Christmas never really meant anything to Larten Crepsley. He wasn't human anymore, so why should he meddle in human affairs? He just went about it like any other day, ignoring the Christmas decorations and carolers. Any time someone who say "Merry Christmas," he would keep on walking, keeping his eyes ahead. He didn't look back, but he knew the person he shunned had to be irritated. He remembered when he was young: Christmas meant something to him. He would get overexcited about the decorations that people put out, even if he lived in a poor town and the decorations were horribly made, it still put him a great mood. He knew he wouldn't get presents or anything, but when he did, it made him that much happier. He remembered one Christmas when he got a beautiful red sweater with an 'L' stitched on; he didn't know how to read, but he knew that letter, and a few more. His mother must have worked so hard on it. He loved it so much, he put it on immediately and hugged his parents tightly.
Larten smiled at the thought. He shook his head, telling himself not to get mixed up with these human traditions. They were good while he was human, but now they had little meaning.
"Mr. Crepsley?" Darren asked.
"Christmas is tomorrow," he said, pointing at the giant Christmas tree in the middle of town.
"Yes, I can see that? Your point is?"
"Well, I was thinking we can have some sort of Christmas this year." He looked up at his mentor with big puppy eyes. Larten sighed, patting his pupil on the back.
"Darren, we are no longer connected with these beings. Christmas is just another day."
"Maybe to you! But, I still got half my humanity in me."
"Only half," Larten reminded him. "But, you made the choice to give it up when you agreed to be my assistant. Since, I do not celebrate these holidays, I do not think you should either."
"But…" Larten gave him a stern "that's final" look, and he sighed, crossing his arms and kicking snow with his feet. "Fine!"
They continued walking until they reached a large tree not far away from the town they were just in. There they were, waiting for them like they promised. Larten didn't really care about Gavner being there, but Arra caught his eyes. She was wearing a red sweater dress with black tights and boots, sitting by the tree with snow flecked in her black hair. Larten laughed slightly, approaching her and picking out the white.
"Hey, Larten," she said, not looking up. She knew it was him; he would always pick the snow out of her hair whenever it snowed; she liked it.
"Hey, Larten!" Gavner yelled, giving his friend a big hug.
"Let go," Larten said with a fire blazing in his eyes. Gavner turned white and let go at once.
"Hi, Darren," he said.
"Hi, Gavner." He was still pouting.
"Why are you in such a bad mood?"
"He is angry because we are not celebrating Christmas," Larten answered, sitting next to Arra now. "We did not celebrate the last time, Darren, when we were hunting Murlough."
"Well, of course not!" Darren yelled, jumping up and down. "We were hunting! We aren't doing anything now, so why not?"
"Darren," Arra said loudly. "Christmas is nothing to us. It is a human holiday, so we have no right or interest in getting tangled up in it."
"You were once human," he told her. Her eyes softened at his words.
"You're right; I was human once." She turned him. "But, not anymore. My humanity was lost, and it can never be regained, no matter what I do, so why try?" Darren propped next to her and Larten. Gavner climbed up in the tree to observe and listen to their conversation.
"It's nice to remember these things," Darren said; he was addressing all of them. "I think about my family all the time, and it's nice to recall the fun times. So, let's reminiscence."
"Seriously?" Larten asked, shock clearly etched on his face. "Where do you want us to start?"
"Anytime, but I would prefer the times when you were still human, and you could appreciate Christmas." Arra looked up to the crescent moon, pondering on what to say. She smiled.
"I remember one year," she started, keeping her eyes firmly on the moon, "when I was six. My grandmother made me a beautiful jewelry box."
"Is that the one that is in your room at the Mountain?" Larten asked. She nodded. Darren laughed into his fist. Larten turned on him. "What?"
"Well, I want to know…" He laughed again. "… what you were doing in her room!" Larten's face flushed pink, and he scowled at Darren and Gavner, who began to chuckle as well.
"Watch that mouth of yours, Master Shan," he threatened. "It may be ripped off your face one of these days."
"Lay off the kid," Arra said, patting his shoulder which seemed to have immediate effect; he calmed down, although he was still glaring at them. "What else do we remember about the past?" Darren zipped up his jacket and opened his mouth to speak.
"When I was younger, my mom and dad would buy a great big Christmas tree." He stretched his arms out to show how big it was. "We would all decorate it with lights and ornaments. Annie and I also fought over who got to put the star up. Annie's my sister," he added because he knew none of them knew her. "Anyway, our parents would allow us to put it on together so no one felt any ill feelings during the holidays. Mom would make a fresh pumpkin pie and we would have a big ham for dinner. Then, we would sit around and watch old Christmas specials like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."' He sighed sadly, staring at his feet. "I miss those times."
Larten shifted uncomfortably; guilt was rising in his throat at Darren's words. He would still have all this if he didn't blood him. He cleared his throat, telling himself not to worry, that it was for the best. Just because he felt guilty didn't mean he was going to throw a huge Christmas shindig for the kid. Guilt did not change the fact that he was no longer human or that Darren no longer lived or associated with a human world.
"Excuse me," Larten said, getting up so suddenly. "I am going for a walk." Before anyone could reply, he was already walking away, his cloak swishing behind him and flicking off spots of snow. Darren turned to Arra, who was watching Larten leave.
"Do you ever miss it?" She turned to him, one eyebrow raised as if she didn't know what he was talking about. "Christmas, I mean."
"Well, yeah, sometimes," she admitted.
"Then why don't you…"
"Because it is not my place!" She snapped so suddenly that Gavner fell out of the tree and slammed into the ground face first. She glared at him as he got up and brushed the dirt and snow away from his clothes and face. "Darren, I can't explain it in any other way; I am not human." She emphasized the word not.
She turned away from him, pressing her knees closer to her body for more warmth. Darren was about to retort, but Gavner laid a hand on his shoulder and shook his head; he knew Arra well enough to know that she would attack if pushed any further.
Larten walked through the streets of the town, ignoring the smells of fresh pie, pine trees, and sugar cookies. He didn't care much for sweets, but every now and then temptation got the best of him.
"Cookie, sir?" A young girl around the age of 21 asked, holding out a tray of Christmas sugar cookies. He glanced down at them and saw them shaped like trees, stars, snowmen, and gingerbread men. He looked back at her freckled face and shook his head. "Are you sure? They're really good!"
"Madam, I assure you, I do not desire any of your sweets," he told her in a very calm voice; he was sure he was confusing her with his strange way of speaking.
"Oh, come on. Have a heart; it's the holidays," she told him, the smile on her face faltering slightly as she was beginning to lose her patience with him.
"Please, do not harass me. I cannot eat sweets. I am…. Oh, what do you call it…. I cannot eat sweets," he finished lamely.
"Are you diabetic?"
"Yes!" He snapped his fingers and nodded. "Yes, I am diabetic. Sugar is not good for me, so please, allow me to be on my way."
"Oh, okay," she said, looking dejected. When she saw him still staring at her, she smiled hugely again and went in search of another victim. Some people stared at Larten as he adjusted his cloak and continued walking.
"Excuse me, sir?" Another voice came; this time from a man, who was wearing a blue large scarf over his mouth. He wore a red and green sweater with black jeans.
"I am fine," he replied. "Just thinking…"
"Thinking of what?" Larten glared at the man; who was he to ask what he was thinking of? It wasn't his business! The man shrank back slightly, but regained his composure as soon as the vampire's eyes softened. "I apologize for seeming so forward, but I am very into the holidays and I always want to know what is ailing people… in case I can help in any way." Larten's hand went his cloak, and the man flinched, thinking he was going to take out a gun and shoot him for his forwardness. Instead, Larten's hand stayed inside his cloak, gently stroking his locket. He took it out and presented to the man. "What is this? Sir, I couldn't possibly buy this from you; it looks absolutely extravagant."
"Whoever said anything about selling this?" Larten snapped, pulling his hand away from the man. "Like hell I would sell this. It means… a lot… Well, you wanted to know what was ailing me, and it is this."
"The locket? It looks pretty real to me. Do you think it may be fake? Because I have a friend who works at a jewelry store who may be able to…"
"No! I am aware that this is real. Just thinking on how to confess my feelings to this girl I know. And, no, I am not giving her the locket," he added when the man opened his mouth to speak further. "This is mine. We both have one… We had a falling out a while ago, and my feelings for her never faltered; I know I did it once before, but I find it extremely difficult to tell her again…. Wait! Why in the hell am I telling you this? I do not even know you!"
"Ohohoho," the man chuckled. "I beg to differ." He pulled away his scarf to reveal a mass of scars on his face.
"Gavner!" Larten snarled, ready to beat his friend to death with his bare hands, but there were too many witnesses.
"I followed you, buddy," Gavner said, patting him on the back. "I know the Christmas deal wasn't the thing bugging you; it was something else. You and Arra are close, Larten. Just tell her. It's not that hard!"
"You have no idea how I feel; you have confidence, but I lack it when it comes to dealing with situations like this," Larten admitted, blushing and kicking snow with his feet while waiting for Gavner's reply.
"Believe me, Larten, it was not easy admitting my feelings to Liz, but I can't argue with you… I do have more confidence in myself when it comes to love." He chuckled. "But, you told her once, and we all know she feels the same."
"Are you kidding me?" Larten snapped. "She hates me, but she hides it! She can never forgive me for what I did, and I cannot exactly blame her…. Arra was always alone when she was younger; her parents paid little or no attention to her, and when they did, it was horrible. For me to just leave like that, I broke her heart…"
He averted his gaze to the snowy ground, with was growing dirty due to the people walking through it too much. He turned back to Gavner, but he wasn't there anymore. Larten looked around to see if he got lost in the crowd, but he was nowhere to be found. Shrugging his shoulders and coming to the conclusion that Gavner went back to join Arra and Darren, he walked into a small jewelry store. He had no intention of buying anything; he just wanted to get away from the crowd of Christmas fanatics.
"Welcome, sir!" A peppy voice called. The woman behind the counter, wearing a green pointed hat and elf ears and red dress, smiled hugely at him. "How can I help you?"
"Oh, I do not wish to purchase any item," Larten told her in a calm tone. "I merely desired to get out away from the large crowd."
"Well, as long as you're here, how about you take a look around?" Larten sighed, annoyed that the woman was pushing him to buy something.
He didn't say anything and proceeded to browse through the selection before him. Nothing really caught his eye because he knew these trinkets wouldn't be something Arra would be interested in. She liked jewelry just fine, and owned quite a few, but she didn't like to wear them often. Wondering if she still wore the locket, he walked to the other side of the store, examining jewelry boxes that lay on a mahogany shelf. He really paid no attention to the boxes until he remembered Arra telling him about the jewelry box her grandmother made her. Larten reached out for an old fashioned one that he figured she would enjoy.
"It is not a Christmas present," he told himself. "We do not indulge in such nonsense; it is merely a present to express my feelings." Larten smiled slightly as he approached the counter. The woman's smile never faltered, and she took the box from his hands with great glee.
"Who is this for? A special lady?" He blushed.
"Uh…" He cleared his throat. "I… I suppose you could say that." She giggled, ringing it up and wrapping it for him even though he didn't ask; he paid for it and left the store in a much better mood than he was before he came in.
Even though Larten felt a lot better, he still disregarded the Christmas spirit around him as he made his way back to the hotel. The snow was falling harder now, and he saw some children making snow angels in their front yards. As he entered the hotel, he wiped his feet on welcome mat and caught eyes with the night receptionist, who was painting her nails pink.
"Good evening, Mr. Horston," she said as he walked past.
"Good evening," he replied, pulling the sleeve of his right arm.
He went into the elevator and pushed the button for the third floor. He took out his card key and went inside the room, and he was not expecting this. The whole room was decorated all Christmas-like; his eyes widened as he saw Arra, Darren, and Gavner standing next to a tree, all with smiles. "What in the hell is going on?"
"Don't complain," Arra said, taking Larten's hand and leading him into the room. She glanced over at Darren. "He convinced me. It's only one day, Larten."
"No buts," Gavner called out. "Let's party like there's no tomorrow!"
"We're only celebrating Christmas Eve, Mr. Crepsley," Darren told him. "You guys are going to be sleeping all day tomorrow anyway, so why not?"
Larten wanted to yell at Darren and explain to him once more that they were not human, but he knew Arra and Gavner wanted to do it, so he gave in. Darren made hot cocoa, and they drank it while they watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Larten did not exactly enjoy the holiday, but when Arra was curled up so close to him, it was hard not to. After the special was over, Arra brought out a wrapped up present and handed it to Larten.
"What is this?" He asked, looking at it; it was red wrapping paper.
"A present," she replied. "Open it."
He brought his hands to the wrapping paper and began to peel it off. He gasped loudly when he was done; it was a red sweater with a red "L" stitched on the front. He gently caressed the stitching and smiled. "I made it a while ago, but I never had an occasion to present it; now seemed to be the best time." He gave her the jewelry box; she opened it, a huge smile spreading on her face. They were tears in her eyes as she held it in her hands.
"Larten… thank you so much…"
"Thank you for my gift," he told her.
"Oh, Larten, Arra," Gavner called in a sing-song voice. He pointed above them to reveal mistletoe. Larten blushed deep red; a blush appeared on Arra's cheeks as well. "Come on, guys, it's tradition!"
"Alright!" Larten scowled. He took the box from her hands and set it and his sweater on the table. He caressed her cheek with his index finger, bringing his lips to hers and sharing a sweet kiss. He whispered in her ear, "I love you."
"I love you, too," she said, allowing Gavner and Darren to hear.
"Whoo!" Gavner cheered, jumping onto to the bed. "Finally! I guess my advice worked, didn't it?"
"Not really," Larten replied, chuckling. "You were just being annoying."
"Sadface, Larten, sadface. At least everyone's feeling better now! Let's go out on the town!" Larten unclasped his cloak, and put the sweater on; he put his cloak back on again.
"Sure…" He said, slipping his hand into Arra's, who smiled warmly at him. Darren smiled and let out a roar of happiness.
"Merry Christmas!" He yelled.