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The Christmas Market | Bury St Edmunds | Helen Houghton

Yet another Christmas story… one I wrote a few year’s ago…

The Christmas Market

A lifelong insomniac, Edith nightly haunts the corridors of Abbey Heights – Retirement Apartments for the Discerning – As a former nurse Edith takes it upon herself to sit vigil at the bedside of many a poorly resident. Her hand cooling a fevered brow, or holding another’s on their journey to the next world. The residents of Abbey Heights never pass a lonely night.

Last week Clara, 80 if she’s a day, although she insists she’s a mere 73, had her purse stolen while at the local market. Market day is always a special treat; the Warden makes sure there’s a mini bus waiting prompt at 10 for the journey into town. It wasn’t until Clara was back on the minibus, in the late afternoon, that she realised her bright shiny yellow purse had been stolen…her fellow travellers were unsure whether it was the loss of the money or the loss of the purse that upset Clara so much – they all hurriedly checked for their own bags and pockets anyway, before turning their sympathies back towards Clara.

Two Weeks later

The day of the Christmas Market starts bright and shiny, with the crisp morning frost clinging to the last of the leaves on the beech hedge as Edith watches the milky sunlight of a winter’s dawn.

In the bowels of his blankets, Marius, 24, drug addict, petty thief, pickpocket, whatever you want to call him- he doesn’t care – rouses from a cider induced sleep, to a cider induced hangover. His breath hangs smokily in the cold air of his caravan. He gets up and lights his first cigarette of the day, using the remains of the match to light the merge gas fire. Sitting on the bed Marius coughs, thumbs the sleep from his eyes and coughs again. Sitting on the floor is a bright, shiny, yellow, empty purse.
The day of the Christmas Market starts cold and dank in the filthy caravan, the morning frost forming cold pearls on the web across the filthy window.

The minibus driver, cheery smile and a helping hand at the ready loads his passengers for the short ride into town. One of the ladies he doesn’t recognise, she’s not a regular, he’d surely have remembered that mop of curly white hair and that twinkle in her eye. He shivers as; helping her board, her hand in his gloved hand feels icy cold. Clara is a little dejected today, her money is safely tucked away in the recesses of her coat, she will treat herself to a nice new purse she decides Don’t let the B’s get you down, Edith had told her and Clara is trying to be determined they won’t.

Marius pulls on his jeans, a sweatshirt and trainers. Lighting another cigarette he exits the caravan ready for a bit of retail therapy. The Christmas Market is a magnet for Marius and his ilk, lots of people, lots of easy pickings. Marius reaches town as the bells strike 11 – time for a pint. The pub proves rich dipping. Jackets are left unattended; the season’s mood makes everyone lax. Marius helps himself to a leftover half and a carelessly pocketed wallet then heads for the Market Square.

Clara stands at the stall contemplating the display of bright, shiny purses – should she pick yellow again, or red or lime green, decisions, decisions. Marius suppresses a snigger when he spots Clara – ‘that’s right old girl’ he thinks, ‘buy a bright one, easy for me to spot.’

At that moment Marius’ attention is drawn towards another old girl, this one with a mop of curly white hair and a distracted look about her, he moves in behind her. She’s busy nattering to a stall holder; she pops her purse in the side pocket of her coat – fool.

As Marius’ skilled hand clutches the purse and gently eases it of Edith’s pocket, he feels a sharp, excruciating pain in his wrist. The flesh seems to freeze, he feels a crushing sensation, he hears a cracking of bone – just before he passes out.
Marius wakes with one arm in plaster and the other strapped to the hospital bed. A young nurse click-clacks into the room. She bends over him to reach for the thermometer. Marius admires her ample bosom and notices her mop of blonde curly hair.

“Edith,” he reads her name badge, “that’s a lovely old-fashioned name.”
Edith makes no response as she moves towards the door.
“Edith, don’t go away, come on, take these straps off will you? They’re digging in something rotten, go on, promise I’ll be a good boy, oh come on”

Edith moves slowly back towards the bed, she clasps his strapped wrist, and Marius feels that familiar freezing sensation and passes out with the sound of the cracking bone ringing in his ears.

The Christmas Market by Dot Horsman

12 Days At Christmas | Helen Houghton