She hated Christmas. In fact, she hated any holiday. But Christmas was the worst. Not only did she have to meet people every holiday, but every Christmas, she had to pull money from her wallet to buy presents for her ungrateful family and friends who she didn’t even really care about. Walking through the cold, and tightly wrapping her jacket around her with her arms, as she passed one shop window after another.
Decorations. Snowmen. Gift boxes. Santas. Elves. There were too many things on display that disgusted her. Why couldn’t stores keep holiday items hidden away at some dedicated holiday section? Not everyone celebrated Christmas. Not everyone wants holiday season reminders constantly shoved in their faces. The insensitivity to religious leanings during the holiday season was unbelievable!
Though she didn’t quite fall into the groups that didn’t celebrate the holiday. She felt pity for all of those that did. Those who didn’t receive gifts or relate to any of the decor, who were forcefully subjected to them every year. At the same time, she envied them. If she hadn’t been born into a Christian family, she wouldn’t be celebrating the dumb holiday anyways.
She took a turn, entering a neighborhood of nearly rundown buildings. Walking up to the first building she could see in the slum, she yanked open a jammed door that didn’t even have a lock. Stepping out of her worn shoes, and draping her jacket over an already three legged chair, she entered the single room flat that she called her home. She layed down onto the carpet that was already greying from an accumulation of grime and dirt, technically her bed, in a room that was both her living room and her bedroom. Money was too valuable to be spent on presents.
Forcing herself to sit up, she picked up the notice that she had collected earlier that day, and tore the envelope open. She already knew what it was. A bill. Another unreasonably expensive cost added to the already exceedingly large debt that she shouldered. With a sigh, she picked up the next letter. A holiday card from her family.
They really all liked to rub their wealth in her face didn’t they? Buying expensive customized holiday cards like this. Another indirect request for presents. Presents that she hated giving. Presents, a part of the holidays that she had to argue, were the cause for her current crude lifestyle.
She hadn’t always lived life this way. She had grown up in a fancy mansion. A golden dreamland that so contrasted from the greys that she had become so accustomed to seeing. It had been a time of sunlight. A time that she could look outside her window and see some color other than some shade in a regular monochrome.
She opened her hand, trying to summon some colors. Nothing. She sighed. Shouldn’t have expected anything to start with. Without knowing the implicit meaning of her actions, she had made a crystal with each of the colors on the visible spectrum and gifted it to her best friend, soon after coming of age. She had been new to color magics, and just wanted to make something special for her friend. Little did she know that making color crystals was essentially storing power, and that gifting them was the equivalent of giving them away.
When the sorting day came along, she had thought that she would pass, only to be placed into the lowest rung of the ladder. She had no magic left. After learning of the meaning of her actions, she tried to recover her abilities from her friend, only to find that he had long since left town and cut off all contact with her. Her family did nothing to help. Upon learning of her disgraced status, they kicked her out of the family, disowning her. The family reputation couldn’t be soiled by having a magically inept member. They still kept in contact with her, but did so under specifically under the condition that they were friends, not family.
She threw the card aside. She didn’t need their pity, and didn’t want their constant reminders of how much better off they were from her. Of course they were. As magical users, they were qualified to so many more job opportunities and housing options. If they looked down on her, just because of the absence of abilities, if they really cared so much about their family reputation, she’d preferred it if they would just stop the act and show her their true feelings. Confirmed knowledge of their indifference was better than the constant hope that things would change, only to be disappointed each time.
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Someone rang her doorbell. She ignored it at first. No one of significance ever came to visit her. Not even her so-called friends. Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! It rang again, faster and more insistent. She grabbed a shirt from the floor nearby and placed it over her face, fully intending on muffling out the sound. She hated anyone that wanted to waste her energy. Food wasn’t easy to come by. She had no intention of wasting any of it on holiday salesmen. People that clearly had problems, if they had nothing better to do than market to those that so obviously couldn’t afford their products.
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Her doorbell rang again. Whoever it was out there was really testing her patience. She sat up, annoyed. Ringing the doorbell insistently after every thirty seconds was growing tiresome. Whoever it was out there was going to pay for disturbing her sleep. She walked up to the door, yanking it open, fully prepared to yell at whoever she saw.
Instead, her jaw dropped, and she was left staring agape at her visitor. A face that was too familiar for her to forget. A face that she still recognized, despite the clear signs of age that covered it. Her heart clenched. It was the boy…now man…that had brought her so much misery years ago. The cause of her current life.
“Arika,” he addressed, looking forlorn, “Can I come in?”
Too stunned for words, she almost agreed. He was her friend for as long as she could remember. Her best friend. A friend that she’d shared everything with. A person that she thought she could trust. He made a step towards the entrance, snapping her back into reality. She stuck out an arm, blocking the remainder of the entrance that she didn’t already occupy by standing there.
“You’re not welcome.” She answered, her face darkening. “Leave.”
“Arika, I…” He started, hesitatingly.
“Leave.” She responded, firmly.
He sighed, before placing an all-too-familiar box at her doorstep, and turning to leave. It couldn’t be. She crouched down, picking up the box and opening it. In it lay all the crystals that she had generated for him all those years ago.
“Wait!” She shouted, chasing him out, clutching the box closely in her chest. He paused in his step.
“Why?” She asked, catching up to him.
He lit a flame over his finger. “I’m not like you.” He answered, after a brief pause, looking pained. “As a fire user, I never knew the significance. Our family had to move after the new regulation segregating magical users came into place. I didn’t know what they had meant. If I had…I would never have accepted them. When I found out about the sorting, I had come back, but your family wouldn’t tell me where you were. They told me that you committed suicide after the incident. You’d changed your name. I didn’t think to look for that. I’m sorry for taking so long.”
“So you’ve never meant to betray me.” She whispered, tears falling from her face.
“I guess it’s a little late to argue that,” He answered, looking sad. “I can schedule you to get another sorting, if you’d like. Or at least, come live with me. It’s not exactly the mansion you’re used to, but at least, it’s better than here.”
“Thank you.” She said, running into him, and wrapping her arms around him like she used to. She had thought that gifts were pointless. Only items for show. Friendship and family were lies. But if he had been searching for years, then there’s something different about him. Perhaps there was friendship. Perhaps the seasons weren’t as bleak as she had assumed.
She looked down at the gems as she pulled out of the hug, and back at the slums. At those who had suffered alongside her. Those who have, too, suffered from the discrimination of society. Perhaps she could define a new cause for gift-giving. One hand in his, and the other clenching around the box, she looked back at the slums. Her decade long home. She’ll be back. From this year and onward, she’ll give these people holidays that they will remember, and lives worth fighting for. Something that everyone, magically gifted or otherwise, deserved.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
Write an anti-holiday story. For every giving, generous person during the holidays there seems to be another who is a modern-day Scrooge or Grinch. Here’s your chance to write your own Scrooge or Grinch story. Do you keep it anti-holiday? Does it have a moral twist to it? You decide. You may not use the word Scrooge or Grinch in the story or poem.