Fantasy Christmas

Having lost her own house, Mylee knew exactly what she wanted in this one, though being ten, she didn't quite have the words for it. She added a chimney for her fireplace, and then squeezed icing in hopeful, repeating swirls across the roof.

Of course, kitchens and bathrooms were important, but for Mylee, the Hideout Closet, the Secret Attic door, and the Comfy Corner were absolute priorities. She needed places where she could escape and be alone. Staying at her Uncle’s apartment, crowded now with two families and a cat in just two bedrooms, there were bodies everywhere.

 And a Mom. Her house needed a Mom.

In the small kitchen, plastic Christmas wreaths and tinsel hung from the kitchen walls, while silver stars twirled on red twine, pushed by drafts from the cracked windows. Mylee remembered a different time, in her own kitchen, with her mother's voice, warm and comforting.

"Cookies are little bits of Christmas magic, they can make anything possible." She had said, and Mylee believed it, for her Mom was always right. They were making ginger snap cookies, and Mylee felt safe, and happy. Her Mom’s brown hands held Mylee’s own, as they cut out Christmas cookies in the shapes of stars, bells and leaping reindeer.

 “-Hey.” Marcus, her older brother’s voice broke into her memory, reminding her of their new horrible reality. Two years older, he wore a borrowed shirt, too small, his belly oozed out like a marshmallow. “Amanda said we’re getting kicked out?” He whispered in her ear. He held a wall of his gingerbread house in his fingers, chewing through it like a large termite.

Mylee wiped her eyes with her sleeve before the hot tears could fall. She blinked, pretending to ignore Marcus’ comment and kept working on her house. She needed to make it perfect, as this might be the only house she will ever have again. Especially now if they have to move, into a motel again, or to their car. Her small fingers delicately placed M&M decorations on the roof edge.

“Right after Christmas she said.” Marcus continued chewing with his mouth open. “I liked the Oasis, they had the breakfast buffet.”

“But they didn’t allow cats-” Mylee glanced at the floor for Rudolph, missing again.

“Your Gingerbread house is beautiful honey.” Mylee looked up quickly, confused to hear something nice from her Aunt, but saw her attention directed to her own daughter, Amanda. On the other side of the table, Aunt Bonnie leaned her body, squished into a bright red and green dress as far away from the table as possible, while her manicured fingers pushed on Amanda’s Gingerbread house. Tilted dangerously sideways, the walls just barely kept the candy covered roof aloft. “There, it is staying put.” 

 Amanda, 13, whose only contribution had been to criticize her Mom and eat the candies, took the compliment gratuitously. “It is beautiful!” She laughed and twirled in her own red and green Christmas dress, the pleats turning her into a spinning top. “Yours is, um, nice, Mylee.”

Mylee gritted her teeth, and kept her head down. Her Dad had asked her to be on her best behavior and she had already fought with Amanda just that morning when she had taken the last of Mylee’s Frosted Flakes, leaving only the bland Cheerios.

 Mylee had always been the good one of the two, content to read her books and play by herself, while Marcus forgot about his homework and broke everything he touched. But lately, she spun into uncontrollable anger at the slightest insult, as if her veins were filled with red molten lava.

The good relations between the two families had moved from supportive, to tolerating, to outright hostility after two weeks of forced proximity. The tight apartment had turned all the energy inward, burning brighter and hotter, so even Christmas became a problem. Only a few presents sat below the decorated tree.

“Do you have any more of the Christmas Magic?” Her Dad had asked. “We used get together every year for the holiday at our house, try to remember those times.”

Mylee did remember, and the contrast between those days and now hurt. Her Mother would cook, they would decorate cookies together, wrap presents, and …. The hot tears threatened again at the thought of what she had lost. 

If my Mother is dead, who cares about Christmas?

Mylee knew her Uncle Bob would not want to send his only brother and family out into the street on Christmas. But she didn’t trust his wife, Aunt Bonnie. She only cared about Amanda, and Amanda wanted Mylee and Marcus out of her house, her life, and to get back to being the center of attention.

Mylee wished her Dad could see this gingerbread house, but he had left again. Barely there, he spent most of the day out of the house, looking for work, he said, leaving them to fend for themselves in the hostile environment. Mylee carefully placed two tall, red candy windows on her house, stuck in place with sugary icing. She cracked a gingerbread in small pieces to add the peaks over each window, then attached small shutters next to them. Tilted out, the windows turned the small house into a cheery face, carrying hope for Mylee’s future. She wished she could make a house for her own family so easily. She placed peppermint sticks to outline the door, locked tight and safe from her cousin Amanda. Mylee’s small dark finger poked through the paper plate of M&Ms for a red one to complete the decoration on the fringe of the roof.

Fat, sausage fingers grabbed at the plate of candy, scooping up the last two reds. Mylee slapped at Marcus, her eyes blazing coals of fire.  He yanked his hand back to shove the M&M’s in his mouth, which pulled the plate off the table. The candies clicked and clacked, bouncing high off the linoleum floor of their uncle’s kitchen.

“MMM!” Marcus squealed, squirrel-cheeked with candy, pointing to assign blame.

“Mylee!” Aunt Bonnie yelled from across the table “What a mess!” She stood up with one hand on her hip, the other against her forehead. “Oh I need more wine.” She said, shaking her head. 

“Amanda, Marcus, come into the family room, I left some Christmas cookies with Bob, if he hasn’t eaten them all.”

“Mylee, clean this up.” Her hand waved, dismissing the mess and Mylee as she walked through the swinging door. Mylee gave the closing door a death stare before bending down to pick up the dropped candy.

“Clean this up!” Amanda parroted, her face a wide grin. Blonde and blue eyed, she looked like a different species from Mylee, short and brown, the coloring and temperament passed directly from her late mother. Amanda’s hands fluffed the scarf wrapped elegantly around her neck, a recent present, or really bribe to put up with her cousins. “I’d help but, I have some cookies to eat, so-” Amanda winked.

Rage at her servant status burned through Mylee. She erupted up, stepping toward Amanda, but hit the table instead. The slight bump was enough to complete the inevitable. Amanda’s gingerbread house collapsed, the roof cracked, the walls caved in under mounds of sugar icing.

“My house!” Amanda yelled, “you destroyed my house!”

Amanda reached over, and with a festive fist, her own nails alternating magenta red and kelly green, crushed Mylee’s gingerbread house flat. Mylee raised her own fist in retaliation, and swung.

Mylee’s bare neck felt the biting sting as she pulled the thin sweater around herself, shivering. She sat on the cold cement of the back step, banished outside for hitting Amanda. Mylee only wished she had connected with her swing, instead of just a glancing blow off the slippery Christmas scarf.

Clips of conversations came through the door, as the rest of the family had dinner.

 “Widower can’t handle kids… foreclosure… send away…too much of her mother in her… doesn’t listen…”

Mylee hugged her legs tighter, miserable, nibbling on a cookie Marcus had smuggled to her. She ate half and put the rest in her pocket for later. Suddenly she saw Rudolph look at her from the driveway and then continue walking out toward the street,

“Rudy!” Mylee ran down the steps and followed the fluffy white cat with the bright pink nose into the neighborhood.

After several blocks, she lost Rudy, and herself. Her anger had kept her warm, then her concern for Rudolph, but finally the sharp wind found its mark and she began to worry about even finding the apartment again. 

Down an alley Mylee found heat pouring from a grate near the ground. She looked up to see the restaurant, a bakery, ‘Blessed Buns’.

“Just a few minutes.” Mylee said to herself, and to the freezing night air. Not warm, however finally not cold, she curled up near the grate and closed her eyes. In an instant she was in her old home.

Her mother sat on the couch, her head wrapped in a silk scarf, drinking her coffee and snuggling with Rudolph. Her father clattered dishes in the kitchen making pancakes, fragrant with berries and ginger.

Mylee’s mouth watered at the smell. She moved upstairs to her bedroom. She loved her room, the pink quilt, the posters of her hero Hermione, her stack of books piled haphazardly on a bookshelf. Blurred together, she couldn’t read the words. Frustrated the memory faded, and Mylee drifted into a new room made of garbage and ice. She would live in the streets, forever. She tried to remember the book titles instead of feeling sorry for herself, sorry that her mother was dead.  

The early morning sun covered her like a yellow-gold blanket in the alley, street noises and footsteps echoing around her. Mylee blinked, she couldn’t tell if the sparkle in the air was real, or just meant she was hungry.

The warm spot at her hip moved, then with a backward glance, a bright red nose walked out of the alley and around the corner.  

“Rudy!” Mylee shouted, and stood up to follow, walking several blocks until she became caught up in a crowd of people, staring at a house.

Towering into the sky with a cheery smile, her gingerbread house stood impossibly full size on the corner. Two tall, red candy windows with shutters looked out at her from the large brown walls. White swirls covered the roof, though a few red decorations on the edge were missing. 

Mylee pushed through the crowd to the peppermint stick door, then touched the wall, soft under her fingers. Pulling, then shoving the door, Mylee didn’t understand why it didn't open for her. Then with understanding, she patted her pocket, and took out the half-eaten cookie, strangely shaped like a key. Fitting it in to a small keyhole, the lock clicked and the door opened.

Mylee stepped inside, eyes wide, while Rudy followed on her heels.

Cookie and sugar walls surrounded her, enveloping her in sugary sweet smells of ginger and icing. Though not much existed on the inside of a gingerbread house, piles of marshmallows make a perfect Comfy Corner. Mylee dove in, snuggling into the puffed sugar and closed her eyes in joy.

“Hello?” A familiar voice called out. 

“Dad, Marcus, look at my house!” Mylee launched herself up to fly into her father’s arms. “Aunt Bonnie and Amanda are going to kick us out, so I made a house for us! It doesn't have a kitchen, but…”

“We aren’t getting kicked out of Uncle Bob’s house.” Her Dad said, smiling down. He wore a thick coat against the cold, but Mylee could still smell him, and it warmed her down to her toes. “But we are leaving that tiny apartment. I found a new house for us to live, and a job. I’m sorry I haven’t been around, but I wanted to move everything out of storage, even your bed. We can move in today.”

Mylee felt the lava flow inside her cool down, the pressure escaping as the hot tears flowed down her face, finally released.

“We’ll be OK Mylee.” Her Dad hugged her again. “We all miss Mom, but maybe together we can get through this.”

“You can eat the house!” Marcus said, a large hunk of the living room wall in his hand, chewing again with his mouth open.

 A woman walked up to the door, holding hands with a small girl, both bundled in a blue parka jacket.   

“This is the best thing I have ever seen!” her head was tilted back, a large open smile on her face.  

“Can we come inside?”

“Is it magic?” the little girl asked.

Mylee smiled back, “It is, Christmas magic!” 

December 21, 2023 23:28

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RJ Holmquist
15:24 Dec 29, 2023

I would love to have a giant gingerbread house! I liked the sense of new beginning that came with it.


Marty B
22:08 Dec 29, 2023

Me too, very tasty! Thanks!


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Michał Przywara
18:15 Dec 28, 2023

Lovely! A very positive ending for something that could have been quite dark. Poor Mylee didn't have all the facts, and in her understandably poor mood, she lept to conclusions. Well, Marcus didn't help, and Amanda probably deliberately misrepresented things. “And a Mom. Her house needed a Mom” - this line hits hard, upping the stakes on everything that came before. The gingerbread house appearing is a nice Christmas miracle - assuming it's real, and it sure seems that way. It's doubly nice, because it's not just for Mylee, it's somethin...


Marty B
23:56 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks, we all need a little Christmas Magic!


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AnneMarie Miles
17:16 Dec 22, 2023

What a wonderful idea - a full-sized gingerbread house, conjured from Mylee's wishes. I wasn't expecting it, but once it appeared, I appreciated the opening line so much more. Great connection, there, Marty. The imagery around this giant cookie house and Rudy made all the sour moments with Amanda feel small, as if Mylee had all the power inside her to deflect Amanda's cruelty. It really felt quite magical, thanks for sharing this fun idea, Marty!


Marty B
23:37 Dec 22, 2023

It is the season for Christmas Magic. I hope you have a magical Holiday Season yourself!


AnneMarie Miles
02:10 Dec 23, 2023

Thanks and you too, Marty! ✨


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