Ginger Nuts of Horror
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge. Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season. And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas. For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte. Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.
Today's story is titled Christmas Cupcake...
Angela shifted the heavy duty canvas bag on her shoulder into a more comfortable position as she grasped the carrier bags with numb fingers.
Why do so many of my bloody family have to be born in December? Was it some kind of familial orgy in March or something? She dodged through the Christmas shoppers as best she could, although her shoulder bags kept catching shoulders, resulting in scowls from passersby.
When her fingers felt that they might drop off, spilling her Christmas shopping over the pavement, she ducked out of the crowd into a little alcove next to a shop. She lowered the bags slowly to the ground then massaged some feeling back into her fingers.
Wearily she glanced into the window of the shop she'd stopped by; it was a bakery. She saw mince pies drenched in icing sugar, lumps of solid stollen and reindeer biscuits with bright red noses. But what really drew her eye was the pile of cupcakes decorated with red, green and white icing. They sported a range of decorations from fondant trees to crystallised sugar snowflakes.
A pang of longing shot through her stomach like cramp. For a moment she wasn't a twenty-five year old woman standing with her bags of shopping and red fingers, but an eight year old girl, peeking through the window of the local bakery on Christmas Eve while her father bought the whole family a batch of homemade cupcakes. It had become an honoured Christmas tradition. When she'd reached twelve, she'd made them herself each year. He'd nicknamed her "Cupcake" because of it.
She realised that tears were gathering on her eyelashes and she hastily wiped them away. It felt like her insides had been sucked away and left a vacuum behind. Needing human contact, she reached into her bag and pulled out her phone. She typed a text to her mother.
Missing Dad. I wish he was here.
A moment later, a reply came through.
Angela smiled and tucked the phone back into her bag. Just as she was zipping it up, her phone buzzed with another message from her mother.
Don't forget tinfoil or I won't have anything to wrap the turkey in.
Angela rolled her eyes and replaced her phone in the bag. She picked up her bags, her fingers complaining about the loss of blood again, but she gritted her teeth and pushed her way back into the crowd. She got halfway down the street before a strong sense of nostalgia made her turn round and go back to the bakery. The place was rammed but she braved it for two cupcakes.
One for me, one for Mum, she thought as she fought her way out of the door again, the precious package under her arm. Joy and excitement filled her. For the first time that year, she felt Christmas spirit welling up within her.
By the time she reached the end of the high street, she needed to stop again. She weaved through the crowd to stand next to a large green bin which stood outside a restaurant. She was sure it must be a health and safety violation, but she was glad of the respite from the crowd that it offered her. She leaned the bags against the wall, flexing her fingers and calculating how far away from her car she was.
One last push, then I can go home, she decided.
She was about to pick up her bags again when her gaze fell on a homeless man sitting on the other side of the green bin. She could just see him through the gap between the bin and the wall. His face wasn't visible, but the state of his clothes, his hunched shoulders and the tatty blanket covering his legs told her all she needed to know.
She hesitated. She wanted to help him, give him some money to get something to eat. Evening was drawing in and from the clear sky above, she knew it would be a cold one. She opened her bag but her purse had only three twenty pence pieces and a fifty pence piece. She didn't even have any notes.
Then her gaze fell on the cake box. She groaned as her conscience pricked her.
No, those are for Mum and me. In memory of Dad. I can't. I just can't...
Feeling wretched, she picked up her bags again, determined to walk past and not feel bad about it. After all, everyone else was walking past.
All the more reason I should stop.
She nearly managed it, almost kept her feet going. But as she drew level with him, her knees were already starting to bend, her arms lowering the bags to the ground once more. She held the box out to the man.
'Sorry, I don't have any money. Just these. I hope you like them.'
The homeless man didn't look at her, his face hidden by the hood of his threadbare coat, but he reached out and hesitantly took the box from her hand.
Don't say thank you or anything, will you? Angela knew she was being uncharitable with such thoughts, but she was angry at her conscience in forcing her to give up the only bit of Christmas spirit she'd felt all year.
He started to open the box and Angela knew she couldn't stay. Giving the cupcakes away was one thing; seeing their pristine icing soiled by dirty fingers was quite another. She lifted up her bags, straightened up and turned back to the throng of people.
She had taken about five steps before a voice, soft and familiar, said, 'Thank you. Merry Christmas, Cupcake.'
Angela spun round. 'What did you say?'
But the crowd had already surged round her, cutting off the homeless man from view.
One woman glared at her. 'I didn't say anything. Now mind out of the way, you're blocking the pavement.'
Angela ignored her and pushed her way back to the bin. She stopped dead, the bags falling from her numb fingers. Where the homeless man had been was only a pile of black bin bags, one split and a load of plastic packaging sticking out. On top was the white bakery box, open and empty.