It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The house has been transformed into a winter wonderland. There’s frost sprayed on the window panes, stars and snowflakes glittering on strings from curtain to curtain. Lights
twinkle in every room, in every color of the rainbow. Tinsel and holly hang from corners or chandeliers, and snowflakes have been pressed onto door frames and lintels. It smells like
fresh cinnamon, like apples, like a Lifetime movie come to life. We came home last week to shortbread cookies in the shape of bells, a gingerbread house already decorated. There was
even fruitcake soaked in rum that Dad offered us and quickly took back after I choked on my first bite.
Christmas movies run like silent memories in the living room, an empty theatre playing for no one. Dad wants it to be perfect, to make this holiday something joyful and bright.
But there’s a hole on the mantlepiece.
There’s my stocking, worn around the edges from the years I took it with me everywhere I went, for the full two weeks leading up to Christmas. There’s Eric’s—two years
younger than me and determined to forge his own path, he kept his pristine. His name is badly embroidered, so the C bumps into the white cuff and gets lost in the fluff. And beside
that...it’s Dad’s, still dusty despite the best efforts of the staff. It was probably stuck in a box somewhere, untouched since we moved out ten years ago. Has he even celebrated
Christmas without us? Did he miss us every year, when he sent a card full of cash and well wishes like it could fill his empty seat at the table?
Now here we are, back in his house for the first time since we moved away, celebrating Christmas like nothing has changed. There are the same decorations on the tree, the same small presents under it. An angel that sings carols when you tap her nose. A pair of slippers beside the roaring fire. Three stockings on the mantlepiece...but it’s the wrong three. It doesn’t fit. Mom is missing.
There’s no crazy rainbow stocking beside mine, with ugly silver tinsel on the cuff and a patch in the toe where Eric ripped it one year. There’s no off-key Christmas carols in the
kitchen, making me want to hide in my room and stick a pillow over my ears. There’s no clatter of paintbrushes from her studio, no eggnog that smells suspiciously like Bailey’s, no
warm arms around my shoulders. No Mom.
We’re all doing our best; I know that. We’ll go together to see her in the mental health clinic on Christmas morning. We’ll bring presents and snacks, and make a little corner of that
place into our own winter oasis. We’ll remind her how much we love her, how glad we are that she isn’t gone. We’ll tell ourselves how lucky we are for the things we do have. Our
strange little family—the same number but the wrong configuration—will hug each other on Christmas Eve and feel lucky that we have so much. And we do! God, we do.
But now, just for a small moment... I allow myself to feel the pain of this holiday without her. I watch myself in the pale reflection of the window and see her face in the curve
of my cheek, the width of my eyes. I wish she was beside me so hard I wonder if I can make it so; but of course, my powers can’t affect the human world. I could build a paradise in Fairy,
make a cottage into a palace, make a prison into a peaceful winter village. I could change their world—but I can’t change mine.
But it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
This short is based on the world of In Restless Dreams, by Wren Handman. In Restless Dreams is slated to release with The Parliament Press on January 28th, 2020, and is available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble, and will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon and the Parliament Press website! Discover the realm of Fairy, and add it to your TBR here on Goodreads!