Charity Fundraiser and A Short Story for Christmas
Just to let you know I am one of the authors involved in a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders (go to www.booknest.eu) It is a very worthwhile cause, so please take a look at the website and buy a ticket – you could win signed books from one or more of one hundred authors.
To wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year I have included a short story of mine that was originally on the Jo Fletcher Books website a couple of years ago to get you in the feastive mood. Hopefully maybe even a tear or two will be shed!
‘Oh how I hate Christmas,’ Peter thought, as he sat down at his desk in reception, and immediately felt guilty.
He glanced around him and although the team were all in place no one was paying him the slightest attention. He sank back in his seat with a sigh. It was Christmas Eve and here began the ten busiest days of his year. It didn’t help that in recent times “him downstairs” had started throwing in a mix of “natural disasters” on a regular basis. Tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados and it was Peter who was left to contend with a seemingly endless queue of frightened and bemused people. He was wondering if it was time for him to retire.
‘Ready for the off,’ a gentle voice said from beside him. ‘There’s already a queue.’
‘What have we got so far?’
‘Two naturals and a motorway pile up.’
‘OK, let’s get going,’ he said and reached for his admissions book and pen.
The two naturals turned out to be an earthquake in Japan and a mudslide in Kenya. Twenty-four souls in total and all but one received admission. The pile up on the M25 was a different matter. The driver who caused the accident and his three mates were high on crack and had robbed a pensioner an hour earlier. Peter gave a weary sigh. Why people were so self-destructive he couldn’t fathom.
He glanced up from the register and took a moment to watch Teresa patrol the growing queue. She was truly an angel in every sense of the word. She calmed and placated, with just a word, a gentle smile or a light touch of the hand. The rest of the team were also hard at work as more and more people arrived. Some terrified, some angry, but each and every one of them was handled with quiet and calm efficiency.
‘There’s been some kind of mistake,’ a voice said.
He turned his attention to the young woman in front of him. She was clearly agitated but defiant.
He studied the ledger. ‘Amy Peters, aged 24 from South London,’ he read.
‘That’s me,’ she replied.
Peter regarded her pretty, pale face for a moment then ran his finger along her entry in the book. This was definitely not what he needed so early in the shift. A self kill and one that was either in denial or with serious attitude, he wasn’t sure which.
‘Amy,’ he said keeping his tone gentle but firm. ‘It says here that you deliberately ended your life at ten twenty-eight this morning.
‘Why would I do that?’ she asked and seemed genuinely surprised.
‘I don’t know. You tell me.’
She chewed on her lip in thought for a moment. ‘OK, I can see how someone might think I wanted to but I didn’t. I mean he’s been such a pig and I wanted him to feel sorry for what he’d done and. . . Oh Hell,’ she said as the penny dropped.
Teresa led the woman away speaking to her softly.
‘Up or down?’ Paul, his assistant asked.
‘Genuinely unintentional, a cry for attention gone wrong. The boss wouldn’t let her go downstairs for that.’
The hours passed in whirlwind of sad and befuddled faces. Most of the arrivals still not comprehending what had happened to them and with each admission the more despondent Peter became. “I’m getting too old for this,” he thought.
Then a voice said, ‘hello, my name’s Olivia.’
Peter looked up. A small girl was peering at him from across the other side of the desk, her chin almost resting on the polished wood. Her face was pale with dark smudges under eyes so big and blue that Peter wanted to weep. Soft blonde down covered her head where her hair had started to re-grow and when she stepped back he could see that she was wearing a hospital gown.
‘Hello Olivia. How are you today?’
‘I’m very well thank you,’ she said. ‘I feel so much better now.’
‘I’m glad to hear it.’ He glanced at his ledger. Olivia Harris aged seven.
‘Is this Heaven?’ she asked.
Usually it took a while, but this little girl had been living with death for so long that she knew immediately where she was. He nodded, unable to speak. Even he still sometimes had to wipe away a manly tear.
‘Can I wait here for David?’ she asked. ‘I think he’ll be coming soon.’
Peter ran his finger down the lines of names. ‘David?’
Olivia joined him behind the desk and pointed. ‘There see. David Parks, he was in the bed next to me. We promised that whoever was first would wait for the other.’
‘I’m afraid that’s not allowed,’ said Paul from behind them.
Peter glanced back at him, irritated by the interruption. ‘I think we’ll make an exception for Olivia,’ he said his voice unusually gruff. ‘Her friend won’t be long.’
Paul looked surprised and seemed about to argue, but then thought better of it.
Olivia rewarded Peter with a smile as huge as Africa and most of Western Asia, which was payment enough for breaking one rule and perhaps a few more.
Peter stood. ’You take over here for a while,’ he ordered Paul. If his assistant had been surprised before he was now flabbergasted. Never to his knowledge had Peter left his post during a shift.
Peter took hold of the girl’s hand. ‘Let’s go and see if we can find your friend,’ he said.
Her hand felt tiny and when her fingers curled around his, as she led him back along the waiting queue chattering happily as they went, his job suddenly didn’t seem quite so bad after all.
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