie jumped up and threw open the door. She jumped into her father's arms and gave him the biggest possible kiss on his cheek.

        Mr. Lacy smiled down as he held his daughter. He loved her more than life itself and had always wanted to give her the best of everything. "Aggie, sweetest, this was just delivered," he said holding out a small, folded piece of paper.

        She took the paper from his grasp and gently unfolded it. Slowly, she read the words:

Mr. Charles Lacy and Miss Agatha Christine Lacy:

You are cordially invited to spend Christmas Eve dinner with me and mine at 1322 Wilkshire on December the 24th. We will serve dinner promptly at six o'clock. My son Gregory is in Aggie's class and it is his Christmas wish that she be able to join us for dinner. We don't have much, but what we do have we have always shared. We hope to have you as our guests for dinner.

Sincerely, Mrs. Henry Wilkins

        Aggie looked at her father with excitement exuding from every pore in her little body. Mr. Lacy could see the answer in her little face but had to ask the question anyway. "Would you like to join the Wilkins' for dinner, Aggie?" Her smile was radiant as she replied excitedly, "Oh yes, papa. May we really?" The matter was settled and a reply was sent to the Wilkins' at 1322 Wilkshire.

        The evening came and Aggie was wound up tighter than her favorite top. She could not sit still for the amount of energy she had from excitement. She and her papa were going to have dinner with Gregory Wilkins and his family. She could hardly wait.

        Since she found out that it was the sweet Gregory who had been leaving her those gifts, she had wondered why she had been the one to receive. She knew the family was not well off and he only went to school there because his father worked there. She couldn't understand why he would want to give her gifts but vowed that before the night was done, she would find out the answer to that question.

        The appointed hour came and they hurried out to the carriage bearing gifts. Aggie had explained to her father all about the small gifts that she had been receiving for the past few weeks from Gregory. She wanted to repay their kindness with some of her own. So she and her father had become co-conspirators and had gone on a shopping extravaganza.

        With Aggie's knowledge of the family, she was able to help her father to shop for the five Wilkins children. The weather had turned bitterly cold this late December and the children's clothes were wearing thin. Mr. Lacy was grateful for the kindness shown to his daughter by this family so he bought and bought.

        There were scarves, gloves, new jackets and hats galore. He bought Mrs. Wilkins a new dress so that she could wear it out to Sunday school. For Mr. Wilkins he bought a gold pocket watch engraved with the inscription, "To lifelong friendships made through kind hearts."

        Aggie wanted to get something special for her Gregory. For the world of her, she couldn't think of what to bring him. She wandered through the store looking at this and that but nothing caught her eye.

        Aggie thinks a lot like her father so she wandered into the jewelry department. She looked around until something caught her attention. It was a golden ring embossed with a criss-cross pattern. She thought of the friendship that was beginning between the two of them. She was quite the romantic and thought of the circle as the everlasting, unbreakable bond of friendship.

        The carriage ride over to Wilkshire Street was a pleasant one. Aggie watched as people in the streets were animated with the spirit of Christmas. There were carolers serenading some lucky home and children having snowball fights in the streets. Young courting couples were skating together on the frozen pond. It was a lovely evening made more so by the anticipation of what was to come.

        At last they arrived at the small and humble abode at 1322 Wilkshire. Mrs. Wilkins received them with great warmth. She was a jovial woman with a kind disposition. Mr. Lacy handed the sweet woman the roasted ham that he had ordered earlier in the day for their feast. "My contribution, dear lady," he said as he swept off his hat and bowed in a courtly manner. This made Mrs. Wilkins smile and she ushered them inside.

        Aggie remembers fondly that day so long ago, spent with that family. It was the best night of her young life. She had never seen a family make so much of so little. The house was filled with love.

        She did find out the answer to her question that night. She and Gregory were sitting on the narrow steps outside his house when she asked why he gave her all the gifts. "It's tradition," he said. It seems that every year his family chooses someone whom they share all of themselves with, those who are more needy than they. Aggie didn't understand so Gregory was forced to explain himself.

        "Aggie, it was my year to pick and I chose you," he said.

        "But why? I've never been called needy before."

        "Oh, but you were. You were so alone on that pedestal. I thought you could use a real friend and some human compassion," he replied.

        Aggie's little heart fluttered at the thought that this little boy had seen what no one else had, a lonely little rich kid. She had longed for friendship and it had come to her in the most unexpected and giving manner.

        "I have something for you too," she said. She took a small box from her pocket and held it timidly out to him. "I can't possibly take anything from you, Aggie. You and your father have more than repaid us with your gifts. I couldn't take anything more."

        Aggie looked at him stubbornly and held the box out more forcefully. He finally gave in and took it from her. She told him her romantic ideas about how it symbolized their budding friendship. What she didn't know, was years later, when the ring had grown too small to wear on his fingers, Gregory would wear it on a chain. Eventually he would slip that ring on her finger as a symbol of far more than just friendship.

        Aggie's mind snapped back to the present. How she missed her Gregory. She loved him dearly and her mouth quirked at the memories of long ago.

        She turned from the window and settled into her favorite chair with Stella, her cat. She was beginning to doze when there was an urgent knocking at the door. "I wonder who in the world that could be," she thought. Slowly she got herself up from the chair and answered the door.

        "Surprise!" That's what she got when she opened the door. Standing in her doorway was her beloved John, his wife Linda and their two children, Samantha and Alexander.

        "You wouldn't come to us for Christmas so we thought we'd bring it to you," John was saying as he held mistletoe above her head. "How about a kiss, mom?" Aggie smiled and it transformed her face into the radiant beauty she had been in her youth. She threw her arms around her son and hugged each member of her family in turn.

        They brought Christmas with them all right. The children helped to decorate the tree and they made a popcorn string to put on it. The lights were plugged in and at last a small Christmas angel, bringing tidings of joy, was placed on the top to watch over them. Linda had made a wonderful dinner and all they had to do was reheat it a bit. Presents were opened with gusto and Aggie's heart swelled that her family had not forgotten her after all.

        "Grandma, tell us how you and grandpa met," pleaded Samantha. The child always loved hearing stories and especially those that had romance in them. Aggie relived the story once more and told how they had later married. It had been a custom in their household ever since to shower someone less fortunate with gifts in the days before Christmas.

        That night, when she went to bed, Aggie was a fulfilled and happy woman. She had lived the best years of her life. Her family had given her the last gift too. That night, she went to bed with a smile on her lips and that is the way John found her the next morning. Agatha Christine Lacy Wilkins had gone on to join her beloved Gregory in the Great Beyond. She couldn't have asked for a better Christmas gift from her Lord.


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