Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (96) Christmas in the Attic
Christmas was just around the corner for the inhabitants of Highfinch which nestled on the edge of the Pepperstock Hills where the Lily Green Hollows Golf Club separated the village from the Hamlet of Lily Green, which made up the parish of St Martins Church and between Lily Green and the sleepy hamlet of Kingfisherbridge was where Alex Trafford lived and since it was only a few weeks before Christmas, his divorcee sister Kate and his niece India were staying with him, which was how it had been for the previous eight years, ever since her divorce, and he saw no reason to deviate from the norm that year.
Northerly winds shrieked through the trees, carrying winter on its coat tails, as they wrapped themselves around the house and tried to shake it from its foundations with all their spiteful might as the freezing rain and snow they carried streaked down the double glazing, creating eerie shadows on the walls which were at odds with the glow from the hearth.
It was cozy and safe inside the house as he watched the fury of the storm outside until he shivered, so he pulled the curtains together and shut out the stormy vision.
His sister Kate and her daughter India were in the kitchen making Christmas cookies, mince pies, Christmas cake and pastries and the smell of cinnamon, spices and ginger was mouth-watering but he knew from experience that they wouldn’t let him have one, Amy would have done, she always did.
But Amy was gone now, gone forever and he missed her so much, but it was the first Christmas since her death and he didn’t know what to do without her, he didn’t know where he fitted in.
When Amy was alive she steered the ship and he was her first mate, but now he was cut adrift and rudderless.
He sat down in his chair by the fire and looked at the Christmas Tree and winced, trimming the tree was Amy’s forte and what he had done was a pale imitation which was when he decided mainly for want of something to do, to get up and go in search of more decorations.
He opened the hatch and pulled down the ladder and climbed the steps to the loft and sought out the decorations that he hoped would improve the appearance of the tree.
It was a large house and subsequently it had a large loft and after more than twenty years living there the loft was an absolute treasure trove.
He switched on the light and he muttered to himself as the dim light from the LED bulb did little better than a candle like glow which created weird and wonderful, if weak and feeble, shapes all over the loft.
He was of his time and much preferred light bulbs that came on to maximum brightness the moment you flicked the switch.
He knew it would brighten eventually he would just have preferred it to be immediate.
There were huge trunks and boxes full of old clothes and shoes, old books of his fathers and toys from his childhood and so many other memories were stored in the loft.
The winds took on new life up in the roof space, howling like a banshee as granular snow and hailstones beat its staccato rhythm on the roof and the unearthly soundtrack put him in an eerie frame of mind.
He momentarily forgot the reason for his trip to the attic, as he started to ponder what treasures he might rediscover.
Then he remembered why he was there and opened a box but only found some of his sister Kates old dolls.
Then out of the corner of his eye he saw a figure which made him jump but when he looked closer it was just an old dress maker’s dummy.
But he felt himself drawn to that corner of the loft and in particular a large oak chest.
He knelt down in front of it and unbuckled the leather strap and lifted the lid and instantly new what it contained even if he could see inside the plastic cover, it was his wife’s wedding dress, he hadn’t seen it since their wedding day or touched the silk folds and felt their softness against his skin since that wonderful day.
She had packed it lovingly away because she dreamed that one day her daughter would wear it on her wedding day, a common enough dream for a mother.
Sadly they were never blessed with a little girl, not a boy for that matter, it wasn’t to be for them, and it was his one regret, that he was unable to give her a child.
Suddenly he felt compelled to touch the soft cool silk, so he carefully unzipped the bag and tentatively reached for the silk and in the instant his fingers touched the fabric, the dress makers dummy seemed to come to life and he looked up and found himself staring mesmerized at what appeared to be his darling wife Amy as she was on that wonderful day in June all those years ago when they were married at St Martins Church, and he sighed to see her sweet smiling face with sparkling blue eyes.
The tone of the wind seemed to change at that point and it seemed to have been replaced by church bells and wedding music, he knew it wasn’t possible but he couldn’t move and didn’t want to for that matter.
“I miss you so much” he said to the apparition and he felt soft kisses on his neck and he sighed again
Just at that moment he was brought back to the moment by a call from the landing
“Uncle Alex! Lunch is ready”
“Ok I’ll be right down” he said and the blissful moment had gone.
He zipped the garment bag up again, closed the lid of the trunk and re-buckled the strap, then he walked back to the ladder but looked back as he descended and she was there again smiling at him and softly said
“I will be with you always”
“Thank you” he responded and as he continued his descent she added
“And the tree looks fine darling”