Christmas Riches

It was dusk when I arrived at the edge of the forest. A blanket of snow had lent a deceptive light to the lateness of the day, and I’d lost my way. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, I’d neglected to leave a trial of breadcrumbs, or even Swarovski crystals in my wake. (Do not try to make sense of this. It was a dream or a wish or some strange bit of holiday trickery.)

The warmth of the cottage windows was a pleasing visage, but such things were not to be trusted. For all I knew a witch was just waiting to devour me, and it was so cold and so late that I might have leapt gratefully into the oven. Still, some sense prevailed, even in a dream, even in the darkness. I hesitated at the front walk. Two enormous holly bushes threatened with their thorny leaves and seductive red berry carriage. The wind whipped around, rushing off the charming eaves and swirling leaves and snow before the front door. Looking back over the path, I saw my footprints fade away in the diminishing illumination of the day. Either that or the wind-driven snow was obscuring them.

A bay window stuck out to the right of the door, and I stepped closer to peer into the cozy-looking scene. Diamond-shaped window panels allowed a broken view of a Christmas tree, and it seemed as if each little frame was created for one specific ornament. A red one dangled closest to me, catching the warm light and sending it into the outside. Behind and above me, the sky deepened to a dark indigo.

Beyond the tree, wooden walls glowed with the flickering shadows of a fire. I backed away and traced the trajectory of the fireplace up to the chimney. A small plume of smoke rose into the darkness, gray against the firmament. Slowly it transformed into a golden hue, and the wisps coalesced into bits of golden glitter, sparkling and twinkling in the sky. They whirled and spun themselves into an assembly of an angel, with wings and flowing robes, but a disturbingly headless body.

This golden angel, with golden feathers and a golden robe of gracefully ephemeral gauze, fluttered about the roof of the cottage, almost alighting on a corner like some wayward pigeon, before disappearing into the air above the forest. Bits of angel dust floated down like golden snowflakes on my nose and eyelashes. They spun wildly in the air around me, suspended in surreal flight, until I could see that they were little disco balls of mirrored light.

It is the season of sparkle and shine.

Walking back into the woods, as this was not my home, I look back once but can no longer make out the cottage. A curtain of evergreen boughs closes behind me. The night does its best to confuse, but there is snow to light the way, and a rising moon to see us through to the morning.

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