I won the Den of Writers December 2018 competition with this bleak story:
It was the hour before dawn on Christmas morning. Robert stood under a pair of bay trees at the far end of the garden and breathed deeply, calming himself. The darkest hour it’s sometimes called, but he could see the light was coming fast now, a sliver of red showing on the eastern horizon. Shouldering his duffel bag, he hurried across a lawn silvered with frost towards the house where the glow of the security light in the kitchen gave him a window on a world he’d once shared. His task took only a few minutes but the familiar surroundings, the smells, the knowledge of their presence, their closeness, had taken a toll and his eyes glistened as he strode away on the long walk back to his digs.
Robert knew Adam no longer woke early on Christmas morning to tear into his presents; the boy couldn’t share that giddy pleasure most children felt on this special day. But in an hour or two his mother, Janet, would bring him from his room and sit him in front of the twinkling lights, the fascinating glittering wonderland, of the tree in the living room. The boy wouldn’t say anything, of course, but his mother would sense the joy, see it in his eyes, feel his little body tremble with excitement. And there, under the branches at the front of the tree he would see the new present. Robert stopped walking, closed his eyes, imagined the scene.
Janet would wonder about the broken pane in the kitchen door and why the glass had been swept up and a piece of cardboard taped in the gap. But Robert knew she’d work it out as soon as she saw the new present under the tree. She’d have been notified of his release a few weeks ago, may have worried he’d try to contact her despite being forbidden to do so. He was on probation, there were rules. Three years, he’d been inside. Causing injury by careless driving when under the influence of drink was the legal term. Coming back from the office party pissed and running over your own son who was waiting in the driveway to welcome you, that’s what it was, the reality.
Robert shook his head, clenched his fists and walked on. It was a going to be a long road to redemption.