Christmas Fantasy Drama

Uncle Don and Aunt Lynette whispered in the love seat across from mine. Cousin Charles picked at his teeth, his large form hovering in the kitchen doorway, his eyes staring blankly ahead. Rod and Finney sat to the right of the hearth, which cackled with a glowing flame.

The drapes in the living room had been drawn back, revealing the picturesque snowfall beyond it. Despite the odd collection of relatives, some of whom I hadn’t seen since I was five, our little gathering made an ideal representation of Christmas morning. 

My parents, twice married and twice divorced, flanked me, their eager expressions focused on the poorly wrapped parcel in my lap.

Mother would fuss over it and remind me to thank the giver. Dad would pat me on the shoulder and then redirect the conversation to sports. Grandma Vegas would preen and turn up her hearing aid, so as not to miss a compliment. I shot her a smile and peeled at the corners of the wrapping, a dollar store roll of knock off cartoon characters. Grandma leaned forward, her aged shawl wrapped around her shoulders and her dress smelling like the cream she used for her muscle aches. 

“Ohhhhhh,” I exclaimed, earning a pinch from my mom. (I supposed it sounded rather sarcastic.) 

“What is it, Sid?” My mother prodded, giving me another surreptitious pinch on the arm. I extracted the old relic and held it up high for the rest of the room, hoping one of my older family members could identify it first. 

Grandma Vegas clapped and chuckled animatedly, revealing her loose dentures and the lipstick that decorated them. 


“A chatelaine!” my mother supplied. 

“Thank you! It’s just what I wanted,” I lied, offering up a weak smile. 

What I’d wanted was a new cellular phone, or a gift card to makeup express. Or perhaps some real jewelry. What I’d gotten was a hand-me-down pair of mittens from the twins, an outdated compact disc for an outdated band, and this metal monstrosity. 

I held it up higher to catch the light, turning it this way and that. It appeared to be constructed of sterling silver, with four lengths of chain dangling from the top of it. Each chain ended in a rounded or narrowed, rectangular piece that resembled a locket. I examined it more closely, impressed, at least, that I’d never seen one before. 

“That belonged to your great great grandmother Gisanne,” Grandma Vegas confided. 

I wanted to ask her what the odd attachment was for, but a warning look from my mother quelled the question. I would research it later, after the relatives had gone. 

“Thank you so much, Grandma Vegas!” I stuffed the wrapping paper in the nearest trash bag and laid the gift on the coffee table. 

“You shouldn’t do that!” Grandma Vegas interrupted. I jumped, surprised at her vehemence. It was no secret that my poor grandmother was slipping, and her mental faculties were declining everyday. I’d heard my mom talking on the phone with the home health companies, arranging her care. I didn’t think Grandma knew about that part, yet. Dad raised his eyebrows at Grandma, whose eyes were large and rounded. Her narrow form leaned far forward, and mom rushed over to her side, prepared to catch her if she fell over. 

“I-I’m sorry,” I apologized. Grandma had a funny expression on her face, and I wondered if she was having another one of her episodes. 

“That relic is the most powerful thing you’ll ever own!” she admonished. “You must keep it safe! Do not leave it lying around like one of your costume jewelries!” 

Mother laid her hand on Grandma’s shoulder, urging her to calm down. Grandma’s face had turned hostile, and for a split second, I’d gleamed that Rimatta family ferocity I’d heard so much about. 

Rod and Finney, my thirteen-year-old twin cousins, whispered to one another and snickered, and I felt my cheeks redden. Their dad had gotten them a video game system. 

“Where is the best place to keep it?” I asked my grandmother. She relaxed into her chair and patted my mother’s slim fingers. 

“Lock it away in your room somewhere safe!” she hissed. “Somewhere where they won’t find it! Use it only when you have to!” 

Grandma Vegas gasped and collapsed back into the plush armchair, grasping at her chest. Mother fussed over her, peppering her with questions she didn’t answer. All at once the living room erupted into a confused chaos, as Dad dialed the paramedics, and my grandmother collapsed onto the floor. Hours later, she was declared dead. 

The drive home from the hospital was silent. Mother rode in the passenger seat, her eyes swollen and red-rimmed. Dad glanced at her often, hesitantly offering her his guarded consolations. I slumped in the backseat, fighting my own tears while I stared out the frost covered window. Just minutes before my grandmother's demise, I’d scoffed internally at her gift. The last gift, it turned out, that she would ever give me. I’d stuffed it into my pants pocket on the way to the hospital, after the paramedics had wheeled her out the doorway. Somehow the old relic had become priceless in the moments following her collapse. Somehow it had gone to worthless to priceless, in my estimation. 

“Sidney I want you to take good care of that gift,” my mother called from the front seat. 

“I will. I promise,” I whispered. 

The clock downstairs chimed, signaling the passage of midnight. The blinds were partially drawn, emitting the cold winter light. The snow had abated, but the yards outside were blanketed in the white stuff, giving the whole neighborhood a frozen, melancholy feel. A single tear streaked down my face as I clutched the gift from Grandma in my fingers. The heater hummed quietly and the floorboards down the hall creaked where my mother paced. I supposed the cascade of regret that came after death was inevitable no matter what. It was all part of the dying process. 

“I’m sorry, grandmother,” I whispered to the vacant space between me and the ceiling. “I wish I could go back.” 

Then the room began to spin, and my ears popped. And everything went black. 

“You certainly didn’t waste any time, did you, girl?” 

I shrieked and spun to face my grandmother's face. We stood in her old living room, where she and my grandfather had spent most of my younger childhood years. After my parent’s divorce, our visits had grown more infrequent, and after grandfather had passed away, grandma Vegas had relocated to a small duplex on the south side of town. 

“What- how-” 

Grandma Vegas smiled and held up her hand in a “stop” gesture. Instead of her usual, aged garb, she was swathed in a lovely spring dress. Her wrinkled skin glowed and her hearing aid was gone. 

“You have it, don’t you? The chatelaine?” 

I gulped and nodded, fishing it out of my jeans pocket. I gaped down at myself, noting that my fleece pajamas had been replaced by the jeans and a sweater combination I’d worn earlier that evening. 

“Good girl. Let me tell you a story,” she said, sitting in the armchair that appeared before my very eyes. We were in her old living room, and bit by bit, old pieces of her furniture winked into view, including another armchair positioned behind me and adjacent to hers. 

“Sit down, Sidney,” she commanded. I obeyed. 

“That chatelaine,” she began, “was a family heirloom. It is rumored to originate in a magic shop in France in the 1700s, but of course none of us were around back then. It was a gift to your great great grandmother on the eve of her wedding to her husband. The chatelaine served as a keychain in those days, and was carried by the head of household. They attached everything from keys to pens to family seals and carried it on their belts,” she explained. My heart hammered in my chest as my gaze wandered around the room. The clock pendulum by the fireplace swung mutely, and my Grandmother’s old cat, Edgar slept by the hearth, his ears twitching in annoyance. Edgar had died a decade earlier. 

“Am I dead?” I asked. 

Grandmother Vegas cackled, and I sat rigid and waiting, certain that I’d kicked the bucket in the middle of the night. 

“No, no you silly girl! I was getting to that part!” 

Edgar raised his head and glared at my impertinence before settling down to his nap. 

“The chatelaine is the key,” she continued. “The key between the living and the dead. It’s a second chance, my girl.” 

I waited in silence for her to continue. 

“So that relic is the reason you and I are here?” 

Grandmother nodded primly. 

“Yes, it is. I used it to say goodbye to your grandfather,” she said, her lip quivering. I averted my gaze, allowing her some modicum a privacy. My grandfather had died in a fire at the plywood manufacturing plant. 

“You...you saw him?” 

Grandmother sniffed. 

“I did. He told me not to be afraid. He promised to wait for me,” she said. Her aged face relaxed into a wistful expression, and I realized all at once what a beautiful woman my grandmother had once been. An observation I’d missed before. 

“Is- is he waiting for you?” 

Tears burned my eyes as I stalled the inevitable. I could feel goodbye looming, and just as quickly as they’d appeared, the furniture items had begun to vanish piece by piece. Edgar looked up, yawned, and gazed at my grandmother in askance. 

“You go on, Edgar. I’ll be along shortly.” 

With a petulant yowl, the black and white cat flickered out of existence, along with the rug he’d lain on. 

“Don’t leave!” I begged, holding up the relic. “You can’t, not yet! I’ll go get mother, she’ll want to-” 

Grandmother shook her head, quelling my protests. 

“There’s no time, dear. The relic only works one time. If you leave now, neither of us will get the chance to do what we’ve come to do.” 

Tears streamed down my face, and a sob escaped my throat. How was it that I’d never truly appreciated this woman until it was too late? Suddenly the memories flooded me, images of her fresh baked cookies and her stories in the garden, before my family had been broken. Twice. 

“You can’t go,” I whispered hoarsely. “My mother needs you. I need you! It’s not time for you to go yet!” 

I closed the distance between us and flung my arms around her, inhaling her scent. Grandmother didn’t smell like muscle cream anymore. Now, she smelled like sunlight. 

“There there, my girl,” she coaxed, stroking my hair. “Everyone says goodbye. You and I have been given a gift.” 

“What gift?” I sniffed, craning to meet her eyes. She smiled down at me warmly and clucked her tongue. 

“The gift of goodbye, dear. Not everyone gets to say it. Our family has had generations of second chances, and ours ends now.” 

Grandmother’s fingers swept my tears away, and her eyes grew brighter, somehow more youthful. I could feel her grip on me loosen and her image flickering. Soon she would be gone again. Just like Edgar the cat. 

“You thought it was just another silly relic,” she said, with a wink. I chuckled, and she vanished, the remnants of her old living room vanishing with her. 

“Grandma?” I sobbed. Mom rustled into my bedroom, the hall light spilling in after her. I was sitting in my bed, the blankets pulled up to my chest and tucked around me, as if grandmother herself had done it. 

“Sidney, it’s just a dream, sweetie,” mom said, climbing into bed next to me. She sniffed and wrapped her arms around me, tucking her thin frame in beside mine. I relaxed in her warmth, allowing myself to let go of the resentment I’d harbored toward her and my father these past few years. I could almost feel my grandmother’s arms around me still, her scent permeating the air around us. 

“You smell like her,” my mom noted, inhaling the scent on my hair. I clutched the chatelaine in my left hand, using my right to hold my mother right back. 

“Were you dreaming about her?” My mother asked. I nodded mutely, running my left hand down my sweater. The sweater I’d changed out of when I’d gone to bed. The sweater I’d been wearing when my grandmother held me for the last time. 

“You lucky girl,” she said, pulling me closer. 

“Not everyone gets to say goodbye,” I whispered. 

Mom and I drifted off to sleep sometime later. I dreamt of grandmother Vegas, young and smiling and being peppered with grandfather’s kisses. Their house was clean and orderly and full of life and light. Their bodies were strong and limber, their clothes freshly pressed, as though Grandmother had spent the day doing the wash. Edgar the cat wrapped himself around their ankles, glad for the reunion, or possibly competing for their shared attentions. I watched them all from far the doorway, knowing even as it happened, that this time, it was a dream. Though I stood alone, I could still feel her arms around me, and the chatelaine hung from my belt loops, shining and delicate. Then my grandparents looked at me, and grandmother Vegas winked, and I closed the door behind me as I way my way back home. 

November 18, 2022 20:07

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Hermini Gilda
15:31 Dec 01, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed this read from beginning to end.


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Kathleen `Woods
09:40 Nov 21, 2022

Your chosen subject was a surprise, but dang. This was very complete as far as portrayals of the intense feelings surrounding the death of a loved one. good job on that! The mention and description of a chatelaine was so nifty, I've only really seen mention of it in corsetry videos, and attaching the magical aspect of the story to one was a really good choice. It's a rare ornament, and isn't exactly modern enough to come off as anything other than inspired. Thanks for writing!


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