What Christmas is All About
Summary: Edward Cullen is a solitary, successful man who hates Christmas. One Christmas Eve, fate throws in his way a small boy, a pair of shoes, a dying woman and chocolate brown eyes. This may very well become his night of salvation. One Shot for Broken Holiday Record Contest.
Song: Christmas Shoes
Disclaimer: Author does not own the song, or any public/recognizable characters, including those from Twilight, by S. Meyer
For as long as I could remember I, Edward Cullen, had hated Christmas. The lights, the commercialism, the fanfare, the music that was repeated for hours on end—It was an ostentatious mess. Lying to children about the existence of a fat Sugar Daddy only led them to become morally corrupted at a later age. People being festive, jolly, and bright only worsened my mood, and I could not wait for December 26th to come, when this whole affair would be over. The worst part of Christmas for me was the emphasis on family; perhaps this is because I've been alone ever since I could remember.
I was orphaned when I was a baby. I'm not sure who my parents were or why they didn't want me. My childhood memories of Christmas were not of toys and sleepless nights waiting for Santa. They were filled with cold, lonely nights at an orphanage, or whatever foster family I happened to be with at the time. I resented every day of my life as a young child, always wondering about the people who had given me life and abandoned me.
It would be unfair to say that no one tried to give me joy at Christmas, but I was too angry to let anyone get close to my heart. Year after year, I grew older and more bitter around the holiday season. I denied myself any joy out of the small gifts I would receive, and scorn anyone who would try to get close. I simply did not care for any form of relationship, deep down owing it to the fear of being left behind again.
I sighed and sank against the building I was standing by on a busy street. I had made something of myself; I was an accomplished lawyer living in New York. My practice was booming, I was the new, up and coming deal in town and I had enough money to last me for a very long time. I had everything, except fucking nothing at all. Now here I was, leaning against a cold brick wall with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth and scorning the joy in the street.
I hate this damn season.
I took one last, long drag of my cigarette. What I wouldn't do for it to be a normal day where I could immerse myself in work. I threw the butt to the ground and crushed it with my foot, releasing my frustration onto the dead cigarette. I started to wander aimlessly along the streets, colorful lights and Christmas music haunting my steps.
I am lost in the shuffle as people frantically move about, trying to finish up shopping or hurrying to a gathering. Everyone has somewhere to go; I am the only one with no purpose to his step.
A Good Samaritan stands on the corner of one street, dressed in a Santa suit. He's waving his pathetic little bell, trying to draw attention to the small pot he's using for collections. I had an incredible urge to kick over his stand.
"Would you like to make a donation, sir?" He questioned as I got close. I glared at him and growled under my breath. My pace never faltered as I passed.
I was drawn into a department store, if for no other reason than to inflict retail therapy with my useless hoards of money. If I found some material thing to take away the dull ache of what used to be my heart, it would indeed be a fucking Christmas miracle. My eyes wander around the store as I pass through. It seems as though every crevice is decorated to reflect the dismal season. Mannequins, displays, even the employees feature gaudy red and green hues.
Bah fucking humbug.
I find myself in the men's department. If anything can be said to define me, I am a vain creature. I know that whoever my parents were, they produced the handsome man that was myself. Women simply fell at my feet through a combination of seduction and looks. It came naturally, and of course I took anything it gave me. Not only am I vain, but I am also incredibly selfish.
After several items caught my eye and temporarily distracted me from my misery, I was ready to pay for them and get back to my self-pity in the comfort of my own home. I knew I had a very large bottle of vodka waiting for me, and felt a little less lonely at the thought. Yes, vodka might be able to cure the loneliness and misery of this Christmas Eve. Satisfied by the thought, I joined the large line and impatiently began tapping my toe against the floor.
Click, click, click.
I checked my watch, noting the time but not really caring. It wasn't like I had anywhere to be. However, my time was valuable. I hated waiting in lines while mothers wrestled with their screaming children, bulging purses, and overabundance of purchases. It was a great inconvenience to me having to watch them stumble around and fail. There were only two of those types in this line; however, two proved to be enough to try my patience greatly.
To say that my patience began to wear thin after fifteen minutes waiting in line would be an understatement. What was irritating me the worst, besides the multitasking mothers, was this small child in front of me. He couldn't have been more than 12 years old, and he was unkempt and dirty. This wouldn't have especially bothered me normally, but combined with my mood, I was ready to explode. To make things worse, he was whimpering; a soft sound that couldn't be mistaken for anything but sadness. A small part of my dead heart started to break for him, bringing me back to my own childhood filled with such sorrowful sounds.
That's when shit started to get weird.
I usually ignore Christmas music as it's being piped through PA systems. For the most part, Christmas music is dismally below the typical quality standards of music. People seem to believe that if the word "Christmas" is mentioned, the song instantly becomes a classic, and we must listen to it on high volumes over and over again for two months. I cannot stand listening to it; I would much rather be dipped in scalding hot water completely naked. However, my well-trained filters must have been failing me, as I became aware of the song currently on.
It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes
What. The. Fuck.
I shifted closer to the smaller form in front of me as the line moved. He was now next in line to go to the register, and in his small hands was what looked like a shoebox. It was decorated in a pastel pink and lace pattern, so it was undoubtedly a pair of women's shoes. What was this dirty, snotty-nosed kid doing with a pair of women's shoes on Christmas Eve? And where were his fucking parents?
His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe And when it came his time to pay I couldn't believe what I heard him say The line shifted and the boy puttered up to the cashier. He laid his box on the counter and began to fiddle with his pockets. I couldn't take my eyes off him, or stop listening to that fucking song playing over the speakers, as he turned his ratty pockets inside out, revealing only two crumpled dollar bills and a few handfuls of change. Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time You see she's been sick for quite a while And I know these shoes would make her smile And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight
"Please, sir," the small boy begged the cashier, much to my disbelieving senses. "This is all I have. My Mama needs to get her gift before she leaves to meet Jesus."
He counted pennies for what seemed like years Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here" He searched his pockets frantically Then he turned and he looked at me He said Mama made Christmas good at our house Though most years she just did without Tell me Sir, what am I going to do, Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes
I was frozen. He had turned and looked into my eyes, as if I could help him. There were a million emotions running through my body – hurt, betrayal, loss, loneliness, fear, disbelief, and incomprehension. However, the greatest emotion was a swell of feeling that I was unused to; I had to help this child. I needed to help this child.
Was this even happening to me? How could reality be mirrored in a song, almost word for word?
"Here, sir," I said, surprising myself by stepping forward and offering my credit card to the gentleman behind the counter. I felt as if my body were on autopilot; I couldn't cope with the emotions running through me. What was wrong with me? I had no idea how to act anymore. This generous stranger wasn't me.
Everything I had been thinking about today melted away as I saw how inconsequential my problems were. My past was in the past, and this poor child was about to experience losing a parent just as I had. It would be more painful for him, however, since he had memories of his mothers love. Perhaps that would save him from the fucking bitterness that had consumed me for all these years.
So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out I'll never forget the look on his face when he said Mama's gonna look so great
Everything shattered around me as I signed that credit card receipt. I knew this little rectangle of paper would become a fucking touchstone for me, a reminder of these inexplicable emotions running through me this Christmas Eve.
The little boy looked up at me with tears in his big, blue eyes. "Thank you, sir. Mama will be so happy."
I forced a sad smile as I held back my own tears from escaping. "Where is your Mama now, buddy?"
"She's at Mount Sinai hospital, sir," he replied. "I snuck away because Daddy wouldn't have let me go if I asked. I really wanted to get her a present."
His statement jolted me into action. "Let me take you back there, we'll get there faster if I help you out." I felt guilty that some man was about to lose his wife and his child was now missing. I ushered him quickly out the door, thanking whatever fates there were that Mount Sinai was close to the department store.
We walked quickly, and I made sure we found the fastest route through the busy streets. My new companion gripped that precious shoebox to his body with everything in him while he tried to match my quick pace. I hardly noticed the holiday lights and cheeriness on other peoples' faces. The silence that hung between us as we walked was not an awkward one; we were both wrestling our own demons. We came to Mount Sinai and entered through the doors lit with twinkling Christmas lights. I was about to look down and ask my companion where we should be going next, when I heard a beautiful, angry voice coming toward us from down the hall.
"Stanley Smith! Where do you think you've been, young man?" A short brunette dressed in scrubs stalked towards us with her hands on her hips.
"I'm sorry, Miss Bella," Stanley whimpered. "All I wanted to do was get a present for my Mama and this nice man helped me buy it and brought me back here."
The worried look in the brunette's eyes never left, but her features softened at Stanley's declaration. She turned to me and looked me in the eyes, causing all the sense left in my brain to flee in that one small second while our eyes met.
Her beauty left me speechless. Her eyes were a deep chocolate brown, and I felt as if I could get lost in them forever. They wordlessly communicated thanks for caring for Stanley. Her small frame only added to her appeal. Her face was that of an angel's; I knew she must be real in this fucked up night. The compassion radiating from her was overwhelming, and for the second time that evening I was close to tears. Her care for the small boy in front of us was overwhelmingly obvious, and it seemed to touch me in a way that few things could.
She tore her gaze from mine, and took one of Stanley's hands. "Come with me. Your father has been worried sick." She started to lead him away, but Stanley held his ground next to me.
"Miss Bella, can my new friend come with us?" Stanley pleaded, looking up at me with hope in his small face.
Bella turned to me. "Only if he tells us his name first,"she said with a small smile in my direction.
"Edward," I croaked out. It was as if all of my mental facilities had been exhausted to the point that I could barely speak.
"Well, Edward," she said. "Come with us." She turned her back on me and led Stanley away. I followed obediently.
We came upon a room with lights dimmed. Not wanting to intrude, I glanced inside as Stanley rushed forward. On the hospital bed was a frail looking woman, no older than forty. Her eyes had sunken into their sockets and she was extremely pale, and I quite doubted that she was breathing on her own. Beside her, holding her hand and looking on with concern written all over his face was her husband. He seemed to anticipate every breath, as if any one could be her last. Weary was his demeanor, which brightened ever so slightly when Stanley entered the room.
The small boy perched on the edge of the bed next to his mother, looking into her face with the sad eyes that had broken my heart. He laid the pink shoebox down between them and started speaking in a low voice. A small smile creased his mother's face as Stanley took the lid off the box and held up one shoe for her to see. I saw a single tear glinting in the low lights of the room as it ran down her face before she reached for her child. Stanley fell into her outstretched arms as she stroked the back of his hair, the tears now creating clear paths down her worn cheeks. I was so absorbed in the scene in front of me that I hadn't noticed Stanley's father watching me. When I caught his eye, he gave me a small nod of thanks before turning his attention back to his wife and child. They nestled together on the cold hospital bed, enjoying what was most likely their last night together.
I felt another part of my dead heart respond to the scene in front of me. What is the point of loving if it is so temporary? Where was the justice in finding your soul mate only to have them taken away with the permanent separation of death?
I couldn't take it anymore.
This night had shaken up and forced me to question too many of my ways of thinking. I could not deal with anything more. I did not regret helping little Stanley with his mission. I did regret, however, the feelings and questions it had raised in the core of my being. The meaning of life, of love, and of family. I thought that I had buried all that a long time ago. As I turned away, feeling the wetness on my cheeks for the first time, I felt a small hand on the crook of my arm.
She looked at me, mirroring the same wetness on her own cheeks. She took my hand gently in her smaller one, surprising me. She led me down the hallway to a small, empty waiting area. We both took a seat with our hands still clasped and looked into each other's eyes, silently sharing the significance of the scene we had witnessed just moments ago.
"I wanted to thank you," she started to sob. "What you did was…was…"
"It was what anyone would have done," I replied earnestly.
"You're a good man, Edward. I know I've never met you, but you seem to be... different. I feel as though I've known you for my entire life," she stated simply. There was desperation in her voice; she also realized how fragile and short life could truly be.
"Bella," I started. She put a finger to my lips.
"I am never this forward with anyone," she began, a slow blush creeping into her cheeks. "You seem... special. This job makes it hard for me to separate emotion from duty, and I tried, I really did, I just can't do it anymore. Not after Stanley and his family. They became so important... I…"
I grabbed her as she started to collapse on the floor. She was a bundle of emotions, sobbing and suffering, all for the gnarled lives we were a part of. I held her in my arms, wondering what had happened to bring me to such a point in this ever-twisting evening as I cried with her, rocking us both with my arms drawn tightly around her.
"You're wonderful, Bella. You seem so familiar to me, though. I feel as though I have been missing you my entire life," I confessed. My words flowed unchecked, and I was reckless with my honesty, knowing that tonight was the night when my emotions would lay bare. To me, her brown eyes felt like the closest semblance of home that I have ever experienced. Her kindness and her loving compassion seemed to be just what I had always been missing in my life, but I had never known it until now, as I held her in my arms on the floor of the hospital and we cried for the breaking family in the next room and for our own broken lives.
I lost track of the amount of time I held her quivering frame in my arms. Tears were streaming down both of our cheeks, but every grief-stricken moment for me was lined with bliss from holding Bella. I tried to comfort her the best I could without knowing who she was. I kept my arms tightly around her and whispered soothing words into her ear. She smelled of strawberries and sunshine, and I wondered how I could prolong these moments that were quickly becoming so precious to me.
When her sobs abated and we were left with only small sniffles, she jumped suddenly from my lap, her soft face blushing brightly. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back down. I never wanted to let go.
"Edward," she whispered as she gave in to my arms around her again. "Can we go out for coffee or something? Unless you had plans this evening…"
I looked deep into her eyes, knowing that I could deny this girl nothing.
"Bella, I would be honored."
I helped her up and placed a supportive arm around her. We gazed into each other's eyes with no sense of awkwardness or strangeness. All I saw was a kindred spirit before me, who in our short time together had helped me burst down the final wall surrounding my heart and infuse warmth into it again. I knew, as I laced my fingers with hers and walked out of that hospital, that Christmas had worked its magic on me.
We made our way slowly back down the hallway, pausing momentarily at the doorway to Stanley's mother's room. Stanley was curled around his mother's sleeping form on the thin hospital bed, his eyes opening when we appeared in the doorway. A small smile formed on his face when he saw us, and he brought one small, dirty hand up to wave goodbye. I lifted my free hand to wave back, giving him an encouraging smile.
I knew, as I laced my fingers with Bella's, that my life would never be the same. I had been given a chance to live. As I met eyes with the beautiful woman at my side, I knew that I would always remember this night, and how death could be the cause for a brand new life.
I knew that God had sent that little boy To remind me just what Christmas is all about.