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He raised his hands for silence and then welcomed the guests to his birthday meal. Ragged men and women held up crystal glasses in mittened and gloved hands, and toasted him, glancing at each other as if they couldn’t believe their luck.
This was no soup kitchen. Only the finest dishes lay before them and the host invited them to help themselves.
They helped themselves – tucking food away in pockets and carrier bags for later when they were back on the street.
“Wish it was Christmas every day,” one man muttered.
“Why? Ain’t no one cares about us at Christmas,” another added, “I got asked to leave the church earlier today once the service was over. Time to lock up, they said. And could I move along, they said. All desperate to get home to their own Christmas dinner. It was lucky I was there though, or I wouldn’t have bumped into him.” He raised his glass at the host, who returned his salute.
“Yeah, I got moved along last night from outside the church. I mean, it ain’t as if all those people going to midnight mass couldn’t afford a penny or two. It weren’t hurting anyone to ask, was it? Just a penny or two…”
“Christmas isn’t the same as it used to be,” said another, “I remember parties that went on till past dawn.” His eyes glazed over in an alcoholic trance, “Now it’s all religion and that sort of stuff.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s all right if you fit in.” A bobble-hatted woman looked round at the assortment seated at the table – unruly whiskers, unkempt hair, dirty, mismatched clothes. The delicious smell of the food was being overcome by the stink of unwashed humanity. “He don’t seem to mind, though.” She nodded at their host and he smiled back.
“Ain’t seen anyone look at me with such respect for a long time,” she said, “if ever.”
“So, why did he invite us? We’re not usually on anyone’s guest list.”
“He told me he’d asked everyone. But most of them said they couldn’t come. Prior engagements. That sort of thing. Too busy, I guess. Christmas is a busy time.”
About the author
Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ has just been published by Bridge House Publishing. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com