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Christmas Holiday Fiction

BEEP BEEP

I pull the curtain back and glance out the frosted window pane and see my daughter’s red hatchback parked on the curb. Our eyes meet, and she smiles nervously, waving a hand clad with fingerless gloves. I take a deep breath, grateful that the car is red. That made it easier to recall. Red is a Christmas color, after all.

Pulling on my coat, I grip the doorknob and the panic rushes in like a flood.

I can’t remember her name. Oh God. What is her name?

My mouth gapes open, ragged breaths staggering in and out before I can even think to calm them. It’s no wonder when the dizziness comes. For a moment, it feels like I might fall, but my grip on the round knob steadies me.

Why is this happening now? I knew I should have written this down. When she called last night, there had been so much to remember.

“I’ll pick you up at eleven, ok? Can you remember that?”

Yes. 

Eleven. 

One and one. 

If I hold up my two first fingers, that makes one and one. 

Eleven. Yes, I can remember that.

“I’ll be driving my red car. Just look for the red car.”

Red. 

Yes. 

I like red. 

Red and green. 

Those are Christmas colors. 

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. 

Red. I can remember red.

But I can’t remember her name.

I stand there for what feels like an eternity, holding the doorknob in desperation. I can’t seem to pry my hand from it any more than I can recall–

“Alice!” I cry aloud in an elated gasp. Tears of joy almost fill my eyes, but there’s no time. “Alice. Alice. Alice.” I say her name over and over as I finally turn the knob and open the door.

Alice is looking through the passenger window at me, concern on her face. But, when I step through the doorway, she smiles again. I wave, keys jingling in my hand.

Lock the door. Right. That’s a good idea.

By the time I get into the car, I’m panting, and it feels like I’ve run a marathon between the door and the curb. The car is warm, almost too warm, but it just feels good to be inside it with nothing important to think about for a while.

“Look at that. We’re right on time!” Alice says, cheerfully, tapping the clock on her dash.

“Oh,” I reply, somewhat surprised. I was certain I’d spent ages trapped behind the door, clawing through my brain to pull her name out of the ether. Apparently not. 

“Well, we get there when we get there,” I comment lightly. “No reason to rush!”

Alice stares at me. Her eyes blink. Three times.

I shift nervously in my seat. “Is… something wrong?”

My question pulls her out of whatever trance she’d slipped into, and her smile returns. “No! Nothing at all! It’s just…”

She stops. Which I find oddly frustrating. The incompleteness doesn’t feel right.

“Just what? Go ahead, it’s ok,” I assure her.

“That’s not like you.”

“What isn’t?”

“Uhm. Flexibility?” she continues.

“Oh. I see.” An awkward silence follows. I offer the best chuckle I can muster. “I must have been quite a stickler!”

“Just a bit,” she admits, turning her attention to the road.

She puts the car in DRIVE, and we pull away, heading down through a lovely neighborhood. Apparently I have lived here since Franklin died. That’s my husband. The house is smaller, and closer to where Alice lives. We all agreed that would be better for me than staying at the old place. 

I think. 

The houses we pass all have the same cookie cutter build. The doors are adorned with all manner of wreaths. Some are laced with white mistletoe berries, others red holly and pine cones. Sparse lawns are ornamented with snowmen, and light-up sleighs. Some have reindeer, and I spy a pair of upturned red pants and black boots coming out of a chimney that makes me chuckle

“People certainly get creative with their decorations!”

Alice glances at me, her eyes mostly focused on the road ahead. “You think so?”

“Did you see that one?” I point to a yard that sports a large, inflatable Frosty the Snowman. “He must be ten feet tall!” It’s an exaggeration, but gets the point across.

“He’s quite a statement!” Alice agrees. I can tell from the tone of her voice she’s not quite comfortable with the conversation. Apparently I didn’t get social cues wiped from my memory, at least.

“I’m doing it again, aren’t I?” I ask.

“Doing what?”

“Not acting like myself.” Alice doesn’t comment, so I force the issue. “I’m guessing I didn’t care much for decorating?”

She doesn’t reply immediately, but eventually constructs her answer. “Not since Dad's been gone.”

“Oh. Go ahead. How bad was I?”

She takes a tentative breath, but commits. “A waste of time and effort, I believe.”

Dear goodness. I let the conversation drop. But I don’t stop enjoying the yards we pass. Some even have colored lights! It’s hard to see them in the daytime, of course, but that means they will be beautiful when we drive back to my house tonight.

The drive only lasts about fifteen minutes. Alice’s house is very nice. Two stories, and a porch at the entry. She’s wasted some time and effort on the yard, it seems. There is a nativity at the corner of the porch, and lights framing the door and windows on the front of the house. We hustle up to the front door, and she opens it for me.

The house smells like baking. Dough, fruit, and bubbling sugar. It’s a sweet smell, and I inhale deeply as I pull off my coat.

“Something is going to be delicious!” I remark. Alice smiles.

“Aaron has been at it since early this morning.”

That’s her husband.

I hang my coat on a hook by the door, and wander into the den. It’s nice and open, with a large sectional, and some plush chairs. There is a fireplace in the center wall. Gas, I note. Flames dance brightly within. Next to it is the Christmas tree. It’s covered in colorful lights, shimmering glass ornaments, and chunks of tinsel. I can’t help being drawn to it.

“Oh, Alice! Your tree is gorgeous!” I tell her, gently running my finger along an ornament in the shape of a snowflake.

“Thank you,” she replies, her happiness settling me. Maybe Christmas trees were the one thing I approved of during the holiday. Or maybe not. I decide not to ask. I don’t care. The tree is so beautiful, I just want to enjoy it.

“Mom, I’m gonna help Aaron set the table, will you be ok in here for a bit?” Alice asks.

I nod, and find a seat close to the fireplace. “I will wait right here,” I tell her. She sighs with some sort of relief, and disappears deeper into the house.

My eyes scan the room. It’s smartly decorated. Candles are on most of the tables and other flat surfaces. A bowl of potpourri sits on the coffee table in the middle of the room, smelling of warm spices. And photographs.

Pictures are mounted in pastel frames on most of the walls. Pictures of Alice and myself, standing or sitting together. Franklin is in some of them. I linger a moment on his face. His smile seems so kind, and there is a joy in his eyes that makes them glitter. Alice has his eyes.

There are others of Alice with a handsome man. That must be Aaron. I haven’t seen him since the accident. Not till now. But there is something familiar about his scruffy beard and broad shoulders. He holds onto Alice lovingly in every photo. That makes me happy.

And then, there’s another photo on the table across from me. Alice and Aaron and… a little boy.

A tiny face peers at me from around the corner. Brown hair, and a pinched little chin, and eyes that glitter just like Alice and Franklin. He looks at me cautiously, and then ducks back behind the wall for a moment. When nothing happens, he looks again. I smile, and wave at him. He pops out from behind the wall, dressed in green Christmas pajamas and red socks.

“Hello,” I offer.

He bounds over to me, his footfalls much heavier than I think someone his size should be able to manage.

“Do you remember me?” he asks, right away.

My eyes widen in horror. Because I don’t. 

He waits patiently for my answer, and for a moment I feel the panic beginning to wrap around my chest. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry,” I finally admit. He doesn’t seem phased.

“That’s ok, I can help.” He jumps up to sit beside me. “I’m Ethan, and I’m FOUR.” He clumsily holds up four fingers to emphasize this.

“Ethan. Four,” I repeat back. “I will remember that.”

He stares at me, contemplating for a while. “Do you like chocolate?”

“I don’t know.” Somehow admitting such things to Ethan is easier than to the doctors, or even Alice. He hops back down, and scurries out of the room, returning momentarily with a red box.

“These are special. For Christmas,” he says, holding it out to me. I lift the lid and behold a selection of filled chocolates. Some of them half bitten. I can’t help but smile. “You can have one.”

“Thank you.” I pluck one of the morsels up, and take a bite.

“What’s in it?” Ethan asks excitedly.

“Coconut.”

His nose wrinkles. “Eeeeewwwwwww!”

“You don’t like coconut?”

He shakes his head. “Only peanut butter. And care-mel. And more chocolate.”

“Those DO sound delicious.”

“Do you like stories?” he continues.

“Well, yes, I think so,” I reply.

Once again, he scurries from the room. He’s gone a little longer this time, and I decide to indulge in another chocolate. This one is filled with cherry. It’s surprisingly sweet, with only a hint of the tart flavor I was expecting. I decide I most certainly like cherries.

This time, Ethan returns with a book. And this time he not only climbs up to sit next to me, he swings his legs over my lap. Then, he looks up at me in horror.

“Do you remember how to read?”

I laugh, and take the book from his hands. “Yes, that’s one thing I do remember.”

He sighs with relief, and settles against me as I open the book.

“The Night Before Christmas,” I begin on the title page. “I used to read this to your mom.”

I stop. The words come so quickly, I don't even have time to think about them. But it was true. Somewhere in my memory, I recall holding a little girl, wrapped up in a blanket, and opening this same book. The snow covered houses on the first page. The illuminated “T” of ‘Twas’ at the start of the poem. It’s as clear to me as anything.

“Are you ok?” Ethan’s voice penetrates my thoughts, and I look down at him.

“Yes,” I say with certainty. “I’m ok.”

He smiles, and turns his attention back to the pages.

Footsteps gently shuffle from the hall, and Alice steps into the room. “Mom, I–” She stops when she sees Ethan in my lap, her eyes widening. “Ethan, what are you doing? I told you Grandma isn’t–”

“Alice! You’re just in time!” I interrupt her.

She blinks at me. “What?”

“Ethan and I are going to read a story.” I look down at Ethan playfully. “Should we let Mommy read it with us?”

He smiles brightly. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Alice still seems confused, but she crosses the room, and sits next to the two of us on the couch.

I give her a sympathetic smile. “We’ve never done this before, have we?”

She shakes her head, eyes filling with tearful emotion. “No, Mom. We haven’t.”

“Well. Now we do,” I tell her.

Ethan wiggles impatiently, and I open the book again.

“Twas the night before Christmas…”


December 22, 2023 16:45

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7 comments

Michelle Oliver
13:12 Dec 29, 2023

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. You’ve captured the awkward moments the uncomfortable fit of people who are not sure how their relationship jigsaw puzzle fits together anymore. There’s love and there is tension that comes from metaphorically walking on egg shells around each other. I love the ending. A chance to reinvent oneself without any preconceived notions of who or what you are.

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Jack Kimball
00:39 Dec 29, 2023

Great job pulling the heart strings Hannah! I just finished ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with Jimmy Stewart. Your story fits right in. Best of the holidays for you! Jack

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Kevin Marlow
01:32 Dec 27, 2023

Packed with emotion, like all your stories. Good read.

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18:13 Dec 28, 2023

Thank you, Kevin! I tend to pull at my own heartstrings when I'm writing :)

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Mary Bendickson
07:17 Dec 23, 2023

Remembering Christmas and everything else.

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15:40 Dec 23, 2023

Spot on 😊

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Mary Bendickson
21:23 Dec 23, 2023

Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute Meet '. Have a Merry Christmas.

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