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Coming Home for Christmas - part 1

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Despite only just recovering from the cold that refused to let him die, Roibeard had spent most of Christmas eve out of the house. 

He had only nipped out to get some special christmas catfood, but on passing the church felt drawn inside. 

It was before the time of the chrisdingle or midnight mass, it was more or less empty, except for a few dear old ladies lighting candles, presumably for the husbands they may have lost. He wondered if anyone would ever visit the church on Christmas Eve to light a candle for him. 

He sat for a while in his own thoughts. Watching the flames burning on, how they flickered and flamed with no obvious pattern. He looked up at the high ceilings and the stained glass windows and felt an awe for a time he did not know. Or maybe sometimes he had a sense that he did.

Somehow his loneliness became less important within the soul of the old church.

He was just about ready to leave when he thought he must be becoming delusional as he was sure he could hear Santa's bells. He turned his head and saw a woman, maybe his age, maybe younger, stumble awkwardly down the aisle. He didn't recognise her which he thought was strange as Rome was a small place. The way she moved uncertainly towards the candles made him think she had not visited that particular church before.

Suddenly she turned and looked at him. He wondered if she had felt his stare upon her. He felt compelled to hold her gaze. It did not feel uncomfortable. In fact it felt familiar. She smiled but then turned and lit her candle.

He watched her watching the flickering candles, hoping she may turn to leave soon so that he may return her smile. She stayed where she was and instead, he got up to leave. But he was not ready to go home.

He wandered around the park and sat for a while watching couples and families and dog walkers. He sensed their excitement for the eve of Christmas but he could not connect with it.

Darkness had fallen and fairylights illuminated houses and streets. He thought it was about time he should go back home. The cats might be getting worried. His mom had probably called and there was some whiskey left over from the worst of his cold that he thought might be a toddy to his restless mind.

He trudged on through the streets, people smiled and wished him a Merry Christmas. Friends, neighbours. People he knew and who knew him. Some enquired of his Christmas plans. He answered with a smile despite the empty feeling inside. Noone ever saw it. Well he did not let them. 

He passed the coffee shop a few blocks from his home and was surprised to see it was open. He thought a coffee would pass enough time until he was ready to go home.

The place looked empty. Except for the motherly lady who ran the shop and a woman sat by the window with what looked like a teapot and a notebook. She was scribbling things down and crossing them out. Sipping her tea, gazing out of the window.

'You open for a coffee Anne' Roibeard asked the motherly proprietor whose name he had learned from frequent visits.

'For you, of course!' she smiled, before leaning in and whispering 'besides I have another guest who doesn't seem to want to go home,' she gestured towards the lady 'been here two hours, that's her third 'pot of tea'. I've sold more tea tonight than all year! I think she may be English or something.'

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