Christmas Day

BIG TRIGGER warning  – child sexual abuse (not explicit), rape, sleeping draughts, suicide attempt.

This is out of context unless the blog has been read in a chronological order.

Bianca, 5 years old:

Camilla opens the door when Mother and I knock on it. She is overjoyed:

”It’s Day today!” She heralds, arms flung wide in excitement.

”Yes, it’s Christmas Day”, Mother answers, somewhat perplexed. Camilla smiles at me:

It’s gonna be Day all day long!” Camilla’s voice is singsong and her bliss contagious. Lucio and Victoria are delighted, they’re dancing from one room to the other. Eric comes to say hello and he’s relaxed and smiling. His parents also seem to be in a good mood. Mother and I will stay until after dinner, then we’ll go home. 

The day passes in a happy kaleidoscope of delicious foods, presents, candies, Christmas cartoons on TV, playing and relaxing indoors while the snow piles up outside the windows. In the afternoon, Grandmother and Grandfather show up. Harry takes his seat in the living room armchair and Grandmother helps Eric’s mother with preparations for dinner. Later we sit at one long table and I’m happily gulping down soda pop. Mother doesn’t usually buy sweet carbonated drinks, she says they’re unhealthy. But today is Christmas and I can have as much as my stomach will let me! Eric eats as quickly as he can, he says he’ll go wish his girlfriend Merry Christmas. Grandmother chuckles.

”Hurry before your shadow attaches itself to you again!” The adults laugh at this. I follow Eric around so much, they call me his little shadow. 

”Bye!” Eric gets up from his chair and waves at us. The long table is cramped into a small space. I have to crawl under it to get out and stalk Eric to the front door.

”Please promise you’ll be back later, please!” I beg.

”Of course I will”, he laughs. ”And if you’ve already left with your mother when I return, we’ll see each other another day.” I nod and walk back to the dining room, wondering if I’ll be able to chug one more glass of soda when Mother’s not looking. 

We’re finishing eating when the doorbell sounds. It is Uncle who has come to wish everyone happy holidays. He’s brought a couple of bottles of something as a gift. One minute after he arrives, his wife and their kids enter. Now the house is filled with noise, children running everywhere. I see Grandfather and Uncle are having a hushed conversation. I wonder what they’re talking about and shadow them until they stop in front of a bedroom.

”Let’s make this room Night”, Uncle says. Grandfather appears somewhat reluctant.

”Why not wait a day”, he replies. ”It’s only one day.” Uncle throws a glance at his children.

”I promised them it would be Day all day if they behaved, but they didn’t behave.” Philip walks by and I approach him, tugging his shirt sleeve so he’ll notice me.

”Philip, they say it’s night in that room?” Philip is off like a rocket, dashing into the kitchen.

”They’re trying to make a room Night!” Eric’s father and all of the women – except for my mother – are immediately upset. They’ll have no Night on Christmas Day! 

”I don’t understand”, my mother exclaims. ”All days are followed by night and then it’s day again! What on earth are you all arguing about?” But everyone is too alarmed to pay Mother any attention. Uncle’s wife is so distressed she’s crying. She gathers her children around her.

”Your father said there would be no Night today, he is breaking his promise now! Let’s go home together, we’ll leave him here with his Night!”

”Don’t you see I’m training them!” Uncle retorts angrily. I can see from his posture he’s already tasted his bottles of something.

”Not today you’re not! You promised!” Uncle’s wife wails.

”Marcus, you should stay here! Be a man and stay here!” Uncle exhorts his eldest son. Marcus returns his father’s stare wearily.

”It’s always Day on Christmas Day, dad. Even a child knows that.” 

”Don’t try to come home – we’re locking you out!” Uncle’s wife declares. With that, they leave. Mother follows the remaining adults from room to room, demanding an explanation of what all this ’day and night’ nonsense is about. They tell her it’s an old discussion and refuse to say more. 

The doorbell sounds again and this time it’s Auntie and her family. I sit in the sofa and Camilla and Samantha take turns styling my hair. Samantha shows us a secret gift her father gave her. It’s a small glittery box with heart shaped pills in it. She swallows a pill and gives another to Camilla and now they’re best friends. I want to try one too! The girls don’t dare give me a whole heart so they smash one into several pieces and give me one little shard. Samantha and Camilla are six years older than me, self confident and stunning. I want to be just like them, I can’t wait to become eleven! Right now, I’m incredibly happy. I feel like my cousins and seconds cousins are my sisters and brothers – I’m so, so lucky! Surely, we will all be best friends for the rest of our lives.

”We’re leaving.” Auntie enters the living room. ”They’ve made a room Night, and it’s Christmas! Come with me now!”

”I don’t understand, mom. We only just arrived!” Diana exclaims.

”Me neither,” Thomas adds. 

”It means we have to leave. Now.” Auntie’s eyes are furious but her voice is calm. ”Say goodbye to your cousins, we’ll see them again another day. Trust me.” Her tone doesn’t leave any room for arguing. Now Mother enters, she asks her sister to explain what all this Day and Night stuff means.

”It means that it will soon be too late for me to drive the children home, the snow’s increasing by the minute!” Auntie gestures to the windows.

”Oh, you’re right!” Mother agrees. ”It would be dangerous to wait, who knows what condition the roads are in an hour!” Mother assists Auntie in finding the gloves and scarves belonging to her children. Auntie’s husband says he’ll remain here. Surprisingly, Samantha decides to stay with her father. Auntie asks her if she knows what she’s doing.

You don’t give me goodies, mom”, Samantha responds flatly. I see Auntie’s got tears in her eyes when she closes the front door behind herself, Diana and Thomas. 

Eric’s father begs Uncle and Harry to reconsider their decision of making Night in one of the rooms in his house.

”After all, this is my house. And there’s a reason we all have Day today – it’s only one day a year!”

”Harry’s already in there with Lucio”, Uncle smiles in reply. ”And he’s the boss!”

”Who will you take?” Auntie’s husband asks Uncle.

”I haven’t decided yet. Maybe all!” Uncle laughs.

I hear the front door opening. Eric is back home! He quickly assesses the situation and takes my mother to the side, suggesting it’s time for her and me to leave.

”I don’t want to leave before they tell me what their argument is about. They’ve been arguing about day and night? It sounds familiar…somehow…Joaquin said if I just stay a little longer, he’ll explain it!” She sits down on a chair. ”But I feel so sleepy – I don’t know how I’ll stay awake…with Bianca…on the bus…with Bianca…”

”I promised Bianca we’d make a snow lantern in the evening, now that it’s dark outside”, Eric informs her. ”We’ll be right back!” I can’t recall he made me such a promise. But I put on my winter jacket, shoes, mittens and cap and follow him outdoors. 

”Bianca, we have to run”, Eric whispers.

”But my mother – can we take her with us?”

”You’ll see her again tomorrow.” I don’t want to leave the house. Mother is falling asleep and she’s alone, even though there are people there I feel as if she’s alone. I’m anxious. Eric looks at me pleadingly:

”Guinevere, I need you. Where are you?” He knocks my back. ”Guinevere?”

”Is this a new game?” I ask, jumping high, attempting to knock his back. Eric dodges with a laugh.

”Who’s the fastest runner?” He asks. ”I’ll race you to the streetlight over there!” 

We’ve raced many streetlights and now we’re in an unknown neighborhood. A freezing wind howls and the tights I wear beneath my skirt are cold. I accidentally peed myself while running but I’m too ashamed to say so and I hope Eric won’t notice. I wanted to go to the bathroom before but the door was closed and it didn’t open when I banged on it. Uncle was locked in there with Victoria, making her cry. 

”Eric.” I tug the sleeve of his jacket.

”What is it?” Both of us are panting little white clouds with our breath.

”I…I’ll tell you later. Where are we going?” 

Eric sighs and pushes the hair from his eyes with his mitten. 

”I wish I knew”, he replies. He spins in a circle, contemplating the apartment buildings surrounding us. ”This way”, he decides and I grasp his hand, letting him lead me. 

Eric doesn’t notice the smell of urine until we’re in the stairwell of an unknown house.

”I should have brought extra clothes”, he sighs. ”What happened Bianca, were you scared?” I describe how the bathroom was occupied, Uncle exited, Victoria was red-eyed and Uncle told me my middle name was Torment.

”But it’s not, it’s Guinevere. My middle name is Guinevere.”

”I know that. It’s good we got away”, Eric mumbles as he sounds a doorbell. First nobody opens, then a giant man in shorts and a tank top sways in front of us.

”God dammit”, he says, taking us in.

”I’m sorry, I know it’s Christmas.” Eric hangs his head.

”Who ye got there?” The man gestures at me. 

”This is Bianca. She’s my second cousin”, Eric smiles at me. ”We needed to leave home in a hurry and she had an accident. Harry’s in our house, he’s been drinking and I’m scared for her…”

”Ye don’t have to say any more, ye’re both welcome here.”

”Thank you, I believe she peed herself…you don’t have anything she could put on?” The man roars with laughter. But they find a pair of boxer shorts that function as a sort of skirt when tied with a knot in the waist. Eric helps me shower and put on the clean ’skirt’. My sweater isn’t dirty so I can still wear it. In the apartment there are lots of men and women sleeping, some on the floor, some in sofas or armchairs. They snore really loud. The giant man says he’ll find some place for us to rest our heads. A thin man in a leather jacket is sleeping fitfully on a floor mattress. The giant man pushes the spasmodic dreamer onto the carpet and he continues snoring there. 

”Hope ye don’t take it the wrong way, I’d like to put plastic bags on the mattress…” The giant throws me a slightly worried glance.

”Good idea”, Eric agrees. It’s time to sleep and Eric nods off almost instantly. I lie beside him, worrying about my mother and how she’s faring without me. It’s hard to fall asleep, people are constantly waking up and going home. Some look at me and exclaim:

”Oh Lord, a child! Here!”

”I heard she’s got a mean Grandfather”.

”Oh no, she’s so cute! So little!”

I don’t doze off until morning comes. When I wake up the girlfriend of the giant man serve me cornflakes with milk. Eric phones his parents. Mother is awake and she’s worried, wondering where her daughter is. Eric gives his parents the address to the house we are in. It’s too cold for him to walk back with me when I have nothing but boxer shorts for pants. Soon enough, Mother is here and she’s brought clean clothes for me. Eric’s father dropped her off outside the building but then he left with the car. We’ll have to walk back to Eric’s house together. 

I see Mother eyeing the empty bottles and cigarette butts littering every surface in the apartment. She quickly becomes very upset and starts yelling at Eric for taking me to a party where people were drinking alcohol. Eric attempts to offer some perspective on the situation:

”Do you know what Harry would have done to your daughter if she’d stayed? He would have raped her!”

”No, noooo, he would never do that, my father would never do that! I would never let anyone rape my daughter!” Mother crosses the threshold from yelling to screaming.

”You were falling asleep!” Eric reminds her. ”You were unable to protect Bianca!”

”No I wasn’t, why would I fall asleep like that?”

”I think Harry gave you something to drink with a sleeping draught in it.”

”No he didn’t, it was Joaquin…he gave me a cup of tea…” Mother starts to hyperventilate. ”Joaquin gave me a cup of tea!” She’s crying hysterically now. ”We need to call the police!”

”They wouldn’t listen, Harry’s got connections.” Eric is looking so very tired.

”I’m calling them now, is there a phone…?” The giant’s girlfriend, who’s been watching the drama unfold in bewilderment, points to the living room. But Mother never reaches the phone. Instead she sinks down on her knees, staring emptily into space. Then she shrugs and suddenly she screeches:

”I don’t want to be here! I don’t want to live! Get me out of this body! I hate this body! Let me out!” She prostrates herself on the floor and starts smashing her head against the linoleum surface.

”I. Don’t. Wan’t. To. Live! I don’t want to live anymore! Let me go! Let me out!

The giant man was sleeping like the dead but Mother has succeeded in waking him. Now he stands in the doorway, scratching his head.

”Well, blow me down. There’s a mad lady in my kitchen. An’ here I thought I’d seen it all!” He starts roaring with laughter.

”It’s her mommy.” The girlfriend whispers. Her boyfriend’s mirth cools quickly.

”What she on?” He nods at Mother.

”Nothing.” Eric sighs. ”She becomes like this if anyone tries to tell her that her father is a bad man…It’s like she can’t handle it.”

”No shit!” The giant man shakes his head. ”How do we make her stop?”

”I could try hypnotism”, Eric suggests, kneeling beside Mother. She calms visibly when he offers to help her leave the body. 

”I need something shiny.” The giant produces a spoon from a kitchen drawer and Eric dangles it in front of Mother’s eyes, asking her to breathe and calm down with every count. Then he leads her outdoors and instructs her to wait by the house entrance. I change to the warmer clothes Mother brought with her. The giant man seems impressed by Eric’s hypnotic talents and Eric breathes in relief now my mother’s attack is over. I see the girlfriend is looking at me and she starts to cry.

”I feel so sorry for her!” The girlfriend exclaims.

”I feel sorry for her too”, the giant sighs. ”Is her ma like this a lot?”

”No, only when confronted with her dad’s true nature. Normally she’s a kind… a good mother”, Eric assures them. 

The three of us walk together to Eric’s parents house. Eric whispers to me we shouldn’t talk or the spell will be broken. If the spell is broken there’s a risk Mother might start banging her head again. 

”Imagine how her face would look, with all the snow”, Eric muses. I nod and giggle but with tears in my eyes. Sometimes, my mother has ”attacks”. That’s what our relatives call it. I believed all mothers had attacks and all grandfathers were dangerous. The big man and his girlfriend are saying said they feel sorry for me. Am I somebody to feel sorry for? It has never occurred to me before. 

Guinevere:

It wouldn’t occur to Bianca for very long. She soon forgot this day, like she forgot everything unpleasant that came before it. I stored the memory, though.

Bianca:

Eric’s parents drive us directly to our apartment. Eric’s father insists on giving Mother another sleeping draught while she is still in a trance. 

”You know why she has to forget all this”, he states, fixing Eric with his gaze. ”It’s her life that’s in danger if she tries to report Harry.” 

”I know”, Eric mutters. ”But I’m not leaving Bianca alone when her mother is sleeping. I’ll stay her until I see Claire is waking up.” Eric’s mother locates my Christmas gifts and wraps them up again. 

”Claire will think it’s Christmas Day when she comes to. She’ll phone us and we’ll tell her our family is ill. They’ll celebrate Christmas alone, all over again!” 

Then Eric’s parents leave and Eric stays with me. We play together the whole day, eat Christmas food from the fridge and have a jolly good time. When Mother stirs, Eric gives me a hug and sneaks out the door. Next day, Mother salutes our neighbours:

”Merry Christmas!” The neighbours laugh.

”Claire, it’s not even boxing day! Your count is off by two days!” 

”No way!” Mother is busy checking her wall calendar, attempting to see where she lost count of the days, when the telephone sounds. It is Eric’s father. He’s crying, wondering if he could drop the children off at Mother’s place. 

”We’re out of food here”, Mother responds. ”It disappeared together with two days of the week!” Eric’s father promises to bring food together with the children, but then he’ll have to leave. Camilla’s in the hospital, he says. She had an accident with a scissor while making Christmas decorations. 

Guinevere:

Later I learn Lucio and Victoria snuck out and slept in a stairwell, but Camilla chose not to go with them. She wanted to behave well, because it was Christmas. Uncle, Harry and Auntie’s husband abused Camilla’s obedience, raping her over and over on Christmas Day. Camilla was the only child awake because Samantha blacked out early on. The adults had promised Camilla she’d be left alone on Christmas, like a Normal child. Now she lost the will to live. When she woke up in the hospital, her mother was there. She pushed a finger against her daughter’s waist, triggering her Silent Self. Camilla, now muted, was unable to alert the hospital staff of her situation.

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