Updated: Dec 24, 2022
December 23rd: Safety
Christmas sat between her two friends, on the couch in the living room. The fire crackled in the hearth.
“I wanted to tell you both, because you mean more to me than anyone, aside from my brother. There’s something I’ve been hiding, a secret, that it’s time for you to know. I don’t know what my future will be like, and I don’t know what you’ll think of me after today, but it’s important for me to tell you the truth.”
“Well, you didn’t treat me any different after I told you I was gay, so unless you’re a serial killer, I think I can handle it,” Leah said.
“It’s alright, Chris. Whatever the reason, I know that it’s because it matters to you,” Sasha said.
Christmas paused, searched for the words, and then she began.
“When you grow up in a town like Christmas, you’re raised with a sense of safety. Bad things rarely happen. Sometimes there’s a minor accident and other times people get sick. That’s life in a small town. You know that.”
“Then, something does happen, something that no one expects. You were there with me, Sasha, the day that Sheriff Burke came to the door. He looked afraid, and he was crying. You looked at me and I could see that you knew, too, that one of those things had happened, and it had happened to me, just like it had happened to you. You hugged me, even before he’d said a word, and I can remember what you said.”
“I’m here, and I love you,” Sasha said, remembering, “Because you were there for me, when my mom…”
“Right,” Christmas said, squeezing her hand, and then she continued, “When someone dies in Christmas, it’s because they’re old or they got sick, like your mom. People don’t die from horrible accidents, and they don’t get murdered. Sheriff Burke had probably gone most of his career without having to deliver the kind of message he had that day.”
“Run on home, Sasha, he told me,” Sasha said.
“And I remember you shook your head and told him, told the sheriff of all people, that you wouldn’t do it,” Christmas said, “and you held my hand, just like now.”
The entire pain of that day came back for them both, and though Leah hadn’t been there, she could feel it coming off of them and it broke her heart.
“I called Brad down,” Christmas told her, as if she’d never heard the story, but that was irrelevant. This was the kind of story that needed to be told from the beginning and from the heart. She went on, “and when he was there, Burke told us about the accident.”
She paused, her throat tightening at the memory of the pain, then said, “I remembered what you said to me, when it happened to you, that in that moment nothing about it is real. It’s words. You hear them, but the impact of them doesn’t register. Not yet. You were right. It’s strange that, rather than feeling anything when he said the words, I thought about that first, thought about what you said to me.”
“Then you put your arms around me, and I could hear you start to cry. You told me later that it hurt you, because you understood the way I was about to be hurt. I loved you for that, and I always will. Your own tears brought mine out. They made it real. And I think, truly, that it started my healing right then. If I’d gone on, pretended it wasn’t real, it might have taken longer. It might never have happened.”
“It never really happens,” Sasha said quietly, “It’s always there.”
Christmas nodded and said, “I don’t know, exactly, how long it was that I stayed in my room. I remember that when I was hungry, one of you was there. Brad, you, Leah. Something happens to you when you’re grieving, especially when you’re in denial. Everything is raw. All the filters that you build up in your life, those things that you learn about how to be polite, how to treat others, all of it just vanishes. All that matters is your selfish pain, the hurt, the anger.”
“It was during those days that I wrote Losing Summer, and I’ve never been able to capture anything on a page like that again. It’s because there’s no other moment in your life when you’ll feel that unbridled emotion, where you have no reservations.”
“Lightning in a bottle,” Leah said, and Christmas nodded.
“We skipped my birthday that year, even though you all wanted me to have one,” Christmas continued, “but how can you celebrate a life, another year, when death is hanging over you and all you have in your heart is the anger? Then, the anger started to fade, and the sadness got me.”
Sasha nodded understanding, and said, “You’re never the same.”
Christmas agreed, nodding, continued, “The two strongest people in my life had been taken away. I thought that if it could happen to them, that it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. It could happen to Brad. If it happened to him, then I’d be alone.”
“It was innocent, the first time I went to his bed. I told him I didn’t feel safe, that I was afraid. He held me and he told me it was alright, that he’d take care of me. I felt safe. I was selfish, then, but that’s what grief does to you. You become blind to other people. Your own pain is what matters, and you just don’t think about what other people are going through.”
“I didn’t think about him and his pain. I didn’t consider, then, that he was going through it the same way. He had his own anger, and he had his own hurt. On top of that, he had to find the strength to keep on going and to take care of his sister. An unkind reality had just dropped the responsibility of a parent, a sibling, and a guardian into the lap of a nineteen-year-old boy that had just graduated from high school.”
“He was, is, still stronger than I’ll ever be in that way. Even through my tears and my tantrums, there was never a hint of anger. It was always safety, always confidence, even though I know, now, that he didn’t feel it. He was scared shitless. But he never let me see that. He was safety, my safety. At the time, he was all I felt like I had left.”
“At night, I would come to him, and he’d hold me. He’d tell me, over and over, that we’d be alright. Everything would be alright. He would never leave me. Nothing… different… happened for months. We were just a brother and a sister, each of us hurting, and both of us finding some measure of comfort in the other. It wasn’t an equal measure, because I was selfish, but if you ask him, he’ll deny it.”
“It was after we started back to school, during our senior year, when that sense of safety turned into a different feeling. He quickly moved to learning all he could about our mother’s business, and before long he was getting licensed, picking up her clients, finding his own. I’d begun to accept the reality that our parents were never coming home, but I was still afraid.”
“I think that by taking over her business, it was his way of showing me, concretely, that we were going to get through it. It worked. Every day, when I came home, he was busy studying, learning, losing himself in it. He always stopped for me, though. Nothing else became important. Just me and what I needed.”
“It was about that time that I started to feel guilty, I guess, for being selfish. I let him read Losing Summer and watched him cry over it. It was the beauty, he said, all the things he wanted to know about what I was really feeling, that I’d never told him, never told anyone.”
“Then he told me he was grateful for me. He’d kept up the strength and facade, but something about that little story caused it all to fall away. My selfishness, my need for safety, had forced him to be the strong one. Now, it broke. I understood. Even as he wept, letting all that repressed emotion out, I felt safe. If he had the strength to hold that in, the kind of pain that I’d felt over those months, then nothing would ever break him.”
Leah was now openly crying as Christmas told them the story. Sasha was on the verge, but she understood and had coped with that loss herself.
“It was the first time I kissed him,” Christmas whispered, the memory of his lips on hers so vivid, even through the years, “It wasn’t his idea. He never made me do anything. It was me. I wanted to, I don’t know, to comfort him. I was, again, selfish, too. I wanted to feel that comfort, to feel… anything, something. It wasn’t passionate, and it wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t anything but a mutual need to feel loved, to have something in our hearts other than the hurt.”
“We never spoke about it. We didn’t ask each other the question, because it didn’t feel like we needed it. It seemed… natural, right. From then on, a kiss in bed became a normal thing, but it still wasn’t desire, at least, not a sexual one. The kisses never lasted more than a moment, until one night, they did. One night, he pulled away, but I wanted more.”
“Inside, I was still raw. I kissed him for a second time, and then for a third. I slid my hand under his shirt and just felt his heart in his chest. He didn’t touch me, didn’t make a single move. He just let me touch him, to feel him. The heartbeat was fast but steady, like him. That night, when we slept and his arm was around me, I think, was when that feeling of safety turned into something else.”
“By the time I graduated, those nightly kisses had become hungry. To his credit, he never tried to touch me unless I came to him first. He never made a move until I physically put his hand on me and told him to touch me. When he did, it was electric. I could feel his own need in the way he touched me, the way we kissed. It wasn’t like the sex stories that people write. It didn’t happen over a period of hours or even days. At first, it wasn’t even sexual.”
“I wasn’t sure, at first, where I was going to college. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go at all. Then, we got the letter. An English professor had somehow read Losing Summer on one of the story sites I posted it to. He wanted to teach me. Leaving Christmas, leaving Brad, the two of you, was nearly as frightening an idea as losing our parents had been.”
“The night the letter came, the kissing and touching went further. I was hot, and I was on top of him in his bed. We didn’t talk about it, didn’t discuss it. One moment I was dressed and the next I was taking off my clothes, and then I was pulling at his. It was slow, and it was hot, everything about it just seeming natural and right. I felt like I belonged there, belonged to him.”
“I felt beautiful and secure as he made love to me, and then again when it happened the next day. After the third time, I started to question myself. I’d just had sex with my brother, and I’d loved it. The feeling of selfishness came back to me, though. Had I seduced him? Was it my fault? What was I doing to him? It was then that I decided to take the offer and leave. Everything was confusing, and I didn’t know what else to do. I only knew that, if I stayed, I’d never be able to sort it out.”
“It might have, actually, been my first clear and responsible thought since the accident. Only a few days later, I was packing things into a car and leaving. I was terrified, but I just couldn’t shake the guilt of what I was doing to him, to the person who had given me that safety since the accident.”
"I spent four years away from here. He came to see me once, when I allowed him to. It was like no time had passed. Everything about him was just what I needed, wanted, and we spent those days together openly exploring a relationship that was completely taboo back home. On the campus, I passed him off as my boyfriend. Nothing in life had ever seemed so perfect as those few days. I was happy, truly happy, in a way I hadn’t felt since our parents were alive."
“I took the rest of school to be sure, and now I am. I do love him. I love him in a way that even at my best, I wouldn’t be able to write down in words. I love him for his strength and for his kindness, for his tears and for his giant fucking heart. The rest of the world will say it’s sick and that it’s wrong, but to me, they’re sick and wrong for thinking that what we have is unacceptable.”
“I don’t know what the path out of this looks like, but I do know that I will give up anything in the world to keep him. I’ll give up this town and even the two of you, though it would be as hard as losing them was. I’m begging you, please, for now, to keep my secret. Will you?”
“Yes,” Sasha said.
“Of course,” Leah agreed.
Christmas burst into tears.
More chapters of heartfelt friendship, erotic passion, and tearjerking tales await in the full story of Twelve Days in Christmas. Pick this story up in the shop to read all 142 pages of the beautiful story of sibling romance and the depth of true friendship.