Without realizing it, she drifted off to sleep.
Rebecca was in the family room. She looked around. No one seemed to be in the dark, dreary room. She cocked her head as she realized the pain had gone away. Rebecca left and entered the living room. No light had been turned on; only a few bright colors could be in sight, and several ornaments had been placed on the tree. Her brows narrowed in confusion.
Was she back in her ideal Christmas? It couldn’t be. She knew she had to be dreaming – and she was. Rebecca didn’t understand. She glanced around. The grouch saw her nieces and nephews laughing and talking to each other. Rebecca faintly smiled. She then noticed only a majority of them were in the living room. Rebecca counted them: seven. Where could Heather and Josh be?
The grouch walked around her house. She found Josh in the kitchen reading an historical book. She rolled her eyes. Rebecca then headed down the hall. She was happy no one stood in her room. She looked in the guest bedroom, where supposedly Josh slept.
“Heather, what are you doing?” she asked. Heather gasped as she quickly turned. She held an emerald-centered, ruby-studded necklace in her fingers.
“Oh… uh… I ju-just wanted to t-try it on,” she stammered. “I couldn’t help it. The necklace looks so beautiful.”
“Put it back, Heather. That’s a family heirloom,” she said sternly.
“Oh, may I wear it for just a second?” she whined.
“No.” Rebecca’s face slowly turned red. “Put it back,” she whispered hotly.
She wrapped it around her neck in spite. Rebecca grew furious. She reached for her niece’s neck. Heather widened her eyes and moved away unsuccessfully. Rebecca tried to grab the necklace from her. Her niece kept a firm grip. They ended up in a tug-of-war, preventing each other from getting what they wanted.
“What is going on?” Tammy called while she entered the bedroom.
Rebecca gasped and turned. Heather fell against her, causing Rebecca to lose her balance. They fell awkwardly like dominos. Tammy tumbled in the process after being pushed unintentionally in the ribs by Rebecca’s arm.
Tammy gasped as gravity pulled her. Her head bumped on the edge of the bed frame. She grunted. She became silent before landing on the floor.Rebecca moved around to look at her.
“Tammy? Tammy, can you hear me?” She crawled to her sister. “Answer me, Tammy. Can you hear me?” She looked at Tammy. Her pupils dilated in different sizes, unequal. Blood came out of her eyes. She looked confused and she wasn’t moving. “Tammy?” Her body became pale before it went flaccid. She died.
Please, no. She didn’t die because of this. It never happened. She’s not dead, she thought. Rebecca whimpered in fright. She cried out, refusing to believe her sister died.
Heather looked at her mom and then her aunt. She shook her head. She ran out of the room in tears. Rebecca looked away from Tammy, toward the area she and her niece were fighting. Her eyes widened when she saw their family heirloom broken in pieces. Rubies and the emerald scattered about on the floor. She shivered.
“No!” she screamed. The rest of her family came running in.
Rebecca whimpered her gasp; her eyes flew wide open. She glanced around. Josh placed a wet washcloth on her forehead. While breathing heavily, she saw him.
“Calm down, aunt Becky,” he whispered.
“The heirloom… is it safe?” she whispered. His brows narrowed. “The ruby and emerald necklace – is it safe? It’s not broken?” He scoffed and sighed.
“Are you serious? The one thing you’re worried about is the family necklace?”
“Josh, check for me. I have to know.” She gulped. “I have to know,” she whispered hotly. He rolled his eyes. “Please, Josh.”
“What?” His eyes widened in shock after hearing her plea. Rebecca attempted to sit up. “No, don’t.” Josh sighed. “Alright, I’ll go check. Just… stay in bed.” She nimbly laid back down. Josh came back a few minutes later. She was relieved to see him shaking his head and mumbling to himself. “The necklace is fine,” he said to her. “It’s not broken.”
“It’s not broken,” she repeated quietly. Rebecca thought about her dream. “Why did I get that dream then?” she whispered to herself. She pushed off a light blanket he had used when she slept. Rebecca moved around to get off the bed.
“What? Aunt Becky, you need to stay in bed,” he told her as she pulled out a coat from her closet. She chose a different scarf from her collection. “You can’t go out there with a fever, aunt Becky. It’ll get worse. You could die,” he rushed. Rebecca walked out of her room. “Stop!” He groaned and hurried after her. “Uncle Greg, aunt Brenda!” he called. He found his aunt in the living room. His uncle came in from the family room. “Please, tell her to stop. She’s going out there with a fever!”
They looked at Rebecca. She was putting on snowshoes she happened to find at last second. Her brother and sister never noticed the effects of her worry and panic. Rebecca fumbled with snapping its locks into place. Her eyes filled with panic while her arms and chest trembled.
“What has happened to that brain of yours, Rebecca?” Brenda asked. “Don’t you want to get better?”
“Think about what you’re doing, Becky. Please, stop this,” Gregory said.
“You can’t change my mind,” she said. “I have to know. I have to know.” She opened the door and left their house.
“Know about what?” the brother and sister chorused in confusion.
“Someone has to go after her,” Josh demanded. “She can’t be out there in her condition. Her fever could get worse.”
“I’ll go,” Brenda said. She looked at her brother. “Out of the two of us, I’m faster.”
“And stronger,” Gregory added. “Be careful out there. The blizzard is still going.”
She grabbed her things, put them on, and went after her crazy sister. Rebecca was back to walking in the blizzard. It had been snowing hard and fast for hours on end. Thankfully, with the snowshoes, her footsteps didn’t go down in the one foot tall snow beneath her.
Rebecca walked against the strong, howling winds. Snow fell faster than she remembered. She tried to quicken her pace. It was hard to do that with the weather pushing her back. She closed her eyes and kept on walking.
“Please…” she muttered. “Come on. You have to appear somehow.”
The howling winds suddenly became quiet and stopped. She didn’t feel the pressure anymore. Her brows narrowed in confusion. Rebecca opened her eyes.
Oh, thank goodness, she thought. She glanced around the Christmas dimension. She found one particular Claus with another. Rebecca sighed gratefully while walking up to them. The three workers surrounding the merry couple saw her. They politely excused themselves and walked away.
“Santa, Mrs. Claus…” she started off. The two turned toward her. They smiled.
“Hello, dear,” Mr. and Mrs. Claus greeted.
“We believed you were not coming back,” he said.
“He did, dear. I did not.”
“I know what I said – and I still say so. But I thought you could help me make sense of something,” she said.
“What is it, Miss Matthews?” Santa asked. She hesitated before continuing.
“I don’t… know where to start. It is so confusing,” she said.
“Explain at your best, dear,” Mrs. Claus said. Rebecca thought for a moment to make certain she knew what to say. She didn’t like being at a loss for words. It rarely happened to her.
“Well, um, somehow my ideal Christmas managed to slip while I took a nap. I dreamed of…” She choked of what she was about to say. “I dreamed of how one of my sisters died. It was horrible.” Rebecca paused for a moment. “I don’t understand how my ideal Christmas could continue in a dream.” Mr. and Mrs. Claus gave each other looks. They had the same thought.
Oh, dear. She’s one of them.
It is rare for that to happen to any mortal who come and go from the Christmas dimension. The first time it happened was centuries ago, a man with the name Ebenezer. Only in his case, it was completely different. Since then, the Clauses had to piece things together to figure it out.
It turned out the particular mortal who gets these dreams had a deep problem about himself. Rebecca thought she didn’t have a problem about herself, though; she figured she had one about her life. Whether she wanted to make peace with it had to be up to her. If only the Clauses could figure out what to say to her, they’d know what to do. Santa cleared his throat as he adjusted the pants around his tummy.
“Miss Rebecca, perhaps another visit—”
“No, no more trips,” she said abruptly. Their eyes widened. “I don’t want to see that Christmas. I don’t want to see that miserable mess. I don’t want a Christmas without my Tammy. I want… an explanation.” Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She realized this and gasped. She wiped them away and then looked at her wet fingers. Her eyes widened with shock. “What?” she whispered. “But… I – I haven’t cried since… since that day. That day… in – in high school.”
“Oh, my dear,” she said understandingly and sympathetically. Mrs. Claus walked up to her. She put an arm around Rebecca. “Now I try not to repeat my husband’s words, but he may be right. Seeing your perfect Christmas may solve a few things for you.” She gave her a light squeeze, like a hug almost. “Perhaps it’s time.”Rebecca shook her head.
“I don’t want to leave,” she whispered. “I’m afraid of what I’ll see.” Another tear rolled down her cheek.
“Maybe so… but it must be seen,” Santa said quietly. She felt nervous to continue her ideal Christmas. Rebecca didn’t know what else to do. She gently groaned as she touched her forehead. She was burning up even more and had a hard time breathing.
“I don’t feel so good,” she whispered. Mrs. Claus observed her face.
“What—?” Rebecca suddenly fainted. The woman looked at her husband. “Santa, get the doctor. She’s sick, dear.” She carried her to one of the other buildings, away from his workshop, as Santa hurried.
Two hours later, he checked on Rebecca for the umpteenth time. He did worry about her. After all, she was one of the few who had to change their grim futures. Santa glanced at her exhausted figure laying on a hospital bed. She still slept from her fainting spell. He sighed as he stepped closer to her.
“It doesn’t help to watch her, dear,” Mrs. Claus said. He turned toward his wife.
“I can’t help it,” he replied.
“It’s not like you to worry so much over someone… other than our children,” she said. She walked up to him. Mrs. Claus wrapped a hand around his. “Sweetheart, we have to wait patiently. He said it would take a while before the medicine washes everything out.”
“I know. She will wake up,” he said. “I am only nervous.” Mrs. Claus nodded.
“What will we tell her? She wants an explanation, dear.” They thought for a while.
“Suppose we don’t tell her? None of the others knew,” he said.
“Not one of them demanded answers though.”
“My dear, what if she finds out? We’ve never met someone so frustrated and angry like this. We do not know how she will react.”
“Are you finally taking the heart to go down?” she asked. Santa sighed.
“I am not. I only worry she’ll blow a fuse. She is more temperamental than anyone who has come here.”
“That is true.” She paused. “I suppose we should be careful with our wording then.”
“What do we say?” he wondered. At that moment, Rebecca turned her head as she sighed heavily. “Did you see that?”
“Relax, Santa. It’s probably a habit of hers while she sleeps,” she said. That didn’t stop them from watching. They waited patiently. It didn’t take long for her eyes to flutter open. Her slow breathing changed to a regular pattern. Rebecca shifted her body.
“What was it she had? I have already forgotten.”
“She was sick, dear. It seemed she had a fever. She did rub her forehead before she fainted.” She paused for a moment. “Perhaps a headache started it.”
“Plus being in this weather… that probably made it worse,” he said. Mrs. Claus nodded. Rebecca heard them talking.
That makes sense, she thought. Rebecca lifted her head to look around. She saw the couple still wearing red and white colors.
“Hello, dear,” Mrs. Claus said, turning her head slightly. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, I suppose. I still have a headache,” she said.
“The sinus build-up is gone?” she wondered.
“Yeah, I can smell much better. I haven’t been able to breathe like this in a long time,” she said. “And I feel much cooler.”
“Good, that means your fever is down,” Santa Claus said. Rebecca moved her eyes toward him. “Did you sleep well?”
“I believe so.” She smiled faintly. “I dreamed of being with a dear friend.” She shivered. “I haven’t seen him since college.” Mr. and Mrs. Claus looked at each other. They smiled. They knew who she was talking about: Nolan Fitzpatrick.
“Perhaps someday you’ll see him again,” he said.
“Someday,” Rebecca whispered.
“Are you hungry?” Mrs. Claus asked. Rebecca glanced at her and nodded. Mrs. Claus walked to a table. She picked up a box and then spoke into it. “Bring in a warm meal. Our guest is awake.” An hour and a meal later, she was physically ready to go back home. She didn’t want to go, as she previously told them. The holiday couple glanced at each other.