This story is by Shreya Ganguly and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Elizabeth’s eyes absorbed the rain as it permeated the windows. Her dark, glossy hair immersed with raindrops. Umbrella in hand, she began collecting flowers for the guests that would arrive that evening.
Clorinda Forbes left for a Woman’s Society meeting, leaving her bedroom door ajar. Mrs. Forbes adorned the table in the drawing-room with Elizabeth’s flowers.
“Have you been dismissed from school early today?” Mrs. Forbes inquired. Elizabeth began to color slightly. “Yes, mother. Today was a rather short day. Our aptitude for learning was exceptionally well,” she faltered. That day, she was pensive in picking flowers and sketching portraits at Beatrice’s garden after lunch hour at school. A bucket of tears filled her eyes, like gleaming diamonds.
With great aplomb, Elizabeth began preparing the loaves of bread with seasoned chicken and potatoes. Elizabeth had the capacity to learn anything in a brisk moment.
“Where are the guests?”, she asked her mother, rendered speechless at the emptiness of the place. “Elizabeth, there is no hope that any guests will arrive if you have not dedicated time to writing invitation letters,” her mother explained practically. Elizabeth knew she was the unhappiest girl in the world. She could not have a Christmas party this year. When Elizabeth was seven years old, her eyes danced at the onrush of guests scuttling into the house and the icy thrill vibrating from her grandmother’s piano music, all of which faded away over the years. This year, the thought of Beatrice coming to the party was another hope that fluttered away. “Christmas is a day of happiness and contentment. You should be in bliss and ecstasy. I am a widowed woman. After everything I have experienced, there clearly is no reason to be in despair. What is Christmas in your heart, dear?” Clorinda elucidated. Elizabeth’s mind began to run wild. Her grandmother, bedridden spent each Christmas at home, confined in a pool of loneliness and boredom.
“How has grandmother been doing these days?” Elizabeth questioned her mother with eyes of reverence and repentance. Clorinda informed her daughter, “Your grandmother has not written to us for months. I last visited her in July. It has now been five months of uncertainty. It is certain that she is living, but you would have to visit her in the farmhouse to be sure of her condition. According to my knowledge, she is being cared for by Mita, an Indian immigrant. Tomorrow is her marriage anniversary.”
The morning drew in with another rainstorm. Rather than being a Christmas of snow, the streets were poured with rain. Elizabeth had decided to stroll down to her grandmother’s homestead with her umbrella and basket of food to celebrate her anniversary, despite the capricious rain.
Upon her arrival at the Forbes estate, her eyes darted to the Christmas tree, compiled of intricate decorations. Mita sat on the sofa, reading a novel. Elizabeth’s grandmother lay in bed, wheelchair beside her.
In the bedroom, Elizabeth stroked the elderly woman. “My Elizabeth, you have come at last. This may be my last Christmas living in this body. How you have grown and matured in two years,” her grandmother whispered with somber eyes.
Elizabeth’s grandmother was left in deep silence for thirteen years, watching her husband fade away. She spent long solitary hours watching the streets. For the past five years, she spent all of her time in bed, dying.
Mita betook herself to the bedroom with three cups of tea. “Merry Christmas. We will enjoy our steaming, hot cup of tea. It is ideal for this winter weather. The weather remains pleasant in India. I am sure you can remember how frigid the weather was the previous week,” she exclaimed in utter joy. “Last night, I waited patiently for guests. I had hopes of having a Christmas party. At present, I have a strong desire to stay with you until the new year. While in preparation for the party, I had prepared a meal. I pierced love into my cooking. The food is inside the basket,” Elizabeth narrated.
Elizabeth, Mita, and the grandmother devoured their repast of bread loaves with chicken and potatoes. They drank their tea and nibbled on russets along with the meal. Elizabeth wrote in a letter years later, If my mother had seen grandmother in her final days, she would have understood the true delights of life. With an amiable smile, I would have whimsical discussions with grandmother.
Elizabeth succeeded in her efforts to have a Christmas party. Her party was an indispensable part of her life. The innate jubilation remained through Elizabeth’s shiny eyes, vindicated for her initial feelings of ingratitude. She held on to her grandmother’s hands every moment until the latter’s purpose was fulfilled and could no longer stay in the restricted walls of her house. The sweet, crisp air drew in without much mourning. It was chill and faint, left undisturbed.