On the tenth day of Christmas I give you a short story from Billie Lamont. Billie is a Glasgow-based freelance editor and writer. You can find out more about her editing work at www.blackopalarts.co.uk Billie’s story, Christmas Jumper, is a thought-provoking read and not about what you might expect from the title. It put me in mind of a particular scene from It’s A Wonderful Life. Read on and see what you think.
It was snowing. George took a drag of his cigarette. Well of course it was snowing, it was Christmas Eve.
George pulled his thick grey overcoat by the lapels and wrapped it over himself like a strait jacket. A few of the silver buttons had fallen off. He frowned as he wrapped the extra material about him. He must have lost weight. George shuddered from the biting December wind. His swollen knuckles struggled to keep the damn coat in tight against his body. A shiver coasted over his spine and igniting the familiar aches and pains.
He looked out at the city, his eyes watering in the wind chill. He wanted to soak up the streetlights that glowed far below and beyond. Pinpricks of amber pierced the darkness like a million embers. Brightening and dimming with the pulse of the city. He tried to breathe in time with that pulse.
George coughed, a pale cloud billowing from his mouth, fading in the night air. He tapped the ash right over his gleaming black shoes but it disappeared in a flurry of snowflakes. Another drag. His chest loosened as he breathed in.
A burst of music made George flinch. Some hip hop Christmas medley sounded off from the office a few floors down. He stepped closer to the edge of the roof to squint down at the light from the office window. The music died down to a murmur as the window closed. Cars droned past looking like shiny beetles from this height.
George’s stomach recoiled but his feet remained rooted. On top of the world was as good a place as any. He looked down. Everything looked so slow. It felt so quiet. He wouldn’t mind a bit of quiet. If it wasn’t so cold George might’ve said it was perfect.
George cried out and stumbled backwards from the edge. He whirled round with the speed of a man twenty years younger.
A girl in a party dress and a dirty hoodie stood with her hands in her pockets. Her eyes glittered in the starlight, she was chewing gum and staring at him.
“Who the hell are you?” George was breathing hard, his heart was beating a tattoo against his ribs.
“Nobody.” She blew a bubble in her gum.
“What are you doing up here? It’s restricted access.”
“What are you doing up here?” She shifted her weight from foot to foot.
“I was – nothing, doesn’t matter.” The girl shivered and pulled her arms closer to her body, her hand digging deeper into her pockets.
“Chrissake, you’ll freeze in that. Here.” George crossed the short distance between them. Shaking off his overcoat, he had wrapped her up in the thick grey wool coat before she could say a word. She looked ridiculous.
The girl nodded, the sleeves flapping. George glanced at the open door of the roof exit. “We should get you inside.”
“Not yet.” George raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing up here?” She asked.
“I was . . . looking at the lights.”
“Oh. I do that too.”
“You do?” George stared at the girl as she walked by him towards the edge. He trotted after her, not wanting her to get too close. She must be someone’s kid from the office Christmas party. George looked down at the little girl. Her dark eyes crackled as she grinned up at him. “Want some gum? It’s Tutti Frutti.”
George breathed in. He dropped his cigarette and crushed it beneath his shoe. He took a tab of gum. Side by side they stood with the moon at their backs and the twinkling kaleidoscope of the lights below.