A solitary figure trudges down the lane, pulling the cloak of close-woven sadness tighter around her neck. Her feet drag along the slick cobbles. The gaslights flicker as she passes, and even the shadows weep, feeling a sudden wave of despair. She peers left and right at the lop-sided buildings that line the forgotten street. Frost glitters on naked beams and icicles hang from rotten eaves.
The figure stops at a cramped dwelling opposite the remains of a milliner’s shop. Light spills out of the window, painting the snow with a golden glow. The figure wipes the bottom pane of glass with her sleeve and peers inside. A family gather around a roaring fire, basking in the warmth of the crackling flames. The father sits in a rocking chair, a toddler on his knee. He leads the family in a raucous song that ends with the clinking of glasses and the exchange of well wishes. The figure sidles along the front of the house to the door, but the handle does not budge. She swears at the lock.
The figure turns away from the happy household. She flicks her cloak, sending ripples of melancholy down the lane. A scavenging alley cat howls in the shadows. The figure stops at the next house. As before, she wipes a sooty layer of frost from the window and peers inside. No fire blazes in the grate of this house. No carols are sung, and no bonhomie warms her face through the glass.
Instead, she spies a lonely figure, hunched over a writing desk. A single candle burns, casting flickering shadows across the cramped writing. The nib of the pen scratches across the paper. The writer looks up, gazing at the wall between herself and the happy family. Envy and misery chase each other across her pale face. The cloaked figure clasps her hands together, as something blossoms in the cavern where her heart should be. She feels a surge of kinship towards this writer.
The figure reaches for the handle, and finds the door unlocked. It opens easily at her touch. She casts off her cloak of sorrow and steps inside. The writer looks up, and smiles. She will welcome anyone on this lonely Christmas Day, even Melancholy herself.
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