The Christmas Ban

Believe

 

 

Attics can be very mysterious places. Scary, too, and that’s why you’d never find Ruxin in one at night. Given the gray daylight, though, he didn’t much mind his mom sending him up on a mission to find sweaters in theirs, even if it might take all day.

 

Ruxin knew that when his mom said she was sure they were up here somewhere, that it was very likely there were no sweaters up here at all, but he had nothing better to do and he enjoyed watching the snow fall from the tiny octagon attic window at the highest point of their house.

 

Everything was covered in white for as far as his eyes could see and it just kept coming, a relentless sheet of snow burying them deep this winter. The heater struggled to actually keep the house warm, leaving the attic even colder than usual.

 

In his search Ruxin found all manner of blankets and scarves, but still no sweaters. He’d wrapped two mismatched scarves around his neck and draped a wool blanket over his shoulders like a cape to keep warm. It made him feel like some sort of winter superhero.

 

Hidden behind a tower of withered boxes, Ruxin discovered a tiny door, only large enough to crawl through. After prying it open, he found an old wood trunk inside. It had filigree carved edges and a winter scene similar to the one outside his house etched into the lid; tall pine trees, an old farm house, and smooth snow covering it all. In the yard there stood a man with a deer by his side. Ruxin ran his palm over the design in admiration, brushing aside the film of dust before tugging the trunk out of the cubby hole and unlatching the lock to lift the lid.

 

A musty burst of air escaped the trunk and he coughed for a second to clear his lungs. Dust motes trickled down around him like glitter floating to the floor as Ruxin reached into the trunk. His hand closed around the first item it touched and pulled out a long, white velvet cap with silver snowflakes embroidered into the fabric, and an edge lined with fur. It was a long sort of cap, the kind that’d hang down past your shoulders, and at the very tip, a matching fur ball dangled from its end.

 

Ruxin couldn’t resist the urge to slide it on his head, but it fell down over his eyes, far too large for a child. When he pulled it off, he noticed embroidery just inside the fur edge so he turned it inside out to find the name Nicholas Claus sewn in red cursive. The name intrigued him; it was unfamiliar and that told him this trunk didn’t belong to his family.

 

Holding the hat in his lap, he reached into the trunk again and pulled free a photograph set in a crystal frame that looked like ice. In it, a woman with cherry red hair kissed the nose of a man wearing the cap Ruxin held in his lap. Their cheeks were pink with the winter chill. Ruxin didn’t quite understand it, but there was something peaceful about the couple, something warm and inviting – an aura of happiness strong enough to emanate from a photograph. He also couldn’t help but notice his house in the background and the same pine trees that lined his yard’s borders.

 

He’d popped the back out of the frame before he’d thought better about potentially damaging the photo, but he’d seen old pictures in his mother’s photo albums and knew it was common practice to write facts about the snapshot on the back. Sure enough, written on the back in the same cursive as the cap, it read: Nicholas & Noel, Christmas 2013.

 

Ruxin thought, Christmas? What’s that? (more…)

In Pursuit of Jenna Mae

I’m not exactly sure what classifies a person a nerd, or who it was that came up with the title, but according to everyone else, Jenna Mae is one. I, on the other hand, am not. In fact, I’m as popular as it gets in our school. Now, you’re probably thinking –Wow, Trevor, cocky much?—and I’m sure that does sound cocky, but I’m just stating the facts. If Jenna and I were being rated on a scale, we’d be on completely different ends of the curve, with me soaring to the top and her sinking to the bottom.

 

I’ve known Jenna for a long time, though. Her family moved across the street from me when we were ten so it made sense that we’d mingle in the beginning. Popularity doesn’t matter when you’re kids; anyone can be friends. But high school adds a whole new level of social status once you cross those front doors and like I previously stated, Jenna and I are on opposite sides of the bar. Naturally, at home, we drifted apart as a result. Still, I’m cordial with her and have taken a secret pleasure in watching her grow into a body better than any of the popular girls could ever dream of having. It’s just one more reason her nerd stigma is so strong; girls can be such jealous things.

 

The Valentine’s dance is a week away and I intend on crossing the border that separates us socially to ask Jenna to the dance. Most would say this was cause for social suicide, but it won’t apply to me. It’s senior year and there are only a few months left of school. It’s highly unlikely I’ll even see half of my supposed friends after graduation, and besides, part of the reason I’ve always been so popular anyway is because I just don’t care what other people think. I dictate what’s cool and people follow.

 

Now, before you go judging me and assuming this attempt to take Jenna to the dance is just another one of those stories where the popular guy asks the dorkiest girl in school to the dance just to humiliate her, think again. This won’t be Carrie, there are no bets. The truth is, I actually like Jenna Mae – nerd or not.

(more…)

Intrusion

“So, do you like them?” Riley asks, beaming with pride over the stellar gift she’s gotten me for my birthday. Reece, Riley’s twin brother and my boyfriend, just sits back grinning. Of the two of them, he’s always less showy – never expectant of accolades like his sister.

 

I stare down at my custom Converses in awe, with their black paisley inner layer and red striped tongue. The skull head laces just add to their perfect design. They are everything I wanted and nothing I could ever justify buying for myself.

 

“I love them! Thank you so much, you guys.”

 

Riley hugs me quickly around the shoulders before hopping off the back of Reece’s truck where we sit. Reece simply squeezes my hand with a pleased smile on his face. Both actions are big efforts for the Pinkerton twins; they’re not ones for public displays of affection. In fact, to most people they appear standoffish. I’d been confused by their persistence to not come in physical contact with people myself when I’d first met them, but it all made sense when I’d found out they were shape shifters.

 

Reece explained that, “Every touch with another person or animal imprints their make-up on our soul, storing a million different characterizations in us,” which could become overwhelming for them to hold their own shape at times if they didn’t “use” the traits they’d picked up by touch.

 

For the most part they could shift on demand to anything they’d come in contact with, but if their library of faces grew too large, shifts could occur unexpectedly. Sometimes they spend a whole day shifting on purpose just to exhaust their collection of faces and make room for new ones. These kinds of days are always trouble.

 

There’s something empowering about taking on another being’s skin. Cloaked as someone else, they partake in all sorts of mischief – playing pranks on people, stealing things, all manner of questionable behavior. Reece says part of being a shape shifter is learning to tame the natural evilness within them, to appease the urge in less destructive ways so they don’t go around murdering people.

 

Most shape shifters don’t bother themselves with curbing the evil desire, but the Pinkerton twins aren’t like most shape shifters, or so they say. I’ve never met other shape shifters, never even knew they existed until I met them. So they’ve stolen a few things and scared the crap out of a couple of people – these things weren’t life threatening and I should be happy they’re able to withhold the natural urge to be far more criminal.

 

I swing my legs back and forth off the back of Reece’s truck and take in my new shoes, knowing they were probably stolen too, but I tell myself to forget it. In their attempt to do something good for me, they’d done something bad. I guess they canceled each other out.

 

With Riley dancing around the parking lot eager for our night of celebration to begin, Reece slides off the truck and extends his hand to help me down. I jump off, my yellow plaid skirt flying up and ballooning around me as I hit the ground. Reece makes a face like he enjoyed the show of panties. My face burns red.

 

“Where to first, Birthday Girl?” Riley asks, ready to lead the way.

 

I’m still shocked we are actually here, at the Harvest Fair, where hoards of people will be brushing against us with every step we take. Usually this kind of place is out of the question for the Pinkerton twins so I was terribly surprised when they suggested it, knowing I really wanted to go, but would never ask myself.

 

“Um… the Scrambler, then candy apples?”

 

“Sounds good,” Reece says, and I start towards the fair’s entrance with them on either side of me.

(more…)

A Pill for Bravery

After slurping up the remaining milk from her cereal bowl before school one morning, curiosity got the best of Heidi’s tongue. “Maw Maw, what are those?” she asked her grandmother.

 

Maw Maw held the blue plastic case in her wrinkled hands for a long moment before opening the door labeled “T” for Tuesday, as she’d already explained to Heidi the previous day. “These are my pills,” she said, and she took five tablets from the Tuesday slot and swallowed them with a swig of water.

 

Before she could tuck the case away Heidi asked, “What for?”

 

Again Maw Maw waited a minute before replying, carefully deciding how to explain medicine to a five year old child. Finally she said, “I take them because each of them makes me a better person.”

 

Eyes wide with intrigue, Heidi wondered, “How so?”

 

“Well,” Maw Maw said, removing the pills from the Wednesday slot to use as an example. She pushed a red one forward, away from the bunch, and said, “Take this one for instance. This one gives me hope.”

 

With Heidi completely captivated Maw Maw continued, pushing a blue one up beside the red one, “And this one makes me strong.” She did this with each of the pills, pills that gave her patience and kept her focused, and then she came to the last pill, a purple one larger and longer than the other round tablets.

 

Maw Maw took a deep breath before pushing it forward with the others. Heidi sat on the edge of her seat longing to know the last pill’s purpose. At last, Maw Maw said, “And this pill’s for bravery.”

 

Heidi eyed the pill with a sudden hungry desire for it. She thought about the day before when Tommy had knocked her down on the playground, how all the boys laughed at her when she cried. She wished she’d had a pill for bravery herself.

 

Her little hand reached across the table for it, but Maw Maw caught her mid-stretch. “Oh, no, Heidi, these pills are only for grownups.”

 

“But, Maw Maw, I need that pill,” Heidi begged.

(more…)

The Christmas Princess

ws_Winter_Redhead_1024x768

 

It hasn’t snowed like this on Christmas since I was seven, but I don’t remember that Christmas so much because of the white-out or because my mom had just died. I remember it most because of the girl that found me in the snow on Christmas Eve. She had called herself “The Christmas Princess.”

 

***

 

Losing my mom that Christmas made me lose faith in a lot of things, including Santa Claus. It’s amazing how death can make even the youngest child grow up almost overnight. At seven, death was the last thing on my mind until she passed, but suddenly it was all I thought about. I became very cynical over the prospect of life and was angry at any and everything that could end it. For a seven year old, I was mighty bitter. Child-like glee was something I knew nothing of anymore. All the anger though, was really just a mask I wore to conceal my fear. I couldn’t sleep, for fear of never waking up again. I was scared to eat, for fear that I’d choke to death or be poisoned. I was even scared to go to school, just for the fear that I’d never see my dad again.

 

Given the circumstances, I’d rather have just skipped Christmas that year. There was no freshly-baked-cookie smell warming our house, no Christmas stories at bed time. Mom’s voice wasn’t carrying throughout the house singing non-stop Christmas tunes until the big day. It just wouldn’t be the same without her. I could tell Dad felt the same way, but he tried really hard to hide his pain from me.

 

Putting up the tree felt more like a chore than anything else. There was no excitement leading up to lighting it, no Christmas music playing in the background to get us in the spirit. We felt dead, because she was dead.

 

I’d finally had enough of pretending. I dropped the string of lights in my hand angrily and said, “Dad, I don’t even believe in Santa Claus anymore. Why bother?”

 

Dad looked even more defeated than he had just a few minutes before as he sunk into his chair and stared blankly at the half decorated tree. We never finished it; it just stood there for the rest of the month naked and never lit. Christmas, like my mother, had died.

 

That month had to be the longest month ever, but probably because we just wanted it to be over with already. There was talk of a great blizzard coming on Christmas and while most of the kids in my class were excited over the possibility of having a white Christmas and missing school, I was dreading being stuck at home –indoors- with my miserable dad in our miserable state. Even though I was scared to wonder too far from him, being around him without Mom on Christmas was just going to be too hard.

 

The snow arrived early on Christmas Eve. By the time I woke up there was already a thick blanket of it coating everything. At the rate it was falling there’d be several feet by nightfall. I had to get out of the house one last time before I was actually trapped in it. Dad never even got out of bed. I guess the day was just too much for him.

(more…)