The old lady nodded off to sleep in her comfy chair in front of the television. Marjorie was 90 and crippled with arthritis. She'd been unable to continue to look after herself as she couldn't move around as much now, so she had to leave her cosy cottage and move to a care home nearby. This would be her first Christmas at Seashells Lodge and she was determined to enjoy it. She had dreaded going into a home, but the staff were really nice and she had a fair sized room all to herself. Marjorie had to admit that she did appreciate having her meals prepared for her and being offered endless cups of tea and biscuits throughout the day. The staff also laid on activities for the old folk, painting, cooking and lots of other things to keep them from getting bored. But of course when you are 90, taking a nap plays a big part in your day too!
When Marjorie took forty winks she had such wonderful dreams lately, she was young again, running through the fields, her long shiny blonde hair catching the sunlight and the warm gentle breeze making her skin tingle with vibrant energy. She would often see a handsome young man in her dreams, he was tall and dark with sparkling green eyes. He never spoke, but he smiled at her, extending his hand and wanting her to place her hand in his. Frustratingly, as she reached out to him his figure would suddenly fade and then disappear. She would wake up each time at the precise point in the dream where she had tried so hard to touch his hand.
The young man in Marjorie's dreams wasn't just anyone, she had known him when she was 16, they had been very close, in fact Mark who had also been 16, and Marjorie were inseparable and he was her first love. Tragedy was to strike however, Mark had taken his dog out for a stroll one icy cold morning. He had decided to walk by the frozen lake, letting his dog Sammy off the lead once he got there. Sammy had suddenly spotted a hare and bounded off after it. The hare ran easily over the frozen lake, but Sammy suddenly vanished into the freezing water as the ice cracked and shattered beneath his paws. Mark was frantic, without a thought he ran across the ice to Sammy to try to save him, but he never made it, the ice had broken beneath his feet and he too fell into the freezing waters. By some miracle he did manage to catch hold of Sammy who had swam towards him. Mark's last unselfish gesture in life had been to push his beloved dog up out of the water to the edge of the ice, allowing the dog to scramble back onto the surface of the frozen lake. Mark who was overcome by the cold and totally exhausted, lost consciousness and had succumbed to the icy depths.
Mark's dog Sammy had returned home panicky, wet and shaking and Mark's parents instantly knew something terrible had happened, Mark had often walked by the lake in the mornings with Sammy, so his parents grabbed their coats and ran to the lake, which was just a few minutes down the road from their cottage. When they arrived they could see the broken ice, very sadly it was all too late, Mark had already perished.
Marjorie had been inconsolable, her parents had broken the news to her about Mark and Marjorie had cried and cried until she could cry no more. Over the following months Marjorie had withdrawn into herself, no longer the laughing lively girl who loved life, she became quiet and depressed, seeking solitude most of the time, away from her friends and family.
Marjorie had got a job in a textile factory when she was 15, she worked in the admin office and she had enjoyed her job as a typist. When Mark died she had been glad to go to work where she could just do routine things that filled her day and helped her to stop her constantly dwelling on her terrible loss. Eighteen months after Mark's death, a new boy started work at the factory, he was chatty and flirted with all of the girls, but he took a shine to Marj and one day he asked her to go out with him to the pictures. Marjorie said no, but the new boy Danny persisted, he wasn't taking no for an answer. Danny was boisterous by nature, he told naughty jokes and he had an ego as big as a mountain. Marjorie had been the prettiest girl in the factory and he wanted her on his arm to show the world that he could get the best looking girl. Marj laughed at some of his jokes and found herself being swept along by his forceful character. The pain of Mark was still there, but Danny took the edge off it. Within a year Danny had proposed to Marjorie and although she knew she didn't love him, she accepted, partly because her parents persuaded her that it was the right thing to do as Danny would look after her.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lottie was late for work again, she had missed her bus, and when she got to the Old folks home, Seashells Lodge, she had tried to tiptoe quickly through the passageway to hang her coat up before she was spotted. Lottie was 17 and rather scatterbrained, but everyone loved her. With her short black hair, highlighted with pink and purple streaks, her vibrantly colourful tops and short skirts, complete with black tights and clunky boots, she certainly livened the place up. Putting on her Seashells Lodge green overalls, she headed to the kitchen to make the tea and coffee for her first round of refreshments which was offered four times a day to the elderly residents. This would be Lottie's first Christmas at Seashells Lodge too and she had enjoyed helping to put up the decorations, she really loved Christmas. She wheeled her tea trolley into the main sitting room where most of the residents spent their time in the mornings. As ever, Marj had a big smile for Lottie and Lottie went over and gave Marj a kiss on the cheek, despite the vast age difference they got on like a house on fire. Marj was like a great grandmother to Lottie, always wanting to hear what she had been up to. When Lottie finished her rounds, she would spend some of her time with Marj if she could and today she told Marj about her new boyfriend, someone she had met on the internet.
"Well" said Lottie "He hasn't actually asked me out yet, but I can tell he likes me" She went on to explain to Marj that she met Ryan in a virtual reality program called Second Life, Lottie further explained to Marj that she regularly meets her friends on the social media site for a chat and Ryan had dropped into one of the virtual clubs when she was there. She told Marj that Ryan had singled her out and wanted to know about her real life, she had got good vibes from him, liking him straight away, and they had met up again every night this week. Lottie was very enthusiastic that they might meet in the real world pretty soon.
Marjorie smiled at Lottie and told her "Make sure you get to know him properly first, he might be completely different when you meet him and you might not like him so much" Marj looked over at Steve, one of the young helpers, Steve was 18 and exceedingly shy, but Marj had often seen him looking at Lottie and she knew that Steve really liked her, but he was too scared to ask Lottie out.
Marjorie's aches and pains were getting worse as the days went on, she would often fall asleep in her chair and the same dream occurred with the young man wanting her to go with him, but, as ever, she always woke up when she stretched out her hand to take his. It was the day before Christmas Eve and Lottie came and sat next to Marj. "I've brought my laptop with me today" she told Marj "I want you to see my new boyfriend in Second Life and tell me what you think" she continued "For some reason he won't do anything romantic, though I've hinted at him to go dancing and stuff, but he just wants to chat about my job in real life and all the people I know" Switching on her laptop, Lottie logged into the virtual world. Ryan wasn't there, he wasn't even on line, so Lottie explained to Marj how the virtual world worked and how you interact with other people all around the world. Marjorie was intrigued, fascinated by the lifelike avatars. Lottie's avatar was as crazily dressed as her real life persona, Marj grinned to herself "Dear sweet Lottie" she thought.
"Let's make you an avatar Marj" Lottie said "It will be fun, we can dress her up and make her look exactly how you want her to look" Marj watched as Lottie created a newbie avatar and called her MarmaladeMarj. Marj had picked a blonde-haired av dressed in a warm green jumper and blue jeans. She watched in amazement as Lottie moved Marmalade around the screen. "What fun" Marj told Lottie. Marj called over to Steve to come and see what they were doing; Glad of the invitation, Steve sat on the other side to Lottie and looked over her shoulder at the laptop screen. "Do you play this game Steve?" Marjorie asked. Steve said he hadn't seen it before and Marj suggested that next time Lottie should tell him all about it. Lottie turned to Steve and beamed at him "Of course I will show you" she said. The quiet and handsome Steve hadn't really spoken to Lottie much since he joined Seashells Lodge and she liked the idea of getting to know him a little bit more.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Christmas Day saw Seashells Lodge abuzz with people coming and going. Some of the staff were preparing Christmas Dinner whilst the others looked after the old folk handing out presents from around the bottom of the large Christmas tree. There were lots of visitors dropping in to visit their relatives and friends as well, which added to the excitement. Marj loved Christmas and thought of all the good times she had had years ago. Her memory was fading regarding recent Christmases however, as she was suffering from the early stages of dementia, but her memories of her younger years were still as clear as ever to her. Although she had married Danny and had been very fond of him, it was her childhood sweetheart Mark whom she thought of most of the time, especially at Christmas. Sadly her husband Danny had suffered a heart attack and had died ten years ago; Marj had missed him terribly as they had had a happy marriage together. However, tragically, in spite of her time with Danny, her love for Mark had never faded and she had felt the yearning for him throughout her entire life.
Lottie was in a great mood this Christmas morning, humming Christmas Carols to herself as she pushed her tea trolley through the door and into the lounge where Marj and some of the other residents were sitting. This time there was tea and coffee with the usual biscuits on her trolley, but there was also sherry and wine with cheese and crackers, plus a big box of chocolates for the residents to pick from. After making sure that everyone had their drinks and nibbles, Lottie poured Marj a large glass of sherry and sat down next to her for a chat. Marj smiled at Lottie "And how are you little Lottie? Have you been seeing your new boyfriend on the internet again?" Lottie beamed at Marj "Yes" she replied "I saw him last night and he said he would be logging on again tonight to wish me a Happy Christmas" Lottie suddenly looked a little sad "What's the matter Lottie?" asked Marj. Lottie said that Ryan still hadn't asked her to go out on a romantic date yet and hadn't even offered her a Second Life virtual hug, so she wondered if he really did like her after all. Marj looked at Lottie and full of wisdom she told her "Don't wait for Ryan Lottie, you really don't know him at all and you might be missing out on your chance to find a real boyfriend" Marj noticed that Steve was hovering near the door and he was glancing at Lottie. "Steve" Marj called to him "Come and sit with us if you have time and tell me what you have planned for today and Boxing Day" Steve blushed to the roots of his hair, but he came over and sat next to Marj and Lottie and told them that he hadn't any plans other than to have Christmas lunch with his Mum and Dad at 3pm. "Oooh" said Lottie to Steve "You are so lucky having a nice family Christmas, I'd be stuck in my little bedsit on my own, that's why I'm glad I'm on duty here all day" Lottie had been put into care when she was a baby as her single mother couldn't cope and Lottie had gone from foster home to foster home until she was old enough to live on her own. "So you aren't taking your girlfriend out then Steve?" Marj asked. Steve looked embarrassed and replied "Err no Marj, I haven't got a girlfriend" Lottie looked at Steve, he really was handsome, but his awkwardness had made Lottie think that he wasn't interested in her.
Christmas Day had been great fun at Seashells Lodge, the residents had really got into the Christmas spirit with the staff organising bingo and other games to keep them occupied. Gina, one of the helpers, played Christmas Carols on the old piano in the lounge and the residents sang along loving every minute of if. Marj had had such a nice day, but she felt really tired now, her old bones ached and she was exhausted. One of the staff helped her to get ready for bed and wished her a good night. Marj lay there in the dark room, her mind wandering back to when she was a teen with Mark at her side. A little smile played on her lips as she drifted off into a deep sleep.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lottie knew that Ryan wouldn't log into Second Life until around midnight as he told her he would be late. She logged in at 11pm to dress her avatar up in a nice outfit just in case Ryan wanted to take her to a virtual Jazz Club or somewhere else a bit romantic. Ryan duly appeared at midnight, as ever he looked very smart and this time he did offer Lottie a hug to wish her a Happy Christmas. He asked her how her day had been and she told him about the old folk enjoying the Christmas celebrations at Seashells Lodge. "How was Marjorie?" he asked. Lottie looked a bit surprised as she sat at her keyboard, she hadn't remembered mentioning Marj to Ryan before. "Marj really enjoyed herself" Lottie told him "She always has a smile and she's always full of fun, that's why I love her, she's just like a grandmother to me" Ryan told Lottie that he was pleased that she had such a nice Christmas Day, but he seemed extra quiet. Lottie suddenly saw another avatar rezzing next to them and after a few seconds she could see that it was the newbie that she had created for Marj named MarmaladeMarj. Lottie was stunned, she hadn't logged Marmalade into Second Life and she wondered if someone had hacked into her Second Life account. "Ryan" Lottie said "I can't understand what is going on, this is the avatar I created for Marj when I was showing her Second Life" Ryan said it was ok and Lottie shouldn't worry as Marmalade was here for a special reason. Suddenly the Marmalade avatar moved on her own, accepting the hug and kiss that Ryan offered her. Lottie was very confused now, and just a little bit jealous. After what seemed like an endless kiss Marmalade turned to Lottie's avatar and offered her a hug. Lottie sat startled as she accepted the hug only to hear Marmalade talk to her, a voice that Lottie knew so well, it was Marj's voice "Sweet Lottie" Marmalade said "Please don't be upset, you've been like family to me and I'm so very fond of you" As Marmalade stopped hugging Lottie's avatar she went back to stand next to Ryan, Lottie whispered over the laptop's mic "I don't understand Marj, how can you be talking through Marmalade?" Marj's avatar answered Lottie with a giggle "Well Lottie, when Mark, my first boyfriend, and I were together we always swore that we would wait for each other if something happened to one of us" Marj continued "Ryan is my Mark, I knew he would contact me somehow and thanks to you Lottie, we have found each other again!"
Ryan smiled at Lottie's avatar "I hope you will forgive me Lottie" he said "I think you are one of the loveliest girls I've met and you deserve to be happy". Marj added "Ryan was never for you Lottie, there is someone who is though, he has been patiently waiting, someone who adores you, but he has always been too shy to ask you out" Lottie knew who Marj was talking about. "Steve" Lottie said "I thought he didn't like me because he was so quiet" she added softly. Lottie was totally confused with what was going on, how could Marj be talking through Marmalade and how could Ryan know Marj? As she watched the two avatars, Marmalade and Ryan, she suddenly saw Ryan stretching out his hand to Marmalade. Marmalade reached out for his hand and as their fingers intertwined they both faded from view and were suddenly gone. Lottie stared at the screen for a long time, finally logging out of Second Life as she realised that Marmalade and Ryan weren't coming back. Lottie's head was buzzing and she spent a sleepless night trying to work out what had happened.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lottie arrived at Seashells Lodge the next day full of questions for Marj, but when she saw how sombre the rest of the staff were, she realised that something had happened. Marj's chair in the lounge was empty. Steve came over to Lottie and took her into the staff room. He told her that Marj had passed away in the night, she had appeared fine when she went to bed, but one of the care workers thought she had heard Marj calling out around midnight and went in to check her. She said that Marj looked peaceful, but she noticed that Marj wasn't breathing and she had called for help, but there was nothing they could do, Marj had died. Lottie burst into tears at the news about her old friend. Steve put his arm around Lottie and she sobbed as he held her tight; Later that day Lottie told Steve about Second Life and how she had heard Marj's voice through the avatar that Lottie had created. Steve looked astonished, but he didn't doubt Lottie, why should he, she would have no reason to make the story up. Somehow he knew that Marjorie was a very special person and he looked at Lottie and asked her if she would like to go out with him. Marjorie's matchmaking skills were still working, even after her death.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When Marj had drifted off into her final deep sleep on Christmas Night, she had once again dreamed of the young man and she smiled at him, the love shining in her eyes, Mark had never left her, he had been waiting patiently for her. Lottie was also in Marj's dream that night and Marj whispered to Lottie that Steve was really the one for her.
Mark, as always in these dreams, had offered his hand to Marj and for the first time she managed to reach it, placing her hand in his. Marj felt a joy so intense that she was filled with light as the energy of Mark combined with her own and they became one. The years of waiting were finally over, at last they were together again, never to be parted. A bright new star shone in the universe that Christmas night, its light to shine for all eternity.
The following Christmas Lottie and Steve announced their engagement. The staff and elderly residents at Seashells Lodge celebrated the good news with a champagne toast to the well loved couple on Christmas night. After the toast, Steve topped their drinks up with a little more champagne and taking Lottie's hand he led her outside into the gardens where the crisp cold night air made them shiver. Looking up into the clear bright starry skies, they both raised their glasses to the heavens. "This is to you Marj" Lottie whispered "You and Mark, thank you, we'll never forget you!" Steve cuddled Lottie as they sipped their champagne. Finally they went back into the warm building to join in the Christmas fun and to sit and plan their future together.
This story is a tribute to an old friend who died this year, Marjorie was 97 and she was born way before her time, she will be greatly missed. Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas for 2017 and a Prosperous New Year.