The moon is bright tonight, stars shining against the snow and Madge is alone.
Christmas lights turn everything red and green and blue and she stares up at the tree in the center of town, traces the silver lines of tinsel draped over the branches. It looks beautiful, magical really and Madge sips her hot chocolate with a faint smile, refuses to be melancholy. The bench she's sitting on is cold against the back of her legs but she barely notices, barely feels the chill. She's too busy thinking, remembering Gale and how he'd kissed her for the very first time right beneath this tree. The lights had made him glow, turned his gray eyes every shade of the rainbow and Madge smiles for real this time, can't be sad with a memory like that.
There's no one beside her this year but she keeps Gale warm in her heart, counts down the days until he'll be home. She wishes he was here, hand linked with hers but that's the price you pay for marrying a man in the army. She'd known it would mean long periods apart, had understood but this is the first Christmas they've had without each other and it's strange, not spending it with him. But she'd promised she wouldn't be sad, had sealed it with a kiss and if there's one thing Madge doesn't do, it's break a promise. She still has friends, still has family and she still has Gale too, even if he's far away.
That's what matters most, that she has him, no matter where he is.
She stands from her bench just as snow begins to fall, soft and golden in the glow of the star on top of the tree. Madge moves closer, skirts around families and happy couples. The fresh scent of pine grows stronger the closer she gets and she breathes it in, fills her lungs with it. It reminds her of cozy winter nights, first kisses and a proposal by moonlight.
It reminds her of Gale.
She arrives at the tree and reaches into her purse, pulls out the ornament she'd just finished making that morning. It's tradition, that the tree be decorated by everyone in town and Madge had thought long and hard about her contribution. She'd wanted something special, something meaningful and finally it had come to her. She wasn't much for artistic skill, so she'd knitted something instead, has always been better with needles. She searches for a spot and then hangs up her little Gale inspired soldier, Santa hat on his head. He smiles at her, sign in hand reading Merry Christmas!. It wasn't much, not some sort of masterpiece but she likes it, almost feels like Gale is here, just like every other year.
She looks up at the sky, imagines Gale's watching the same stars and smiles.
"Merry Christmas," she whispers and though she doesn't know it, there's a man she loves thinking the very same thing.
"Merry Christmas," Gale murmurs to Madge even though she can't hear him, even though they're separated by miles and miles.
But they won't be for long and Gale smiles, can't wait for the look on her face when he comes home early. He misses her, always does and they've got so many memories wrapped up in Christmas, makes missing her ache a thousand times worse.
I'll be home soon he thinks with a grin just as Madge starts to make her way home, hums Christmas songs under her breath and has no idea she's about to get the best Christmas present of her life.
But that's the thing about Christmas, miracles are just how it rolls.