Author's note: I love writing about christmas in May, I really do. Apologies for slow update! Without further ado, enjoy the party.
Christmas of Eves, Prt. II
a turkey and some mistletoe
help make the season bright
tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
will find it hard to sleep tonight
- Nat King Cole
When we finally got inside, the party was already in full swing. Caius was still lingering by the front door, looking spooked as shit. I guess he had some sort of deep seated trauma towards Rudolph the reindeer, or maybe there was just too much joy in one place for him to really handle. He was soon approached by Heather, who hauled his ass into the living room where the buffet table was. Despite the addition of vampires to this years holiday celebration, not much else differed.
My aunt Mildred seemed to have up chucked on the living room carpet already, as she was wont to do after having pilfered too much of the egg nog. A few kids were poking at the colorful remains of it with the ends of their candy canes before an embarrassed mother intervened. Mildred was currently reclining in a frightening inflatable chair in the form of santas lap, dark sunglasses firmly in place on her sagging face. Some kid wearing glittery angel wings was poking the chair violently with a pair of scissors. Judging by the loud cursing coming from the basement, someone was down there preparing the sack of presents to be magically carried up by santa, always to be dropped halfway up because the sack always weighed as much as an unconscious hulk Hogan and twelve of his friends.
Children were milling about in the staircase and a baby was distinctly crying somewhere. As you may have noticed, most of the women in the family are literal baby breeding machines. All of my elderly relatives were sitting around the sofa in the living room, either eating or sleeping. The younger crowd were gathered in the kitchen, drawing straws for who was going to dress up as santa and looting from the big bowl of egg nog like hungry hyenas around a gazelle carcass. My two teenage cousins were eyeing up Aro curiously as they saw him, probably because they were both very much into the gothic culture. Mom had yet to lift her claws from my shoulders.
"Oh dear, I'm so thrilled to see that you're socializing with such distinguished men! I was so happy when your boyfriend called, did you know he works at the museum? So distinguished indeed!" she gushed, clutching my shoulders tighter, shaking me back and forth. If this woman ever turned into one of the undead, she'd be a creature far more feared than the volturi.
"Mom, he's not my boyfriend. He's just a good friend." I insisted, but she just winked at me like I was just being funny. Her breath smelled like a funky big mac and I leaned away from the odor as far as I could manage.
"Oh don't give me that! You don't have to hide anything from me my little baby! Do you need condoms? I know you never buy them because you've never-"
Aaaaand I interrupted her at the speed of light.
"MOM! How nice you've made the place, really! The Christmas tree looks extra eh, jovial this year. " Luckily she snapped up the bait, and her eyes went to the giant tree by the fireplace as she started talking about the wonders of chemically treated and possibly toxic tinsel. I followed her eyes and suddenly thought there was something else quite odd.
And there was.
Above each doorway, hung a big garland of mistletoe. No, you don't understand – they were everywhere. EVERYWHERE. This was not good, not good at all.
I gulped, suddenly wanting to join Caius in his little huddle of fear. But sadly, that was not all that I had to worry about. As usual with every large family, there was always that one person that inevitably became your lifelong nemesis. In this case it was my mother's younger brother, my uncle – Ronald.
I could hear his oily, piggish laughter echoing from within the kitchen. He was a rich lawyer who was used to getting everything he wanted, and he loved manipulating people around him. But personally, I would never forgive him for selling my sacred smurf collection at a yard sale. He constantly picked on me for studying art instead of choosing to be a doctor or a lawyer like himself. Now he approached me with a glass of scotch, leering down at me like I was some kind of peasant. He had grey, thinning hair and wore a grey business suit, and he was quite tall. He had small, black eyes and the overall impression of being a nasty character. Heather constantly referred to him as muggle Voldemort.
"Oh Mina, how nice of you to join us. Oh, and you actually dressed up for the occasion too." He said, chuckling like it was the funniest thing ever.
"Merry Christmas." I managed, accepting the icky hug he bestowed on me. His cheap grey suit smelled like gravel and car leather. When he let me go, a white hand was extended towards him from my side like an arrow out of thin air. Ronald looked taken aback for a moment, and so did I.
"Oh, you must be the new friend that my sister mentioned!" he said a bit uncertainly before shaking the bone white hand. Ronalds easy greasy smile stayed, but his eyes started glancing from me to the person next to me, suddenly unsure. I think I must have developed a sixth sense for creepiness during the last couple of weeks, because before turning my head I already knew it was Aro standing there, probably smiling like how a not-normal person smiled.
The temperature in the room dropped as if someone had opened the front door and all the windows.
"So." He sing-songed, voice high like a disney princess. "Mina has told me so much about her dear relations. You are in the law business too I hear, most interesting." He purred darkly, and Ronald's squinty eyes went to an incredibly wider size I'd never seen before . I hadn't told him anything about Ronald beforehand. I started to wonder what Aro had gathered from that handshake. I looked from between him and Ronald, both smiling but not in a merry way at all. To avoid any sort of confrontation, I decided to intervene.
"Oh look, beverages! Let's see what they have Mr. Cannoli!" I exclaimed, patting Aro's shoulder before grappling his elbow and steering him towards the buffet table, leaving Ronald staring after us like he'd just seen the ghost of Christmas past. I knew that if Aro truly wanted to stay and talk, I wouldn't have been able to move him even an inch – vampire strength and all. Luckily, he seemed in a complying mood. However, one is never truly safe from the snake in the garden, no matter how lethargic they seem.
Once we reached the table laden with drinks and Christmas ham, I leaned in to whisper in his ear:
" What was that all about? "I asked, since I was curious as to what he had seen to make Ronald sweat like that. Aro shrugged a little, his eyes staring at something I couldn't see.
"Oh, slimy snails and puppy dog tails. You are wise to keep your distance, I think." He said jovially, pouring himself a glass of wine so dark it looked black. I tilted my head and gave him an inquisitive look.
"Meaning you saw something really fishy he's done. Did you see that he took my smurf collection? Personally I can't think of a more heinous crime." I said, turning my head away to mutter, accepting the glass of wine he handed to me in the process. Then we were both quiet for a moment, sipping the wine and listening to the dying notes of a Nat king cole singing about chestnuts and tiny tots. I spotted Caius in a quiet corner of the living room, apparently involved in a discussion with my grandma. They both looked pretty passionate about the subject, whatever it was.
Heather was nowhere to be seen so far, which was probably for the best. I suspected she had confiscated the kegger of egg nogg and went to a room upstairs to have some "quiet time" with a willing victim. Hell, I was NOT risking finding out by going up and check. Instead I asked Aro how he liked the party.
"It will linger, to be sure." He said, his body language very controlled as he sipped the wine, but there was wild amusement dancing in his Christmassy red orbs. He watched the children play by the tree as he said this, and it almost looked as if he was touched by the sight. Then he turned his eyes on me, and there was no odd older woman tenderness in them now. He looked at my face, then slowly down over my dress.
"What?" I asked, apprehensive.
In that smooth, almost invisible way, he glided closer to where I was standing. His right upper arm brushed my bare shoulder, his eyes glued to the orion's belt of birthmarks gathered there. He grazed them with the very tips of his pale fingers, and I shuddered. He stared at them like they were truly fascinating, and my heart started doing the Macarena. He had a way of making the simplest gesture intimate as heck.
"Wha-what are you doing?" I stuttered.
"So much of you is always hidden, your skin, seeing more of it is…fascinating." He said quietly, ending the sentence with a purr that bordered on the indecent. He continued caressing his hand over my shoulder, his mouth slightly open in a toothy smile. I shrugged and tilted my upper body away from him, taking a deep, calming breath. Down girl.
"Do you really find me that fascinating?" I asked him, honestly wanting to know. I couldn't possibly see why he could find me so interesting. He startled me by starting to giggle, one hand up to cover his mouth like an amused Japanese schoolgirl. I smiled a little, not really finding the giggle all that disturbing anymore.
"Scusate, I just find it so amusing. the truth of the matter is so surprising to me." He said between giggles.
"Why?" I asked, frowning. He lowered his hand from his mouth, his voice deep and suddenly very old and male.
"The incomprehensible and revolutionary truth is this; I do not know why you fascinate me so. I always know the reason you see, always. I know all of them, every time. This time I do not." He paused here, his eyes fixing on my neck. He looked hungry- and not for nurishment. His thumb caressed a line down the curve of my neck towards the collarbone, causing my skin to tingle. " Perhaps it is something in your blood, the very fabric of your tissue. But I will know the reason, in due time. " as he said this, it seemed he was leaning closer and closer to my face and neck, until….
"Mina, why don't we let one of your anemic friends read, I bet they'd love to have a go at it!" Mom clucked as she went to sit down with a martini glass full of egg nog on the sofa, as I sprung away from Aros side like a catapult of repressed urges.
Every year the family took turns in reading "Twas the night before Christmas" aloud in front of the fireplace, and if we had non family guests in the house, the honor was usually given to them.
. At first I nodded cheeryfully at this request, due to temporary amnesia. Then I remembered who my guest were, and my smile froze. My face taking on an expression usually reserved for the waiting room at the gynecologist.
"Everyone, Mr. Romero has kindly agreed to give us a reading of our favorite Christmas tale!"
It was too late.
Before I knew how it happened, I was squeezed in between noisy relatives on the living room couch and children had gathered to sit on the floor in front of us, eager to listen to a story. Aro stood in front of the armchair by the fire, accepting the storybook from my mother with a gracious smile and a pat on her hand. Well, so far so good.
"Alright Mr. Romero, start whenever you're ready!" My dad hollored.
"Page 12!" one of my older aunts crowed impatiently from the back of the room. Aro inclined his head in the direction of her voice and nodded politely, moving his long blazer out of the way and slowly sat down in the chair, drumming his fingertips against it's sides. He opened the book to the right page, cleared his throat once. Just when I thought he was actually going to do something normal, he peered up and gave me a quick, unreadable glance. Then he looked down towards the page and started to read.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas, the man in red, would soon be there.
I had to say, his voice was actually perfect for storytelling. It was rich, musical and he knew just which words to stress out for good effect. People were getting cozy around the room, nostalgic about the story they'd all heard before.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
At this, Aro stopped to chuckle quietly to himself, with just a small hint of mirth and strange tenderness.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of decay to objects below
Funny, I don't remember that part of the story….
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a dark figure, his face obscured and not very clear.
he whistled, and shouted, and called me by name.
He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all rumpled with ashes and clot
A bundle of knives he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a monster, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his teeth, how sharp!
His cheeks were hollow, his nose not even a stump!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was full of moths and drool
The stump of a child's bone he held tight in his teeth,
And the mildewy breath surrounded his head like a wreath
He had a grey face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of liver!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
Even though I knew I felt dread,
Because soon I knew I would be dead
He spoke not a word, and he went straight to his work,
The knife sliced into my stomach, then turned with a jerk.
The skin parted for his knife, like a treasure revealing it's glitter
The contents spilled across the white acres, steaming in the midnight air
And laying his finger aside of his nose, he said "How about some rats?"
I could hear them gnawing at my flesh, and santa grinned
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And as I lay in the snow, my intestines falling out, the rats chewing on bits of skin
I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight, into the murky night
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
He finished it in the darkest tone of voice I had ever heard from him, and it was very effective. Effective and probably the creepiest thing I had ever heard, which was why I secretly liked it.
Although, You couldn't have cut the following silence in the room with a buzz saw if you tried. A few people had run to the bathroom to throw up, and the rest were still sitting in their seats, their faces pale. The only person who seemed unaffected was little Mikey, who was grinning up at Aro through thick glasses.
"Awesome!" He exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air while his mother behind him promptly fainted and fell onto the floor.
Then a sudden thunderous applause came from the back of the room, along with a long wolf whistle.
"WHOA! Yeah! That was amazing, incredible!" Heather shouted, as if she was at a rock concert. Her face was flushed and she was holding an empty bottle of what I assumed had been filled with expensive, limited edition wine, stolen from my fathers cellar of course. Beside her, Caius was also clapping, if you could call it that, looking much less entertained. As if he was clapping under obligation to his master more than anything else. After a moment, mom stood up on wobbly legs, not quite comprehending what had just happened. Then she shrugged it off, turned on her blindning smile that could melt ice caps and rival the glow of nuclear waste and gestured her hand towards the dining room like a game show host.
"Well, how about some tea and coffe in the lounge followed by opening of gifs?"