To Every Season (Pencil)

Carol was not in the habit of showing off. Senile and eccentric were labels she could live with, psychic was not. But it was that time again, and even after all these years she still found herself outside Bellevue Hospital, braving the wintry cold of a New York Christmas Eve. She had the cards tucked safely away from the drifting snow, the fluffy blue-topped pencil almost vibrating in her pocket, itching to be released. With a sigh, she tucked her coat a little tighter around her and headed into the waiting room.

She sat quietly in one of the corner chairs, piling her mismatched cards on the end table beside her. Some of the staff remembered her, but every year there seemed to be more new faces, more whispered retellings of the strange old lady who wrote Christmas cards for ghosts.

Carefully, she took the pencil out of her pocket. There was always that first moment when they wanted so desperately to begin and she had to force it to be still so she could explain. They had to think first, and so many of them didn’t want to.

This was their one last chance to put things right, before the tenuous connection between this world and the next faded away. If they didn’t take the time to think, to plan… their cards would be nothing more than an unwelcomed gift from an odd old lady. It wouldn’t be from them, no matter how close the handwriting was, no matter how much of a coincidence the subject matter.

It took work to craft a perfect card, to reach through the paper and get them to believe in the impossible. She could help, but only if they let her.

After the pause, she closed her eyes and started writing.

Card after card, life after life, sealed in white envelopes and addressed in handwriting that wasn’t her own. It wasn’t until the second card from the bottom that the pencil stilled. She was about to take the stack to the waiting nurses, when it moved again.

They wrote the same thing every year, in Paul’s blocky carefully drawn letters and David’s large looping cursive. For twenty-six lonely years they had been the last card and every time she had that moment of doubt that maybe this year would be the year they went silent. It had been so long…

But love pays no head to the impossible.

“Merry Christmas Silly Goose, from your Gosling and your Gander.”


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