Ah Christmas! It was time to be nice to people she couldn't stand for a second on the other days of the year. After turning down a bunch of dinner invites as politely as she could, she sank down on her sofa and opened a bottle of beer. Her parents had stopped inviting her because they knew what they would hear.
She hated Christmas; all of it. It always brought back those haunting memories. It made her recall everything, she couldn’t forget. “I’m not putting myself through this again”, she told herself as she furiously tapped through the channels on the tv, and took a sip of the beer. It had been hard and even to this day, Christmas only brought her sadness.
The tv was no good for a distraction, she got bored and started looking around her apartment which was too big and empty for one. She had thought to sell it and move to a smaller one, but she thought maybe keeping it somehow helped her get over her life. It was one of the few reminders of her brief engagement. Not like she needed it as a reminder; no, she had her ring, her golden circle, it completed her wherever she went. She took it out and twirled it between her fingers. An overwhelming flow of emotions grasped her. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she closed her eyes, as she broke into a sob. She found her mind drifting off to that fateful night.
It would be five years this Christmas, but she could remember every single thing. The way he had looked that night, the smell of his cologne and the way he had kissed her as he walked in after a long day-out with some old friends. She had been looking forward to this dinner. It was their first Christmas as fiancés and they had decided to get each other gifts. “Nothing too expensive”, she had said. They had been saving up for a trip around the world before their wedding, and buying the apartment had already cost them quite a lot of money.
Just as she was getting ready to serve the dinner, Russell apologised about forgetting her Christmas present at the store. It was late, and she tried to tell him that he didn't need to get it, but he was adamant and left.
She had been considering giving him a call after he hadn’t been back for a little too long, but she thought that maybe he was just caught up in the traffic. It had been close to an hour when her phone finally rang. The screen said Russell, and she answered with the usual “Hey honey”. But the voice on the other end was a stranger's and no sooner than he completed his sentence, blood drained down her face. It had been a hit-and-run the officer had said. He had asked her to come down to the station, and then said some other things about how sorry he was for her loss. She wasn’t crying, she hadn’t been able to process any of it, she had just did as he as had asked. At the police station there were quite a lot of long official procedures to sort out before she could see him. She remembered finally breaking down in the cold silence of the morgue. She remembered how she had just wanted to go home, sink into a hot bathtub and disappear. Everything after that was like the blur of storm. Their apartment was in shambles for the next few days. Christmas dinner was still on the table, untouched and made-up as before., Russell's coat still lay on the couch and the only light in the entire apartment came from the tv screen. How she wished that she had stopped him from going out. All of this because of a wretched Christmas present.
It had took her some time, but slowly she was able to put her life back together; at least her professional life. Her personal life was still in a box and she had never quite gotten around to fixing it’s pieces to fit. She had figured out that drowning herself in work took her mind off things and, hardly let her think about that night now-a-days. It was only during the happy-holiday-season, that those wounds would slit open up again.
Five years had passed and everyone had been urging her to move on but she didn't expect them to understand. Initially she had blamed herself for all of it, and even though she still thought she could've prevented it, the guilt had mostly passed away. It was nights like these that made it especially hard. In her heart, she knew that she eventually had to let go, but it was not as easy as it seemed. She decided to get some air and walked on to the balcony. The view was beautiful. All around she saw buildings lit up with lights, people chatting about in the streets below and the Church in the distance, standing tall and bright. “I'd almost forgotten how beautiful it looks”, she thought. She also thought about all the other things she had forgotten over the years. Her parents' anniversary, her passion for cooking, which had now turned into a day task to keep her mind occupied; but most importantly, she had forgotten what it was to be alive.
She realised she knew what she had to do. It was time. It would not happen all of a sudden, but in steps ,and she was about to take the first ones.
She picked up the phone, dialled a number and after a few rings a knowing voice spoke up on the other end, “Hello dear, is everything alright?”
“Yes mum, I was just thinking if we could all spend Christmas together this year.”
Photography By: Kanika Narang