Content warning: This story is about Christmas. Yes, I know it’s only August! Please forgive me.
How My Sister Stole Christmas
Lucy was born on Christmas day. That should tell you everything you need to know about her. Somehow, I still remember that morning vividly. My favourite film, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, was playing on the VHS player and the smell of pine and sweet pancakes wafted around us. My Mum, belly all swollen like the stuffed turkey in the oven, was sitting on the sofa and my Dad next to me, cross-legged on the carpet. A sea of gifts were scattered across the room, shrouded in bright red and green wrapping. They were all different sizes, some adorned large bows and some were tied with string, but all of them - every single one - were addressed to me. Dad handed me my first present, it was shoe-box shaped and twinkled with crimson glitter. Giddy with excitement, I shook the parcel against my ear, listening for a whisper that told me what was inside. I prayed it was a new Barbie doll, the type I had seen advertised on TV with pink roller-skates and golden pigtails that dangled from under a helmet. My small fingers were grappling with the paper when Mum started puffing and groaning. Beneath her was a wet mess.
“Phil?” Mum’s voice stung with panic. A tone I’d never heard before.
“We need to go, Hannah.” Dad shot up and pulled the present from my grasp.
“But-” As I reached for the box in his hand, he chucked it to the other side of the room, sparkles mushrooming in the air.
“Now.” He hooked my arms around his neck, took Mum’s hand, and together we left Christmas behind us.
I was dropped off at Grandma’s house, and my parents sped to the hospital. “Isn’t this exciting?” Grandma said every couple of minutes. “You’re going to have a brand new baby sister.” But I wasn’t excited, nor did I want a sister. I wanted to watch The Grinch on VHS and open my brand new doll which at the moment, was sprawled across the floor and all alone. Poor, poor Barbie. Grandma tried to make the day nice for me. She even bought me a present herself. A woven-basket to hang on the front of my tricycle. I said thank you, but I didn’t mean it.
It was dark outside when Mum and Dad arrived to collect me. They both entered Nan’s dining room where I was drawing elves and reindeers on the front of her Yellow Pages in red Sharpie. In Mum’s arms was a bundle of blankets, and a little pink face peeked out from them. Grandma’s eyes were wet and she kept sniffling into her sleeve.
“Come meet Lucy, darling,” Mum said.
“I’m OK,” I replied, and continued squiggling my latest masterpiece.
“Well, she’d love to meet her big sister.”
I sighed, getting up from the chair. If it meant we could go home sooner - fine. Dad picked me up so I had a better view. Her skin was all patchy and her head completely bald with beady eyes that swirled about in their sockets. She was sucking her lips, scrunching her face like she had just bitten into ice-cream. No wonder Grandma had cried.
“Can we go now?” I asked.
“Sure, sweety.” Dad lowered me back to the ground and ruffled my hair.
When we got home, I asked to open my presents but Mum and Dad claimed they were too tired. Too tired because of Lucy, no doubt. Tomorrow, they promised.
The next morning our front door wouldn’t stop opening and closing as family arrived to visit us. Or should I say, to visit Lucy. They draped around her, kissing her flushed cheeks and stroking her naked head. Oh, she’s so beautiful. And so well-behaved too! How lucky you are, Hannah, to have such a lovely sister. I didn’t feel lucky, and I couldn’t understand what they saw in her. She couldn’t walk or talk yet, and when she wasn’t crying, milky white liquid spewed from her mouth and dribbled down her chin. Yuck. I tried to veer their attention away. I told my Auntie about my creative pursuits at Grandma’s house, how I had embellished her Yellow Pages with Christmas trees and stars. (Tell her how good I draw, Grandma.) I showed my cousin all the presents I was still yet to open; eighteen in total. (Yes cousin! I can count to eighteen now!) But Lucy was always doing something to steal them away again. Yawning, coughing, blinking. Things that I could do, too, but never received any praise for. Mum and Dad also succumbed to Lucy’s manipulation. They were always fussing over her: rushing to the nursery whenever she cried, gawking at the baby monitor whilst she slept.
When everyone had left, I asked Mum if we could watch the remainder of The Grinch together (seeing as we were so rudely interrupted) but Lucy must have heard us as she started howling again. It was a high pitched screech like a car alarm, alerting everyone with ears that she needed something and immediately. Me! Me! Me! I need attention. Me!
“I can’t right now, Hannah,” Mum said. She pecked me on the cheek and both of my parents disappeared upstairs. And so I found myself alone in the front room. The head of the VHS peered out from the video-player and gently I pushed it in. The TV began whirring and clunking until that loveable monster blinked onto the screen, his eyebrow cocked and grinning at me devilishly.
Mum and Dad were still comforting my sister. I could hear them cooing at her, their footsteps pacing in circles above. They probably wouldn’t be back downstairs for some time…
I smiled back at the TV.
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
I delved into my presents, picking up the box closest to me. I didn’t bother reading the tag or carefully removing the bow. No, my fingers scrunched into the wrapping and it ripped as easy as wet tissue. I counted each one as I opened them - Present one: a Powerpuff Girls t-shirt, present two: a new Play Doh set, present three: a polka dot Furby (yipee!) Immediately I would grab another, then the next, and soon, I was drowning amongst scraps of paper, my hands glinting like diamonds in the sun. And I only had one left to open.
I flinched. My parents were standing in the doorway, Lucy swaddled in a white blanket making smacking noises with her mouth. Was she tutting at me? I tried to rub the glitter from my skin, hide some of the opened toys behind me, but it was hopeless. My lips began to wobble in anticipation of the scolding I was about to receive - Dad’s furrowed brows, Mum’s wagging finger. Will I be sent to the naughty-step? Or worse, will they take my new gifts away? Of course, my sister will take great pleasure in watching me squirm. Probably taking notes on how to be the perfect daughter. Here's one for free, Lucy, never take advice from The Grinch.
But the scolding never came. Instead, my parents perched on the carpet next to me amongst the unravelled ribbons and papery debris.
“Think you missed one.” Dad leant across the room and grasped my last present: shoe-box shaped and twinkling with crimson glitter. He passed it to me, and I began to tear into it.
“Wait, Hannah. Read it first.”
I turned the tag over:
Merry Christmas. I can’t wait to meet you.
Love your baby sister.
Lucy ogled me from Mum’s lap, and I stared back at her. What had she bought me? My stomach churned with anticipation. Did she know about rollerblading Barbie? Had she seen the TV adverts like I had?
My fingers peeled off the sellotape and inside was another box. I shimmied the lid off and peered inside. Yes, it was a doll, but it didn’t have golden pigtails, nor roller skates attached to its feet. It was far more hairy than any Barbie I had seen, with a plump belly covered in green fur. Its yellow eyes glared up at me, and his smirk somehow seemed to widen.
My body tingled all over as I reached into the box and pulled him out.
“Do you like it?” Dad asked.
Saying ‘yes’ didn’t seem enough, so I cuddled his body against my own, his mane tickling my skin.
My sister, who had stolen Christmas, had gifted me The Grinch.
“What do you say, then, Hannah?”
I gave my sister a gentle kiss on the temple, and she grabbed my finger tightly.
“Thank you, Lucy,” I whispered in her ear. And this time, truly, I meant it.