Loving Christmas Linda – The First Embrace
Outside in the winter night, snow spattered, unseen, against the other side of the steamy glass, glass which reflected back images like mirrors against the dark beyond.
It was a fairly crowded Friday evening train, but not full, there were still a number of empty seats, one of which was next to 21-year-old Paul Hartley.
The carriage was occupied by a mixture of weary shoppers, shopping bags bursting at the seams and commuting workers content that the weeks work was done, all journeying homeward at the dark days end.
A cheerful crowd though, Paul thought, pleased with themselves for a variety of reasons, bright faced and hearty and full of seasonal cheer and anticipating the Christmas holiday and seemingly oblivious to the drafty carriage, and the winter weather beyond it.
Paul sat alone as the train rattled out of Nettlefield Station and felt lifted by the quiet jolliness as he contemplated the collective countenance of his self-satisfied travelling companions and then she appeared, and Paul was all at once lifted higher.
Because there she was, larger than life, vivacious and self-assured, covered with snowflakes and laughing to herself.
It was his snow angel, Linda Parsons, with snow covering her like sugar on a doughnut, a delicious confection he would have gladly consumed.
Linda was wrapped up against the cold in a red woolen hat and coat and a long-knitted scarf draped about her neck.
Still laughing, she shook her head and the light brown hair that hung beneath her hat, danced about her shoulders and the snowflakes settled on them melted away from her soft curls.
There was a rosy redness on her cheeks, almost matching the hue of her coat, either from the cold winter evening or a liberal taste of Christmas spirit, a little of both Paul assumed.
Linda made her way unsteadily down the train between the seats leaving wet snowflakes in her wake with her full-length coat swishing from side to side.
She moved almost gracelessly, which Paul thought suited her well, as she tottered a little in her high heeled boots, perhaps due to the lurching motion of the train or the Christmas punch and eggnog at the office party.
As Paul studied her she was still laughing softly to herself, which he thought also suited so well, and then she saw him, and her eyes lit up like beacons, and he sighed as he looked into those wonderful, sparking, laughing eyes as she stopped and stood momentarily open mouthed, and then her smile illuminated the carriage and his heart soared at the sight of her and as Paul returned her smile she flushed a little deeper red.
It had been almost a year since he had last seen her, and she was his lovely lost love, Linda, and it had been a hard year for him, in which he had locked all his feelings for her away, but the instant he saw her they were back with a vengeance.
It was like a door had opened in his heart and they all rushed out, he had missed her so much in that time, but he didn’t know just how much until that moment.
They were never lovers, only ever friends, but very special friends, very close friends, though nothing more.
They liked each other’s company, they would have lunch together, journey to and from work on the same bus, shared a cab when the need arose and laughed a lot together, shared confidences, and talked incessantly, because they were best friends but that was as far as it ever went, though he wanted more, he wanted so much more but Paul didn’t want to lose what they had together, so he said nothing.
He loved her so much that it hurt, but she was not free for him to love and Linda was not free to love him even if she had wanted to, so Paul contented himself with their special friendship and his unrequited love remained just that.
If that was all he could have then better that than nothing, so he was happy to love her unconditionally.
They had plenty of opportunities to see each other as they both lived in the same road in Millmoor, he with his cousin and she with her parents, and they both worked at St Augusta’s Hospital in Nettlefield, where Linda was a clerical assistant and Paul was a porter.
And that unrequited love affair could have gone on indefinitely had circumstances not changed for him when his father died.
As a result, he had to move away to look after his mother and he didn’t see Linda again, not until that moment.
When she was standing in front of him, his angel, larger than life, smiling, blushing, laughing and oh so lovely.
Paul stood up and smiled at her again and she threw herself at him and Linda hugged him so tightly and as she did so, he smelled her hair as he held onto her and was intoxicated by her scent and all the old feelings flooded back, over whelming him.
Paul had often dreamt of being reunited with her, but never in his wildest dreams had he expected such a reaction from her.
“Could it be my love is not unrequited?” he wondered
They sat down heavily on the lumpy seats in the rattling carriage and to all intents and purposes were completely alone.
They sat looking at each other in silence not wanting to lose sight of one another just in case the spell was broken.
Linda removed a glove and put her hand on his as if testing it was not a dream and he was really there, in substance.
“It really is you” she said and then she slipped her hand into his, her delicate fingers lacing between his, her hand so small in his grasp.
For the remainder of the journey they reveled in each other’s company as they caught up with the lost months, filling in the gaps of their time apart, and as they did so they remained oblivious to their traveling companions, it was as if they had never been apart.
But apart they most certainly had been, she still worked at the hospital in Nettlefield and lived at home in Millmoor while he now lived in Nettlefield and worked for Stephenson’s Supermarket’s as a Warehouse manager.
Linda playfully chastised him for disappearing so completely from her life.
“I thought it was the only way” he said, intimating the disposition of his feelings to her for the first time.
“I’ve missed you so much” she said and squeezed his hand and then the train shook to a halt as all too soon they had arrived at Millmoor Station and their fellow travelers all rushed off into the winter air heading towards their Christmases.
Reluctantly Paul and Linda left their seats and disembarked from the carriage arm in arm, then hand in hand as they walked slowly along the platform, still talking and laughing, until they handed over their tickets and then stepped out of the Station and onto the street, where the shops were now closing and the town had settled down to a relative quiet, although from one pub Noddy Holder screamed “it’s Christmas” to the outside world and only the pubs and restaurants seemed to hold any attraction to the remaining Millmoorian’s.
Paul and Linda however were not interested in noisy hostelries, so they joined a small group gathered round the Salvation Army band and joined in with the carol singing in the town square before reluctantly strolling towards the taxi rank as the snow again fell onto Linda’s soft curls.
They were both bound for different parts of town, Linda, had to get home to babysit her sister and Paul was bound for The Downshire Grey where he was meeting up for a Christmas drink with friends.
They took their place in the queue of travelers eager to be home, Paul was eager to be nowhere else but with Linda and he shuffled along for the last few steps like a sulky schoolboy.
Linda was smiling as she turned to face him and kissed him gently on the lips, such a warm sensitive and tender kiss, their first ever kiss, and when their lips parted she smiled at him coyly and flushed a deep shade of pink.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long” she said, and Paul kissed a snowflake off her nose and cupping her flushed cheek in his palm he slid his fingers beneath her soft brown curls and caressed the soft downy hair on her nape as he pulled her sweet lips to his and returned her kiss.
Linda’s arms enveloped him, holding him so close, and so tightly, not wanting to let go, not wanting to lose what they had found and not wanting to lose him again.
They stood locked in their first passionate embrace as the snow fell softly on the scene until Linda pulled away for a moment before burying her face in his neck and saying softly.
“I’ve missed you so much, I’ve missed your love for me”
Paul had waited so long for that moment, waited so long to hear those words, to hear his love returned and then they kissed again.
Taxi’s arrived and departed through the slush and the queue around them just kept moving as if unaware of the depth of their love.
After an indeterminate period, they moved from the queue and found a bench in the town square, in a quiet spot with a view of the Christmas Tree and talked.
The substance of that talk was of love, a shared love, an unquenchable love.
Not an unrequited one as Paul had supposed because Linda had the same profound feelings for him, she had always done so she said, but she had not been free to pursue her love for Paul a year earlier and she was still not free.
So, Linda was torn between the two loves in her life, torn between the comfortable familiarities for a good man, a loyal and dependable man, for safety if you like, and the passion she felt for a soul mate.
Paul was similarly conflicted, Linda was the love of his life and he would never, could never love another in the same way, but it wasn’t fair on Daniel, her other love, her childhood sweetheart, he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Paul had been on the receiving end of that kind of pain and he found himself unable to inflict it onto another, even if he were a rival, so the conclusion to their converse as they cuddled on the quiet bench was that their love was a forbidden one, and had to be set aside.
They could be best friends no more, not now the genie was out of the bottle, though they both wanted more, so much more.
Paul could not content himself with the special friendship that they had once treasured, not now that he knew his love was not unrequited.
There was no going back, now Pandora’s Box had been opened, but at least now he knew she loved him with the same depth of feeling as he loved her.
After they had reached the conclusion of their frank exchange they slowly walked hand in hand back to the taxi rank and kissed again in the falling snow.
They joined the queue and all too soon it was her turn and after a final kiss she got into a taxi and through the winter wonderland Linda departed taking Paul’s love with her.
As the Taxi drove away with Linda in the back, with her palm pressed against the glass, she craned her neck to keep sight of him through the snow spattered window until the very last moment, until the cab had gone from his sight.
Linda was gone from his arms, gone from his view, gone from his life but a Christmas happening had changed his life forever, after a brief encounter, fleeting, here and then gone.
Her scent was still in his nostrils, the taste of joy on his lips, and his soulmate was gone forever, yet she remained forever in his memory, forever in his heart.
He resolved that he would never see her again and moved away in the New Year to avoid another chance encounter and make a life elsewhere, but Paul never forgot Linda.
And when on a winter’s night he heard the Salvation Army play, or when the snow falls during Christmas time, or when he felt a snowflake on his skin, he feels her small hand in his and all at once she is in his arms once again, and he can smell her soft brown hair and the taste of her is on his lips and he hears her say “I love you” and Linda is his forever.