“Where do Christmas lights come from?”
Those tiny bulbs of color that burn on a Christmas tree,
Or outside a house to shine in the night.
Does anyone really know where they originate?
What if someone told you
They weren’t intended for Christmas at all,
But really for a miracle?
That they were for love, a desperate idea, to light a boy’s way home?
In that case, you must have some questions. What boy? What love?
Have a seat. Allow me to tell you a story.
“Because your father requires…a dowry, of sorts. A guarantee you’ll be well taken care of.”
Emmy’s hand turned sweaty. “Oh, Louis. What does that mean?”
I swallowed the sour taste at the back of my mouth, nerves trembling in my fingers. “Our engagement lasts until December twenty-fifth. If by that time I’ve not returned—”
“Returned?” Emmy’s gaze burned me. “Louis, where are you going? Won’t my father give you a job?”
I didn’t move and barely opened my mouth to let the words escape. “He’s got me a job.”
I loosened my shoulders and shrugged. “Marks Brothers pays their floor workers very well.”
“I’d stack inventory outside, in the clean air, and I’d work with a few fellows who’d watch out for me…”
“…I hear factories in London are much safer than here.”
“London! Louis, Louis, what are you talking about?” Emmy grabbed my face.
I squinted at two sparkling brown orbs. Was she crying?
“No.” Emmy covered her mouth with a hand. “No, you aren’t going to London. How could you? No one loves you there. No one knows you there…”
Your father seems to think it is my home country.
“Emmy. Emmy Emmy Emmy.” I held her close, stroking her hair. “I don’t plan to work there.”
She sat back. “What?”
“I’ve heard Mr. Godfrey talk about them. A London factory is the last place I should work. Your father means well, but I can’t do that. They wouldn’t take a blind boy.”
“Wh-where will you go, then? How on earth will you make money?”
“I have family in Paris. Mother says they have wine vineyards. I’ll work for them.”
“That…” Emmy’s fingers traced the veins on the back of my hand. “That’s much safer.” She was silent for the longest time. “You’ll be safe? And come home quickly?”
I pulled her hands away and stood, playing with the ring on her finger. “I will. I love you.”
“Emmy. I don’t have a choice. You want to marry me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. But, Louis…”
“How long will you be gone?” How long? How long to board a ship, to find a place I’d only heard about, to earn and save an impossible amount of money? How long, indeed.
I set my expression. “I’ll be home by Christmas.”