Phyllis J. Burton
‘A Doll for Christmas’
A short story containing 1,277 words
A Doll for Christmas
Chloe felt excited. The doll in the shop window was smiling at her. 'Mummy?' she said pulling at the sleeve of her mother's coat.
'Do you think my letter reached Father Christmas in time?' It was the day before Christmas Eve and five-year old Chloe was standing outside the local toy shop, with her mother. They were waiting for the bus: it was late.
'I'm sure it did, darling.' Chloe was bored and she kicked a stone and sent it spinning into the gutter. 'Don't do that, Chloe darling?' her mother said. 'You'll wear your shoes out and I can't afford to buy you any new ones before Christmas.'
Chloe stared hard at the toy-shop window. It was lit up just like a Christmas tree. She pressed her nose up against the pane of glass. It felt cold, but she could see the thing that she wanted more than anything in the whole wide world much more clearly that way. The little doll sat on a box looking at her with just a hint of a smile on her face. If only I could have her for Christmas, she thought, 'cos she's so pretty.
'Mummy?' she called out suddenly.
'Do you remember ...?'
'Chloe do come and stand here? The bus will be along any minute now,' her mother said moving her feet from side to side: it had been a mildish sort of day, but now it was getting colder.
'But Mummy, I would like... Do you think I could have the little dolly in the window, please? You know, the one I showed you the other day.' Her mother walked over and stood beside her. 'Look, it's that one over there with the pink dress and the happy face. She's got lovely blond hair, almost the same colour as mine. She's got black shiny shoes too.'
'Darling, I would love you to have her, but I can't afford it this year,' her mother replied, quickly returning to the bus stop.
'But Mummy,' Chloe wailed, rubbing the tears from her eyes. 'My friend Claire's Mummy has bought her a dolly, so can I have one? Please?' She couldn't take her eyes off the doll's face. Ooh ...I wish,...I wish..., she thought, concentrating hard and screwing up her pretty blue eyes. She put her head on one side to see if she could see how much it was.
A little white tag was attached to the doll's right hand. Yes, she could just see some squiggles on it. There was a sort of an 'L' with a little line through it. That was a pound sign she thought proudly. Next to it was a figure '1': she recognised it 'cos it was the first number she had ever learned at her Nursery School. Next to the '1' was a nought. A nought was a nothing, wasn't it? Oh goody, the doll didn't cost much at all.
Chloe felt really excited now and although she nearly always did what her mother told her to do, on this occasion she couldn't tear herself away from the shop window. She was mesmerised by all the tinsel and the coloured flashing lights. There were teddy bears with black noses, appealing faces and bright buttony eyes. There was a doll's house with pretty red curtains and a real light inside. Some toy soldiers stood to attention in front of a toy fort. They were all painted red, just like the post box outside our house, she thought. A pile of bricks had large letters painted on them. 'There's an 'A', she said concentrating hard, 'andâ€|and there's a 'B' and a 'C',' she added triumphantly. A clown with a funny face stared out at her - she didn't like his eyes much and looked away. Suddenly a toy train came into view and rattled past her nose making her jump: it quickly disappeared into a small tunnel and out of sight.
Despite all the colourful toys in the window, Chloe's eyes kept going back to where the little doll was sitting. By now she was quite sure that the doll was smiling at her alone and... she was even holding out her arms to her. She'll have such a sad Christmas if nobody buys her, Chloe thought miserably. She'll be sitting all alone, in this cold shop window. Perhaps when my daddy comes home, he will buy her for me. I haven't seen him since he went into that hospital place and Mummy is so unhappy all the time.
Everything now hinged on whether Father Christmas had received her letter. She had specifically asked for the dolly in the window. Chloe closed her eyes tightly, so that she could picture him reading her letter. His clothes and hood were all red and edged with white fur; he had black buttons and black shiny boots and his long white flowing beard made him look very old indeed. But his face was jolly and his big round eyes sparkled and flashed as he threw back his head, saying, 'Ho, ho, ho.' Chloe remembered seeing him in that big shop in town last week. Oohh, how I wish...I wish... A snow-flake fell on Chloe's nose and was immediately followed by another andâ€|the picture faded.
'Oooh....it's snowing Mummy, just in time for Christmas. We'll be able to make a snowman,' she called out in delight. Chloe's breath made the thickened glass mist over and to her utmost dismay she lost sight of everything in the shop window. She heard her mother's voice.
'Do come away from that window, Chloe. You don't want to miss the bus do you?'
'No,' Chloe answered her stubbornly. 'I don't want to leave her. Her name is Katy. I'm going to call her Katy.'
'Come on Chloe, please?' Her mother was growing impatient.
'Katy will be so unhappy Mummy,' she said sadly. 'She'll be cold in the snow.'
'Chloe. I won't tell you again. Please come over here?'
Chloe took a last loving look at the window and grudgingly walked back to her mother's side. 'If I can't have her today, can I come back tomorrow, please? I really do want her.'
Her mother's tone softened. 'Look darling, I would love you to have the dolly, but Mummy really doesn't have enough money to buy her for you.'
'Well perhaps Daddy will buy it then.'
'Oh Chloe.' Tears began to fill her mother's eyes. 'How can I get you to understand that Daddy is never coming home again.'
'But Mummy, he must come home. He's my pretend Father Christmas.' Hot, prickly tears began to well up in Chloe's eyes too. She looked up at her mother. 'Perhaps the real Father Christmas will bring me a doll just like Katy? Oh...I wish, I wish...
An elderly man with white flowing hair and a fur hat stood at the bus stop. He had been listening intently to their conversation.
'Good evening, Madam,' he said smiling and gently tilting his hat. 'Perhaps you would allow me to be your daughter's Father Christmas this year? It would give me the greatest pleasure.' He quickly pressed a Ł10 note into Chloe's mother's hand. 'Please say you will accept it? My children are all grown up now, you see. Happy Christmas.'
'Thank you, and a happy Christmas to you too.. but I don't think that I can accept this...' She looked down at the note in her hand for a few moments. 'It's really very kind of you,' Chloe's mother finally managed to blurt out. 'But I can't let you do this.' She turned round to speak to him, but he had gone! The street was completely deserted and the only other people standing at the bus stop were two elderly women.
Chloe was overjoyed: her wish had been granted. 'Mummy, that man says he was Father... Can I have that dolly now and was he really Father Christmas?'
'I...I don't know, darling,' she replied gently. 'Perhaps he was.'
'He really did get my letter then?' Chloe said happily rushing over to the window again, just to make sure that Katy was still there. She was. Chloe stared hard at her and to her surprise, saw what she thought were tears streaming down the doll's cheeks.
'Yes, it certainly looks like it,' her mother replied with a smile. Chloe started to cry too, only not with sadness, but with happiness.
'Come on darling,' her mother said quickly brushing away Chloe's tears. 'Let's go in and buy the doll before the bus comes, shall we?'
©Phyllis J. Burton
REVIEW: This story was a bit too trite for my taste; however I loved the author's attention to detail! She really brought the scene to life. I also think she did an exceptional job at recreating young Chloe's thoughts and emotions.
This a delightfully poignant story, very well told. five-year-old Chloe longs to have the doll in the toy-shop window, but her mother, evidently recently widowed, cannot afford it. The author gives a credible, gently humorous account of Chloe's thoughts and reactions; her calculation of the price for example: "Next to the '1' was a nought. Oh goody, the doll didn't cost much at all." Perhaps the Father Christmas figure at the bus stop is
a Deus Ex Machina, but Christmas is a magic time... Only objection: wouldn't she say "Santa Claus" rather than "Father Christmas"? But perhaps the word "father" is necessary in this context.