A cold evening, dark, snowing, the last one of the year even. And along that snow clad, dark, cold street was a little poor girl. A barefoot, cold girl, all alone.
When she left home she had slippers. Her mother's, big pink puffy things, way too big for her little feet, slowed her down. She lost them, ditched them behind when she had to move out the way of two incoming carriages speeding down the road. One was nowhere to be found, the other had been seized by a hideous looking man in a worse state than her and off he ran with it, no sympathy or remorse for the girl who asked for it back, who made pleading eye contact. So she carried on through the snow with little naked feet, donning blistered, bruised colours.
She carried a load of matches in her sweater pocket, useless against the forces of nature, with another bundle in her hand. No one had bought one from her, not a single penny. So she crept along with hunger pains, freezing. The flakes of snow stuck to her long brunette hair, a mess it was, but she hadn't thought of it. She was too entwined by the candles at every window, letting out scent from the homes...roast meat. Of course, it was New Year's Eve after all.
In a corner alley she sat herself down and cowered. Someone had been here before hence the large, puffy winter coat she used as a blanket. She drew her feet up, became a ball, but she only got colder and colder. And going home wasn't an option. No sale, no money, she'd be beaten, again, by father. And it was cold there too; the only difference being a roof over her head, full of cracks filled with straw yet the wind crawled through mindless.
She couldn't feel her hands, numb from the cold. She drew a match from her bundle and scratched the wall. A little ember, tiny, like her, but it roared, it burnt, blazed. To her, it was a hot iron stove that she put her hands near and embraced the heat, the light. She stretched her feet towards it, but then it went out and she was left with a burnt stick in her hand. So she struck another, more heat, more light, revealing the wall next to her. It became a veil, see through. She could see the room beyond: a grand table for a feast, a white cloth laid over it, splendid silverware and the goose steamed in the centre with it's apple and dried plum stuffing. Then it flew off it's dish, withered on the floor with a knife and fork in it's breast and landed on her lap then-the match went out, leaving the dark, lonely cold behind and she was back in the alley. She struck another, quickly and looked up to see the Christmas tree gleaming over her. Bigger, and far more decorated than the one through the Merchant’s house window. Thousands of lights beamed all over the green branches and coloured pictures. She reached out, but then the light went out and the tree was replaced with the navy sky freckled with stars. And one flew across it, leaving a trail of fire in it's wake.
“Someone just died.” She said, in memory of her brother. The only one who'd loved her, but he wasn't here anymore. Father hit him too hard and dumped him the basement, locked it, and threw away the key. He used to tell her that when a star falls, someone ascends into Heaven.
She drew another match, light again, but then she saw him standing at the end of the alley. So bright, so radiant, with an expression of pure love.
“Hey.” She whined, tears forming in her eyes. She didn't want this to end. The match would go out and take everything with it. She grabbed the whole bundle and struck the wall, she wanted to keep him near. It gave a brilliant light more bright than a hot summer's day. Never before, had her brother looked so beautiful. He picked her up in his arms and they left. No hunger, no cold, no anxiety could touch them; joy, so high, that was all there was.
But in the corner alley, sat a little poor girl with bright red cheeks and a smile on her face, leaning against the wall...frozen to death on the last evening of the year. Stiff she sat there, with a bundle of burnt matches in her hand.
“She tried to warm herself.” Muttered the officer to himself as he stepped away from the corpse. He, as well as the crowd behind him, hadn't the slightest suspicions as to what she'd experienced that made her smile like that; they hadn't dreamed entering a joyful New Year with their twin brother.