The amber glow of the candles warmed Alicia’s heart like the gracious glow of an Angel’s Halo. The truth was this was her favorite time of year. She loved the shortened days and the cool kiss of the crisp night. She loved how December always reminded her of the fresh scent of pine, the way a red suit always reminded children of presents.
This year was hard one for her and Jimmy. They struggled just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads since Jimmy lost his job at the local shipping factory. While she was thankful for his unemployment, it didn’t keep the collection notices at bay any more than a cockroach searching for a bed of filth.
Still, she wouldn’t think about such unpleasant things. Of course, there weren’t as many presents under the tree this year. Of course, they would be eating ham instead of fresh basted turkey. To her that didn’t matter. Alicia had the roar of a warm fire, Elvis on the radio, and Jimmy at her side.
The tree sparkled like stars in the cool December sky. Each limb seemed to glisten with the promise that guided three strangers to a special manger and her heart with love more precious than any gift from three wise men.
Alicia admired Jimmy. She knew this time of year was difficult for him. Since October, he seemed as stressed as old leather. They worried about how they could keep the electricity on long enough to enjoy the beauty of multi-colored lights.
“You deserve a good holiday,” he told her.
“You have supported me and stood at my side. You have sacrificed for me, when I didn’t deserve it. You’re too good to me, Alicia. I don’t deserve you, but I love you nonetheless.”
Sitting by the fire, she reminded Jimmy of an Angel, lost in the infernos of a relenting Hell.
The King sang about a Blue Christmas.
“Alright, Honey, open your first present,” Jimmy said as he reached Alicia her first gift.
She tore through the wrapping like a dog in heat scratches at a front door.
“Jimmy, it’s Beautiful! A Diamond ring, Is it real? We’ can’t afford this…”
Jimmy framed the face of his wife in his hands and kissed her forehead.
“We can afford it, Sweetheart. This year, will be your year! You deserve a diamond much bigger!”
“I love it,” she said as she kissed him tenderly on his glowing cheeks.
Jimmy opened his gift from Alicia. The new suit she bought him reminded him of a black widow. The jacket and pants, as dark as night, and the tie as bright as the warning of a venomous hour glass.
“I love it,” he proclaimed as he nibbled playfully on the nape of her neck.
After all the gifts were exchanged from the tree, Alicia admired the way the lights bounced off the rock of her new ring, like the sun across tranquil waters.
“I have one more present,” Jimmy told her.
“Jimmy, another one? How?”
Jimmy put a hand over Alicia’s tender lips.
“Shhh… It’s a secret. Come on’, we’re underneath the mistletoe. Dance with me.”
Alicia stood up as Jimmy wrapped his arms around her like a kid in the shade of a Willow Tree.
Sarah McLachlan sang about skating away on a river.
“Close your eyes, Darling.”
Alicia closed her eyes with the folly of a child hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.
She didn’t here the sound of the gun over the melody of holiday music, but she felt the blast.
Her face was splashed with the warm sprays of her husband’s blood. Her skin grew sticky from the flowing rivers of red that ran from the back of her husband’s skull.
She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t. The hole in the back of his head stole her voice like a selfish Grinch steals a stocking.
When Jimmy’s body fell to the ground beside the radiant embers of the glowing fire, a small paper fell from his pocket wrapped in a red ribbon.
She felt cold, numb; despite the warmth from her husband’s spilled blood.
Alicia held the paper in her hand like a child holds the silk of gift ribbons.
The words “INSURANCE POLICY” stole her breath like the blow of harsh winds.
Bing Crosby sang about a White Christmas as mounds of snow began to collect at the baseboard windows.
The December winds blew as sharp against the shutters like razors glide across suicidal skin.
Down the suburban street, lights twinkled with a merry promise and the greetings of a Happy New Year.
A Husband celebrates the holidays with his wife.
©2009 by John Braxton Sparks