Wonka presents a story.., p.1
A Story for New Year’s Eve
Copyright 2014 Madeleine Masterson
Alice surveyed herself and liked what she saw. Big, buxom, brunette and, despite the stomp of time could move in all the right places. She winked back at her reflection, dark brown eyes twinkled closed and open, red mouth turned up in a half smile. Watching herself in the full-length mirror Alice drifted away, her self-admiration complete. The sudden jarring noise of the doorbell made her start and almost lose her footing. Her expression in the mirror had momentarily lost its confident pose and folded back somewhat – revealing? Well she wouldn’t be dwelling on that, no not Alice.
The mirror had been there when she moved into her smart little town house. At the top of the stairs taking you into her living area but awkwardly placed so that you had to stand at a certain angle to see yourself full length, as she had just now, but you were nearly on the top stair before you knew it. More of a Fen Shui arrangement than any practical one as it caught all the light from the front door which was half glass, and as Alice could see in the mirror had a tall figure standing there.
She turned carefully, descended slowly, and shouted ‘Who is it?’ before she reached the small hall way at the bottom of the stairs. Alice was not beyond keeping this someone on the other side of the door and why on earth this time she opened the door, well who knows indeed why we do the exact opposite to what we had in mind? Alice was renowned for her stubborn decision-making, her intractable decisions that must not be unmade, changed, renegotiated, at any cost. She was not hard our Alice, but cold. Marble-cold. Smooth, beautiful if somewhat grand and overblown, and could be, might be – plain deadly.
But her visitor was not to know any of this and smiling down at her questioning face introduced himself with a smile that would warm the lonely spirits of his congregation but was wasting itself here.
‘Father Merry!’ he exclaimed reaching out for her hand and not finding it simply clasped it with his other. ‘Thought I would pop round and say hello! And of course invite you to worship – all welcome at the parish of St Mary’s. I know the lady who comes and cleans for you? Jean isn’t it – well she happened to mention you the other day and I thought I must go round and ………. ‘Father Merry stopped talking right there and then as he found the door and Alice were trying to move away and close – what was that dreadful word that everyone used now. She was not engaging, that was it. And why was she whispering to him?
Now usually, in this situation, Father Merry was patience stretched to infinity, an angel transported to earth to do God’s Will, a missionary who would not fail in getting the Word across to the poor mortals of his parish. But today, well, even angels need earthly support and Father Merry was feeling offish. He had been challenged on a point of faith by one of his extremely faithful parishioners and although he had cheerfully steered the argument to its rightful conclusion (the da Vinci code had a lot to answer for) it had confronted him with the doubts that accompany any decent attempt at faith. Now it seemed he must make another leap of faith towards a closing door and a whispering woman.
‘Perhaps you would like to call in to our coffee morning and craft stall event? I do appreciate you may be a busy woman and of course the time of year – Christmas nearly upon us……’ Well I can’t do more than that thought Father Merry as he posted one of the Church leaflets through the rather snappy letterbox. He said a small prayer for the Postman and gave the entire door a mean look. Not his day, no. Father Merry fought hard against this kind of negative thinking.
‘Thanks for your time then and you take care!’ he spoke loudly and thought he saw a dark shadow through the glass area at the top of the door. Well if Alice was still there she wasn’t making any sound at all. Funny though, thought Father Merry, I didn’t hear anything after she closed the door. Before this train of thought could take hold and have him following it up – he was stubborn too - a friendly shout made him change direction.
It was Jean, one of his favourite parishioners and closer to his heart than he wanted to admit. When she smiled at him he felt alive and glad to be in the world. The cold he had been feeling in the doorway closed to him, went.
Jean had seen Father Merry from some way off – in the same way she added something to his day and gave it meaning, it was likewise for her. She could have picked out his figure from a crowd and she wasn’t given to noticing people. Ask her for a rundown of her fellow worshippers for instance and you’d be waiting a long time. The times she had seemingly ignored neighbours and friends simply not seeing them waving at her or shouting hallo. This was different. Love she had discovered had a sight of its own, and whether it was the way he turned his head, at an angle it ducked down and to the side and didn’t seem to stay upright for long. Try as she might she could not pin this movement down except that it pierced her to the heart she thought could never feel anything again.
‘Well now’ smiled Father Merry, ‘I was just trying to contact Ms Snood, but –‘and here he paused to laugh at himself and his religious efforts ‘I think I’ve been snubbed!’
‘I did warn you Father, she rarely answers the door and I know how you like a challenge, but she really is strange. I’ve been going in and cleaning for Alice Snood for over 6 months, you know ever since, - ever since….Oh dear I can’t……..’
‘Please, it’s alright Jean,’ Father Merry reached out and touched her arm which Jean didn’t draw away from. She drew strength from him and his Church and clung to it. Her bereavement, her loss, her yawning chasm, abyss, no, her life it was that had ended that day – to talk of it seemed ridiculous. To even try and get a hold of the huge thing that swallowed her up when her husband died, it could not be done. And so, this little cleaning job had been like some sort of raft, steering her away from the grief. The Church was her island that she could go out to the world from and hide in. Father Merry knowing this, and never using it, gave his time and church willingly to this need. Perhaps his faith was better seated than his doubts led him to believe.
‘Now you are coming back with me Jean and I will not hear anything different! I have a puzzle I need help to solve and you are the one to do it.’ Father Merry’s needs asserted themselves now and he took Jean’s arm turning them away from the town house where Alice remained, also hidden, and clinging to a raft of her own.
‘I am trying to write a small history of the Old Town of Hull and have come across some ghosts! It seems there was a murder and a haunting but blow me if I can’t find out when and where. What do you think?’
‘I think you should try looking in the High Street where we’ve just been. In fact try Alice Snood’s house! No I didn’t mean that really’ Jean had now returned to feeling alright and was laughing up at Father Merry. He was tall and perhaps that was why he ducked his head down like that – anyway his eyes caught hers, and they shone blue green right at her. She smiled back, hazel eyes that were pure gold in the sun. Their crossing time completed in a shared look, as Love not unlike the God that Father Merry worshipped, triumphed as free to roam and settle where it would. And if the hearts it settled on and in were closed, or otherwise engaged, then this Love would get in there anyway. Somewhat resigned to this Father Merry at least trusted in God to keep him safe. Jean just trusted Father Merry.
Together they moved off down the cobblestones of the High Street towards the Church of St Mary’s. Jean spared one last thought for Alice Snood, and this because it was Christmas coming and even people like her deserved some hope. Her meanness however took some beating, and she was well known for her bullying ways at work. Even her family stayed away. Yes, Alic
It was the week that followed Christmas that became a crossing time for Alice. She had as usual enjoyed the season, staying at home and really eating, drinking and sprawling around as she liked. Her sister Elizabeth had attempted to come round but it was half hearted and anyway she was dealing with a messed up relationship and this demanded all her attention not some of it. They were not close.
Alice had never been that kind of a sister, but one for pushing Elizabeth to one side either physically or mentally. Any chance to undermine her little sister was taken, a well-worn habit, a nastiness that grew bigger over the years. The only one to challenge this, their father, had died suddenly last New Year. Alice chose to ignore his death and carried on as if he was just on the other end of a phone, or a day away from her letter. Just somewhere else.
For Elizabeth, his death was her death. Stumbling through the days and realising it was
Wonka Presents! A Story for New Year's Eve by Madeleine Masterson / Horror have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on32 votes