A Week Before Chirstmas
A WEEK BEFORE CHIRSTMAS
By Bek D Corbin
It was Marcy’s birthday, and she was treating herself to the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Chinese restaurant. The food wasn’t very good- like at all- but there was a lot of it, and there was a wide selection, and the quality was still head and shoulders above her usual fare.
She ignored the brief hostile glares as she went to her table. She was getting used to them. No, that wasn’t right; she’d never get used to them. But she was learning how to keep on going, in the face of quiet disapproval. With a deep sigh, she reflected that this was supposed to be a celebration, not a pity party. But it was hard to feel celebratory when the only birthday card that you got was from the son who still felt that you’d somehow killed his father when you came out as a transsexual. There hadn’t been any explicitly obscene words in the card, but the venom was there for all to see.
Marcy finished up the greasy fare, paid her tab and left. It was a cold, miserable drizzly early March rain, the kind that creeps through your thickest clothing and chills you to the bone. Marcy burrowed into her coat and tried not to think about the fact that she didn’t pass very well. Like, at all. All that she had waiting for her in her cramped little SRO was the few boxes of piecework that needed to be finished.
The piecework was boring, repetitive, back breaking and it paid a pittance for hours of hand-cramping work. But it was the only work that she could find. When she came out, everyone that she knew in her old line of work had quietly refused to acknowledge that she existed. Just like her family. And without those contacts, passing –or not passing- as she did, the drudgery of piecework was the only source of income that she could find.
And yet, for all that, she knew that she’d never go back, even if she somehow could. Her blood pressure was down, her ulcers hadn’t acted up in weeks, and she hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in months. Her life might not be something out of the saucy fiction that she enjoyed reading online (at the library), but it was a lot realer than the dreary lie that she’d slogged through for decades. She might hate her circumstances, but at least she didn’t hate herself.
Then something blindsided her, and she was thrown to the ground. She heard a vaguely angry voice and there were more dull blows and something hit her in the head…
…And then it was a week before Christmas. Marcy heard a merry laugh and another snowball hit her upside the head. She looked around and saw her friends having a rousing snowball fight. With a giggle, she bent over, scooped up some snow and joined in the epic battle. When the snowball fight was over, and everyone was laughing, Marcy looked around. Her hometown was just as she remembered it, and all decked out for the holidays. The Town Square was deep in snow, but the streets and sidewalks were clear. Oh, she’d been away far too long… where?
Someone suggested some hot cider at the café to warm them up, the suggestion was seconded, and the motion carried unanimously. As the crowded into the café, Marcy spotted a lovely girl of maybe college age, with long dark hair, large dark eyes, sleek features and a clear complexion that was slightly flushed from the cold. Then she giggled, wondering why she hadn’t recognized herself in the mirror on the wall.
Once they’d been sufficiently revived, it was time to get down to the serious business- Christmas shopping! They filed through the all the wonderful little shops that lined the streets, cooing over each new treasure, and sighing if they didn’t have someone that it would be perfect for. Weighed down with all their swag, the gang trooped Marcy all the way over to her house. For some reason, Marcy stopped at the front door and rang the bell. But why would she have to ring the bell at her own house?
Then her mother opened the door, and Marcy was struck silent for a moment. Then she swept up her mother in a huge hug, as though she hadn’t seen her in years. She reveled for a moment in the warm and love of that hug, so pure and unaffected. Then she let go and looked at her mother, with tears in her eyes for some reason. Mom just smiled, kissed her on the cheek and brought her into the house. Marcy’s friends helped hide the presents in the front closet, until she could get time to wrap them properly. Then they made their farewells with plans to get together tomorrow. Then they left, and the last that Marcy heard of them was the carols they sang as they walked down the street.
Marcy hurried into the kitchen to help with dinner, but she kept popping out to greet loved ones as they arrived. She gave each one a big hug, as if she hadn’t seen them in years, instead of… how long? The house rang with jokes, laughter, friendly bickering and fond remembrances. It seemed that there was no room in the house for hard feelings or jealousy or bitter feuds. After dinner, there were bungled attempts at Christmas carols, but one or two of them made lovely solo efforts that were greeted with applause.
Singly or in pairs, the relations made their farewells and holiday wishes, until there was only the immediate family. Her sister, Alison, helped Marcy wrap her presents. There was a flickering moment, when Marcy seemed to remember something… a car accident…? No that was ridiculous, what was Marcy thinking?
Marcy and Alison snuck downstairs and put their presents under the tree with juvenile glee. Then they got cleaned up and ready for bed, each helping the other with their hair, just as Marcy had always wished she could. Wished? No, March and Alison had always helped each other with their hair, it was a sort of quiet ritual with them, one of the thousand simple joys that made life so sweet.
She climbed into bed and looked across the room at Alison. She quietly bade Alison good night, and Alison said, “I love you, Marcy.” And Marcy wondered why tears came to her eyes when she said that. Marcy burrowed into the pillow, drawing the comforter around her, basking in the knowledge that she was home, and safe, and warm, and loved. It was a week until Christmas, and she couldn’t wait until they opened her presents.
And, for Marcy, it would always be a week before Christmas. The next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, would all be a week before Christmas. She would always be at that wonderful state where the party was just beginning, and the anticipation was sweeter than the realization would ever be. She would always be coming home and meeting her family and loved ones again, always fresh and anew. She would always be shopping for others, and making the thousand little delicious preparations. And she would always be young, female, beautiful, accepted and loved. This was how it would always be for her, just as for another it might be an endless game of great golf, or a long walk through a forest in full autumn glory, or an evening at a local bar with close buds that never wound down. And it would be so, until they no longer needed those boundaries or rationalizations, and they merged into the sacred unity with the Eternal.
On the street, Marcy’s body lay there for hours until a cop, thinking that she was a drunk, tried to rouse her. She was declared dead on the spot and trundled off to the morgue. Her body lay there in a drawer, until it was clear that no one would claim her. Her body was cremated, to spare the city the expense of a spot in Potter’s Field. The Police rubber-stamped her death as a random mugging, and it was quickly forgotten.
But it didn’t matter.
Because, where Marcy was, it was a week before Christmas.