When I was nine, my life took a turn for the worse, not that it had been a Disney fairy-tale before that, but for the Christmas of that year Santa must have thought that my life was too cushy and so he brought me the gift of Knowledge, the knowledge that monsters existed, the really nightmarish ones and that worst of all my father's day and night job was hunting them down.
I've always been a bit emotional and quick to tears and Dean has teased me no end over the years for it, alternating names such as" Girl, Princess, and well, whatever else came to mind at the time, but I don't think I sobbed so much as I did that Christmas. I usually tried to keep my feelings in check because I knew seeing me unhappy upset Dean, but sometimes it all just overwhelmed me.
It was Christmas Eve and Dean and I were on our own, again.
Dad had left him some money for food and stuff, well scratch the stuff part as there was usually barely enough for the food!
When Dad went off you could never be sure when he would be back but Dean had strenuously assured me that our father had promised he'd be back for Christmas Day but as the hours passed, any hope I had slowly melted away even although Dean did his best to keep cheerful.
I was upset because this year I had managed to rustle up a gift for Dad.
I'd never possessed any money other that the few cents Dean would pass me occasionally for a candy bar, but even if I'd saved every coin for a year, I'd never have had enough to buy anything decent, so I did the only thing I could and asked Bobby if he had anything he didn't need that I could give to Dad at Christmas.
Bobby had pottered about until he'd finally come up with this ugly looking necklace. To be honest when I first saw it, I wasn't too enthusiastic, never believing Dad would appreciate such a thing, but Bobby had assured me it was a powerful good-luck and protection charm.
That had made me hesitate an instant; Dad was all we had and if anything ever happened to him, Dean and I would be lost. As far as I knew we had no other relatives and the hideous vision of us being separated and sent to different foster homes or worse, played out before my eyes.
Somehow the amulet didn't seem so ugly after all and I almost grabbed it out of Bobby's hand. I told him I'd pay him for it just as soon as I'd saved up enough money but he just ruffled my hair and gave me a sympathetic look.
I stifled the urge to ask him for something for Dean too but I didn't want him to think I was taking advantage so I kept my mouth shut. Dean wouldn't be offended anyway, he knew better than me that if we spent the money Dad left us on gifts then we wouldn't have money for food, and Dean would be happier eating than receiving a dumb present.
However, everything seemed to come together to make that Christmas the most miserable in existence. Even the motel room was one of the crappiest I'd ever been in, and in my nine years I'd already seen many.
This time, I didn't understand how, Dad had forgotten to take his secret journal with him and I'd found it behind one of the ratty cushions on the even rattier sofa. I'd quickly hidden it under my bed, to be examined later as I could hear Dean opening the door with the food.
Thinking back now, I think Dad left it behind on purpose.
He must have thought it was time for me to be inaugurated into the hunting world and knowing that curiosity was my middle name, he probably thought that finding out by myself would have been easier.
Yeah, easier for him maybe but I was shocked out of my nine-year old mind.
My poor brother tried to deny it, but the cat was out of the bag and Dean tried for the "Dad is a superhero" angle but I could read him like a book. He always tried to protect me from everything but this was outside my big brother's capabilities.
I knew Dean was upset by Dad's prolonged absence though it wasn't so much for himself as for me.
If I hadn't had Dean to look after me, which he'd done better than any mother, I don't know that I'd have survived my childhood on my own. John might have been my father but Dean was my world and I knew I was his too.
He'd gone to the lengths of breaking and entering to bring me someone else's presents but bad luck was our middle name and he'd ended up with girl's toys, a Sapphire Barbie and a magic wand no less!
Somehow the ridiculousness of it all had brought a smile to my lips. Dean had done this for me, in his gruff attempt to give me a good Christmas. If anyone deserved a gift it was him and I pushed the little package towards him. I hadn't had any fancy paper to wrap it in, so I'd used a couple of pages ripped out from an old comic.
He took it hesitantly, as if he wasn't worthy enough to receive anything, but for me the ugly little amulet was nothing compared to what Dean did deserve; he merited so much more. He was only a kid himself and he'd looked after me with love and care since he was four years old. There was nothing I could give him that could compensate for that.
The pleasure in Dean's eyes as he'd placed it round his neck gave me more satisfaction than a room filled with the costliest of toys ever could.
We passed the last hour of Christmas Eve watching the crappy little TV, side by side on the couch, eating whatever it was that Dean had brought, until we'd finished up huddled together in sleep. We had each other, nothing else mattered.