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Holly clicked off the TV and sighed. There was nothing on but Christmas shows. Of course there was once a time when she wouldn’t have minded curling up and watching movie after movie until she fell asleep. But that was before…before her mother had died, and before her Aunt had started drinking.
It was three days until Christmas, and the house was still dark and depressing. No decorations were anywhere to be seen, and Holly felt extremely lonely in the empty house. She jumped at the sound of her Aunt staggering through the door.
“Good morning, Aunt Celia.” she muttered.
“Don’t you ‘good morning’ me, you little cheat! There’s nothing good about it!” Celia zigzagged through the living room and into the kitchen, opening a cabinet and withdrawing a bottle of amber liquid.
“I’m going to Justin’s.”
“ Good riddance.” Celia managed to mutter between gulps.
Holly slipped into her combat boots and trench and headed out into the cold. “Good thing Justin only lives a block away.” she thought aloud as she began to walk.
Justin heard a knock at the door and knew who it had to be. “Come on in, Holly.”
“Thanks Just.” She walked in the door and kicked off her shoes, following Justin into the kitchen. He grabbed them some cookies and walked upstairs. Holly followed.
“So…what was it this time?” He asked, handing her a chocolate chip cookie.
“The usual…y ’know, going to the bar at two, coming home at nine in the morning the next day…yelling…” She watched out the window as snow began to fall. “I miss them, Justin. I miss the way things were.”
“That’s understandable Holl. You lost your entire family in the course of one day.” He sat next to her on his bed and took her hand. “I’m glad you came over. I was beginning to worry about you-we haven’t talked since Thursday.”
“It’s only Saturday.” Holly pointed out.
“I know, but I worry.” He rested his chin on her head and she leaned on his shoulder.
“I wonder what Sage would’ve been like by now.” Holly’s voice was distant, trying to recall her younger sister’s features, her smiling little face.
“Like you. Stubborn and tough.”
“It would’ve certainly been interesting.” She sighed again.
“You need to stop that.”
“Sighing. It‘s depressing.”
“Don’t apologize.” Holly tapped the window’s glass.
“I don’t want to go home, Just.” Justin sighed and repositioned himself so he was closer to her. She shifted, growing slightly uneasy.
“Then stay here.”
“You know I can’t. Your mother would have a fit if she saw us like this.” She got up and grabbed her coat. “I should go.” Justin resisted the urge to pull her back into his arms. He knew his advances made her uneasy, and he was going to ruin their friendship, but sometimes it was just so hard to ignore his feelings. He smirked at her apologetically. “I’ll call you later, okay? I promise.” She slipped out the door.
The wind was bitter and the cold chapped her face, but the last thing Holly wanted to do was return home. On a whim, she tightened her coat around her, made sure Justin wasn’t watching her out of his window, and made a run for the forest across the street. She didn’t stop running once her feet touched the frozen soil.
It was as if she were in a trance. She ran, and her eyes were open , but she saw nothing that was in front of her. She was back in the car, right next to her little sister. Her mother changed the station on the radio, and Holly noticed how her wedding ring glittered in the sunlight. Sage rambled on to Holly about something that had happened at her school. It was warm in the car, and she had felt safe. Everything felt right. Happy.
Until the squeal of tires on the road tore everything apart. Holly had watched as another car blew through a red light and broad-sided their car. She closed her yes and put her arms up to shield herself from flying debris and broken glass. She had heard her sister’s terrified gasp-because that’s all she had time for. She had felt her mother’s scream rip through her ears before her world went black. A drunk driver had blown a stoplight and taken everything from her, without even a second thought. They had lost nothing.
She should have been taken too. Why did God leave her here on this retched earth alone? With a drunkard Aunt who considered her to be a cheat? Was that what she was? A cheat? Holly sniffled and brushed snow out of her eyes as she continued to run. Yes, she thought, I am a cheat. I’m still here. I’m still her while my mother and baby sister are rotting in the ground! She stumbled and fell, slamming hard into the ground. Her coat sleeves filled with snow. She closed her eyes. I want to be with them. Maybe I’ll freeze here…Even though she began to shiver violently, Holly didn’t get up. The snow fell quickly, and before long, it covered her arms and legs.
It was peaceful. The world seemed silent, any sound muffled by the white snow.
“Get up sweetheart. This is neither the time nor the place for you to slip away…” The voice seemed to echo off of the frozen trees. Holly dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. “Holly, get up. Believe it or not, there’re people who will notice and care that you are missing.” She sat up and looked around. No one was there, though she was sure she had heard a voice.
“Wh-who are you?” Holly tried to stand, but her legs folded beneath her. “What do you want from me?”
“ I am many things. I am snow, I am cold, I am warmth. I am also hope, and spirit. Holly, I want you to have hope. Open your eyes, my child, and you will see all you have been missing.” Holly watched as snow whirled around her. In front of her very eyes, the snowflakes joined together to form the figure of what looked to be a woman. The figure became solid until Holly was staring at an extremely pale but beautiful young woman, who had silvery-gray eyes, and white hair that reached down to her knees. Entwined in it were vines of ivy and sprigs of holly and mistletoe. She had on a white gown, and a sheer cloth was draped over her shoulders that looked as if it was made of frost. The woman knelt next to Holly. “My dear, I am the sprit of Yule, or Christmas if you will, and I know I am needed here. I know of your past and your feelings…and I want you to move on. You are dwelling in the past, my love. No matter how many times you go back and relive that moment, that day, it cannot be changed. You escaped with your life for a reason. Don’t just throw what you have away. Use your feelings for good. Let your heart thaw. Let your friends be friends again. Stop torturing yourself! What happened that day was not-”
“Don’t say it! Don’t you dare tell me it wasn’t my fault! I know that! I know it wasn’t. They’re still gone-”
“They’ll never be completely gone. Live your life for your sister and yourself. Make your mother proud. Let this season work it’s magic. Leave all of this behind with the changing of winter to spring. Keep them with you in your heart, and let the Holidays bring about fond memories and warmth, Holly. Don’t turn Christmas into a dark time. Remember their warmth Holly. Remember how happy they used to be. Remember Holly…Remember…” The woman smiled and crumbled to the ground like a snowman that had just gotten smashed with a baseball bat. Tears stung Holly’s eyes. She would go back home after she rested for a little while longer. Then she would put up the Christmas decorations like her mother used to.
“Holly…Holly…” Holly opened her eyes. She felt warm, and she was in a bed. She sat up and looked around.
“What the-why am I in the hospital?”
“I saw you run into the woods…when you didn’t come back out, I got worried and went looking…” Justin sat in a chair next to the bed. “You scared me, Holl. When I found you, you were barely breathing. You had hypothermia.” He stood up and went to her. She took his hand.
“Thanks Just…for everything.” She wrapped her arms around him. He put his hands on either side of her face and looked her in the eyes.
“I’m just glad your okay.” Holly nodded, tears stinging her eyes.
“Me too.” Justin bent down and she felt his lips on hers. She kissed him back, feeling warm and happy for what felt like the first time in forever.