The snow crunched under my feet as I trudged up the sidewalk. The wind was trying to blow the coat off my body, but I clung to it for dear life.
“Maybe we should have waited till it was warmer,” Serra said for the thousandth time. Or was it the ten thousandth? I’d stopped listening somewhere along the ten-minute mark.
I loved my best friend, truly I did. But she was an overly cautious, rational creature with a penchant for long nights spent indoors. It was a chore sometimes to drag her outside and into humanity. It didn’t help that all that rationality had a sexy, luscious casing. I may have had a good several inches on the short little nurse, but she was way curvier. She had those red lips guys had fantasies over and while I’d never seen her hair long in person, in pictures it was a long cascading waterfall of shininess. But all of that olive-toned gorgeousness was usually wrapped up in nurse scrubs.
“C’mon, Serra bear!” Hetty said in a bright voice. The girl might have looked 16, but she acted 10. It didn’t help that she looked like a pixie. Between the two of them, I looked like an Amazon hunting for men. I just needed a club.
“Christmas is almost here, we can’t wait!” Hetty was practically bouncing up the street. She would have been skipping if not for the threat of black ice.
“Aren’t you two cold?” Serra asked, shivering as if in demonstration.
“Don’t worry, mother hen,” I replied lightly. “We’ll be in an out in a jiffy.”
We navigated toward a faded looking shop nestled on the main street. Once upon a time it was probably a shiny, happy place where trophy wives adorned themselves with their husbands’ wealth. Now it was the perfect place for cheap jewelry.
It wasn’t like I didn’t have the money to go somewhere more expensive. My parents had left me a pretty penny when they died. But I had a frugal nature with a mind of its own. It latched on to my bank account and demanded the very Jaws of Life to open. It meant I’d had to learn to have the most fun on the tightest budget. It was my own super power.
Serra walked ahead to hold the door open, ushering us inside. We were welcomed with the musty smell of something faintly chemical.
The place was dark and faded with worn industrial carpeting and wood paneling that had never been a good idea, even in the ‘70s. A plethora of knick knacks were strewn about on shelves and glass cases. It was a congregation of porcelain figurines and teapots.
“Oooh, a cuckoo clock!” Hetty sang-spoke making a beeline for the contraption mounted on the wall. “Serra come look!” The nurse sighed, but walked over and patiently examined the atrocious time-telling device. Hetty glanced at me and winked conspiratorially.
As much as I loved executing the perfect scheme, this one served a purpose. Serra and I were normally joined at the hip, she as the straight man to my comedic genius. But that did not make for easy Christmas present shopping.
While Hetty dragged Serra from one curio to the next, I walked up to the counter and rang the bell for assistance. Almost by magic, an older silver fox appeared. He was the owner, Martin. And if I was a few years older or had a few less qualms about age…
“Ah, it’s Mrs. White,” he said with a wink.
“In the study with a candlestick,” I replied, almost as a reflex. Apparently everyone in town had decided I was the Clue character, thanks to my last name, and I never turned down a chance to joke about murder.
“What can I do for you today?” He asked with a chuckle.
“I’m looking for a present for…” I silently motioned toward Serra, currently wearing a forced smile and nodding as Hetty went on and on about a spoon collection she’d always dreamed of having.
“Of course,” He turned around and dug about in the beat up shelving unit behind him. When he turned back he was holding a tray of shiny things.
“Maybe something sensible for the church mouse?” He set it on the table and gestured to a pair of simple stud earrings.
“I don’t know…” I mused. “She already has so many ‘sensible’ pieces. I wouldn’t be the flashy best friend if I didn’t share my flashiness.”
“Hm… let me look” He began bringing out more trays of more shiny things. Pearl necklaces, tear-drop earrings, tennis bracelets (greatly tarnished). It was all nice, but nothing screamed “Serra” to me.
Then, I saw it. It was bunched up in the corner of one of the trays like a sleeping cat, with the chain curled up on itself.
“Can I see that one?” I asked, pointing at the thing in question. Martin nodded and picked it up to hand it over.
It was a gold locket, like out of a story book. It was simple and smooth on one side. I turned it over in my hand. On the other side the phrase “For my sister” was inscribed.
For one moment, I felt a bit sad. Who had sold something so obviously sentimental? Had they been desperate? Or had it been given away after they’d died?”
“I can remove that,” Martin offered, noting the melancholy look on my face.
“Of course not!” I snapped. “It’s perfect.”
“But it’s a sister gift,” He said slowly, like he was explaining something to a child.
“Exactly,” I replied with a grin. He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t give voice to the question.
Just as Martin was handing me the receipt, Hetty bounded over with the enthusiasm of a Labrador puppy. Serra was close behind, looking like she was desperately trying not to roll her eyes. She was against the action on principle, but I’m sure I regularly tempted her to try it anyway.
“What’s that?” She asked, looking at the small bag in my hand.
“It’s a secret,” Hetty said with a devious smile. The registered nurse looked between the two of us, clearly not buying it.
“What are you two up to?” She asked with narrowed eyes.
“Just wait till the 25th,” I replied vaguely. With that, we turned to the icy trek ahead of us.
The three of us lived in the only boarding house in our tiny Pennsylvania town. It had originally been a large house belonging to some rich family that had long since moved away. It was a giant sprawling Victorian place nestled in the woods just outside of town. Someone had decided to add on modern wings to the first floor, which meant the porch was no longer a completely wrap-around (something I always resented).
Hetty bounded inside ahead of us, with Serra and I walking behind.
“You didn’t have to get me anything, you know,” Serra said quietly. “I know you hate spending money.”
“I don’t hate it,” I replied quietly. “At least, not when it’s worth it.” Serra gave me a small smile. It was her equivalent of a broad grin.
The front foyer was filled with fake plants, hotel paintings, and a desk where they took care of the boring business end of things. A Hispanic woman wearing scrubs was standing behind it. The town had a fairly large nursing population and apparently all of them wanted to reside in the same boarding house. Sometimes it felt like I was the outsider visiting a sorority of women that just wanted to help others.
“Serra!” The woman said loudly. Her Mexican accent was slight, unless she was angry. Then it was a flurry of Spanish that always sounded like pretty insults. “Great news! Your mother and abuela are coming for Christmas!”
“Oh, no,” Serra groaned. She brought a hand to her forehead.
“C’mon, I love Lovely and Rain,” I replied with a smile. “They’re the hippies I wish I was.”
“This is going to be a nightmare of ‘Serendipity, why aren’t you wearing organic fibers?’” Serra stepped behind the desk to look over some random papers. She picked up some work at the boarding house occasionally. Apparently nursing didn’t pay well.
While Serra was straight-laced and pragmatic, she was descended from the best Woodstock-esque hippies the world had ever created. Lovely and her daughter Rain were still wearing faded Led Zeppelin t-shirts and bell-bottoms with their tie-dye everything. If that wasn’t evidence enough of hippie-ness, Rain had apparently thought it was perfectly natural to name her daughter Serendipity and Lovely had completely agreed. It had been Serra’s idea to change it to something more mainstream. The poor little nurse was a caged canary that came from free-range chickens.
“See, they make Mrs. White happy,” Lupe said, gesturing to me. Serra sighed.
“Fine,” she acquiesced. “It’s just one day anyway.”
“Well I’m off to my room,” I said with an impish smile before sneaking out as Lupe and Serra argued over who was taking the night shift on Christmas Eve.
The annual boarding house Christmas party was something I looked forward to every year. The sitting room was dominated by a giant Christmas tree, richly decorated in garlands and ornaments. Beneath it were brightly wrapped presents, most of them just for show.
The sitting room itself was in the newer portion of the place, jutting off from the original, tinier one. The white walls and plain blue carpet always made me irrationally annoyed in a way I couldn’t explain. The landscape art hanging all over were generic at best and it was stuffed with more seating room than anyone needed.
There were several people sitting around on the couches and stuffed chairs. Simon, or “Gutenberg” as everyone called him, was sitting in the chair in the corner with a large tome before him. He may have been in the general populace, but the furrowed brow said he’d rather be anywhere else. He was the grumpy old man whose house nearly every kid wanted to egg. That might have explained why the boarding house was always yolk covered Halloween night (okay, so one year it was me, but that’s beside the point).
Nearby there was Edwin, sitting next to the window and looking out. He was the perfect eccentric, complete with balding head and skewed glasses. He was always looking out windows wistfully like he was waiting for the answer to life. But this time he wasn’t alone. There was little Theodora next to him, drawing hearts in the frost on the window. She wasn’t actually lodged in the house, but she had multiple pen pals in it, the product of a class assignment. Hardly a week went by when she didn’t show up. Edwin was one of her favorites, especially around this time of year. It got dark early, so he let her use his telescope in the attic to look at the stars. Hetty was nearby to the elementary-schooler, adding arrows and wings to the hearts in the frost and grinning as she went.
Lauren, the mousey member of the cleaning staff was pulling on her skirt repeatedly, her eyes darting around. Her shoulders were hunched forward like she was trying to make herself seem smaller. When her gaze caught mine she quickly looked away. I could hear “Feliz Navidad” coming from the next room, which meant Lupe was busy setting the tables for dinner.
Serra and I were on our usual loveseat in the center of the room. I was reading one of my favorites, A Christmas Carol.
“I love this story,” I murmured just as Scrooge was excitedly declaring “I haven’t missed it!”
“So you’ve said,” Serra murmured in a distracted tone. She’d been on edge since she’d heard her family would be coming.
“It’s such a fantastic love story,” I continued. I felt, rather than saw her frown.
“A love story?” She asked. “But Belle leaves him when he becomes obsessed with money.” I rolled my eyes.
“That wasn’t what I was referring to,” I replied. I glanced over at the rational nurse, who currently looked confused.
“But he doesn’t fall in love with anyone else,” she protested. “How is it a love story?”
“You have this bourgeois notion of love,” I said with a chuckle. Serra glared at me.
“You sound like my mother,” She muttered angrily.
“I’m serious,” I insisted. “Not all love is romantic. What about the love Fred has for Scrooge? Or Scrooge for his sister? Or Bob Cratchet for his son?”
“But that really doesn’t make it a love story,” Serra sounded like a school teacher.
“Any story with love in it is a love story,” I responded, closing the book with a snap. We fell silent as Hetty began belting a very off-key rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Serra constantly glancing toward the door. She bit her lip nervously, like she expected the reaper to come collect her soul.
“It’s not the end of the world, ya know,” I said quietly. “There are people that would love to have family randomly drop in for the holidays.” Her eyes immediately softened.
“Mi…I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I forget what it must be like for you, with just me for company.”
“You’re more than enough,” I replied, reaching in to my pocket. I pulled out the small box slowly, struck by how much this felt like a proposal. Well, I was sure there were people that had wondered about us before.
“Is that the surprise?” She asked, looking over the brightly colored paper as she took it.
“Merry Christmas,” I sang. She made quick work of the wrappings and in moments she was holding the locket up in front of her face.
“Oh, Mi,” She whispered. “It’s beautiful.” She turned it over, her finger brushing over the inscription.
“For my sister?” She echoed quizzically.
“Unbiologically,” I clarified.
“That’s not a word,” She clarified. Still, she was smiling as she put the chain around her neck.
“Well I don’t think ‘sister from another mister’ would fit all that well,” I said dryly. “But I can go back to the guy to check.”
“No,” she blurted, shaking her head. “It’s perfect.” The locket stood out on her scrubs, shining in the Christmas tree lights. “I have one for you.” She stood up and reached under the tree to pick up the only present wrapped in newspaper. Despite her best efforts, much of her family’s “recycle to save the world” had stuck.
I opened it quickly, wondering what sensible gift was hidden underneath. My eyes widened as a soft knit scarf fell into my hands. It was bright purple, my favorite color.
“Did you make this?” I asked quietly, brushing against the warm material. It was the perfect “mother hen” gift.
“Apparently I have too much free time,” She replied dryly.
“Thank you.” I wrapped the scarf around my neck then leaned over and hugged her. She wasn’t normally a fan of physical affection, so it was a Christmas miracle when she hugged me back.
Suddenly the door opened and it wasn’t a black-robed servant of the underworld, but two older women. They strode through with big bags in hand and a light dusting of snow on their persons. The first was, I believed, exactly what Serra would look like when she was elderly. Lovely was a spry old woman with the same brown twinkling eyes as her granddaughter. Her brown hair had long since turned grey, but she still wore it in a long braid down her back. Rain, on the other hand, had darker brown hair splattered with oncoming grey streaks. Fate had been kind to her, allowing her to retain her dancer-like legs into middle age.
“Serendipity!” Rain called cheerfully. She walked over with open arms. Serra hesitantly stood up and hugged her mother. Lovely was close behind with another one.
“Oh, Mimi, how nice to see you!” Rain had the way of just oozing happiness and friendliness and everything good in life.
“Hi, Rain!” I replied, returning the hug easily. “Merry Christmas!”
“A merry Christmas indeed,” Lovely chimed in. She bent over to set the bags down and grabbed a parcel out of it, handing it to me.
“For me?” I said with eyes tearing up a bit.
“Oh honey, anything for our little girl,” Lovely replied warmly. It was almost enough to start the water works.
“You’re practically part of the family anyway,” Rain chimed in. Even Serra couldn’t hold back her little smile.
With tear-filled vision, I sat down on the loveseat and started ripping the wrapping paper. It revealed a plain box that I couldn’t wait to tear apart.
When I was finally done I was left with a Janis Joplin t-shirt, clearly bought from a second-hand store. The singer herself was blazoned across the front in all her psychedelic glory. It was the best hippie gift ever.
“Thank you so much!” There was another round of hugs before they handed Serra her gift. She opened it to find a stethoscope. That made sense for a nurse…only the one they gave her had feathers hanging off it. At least they were trying to understand her.
“Wow…thanks,” Serra said with her usual forced smile.
“You’ll be the most free-lovin’ nurse around,” I said with a laugh. Her smile softened a little.
Lovely and Rain settled in and began telling us about what they’d been up to recently. It mostly revolved around the protests they’d attended. While it had been civil rights in Lovely’s time, the great fight of the day was saving the environment.
“The police officer looked at me like I was a mad woman, chained to that tree,” Lovely said, rolling her eyes. “As if saving the very things that give us the oxygen we breathe was a crazy idea.”
“Not everyone believes as…strongly, like you do,” Serra said evenly.
“Well they should,” Rain chimed. “This is Mother Earth we’re talking about.”
“You do realize the earth isn’t literally your mother, right?” Serra asked with a smirk. Just as the two began their normal argument about the importance of saving the world, the door opened and two more people came in.
I can’t say what made the moment I first saw Jack and his mother so important to me, but there they were. She was a hideously plastic thing with platinum blonde hair that was obviously dyed. I hadn’t been around many women who’d had work done, but there was no way her boobs were natural. Or her cheekbones, for that matter. Her eyebrows were perfectly sculpted, but the eyes beneath were a dull and lifeless brown.
The little boy with her, on the other hand, was a little angel. He had blue eyes that looked too big for his round smiling face. Then there was his ginger hair, pale skin combined with freckles splashed across his face. He smiled at me as he walked in, showing a gap tooth grin.
“Who are they?” I asked Serra quietly. No one ever came that she didn’t know about ahead of time, she was far too cautious for that.
“That’s Linda and her son Jack,” Serra replied quietly. She looked slightly uneasy. “Her husband recently died.”
I frowned, looking back at the little boy. That botox monster was the only parent he had left in this world?
“I don’t like her.” I wasn’t even aware the words had slipped out of my mouth in a hiss until both the canary and the free-range chickens turned to look at me in shock.
“Do you know her?” Lovely asked. I shook my head.
“No, but…I mean look at her.” I gestured to the woman who was literally looking down her nose at everyone in the room. Seriously, she barely even moved her head.
Linda may have been unhappy to just breathe the same air as us, but her son was a different story. In moments he was running over to us.
“Hi!” He said in a bright voice.
“Hi,” I replied with a smile. He was so freaking adorable, how had the botulinum monster created him?
“Are you having a happy Christmas?” He asked in that no-nonsense way kids have.
“I am,” I replied. “I’ve gotten some awesome presents. What about you?” His face darkened for a moment.
“Not really,” He replied. “Mom says presents will spoil me.”
I may not have had any real reason for my dislike of that woman to begin with, but the moment those words left his mouth I immediately hated her.
“Christmas presents never spoiled anyone,” I replied, looking up to glare at the woman. She clearly had the money to fill herself with plastic and poison, but she couldn’t afford a toy for her son? The despicable woman in question caught my hate-filled gaze and made her way over.
“Mimi, please try to be nice,” Serra begged in a whisper.
“Hello Miriam,” Linda said in an ice-filled voice. I couldn’t focus on how much I hated her in that moment, because I was thrown by the fact she knew my name.
“Do I know you?” I asked with a frown. She just rolled her eyes and turned to her son.
“Be good,” She said simply. She stood up and glanced at Serra, like she knew her. “I’ll be back in an hour.” Without another word she turned and walked away.
What the hell was that? Mrs. Botulinum herself comes strutting in like she’s too good for the place and just leaves her son with strangers? The weirdest part was Serra didn’t even look surprised.
“How do you know her?” I asked.
“They’ve come around before,” Serra answered uneasily. “She leaves Jack here sometimes when she goes to the salon.” Maybe it was the fact that she knew how horrible the woman was or the way I was staring at her like she was the reincarnation of Benedict Arnold, but she didn’t seem keen on talking.
“Will you play with me?” Jack’s childish and downright adorable question distracted me from my growing suspicion and annoyance. There was time to rake Serra over the coals for keeping something from me later. It was Christmas, after all.
“What would you like to play?” I asked. His face lit up like…well, like a kid on Christmas. But I was certain this was special to him. A mother that couldn’t be bothered to get her son toys for Christmas couldn’t play with him often.
“Hide and seek!” Without pausing, he jumped up and ran out.
“I guess that makes you the seeker,” Lovely said with a laugh. “Go on, we’ll be nice to our little bourgeois.” She smiled fondly at her granddaughter, who was in the midst of an exasperated sigh. At the word “bourgeois” Serra looked up with an “I told you so” face.
I was careful to count to 10 in my head before standing up and going after him. I knew the house well enough, with its narrow hallways and squeaky floorboards. I moved slowly and quietly, waiting to hear something. And there it was: a quiet giggle.
I crept toward the source of the sound with a smile. At the end of the hall there was a giant window looking out into the snowy world beyond, framed on either side by thick green curtains that hadn’t been cleaned in ages. As I came closer, I noticed beat up sneakers sticking out from underneath one.
“Oh, Jack,” I sang lightly. “Where are you?” His response was another giggle. I suddenly dove forward to grab at where I thought his arms would be.
“Ow!” He yelled loudly. I immediately dropped my arms and went to pull the curtain back.
“What’s wrong?” I asked with a frown. “Are you alright?” He was staring at the floor and rubbing his arm. I couldn’t believe I grabbed him that hard. Lupe always joked that a simple breeze would be enough to pick me up and send me away.
“Jack, did I hurt you?” I knelt down so I could look him in the eye. His lips were quivering.
“No,” He replied sullenly, but the tears gathering in his eyes said otherwise.
“Can I look?” Moving slowly and deliberately, I rolled up the sleeve of his shirt to make sure everything was alright. It wasn’t.
Standing out in stark contrast to Jack’s pale skin was an angry, ugly purple bruise. It almost look like it was in the shape of a handprint.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. C’mon, let’s go get some ice.” I was about to stand when he shook his head.
“Mom’ll get angry,” He said in a tiny voice.
“Trust me, I don’t mind your mom being mad at me,” I assured him. At this point I wouldn’t mind any reason to take the botulinum monster to town. I stood up and moved to grab his hand, but he snatched it away.
“I’m not supposed ta show it to anyone,” He mumbled in shame. “It’s a secret.”
“A secret?” I echoed. “Jack…who gave you that bruise?” He just shrugged.
“I wanna play another game,” He said suddenly with a loud sniff.
“Not yet,” I replied quietly. I knelt back down by his side, a lump forming in my stomach. “I need to tell me who is hurting you.” I was %110 sure I knew exactly who it was, but I needed him to say it before I could get anyone else to believe me. Serra was a stickler for evidence.
“Mom’ll get mad,” He said again. “It’s a secret.” He looked up at me pleadingly, with wide desperate eyes. “I wanna play another game.”
“Okay,” I said quietly. “How about I’ll hide and you seek?” His face brightened at the change of subject.
“Remember to count all the way to 10, no cheating!” I warned him. He nodded enthusiastically. The few tear stains on his cheek were the only sign that something had been wrong in the first place.
As I went to find a hiding spot that would be easy enough for a little boy to find, I was seething. No Christmas presents and now bruises? Serra was observant and a good judge of character, if she knew enough about Linda to know how often she came around why hadn’t she done something?
In the back of my mind, I knew it was useless to get angry. I knew the girl almost as well as I knew myself. If she knew about the abuse and hadn’t done anything, she had a reason. Maybe she was gathering evidence to turn in to Protective Services. Maybe she had some sort of plan in place.
Maybe we could work together like the ultimate crime-fighting duo to save the innocent. I’d be Batman (naturally) but she would make an excellent Robin.
I was so lost in my thoughts I didn’t even hear Jack coming till he was staring down at me with that same gap-tooth grin.
“Found you!” He said proudly. “I’m a much better hider than you are.”
“I guess you are,” I said with a forced smile. There was a sudden commotion down the hall with a babble of voices and footsteps. “Looks like our guests have arrived.”
Every year a local youth church choir came to sing at the boarding house. There was no real nursing home in town, so they couldn’t go to sing at one of those like other youth choirs. Although with the plethora of nurses and old grumps that lived here, it was virtually a nursing home anyway.
By the time we got back to the sitting room, a bunch of young kids with ruddy cheeks and runny noses were already packed in. They began shedding their fluffy winter coats to reveal the tackiest Christmas sweaters. There was one where Rudolph’s nose actually glowed bright red, via a tiny bulb stitched into the fabric.
I sat back on the loveseat next to Serra. Jack took a spot on the floor next to our feet. Theodora joined him shortly after and the two immediately began pointing out the funniest sweaters to each other. While they were busy, I leaned in to whisper to my best friend.
“We need to talk,” I said quietly. She frowned at me.
“About what?” She asked.
“What do you know about Linda and Jack?” Before she could answer, the small choir had arranged themselves into rows and were beginning vocal warm ups. To say they were completely on pitch may have been too kind. Serra mouthed the word “later” at me and turned to watch.
I’ll hold you to that. I thought.
Once the kids had been more or less warmed up, the director, a portly woman with a stately hairdo that had to be wet-set at the salon, held up her hands for silence. Without introduction or preamble, she brought her hands down and they began to sing.
The song was a classic: Silent Night. It was one of my favorites. Despite my anger earlier, I closed my eyes and vowed to enjoy the song.
But as I listened, something started to change. The murmuring voices in the room had fallen completely silent. Not even the sounds of someone shifting in their seat cut through the song. What did cut through was the sound of…radio static?
The longer the song went on, the more it morphed. Young, off-key voices were replaced with experienced, melodic harmonies. But they sounded farther away, like a recording.
I opened my eyes to see a sitting room…but one I’d never been in before. It was a tiny space, but well-furnished. Sitting on a mantle over the fireplace was an old-timey radio playing quietly in the background. There was a Christmas tree in the corner, with strings of popcorn wrapped around it. But the biggest shock came when I looked down.
I was sitting on the rug-covered floor, but the legs weren’t mine. They were much smaller, much younger and covered in a deep red skirt and tights. What was going on?
It took me a moment to realize someone in the room was humming. I turned around to see a couple sitting in stuffed chairs. The woman looked like the embodiment of elegance, with her hair in one of those carefully coiffed ‘40s updos. She had knitting needles in her hand and was quickly working away. The clicking of the needles was strangely comforting. She was humming along with the radio, a small smile on her face.
Next to her was a man reading a book. Like the woman, he looked like he’d stepped out of a World War II documentary. He had suspenders and carefully brushed golden hair. He looked up as if he noticed my stare.
“Oh, no,” He said with a laugh. “Don’t give me that look. No opening presents till tomorrow, young lady.” The woman finally looked up.
“Not even one?” She asked with a grin. “It’s Christmas time after all.” He looked between the two of us before putting the book aside and throwing his hands up in defeat.
“What am I to do with two beautiful girls pleading?” He sighed deeply, but he was smiling as he stood up and walked to the tree, grabbing a present and handing to me.
I tried to open my mouth to ask what was going on or where I was, but nothing came out. Instead I watched tiny arms that weren’t mine eagerly reaching out to grab the box and tear it open with all the dexterity of a small child.
It was a brightly painted doll. She had curly golden hair with a large green bow that matched her Victorian style dress. Vacant blue eyes stared up at me.
“She looks just like you!” The woman said brightly. I knew the girl that wasn’t me was smiling widely up at the two as the man put his arm around the woman.
“Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” He said with a smile as everything went black.