by Angharad

Copyright © 2013 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.

(Picture: Winter Solstice, courtesy of Google images.)

‘Bah humbug,’ said the greeting inside the card under which the signature was almost indecipherable. She looked at the picture on the front, which this year, was Jacob Marley’s ghost, wrapped in its chains to rattle and clank as he moved to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. She chuckled.

Last year the message was the same, only the picture was one of Scrooge himself. She still had it. It was kept in a paper bag in the bottom of her chest of drawers. It was pure sentimentality, she knew that, but she wanted to keep it, as she would this year’s one. They were special because they were from him. Simply holding the card made her feel happy and warm yet close to tears. She missed him. She always would.

Wiping away the trace of a tear, she put the card in a place of honour on her mantel shelf, next to the clock–the only item she had from her parent’s house and that had only been saved because it was being repaired. She thought about her parents. She loved them and she was pretty sure they loved her and her brother. Now there was just the two of them.

House fires happen to other people. That was what she’d always believed until that night. They thought it had started with a candle, perhaps toppling over or heating something above it. That would have been her mother’s fault, she loved candles, especially scented ones. Her parents died that night, along with the labrador. It was Christmas Eve. Was it any wonder she hated Christmas?

Instead of sharing a turkey dinner and presents, there were interviews with emergency services. The police were brilliant, and they found her and her brother and explained what had happened. She was so shocked, so distraught she just gasped unable to cry or speak for days. She didn’t eat or wash or do anything except stare into the void which had replaced her family. She wondered if that was where she’d still be if Jack hadn’t saved her.

Jack was her brother, the sender of the cards. His name was actually John, but to save confusion with his dad, who was also John, they called him Jack. She liked the name, better than John and she loved her brother, to whom she owed her sanity and perhaps even her life. Nothing fazed or shocked Jack, not even the Christmas tragedy. He seemed to rise to the occasion and dealt with everything. He was sixteen and she three years younger in age but more than that in maturity.

Jack was always there for her. Even when she tried to join her parents, he came to see her every day and told her to trust him, he’d make things better. They’d been placed with their mother’s sister who was a singleton. She was a teacher and novelist. She was also gay and took some time to cope with being a parent to her two charges.

Aunt Pamela did her best for the two orphans and was horrified when one of them took an overdose of her sleeping tablets. Jack had to reassure her that it wouldn’t recur.

It was in the aftermath of the overdose that things came out she’d tried to hide. In the hospital she wanted to die: refusing drugs, food and drinks because that was the only way she could see to resolving her pain. Jack asked to see the doctor in charge and accompanied by his aunt, he confronted his sibling.

She could remember the event as if were hours ago not several years. She was seated in a wheelchair, in which they’d brought her from the ward, to the consultant’s office. She was surprised to see the doctor, her aunt and Jack waiting for her. She knew they were going to try and get her to cooperate, which was presumably why they had Jack there. She nearly always did what he said; except this time she’d refuse. She had decided there was no cure for her so dying was her only option. Jack had surprised her again. She hated him for it–no she didn’t, she loved him. Another tear formed in her eyes. She loved him, yes she loved him.

The doctor spoke. “Your brother says he knows what’s eating you up.”

“It’s grief, isn’t it?” said Aunt Pam.

“That’s what I thought, in fact we all thought so, but your brother says there’s something else.”

She glared at him and he blushed. He didn’t know, how could he? It was her secret. She hadn’t told him or anyone else. How could he know? He was bluffing.

“Well, young man?” my aunt prompted and the doctor stared at him, but Jack’s gaze was fixed on her.

“Don’t you dare,” She mimed at him and he blushed furiously.

“Well, we’re waiting,” chided the doctor.

“He wants to be a girl,” Jack said in one breath and looking even redder slumped in a chair.

Her whole world shattered, blown to smithereens by the most powerful explosive known to mankind, truth. It was true and she wanted to die even more than before. How did he know? Why did he have to tell everyone? Couldn’t he have told her first, or least let her know that he knew. How the hell did he find out?

“Is this true?” asked the doctor.

She couldn’t answer, she was a sobbing mess and couldn’t have answered coherently if she wanted to, which she didn’t. She felt a combination of astonishment and betrayal by her much worshipped brother. How could he do this to her? Her mind was in freefall. Then something wonderful happened. Aunt Pam said so matter of fact she thought she’d misheard it, “No problem, I always wanted a niece.”

Of course there were lots of questions, interviews with all sorts of doctors and psychologists and various other oddballs. But it was true, somehow Jack had noticed or seen something, perhaps several things and put two and two together. She felt a freak to begin with and it took some convincing of the authorities before they allowed her to attend school as a girl, but Aunt Pam was brilliant. When they allowed her home, Pam had bought her a whole wardrobe of girl’s clothes and even some cuddly toys and dolls–though at fourteen, she was a bit old for dolls.

Samantha looked at the card once more. Jack would be coming tonight, forsaking his wife and daughter to be with her, his sister, for the Solstice, where they remembered their parents and that day in the hospital ten long years ago.

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This story is 1153 words long.