LEAVING

by Eliot Lynn


It was the night of the year that few children can sleep. The night when everyone hopes that snow will fall and they will wake up to a garden of glistening diamonds grown by the morning sun. It was Christmas Eve.

As many had hoped, snow was falling. It slowly covered the houses and streets in a thick blanket. The moon shone her silver light down on the white world, and but for one, there was nobody to view the kind of beauty that things such as love and dreams are made of. The only one there to see the spectacle was a small boy of five, or six years.

This little boy possessed a beauty not of this earth, a beauty that surpassed even all that surrounded him. His curly blond hair had never seen a blade, and it framed a face that belonged to a cherub of a painting of old. His eyes were of the brightest, clearest blue, and they sparkled like pools of water born on the earth's first day. His skin was as pink and soft as a newborn child's. It was a beauty born in the dreams of dead poets, and the few lucky enough to see it with their own eyes would remember it as long as they lived.

On this night of happiness and anticipation, the little boy wandered sad and alone through a painting so beautiful no one could ever paint it. The glistening tears frozen to his cheeks told a story, but it is one that is lost to us. No one will ever know why the boy was alone, and there was no one to even care that he was. And that was all he wanted. He walked through the snow hoping only that someone would save him. That someone would come to him, and hug him, and tell him that everything would be all right. And maybe, just maybe, someone would love him. That was the thing the boy wanted most in the world on that cold night. On the night that every other child wished for toys, and puppies, this little boy wished for love. And nothing more.

Finally, the little boy came to a stop, not wanting to ever take another step again. He raised his downcast eyes, and in front of him stood a church. He remembered that he had been to church before, and the building that loomed above him stirred vague memories. The boy made himself stumble a few more steps, and pressed his face to the glass door he had arrived at. He looked in, and saw the church was lit up inside. There was light coming from behind a man on a big cross, and two huge Christmas trees shone in heavenly splendor. Looking at the man on the cross, he had a faint recollection. He half-remembered, a long time ago, that someone reading from a big book had said that the man on the cross would come on Christmas. That he came every Christmas.

The little boy supposed that if anyone would help him, it would be the man inside. He loved everyone. So, the little boy laid down in front of the church, and as he slipped off into sleep, a glimmer of hope, that the man would come and save him from the cold and loneliness, warmed his heart. The snow continued to fall, and bells jingled far in the distance. Presents were laid under trees, and visions of sugar plums danced in most children's heads. But not the little boy who slept on the church steps under the winter sky. The little boy dreamt of warmly glowing, beautiful creatures that came, and carried him far away from the cold church. They brought him to the man from the cross.

The man, whose name the boy did not know, hugged him and told him everything would be all right. Then, the man who was as beautiful as the boy, gave him a present. It was a small gold chain with a cross on it. The little boy held it tightly, and it glowed like the light that came from the man and his friends. He looked down, and saw that his old clothes had been replaced with shining white garments like those of the pretty things that had brought him here. Then he turned his head, and saw wings that had grown and spread out from his back. The man loved the little boy, and had made him one of his own. It was the best gift the little boy had ever gotten. It was the only gift the little boy had ever gotten.

Then he looked back at the man, and saw that he had tears in his eyes. The man called the little boy back to him, and held him close. Then, the man whispered in the boy's ear that he must go back home now. And that he must be sure to show his present to everyone. So, the boy left the man, and made his way home.

When he stepped inside his house, he found no one there. He walked through the darkness of the house, and saw everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. He walked into the living room, and over to the Christmas tree. It wasn't as he remembered it though. It had turned brown, and the needles had fallen off long ago. The star had fallen from the top of the tree, and lay forlornly out of place on the floor. The boy knelt down before the tree, and looked at the star. A beam of moonlight cut through the darkness, and it made the star shine like one that had fallen from the heavens, rather than from the top of the tree. The boy picked it up, put it in his pocket, and walked away.

Heading back through the house, the little boy heard and felt echoes of the past that were still inside the house. Yelling and crying resounded in his head. Pain, and sadness flared in his breast. Then, through the din, he heard someone singing. It was a little boy singing a Christmas carol, his song breaking through all the sorrow and sadness in the house for a solitary moment. Then, it faded away, and the little boy left his house for the very last time.

He wandered through the white streets again, and once again, stopped in front of the church. This time though, he was not sad. He had no tears, and he was not alone. The man inside loved him, and that was all he had wanted for Christmas. As before, he laid down on the church steps, and waited for the man to come and take him away.

The next morning, on the most joyous day of the year, there was no joy in one small church. Only sadness. More sadness than many had ever known. Early, on that glorious morning, churchgoers found the little boy. He laid there on the church steps, covered in snow that he wore like a shining white garment. The little boy had frozen overnight, but even death could not take his beauty away. It was said, that the little boy looked more like and angel sleeping innocently on the church steps, and less like a lifeless child. The little boy had died with a smile on his heavenly face, and clutched in one hand was a gold chain with a crucifix, and in the other, was a small plastic star, covered in silver glitter.

© 1996 Eliot Lynn


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Leaving, 9 February 1997