It is the second day of Christmas, but it is also a Monday, which means that a story needs to be told. I’ve said, quite a few times, that a number of my stories have reflections of real life in them. This, then, is one of those sorts of stories. There are times when Christmas arrives and we feel like there isn’t a reason for joy, for giving or accepting gifts … even if one of them happens to be …
A Red Scarf
The winter had been especially cold this particular year in the Realm. The snows had come earlier than usual, blanketing the world in white. Much of the Realm had gone about the holidays as one might expect, succubi and incubi looking forward to lights twinkling in trees, mistletoe hung in all sorts of interesting places, and more.
From far above, the glow of the holiday lights—mostly in red and white, of course—traced out the paths and ways that crisscrossed the Realm. Some parts were stunningly bright, where particular souls had put themselves to the task of creating the most amazing displays possible. Others weren’t quite so elaborate, so stunning, but they had their own warmth, presence, and meaning to the ones that had put themselves into their creation. But, from far above, one spot along one path, this Christmastide, was uncharacteristically dark.
If this was a typical year, the home of Tera and Keith would be rather modestly decorated for the occasion. The one large Christmas tree, which had been there well over a century, would be covered in lights from top to bottom. The three smaller ones, all in a row along one side of their home, would be decked out with not quite so many lights, but still delightfully so. There would be lights strung across the front of the home, hanging from the eves, some stars mounted in the windows of the front porch as an accent to all of the lights outside. The last touch was the wreath hung over the garage, to welcome visitors to the home of the Queen and her Eternal.
But then, this hadn’t been the usual year; far from it.
There were no lights strung, no wreath placed, no stars twinkling. Where there should have been light, there was just a quiet home, a single light burning on the porch. Christmas, it seemed, hadn’t found its way into the souls of the monarchs of the Realm this particular year. That wasn’t to say that they didn’t meet and greet their subjects, spend time with others, and try, as they could, to keep up appearances, even if, within themselves, they’d rather just be alone with their thoughts and their memories.
It was especially painful for Keith when, sometimes, he’d be asked: “How are you managing? I’m sorry about your mother’s passing.”
It was especially troublesome for his Eternal when she caught that little twitch in his tail, the slight tremor in his voice when he replied: “Thank you for asking. We’ll be fine.”
The walk home sometimes was very quiet, the only sound being the crunching of their footsteps in the snow. Leaving the lights all around them and entering the patch of shadow that covered their home was, to be honest, a painful thing.
This then was the days before Christmas. For Keith, most of all, it was about looking after the needs of others, to gather up the gifts to be given when their family came together, to try, as best he could, to not allow his hand to shake when he wrote the cards, wrapped the presents. They couldn’t just call and say they weren’t coming this year, he couldn’t do that and Tera wouldn’t, either. Regardless of what would be missing on that night, they’d be there.
During the days just before Christmas, sometime around the setting of the sun on the shortest day of the year, a lone figure made her way towards her own home elsewhere in the Realm. She was bundled up well, but little bits of her silver-streaked black hair—a black deeper and darker than even Tera’s—slipped out, being brushed about by the winter winds. She loved walking about, marvelling at the displays of light, they bringing a smile which delighted her. More so, from time to time, one of the citizens of the Realm, whether succubi or incubi didn’t matter, would approach and strike up a conversation. But regardless of what that might be, at some point she would be thanked for a particular tail cozy or toque, sweater, or something else she’d knitted for them.
Lil, the knitter of the Realm, always had a bemused smile, knowing they didn’t remember all that she did during their encounters in her cottage. At least she did smile until she came to her Sovereign’s home. Then that smile turned into a pursed frown. That frown remained well through the rest of her walk home, following her right inside as she closed the door behind her.
Dear Lil, loved by all and especially by Tera, was unhappy, and that was a real problem. Within her sanctuary, far from prying eyes, the older, but still mesmerizing succubus allowed herself to call into the air: “Goddess of Light, I would speak with you.”
The voice that replied was one she’d known so very well for so very long: “Lilith? It’s been so long since you’ve talked to me.”
“This is a special occasion. I need to know something.”
“Not everything is yours to know.”
Lilith’s sigh was long as she crossed the room, looking for the basket of cookies the Queen of the Realm had delivered a day before: “You have a soul with you, one that I need an answer from.”
“Lilith… you know the rules.”
Finding the cookies, she started nibbling on an oatmeal raisin one, Tera did a marvelous thing with them that made them simply delightful, a lesson she’d learned from the soul Lilith needed an answer from: “Yes. I just need to know if I can use her yarn.”
The room fell silent, save for the sound of Lilith’s chewing on her cookie and pacing of the room. She found herself standing in front of her wall of yarn, a seemingly endless variety of colours, shades, and textures awaiting her. Off far above, in the row that was all of the reds one could imagine, her eyes focused on one particular bundle: a red that was very specific, a shade of red that she’d never touched since placing it away decades ago.
The voice of Light startled her: “Lilith?”
She turned about in response: “Yes?”
A thump marked the falling of the yarn to the wood floor: “More raisins.”
Picking up the yarn, she crossed back to the basket of cookies and looked inside. There wasn’t one left. In a bit of a huff, she exclaimed: “If you didn’t like them, you could have left me some!”
Hearing no reply, the knitter settled into her chair by the fireplace and examined her yarn. A shade of red that was familiar, one that was woven into many souls of the Realm, regardless of the colour they were. Turning the bundle over in her hands, she considered what to do with it, what she could make of it, what she’d want it to be … or what it was telling her it needed to be.
The shortest day of the year was followed by the longest night of the year, and throughout that night the First worked her way through the bundle, her creation slowly coming into focus. As dawn fall upon the Realm and the day was a little longer, she continued to work, having but a pair of days to complete the task she’d put herself to.
The Eve arrived, and with that came the gathering of a family. A family that had suffered a loss, a family that had mourned and was trying, some managing better than others, to press onwards. It was an odd gathering, but then they’d all expected that things wouldn’t be right, not for some time, if ever.
All seemed well enough if a little muted, a little lost. The most lost of all was Keith. He was part of the gathering, but not quite there. His mind fell upon the empty chair, the unused wine glass, the missing cheesecake … and the absent voice most of all.
All of the gifts had been given out by Keith, as was the tradition every year. He found himself looking out of the window, at the snows outside as tradition continued, he not quite part of it and wrapped up in his own thoughts. A tap on his shoulder brought him back, finding Lil standing nearby.
“Hello, Lil. Thank you for coming. I’m glad you did.”
Lil was demure as she examined him: “I believe it’s me that needs to thank you for being here. I’ve been worried: you didn’t put your lights up on the house.”
He didn’t turn away, but the hurt was clear, even now, months later: “Lil … She’s not here. I can’t …”
He then noticed that she was holding a box, wrapped in paper: “I know. But that’s also why I’m here.”
Handing him the gift, Lil explained: “Open it tomorrow at home.”
The morning dawned, the Day arrived and Keith found himself looking at the box, still unopened. The card read: “For Keith.” From who wasn’t said.
His Eternal was leaning against the counter, sipping on some hot chocolate as she asked: “Are you going to open it?”
“I’m … thinking about leaving it unopened.”
“Lil gave it to you? Then open it.”
With a shrug, he worked away at the parcel. The paper moved under his fingers, revealing the box hidden beneath. The top came off a moment later. A small card came out first, held in his fingers. He didn’t say anything, only offering it to Tera, who took it from his fingertips.
Tera’s voice was a whisper: “From … Mom.”
He held in his hands a long red scarf, as long as his tail. It was a shade of red that was both his, Tera’s, and so many others he’s seen: a red of love, of warmth, of a mother’s love for her son, never to be forgotten. Rubbing his fingers against the yarn, his mind flashed to the past: his childhood, the times he’d been bundled up by her and the tears came; the moments with her, putting the lights up, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, seeing her smile and how she loved this time of year.
Gathering her gift, Keith kissed his Eternal: “Got something to do …”
Tera watched as he bundled himself up against the cold, wrapping the red scarf about him and then went outside. Tera followed a short time later to see something she didn’t expect. Her Eternal had pulled one box of their lights out and was wrapping them about one small single tree in their front yard.
Together, they wove the lights into place as the Day turned into the Night, being finished just as the sun set behind the horizon. The last cord in place, the final plug pushed in, their one spark of light shone, illuminating them.
Sometimes all one needs is the spark to make things right.
Sometimes that comes from the gift of a mother to a son, never forgotten.