Christmas at the Shelter

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Teen in government custody waits for a miracle... and finds a viral one

“Tomorrow's Christmas and we're stuck in this crappy place.” Mirkelia’s beautiful young eyes were glum as she halfheartedly peeled an orange at the table. The table was long, with eight chairs on each side. Its surface was rough from excessive exposure to bleach.


"Yeah," said the girl next to her. “This place is like juvie.” 


The two sat quietly for a moment, listening to the shrieks and wails of another 13-year-old in her room, along with the faint voice of a counselor trying to calm her down. They were so used to this, it did not alarm them anymore. 


“The social worker says there isn’t enough room at my mom’s house." With long red fingernails, Mirkelia daintily popped an orange slice into her mouth. "How stupid can they be? I like sleeping on the couch.”


The shrieks escalated. And now there was loud banging. 


The girl next to her nodded. "I’d rather sleep on the kitchen floor than be here.” 


There was the sudden sound of a loud bang and shattering glass. The girls looked at each other. “Did she break her window…?”


Staff called "Assistance to Intermediate Girls!” into the radios. Two more staff came running into the house, and ran straight to the room with the screaming adolescent. This was an almost daily routine. 


“TEN SECOND RULE!” yelled Dayna, a woman with a badge. 


A couple new girls came rushing out of their rooms with anxious looks. Mirkelia only rolled her eyes as she ambled to the door, joining the line of girls. She was all too familiar with the drill. 


“Two, four, six…” Dayna did a quick headcount. “…fourteen, fifteen. Take it outside!”  


In single file, they walked outside and then stopped at the appointed spot, like well trained soldiers. There they all turned to face Dayna, waiting for their next order.


“It’s freezing out here.” Dayna crossed her bare arms across her shivering body. Only a few girls had been quick enough to grab their jackets. “Girls, you did great with the ten second rule. You each get 200 points. Jennifer, take us to the gym.”


Jennifer, who was somehow always first in line, led the group to the gym. Mirkelia was at the end of the line, where she enjoyed a moment of peace and stillness as she slowly walked the well known path. She lagged behind a bit, allowing some space to gather between her and the girl in front of her. The outside air felt fresh and cleansing, especially after the relentless bleach fumes. Deeply inhaling the crisp air, she let the cold pierce her lungs. They passed by the empty playground which, in the daytime, swarmed with kids. It was only just passed dinner, but the sky was already dark and a few stars were out. 


“Oh God, give me a nice Christmas,” she whispered, her breath visible in the clear air. 


The nicest Christmas she could imagine, would be to be back with her mom. Her heart ached for her mom, and the warmth of her presence. Her mom loved her more than anyone else in the world did. If only her mom could walk beside her now.  


They passed by the pool, which glowed under the lamps. Its water rippled slightly with the breeze, casting its wavy movement like dancing lights onto the walls of the hallway that led to the gym. Mirkelia suddenly remembered lying on her mom’s living room floor, looking up at the dancing light reflected off their washtub. Their dog would lie next to her, snuggled against her side, so close she could feel the rise and fall of his breath. 


Silently wiping a tear from her eye, she stopped as the line of girls halted at the gym entrance. Dayna unlocked the heavy door and the girls filed into the gym. As Mirkelia, the last, strolled through the door, a masked counselor sprayed disinfectant right into her face. 


“Ouch!” she grabbed her eyes. “Do you have treat us like contaminants?”


“Sorry, I wasn’t expecting a straggler,” said the staff. “But we have to be careful about this new virus.”


“Alejandra, phone for you!” Dayna yelled, holding a corded phone attached to the wall.


Mirkelia, still holding her eyes, walked to the bleachers and sat down. “Oh God, this year is awful. I need a Christmas miracle.” She removed her hands from her face and slowly opened her eyes. Alejandra was walking away from the phone, smiling brightly. 


“Jennifer, phone for you!”


Mirkelia picked up a basketball and began dribbling it. How could this Christmas possibly be nice, she thought, doubting her own prayer. Even if staff gave lots of presents, as rumor had it, that would not make her happy. She noticed the smile on Jennifer’s face as she hung up the phone. 


“Maria, phone for you!” 

With growing curiosity, Mirkelia watched as Maria walked to the phone with slumped shoulders, had a brief conversation, then hung up the phone, beaming. What good news were those girls getting? Were they going home for Christmas? One after another, each girl’s name was called. Each girl left the phone with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. Each girl except Mirkelia. A profound loneliness suddenly swept over her. She had been feeling sad for some time, but now it seemed almost unbearable. It was bad enough coming here, but at least she was with others in similar circumstances. Would she now be left behind, the only girl here for Christmas? Damn that social worker!


“Mirkelia, phone for you!”


With racing heart, Mirkelia walked to the phone. She slowly took the receiver from the staff who held it out to her. 




“Merseleena?” It was her social worker, butchering her name as usual.


“Yes, it’s me.”


“Listen, there is a dangerous new virus going around.” The woman spoke fast. “So we are sending you home on a 60-day trial.”


It sounded too good to be true. “What about all those conditions my mom didn’t meet?”


“We’re waiving those,” the worker said hurriedly.


“So… I’m going home?”


“Yes. Any questions?” 


Mirkelia cried quietly. God had heard her prayer. 


“Miselayna, are you there? Listen, it’s Christmas Eve and I gotta go. Do you have any questions?”


“No." She was afraid to ask anything, for fear it might ruin the good news.


“Okay then Miscellanea, have yourself a merry Christmas! Bye!” 


Mirkelia hung the phone back on the wall. “Bye to you too!” she cried with joy. “And hello Mom!”


Submitted: December 08, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Netalie. All rights reserved.

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Some good cheer amongst all the bad news!

Wed, December 8th, 2021 7:21pm

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