The heavy Church Bell rang thrice as I stared out of my window across the snow filled, cold street. I was lucky to hear the sound floating to me from St. Margaret's Church. It made me feel alive. Blessed. May be I should take a walk. I thought. London was Cold. Cold and Wet. I didn't know what I hated more. Festivities were heavy in the air but I missed the warmth I used to feel at home. I knew I was going to be late for University again. The Gray sky warned that soon there could be a heavy snow fall. Good Riddance. I turned away from the window and pulled my muffler tight around my neck. It had been a month since I was here. And peace had evaded me since then. I felt lonely. And My Birthday was just a week away. Sigh. This was going to suck. I sighed once again and grabbed my coffee and cold toast.
|St. Margaret's, Westminster|
I brushed my hair too roughly not caring how it stood up stubbornly. I had apparently straight hair. But now it was frizzy! Gah!! Bad Bad Bad. I dressed in a Black overcoat, put my gloves and shoes and lip balm and stepped out. The Old Land Lady was adjusting the pots on her window. She waved at me as I gave her a courteous smile. "Merry Christmas My Dear!" She said. I thanked and turned swiftly on my heels. The walk to the Church would usually take me some 15 minutes but I stretched it to 25 today. I walked slowly, staring at the festoons and hollies and mistletoes. In day light, they seemed somber to me, just like my mood.
|Sigh. (Image Source)|
I sighed for the nth time and quickened my steps towards the Church. I reached into the lane that was parallel to the abbey. I entered, rubbing my palms together and watching my breath freeze before me. The Church was empty at this time of the day. I gave a relieved and content sigh. The Pastor looked at me and called me forward. He was intrigued by the Indian who never failed to visit the Church, even if there was a blizzard. I lit a candle at the altar closed my eyes and thanked whoever was listening to me. I got up slowly, peace descending on me like a warm shroud. I turned to take my usual seat at the end of the gallery when I noticed her again. She was a fellow woman who too never missed coming to Church. Her eyes caught mine and she surprisingly gave me a warm smile, which sent warm tingles in me. She was a familiar. But I couldn't recall. I gave her a smile of my own and withdrew my thoughts to myself. I stared at the high ceiling, the wide arcs and the brilliance of the people who created it. My thoughts didn't go to what I missed or my miseries but suddenly loneliness grabbed me as I cried a solitary tear. Here, no one saw me.
I controlled my ragged breath as I felt a movement next to me. She was sitting next to me. I gave her a quizzical, lopsided smile.
"I'm sorry I must be intruding. But I felt a company would make you feel better." She smiled at me again. I nodded in approval for words were failing me.
"I see you here everyday but you don't seem Christian. I mean no offence when I say that. Are you a believer?" I could feel her hesitation as she tried to make conversation. Not trying to be the mean bitch I felt like, I answered as politely I could, for Britishers were known for upper stiff lip. I wouldn't take that risk.
|She intrigued me. (Image Source)|
''I am from India. I come here...because it soothes me. The calmness here. No, I'm not Christian and no offence taken." I smiled at her feeling better. She nodded but I saw some hesitation. I didn't know what to ask or how to. So, I blurted the first thing without thinking.
"Would you mind some coffee? Ofcourse unless you have family engagements." I knew I had committed a faux pas. It was Christmas for crying out loud! And just because I was alone, didn't mean I would invite strangers. To my relief she said, "As I said, a company is never bad. I would love coffee." This time she grinned and I noticed a sadness in her eyes but didn't dwell on it too much.We got up together.
I chose a table near the windows of the cafe so that some light could come in. All the while we spoke of lighter things like weather, festivities, coffee, what we liked and disliked. She was full of light. And Happiness. And warmth. And being with her made me feel light. Like a sun beam was focused at my heart. I was getting cheery by the moment, my University Lecture long forgotten. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves. Suddenly I asked her~
"I come to seek peace but why do you visit Church every day without fail?" Again that same sadness I had noticed before flickered on her face. I regretted my question instantly. I tried to cover up "Hey, it's all right. I didn't mean to be intruding!" I squeezed her hand sympathetically.
|Her eyes were sad... (Image Source)|
"I visit Church everyday, for I love to believe that my loved ones are happy. Few moments of Life, I live with them in there." She said with a sad smile. "My family died in an accident last month. I am alone. And Christmas doesn't seem the same anymore. I used to watch you and wonder what struck you. Your determination, even though you were new here, gave me strength."
I felt ashamed of myself. This woman was made of iron. And she thought I was strong? I gave her a tight smile as she looked away, her eyes filling up. I paid, while she resisted. We decided to part ways. She hugged me and gave me a tiny golden bell from her wallet. "You gave me something to look forward to. A friend. This bell will remind you of me...when you go back to India." She said. That tiny bell and her words were a gift I didn't rightfully deserve. Before she could disappear, I ran after her. She stopped as I called out to her.
|The tiny golden bell... (Image Source)|
"Will you spend the Christmas with me?" I asked, aware how lonely I was sounding, still.
"I would love to..." She smiled and walked away.