Dearest Mary by Imogen Cottrill, 17

Dearest MaryDearest Mary
Dearest Mary

Dearest Mary,

I cannot believe it is the 23rd already; the sun has already plumped itself in its pillow here.

I was expecting you today but no worries, so long as we can still spend most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together!

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It’s such a shame; I was rushing to put out the garden nativity in anticipation for your arrival. I managed to get the last piece (your namesake) out just in time!

The funniest thing happened when I went inside; I knocked our plate of mince pies over and let out the ghastliest shriek.

‘Good God!’ I cried! I was sure I’d put them in the kitchen you see. Why on earth would they be in the front hall, after all?

Anyway, at exactly the same time, all the lights went!

I’ve been trying to call out the electrician man for days, but he simply won’t pick up.

Awful news about his brother, isn’t it?

I blame the weather you see.

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There was a flash of lightning right at that moment too – perhaps that is why I jumped and knocked the plate.

You’d laugh dear, for my shriek made me deaf to the thunder!

How typical of me! Always playing the victim!

I’ve got so much to talk to you about! News which seems worth sharing happens daily now!

Perhaps I am collecting conversation points and have become hyperaware of my own presence!

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Just now I went to turn to you on the left – that’s where you sat at school, always to my left.

The local foxes are becoming more and more inventive in their pestering; for I’d glanced out of the window pane and the Madonna had been moved closer to the gate.

I could see the signs of a track from where I had placed her to the entrance. There really must have been very little room at the inn!

The meal I had prepared for us this evening will keep until tomorrow, so I shan’t worry about my cooking going to waste.

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This evening I shall trundle over to the parish and watch the little ’uns sing their carols. This is the first time that that new vicar is going to be in charge.

I still have not seen his eyes; I really don’t understand how he can remember all those psalms and say them from memory.

I suppose the image of his eyelids must bring him peace.

I hope this telegram finds you in good speed and reaches you before any others I may have to send you – I mustn’t appear disorderly!

Hoping to see you again soon,


Dearest Mary,

I am writing to you at noon on Christmas Eve for I simply can’t seem to apply myself to anything more useful.

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I am so eager that I am using my new writing set which I had bought for myself for tomorrow’s festivities.

I daren’t ask anyone I know to purchase such a gift, but I desired it all the same!

Snow has just begun to seep down as I scribe, it looks so beautiful and yet I will not set foot outside until I am certain that my steps will not cease it from settling for a good few days!

Mr Cheshire from over the road is just striding out now, entirely and honestly ruining the sparkling blanket which lay beneath him. Such neglect!

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Later – Apologies for the gap there Mary, I sensed a hint of burning and realised that I’d left the replacement mince pies in the stove for much too long!

I’m out of flour for the rest of the year now as Mr Cheshire won’t have another restock in this weather.

Unless of course he is going to collect me some flour specially now, which would be quite lovely of him and I would thoroughly enjoy his doorstep conversation.

Later – Sorry again, Mary. I spilt my tea! What am I like? Don’t worry, there will be enough left for when you arrive; at least I’m stocked up on that.

Thankfully, there’s only a small stain on the paper.

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I would like to inform you of what my plans are for this evening so that I may waste enough time to constitute carrying them out after I finish writing.

At five, I shall begin to cook the savoury apple pie (I’ve run out of sugar too) and prepare the vegetables for tomorrow.

I seldom eat turkey and so I’m thoroughly looking forward to that!

Then I shall take a stroll through the now-deep sweep of snow outside. The church is a lovely place to be at this time of year, is it not?

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Ah yes, the carol service last evening was truly terrific. The vicar did not make an appearance so I have no way of telling you if he has yet seen the light of day.

The children’s voices are strong this year! I remember last year’s rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful being utterly abysmal! As they sang for the faithful’s company, I crept out of the door!

Evening – Well you have still not arrived, Mary; as I’m sure you’re aware. I keep thinking you are here and asking questions. You will be shocked to hear I have found a replacement for you!

Alas, it is only the Madonna for she has the same blue in her eyes as you do!

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She is my favourite figurine of the garden nativity this year – such beautiful detail had previously gone unnoticed!

Her eyes seem to be as full of life as the baby to which she has supposedly just given birth.

They are so realistic; I sometimes think I see her blin-.


Imogen Cottrill’s gripping story Dearest Mary was judged as highly commended in the 16-and-over category of our Christmas ghost story competition.

The stirring tale depicts the letters sent by the mysterious ‘G’, whose fate is left unknown by the story’s conclusion.

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Imogen, 17, is taking a creative writing course at Bay House School in Gosport, which was where she heard about the competition.

She said: ‘I was looking to really leave the story open to interpretation with the ending and hope I managed to entice the reader in further.

‘I think a lot of the spookiness of stories can be in how the writer doesn’t reveal hidden bits of info, and I was keen to leave it unclear if Mary ever really turned up, or maybe she was there and left.

‘I think for me I just wanted to leave the reader wanting a little more.’

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She said the style of the story was primarily influenced by the epistle style in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

‘I had been reading it at the time and I guess a lot of what I liked about the novel really seemed to seep into the kind of style that I ended up using in the story.’

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