One of my favorite childhood stories was "The Little Match Girl". This is my vampiric version of this tragic little tale.
Toland hugged the shadows of the buildings on this Holy Eve, he was watchful of the people of the town scurrying about, making their last minute purchases in anticipation and preparation for the upcoming Holy Feast and Christ's Day.
He had always loved this festive time of year in his mortal life, even more so now that he was a vampire. For him, it was more of merit than a flaw, and it helped him maintain his humanity. He didn't know if his beloved Sire, the vampire who embraced him into the life of a nightwalker, Renee Dubois, shared his feelings, but had never made his own feelings known to her. Still, he loved her enough that he purchased her a gift, a lovely gold, heart-shaped pendant. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship, with a heart-shaped ruby settled in its center.
Toland struggled with the beast within that was fighting to come forth. The scent of the kine burning his sensitive nose, challenging him to feast upon any one of these warm-blooded people that he had once shared the daylight with. To quell the raging, Toland kept his thoughts on the birth of the Christ child, of the miracles this child had performed as the young Massiah grew into manhood. He gave pause to how it had affected mankind, giving them hope and joy, the power to endure. Suddenly, the clear voice of a child rang out in the cold, crisp air.
"Matches! Matches! Please buy my matches! Penny a piece!"
Toland's dark eyes sought out the child, soon spying her in the midst of the throngs of folk. A young girl, perhaps nine years of age, stood in the town square. Her short blonde hair curled about her sweet, angelic face, enhancing a pair of bright blue eyes. She was dressed in a thin dress that was too big for her, someone's castoff most likely. A tattered black shawl was wrapped around her frail body doing little to keep her warm. Her feet were bare and turning blue from the cold. In her tiny, outstretched fists, she held bunches of stick matches.
She turns from person to person as they hurried past her, beseeching in vibrant voice for them to purchase her meager wares. Most brushed past her, dismissing her easily, their thoughts only on their missions at hand. Others roughly pushed her out of their way, scowling and cursing the waif. Toland hissed under his breath as one burly man shoved her so hard that she fell, abrading her elbows on the cold harden earth. Bravely, the child got back to her feet, fighting back the tears that threatened to pour from those glistening blue eyes. Still she called out, "Mmmmmatches! Buy my matches! Penny a piece!"
From the dark recesses, Toland kept his vigil, watching this innocent child. Not sure of what he could do to protect her, only sure that he would if the need arose.
As the night wore on, it got colder and colder. The girl was soon alone in the deepening evening. All the folk had returned to their homes, to the warmth and comfort of family.
Shivering, the girl sought shelter within the deeper doorway of the now-closed bakery. She hunkered down, pulling the hem of the dress over her bare feet, tucking it under her toes, drawing the shawl tighter around herself. She closed her eyes, her head bobbing with sleepiness.
Toland finally dared to venture out, crossing the square in a few swift, silent strides. Peering about to assure himself that they were indeed alone, he stepped into the doorway opening his cloak to make a tent about the huddled child.
Now that he was closer to her, he could see that she would not survive the night, let alone the next hour. There was not much he could do to help her. His lips pressed together in a grim line as his mind raced for a solution. Embracing her was not an option. Being a vampire was no life for one so young.
The little one opened her eyes slightly; Toland passed his hand before her eyes with a soft murmur to her that all was well, setting into motion allusions to help her pass into her own final embracement of Life.
She looked at the matches still tightly clutched in her frozen fingers. She forced them open, dropping the matches into the lap of her dress. Taking one, she stared at it for a moment, thinking to herself that lighting one could not hurt, and she struck it on the side of the building. The match flared so brightly, she was forced to squint at the flame. She cupped her other hand about her little fire, feeling its inadequate warmth. Staring into the wavering flame, she made out the window of a brightly-lit house. Looking closer, she was able to peer through the glazed glass. Boughs of holly and ivy-decked the mantle of the fireplace, a blazing fire within the structure. She could just make out the faint laughter of children. Then the match guttered and went out.
A tiny gasp escaped her bluing lips; without a second thought, she reached into her lap taking out the second match and striking it. Again, it flared and this time, she was able to see more into the room. There to one side was a table laden with food. A large roast goose sat on a platter, the golden brown skin was still crackling from roasting, juices dribbling down the sides. Apples and plums were piled in hand woven baskets, fresh bread on a wooden cutting board, roasted potatoes and carrots in clay bowls. She could almost smell the incredible food odors. She involuntarily drooled and brought a hand up to wipe her lips. The sudden movement caused the flame to flutter and go out.
With a light moan and a trembling hand, she struck a third match. When the flaring match settled down, she stared at the door of the house. Her breath catching in her throat as the door opened. There stood her long dead mother smiling and radiant, golden blonde hair hanging down about her shoulders in a soft cascade that gave her an angelic appearance. She called out to her child, beckoning her to come in.
The girl went willingly to her mother. Her heart soaring, her prayers answered to be reunited with the mother she loves and misses so much. The child wraps her arms around her mother's trim waist, hugging her tightly. The woman laughs lightly, pulling a thick warm blanket about her daughter and gently guides her within the house, carefully closing the door behind them.
Toland blows out the last match as he ends the illusions, watching it fall from the dead hand to join the other two blackened matches on the stoop. He reaches out a hand to close the unseeing blue eyes with gentle fingers and leans forward to kiss her icy cold forehead.
"God bless thee, child. Blessings upon thee this Holy Eve," Toland murmurs as crimson tears course down his rough cheeks.
Rising a bit shakily with emotion, he turns and walks out into the square. With a final glance back to the lifeless form of the child, he makes his way home to the castle and the comfort of Renee's arms.