“Humbug” was Marissa’s matter-of-fact reply to the carol singers that evening. She was particularly pleased with her idea to pour humbug sweets from the bedroom window, akin to hot oil in old castle sieges. It had added an extra dimension to the Scrooge-like personality she had manifested during the festive season.
Recently single and 26 years old, she’d had perfectly pleasant Christmases as a child and even enjoyed the feelings of nostalgia that Slade and Wizzard still produced in her. However, she was stuck in the awkward moral mindset of being both an atheist and anti-materialistic.
Should she, as a heathen unbeliever, really be celebrating Christmas at all? Was it hypocritical to do so? Maybe if she continued to call it Xmas? She did rather enjoy taking the Christ out of Christmas.
Victoria, of course, had loved the holiday and Marissa had found her enthusiasm infectious, despite herself.
The next day, the 25th, Marissa awoke naturally as it was starting to get light outside. Through glazed eyes, as they adjusted to the light, she noticed the rising sun through the crack in her curtains. Marissa enjoyed the irony that it was the first thing she saw that day; the sun gods of older religions having become the Son of God in Christianity. She turned over, thinking herself a bit pretentious at times but maintaining that it was her best worst trait. Perhaps second to sarcasm.
The empty space next to her was strange. Stranger, even, than on any of the previous mornings since Victoria left. Her smell had now faded from the pillows. Maybe she was also just waking up, her heart overflowing with similar longing. Maybe not.
Marissa sighed heavily and pried herself from her bed and walked to the kitchen and put the kettle on. It was the first Xmas morning she’d ever experienced without company. She felt weird making a tea and going back to bed to watch The Simpsons, but she didn’t have to be at her parents’ house until noon. The day did not feel at all Christmassy so far but she would have plenty of that to contend with later when wearing silly paper hats and watching Doctor Who.
Marissa had always enjoyed the giving and receiving of presents, hoping to bypass the materialism dilemma with more thoughtful gifts that weren’t necessarily that expensive but meant something to the receiver. She remembered spending hours on a birthday card for an ex when she was eighteen, only to get a small smile and the reply; “You have bought me one too, haven’t you?” That relationship proved to be a short one.
Victoria had even made presents for her sometimes…
She quickly put a stop to this train of thought. Remembering Victoria’s best traits was not going to help her heal. If she were to think more about her troubling fondness for Hollyoaks, her freakishly large toes, and the ridiculous seriousness she treated chakras with, then she might have more success.
It was a little past midday when Marissa climbed into her car, placing the presents for her family on the passenger seat. She started the engine and waited to pull off while the car warmed up. She looked across the street at her neighbour’s house, where there must have been more lights than bricks. While attempting to conjure some empathy for the type of person who would use all that electricity for such excessive decorations since early November, she remembered that even Victoria was unimpressed by that level of festive recklessness. She sighed, shaking her head, and started driving as The Pogues began on the radio.
She pulled up outside her parents’ house. She could see them through the window, around the Xmas tree, laughing and joking with her brothers. The scene, though seemingly plucked straight from a Hallmark card, made her smile. It looked cosy. Safe. Familiar.
She shivered slightly as an icy wind cut across her bare face. She approached the door and before entering thought that, as in general life, she should look forward and take the positives from the situation. The time off work, the TV specials, the look on a loved one’s face as they open a present they like; the nostalgia.
She smiled again and pushed the door open and walked inside. Her family turned to her.
“Humbug to you all!” she proclaimed loudly, her hands in the air. They laughed in what she thought was a rather cheesy way. It was probably going to be one of those days.
Harry Wilding writes in Nottingham UK. He is currently doing a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, while maintaining a blog that no-one reads. He made short films throughout his twenties but it became increasingly difficult to organise their production with a zero budget, so he has decided to try writing prose again. The results of this decision’s viability are not yet in.
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