|Merry Christmas, Your War Is Over
Author: Jedi-Of-Rock PM
Roger-Keith is a ten year old boy from Cambridge who has been living with his uncle and aunt due to his father's enlistment in the army. Ignored, bullied and mistreated by his family and peers, he meets a mysterious man who tells him what life is all about and how it should be lived. Christmas is just around the corner, and Roger-Keith's new friend knows just what will happen.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 3,455 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 12-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3083155
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Everyone was asleep in Cambridge; the lights were out on every street and it was snowing. Everyone was out cold- that was, except little Roger-Keith, alone in his bedroom and staring out the window. His black hair hung in his eyes, making his pale skin glow in the dim light that emitted from a candle next to the bed. The boy was upset every night because he was alone and had nobody except his mysterious cat named Lucie. He was only ten, after all, and his uncle and aunt were always out partying somewhere. That cat always slept with him, but he was still lonely because he wanted a real friend- a human friend. He didn't seem to have any, though.
The kids in school always picked on poor little Roger-Keith, not only because of his name, but for other things. His hair was too messy, his clothes were too old-fashioned, he was too quiet, and he was too stupid to understand anything in school. Going to class just didn't quite interest him.
He got up and looked in the mirror, examining his appearance. Yes, his clothes were too fifties-styled and his hair wasn't combed or sprayed, but he still deserved a happy childhood. He had none and it would be surprising to discover that he had even heard the word "happy" before. The boy returned to his bed in the dim candlelight (his relatives were very cheap and only paid for a light in their bedroom and the kitchen) and put his head in his hands.
"Come here, Lucie," Roger-Keith bent down and lifted the Siamese cat off the wooden floor as she purred. He kissed her head and sat her in the window sill. She meowed and licked his hand, proceeding to curl up on his pillow. He sighed, blew out the candle and lay next to her, wiping tears from his eyes and wishing his life was more perfect.
"It's going to get better," he choked out, resting his head next to the cat and falling asleep.
"Hey, look, it's little afro-kid." Edwin, the most infamous instigator in the school, spat in the boy's face and laughed. Roger-Keith wiped the saliva from his cheek and proceeded to sit in the classroom.
"Shut up, you jerk," the words barely escaped Roger-Keith's trembling lips before he regretted it immediately. Edwin walked up to him and raised his eyebrows.
"What did you just say to me? You wanna fight, Keithy Roger? You wanna?" Edwin grabbed the collar of his victim's shirt and pulled him so he bumped into the wall.
"I didn't mean it, I just-" Before he could reply, Edwin pulled him out of the classroom and into the hallway.
"You wanna fight, you little baby?" He hissed through his ten-year old mouth.
Roger-Keith was suddenly overcome with the greatest fear of being crushed by this bigger boy's fist. He tried to shield himself as Edwin punched him in the face. A few other children watched without interest, although a few laughed, including the attacker. He held back tears as his cheek stung with pain. The boy struggled and freed himself from Edwin's grasp, darting out of school. The teacher would have to mark him absent today, but he didn't care. Nobody did.
The boy made his way down the busy street to a place he knew well- a small restaurant that seemed to be there since the beginning of time. It had the appearance of a small 1800's styled shop and was decorated with red bows and wreaths around the windows. Roger-Keith slipped inside and sniffled, touching his burning cheek once more. He tasted some blood from his gums.
As he pushed the heavy glass door open, the bell on the ceiling rang to signify that someone was entering. For the most part, it was empty. There were a few adults sitting in booths around the edges of the room, but the counter was deserted. The child dragged his feet on the floor and sat himself on a stool at it, putting his hands in his pockets to keep them warm. Red liquid was still evidently present in his mouth, but he didn't want to cause a scene and kept it to himself. A waiter he knew well strolled over.
"No school today?" He smiled at Roger-Keith. The boy shook his head.
"I'm a little sick," he lied, "so I stayed out of school."
"Feel better, boy. Wash your hands more. Don't want to be sick for Christmas." The waiter got him a glass of water and slid it to him, and Roger-Keith used it to rinse out his bloody mouth. Even though the temperature outside was getting close to 20 degrees, freezing cold water was the most refreshing thing to him. His server returned a few seconds later with a steaming hot cup of soup and placed it in front of him. Roger-Keith raised a juvenile eyebrow and looked up.
"Soup's good for you, take it," he told the boy.
"I don't have any money, though. Well, not enough. I have a pound here and that's all."
"Don't pay for it, just take it. You need it!"
"Oh...Okay. Thanks." Roger-Keith started to shovel the soup into his mouth and placed the bowl on the table, swallowing the golden broth and feeling guilty about not paying. He observed another man walking into the restaurant and watched him sit a few seats away from him. The boy drank some more broth, sniffled and wiped his eyes, which were still filled with tears from his fight with Edwin. The man curiously turned his head and looked at the gloomy child.
"You shouldn't be out in the cold if you're all sick," the man's surprisingly timid voice was filled with concern as he studied Roger-Keith. "Look at me. What's with your cheek? It's all bruised."
Roger-Keith touched his own cheek with embarrassment and shrugged. He didn't want anyone to find out he got beaten up by another boy his own age, and he was just weak. In fact, using the scale in the bathroom, he had decided that he was quite underweight.
"Were you in a fight? What happened?" His face seemed to sting even more at the thought of this clever man realizing what happened.
"Not really, yeah, sort of. No. I don't know." He slouched in his chair. The man scooted over a seat and looked at his face.
"How'd you get that?"
"I don't know." He held back tears. Why was he so interested? Nobody had ever cared about him that much. Roger-Keith moved a black curl from his face and took another spoonful of soup. The man had on a grey coat zippered up to his neck and bell-bottom jeans. Strangely enough, he was wearing flip-flops. His hair was long and neatly combed past his shoulders, and round glasses sat on the tip of his pointed nose. He seemed uncommonly unique, Roger-Keith decided.
"I think you do." He sounded very concerned.
"Yeah, I got hit." The boy choked on the last word and sniffled, blinking away tears.
"A classmate of mine. I don't know, really." Tears came but dissolved back into his dark eyes before they spilled down his face.
"I don't think a slap would hurt you like it looks. Everyone gets slapped. Did he whack you in the jaw?"
"Yeah. I mean, sort of." Roger-Keith tried not to look at the man.
"Did you hit him first?"
"What'd you do then?"
"I called him a mean name because he did it to me first." The child shrugged innocently and drank more broth from the bowl. Another waiter came over to check on the boy without acknowledging the other person.
"Did you hit him back?" The man raised an eyebrow, and little Roger-Keith opened his eyes wide and shook his head. "Why?" He questioned.
"I- I don't know." The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes, with the occasional clinking of a spoon against the boy's cup of soup.
"Good for you, though. I'm John, by the way." The man, now identified as John, scratched the back of his head and yawned. "It was right of you. You didn't continue any fighting, and I think he would have hurt you anyway, even if you hadn't said anything."
"I hate him, Edwin, he's so dumb and stupid and-"
"Hush. 'Hate' is a word so strong it will never be in my casual vocabulary. You're a good kid, though. Let me tell you something. It's not like it used to be. There's so much more war and even smaller events like the bullying you're going through. It has to end, and I've been working on it. I'm going to change the world, one music piece at a time."
With this, Roger-Keith was puzzled. "You play music?"
John smiled shyly and was obviously trying not to blush. "I do. I want to spread the message that everyone deserves equality during a holiday, in school, whenever...We really need that now and we don't have it. That's why I say peace, love, and rock, they're the three things, and the only things, that can get us out of this racist, troubled, unfair, poverty-filled problematic hole. Peace, it's the main principle of life. It keeps wars away and everyone becomes friendly. If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.* That's the issue here! Everybody is drowning in technology and mix-tapes and their new telly- but we're all forgetting that one thing.
"Love as well. People need to start loving each other. Why not smile at the old woman walking down the road? Why not pick up a coin that someone dropped instead of ignoring it? It's all the small actions that increase the love of the world." Roger-Keith immediately thought of his own sad, boring life, but did not say anything. "There's a lack of respect and love in even the most close-knit communities. Then, then... there's rock. It's not just wailing guitars like people think it is. It's a language that everyone understands. We don't need to speak to each other, because, in over a hundred languages everyone can listen and say, 'That's a guitar.' Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it.* When we finally overcome the love of money and power, music can lead to love, which leads to peace."
The boy had become so lost in John's miniature speech that he started crying. John immediately became worried and tapped his shoulder.
"Are you alright? I didn't mean to make you cry. I'm sorry."
Roger-Keith wiped his eyes. "No, it wasn't that... You're so right, and accurate, we just need more people like you, more people who care..." He sniffled.
John sighed and smiled a bit as the child calmed down and rested his head in his hand. "I think you should go home. Get comfortable, do whatever, sing, play piano, dance with the broomstick, and make yourself feel better. When you are, remember what I told you. I'll be here again, probably, if you ever need me. Happy Christmas, boy, now get on out of here and cheer yourself up."
At once, the boy thanked both John and the waiter, leaving the building in a hurry. Slowing down suddenly, he dragged his feet along the pavement, thinking about the things John mentioned. When he arrived at his empty house, he immediately went to his bedroom and took Lucie from her sleeping position on the floor. He carried her into the kitchen and fed her, then proceeded to take a pair of scissors from the drawer. He brought them into the living room, ripped a bow off the door and snipped part of it away. The boy wrapped it around his cat's neck, made a tie in it and grinned satisfactorily at the Christmas collar he made for Lucie. She followed him upstairs into his bedroom once more as he plopped down in the window sill.
"Look, Lucie, it's snowing. It's Christmas tomorrow," Roger-Keith watched snowflakes parade out of the sky and onto the street. He knew he was getting nothing for the holiday, but he still loved the idea of it being Christmas Day. With this, he blew out the candle in his room and fell asleep, thinking good thoughts for the first time in years.
"Happy Christmas, Lucie!" Roger-Keith jumped out of bed as soon as he opened his eyes and grabbed the sleeping cat off the window. She meowed and opened her eyes with annoyance as he held her close to him and kissed her furry little head. He carried her into the hallway, where he realized that his uncle and aunt were finally home. They were standing outside in the snow and talking to somebody. The boy skipped down the stairs to get a better look, opening the closet and pulling out his coat. He pulled his boots on and headed outside.
Roger-Keith's relatives were thin people, probably because they always danced at the parties they were invited to. They wore very fancy clothes and didn't seem to pay attention to the existence of their nephew- money seemed to be more important.
"Hi," The boy sat on a step leading into the front yard as the three people turned to him. His heart skipped a beat as he immediately recognized his friend John, looking angrier than he thought he could have been. John's facial expression softened as he laid eyes on the bundled up child.
"Good morning, Roger."
"Roger-Keith, go inside this instant, this is none of your business," His aunt scolded. He started to get up, but John motioned for him to stay. The boy's uncle scoffed and glared at him.
"You both have not been treating him right. You know it, too. You're both cheap, lazy, uncaring fools. This is what the world has come to? It was your responsibility to raise this boy and look what you've done. You've taken those responsibilities and thrown them away, like he doesn't exist. Look at him! His hair isn't done, look how thin he is! How long has he had that coat? He might just suffocate now because it looks awfully tight. How many coats have you bought for yourselves over the past decade? You've missed the number one thing that it takes to raise any child, and that's love! What love has this boy received in his childhood so far? Certainly none at home, and from what I've heard, none from the other pupils in his school. He hasn't got the slightest idea of what any sort of affection is! I met him once and I've already formed a better relationship with him than YOU BOTH have ever had! Shame on you! Both of you!"
Everybody was quiet.
Roger-Keith's relatives did nothing- they just stood with astonishment and embarrassment, looking at the snowy ground. They did not cry or get raised up about it; they seemed to be thinking about what he had said. John walked to the stunned child and sat with him, handing him a medium-sized box with a bow on top. The boy slowly took it and put it on his lap, quite confused. "What is it?"
"It's a present." John smiled.
"From who?" The boy was still puzzling and turned the box around in his hands.
"From me. Now open it." Roger-Keith carefully removed the bow from the box and opened it, taking out a bag and an envelope. "The bag is from me, and the letter isn't from me and it came in the mail yesterday- open whichever one you want first." The boy looked in the bag first. There was a ten-pound note folded neatly in it, along with a few packets of instant hot-chocolate and caramel-filled chocolates. He smiled gratefully, not knowing what to do with anything he received. John opened the envelope from the boy and gave it to him.
"There are so many big words here," he commented, but attempted to read the letter anyway:
24 December 1982
The Harris Family and Nephew,
After months of worrying and years of praying and hope, we are more than pleased to spread the news of the homecoming of Mr. Alexander Nelson who has spent eight years so far in the army and was deployed in the Falklands War** months ago. We continue to pray for his good health and praise him for how bravely he has acted while in battle. Please notify Mister Nelson's son that he will be returning home tomorrow. God bless Great Britain, and Merry Christmas.
Roger-Keith didn't even read who wrote the letter. He didn't look at his aunt, uncle, or John, and kept the letter clutched in his shivering hand. The boy stared at the words for a long time and started to cry harder than he ever had before. After six long years with his horrible relatives, he was going home to his father- his father that cared about him and everything he did. He loved him and he knew it. Even though he was only four when he had to leave him, he remembered him so vividly that it was like he was standing right there. John put an arm around his shoulder and told him, "He will be here in a few hours. It was supposed to be more of a surprise but we wanted you to pack."
The boy sobbed into his own sleeve, got up and ran to his room, shoving his clothes in his backpack as Lucie watched. She tilted her head and meowed.
"I'm going home, Lucie, and you're coming with me," he choked and sniffled, picking her up as he slung the backpack over his shoulder. He didn't own much, so it was easy to pack everything. His cat did not struggle from his arms, instead, she made herself more comfortable and purred. He slipped his boots on again and headed outside with everything, sitting next to John again. They said nothing to each other, and Lucie meowed.
Finally, Roger-Keith noticed a car pull up in front of his house. He didn't know who it was, so he sat quietly with John until someone opened the door. It was a man, and he was dressed very nicely. The boy recognized him from so long ago and couldn't contain himself. He started sobbing loudly and ran across the snowy lawn as hot tears spilled down his shaking face. He threw himself forward and landed in his father's arms, who immediately lifted him off the ground so Roger-Keith could see over his shoulder. They were both crying now, and when Roger-Keith looked back, he thought he saw John shed a tear, too. John smiled when he saw the boy so happy. The child buried his face in his father's sleeve as he felt himself being carried to the car.
He didn't say goodbye to his uncle or aunt, but turned to say farewell to John. He wasn't anywhere to be seen. His friend had disappeared, and in his place was a poster. In big, black painted letters, it read:
WAR IS OVER
If You Want It
It wasn't the phrase surprised him; it was what was written in smaller letters to quote the person who had said it:
Suddenly, after all the loneliness, mystery and misery, Roger-Keith Nelson brought his tear-filled eyes to look at the clouds, and it all made sense to him now. Indeed, the war in England was over, but his own personal war was over as well...and the spirit of Mister John Lennon was certainly aware of that.
*Actual quote from John Lennon
**The Falklands War did actually happen and took place in 1982, ending in June of that year. The story, for the most part, is historically accurate.