She couldn’t recall the last time she’d had a present. It may have been the necklace she’d received from her grandmother when she was twelve, or maybe it was some other little thing she’d received from one of the foster families in the years after that and before she’d run away. But it was all so very long ago now.
She’d never blamed anyone. She’d never known her parents, them both being the kind that disappeared when troubles arose – troubles such as a baby. Her grandmother had cared for her until she, herself, needed care. It had just seemed best to start out on her own. She’d done pretty well, too, if she did say so, herself. Never married. No, not that. Too much – trouble.
But she’d made a decent living and a few friends here and there, and had retired before they’d let her go, though no one would have said anything about age.
When December came, she had carefully lifted out cardboard boxes holding the treasures of her favorite time of year and had pulled each piece out to put in its proper place. She wasn’t certain why she felt compelled every year to do such a thing. There wasn’t anyone to make happy by little Christmassy touches, and she didn’t actually believe in the baby in the manger. Jesus was a word that slipped out when she was frustrated, though why she should use the name of the one she didn’t actually believe in mystified her if she thought about it, so she mostly didn’t.
Christmas Eve descended into a clear, dark sky sprinkled with stars. As she sipped some cocoa, she sat back and took in the sight of her house decorated for a day celebrating the birth of someone who she deemed unworthy of celebrating and wished this year would be different. She wasn’t one of those who believed something you bought for yourself could be called a gift, but she wished, this once, she might receive a gift.
The doorbell rang, and she jumped up. No one ever came to visit. Who would come now? She opened the door to nothing but cold air on a dark night. She leaned out and peered down the street. No one. Yet there, on the top step was a box with her name on it. She pulled it into the warmth of her home and slit the tape.