“ I just want you for my own. More than you could ever know…” Eve sang along with the radio as her father cautiously drove them down the snow-covered road. A bright blue moon took the place of streetlights illuminating the way. It was early in the evening but the sky was already velvety purple as flakes fell silently onto the windshield. Eve peered into the night from the safety of the backseat, her doting parents navigating the way. Trees overhung the road making a snowy canopy. The flakes began to fall harder and Eve squeezed her eyes shut pretending as if the flurry of flakes were actually stars and she was jetting into orbit.
“The biggest tree we’ve ever had,” her father promised from the front seat as he turned the radio down. It was the first Christmas it would be just the three of them. Her parents had struggled since her sister’s accident but Eve loved being an only child, even more than she thought she would.
“What are you going to ask Santa for this year?’ her mother asked turning to her from the passenger seat. Eve thought for a moment but she knew exactly what she was going to ask for.
Eve’s older sister, Kate, had gotten a kitten that spring for her 14th birthday. Eve shut her eyes remembering the day of the birthday party.
“I want a turn,” Eve said reaching to take the kitten from her sister’s arms.
“Nooo. Mommmm,” her sister beckoned, yanking the cat away from the prying hands.
“Aww” the guests cooed petting the fluffy white cat and dangling objects in front of its face as she paraded it around. Eve, annoyed watching her sister, made her way outside, no one even bothering to notice.
Sitting on the diving board, Eve heard the guests begin singing “Happy Birthday” through the open windows. Her mother slid the glass door open with her foot to let the dog out while carrying the lit up cake. The new kitten slipped out between her legs undetected as she turned singing, shutting the door. The cat, startled by the frantic dog, then darted across the yard towards the pool where it skidded over the concrete coping and fell into the clear blue water.
She felt the warm rush of dopamine as she remembered the moment more clearly. Sitting on her hands, she watched the cat flailing its legs in harmony as it propelled itself in feverish circles. It’s brilliant white fur shining bright in the sun, making it look like a sort of holy figure. The singing faded into the background as her ears began to buzz with the blood coursing through her body.
She pressed her eyes tighter together imagining the splashing of the water in slow motion as the cat’s eyes widened, black with terror. The beautiful ripples it created becoming further and further apart until the water became glass again.
The moment was disrupted when her sister opened the door and saw her new gift floating motionless. She looked at Eve, and then back at the tiny corpse and then Eve again and began screaming as the adults filed onto the patio behind her.
Eve went to get the skimmer hanging on the fence, her father reached for her mother’s hand.
It was the first year they would cut down their own Christmas tree. The last three years they had bought them from the Ace hardware parking lot just down the road. Pre-cut trees lined up single file against a chain-link fence, like orphans vying for attention, hoping they’d be the chosen one to spend the holiday in the warmth of a good home. Little did they know how’d they end up though, once beautiful and adored, then thrown in a heap on the curb only to be hauled away by strangers.
Her excitement grew as she envisioned the majestic tree they would decorate that night. Sparkly glass orbs would dance with light as strings of cranberries clung daintily to the boughs. She loved lying underneath the tree and looking up. She dreamed it was a miniature world of tiny people living amongst the branches as she watched them in secret, as if looking into a snow globe.
Christmas was her favorite holiday, like most children, but for different reasons. It wasn't the presents she enjoyed the most it was the attention she got while opening them. And now, since the accident, she was the sole recipient of that attention. She breathed her hot breath onto the icy window and drew a heart.
They pulled to the side of the road in a promising wooded area. Eve got out and took a breath of the frigid night air. The winter air cut into her lungs like a million tiny razor blades. She buttoned the top button of her navy blue pea coat and tugged her knitted hat down over her ears. Her mother walked to her and reached out her gloved hand.
“I’ll be right behind you” her father called out as he opened the trunk to retrieve the saw. They ventured into the woods hand in hand, singing Christmas carols to keep their minds off the numbing cold. “Make my wish come true…Baby all I want for Christmas…” Eve liked this new family tradition, she thought as they ventured deeper in the woods, their flashlights making shadows dance as they stepped over fallen branches.
A thick layer of white covered everything they saw. Soon it would be muddy and tainted with animal tracks, but right now it was perfect. The air was thick and crisp with pine. She thought she detected the slight tinge of a fireplace, but there were no homes for miles. The wind howled through the evergreens. The slow creaky branches sounded as if they could give way at any moment with the newly fallen snow on the already weighed down limbs. The tall trees danced with each other, baying and bowing in the wind. Her mother held her hand a bit tighter.
‘How about that one?’ Eve’s mother asked pointing to a beautiful balsam fir. Eve’s eyes looked up in awe at the awesome dark green beauty, the spire top reaching into sky. Hopefully it had no inhabitants. As they waited for her father to catch up, Eve’s eyes began to tear from the cold, her pale skin pink with windburn.
“Why don’t you stay here and I’ll make sure dad is on his way,” her mother said letting go of her hand for the first time.
“Okay,” Eve said as she sat on a rotted stump. Her mother’s silhouette fading into the darkness, her tracks disappearing with the now heavy falling snow.
Her mother trudged in the snow for what seemed like miles before she saw the Volvo in the distance. A thick cloud of exhaust reached up into the sky like a beacon reassuring her. She could see her husband sitting in the driver seat. As she slid into the warm safety of the passenger seat she turned to him.
As they pull into the driveway, they see the blue glow in the windows from the television. “I don’t remember leaving the television on,” she says looking to her husband. As they open the front door and turn the corner into the living room. There is Eve. On the couch, brushing her doll’s hair. “Hi Mom.”