Written by Writer Yvanka Maria Guia Rebelo and Edited By Editor Mrinali Jadhav

A warm tale for a cold winter’s eve

As the cold winter wind sliced through the town, the streets filled with the sound of hurrying feet . People rushed about, most if not all, bent on finishing whatever it was that had forced them out onto the streets as quickly as possible to escape the biting wind and the approaching twilight .

In the store windows and on street corners Christmas decorations still gleamed, a little worse for wear after weeks of festivities but still pretty enough to lend a whimsical and festive aura to the cityscape of bare branches, speeding cars and grey skyscrapers. 

It was December the 31st and in the air a sense of expectancy and impermanence seemed to abound. It was almost as if mankind’s urge to forget the past and rush eagerly towards the new year had somehow imprinted itself on the surroundings, for it was mirrored in the hurried flight of birds, in the greys of the overcast sky and felt in the breathless rush of wind. The past year had been filled, as some years are, with more than its fair share of sorrow and the people yearned for the new year and the hope that it would bring.

The sun was rapidly setting now and its dying rays cast pools of shimmering, glistening light on the grey paving stones. A final goodbye, to the departing year. Anna pulled her dark grey coat closer around her and buried her face in her sea green scarf as she picked her way through the pools of sunlight on the street. Shopping list in hand she hurried towards the store mentally berating herself for not having finished grocery  shopping earlier.

But the groceries had to be bought and the dinner for New Year’s eve had to be prepared, so with her shoulders hunched against the wind she continued on her way to the store. Once she arrived, she stepped inside it’s warmth with a grateful shiver and looked disconsolately at the aisles that were crowded with exhausted looking shoppers laden with carts.

 ” Guess I’m not the only one to procrastinate picking up the groceries” she wryly thought as she headed towards the shopping carts. The stores loudspeakers blared out holiday tunes punctuated with over eager announcements on offers for products that nobody seemed interested in. She pushed her cart along an aisle filled with meagre piles of vegetables that looked sorry for themselves when the song playing over the speakers crackled to a halt.Pushing her hair out of her eyes she sighed in relief, ” thank heavens” she muttered under her breath ” if I have to hear Jingle bells one more time this year I think I shall go mad”. She began picking through the pile of potatoes.

Once potatoes were crossed off her list, she wheeled her cart in search of pasta as the loudspeakers cheerfully announced a 50% reduction on the price of chicken nuggets. When the announcement drew to a halt, she squared her shoulders, steeling herself against whatever holiday cliché might come next.

When the first plaintive strains of the song started however, she stopped in her tracks, rooted to the spot as the song Auld Lang Syne washed over her. A lump formed in her throat as she saw herself a child once again, listening to her grandmother play the very same song on the old piano in their country house as darkness fell, miles away from the lights of the city. 

Around her shoppers lingered at their carts as the song reminded them of old friends and simpler times. An elderly lady dabbed at her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief as she remembered her wedding with the love of her life, all those winters ago. An old veteran brushed away tears, as he remembered friends, fallen on a battlefield decades earlier.

Suddenly someone in the crowd started to sing and one by one the shoppers joined in until the refrain filled the aisles and spilled out onto the streets. Almost magically, the mood had shifted and as the shoppers finished their purchases, smiles and wishes for the new year were handed out like glowing torches to light the way into the year to come, no matter what lay shrouded in the mists of the future. 

When Anna finally reached her apartment, she dumped her bags by the door and pulled out her phone. The song’s well known melody filled the tiny apartment as she pulled her toddler into her arms for a cuddle.

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