The Vagrant

The scent of pine and cinnamon clung to the frigid air causing his mouth to fill and empty stomach to clench.  He moved with no thought, legs plodding and dragging his frail body toward the fogged window where, with raw fingertips protruding from tattered gloves, he softly stroked the glass.  It was as though he could feel the warmth contained within the abode.

A woman with chocolate brown hair, a food spattered checked apron tied at the waist, was bending over an open oven.  She seemed to struggle with the load before her as she placed it upon the stove before wiping her brow with the back of her hand.  He watched her step aside giving him an unobstructed view of a perfectly cooked golden turkey.  Copious amounts of stuffing cascaded into the roasting pan looking both crisp and moist.  He stood with locked knees as the hunger he felt let out a whimper and caused his vision to gray slightly.

The scene before him shifted and shuddered, a subtle ripple which brought to his attention more people.  A young man who looked to be about thirty, was now carving the turkey; another woman, hardly more than a girl really, was looking harried as she chased a set of identical twins around the table; a dog was barking happily and joining in the chase.  Various other hands and bodies seemed to appear.  A set putting china and silverware gleaming with cleanliness upon the table, another was busy strapping young ones into their booster seats- but what, he wondered, had happened to the woman?

Rubbing eyes gone dry from the wind he looked about the room trying to seek out her image between the many people now crowded about, pressing here and there.  The sounds of merriment greeted him and still he couldn’t help but feel the anxious panic of not being able to find her.  He thought he could see her, just the corner of her apron, only for it to disappear.

Snow crunched under foot as he moved to the next window.  The room was small and, even from his cold perch, he could see how different this room was.  All the colors were dark; shelves, uncluttered of knick-knacks, lined an entire wall; a large map of the world hung in a gilded frame above the austere desk; an old fashioned hat rack stood in the corner.  It was a man’s room devoid of the cheer and holiday festivities that were running rampant elsewhere making the emptiness palpable.  He thought for sure she must be somewhere else and so shifted his weight, ready to turn away.  A whisper of movement caught his gaze.

She was in the corner, a jacket in her arms, and the silent sobs of grief causing her to shake.  Time seemed to pass interminably as he watched her bury herself in the garment as though she could dive into it and obtain comfort.  A voice called loudly from the other room and she hastily ran a tissue over her face before pasting a smile on and walking back.  He watched, stunned and in awe, as she sat herself to the right of the head of the table, a glaringly empty space to her left, and stoically took part in passing the food around.

Strain pulled her mouth tight, even as the smile remained fixed.  A look of concern seemed to be passed amongst the younger adults as they awkwardly pushed conversation between them.  Still, his eyes kept darting to the woman as she put small pieces of turkey onto a plastic plate.  Her laugh was pained when the little girl started bouncing up and down in her seat, excitedly gesturing and yelling.

He wanted to laugh, to enjoy the merriment he had been so long without, but found his sad state weighing heavier than usual upon him as he once again felt the grip of hunger and sympathetic loss weakening him.  He fell to his knees, the shrub scraping his cheek, the thought dawning that the little girl had been pointing at the window.

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