The Christmas Lights
- The Christmas Lights
- by Rachael Kosinski
- Genre Historical Romance
- Tags Historical, romance, historical romance, adventure, travel, 1800s, nineteenth-century, Pennsylvania, Switzerland, France, Paris, London, England, Christmas, Christmas lights, artist, factory workers, Faberge eggs
- Release November 14, 2014
- Editor Nicole Zoltack
- Cover Designer Carolina Bensler
- Words 20092
- ISBN 978-1-77127-616-0
- Price 3.50
“Where do Christmas lights come from?”
The tiny bulbs of color that burn on a Christmas tree, or outside a house to shine in the night; does anyone really know where they originate? What if someone told you they weren’t intended for Christmas at all, but really for a miracle? That they were for love, a desperate idea, to light a boy’s way home?
In that case, you must have some questions. What boy? What love?
In that case, allow me to tell you a story.
Who knew walking from Liverpool to Paris could make the bottoms of your shoes fall out? And that food cost so much. And that France was so cold in April.
And that, even with a last name like Éclat, people would turn their nose up at you because you’re American and nearly blind. The French have very distinguishable, black nostrils.
I covered my dirty hair with my even filthier hands and pulled my knees up to my chest.
“Excusez-moi, pourquoi dors-tu sur mon porche?”
Two long fingers—gnarled and almost in focus, so close were they to my eyes—snapped repeatedly until I sat up. I must’ve fallen asleep.
I stumbled to my feet. “Sorry, sorry…”
“I didn’t mean to, mister. I’m sorry…” I tugged my coat closer around me.
The man clapped his hands in delight. “You’re American!”
“Sorry?” I tried one more time, aware that he held two brown rectangles in his arms that smelled like vegetables and fruit. The startling realization that I could probably grab them and get far enough away to start eating made me clench my fists. No. I was not about to rob some stranger for food. Unless, of course, this stranger meant to rob me, in which case I would happily make off with his produce. My threadbare shoes tested the stone alleyway to see if such rapid motion would make me slip and fall.
The stranger adjusted the paper bags in his arms and stepped closer. “Are you blind?” His voice came softer, though even more interested.
I took a step back and felt myself flush. Around here, having poor vision was tantamount to having the plague. I needed to work on concealing my handicap. “How can you tell?”
“You’re eyes are focused, but they’re focused on the bricks behind my left ear. You’re either close to passing out, or you can’t see very well.”
“I think I’m a bit of both, sir.” Something in his tone informed me he was no robber. Neither would I be. Maybe, perhaps, he could help me.
Brown paper crinkled as the man leaned against the wall with a chuckle. “An American blind boy, sleeping on my porch.”
“This is an alley. I think.” I glanced at the muddy light on both sides of me. Surely I hadn’t been sleeping on some open, dimly lit street. I could get arrested for loitering.
“My porch is in an alley. Does this not happen in America?”
“I’m from Pennsylvania. Have you heard of Pennsylvania?” I coughed, covering my mouth in my sleeve. “My town doesn’t have alleys. We’re small.”
“Fantastic.” The man sounded like he’d never heard anything more fascinating. “Would you like some dinner, small-town American blind boy?”
“My name’s Louis.”
“Louis!” The man whistled. “By my buttons, that’s French. I’d like to hear your story, Louis. And paint those focused eyes of yours, if I may.”
“Michelangelo was my great-uncle, I like to say. You know Michelangelo, yes?”
I shook my head.
The man gasped like he was dying. “Small-town, American ignorant boy!” He took my arm and began to tow me inside a door to my right that was the exact same shade as the ashy bricks of the wall.
I pulled back out of instinct, taken by surprise.
The man dropped his grip, and the bags rumpled in his arms. “Get in out of this rain. Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you, Louis,” he said. “I don’t know about people in American, but Parisians are usually polite about these situations.”
May, Seven Months Left:
This is my first letter to you, and I’m officially a working man. Well, of sorts. I’m what Mr. Gavon calls “an artist’s model.” He wants me to address him as “Monsieur,” but I call him “Mister.” He calls me an ignorant American. Mr. Gavon is seventy-two, skinny as a rail, and has a silver beard down to his elbows. Says he’s emulating Da Vinci, some great Italian artist who painted a woman named Mona Lisa. I don’t know Ms. Lisa, but she doesn’t compare to you in her description.
He’s going to pay me twenty dollars. Twenty! Just for leaning against a paint-smudged easel and focusing on a point on the wall. He says my eyes are fascinating. Frenchmen say all kinds of strange things like this. Mr. Gavon had me posing with a bowl of oranges the other day and paid me three dollars after the sketch sold for five. Why do the French pay so much for things like this?
I do extra work, like carrying in firewood and cleaning furniture. A friend of Mr. Gavon asked if he might paint me as well. It’s uncomfortable at times, feeling Gavon’s stare on me, but he lets me feel the painting after it’s dried, and I can see it in my mind. Perhaps he will let me keep a sketch or two, so I can bring it home for you.
I am well. Paris is like a dream, with electric streetlamps everywhere! Mr. Gavon described all the interesting buildings and promises to draw them for me. Everywhere is paved with cobblestones, and people treat me kindly when I go out with Mr. Gavon. He says he’d love to meet you. Mr. Gavon has even taught me how to focus my attention directly on a person’s face, even if it seems to me I’m looking to the right or left of them.
At this rate, I’ll be home by late summer! I send all my love and then some. Tell Mother I love her.