The electric light of the plastic Christmas candle in the window created a feeble halo against night’s blackness. Fay cupped her hands around her eyes and pressed her nose flat against the chilled window. Was it snowing yet?
She couldn’t tell for sure, but she thought she saw snow falling outside. It reminded her of being in the car with her mom and her brother, Lucas. Mom would be an inch from the steering wheel, her posture stooped over, as the snow hit the windshield.
“I hate driving in the snow,” her mom said, “It hypnotizes you.” From that point on, Fay saw the beauty in the way snow fell, covering all it touched in a calm hush. She hoped it would snow for Christmas.
She backed away from the window, receding into the darkness. She couldn’t see anything but the yellow electric light. Where was Lucas? Grandma had always bought them little plastic candy canes full of peanut butter candies, which Fay gave away to her brother every year. Grandma always forgot Fay hated peanut butter, but Fay didn’t mind. She found it a little funny.
“Lucas?” Fay called out into the darkness. “Lucas, do you think they’re awake yet?”
She wanted to go jump on her parents’ bed with her brother. They’d giggle because the sun hadn’t yet risen, but they were ready to open their gifts. Grandma said they could open their gifts as soon as they woke up.
Mom and Dad would groan and shift beneath the blankets. Mom would try to sound stern, “Go back to bed,” and they’d run back to their little beds, giggles echoing throughout the hallway. The two children would lay awake, waiting until they could hear adults waking up, donning slippers, drinking coffee, and wrapping those last minute purchases.
Fay called into the darkness again, “Lucas? Where are you?” She walked through the hallway, expecting to reach her bedroom door, yet instead found herself facing the window with the electric candle again.
“It’s cold. Lucas, can I have your jacket?” Why wasn’t he answering her?
“Please,” she added, thinking it might persuade him. Her hands numbed and she began to tremble.
Fay remembered the smell of Dad’s large white t-shirts, so big they’d reach down to her ankles. She longed to be bundled up in one of his shirts, knees tucked under the excess fabric, her arms pulled in through the arm holes.
“Lucas, this isn’t funny. Where are you?” Fay walked through the hallway again, but she felt tired and cold. It was difficult to keep walking. When she walked far enough to reach the bedroom door, she strangely found herself again standing before the dim light of the electric candle.
Was she alone? The light of the candle seemed dimmer, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she was only standing farther away this time.
Fay couldn’t understand where her family would go, that they wouldn’t have taken her with them. She remembered the time her brother had asked her if he could go alone with their Aunt Jennifer to the movies. Fay said “yes” because she knew Lucas wanted her to, but she cried all night and when Lucas got home, she told him he was a horrible brother. “I’m sorry, Lucas,” Fay said, but her voice was so soft this time, that she, herself, could barely hear it in the darkness.
Maybe Dad was still playing cards downstairs with his brothers. That was where Lucas was. Fay felt sure of it. They were all downstairs playing poker like they did every Christmas Eve, staying up much too late laughing and drinking, until the early morning hours led them to their beds. But Fay didn’t hear any laughter, so how could that be?
“Lucas?” It required a lot of her energy to speak. Fay’s face felt so cold. It was the window – the winter air was coming through and making everything cold. She needed to get away from the window. She needed to get to her bed, nearer to Lucas. Her brother’s breath always smelled bad in the morning, but she didn’t mind.
Every step she took through the hallway was painful. Fay had never felt this cold before and it was difficult to keep moving.
At last, she could move no longer. I’ll sleep here for just one night, she thought, and lay on the floor. Fay curled her knees up to her chest, trying to get warm. She couldn’t get warm, though. The trembling was making her sleepy.
A strange taste in her mouth now. Fay remembered playing with her brother on the couch. He was a monster and she was trying to kick him, but one of her knees accidentally hit her nose, and it bled. The blood had come quickly, slipping onto her lips and into her mouth. It had tasted like metal, like a penny. Dad had been so angry at Lucas, but it had really been Fay’s fault.
“There’s blood in my mouth. That’s strange,” she thought as she lay in a ball on the floor. There’s blood in my mouth, but Dad can’t be angry at Lucas this time, because he’s not here.
“Lucas?” Fay whispered. “Lucas, where are you?”
Fay thought of the Christmas presents they would open once everyone woke up. She hoped the first gift she opened was a new sweater because then she wouldn’t feel so cold. The tree would be decorated with ornaments and flickering red bulbs. Her Aunt Jennifer always had the prettiest presents. The ribbons would be dangling in doilies under the big, bright bows. By the time they were finished, the whole family would have a huge pile of wrapping paper that the men would scoop up in armfuls for the trash.
Fay could imagine the bright red lights, strung around the green fir tree that rose so high, it seemed to almost touch the ceiling. The lights were so vivid that she thought she could see them from behind her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she only saw darkness. Somebody must have turned off the candle. The cold from the window, though, was stronger than ever.
The little girl thought of Lucas opening the Christmas gift she got him. It was a small statue of a turtle that she had bought at the zoo gift shop with her mom.
“I hope he likes my present,” she thought, recalling the pretty white ribbon she had taped around the box. She remembered her brother’s face, recalling it exactly in the darkness, and then – with a painful shiver – she could remember no more.
Samantha Kolesnik is a writer living near Philadelphia. She is the Editor in Chief of the online literary magazine, Five on the Fifth. Her short screenplay, “The Price of Bones”, was recently a Finalist at the 15th Annual Los Angeles Shriekfest Horror and Sci Fi Film Festival.