Christmas had come and gone. I looked out across the highway and saw neighboring houses clad in multi-colored lights and plastic holiday characters. It’s strange how beautiful and magical all the decorations seem in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Whimsical ornaments and crystal snowflakes hung everywhere boasting ‘Best Wishes!' and 'Happy Holidays!' New Year’s Day arrives abruptly and all of a sudden all the merriment seems tacky and pathetic. Nothing annoys me more than seeing a dejected looking Santa face stapled to a barn in the late weeks of January. Soon the cherished tree would be dethroned and stripped naked of its felt sparkling tree skirt. They would line the sides of the road, tinsel clinging to the pine needles as though stubbornly trying to maintain a shred of their former glory.
I had been home for exactly eight hours on Christmas day. My parents tried to make it as fun for me as possible, showering me with gifts and joking around, making sure all my favorite things to do over the holidays were achieved in one day. They even put off decorating the tree so I wouldn’t miss our family tradition of drinking eggnog and telling the stories that accompanied the mish mash of ornaments. My little brother, Michael, and I spent the afternoon outside building a snowman and then warmed up in front of the television watching the classic stop motion Rudolph. In the background all day was the succulent aroma of a golden crispy turkey roasting in the oven, plump with stuffing. I could almost taste the tang of the tart cranberry sauce I would mash into my imaginary mountain of potatoes and gravy.
While my family sat at the table I sulked in to my room with half a cheery Popsicle and surveyed my gifts. A Little-Mermaid blanket, new nightgowns, books, more books, bubble bath, water colors, and a multi-colored journal with a tiny heart shaped padlock and key (my favorite). No roller-skates. No sled. Nothing that I couldn’t make good use of inside the confines of the pediatric ward. I grabbed my ratty pink bunny rabbit that my father had given to me the day I was born. I was almost 12 now, making me too old to ask for paper dolls and Barbie cars. I tried to convince myself that those things were for kids and I was a ‘young adult’ now according to my age section at the library. But I’d wanted a new stuffed animal, at least, to keep me company. I resigned myself to the notion that now I was too old for new toys. I squeezed Rosie tighter and absent-mindedly rubbed her soft long ear through my index finger and thumb. Just because I don’t get new toys does not mean I’m going to abandon my old ones just yet. Besides Rosie would never be able to sleep at night if she weren’t in her customary residence in the crook of my arm.
I went back to the kitchen. My little brother looked at me with a cheek full of pumpkin pie and said, “MMMMmmm this is SO good!”
My mother looked at him sharply and hushed him. I never looked forward to going back to the hospital so much in my life.
Shuffling to the bathroom at the topmost speed my healing abdomen would allow, I prayed I would make it there in time and not have to succumb to asking the ill-tempered charge nurse to help me wipe the vomit from the tiles for the third time that day. I made it – barely – digging my fingernails around my knees to distract me from the wave of stab wounds being inflicted upon me by the evil tiny trolls that lined the walls of my intestines. They gash deeper and deeper. I know they are there. The bloody damage is evident as they stalk away to rest until next time they spring into action. How could the doctor not have seen them and taken them out? They must look menacing. Or maybe they’re very clever. They do seem to like to torture. It never fails for them to draw their daggers at the most important times. Spiteful bastards. I felt as though I was fighting a battle with little monsters I could not see.
On the last day of school before the Christmas holiday Charlie MacLean and I sat on an asphalt corner of the schoolyard. He was telling me who he was in love with that particular week. Every since first grade we’d been inseparable friends. Now that we’re on the older side of the schoolyard, it seems that my Charlie here has become a hot commodity among the Grade Sixes. Not two months ago he confided in me regrettably that Stephanie Meyers told him he’s not allowed to be seen with the scrawny diseased girl because, “Diseases, Charles, are contagious! They shouldn’t even let her at school because she’s so toxic her disease can jump right onto your skin and crawl up your nose without you even knowing!” Their relationship had lasted 4 school days. Charlie started walking with me to school again but he never quite looked at me the same after that. There was almost something obligated about the time he spent with me. I don’t know if it was my imagination or not but from that day on he walked with a little more space between us.
I remember crying to my mother that I was never setting foot in that school again. It was degrading enough that my desk had become so uncomfortable that my mother had sewn a seat sized Paddington Bear pillow for me to sit on. I wish I could go back now and give that little girl a hug and tell her that none of these people will matter later. Even the hierarchy of the playgrounds is no match for Karma. Stephanie Meyers would become really chunky in high school and during a pep rally cheerleading routine the whole school would see an unmistakable red stain making its way down her tights, and she too would become an outcast having grossed out the male population of the school.