For passers-by travelling down the lane the cheer of an orange glow from the cottage window brings respite from the dreary grey Ohio countryside. Louise sits at her desk in quiet solitude, just a soft tapping of keys on the computer. A warmth emanates from the log fire and a mottle of coloured lights dance on the ceiling from a small Christmas tree that sits neatly in place on the occasional table between two comfortable arm chairs. Under the tree is bare. No presents placed there. No family left, no sweetheart, no children.
In England every window is alight with fairy lights blinking, an electric powerhouse for onlookers. The inside is full of chatter and the clatter of metal on plates. The roasted parsnip's travel around the table from pink party hat to red, green and purple. A cracker explodes its contents landing in the gravy dish. Susan fishes it out, wipes it and places it onto a finger with excitement. The receiving of a bright green plastic ring as a gift outweighs the black plastic moustache at this time of year. The seven foot tree radiates heat from its one hundred flashing lights and multi-coloured baubles. A mountain of boxes: big bows, wrapping paper and sparkling tags fill the space underneath calling out to be grabbed, torn and devoured by trembling hands. A screen sits in the corner surrounded in tinsel with a single red light.
Louise raises a glass of red wine, savouring its fruity taste and then nibbles on a mince pie she made yesterday. The homely sound of the crackle of splitting wood breaks the silence sporadically, as well as her concentration. She looks out of the window. Snow starts to fall, fine floating flakes building a triangle of snow sitting on the window sill. A branch on the tree shudders as it turns from green to white. A deeper silence urges from the snow blanketed lawn. Pylons spark as cold snow caresses hot wires travelling miles over the fields.
Susan raises a glass, 'Merry Christmas ', as every voice at the table is followed by the chink of crystal with bubbling champagne. The turkey is carved as thirteen voyeurs wait with mouths watering. They add crimson Cranberry sauce as the finishing touch to the mountainous plates of food, later to be wasted, eyes always bigger than their bellies.
The silence is deafening in the garden as a bird lands on the bird table and grabs a seed before flying away for shelter. A cat curls up on the chair for an afternoon kip, whilst enjoying the warmth and cosiness. A loud finishing tap and a beep as the message leaves this cosy but isolated cottage. Louise sits back and takes another sip.
In the corner a light blue glow isn't seen, the quiet beep isn't heard. The room is filled with a raucous noise of silly jokes and laughter. Patiently it waits as the flamed Christmas pudding arrives and bites are taken into fresh mince pies straight from the box with a dollop of cream. Then the humming spray of the dishwasher calms the celebrations into a hush. The oldies fall asleep to the Queen's speech and kids trail upstairs to chill out their new technical gadgets. Susan has time to stop and sits down in the corner, screen bright. She smiles as she reads 'Merry Christmas from four thousand miles away'. She takes a sip from her coffee cup. 'Merry Christmas Louise'.
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