Christmas Eve was a lonely time, Gabrielle reflected as she screwed her pen back together. She could hear mirth and merriment wafting up through the cracks in the floorboards under the thin carpet, which made her room seem all the more desolate, and the light in the passage crept into the dark room under the door.
She had been invited to a number of parties, but wasn't in the mood for any of them. Hermann was going out with Alba O'Brian, or whatever her name was, somewhere. Gabrielle didn't feel like caring where.
Laying her pen down on the desk, she took a look around the dark room and her finger strayed to scratch her armpit. Feeling the cold sweat lodged there, Gabrielle pushed her chair back.
Opening her wardrobe, the red velvet dress she had bought just three days ago for this occasion glared back at her. Slipping on some old holey jeans and a faded leather jacket, a cheap hand-me-down from a charity shop during her eighteen months of difficult income, she let herself out of her room window and made a face at the drizzling sky.
She tried to keep her mind void of thoughts as she followed her feet. She knew that if she allowed herself to glance in house windows, where coloured lights burned and laughter resounded, she would start howling.
Eventually her feet fell into a steady rhythm alongside the Melif canal, and Gabrielle’s spirits began to pick up as she felt the rain gently curl her hair and chill her scalp. Once she bent down and plucked a thick twig from the roadside, and when she next saw a bridge, dropped the stick over the edge and raced it girlishly to the next bridge.
Gabrielle had played ‘pooh-sticks’ with Grannie when she was younger. She had a clear memory of falling into a river over the side of one bridge in her earnestness once, and being scooped up and fished out by Grannie’s kindly arms, wrapped in a towel and driven home all wet. There she had been popped in a hot bath, had her hair shampooed by the gentle pressure of Grannie’s hands, and felt warmed and relaxed, the lavender bubble bath sinking deep into her skin.
The memory warped Gabrielle’s senses, and soon she was indeed smelling lavender through the sleet, somewhere in front of her, or perhaps the rain twisted her sense of direction.
But she continued onwards, and soon found herself faced by a very tall granite wall, covering in patches by a dark green moss, soft and wet to the touch. Treating it as only a small obstacle, and filled with a sense of daring perhaps inspired by the memory of Grannie, Gabrielle vaulted the wall with the help of a few blocks and some reckless judgement.
She found herself in a graveyard, which although dismal in the rain on Christmas Eve, had at once an atmosphere of rest and seclusion. Gabrielle felt peaceful. She had not been in a graveyard in a long time, but beside Grannie’s daffodil-rimmed grave she had felt secure and cherished. It was the only place she could be herself.
Grannie’s grave was not in this graveyard, but Gabrielle wandered round it for the rest of that afternoon, reading names, calculating dates and imagining the unique people who now lay below these cold headstones, who had once had lives and loves. Perhaps they still did. Gabriellle would never forget Grannie. These people were still loved. Their memories lived on in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.
She stayed until the clouds cleared, revealing the sky a midnight blue, pristine and waiting for Christmas Day.