DEAR KATHY,

I HOPE YOU'RE HAVING A BETTER CHRISTMAS EVE THAN US. IT'S GOING TO BE MY FIRST ONE WITHOUT YOU, AND PETEY, AND GRANDMA. MOM AND AUNT LISA ARE STILL FIGHTING OVER IT. WE CAN'T EVEN GO BACK TO STAY OVER LIKE NORMAL BECAUSE OF ALL THE DRAMA. WHICH IS SUCKS BECAUSE I REALLY MISS YOU. WORSE, WE CAN'T EVEN CELEBRATE AT OUR HOUSE. MY BROTHER IS THE BIGGEST IDIOT. THANKS TO HIM—


I scratched off the dark streak, if Josh thrusted me harder when he yanked forward I could have ripped a hole across the sheet. The seatbelt couldn't pin him back as he hung off the edge of the cushion with it unwinding and whipping. Like a leash on a wild animal.

"I wanna do Christmas like we used to!" He cried.

I noticed chalky leftovers coloring the side of my fist gray. Most on the ring and pinky finger, I licked them clean. The stubborn lead remaining needed to be wiped on my pants. Their thermal texture was tough and able to rub them off.

Without looking away from the road my dad impatiently shouted, "what do you want me to do, Josh? Turn back time before you burned the house down!?"

Josh didn't burn the house down, but he did enough damage for us to have to wait for it to be repaired. I don't know if I can call it luck that he chose to roast chestnuts so early in the day and gave us time to drive somewhere else. All this change was disturbing me and I was not looking forward to spending Christmas someplace away. Our house may have been new but all we would need to do was repeat our traditions there. There wouldn't be a difference. Originally, we were supposed to go over my grandma's home to stay both days. With her having passed away over the fall, my aunt has turned into an entirely different person. And my uncle Joseph is in a bad money slump and can't even afford lights let alone gifts. I never realized how big my family is until the holidays come by. Otherwise it's usually just the four of us.

Josh buried his mouth into the jacket collar to mute his words. "Maybe turn back time before you sold our first house."

I wasn't the only one who heard him; dad's rolling eyes can be seen in the rear view mirror. Too proud to admit I agree with Josh, I mind my own business. The passing signs outside my window were only readable with the car's light flashing by. I tried to learn where we were heading but a layer of snow hid the name of the upcoming sign. Even though it was in the black of night, the street looked familiar somehow.

Maddie's Arf! Arf! stung my ear. Mom comically closed her snout shut in her grip. When mom brought her home with pressing optimism, I knew no one was going to love that dog. Not even she liked her. Josh hated her the most; he says the reason is because chihuahuas are girly but I know it's because he misses Petey. Our old dog was changed for the worse at our last move in. We couldn't keep him anymore, I had to put him out of his misery. Remembering the thankful shrieks I received from offing a friend of whom I tried to bury any memory of, I did the same to Petey. By spraying him with the light from a powerful enough flashlight. Now he was replaced by a baby chihuahua with an earsplitting bark. Maddie was a terror to own.

Waiting to be put in a lit up house before continuing my letter, I rivet on what was outside my side's window. In this darkness, I can only see glowing outdoor Christmas decor. One snowman stood unsettling by a hill; I wonder what person would build one with such hollowed out eyes. It was close by the home we rented that dad never described. Never being told the name of the town, all my informative detail was summed by the address.

"Zip up those jackets, kids," said dad. He pried the frozen door open with his chapped hand. Mom was helped out of the car by him, with Maddie tucked in her coat.

I didn't wait for him and left on my own. The snow held me down by the ankles, wherever we are I already didn't like it. My parents acted really excited about renting here but I didn't see how. Something terrible happened the last time they did anything like this. That was a time we all collectively tried to forget. And succeeded.

It was until I stood before the house we will be staying at, that those memory's came back up. They emerged from the grounds of my brain like reanimated corpses. My backpack, heavy with packed goods and possessions, dropped into the snow. Under those strung up rainbow lights, lawn decorations and a wreath on the front door, the home was unmistakably from our last move.

Before screaming at my family to flee, I was caught off guard by a man coming up behind me. So instead I scream at him. He laughed gravely and put a mitten on my shoulder.

"Hey look— Santa!" Josh leaped through the ground without slipping once. Mom and dad look up with their share of luggage; mom waved to him.

The crystal blue-eyed man, put his mittened hands up in defense of Josh's wild excitement. The beard on his face was so fake that I shook my head at my brother. I know he was still young but there was no way he couldn't have took notice to the white mane separating away from the chin with every laugh. His puffy lips were deep in the mouth hole of the disguise.

When dad greeted him, he was handed a clip board that he signed with ardent loyalty. Their exchange of conversation irritated me greatly.

Dad struggled to write and hold his belongings at the same time. "So how long were you waiting outside, Mr.-..."

"Santa Dawes," insisted the falsely affable man. He wasn't even trying to hide it. Instead of catching on, everyone around me fell over him. I was convinced the demons of our past have conjured a spell to control my family. Except me, unconvinced Amanda Benson.