The Little Latch Girl
A modern retelling of ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Hans Christian Anderson.
“Go on, get aht! Me and and yer ma ‘ave some business to attend to!”
The little girl looked at her ‘ma’ slouched across the worn and torn sofa, the strap still tight around her upper arm and the syringe, with its old blunt needle, lying on the carpet below her outstretched hand.
“I told yer, get lost and don’t come back until yer got summink fer the table, bloody kid!”
The empty vodka bottle shattered against the wall close by and she ducked instinctively then turned and ran through the door into the street outside.
It was the night before Christmas and it was snowing heavily, already thick underfoot, and when she looked down she realised she still wore her old slippers, stretched and worn out, the soles hanging loose and holed.
A horn sounded as the big black car bore down on her and she ran across to the other side, the old slippers flying from her feet.
After the car had passed she went back to find her slippers, only to see a mangy dog run off with one in it’s mouth.. Of the other, there was no sign.
The little girl sighed and shivered and set off along the road until she found a brightly lit store selling gas fires. Around the walls she could see fires burning which reminded her of her grandmothers house. Her Grandmother was the only person who had ever loved her but her fire would never again be lit since she passed away some two years before.
She was about to enter the shop when the shopkeeper appeared.
“Go away!” he shouted before she even had the chance to open the door fully.
“But, Sir, please…” she didn’t get the chance to finish as the man pushed the door closed and shooed her away.
With no coat and no shoes the poor little girl walked on through the crowds, totally unnoticed.
Eventually, she came to a smart restaurant.
Pressing her nose to the window she peered in and saw tables, groaning under the weight of mountains of food. Roast turkeys, geese, huge joints of beef and well dressed ladies and portly gentlemen in suits.
“Perhaps.” she thought, “They would spare me some scraps from their plates.”
She turned to enter the big ornate door when she was stopped by a tall man in a very smart, old fashioned uniform with thick woollen coat and top hat. He put out a gloved hand.
“And where do yer fink you’re goin’?” he snarled at her.
“Oh, please, Sir.” the little girl begged him, “Just some scraps. Some unwanted food. I am so cold and hungry.”
“Yeah, ‘eard it all before, nah push off!”
Suddenly he stood upright and pushed open the door as a smartly dressed man and woman stepped from the Rolls Royce which had just pulled up in front of the restaurant
“Good evening, Sir, Madam.”he said politely, holding the door and holding out his hand.
The gentleman put something into his hand and stood back as his wife entered.
“Thank you very much, Sir. Merry Christmas to you.” the uniformed man said, releasing the door to close behind them, then looked down at the little girl.
“You still ‘ere?” he growled, “Go on, gertcha!” and swung a kick at her but she ran away before he could contact.
Further along the street she came to a brightly lit shop with televisions of all sizes in the window. They were all showing the same channel, a Christmas edition of some game show where everyone was dressed as an elf except for the compère who was dressed as Santa.
She stood and looked for only a minute, seeing how happy they all looked but now, she could not feel her fingers or her toes and she was shivering uncontrollably.
She moved around the corner and sat against the wall, looking up towards the heavens and watching a large flake of snow as it drifted gently downwards and landed softly on her forehead.
She closed her eyes and, when she opened them again an old lady was standing before her, holding out her hand to her.
“Nana?” she said quietly, taking the old lady’s hand and getting to her feet.
“Hush now, child, you are safe.” the old lady said.”Nothing and no-one will ever hurt you again.”
The little girl put her arms around the old lady and held her tightly. She felt warm again and it seemed as though she were floating up. As she looked back, it seemed she could see a small huddled figure in the corner of the wall, covered with a thin blanket of soft white snow.
The boxing day newspapers all carried the same headline:
CHILD FOUND DEAD IN STREET!
The televisions in the shop all shouted out the same news report:
“A young child was found in the early hours of Christmas morning by a group of revellers going home after a party, frozen to death on a busy London thoroughfare.
A man and a woman, believed to be the child’s mother and stepfather were arrested this morning on suspicion of child neglect, We ask, how could such a thing be allowed to happen in the Twenty-First century.”
Author’s note: I do own the photograph and the story. No reproductions are permitted without my written authority.