By Amanda Scheifele

She shook the sieve again and another blizzard drifted down onto the flat bells. Icicles winked at her from the shop window and snow sparkled on the panes. The Jolly Bell mocked her at it sang Hello! to the woman entering the bakery. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas. Any news on your boy? No. I know letter’s stopped coming a few weeks ago, but that can only be because of- I don’t know- postage or something. Sure. Anyway, I’m here to pick up my order please dear. Of course. Oh come now, it’s Christmas darling!- Hope is in the air! -It shall be my personal goal to get a smile on your face by Christmas Eve. Here are your cookies. Yes yes dear, thank you, you know you’re a hero for running this place on your own, honestly I don’t know many women who would be able to, but you, you are a saint. Have a good day. …Yes, yes, you as well darling, and Merry Christmas. And to you. The Jolly Bell burst out in chorus again and the door shut.
She pounded away at some dough. Hope in the air indeed. If hope was in the air, it was snow and if snow was in the air, it was falling. Falling thick and fast. A saint. Humph. The only saint around her was the Virgin Mary. And the Virgin Mary was wooden and smiling a carven smile to all passersby. Never changing. Ever.
A tear gathered and fell. She brushed it away instinctively before she even had a chance to register her emotion. There was flour on her face now. She hated flour on her face. It was unprofessional.
She gathered her apron and brushed away the wet and dry. The Virgin never seemed upset. Always serine and smiling. She sniffled and added more wood to the fire. She bet that if the Virgin talked now, she’d have a different story to tell. Of dust and pains and hurt and frowns. She had to watch her son go away as well. She had to watch her son die! She went back to abusing the dough. Smiling indeed. Christmas indeed. Home by Christmas indeed. The only ones who would be home by Christmas would be the ghosts.
She hiccupped and almost sank into the pathetic lump of dough. Oh Mary Mother of God, please don’t let him come home for Christmas.