The days until Christmas went by fast, faster than I expected. It’s like that saying, time flies when we are having fun. I was indeed having fun. Harry turned out to be every creative in the things we did. I can say that if it wasn’t for him, I would have a lot of spare time where I would think a lot, and consequently lead me to the sad reality.
I thought about going to town to buy a present for myself - since I obviously wouldn’t receive anything - but then I would leave Harry alone.
“Go, I insist,” he told me “I’m not going to die while you’re away.”
“Going alone is no fun,” I responded. Besides, buying presents to myself is depressing, I added in my head. I also wanted to buy a present for him, but I had no idea of what to give him.
I would die of embarrassment if he knew the truth, that my parents couldn’t afford anything to send me, I would just have to lie again, I guess: Maybe the presents will arrive later, maybe they got lost on the way, maybe they are so big that they needed a special transport for them…
No matter how much I lied, it didn’t change anything.
I was now lying in my bed looking at the ceiling. I looked at my digital clock: it read 00:17. I sighed in frustration. Nine more hours till goddamn Christmas that I was so excited about!
I wondered if Harry was sleeping already. Most likely, or maybe he was also awake, thinking about tomorrow. He told me that tomorrow the school would be organising a huge Christmas feast to celebrate the birth of Jesus, which I was actually looking up too. Just imagining the delicious food on the table made my mouth water.
I pulled my blankets over my shoulder and closed my eyes shut. The last thoughts I had were of my parents. How I wished they were there.
Next morning, I woke up in a hurry. I agreed with Harry that I would meet up with him at the entrance of Hall B, but I feel asleep and it was almost time.
I ran downstairs to the bathroom, wishing “Merry Christmas” to everyone who passed my way. I somehow mirrored my emotions in everyone’s faces. It was a bittersweet Christmas for everyone. I opened the big door of Hall A and before going to Hall B as planned I went to the gate to see if any letters had arrived. I had a feeling my parents would at least send me a letter.
Once I started to get closer to my destination, a crowd of kids came into view. They were all opening up presents and saying stuff like “I told you they would give me this, it was the least,” and “At least they didn’t forget about me for a change,” and even “Ha- they didn’t even give me what I wanted,” The most outrageous and disappointing thing was that those kids received really expensive stuff, or at least they seemed to be. All shiny and new... Some people just didn’t realise how fortunate they were. Well, they lose.
I pushed through the crowd and a huge truck came into view, the postman’s truck. He was distributing boxes to the kids and looked really stressed. I recognised him as being the same man that came every Sunday with letter to give us. In fact, his uniform had the colours of the school. How were people allowed to work on Christmas day?
“Sir, is there anything for me?” He directed his attention to me “My name is Summer Daniels.”
He scanned a paper in his hand, a list I believe “Daniels, Daniels...” he muttered to himself “Sorry, nothing for you. Next!”
An impatient girl shoved me to the side with a push but I honestly couldn’t care less about her rudeness. How could they? What kind of parents don’t send a simple letter to their daughter at Christmas?! Let me guess, they couldn’t afford a freaking stamp!
I started to walk away from the inconceivable and shameful crowd and laughed at my own thought. Soon enough, those sad laughs turned into bitter tears.
“Hey!” I recognised that voice immediately as being Harry’s “What wrong?”
“Nothing,” I said, looking at the floor. “How did you find me?”
“Wasn’t that difficult,” he looked in the direction of the crowd “What did you get?”
“Nothing, nothing at all,” I bowed my head. I knew I could be making a huge mistake in telling him that, but I couldn’t lie anymore, at least not today.
“Me neither,” he stopped walking and held my upper arm so I couldn’t continue walking “But what’s in a present after all? It’s not the end of the world.”
“It’s not just a stupid present,” I said to him “It’s a confirmation that my parents still care about me. You see, they literally dumped me in this place and I only heard from them once! One freaking time in almost four months! They didn’t even bring me here, they just gave me a single one-way ticket and pushed me into a train.”
He didn’t know what to say, I could tell. He was looking everywhere except me.
“Let’s go inside,” he said. Defeated, I walked by his side, head down.
I thought I had built enough walls, or at least high ones. How come something like that still affect me after so much time? I had made up my mind around it, I had fully understood that what my parents were doing (whatever was their job in Switzerland) was for our own good. I knew since the start that I wouldn’t receive presents, just like in my old life. I knew that I wouldn’t always hear from them because they were working all day, just like in my old life. So what changed? Was it because I was surrounded by rich kids who had everything they wanted but were never fully satisfied? No, I wasn’t that stupid to let myself be influenced by such a futile matter. Was it because I was trying so hard to fit in and lie about everything I was that I actually became one of them? It was a possibility; I was living in a palace! How was it possible to protect myself from something if I was living in it?
Harry and I walked inside the empty building, since everyone was outside waiting to receive their presents. We entered the canteen and went to get our usual breakfast. We sat down at the table we always did and ate in silence.
She looked so sad, broken really. I could recognise that feeling in anyone. I knew it too well not to. I hadn’t received any presents either, but I honestly didn’t care anymore. I was glad when she replied to my letters, that was all I wanted and needed.
“Summer!” A deep voice shouted from the opposite side of the room. Her head snapped to look in the direction of the door to find Hansen breathing heavily, suspending himself with on hand on the side of the door. What was the matter of such urgency?
“Come quick! Your parents are on the phone!”
“The phone?!” She jumped out of her seat.
Oh my god, the phone.
The telephone was for Hansen’s personal use, so that any urgent message could be delivered with no delays. Students were only allowed to use the phone in emergencies when their parents called them, but something told me that this was no emergency.
Before I could blink, Summer was running like a mad woman and was out of there. I sighed, stood up and followed her. I strolled down the corridor that guided to Hansen’s office where I knew she would be. The door was closed, so I leaned against the opposite wall and waited for her. I could hear some squeals of happiness and laughter me. She was so unpredictable: she went from depressed to the happiest person in the world in seconds – how I wish I had that virtue.
After a while the door opened, Hansen politely opening it for her. I internally gagged at that gesture. Summer was radiant. She was glowing actually. I gave her a half smirk and pushed myself off the wall.
“Thank you so much Mr Hansen!” she said in gratitude “This was the best Christmas present I could’ve ever gotten.”
“I knew how sad you would be because-” he looked at me and blinked while shaking his head “Because, who wouldn’t?! I mean, it’s Christmas!”
“Oh, then can I make a call?” I asked innocently. This was the perfect opportunity to call her. Hansen couldn’t say no in front of Summer, or he would have to explain many things “I also didn’t receive presents either, and I could really use to call my parents. I haven’t heard their voices in quite a while.”
Hansen looked at Summer, then at me. His look said it all. He was taken aback, speechless, mad at my brilliance and didn’t know what to do. Perfect, he was between a spade and a wall, just where I wanted him to be.
“Sure Harry, why not? Come on in!” He gave me a forced smile, grabbed my arm and pulled me inside his office, leaving Summer outside. He closed the door and I crossed my arms in front of me.
“So she can and I can’t?!” I asked. I had begged Hansen time after time to call her, but he never let me. It really was completely unfair.
Hansen was dangerously close to me. “Listen to me boy, if you ever do anything like that again I will-”
“What? Expel me?”
I knew that was a low move, but I was running out of moves. I was sick of the games and the secrets. I wanted to be more like Summer, I wanted to be happy. The secrets I had were trapping me, suffocating me. I couldn’t do anything, or think about anything else, the secrets were always there in the back of my mind constantly, and I was sick of it.
Hansen was furious. His eyes were flaming, smoke was coming out from his ears, and his face was bright red.
“Harry,” he tried to conceal his anger as he breathed heavily, still speaking in a harsh tone “Grow up okay? You know I can’t do anything and you are just making it worse by blackmailing me. It’s not my fault you can’t speak with Anne, I wish I could too, but the doctor said-”
“Fuck what the doctor said!” That was it. I exploded.
“Watch your tongue-”
“You are not trying hard enough!” I punched the table, making a glass filled with expensive pens topple over. “I haven’t seen her for almost two years now! I have been lying for two years already! I hate this life and-”
“Don’t you think I miss her too?!” he shouted over me “Don’t you think I desperately want to send you there?”
“Then why don’t you do it!? I just cause trouble, and I guarantee you I will make some more!”
“Because your mother doesn’t want you to see her in the state she is in,” He put his arms down in defeat “She is very, very sick Harry, and you know that. Grow up, try to understand that this is what is best for both of you.”
There was silence. I was looking at him with disgust.
“Never say anything about this matter in front of anyone again,” he warned. “No one can know about this Harry. No one.”
I looked at the floor and fisted my hands “I turn eighteen in two months, if I were you I would think of another way to imprison me because once I am a full adult you will never see me again.”
I stomped out of the door and closed the door with a loud bang. I was so angry my eyes were filling with tears, but thankfully no one was there to see them. Summer was down the hall sitting on a settee when she saw me.
“Hey, how was the call, what did your parents say?” Her sweet voice circled around me but I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying. She placed her hand on my shoulder when I didn’t respond and I jerked it away.
“Harry, what’s going on?” She asked.
“Nothing,” I managed to say between gritted teeth. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk to her. I was already outside but she followed me.
“I said nothing!” I shouted on top of my voice and I turned around to face her. She took a step back, making a horrible gesture with her hands people make when they are being attacked by an animal.
Ashamed, I turned around and went to Hall B where I would shut the stupid world off and forget everything.
It really was a merry Christmas.