A Christmas To Remember...Or Forget

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts
A story written for the BoMoWriCha Christmas competition.

Submitted: December 15, 2018

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Submitted: December 15, 2018

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A Christmas To Remember...Or Forget.

William put the last light in place, had one last glance back to make sure he’d not missed anything before nodding to his wife, Rose.

Are you sure, Will?” she asked cautiously. There was a lot of time, effort and money at risk if she hit that switch too early.

Yes, Honey, I’m sure. Go ahead and hit the switch.

Rose disappeared from his sight for a moment. He shut his eyes, hoping that he’d got it right, then, when the flickers of light played on his eye-lids, he opened them to what he felt was a truly magical sight.

Decoration after decoration was lit up, all tasteful, not too garish. It was a habit Will and Rose had got in to years ago and still continued with. Having no children of their own, they had to find some way of making Christmas special, and they had settled on doing that through decorations.

The entire neighbourhood would be round at some time or other to take in the magic of the lights; Santa with his sleigh pulled by reindeer, a family of snow people, even some little animal friends. There were two rabbits and two squirrels constructed from lights, placed around the garden. But this year, as it did every year, the tree was the star of the show.

Eighteen feet high, it stood now. Will hired an elevating platform, did the decorations himself. Sometimes he wished he did not bother with that part any more, for lights of whatever kind always seemed to tangle, be hard to string around; but each year the satisfaction that he felt in the end kept the tradition going.

Rose did her bit with the food too. There was no point in baking too much but she’d make a pudding, a small cake; she’d bake mince pies and Christmas cookies. And there would be a turkey, just a small one.

She decorated the inside of the house too, placing greetings cards, some nice small decorative pieces. Yes, they may not have had children but that did not mean that they could not join in the Yule time celebrations.

It was generally a quiet time around the neighbourhood. Most of the houses were home to people of a similar age to themselves, late middle-age or older. Of course there were plenty of visits from grown-up children, and it certainly became a bit busier. People greeted each other more than usual, stood and chatted for a bit longer, and there might even be some invitations made to pop round for snacks, or perhaps some wine. It was nice and relaxed, free from any real pressure.

Their next door neighbours were nice enough, although they had not really yet become what could be termed ‘friends’. Mitchel and Pam spent their day-times away, and a lot of their evenings were spent out somewhere. Rose and Pam would occasionally exchange a few words but that was as far as it went.

They’re having visitors this year, Pam and Mitchel.” Rose passed the news on to her husband.

Oh, who’s that then? Did the secretive Pam share that information with you?”

Rose could not help but smile. Much as Pam was reluctant to talk, she was a positive chatterbox compared to Mitchel. “Yes, she did. She was so excited she had to tell someone, I suppose.”

So....” Will waited.

Oh, sorry. It’s their son and daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. It will be nice to have some children around at Christmas. Perhaps we could arrange to have a sing-song around the tree or something.”

Will could not help feeling slightly sorry for Rose. Clearly she still thought of childhood in terms of her own. He just hoped she would not be in for too much of a surprise. Trying to sound positive he answered, “Yes, it will.”

* * * *

The ‘visitors’ arrived that very afternoon. It was impossible to ignore their arrival. They had a big, noisy off-roader which was decked out to look like a kind of mutant reindeer. A pair of antlers bedecked it’s roof while somehow they had managed to fix a bright red shiny nose beneath the two headlights. To the rear of it was a tail which somehow managed to look totally obscene.

Will wondered how they had ever been allowed to drive such a thing. Surely there was some kind of law against having a glowing red ‘nose’ between the headlamps at least. That wasn’t the worst of it though, for as the vehicle pulled to a standstill and sounded the horn, instead of the usual sound a quick chorus of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ echoed all around the houses.

The door opened and out jumped a man who was tall and thin yet still dressed himself up as Santa. From the other side emerged a woman in a red and white mini-dress. To say that it was short was an understatement, and her make-up was so thickly applied that she looked like some kind of doll.

Will’s heart sank. If that was the parents he did not hold up much hope for the kids.

A boy and a girl climbed from the back of the vehicle. At least they were not dressed up like elves or something; in fact, they looked pretty average. Maybe this was a case of deceptive appearances, Will told himself. He should not be so quick to pass judgement; wasn’t that what Rose always told him!

The girl had noticed him, it seemed. She pulled her face into a kind of sneer that Will might have thought impossible had he not witnessed it himself. She nudged her brother so hard he almost fell, but then turned, held up his middle finger before all four of them disappeared inside.

There was no way, Will thought, that this visit was going to end well.

Did you see them?” Rose came rushing in. “I wanted to get a quick glance. You should have called me, Will, we could have gone out and said ‘Hello!’”.

Silently, Will gave thanks that Rose had not been in the room with him. Let her keep her illusions for as long as possible. “Did Pam say how long that they’d be staying for?” he asked casually.

Oh, until New Year’s Day, I think. We’ll have plenty of time to meet them.” Rose bustled off, humming some carol or other under her breath, leaving Will standing there, looking out at their Christmas display with a feeling close to dread.

There was the occasional sound of a door being closed, some very loud and coarse laughter, but otherwise there was little to show that there were visitors next door at all. Providing, of course, that you did not catch sight of that monstrosity outside. Rose had even been surprised by it, shocked might be putting it too strongly, but she had smiled eventually and said, “At least they have the Christmas spirit.”

What was that you said about Christmas spirit?” Will asked Rose that night. The neighbours had taken to the streets and were drunkenly singing a song that was familiar, apart from the words.

Oh, dear,” said Rose.

Oh, dear, indeed,” said Will before it finally got quiet and he drifted off to sleep.

* * * *

Callie was a small cat. She was Rose’s ‘child’ and was in every way possible pampered. In fact, Will was just as indulgent, although he liked to pretend that he wasn’t. Most of the wrapped packages that were waiting to be unwrapped were for the cat, either with her name on the tag, or a paw-print.

She was a good cat, a friendly cat, and everybody in the area always seemed to have a stroke for her, if not a treat. There was a cat-flap fitted to the back door so that she could come and go as she pleased.

Rose and Will were just clearing away the breakfast dishes when shouts and screams could be heard coming from next door. Callie flew past the window, followed by a large stone. The cat-flap opened and shut and the cat fled through the room, ears back, fur up, tail like a toilet brush, and took the stairs two at a time.

Did you see....?” Rose was speechless. Someone had dared to throw a stone at her ‘baby’!

You go and see to Callie,” Will said firmly. “I’ll go and see what happened.”

It did not take long for him to hear the ‘story’; not the entire one though, of that he was convinced. The girl stood there with tears pouring down her face as she wailed in pain. “It scratched me!” she kept repeating.

Excuse me, but would you like to explain why someone was throwing stones at our cat?” Will said.

Cat!” screeched the girl’s mother. “It’s a wild animal, that’s what it is. It should be put down. In fact, if I was at home I’d......”

That’s enough, Tracy,” Pam interrupted, leaving Will to fill in the remainder of the threat himself. “Come here and show me your arm.”

Will moved forward wanting to see this scratch for himself. Lots of cats, he knew, would lash out, but not Callie. There was not a mark on the girl’s arm. “Please refrain from throwing things at our cat in future,” he said before turning away.

Pam waited for him to move off a bit then caught up with him. “I’m sorry. Perhaps you could keep the cat indoors until our visitors have gone.” There was a note of pleading in her voice.

Somehow, I don’t think we’ll have to,” he answered.

Hey, mister!” It was the girl speaking, well, shouting at him. No trace of tears now. “I’m telling you that....animal scratched me. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Will ignored her and let the slamming of the door speak for him instead. He walked in to the kitchen and secured the cat-flap tightly shut before heading up the stairs. Rose was on her knees, peering under the bed.

The poor little thing, she’s terrified,” Rose said, softly so as to not upset the cat any more. “What on earth were they doing?”

It was the girl. Said Callie scratched her, though what kind of cat scratch doesn’t leave a mark, I don’t know. Pam suggested we keep the cat inside.”

Well, I don’t know how we’re even going to get her out from under the bed for her presents,” Rose said, then went back to trying to coax Callie out.

* * * *

The rest of the morning passed smoothly. Callie eventually came out from under the bed and had a token tap with her paw at some of her toys, ate some treats, then curled up fast asleep until shouting outside made her head off back to the safety of the bedroom. Before she’d made it to the top of the stairs the sound of breaking glass resounded through the house.

What the....?” Will stood up and walked from room to room until he found it. A window, shattered in to pieces, a ball of snow mixed with stones melting in to a big puddle on the carpet. He looked up and came face to face with the boy.

Whoops, sorry Mister. Lucky you weren’t standing by it, I guess.”

Pam came running. “Oh, Will, I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed, while the boy made a clean getaway. “Mitchel will come and mend it for you. Just for now....and we’ll pay to have it fixed properly, of course.”

What on earth was that noise,” Rose said, finally entering the room, eyeing the carpet, the shards of glass, the broken window. “Oh, no! And there’ll be no chance of having it mended before the New Year.”

Mitchel will come and patch it up,” said Pam.

No! No, he won’t. We’ll do it ourselves, Pam, thank you, and I’ll forward on the bill once it is repaired.” The boy had more or less admitted that the damage was done deliberately, Will thought. Let them argue it out with son about who was going to pay.

Instead of a nice relaxing Christmas Day afternoon, Will and Pam spent the time clearing up the glass, trying to find every single splinter, then they fixed some thick plastic all around the frame. It would be cold still, but at least it should prevent the worst of the wind or snow from getting inside.

Will almost told his wife what the boy had said. He did not like to keep things from her at all, but it wouldn’t help. The same as with the threats to Callie. Better to keep quiet, keep them to himself.

* * * *

The rest of the day passed quietly. Perhaps the neighbours had gone out somewhere. Then again, there was nowhere really for them to have gone so they were, Will decided, probably all asleep. That could not bode well for the night time.

It had been a tiring day, so Will and Rose retired early. It had been difficult to sleep for most of the previous night and what with the cat and the window they were feeling quite exhausted.

Something woke Rose up. She had always been a light sleeper, unlike Will who, once he’d dropped off, could sleep through anything. There it was again! A knocking and a voice shouting. She nudged Will and climbed out of bed.

Pulling on her robe she walked to the top of the stairs. Yes, there was someone knocking at the door at 3am. Should she open it? Perhaps it was someone intent on robbing them, or worse.

Hello!” came the voice again, and Rose recognized it as belonging to Pam. She was tempted to go back to bed and ignore her neighbour, but she couldn’t quite make herself turn away. Rose opened the door.

I’m so sorry Rose, but would you mind turning your lights off.”

Are they bothering you? I’m sorry.” Rose started to turn away towards the switch when Pam began talking again.

No, it’s not that. The lights are lovely....it’s just that....” she turned towards the tree and Rose followed her gaze.

The girl was about six feet from the ground and was wound up tightly in lights. The boy was held firmly in his father’s grip.

It’s the excitement....makes them do silly things....” Pam mumbled, but Rose was getting the impression that it did not take much for the grandchildren to do ‘silly things’ at all.

I’ll turn it off right away!” Rose pressed the switch and the lights went out. The girl began to scream.

Will came and stood in the doorway and when he heard what was happening returned to turn on the flood-light. In her panic the girl had dislodged herself from the cable and was now hanging from a branch.

I’ll go and get a ladder,” he said, wearily, but there was no need. Her father was tall enough to reach her and lift her down. Unfortunately, he was not looking where he was going and he trod hard on one of the rabbits. His elbow had dislodged one of the reindeer’s heads, so it hung limply sideways. If he noticed the damage that he had done he pretended not to. Will was fuming but thought better of starting an argument and waking up even more of the local folks. He shut the door and left the decorations turned off.

* * * *

Rose and Will were outside, removing the damaged decoration from where it lay shattered on the ground. Then there was some straightening out to be done to the tree before the lights could safely be switched on again.

In a way it was lucky that they were outside for things could have been so much worse.

There was a bang, and bright lights lit up one of the neighbours bedrooms. There followed another and another. Rose and Will had instantly taken cover. “What are they doing?” she asked. “Shooting each other?”

Fireworks!” said Will. “Those two crazy kids must have found the New Year’s fireworks!” Even as the words were leaving his mouth, one of the curtains began to burn. “Quickly, Rose, go call the fire brigade!”

Rose dashed indoors and Will started shouting for Pam or Mitchel. What if they were all still asleep? He pressed the doorbell over and over until finally Mitchel opened the door, stood there rubbing at his eyes. “What you want?” he said.

Oh, me, nothing. I just thought you should know that your house is on fire.”

Mitchel frowned at Will, walked out to stand beside him and looked up open-mouthed to see the curtains now completely ablaze. “Those damn kids,” he shouted, and then pandemonium broke out.

Sirens approached and men in protective clothing jumped out. More fireworks exploded, with bangs, pops, and rainbow lights. Pam came running out along with the boy, the girl and their parents.

Still the sound and light show continued. “How many fireworks did you have inside there?” Will asked.

Mitchel shrugged. “A few,” he said.

Must be more than a few,” remarked one of the fire-fighters.

Eventually the explosions stopped, and the fire was brought under control and then finally put out. The damage was surprisingly light considering the noise, but the house was not habitable. Phone calls were made and finally somewhere was found for the six displaced people to stay until the New Year. They could go in and pack some bags but that was all.

Back in their kitchen, Rose and Will sat at the table. It was still dark outside, but not for much longer. The sun would soon be rising to begin another day.

Well, Rose,” Will said with a smile, “this has been one strange sort of Christmas.”

She nodded her agreement. “It certainly has. A Christmas to remember for a long time.”

Her husband looked at her and took her hand. “You could be right, Rose. But me, I’m rather hoping that it will be a Christmas to forget.”

 

(3011 words)


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