The Girl & A Long Forgotten Christmas

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  The corridor is a corridor from a long gone but oft remembered life. The music was louder out here and the soft lullaby of a deep and hushed voice made its way up the stairs. As she listens a creeping and unwarranted fear begins to build and take hold of The Girl and she backs into what she now knows to be the guest room, wanting to curl up in the bed and ignore that she’d landed here. Anywhere but here she thought, anywhere but now. She didn’t know if she could experience this moment again – the first time was hard enough.

  It is only when she reenters the room that she spots the duffel bag at the foot of the bed, like a bulging Christmas stocking waiting for an eager child to tear through its contents. She remembers the burning girl in the field of corn who had given it to her and held her until she was gone. Her jumps were getting stranger, along with what they held for her. Tentatively she approaches and unzips it. There’s a moment of silent disbelief as it opens before The Girl manages to gasp and – amazed – sifts through the supplies she finds inside. There’s too much mystery surrounding the meeting in Minnesota to be quizzical about the contents – so accurate in their subjective luxury that no one but The Girl could have picked out successfully.

  Incredible as the care package is it doesn’t hold The Girl’s attention for long. A masochistic urge is drawing her towards the past that waits for her downstairs. A past she knows she plays a part in. Without knowing exactly how she got there she’s on the staircase, creeping down them without a sound. The voice that’s emanating from the living room gets louder as she nears the oak frame, chipped and marked to measure a childhood she knew too well. She smells the Christmas tree before she peers round the corner and sees it and there beneath it’s malting branches are – as predicted – a weathered, middle aged man holding a small wrapped box precariously, and across from him sits a young girl – fourteen to be exact – sitting cross-legged wearing her Christmas-themed jim-jams. The man is speaking quietly to her and The Girl is close enough now to pick out the words.

  “-very important, but I know I can trust you with it.”
  “Yes papa,” the girl replies, looking excited and The Girl knows it isn’t the prospect of presents that is making her so. Time spent with her father was a rarity, and Christmases together even more so. Slowly, as if still debating his choices, the man goes to hand the girl the gift and The Girl finds herself warring with herself, part of her screaming to stop the exchange. His face is contorted – guilt? – as he hesitates one final time before placing it in the girl’s outstretched palms and The Girl’s heart drops. Her chance is gone, her fate sealed forever all over again.

  The Girl and the man both watch, rapt, as the teen unwraps the box. Without the appropriate hesitation or reverie she lifts the lid in a moment and grabs – for the first time – the timepiece from inside. Curious she dangles it from its chain in front of her and it spins slowly, glinting and sparkling from the multi-coloured lights all about it.

  “A watch?” she asks. Like her father The Girl smiles knowingly – a sad smile.
  “Not exactly-” he corrects, but he doesn’t explain any further. His daughter stares, entranced, for a little longer before wrapping the chain around her palm and clasping the present tightly in her hand. Unknowingly The Girl has done the same thing to the timepiece in her own.

  Suddenly the young girl glances towards the hall and The Girl – startled – ducks back into the shadows. Suddenly she remembers the movement in the hall she saw all those years ago, a girl’s face peering out of the darkness, before disappearing back into it. She listens for the sounds of her father getting to his feet – even through the haze that has formed over the following years she can still see him clearly, placing his hands on his knees before getting up from his chair and there’s a corresponding creak from the other room. He shuffles towards her and she’s terrified of what will happen when he finds her – which he does, she knows he does because she’s seen it all before.

  Sure enough he rounds the corner and – with no surprise in his voice – leans in and whispers to The Girl. “You can’t be here. You know that.”
  The Girl stares up at her father, speechless, her mouth moving wordlessly as she struggles to comprehend the situation. Her father glances back into the other room before putting a hand on The Girl’s shoulder and says “Wait here.” It takes all of her willpower to nod back at him.

  “I’ve got to go out for a bit,” he says to the other girl, grabbing his coat from the rack beside the front door and slipping an arm into it. The Girl doesn’t see it, but she knows that it takes all his daughters willpower to stomach the disappointment and nod.

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~ by Joseph Blame on December 21, 2010.

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