A Christmas Treat
She was 12 years old and a big girl who knew if she put on some of her mother's lipstick in her school uniform, a dark blue jacket and grey skirt with a grey raincoat, she looked much older so if people asked she said she was 17 and indeed in the uniform and raincoat she looked like an off-duty air hostess.
At 12 years old she travelled home from school by herself. The bus went directly from in front of the school to the railway terminal where she had to walk less than 300 yards to her apartment. Often she went into the terminal with other girls from school were they sat together and talked.
She knew that things were going on in her body and that she was attractive to men who would come up to her in the station as she sat with her friends, almost all of them said they were photographers and they wanted to take her photograph. She told friends that she was too shy to accept but one of her friends accepted and went off and received £25. Her friend told the group that she went to the man's flat and he asked her to put on some very scanty clothes and hold a teddy bear. He never touched her but she was glad when he gave her the £25 so she could leave. Another of the group was not so lucky she had a bad experience when a man had taken her around the back of the newsagents and shown her what he said was his red umbrella. They all laughed at these experiences since they had first seen porno films on their iPhones when they were several years younger. These were just experiences which they could take or leave, but never tell their mothers about.
Patricia liked to see the grammar school boys who also came into the station. They looked kind of cute but when they spoke she quickly found they had no conversation; still she knew she was interested in men.
On this particular day she was sitting with her friends reading and talking about boys when she saw a man enter the station towing a huge suitcase on wheels. He was very tall and had a large silky white beard. Suddenly she felt like a child again because he certainly must be Santa Claus. He crossed the concourse and came straight to her. He talked with a soft accent that she didn't recognize. He asked could she tell him where the chemist was. She said yes and pointed across the station to the familiar blue and white sign. He thanked and then trundled off into the hubbub that fills all major rail stations. People moving around with their cell phones clamped to their ears walking like extras from a zombie movie, their phones and then smiles enclosing each in their bubble world. Above their heads silently moved backwards and forwards the CTV cameras and every few minutes there was a security announcement , which always ended with the words unattended baggage will be removed. Nobody listened and nobody heard, trapped as they were in their bubble worlds
Five minutes later Father Christmas came carrying a large red pack of Maltesers in his hand. He looked at her with kind eyes and said clearly
"I thought you would like a treat as you are very kind and pretty and you remind me of my daughter."
She remembered what her mother had told her about not taking sweets, from strangers but this was Father Christmas and he was not offering her £25 to take her clothes off. Also she knew her friends thought she was rather stuck up and afraid of boys and men.
Then he surprised her
”Come with me. I need a cup of tea."
She smiled and agreed. Her friends would never again criticize for being standoffish. She went with her own Father Christmas to the back of the station and he found an empty table and a place where he could park the case while they went into the restaurant. They took a plastic tray and went along the chrome cabinet. She chose not too old looking lemon meringue pie and he had a sugar covered doughnut with a little red tongue of jam. Then they waited for 2 cups of scalding hot tea. He paid and then picked up the tray and went outside They chatted away about the latest scandal at the BBC .she looked at the newsstand and saw that tonight's headline was 'ENGLAND DEAD.'
She was now completely relaxed so when he got to his feet and started to pull the case along behind him she didn't think and just went along with him. She could see her friends watching her. Yes this would be more to tell them. Together they crossed the main concourse until they were under the big clock. Then he collapsed the handle into the case and set it on its side.
"I have another present for you."
He held out a bracelet of coloured shells she extended her hand and he bent and placed the bracelet on her wrist. As he stepped back she heard a small click .
he looked down at her and smiled.
" I'll be back in a moment."
There was no 'unattended luggage' down there.
She looked again and saw that people were crowding forward for the platform in front of her. There were lots of photographers and television crews. And she wondered who was going to arrive
It was the first item on the news 240 people had been killed by a huge bomb and another 80 people had been taken to hospital with serious injuries. Among the dead was the whole of the Pakistan cricket team and the captain of the English team who had gone to greet them. Plus all the members of a BBC outside broadcast unit had perished.
The only good news was that although there had been many schoolchildren there to greet the team only one child had been killed.