The red glow of Christmas lights flickered by my bedroom window. Pulsating. On. Off. On. Off.
I hated them.
Lucia made dad put them up.
Mom never cared for lights outside because she knew dad. He could fall off everything. This year’s escapade included a sprained wrist, a broken finger and a sprained ankle among other minor injuries.
Lucia kept blabbering about how pretty it looked and what a great job Dad did.
I’d appreciate it if her Christmas traditions were more than showing off to the neighbors. Like her annual dinner party for tonight. Dad doesn’t care what she does. Even though he doesn’t like to deal with all the fuss. Yet another horrible evening in a showy party dress where I am forced to listen and smile at everyone’s gossip.
I don’t think I could bear it for the fifth year in a row. I’m sick of what she makes Christmas into. It’s not about money, or giving and keeping. It’s about family, God and even more than that. I told her so.
She didn’t like that. Which would explain why the hired a maid cleaned my room along with the rest of the house.
I wanted to hurt her.
My room doesn’t need cleaning. It’s a museum to Mom, because Lucia can’t stand to see any of her things around the house. I keep it very clean. Always.
Now my room feels as foreign and cold as a dungeon.
She married dad for the money.
He thinks she loves him.
I can’t bear to tell him of the things she says when she thinks I’m not listening. Dad is always moody this time of year. I know he misses Mom. For that reason, I forgive him for siding with Lucia.
She hates me. Dad yelled at me for yelling at her. So now I, 17-yearold Tessa Reynolds, am stuck in my room. Lucia can’t do anything, but send me to my room. And she knows I won’t stay there unless I want to.
I don’t want to.
These lights are driving me crazy. There has to be somewhere else I can go. Something else I can do. I cannot stand to be in this room for another second.
I wandered through the kitchen, checking all the cupboards. They are half-empty, half-full. When Mom was alive, Christmas meant lots of food and stories until midnight.
It hurts to remember. I haven’t had a real sugar cookie in so long.
My mind clicked into gear and I pulled ingredients from different shelves.
Flour, sugar, eggs and holiday sprinkles. Mom’s special rose mixing bowl. Rubber spatula. Mom’s wadded up old apron from the back of the junk drawer.
My hands remembered the familiar rituals to create a simple, holiday comfort. I was mixing, folding and kneading within in the hour.
A strange sadness hung over me as I worked. I kept seeing Mom’s face everywhere. Feeling her hands on mine as I stirred. Smelling her perfume mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg.
It seems like forever, before I was spreading frosting on the sugar cookies. While they baked, I had cleaned the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher.
Now the fun part was ahead. I carefully scattered the sprinkles, trying to make sure the colors were evenly balanced. My masterpieces were arranged on plates, destined for division between the cookie jar and my stomach.
Silence captured the moment as I choose the first cookie. It was halfway to my mouth when I heard him.
“Tessa?” Dad’s voice is a whisper.
The cookie fell to the table as I turned to stare at him.
He is standing in the doorway, eyes brimming with tears, as if there is something he ought to say, wanted to say, but could not bear to. “Tessa?” He said again.
This time his arms opened.
I rushed into them. “Daddy.”
“Tessa.” He murmured. “Maelyn.”
A tear splashed onto my forehead. At the sound of Mom’s name, I hugged him tighter. “Merry Christmas, Daddy.”
“She’d be real proud of you. Real proud.” He stretched one hand towards the cookies and hesitated. “May I?”
“Of course.” I pulled away to offer him the freshest plate. “Try these.”
His eyes closed in bliss on the first taste. From the look on his face, I knew he would now spend the night in his Quiet Room, to think. He paused in the doorway and his mouth twitched. “Don’t worry about Lucia’s party. You don’t have to go.”
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