“I’ve got to get out of here.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“Where are we going?”
“Are we going to Gran’s?”
“Why not? Yes. Pack your bag.”
“What about Dad?”
“What about him?”
“Aren’t you going to tell him where we’re going?”
“Because he doesn’t care. If he cared, he’d be here.”
“Maybe he’s had an accident?”
“He didn’t have one last night, or the night before. He just doesn’t care.”
“We can’t just go …”
She called a cab and when it came, they turned the lights out in the house, and shut the front door behind them. Then they got into the cab. The cabbie turned to her and spoke over his shoulder.
“Merry Christmas, and where would you be going, Ma’am?”
“Bus or train?”
“I don’t care. They’re both the same.”
The cabbie shrugged and pulled away from the kerb. The bus station was closer and that’s where the cabbie left them. Mother and son stood there for a moment, under the station lights, looking at the coaches that squatted there, parked in regular lines. Then, mother and son, they walked into the ticket office.
“What time does the next bus leave?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“The next bus for Swansea leaves in twenty minutes.”
“We’ll take it.”
“Single or return?”
“Single. Two tickets.”
“You should buy a return ticket; it’s cheaper.”
“We’re not coming back. Not this time.”
“How old’s the boy?”
“He can travel half price.”
“One and a half then, singles.”
It was December 23rd, her own mother’s birthday. Mother and son sat together on the dark, empty bus. The cold seats chilled them as they waited in silence. The boy looked out the window and coughed.
“Will Grampy be there to meet us?”
“Doesn’t he know we’re coming?”
“Does granny know?”
“Mum, why are we going?”
“It’s granny’s birthday today. We’re going to give her a surprise.”
Two hours later, the bus deposited them in Swansea. The night had filled with heavy clouds and promised snow.
“Can we take a cab. mum?”
“There’s none here. We’ll have to walk.”
They walked side by side down the well-known streets. Christmas lights adorned the shops and they walked through alternate pools of light and darkness.
“Mum, I’m tired.”
“Give me your bag. We’re nearly there.”
“But mum …”
“I can carry both. Hold on to my arm.”
They kept on walking. After a while, they stopped beneath the streetlight outside the old family home and looked up into the street light’s glow. The first snow-flakes danced down.
“Can we go in now, mum? I want to see Gran and Gramps.”
“You go in. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
She watched her son climb the steps to the front door. He lifted the old brass knocker and banged it down. After a moment, the front light came on and the door opened a crack. She stood beneath the street lamp, inhaling, taking the chill air deep into her lungs. She felt the tight bands in her chest start to loosen. For the first time since this time last year, she felt free
Warning to the reader:
Raw material, still under revision, and probably needs lots of revising. I look forward to your comments. In some ways, this is my take on A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Not quite how Dylan Thomas saw it; more a sort of … well, you work it out for yourself!