Nappa’s Noël

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December 2016 Spirit of Giving Story Contest Entry

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Nappa’s Noël

Come join us for a modern Christmas classic tale unlike any other.
Roll up, roll up and enjoy a tale of suffering, woe, hope and redemption all narrated by your's truly!

I do so love this time of year.


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December 2016 Spirit of Giving Story Contest Entry

 

‘The Marley’s were dead, to begin with’
To be fair, if they ever really existed outside of old Charley’s mind, I’d expect that they’ve been dead for a lot longer than they are in most accounts that mention them.

Sit back Dear Reader!
As I give you a little Christmas tale of suffering, woe, hope and redemption to best all others!

For what is a Christmas tale, without its omnipotent narrator?.. some kind of low budget made for TV drama series I suppose?

Those are hardly ‘Christmassy’ though, are they?
No!

To do a real Christmas Tale one must always have a good Narrator!

Preferably old, male and quintessentially British at that.. don’t hesitate to imagine my voice as such if you must Dear Reader.
Christmas is all about traditions and far be it from me to buck the trend of narrators that have come before me!

We open, as we so often do in these tales, on the busy streets of a modern metropolis.
A city steeped in the cold bitter embrace of winter with frost on the grass and a Christmas tree in every store window.

It never snows here, not this close to the big day at least.
The locals will of course scoff and grumble when the snow finally does come in mid-January, the ungrateful swine!
Personally I adore the snow, especially at this auspicious time of year.

Snow is a beautiful thing, full of childish wonder, rotund men with carrots for noses and the occasional over-compacted missile.

Speaking of which.. I do believe I see a protagonist of sorts on the horizon.
Let’s watch shall we?

Oh I do so LOVE this part!

*******

“Watch out!”

A roughly fist sized missile of compressed ice flew far and true to smack painfully into the back of a distracted young man’s head.
He jerked and turned angrily to see four rather nervous looking children who had been holding a war all of their own but a moment ago.

“Sorry mister!”

The young man huffed at them, turned back on his way while trying to brush the remains of their missile from his neck before it could sink to far down and begin to melt without much luck.
This young man, short and scrawny as he may be at just over five feet tall and weighing slightly more than a common street urchin of old London town goes by the name of ‘Nappa’.

A rather unusual epitaph to be sure.
He considers it far superior to his given name though, that of ‘Napoleon’, named for the general from France don’t you know?
Our young Nappa’s mother was a bit of a history buff in her youth and happened to also be half French on her mother’s side, the poor woman.

The boy would have had it hard enough in life, being a short man in a big world with such a seemingly appropriate and amusing name to be sure but that is by far the least of his problems I’m afraid.

Nappa.. like many poor unfortunate souls before him.. happens to be in a worse position then even his looks would lead you to believe!

Despite years of hard work and dedication going to a moderately well-known university, multiple student loans and some of the best scores in the country, Nappa currently finds his employ in the dying field of ‘bicycle messenger-y’.

It’s a rather silly Job.
He gets up at horribly early hours each morning so that he can reach the depot office on time or else his rather rounded, frightfully unhappy boss who goes by the name ‘Larry’ will yell at him for long enough to make him late through the rest of the day.

Due to situations which may be entirely relevant to our tale.. (although what do I know, I’m only omnipotent after all) ..Nappa struck out for himself in the big city, far away from friends and family.

With hope in his heart, a song on his lips and a bundle of rather impressive Curriculum Vitea’s under his arm he set off to make his name and fortune.

That.. was three years ago..

Today young Nappa is pushing onwards towards the dreaded ‘twenty-five’.
He hasn’t carried a CV with him in almost two years, hasn’t sung in about as long and hasn’t had hope for possibly longer than that.

Nappa is stuck in a rut.. he’s also stuck between a rock and a hard place.
As you can imagine, putting the two together was not in any way comfortable for the poor lad?

Though he would probably hate me for telling you this, I believe it is crucial for your understanding of our tale’s ‘woe’ portion and I would be remiss in my job as ‘The Narrator’ if I did not ‘fill you in’ as Nappa himself would say.

Poor, sweet, unassuming Nappa with his gangly limbs, paper thin body, surprisingly plump lips and long dishwater blonde hair which he keeps tucked down the back of his shirt to avoid confrontation.. is transgendered.

He’s known for most of his life, although he didn’t consciously acknowledge it to himself for many years.
His great plan, the thing that inspired him to come out top of his class throughout his time within the education mills of modern academia, was to get a good job and strike out on his own into the world!

He would spend a few years making himself indispensable to whatever company he worked for then quietly begin the process of ‘transitioning’ which he believed to be his best chance at happiness in life.
As you can probably assume, things did not work out quite that well for him.

He now lives in a one room apartment within the outrageously overpriced and frankly unsanitary red-light district of the city.
He has to rent his bicycle from the depot each month because his previous pride and joy was unfortunately stolen by some rather rough customers who live a few streets over from his ‘home’.

Between the rising cost of public transport and his heartbreakingly small food budget the boy has dwindled over the last few years both physically and monetarily.
He came to the city ten pounds heavier and with a bank account hovering a few thousand above the dreaded ‘red line’.

That bank account is now left at the wayside because it holds less than a thousandth of what it did previously and the depot tends to pay him in cash for various reasons that Larry does not like to be questioned over.

Nappa is the quintessentially ‘crushed spirit’.

Even the whimsical chill of Christmas on the horizon cannot brighten his tired eyes as he marches on towards a job he hates, working for a man he can’t stand in a life he despises and a body that disgusts him.

If only Nappa could bring himself to give up his dreams!

His parents are wealthy and overall quite nice people.
If his siblings knew how he lives currently or any of his home town friends they would be on the first flight over to drag him back into their warm embrace in a heartbeat!

They all have one rather unfortunate blind-spot though.
His parents are of an older generation with strict views on this modern ‘alternate gender mess’ we hear so much about in the news.

His brother, a rather prominent minister for the local church, also held such views.. although hidden rather tightly to his chest so as not to offend usually, naturally..

His sister.. she may actually accept him surprisingly, although how much help a woman who’s possibly in a worse state then he is both mentally and financially could be in the grand scheme of things is debatable..

Nappa had options.
He was just afraid to use them.

So many things could go wrong!
He told himself daily that while things were bad, telling people about himself would only make them worse.

He’s reached a tipping point in his life.
A point where even the small hidden lockbox of feminine items that he allows himself to keep tucked away under his bed cannot brighten his day anymore.

In another world, possibly in another life, today would be the day that Nappa snapped.

He would get to work late by only two minutes but be reamed out by Larry anyway.
The moment he left to do his first delivery run the heavens would open soaking him to the bone.

By lunchtime he would sneeze for the first time that winter and by the time he got ‘home’ that night he would be running a high fever.

By the stroke of midnight he would be lost to the world, huddled up on his old forth-hand mattress that filled his box room, in delirium.

It would have taken two weeks before anyone came to check on him and the scene they would be confronted with at the time would not have been pretty, despite the lovely pink silk nightgown Nappa managed to pull on before he passed out so many nights before his discovery.

A tragic end to a rather unfortunate young man.. young woman I should say.
In death Nappa would at least be free to show his, so far unnamed, feminine side to the world after all.

Luckily for us.. this isn’t THAT world.

In that world the children did not, in fact, hit him with that errant ‘snowball’.
In that world he continued on his mindless trek to work uninterrupted.
In that world he went through life unnoticed, unloved and unmissed..

In that world he did not have a Narrator or You, Dear Reader.

We can’t allow that to happen to OUR Nappa can we?
Not that we need to do anything to help OUR Nappa in the slightest.

Those darling little scamps who cut school today to make snowballs out of what little frost had formed on the park grass outside their home have already done more than enough for all our sakes.

Ah!
I think we’re at the right point to start with now.

I do apologise, I tend to waffle quite often.
It’s the curse of a good narrator you know?
Not knowing when to stop talking..

Anyway.
Tally ho!
Onwards to ‘Nappa’s Noël’!

*******

Nappa’s Noël

*******

Nappa paused and cringed as a clump of half melted ice slide past the neck of his jacket despite his best efforts to the contrary.

“Bloody kids” He decried with barely any real inflection to his words.

He’d always been fond of children.
Even in his frustration he couldn’t bring himself to hold it against them for an honest mistake.
Like with many things in his life, Nappa was merely putting up a front in case anyone may have noticed what happened.

No-one did, of course.

“I can’t jus-”
He fished an arm around under his T-shirt and tried to reach the ice before it could melt too much but his hand and the ice itself seemed to catch on the band of the skin-tone sports bra he had on under his usual several layers of barely winter appropriate clothing.

He froze mid-motion as he realised that, yes, he did leave the house today wearing the blasted thing!
His hand slid downwards slowly.
The errant ice slush forgotten in his worry.

With a slight tug and a cautious peak he realised quickly that he had in fact worn panties too, pink fluffy ones which would make most grown women cringe but made him feel a sense of balance usually, as if he needed to be extra feminine when he could to clear out his daily male persona completely.

“..crap..”
His hand let go of the elasticated edge of his rather worn calf-length sports trousers so that they could snap into place and cover over his frankly embarrassing undergarments.
“Crap!”

He glanced around to make sure no-one had noticed his investigation but naturally for this hour of the morning anyone who had noticed didn’t care in the slightest.

Nappa continued on his journey to work with a frustrated sigh and nervous set to his shoulders.
He felt exposed and unsafe, being out in public with such damning items under his street-wear.
‘How could I have been so stupid?’ He asked himself repeatedly as he walked on, battling against the cold with each step.

The truth was that Nappa was tired.
His body was on the edge of exhaustion long before this morning and that may be a factor which would weaken his less than perfect immune system to a worrying degree and allow some kind of devastating illness given the right circumstances.

As he walked on, trying to think of some way to sort out this latest problem in what felt like the one big problem that he called ‘life’, he paused when a man’s voice spoke to him.

“Spare some change for a sandwich kid?”

Almost reflexively Nappa patted his hands on his near empty pockets in the universal sign of having no money and offered the man an apologetic look.

It wasn’t strictly true that Nappa had no money of course.
He had his weekly food allowance in his jacket breast pocket.
He had a little more at home put aside so he could buy his travel card and pay rent this month too but he honestly didn’t feel up for sharing what little he had with a stranger at the moment.

He took a few more steps onward toward the job he really didn’t want to face when a sound broke through his worried mental haze.

A sigh.

It wasn’t a loud sigh.
It wasn’t particularly interesting either but it gave Nappa a moment of pause.
He knew that sigh.

He made a similar sound all the time these days.

The sound of someone who didn’t know why they even bothered to try in the first place.
The sound of someone who had given up hope and was quite frankly depressed with how ignored they felt in life.
The sound of someone on the edge of giving up on everything all together.

His eyes scanned down the street towards the unseen monolith of the depot building and back towards the homeless old man who’d sighed.
His bra strap felt unusually tight upon his back for a moment and he envisioned the mess that could happen if he was found out while at work.

Larry was not the most understanding of men when it came to ‘the queers’ and most of the depot staff were worse in all honesty.

Nappa’s eyes cut from the street to the huddled old man with his scruffy beard and multiple layers of worn clothing, not too dissimilar from his own threadbare charity shop ‘haute couture’.
Despite their age difference and his rather impressive, if matted, beard Nappa felt a moment of kin-ship with the man.

This was a man who had suffered.
A man who was at his lowest point.

In a brief moment of delusionary madness Nappa could have sworn it was his own face he saw on the homeless man’s body, staring out at him like a prediction of his future written in stone.

******

Young Nappa was right to see that sort of thing.
In more than one world where he survived his sudden illness or even avoided it completely he would spend his life as a messenger until he could no-longer ride well enough to earn a living.

Within as few as two years or as many as twenty Nappa would find himself on this very street corner asking the intentionally oblivious commuters for scraps of change to keep himself alive while wondering why he bothered to do just that.

The homeless man, named ‘Eddie’ if you’re interested.. short for Edward of course, wasn’t quite down to that level yet but he’d had his moments of doubt too.

******

Eddie watched the strange young one pause and hold some kind of internal debate of great importance from the look of it.

To his surprise the kid turned on a heel and approached him cautiously.
After a long moment of staring at each other with equal levels of surprise Eddie realised what the kid wanted and shifted himself over slightly on his stoop to make space.

The young one delicately sat beside Eddie and seemed to lose the world, staring out at the car’s speeding by them and the early morning commuters busy ignoring their very presence as best they could in their coffee deprived states.

“Change yer mind about that sandwich did yer?”

Eddie smiled awkwardly at the lost one before him, although it didn’t show very clearly through his thick beard.
The hair on his beard was thicker and darker than anything he had left on his head otherwise.
If it wasn’t such a mess he’d probably be proud of it in some way.

His voice was at least partly an act for the punters.
People don’t like to hear a ‘cultured’ accent from their homeless masses, it sends the wrong sort of message apparently.

The kid shifted uncomfortably and glanced over at Eddie with pouty chapped lips and doe-like eyes.
For a moment Eddie saw someone completely different in the kids face but with a mental shake he dismissed the idea as just senility finally catching up with him.

“Do you ever just have one of those days where you wonder why you even bother anymore?”

The kid’s rather direct question surprised Eddie for a moment.
While his instinct was to lie outright, he couldn’t quite bring himself to do that to the shadow lingering over the kids face.

She’d always hated lying.. understandable really..

“Every mornin’, every evenin’ an’ every night kid..”

The young one’s eyes lost the world again for a little bit.
Eddie joined in with the blank stare off into the distance because it’s not like he had anything better to do.
The kid was the most interesting thing to come to his little corner of the city in a while if nothing else.

“Is there anything you want more than a sandwich?”

Eddie almost laughed.
There were SO many things he wanted more than a sandwich!
What did the kid expect from such an open ended question?

Still, he resisted the urge to get snarky about it.
He knew what the question really meant and for a moment he had just a flash of hope.
It was greedy and stupid but it had been so long..

“Wouldn’t mind some chicken if yer offerin’ kid?”

The kids face paused in uncertainty for a moment but slowly a warm smile spread across those pouty chapped lips.

“..I’ve not had chicken in ages..”

Eddie snorted back a laugh and smiled.
‘You and me both kid’ he thought to himself.

The kids sudden enthusiasm warmed his heart a little though.
It’s been a while since someone smiled at him with something more than just pity in their eyes.

“I’ll be back, don’t go anywhere okay?”

Eddie nodded and his smile spread a little more.
The kid really was a funny one.
His eyes followed those lanky legs as they progressed up the street until they disappeared from sight around the corner.

Honestly, he wrote the kid off at that point as never coming back.
No-one would be stupid enough to come back when they didn’t have to.

******

Nappa did come back though.
Just in time too, he’d barely settled down next to Eddie on his perch under the awning of his favored abandoned flower shop stoop when the heavens opened and rain began to pour down.

They both shared a smile and Nappa almost gleefully cracked open the bucket on the bountiful prize he’d returned with.
Neither of them could quite believe what was happening.
Nappa was still a bit amazed that he’d actually had the guts to say ‘screw it’ to work, taking a day off without notice despite KNOWING how badly Larry would take it.
Eddie was savoring the chicken and fries between deep gulps of the coke that came with them, shooting confused looks over at the kid every once in a while as they enjoyed their ‘breakfast’ and watched the commuters run away from the rain.

They both became full, way before the bucket was empty.
Nappa delicately put the top back on it to keep things relatively fresh for later and they settled back to watch the world with contented sighs.

It’s amazing what a full stomach, familiar flavors and the fresh smell of rain can do to people.
They bonded in that moment.

A gender confused boy, destroying himself so that he didn’t have to face going home and losing what little of his real self he’d been able to set free over the years with a tired old man hiding from his pain in the only way he knew how.

“Last time I had chicken like that my Emma was still around.. thanks kid. Name’s Eddie by the way.”
Eddie punctuated that sentence by sticking his hand out for a shake.

Nappa seemed surprised for a moment.
In truth he’d kind of forgotten that they hadn’t even introduced themselves yet.
Names hardly seemed important when they’d connected on such a base level so quickly.

That same logic was, he reasoned, the source of why he’d never came up with a name for his inner-female.

She was there.
He knew her on such a deep level and he’d never had to introduce her to anyone else before, what was the point of names but to introduce yourself to someone after all?

He reached out and limply shook Eddies hand with an awkward smile but didn’t volunteer his name or even his commonly used pseudonym ‘Nappa’.
Eddie smiled anyway and settled back against the wall into their comfortable silence once again.

“Was Emma your wife?”

Nappa flinched after asking such a personal question out of the blue.
His worry eased a moment later when Eddie’s eyes twinkled with a spark that he hadn’t seen there before.

“Aye kid, she was more than me wife. She was me soul-mate, me other-half in more than just title.”
Nappa blushed and ducked his head down in embarrassment.
Eddie stared off into the rainy haze with a smile playing on his lips.
“Only had a few years with her in truth but they were the best of me life, no regrets there..”

They both sunk into silence again.
Nappa rolled the bottom of his drink along the pavement and sighed deeply.

“..must have been nice..”
Eddie laughed so suddenly that it made Nappa jump in surprise.

“It was kid.. It really was.”
After a long pause where Eddie sized up Nappa and seemed to come to some sort of decision he nodded to himself, leaning back slightly.
“She wasn’t me first love though kid, THAT goes to old Nicky, rest ‘is soul.”

Nappa flinched and stared over at Eddie in surprise.

“We met in boot camp, only a few weeks before our first shipping out.. he really was gorgeous..”
Nappa shifted awkwardly on the floor and stared at his shoes.
“Sorry kid, I didn’t mean to make yer feel awkward.”

After a long pause Nappa pulled his head up and let out a long breath.
“It’s fine Eddie.. I want to hear about it.. if you’re okay to tell me?.. I’m just.. I have issues I’m still working out.”

Eddie didn’t need any more encouragement than that.
Over the course of the next few hours as the sun came up and the world moved on around them Eddie relived his past for Nappa and the boy listened in interest at a life that seemed so much more real and full of LIFE then he felt his could ever be.

Eddie spoke of his first tentative kiss with Nicky under the cover of a foxhole and netting while they waited with their unit to get the go signal.
He told so many tales of the cute and sweet things that Nicky would do to show him that he cared while they both hid under the army’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.

He didn’t go into what happened in between but his eyes lit up when he described every detail of Emma for Nappa’s imagination to go wild with.
From the very first time he saw her awkwardly standing at a town fair, trying to avoid attention while wearing a rather eye-catching dress that her sister had forced her into putting on, all the way up to the day that they married under the summer sun surrounded by what few family members they had left.

He did go into what happened to Emma eventually.
Nappa had to hold back tears as Eddie recounted with lost eyes about her death.

She’d been ill before he’d truly met her, diagnosed with the ‘Big C’ months prior and for the few years they had together she’d faced a constant battle to last, one which she eventually lost.

The old man cried tears of pain and his younger audience cried with him.
For Nappa it felt like he’d come to know these people, to know the important ones in Eddies life vicariously, over the last few hours.
That initial connection had been fleshed out beyond anything he’d ever experienced before with another person.

“I sunk into the bottle after I lost Emma.. never rightly climbed back out of it until recently.”

That was why the often times proud man was living rough.
He’d whittled away his life savings trying to forget.
Trying to numb the pain for all he was worth.

They both sunk into a somber silence as the lunch time foot traffic and car’s whizzed on by without taking notice.
Eddie sighed heavily and reached for the chicken bucket.
They didn’t need to say anything to agree that more chicken was needed at this point in time.

The bucket slowly ran dry and they both settled back with bloated stomachs.
The rain had stopped a while ago but the chill was still on the air.

“Do you have any other family?”

Eddie glanced at Nappa and frowned.
“Do you?”

They both smirked a little and glanced away from each other again.

“I can’t go home right now. My folks don’t agree with my lifestyle choices, I can’t go back to hiding even more then I currently am, I’d die first..”

Eddie stared at Nappa for a long moment.
His eyes were soft with understanding but he didn’t seem as convinced by the seriousness of his family troubles as Nappa himself was to any degree.

“Me family’s long gone but Emma’s got some brothers, nephews and nieces left.”
Nappa opened his mouth to question him further on the topic but Eddie beat him to it.
“Her brother never liked me, blamed me for a lot of things, Emma always wanted us to make up but he’s about as stubborn as a mule and I’m not much better at times..”

The younger of the pair slumped a little in obvious disappointment.
He hadn’t said as much of course but he’d hoped that the older man would have somewhere or someone to go to instead of the street on the coming winters night.

“Don’t worry kid. I figure I’ve had my time. Emma’s waiting for me on the other side, she’ll probably have a word or two to say on how I’ve lived since she passed but she’ll calm down eventually..”

Nappa found that sort of logic a bit worrying.
Waiting for death with open arms didn’t sit well with his outlook on life.
He may not have many bright sides to his life currently but he couldn’t imagine just wasting what he had in the hope of something better eventually.

“If she’s going to be waiting for you, maybe she’d be a bit more forgiving if you did something special for her before you went?”

Eddie froze, his eyes locked across the street staring at nothing in particular.

Slowly he turned to look at the kid with an appraising gaze.
For a moment hurt flashed in his eyes but he covered it easily, way before the kid could notice it at least.

“Yer reckon?”

Nappa shrunk down a little in his bulky jacket to hide from Eddies gaze more than the cold, although he told himself it was getting chilly anyway.

“Yeah?”
Eddie wrinkled his nose and tried to process the idea.
It didn’t really mesh with how he saw his life.
He was an old man, set in his ways and too long in the tooth to change his mind on such things.

“I mean..”
Nappa hesitated to carry on but pushed through anyway.
“If she wanted you to make up with her brother so badly.. maybe she’d be happy if you did it before you joined her?”

They both sunk back into another silence.
His words rang between them like a struck hammer.
Eddie spent the silence furiously trying to come up with a valid reason to deny the kids point and failing repeatedly.
Nappa spent it cursing himself for speaking out of turn and ruining the nicest day he’d had in a long time with someone who seemed to understand his situation in life to some degree.

People walked past them as the silence stretched on.

Even the sun began to sink slightly in the sky.
The motion of the light beams across the pavement at Nappa’s feet brought him back to some kind of focus finally.

“Do you have a place to go tonight?.. my place isn’t big but I can probably sort something out for you on the floor if you like?.. it’ll be warm at least.”

Eddie glanced away from the internal debate he’d been having to smile at Nappa sadly.

“You got a good heart kid, like my Emma in a way, I couldn’t rightly impose on yer though.”
Nappa opened his mouth to protest but Eddie stopped him with a wave and a warm smile.
“I’ve survived this long just fine kid. It’s nice of yer to offer but let an old man have his ways.”

Nappa really didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of just leaving Eddie out on the street.
There wasn’t much he could do if the man didn’t want help though.
He studied his shoes thoughtfully and frowned when he couldn’t find an alternative option to offer.

“If you’re sure?”
Eddie gave him another grin but waved his offer away carelessly.

“Speaking of home, you should be making a move off soon. The streets aren’t a place for the young at night.”
Nappa sighed but he could see through the older man’s words to his true meaning.
Eddie wanted to be alone, to think.

Maybe something he’d said had gotten through after all?
Hopefully he’d helped in some way at least..

With one more sigh Nappa pushed himself up to his feet and reluctantly shook out his joints from the stiffness that came with sitting down for so long, preparing to leave.

“You’re a good girl kid, so much like my Emma. A soft heart and wise beyond your years.”
Nappa froze in fear.

Slowly his head turned back to the still smiling Eddie.
He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to ensure he’d heard the man right or not.
Either way his heart hammered in his chest with fear at having his greatest secret exposed so unexpectedly.

“I told yer more about myself then you told me yerself kid but these old eyes aren’t useless enough to not see right from wrong yet.”
Nappa shuddered.
“Don’t be looking at me with those big doe-eyes girl, I ain’t gonna hurt yer or nothin’. You have my thanks for keeping an old man company for the day, and for the chicken ‘course..”
Eddie sighed and tilted his head slightly.
“Kid like you shouldn’t be wasting her pretty face smiling at a man like me for so long..”

When Nappa’s expression didn’t change in the slightest Eddie sighed again and cupped his hands in his lap heavily.

“Told yer about my Nicky, right?”
Nappa didn’t respond but the older man didn’t seem to care because he continued on anyway without further prompting.
“My Emma.. she had a pretty face like you too.”
He shifted his legs slightly and looked up at Nappa through tight eyes.
“She got her diagnosis with the big C early and decided to finally be honest with herself, show that pretty face to the world.. shame that, a right beauty she was when she smiled.. shame she didn’t get long to show it properly.”

Nappa’s eyes widened slightly as he made the connection in his head that had been honestly on the cusp of being realised all day, ever since Eddie stopped talking about Nicky and started talking about Emma truthfully.

“Don’t let that be you, yeah?”
Eddie grumbled to himself and shifted awkwardly on the pavement.
“Nice girl like you deserves to be happy, not wasting your time hiding that pretty smile with the boys..”

Slowly, ever so slowly, Nappa’s face shifted from wide eyed fear into a bashful look with the hint of an embarrassed blush to his soft cheeks.
His lips perked up slightly into an awkward smile under the older man’s warm, encouraging gaze.

“You go out there and be who yer wanna be girl. Don’t let no-one tell yer otherwise, ya hear?”

Nappa’s smile widened into a truly enthralling smile at last that made Eddie pause in shock.
For a long moment it was as if he was staring back into the past, back across time and space to a little village fair where he set eyes on his soul-mates first true step out into the world as herself.

“Thanks Eddie.. I had fun today, you keep in mind what I said about Emma and her brother yeah?”

Eddie’s beard twitched with an amused smirk as the girl, so obviously a girl as she stood there delicately with one leg slightly kinked to the side like Emma would always do when she was happy, and he nodded with pride in his eyes for the first time in what felt like a lifetime.

Nappa turned and started moving up the street.
He barely managed a few steps before the first drop of something cold landed on the back of his hand.
He paused and glanced up at the sky in surprise.

Unheeding of his awe the snow continued its decent in a sudden flurry that, while certainly not enough to settle, was still so completely unexpected by the boy that he couldn’t help but smile.

It looked like a near perfect Christmas night was coming.
Admittedly it was a few days early but Nappa wouldn’t hold it against the weather for poor timing in this case, if anything he thought the whole thing was timed just right to his mind.

A long heard song, one he’d not sung in years but held such deep connections to the snow to his mind came forth in his head.
He gently hummed it to himself under his breath and reached a hand up to let the snow settle momentarily on his fingers before it fizzled away.

It really would be a perfect Christmas night.
The kind of night where it felt like miracles can happen..

"Noël"

Eddie perked up curiously from his awed stare.
He’d watched as the snow landed and a change seemed to come over the kid.
Nothing physical, nothing obvious but just a certain something.. something he’d only seen one other time in his long life.

Noël turned her head and smiled at the old man with all of her happiness shining through her eyes and bathing the man in her joy.
Even Eddies old bones felt warmed by the frankly beautiful look on her face.

“I’ve decided finally.. my name.. it’s Noël.”
She shifted her feet awkwardly and ducked her head with a blush that made Eddie honestly wonder how anyone could have considered this creature before him in any way ‘male’ through her lifetime.
“I think your right Eddie.. maybe it’s time I stopped playing with the boys and put on my big girl pants at last?”

Her eyes twinkled under the dying light of the sun’s glow and her whole body seemed to be alight with some inner tranquillity that had a slow glow all of its own in response to her changed mood.

“Thanks Eddie.. thanks for being there today, and thanks for understanding..”

She turned elegantly on one foot and progressed further up the street.
Her hand came up to offer the old man a happy little wave goodbye.
She felt on top of the world and it showed in her every movement as she strolled on to the next chapter of her life.

Slowly from behind her a deep melodic rumble started up from Eddies amused lips.
"Noël, Noël.. the first Noël.."

She turned as she walked and gave him one last heart-stoppingly bright smile that seemed to make her light up with that same inner-light all over again.

She resisted the urge to giggle at his silliness but couldn’t resist joining him in singing the tune that resonated so well in her chest at that moment.
Her eyes rolled up and true to the lyric she could see just a hint of twinkling light shining out in the dusky sky above.
“Shining in the east, beyond them far..”

A silly grin of her own formed on her face as she gave Eddie one final glance and wave before turning the corner of the street, back towards her ‘home’.

A lot of things would have to change soon.
Starting with her living arrangements.
The red-light district was no place for a woman to live.

“Thanks old man.. best Christmas present I’ve ever got.. good luck Eddie.”

******

Back under the awning in the dying sunlight Eddie rocked himself against the flower shop’s wall and stared happily up at the sky.

A single star seemed to shine out brightest to his eyes.
A fond smile played across his old lips, hidden as it was by his thick beard.

“Just like my Emma.. message received old girl, I’ll get started in the morning. Shouldn’t be too hard to contact them, I still remember the number by heart.. hopefully your Daddy don’t still have that gun laying around, huh?”
He huddled himself up tighter into his layered clothing and couldn’t wipe the smile from his lips as an unseen tear trailed out from his wrinkled eye.
“Nicky.. Em.. I’ll miss you till my dying day girl.. but your right, the kids right.. you wouldn’t want me to wallow in my loss would yer?.. just as stubborn as that no good brother of yours sometimes..”

He settled in for the night and considered all the things he would need to do tomorrow.
He had a busy day ahead of himself.
For the first time in a lifetime though he felt hopeful that it would all be worth it.

“Thanks Noël, she couldn’t have sent a better Angel if she tried kid.”
With a great sniff he wiped his nose on his sleeve and huddled in tighter again.
“Look at me.. right soppy sod I’m gettin’ in me old age..”

He didn’t need to say more.
A sense of peace and acceptance had come over him as well.
He didn’t know how things would turn out in the end but he knew he would face it proudly.
Emma wouldn’t accept anything less than his finest after all.

“Best present I ever got.. thanks kid..”

******

The next morning at a slightly less unholy hour of the morning then usual Noël strolled down the street again, head held high and hair hanging out of her shirt to brush at her back with pride.
She had just a touch of makeup on and her favorite undies which made the most of what she had, although it wasn’t easy to tell through her thick jacket even if her jeans were blatantly designed with a woman in mind.

Her eyes drifted warmly to the awning in front of the closed flower shop and she paused for a moment when she realised that Eddie wasn’t there.

Part of her wanted to worry for him but something deep inside her chest felt warm pride at the knowledge that he had finally moved on.

She didn’t know how she knew but she did and she felt so proud of the old man for taking her words to heart, it felt nice to know that she had helped him too, in some small way, considering all that he had done for her yesterday.

She’d barely slept last night as she worked her way through a lot of soul searching and options.
She decided that her first step would have to be a decisive one.
She could maybe face her job for another day or so but she would have to tell Larry that she was quitting sooner rather than later.

She already had plans to call her folks later and give them both barrels with an honest assessment of her life, past and present, with the ultimatum of ‘accept her or lose her’ for good or bad.
Her belly fluttered with worry at the thought of it but it didn’t take much to bring up her newfound pride and face down those fears with an onslaught of determination.

Her parents, friends and family would just have to accept it.
She was either Noël or she was gone to them, the choice was simple and in her eyes, an easy one to make.

In the few streets left before she reached the depot she prepared herself for the worst and swore to not shrink away in fear ever again.
This was her life now and she was going to LIVE it!

“There you are you little shit! Where were you yesterday?! Cost me a right load covering for your lazy ass, unprofessional it is! You should be grateful that I-”

Larry’s angry words died on his lips when Noël turned her happy eyes toward his and offer the large man a bright smile that left him momentarily stunned.

“You know what Larry?.. your right, it was completely unprofessional of me and you deserve better.. I quit.”

Without another word or backwards glance, under the stunned eyes of her reluctant co-workers, Noël turned on her heel and left the depot as Larry sputtered to himself in shock.

“HEY! Where are you going?! Get back here kid!”

******

He’d only been trying to motivate the lad!
He’s a hard worker but a bit of a poof and a flake at times.
Boy like that needs some tough treatment or the world would eat him alive!

Larry continued to sputter as Noël turned the corner out of sight and blinked at her afterimage owlishly.
His face flushed slightly as he caught the awed looks on most of the workers faces around him.

“Enough gawping you lot! Back to work, packages ain’t gonna deliver themselves! It’s nearly Christmas don’t ya know?!”

Everyone snapped to attention and frantically tried to get things sorted away at double speed.
Larry’s eyes drifted to the corner where Noël had disappeared around and he couldn’t help the slight smirk that came to his lips for a moment.

About time the lad grew a backbone.

“Come on you lot! Double time! You want to be the reason some little kiddie wakes up without a gift from Santa this year?!”
Everyone started going even faster and he sighed in relief.

It’s good to be the boss sometimes.

******

Noël smirked to herself and rolled her hips a little as she made her way back up the well-trodden path to the train station.
She needed a new job anyway.. maybe this time she’d find one where the boss wasn’t a complete asshole and she could actually do something with her degree too!

She’d have to, transitioning cost’s a lot of money after all?

Maybe she could ask her cousin about hooking her up with an IT place at his firm?
She’d ask him when she saw him again of course, that’s not the sort of thing you add to a phone call when you’re coming out to your family.

If he didn’t blow his top first about her change in name, he’d be able to sort it out easily.
He'd offered a few times before but Nappa had been reluctant to go back under the watchful eye of his parents again.

Noël though.. well.. family’s important isn't it?
Especially around Christmas time.

Speaking of family, as she crossed that same fateful street again and glanced warmly at the old flower shop for possibly the last time, the sound of laughter reached her ears.

She turned slightly towards the grass and couldn’t resist smiling as the children from yesterday were playing again.
Either someone was overzealous and closed the schools after the little snow flurry last night or their parents had somehow been convinced to let them have their fun rather than go in for probably the last day of term this year.

A ‘snowball’ flew towards Noël and she had a flash of the previous day’s events but luckily it fell short and rolled its way over until it butted gently against her shoe instead of hitting her this time.

A little girl in a rather pretty dress that was only somewhat undermined by the thick little jeans she had on beneath it, obviously to battle away the cold, came running over and snagged the errant snowball up with a wide grin and flushed cheeks.

“Sorry Lady.”

A man came up behind the little girl while Noël stared down at her in surprise and scooped the squealing little girl up into his arms, shaking her around happily to make her giggles ring out around them.
It warmed Noël’s heart to see the obvious Father/Daughter pair play so freely.

Her hand reached into a pocket of her jacket and she pulled out a few coins.
At a glance she could see a bank of barely operational payphones lining the edge of the little park area, as if somehow forgotten by the passage of time.

Decision made she marched over to them and started sliding coins inside while dialling an old number.
Her eyes focused on the Father/Daughter pair again.

She’d call her Dad first.
He was always the more sane and reasonable of her parents.

The phone picked up and his voice came through loud and clear from the other end with a confused greeting.

“Hi Daddy, Happy Christmas! I know it’s sudden but I think we need to talk and maybe I can come see you guys this weekend?”

Her father didn’t answer for a long moment.
He was honestly frozen in surprise as the light, happy and surprisingly feminine sounding tones of his youngest child’s voice rang through loud and clear for the first time in years.

“Hi kiddo, it’s been a while.. how are you?”

Noël smiled victoriously.
That was a good start.
He sounded happy to hear from her at least.

Her breath misted in the air as she breathed out a sigh of relief.
Before her eyes, much to the joy of the children and parents busy at play across from her on the grass, snow began to fall once more.

In a phenomenon that would astound meteorologists for weeks to come, I’m sure.

“Well.. I had the weirdest day yesterday and-”

******

I think, Dear Reader, that we can leave our tale here for now?

….
..Oh FINE!..

I’d have to be a rather terrible Narrator to leave you hanging like that now, wouldn’t I?
After everyone got a gift at the end and everything.. from young Noël to old Eddie and even those fateful ‘snowball’ throwing scamps of the grassy park space..

Even I got a gift!
I do so love snow on Christmas after all, I think I mentioned that at some point?

Here is my gift to you then.
An Epilogue, of sorts.. enjoy.

******

Noël’s Daddy accepted her after a rather long conversation which made the wise old man see just how strongly his usually easy-going son-turned-daughter felt about everything.

It took him the two days before Noël could square off her rent with her landlord and pack up to come home but he managed to even convince her stubborn mother to bend her proud religiously dogmatic neck on just this one topic as well.

They’d all missed little ‘Napoleon’ over the years and worry has a way of changing many things in the eyes of a true parent after all.

By the time she stepped foot on the homeward bound train with her life’s worth of belongings inside some bulky suitcases, her mother was actually rather exited to see just how different ‘Noël’ would be from her little ‘Nip-Nappa’.

Noël’s meeting with her brother was rather explosive at first, until she received some unexpected backup from her sister-in-law of all people who both verbally AND physically beat some sense into the priests head, throwing scripture back at him for every one he tried to throw out until he could fight no more.

They had an accidental late night meeting around the refrigerator a few days later and finally spoke to each other with calm and honest voices.
The family was rather surprised to see them smiling at each other the next morning, although her brothers kids were still a bit too in awe of their new Auntie to take in the change of atmosphere around the breakfast table.

Her cousin barely seemed surprised by her change in name and gender.
He accepted her with open arms from day one.
Without hesitation he put her forward for the long-standing open ‘IT’ position at his firm with a glowing personal reference to his boss along with his personal recommendation.

The company happened to desperately want more female staff within their IT department and barely seemed to notice when she explained the possible problems with her birth certificate involving that idea.
The boss was rather impressed with her honesty and considered her brave for being so upfront about things.

He had a new brother of his own, one who had been in a similar situation a few years before which may have influenced how open he was to such things.
Although I think we’d all like to believe he would have been as understanding anyway of course..

******

Jumping forward a few Christmas’s you will find Noël standing towards the back of the darkened room during an office party in a rather daring dress on loan from her big sister.
One which her mother had been rather vocal in her condemnation of, but had secretly smiled at the pair of them for when her rather over-protective father wasn’t looking.

A rather unfortunately named Lawyer called ‘Nicholas Clause’ happened upon her in his own attempt to hide while seeming not to do so and the pair struck up a conversation.

******

A few more Christmas’s and under surprisingly heavy snow you would find Noël Clause make her mad dash from the church to the cover of a waiting limo.. her bashful, slightly shell-shocked Husband in hand and a playful giggle on her lips.

******

A few more would see a more mature Noël standing behind the counter of her very own shop, her head rested on her palm as the commuters walked by on their way to work.

The sound of her adopted children, hers in all but blood, playing happily in the back room as they took advantage of the early school closures to have some fun and help her out at the same time was like music to her ears.
She was tempted to close up for the day but it had become a point of pride for her to keep her doors open on this day of all days.

The bell above the shop door rang out and Noël watched with surprised eyes as a clean-shaven but still recognisable old face came into view.
The man had aged a lot, it appeared.
He was pushed along in a wheelchair by a rather excitable young woman who bore the slightest of resemblances to Noël in her youth.

“Oh this is lovely! I can see why you wanted to come in Gruncle Eddie..”

Noël couldn’t resist the smirk that came to her face hearing the strange contraction of words that she assumed would imply that the girl was Eddies Great-niece.

The man looked tired but happy, far happier than he had when they had first met all those long years ago at the very least.

“Welcome to Noël’s, how can I help you today?”

The look of surprise on Eddies worn face was priceless as he turned his eyes up to take in the woman before him.
Slowly they both smiled at each other and Noël tilted her head slightly with a teasing wink that was just for him.

“We’re going up for the service later today and Gruncle Eddie wanted to get some flowers for someone special.”

Noël smiled at the girl but turned her eyes back to Eddie with a mischievous twinkle within them.
“Who should I make the card out to?.. Nicky or Emma?”

Eddies old eyes crinkled up happily and his lips split into a bright smile.
“I think I’ll take two bouquets actually, one for each.. she always did like to have the best of both worlds.”

His poor great-niece looked between the grinning pair in confusion but she was obviously used to Eddie and his ways because she shrugged eventually, turning to look around at all the pretty flowers lining the stores walls with obvious interest.

“Nappa! Emma! Come give me a hand.”

Eddie gave her an incredulous look for a moment but it slipped into a warm smile when a pair of pre-teens burst out from the back room with a fit of happy giggles each.

“Always knew you’d make a good mother kid.. so much like my Emma.”

The kids paused in their bickering to stare between their mother and the strange old man in confusion for a moment.
With an impish smile Noël glanced over at her children and nodded at Eddie.

“Kids, meet your ‘Gruncle’ Eddie. I’ve known him all my life, he’s a very important person so be nice.”

The pair seemed to stare at him with wide eyes for a moment before breaking out into identical bright smiles that, just like their mother, took the old man back many years to a much happier time.

The moment was broken eventually by the return of Eddies great-niece who smiled at Noël happily and took a hold of the bars on the old man’s wheelchair again.

“This place is amazing, I simply MUST bring Mum here at some point. You have a better selection than any other florist I’ve seen in weeks.. I don’t suppose you do wedding flowers do you?”

Noël’s face lit up happily and she shot the old man one last glance before addressing the girl directly.

“We do, I’d even be willing to do you a VERY special offer seeing as you brought Eddie in for a visit.”
Changing the topic slightly she glanced up at the clock above the door and hummed to herself thoughtfully.
“Are you busy now? I could send one of my older ones down the road for some lunch and show you what we have options wise while we eat, my treat of course?”

The girl’s eyes lit up in interest and she turned to Eddie with curious but hopeful eyes.
Seeing her hesitation Noël turned to Eddie as well and raised an eyebrow at the old man that she knew so well but had only truly spoken to once in her lifetime.

“How about it Eddie? Think Emma can wait a little longer for you while we have some chicken?”

The old man’s face slowly split into a wide grin.
To the surprise of everyone but himself and Noël he unleashed a loud belly laugh which shook his aged frame in his joy.

“Wouldn’t mind some chicken if yer offerin’ kid?”
They both smiled at each other and finished in tandem.
“..I’ve not had chicken in ages..”

Eddie snorted back a laugh again and smiled at Noël’s glowing smile.

He felt just a touch of tears forming at his eye as he looked upon a face that reminded him so much of his Emma, even more so now that the kid had grown into her looks a bit more.
His hand came up to discretely wipe away those tears before anyone but the kid could see them.
‘Look at me.. right soppy sod I’m gettin’ in me old age..’

The day progressed.
Chicken was purchased by the bucket full and two long separated friends caught up while their families bonded nearby.
Outside the flower shops windows a single star shone bright in the sky despite the early hour and a real flurry of snow decided to show itself for the first time that year.

The world progressed around them but within the walls of that little flower-shop laughter and merriment could be heard to echo far into the afternoon, continuing on for many years to come no doubt..

******

There.. that’s a much better ending point, isn’t it?
I hope you enjoyed our little Christmas tale of suffering, woe, hope and redemption?

I shall take my leave of you now.
A narrator without a story to give is a terrible thing and I would so hate to ruin our happy ending by waffling on for too long!

It’s the curse of a good narrator you know?
Not knowing when to stop talking..

For this winter’s tale I bid you farewell and wish you my greatest tidings on this fair season.
If you have reached this point in our tale then you will have given me but the greatest gift any narrator could desire, your attention and your patience.

Merry Christmas to you from Me, The ‘Clause’ family, Old Eddie and our lost Emma.
May the season bring you as many joys as it did our cast.

I hope to see you next year.

Christmas is the time for narrators after all.
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t offer you another tale when the snow falls again next year, wouldn’t I?..

Thank you again and goodnight.



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