Quiet and cold. Cold and quiet. A robin’s red breast is a blaze of colour in the snow glistening garden. Mavis, blanket wrapped tightly around her, watches through the window as it pecks grain from a feeder hanging on a branch of a leafless cherry tree. Other birds, callers in summer, have disappeared, her friends also, to kind relatives and care homes.
Startled by an approaching squirrel, the robin flits away. Mavis, ordinarily, would rap on the window with her walking stick to frighten the furry rascal, but not today, Christmas Day. Even bird food burgling squirrels deserve good will at Christmas.
At lunchtime, a lady had delivered a meal: lukewarm, greasy, but welcome. The lady apologised, she couldn’t stay long, others to feed.
‘Oh well, Merry Christmas,’ Mavis said, waving goodbye.
Dessert was a piece of dry fruit cake. Mavis opens the window and tosses leftover cake to the squirrel. It sniffs cautiously, seizes it in its teeth, and scampers away over the fence.
‘Oh,’ says Mavis, disappointed. ‘I hoped you’d stay for a chat.’
There’s a knock at the front door.
Leaning heavily on her stick, Mavis shuffles in her slippers to open it. Outside are neighbours she’s seen, but never talked to: a young woman cradling a baby in her arms, and a young man beaming, holding out a plate of mince pies. The baby giggles, and they chat and laugh, and Mavis, cold on the doorstep with her new friends, hasn’t felt this warm all winter.