1 comment

Holiday Christmas Romance

I push aside the curtain, the steam from the shower instantly sinking in the cold bathroom like some sci-fi cryogenic pod had opened in the tub. Get some green lights in here, and maybe some holographic nylon clothes for me and this would be a perfect set for a supernatural skincare commercial. I scribble the additions on a 4 by 6 card crammed with ink. Two more items Christmas-listed.

I grab a towel, the artificial orange ruining the sharp feel I wanted, but it will have to do. My hair wrapped and twisted up to dry, I turn gracefully my fingers cocked like a pistol. I lightly close my eyes and cast my face down dramatically, to highlight my jaw.

Peux gives you skin so smooth it’s otherworldly, so smooth some would kill for it.” I open my eyes seductively, firing the imaginary gun with a bang. I try to meet my lens for a pov shot, my eyelashed, ringed-with-brown lens. Only the mirror in front of me is clouded by the steamy condensation and boxes. Lots of boxes.

They have bold labels and palettes that look like colors from a children’s set of markers were randomly picked. Beach Wave curlers, waist trainers, hair removers I read and that’s just the stack above the bidet. I own all the -ers yet don’t use most. I’ll find a time for them yet. 

I picture it this way: We all have that one dress, the one too formal for the club, but arrogant enough to get yourself labeled a woo girl at company events. The dress will be worn eventually, even if I have to be buried in it.

I slide a small stack of shipping boxes, decorated in a style no graphic designer would dare use in this decade. The shift reveals a blue square on my shelf and unlike an advertisement, no handmade font preaching 50% off jumps out at me. Instead the paint surrounding the shape is bleached beyond repair, heavy sigh. Curtains, one more thing to add to my Christmas wish list.

As if I needed another wake up to reality, when I wipe away the fog from the mirror, acne dots my features: Red, like my that one dress. I brush the thought away, managing to squeeze concealer between glass plates and essential oil diffuser. I hold the card out in front of me. It’s legible. Sort of. 

I duck out of the bathroom, half worried someone is there. They’re not.

My neighbor’s lights twinkle off the hallway walls. Once again red. Just not as red as my dress, the sequined-bodice one with lace running down from the shoulders to wrists.

Once upon a time, I wore it to prom, with six-inch heels else the bottom edge get dirtied from cookies crumbs and muddy shoe prints. It is the closest thing I’ve had to a fairytale gown in my entire life.

The bell rings, followed by the sound of a key in the lock: my brother, the one person that rings when he has a key. Rude. I go to reprimand him only to realize with a start, the hall is inundated with freezing wind. I should buy myself a carpet.

I quickly change. Sweater on and socks nudged into slippers, I show off my figure in the full body mirror. Something to take my mind off the acne at least. 

The sales attendant back then, told me red draws eyes. It was blood in the snow, roses in a new house, the blush of falling for your first crush. So I skipped the pastels and grays and donned the ruby red. 

Now, I’m not sure I want to be the ruby after all even the bible tells us she is more precious than rubies. Red is for the wives of billionaires, tv hosts and the gorgeous women who sell, no sold, me makeup. Despite my faux-interviews, practiced tête-à-têtes and but-there’s-more secrets, I remain a boring entry-level copywriter. I’ll wear my red dress when I get my invite to the Oscars.

“Ready to go?” My brother calls from the hall. I furrow my brow, craning for his meaning.

I step over a pair of slippers matching my own and open the door. “Go where?—Oh.” 

With a sarcastic swept of his hand he shows off his suit and pocket square embroidered with snowflakes. “The Christmas ball… and you’re not even dressed.” He purses his lips at my sloppy appearance.

“Okay, okay.” I creep back into my room. “How much time do we have?”

“It starts in five minutes. Don’t ask questions and go get changed.” He replies.

I look at myself in the mirror, my hands shake and I wonder where to even begin. The Christmas ball, another dance.

“There was a package outside.” My brother calls through the door

A package, my mind adds it to my growing to-do list. I reach for an eyeshadow palette, but I’m shaking so hard I bump into a mug. It falls off the table, shattering with a dull crash. Glass splinters across the hardwood and I know it will be months before it’s all cleaned up. 

The photo on the mug is completely destroyed, but there’s a survivor on a larger piece: the word hugs in pink. 

“What was that?” My brother asks, the door popping open a sliver.

“Nothing. It’s fine.” I drop the piece, picking up my pen to write mug on my card. I pause. I have another mug: The match of the broken mug to be more exact. I straighten, never mind any of that now. The card tucked safely in my pocket, I push past my brother and his objections about my sweatshirt. I have a package to open.

My face burns with raw emotion as I undo the latch and grip the handle. I might cry—again. The door swings open with ease, the heat from the house leaked out and melted away the remains from the last snowfall, creating thick patches of ice.

All of a sudden, I’m not looking at my neighbor’s chipped Rudolph ornaments, but a man dressed in a black fleece and cap. He looks at me startled, his chapped lips parting. I look back. Before I can say anything, he is dashing from the porch a package—no my package—clutched to his chest.

“Hey” I shout, too late, at his fleeing figure. The moment my foot makes contact with the slippery porch, I am rocketed forward. The thief somehow glides across the walkway, my precious package held out for balance.

My brother helps me up as he tsks at my state of affairs. "Let's just go now you can get change when we get there. I have people to see."

"But, my dress." I start to fight, most of my body still sore from the fall.

"I grabbed one from your room. It's just like you to buy one last minute." He says, his voice trailing off. He must already be in the garage. I follow, at least I keep the red dress in another room, no way to stumble on it by chance.

I drop into the car, the seat is cold and I already feel the heat leaving my body. I wonder if this is how corpses feel. I sigh, my head tilted back to rest on the cold headrest.

With a cough and a poignant glance, my brother starts the car. The radio plays and I lose myself in the music for a moment or two. I see myself spinning, gripped in my lover's arms for an instant the whole world revolves around the two of us. Then the moment falls, like a star from the heavens towards the unforgiving soil that will be its grave.

I roll to the side, staring at the streets outside. The traffic is bad this season. All I see is local stores lit up by the red dots in front of us. I don't know what's worse the slow down or the red line of other people with better lives, places to go, places to belong and be loved.

My brother offers me a granola bar. Somehow still red, with simple lined ornaments about the edges. I bite into it, the flavors muddled from the heating unit. This red dress tastes fowl. The memory is like a ghost haunting me, some red demon feeding off my grief.

Then I see it, no, him. The man that stole my package, the man that stole my Christmas. I'm out of the car before my brother can hurriedly pull off to the side.

"Hey, you" I shout, careful about where I place each footstep. He bolts at the sound of my voice, but I'm right on his heels only a few steps and-He's gone.

I breathe deeply, the cold air so dry I feel I'm swallowing paper. I pat myself on the back for chasing him so long, while simultaneously fighting the urge to melt into the sidewalk rocksalt. Just a few steps and I would have had him. He threw a bag, I doubted myself, he got away.

My brother strides over, here he is once again babysitting his sister. "Did you buy a dress that fast?" He asks, squatting next to the bag the thief threw.

I blink tears away, hoping he'll blame the redness on cold weather. "It's so cold out here," I whisper, rubbing my arms conspicuously,

"It's a pair of men's shoes?" My brother asks, giving me a look that makes me feel I'm crazy.

"It was from the thief, he threw it and got away." I sigh, walking over to him. The bag reads Second chances thrift store. "I know this place, I sold..." I trail off. "Maybe, he sold my dress there." My brother stays mum,


The lights in the store are in disrepair, whether intentionally or not it’s unclear. Clothes are crammed from the entrance to the back wall where even more dresses are hung off full body mirrors in flaking gold paint.

"Can I help you?" A rich voice greets us, it's Gaia the shopowner I got to know well after selling an entire wardrobe of clothes. She smiles the instant she realizes the lazy woman in front of her is me. "How are you?" Her question is full of compassion. She pulls me into a hug.

"Gaia was a dress recently sold to you by a man in black," I ask when she moves away, one hand still on my arm.

"A man came in, but he didn't sell anything. Bought a pair of shoes with cash and left." She looks off thinking, "Anything the matter?"

"We think he is a package thief, my sister's dress was stolen right off her doorstep." My brother offers, smiling widely at Gaia.

"That's awful, I'd be happy to lend you a dress."

"No, no, you did so much for me last year I can't let you help me again."

"Only for one night please say you'll accept." Gaia looks at me, her warm concern welcome this time of year.

"I have a dress in the car, the best help would be if you let me use your dressing rooms."

After I shoo my brother off to fetch the dress, Gaia and I have the chance to talk. I recount my Christmas list and it's only when she is interrupted by a phone call that I notice just how wet my cheeks have become. I rubbed at my cheeks only slightly teary when my brother walks in. I smile and it surprises me how easily it comes. A genuine smile. I take the bag from him, something about its age clicking inside my mind.

In the changing stall, I unzip the bag to find my dress in perfect condition albeit red for my taste. Somehow I knew it would be this dress, how Ironic.

This was the dress I first danced with my husband in, the husband that left this world just last Christmas. The husband whose clothes I sold, and whose presence seems to be all over my house from the unopened presents to the kind of matching items I hated as a kid.

I slip on the dress and pick up my clothes, a square shape jutting out from the corner. I pick up the card, covered in my Christmas wish list, I take a deep breath and turn it. There lies a picture of us, decked in reindeer antlers and bell covered sweaters. I smile at the way he looked at me. Etched in a red pen he once wrote the classic song line, now I see the priceless engraving: "All I want for Christmas is you"

December 14, 2019 01:36

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Daniel Clark
22:50 Dec 18, 2019

Good story, some lovely images!

Reply

Show 0 replies