Do the fakers drop out?
17th of December is the day that Christmas begins. The front door opens and my dad drags in the tree. That’s one moment in a whole year when I’m happy to see him. His face is red with effort and unspoken triumph, and you feel everything might, just might, get back to normal (of course it won’t). Once the tree is in the living-room, we start with the decorations. That’s one moment in a whole year when my mom and I do something together. There’s a lot of festive fuss, but not much argument. Silently, we work together. Then we stand back and admire what we see. That’s one moment in a year when I enjoy being at home.
However, let me tell you a short story about a girl called Marie. Marie is nine years old. Nine is not a baby, but Marie looks seven or six. You can see it in her face, you can hear it in her voice. Her parents are decorating the tree, and when it’s done, Marie’s eyes are glowing as brightly as the Christmas lights. Marie is laughing and telling her parents how much she loves them and how she is still waiting for her small brother to appear. This is the happiest day of her life. Marie can hardly wait for her presents. What’s it going to be this Christmas? Last night she couldn’t sleep and made a list of things she could/wanted/expected to get. Most of all – she wants a small bike. She doesn’t even need it for the streets, she needs it for this house with its long halls and big rooms. Christmas dinner, Christmas films, Christmas words over the Christmas table. She is even allowed to stay until midnight, for the first time ever. It feels like a different world after 10:30, but she is ready to accept and love this strange new world. But the tree? Oh the tree. It’s the most beautiful tree in the world. And then, finally, the presents. Marie is a little sleepy, but now she can clearly see what the present is. The parcel is too big, and it can only mean one thing. She unwraps the papers and can’t stop kissing and hugging her mom and dad. The bike. The very bike she wanted. Right away she asks her dad to adjust the seat and right away she rides away. But something is wrong. Maybe the edge of the carpet is sticking out, maybe something else, and Marie loses control and hits her nose on the door. There’s blood. The blood is red, much redder than it should be. Marie is crying. And through the blood and the tears and the words of parents – she sees the Christmas tree which is shining so red Marie feels dizzy. Not yellow or blue or green – but red. And maybe next year she will forget. And maybe next year she does forget. And maybe she doesn’t. And does again. Again and again.
Now how do you like this? Someone came in the morning to prepare the rooms for tomorrow’s guests. My parents never do it themselves and choose to pay some middle-aged man who does odd jobs around the area. He does the rooms, picks up his fifty-pound note and leaves. My dad trusts him with the money and the key. Well, this time it was different. The man did the rooms and left without picking up the money. Nothing got stolen. Not one thing. My dad tried to call him but the man never answered. “That’s stupid”, my mom said. While me, I just laughed. The man must have smelled what I've been smelling all along. Murder smells of blood and tears and Christmas candles. He must have thought himself lucky getting away for free. So – no. It’s someone else who is stupid.
Later today, I got a phone call from an unknown number. I don’t usually call back, but each time I don’t I regret it. And I can’t stand regretting things, so I called back. You know who it was? It was Jo. Shocking. Oh my God I thought it would be about my dad screwing her mom, but it was nothing like that. She just called me ‘bitch’ for leading Eric on and hung up. Excuse me?
Well, that was interesting. And surprising – as I could never think there was something to it. I thought Jo had barely even noticed him. And now they both have something to answer for. In the end, I’d rather be a murderer than a victim. However, that’s what everyone else will tell you.
The weather is clear, for once. The birds don’t mind the sky. Ah the irony. They are coming tomorrow. The birds.
Not much about Marie from now on. Starting from tomorrow – Marie is just an onlooker. A reporter. A witness. And maybe something else, too.
Don’t go away. Stay. Too late to leave now.
P.S. 8 days