Snow swirled through the air, circling Meryl and kissing her face as she walked down the sidewalk. It wasn’t cold enough for the snow to stick when it hit the sidewalk, even though it was Christmas Eve, but it was chilly enough for her to be wrapped up in a red scarf and hat.
Her hands, however, were bare. She carried a small stone in one hand, a simple piece of quartz.
As she walked through the street, she listened. Someone was playing Christmas music from a nearby store, it got louder and quieter as the door opened and closed. People were chatting happily all around her. Shoppers, grabbing some forgotten ingredient for Christmas dinner or a last-minute gift. Workers from the shops and restaurants, excited for the end of their shifts so that they could go home and enjoy the holiday. Everything appeared pleasant and peaceful.
Of course, that couldn’t be the real truth. Meryl listened carefully until she heard someone who sounded distressed.
“But you had them just yesterday,” a man said, inside the toy store. Meryl stopped, listening carefully.
“I’m sorry,” the clerk said, “but those dolls were very popular this year. We must have sold out.”
“But it’s all my daughter wants for Christmas,” the man said, “and her mom just, well she left, and-,”
Meryl stopped, standing just outside the door of the shop. She clutched her stone and waited.
“I’m sorry,” the clerk said, “but I-, oh, wait.”
There was the sound of rustling.
“There was this one under the display! It must have fallen. The box is a little dented, is that alright?”
“It’s fine,” the man said, sounding elated. “Thank you so much, I can’t tell you what this will mean to her.”
Meryl continued on.
A little while later, she saw a young woman, pushing a stroller. The child inside was dressed in a warm coat, but the woman had only a hoodie. She was shivering in the cold. Meryl noticed a shopping bag hanging from the stroller’s handle, spotting baby cereal and a loaf of bread through the clear plastic.
Again, she clutched the stone in her hand as she walked past.
A few moments later, she heard the young woman gasp. She glanced back to see her pick up a fifty-dollar bill from the ground.
Further down the road, she came upon a teenage girl with a small boy trailing after her, brother and sister from the look of them. “What if we don’t find her?” the boy asked, looking back at the girl.
“Don’t be stupid, we’ll find her,” the girl replied, but her brow was furrowed.
Meryl waited a moment until she heard a small mew coming from a trash bin near her. There was a kitten there, gnawing on a discarded hot dog. She waited a moment, holding her stone in her hand.
The smaller boy went closer and closer to the bins, then moved farther away. Meryl sighed and tried a little harder. The boy, however, seemed highly unmotivated to listen to a small voice inside his head.
Finally, Meryl crossed the street and scooped the orange kitten up from behind the bin. “Are you kids looking for this little guy?” she asked.
Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell
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