Christmas used to make me feel that way, and I'm so glad that it does again. So last night my family and I put up our Christmas tree together with the new sapphire and silver decorations that we bought. It was the first time probably since Christmas 1993 when we haven't used the box of collected green, red and gold works we've accumulated since then, and it felt right although I was reluctant at first.
I'm a different person to who I was last year, and I suppose it makes sense that I have a shiny, bright new glittering Christmas tree to show it. The decorations look how I feel: glittering, brand new and happy. It's so good to see them and feel like I can see myself reflected there; I don't have to pretend any more because it's real now, just like my Christmas tree. It really is a time for peace, hope and dreams.
I did something I've never gotten to do too now - I wrote a short story about Christmas in London with Daphne. I've wanted to do that since I first wrote CCJ in 2009, but have never managed to get onto it. And not only did I finally write one it was so emotional that my own writing left me incredibly floaty and dreamy, close to tears just imagining the beautiful scenario that I had just written. It felt amazing.
But I have spent Christmas in London before, so I remembered how that felt, and I will spend the holidays there again this year: something I've been dreaming about and wishing for since I left London last time! The experience, all in all, was humbling and quite frankly pretty awesome.
And so here I am this evening, excited to go in only 21 short days to spend my favourite season in the city that is so close to my heart and I've finally achieved something I've wanted to for years. I suppose the only thing I can really say is: Good times.
But here it is, I hope you enjoy it; Don't worry, I don't expect you all to tear up like I did :) But I do hope that every one has a very Merry Christmas this year, wherever you are.
What's happening: Daphne tries to help Roy get his Christmas season going.
Current NaNo Word Count: 46,569
Roy sat on the couch in his flat surrounded by the scattered remains of Christmas wrapping and ribbons gone wrong, a stray piece of sticky tape forgotten on his cheek and a very exasperated, grumpy expression on his face. To say that Christmas present wrapping was one of his strong suits was a huge extrapolation of the actual truth.
Roy, who got excited over Halloween like I did in Disneyland, had a fear of Christmas and all its hullabuloo that almost verged into Scrooge and Grinch territory.
Seeing him look so defeated by cellophane and glitter right now I could see why.
Last year, I hadn’t witnessed anything of the sort – having not known each other too long, we’d exchanged alcohol and made a pact to drink them together on New Year’s Eve. We had, it had been messy, and it had been amazing.
I realised looking at Roy trying to scrape the glitter off his hand that the alcohol had been his idea, probably because it hadn’t required any wrapping.
“It looks like Christmas hell in here, Roy.”
Finally realising that I’d witnessed his crazed attempt to put his presents together, Roy looked up at me and his eyes twinkled.
“You!” His lips twisted into a predatory smile that made me take a half step backwards in trepidation. “Finally!”
Roy sprang up and grabbed me by the arms and gave me a small shake. Suddenly, he looked almost manic if not for the green and gold glitter stamped on his face.
“You can help me!”
I slapped his arms off and gave a bark of laughter. “Jesus, Roy, I thought something was seriously wrong for a minute there.”
He shook his head like a little boy and gave me big, blue puppy dog eyes. “Something is – this crap!” He pointed sullenly at the most ridiculously wrapped present of all time. Tufts of paper hung off it like a preschool art project. “I need help! I need you to wrap these goddamn presents for me before I blow my brains out with the glue gun!”
I really did lose it and felt tears prick my eyes when I began to laugh so hard my stomach began to ache. Roy scowled at me and actually stamped his foot.
“Red, this is not funny! I really need your help – Gloria won’t do it because of the time I glued her cat to the floorboards.” I stopped laughing mid peal to stare at him in abject horror. “He was fine! Just lost a few tail hairs...”
“Oh dear god, Roy, how can anyone seriously be this terrible at Christmas wrapping? It’s not that hard! My cousin can do it and he’s like ten or something.”
Roy bent down and picked up the present he’d been trying to wrap when I arrived and thrust it into my hands. “Please, Red – I’m actually begging you, I really do need help. If I have to sit there one more time while my brothers laugh at my wrapping and my nieces get stuck to the paper again, I think I will hang myself.”
With a smile and shake of my head I finally agreed and began to inspect his work. It was genuinely terrible, I didn’t know how, but it was. “Alright, I’ll help you. But only because I don’t understand how someone can be so bad at this without trying to be.”
Roy scoffed and ran a hand through his hair. “Oh you’d be surprised.”
“Alright, well I think we should start by clearing this shit up.” I gestured to the Christmas present graveyard before us. “Get some garbage bags and your broom.”
It didn’t take all that long to sweep up the tiny paper chips and shreds of paper from the floor and bag it all up, but the amount of glitter Roy had spilt meant that until he got the world’s most powerful vacuum cleaner he was going to have a sparkling floor for a while to come.
I clapped my hands in anticipation when the bag was tossed into the corner for later, and drew out my mp3 player to start up my all-star Christmas song list. “Best way to do anything Christmassy,” I explained as I set the volume up on ‘We Need a little Christmas’. “Where is your tree? We should really do this by the tree too – being in a Christmassy environment with Christmas music often makes wrapping presents very Zen, you know?”
At the mention of his tree, Roy had paled a little.
“What is it?”
“About my tree...”
“What about it? Oh dear god, don’t tell me you don’t have one!” I felt my panic start to rise a little and began to grip the scissors I’d picked up in my hand.
Roy noticed and help us hands up. “No, I do! It’s not that; I...I think you’d better look.”
He grimaced and began to lead the way around the corner to where his living area met his ‘drawing room’, as he called it. In the far corner of the room by the front window sat his Christmas tree, skirted by a calico cloth.
I couldn’t stop the little scream that bubbled up in my throat.
“What the ever-loving hell is that?” I practically shrieked.
Roy’s Christmas tree, if you could even call it that was a sparse looking evergreen pine tree, with a single wrap of silver tinsel and two baubles. One was purple and the other was blue. It felt like it should have been on show at the Guggenheim with a plaque that read ‘The Lonely Christmas’ or something.
I sucked in a horrified breath and turned very slowly to look at Roy who shrunk back in mock fear. “Please don’t hurt me – I never remember to buy more decorations! I’m usually so busy this time of year and I’m always at my parent’s house for Christmas dinner anyway...”
He trailed off when I glared and shook my head at him.
“Get your coat, Roy. Right now.”
He scrambled out of there so fast; I imagined a white cloud trailing him Road Runner and Coyote style.
He was back in record time with a cherry red scarf wrapped around his neck and dark navy military-inspired winter coat slung over his shoulders. I hadn’t moved except to snap a picture of the sad tree and text it to my sister, Lacey.
In my family there was no bigger Christmas junkie or tree Nazi around. She’d have burnt Roy’s tree to the ground and started over. I wasn’t going to be that harsh, but he needed someone to save him from himself.
Roy was uncharacteristically quiet as I grabbed my own coat and satchel and we headed back out into the frosty London December morning, hailed a cab and stared Roy down when I told him “Piccadilly Circus.”
We stood in the middle of the department store hours later in what was effectively, the North Pole.
This time, Roy had baubles hanging off every square inch of him. Well, except for his feet. He was starting to look like a Christmas tree himself and the irony wasn’t lost on me. In fact, I was doing my very best to stop the hysterical laughter coming out of my mouth.
“Oh kay, Red, i’ve lost count now but I’m pretty sure we have plenty decorations.”
“Just one more!” I took the star out from behind my back and placed the star on top of his head and clapped. “There, all done!”
Roy narrowed his eyes and began to tickle me mercilessly.
By the time we finally left the store laden with bags full of decor, I had a spent a lofty sum of Roy’s money and gained myself a great new profile picture next to my human Christmas tree.
“Come on then, Dr Fonda, let’s go fix your Christmas!”
That year, Roy had the nicest Christmas tree of his lifetime, his presents were all beautifully wrapped and the damage to his flat was minimal. I didn’t tell anyone I’d done most of the work, not even Eric, so that when Roy distributed his gifts everyone would think that he’d improved his skill all by himself.
Unfortunately I never got to see the total proof of my hard work at Roy’s family function Christmas day, but I did at least get to see the fun of it when the Egyptology team went for an early Christmas dinner at some swanky London restaurant two days before Eric and I flew back to Australia.
The night of the 14th of December came around and I donned some festive Christmas earrings, a shiny off-the-shoulder red dress and dark opaque stockings. The thin line across my breastbone was practically gone now that I wasn’t so worried about covering it.
One of the perks of god-bestowed powers? Advanced healing – quicker, more effective and without scarring. Like being a vampire without the teeth. Chomp chomp.
Eric slunk up behind me, careful to keep himself out of the mirror’s reflection, so that when I finally heard him it was too late and he swung me into his arms and kissed me. My lipstick smudged and I couldn’t summon enough effort to care. I’d just fix it in the car.
“Ready to celebrate Christmas with our London family, darlin’?” Eric’s lilting Southern Louisiana accent sent a trickle of warmth down my spine and I cuddled closer.
“Mhmm. In a minute.” I clutched him hard to me, snuggling against him.
I felt the same inner worry that most girls did before introducing their boyfriends to their parents, even though we weren’t even in the same continent as mine yet. I wasn’t worried that they wouldn’t like Eric – everyone loved Eric. No, I was more worried that they were going to embarrass me to hell and back, I’d sweat out my self-esteem in the summer sun and feel like I was back the same girl I was before hightailing out of that god forsaken city in the first place.
Eric, ever astute, pressed a kiss to my neck. “Don’t worry, darlin’, we’ll be fine.” He leant back a bit and gave me an adorable crooked smile. “Honey, we defeated the North American charter of the Organisation of Ra, set an Ancient witch from her tomb, and have been through so much else in the past year I really don’t think you should be so worried about your family.” He chucked me under the chin fondly, then bit my bottom lip lightly. “Come on, Daph, let’s go.” Then he released me and smack me on the ass. I yelped in surprised and stared. Eric winked. “I love you. And when we get home I’ll show you how much.”
“I’m fond of you, too.” I winked back and bolted out, turning my back on him. I was half-way across the flat by the time Eric caught up to me and rugby tackled me to the floor behind the couch.
We were twenty-one minutes late to dinner and Roy ordered entrees for us.
Christmas in London was one of the most magical experiences of all time. Last year when it had been my first time, everything had been so new and wintery perfect. Light snowflakes falling with crystal white perfection to land along my coat sleaves and in my hair, steaming mugs of mulled wine and ice skating in the converted moat of the Tower. It was like being in love, and I had been then too.
Eric had been there to take me everywhere, hold my hand as we watched the snow fall, hand me a hot drink, cuddle me on the ice rink. We’d put up a tree together and decorated it to the upbeat Christmas music of my mp3 player, and woken up together cosy and warm on Christmas morning.
It was the perfect Christmas love story and I had felt like I was living a fluffy, warm, magical dream. The kind I’d imagined when I was a little girl.
Damn, I was even getting dreamy and floaty just remembering it.
This year was going to be different, but no less amazing. It was going to be hotter than hell home in Perth, there would be no snow, no ice skating, no steaming hot drinks or snuggling by the fire. Hell there would be sticky nights, drowning ourselves in the pool at my parent’s house, and pina coladas on Christmas day. With my family, lots of pina coladas.
After our wintery Christmas feast the night before last, we’d swapped gifts with the team and listened with glee as Gloria, Harry and Eric had complimented Roy’s improved Christmas wrapping. Frank had caught the smile on my face though I’d tried to hide it and raised his champagne glass to me in silent toast.
Gloria had given me a designer new purse complete with a picture of her and I from New York inside. Harry’s present was tucked inside it too: a personalised voucher for a day spa in Perth. The boy had done his research and chosen a popular place.
“To calm your nerves,” he explained with a knowing smile.
Roy rubbed his hands together in glee when I’d opened the present he bought me – safely tucked in a gift box that was no doubt store wrapped since I hadn’t seen it before. Inside the box was crisp white tissue paper that I pulled back delicately to reveal the softest cotton pyjamas I’d ever seen printed with scenes from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. My favourite.
Roy knew me so well. I kissed his cheek to thank him.
Frank’s gift, of all those I received that night, was probably closest to my heart; he’d rather flushed as he pushed a small tiffany’s box in my direction.
Inside was a white gold chain-link bracelet with three symbols on it: a cat, a jackal and the symbol of ankh surrounded by angel-like wings. My gaze snapped to him in surprise and he nodded with a slight smile.
“Frank...It’s perfect. Thank you.”
I continued to gaze at it with love as Eric drew it from its sky blue box and fasten it around my left wrist – right over the jagged scar made by Janice Uther’s knife that was yet to fade.
It told me two things: Frank knew me, and he understood.
“Really, Frank, thank-you.”
Frank raised his glass to toast us all this time with a blinding smile. “Merry Christmas everyone.”
We raised our glasses in response and drank, the taste of champagne bringing red to my cheeks as I celebrated with my London family.