Tandy didn't see her mom for Christmas. If 'seeing' were not a technicality. Traditionally, 'seeing' involved dinner, and strained conversation and maybe a gift picked up in Walmart. It was only later, when dusk settled in like a blanket around the windows, that Mom got stuck on Dad. Memory had gone rancid with time, bitter as burned almonds. It was a lot, and it was way too much and she didn't have it in her even if the rec center was open for a shower.
She thought about it, extensively. There was consideration given to a multitude of possibilities, and none of the possibilities ended well. Mom wrung out by the last guy, Mom asking for cash when she only had a little to go with, guilt and stress and anger warring for first place on the feelings agenda. Guilt wasn't eliminated by not going, but it wasn't live and in charge. Instead she picked out a scarf, the same robin's egg blue as her mom's eyes and she wrapped it in paper sold in plastic packaging instead of in rolls and left it on the doorstep of the double-wide. She waited, hands in her pockets and a scarf doubled around her own neck and her hat pulled down low over blond-bright hair and watched.
The guy came to the door first. Which was predictable and the inevitable conclusion of multiple sequences of events but it still burned, a little.. He came and he called her and she saw her mom then, in the shadow and the half-light of the door. Her hair was tarnished gold and her face worn, but she scooped up the package and took it inside and closed it. Final. It was the punctuation on Christmas and Tandy didn't know her cheeks were damp until the moisture cooled, uncomfortably.
She celebrated Christmas low-key. The house by the lake was dark and silent and the power was dead so there was no juice for a tree. But she had baubles, and a battery-powered set of lights twined around the lower banister and she ate turkey-flavored ramen with jingle-bells in her ears. She didn't wait to see it switch from Christmas into not-Christmas, and she slept with her fist curled around her knife, under the pillow and burrowed deep in the sleeping bag.
It was past midnight when Christmas settled like snow. It was past midnight when wishes were granted and that probably had a root, a beginning in some fable or another that wasn't remotely scientific. It was one day and then it was the next and Tandy woke with his hand clamped around the knife, his legs tangled up in the sleeping bag.