Red and Gold

Story by Karen Jie ’21

It was winter. Bitter. Cold. Wind blew through the town, biting everyone in its path and giving them sickness. Not everyone survived. Not everyone was strong. But none could withstand it.

Winter was too harsh that year. I remember.

A girl, too young to be left behind, lived on the streets and the alleyways of town. She wore rags wand was never treated well. But the girl stayed strong. She swept the streets of the village at night and came back to her alleyway cold and hungry. She left presents at the doors of the kindhearted. Maybe a small trinket, a drawing. Then morning came and kind people fed her, gave her money. Others walked by without a glance. This happened time and time again.

Except God had something else for this girl in mind this year. It happened one night that winter.

The girl got less money that day which meant less presents to give. Her little makeshift house rattled as the wind screeched outside. But no. You can never let one small thing stop you. The girl stepped out of her crevice. Frost immediately chilled her to the bone and she wrapped her clothes around her more tightly. The girl began to force herself to walk in the direction of the people who had given her coins. On her way, she passed a restaurant. The only best in town that only the rich could ever afford. The girl stood at a window, standing on tiptoe, looking in. She could hear the clinking of plates and rumbles of laughter. Women sat at tables in beautiful taffeta dresses as they smiled at men in complex tuxedos. The girl remembered what life was like when she had a family. A real home. There was a hearth to keep her warm and parents to share her love. Presents. There was never a winter without presents.

The girl sighed, her breath coming out in wisps. She stumbled along the cold streets and stopped at a house. The one that she had been coming to every night to give a present. The girl reached into her pocket and took out a chocolate. Sometimes if you were lucky, you could get free chocolates at the restaurant as long as no wealthy was around to judge you.

She set the chocolate down at the door. It was wrapped in gold foil. Gold for happiness and warmth. A tiny, red ribbon kept it all together. Red for love.

The girl continued to walk along the streets of town, dropping off chocolates, saving the last one for herself. When she finally reached the restaurant across her alley, she stopped, and looked in.

Everything was still all the same. Clinks, laughter, muffled voices. Extravagance, elegance, and what it truly meant to be rich. The girl unwrapped her chocolate and savored every small bite. When she finished, she tied the ribbon around the doorknob of the diner. She made a small doll out of the gold foil and slipped it into her pocket. Then, she headed toward her makeshift house. Not home. House. Because home is where the golden hearth is. Because home is where the red love is.