Christmas Without You – By Alan Williams (Competition Winner)

It was the day before Christmas although I wasn’t in a festive mood.
These days, I spent most of my free time at the hospital. After all, going home to an
empty house without Terry to talk to, seemed like a futile exercise. At least here, sitting by his
side, I could hold his hand and wonder if he would ever wake up from the coma he was in. Sadly
I’d given up hope. People I loved always were taken from me. Mum, Dad and now Terry.
“You again,” said a familiar voice as I rounded the corner of the hospital cafeteria.
“Yes, me again, ‘Santa’. How’s your day been?”
“Hectic. It is Christmas Eve, you know.” ‘Santa’ had been around for a week or so
visiting sick kiddies. It was always great to see their little faces light up as he walked into their
ward with his jovial “Ho … Ho… Ho’s”.
I excused myself to grab a hot meal then returned to the table where ‘Steve’ was seated. I
called him Steve as he looked just like a close friend from Uni underneath his poorly fitting
white wig and beard. We’d never exchanged names properly. He was simply someone to talk to
when I grabbed the occasional bite.
“Any change?” he asked, always showing concern for myself and Terry.
“No. I’ve resigned myself to never seeing him recover.”
“Then why keep coming here?”
“Nowhere else to go. I do want him back but wishing for something doesn’t make it
happen.”
“Are you sure? Christmas is special.”
“Apologies. I gave up believing that Christmas wishes come true when my Mum died on
Boxing Day. I was only five.”
“I’m so sorry. That must have been terrible.”
“Can’t remember what Santa brought me but I know I was so angry that I smashed it to
pieces. Christmas isn’t for me.”
“And what would your mother have thought about you giving up on this Festive
Season?”
I glared at him angrily as I stood to leave. How dare he. I didn’t care that he was dressed
like jolly Santa. He moved to apologise yet when he did, his pillow padding fell out and his
whiskers came askew. At that moment, I saw him as a well-meaning young man who was simply
trying to talk to me.
I sat once again. It took a few moments as I returned to my meal, thinking through the
fleeting memories of my childhood when she’d been there. I could picture her smiling face and
that green, striped apron that she always seemed to wear.
“Actually, Mum loved Christmas. She and I used to collect dandelion seeds that blew
around in the late summer and put them in a big box. In December she’d open the box and ask
me to whisper my Christmas wishes to them as we drank hot chocolate and ate home-made
mince pies. Then we’d blow them on their way to the North Pole for Santa to listen … I miss her
every day. And now I’m afraid I’ll lose Terry as well.”
“So why not give that a try? You only need one dandelion to take your wish to Father
Christmas.”
I looked at his face. There was concern for me there and something else. Faith? And
maybe that’s what I needed now.
Then my cynical self stepped forward. “Look. I know you mean well but I cannot believe
in someone who can visit millions of children in one single evening to give them presents.”

“You forget, Amanda. Santa is more than human. He’s the product of the aspirations of
children over hundreds of years, made real by the power of their love. As such he can be
anywhere … or look like anyone they want.”
I thought about that. I’d seen pictures of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands and a green-
garbed Father Christmas. He wasn’t always a jolly fat man in red and white. And Christmas was
the season for miracles after all. If I gave all my hopes for Terry’s recovery to a fondly
remembered childhood ritual, what could be the harm in that?
“Okay. Let’s find some of those fluffy white dandelion seeds. I’m certain I saw some
late flowering ones in a sheltered part outside. Do you know what Mum used to call them? Santa
Clauses.” My companion smiled as we rose to make our way to the hospital gardens.

When Christmas Day arrived I was there at the hospital early. I’d wrapped a present for
Terry. A book to read to him at his bedside. I felt more positive about his recovery now.
I looked for ‘Steve’ but he wasn’t around. Maybe in the Children’s Ward? Arriving at
Terry’s bed it was evident that he hadn’t come out of the coma. So much for childhood wishes.
Seeing a red garbed figure wandering by the ward, I ran up to him. It wasn’t ‘Steve’.
“You haven’t seen the other Santa around, have you?” I asked.
“Sorry, miss. I’m the only one. I’ve just finished delivering the presents in this sack to the
kiddies.”
A nurse called Rita passed by. “Merry Christmas, Amanda.”
The other Santa stopped me as I turned. “Excuse me. Is your name Amanda Kilburn?” I
nodded.
“This was in the sack with the children’s presents. I think it’s for you.”
I took the gift from him and opened it. Inside was a child’s toy – the same one I now
remembered that I’d smashed after Mum died. And there was a card.
Amanda.
A broken toy is easy to replace.
Bringing someone out of a coma is more difficult still.
However, restoring your hope is my greatest gift.
Merry Christmas, ‘Steve’.
Steve? Then I recalled his words. ‘Santa can look like anyone you want.” Even a face
from my past.
Nurse Rita called out.
“Amanda? Come quickly. It’s your Terry. He’s woken up.”
I rushed in to see Terry sitting up, eyes open, smiling at me.
“Merry Christmas, Santa. Thank you,” I whispered before going to hug my husband.

-The End-

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