“It's the most wonderful time of the year, there'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing...”
“I would deeply appreciate it, if you would stop singing Christmas songs, like you're a
bloody caroller,” I said through my teeth to the all too jolly Rose.
“Why are you so cranky?” James asked.
“She has the need to show her frustration, because she has to go home to her family,” I turned around to glare at Alice, who I thought was the one making the comment, but it was actually Molly. Alice was once again being quiet and just sitting in the corner.
“I do not have the need to show my frustration, thank you very much. I am just not really into that Christmas-y spirit stuff.”
I nuzzled back into Louis's arm, which he held around me and he stroked my back calmingly.
“Do you know what my favourite part about Christmas is?” Al asked.
“Nana Molly's Christmas dinner,” he laughed and gazed longingly into the distance.
“You're thinking about her Christmas pudding aren't you?” James teased him.
“The pudding, the tater-tots, the roasted duck...” Al trailed off, “It really is the most wonderful time of the year.”
“For me it's the presents,” James laughed. He really is a six year old.
“I love the crackers that burst out into mice and chess sets and stuff,” Molly smiled.
I fucking hate Christmas and all of them along with it. It is a terrible holiday, where families get together to bicker about their lives and fight about who gets the last spring roll from the Chinese take-out.
“Al, did Megan confirm her presence at the party?” James remembered.
“Yes, she said she can make it for a couple of hours, but she'll have to leave before midnight, because they are going to America for a few days.”
“So she's not going to school?” Rose asked.
“Yes, she arranged it with the headmaster and he allowed her to miss three days,” Al explained.
He's probably glad that she's not going to be at his school for a couple of days. If I was the headmistress, I'd sure want that skanky bitch out of my castle.
“Are you coming Alice?” James asked her kindly.
“I might,” she stated simply and then turned away again.
“Well, I hope you can make it.”
She didn't react at all and kept staring out the window. Why was she being so weird?
“When should we get there?” Rose asked.
“I think mum and dad are leaving at around six, so why don't you start arriving at seven? I would appreciate it, if you wouldn't all barge in at once, the neighbours might notice. I don't want them seeing fifteen teenagers coming into our house, that might set them off just a tiny bit.”
“That bloody Mrs. Jackson would sure stick her nose into our business. She does this every chance she gets, I think she eyeballs me every-time I take the garbage out.” Al complained.
“She's after you, that one, probably just waiting for her chance to pounce,” Louis laughed.
“I hope you are aware that you'll have to help me set everything up,” James told Al, “I need to hide quite a few bottles of fire-whiskey in the basement.”
“We'll get it done, don't worry,” Al waved it off, “Well anyway, with that settled, I'm off to find Megan,” he got up slowly, gave us a quick wave and left the compartment.
I stayed quiet for most of the journey, wondering what exactly will happen during the holidays. The train-ride passed quickly-a little too quickly for my taste, since I really did not want to go out and face the real world. Sadly I was now standing on the platform, being hugged by Rose and kissed by Louis, both of them promising to write every day. It was like time was speeding up and just a second ago we were talking on the train, but now I was standing on the already half-empty platform, looking around for my dad. Who wasn't there. Great.
For a few hours beforehand, I had been worrying that he will forget to come and pick me up. I have barely heard from him since the summer and even then it was just a short message asking, if I will be coming over for the holidays. He probably didn't even know today was the day to come and pick me up.
What was I supposed to do now? I sat down on my trunk, wondering what my next step will be. I could take a taxi home, but it was quite far and I really didn't think my dad would appreciate the extra bill. On second thought, he did forget about me so why not? It's his own fault.
“Cecelia!” A voice screeched behind me and I turned around.
By the barrier was an old woman, who I recognized immediately. This was Mrs. Parkinson, an old widow who lived in the apartment next-door to my father. She was a squib and she took care of my dad just enough so that he always had something to eat and that he paid his bills, also checking on him to make sure he was still alive. You might be wondering, if my father is in a wheelchair or something, by the way I described him. He isn't. He is just very bad at coping with life.
“Cecelia! I have come to collect you!” Mrs. Parkinson yelled.
Oh and you also might be wondering why she calls me Cecelia. Since everyone calls me Cece, she just figured that it was short for Cecelia and I have no intention of correcting her. I would even prefer my name to be Cecelia. How desperate am I? Don't answer that.
I got up slowly and dragged my trunk towards Mrs. Parkinson. When I reached her she gave me a quick hug and I got a whiff of the old lady smell. You know which one I'm talking about, they all smell that way.
“What are you doing here Mrs. Parkinson?” I asked.
“Well I haven't heard from your father for a few days and when I knocked on his door he didn't open the door, so I wasn't sure, if he knew you were coming home today. I thought it was better to be sure and come myself, just to check that you got home ok,” she chuckled. Great, my neighbour, whom I see once a year, cares more about my well-being then my biological father. I feel so loved.
“Thank you so much Mrs. Parkinson,” I gave her my most convincing smile, she really was a sweet old lady.
“Would you like a mint, dear?” she offered me one and I declined. Those mints that grannies always carry, seem to be lying in their hand-bags for god knows how long.
“Shall we get going than?” She asked kindly, he big eyes blinking at me from behind her glasses.
“Yes, sure. Do you mind me asking: how are we getting home?”
“With my car of course,” she said and she wobbled through the barrier, me right behind her.
“Don't take this the wrong way, but: you drive?”
“Yes, dear. What did you think? Who else would take me places?” she laughed.
I had to admit I was a bit worried when I heard this seventy or even eighty year old woman still drove a car and my doubtfulness only increased when I saw the vehicle that I was supposed to get in. You ask why? Let me just put it this way: the car should have gone to the waste disposal long before the time when Mrs. Parkinson was still a nice sight to look at in a bikini.
“Well dear, what are you waiting for? Get in,” she hurried me.
I tried to hold on to the feeling of safe ground beneath my legs and the smell of air for as long as possible, because I was quite sure this would be the last time I was standing outside. I almost crossed my heart before getting it, just in case it would help. Mrs. Parkinson started the car and pulled it onto the busy streets of London. And that is when I received the biggest shock of my life. Mrs. Parkinson did not drive like a slow old lady, she drove like a mad man. Our speed almost matched the knight bus. She turned corners like a car on a video game and not a minute passed until I felt the need to throw up
“So how is school, dear?” she asked looking at me.
Keep your eyes on the road woman!
I was scared that, if I opened my mouth something else besides words might come out.
“It's fine,” I mumbled as we literately leaned into the next curve.
I will not tell you all the details of this the least to say adrenaline filled trip, since it is in my best interest to try and erase it from my memory.
“Here we are dear, we made quite good time,” she smiled as she parked in front of the apartment building that both her and my dad lived in. Well no wonder we made good time, we were going like 150miles per hour.
“Would you like a mint now, my dear?” she offered again and I just shook my head.
I think I will never eat again, my stomach is damaged for life. It is safe to say I have never valued life more and the happiest moment of my 16 years of existence was when my feet touched solid ground again.
“There we go,” Mrs. Parkinson fiddled with the keys at the doorstep.
“Thank you so much for coming to get me,” I managed to get myself together to say that much.
“Not a problem sweetie-pie and how about I cook lunch for you and your dad tomorrow?” she offered.
“That is indeed very kind of you,” I excepted, guessing that the most edible thing I was going to find in my dad's apartment was the oven-mitt.
“Then I'll see you tomorrow, shall we say two-ish?”
“That would be great,” I told her kindly and then proceeded to unlocking my dad's door. To say that my father's apartment was a mess would be an understatement. It was like the atomic bomb was not thrown on Hiroshima but right here. There were socks, banana peals, buckets, clothes, rubber ducks (rubber ducks?), bottles, cat food, tins, cans and tons of other stuff lying everywhere. The plants on the window-sill have long ago died and there was a pile of the dirty dishes the size of mount-Fuji on the counter.
“Dad! I'm here!” I called out.
“Candy? Is that you?”
“No it's your other daughter!”
Of course it's me you idiot, or is there a hundred other people calling you dad, walking on this planet.
Eric Cotton emerged from the bedroom and there are no words that could fully describe what a sight this was. His beard was grown out unevenly, it looked like he started trimming it, but then gave up, his glasses were dirty and stuck together with duck-tape, all he had on was a shirt, which I only guessed could have once been white and boxer shorts, that were already tearing at the edge.
“Why are you here already? Is something wrong? You weren't supposed to come until Christmas,” he said, scratching his beard, “If I knew you were coming I would have cleaned up a bit.”
“Dad, you knew I was coming, it's Christmas in two days and you forgot to pick me up at the station.”
His mouth formed an 'Oh' as the information reached his brains.
“Dad, what the fuck happened to you?” I sighed, carefully placing my trunk in between the piles of crap that lay everywhere.
“Well your mother didn't answer any of my mails or messages so I thought: what's the point in life?” he shrugged, still scratching his beard.
“She kicked you out nine years ago! Get over it!” I yelled.
Every time I come and visit him, it's the same. His entire life's a mess, the quantity of the screw-up usually differs depending on the season. First I yell at him for about half an hour, then I clean his apartment, he spends the next few days apologizing for being such a bad father and promises to get his life back on tracks, but when I leave it's all the same again. For the first few times he told me how he's going to turn everything around, I even believed him, but now I just laugh. It's not going to change, we both know it. Thankfully he was a very successful computer engineer and earned enough money so that now he could maybe work 2 hours a week and do it from home.
“When was the last time you went out?” I groaned, deciding to skip the entire lecturing part and just start with the cleaning.
“Well there was that one time that Mrs. Parkinson forced me to go out to the shop.”
“At least she hasn't given up on you yet.”
For the next hour or two I focused on getting the apartment in a respectable state and then I moved on to my dad.
“Go and shower,” I ordered and at least he did so. Then I cut his hair and trimmed his beard.
In the evening the place was spotless and my father looked like he had just come out of a spa. I ordered pizza and set the table.
“Dad, I sent your clothes to the dry-cleaners and you have to pick them up the day after Christmas, will you be able to do that for me?” I said very slowly, like I was talking to a child, “I've put the slip for the clothes on the refrigerator.”
The pizza man came and we ate our dinner in silence. I wasn't even sure why I bothered with him at all, but I guess I felt sorry. He was the one who stayed alone after the divorce and he hasn't gotten back on his feet since.
“Are you still on the antidepressants?” I asked.
“I tossed them out,” he grumbled.
“Why did you do that?”
“They were a pile of shit,” was all he said.
I basically tucked him into his bed at eleven.
“Candy, it feels good to have clean sheets in my bed.”
I guessed that was all the thanks I was going to get so I just said goodnight and went to sleep on the couch in the living room.
We spent the next day eating lunch at Mrs. Parkinson's and then I forced my dad to go for a walk in the park. We didn't talk much, I knew that the only thing going through his mind was my mum and how happy she was and he knew I didn't want to hear any of it.
On Christmas morning he gave me some money and I gave him a hug. That's how it was every year and with that we parted. I bought some flowers for Mrs. Parkinson and brought them to her, then I made my way to see my mother. This ought to be fun.
Disclaimer: The chapter tittle is a song by Judy Garland, hence it does not belong to me. And the song It's the most wonderful time of the year belongs to Andy Williams.
A/N: At least for me personally this is a very sad chapter, but it was one of my favourites to write. What did you think?