Despite her small stature, Maryse had always been full of energy and determination. That was before the fire in which the rest of her family perished. Now she was frail and tired and hungry. Above all, she was cold, bitterly cold. The tips of her fingers had gone blue and her nose and ears stung. Her toes had long since lost all feeling.
The year was drawing to a close amid flurries of snow. Maryse’s threadbare coat and torn dress were no match for the biting easterly wind. The paths were treacherous with ice, even for those who were well shod.
She drew close to the shop window like a moth attracted by the light. On the other side of the glass, tiny packets of sweetmeats glistened in the lamplight. Rows and rows of jars of preserves and honey and bottles of ice-wine filled the shelves. Well dressed children tasted the wares on thin slivers of dark bread. In the hearth, a log fire blazed invitingly. A solitary tear formed in her eye, freezing as it rolled down her cheek. It was so beautiful, like peeking in on paradise. She pressed her face against the ice-cold pane that locked her out.
One of the young girls stopped to stare at her, her bread uneaten. Maryse turned away, embarrassed. She would seek shelter, hopefully out of the wind, and sleep through Christmas, and if the Lord were to take her, what better day than the Nativity.
“Miss,” a voice said. Startled, she realised someone was tugging her sleeve. She looked up to see the girl from the shop, her hand held out, tending a piece of bread dripping with blackberry jam. “Merry Christmas,” the child said.
The author reads his text: Maryse goes to Paradise