The homes on the Circle were bright and welcoming with festive lights dancing along their eaves and fragrant smoke wafting lazily from their chimneys. The night was cool and crisp with golden stars twinkling in time with a cosmic Christmas carol.
It was the night before Christmas and I was sitting on the bench under the big tree in my yard sipping hot cider…sipping hot cider and waiting.
I didn’t see him arrive; he was just…softly and suddenly…there next to me. “I was wondering when you were going to show up,” I said, not turning towards him, before taking another sip of cider.
He chuckled warmly. “Not surprised to see me, huh?”
I shook my head. “I’ve read my Dickens,” I said with a grin.
“Well there’s just me this time…there are cutbacks all over.”
“Bah, humbug,” I said with a wink.
For a few moments, we sat silently side by side looking up into the endless night sky.
“Are you doing okay?” he asked.
A soft torrent of conflicting reactions and emotions surged through me and I sighed softly. “Yeah…most of the time…sometimes I…”
“I know,” he said.
“I’m sorry I never said…”
“You didn’t have say anything,” he said gently, “I was a clever fellow and you, despite your feints, aren’t nearly as inscrutable as you think you are. Well at least not when you know what to look for and care enough to look for it…and I did.”
“Yeah,” I smiled even as tears formed in the corners of my eyes. “I miss you.”
“Estoy con usted siempre, mi amigo querido.”
I nodded, still fighting back the willful tears. “I know. It’s kept me sane through some of the dark times this year…”
“Good.” He started to say something else but then thought better of it. “I have to go.”
I turned to look at him for the first time. I knew him by heart though he looked more serene than I could ever remember seeing him before. “Will I see you again?”
He winked and smiled. “Yes…it’s a bright circle of life and we’ll all see you again in due course.”
I didn’t need to ask who “we all” were, I just knew. And the knowing warmed me to my soul.
“Feliz Navidad, mi hermano. Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo.”
“Merry Christmas, my friend,” I said to the cool Christmas Eve night. He was gone…and yet he wasn’t gone at all.