Would memories of Christmases past help Alesha to move on? Her grandad hoped so…
The shop window was a riot of light and colour. Father Christmas and his elves looked lifelike behind the glass, charming every child passer-by.
As I stood on the pavement, plump snowflakes falling, I hoped to catch a glimpse of my granddaughter.
I knew Alesha was far from OK. Some silly man had hurt her, and it saddened me that despite working in the toy department over the festive season – her once dream job and favourite time of year – her heart was breaking.
It was almost closing time, and I’d hoped to catch Alesha before she headed home to her flat. She’d told her mum and dad that she wouldn’t be coming round on Christmas Day. She was going to sit in front of her TV and eat Pringles all day.
The thought of her being alone at such a special time broke my heart.
I peered closer, searching the store, taking in the happy faces of children as they looked forward to Christmas Day.
Suddenly I spotted Alesha serving a customer. She was smiling, but even from outside on the freezing pavement, I could see the sparkle had left her eyes.
Without another thought, I went inside, not really knowing what I hoped to achieve. I headed towards her, and hovered by her side, waiting while she finished serving.
“Grandad,” she said, as soon as she spotted me. “It’s so good to see you. You’re looking so well.”
I hadn’t been feeling up to much throughout the year, but I was on the mend, and looking forward to Christmas was a tonic. It wouldn’t be the same without Alesha, though.
“So what are you doing here?” she said, and I felt sure I saw her eyes brighten.
I didn’t tell her that I’d been listening to her mum’s concerns, that I knew she wasn’t intending to come on Christmas Day, and I hoped to change her mind.
“I just thought I’d say hello,” I said.
A little girl with a head full of blonde curls, jumping about excitedly, caught my eye. I smiled at Alesha.
“I remember you when you were that age,” I said. “You were so full of life and love.”
She smiled, but I could see she struggled to remember the child she once was.
In the centre of a table next to the counter was a beautifully crafted musical box. I lifted the lid, and it started to play We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
“Do you remember the little box your gran and I gave you when you were small?” I asked. “You loved it and you loved Christmas.”
Memories of Alesha laughing as I’d sung along with the music box, drifted into my thoughts.
“You sound funny, Grandad,” she’d said, her giggle tinkling like Santa’s sleigh bells, as she climbed onto my knee. Then she joined in, she’d learned the song at school, and it wasn’t long before the whole family were singing.
“The box broke, Grandad,” Alesha said now, with a sigh.
I nodded. “Yes, it did,” I said.
Noticing how her eyes shimmered with sudden tears, I paused for a moment. “But it didn’t stop you loving Christmas.”
I placed my gloved hand on hers. “You know you’re still that little girl inside.”
The child who’d been jumping around earlier was now spellbound, listening to the music box and watching the parts move with wide blue eyes.
As the tune came to an end she scooted off towards the fluffy toy department, holding her mother’s hand.
“I know you loved this boyfriend of yours,” I said, looking back at Alesha, now closing her checkout. “You need to grieve a little for what is over, but don’t let one man take your love of Christmas away from you. Come back with me now. We’ll all have Christmas together.”
Her face broke into a smile.
“Yes, you’re right,” she said, and I took her in my arms and hugged her close. She kissed my cheek before heading out the back of the store.
“Wait for me while I get my coat,” she called over her shoulder.
“I’ll be right here,” I said.
There was one more thing I had to do before we walked home together in the snow. I picked up the music box, and headed for the last open checkout.
We’re sharing another lovely story from our archives every Monday and Thursday throughout December. Look out for the next one!